From here to paternity

“I’ll not live long enough to have a wife and child” was a statement to my Mum on a seaside pier in the late 90’s. Back then, staying alive with Cystic Fibrosis (CF)* was not certain, so speculating about a family was furthest from my mind. But if you want something enough, miracles can happen…

In 2000 I began dating Katie who I already knew on the field hockey social scene for over six years. She helped me to celebrate my 30th Birthday and by reaching this milestone life felt different and I had an eye on a renewed future. This was a major tipping point as I had made it to the average life expectancy (as it was then) and the noose around my neck suddenly didn’t seem so tight.

We shared similar family backgrounds and had a passion for similar Black Adder and Austin Powers humour. Helpfully Katie would laugh at all my jokes… even the ones she didn’t understand.

Katie, a senior urology nurse, understood my condition and has always taken the sights and sounds of CF in her stride, never making me feel overly conscious or affected. She understood the bigger CF picture but was never phased or unduly worried; maybe feeding off my penchant of downplaying it.

There are a lot of functional activities that come with living with someone with CF; from physiotherapy, constant coughing and nebuliser sessions to intravenous (IV) treatments – these are not fun, sexy or interesting times – it takes a special type of person to be around these daily treatments and keep seeing the person ‘behind’ the illness and not get too sad, disheartened or bored.

Bride and joy

We soon bought a house together in South London and married in July 2003 on a beautiful day. During the wedding service, Katie’s best friend, Sam, read exerts from a children’s book by Sam McBratney ‘Guess How Much I love You’ which finished with our favourite line: I love you to the moon and back.

Marriage spurred me on that my destiny was going to be different than I had originally thought back on that pier with my Mum in Weston-Super-Mare.

I did have some concerns about getting married and starting a family with my lack of certainty of being alive for them, but I was feeling healthy enough, so marriage to Katie and starting a family seemed a natural a way to keep defying my illness.

The desperately sad deaths of my CF friends in my late 20’s made me more stoic – I wanted to carry their spirit with me and make my longer life count for something. When so much of a CF life is not at all normal, it’s fulfilling to do something that your peers take for granted and breaks the CF boundaries.

Maybe baby

Without getting too medical, my illness meant that were we to have a child, we would need to go through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and a particular version of it called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

IVF is an extremely exacting process and Katie could write her own gripping blog called ‘Countdown to Felix’ – it’s drawn-out, cruel, torturous, expensive and an emotional rollercoaster. Not something I would wish on any couple to be honest, but if that’s your only option, you have no choice.

There’s still room for humour – at one point while I was having one of my IV treatments and Katie was in the early stages of an IVF cycle, we were both lying on our bed injecting ourselves – I have to say that it doesn’t get much more romantic than that!!

We went through six IVF cycles over three years. When a cycle hadn’t worked, we entered into an abyss where our spirits were very low. But we worked hard at being happy for others who already had children or those falling pregnant; strongly believing that what goes around comes around.

‘Sixth time lucky’ was our new catchphrase and in May 2007 we had our ‘miracle boy’ Felix. The name means ‘happy’ in Greek and ‘lucky’ in Latin, so like his Dad, he will be ‘happy-go-lucky’.

Katie has had to suffer and endure to get through IVF and her subsequent post birth nerve damage – she has put her body through so much – and she’s still battling!

It’s a natural instinct for parents to put the welfare of their children ahead of their own. Parenthood was at times counter-intuitive to always putting my health first and this was tough to get used to. Katie took up a lot of the slack, especially the early wake-ups and during my IV treatments.

During the early years of being a parent I needed to tuck CF away in an emotional box labelled ‘Only open in an emergency’. I didn’t stop my medication; I just never complained or talked about my CF as it felt secondary to the preoccupation of being a parent.

That emergency came in August 2009 and the box prized open when I was diagnosed with CF related Type 1 Diabetes; and I had to get to grips with it – medication, diet, activity – as quickly as possible. This has led to my more open approach about my struggle and what I have accomplished.

About a boy

Felix is a force of nature, has a passion for life and is a constant blur, socialising with anyone and everyone – the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree!

Although I know I’m biased, I’m in awe of how beautiful my son is. Indeed, a good friend tells me that my voice and face change when I talk about him.

When I’m having a dark CF moment, Felix takes my mind off it. Often after I have coughed heavily, he will pat my chest and say: “Daddy, better, better!”

I initially thought that the rigours of parenting would mean that my health would only hold out to get him started in life; but now the thought of not being there for Felix feels abhorrent. This is best expressed in a WW1 poem by Wilfred Owen, ‘Wild with all Regrets’:

“A short life and a merry one, my buck!

We said we’d hate to grow dead old. But now,

Not to live old seems awful:

Not to renew my boyhood with my boy…”

I hope Felix reads this one day so that he can understand what it took to bring him into this world and what he means to us. I don’t expect a thank you from him as gratitude from your child isn’t always expected or forthcoming. I just want him to know that miracles can happen and he’s our proof. We love our boy to the moon and back.

