I am 2 days away from doing one of the things that I love and that is talking about mixed martial arts and mixed martial artists with my good friend Dan Hardy. In fact, in order to hang with Dan as he talks effortlessly about the smallest details of the fight game, I must study. Again, something I love. However, even with my dream job and an opportunity to offer the hungry UFC fans some new food for thought, I am struggling.
The phrase “life interrupts” is one that I once heard and have since coined many times over. In our digital age with an overload of information and filtered glimpses into what seems like a utopian existence you can’t help but feel you need to show 100% positivity all the time. But that’s not real and right now all is not well.
I’m putting pen to paper for both selfish reasons and to perhaps send a signal to someone who might also be in need of some sympathy. As a bloke I feel there is sometimes a little grey area on what is deemed as masculine behaviour and what is socially acceptable to share. On that note, I’m eagerly awaiting Lewis Howes’ new book which challenges this question directly. I digress. Right now I’m sitting on a hospital chair awaiting my wife Vicky’s latest blood test results. On Wednesday morning as I landed on the tarmac at Luton airport I flicked my phone off airplane mode to discover my wife was in pain and bleeding. After 2 years of various invasive surgeries and 2 challenging rounds of IVF we were finally able to say she was pregnant. Helpless and flustered, I typically answered with a lacklustre response, but I soon discovered Vicky’s bestie Hayley came to the rescue arranging an ambulance on a 999 call. I immediately wanted to withdraw my earlier message of ‘I’ll be back soon and call a cab if you need to leave any earlier’. I didn’t realise quite how much pain she was in as I couldn’t get through and hear for myself.
I did eventually manage to speak to Vicky and she was in an alarming condition. As my Addison Lee turned the corner into our road I passed the ambulance that was now en-route to the local hospital carrying my petrified, pregnant wife. I got through the door to our home greeted by a very confused miniature dachshund (he lives there too), fed him early suspecting we might be gone a while and then leapt into my car driving almost as irresponsibly as my last efforts on Grand Theft Auto.
During the journey, you start to consider what to say. What questions to ask? How to act. What to feel? Essentially, right then I had no definitive information about what was happening or what had happened and the consequences. And of course, we must always stay positive.
Upon arrival I ran between various corridors and entrances to eventually see Vicky doubled over in a wheelchair, flanked by 2 paramedics. She is a strong woman who has endured a great deal in recent times and typically deals with pain well, but I could see this was a different level. For someone that continues to enjoy combat sports both as a participant and observer, you would think I was immune to pictures of pain, but I hate watching people and animals suffering. Seeing your love, your wife writhing around in physical pain, emotionally distraught and subsequently apologising for it, was quite unbearable. I don’t remember ever being so scared. But how are you supposed to behave? What is the appropriate thing to say? I have been told that I inherited my dad’s fixer gene and that it is not always welcome. Sometimes you just have to listen and support, rather than offer solutions. And please do not say “you’re so brave” because you have no idea what is happening below the surface.
As blood tests and scans followed, we learned we had lost our developing pregnancy. What transpired though was pretty overwhelming. My wife had suffered a rare kind of ectopic pregnancy that occurs about 0.01% of the time, so there didn’t seem to be a definitive path that would now be followed. I have watched numerous skilled medical professionals apply their skills to my wife over the last couple of years and not always with success. With things now happening so fast and the desire to conduct further surgery preferred, I had to apply the brakes and ask questions. There were a lot of what ifs and what abouts, for example: is this the best place? Can we go elsewhere? Who will be performing the surgery? What are the risks? Are you sure? There are a lot of people that want to save the day, but sadly I’ve witnessed practitioners embark on procedures that they knew were quite possibly beyond their reach, but they tried anyway. The consequence of that hasn’t perhaps been physical damage, but most certainly psychological. This time I spoke up and perhaps insulted a senior consultant, but you know what, I don’t much care and in fact Vicky and I created a situation that alerted the leading consultant and surgery was cancelled.
You might be asking why I’m sharing this, and believe me it really is just the surface, but apparently the IVF journey is a shameful secret leading to a shortage of information and shared thoughts until of course success, then all the hashtags come out! Fewer men-related stories are out there as well, for a number of reasons and I’m guessing a lot might be pride or even as their partners do not want them to share. Vicky has felt strongly about documenting her experiences of endometriosis and now this most recent, awful episode. And let’s be honest, us fellas have it the easiest in all of this. A few samples here and there, some awkward questions and in my case a suspension from cycling and hot baths equals a comparatively easy process. But we must step-up and communicate. We must ask questions, understand and share in the journey that meanders through pretty much every angle of your current life. I told my wife yesterday that seeing her endure this journey and cope with all the set backs has made me love her more. Apparently this helped just a little bit. Little bits each day will hopefully help us both in overcoming our sense of loss and prepare us for the final stretch. To bring it back to my world of mixed martial arts, I truly believe we are in the championship rounds now with gold in our sights. We will be victorious by either knock out, submission or by decision. We will have our little bundle of joy. For now however I will be forced to look away when I see new-borns being carried out of the hospital.
This week Vicky and I have heard from friends, family and strangers that have suffered terribly trying to achieve parenthood. I’ve heard some heart-breaking stories, but often there was a happy ending. I want to thank those people for sharing their tragic and intimate details. I have so much to be grateful for, not least my incredible wife.
When we found out we were pregnant I didn’t buy baby clothes or Farley’ Rusks, but I did draw this because Vicky likes my robot drawings.