A Life Less Complicated

#43
The Follow Up To That Opinion

When the call came we were in separate places; I was in town and Beth was in the middle of her regular cut, dye and blow-dry session. The tone was chatty and the tempo upbeat and the main point he wanted to get across was that he needed to see us and soon. The best part was left to last; it would be a free complimentary session. The moment he told us that, and the fact that we were in different parts of Hampshire, we both knew what that meant; bad news.

And so, two weeks later, with feet like lead, Beth and I turned up at the Clinic to hear his news. I’ll not lie; we both knew it was going to be hard and that it would be difficult to accept the news we were expecting. However, with the experience that can only come from years of practice, the Consultant gently took us through the options left on the table.

It came as no surprise that he believed it would not be a good idea to proceed with another attempt with fertility treatment as, in his opinion, it would simply not work. Whilst this may have been the case it still came as a shock to finally take hold of the lid and place it on that particular box.

After four years of travelling along this path, all the pain, sweat and tears, it all came to an end standing in the car park of a private hospital on the outskirts of Salisbury. As the rain started to fall around us we stood in thunderous silence and held each other for so long it began to hurt; I would have smiled at the irony if I’d felt it appropriate. People were leaving in their cars and some had to drive around us, making exaggerated detours but do you think we cared? Do you think the rest of the world cared about us? For the briefest of moments I closed my eyes and nothing else mattered to me more than making sure Beth knew I was there for her.

As we had come in separate cars, I watched as Beth drove off and instantly wished we had come together as, with forty miles until I would be able to speak to her, hold her or comfort her, it seemed like a lifetime. As her car disappeared from sight, the sun broke through the clouds and I reached for my sunglasses as the first tear ran down the side of my face.

Ten minutes later I started the engine, pulled out of the car park and headed home to start picking up the broken pieces of our lives. It wasn’t going to be pleasant but we had to start somewhere; we had come through this together and I would be damned if we were going to let this, as big as it was, beat us.

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We are struggling to come to terms with the situation in which we now find ourselves and Beth is lost in a world that only she has access. It destroys me on a daily basis to see her hurting so hard inside. Rightly, she is grieving for the child she will never have, hold or love. But here’s the thing; she won’t let people in to share her pain, making it easier for her to bear. Even our dear Counsellor, Patsy, has recommended Beth goes to a separate Therapist who can deal specifically with the pain she is feeling.

For the love of God woman, I’m your husband so please let me carry you through this; it’s what I vowed to do all those years ago!

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And then there’s yours truly. I had a serious bout of wobbling about four weeks ago and it was at that time that my whole world seemed to be falling down around my ears. You may ask why it happened then and not now and to that I would remind you of my inane ability to look to the future. You see, four weeks ago, in my mind, I had already visited the second Consultant and heard the news that would shape the rest of my life. I had already seen how it would impact upon Beth and I had already noticed the dark clouds that were beginning to gather just beyond the horizon. Oh, how I’d wobbled. At my lowest point, the moment I sat in the Consultant’s office in my minds eye and listened to him shape our lives, I am not ashamed to say that I contemplated suicide for the first time in my life.

Was I wrong to do that? Can you judge me for my thoughts? I doubt it and I hope you don’t have to listen to the painfully brutal judgement as Beth and I did. I hope there is a light, the smallest shard if necessary, that you can grasp to pull yourselves through such a dark period of time. Actually, what I hope is that you never find yourselves in a position like we have. But, if you do then know this: you don’t have to be alone. People are there and they are waiting to help you through the pain when it hits.

I have been overwhelmed by the warmth of my friends and their ability to simply be there if and when I needed them. However, my biggest admiration is reserved for the one or two work colleagues who became rocks for me to cling to during the darkest times. They gave me the strength to drive home every night and be strong for Beth. Without their help, their support, I dare not think where I would be now. They know who they are and they have my love and thanks now and forever.

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Beth and I have travelled this path together and it’s been hard, so very hard. We also know we have a long way to go before we are finally able to let things lie. Has it made us stronger? Has it strengthened the foundations of our marriage? Are we able to look to the future as a couple? Yes, yes and yes again. So far we have faced our infertility and met it head on. We are stronger and we are more in love now than at any other time over the last six years; this will not break us.
 
#44
The Final Option

Wednesday 27 July 2005

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that you find yourself joining me here at what I have described the final option. You have travelled a journey through the pages of this book that only a small handful of people ever will. You’ve seen me at my lowest, you listened as I have poured my heart out late at night as Beth has slept next to me and you’ve turned the pages as I have described my innermost fears. And all I can hope is that, in some small way, it has perhaps helped you to prepare for your journey, if there is to be one.

There is no doubt that I have matured, developed as a person during the timeframe of this book. I have measured my journey and it has been a long and often painful four years of which you have travelled the majority of the way with me. So when I say the final option, it is my way of letting you know that we are approaching the end of what has been a traumatic time for the pair of us. We have shed tears, both together and privately because of the thing that has engulfed our lives, and taken over in many ways.

And the final option?

The drive to love a child, to create life is so very strong that we were simply unable to turn away from its draw. Although a cliché, we were the moths and the child was the light. We needed to hold the light so very much it hurt us on a daily basis. We needed to hear our child cry, taking its first breath. We needed to stand up and let the world see that we could be good parents and love the child we both so desperately wanted. We simply needed to be given the chance to do what we were put here to do. Is that so bad? Tell me; am I selfish to think like this? Am I wrong to want what others receive so easily?

The final option, for us, means just that. We’ve been given a golden opportunity that came out of the blue and we simply have to go for it. Beth’s cousin, Julie, contacted Beth’s parents to let them know that she and her husband, Mike, would like to act as egg donors if we wanted.

If we wanted!!

As you can imagine, we were totally blown away. It was such a kind and unconditional offer that we sat, quite stunned for some time. I mean, where on earth does such an offer come from? We were at the brink of accepting that we would never be able to have our own children and then this? I have never experienced such kindness and I am not sure if I ever will again.

We accepted their offer with open arms.

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And so, with a love stronger than ever before, we started the final journey together along a well trodden path. It is the final trip and within the next eighteen months it will be over. Right now, at the time of writing this chapter, I do not know the outcome and, yes, I am scared and I am trying desperately not to look to the future as I know it can be an unhealthy place to visit.

There is nothing I have not told you and there is nothing you don’t know about me or the pain I have felt along the way. What lies ahead is the final journey through our quest for the love of a child; our child. Will we find that love in the eyes of our new born baby? If you wish you can skip ahead and find out as, for the reader that is your privilege. Right now, standing here in my kitchen, I wish I was the reader but I am not. I wish I was the one who could put the book down and get on with my life but I can’t. But, above all else I wish I was the one who could wake up tomorrow to the sounds of my children tearing around the house at some ungodly hour of the morning, but we both know I won’t.

So, let’s turn the pages together and see where the path takes us for that is all we can do. There is no doubt it will be painful and I suspect I will lean heavily on you as the coming months unfold. Whatever happens, regardless of where we end up, know this. I am glad you’ve been there, turning the pages with me.

After you…
 
#45
Work in Progress

27 December 2005

It’s been five months since I last put pen to paper. Indeed, the last time was in my kitchen when I was explaining our future move and how I didn’t know how it would turn out. Since then things have moved along at quite a rapid rate of knots and there have been times when I have caught myself coming backwards!

