Wednesday, 29 September 2010

In Which I Am Highly Inappropriate

Maybe it was the way that the shop had laid out the cards that made me do it. They'd chosen a chronological order; engagement cards, followed by wedding cards, followed by new home and then 'Congratulations on your baby' cards - because as we all know that is exactly how it works.

I'm only stunned they didn't squash the 'Deepest Sympathy' cards against the 'Congratulations on reaching 80' ones.

So I'm perusing the options for my friend's new baby. And somehow none of the cutesy ones with bunnies and booties and bouncing babies did it for me. I'm not fluffy at the best of times and, whilst I am delighted for my friend, if I'd sent any of them it just wouldn't have felt sincere.

I veered off into the humour section. I found a card that made me laugh out loud. I bought it.

In retrospect maybe it isn't the most appropriate one:

If you can't read it it says:

"Where do babies come from? The woman or the man?"
"The stork"
"But who fucks the stork?"
"Good question"

(Card by Cyanide and Happiness (c)

Sure, she might have to hide the card behind the others when her aged relatives come to adore the new baby, but it felt right. And it mentions babies so it is sort of topical.

And I do have a history of giving inappropriate cards.

I got this for the husband to mark our first wedding anniversary:

"This bloke I married in your church turned out to be a fucking waste of space."
"You still got the certificate?"

(card by Modern Toss)

I'm lucky I have some very forgiving friends / spouse.

And they do occasionally get their own back on me.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

When Good News is Bad News

"Do you want the good news or the bad news?" Asks the husband.

I'm in bed playing a game on my phone at full volume. The husband is getting undressed.

"The good news." I declare.

"There isn't any ..." he is waiting expectantly.

But I know his game, this has happened before. I know the 'bad news' is that I need to turn the sound off my phone because he wants to listen to music, or sleep. Or that I have to walk the dog tomorrow morning, despite it being his turn, because he's just had an email about an early meeting. Or he has just realised the prawns in the fridge are out of date so has had to chuck them.

"Do you want the bad news?"



He looks a little disconcerted. Gets ready for bed, on his way to the bathroom he turns back again. "Are you sure?"

"Yup." I mean how important can it be? And I know he'll tell me anyway.

He's back in the room, now looking positively worried, standing at the end of the bed shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

"Look I've got to tell you because otherwise if you don't know you'll only get upset later."

Shit, now I'm worried.

"Oh! You've got real bad news? What is it?"

"No, it isn't real bad news, I mean its good, but it'll upset you."

It could only be one thing.

"Who's pregnant?"


Helen lives with Steve* who the husband use to work with. They are a lovely couple we don't see them very often, maybe a few times a year. The last few of times I saw her she wasn't drinking but this has been going on longer than nine months so it clearly wasn't a (viable) pregnancy that had been stopping her. So I suspected they were trying and having difficulty, and from the email they sent they had obviously clocked the same thing about us.

Steve's email was perfect. It was sent to the husband so he could break the news gently to me. It didn't include scan pictures, or massive excitement. He even said he hadn't done a mass email because this had been quite a sensitive issue for them and they were sensitive to others now, but they wanted us to know before we saw them for lunch on Sunday that she was "quite pregnant" (Seven months, it turned out. No hiding that.).

I still found myself in floods of tears, raging against fairness and asking why it was just me who can't get pregnant.

Quite frankly even as I was wailing it I knew it was blatantly untrue. I know lots several people who can't get pregnant. And it isn't even like I don't want people to get pregnant. But this news has come along with a spate of other announcements and, honestly, it is getting pretty lonely here at the bottom.

I remember the years before we started trying. I would be ridiculously excited when friends announced their pregnancies. I'd bombard them with questions, write their scan dates in my diary, be the first to shoot my hand out to cop a feel as soon as they said the baby was moving, buy a present when they reached the 12 week mark and squirrel it away until the birth-day. It isn't like that anymore. And I don't blame the pregnant person, but I resent infertility and how it has changed me.

But luckily pregnancy take nine long months. So by the time the baby is actually born I am excited and delighted for my friends. As I discovered to my delight 28 minutes ago, when I got a text announcing the birth of another friend's little girl.

*names changed to protect the fertile.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Coming soon to a small screen near you ...

I don't normally nick content, or post you tube clips, but this was too perfect to ignore (it gets relevant from about 50 seconds in):

I am hoping for naming royalties of course.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

How Am I Doing?

Do you remember my montage?

I am one month in and I have no doubt you are quite simply gagging to know whether WFI.2 has emerged from the chrysalis of my former self.

