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James Jordan, 42, admits he regrets not becoming a dad earlier after 3-year battle to have a child with Ola Jordan, 37

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THERE was a time when golf-loving James Jordan was mystified by his pals’ habit of dashing off to change their kids’ nappies.

But five months into fatherhood, he now understands their priorities exactly.

The TV dancer and his wife Ola welcomed daughter Ella into the world in February after a successful first round of IVF.

And it’s  safe to say the former Strictly favourites are totally besotted with the tot — even though she keeps them up half the night.

Speaking exclusively to The Sun, James, 42, says: “I used to have an opinion on blokes who were bringing up children and was told I wouldn’t understand until I had my own.

“Many of my friends who are dads would say to me, ‘I’m going home to the kids’, and I used to think, ‘What, to change s**tty nappies and hear all that screaming? You’d prefer that to playing 18 holes on a golf course?’ “But I look at everything differently these days.

“Now I can’t wait to get home and see my baby.”

This week, for the first time in a long time, James and 37-year-old Ola enjoyed a peaceful night’s sleep as Ella slept through from 9pm to 6am.

James says Polish-born Ola has made the transition to motherhood seamlessly, adding: “She’s like a duck to water. When she grew up in Poland her sister, who’s quite a bit older than her, had a baby, so she has grown up around babies.

“I get a lot more stressed but she is so chilled. That’s why we work so well together.”

The couple have had to be patient to fulfil their dreams of becoming parents. They have been together for more than 20 years, marrying in 2003, but put off having kids for the sake of their careers.

The pair were fixtures on Strictly for nearly a decade, with Ola winning the Glitterball in 2009 with sports presenter Chris Hollins.

She and James became huge hits with viewers — Ola for her Bond Girl looks and James for his punchy exchanges with the show’s judges. They also displayed a naughty side, revealing that they once romped in their Strictly dressing room — while legendary host Bruce Forsyth was next door.

James says trying for a baby during their time on Strictly would have been a non-starter, adding: “I would never have been able to lift Ola above my head if she was five months pregnant. That wouldn’t have been good for her or the baby.”

Instead the plan was to try after they quit the show — James in 2013 and Ola two years later — but lucrative job offers from rival reality TV shows proved hard to turn down.

Ola’s jaunt Down Under on ITV juggernaut I’m A Celebrity . . .  Get Me Out of Here! in 2016 and James’s eventful stint on the Channel 5 series Celebrity Big Brother a month later meant baby plans were put on hold once again for another year.

And when the  pair eventually started “actively trying”, they endured three years without success, which led them to IVF.

Fortunately, it worked first time. James, who won the 2019 series of ITV’s Dancing On Ice just before Ola became pregnant,  says: “We put our careers first and we were lucky.

“We have a beautiful baby and we are over the moon. If we had missed the boat I would be devastated.”

On their IVF battle, he says: “It’s a long process, a big waiting game and a really stressful time. We were mega-fortunate that it happened first time.

“Some people  who have been in contact with us have done it eight, ten, 12 times and it’s been unsuccessful. It must be heart-breaking.

“We know what it was like to go through it once. To go through it that many times you have to be a really strong person.

I now feel like all the material things are not important

“But IVF is a wonderful thing. There are so many people out there who want but can’t have children and can’t do it naturally.

“The number of people and celebrities who have contacted us and said that their babies are IVF . . .  I’m like, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that’.”

Looking back on their decision to wait to have children — and now he knows what it feels like to be a father — James admits that with hindsight they might not have waited so long.

He says: “If I could turn back time, I probably would have had kids, yes.

“We have always focused on our careers, making money, having a nice house and car, but I’ve always been a saver. Neither of us are big spenders.

“I now feel like all the material things are not important.”

Shortly after Ella was born, James’s father Allan, who he describes as his “best mate, role model and hero”, was rushed to hospital three times after suffering strokes.

But it was only last week that James discovered the true extent of his father’s poor health. Allan was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour and doctors told him he might only have one year to live.

James continues: “It’s really a cliché but I would say the most important thing for me is family, friends and memories — and even more now, with what is going on with my dad.

“Now I couldn’t give a st about what car I drive, I couldn’t give a s**t about where I live.

“All that matters at the moment is trying to make my dad as comfortable as possible.”

He adds: “I am very close to my mum and dad. I just thought, ‘My grandad is 90 and my dad is 67’.

“I never expected it. He is such a fit guy, out playing golf all the time and only just retired. It’s just a cruel world.

“Ola has been there for me and the baby. My mum is a really strong person as well.

“I know she is struggling but obviously being really strong for my dad. My dad is being really strong — he doesn’t want people upset — but it shows how much everyone loves him when they are upset.

“The only light we all have is Ella because she is unknown to it all. We have to be strong for her.”

James was frustrated that his dad’s tumour was not discovered sooner and is hoping for a second opinion to see if Allan’s life could be prolonged further.

He adds: “I’d be grateful for any help or suggestions. He’s got a GBM4, which is the worst brain tumour there is. I know that everyone looks for the magic pill, and there is no such thing.

“But if there is anything that can get us longer with him or make him more comfortable, I am always looking.

“I find it really hard to accept at the moment. Every time I see him it breaks my heart. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced.”

Earlier this month James shared a poignant video on social media of Allan cuddling Ella for the first time.

Due to Covid-19, James and Ola have been unable to introduce Ella physically to most close family and friends and she has barely left their home in Maidstone, Kent. Their new prams still have labels on.

But the fact that Allan got to meet his new granddaughter, given the circumstances, was a very special moment.

James adds: “Ella was laughing her head off. We’ve never seen her laugh like that, which was amazing.”

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