Wednesday, 30 September 2009

No idea

There's a blog I read which is written by a woman who has several sons. She writes well, and I enjoy reading most of what she writes - but she is unbelievably smug about the fact that she is a mother of several sons. Her profile says that her greatest achievement in life is that she has given life to all these boys. Funny, I thought it was God who gave people life, and that having children was a gift, not an achievement.

Every so often she writes a post which really gets up my nose. She makes occasional little asides about people who don't have children or who only have one or two children, and they're often quite snide. She obviously doesn't have a clue that some people aren't able to have as many children as they would like, or aren't able to have any children at all, and that this is not through any fault of their own.

Recently, she went to a church social event and won a prize for being the mother with the most children. I've said before that it's difficult for Catholics who are infertile, and that you almost don't seem to be recognised as a person in many parishes until you have children. But all I could think when I read this post was how excluding that prize was, and how painful it must have been for anyone present who hadn't been able to build the family they wanted, whatever the reason.

I'm all for celebrating big families - I have five brothers and sisters and know the joys of a big family, and I have great admiration for how my brother and sister-in-law manage with their seven children. But I do find it a great shame how so many mothers of large families (and fortunately, my sister-in-law isn't one of them) seem to look down on people with one or two children, or none.

I can guarantee that I wanted and hoped for and dreamed of having a large family at least as much as this woman did. And the fact that she got it and I didn't is not a sign that she's superior to me, or that I did something wrong, or that she's a better Catholic. (In fact, if I were a worse Catholic, perhaps I could have seven children by now - by seven different fathers.)

I know she's not doing it to hurt me - she's never met me, after all, and has no idea who I am - and if I am hurt by her attitude, I'm perfectly at liberty to stop reading her blog.

But I have spent the last 15 years, since my friends and family started to have children, trying to calculate what might be the best time to phone without disrupting nap times and bedtime routines, offering babysitting help whenever required, remembering their children's birthdays, understanding if they let me down at the last minute because of a problem with one of the children, travelling thousands of miles to maintain relationships because it was easier for me to travel on my own than for them to load their children into the car, and when I lived in London a lot of them didn't like bringing their children into the city.

In other words, I've tried to understand how their lives have changed and the challenges they face since they've had children, and have tried to be sensitive and accommodating towards them.

Is it too much to ask that people with children behave a little more sensitively towards those of us without? And is it too much to ask that we be included a bit more in social occasions? I have no idea what the other prizes were at that church social, but I'm pretty certain they wouldn't have included prizes that were specifically aimed at people who couldn't have children - and it's just another way of excluding us from the community and making us feel devalued.

I sometimes wonder (because I'm a big one for overanalysing things) whether I want children because I want children or because I want to be accepted as a fully functioning member of the human race. And although I know the answer is that I have always wanted a family, there is a large part of me that also knows if I can't have children, huge numbers of people in the world will judge me and will think me a lesser person because of that.

And yes, it does make the pain of infertility worse - because not only am I longing for the one thing I want most in the world, but I encounter people on an almost daily basis who think I'm less of a person because I don't have it.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Browsing the site statistics...

To the person in the Netherlands who found this blog by searching on "parents give children cannabis to calm them" - please don't!

And the person who found me by searching on "ultrasound 'wet myself'" - I feel your pain.

As for "it is not a coincidence that some of the best known characters" - I don't know how that search got you here, but I'd love to know what you were actually looking for. Just like the person in Vietnam who clicked on this blog three separate times in a search for "the holy man" - I'd love to know who that was.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Embarrassing TTC moments

A few months ago, I was teaching a group of students who had last seen me shortly before my wedding. During the morning tea break, one of them asked how the wedding had gone. I jumped at the chance to bore yet another person with a few of my wedding pictures, which I happened to have stored on my computer.

I had a big screen behind me on which I had been showing Powerpoint slides, and as I didn't disconnect it, everyone in the room was able to see the photos that I was showing on the big screen. The 'My Pictures' folder on my work computer contains a random selection of pictures - a few wedding photos, a few other pictures that people have e-mailed to me, and a couple of other things.

I had obviously been using my work computer one time when I was changing my avatar on the TTC internet forum I used to post on, and had saved a cartoon to my hard drive. And that's how, when I reached the last of the wedding photos and the computer just picked up the next thing in the folder to display, this picture appeared on the big screen behind me:

This is a shameless request for comments to make me laugh (and hopefully make me feel a little better about my own faux pas) - please share with me any embarrassing TTC moments you have had...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Life swapping

After a stroll into town and a nice lunch in a cafe, DH and I stood outside the cafe chatting for a couple of minutes before he gave me a kiss and walked off, looking back a couple of times to wave and blow me another kiss. After all, it was going to be a full three hours before we saw each other again.

When he'd gone, I noticed a group of teenagers standing nearby. One of them was heavily pregnant. She wore a tiny little vest top and a tiny little pair of trousers, and her naked bump stood out white and proud between them. She also wore a nasty scowl, and it appeared to be directed at me.