Let's break this one down.
  • Acupuncturist
No problems there. The guy is brilliant. Actually, I have no idea how he is as an acupuncturist other than he manages to stick pins in me and it doesn't hurt (which, I discovered after trying to pin a hem the other day, whilst wearing the trousers, is a rare skill). What I particularly like about him is that rather than skinning me for every penny he can make, with appointments every week, I am only having a session every three weeks whilst I'm on a conception hiatus. And he said I could bring the dog with me next time (that's got to be a post by itself).

  • Caffeine
I've had one diet coke. I'm drinking red bush tea like its the real thing. I've hardly had a cup of tea since July 2009 - this one is a piece of piss (which coincidentally is exactly how most herbal teas taste).
  • Booze
Not complete abstinence, anyone who read this post must have realised that was going to be tough. But we are talking one drink on a special occasion. A champagne cocktail at the top of the Gherkin with my cousins. A wee snifter at my bosses' leaving do. A glass of wine to help me through a particularly awkward social event. But, I promise you, no more than one glass a week. And I've got to keep my liver exercised, talking of which...
  • Gym
I am officially a Gym bunny.

Four times a week!


After first three weeks I'd lost no weight, and I kept having to repeat the mantra "it is about health not scales, health not scales". However finally, this week I managed to skim off a profoundly unimpressive 3 pounds (yes, fine in one week but that is 3 pounds in a month). Pathetic - I'll lose more than that on the Euro millions this weekend (£23million Jackpot, how many rounds of IVF do you reckon that'd cover?).
  • Vitamins
This is a fail, which is ridiculous because it is by far the easiest thing to do. But I do have an excuse. Have you read the instructions on the package of preconception vitamins? Allow me to quote - "Use [insert brand name here] as soon as you start trying for a baby ... it can even be used up to 3 months before you start to try for a baby." This panicked me. Can I overdose on vitamins? And what if I take them for three months and then don't get pregnant for another, oh, let's pluck a time period out of the air ... four years. I have been taking these pills on and off for almost half a decade (does that sound dramatic enough?) so I actually decided to give my body a break. I'll start the pills in October - hopefully three months before I have IVF.

So as far as my montage goes, I reckon I've hit the rousing chorus bit.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

A Day At The Museum

I imagine that it is pretty apparent to all who read this blog that I nurture an inner geek.

I studied Ancient History and Classical Archaeology at University and then went on to do an MA in Museum Studies. Whilst my career has diverged from its original path, I have always had a soft spot for museums.

This morning I took my eldest nephew to the British Museum - ostensibly as a treat for him.

"First stop", I was cautioned by my sister, "wee wee".

It was only when I got to the toilets that I realised I was faced with a dilemma. Do I shove him into the Gents unaccompanied, or take him into the Ladies with me. We eyed each other, cautiously weighing up the possibilities.

"That's where the boys go." My nephew stated the obvious.

"Do you want to go in there?" I questioned, really meaning - 'Do you normally go in there?'

"Well." (He says 'well' a lot) "I could, but I think it is probably best I don't go by myself."

We gratefully agreed that he'd come into the ladies with me.

Next we went to collect the kids activity pack. The woman on the desk asked how old he was.

I smiled indulgently and asked the nephew to tell the lady his age, all the while wracking my brain; 'He's four, isn't he? Of course he's four he definitely isn't three and I'm sure he hasn't turned five yet'. But I knew if I guessed his age wrong he'd shout me down and I'd be marked as an abducteress.

Once he confirmed he was four and three quarters he was offered a treasure trail. "Well. Actually I've done that before and it is quite boring."

The attendee explained the back packs were for older children, "Well. I'm quite clever." He reassured her. "So I think I will be OK".

Naturally we took the Ancient Greek back pack.

We did the activities and I couldn't resist giving just a little bit more information than was on the cards. He was a bit overwhelmed by the idea of other people who lived differently so many years before he was born, "I always thought we were the first people." He confided.

Now I don't want to boast (I do, I really do, the whole point of this post is to boast) but he was entranced by my tales of the Labours of Herakles illustrated by the vase paintings. And later when we met up with his parents he remembered all the salient points about the many headed hydra who sprouts two heads for each one cut off, the fierce dog in the underworld with three heads, the birds that shoot their feathers as arrows. Yeah, mainly the violent stuff.

I really enjoyed myself and, despite being surrounded by children, I didn't think once about my own infertility; I was too busy answering questions, asking him what he thought and feeling a warm, little hand happily grasping my own.

And later, once reunited with his parents he asked if I was going to come with them. My heart swelled with joy and love, he'd had as much fun in my company as I'd had in his.

"Well. You should come with us, because then we can play on your iPhone."

I went home.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


The Pope and I have a lot in common.

