Monday, 30 November 2009

The unexpected

Well, my body has an endless capacity to surprise (and disappoint) me.

I've just got back from another scan. The two follicles on my left ovary have grown to 18mm and 19mm. The two on the right (the third little one we saw on Saturday wasn't really visible at all) are stubbornly stuck at 10mm. As they haven't grown at all since Saturday, it looks as though the egg count we're looking at is two.

Given that the ones on the left are pretty much ready and the ones on the right don't seem to be growing, Nurse Perfect decided we might as well go ahead with egg collection on Wednesday. That's right - we were aiming for next Monday or possibly this Friday, and it now turns out that I'll be doing my trigger injection at 3:15 tomorrow morning and then going in for egg collection the day after tomorrow. I just hope DH can get the time off work at such short notice - he's on his way to work at the moment, so he doesn't know yet.

I'm kind of gutted that we might only get two eggs. On the plus side, that would be a whole lot better than none at all. And if they both fertilise, that's all we need. But I don't like the odds. Last time we had six eggs, of which five were suitable for injection, three fertilised and only two survived to transfer. That's a survival-to-transfer rate of one in three, and if we don't even get three eggs this time...

Well, let's just say I'm going to be doing an awful lot of praying over the next 48 hours. And probably also a lot of talking to my right ovary to try to persuade it to pull its finger out and start growing those follicles.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Birthday banquet

Well, I think DH enjoyed his birthday meal. Because we had some meat-eaters and some vegetarians coming, I'd decided to do a Chinese meal so that they could easily pick and choose which dishes they ate from.

During the afternoon I chopped, sliced and diced, until every surface in the kitchen looked like this.

I also made a chocolate birthday cake - it collapsed a bit in the middle, but nobody seemed to be complaining.

And I made DH's favourite pudding - a trifle. I don't know if you can tell from the photo, but the sprinkles on top are in the shape of dinosaurs - a little reference to the fact that he's seven years older than me.

This is what the table looked like before we started. For starters, we had sliced tomato, marinated cucumber, and prawn crackers.

After we'd eaten all ten dishes and before I cleared away for pudding, this is what the table looked like - not too many leftovers, which is always good to see.

It was a great evening with some lovely friends, and now we're looking forward to taking the remains of the cake and spending some time with DH's parents. I must say, though, that I'm looking forward even more to getting home this evening and putting my feet up for a couple of hours...

Saturday, 28 November 2009


This morning's appointment went well. I have two 11mm follicles on the left, one 10mm on the right and two smaller ones coming up behind on the right. Hopefully that'll be enough...

I had my massive Cetrotide injection. Remember what happened last time? If anything, the swelling this time is bigger, and while I was walking round the supermarket picking up ingredients for tonight's feast, I was really wishing my trousers were considerably looser.

Still, we're moving forward, and I've now changed out of my bloodstained t-shirt (the injection site obviously bled for a little while...) and must start cooking.

Feeling like the Seven Dwarfs

... well, some of the originals and some of their mates. After only two (rhinoceros) doses of Gonal-F, I am now Sleepy, Grumpy, Spotty, Bloated, Sweaty, Weepy and Psycho.

And here's our schedule for the next few days.

Today I have to get to the clinic by 8:15 for a scan, then drop DH off for his first driving lesson (in a simulator so he can get used to the controls before having to worry about dealing with other traffic - I'm so excited that he's finally got round to booking it), do a whole load of shopping, pick DH up again, spend the afternoon peeling, chopping, slicing and dicing, make DH's birthday cake, wrap his presents, cook a meal for the six people who are coming round for dinner this evening, and then collapse into bed hopefully some time before midnight.

Tomorrow is DH's actual birthday, so I'll make him breakfast in the morning and give him his presents. Then we'll go to Mass and go straight from there to pick his parents up (20-odd miles away) and take them out to a restaurant for lunch. Back to their house for tea and cake (must remember to take the cake with us), then home in time to do my jab and collapse for the evening.

Monday - scan very early in the morning, followed by acupuncture, then a two hour drive to go to my best friend's mother-in-law's funeral, go to the wake afterwards and try to speak wise words to my goddaughter, who is apparently distraught at the loss of her grandmother, then two hour drive home in time to do my jab and collapse for the evening.

And then five days' work in four days over the rest of the week, as I don't have enough holiday left to take Monday as holiday.

And all this in the company of the New Improved Seven Dwarfs.

Well, at least I won't have time to sit around obsessing about whether this treatment's going to work...

Friday, 27 November 2009

Ah yes, now I remember...

The chief effect of Gonal-F
Is bringing on a mini-death.
The next few weeks I'll sleep and sleep
And in between I'll rant and weep.

Normality - it was good while it lasted. It took the first dose of Gonal-F precisely two and three quarter hours to remind me of the overwhelming sensation from the last IVF cycle.


Wake me up when it's all over...

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Giving thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all those of you who are celebrating!

We don't have a Thanksgiving holiday over here, either now or at any other time, but I think it's a wonderful holiday, so I'm taking it as a chance to reflect on some of the things that I have to be thankful for at the moment.

First, I'm thankful for my husband. I'd given up on ever finding someone to share my life with when I met him, and now I can't imagine my life without him in it. He is sweet, loving, hugely knowledgeable, totally undomesticated, and the more time I spend with him, the more time I want to spend with him.

Second, I'm thankful that I have such a wonderful family and friends. They're a blessing in two ways - firstly, in the love and support that all of them give me, in good times and in bad. And secondly, even if DH and I end up never having children of our own, I have nephews, nieces and godchildren that I'm very close to. I still get to go to nursery school nativity plays, I still get the notes in wobbly five-year-old handwriting that say "I love you", and I still get the hugs from tiny little arms and the text messages from bored teenagers.

Third, I'm thankful that I live in an age and in a country where I have central heating, an automatic washing-machine, hot and cold running water and a reliable electricity supply. I spent several years in my twenties living without any of those things, and it made me realise what a luxury they are.

Fourth, I'm thankful that I live in an age where infertility is something that can be diagnosed and discussed. I can't imagine how hard it would have been just to keep trying and hoping as we were, month after month after month, until I went through the menopause and realised that it was all over. To know what the problem is and to have a chance, however slim, of overcoming that problem with the help of technology is a wonderful thing.

Fifth, I'm thankful for the internet. I'm hugely grateful for the connections that it creates between people on opposite sides of the world who are going through similar experiences and are able to realise that they're not alone and offer each other advice and support.

Equally, I'm grateful for the contact that it gives me with my own family. Only a century ago, if a member of your family emigrated to the other side of the world, you might have expected never to see them again. Two hundred years ago, it would literally take weeks even to exchange correspondence with them, and you could have nephews and nieces, or even grandchildren, that you never even knew about.