"Your chap not treat you as nicely as that, dear?" I thought in a nasty, gloating sort of way (because I can be pretty mean when I feel like it). "Well, maybe if you'd waited until the right man came along like I did, you too could be treated with love and tenderness, and your man would hold your hand and support you as you... errrrm... went through IVF because you were both too old and knackered to conceive naturally..."

So there we were, a little bit jealous of each other. Or maybe I'm flattering myself and she just thought it was gross to see people as old as us kissing in the street (though I promise you it was just a quick peck - nothing inappropriate!). Either way, I know that if I had what she has, I'd treasure it and thank God for it and it would make my life complete.

But I'd still rather be me than her.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Loving this birth announcement

My family have been taking a trip down memory lane this week, sharing old e-mails about first dates with people who are now our husbands and wives. I was looking at some of the e-mails that went round the family around the time I met my DH, and came across this birth announcement which my brother saw in his local paper and sent to the rest of us. I'd so love to be able to make an announcement like this...
Jen and Andrew are delighted to announce the birth of Ross, on 19 February 2007. A big (4.5kg), bouncing brother for Ian, Lauren and Emma and grateful thanks to Dr P and nursing staff at W Hospital. To all those who prayed for us when we thought we couldn't have children...please stop!

Friday, 25 September 2009

One-track mind

I need to get a birthday present for a teenage boy, so I've been doing a bit of armchair shopping here - which is how I came across this DVD:

And the first thing I thought was "what's a fertility video doing in the 'suitable for teenage boys' section?" - but then I figured out that 'follies' in this context didn't mean 'follicles', and that 'NFL' probably doesn't stand for 'National Fertility League'.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Proving how English I really am

DH and I are reading this book at the moment for our book club. It's an anthropological study of the English, and we find ourselves sometimes laughing and sometimes cringing, but almost always nodding with recognition, because it's scarily accurate about our little foibles. If you're thinking of visiting the UK for the first time, I would highly recommend that you read this first - it'll really help you to understand what makes us tick.

One of the foibles that it mentions is that the English hate talking about money. This results in an awful lot of small talk at business meetings before anyone is willing actually to get down to the dirty business of discussing nasty things like orders and contracts. And even then, the financial part of the contract will not usually be raised in the meeting itself, but will be covered in writing afterwards. This is true even in my line of work - and I'm an accountant!

The taboo is so strong that last night I had a nightmare that I'd offered to help a friend's husband with his tax return. This would, of course, have entailed him telling me how much he earned, and he reacted with great embarrassment, as though I'd just offered to strip him naked and give him a bath or something. I woke up in a cold sweat and was hugely relieved when I realised it had just been a dream and I hadn't really committed such a dreadful faux pas.

Our problem is exacerbated when we're employing someone in the home. On the part of the employer, there's a squirming embarrassment about the fact that they're paying for a service, which is also tied up with the fact that we are acutely class conscious but don't want to admit it.

The result of this is that most English people are ruled with a rod of iron by anyone they pay to come into their home to do a job. Last night a friend of mine was telling me about the chap who's retiling her bathroom. She's getting very frustrated that he won't get on with the work, but follows her from room to room with his cup of tea, chatting. It's just not 'done' to mention that she's paying him to do a job and would like him to jolly well get on and do it. In fact, when he disappeared for three hours the other day and detected a slight note of testiness in her voice when he returned, he acted all offended and said he wasn't sure if he wanted to finish the job.

DH and I both work long hours, and DH is not very domesticated, so we employ a cleaner for three hours a week. Over the last few months, she has picked and chosen when she'll come to us - sometimes the house would go 10 days without being cleaned, sometimes only three. She would always let me know when she was going to grace me with her presence (though she didn't always turn up on the promised days), and I would dutifully leave her money out on the side.

Yesterday she had decided it was convenient for her to come in the evening. That was fine - DH and I were planning to be out anyway, so she would have had the house to herself. But I was somewhat surprised to get home at 5:00 (I had a day's holiday and had been out running some errands in the afternoon) and discover that she had already been, and had left me a note saying she hadn't done the cleaning because I'd 'forgotten' to leave her the money.

I immediately phoned her and pointed out that she had said she would come at 6:00, and I would have left her the money then. She responded that she'd changed her plans, and had far too much on her mind at the moment to have bothered to let me know - and if I didn't like that, perhaps it was time I found another cleaner.

So here I am, paying this woman a very good hourly rate, maintaining the pretence that we're friends rather than employer-employee and allowing her to dictate when and how she performs the job for which I'm paying her. And now I find that I've been sacked by my cleaner for daring to suggest that she might actually let me know if she's not going to turn up at the agreed times.

Sometimes I wish English society had taught me to be a little bit more blunt and direct - but since it didn't, if you want me today I'll be cleaning the bathroom.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

People who know

On Sunday morning I went for coffee with a couple of people from one of the forums I go on. It was great - they're both further on in their treatments than I am and were a mine of useful information for me. We're all being treated at the same clinic, so were able to compare notes about the staff there (chief highlights being that we all agree the consultant is a man of few but well-chosen words who really knows his stuff, and the head nurse is an absolute star).

