I’m not a Jaffa.

Jaffa OrangesSo events have moved on and some time ago, my wife and I decided to try for a baby. For my own part it was not a decision made lightly since, unlike other life changing moments‐moving home, starting a new job, getting married, having children is not a situation that can be readily reversed with the help of a good solicitor. One cannot divorce your children, move away from them, or seek employment bringing up more agreeable ones. (Though I know friends with teenage offspring who are not completely opposed to the idea.)

On paper the act of conception doesn’t look too hard (no pun intended). And on the grounds that I lack a uterus, I am not about to comment on the difficulty of nurturing new life within myself for nine months. Therefore at this stage I’m limiting myself to observations and of course whinging about conception from the male point of view.

Firstly and most obvious is how male fertility is so intrinsically linked to masculinity. Thanks to a particular TV episode in the 1980’s comedy, Only fools and horses, the term ‘Jaffa’ (seedless) has come to describe any man not ‐ how shall I put it?‐ firing on all cylinders. Let me state straightaway that being unable to have children is a devastating prospect for any couple. But there is no getting away from the fact that, in the early stages at least, sympathy between the sexes is dealt out somewhat unequally. Should a woman be confronted with such a possibility she will, by and large, receive encouragement and support from those around her. A loving circle of friends who will offer comfort and advice; will tell her not to give up; will tell her they’re all here for her and that soon she will be blessed with the offspring she’s always wanted.

A man on the other hand will be ridiculed for having empty bollocks and then receive an offer from a mate to step up and shag his missus for him. It’s for this reason men are hardly ever the ones to announce that they and their partner are ‘trying’. To do so is to start a mental stopwatch in the minds of his friends as to when it’s appropriate to start calling him a Jaffa.
Secondly is the advice given by certain websites to prospective fathers on how to increase the chances of becoming a Dad. Allow me to give you the first bit of advice. Don’t visit these websites. I have a vaguely scientific background but frankly I’m at a loss as to why some information is necessary. For example, possibly in an attempt to reassure, many websites describe the normal amount of ejaculate produced by a man as a teaspoonful. Bearing in mind this information is usually posted in response to specific questions, who on earth needs to know this? More worryingly who considers it necessary to confirm these measurements? Most importantly have I had a cup of coffee round any of these peoples houses?

Most men are aware of the usual advice given ‐ no tight underwear, no hot baths, no smoking, reduce alcohol intake. It is this last point that we have the biggest problem getting our heads round since it is thanks to excess alcohol that many of us have, in the past, already had an unwelcome brush with fatherhood long before we were ready.

After a few months of ‘trying’ ourselves, I decided I wanted to get myself checked. Not that I doubted my virility, but at a somewhat advanced age, and after years of hot baths, tight underwear and serious alcohol abuse I imagined my ‘swimmers’ more likely to be parked up on their sun loungers than considering the prospect of a channel swim. Any avid readers of my blog will be aware I do not relish meetings with the Doctor, as they are generally fraught with embarrassment and misunderstanding. This time was to be no different. Now, I’ve seen many an American sitcom and so was under the impression that the process would be a simple one. That I would be ordered to attend a ‘select’ but reassuringly clinical establishment. That the nurse would direct me toward a private room. That I would go through the wrong door and so initiate a highly amusing not to mention improbable confrontation involving me, my specimen tube and a Nun.

Little did I know that the process is even more comical than that. At the Doctors surgery I was presented with a small transparent plastic bag containing a specimen tube. I looked blankly at it. The Doctor looked blankly at me:

Doctor‐ ‘Is everything okay Mr Curtis?’ Me‐ ‘Erm, yes.’
Doctor‐ ‘Do you have any questions?’ Me‐ ‘Erm, no.’
Awkward silence.
Doctor‐ ‘Do you need anything else then?’
I looked around me. I’m not really used to having an audience. Me (toying with my belt)‐ ‘Erm, could I have a little privacy?’
Doctor‐ ‘You don’t produce your deposit here Mr Curtis, you have to phone up the clinic. The address is on the back.’

I then had the ignominy of walking through a packed waiting room clutching my ‘goody bag’ with ‘Danger, Biohazard’ written all over it. But my consternation didn’t end there. After reading the instructions (if there’s one thing men don’t need instructions for, it’s this, but it was in fact referring to what I do with the sample after) I realised that once I had filled the tube at home (with a carefully measured teaspoonful of course) I was to deposit my deposit with the nearest hospital within  a timeframe of 30 to 45 minutes. My nearest hospital, traffic permitting, is a good 30 minutes away. This, it seemed to me, was cutting it close. I considered my options. I have often seen motorbike couriers with the words ‘Urgent‐ Blood on board’ printed down the side, weaving their way expertly through London traffic. On reflection however I’ve never seen any printed with the words ‘Urgent‐ Man Jam on board.’ (I apologise to readers of a sensitive disposition, but there’s really only so many colloquialisms for sperm you can use, and we’re all adults here).
Therefore it seemed apparent that I was not going to be able to hang around if I was to make the deadline. My worst fear was being stopped for speeding. I envisioned myself standing by the roadside sheepishly clutching my sample bag whilst being reprimanded by traffic police for such wanton abandonment of the speed limit. I don’t know if my reason for doing so has ever been used as an excuse at Magistrates Court but I really didn’t want my specimen produced as exhibit A.

Thankfully however, such a prospect was adverted when, before I could book in a little ‘me time’, my wife presented me with a freshly tested clear blue stick that proclaimed she was pregnant. I was of course delighted. Delighted at the prospect of being a father. Of bringing a new life into the world. Of imparting my life experience and wisdom on a young and fragile mind. But most of all at being able to go down the pub without being called a Jaffa.

More to follow but till next time.