Saturday, 30 January 2010

Every child needs one

In our bedroom, we have a 'book cuberd' (as my friend's six-year-old twins labelled it when they made it for me almost two years ago) made out of a cornflake packet. In the sitting room, we have paintings by my nieces, and going up the side of the stairwell there's a looooooong picture of a giraffe, drawn by a niece a couple of years ago. Our fridge is also covered in children's drawings.

Last night DH and I went out for drinks and a meal for a friend's birthday. It was bitterly cold again, and before we left the house I grabbed a nice warm scarf to put on. It was made by my then seven or eight-year-old niece in the US. It's woven out of different colours of wool, and she must have run out of one of the types of wool she was using, as the two ends are completely different colour combinations and designs. I'm not sure if it's deliberate that it's much narrower in the middle than it is at each end. But it kept my neck lovely and warm, and I wore it with pride.

As I took it off in the pub, I proudly showed it to my friends, and then commented, "Probably only an aging childless aunt would actually wear this out in public." They didn't disagree.

DH once ended up in the casualty department of the hospital near his sister's house after getting a very nasty scratch on his hand while separating a fighting cat and dog. It was only when he noticed the funny looks he kept getting from the staff that he remembered that he was wearing brightly coloured nail varnish - a Christmas present his niece had received, which she had immediately wanted to try out. As an indulgent uncle, when asked to let her paint his fingernails he had willingly obliged.

And now this weekend we're going down to the south coast to spend the weekend celebrating the 10th birthday of one of my goddaughters. We're thrilled to have been invited to join in the celebrations, and we'll be having lunch once again with all the adults who mean the most to her - her parents, grandparents, uncle and aunt. She's having a sleepover, and if she and her little friends are looking for fingernails to paint, I'm sure DH will oblige again.

There's a special role in children's lives for the relative or family friend who doesn't have children of their own. When we see them, we have endless amounts of time for them, because we don't keep having to go and chase after our own children. We're not looking for special 'grown-up time', because we have our fill of that for most of the time, so we're willing to get down on our hands and knees with the toddlers, sing endless songs, read endless stories, have our nails painted and treasure their art work.

Most children have someone like us in their lives - I know my brothers and sisters and I did when we were growing up - and while it lasts, it's a privileged position that we should enjoy, as we have both done for years.

But hopefully one day some of those children will become the cool teenagers in our own children's lives...

Friday, 29 January 2010

His boys really can't swim

Our file has arrived from the clinic where we had IVF #1 and #2, and I've been having a good look through it.

DH had a sperm analysis when we had our first appointment, and it was pretty disastrous - volume <1 ml, number of sperm 0.6 m/ml, progression 1 (out of a possible 4), motility 30%, morphology 3%.

Since then I've sort of fantasised that his sperm could be getting better. I feed him fairly healthily, with liberal servings of all the foods that I've read can help fertility, and I've had him on Wellman vitamins, a daily dose of brazil nuts and an extra supplement of selenium and zinc. Every so often I would have a little moment where I remembered that he'd only ever had one sperm analysis and thought, "Well, after all these supplements, it's bound to have improved." And after we got embryos both times we tried ICSI, I thought, "Well, there are definitely some decent guys in there."

The file shows that they did a little analysis of each of the samples that he produced for our IVF cycles. The one he produced for IVF #2 was even worse than the original - volume 0.7 ml, number of sperm 0.5 m/ml, progression 0-1, motility 20%, morphology still at 3%.

And the one he produced for IVF #1? It must have been OK, because we originally got three embryos out it - right? I mean, OK, one of the embryos stopped dividing before transfer time and the other two didn't manage to implant, but there were three decent sperm in there, right?

Well, apparently three is about the limit. They didn't even bother to write numbers down for this sample - just scrawled across it "occasional". And I'm guessing that "occasional" sperm are not brilliant news.

I kind of knew it all along - that's one of the reasons I said we would never bother with donor eggs and DH's sperm. I knew his sperm were crap.

But I didn't know they were getting worse. I didn't realise the utterly crap result we had last July was him on a GOOD day.

So the dream that we might get a miracle BFP while we're waiting for our appointment at XXXX clinic has receded just that little bit further. And my faith in the supplements we've spent a fortune on and the healthy diet that I'm trying to keep us to has also taken a bashing.

And I have to say, I'm a little bit gutted.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

More about work

I normally take the attitude with work that the bits I love about my job are the things that persuade me to get out of bed in the morning, while the bits I hate are the things that I'm being paid for.

Let's just say that over the last couple of months, I've been doing an awful lot of the stuff I'm being paid for. And if I have to have too many more dealings with one particular person, who is the type of person who takes credit for stuff that you've done while failing to do his own job and trying to shift the blame onto you, then I'm going to need a significant pay rise.

On the plus side, today is one of the days I get out of bed for - I'm running a revision class and have spent quite a lot of time creating a board game which I hope will make them learn while having fun. I showed the game to my boss and he thinks it's pretty cool and wants to use it himself, so I get brownie points all round.

Today is the guinea pig day, where I ascertain whether I've got enough questions for a full round of the game to be played and how long it takes to get round the board (I need it to last for at least a couple of hours).

Wish me luck...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A positive viewpoint

One of the problems with researching adoption and seriously considering doing it is that you very quickly start to hear all the horror stories - the children with attachment disorder, the failed adoptions, the people who've had a horrendous time with the application process, the cost, the intrusion into every aspect of your life. Above all, applying to adopt is a huge step into the unknown, and a bit of time on the internet very quickly shows you all the ways that you could fail.