We were both raised Catholic. Sure in adulthood our paths have diverged somewhat. Whilst he has really pushed Catholicism to the max, I got married in a Registry Office ... 'nuff said.

We are both opposed to contraception. Although the Pope takes this to a global scale, I insist on it only between the husband and I (and when I haven't been put on it for medical reasons). Indeed I positively encourage it in the wider world; anything to avoid yet another pregnancy announcement.

And I love kids, the Pope ... shall I not go there?

The Pontiff is about to arrive on our shores for a state visit. This has resulted in the newspapers going all out for stories featuring his Holiness - with links to previous, relevant articles. I can't imagine what it was about this headline (from 2008) that caught my eye:

The church has decreed that "most forms of artificial fertilisation were 'to be excluded' on the grounds that they replaced 'the conjugal act' as a means of reproduction". Believe me, the husband and I have conjugalled with the best of them (and more importantly with each other), IVF won't replace the act but hopefully be a hell of a lot more effective.

It appears that there is another issue with IVF, namely that very often there will be embryo's that are surplus to requirements and the difficulty lies in what to do with these. The Vatican's treatise on the subject appears to rule out every possible use for the embryos: their destruction, their donation to infertile couples and their use for therapeutic or experimental purposes.

I can see it isn't an easy decision. Months ago, when I had to sign all the IVF consent forms, my pen hovered over the 'what to do with the embryo's' tick box.

Even if the NHS was willing to put everything I produce back in, I wouldn't have gone for that option. I do want children but, please, not eight at once.

I have thought about donating to other couples, and I haven't ruled it out in the future, but I really think I need to have a child first before I start imagining whether another woman - however deserving - has born the fruit of my loins. Though quite what the Church's objection (beyond the replacement of the fruitless conjugal act) to this is, I am mystified.

Disposal. I would have difficulty flushing a dead goldfish down the pan. I don't think I could consent to this.

Use for experimental purposes. This isn't an easy decision. Even though rationally, unlike the Pope and his minions, I don't think this early cluster of cells is a life, but the idea of experimentation conjures up images of kittens with scart leads in the heads and electric shocks being administered by aliens in stainless steel laboratories.

But how did we get here?

How did we manage to get to the point that my eggs can be grown, harvested, kept in a liquid solution perfectly calibrated to encourage growth, be fertilised by sperm that have been individually quality controlled, left to divide and develop, to eventually be at a stage that then can go back into a womb and produce a perfect child.

It wasn't all theory worked out on the back of an envelope. Every stage was tested, experimented with, failed, tried again, refined and worked on. IVF is only possible because of previous embryos that were experimented on. And the process isn't flawless, there is still work to be done, refinements to be made, more couples who will be helped.

How can I not consent to using excess embryos (should there be some) for tests? Of course I consented.

So despite our uncanny similarities it would be fair to say that on this subject the Pope and I are most certainly not singing from the same hymn sheet.

Another point of difference between Benedict and I is I am not convinced of my papal infallibility.

So tell me do you disagree with me, or the Pope? Have you had to make a decision about embryos? What do you reckon?

Sunday, 12 September 2010


If you can keep your happy face when all about you
Are announcing pregnancies and blaming faulty condoms
If you can remain calm when forever told to “just relax”
Yet make allowances for the naivety of the fertile
If you believe you’ll achieve conception, despite your own body’s effective contraception
Or you’ll carry a child, and not give way to miscarriage
Or allow your men to pause, without fear of hitting the menopause
And don’t panic at the tick of the biological clock

If you can talk at baby showers, and keep your tears in check
If you can read I.F, without seeing the word infertile
If you can plan more nine months hence
And not be stifled with thoughts of ‘maybe…’
But enjoy what happens day by day without mourning the life you planned

If you can meet your period and a positive ovulation and treat those two the same
If you can fill an unsuccessful cycle with 28 more days of hope and love
If you can be pumped full of hormones and remain unmoved
Not crying more, nor allowing yourself to dream

Then yours one day will be the child, and all the love born from sacrifice
And – which is more – you’ll no longer be infertile.

And you’ll be doing a fuck of a lot better than me.

(With apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

If you liked this, click here for some more of my better posts (sifting through the dross, so you don't have to).

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Happy New Year?

Back in the day I use to spent my down-time calculating when my baby would be born if I got pregnant that month. Now I seem to spend hours working out when I will next get a chance to even conceive.

I am currently one month into my three month coil sentence.

It'll be removed on the third of November, at which time I'll also have a biopsy to work out whether it has done its job.

I have just got through the date for the follow up appointment when I'll get the biopsy result and discover if I've got the go ahead for IVF.

This is where it gets complicated.

And where I start using the word 'if' a lot.