I have moved jobs and am now working in London for one of the larger Government Departments. It was the brain child of my new boss that I should take the opportunity to “broaden my wings”. Like the majority of his ideas following his arrival, it was poorly executed and the timing was way off target. I would like to say it has been good for the career but I am just existing at the moment, trying to look like a swan; all graceful on top but paddling like hell underneath. I am sure the powers that be will soon discover that, whilst I am paddling, I am still going round in circles!

Beth continues to work her backside off. Her boss, a bloody good guy I must add, decided to announce his retirement a few months ago so she has had to ramp herself up a couple of gears in order to provide that extra cover where it’s most needed. She also took responsibility for his leaving party which, after nineteen years in the seat, was going to be a considerable task. As always, she managed to pull it off with great skill and panache to much acclaim from those involved. Her boss has now left the building and, in the New Year, the new Head will arrive. Beth has a long year ahead of her as the new head settles in and I am sure there will be long nights and short weekends as the pair learn to work together in forming another winning partnership. I’ve said it before and I am proud to say it again; Beth is a fantastic, first class teacher who is totally dedicated to the children in her care. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that she will go a long way before she is ready to give this job up.

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So, as you can see, the past five months have been busy for the pair of us and it doesn’t seem like so much time has gone by since I last clicked on the icon on my desk top that says ‘work in progress’.

You would however, be mistaken for believing that we’ve been neglecting our Prime Directive because we’ve also been flying up and down the length of the country sourcing Fertility Clinics, studying statistics and grilling Consultants. Why? Because we bit the bullet and the final stage I talked about five months ago is very much under way.

Welcome to Phase Two!

At this stage of the game, and it’s very early, all I can really tell you is that we have egg donors, Julie and Mike, willing to give up their eggs to help us achieve our goal. All the bloods match and tests are showing a green light. They live in Durham, have two healthy children, both are content their family is complete. Julie is within the stipulated age range for Donorship as well as falling within the recommended body mass criteria. And, as far as I am concerned, they bloody well walk on water!

Now, as I see it, this sort of offer comes along only once in a lifetime so when it does you need to make sure you get it right. You need to make sure you do everything in your power to give those ‘Golden Eggs’ every opportunity to flourish and grow as they represent everything you desire in life. Now is not the time to be led by the hand nor is it the time to sit back and let others decide your future.

Now is the time when you begin to research like you’ve never researched before. You get on the internet and you trawl every fertility clinic in search of those who offer the best service on the market. You don’t take second best and you don’t take people at their word. I see it like this. Think back to the time you bought your first car. You were, perhaps, slightly naïve and a little wet behind the ears maybe? You listened to the salesman and gladly accepted what he said as you had little to no experience to suggest otherwise. He no doubt convinced you that his car was the best in the area and you no doubt, took him for his word.

Then, as time went by and you came to buy your third car you were a little more experienced and you knew what you were looking for and you knew the questions you wanted to ask. You may have even done some research into not only the car but the background history and reputation of the person you were buying it from. Could they be trusted? Had they been around for long? What was their customer service like?

A very male perspective but I am sure you know what I am saying.

And that’s exactly what we did. The results pulled up two Clinics that were almost poles apart in their approach to fertility treatment. One was at the higher end of the market with impressive stationery and very comfortable leather seats whilst the other was attached to a local hospital, had hard plastic chairs and consulted in one of the spare treatment rooms.

We visited both and subjected their consultants to what can only be called a thorough and intensive grilling. At this stage we weren’t interested in being questioned as we had too many questions of our own to ask. We wanted to discuss treatment styles alongside patient welfare; for both Donor and mother to be. We wanted to know if the Clinics employed the latest techniques and what they would be doing to handle the unique situation we found ourselves in with regards to the four hundred miles that separated the patients.

I would like to say that both Consultants performed to the best of their ability providing succinct to the point answers. I would also like to say that I would be happy for either Consultant to take our hopes and dreams and turn them into reality. And, above all else, I would like to say that both Consultants treated us with a professional respect and also as two people who had a working knowledge of their situation rather than a couple of tins on a conveyor belt.

The truth however, is one of the Clinics we visited left us cold and it was all we could do to remain seated until the end of the ‘consultation’. There was no compassion and minimal interaction between us and the Consultant. He grew very irritated when we began asking questions and even more frustrated when we sat waiting for answers. Indeed, it took three attempts to get an answer to one question about embryos being sensitive to light and only because I sat there and refused to continue until he answered. It soon became obvious that we weren’t meant to ask questions as it should have been obvious to us that we would be completely safe in his very experienced hands. As we left, walking past the posh stationery and leather chairs, we both agreed we wouldn’t be allowing those hands to hold our dog’s lead let alone anything else.

We later received a letter from the leather seated Consultant thanking us for meeting with him, at a cost of £150, (non-refundable) and also informing us that the semen sample I provided was nice and healthy. This news is always welcome and, as you can imagine, pleases me every time I hear it. The only fly in the ointment on this occasion was, unfortunately, they hadn’t actually tested me and my ‘healthy’ semen was a contributing factor for the consultation in the first place!

Idiots from the distant planet incompetence!

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The other Clinic, despite their lack of leather seats and fancy coffee machines made the grade in every way possible. The Consultant welcomed questions with open arms and did a cracking job of fielding our concerns. He knew we had travelled the length of the country and had decided to clear his evening schedule for us which is quite impressive when you consider the workload these guys have. Indeed, his entire focus was on us and our situation and the medical journey we had travelled during the last five years. Here was a man we felt completely at home with; he had the so called X Factor and was a clear winner. This was the guy who we wanted to take us through to Boot Camp.

So, as you have probably guessed, we have opted to go with the second clinic. I have yet to reply to the letter we received from the muppets with the leather seats but I am sure they’ll appreciate my efforts when I do.

If there is a lesson to be learnt here it is this: make sure you choose the treatment you want and don’t be dazzled by the science or surroundings as I suppose we may have been in the early days. Do the research and don’t be afraid to ask the uncomfortable questions as to not do so may leave you in a position of being led rather than moving forward together. Also, don’t choose a clinic just because it’s the closest one to you. There are many clinics around the country and you should study each one in depth in order to identify those with the qualities you are looking for. Go and visit them and see how they operate. You’re not investing in a new carpet, car or computer; you’re investing in a new life so you need to make every opportunity count.

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And, finally, it’s not all about statistics and success rates. You need to feel relaxed about the way the clinic treats you and your wife. These are the people who will be taking you through one of the most important and emotional journeys you and your partner will ever make. You need to know they care about you as individuals and that they will be there for you both; regardless of the outcome. Remember, this is not a small thing you are doing and therefore you need to feel safe in their hands as it is those hands that will be doing everything in their power to help answer your dreams.
 
#46
Any reason why you didn't consider adoption?
 
#48
New Year Resolutions

31 December 2005

I would be grateful if someone could do me a favour and explain just exactly where the last twelve months have gone? I mean, the last time I looked it was January and we had the whole year ahead of us. I suppose this is the thing with our situation; we measure our lives in cycles and treatments as we bounce from one round to another. We don’t actually register the days and weeks in between all of this and, when you actually stand back at take stock it’s rather quite frightening.

It also however, demands that you take every day and turn it in to something special in one way or another. Tonight we are going out to enjoy ourselves with a little bit of drinking and a whole load of dancing. Tonight we are off out to see the New Year in.