Now, I almost take it for granted that I can pick up the phone and talk to family in the US and South Africa. When each of my nieces and nephews was born, on three different continents, I was able to see photos of them the day they were born. And my youngest American nephews even think it's perfectly normal to be able to chat to us live through the computer screen and show us what toys they're playing with and what pictures they've just drawn, thanks to Skype.

Sixth, I'm thankful that I have a good job and a (reasonably) good work ethic and am able to earn enough money to be comfortable and enjoy all of these things. People who think money isn't important have obviously never been short of it, and I'm grateful that DH and I are not hugely extravagant and that we have built up enough savings to be able to make certain decisions without money being a major factor in those decisions.

And finally, because I have to stop somewhere, tonight I'll be doing my first jab of this second ICSI cycle, and I'll be thankful that the needle isn't bigger, and that I'm not needle phobic!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

At the starting gates

Thank you so much for all your good luck messages - they really meant a lot. Also, before I get started on my news, CONGRATULATIONS to Sonja, who got her BFP yesterday. I'm so chuffed for her - she has been so supportive to me while going through the most horrible experience in her first IVF cycle, and I couldn't be more pleased that her second cycle has been so successful. And of course, it also gives me hope that a BFP is possible even without perfect-looking embryos.

I went down to the hospital with some trepidation this morning, as I've had some twinges in my left ovary and was afraid there might be another cyst. I couldn't stand the thought of having to wait until after Christmas, especially as I would have been in exactly the same position that I was in when I had the cyst in September, where the lost time was the time that would have fitted in perfectly with work and once my body was ready to co-operate, work would have kicked off again.

Anyway, Nurse Perfect said my lining was coming away nicely and both ovaries were looking good. She could see the beginnings of two or three follicles on the left ovary, and although the right ovary was looking quieter, it also had the possible beginnings of a couple of follicles.

Technically, they count today as CD2, so she told me to start my injections tomorrow. I then picked up my SIX boxes of Gonal-F (a snip at £110 a box - I hope my family don't expect any Christmas presents) and set up my monitoring appointments - the first one will be on Saturday morning.

So now I need to ring my acupuncturist and see if I can get some appointments set up with him, and then tonight DH and I need to fill in all the forms again. There seems to be a new HFEA form since October, so that'll be a bit of excitement for us...

I still don't know how I feel about this cycle. I'm approaching it very differently - for a start, I haven't yet told my family (apart from one SIL who reads this blog - hi Jeannie!) that we're going ahead, and if I do, it'll probably only be one of my sisters and my parents that I tell. I'm preparing for failure already, and since if we get that far, my official test day is likely to be in Christmas week, I don't want to put a downer on everybody's Christmas.

My colleagues will probably know, as egg collection is likely to be the day of our department Christmas lunch, and they'll want to know why I'm missing it. And some of the neighbours might know, because we need them to witness our signatures on the HFEA forms. But they're not emotionally invested in this the way my family and close friends are, so a BFN for us in Christmas week won't impinge on any of their Christmas celebrations.

I also intend to keep as busy as possible (within reason) and give myself less time to dwell on what's happening. I know what to expect at each stage of the process, so I'll try to stay away from Google and rely on my memory of what I've already read and experienced for myself. And it's pretty easy to keep busy in the run-up to Christmas, so hopefully I won't get as obsessed as I did last time - I don't know if that had any effect on the result, but it certainly affected the emotional impact it had on me and contributed to the total meltdown I had and the difficulty I had picking myself up again afterwards.

So, bring on those horror-moans and let's get started!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Sorry Mother...

... I know you had high hopes, but I can now confirm that spending lots of time creating our own entertainment in our hotel room while we were on holiday has NOT resulted in a miracle pregnancy, despite the fact that we were totally relaxed, I was ovulating and all other environmental factors were as near perfect as they could be. Crappy eggs and sperm are crappy eggs and sperm however relaxed you are.

If AF arrives after noon, my clinic counts CD1 as the following day, so as AF turned up yesterday afternoon, today is CD1. I rang the clinic yesterday and spoke to Nurse Perfect, who booked me in for my baseline scan tomorrow morning. I'm hoping that in 24 hours I'll be germ-free, cyst-free and able to make a start on ICSI #2.

Wish me luck...

Monday, 23 November 2009


I hope DH has learnt something in the last week. It turned out that he didn't have Man Flu after all - he had a tummy bug. In case I look totally heartless here, I should point out that while this bug made him feel pretty miserable and do an awful lot of moaning and whining, it was never bad enough to incapacitate him - he never even suggested that he was too sick to go to work.

What I hope he has learnt is that when you don't live alone, you have a responsibility to maintain a level of hygiene when you're not well that bachelors apparently don't aspire to. Things like cleaning up after yourself and not "leaving it till later" (which when you no longer live in a bachelor pad becomes a euphemism for "leaving it for the wife to clean up" - particularly when you abandon it to go off to work and the wife is working from home that day).

I just wish his learning process didn't involve me getting sick. Especially when AF is imminent and if we aren't able to get started on this cycle we'll have to wait until after Christmas. I really hope this bug is out of my system by the time I have to book my baseline scan, because unlike him, I'm unwilling to risk passing it on to other people if I can help it. And if this cycle has to be cancelled because of it, I'll find it very difficult not to resent him over the next couple of months of waiting.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Making insomnia more fun

Insomnia Hour has been a regular feature of life for me for quite a while now, but last night I tried out my latest weapon against it. When it's under your pillow, you actually have to be lying with your head on the pillow to be able to hear it. I can't even hear it if I turn over in bed and move my ear away from where the speaker is - which means that DH should never be disturbed by it. And it doesn't feel lumpy under the pillow - in fact, I don't really notice it at all, which I suppose proves that I'm not a real princess.

One of the things that makes Insomnia Hour such a nightmare is when I get tense about irritating noises - DH snoring (fortunately, he's recovered from the Man Flu of earlier this week, so the moaning and "oooooh deeee-ar"s seem to have stopped for the moment), the rain cascading off the back roof in a torrent because part of our gutter blew away last week and I haven't fixed it yet, the loose tile on the dormer at the front flapping in the wind...

I also need something to take my mind off the thoughts that intrude in the middle of the night when it's dark and still, especially when I've woken from a disturbing dream. My subconscious seems to be particularly active at the moment, and although as soon as I wake up I know that it was just a dream, the panicky feeling often remains behind.

So being able to turn on my iPod last night and listen to a bit of mindless music to switch off the tenseness and the irritating thoughts without either getting tangled up with my earphones or disturbing DH was wonderful. It didn't cure the insomnia, but it certainly made it a whole lot more enjoyable.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Lightbulb jokes

I've always enjoyed the series of lightbulb jokes - you know the ones, things like:

How many hippies does it take to change a lightbulb?
- Five - one to change the lightbulb and four to sit in a circle with a guitar and sing about how good the old one was.