I should get the results of the biopsy at my appointment on the 17th of November.

If I get the all clear I should be starting IVF.

If this happens I'll be put on (more) birth control for a month. Standard practice, and I checked - the three months on the coil doesn't count.

If I start the birth control immediately my month will end on the 15th of December.

At this point I should start the drugs that'll stimulate my ovaries to pop out some nice ripe eggs. I'll take these drugs for a couple of weeks and if I respond appropriately my eggs will be ripe for the plucking on, let me look at my calendar, the 29th of December.

And therein lies the problem.

The Reproductive Medicine Unit doesn't open between Christmas and New Year. So there we go, there will be another slight delay if I do get the go ahead.

This shouldn't be a surprise.

Remember last January when I thought it'd happen in March?

Or in March when I was told to expect IVF in June.

Or in July when I though I was about to start IVF.

It is safe to assume 2010 is a reproductive write-off, I just hope 2011 isn't.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Innocence of Youth

I went out with my cousins the other night. They are eight and ten years younger than me.

I've always loved them in the way you are obliged to love blood relatives (no, I don't mean in a Norfolk / deep South way), but it is only recently that I've considered them friends in their own right; folk that I can swear in front of without worrying I am somehow corrupting them.

At one point I was in full swing with a doubtless hilarious tale about something that had happened during my latest acupuncture appointment. My 24 year boy cousin interrupted me:

"Acupuncture? What are you doing having acupuncture? What's wrong with you?"

"Infertility" I snapped - well, the fucker had stopped me mid-anecdote.

"Oh. This isn't at all awkward" he muttered gruffly. But, to his credit, later in the evening he came up and we had a proper chat about it and he was very lovely - if completely uncomprehending as to why anyone would actually want children.

His sister had missed my revelation and I thought it was only fair that she should know what was going on too. So I shoe-horned into conversation the fact I was likely to have IVF.

Her little face lit up with joy. "Oh how exciting!"

I blinked:

"Well, not really. I mean it is a bit of a pisser that I have to have IVF at all really. And that I have to take lots of drugs and go through all kinds of nasty procedures."

But on reflection she is right. It is quite exciting. It isn't what I would have wanted or hoped for. And it is scary. How will I feel when pumped full of more drugs than your average Tour de France contestant? How will I feel if it doesn't work? Or if it works just briefly, leaving me more devastated than ever?

But I have a problem - infertility - and this is my chance to remedy it. If someone with cataracts was due an operation that would have them seeing for the first time in years I'd think it was exciting. Like my problem, it is phenomenally unfair that they have to have the op but the possible outcome - that's worth focusing on. (Do you get it? Focus. Cateracts ... oh, forget it. I'm wasted here.)

So I'm mustering up a youthful excitement for this next stage, and hopefully I'll get more than butterflies in my stomach.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Comrade In Arms

I admit, of all the pre-IVF lifestyle changes, I find giving up alcohol the toughest. (Yes, still using the present tense there. One day at a time. One day at a time).

It is that post-work, early evening drink I miss most. The cold, tingling feel of lager on my tongue washing down some salty snacks. Or a sharp, lemony gin and tonic. Or sherry, so chilled that the glass drips with condensation.

Actually maybe it is the rounded, warm glass of red with a bowl of spicy tomato pasta. Or sitting in a pub drinking the often derided but quintessentially British warm, flat, hoppy beer.

Also I do like port.

And I genuinely can't think of a social situation that I find myself in that isn't lubricated, and dare I say enhanced, by liquor.

But if abstinence is hard for me it is worse for the husband.

He has four great loves: Wine, Music, Football and, don't tell me, don't tell me, I know this one, ahh yes: Me.

I'm not saying that his loves are necessarily in that order, but he certainly spends more money on wine than on me.

This week the husband has given up booze.

I have found it such a support to know that I am not alone in this. It is far easier to deny myself without the husband having a thousand tiny orgasms over each mouthful of his special grape juice whilst I dutifully sip my water.

Last night we went out for a meal and he didn't even have the smallest snifter of an intoxicant. Not only did it mean that I didn't spend the evening coveting his drinks but it was significantly cheaper without adding on the aperitif and the post-meal grappa.

I know what you are thinking; "What a wonderful, supportive, self-sacrificing man he is".


The guy is on antibiotics and isn't allowed to drink. Tonight - after nine days of medically-induced prohibition - he will be right back on the sauce. As I type he is debating what he will wet his whistle with first.

But maybe, just maybe, he'll read this and think that giving up wine is a small price to pay for helping his wife stick to her resolutions.

Yeah. Right. And maybe whilst he's at it I'll get nightly massages and be spoon-fed the finest Belgian chocolate ice-cream.