That’s why Beth is upstairs with her mum trying on party dresses and shoes. Ben and I are still sitting on our backsides watching Band of Brothers; we both know we have enough time to get ready but we’re playing a silent game of chicken to see who has the guts to leave it the longest before we have to make a move. Ben will win; he has the stubborn streak of a mule; a lot like his daughter I must add.

We try to do this every other year with our friends as it’s nice to get dressed up once in a while and let the hair down; even though mine is a little on the short side to start with. The men folk wear the standard black tie whilst the ladies made their grand entrances in all their finery and I must say Beth does me proud every time. She truly is a beauty and I fall in love with her all over again when she comes down the stairs in her party dress, dancing shoes and sparkly stones.

This year we decided to join the oldies at a local dinner dance at the Officers Club in Colchester. Plans had been made and tickets purchased well in advance in anticipation of a cracking New Years Party. On arrival we were met with drinks and nibbles and shown to our table by a most attentive young lady; the band struck up and we were off and running.

Within the hour things turned a little colourful as we realised that we were stuck with the ‘Glen Miller Tribute Band’ for the entire evening as there was no disco to be seen. On closer inspection we began to notice that both Beth, me and our friends were in fact the youngest guests at the party. As I am the youngest amongst our friends that made me Team Junior, Mr Vice if you like. As the band did it’s best to convince us they were ‘In the Mood’ even the oldies began to realise maybe, just maybe, this was going to be one of the longest nights of the year.

By eleven O’clock us ‘youngsters’ had retired to the Sports bar in search of a little relief from the heaving OAP mosh pit that was the dance floor. It never ceases to amaze me how much stamina oldies have. I mean, where on earth do they find the energy needed to strut their stuff for hours on end? Although the music was a little repetitive they were up there pounding the floor as if it was December the 31st 1999.

As we caught our breath and discussed what we would be doing for the next outing in 2007 the Band Leader called everyone to the dance floor and told them to form a large circle. This went on for some time and we were left wondering what was about to happen. As usual we tried to guess and I suggested the Hokey Cokey adding that if it was I’d drop my pants right there in the bar. As the first, instantly recognisable notes of that very tune struck up I was made, by my dear wife and friends, to eat my words! If you’ve never heard a brass band push out the Hokey Cokey with your trousers around your ankles on New Years Eve you’ve never lived. And that’s all I have to say about that.

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As it turned out, the evening was just fine. It gave us a chance to let our hair down amongst friends and family and really have a good time. Yes, the music was a little interesting and the guest list rather entertaining but did it really matter? We were amongst people who loved us and cared for us in every way possible. There were no tentative questions about how we were and how things were going with our, you know, situation? No, this was a time for fun and drunken laughs; a time for the pair of us to recharge. A time we both needed so very much.

So, to the New Year; 2006. We know it’s going to be another tough one and as yet, we have no idea how it’s going to turn out. Of course we have everything crossed that our new found lease of hope, the donor, will work but we are taking one step at a time. For the last five years we have pulled the wish bone giving to us by Beth’s mum as she has made turkey soup on Boxing Day. This year she had to force us to pull it as we are both being cautious with those wishes. I suppose it’s a protective thing as we are trying, already, to minimise the pain and hurt we know could be waiting just over the horizon. At the second attempt we had dreamed of naming our children; the Irish children to be precise and, on the morning of 23rd March 05 a small piece of me died as I realised that would never happen. This time I am being careful, this time I refuse to go through that pain as it’s a bloody hard wall to hit and an even harder one to climb over.

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We are both looking to the future with excitement and trepidation as that is all we can do. We tend to skirt around the fact that it’s going to be another tough year which could go one of two ways. All that remains is the discovery of the exact direction.

When I stop and think about what I wished for this time last year as Beth and I cuddled up under the duvet I can only hope this time my wish comes true. We need it so much to be our turn, not only because it’s all we want but because we have so much love inside us waiting to be released. I look at Beth and I know she yearns to hold her child and feel the bond only a mother experiences. Right now, I would do anything to give her what she wants; what she needs, what we both need She is my wife, my best friend and this whole retched situation, I know, is slowly killing her from the inside.
 
#49
Therapy Take 3


If there’s one thing I have learnt over the previous five years it’s that therapy, counselling, tree hugging, navel gazing or whatever you want to call it, is king. I know people laugh at the Americans for a whole host of reasons but the one thing they seem to do well is simply getting things off their chest and out of their system. They sit themselves down and simply talk about the things going on inside their heads. It’s a basic concept but it’s one that works.

I don’t know why talking is so good and I don’t claim to know how it works. What I do know, however, is that it just seems to hit the mark every time I need it to. There is no skill on our behalf as all we have to do is turn up and answer questions. No, the skill lies on the side of the person sitting opposite us; the counsellor. They have trained for this moment and simply seem to know what to say and when to say it so that the results, our answers, are what we need to hear. It is a skill honed over many years of practice and patience and it is a skill only a few possess. And the best part is that it is a skill that can be put to spectacular use when crafted by the right mind.

This time however, it’s different. This time it’s personal.

Not only are we being counselled but the other couple, the donor couple, are also going through the same process. We aren’t being grilled and we aren’t undergoing some sort of test to see if we have what it takes to be parents. This time it’s all about how we will cope with being part of the donor programme that could deliver the one thing we have been looking for; a child to call our own.



Also, just to throw a bit of colour into the mix, as our donors live in Durham it means a great deal of traveling up and down the country to take part in the sessions. Of course, this is not a problem and we do it because it’s what we have to do. The early starts however are, shall we say, interesting. Then, as every new parent will tell you, if you’ve just had a baby the early mornings are something you’ll get used to so we decide to stop the moaning before we start. As a crusty old Corporal once told me: “If you’re looking for sympathy O’Connor, you’ll find it in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.”

The sessions are mandatory as we are, once again dealing with the NHS and the Government has set very strict guidelines on how to deal with this type of situation. It is imperative that the welfare of the child is the prime concern for all involved. In a way this always makes me smile as it’s one of the many things that irks me about the situation in which we find ourselves. You see, I know that I can walk along any high street or visit any shopping centre and witness children of all ages whose immediate welfare can be questioned. A teenage single mother, children with clothes hanging off their little bodies, dirty faces, swearing, smacking; the list is far from exhaustive. And the Government has the audacity to question me over how I intend to raise my child? I wonder if welfare ‘Hit Squads’ will ever be seen patrolling the streets asking intrusive questions of those parents who were lucky enough not to be infertile?

I very much doubt it.

But, like the previous six years, I bite my tongue and play the game because that’s what I need to do. I need to make sure the Government of the day is happy with my stability, financial dexterity and mental capacity to such an extent that they deem the pair of us suitable parent material. After this, we are allowed to buy a licence that entitles us to proceed with fertility treatment. And please, don’t get me started on the whole ‘buying a licence’ thing.

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So, the counselling is not only for us but the Donors, Julie and Mike who have volunteered to help. They know we are more than grateful for this shatteringly generous offer but I doubt if they will ever know just how humbled we both really are. They have literally offered the chance of life and that in itself is simply beyond comprehension and, if it works then we will ourselves be complete. If it fails then so be it; my gratitude and love for them will remain forever.

To begin with, we are counselled separately from Julie and Mike. The Counsellor, Jane, wants to get to know us before she moves onto the group sessions. I think we are more relaxed than she expected us to be and this slightly throws her. Beth and I have entered into this third process with a more laid back attitude than the previous sessions and it really shows. Why so relaxed? Because we know the pain that follows failure and this time we have protected ourselves from it. After the second attempt you read about how lost we were. You were there when I took the call from the clinic and you were there as felt the anger beginning to take hold. We are determined to ride this storm in the biggest boat we can find, with strong steel sides and a massive engine to boot!