How many therapists does it take to change a lightbulb?
- Just one - but the lightbulb must really want to change.

How many husbands does it take to change a lightbulb?
- Only one, but it takes him three weekends and two trips to the hardware store.

How many surgeons does it take to change a lightbulb?
- None - they'd wait for a suitable donor and do a filament transplant.

How many computer programmers does it take to change a lightbulb?
- None - this is a hardware problem.

How many Englishmen does it take to change a lightbulb?
- Change it? What do you mean, change it? It's a perfectly good lightbulb - we've had it for 1,000 years and nobody has ever complained before.

How many members of the government does it take to screw in a lightbulb?
- None - they're too busy screwing the electorate.

And this week I discovered that we have our very own version of the joke:

How many infertile couples does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

(I'll put the answer in the comments box - but feel free to add your own answer if you have a good one.)

Friday, 20 November 2009

My husband understands nothing

Some time ago (approximately nine months ago, in fact), I was firmly convinced that I was pregnant. I had loads of symptoms, and I just 'knew' there was something different. I hadn't started charting my temperatures yet, so I didn't realise that I'd probably ovulated a day or two late - and when my AF was a day or two later than it had ever been before, I got very very excited about having a November baby.

I had a cycle buddy on the TTC board I was on - she was a couple of days ahead of me, and when she got her BFP we both looked forward to graduating to the 'Due in November' board together. We had both been trying for several months and had got to know each other quite well, always responding to each other's posts and giving each other support during 2WW after 2WW. (After she got her BFP, I never heard from her again - we're both still on the site, but I've been left behind and that's it. I know it shouldn't matter - I never even met her in real life - but somehow it did, and does.)

The day my AF showed up was the day DH came home from work and announced that his colleague had just found out his wife was pregnant. He went on and on about how excited this guy was, what great news it was, and how they'd had doughnuts in the office to celebrate.

When I finally got a word in, I snapped, "Well, that's nice for them. I'm NOT pregnant."

Every time he's mentioned this guy over the last nine months, he's talked about how excited the guy is about the baby. And every time, I've gently reminded him that I had hoped to be having a baby at the same time, and that that month my period was late was the month that I had the highest hopes that I had been successful (with the sub-text: "Please don't keep rubbing my face in it and reminding me about this pregnancy that I have no reason to know about but which happens to remind me of one of my biggest disappointments").

So why oh why oh why oh why did he forward the birth announcement to me from work yesterday, complete with not one, not two but THREE photos of the beautiful new baby of two people I've never met?

He really has no idea sometimes, and with this coming on top of a couple of things that have happened in the last couple of days that will remain between him and me but have staggered me in their selfishness and lack of consideration for me, he's got some serious apologising to do over the weekend.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Man Flu

What is it with men and colds? DH has an ever-so-slight sniffle, and you'd think the world was about to end. I told him last night that he's feeling so sorry for himself that there's really no room for anybody else to feel sorry for him.

Plus, if I was feeling as ill as he says he is, I would do something constructive like go to bed early and try to sleep it off - in fact, I would almost certainly be forced to go to bed early because I just wouldn't be able to stay upright. He, on the other hand, blew off some friends of ours for a long-standing arrangement we had because he reckoned he was too ill to go out - but when I got home at 10:30, he was still up watching the football (and forgetting to moan and groan until it was over and he'd turned the telly off).

And when he told me he wasn't going to come out with me yesterday evening and made big soulful eyes at me as he softly moaned, "I'm sorry to be so much trouble", it just made me laugh. I slept in the spare room last night, because I know from experience that when he wakes me up by moaning and groaning and occasionally muttering, "Ooooooooh deeeee-ar", it just makes me want to smother him with a pillow.

I know, I'm a heartless wife. But when the man has Man Flu, it's the woman who really suffers.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Underwater shots

I was quite pleased with my new camera - it's a lot less bulky than the Intova and so slips very easily into a pocket or handbag. The zoom is perfectly adequate for the sort of holiday we were on, though I would have missed my Canon if we'd been doing any serious sightseeing.

The LCD screen is much better than the one on the Intova, and I really was able to see it quite well even in sunlight. It took a little bit of getting used to underwater, but the main frustration was that the screen dims after a few seconds with no buttons being pressed to save power, and if you're following a fish and trying to focus on it, you can get quite frustrated when the picture on the screen disappears at the crucial moment.

Once I was used to it, though, the main problem was that the fish wouldn't necessarily sit still and pose for me!

Although a lot of the scenery reminded me of Hawai'i (another volcanic island with beautiful blue sea, where we spent our honeymoon), the fish were nowhere near as bright and colourful - but there were certainly plenty of them. At one point I was swimming amongst a school of fish and some of them started to nibble my toes, which freaked me out a little bit - though at least they weren't piranhas, and I still have the requisite number of digits.

Here are some of my favourite underwater shots from last week.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

A couple of holiday snaps

This was quite possibly the most relaxing holiday I've ever had. We ate lots of delicious salads (and other stuff), took long walks to the beach (which was 45 minutes' stroll away), lounged by the pool, read lots of books and I did a lot of swimming and snorkelling. This picture shows why you would want to stick to designated beaches and not just jump into the water at any point along the coast - though it was much calmer when the wind died down a couple of days into our holiday.

This was the beach we went to. Lanzarote is a volcanic island, and all the beaches have quite a lot of volcanic rock around them, which is great for seeing lots of fish but not quite so great on the feet. This place, once we figured it out, was ideal for us - DH settled down with his book on the rocky side, which was nice and quiet, while I snorkelled and swam, then when we were ready to leave I swam across the cove to the sandy side and met him there.

Being November, the sun never got too high in the sky and it had disappeared behind the hotel building by about 5:00 in the afternoon, after which we went up to our room and ... ummm ... made our own entertainment until it was time to go down for supper.

This was the view from our hotel room balcony. The picture's a little bit of a con, as I zoomed in on the sea and carefully filtered out the fact that between us and what you can see here, there was a car park. Also, to the left of the shot was a building site and to the right was another hotel. The camera's not really lying, though - the sea was the bit that my eyes focused on too!

Other than dressing to go into the hotel restaurant each morning and evening, I lived in a swimming costume, only occasionally putting on a t-shirt. From about the fourth day, I didn't even bother with my shorts when walking to and from the beach - so I don't know how we've managed to come back with such a mountain of washing!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Back to the future

Well, we got back late last night after an absolutely marvellous holiday - I'll show you some pictures later in the week and tell you more about it, but suffice to say that I have the best suntan I can remember having and we spent so much time relaxing in the sun that for the first time ever I ran out of holiday reading material. I also went for the longest I've gone in at least three years without touching a computer (unless you count the blackberry that only deals with my work e-mail - and I only checked that once a day).