We talked about the clinic, the staff, the injections, the treatment regimes, our hopes, fears and concerns about our treatments, how our husbands were dealing with it all... We'd never met before, but our common experience enabled us to open up to each other instantly, and before we knew it two hours had gone by.

Some people don't tell any of their friends and family IRL that they're going through fertility treatment, and while that may be right for them, I could never keep quiet about such a major thing in my life. I've had some amazing support from most of my family and friends, and couldn't have got this far without them. I've also had my fair share of well-meaning but not very well-aimed comments, and a few that I couldn't even describe as well-meaning, but the people who made the latter comments are definitely out of my life now.

But being able to talk freely to people who are going through the same thing, and who really get it - that was amazing! I already can't wait for the next time we meet up.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Acupuncture again


I admitted only a couple of days ago to being a bit sceptical about alternative therapies, even though I'm willing to give (some of) them a try. Today I got an answer in a big way about acupuncture - I still don't know whether it's any good for fertility (and of course I have the whole issue that sticking needles into me probably won't do an awful lot for my husband's sperm count), but boy, does it have an effect!

Today I had two issues I wanted the acupuncturist to concentrate on. The first was that I was due to ovulate around now (and may already have done so at the weekend) and wanted to give the egg a bit of a helping hand to get out and try to avoid creating another cyst. The second was that I've been getting a lot of tension headaches recently, and had a huge one today that lasted most of the day.

For the ovulation, he stuck needles over both ovaries. They're tiny thin little needles, and they only go a little way in - just beneath the skin. The cyst last month was on the right ovary, indicating that I should probably be ovulating from the left one this month. He gave the needle on the right-hand side a little twitch, and nothing much happened.

Then he twitched the one on the left - and crampy shooting pains started to go from my ovary all the way across the middle and down into my bits. Apart from the fact that he said it was a good sign, I have no idea what that meant, and it's certainly never happened before - but there was definitely a major connection between where he stuck the needle and the whole of my reproductive area, and it definitely felt as though something was going on there (but not on the right side, which I didn't expect to be active this month).

For the tension headache, he stuck a couple of needles in the back of my neck. When one of them went in, I felt a tingling sensation all the way down my back and a sharp pain about halfway down, nowhere near where the needle had gone in. There was also a dragging pain when he touched the needle.

After all the needles were in, he left me to lie on the table under the heat lamp while he wrote up some notes. About five minutes in, the muscles all the way down the right-hand side of my back took on a life of their own - my torso started writhing and twitching as the muscles contracted and relaxed in waves. I called him over, and after watching for a while in fascination, he took out the needle in the back of the right-hand side of my neck. My back spasmed one last time and then relaxed, and I lay completely still again.

I still can't tell you with absolute certainty what the therapeutic benefits of this treatment have been. But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the points where the needles go in have a huge significance and have a major effect on my body.

I'm still a little bit freaked out - but for the moment, I no longer have a headache, so I'm also a happy bunny tonight.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

In it to win it

The strapline for the UK's National Lottery is "You've got to be in it to win it". Well, in this month's fertility lottery (and the odds of success are, of course, equally low for us - if not lower), it looks as though I'm definitely not in it - my temperature went up today, indicating that I may have ovulated a couple of days early, and there was absolutely nothing there to meet the egg.

Yesterday we went round to see DH's parents. They wanted a new television, so we picked one up on the way over there, along with a new (flat-packed) television cabinet. When we arrived, I got out the screwdriver set which I had taken with me and put the television cabinet together. I then got the television out of its box, attached the Sky box and video, set it all up and showed his parents how it worked. On the way home, we got a flat tyre (on a single-track country lane in the middle of nowhere, in the dark). I sent DH to set up our warning triangle, then he held the torch while I changed the tyre.

It's something that has come up a few times - we both lived alone for several years before we met. I have found that a woman who lives alone is expected to know how to do pretty much everything, while a man who lives alone gets looked after. Consequently, I'm fairly well able (though not always willing) to turn my hand to most things around the house, while DH doesn't really know where to start.

Last night I was left wondering if standing by while I did all those jobs yesterday made him feel a bit emasculated - especially as when we went to bed, I was feeling a bit amorous and he actually used the line, "I've got a bit of a headache - can we just lie here and have a cuddle?"

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Alternative therapies

After we'd been trying to conceive for 12 cycles, I decided to have a go at something to give our attempts a little boost - so I started having acupuncture. I quite like going to my acupuncture sessions - the guy's very friendly, and he listens to me and makes reassuring noises, and the needles don't hurt or bother me at all. Obviously, once we discovered that our main problem was MFI, I realised that the most successful acupuncture ever wasn't going to get me pregnant if the needles were only going to be stuck into me, but still...