It was slightly amusing, sitting there waiting for Jane to take stock of our more than relaxed approach. We are confident in our attitude and recognise that she is only doing her job. Beth and I have become hardened to this sort of situation and, where once we would have found it awkward and difficult; we now know its all part of a game we have to play. We know we have to say the right things at the right time to the right people and that’s what we do. I sometimes wonder if the people who ask the questions think we don’t spend time preparing the answers. We’re a team and, like any other team we know how the other players think and we react accordingly; we call it editing on the hoof.

After ten minutes Jane finally locates her stride and begins the process we have become accustomed to. She is keen to know what makes us tick and why we are prepared to go to such extremes to have a family. At this point I make a mental note to send her a copy of this book when I am finished. She also wants to know how we will deal with the fact that the child will, genetically, belong to another woman. This is a twist from the normal path and this is the moment the penny drops; this is not about us but rather how we will cope with a child that has no genetic connection to Beth whatsoever.

She really pushes this point and wants to know how we see ourselves telling the child where it came from and when we will do it? Now, I have a problem with this as she is using words such as ‘telling’, ‘came from’ and ‘when’. Even to me, with my freaky need to look beyond the immediate future, this is asking too much, way too early. One step at a time woman!

After a while she begins to sound like a one trick pony and we both settle into the camp of least resistance and agree to consider the options as and when they arise. We’re not exactly agreeing with her but the room is closing in and we both need to breathe fresh air. Of course, she has a point and we must be ready to make that decision of telling our child where he or she came from. I have watched enough episodes of ER and Casualty to know that the day may come where we could be faced with a life saving operation where the genetics issue will arise and there will be the uneasy end of programme music. Or not!

If I am brutally honest I don’t want people to look at my child and know he or she is not ours, who has that right? I want my family to be mine in every sense. I don’t want people to drive away from our house discussing how much junior looks like me but, “of course, there is no resemblance to Beth because, well, there can’t be can there”?

Am I selfish? Damn right I am! Tell me I am wrong, I dare you!

Of course, Jane hones in on this like a heat seeking missile. She labels it a control issue and launches into scenarios where we could announce it to people. She suggests the child’s first birthday or another significant family gathering such as Christmas or even the Christening.

Freak Alert!

No, for now, the topic is closed as we simply cannot imagine what we will do. In fact, I suspect we will not know until we are holding the child, our child in our arms. Until that time we will discuss it between ourselves and the few people who know what is happening. That’s right; there is only a handful, eight in total, who know about the situation. And, for now, that’s the way it will remain.

The couples session, or the ‘swingers gathering’ as we called it, was much of the same and Jane was keen to get into the disclosure issue again. Now, I am not usually one for putting my foot down and I do realise she has a job to do but this time I delivered both barrels with enough style to make even Vinnie Jones wince.

To be honest I had had enough of this not so well hidden agenda and, after flying up from Southampton that morning, catching the 0530 red eye express, I was in no mood to piss about. The other three sat there in quiet support as I laid it on the line that disclosure will be dealt with by us and will be done so in the best way we feel would benefit our child. We would, of course, take stock of the Government guidelines but at the same time we realised that’s all they were; guidelines. Following on from this, I told her that any decision would be taken at the right time for us; all others, including the faceless Government committee who had considered such issues, would take a back seat. Damn, I bet half of them have children of their own.

And do you know the best thing? If and when I go off on one, Beth tends to finish up with “I think what Alex is trying to say is….” This time however, she sat there and winked at me as if to say “Yep, that’s right, so screw your Government Policy and the horse it rode in on”.

Of course, Jane realised she had pushed too far and promptly backed off. Quickly. We knew then as we know now that she was just doing her job and hold no malice towards her or the Government but there is a side of this whole thing that is simply not fair. Why are we being made to answer the difficult unanswerable questions so early in the process? Why are we the odd ones out?
-
Looking back I realise now that Jane was actually trying to impose a set of actions upon us. She was trying to establish when and how we would conform with laid down guidelines and adhere to the official thinking and latest research rather than talking us through the options available to us. This causes me some concern as I thought we were there to be counselled on how we would cope with the upcoming procedure and all it entailed. How can a counsellor, who should be there to guide you through your inner most thoughts and fears try to push you towards a final answer? Surely her role was to help us listen to ourselves; helping us to talk through the issues that we may have difficulty addressing?

Perhaps I am doing Jane an injustice. Then again, perhaps she did that herself.
 
#50
I cant help but read these posts,I am not sure why maybe because for a time I too thought I would never have children afterlosing 4 but if this was a book I think I would skip to the last page just to see if you did get youre child.
 
#52
I didnt mean to sound rude,I guess I am impatient and even when I am reading the posts its in the back of my mind,I hope they get their child.

It does make hard reading to see youre pain written down and while I dont pity people who dont have children for whatever reason,I am so grateful for my boys as it could have turned out so different.Maybe they too have trodden your path and choose not to tell,afterall nobody really knows what to say do they?
 
#53
From Nairobi to Northumberland

The one thing you will learn about fertility treatment is the fact that it really doesn’t happen overnight. Whenever you hear it mentioned on the news or read about it in the papers all you see is a snapshot in time; a moment if you like. The reality is quite often very different. So far we have been travelling this particular road for the past six years and it’s taken us through many highs and just as many lows; if not more

One of the strangest twists to date, perhaps a direct result of me needing to interact with children, has seen me travelling to the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya. In turn, this has led to me setting up my own charity; a very small organisation that raises much needed funding for children and young adults in Africa.

-

Six years ago I would never have thought my life would have taken such a turn and I had no way of knowing that children in another country half way around the world would impact upon my life in such a big way but, you know what, shit happens.

The Charity came out of the blue following a last minute call for help from a work colleague. Basically, he had been collecting goodies to deliver to Kenya and, due to work commitments, was having to pull out of the planned trip to deliver the boxes. After a hurried discussion in his office I was welcomed on to the team and, only two weeks later, found myself on the runway of Nairobi International Airport off-loading boxes from the aircraft into a truck in the middle of the night! I spent a total of twenty five hours in Nairobi and those hours, I can say with total confidence, changed my entire outlook on life. It’s hard to actually put down in words the effect it had on me but I know one thing; the moment I left Kenya I knew I would be going back. I didn’t quite know when and I didn’t know in what capacity; I just knew.

-

The flight time between Nairobi and London is approximately eight hours and the majority of my fellow travellers were happy to either sleep the hours away or overdose on in-flight entertainment. I, on the other hand, spent the time planning the next move which would eventually lead to my return to Africa. It’s amazing what you can pull together when you have the endless resources of the mind! In only eight hours I had developed my charity, its objectives and the launch event. All I had to do was pitch it to a couple of well placed friends and the rest would be plain sailing.

As I stepped off the aircraft into a bleak October morning, it did strike me as a well planned piece of fantasy. However, I soon put that thought out of my mind as I remembered the charity logo I had drawn on a napkin as we passed over Egypt. It was stuffed inside the pocket of my overly creased shirt and it was the beginning of something I simply knew I had to do.