This morning we finally had our review appointment with Mr No Nonsense. He said that our embryos weren't actually very good quality and it wasn't a huge surprise that they didn't take - I was a little annoyed about that, as there had been no earlier suggestion that they were anything other than good-looking little chaps. I read upside in the notes he was looking at and saw that they were both Grade 3 - if I'd known that, I might not have had such high hopes and then been let down so badly when it didn't work out.

Anyway, he said that as both my eggs and DH's sperm were pretty rubbish, he didn't think there was anything that could be done differently next time to get a better result. I asked about assisted hatching, and he said they do it quite a lot there and it wouldn't help in our case - it's not that my eggs have hard shells, but just that they're really poor quality. So that made me feel good about myself.

He said they would go along with whatever decision we made, although he did raise the issue of donor eggs. We said that given the low quality of DH's sperm, if we went down the donor route we'd probably go the whole hog and go for embryo adoption, but we weren't really ready to get into that yet.

If we do go for embryo adoption, we would have to go to a clinic abroad, but Mr No Nonsense confirmed that our current clinic could still do the scans and anything else that was needed for any part of the treatment that happened in the UK, which was reassuring.

He said it was a frustrating decision for us to make, as there's a very low chance of success, but not no hope. He put it at about 1 in 10, which is kind of what we were looking at the first time round. We said we still wanted to go ahead, so he sent us off to talk to Nurse Perfect, and as soon as AF shows up (should be the end of next week), I'm to ring her and we'll start the whole rigmarole again.

At the moment, I feel... indifferent is the best word I can think of to describe it. I was so devastated when the first round didn't work, and we've just spent a week basically nursing our mental and emotional wounds and getting ourselves back on an even keel. As I said to DH, I just can't enter into this again with the same hope that I had first time round, but if we don't have hope, what's the point in going through it all again and spending another £6,000 for the same result?

I wonder whether, now that I've got to the point where I'm able to contemplate the very real possibility that we will never be parents without instantly turning into a quivering, blubbering mess, I ought to just accept it and give up on this dream. I'm terrified of failing again and going back to where I was just a couple of weeks ago. But then, I'm also terrified of looking back in the future and regretting that I didn't give it my best shot.

I'm certainly going to approach this round differently - I'll try to be more realistic in my expectations, I'll try not to let it take over my life to the same extent, and I won't be telling as many people that we're actually going through it this time, because if I pretend to myself that it's not really happening, perhaps the reality won't hit me as badly.

So, that's me at the moment - old eggs, crappy sperm, but a great suntan.

Thanks for your visits and comments while we were away - I've read all the comments but not had time to respond or visit any of your blogs yet. I'm off to do that now...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Visiting York

I went to university in York, and it's a wonderful place, beautiful and absolutely steeped in history. The main part of the city is still surrounded by the old Roman city walls, and you can walk most of the way round the city on the walls. The gates in the walls are known as Bars, and many of the streets are called Gates. One of the shortest streets in York has one of the longest and most curious names - Whip-ma-whop-ma-gate. In the spring, the slopes at the bottom of the wall are thick with daffodils.

Bettys Tea Rooms is a mini-chain which has six branches across Yorkshire. The main tea room that most people visit is on the corner of St Helens Square, in the main shopping area. It's pleasant enough, but it's a very busy corner and the place has huge windows which make it feel a bit like a goldfish bowl - if you're lucky enough to get a seat on the main floor. It also tends to get very long queues, and at times you have to wait a good while for a table.

The big tip here is that Stonegate, which is a lovely cobbled street leading up from St Helens Square to the Minster (another place that mustn't be missed if you're in the area - and if you can, take a pair of binoculars with you when you go in and don't forget to look up at the ceilings and upper windows), has another branch of the same tea room, called Little Bettys Cafe. This place is a much more unspoiled old building, with the main tea room upstairs. It serves exactly the same things as the main Bettys, but usually has much shorter queues and a better atmosphere.

The Castle Museum is a museum of everyday life, and is one of the best museums I've ever visited. It takes you from Roman times right up to today, and as well as the really ancient stuff, it has things like televisions and washing machines, so that you can see how household appliances developed over the 20th century. As a student at York, I was able to go in free of charge, and I went there often to browse the different collections.

The Jorvik Viking Centre recreates the sights, sounds and smells of Viking Britain and is probably worth a visit if you've got the time, but is quite expensive and tends to have quite long queues. I'd say it was more aimed at families with children than adults on their own, and the main part of the tour is over quite quickly - you go through on a sort of train and don't get to stop and look at things at your leisure.

If you're at all interested in trains, the National Railway Museum is well worth a visit. As well as the static trains that you can walk round and (many of them) climb on, there's a fully operating steam train on which you can take a (very short) ride. From the centre of town, the most pleasant way to walk to the railway museum is along the towpath by the river - I used to walk along that bit of the river every day in my lunch break when I worked on that side of town one summer, and would sit in the gardens by the City Rowing Club to eat my sandwiches.

York is just a couple of hours from London by train. A great money-saving tip is that if you book on Hull Trains from London to Selby, it's considerably cheaper, and you can then take a bus from Selby to York, which takes just under an hour. Definitely well worth a visit if you have a couple of days available.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Random acts of kindness

There are some things you see every day that you just come to expect - commuters don't talk to each other, bus drivers are grumpy, if a pedestrian or cyclist gets in the way of a London driver they're liable to be hooted at, people don't give up seats on the Tube any more...

So that makes it all the more refreshing when someone behaves in an unexpected way - and last week I saw something which put me in a good mood for the rest of the day.

Being early November and the clocks having gone back, it was dark and miserable by the time the evening rush hour began. I was leaving the office and heading for the station along a busy London street.

As I walked, I noticed that the traffic lights ahead of me were red. There was a cyclist at the front of the queue of traffic, and behind him was a bus. Suddenly, one of the lamps fell of the cyclist's bike, and as it hit the floor it sprang apart into several pieces.

The cyclist scurried about trying to pick up the pieces of his lamp before the traffic lights changed, but he was too late and had to rush to the side of the road, wheeling his bike with one hand as he clutched a few broken pieces of his lamp with the other.

I saw all this almost without registering it, but then felt very sorry for the cyclist as I heard the inevitable hoot of a horn.

For once, though, it wasn't a motorist getting impatient with a cyclist. It was the driver of the bus, and he was beckoning the cyclist over and pointing to a large part of the cycle lamp which lay on the road in front of him. He was also resolutely keeping still and preventing the traffic behind him from moving, so that the cyclist was able to run forward and pick up the last piece of his light.

It gave me a warm glow to see the consideration that this bus driver gave to the cyclist - all the more so, probably, because of the treatment that I've had from bus drivers in the past over seven years of cycling wherever I went in London.