After a few sessions, he decided to try giving me herbs as well, and I took those for a couple of months. My cycle became a little screwed up, and my DH wasn't happy about it at all. He blamed the herbs and told me to stop taking them - so now I'm back to just the needles every week or two.

The thing is, I've heard from lots of people who say that after an acupuncture session they feel particularly relaxed or floaty. I can't say I feel any different at all - the herbs definitely seemed to do something, but the needles? If they do have an effect, it's a very subtle one. Except that when he uses the heat lamp and leaves me for half an hour with needles sticking into me and a gentle heat diffusing across my stomach, I do sometimes fall asleep - but then, I suffer from chronic insomnia and therefore also from chronic exhaustion, and if you get me lying down in a warm, comfortable place and leave me there, it's not surprising if I fall asleep, needles or no needles.

Last night a friend invited a group of us round to her house for a taster session with her reflexologist. Again, I'd heard great things about how relaxing reflexology is, and since things are quite stressful in my life at the moment, I'm all for a bit of relaxation. So I went along, presented my feet and let the woman play with them for 45 minutes or so, and felt... well, nothing really. It was pleasant enough, but I didn't get these warm, relaxed, sleepy feelings that other people have talked about.

On the other hand, both the acupuncturist and the reflexologist have pointed to areas of my body and said that something in them indicates a problem with a completely different area of my body, and in each case they've been right. So is there something in it? I don't know.

Similarly, I don't know about this hypnotherapy relaxation CD I've just bought. I'm willing to try it, because I really do need to destress. But I've only listened to it once so far - and the back of my mind was telling me that I didn't feel any different and it was all a load of tripe ... until I fell asleep halfway through it.

Am I too stressed to feel the effects after just one or two sessions? Or is my scepticism stopping me from entering into it fully and therefore stopping me from benefiting from it? Or is it all a load of bunkum that I'm throwing my money away on because I'm desperate?

I wish I knew...

Thursday, 17 September 2009

And thinking of destressing...

One of my favourite hymns is 'Dear Lord and Father of mankind'. I've always loved it, but I've loved it even more since I heard a radio programme which mentioned that it's the only hymn which specifically refers to stress and asks God to relieve that stress for us.

In this modern, fast-moving world, we all live stressful lives. We're living in turbulent times economically - many people are concerned for their jobs, are trying to balance the fact that their outgoings are increasing while their income is at best remaining the same, and are coping with increased workloads and greater demands from their employers if they are lucky enough to have kept their jobs.

Going through treatment for infertility, we have added stresses on us. There's a heavy physical and emotional toll, a financial cost, and the ever-present fear of failure and of what that means for our plans for the future. And since the mind and the body are so closely linked, we need more than ever to relax, let go of the stress and go with the flow as much as we can.

So what could be more perfect for us than to sing this prayer:

"Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease.
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace,
The beauty of thy peace."

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

The next 19 days...

Not that I'm counting, but my next AF is due in about 19 days' time. I'm so grateful I have short, regular cycles.

So now I'm making plans for the next 19 days, to take my mind off the waiting and get myself as ready as possible for what comes next. Here's my list of things to do:

1. Keep going to acupuncture - ask him if there's any area he can work on that will help to reduce the cyst and ensure I don't get any new ones to replace it.

2. Take the three days' holiday that I'd booked for the putative time of EC/ET at the end of next week, and use it to (a) relax, (b) book someone to sort out the damp in the front room, (c) relax, (d) arrange for the flat roof in the kitchen to be replaced, (e) relax, (f) arrange for the windows upstairs to be replaced with double glazing, and (g) relax. If this turns out to be too much to do in three days, items (b), (d) and (f) can be put off for another time or delegated to DH. Items (a), (c), (e) and (g), on the other hand, are non-negotiable and must not be omitted.

3. Start listening to the hypnotherapy relaxation CD that arrived yesterday and work on relaxation techniques.

4. Go for a taster session on reflexology and arrange more sessions if I find it helps me relax.

5. Take the opportunity that has now presented itself to go and give blood one last time before I start pumping my body full of hormones.

6. Rearrange some of my teaching commitments and let go of some of the other stress-causing issues at work.

7. Eat healthily, go to the gym regularly and lose a bit of weight.

8. Get together with some other people I've 'met' online who are being treated at the same clinic and see if we can get a little real life support group going.

9. Pray. Actually, that should probably be higher up the list, but it's kind of an ongoing thing rather than a new one. After all, I haven't added 'breathe' to my list, and one is as natural as the other.

10. Look after DH, feed him a sperm-enriching diet and make him feel loved and cared for. Again, this should probably be higher up the list, but it's also hopefully nothing new.

Having pretty much cleared my diary for the next couple of weeks, I have a perfect opportunity to get myself calm and relaxed and to ensure that I'm as ready as possible to go through whatever I need to next month.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

That Friend

You know the one - I'm sure we all have one. She and her husband had only to decide that they might like a baby, and BAM! - there she was, up the duff. She sailed through her pregnancy, and since her baby was born every Facebook status update has said things like "That Friend is very proud of her little girl today", "That Friend thinks her little girl is just too cute" and "That Friend is glad her little girl is finally asleep". Every e-mail is full of how clever and amazing the little girl has been recently, occasionally interspersed with grumbles about tantrums and sleep problems.