-

Three years and nearly £15,000 later my little Charity is here to stay. I’ll not say it’s been an easy ride as that would be tantamount to lying my arse off. It’s been bloody hard and, sometimes, I have questioned the entire concept alongside my sanity.

At the time of writing this, we are planning to register with the Charities Commission and it’s all very exciting indeed. We have a small but loyal following of supporters and I am happy to say we are beginning to make a very real difference to those we care for. Of course, we will never be able to match the levels the larger charities achieve but that’s to be expected. The Charity is a small but perfectly formed organisation that helps where it can and I am happy with the way things are. If we can make the difference to one child’s life then all the hard work has been a success.

-

Of course, you don’t need to hold a Psychology Degree to see the connection between the work I do in Africa and my inability to father my own child. It sits in the back of my mind and I push it away every time it tries to remind me it’s there. I know what’s occurring and I know it’s a way of helping to ease the pain, the huge gulf that is infertility. I needed to prove to others that I was not the worthless failure that I sometimes saw staring out of the mirror.

Africa was my chance to talk about children I cared for with a passion. It was my chance to show off countless photographs and rabbit on to whoever would listen about the children living on the outskirts of Nairobi in conditions most people have only witnessed on TV. And the best thing? For every bloody photograph a proud parent pulled out to show me I have, at least, 200 to show them; I can top trump Barnardos if necessary.

-

Right now it’s September 2006 and it’s been nine months since we last spoke. In fact, the pace has been so frenetic that this is the first chance I have had time to touch base with you. Let me start by letting you know that we are renting a cottage in Northumberland and are both holed up against the outside world. I am writing and Beth is lying on the couch playing Scooby Do on the newly acquired Play-Station. She is bored to distraction and is trying hard to make sure I know it. I, on the other hand, am ignoring her very pointed and dramatic scowls and loud huffs.

Why are we in Northumberland? At precisely ten thirty five this morning I held her hand and brushed her cheek as a single, very precious embryo was taken from the incubator and gently implanted into her womb. We have two weeks and the entire back catalogue of Friends to get through before we know if this time will be our time.
 
#54
Suspended in Time

If you’ve yet to experience the two week wait then a rare treat awaits. Of course, I am not saying it’s a treat as in, say, a new gadget or an unexpected windfall from a long lost aunt or uncle. No, the two week wait is something we’re not meant to experience, so when we do, we become members of this unique club and it’s a card we should carry with considerable pride.

The normal way to discover you are pregnant is the typical scenario of the partner being late with her monthly cycle; perhaps it was planned, maybe not. Either way, four to six weeks following the “coupling” a pregnancy test will confirm the status of the potential new arrival.

What follows, planned or not, is a raft of emotions designed to carry you through a life changing moment. There’s joy, shock, laughter, tears, sweat, palpitations and trembling to mention but a few and that’s within the first ten minutes. However, the reaction is normal because it’s what you expect to go through; you just created a little life!

Now, to qualify for the two week IVF/ICSI membership card you will need to satisfy certain criteria. The first is to have gone through the entire check list that is fertility treatment. How you have done this is immaterial as the rules are a little hazy. You could be on your first cycle or your fifth; it really doesn’t matter as you only need to tick the box once. I mean, it’s not like the more you have the more you qualify for Gold Membership is it?

The second criteria, and things start to firm up around now, is that your sperm and her eggs have fertilised whilst swimming around in their own little party dish back at the clinic. Where it says eggs you could delete the “s” as only one is minimum requirement. If you have had more than one fertilisation you can start thanking your lucky stars now as someone, somewhere, is smiling down on the pair of you. Once fertilisation has taken place your application for membership is as good as accepted and, within twenty four hours, you will receive your card through the post; you’re in the club Dancing Boy! Enclosed with the card will be an invite to bring your good lady in to the clinic to have the embryo(s) placed back inside her where they will attach themselves to the feathered nest that is the womb.

And here’s the beautiful thing; you will know within two weeks of that fertilised egg (or eggs) being placed in the womb whether or not you will be painting the nursery. You see, unlike the many couples who, for whatever reason, don’t need to apply for membership, confirmation is almost immediate. Don’t get me wrong, you will experience the palpitations, the sweats, the trembles and yes, the tears. Only this time it all hits you in a very short period of time and, here’s the killer; you know its bloody well coming!

The waiting can be awful.

I suppose you’re waiting for one of two things to occur. The first, of course is for your partner to have two uneventful weeks of sitting on the couch with her feet up reading books and eating way too much chocolate. You will be fetching and carrying for her, doing the chores with one hand and massaging her feet with the other. Believe me, there is nothing you won’t do to make sure she is happy, comfortable and relaxed. This is her time to do absolutely nothing and if you or she disagree then you’ll be hearing from the membership committee a lot sooner than you had anticipated.

At the end of the two weeks, your good lady will undergo the pregnancy test and, if all has gone to plan, you will have the read-out you’ve been waiting for; well done, have a cigar and mine’s a large one thanks.

And then there’s the other way. Your good lady has been sitting on the sofa, you’ve been manfully looking after her and doing all the things I mentioned earlier and, for some God forsaken reason her period comes and your dreams, hopes and wishes are ripped from your hearts in a split second.

There is no reason for what happens, it just does. The embryo has failed to attach to the side of the womb and Mother Nature steps in and does what she does best. These times are the worst as you are both left with nothing to show for the months of hard work and effort that has gone in to preparing for those two weeks. There is nothing you can do to repair the damage, there is no rewind button, and there are no pages to turn back. And here’s the thing; every minute of every hour of every day for two bloody weeks, you’re waiting for it to happen.

-

We’re now two days into the fortnight and things seem to be going well. There are the normal cramps due to the medication and Beth is looking drained and tired which is normal due to the pressure and broken sleep patterns. I am sitting here talking to you, helping to prepare you for the time when you complete your application form to join this rather exclusive little club.

If you are accepted, and I hope you do get this far, you need to stay strong for your wife as she will look to you for her own strength and composure. If you need to cry or just be alone then make sure you do it quietly as now is not the time to let her see how scared and frightened you are. Now is the time to be there for her, to be there by her side holding her hand. I am not saying you need to turn your emotions off as that is simply not possible. All I am saying is, for those two weeks, become her anchor and foundation. She is so very precious and is trying to make the pair of you complete, trying to give you the child you both ache to hold and she needs to know you are there for her. She is your partner, your wife, your best friend.

Right now however, all she really wants to be is the mother of your child.
 
#55
13th October 2006

On the 13th October, a Friday to be precise, I walked upstairs to see if Beth was awake. We had travelled back to Hampshire a week earlier and it was around eight o’clock on another typically wet and nasty winter’s morning. Today was the day we would conduct that all important pregnancy test.

Today was the red letter day to trump all others.

As I rounded the corner at the top of the stairs she was heading back into the bedroom. It was dark and by the time I got to the door she was wrapping herself into the duvet. As I became re-acquainted with the dark I noticed her eyes and, as the question left my lips, I already knew the answer.

After six years it came down to this; the pair of us in the darkness of a new day, completely silent, completely focused on each other. This was it, our defining moment; a single moment in time.

I stood there for some time trying to work out what to say or do to break this spell we found ourselves under. Words failed me because, after all this time, I was completely unprepared. I had rehearsed this moment in my head and here I was, lost in a mist so dense I was beginning to choke.

I climbed into bed and gathered her into my arms.
 