It also made me think - that small act of courtesy probably made the cyclist's day. Just seeing it happen made my day. It's so easy for each of us change the course of someone's day - for better or for worse - without even realising it.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Visiting London

When I was growing up, I hated London. It was big, loud, grey and overcrowded, and the people were grumpy. I swore that whatever I did, and wherever I ended up, I would never ever live there.

So in 1996 I moved to London, and over the 10 years that I lived there, I learnt to love many things about it. It's still big, loud and overcrowded, but there are unexpected pockets of green among the grey, and London's parks, both large and small, are one of its best features.

As for the grumpiness of the people... well, yes, I have to admit that's still true - especially during rush hour in the summer, when the sweating commuters in their uncomfortable suits are trudging out of the office in their finely-timed daily slog to catch the overcrowded 17:53 and find their way blocked by crowds of excited tourists who are taking each other's photo in front of a real live Tube station.

But London is also steeped with history and full of theatres, shops, museums and restaurants. You can sample the cuisine of pretty much any country in the world here if you know where to look - DH meets up with a friend of his quite regularly after work, and they're working their way through the alphabet, trying a different cuisine every time they meet. So far they've done Austrian, Belgian, Caribbean, Deutsch (I think that was cheating a bit, and they could easily have done Danish instead), Estonian, Filipino, Greek and Hungarian. I think Indonesian is next - Indian would just be too easy.

During the Second World War, road signs and station names were removed throughout the country so that if the enemy landed, they wouldn't be able to find their way around. I don't think it occurred to the powers that be that the enemy might have brought maps with them.

Anyway, when you arrive in London, you may occasionally have the impression that the War is still on and we're still trying to confuse the enemy. You'll be following a signpost to something, and just when you think you must be getting close, there'll be a fork in the road and there's no sign to tell you which way you should be going.

The first time you use the Tube, it can be hard to figure out where you're supposed to go and how everything works, but amongst all the grumpy commuters there's usually someone friendly who will give you a hand.

The big secret about London, though, is that most of the places you want to visit are actually very close together. A lot of people never realise this, because places that are only a couple of hundred yards apart might be on separate Tube lines and involve three changes of train and a whole lot of hassle.

If you do like the canny enemy and invest in a London A-Z, you'll realise that Westminster Cathedral (the Catholic one), Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Downing Street, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye are all within easy walking distance of each other. When I was living in London and had regular visitors from overseas, I worked out a walking tour which took in all the major sights, including all the above plus Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and a couple of other places, in a single day.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Springtime in England

Sonja's thinking of coming to the UK next year, and wants to know when would be a good time of year to come. Here are my thoughts, but I know there are other Brits who read this blog, and I'm sure she'd appreciate your thoughts too if you want to leave a comment.

You can NEVER guarantee the weather over here, but we quite often have good weather in late spring or early autumn. This year we had an absolutely rotten summer, but we had mini-heatwaves in both April and May, and September and October were also very pleasant. Spring is beautiful in many of the tourist areas, with places like Bath and York absolutely bursting with daffodils. The colours of autumn are also beautiful, especially once you get out of the cities.

If you want to avoid peak travel times, try to avoid Easter. All the schools are off for two or three weeks then, and we get loads of visitors from the Continent as well – London is crawling with huge crowds of German, Spanish and French teenagers for a couple of weeks at Easter, and for quite a lot of July and August.

Good Friday and Easter Monday are national holidays, so lots of places will be shut. We also have national holidays on the first and last Mondays in May. Most British people spend the majority of their time on those bank holidays sitting in their cars in traffic jams, because everyone tries to head for the same places as soon as they have a day off work. This is particularly true if the sun is shining, when everyone packs a picnic and tries to head for the beach.

Different local authorities have slightly different dates for school holidays, but with Easter falling on 4 April next year, I would avoid the first two weeks of April. Some schools don’t go back until 20 April.

Also, try to avoid half-term, which is usually the last week of May or first week of June – again, the schools are off then (just for a week), and tourist areas can get very crowded. Most local authorities have already published their term dates online, so you could google the dates once you’ve sort of decided on them, just to make sure you’re not hitting any school holidays.

Another time of year when rain is almost guaranteed is the last week of June and first week of July. This is Wimbledon fortnight, and almost invariably the tennis is disrupted by rain. We quite often get some good sun in between the rain showers - and therein lies the biggest problem with a holiday in England. If you're here in the summer, you need to pack shorts, t-shirts, long trousers, sweaters, a raincoat and a brolly and be prepared for all eventualities.

Maybe this is why I think late spring or early autumn are the best times to come - when the sun is shining, both seasons are beautiful, and it's all the more appreciated because the sunshine is not guaranteed.

Come here for the history, the beautiful countryside, the theatres, the famous British sense of humour, to listen to our cute accents, even for the food - but don't come here for the weather.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Remembrance Day

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill; Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres,
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

by Laurence Binyon

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Thinking about THAT question

It's inevitable that people will ask, and I'm increasingly thinking about it myself. But... let me see if I can explain with an analogy.

Imagine that you've lived somewhere all your life. This is my blog, and I make the rules, so let's call it England. You grew up in England, and you expected that when the time came, you would find a home and a job in England, just as most of your friends and family had done.

You realised that some people were homeless and unemployed, and that others chose to go and work abroad, but you just wanted to do what most people did and live and work where you grew up. You just never expected it to be so difficult when so many other people just seem to have fallen into their jobs without ever really having to think about it.

One day, someone tells you that you're never going to be able to find a job in England, and suggests that you try China as an option.

You have nothing against China, and you realise that many people have chosen to go and work there in the past. Even those who didn't initially plan to end up in China have often gone there and been very happy.

But you also know that others have found it very difficult, have had trouble getting to grips with the language, the food and the culture, and some have even ended up giving up altogether and coming back to England with no home, no job prospects, and a sense of failure and guilt that they couldn't make it work out in China.

You also know that before you can go to China, you need to fulfil some fairly onerous requirements. You have to have a full and fairly intrusive medical, including AIDS tests and chest x-rays. You need to fill in loads of paperwork for your visa. And at the end of it all, you may not even get a job, or the job might be very different from what you had hoped for.

Knowing that you can't get a job in England and that China may be your only hope, you try to get excited about China. You search out the positive stories about people who have been happy there, but you can't help also reading about the people who were turned down for a visa, or who never found a job, or whose job didn't work out.

It's daunting, it's different, and it's not what you hoped for or dreamt of - but it's an option, and the longer you spend out of work, the more you consider it as an option and see it as possibly your only hope.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

No? Well, try substituting 'England' for 'natural parenthood' and 'China' for 'adoption'. Then substitute 'job' for 'children'. Now do you see where I'm going?

I'm considering it - I know it's an option, and I know it may be my best hope of being a parent. But it's definitely different, it has its own very real challenges, and I'm not quite ready to give up on the English job market yet.

Monday, 9 November 2009

I should know this by now...

