Tell us a little about yourself and your family
I’m Faisal and I’ve got two beautiful children who are the light of my life. I’m a fitness coach so our family is quite active…there’s a lot of energy in our house, that’s safe to say! Bedtimes are never a calm affair if I’m involved, which drives my wife up the wall!
We have a gorgeous little boy called Raffi. He’s now four and a half. And we have also just had a little girl called Cleo who is a little angel. The journey to having them both was incredibly tough so we are still pinching ourselves that we are finally a little family of four.
Have you always wanted children?
Absolutely. I’m one of three and always knew I’d want a family of my own one day. It’s one of those things where you don’t know how much you want it until it happens. Having children has been absolutely life-changing and given me a new purpose and meaning in life. I feel like I was born to be a dad and, in many ways, it’s been the making of me.
You spoke openly about your fertility issues earlier this year on Instagram. How did you feel about sharing this journey? And why did you feel it was important to share?
It took me a while to share the extent of our fertility issues, which I really regret because it’s been so cathartic. My wife has always spoken openly about her endometriosis and our miscarriage but I felt embarrassed to open up about my own fertility problems and it took me years to speak publicly on the issue. When we were told last year that IVF would be unlikely to work, I felt the need to speak out. As an ambassador for men’s health, it didn’t feel right staying quiet and I’m so glad I spoke about it.
Since opening up about your experience, have you heard more from families with the same troubles? Did you find there is a community of people with the same issues?
I was inundated with messages after I spoke about our troubles, and it was such an eye-opener when I realised how many people had been through and were currently going through the exact same things. Particularly in the fitness community, I know low sperm count among men is really common. You’d never imagine it when you see these fit, strong, healthy men. But these things don’t discriminate. None of us are invincible when it comes to these kinds of struggles and I think, when you are very into health and wellness, being told a part of you isn’t working as it should can be quite a knock. That’s where speaking openly is so important, and I’m proud to have started that conversation among my peers.
When did you start thinking that something wasn’t quite right? Did you find it easy to get help and advice?
I honestly thought we would do the deed and that would be that. I was so ignorant to how hard starting a family could actually be. After a year of trying I knew something might be up because my wife and I were both very healthy. My wife was diagnosed with endometriosis, which required surgery, but when I was told I was also part of the problem, I was dumbfounded. That sounds terrible but I never expected it because my health is my career, it’s all I know, and I never dreamed there may be something wrong.
I was reluctant to get help initially. I guess I put my head in the sand and convinced myself it would sort itself out. We actually conceived naturally with our first and found out the day before IVF started. And with our second baby, we gathered money for IVF and the month before it was due to begin, we fortunately conceived naturally again. I don’t know how or why because we were told it was almost impossible, but I’m very grateful that it did.
What did you find most challenging about your fertility experience? Did anything in particular surprise you?
I struggled with the lack of control. I’m used to working hard at something and getting results, so to be trying and trying and getting nowhere was tough. It’s mentally draining and takes a huge toll on your relationship when you want something so badly and just can’t have it. Our little boy was constantly asking for a sibling and asking why our family wasn’t complete because all his friends have brothers or sisters, and it was heart-breaking not to have any answers.
Did you find any particular tools helpful? Were there online resources or a particular specialist that really helped you out?
Honestly, just talking openly to my friends helped. Sharing the load really makes a huge difference. Stress can be a contributing factor in infertility and talking about things really lightens the load.
I know my wife also found a lot of comfort in Zoe Clark-Coates (@zoeadelle) and the @the_worstgirlgang_ever accounts on Instagram.
Describe the moment you found out that Louise was pregnant. How did you feel?
Shocked! After being told by doctors it wasn’t going to happen, I had started to mentally prepare myself for never having another child. We had actually started looking at becoming foster carers, which we will definitely revisit in the future. I always had hope but I don’t think I allowed myself to truly believe it was possible.
It was a lovely moment, but it was also tinged with anxiety and apprehension because we had a missed miscarriage during lockdown which was very traumatic for my wife who had to go through it all alone. Pregnancy after loss is very hard, so I was over the moon but also realistic that things still may not work out.
What advice would you offer to families experiencing their own fertility journey?
Don’t give up hope! The road ahead sometimes seems impossible and the mountain seems too big to climb, but the reward is worth every moment. Also, don’t lose sight of what you already have. While struggling to conceive our first, somebody told us, “Worst case scenario, it will just be you two,” and, as much as I wanted children, that was OK with me. Trying for a baby can consume you, but don’t forget what you already have in front of you.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your fertility journey?
I just want to emphasise that as lonely as it can feel, you are not alone.
If you think you may be experiencing any of the issues outlined above, speak to your GP who may be able to refer you to further support. Help is available and you don’t need to suffer alone.