#56
Tuesday 28th November 2006

I have been trying to write that chapter for the best part of two months and I have failed at every attempt. I have sat staring at the screen for hours; the words simply refusing to come. After nearly six years of writing this book it scared me that I had no words to express just how I felt.

It scared me because I realised that I would, finally, have to accept that I would never hold my own child in my arms; playing the part of the proud father for the world to see. I would never be able to look at my boy and see my own eyes looking back. I had so wanted to be a father that it took quite a while for me to admit to myself that it would never happen. No matter what we had done in the past; the medical interventions alongside the earth shattering kindness from Julie and Mike, it was now over; I had failed.

Right now I am sitting on a train heading towards London as part of my daily commute to work. My fellow passengers are sleeping, reading or fussing on with their laptops, as I am. It’s wet and cold and the approach into Waterloo is typically grey and, as I look out of the window I see people going about their business and I realise that is all I can do; get on with my life.

There is no big plan out there and fate, I have now decided, is a myth made up by people who simply do not understand or refuse to accept that shit just happens. If there was a plan then why would people be singled out for this sort of treatment? Who decides who gets what? Have Beth and I upset people in previous lives and are therefore being punished now?

I think not.

No, there is no reason why this is happening, it just is. Of course, that knowledge does not ease the pain or hurt we’ve both felt over the past two months and continue to do so on a daily basis.

It seems strange but back in my kitchen, all those months ago; I talked about the final option. I remember how I invited you to join me on the journey and how, as the reader, you had the privilege of reading ahead to discover if we had been successful. I sit here now and wonder if you took advantage of that offer? Have you known the outcome and been waiting for me to join you or did you wait, discovering the harsh reality as I have?

Either way, I now find myself at the end of a journey that has taken nearly six years to complete. Now, as I look out of the window on a wet November morning at the countryside speeding past I need to let you know my journey has come to an end. I close my eyes and feel my chest relax and the weight of the last six years begins to quietly ebb. I rest my shoulders and recognise there is nothing more I can do as I have exhausted every medical procedure on this quest for the one thing I now, at last, know will never be mine to hold and love. I can finally rest because it’s over.

I am so tired now; tired of the whole damn thing. Six years is such a long time and I have measured it against the many procedures we have endured. I can’t remember a time when this has not played a part in our marriage. It’s tainted everything; it’s in our very fabric. And, perhaps the most hurtful thing of all; it’s taken some of the sparkle away from my wife and that is simply unforgivable.

At the age of 27 I held Beth’s hand as we walked around Alton Towers, she was working her way in to my life and was full of drive. Her eyes shone and her smile was beautiful; beyond compare. I was tumbling into her love with total disregard as this was the woman who had captured my heart. This was the woman who had, with a tender fledgling love, told me that she wanted to give me a child that we could love and raise together.

The past six years have been hard on both of us. We have travelled a journey so difficult it could have torn us apart. There have been times when Beth has turned to me and said I should leave her to find another woman who could give me the child she could not. She meant every word although her eyes betrayed the truth.

There have been other times when we can both remember how easy it would have been to just leave it all behind; saying goodbye to the world. I am not afraid, nor ashamed, to let you know that I did contemplate suicide. I did think of ways to make the pain go away and yes, it scared me that my mind was working in such a way but, as I asked earlier, was I wrong to think about it? Well, perhaps I may have been wrong but at least I challenged it head on rather than deny it was ever there.

Right now, as I get closer to London, I know there is much to do in the future. Beth and I are only just coming to terms with our circumstances and we are both undergoing separate counselling sessions in order to pull us through this fresh pain. We both know we need to sit down and consider the future very carefully. It is a future we need to shape ourselves and we both know it’s a future that will not wait forever.

But, above all else, we know that it is a future we will face together, as one. This has not broken us, as it has with others, and it will not destroy what we have. If anything, it has brought us closer together, forming a bond stronger than steel. We will look to the future and know that what lies ahead is ours for the making and we will make it ours; that’s a promise.

-

It seems quite strange being here and writing what has to be the closing chapter of this part of my life. I know it’s been six years in the making but it feels like only yesterday when I decided to sit down and go for it. To be fair it was Beth who placed the original thought in my head. In fact, the words for the introduction were written on the night of our second failed attempt at IVF. I wrote them through a blur of tears and they are the only part of this book that I have not altered or re-drafted in one way or another. It really has been one hell of a journey and I know I have matured over the years. I suspect you will be able to see the change within the words and style of writing as the time has slipped by.

I am not overly sure what I hoped to achieve when I sat down and started to write; I suspect it was more to do with therapy than anything else. But, as the words flowed along with the tears I knew it was something I simply had to finish and more importantly, let others read. I was certainly not looking for critical acclaim or fab reviews as there was never a moment at any point during the past six years when I wanted those trophies. Even now I shudder with fear when I think of people reading about my innermost thoughts and demons.

I suppose, once I had settled down to the fact that I was producing an account of the most personal period of my, I was happy to really let things flow. There was a story to tell and I wanted to tell it; warts and all. But, unlike most stories, this one is without a happy ending and I am sorry if you expected one. If it helps, I never expected to be writing this chapter either.

No, this was a story about two normal people, a man and his wife, two people you may have walked past in the street who simply wanted to love and hold their own child. A thing so simple it happens around the world without a thought or second glance. However, when it doesn’t happen the world seems to carry on and soon forgets about those who cannot achieve this simple loving act.

To bear your own child is, without doubt, a life changing event. Everything you are, the person you become, the path you lead will change the day you look in to the eyes of your newborn child. Indeed, I have listened to friends as they have proudly stated how they would kill to shield their child from harm’s way. These are feelings so deep I can only imagine the emotional structure needed to support them.

I have come to accept that I will never hold Beth’s hand as she brings our child in to the world. I will not fill with pride as the nurse hands me a bundle so precious I become overly cautious and I will never experience the joy of placing our child into Beth’s arms for the first time whilst trying not to cry over the pair of them.

I have also come to accept that Beth has changed. No longer is she the carefree woman I met and fell in love with eleven years ago. She is, like me, more mature and slightly battle hardened to the world around her. I see her staring at children with a distant expression on her face and I also see her look away before the pain becomes too intense. She has yet to fully accept our situation and I doubt, deep down, she ever will.

And, like Beth, I know I have also changed. It’s the small things like not getting stressed about issues that used to be so very important. My work ethic has taken a bit of a nose dive as I can’t find the motivation to worry about matters that used to keep me awake at night. I would often fret about the ‘big meeting’ or the briefing pack I needed to prepare for one Minister or another. I would spend hours checking and re-checking briefs, looking for the mistakes and areas for improvement; that was my job; it was an expectation.

These days it’s all I can do to feign interest. I see those around me forging ahead with their precious careers and I simply can’t be bothered to keep up with the leaders. Countless e-mails land in my inbox announcing new initiatives or “must attend” seminars and I delete them with glee. I am aware of this change in attitude and I put it down to the journey Beth and I have taken. I know I should carry on being the Whitehall Mandarin I once was but I really can’t be bothered with the Nif, Naf and Triv that is Government work. My priorities now lie elsewhere and I intend to deal with them as they are the issues I really care about.

You may, however, be forgiven for thinking we are lost to each other. Our love is stronger now than it has ever been and I also know it can only continue to grow as we face the future side by side. We have grieved for the child we will never hold and now, finally, the future is in our hands. We have come up for air and we are ready to move on. Whilst the scar from this wound will remain forever, we both know the rawness will fade with time.