When someone announces their pregnancy by putting a copy of their scan picture on Facebook, I should post a message on their wall saying how pleased I am for them, or phone them up, or e-mail them.

Because if I post a congratulatory message under the scan picture, I end up getting 86 new notifications every time I go into Facebook over the next few days. And all of them are telling me that someone else is delighted to see the scan picture and is congratulating the person who's pregnant.

I am pleased for her. Honestly. But seeing those 86 congratulatory messages and reading all that excitement is such a huge reminder that I was hoping to make a similar announcement soon, and instead I had to post a carefully-worded message that told the people who knew about it that our first IVF cycle had failed, while not letting the people I didn't want to tell know what was going on.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

My new toy

I got into digital cameras very early on - in fact, I had the Kodak DC20 camera in 1996. It had no screen, no flash and no memory card, and it could store 8 pictures at "high" resolution (493 x 373 pixels) or 16 at "standard" resolution (320 x 240 pixels). If you made a mistake, or some idiot walked in front of you as you were taking a shot, you couldn't delete a single image - if you pressed the 'delete' button, you wiped the whole memory clean.

I told everybody that digital cameras were the future, but none of my friends and family really believed me - I was surrounded by Luddites, and the grainy images I got from my DC20 weren't enough to convince them.

In 2000, I traded up to an Olympus Camedia C-2000, with a 3x optical zoom. With a screen, a flash, the facility to delete individual photos and store up to about 100 photos on my SmartMedia memory card, this was much more convincing as the Thing of the Future - although my Luddite relatives still weren't all that impressed at the standard 640 x 480 pixel photo quality (you could take pictures at super high quality, but then you couldn't get so many on the memory card).

I used that camera for several years, and I still have it now, but in 2007 something went wrong with its internal workings which made its image processing time slow down hugely. If I missed the perfect shot, I was no longer able to shoot off another one straight away, because the camera would freeze for about 30 seconds before it was ready to take another picture.

So in 2007 I upgraded to my current Canon Powershot S3 IS, with its 12x optical zoom. This camera is amazing, and I've taken some great pictures with it - but it is a little bulky to carry around, so I have to remember specifically to take it if I'm going somewhere that a bit of photography might be needed. Also, the disadvantage of the moving parts for the zoom lens is that if you use it when you're on the beach and you get sand in it, the sand acts like sandpaper and all the inner workings of your camera get rubbed away (as I learnt to my cost with my first video camera).

Last summer, when we were on our honeymoon in Hawaii, DH bought me an Intova IC600 in a waterproof case, to use when snorkelling. It's an OK camera, but one of the things I love about the Canon is that it has a proper viewfinder, which allows you to see what you're photographing even in bright sunlight and also saves on battery life. The battery life of the Intova is pathetic, and when I'm underwater I can't actually see any detail at all on the LCD screen because of the glare of the sunlight on the water.

So what I needed was a camera which could withstand a bit of sand on the beach, could go underwater to take pictures of the fish, and preferably had a proper viewfinder as well as its LCD screen.

Well, apparently nobody makes a waterproof camera with a viewfinder. I find this incredible, as surely if I can't see what I'm taking pictures of on the LCD screen, other people can't either. I really would have thought there'd be demand for a camera which allows you to see what you're actually taking a picture of, rather than just wave it vaguely in the direction of the fish you're looking at and click away a few times in the hope of catching some of them. I had hopes for the Canon Powershot D10, but apparently, although my Powershot camera has a viewfinder, the D10 doesn't.

So I did a little bit of research and a little bit of legwork, and I now have a Pentax Optio W80 as my regular beach camera which will also double as the-camera-that-can-live-in-my-handbag-in-case-I-ever-need-one.

It's 12.1 megapixels, with a 5x optical zoom, 28mm wide-angle lens, and it's waterproof to 5 metres, shockproof to 1 metre, and it's dustproof. It even has an Underwater Movie mode, which I'm looking forward to trying out.

The screen is allegedly visible in bright sunlight - I'll have to report back on that after it's actually seen some sun - but hopefully it'll at least be more visible than one which is hidden inside a waterproof plastic box. I'm quite excited about trying it out, and I'll show you some of the results when I get back.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


Like most women, I spend most of my life juggling a whole load of balls and trying to keep as many of them as possible in the air at once. During the second week of my 2WW, as it became increasingly clear that our first IVF had failed, I pretty much dropped the lot, and this week has been a process of trying to pick up as many of them as possible and get them moving again.

The first was work. My boss was very understanding and told me to take as much time as I needed. Unfortunately, I'm in charge of this particular programme, the only other person who works on this programme was on compassionate leave for the death of his father, and work which is left tends not to do itself. Over this last week, I've picked that ball up and have already made up all the hours that I missed - but it wasn't easy.

The second ball is keeping up with friends and family. I've pretty much picked that one up as well - we went to our usual fortnightly pub quiz on Wednesday (and embarrassingly won it yet again - there's only been one occasion since the quiz started when our team hasn't won, and even then we only lost on a technicality) and met up with my brother and sister-in-law, brother-in-law and a cousin on Thursday evening to see my brother and sister-in-law's (amazing and absolutely enormous) new house. I do have a few phone calls to return, which hopefully I'll get round to at some stage today, but otherwise life is pretty much back to normal.

The third ball is keeping up with reading and commenting on my favourite blogs. I've done a little bit of that this week, but not as much as I'd like, and often I've just had time to glance and see what people are up to without leaving a comment. That ball will have to stay in the corner getting dusty until we get back from Lanzarote, so I'm sorry you haven't heard much from me recently, and you almost certainly won't over the next week. I am thinking of you all, though.

I have managed to keep half the blogging ball in the air by keeping my own blog up to date, and in fact I've tidied up a few draft posts and am in the process of writing a few more, so that a new post should hopefully auto-publish each day while we're away.

The fourth ball really has just been lying in the corner getting increasingly dusty, and that's the looking-after-the-house ball. I sorted out five loads of laundry this morning, but we're not going to be able to get it dry before we leave, so I think I can only do two loads today - which means a mountain of laundry when we get back.

And as for the dust bunnies - well, they can just hop around and breed a bit more while we're gone, because I've got a to do list as long as your arm today, and cleaning the house isn't on it.

Next time we do this, I think I'm going to have to work out a way to avoid retreating totally into my cave, because keeping the balls in the air is an awful lot easier than getting them back up there once they've been dropped. I've never been more in need of a holiday... so it's a good job we're about to have one.

See you in about 8 days - in the meantime, good luck to all of you going through treatments, and do keep dropping in to read the 'bonus posts'.

Friday, 6 November 2009


A very odd thing happened this week.

My gym does monthly assessments, where you get weighed, measured and have electrodes stuck on you to measure your fat and water content. I'm not always brilliant at remembering to drink water, and last month's water measurement was very low.