You made the mistake of confiding in That Friend when it first became clear that it wasn't going to be as easy as you'd hoped for you to conceive, and she immediately advised you that you were trying too hard and should just relax. "Look at us," she breezed. "We never tried at all - we thought we'd just stop the Pill and start trying the following month, but by the following month I was already pregnant."

When you'd had the tests and she was still counselling relaxation, you felt like shoving your test results straight down her smug little throat. How could she still go on about how easy it was when you had a specific medical explanation (actually, more than one) for the fact that you weren't getting pregnant? Did she also breezily advise cancer patients that they should just pull themselves together and not be such wusses, because she'd never had cancer and she was sure it was just because she had the right sort of attitude?

But although your communications with her became less frequent, you still kept in touch with her, because, blind side concerning conception apart, she still had her good points and your friendship ran deeper than the hurtful little comments. And besides, she wasn't INTENTIONALLY hurting you - she just couldn't understand, because she had never been in your position. And you always knew she wasn't the most empathetic person on earth.

Well, guess what?! I heard from That Friend yesterday. And her great long e-mail was only 50% about her little girl this time. Because the other 50% was all about the fact that she's now pregnant with Number 2. And they've only just decided to start trying!

And before you ask, yes, she does know that things are a bit more serious at our end than just a simple need to relax - after telling me all about her symptoms, how exhausted she is with this pregnancy, how it compares to her first pregnancy, and how nervous she is about her 12 week scan, she did remember to say before she signed off, "By the way, how's the IVF going?"

So you can give me a serious pat on the back today, because not only did I not pick my laptop up, jump up and down on it and throw it out of the window, but I actually responded to her e-mail with suitable congratulations.

And I think you'll agree that for that alone, I deserve for the universe to reward me with some similar news of my own some time soon...

Monday, 14 September 2009

Adding insult to injury

When I went into the clinic on Friday afternoon, there was apparently some sort of drama going on - in fact, it seemed at times like a French farce. I sat in the waiting room for about half an hour, and during that time the consultant and all three of the nurses kept running through doors on one side of the waiting room and reappearing at doors on the other side, as if by magic.

I didn't mind waiting - I'd left work early, having already done more than my contracted hours for the week, and so didn't need to rush back for anything. The French farce was mildly entertaining, and I had a book with me.

What did irritate me a bit was that there was a couple waiting in there as well for pretty much the whole time I was there, and the husband had an absolutely streaming cold and spent the full half hour coughing and spluttering. The waiting room is tiny, and it's hard to get away from someone who's ejecting little virus droplets into the atmosphere. And I couldn't help thinking that if that had been my husband, I'd have told him to stay at home - most of what they do in that clinic is done to the woman, and while it's nice to have your husband's moral support, it's even nicer to let him stay at home to nurse his Man Flu and not infect everyone else in the waiting room.

So I'm not at all surprised that I've had a nasty scratchy throat since yesterday, and I expect the full-blown cold to come out any minute now...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Talking it over

So DH and I went to see his parents yesterday, and on the way back in the car we had a good talk. As I suspected, he didn't notice that I spent most of that concert on Friday evening crying. I did try to hide it from him at the time, as it could have got very messy and public if he had noticed while we were there in the middle of a crowd, and he really wouldn't have known how to handle it. And like I said, there were no big shuddering sobs - just silent tears coursing down my cheeks and a damp patch growing on the front of my shirt - and my husband isn't the most observant person ever.

Anyway, he said he thought it hadn't affected him so badly because he doesn't know as much as I do about the whole process and so when I told him we couldn't do it this month, he just thought, "Oh well, we'll do it next month." His only concern was whether there was something wrong with me and whether this cyst was normal, so when I said the nurse wasn't worried about that, he didn't worry either.

I said it was a little bit like psyching yourself up for a very important exam, preparing yourself as well as you could, getting your nerves in check as best you could, only to turn up at the exam hall and find that the exam isn't happening for another month. I'd been dreading some of the physical stuff I was going to have to go through, hoping for success and fearing failure, and all the hopes and fears of the last few weeks had been dashed in five minutes, to leave me still hanging on and building up the same dreads, hopes and fears - along with a couple of new ones.

It made me realise that there were things that can go wrong with this process that I hadn't even thought about, and it made me think of the 90% chance of failure (at my age) rather than the 10% chance of success - and also that our cancelled cycle this time doesn't even fall within that 90% failure rate, because we failed before it even started.

I told him if we can't have children, I'm sure our life together will still be happy, but there will be a grieving process for the life we had hoped for - a readjustment of our plans for the future and of our hopes and expectations, and there will be times when we'll just feel sad that we don't have the thing we most wanted. Life without children can be good, but it's very different from life with children, and whenever we've talked about our plans for the future, they've had children in them. We'll have to go through a process of putting our dreams aside and creating new ones.

