A Norfolk-based radio presenter and videographer who spent years thinking he may never have children is looking forward to spending his first Father’s Day with his baby son, who took eight years to arrive.
Tim, aged 43, met his wife Gaby, who is a professional singer and actress, 12 years ago when they were both judging a talent contest at a holiday park – and having a baby together was top of their ‘to do’ list after they got married three years later.
Now, as he cuddles six-month old Casper, who was conceived after the couple had IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Norwich, Tim says:
“When we got married it was our New Year’s resolution to start trying for a baby, but it was another eight years before this little man finally showed up!”
80% of couples will become pregnant within a year of regular, unprotected intercourse, and as Gaby already had a young daughter from a previous relationship, they thought a baby would soon follow.
Didn’t want to go down the IVF route
“I wanted it to happen naturally to be honest, I didn’t want to go down the IVF route,” says Tim. “But after years of trying and feeling that the clock was ticking, we thought we had better do something about it.”
The couple, who live in Great Yarmouth, tried for four years to conceive naturally before going to see their GP, who referred them for tests at their local hospital.
“At first the doctors said that nothing was wrong with either of us, which was really frustrating,” says Tim. “We felt like we had tried everything – we were eating the right food, relaxing, trying to ‘stop thinking about it’, doing everything they tell you to.”
Then, after a while, the couple were advised that Gaby had a low ovarian reserve and IVF would be their best option.
“The nurse at the hospital had recommended Bourn Hall to us and we knew that some friends of ours had been there and had successful IVF,” says Tim.
The couple were not eligible for NHS-funded IVF because Gaby already had a child.
“We are not wealthy people at all, so we scraped everything together; we didn’t get into debt but we did live on beans and toast to make it happen,” recalls Tim.
Bourn Hall has excellent success rates and treats both NHS-funded and self-funded IVF patients. It has full-service clinics in Cambridge, Norwich and Wickford and satellite clinics at Colchester, King’s Lynn and Peterborough.
Going into lockdown
The country going into lockdown and the temporary closure of fertility clinics initially delayed the couple starting their IVF journey, and then once it started they were subject to additional restrictions. Unless he was attending his own appointments at Bourn Hall Tim had to wait outside, including when Gaby went in for her egg collection and embryo transfer – unlike in normal circumstances when he would have been able to accompany her. “I was amazed at how quick the embryo transfer was though – I dropped Gaby off and 15 minutes later she was back out,” he says.
“We then went home and had to wait two weeks to find out if the treatment had worked. It felt like the longest two weeks of our life – it just dragged.”
The couple’s first IVF treatment didn’t result in a pregnancy. “We couldn’t believe it but it was just one of those things. We were keen to get going again but the doctors told us we needed to wait until Gaby’s body was ready.”
Got a bit obsessed with taking pregnancy tests
Two weeks after their second treatment at Bourn Hall Gaby and Tim finally got the news they had been waiting for when their pregnancy test was positive. “Gaby got a bit obsessed and kept taking pregnancy tests after that; we have still got them all in a box,” laughs Tim. “I actually couldn’t believe we were expecting a baby – I said ‘is this real?’
“But when we went for the seven-week scan and saw our baby’s little heartbeat banging away, I finally believed this was happening and that I was going to be a Dad.”
I couldn’t stop crying
Tim and Gaby’s son Casper was born on 9 January 2022.
“I used to read stories about Dads seeing their babies for the first time but nothing could prepare me for the emotion that I felt when Casper was born,” says Tim. “The cup of tea we had in the delivery suite was the best cup of tea that I have ever had because I was just gazing at our little miracle and he was absolutely perfect. I didn’t stop crying for three days!
“Father’s Day is going to be so special for me this year, I can’t wait.”
Fertility webinar for men
Bourn Hall is holding a webinar on the 28th June aimed at men on their own fertility journey. It will include a discussion by Mr Oliver Wiseman, a specialist in male fertility, on how to boost natural fertility and the options for those with a low sperm count, and a talk by Fertility Counsellor Jackie Stewart about how men can improve their own mental wellbeing and support their partners.
Coping Tips for men on a fertility journey
When a couple are struggling to conceive or are having fertility treatment it is not uncommon for their support network to focus primarily on the woman and how she is feeling – and for the male partner to feel as though his role is to be the ‘strong’ one for both of them.
Father’s Day can be a difficult day for men who are still on their fertility journey.
Fertility Counsellor Jackie Stewart has spoken to hundreds of couples over the years and says that, at the risk of being generic, men and women cope differently with the challenges of infertility and fertility treatment.
“A coping mechanism adopted by many men is to be positive, logical minded and pragmatic, focusing their energies very much in the present moment and on what they can solve,” says Jackie.
“Many men prefer not to talk about treatment because they feel helpless, powerless and don’t like to see their partner suffer when the topic comes up. They care every bit as much of course and may help with injections but generally speaking they place the matter in the hands of science to ‘fix it’ whilst encouraging their partner to be positive and optimistic.”
Helping men to cope with the fertility journey
Jackie has the following tips for men on a fertility journey:
- Understanding – understand the process, each other’s coping mechanisms and how best to help your partner. Find a balance between talking about it and not talking about it to meet each other’s needs.
- Practical support – men feel less helpless and powerless by feeling that they are doing something to help their partners, and their partners feel more supported. Don’t assume you have done something wrong if your partner is feeling flat, distracted or getting triggered easily by any number of things including social media.
- ‘In it together’ – men often try to be the rock for their partner but it is better to just accept you are in this together and you don’t know what the outcome will be. This way you can work out what you need individually and what you need together to help you feel more peaceful through treatment. Understanding each other’s feelings and communicating how best to support each other can make all the difference. It can help to use a code word, so that when this is said by either partner, the couple know straight away that if one of them is feeling upset, it is not about anything their partner has said or done, but because of the psychological and emotional impact infertility is having on them. This simple but effective tool can prevent the escalation of an argument because it simply acknowledges the underlying grieving process and feelings of sadness a person is struggling with.