On the eve of the day before I return to work, I cast my mind back to the day I found out I was pregnant with Caris. (Six months have passed since she was born). It was a Friday morning, and I, for good measure, read the directions on the home pregnancy test, knowing that it was merely a formality taking the test. I had bought the test the day before, even though I had not yet missed my period, as I already knew I was pregnant, they say that happens when you have had a baby before; you know that feeling, it is one of those basic instincts. I casually laid the spent test on the counter top, and walked into the bedroom to see if the kettle had boiled for my tea. Gary was at gym, and I knew that by the time he came home, I would be harbouring my secret. And there they were, the proverbial “two blue lines”. Oops. The all too familiar nausea hit me like a hammer.
We had already decided to only have one child. Gary already had two boys, Craig and Stuart, from his previous marriage, and his advancing age, according to him, was not in his favour. But I wanted to have a baby. I was never the maternal type growing up, and can’t say that I ever gave much thought to having babies. I guess it was just something I assumed I would do. At some point. And technically I had my instant family: a husband and two stepsons, who have always lived with us.
Somewhere between 31 and 32, I got this bee in my bonnet to have a baby. As the mouse in “Stuart Little” says “I had an empty space…”. I guess there is something to that “biological clock” after all. So after many heart-breaking discussions, including the possibility of us going our separate ways, Alex was “very planned”. (Gary used to joke that he was the only one of his children that actually was planned.) So much so, that Gary had his vasectomy reversed. (The vasectomy was a decision that he had made some 14 years earlier, after his wife at the time fell pregnant for the third time. Unfortunately the baby did not survive more than a few hours after being born, but that is not my story to tell.) The surgery was complex. I remember leaving the Linksfield clinic after he went into theatre, to pop home to let the dogs in as it was about to storm, thinking, “I’ll be back in 45 minutes and he should be out by then”. Two and a half hours later, with my heart pounding in my throat, I found myself demanding from the nurses at the theatre reception where my husband was. All I could think of was that I was the most selfish woman alive for expecting him to undergo surgery for me, and that he may be dead, and how I wished I could go back in time, and change my mind. It was me that wanted to have a baby so desperately, and the doctor told us that the chances of the vasectomy reversal being successful were minimal anyway. Time seemed to going by in slow motion, every second ticking by on the clock behind the nurses station went shuddering through me. Why wasn’t anyone telling me why he was not out of surgery yet. Another twenty minutes passed by, and finally someone came and told me that he was in recovery. Apparently reconnecting two tiny tubes is pretty damn complicated, and takes almost 3 hours. Who knew.
The statistics of a successful reversal were not in our favour. The longer the time between the vasectomy and the reversal, the less successful it is likely to be. A simple maths equation: makes sense. I do not remember the exact numbers, although at the time I remember spending hours Googling things like “successful vasectomy reversal”; “live birth after vasectomy reversal”; “Vasectomy reversal after more than ten years” etc … driving myself crazy, trying to find “just one” successful story that matched our circumstances. Finding only results that were frankly depressing. The success of a reversal is measured by the presence of sperm in the ejaculate post-op, the quality of that sperm, meaning the shape, and the motility as in “are they moving?”. Needless to say, given the time that had elapsed since the original surgery (which by the way, takes 10 minutes!) the odds of sperm being present in the semen were around 70%, which sounds good, but the quality and motility odds were as low as 30 and 10 percent respectively. So, useless sperm being present, would not be very useful. The funny thing is that urologists in SA, well at least the one we consulted anyway, didn’t have any statistics to share with us. We went to a guy who was recommended to us by a fertility clinic we had consulted to see what our baby-making options were. After a failed “TESA” procedure (this is where they extract immature sperm from the epididymis directly for later use in IVF), I asked the doctor if the sperm they managed to retrieve were “dead” or just non-motile, and the doctor said there was no way of knowing. So I then asked if we should consider a vasectomy reversal, and he said he did not know, it would depend on whether or not any damage had occurred to the epididymis due to back flow of sperm (an epididymal blow-out), and referred us to the urologist. The operation was done in conjunction with a plastic surgeon, being micro-surgery, and he didn’t have any statistics for us either. In fact the urologist basically told us that were unlikely to have a positive result. Only less tactfully. (I think the words he used were “you’re on a hiding to nothing”.) But he was nonetheless willing to take our money and give it a go. There are no guarantees in life anyway, are there? And medical aids definitely do not cover vasectomy reversal surgery. Gary didn’t want to go for a follow up test, to see if there was indeed sperm, saying “what will be, will be”. From my obsessive googling, I knew that it could take a year or more to fall pregnant following “successful” reversal surgery. It took us 3 months. Two blue lines that would change my life forever. My baby boy, Alex was growing inside of me from a clump of cells, the result of one of the “useless” sperm making it’s way up to my egg. Au naturale! What will be will be indeed.
So getting back to the second set of blue lines, oops indeed. I was on the pill, and had managed not to get pregnant on the pill for almost 20 years (OK, the time with Gary doesn’t count, as he was technically sterile, but still). Counting back the weeks, I remembered being very ill (vomiting my lungs out) at Mythos while having dinner with Craig’s girlfriend’s God-parents; we were meeting them for the first time. Probably about 6 weeks before. After confirming the pregnancy at my gynae, and having the “how could this have happened” discussion, she said that just one “missed” pill in the middle of the cycle will cause some women to ovulate. So my 24 hour bug turned me into “one of those women”. It’s all about timing. I was shocked, but happy, and made the decision there and then, that no matter what, I was having this baby, even if I had to do it alone. It is not that our relationship was bad, in fact quite the opposite, but I knew how much Gary was against having another baby. The fact that we had Alex was a miracle in itself. I knew he would be less than pleased, to put it mildly. I was 8 weeks pregnant when I finally told him.
A chain of events prevented me from spilling the beans… My son’s second birthday, My father’s 70th and … Gary’s 50th birthday, all within 2 weeks of each other. In fact, the latter is the main reason. He was already having a bit of a wobbly about turning 50, so telling him I was pregnant, was going to be like another nail in the coffin. Oh, and my own birthday (37) was in the middle of all this too.
So once we had gotten through all the birthday celebrations, with me sipping only the tiniest amounts of wine, and tossing it out when no one was looking, we went down to Ballito for a few days of sunshine and relaxation, with the whole family in tow, and 2 of Craig’s friends to boot. One morning, while I was very elegantly hunched over the toilet, hurling my lungs out, Alex came to look for me with Daddy in tow. I told him I was sick, and to please take Alex away. I barely heard his throw-away comment, “I hope you’re not pregnant”. A few days later (and a few more thrown away glasses of wine) we were driving home, and I had to ask Gary to pull over the car, as I was going to be sick again. Not exactly the way I had intended sharing my news. Needless to say, the atmosphere in the car was pretty icy for the next 500kms.
The next few weeks were hard, as Gary tried to digest the information that he was going to be a dad. Again. I was probably not his favourite person during this time! But we managed to work through it, as people who were made for each other always do, although somewhat jaded. Fast forward 7 odd months, and baby makes six.