And the anger? Well, it took some time but like all storms it passed and the sea is as calm as it ever was. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I scared myself. There’s no way of explaining where it came from or where it’s gone. All I know is that, for the briefest of moments I was not the person you know here.

But here’s the thing; I have seen that side and recognise, because I tried to contain the pain and hurt within myself, this was the only way I could vent it. Stress will find a way of escaping and when forced to make its own way to the surface, boy does it make an entrance! For what it’s worth, please make sure you take note of what I am saying here. Don’t try to hide your feelings in the hope that they will fade away with time; they won’t. Deal with them and keep dealing until you understand. Throughout this book I have asked you to take one or two pieces of advice away with you and I consider this to be the most important.

-

Of course, the journey and all that it has brought will stay with me for life. You, on the other hand, must now leave and either start or continue with yours. I hope this book has given you the knowledge and, perhaps, courage you need to make that journey and I hope you can draw from my experiences both now and in the future.

Remember this; you are not alone and you need to realise that fact very early on during the process. You need to focus on the two people who really matter and when the going becomes hard and you feel like it’s all too much then you must turn to the person by your side and let her know you need her help. She will be there just as you will be for her. Together you will share emotions and experiences so strong it will take your combined strength to face them head on. And that is what you will do; not as individuals but as a couple, together, side by side.

Most of all, above everything else, you need to remember that the love for a child is borne out of the love for each other. You’re a team; two people who desperately want to share that love with a child, your child. There can be no greater love between parents and their children; it is a rare thing and, right now, you may be questioning your ability to provide that love. Please, don’t doubt what you have; it is there, quietly waiting.

Your time will come.
 
#57
And us?

After all I’ve shared with you over the past six years did you really think we would leave it here? I am going to put my lap-top away and spend time with Beth, our friends and our beautiful dog Alfie. Then, when I am ready, I’ll sit down and invite you to join me on the next O’Conner adventure. An adventure in a far off land where we’ll battle against red tape and communist bureaucracy in search of our Golden Child and all she represents.

I can’t promise when I’ll be back but, for now, I am done.
 
#58
PART 2

The Man at No 33

I am sitting on the edge of the seat and, without a flicker of realisation, I begin to slowly rock back and forth. My head is pounding and my eyes are closed; the man sitting opposite is staring at me, waiting for the moment I break.

He doesn’t have to wait too long.

I am trying desperately hard to avoid his stare and I know there’s only fifteen minutes left on the clock and if I can keep going until they are up he will be gone and I will be free for another week. My tormentor knows me well enough to see through my plan and, with a skill honed over many years of practice he delivers the first of many killer questions:

“I get the feeling you’re avoiding”?

Such a simple, innocent observation but his delivery is so devastatingly accurate that it knocks the wind out of me. Here I am, sitting on a couch belonging to one of the meanest looking characters I have ever seen and he’s reduced me to a physical wreck within thirty minutes of walking through his door. This is not a scene from a Bond movie. No, this is therapy on a Premiership level. This is my way back to normality and reason.




“Do you think it will destroy her”?

He’s good and he knows I am trying to ignore him and everything about this whole damned situation. However, I know that he’ll only wait for so long. Right now he’s playing the nice guy but it’s his job to make me talk and I figure it won’t be long before I crack.

Ever since I discovered I would never be a father I knew there would come a time where I would need to seek out some form of help to deal with the emotions that were beginning to tear me apart from the inside out, so bad in fact that my wife was scared of the person I was becoming. I also knew that, if I continued to ignore the voices inside my head, it wouldn’t be long before I became locked into a collision course with the one person I had vowed to stand by through sickness and in health. She was the one who would suffer and she was the one I was trying to shield from something bigger than the pair of us.

But here’s the thing; I had thought I was protecting her from something we had stood side by side against for the past six years as we searched for the one thing that had eluded us at every turn. I thought I had been there through the dark times when the entire world moved on around us and, most importantly, I thought I had protected her against the harsh glare of pain as we discovered the dreadful truth that had been waiting for us all along.

Now, rocking back and forth, I realise, for the very first time, that by finally acknowledging what was happening to me, I was, once again, trying to protect Beth. Only this time I was trying to protect her from the one thing that was standing in her way as she began to dream of adopting a child. I was trying to protect her from the one thing that had the power to trash every dream she had ever had; the one thing that would leave her torn and broken on the floor. You may think there is nothing powerful enough to actually deny a woman the one thing she craves and desires, but you’d be mistaken.

That thing is me and right now I am sharing my inner most fears with a man I hardly know. It’s his God forsaken job to put me back together before it’s all too late and things start to pull themselves apart. Again.

I thought I’d had worse days in the past. I was wrong.
 
#59
1994 - Back In The Day

Beth and I met when we were both twenty four and living in Winchester, Hampshire. We were young and, if I am honest, without a care in the world. She was a Teacher just getting to grips with her first job in a local Primary School and I was doing the Army thing in a Recruit Training camp situated on the outskirts of the City. I have to say that life was good for the pair of us and we were happy to enjoy each other as only young lovers could.

We would spend hours in bed whiling the day away without a care in the world; weekends were our time to do what we wanted. We had a large circle of friends who we would join up with to go to this or that party. Life, to be fair was fantastic and we enjoyed it to the full. Then, without thinking about it I made the move to the next step of the relationship; I invited Beth home to meet my parents. She took the suggestion in her stride; she was going from girlfriend to serious Girlfriend in the blink of an eye and we both knew it!

We took her car because mine was a wreck that was struggling to maintain its basic shape and features. I have never really been a car person and can’t understand these people who get excited about the performance credentials of their ‘wheels’ and become very bored very quickly whenever a petrol head manages to get through my defences. I know, as a young bloke, I should have been very proud of my car but, as it sat rusting on the side of the road I was more than happy to let Beth drive her reliably red Peugeot 205 up to Preston on a warm Friday evening. And the best thing? We didn’t stop talking for the entire journey; five glorious hours where, unbeknown to the pair of us, we began to fall in love.

The weekend was a hit and I was so happy that Beth had made the right impression on my parents. I think they were also happy that their slightly wayward and rebellious second son had managed to net a nice girl from the Home Counties. Whilst they had met other girlfriends I could tell they liked this one; she ticked all the boxes with ease.

Then, all too soon the Army decided to intervene and sent me off to work in London as an assistant to another assistant. As you can imagine this didn’t really tweak my bells and I soon became disillusioned with the whole Military thing; I simply wasn’t the same person as I was when I joined the Army in 1987; a rather flabby, irritatingly spoilt seventeen year old with a whole range of issues that wouldn’t surface for another twenty years. Joining the Army had sorted me out. It had taken in a rather shy, unassuming kid and given me the family structure I so badly needed.

But, eventually I began to question the motives and orders of my superiors and that, in any uniformed organisation is a dangerous situation to be in. At twenty seven I needed something else to do and I was beginning to come around to the fact that if there was ever going to be another career then I would have to do something about it sooner rather than later.

Of course, all of this was going on around my relationship with Beth which was growing in to something I had never experienced before. We were really tumbling in to each other and, the best part was, we were letting it happen.

By now Beth had bought her first house and was the proud owner of a three bedroomed starter home on the outskirts of Eastleigh, Hampshire. She was ever so proud and spent hours doing it up in her own unique style. I have to say she looked a proper sight as she painted, polished and cleaned but she was as happy as a piglet in a muddy pond. This was her house and she was going to enjoy it to the full. My little girl had got herself on to the property ladder and there would be no stopping her now!