He said he didn't think it was time to think about that yet. He still has hope that we're going to succeed, and although he realises that there are going to be many difficulties and disappointments and a whole lot more tears along the way, he's definitely not ready to give up on the whole thing.

I've told him before, and I said it again last night - he's all I need. If I have nothing else but still have him, it's more than I hoped for just three years ago when I was resigned to being single and alone for the rest of my life. But he's not all I want. I want to see him being a daddy, because I've seen how my nephews and nieces and my friends' children adore him, and I know what a fantastic daddy he'll be. And I want to be a mummy - I've wanted it all my life. And as he said, what happened this week was a setback and not the end. It could still happen, and we're not giving up yet.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

So this is how I feel

I've been telling myself that I'm OK with all this - that I knew the chances of success on the first round of IVF were low, that I didn't expect it to work first time, but that I would go into it with as positive an attitude as possible.

I cried a little at the clinic, because the nurse was so understanding and so sympathetic that I found it difficult to hold it together straight after such a disappointment. I'd tried to prepare myself for failure at every stage - not producing enough follicles, the eggs not maturing, the eggs not fertilising, the embryos not implanting - but it never occurred to me to prepare myself for the possibility that my stupid useless body would prevent us from even being able to start the process.

But then I pulled myself together, told DH and a couple of other people what had happened and started working out the probable dates of the next cycle - which, by the way, are disastrous and will give me a serious headache as I try to work out what to do about the major work commitments I have at the probable time of egg collection/embryo transfer. Especially now I know that there's no certainty I'll even reach that stage, and I might be rearranging these work commitments for nothing, at a time when to do so is quite sensitive and could even lead to redundancy for someone else in the department (I won't go into that - it's a whole complicated, messy story of office politics).

Last night my DH had bought us tickets for a Simon and Garfunkel tribute concert. As I sat and enjoyed the first song, I thought, "There, you see, we wouldn't be able to do this sort of thing so easily if we had children."

The second song began, and I thought, "We have a great life together. If we never have children, it won't be so bad."

And then suddenly, and completely without warning, tears started to roll down my cheeks and drip onto my shirt.

And for the next hour, I sat there, behaving completely normally - I listened to the songs, applauded when each one ended, turned and smiled at my DH when he looked at me - but the whole time, the tears continued to flow silently until they soaked through the front of my shirt, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

So no, apparently at the moment I'm not OK.

Friday, 11 September 2009


Who would have thought my hopes could be dashed so quickly?

I turned up at the clinic this afternoon full of a mixture of hope and trepidation. Things had worked out perfectly - the next two weeks are going to be very quiet at work, and the timing couldn't be better for our treatment cycle to start. I've already booked a couple of days' holiday for two weeks' time and explained to my boss that when the time comes, I might need a bit of flexibility in exactly when I take them.

So the thing I really wasn't expecting to happen today was for the nurse to do a quick scan preparatory to sending me off to the pharmacy to pick up a bucketful of drugs, go a little bit quiet and then point out a big black blob in the middle of the grey streaks all over the screen and explain that it meant we were going to have to abandon this cycle - before we even start.

Apparently the big black blob is an ovarian cyst. It measures 17mm today, and if we went ahead with the treatment it would get in the way and skew the results when they're trying to measure my follicles and decide when to give me the cetratide and then do the trigger injection and egg harvest.

The nurse said in her experience, only perfect cycles work, and there's no point in starting on this one now, because it's not going to be a perfect cycle. She gave me the illusion of choice, but pointed out that we'll be throwing about £7,000 down the drain if we go ahead - so I think I'll keep my £7,000 and spend it on chocolate to make me feel better instead.

She said the cyst should be gone by next month and we can try again then. I asked what would happen if it hadn't gone, and she said, "I'm quite confident it will have gone."

I now need to stay away from Google, because the first site I looked at which talked about ovarian cysts said that most go away "within a few months". I'm pretty sure I didn't have one when we had our first appointment in the middle of July, so if it's appeared since then, what does "a few months" mean? I'd rather trust the experience of the nurse, who reckons she's seen loads of these and they've almost always gone by the following month.

So, it's back to another 23 days of waiting. Thank Heaven I have short cycles...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Hurray - it's CD 1!

And there's a phrase I never expected to hear myself say (see myself type?)!

I phoned the clinic today to tell them that my new cycle had begun, and I have an appointment to go in for a scan and a lesson in how to give myself injections on Friday afternoon (it would have been the morning, but there's something I can't get out of at work). Because of my high FSH and low AMH, I'm on the short protocol.

So as of Friday, I'll be on daily injections of the highest dosage of Gonal-F. At some stage I'll also be having Cetrotide - I'm not sure if that's a one-off or also a daily thing, and I'm not sure if it starts at the same time. Then in a little over two weeks I'll have a trigger injection of Ovitrelle, and then twice daily Cyclogest suppositories and junior aspirin from embryo transfer day onwards.