They say that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger. It feels unfair to have gone through so many storms to get our boy, but the rainbow at the other end has more than made up for it.

Felix is our ‘miracle boy’ and a boy that I fully intend to see grow up into a man and have his own family.

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Look out for my next post as I countdown to my 40 year milestone…

Regards

Tim

* Cystic Fibrosis is one of the UK’s most common life threatening inherited diseases, affecting over 8,500 people. The condition affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick sticky mucus. This makes it hard to breathe and digest food. Each week, five babies are born with the condition, however, each week, three young lives are also lost to it. There is currently no cure for CF. However, existing gene therapy trials in the UK are bringing people with the illness closer to a form of cure but CF is not that well known and would benefit from more public donations.

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About Tim Wotton

I live with my lovely wife (Katie) and spirited nine-year old son (Felix) in Morden, Surrey; working full-time as an internal communications specialist in the Oil & Gas sector. I have played sport, particularly hockey, tennis all my life and now regularly go to the gym. Cystic fibrosis has been a huge factor in my life, but not one that overshadows it. I have always had great support from my loving family - parents Margaret and Douglas (RIP), elder brother Chris and my twin brother Jez. I have many rich life insights based on knowing I have a reduced life expectancy and battling against the odds for over 44 years. My eyes and heart have been opened by my health struggle. I feel empowered to share my life lessons to help anyone with health and life issues to overcome. My passions include Paul Smith clothes, dress shirts (believing that it's enlightening to dress like it's your last day on earth), Alfa Romeo cars, spicey food, Harlequins and England rugby, Southampton FC, Wimbledon village and common, Dorset, seascapes, sunsets and military history. I am available for public speaking on this subject matter and can be contacted via timwottonAThotmailDOTcom. I have written a book 'How have I cheated death?' based on my euphoric countdown year to 40 which was published in 2014 and won the 2015 'Best Achievement' Award at the UK People's Book Prize. It is available via e-book, audiobook and paperback at Amazon and to order from UK bookstores. Go to the relevant sites below or in the UK go to a WH SMITH, Waterstones or Foyles bookstore and give them my name, book title and this ISBN number (9781849637190). It’s also available via GARDNER’S, BERTRAM’S, AUSTINMACAULEY.COM, BLACKWELL’S, PLAY.COM, AMAZON.CO.UK AND AMAZON.COM
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32 Responses to From here to paternity

  1. Arch says:

    And what a man he will be! I look forward to it, and the stroll past Weston pier on a blurred Sunday morning. Arch x

  2. JP says:

    Thank you, Tim. You have a perspective, world view and strength of character that really is humbling. Beautifully written too, mate, you’re in the wrong job! Nothing like your own kids, eh…? What a role model you are for him. Lucky, lucky Felix.

  3. Juliet says:

    Oh my, I fully admit I had to stop reading half way through and come back when I had composed myself…so very poignant and heart felt.

  4. Megan says:

    You are amazing Tim, so beautifully and honestly written – very moving stuff, Felix is indeed a very lucky boy to have you as his dad xx

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  6. Jo Turnbull (Thompson) says:

    Oh Tim, you make me so proud! I am very moved. Keep being strong. Felix is just gorgeous x PS. I read Guess How Much I Love You to my children every night x

  7. What a cutie Felix is. Thank you for sharing this part of your story.

  8. Stephanie Cooper says:

    Another very moving blog which brought tears to my eyes. Without the determination of both you and Katie we would not have our little grandson, Felix. He is everything you described and more! Thank you.
    Much love Colin & Stephie

  9. Amanda Wilkinson says:

    My toddler daughter has CF and I do wonder in my dark moments whether she will be as lucky as I have been to have a family and a beautiful child of her own. Your account is really inspiring and gives me new optimism. Thank you.

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Amanda,

      Optimism and hope are not a straightforward feeling being a parent to a sick child, so I’m glad that my words are of help.

      Your fortitude for your daughter will see you all through…

      God Bless
      Tim

  10. Dawn Lawson says:

    Sitting in the office blubbing my eyes out – in a good way! Thank you for sharing this, Tim. It gives those of us who have small CF sufferers in their life much hope.

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Hi Dawn,
      Hope your eye liner didn’t run too much! Thanks for your kind words and I’m touched that my blog is of help and support to you.

      Keep reading…

      Bless
      Tim

  11. Beth says:

    Wow,
    You write beautifully. I am a new Mummy to an amazing little boy with CF. I really hope he has your attitude towards his condition.
    Heres to new treatments and one day a cure for CF. I am looking forward to following your blog and hope for the strength your Mum has as I bring up my little one.
    Beth

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Beth,

      Thanks for the kind sentiment. Excuse the Forrest Gump pun but life with a CF child is like ‘a box of chocolates’ as you never know what you’ll get next. I think your son will really benefit from the treatments around the corner – keep him as fit as possible and he’ll be your star!

