IVF and Becoming a Dad

We had the pleasure of catching up with Andrew Waddingham and his lovely family to ask him some nitty gritty questions about what it was like going through the IVF process with his wife and what it is like balancing fatherhood with CF.

Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have two daughters, Erin who is 11 and Cate who is 9. I have been married to my wife Catriona for 14 years.  We are all quite active; Erin is involved in calisthenics and Cate plays netball and both girls swim. Catriona keeps fit too, by going to the local gym and running. She recently ran the 12km run in the City to Surf. I do a variety of exercise. I go to “Step into Life” outdoor group personal training (sort of like a boot camp), which is great for general fitness and core strength. My daughters are also involved in “Fit Kids” which is a spin-off of “Step into Life” especially designed for kids. I have been swimming for many years now and have recently taken up Cross Fit at “Energize CrossFit” which is a combination of the principles of weightlifting and gymnastics.

What is it like being a father for you as well as balancing your CF treatment?

For things to work in our family, we have to be organised and share responsibilities. Whilst I try to do my bit around the house, we do have an agreement that my treatment is a priority. We are very used to things now.

I usually do all my treatments at night, not to hide my CF from my kids, but more so I can do it uninterrupted, so the topic of my CF is not a big discussion point in the house, because the girls don’t see it much. My wife and I try to find opportunities here and there to let our daughters know different things about CF. My daughters will mainly ask questions relating to the practical issues of CF, when I am in hospital such as things about my IV line; “Did it hurt?” and “Can you feel the medicine?” Another example was our daughter Erin spoke a little about me having CF, when she was in pre-primary for “Jeans for Genes day”. They both asked questions about why I am being interviewed for this article too, so we have talked about it and they will want to take this magazine in to their classes for news.

Being a father and having CF makes everything a bit more of a challenge. These days I don’t have the reserves that I had when I was younger; however the girls are older now and more self-sufficient. It is definitely possible to have kids and a successful career, if you do the right thing by your health.

I was diagnosed with CF at aged 9, which is late in life by today’s standards but it was over 35 years ago. My parents didn’t treat me any differently except for the treatment I had to do and they didn’t wrap me up in cotton wool. My father was heavily involved in basketball so it was inevitable I played too. They encouraged me to try any sport, such as football, soccer and cricket, and stay as active as possible, as I still do today. I will still try my hand at any sport and have participated in numerous events; half Iron Man triathlon, open water swimming, and even the Avon Descent one year to name a few. I may not end up on the podium but I have a go.

Over the last five years I have chatted a lot with a friend who is also a father who has CF. It has been very valuable, as he has made me more aware of different aspects of CF that I didn’t previously consider. We have both shared our experiences in raising a family and managing our health.

Being the main bread winner and responsible for my family, as well as having health issues, is something Catriona and I do worry about. We do think about the future but we know if we work as a family we can make things work.

What was your experience like during the IVF treatment?

I went through my twenties assuming I’d never have kids. Not only because I didn’t think it was possible but I also didn’t want to pass on my CF gene. I wanted it to stop with me. However, meeting Catriona, I realised we had a lot of love and experience to offer, so we decided to investigate what would be involved if we were to try. We feel really lucky that the technology available has allowed us the opportunity to have children. If we had tried in the 1980’s things would have been more difficult. I am fortunate to be able to live a typical family life in that respect.

From a guy’s point of view experiencing IVF, we definitely get the better end of the deal. I had to provide a sample, and then the actual procedure was painless. This involved me having Valium to relax and only took about 30 minutes. I felt bad that my wife had to go through the whole process of needles and Ultrasounds and egg extraction, irrespective of the fact the she did not have any fertility issues, but it prepared me for fatherhood a lot earlier as I had to provide support and understanding for Catriona. The whole process made us a lot stronger and understanding of each other in our relationship.

Do you have any tips for younger men who have CF, who might be thinking about being a father in the near future?

If you are going through the IVF process, it is only a small portion of the whole picture. Together you need to consider how much being a father has the potential to impact your health. There are also additional financial commitments, not just for the IVF but ongoing support of more mouths to feed etc. During the initial years, having a baby can break your routine, especially sleep! You still have to put your health first.

When we had our daughters, my health was a lot better and my treatment wasn’t as demanding, so my CF didn’t impact too heavily on being a father. These days my treatment regime is more time consuming and if we were thinking about starting a family I would certainly have to consider my options more carefully.

My advice would also be to make sure you’ve got the right balance with looking after your health and your family-to give yourself the best chance. Make sure you research things, don’t go into parenthood blind. Parenting is not easy regardless of whether or not you have something like CF, having said that, it is the most rewarding experience in the world.


Article from RED Magazine, Summer 2012

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