Then, one day we got an invite to the wedding of one of Beth’s friends. It was going to be a traditional number set against the rolling hills and dales of Canterbury. The Groom, having just been commissioned in to the Army, would be wearing his best uniform whilst the Bride would be splendid in white. As we traveled over to Kent we talked about how Beth imagined herself getting married and what she would wear and where she would tie the knot. It was an innocent discussion but, in the back of my mind I was plotting like a crazed spin doctor. She was totally oblivious to my line of questioning and I was a little shocked that she could describe the entire ceremony down to the last flower but not realise what her passenger was playing at.

Then, all too quickly we arrived at our hotel and the conversation came to an end as we climbed out of the red rocket and tumbled in to the reception area. As always, Beth had managed to pack everything she needed in to one small wash bag whereas I had just about managed to restrict myself to two hold-alls, a suit carrier and two pairs of shoes.

We had a free afternoon before the pre-wedding festivities began so Beth and I spent the best part of it in bed. Come on; we were star crossed lovers after all! Then, as we lay chatting she noticed that I had developed a rather odd and far off look in my eye and instantly pulled herself up on to her elbow. “What’s wrong with you”?

“Absolutely nothing chick, I’m good”.

I could tell she wasn’t over the moon with my reply so I let her stew for a little while longer before I rolled over and faced the other way; I was going to milk this one.

“Alex”!

I huffed a little for extra effect and then, in one smooth movement, got out of bed and started routing around in my bag. There was something I needed to find and it had to be found then and there. Beth, by this point was sitting up in bed watching me very closely and she had that look on her face that wasn’t going to go away until a full explanation for my behavior had been given.

Now, weeks earlier a very close friend of mine had explained how he had proposed to his wife, how he had made it special by making sure he had rehearsed the moment over and over in his head until he was content that she would be happy. He had gone out and bought her a cuddly teddy bear along with flowers. It was fair to say that he had played the romantic card with expert precision and his lady had cried like a baby as she had agreed to his proposal. The man was a genius and I was attempting to follow in his footsteps.

So, picture the scene; one naked man routing around in his bag looking for something to make this very special moment memorable. I had not, it would transpire, decided to buy the obligatory teddy bear and I had not, obviously, thought about what I was going to give her as I proposed. I was not, it was quickly becoming apparent, ready for this, at all! “Yes”! I had found my ‘thing of beauty’ and quickly returned to the bed where Beth was quietly fuming like Ivor the Engine. As I climbed over to her I grabbed a can of Sun Kist Orange drink as I thought it would be fitting to celebrate the occasion with a fizzy drink. God how classy was I?

“Are you going to explain what it is you’re doing”?

“Will you marry me”?

I stopped breathing. I hadn’t really meant to ask her at this moment in time; it just happened, crept up and popped out if you like. But, here I was sitting on the bed of some Travel Lodge in Kent. I was naked and holding a warm can of Orange in one hand and my special gift in the other. What was it? The special thing that I wanted Beth to remember this moment with was just about the only thing I could find and it had to be special, something she could use time and time again to bring back these special memories. In my hand was a music tape; a collection of songs I would dedicate to our futures. Actually it was a crappy Celine Dion tape and it’s all I could find!

Ever so slowly, almost without a trace of movement Beth looked in to my eyes. Her face was clouded and she looked lost, almost childlike. Then, as if embarrassed, she looked away. Before I got the chance to say anything else she started to laugh like a bloody hyena! She rolled on to her back and continued to roll around the bed gasping for air as she held her sides together in case they split due to all the laughter. Once she was able to control herself she noticed that I was still sitting there patiently waiting for an answer. What else could I do; storm off in a hissy huff? Where would I hissy to, the on-suite toilet?

She looked me straight in the eyes and, as I realised I may have made the biggest mistake of my life, she cupped my face with her hands. I held my breath and noted, rather late I must add, that this was not a good time to be naked. Indeed, naked and about to be rejected. Then, with a tenderness I had grown to love she lent forward and kissed me.

“Of course I will you nutter”.
 
#60
The Road Back To Reality and Reason

27 October 2006

I know exactly when my worries and concerns faded into insignificance. I can even pinpoint the moment I knew that there was no other way but to start the process of adoption. I know because it was the moment I saw the overwhelming sadness in the eyes of my wife; a sadness so large she was struggling to hold herself together. It was also the moment that I realised that, regardless of the way I felt or the fears I had; it was Beth who was quietly waiting for her husband to come back to her. She knew I was in a place far away, full of pain and, more importantly, she knew I was struggling to come to terms with a pain so great it had the power to destroy everything I had ever held dear.

It was the moment I turned to her and saw her eyes staring way beyond the confines of our home and into a future she so desperately wanted. Through those eyes I saw our family for the very first time; a family so happy and so complete. Through those eyes I saw my Beth again, the beautiful girl I had fallen in love with all those years ago. And, as I closed my own eyes I knew it was time to open the door and let her back in.

-

I’ll not pretend that I wasn’t scared because I was; very. I was scared because I knew about the pain, the real pain that lay just beyond the horizon, waiting to kick me in the nuts. I knew about the pain because I had let it in before and it had ripped me to pieces on three separate occasions. It had reduced me to a wreck and, finally, led me to seek out my man at No 33. It had also awoken an anger that had lain dormant for over thirty five years, silently waiting for the right moment to open its beady little red eye.

No, this time I was damned if I was going to allow the pain back in and I guess it was this refusal that had caused me so much heartache right up to the moment I turned to Beth and saw her staring straight through me. At that point I knew my worries were nothing compared to hers and it was at that moment that I knew; deep down, that I simply had to stand next to her as we stepped up to the mark to face the world, again.

This time it would be more than personal. This time we would be exposing our very core to people who would, in the end, have to make a decision about us. These people had the power to raise us as well as crush our very hearts with a single signature. We also knew that the final decision to grant us our wish would sit with a person we would never meet nor speak to.

We both knew it would be a journey that would, once again, take us beyond our boundaries and we both knew the road would be long and more than stressful. However, it was a road we were prepared to navigate in the search for the one thing we both needed, more than anything else in the world. This was our journey and we would travel together.

-

You, my friend, are more than welcome to join me; a virtual traveller, if you like. Along the way we will share highs and considerable lows I am sure. As always, you are free to read ahead to find out if things go well because, as the reader, that is your privilege; you are the virtual companion. For me, it’s a different story as, for now, I am stepping out on a journey that holds so many challenges but offers so much in return. It is a journey that I fought hard to come to terms with and there were times when I was determined not to start it.

It’s been a while but I did say we would meet again and here we are! You will see, from the various dates, that I started writing almost straight away so there really hasn’t been a great deal of time and that was a conscious decision on my behalf. After spending the past six years writing I really didn’t want to stop.

I know that I will lean heavily on you as the months and years tick by and I should thank you in advance as I may forget later on. I also know there will be times when I will completely ignore you as the pace quickens and I have to catch up weeks, even months later. However, you need to know one thing; I will not hide from you and I promise to let you see everything as I do; for this is a journey we will take together.

Finally, and at this point in time I can’t promise you the one thing you may expect when you opened the covers of this book; a happy ending. Right now I am looking to the East and I yearn for the child my wife and I so badly want to hold and cherish. However, that dream is still just that; a dream that may or may not become reality. So, for now let’s kick this journey off and see where it goes.

After you…
 

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