Wednesday, January 05, 2005 40

…at 40

"Life begins at 40". Or so they say. When you discover you are going to be a first-time father in a few months it certainly has a ring of truth. Life does indeed begin. And not just mine.

To paraphrase Billy Bragg I’m 40 years now but I won’t be for long. If all goes well then when Hayley gives birth I’ll be 41.

Ah yes. It seems like yesterday and yet already it’s 17 days since we sat in the bed and watched those two little pink lines appear. Yet Week 8 starts tomorrow and this is the first post! It must be time to recap.

So how did we get here…? Ahem! Let me re-phrase that.

The story so far…

Hayley and I have always known that we wanted a family. One of the unusual aspects of meeting via is that you know this about each other – in principle at least - before you even meet! We decided that we would start trying for a family at the end of 2004. In reality what this meant was that Hayley would finish her contraceptive pills and not get any more from her doctor.

The doctor told us that we should not expect instant results. I am 40 and Hayley is 34. We were told to expect it to take perhaps 6 months (or more) to conceive.

Now I’m not going to go into details here, but there are a couple of amusing things that can’t really go by without mentioning them. First of all, Hayley finished her pills in November. For some reason I thought the last pack was in December. One evening early in December as we made dinner we had the following conversation:

Steve: “Don’t forget to tell the doctor you are coming off the pill at the end of this month.”
Hayley: (surprised) “What do you mean? I’ve already finished them!”
Steve (equally surprised) ”Oh! I thought they ran out at the end of this month.” (As if the body’s calendar so conveniently aligns with the 12 months!)
Hayley: “No. I finished them in the middle of November.”
Steve (rubbing Hayley’s tummy and laughing) “So there could be someone already in there!”

Of course we didn’t believe that for a moment that she was pregnant. We then worked out that the first time that (we thought) she might become pregnant (on the assumption she wasn’t already) was December 29th when we would be in the Czech Republic! Little did we know that Hayley was already pregnant at that point!

We later worked out that conception must have occurred around the time we went to Steve’s work’s Christmas party, when we stayed in a hotel right next to Old Trafford football ground as we’d been to a game in the afternoon. Of course the idea that the baby might have been conceived a stone’s throw from Manchester United tickled us greatly.

Regardless of when it happened, it’s interesting to consider whether the fact that I didn’t know Hayley had finished the pills might have meant I was under no pressure and therefore (according to the experts) she was more likely to conceive.

First feelings

So, back to the two pink lines. We sat in the bed and I have to say that it was hard to take in. It didn’t seem real. It seemed too good to be true. I’m 40 years old. I was starting to give up hope of having a family. We had spent so much time talking down our chances so that we didn’t pressure ourselves, looking positively at what we might do if we couldn’t conceive (“we’ll get a dog!”, “we have other children around in the family” “do you think we should adopt?”, “we’ll have the chance to travel”…). This all seemed too easy.

I have to say that I was not only a bit surprised that we were successful at the first attempt because of my age, but also because of such things as me riding bikes (a potential risk) and even daft things like the fact I love a hot bath (which is not good for the sperm!). It sounds silly now, but as I had never made anyone pregnant I wasn’t even sure that I wasn’t “firing blanks”. The only thing that really made me feel it was real was that I had always felt somehow that Hayley was definitely fertile. I’ve no good medical reason for saying that, I just felt it.

In truth I never saw Hayley’s first reaction as she took a preliminary test when I was out the previous day. She told me that she paced around the house, up and down the stairs, feeling a mixture of joy and disbelief and fear, thanking God and crying. She did tell me that night but as it was my works Christmas drinks that afternoon this was the one evening of the year I came home, frankly, rather drunk. I couldn’t take it in, particularly as when I left the house that day she’d said that you couldn’t have a reliable test until 10 days later. (My mistake: only a negative test needed 10 days grace to be reliable. Positive was reliable right away.) So we agreed to do a re-test in the morning when we could both see the lines for ourselves. And we did.

Who do we tell and when?

We decided that we would not tell people until Hayley had got through the first 12 or 13 weeks as these are considered a high risk period. But no sooner had we decided this than we started to make a few exceptions. First Hayley decided to tell her sister-in-law, Sharon, as she felt she needed to be able to talk to her about it. Then we quickly realised that we would probably have to tell the people we were visiting in the Czech Republic. But apart from that we decided we’d keep it to ourselves for now.

Reactions so far have been great. Sharon thought Hayley was winding her up when she rang to tell her, then she was delighted. She also rang back specifically to congratulate me too which was nice. When we told Lenka we made a toast when we went out for a meal and said it was to “the reason why Hayley is not drinking alcohol any more”. She screamed and jumped up and down laughing (despite being in a restaurant at the time). And when we told Lenka’s family the next day they were all equally delighted for us.


There have been a few moments of uncertainty when Hayley has had pains in her abdomen, but in most cases a quick call or trip to the nurse or doctor sorted it out. However, when you are in a foreign country it’s not quite that simple.

While in the Czech Republic at Christmas, Hayley had severe cramps in the night. Something like period pain. It lasted for two spells in the night and the next morning we rang the UK. Of course, as luck would have it that day was a Bank Holiday (in lieu of Boxing Day) so she could only speak to a locum doctor. He rang back fairly quickly and told her to go and see a doctor.

We rang Lenka who quickly sorted out who we could go and see. Unlike in the UK, in the Czech Republic you can go direct to your consultant without seeing the GP first, so later that morning Hayley, Lenka, me and Radek (Lenka’s boyfriend) found ourselves sitting in the waiting room of the local gynaecologist.

When we were called through, Hayley went in with me, but as we needed a translator (virtually no-one speaks much English outside of Prague) we had to take in Lenka. Picture the face of the consultant’s secretary as we explained to her that we were the father-to-be, the mother-to-be and the father-to-be’s wife (as the divorce was not yet final thanks to dithering solicitors)! As we sat in the waiting room Hayley slowly turned ashen faced: as white as a sheet. When Hayley went in to be examined, Lenka went in with her to translate. And to hold her hand as it turned out.

Thankfully all was well and Hayley came out all smiles. And when we asked how much we owed the doctor, they told us there was no charge: it was a Christmas present from them to us. Very generous.

Here comes week 8

As we sit here watching Man U vs Spurs my main worry (apart from failing to make up points on Arsenal) is that Hayley is yelling at the TV. (This baby had better come out as a Man U fan or she’ll give it hell!) We enter week 8 tomorrow on the back of a super holiday together with all apparently well. Let’s hope it continues that way.