So this week I confidently skipped down there, expecting to be congratulated on the improvement in my hydration level. After all, I've been religiously following the clinic's instructions to drink at least two litres of water a day since embryo transfer, and although I haven't been quite as good since my BFN was confirmed and AF showed up, I'm still drinking a lot more than usual.

So imagine my surprise when I was told that my water content had actually gone DOWN!!! The trainer said all my weight loss over the last month can be attributed to a combination of muscle turning into fat because I haven't been exercising as much, and loss of water. In other words, there's no REAL weight loss at all - and there was me thinking my nausea and loss of appetite had at least had one good effect.

Anyway, when I said how much I'd been drinking, she couldn't explain how my hydration level had actually gone down. But I suppose it just proves how right the clinic was to advise me to drink so much - I'd be a shrivelled-up little prune now if I had kept my water consumption at normal levels over the last few weeks.

Perhaps the water was needed to flush out the extra follicles (I've read something about that - they fill up with liquid after the eggs have been removed, and you need to drink more to flush them out, or something).

Or perhaps, combined with all the extra weeing I've been doing, it was needed after all the jabs and suppositories I've been taking to get all the extra horror-moans out of my system.

But whatever it was, this test seems to have indicated that it was VERY necessary.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Gunpowder, treason and plot

At this time of year in England, little children everywhere are learning to recite:

Remember, remember,
The 5th of November -
Gunpowder, treason and plot.

For I see no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.

Today is Bonfire Night, and while it is fortunately no longer compulsory in this country to celebrate the deliverance of the monarch from the evil Catholics, effigies of poor old Guy Fawkes are still burnt around the country - and in Lewes they even still burn an effigy of the Pope.

In the good old days, children would make their guys a few days in advance and stand out on street corners showing them off, asking people for a "penny for the guy". They would use the money they collected to buy sparklers and toffee apples, and maybe a few bangers. These days, under the influence of Hollywood and Hallmark, they're too busy dressing up for Hallowe'en and going trick or treating.

The run-up to Bonfire Night is the only time that fireworks are freely available on sale in the UK. In areas such as north London, where there are a lot of Hindus, we start with a precursor of what's to come when they celebrate Diwali.

We then have a couple of weeks where it seems that all the teenage yobs in the country are spending all their dole money on fireworks and whiling away the time every evening by setting them off in confined spaces or throwing them at each other.

Tonight there'll be official displays all over London, and since we're visiting my brother and sister-in-law in south-east London after work and then making our way back out of London via the north-west, if we time our train journey home right we should be treated to quite a spectacle.

Not that it'll be a patch on the most amazing firework extravaganza I've ever seen - a small town in Guangxi Province for Chinese New Year 1994. Forget the locked cabinets that we have in the UK - the streets were lined with firework vendors with their wares laid out on blankets before them and cigarettes dangling from their lips as they completed their sales. My friends and I bought the biggest rockets we'd ever seen, mortar bomb-type affairs which shot up into the sky and exploded into clusters of coloured stars, and all manner of whizzers and bangers.

Every family in town did the same, and we stood out on the roof of an apartment building at midnight and watched as the town exploded in noise and colour at midnight, carrying on for over an hour. It was one of those moments that stamps itself on your memory for ever, and when I shut my eyes I can still hear, see, taste and smell that night and feel the excitement and anticipation.

A public display with all the Elf 'n' Safety rules we have to follow these days just isn't the same...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

I'd like to thank...

... Egghunt for giving me this lovely Spreader of Love Award!

There are rules attached, which I'll tell you about and then largely ignore (sorry!).

Spreader of Love Award

The rules for this award are simple. Click below to read them:

I LOVE YOU=8 letters which gives you 8 rules :

1- Thank the person who nominated you for this award and write a little bit about why you love them.
2- Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3- Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4- Nominate no more than 17 people (why 17?) who you love or you think could use some love.
5- Write one word (you can only use a word once) about what you love about their blog.
6- You cannot nominate someone who has already been nominated-the love has to spread to all.
7- Post links to the 17 blogs you nominate.
8- Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they’ve been nominated.

A lot of the bloggers I follow already have this, so I'm just going to tell you about some of my favourite bloggers and some who could do with a bit of love being spread their way at the moment. Anyone I mention who doesn't already have it can consider themselves duly nominated for the award.

First, Egghunt, who gave me the award. I love the way she writes, and can relate to so much of what she says. She also leaves me some very supportive and thoughtful comments. She's about to start IVF #3, and I so hope that it's third time lucky for her.

Next, Sonja, who was one of my earliest readers and has always been so supportive - she's my most consistent and regular commenter, and I appreciate every single one of her thoughtful, sympathetic and helpful comments. She is currently in the throes of IVF #2, after getting severe OHSS on IVF #1, and again I'm really hoping that this will be the lucky one for her.

Myndi is another regular commenter who has been very supportive through my IVF #1. She was a couple of days ahead of me in the cycle, and several times I found that she had posted exactly what I was thinking or feeling just hours before I thought or felt it. She's now five weeks pregnant, and I'm so happy for her - but she's having a bit of a rough time with a flare-up of her eczema, which sounds very uncomfortable.

Lin frequently leaves me supportive comments, and could do with some herself at the moment, after a recent misunderstanding with her mother and a not-so-positive sperm test this week. Plus she's trying to lose 8 pounds to qualify for an IVF trial, so needs some good non-fattening support.

Simple just found out yesterday that she's pregnant, after exercising iron self-control to wait SIX HOURS after the nurse left her a message about her beta so that she could listen to it with her husband. She really does deserve a medal for that.

PJ has some great beta levels, but could do with a hug as she waits for her first ultrasound, after several previous miscarriages. She's never had beta levels this high at this stage, though, so I really hope that's a good sign that this is the sticky one.

Derailed is still licking her wounds in her cave after a negative result on her IVF, and I hope to see her back soon and ready for the next step in this journey.

Barrenblog could do with a huge hug as she prepares for her first IVF, without the comfort of her beloved cat. To quote the end of her last post, she feels "a level of terror and anxiety sufficient to almost - but not quite - anaesthetise the pain of losing a 19-year furry friend".

Io has been feeling rotten this week with a UTI.

Circus Princess is just coming to the end of her 2WW and has been experiencing a lot of spotting. I so hope that it means nothing, but as she waits for tomorrow's test she could really do with a hug.

Jamie Lynn has been upset by the latest piece of assvice she received.

And last but by no means least, Mel provides absolutely fantastic support to all of us, but after H1N1 last week and losing her beloved grandmother this week, she could do with a few extra hugs herself.

So, that's my round dozen for today. I'd also like to say how much I appreciate the comments from everybody who has ever commented on my blog, in particular Sarah, Gemma and TBD, who were very supportive during my IVF #1 - and of course from Jeannie, who is the only reader I have (as far as I know) who I know in real life and is a wonderful support and a great friend.

