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‘Our ongoing battle to have children’

LIFE CHANGING: The wonders of IVF

Keith, 45, from south London and his long-term partner Annie are trying to start a family. Here is his own account of how infertility has changed his life how he and his partner are moving forward.

I’D LIKE to be slightly controversial, just for a second. If there was anything positive to be gained from the days of slavery it could possibly be the image of the strong black man, known for his physical prowess and virility.

Ok, I know how stereotypical and un-PC that is. But I think it still gives rise to a covert macho sense of pride that many of us would never admit to playing up to and don’t let a ‘new age’ bredda tell you otherwise. Problems breeding? You have got to be kidding, right? Hmm…read on.

So far, in the mating stakes, like any proud man I’d like to say I feel I’ve had a ‘good innings’. My teens were innocent and clumsy, but rewarded by the excitement of discovery. By my twenties, I had found my feet; I had gained experience and proudly flexed my muscles. By my thirties I was in full flow, nobody got in my way. I was making money and starting to make a name for myself in the music industry. And now, here I am in my glorious forties. I am mature, I am at my peak. Experience has replaced youth, and now I am finally ready to settle down with my dream woman, Annie.

All is good…almost. Well, actually, if I’m honest, I’ve been dealt a blow that has knocked me sideways to say the least.

Having met Annie, who is also in her forties, the subject of children inevitably surfaced. And yes, whilst acknowledging we’d left it a little later like many couples these days, we naively thought that our lifestyle of clean living, that incorporated exercise and careful eating, meant we were in with a shout at reproducing.

The thought of a mini-me-or-she or two running around was enough to persuade us to try for children.

‘Try’, now that is an interesting word. We Brothers don’t ‘try’, the only thing we have to try, is to try not to!
So we stopped using contraception and started thinking about converting my office into a nursery. Right, down to the fun part, lots of glorious love making. And then we waited for the good news. We spoke to a few friends and told them about our life changing decision, and everyone was really pleased for us.

We even went so far as to tell my Jamaican family. Next thing my mother started calling all the aunties back in Jamaica to tell them that I am finally settling down and giving her the grandchildren she has spent the last 20 years begging for.

We take the comments about our age on the chin and tell them times are different, we are not going to have 20 children like they did back in Jamaica. We would be happy with one or two and think we have made the right decision to leave it until later in life when we are financially secure and have our partying years behind us.

But our first attempts have proved unsuccessful so we just rewound and repeated the whole schedule. It was an absolute pleasure! However, yet another negative result emerged. How odd? Could there be something wrong? Maybe Dream Woman should start checking herself out; see if she’s functioning correctly.

Dutiful and patient woman that she is, she consults our GP. And then he wants to see me. To check my sperm! Whoa, this is starting to get a tad too personal. Does he have to see me; is there nothing else we can do?

Man, I’m fit and firing, taking an almost daily workout down the gym, as well as vitamins. Anticipating an unwelcome cocktail of awkwardness and embarrassment, I persuade Dream Woman to help me interrogate the internet for further, less non-confrontational clues.

As with all things Google, a tidal wave of information floods our brains, from seemingly sound advice, to quack theories and remedies.

We have learned that women’s fertility decreases after the age of 35 and that if everything was functioning normally for Dream Woman up until this point, then she would have released an egg once a month, but after 35 she may only produce an egg every other month.

Oh dear, perhaps leaving our breeding programme until later in life wasn’t the best move after all. And depending on the outcome of having my sperm analysed, then maybe our only option would be to have IVF treatment. It all became too much and eventually, the clouds parted to reveal the inevitable, but still terrifying truth. I had to see the GP.

My doctor is very understanding and the experience made me realise that there isn’t anything that I can bring to him that he’s never encountered at least several times before.

The results of the test were returned and I was found to have a low motility, this in short means the ability of the sperm to move forward and fertilize the egg. The faster the better is what you want and that is where I was going wrong.

Dream Woman reinforced all the reasons why I wanted to be with her. She basically picked up where Mum left off. She consoled me, encouraged me, mollified me and the most needed of all, she hugged me.

I returned to Google and now seriously looked at the options, given our age and my lack of swimmers. IVF treatment was now looking like the way forward and then we started to look at private treatment costs in the UK.

The average cost for straightforward IVF was going to set us back £10,000 and the success rates for the UK was a mere 22 percent. Not very encouraging.

By now, we were actually losing sleep over this dilemma and we decided that we would pay for treatment and do everything we could to have children. The results of the second test then came back and were much better. It was just an off day! The Dark Knight Returns!

This now meant that the spotlight shifted back to my better half. She was nervous, to say the least. And I felt ashamed of my behavior over a simple sperm test and how I behaved when the result was not favourable.

We prepared for the worst as she underwent various tests. However there doesn’t seem to be any obvious problem. Annie seems to be producing her monthly or now bi-monthly eggs, this combined with my swimmers having on and off days means it is going to be very difficult for us to have a baby naturally.

We have decided that we need medical intervention and that we will try IVF. As there is no medical reason why this isn’t happening naturally for us, we will have to pay for private treatment.

After extensive research we have found Barbados Fertility Centre. It sounds ideal. We get a two-week romantic holiday in the Caribbean, which will be nice, as I have never taken Annie to meet all my family in Jamaica.

The clinic has great success rates, even with couples in their forties like us! The entire trip with treatment is costing less than the £10,000 we would have to pay for treatment in the UK, and for me it seems right to go back to our roots in the Caribbean to carry on the family line!

From our first contact with Barbados Fertility Centre, we both felt we had found somewhere that is going to help us. They have been really supportive and we are both optimistic that our treatment will be successful.

They have taken care of all the arrangements for flights, luxury accommodation, and have even booked us in for relaxing massages, acupuncture and sessions with a counselor on dealing with the negative emotions associated with IVF treatment.

We are going over to Barbados in January and in the meantime we carry on having sex, which has taken on more of an importance than I’d like. At best, it’s fun trying to spice it up; at worst, tense and sometimes tinged with an inexplicable sadness.

The important thing is, we are prepared to try and we are doing something about it. I’m prepared to try and to swallow my pride. I keep telling myself I’ll be the best dad. And whilst I’m still learning to accept the fact that it may never be, until then, unless told otherwise and for good reason, I’ll be the best dad-in-waiting. Right alongside the world’s most perfect mum.

Hey, don’t feel sorry for us! We’ve barely started our journey. I’ll send you a postcard from Barbados!

* For further information about the Barbados Fertility Centre see: www.barbadosivf.org or call for a confidential chat with an IVF Nurse coordinator on 001 246 435 7467.

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