Trying for a baby's made my love life as sexy as going to Specsavers…
22:51 GMT, 20 June 2012
The other morning I was sitting in the kitchen, forlornly attempting to read the sports pages as my three-year-old toddler kindly ‘shared’ his new Black & Decker play drill with our kitten, when my wife burst in looking wild-eyed.
‘Look! Look!’ she cried, clutching a piece of paper in her clenched hand with such excitement, I thought we must have won the EuroMillions — even though I’m fairly sure we don’t do it.
Alas, it wasn’t to be. To her, it was something far more important than winning the lottery.
Fertility bootcamp: Martin Daubney with his wife Di at home
‘Two red lines!’ Di yelled, showing me a small length of what looked like blotting paper, which did, indeed, have two blurry lines on it. 'I’m ovulating as we speak. Tonight is the night we conceive our second child!’
Letting out an audible groan, which I skilfully adapted into an on-the-hoof ‘Hooray!’, I stood up to give her a hug. ‘Great, I’ll cook some asparagus and baked sweet potato,’ I sighed.
What I really fancied was pepperoni pizza. But asparagus is on a list of ‘reproductive superfoods’ given to me by my wife. You see, I have been placed on a strict fertility regime — and it’s made the act of trying for a baby about as sexy as going to Specsavers. My fertility checklist also involves no tight underpants or hot baths (‘Heat is bad for your sperm count’) and no cycling, smoking, booze or junk food.
Doting dad: Martin with his only child Sonny
Observing this strict code is apparently meant to make my sperm the reproductive equivalent of Usain Bolt. It seems to be a part of life for virtually every couple I know in our age group — I’m 41, Di’s 37 — who are trying for children. And, in every case, it is the woman who has become the brusque sergeant-major-type, and the men’s lives which have become a kind of merciless fertility boot camp.
I’m not saying my wife comes flying towards me at 5am banging a drum and expecting me to perform like a seal, but it’s not far off. It all started about seven months ago, when Di returned from a coffee morning and declared: ‘I’ve decided that what Sonny needs is a sibling.’
Our only child, a boy, was two-and-a-half years old at the time. ‘Hang on!’ I interjected. ‘Didn’t we agree just last week that a toddler is the best form of birth control on the planet’
‘Well, yes, we did, but Lisa is expecting again, and she made a very compelling case for how Freddie will help look after the new arrival. It will be much easier second time around.’
I’m not saying my wife comes flying
towards me at 5am banging a drum and expecting me to perform like a
seal, but it’s not far off.
Easy That’s not exactly how it has turned out. Time waits for no man, and, as Di likes to point out every five minutes, I’m not as young as I used to be. I hasten to add, before my masculinity is brought into question, Sonny is definite proof that I’m not infertile. But we have been trying for a second child for seven months now — meaning, clearly, that it must be my fault.
That’s why the whip-cracking really started — and with every fresh demand, a small but important part of my enthusiasm for fatherhood waned. Breakfast would be punctuated with a barked: ‘Have you taken your fertility vitamins yet’
‘No,’ I’d groan, virtually gnawing my lower lip in half as I eyed the box of Pregnacare His & Her Conception vitamins, resplendent with a smugly healthy-looking couple on the packet and an unsavoury, microscopic view of sperm swimming towards their goal.
‘What’s in these that I can’t get in food’ I asked, like a reluctant Fifties child being made to take a spoonful of castor oil.
‘Zinc! It’s all about the zinc! It’s absolutely crucial to the formation of healthy sperm!’ Di exclaimed, as if explaining the euro bailout to a moronic Jeremy Kyle guest.
‘Where do you get all this information from’ I groaned.
‘Other mums and Mumsnet,’ she replied. ‘So it must be true.’
Mumsnet founders have been hailed 'the most powerful women in Britain'
Aahhh, Mumsnet, the self-help website for mothers, whose founders have been hailed ‘the most powerful women in Britain’. It may be a fountain of knowledge for women, but it can lead to a world of pain for men. Log on to Mumsnet and the thing that strikes you most is how clued-up — and toe-curlingly graphic — women are about their bodily functions.
Where females are perfectly happy to talk with stomach-churning honesty about their polycystic ovaries and fibroids, it seems there are practically no men out there who are prepared to discuss their fertility issues. I am no longer allowed to cycle Sonny to nursery, ever since a Mumsnet mother declared cycling ‘the number one enemy of male fertility’.
‘But what about Mark Cavendish’ I asked. ‘He won the Tour de France and became a dad only weeks later. He’ll probably win Olympic gold, too. I cycle across the park; he cycles across continents. It doesn’t seem to have harmed him.’
‘Yes, well, you’re not as young as you used to be,’ my wife said dismissively. And that was that.
If I was going to toe the line, I decided, I may as well do it properly and cut back on the wine, too. So when we were out to dinner the other evening and the waitress approached, I placed my hand over my empty wine glass, and said: ‘Not for us, thanks.’ Di was frowning at me from across the table.
It seems there are practically no men out there who are
prepared to discuss their fertility issues.
‘Skipping one glass won’t do the trick.
Nick, who’s with Daniella — they’re on their second IVF — gave up
alcohol for three months because that’s how long it takes for sperm to
mature fully. The sperm of today started growing that long ago.’
All of which put me off my crme brulee. I’d read that three days of abstinence from alcohol was enough to help boost my fertility — but it appeared my Herculean efforts on that front were barely the first step along the road.
Also out were tight pants which, I’d been told, raise trouser-region temperature and thus are perilous to baby-making. This meant all those pairs of Calvin Kleins I’d been encouraged to purchase in a vain attempt to help me look like David Beckham were consigned to history. So, suddenly, I was a baggy-panted, teetotal, semi-vegan, vitamin-pumped bore. Even I wouldn’t want to procreate with me.
The final insult was when Di returned home from visiting a friend who, having undergone IVF, is about to give birth to twins. She fished out of her bag a half-used tube of ‘fertility-friendly’ lubricant which her friend had thoughtfully donated to our cause. The package promised ‘seriously fun baby-making’ — but the whole thing filled me with dread. That was it. To think that the miracle of reproduction had been reduced to this was too much to stomach.
In desperation, I decided to contact the woman who’d once worked as my personal assistant, recalling how she’d failed to conceive for three agonising years until finally becoming pregnant twice in quick succession.
She’d tried everything to conceive. Based on hormonal charts, she’d had sex to the nearest minute to increase her chances of success, and marched her partner to the doctor’s for a sperm count — only to find he was 100 per cent normal.
She admitted that the whole debacle had almost destroyed her marriage. ‘In the end, our doctor told us just to relax,’ she laughed. ‘He thought it was the constant stress of us trying to get pregnant and the incessant demands we were placing on each other that were the trouble.’
‘So what did you do’ I asked nervously.
‘We drank a bottle of wine each and had an early night — and I was pregnant within the week.’
At last, I thought. Family planning advice even an idiot like me can follow.
Now I’m wondering which goes best with pepperoni pizza: shiraz or merlot