I expect to part with a significant sum of money on Friday, so it's lucky I cleared my credit card balance at the weekend.

How do I feel? Well, excited that at last we're going to be Doing Something. But also a little apprehensive about the injections. Still scared about having a lot of pain when they do the embryo transfer. Conscious of the low success rate, and the number of hurdles at which we could possibly fall. Nervous about possible side effects from all the drugs. Terrified that it's going to fail and I'll have to go through it all again - or even worse, be told that there's no point in going through it all again because the odds of success are so low.

And now I intend to put those negative feelings behind me. If the mind has any influence over the body, there's no way I'm going to jeopardise the success of this cycle by being negative. I'm going to take this one step at a time, visualise success at every stage, breathe deeply and pray whenever I feel any doubt creeping in, and keep my stress levels as low as possible.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Political correctness versus the best interests of the child

There's a lot of publicity in today's papers about the comments made by the chief executive of Barnardo's and the government's reaction to those comments.

Unfortunately, it appears that even the Conservatives don't have the guts to admit that some children would be better off away from their birth parents. The Shadow Children's Minister said: "The bottom line is that the people who know best how to look after their children are the parents of those children."

This is just not true in some cases. Look at those boys in Doncaster who have been found guilty of torturing and sexually abusing two other young boys. They came from a family of seven brothers, all of whom were well known to police and social services.

Their father was a violent alcoholic, and their mother was a drug addict. There were reports that the children had been seen scavenging for food in local dustbins, because their parents were too chaotic to look after them.

One of the weekend papers reported that they had been made to watch violent films which made them scream with terror. Their mother then fed them cannabis to calm them down.

How can innocent children be left with parents like that while social services are forced to stand by and watch the inevitable car crash that their lives turn into? How can we break the cycle of violence, depravity and neglect without children being taken out of that environment before it's too late?

And at the same time, when children are taken into care, too often social services seem to be following their own politically correct agenda rather than trying to do what's best for the children. Take, for instance, the recent case of the Catholic boy who was placed, against his mother's wishes, with a gay couple.

In that case, the mother was unable to care for her child because she had had a mental breakdown, but she still cared deeply about what happened to him and how he was cared for - a very different situation from the feral scum who just keep breeding with no regard for their children's welfare.

Social services were eventually forced to reconsider, but it's absolutely breathtaking that they should have thought they could get away with completely ignoring the child's religious background, the mountains of research that indicate that children do better in a 'normal' family environment and the mother's wishes simply to further their own politically correct cause (Brighton and Hove has the highest rate of homosexual adoption and fostering in the country).

It breaks my heart that there are so many children growing up in an atmosphere of violence and neglect when there are so many couples out there who would love to give them a decent start in life and shower them with the love and attention that they so need.

It breaks my heart that by the time children are taken into care and put up for adoption, they are so damaged and brutalised that it's often too late for simple love and attention to save them and they need specalist care that most ordinary couples are simply not equipped to give.

And it breaks my heart that it seems that so often decisions about how to help these children are made not on the basis of sound research and experience of what's best for the child but on the basis of politics and political correctness. I'm disgusted and deeply saddened that the well-informed opinions of someone who is experienced in this area and works for one of the oldest and most respected children's charities in the country can be dismissed as nonsense by a government minister who knows NOTHING about the lives that these children lead.

This is not a political issue - it's a human one. And the 'system' is failing huge numbers of the most vulnerable people in our society.

It's time the pendulum swung.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

You've got to want the whole package...

My husband took me to see 'Sister Act' at the London Palladium for my birthday. We had a wonderful time, with our enjoyment only slightly marred by the appalling behaviour of the teenagers sitting in front of and behind us.

It did get me thinking, though. So many people (including me) talk about wanting a baby.

But a baby's for life, not just for the cute period. You've got to be prepared to love your child when it's throwing toddler tantrums, learning eschatological humour at primary school (or possibly earlier these days), defying you as a stroppy adolescent, playing horrible music at top volume half the night, refusing to do homework, throwing up all over your bathroom after the first experiment with alcohol, and generally making all the mistakes that you made in your youth and have warned your children about until you're blue in the face, because they think they're invincible and have to learn that they're not through their own experience and not through the benefit of being told about yours.

You need to be prepared not just for the sleepless nights when your children are babies and need to be fed every three hours, and the later sleepless nights when they get croup or have nightmares, but also the sleepless nights when they've promised to be home by midnight and it's now 2:00 in the morning and their mobile is switched off, when they've been dumped by their first love and think their life is over, when they don't get the exam results they wanted, the job they wanted, the house they wanted...

My father always says that the earliest years of parenting are the easiest, because you can usually ease your children's fears, make them feel better with a kiss and a cuddle, anticipate many of their needs and react to most others. As their lives get more complex and they spent more time outside the home, you have less and less control over their happiness, and yet your own happiness and peace of mind depends to a great extent on theirs.