And now that my acceptance speech has truly reached Gwynneth Paltrow-esque proportions, I think it's time I stopped...

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I've been working from home a lot recently, and when I don't have to go into the office I do my blogging in the morning before I get up. When I'm going into the office I cheat - I write a post the night before and schedule it to publish first thing in the morning.

Today I have to go into the office, and I was too tired to write a post last night (despite all that sleep the night before). It's going to be a busy day, Insomnia Hour struck again last night, and as soon as DH is out of the bathroom I need to get ready. We leave home at 7 to get the 7:16 train, and usually get home about 7 pm. This evening, though, I may have to work late - I have a bit of catching up to do because of not being very focused on work last week (understatement of the century).

So this is your lot for today. I'm working from home again tomorrow, so normal service will resume in approximately 25 hours...

Have a nice day!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Feeling better, and looking forward

I'm feeling better this morning. I felt quite unwell over the weekend, and very very tired - but this morning my temperature is back to normal AF levels, and I think the progesterone is finally getting out of my system. I actually slept for about 10 hours last night, and although DH woke me when he came up to bed and I woke one other time, I fell back to sleep easily and had no Insomnia Hour, for the first time in what feels like months.

The only thing of note that we did over the weekend was to go into a travel agency and book a holiday. It'll be the first time in my life that I've been on a package holiday - we just said, "We want some winter sun, and we want to leave next weekend - what've you got?" and about half an hour later, we had booked a week in Lanzarote. I'm still sad that we've had to postpone our trip to South Africa, but Lanzarote's a pretty good consolation prize.

When I called the clinic on Friday, it was Nurse Not Quite who answered the phone. She booked us in for our follow-up appointment - I was hoping to go in as soon as possible, and willing to go that day if I could. Unfortunately, the first date she offered me which we could actually do is in two weeks today - the day after we get back from Lanzarote. I'd rather have a firm plan before we go, and can't help feeling that Nurse Perfect or Nurse First Time might have done a better job of squeezing us in, but c'est la vie.

So, here are the questions I've thought of so far that I'd like to ask Mr No Nonsense when we see him. I'm sure I'll think of more, but if any of you can think of anything you think I should be asking about, please tell me.
  • I ended up getting more eggs than I thought I would, and three of them fertilised - but what did the embryologist think of the quality of them?
  • What did she think of the embryos? How many cells were they when they were transferred, and did you think there was a reasonable chance they might implant?
  • Do you think it's worth trying again?
  • I think I responded quite well up to the point of embryo transfer, but is there anything you would change about the dosage or choice of drugs next time?
  • Would assisted hatching be worth considering?
  • I've sat out the cycle after the first IVF. Can we start again as soon as my next AF shows up?
My wonderful wonderful boss has said that, since the training day I'm organising in early December is just for the department, and since we have no teaching going on in December, if it turned out that the date currently set for it wasn't convenient for me, there would be no problem with changing it. So the thing which could have prevented us trying again next cycle is no longer an obstacle.

Nurse Not Quite has tentatively pencilled us in to start again in about 20-24 days' time (going by the usual length of my cycle), but obviously that won't be definite until after we've spoken to Mr No Nonsense.

So all in all, I'm feeling much more positive. As a little bonus, I felt so ill during the first cycle that now that all the bloating has gone down, I find that I've lost about 9 lbs since the cycle began. With a week in a 4* hotel on an all-inclusive rate coming up, I may be about to regain some of that, but for this week, my clothes are fitting me a bit better.

And now I'm off to the gym for the first time in a month, before settling down to do some serious work without the distraction of breaking off every two minutes to wonder if I'm pregnant.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Ignorance and the role of the media

I don't think anyone understands the pain and uncertainty of IVF as a treatment for infertility until they have gone through it themselves, or at least lived through it vicariously by watching someone close to them go through it. I had no idea how hard it was, because so few people ever talk about that side of it - certainly you see a lot fewer sympathetic articles in the media than articles saying IVF is becoming too easily available, criticising its development as a way of commoditising life or implying that the 'selfish' people who go through it are putting their potential children at increased risk of birth defects, premature birth, etc ad nauseam.

A few weeks ago this article appeared in one of the Sunday supplements, and made my blood boil - don't click on the link if you want your blood pressure to stay at a normal level. But the trouble is, this is the sort of article that you see in the mainstream media on almost a weekly basis - and articles like this influence people's thinking.

So we're fed the idea that IVF is a lifestyle choice, something that people do because they're too selfish and too busy buying shoes and handbags and hanging out in wine bars with other single career women at the time when they should be having children, and then realise too late that the next accessory they want is a cute little baby, and they need artificial help to get that - especially as some of them have been too busy enjoying themselves and making money (eugh, how vulgar!) to pick up any likely-looking father material along the way and so need to buy some suitable man-juice before they can start manufacturing the baby.

Look at the huge variety of people this woman interviewed for her book - "my friend who worried at 39 that if she didn’t marry a man she didn’t love that she would lose the chance to have a child; Karen, the single mother who became pregnant with donor eggs and donor sperm at 46, and Ann, who became a ‘single mother by choice’ at 30 and then met the love of her life" and "married women who are uncertain about their careers, even their spouses, but certain that their future must include parenting. They’ve asked similar questions. How much time do I have? Can I freeze my eggs? Should I test my fertility? Will motherhood make me happy?"

Did she interview any women who suffered from infertility, other than as a result of having put their career first and left it too late? Did she talk to anyone in their 20s or early 30s who suffered from any of the huge range of problems which make it impossible to have children naturally? Did she talk to any married couples whose problem was MFI? Because if she did, she doesn't mention it.

Are people who think like her really in the majority? The media would certainly have us believe that, but I don't think they are - I think they're just so used to getting their own way that they shout louder and make more fuss about their situation than those of us who are suffering the private pain of infertility. There are many many people in the world who never tell a soul that they're suffering from infertility, and just pretend they never planned to have children anyway.

This paragraph was the only nod in the whole article to the fact that some people suffer from infertility and are not using IVF as a lifestyle choice:
Advancing reproductive technology is making these new choices possible, but how much should we depend on it? There are many women and couples who face infertility not because of their age or because they waited, who view this technology not as a choice but as their only chance for a biological child. But it’s still important to examine if the commercialisation of reproductive technology is making the act of becoming a parent too much like shopping for a pair of designer shoes.

This woman has a lot to learn, and so do the people who depend on the media and second-hand stories to educate them about reproductive technologies. I suppose it's up to us to try to make the people around us understand that infertility is not a lifestyle choice, and that some of us can't just "relax and it'll happen". And perhaps that will have a ripple effect and increasing numbers of people will begin to understand.

But we're fighting an uphill battle when there's so much misinformation out there.