A story from the heart

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Last Friday, Sept. 22 was a special day inside the Baker household – my daughter, Emma, turned three months old, and with it shed the newborn moniker she had reluctantly worn since birth.

In some ways it feels like the time has flown by since I was sitting in an empty hospital bed at Peterborough Regional Health Centre, scared out of my mind, waiting for a nurse to come and get me so I could be with my wife in surgery – because of course Emma decided she just had to arrive via emergency c-section.

Absolutely nothing about the birth, pregnancy, and the six years leading up to it all, was straight forward. I don’t think I’d have it any other way though.

I’ve known since I was a wee whippersnapper myself that I wanted children. My wife, Laurie, and I are very lucky in that sense – we started dating during Grade 12 at high school and were serious right away. By the time we were celebrating our six-month anniversary, we’d agreed on having two kids. A boy and a girl.

Life got in the way, of course. After I completed J-School and Laurie graduated from university, we packed up our three possessions worth more than $20 and headed west. We were in Alberta for two-and-a-half years – living in a community four hours northeast of Edmonton. I thought I’d experienced snow before moving out there… how wrong I was. We decided to show mercy, opting not to bring a baby into what must surely have been the North Pole.

It was after we moved back to Ontario, living in Orangeville, that, unknown to us at the time, we began the climb. We tried on our own for 18 months, but nothing. It was another year before we went to see a doctor. IVF, we were told, was our only option. And it was a slim chance at best.

I put on a brave face, but the truth is the longer things dragged on, the more depressed I got. By this time, we had moved to Lindsay, and I was working here in Haliburton. I had convinced myself that kids just weren’t on the cards for us.

First, there was a delay because of a COVID-19 outbreak at our clinic. Then they wanted us to start the process about a week before we were due to fly to England for my brother’s wedding. I felt as though the universe was trying to send me a message.

A few months after we got back, we got the first call. We had an embryo. I still wasn’t convinced. I think it was my brain trying to protect me – before I got carried away expecting it to happen.

I had looked up all the stats – the best number I could find pegged our chances at about 35 per cent. I still remember getting up the morning we drove down to Toronto to find out if it had worked and giving myself a pep talk: “you’ve got to be the strong one, man. For Laurie.” I was dreading it.

Instead, I was treated to the most wonderfully cathartic moment of my life… well, up until I held Emma for the first time.

When I think back at everything we went through – the pain, the anguish, the anger… all I need to do now is close my eyes and picture that little face, it draws a smile every time.

I realize, though, just how lucky I am. Our first run at IVF, and it actually worked. It sounds strange considering you’re literally along for the ride with another person, but I’ve never felt as alone as I did for that period when I thought I was the reason we couldn’t start a family. That wears on you. As someone who never really struggled with mental health before this, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Fortunately, we came out the other side.

And the best part? There’s still another embryo left. So, we still have that chance to hit a double homer after all. Life’s a funny ol’ thing, isn’t it?