Parenthood's a scary thing - a lifelong commitment to someone who doesn't always appreciate it and will certainly grow up to remind you (in some cases over and over again) of some of the mistakes that you've made.

I know it's not all going to be cuddles and smiles, and I know I'll make mistakes and go through times when I'm frustrated beyond belief.

But knowing all that, I still want it - sleepless nights, stroppy teenagers and all.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Life begins...

Well, over the last week I've held several wakes for my lost youth, and now I have to face the fact - technically, it's now after midnight, so I'm 40 today.

Actually, despite spending the last month being told my ovaries are too old and shrivelled to do anything useful, I really have no problem with my chronological age and have just been enjoying the parties. I'm looking forward to a weekend with some of my family, and will miss those who aren't with us. And I expect to be hideously embarrassed at work today.

And I really hope my life as a mother will begin at 40...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Part 4 - why is the Catholic Church opposed to IVF (and is it right)?

The Catholic Church is opposed to IVF for three main reasons. The first is, I think, the hardest to argue - that too many embryos have been destroyed in the course of its development. According to the Vatican document Donum Vitae, "The connection between in vitro fertilization and the voluntary destruction of human embryos occurs too often."

I can neither deny that nor ignore it, but what I can say is that I'm not responsible for those deaths, any more than my ownership of a car makes me responsible for the deaths of all the thousands of people who have died on the roads since the car was invented.

What I can be responsible for is ensuring that I drive my car in such a way as to do my best to ensure that I don't contribute any more to that death toll. This takes me onto the Church's second objection, namely that embryos are destroyed in individual IVF treatments.

That I can do something about, and I have discussed with the staff at our clinic the importance of ensuring that no embryos are deliberately destroyed as a result of our treatment. This may mean I produce some eggs which are not fertilised, and it may reduce the chances of success in our treatment, but it's also completely non-negotiable.

The third category of objection that the Church has is the one I have struggled with the most. This is that the Church's teaching on marriage affirms the "inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning".

In other words, when a married couple make love they should be open to the possibility that a child will be conceived as a result (the procreative meaning) and their love-making should be an expression of their love for each other (the unitive meaning).

It was only when I realised the inconsistency of the Church's teaching on this point that I finally felt comfortable with the possibility that we might be opposing it.

You see, the Church permits Natural Family Planning. It allows couples to decide when to make love in order to maximise or minimise their chances of having a baby. They may want to plan not to have their children too close together, or they may not be able to afford to raise another child. Whatever their reason, it is open to them to decide not to make love at the woman's most fertile time. Equally importantly, it is open to them to decide that they will make love at the times when the woman is least likely to be fertile.

This surely separates the unitive meaning from the procreative meaning of the conjugal act - the couple are permitted to express their love for each other in this way even at times when they have chosen to do so at a particular time (and not at another, more fertile time) expressly because they hope not to conceive a child at that time.

My husband and I haven't stopped making love since we found out that we're infertile. Although we're open to life, we know that there is no practical possibility of a child ever resulting from that act. We make love only to express the unitive meaning of the act - and the Church is OK with that and even encourages us to continue to express our love for each other in this way.

We also want with all our hearts to express the procreative meaning of the conjugal act, and we want our marriage to be fruitful. We have a medical problem that prevents this from happening without help, and so we are resorting to medical treatment to enable our love to be expressed fully, in the hope that a child will be born out of that love.

Going through IVF is physically and emotionally demanding, and we need each other's support. We are entering into this together as a married couple who love each other and love God, and neither of us could do this without the other's support. The way we're supporting each other through this difficult process is one of the ways in which we express our love for each other, and going through this together is strengthening our love and making us lean on each other and become vulnerable to each other in a new way.

Are we treating our putative future children as commodities in a way that's contrary to the dignity of human life (another of the Church's objections to IVF)?

Absolutely not - yes, we're paying for the treatment we're receiving, but that's payment for the work that the doctors and nurses are doing which they will receive whether we're successful or not. There's no 'success bonus', and as I said in an earlier post, we are fully aware that only God can give life. We're not buying a baby; we're buying medical treatment.

I hope that our love for each other will enable us to become parents to a child born out of that love. That hope is fully in line with the teaching of the Catholic Church. If anyone wants to continue to insist that it is wrong for any Catholic to pursue IVF treatment, I have three things to say to them.

First, please don't judge me until you've walked a mile in my shoes. You have no idea how hard this decision has been for me, how much I've prayed over it and how long it's taken me to make my peace with it. The above is a summary of my conclusions and cannot replicate my full thought process. If after all that I've made the wrong decision, I'll answer for it to God.

Second, I have nothing but respect for people who have come to the opposite conclusion to me and decided not to pursue IVF treatments. I hope they will have similar respect for the fact that I have not taken this decision lightly.

Third, this is my blog. I have read a huge amount on both sides of the argument. If you don't agree with me, you are unlikely to change my mind, but posting a comment on my blog to tell me your views will upset me. If you disagree, please therefore keep your opinions to yourself and if you want to do something for my immortal soul, pray for me.