There is a huge difference between procreation and parenthood. One is just the natural order, an evolutionary process of reproduction that is essential for any species to survive. The other is a way of living, the aspects of nurturing and raising an offspring that can be both testing and rewarding but ultimately makes the mechanical process more “human”. Whatever your views on having children and whatever your story has been, there is more to having kids than just a biological process.
My story is one tale of a father-in-waiting but there are many others out there struggling with their journey. I use this term as opposed to a father-to-be which I use to refer to someone who is lucky enough to have had the great news that they are expecting and that there is a countdown to the moment that they can call themselves a parent. A father-in-waiting is somebody who knows that they are destined to be a parent but their opportunity has not yet come into view on the horizon.
I have known that I was a father-in-waiting since I was a teenager. I was lucky enough to grow up with a fantastic father, a role model for the man I wanted to become and whether or not I met those expectations, I knew I wanted to be the same source of inspiration to my own child. I am lucky enough to have a nephew, nieces and other children in my circle of family and friends who I love and enjoy spending time with but there is no substitute to having a child of your own.
So from the beginnings of adulthood I knew that it was not a case of if I have a child but when…
More than twenty years have passed since that dawning realisation and my fortieth birthday milestone is on the horizon but still no sign of parenthood. Twenty years of desperately wanting what others seem to have with comparative ease. Twenty years of praying, twenty years of escalating impatience. I am ready but growing more and more anxious that it may never happen.
There have been close calls and raised hopes but my wait goes on. And with this wait can come a number of very specific anxieties that can impact the rest of my life.
Breaking News Envy – in a modern digital age of social media, it is impossible not to trip over someone announcing that they are expecting especially as there is a growing competitiveness over the way in which the announcement is made; from emotional tweets to professional photoshoots, this announcement glorification can be great for some but a kick in the teeth for those struggling to conceive themselves.
Shopping Paralysis – never mind if you have to buy an actual present for a new baby, it can be emotional to see a cute baby outfit that you can only imagine putting on your own offspring one day. I have physically stopped in my tracks in front of baby toys, prams and even nappies as they remind me starkly of my failures in achieving the most important goal of my life.
Baby Chatter Awkwardness – Working in an environment where your colleagues and peers are all proud parents can be more than just awkward at times. Having to watch silently as your friends share stories and pictures of their children can be disheartening and upsetting when you so desperately want to be able to join in the conversation.
Planning for the future – When you are trying so desperately to conceive, everything else becomes less important and so it can be hard to make long term plans. Do you want to book that holiday abroad next year just in case this month is the breakthrough in your efforts? The uncertainty on the horizon can be so disheartening.
“When is it your turn?” – This is especially awkward for newly engaged or married couples when the assumption most people make is that your next logical action is to churn out a child. While it may be that easy for some, for others the constant questioning (though good intentioned) can be a reminder of how difficult it can be to make a baby.
I know people sometimes can trigger these anxieties without any intention. That’s okay, I hold no blame on them and I know in most cases, they do not realise what their good intentions are doing to me. In most cases, they say or do things out of kindness and love – which is amazing – but the effect still feels claustrophobic, as though their well wishes and comments are sucking the air from my lungs. I want to smile and make a light-hearted comment every time someone asks us “so when you are two going to have a baby” but it can be so hard even to smile back.
For my wife and I, the journey has been difficult. I take much of the responsibility for that as medically I have the biggest blockers to conception. We have tried going down the IVF path, taking supplements and medication, and of course, giving nature every opportunity to get the job done the natural way. We have attended support groups, spoken to counsellors, read so many books and blogs and articles and magazines. The last three years have been filled with setbacks and sorrow, trying our hardest to make it work while constantly battling these triggers for anxiety that surround us every day (and many times, succumbing to them).
But we keep trying. Our determination is resolute and we both know that this is one challenge we cannot simply walk away from, no matter how hard it gets. We have been married 575 days now, we both want to be parents and I cannot wait to drop the “in-waiting” bit from that title above. We have shared tears, been offered support from others and made every effort to make our dreams come true. One day, we hope they will.