      All the best
      Tim

    • Caroline says:

      Beth,
      I know exactly what you mean. My 4-month old daughter was diagnosed with CF as a newborn. I’m so glad I found this inspirational blog and it’s given me some hope that our darling may one day have her own family. It’s a lot to deal with, for both the sufferer and his/her family!
      Caroline

      • Tim Wotton says:

        Dear Caroline,
        Having the condition is tough, let’s not beat around the bush. But in its own way parenting a child with the condition is an exacting challenge, as you suffer when your child suffers!!

        I’m glad that you found some hope from my blog.
        God bless
        Tim

  12. Margaret Wotton says:

    I too had a very wet tissue after reading your last blog and like Stephanie and Colin, Felix’s other grandparents, we are so thrilled with our miracle grandson. We know how much you endured, especially Katie, to have Felix. When you were born, to think you would be able to have your own child was beyond contemplation, thank God for the wonders of science. It is wonderful that you are giving hope to so many parents.
    Felix is a credit to you both and gives us such a lot of laughs!

    much love Mum and Dad

  13. Jan says:

    “Daddy better”. Oh I loved reading that Tim. Your little treasure will grow up full of compassion and empathy, and I’m sure with both parents’ strength of character. Not to mention his Dad’s sense of humour! Like all children he’s a very precious gift. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  14. Myles Thompson says:

    Hi Tim,

    Very inspiring story.

    Have always remembered how kind you were when I arrived on the Watts table in my first year at KES. At least that’s one fond memory of school dinners.

    Seems you haven’t changed.

    All the best,

    Myles

  15. Leanne Brown says:

    Another great blog Tim…. just keep them coming 🙂

    LB x

  16. Olivia says:

    Like everyone else, I have wet eyes from reading this post. I love the thought you put behind naming your son. A special name for a miracle boy, and he is a cutie.

    I tell Jeff he is a miracle for surviving with CF undiagnosed, as I was a miracle for being born a tiny preemie, and as our babies will also be miracles one day :-). I hope I can find the strength to undergo the IVF, but since my sweet hubby will hold my hand all the way, and we can’t wait to see what they look like, I think I will make it!

    I want only one at a time too! The idea of twins……….

  17. Natasha Lusted says:

    Really moving and beautifully written.

  18. Emma says:

    Thank you for giving me hope. My 6 year old son has just been diagnosed and reading your blog has given me hope that everything i wish for his future may still come true.

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Emma,
      It’s so tough as parents to know how to best support children with CF. I’m so glad my words have helped given you some renewed hope as that can move mountains. Keep reading and taking on board many years of learning the hard way!

      Bless
      Tim

  19. Louise Finch says:

    Tim,

    What an inspiration you are!
    Our 8mth old precious boy was diagnosed with CF at one month old and the sadness has been truly overwhelming.
    We are so fearful for his future and that of his six year old brother who does not have CF but will no doubt be affected. We are trying hard to maintain the happy go lucky attitude that you speak of and keep as positive as can be. Reading about you and your wonderful wife having a beautiful child of your own fills us with new hope.
    Thank you,
    Keep smiling x

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Louise,
      Never lose sight of how important your smile and fortitude will be for your son and his brother! Read my ‘grin and bear it’ blog post for some extra insight – it’s not easy to always be happy but feels easier than frowning!

      Take care
      Tim

  20. Erin says:

    WOW What hope I have for my 5 week old, we have recently found out he has CF and our world has been the wrong way round for the last 2 weeks.
    Tim I find your blog to be inspirational and I look forward to wacthing your beautiful families future journey. Thanks for sharing your path.
    I hope my lil prince finds his Katie one day, I wish noothing more but true love for him, as you have with your wife and children.
    Thank You xox

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Erin,
      Thanks for your kind words and I’m touched that my story has helped you. I’m sure your lil’ prince will find his princess one day!
      Bless you
      Tim

  21. Victoria Hanson says:

    Dear Tim,
    Just yesterday I was standing in the kitchen thinking that there is no chance that my boyfriend, who has CF, and I will ever have a child without risking his health or getting into financial trouble. I was giving up hope of ever seeing the beautiful child that I know could someday come from us. Reading this gave me back my hope! The road might get bumpy on the way, but I have to keep in mind that the best things in life don’t come easy!

    I wish you and your wonderful family all the best!
    Greating from Germany,
    Victoria

    • Tim Wotton says:

      Dear Victoria,
      I’m so touched that my journey to bring my son into this world has given you and your boyfriend hope of a similar outcome one day. It is possible and it will be extremely tough at times, especially emotionally, but I hope your dreams come into reality. The IVF rollercoaster is not for the faint hearted so do please reach out of you want some further advice.

      Good luck
      Tim

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