Rachel, Jacob and Cole with the triplets (from left to right) Ruby, Grace and Joshua, in 2002. They were born in December 2001

I remember the moment it hit me that we really wouldn't have a baby. I was discouraged by emotion as grief and grief passed through me.


My legs went. I sank into a pile on the sidewalk outside the hospital and wept. Rachel, my wife, looked down in disgust, as if to say, "Oh, you finally get it, don't you? Why did it take so long? "She had a long time ago.

We have been trying for four years now, sliding from hope to disappointment to despair.

When we got married and in the late 20s & # 39; 20 started trying & # 39; try & # 39 ;, friends easily got pregnant and we thought we would be the same, but something was wrong.

Rachel, Jacob and Cole with the triplets (from left to right) Ruby, Grace and Joshua, in 2002. They were born in December 2001

Rachel, Jacob and Cole with the triplets (from left to right) Ruby, Grace and Joshua, in 2002. They were born in December 2001

Triplets Joshua, Ruby and Grace looked up to their big brother Jacob weeks after their birth

Triplets Joshua, Ruby and Grace looked up to their big brother Jacob weeks after their birth


Triplets Joshua, Ruby and Grace looked up to their big brother Jacob weeks after their birth

Rachel had endometriosis, which causes terrible menstrual pain and makes it difficult for a woman to conceive.

I felt for her, but to be honest I also thought it wasn't my problem. My job as a man was, as I saw it, supporting her when it became difficult.

First there were pills, then surgery. A keyhole operation, nothing to worry about, they said, but Rachel woke up and found that they had completely cut her open, made a big incision to reach the problem.

Shocked and depressed, she was out of work for three months.

Then artificial insemination came to the hospital, but the NHS system was under-funded and broken.

If the drugs were effective, the nurses were not there or the scanners were not working, so the treatment was not possible. The months passed.


I was saddened by what the chemicals and stress Rachel were doing – making her fall, trapped in wild mood swings, obsessed and difficult to live with – but it was still about her until the day it all hit me a freight train .

Or a Fisher Price-pull-by Thomas The Tank Engine.

Jacob graduating from Queen Mary, University of London in July 2019 with Grace, Ruby and Josh

Jacob graduating from Queen Mary, University of London in July 2019 with Grace, Ruby and Josh

Jacob graduating from Queen Mary, University of London in July 2019 with Grace, Ruby and Josh

An idiot decided to place all childless couples at the Whipps Cross Hospital in East London in a waiting room reserved for children for our next appointment.


Tigger slid maniacally off the walls, toys were on the floor, and I felt a twist in my stomach.

How dare they? It was hot, the highlight of the summer. While my wrist was raging with anger and fear, I fainted.

Outside, gasping for breath, I realized that I had told myself that I didn't care how this ended, but that just wasn't true.

The consultant we saw was smooth. Too flexible. We wouldn't have a baby in this hospital, he said. Not with all the cuts. "I'm just being honest with you."

He knew that I was a writer, Rachel was a hospital manager elsewhere. & # 39; If you have the money, I would recommend a private treatment. & # 39;


And he slid his card over the table, with the name of a private clinic. It was unethical and outrageous. Something broke in me.

I raged on him as we walked out, overwhelmed by the realization – finally – that this was not just Rachel's problem.

It was our problem. My problem. I loved her. If she didn't become a mother, I wouldn't become a father.

Visions flashed through my mind of everything I wouldn't do with a daughter or son: playing in the park, going to the beach, reading stories before bedtime, walking hand in hand … all the way to old age.

The wave of self-pity was crushing. I cried and cried, unable to get off the floor while Rachel looked embarrassed.


We took our savings to a clinic, but not his.

A counselor encouraged us to say what really occupied us and I had to admit the terrible truth: I thought I could just walk away, find someone else to have a child with.

I was afraid of the reaction, but Rachel just looked at me and said: & # 39; Do you really think I don't know? & # 39;

Releasing it seemed to help and it felt more like we were in this together, especially when it turned out that my sperm count was slightly lower than normal.

I no longer have to say that it was only Rachel's problem, which I had done to my shame. Now it was also my fault.

Yes, she went through hell, but I was prepared for that. After all, I had read numerous articles about the terrible heartache of women who realize that they cannot have children.

What I was not prepared for, and is rarely discussed today, is how it affects the future father.

I write all this from experience in my new book, a novel called The Light Keeper.

A young teacher, Sarah, is caught in the awful moment of waiting that comes when you have had your last chance at IVF because you can no longer afford it, and you have to wait two weeks to find out if it worked.

Those two weeks feel like 20 years. She runs away, looking for some peace and only to face this without her husband Jack.


There is a section in which Jack describes the process of trying for a baby, which is more or less the way it was for me.

"Come now," she wrote in texts. The time was right, the temperature was right, she had reported sick, she waited.

& # 39; Getting home. Come here. Take off your pants. Come into me soon. Do the business. & # 39;

Then she was like: "Roll off and make a cup of tea or something, let me lay my legs against the wall of the bedroom and shake everything in the right place …"

The Light Keeper is fiction of course, but those bits of dialogue are written from my life.


I once read that six out of seven couples undergoing fertility treatment eventually broke up, whether they had a child or not.

I don't know if that's true, but it feels true.

It was all I could do to keep taking care of Rachel, because the drugs and the stress distanced her far from the person I knew. But then I was exhausted, bewildered and just as obsessed with it.

It doesn't matter if we break up, it's a miracle that we didn't kill each other. We have lost a lot.

We had good friends who became pregnant and we couldn't bear to see them, so we grew apart. It was not a jealousy but only the inability to deal with the fact that they were a constant reminder of what we missed.


Another couple, Andy and Rachael, set us down in the back yard as if they were breaking bad news. With solemn faces, they told us: "We are really sorry, but we are pregnant."

Desperate not to lose any more friends, we forced ourselves to visit them in the hospital hours after their daughter Jess was born. We cried our eyes in the car on the way home.

Determined to do what was needed, we threw ourselves into IVF. The process was cold and clinical.

I was in a booth in a private clinic with a pot and produced the necessary sample that was taken away.

It was Valentine's Day 1997, but there was no love to make this baby. The best sperm was injected directly into the best eggs in the laboratory.

Neither of us believed it would work. We were sick of each other anyway.

Then came a moment that really surprised me. I saw six cells pulsing in a Petri dish.

Under a microscope I saw how the fertilized egg divided into the cells that would make up a child if it survived to be placed back into the mother's body.

Nine months later our son was born.

Jacob felt like a miracle. We had blown up all our money, almost lost our mind, and prayed so hard for this.

When he slept on my chest for the first 40 minutes of his life, after the emergency emperor did I wonder if he was a miracle of faith or science? The only answer I could find was: & # 39; Yes & # 39 ;.

I write this with the fault of the survivor, thinking of all those we met in the clinic who were unsuccessful. I know very well that having a child is not the secret of all happiness.

I know many people who have chosen not to have one, for good and valuable reasons. They are fulfilled and happy. But I also know that if you want and can't, it feels like a mourning.

We were extremely grateful. So much so, we tried again three years later. None of us expected to be twice as lucky.

The doctor who did the scan said, "Remind me how many embryos we're replacing?" The answer was three.

You could do that in those days to increase your chances. The law was amended shortly thereafter.

"Congratulations," he said hesitantly. "You have three here."

Rachel would get a triplet. We were both astonished and realized that this was a huge challenge.

The same doctor offered selective termination: they were able to remove one of the & # 39; s embryos, because wearing triplets was extremely risky for the mother and the baby & # 39; s.

But after trying so long to create life, it felt impossible to end it. We should continue with this, whatever it took.

And it was hard. Amazingly difficult. In the first place for Rachel, who wore it almost to the full term and could barely walk to the end.

Then for Jacob, who was four and felt that his happy home had been invaded by screaming, incontinent aliens.

I stood at the back of the line for attention, but at the same time it was not enough to be a hands-on father.

I had to try to match their mother, who showed a superhuman display of dexterity, strength and patience.

She had to rest for a while, so it was my turn a few days and two or three nights a week.

Ruby, Josh and Grace slept in the same Moses basket. I lay on pillows on the floor next to them, but they woke up randomly, so there was never more than an hour of sleep a night.

I also worked full-time for a national newspaper, came home after a 12-hour shift on Saturday to stay up all night with the babies, sleep a little on Sunday and then do it all again that evening.

I longed for sleep as an addict longs for crack. Life was a swirl of bottle feeding, farmers and dirty diapers.

Neither of us could cope, but we couldn't say that. We could not admit that we had a hard time, not after we wanted it so badly.

We also didn't talk much with each other, there just wasn't time.

The pressure cooker blew the day I just couldn't take it anymore, grabbed a bag and headed for the door.

Rachel put me in my tracks by saying: "I want to come out as good as you do, what gives you the right to go first?"

I had no other answer than to go in, pick up a baby, and change another diaper.

Shortly thereafter, Ruby was the first to smile at me. My heart melted, but I also knew that there was no longer an escape.

I had no connection with the babies because of the distant way they were conceived and the pure, constant crisis of it all, but now that changed.

I had to face this, embrace this and be there for them with all my heart, whatever it took.

That has been rewarded a thousand times. You were only hugged when you were hugged by three toddlers at the same time, and also their brother.

We have become a gang and have had so many fun and adventures over the years.

Now Ruby, Grace and Josh are 17, studying for A levels and thinking of the next steps in life. They are beautiful.

The same goes for their big brother, who just graduated at the age of 21 with a scoop in History at Queen Mary University in London – not far from the hospital where I collapsed that time.

During the ceremony, his brother and sister suddenly picked him up for a photo, smiling.

Jacob lay down beside them with his dress down and his mortar board crooked, grinning. And I have never felt more proud or grateful in my life.

The Light Keeper, by Cole Moreton, is published by Marylebone House.

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