There are also those people in real life who just have to share their stories of failed adoptions with you. They're probably the same people who tell horrendous birth stories to people who are newly pregnant.

But my oldest and best friend is adopted, and yesterday I was chatting with her. We hadn't spoken on the phone since before Christmas, so I was catching her up on where we're up to with the baby-making project. I told her how completely banjaxed I'd been by DH's reluctance to consider adoption, and we talked about that for a while.

Then she said, "The thing is, when you're adopted you DO belong to that family. And not just that, but if you're adopted, you know absolutely that you were wanted and that you're loved. Whatever else happens in an adopted child's life, you can't take away the fact that they're absolutely secure in the knowledge that they're the most precious thing in their parents' life."

She said it as if that was true for all adopted children, and I know from spending too much time on sad and angry internet sites that that's not the case. But it could be the case for us.

But more than that, I now realise that I just really needed to hear someone with first-hand experience of adoption actually saying that from the adopted child's point of view. And because she's my oldest and best friend, I know that she absolutely believes it to be true. And because I've known (and loved) her parents since I was 10, I know that in her case it's undoubtedly true.

There are so many unknowns, and the biggest of all is the question of whether we would be turned down for adoption on the basis of age. The crazy thing is that for a number of reasons, it would be easier for me to adopt on my own as a single person than it will be for DH and me to adopt together as a married couple. I think that shows a serious defect in the system.

If it comes to it, though, I really feel now that if we do pursue adoption, I will be pursuing it as a positive and real option and not just as the last resort after our attempts to have our own biological child failed. I feel excited at the idea of it, and although I know DH isn't there with me on that feeling yet, I think we could get there together.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Whinging about something different

Washing your hair when you've got strapping on your back that's not allowed to get wet - not easy, especially when the reason for the strapping makes you a whole lot less flexible than usual anyway.

Having to get your back strapped up for the third time in a year - not fun. And being told to avoid all lifting and twisting sort of puts paid to the planned return to the gym, if the pain hadn't done that already.

I'm dragging my sore back off to work now - bleurgh...

Monday, 25 January 2010

New home

No, not me, but Myndi - she has a great new blog home. It looks great, but there are two things I took a minute or two to figure out, so I thought I'd share them in case you're as slow as I am - if you want to leave a comment (or read existing comments), you need to click on the title of the blog post you want to comment on. And then to get back to the home page, just click on the blog name in the banner at the top. All very simple and straightforward - great job, Myndi!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

'Children of men'

Last night DH and I watched 'Children of Men' on the telly. It's a film whose main premise is that the entire human race is suffering from unexplained infertility. The youngest person in the world is 18, and the world is full of violence and oppression - "because that's what happens when you lose the sound of children's laughter". Then one woman becomes pregnant, and the film is the story of how one man helps her and tries to save her from the people who would harm her and use her baby for their own nefarious means.

Three things struck me about this film.

The first is that, although the film is 'about' infertility, it didn't touch me emotionally at all. It was a sci-fi action thriller, and there was too much violence and fighting in it to allow the emotional side of infertility to be explored at all.

I found it a very shallow film, where endless fighting (and the idiotic hero irritatingly putting himself and the girl in danger by standing around to see what happened next at the places he'd just left rather than trying to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the baddies they were escaping from) and sweeping shots of unexplained desolation (apart from the fact that it was filmed in a year when in real life we'd recently had a foot and mouth outbreak, why did they show footage of a pile of dead cows being burnt?) moved the plot along without allowing us to see how the situation had developed or how people felt about it.

There was a scene at the beginning where there was mass hysteria and loads of people crying and wailing because the youngest person in the world had been murdered - but there was no real emotion in it, and the over-the-topness of the weeping and wailing took away any sadness in the scene and turned it almost into something comic.

The second thing was a little throwaway comment towards the beginning of the film. The infertility was described as being a problem of the women - nobody could understand why they were suddenly all infertile. There was no suggestion that there might be any issue with the men as well. And that saddened me, because it seems that in real life, too, it is very often assumed that the woman is the problem. Here was a chance to drop into a mindless action film the idea that infertility has a male side as well as a female side, and it's a shame the easy 'blame the woman' line was used instead.

The third thing was this joke told by Michael Caine's character that I actually found quite funny.

There's a big dinner going on, and everyone around the table is discussing the problem of infertility and speculating about why nobody is able to have children. One man keeps silent, tucking into his meal with great gusto.

Eventually, someone says to him, "You've been fairly quiet in all this discussion. What do you think is the cause of all this infertility?"

He looks up from the barbecued meat he's been chomping on and says, "I really don't know - but this stork is delicious, isn't it?"

Friday, 22 January 2010

The other strand of hope

It seems that for almost two years now, I've been holding my breath.

Last Christmas, DH and I decided that we would go to China around Easter time. Then I started to get cold feet, because surely by Easter I would be pregnant, and I didn't want to be travelling in China while I was pregnant. So we gave up on that plan.

We intended to visit my brother and his family in South Africa last year. There was never a good time, in between all the times we thought I might be pregnant and then the IVF treatments, etc.

I haven't been to the gym since October, and the main reason I stopped was the IVF. This creates a bit of a vicious circle for me, as the lack of exercise and the resulting weight gain make my bad back worse, which makes it more difficult for me to get to the gym, which makes my back worse... I've got another appointment with the osteopath on Monday, and as soon as she's worked her magic I'll be back in the gym, giving it my all.

We have a kitchen extension with a flat roof which desperately needs to be replaced, and we need all new windows upstairs in our house. We said we'd sort both those things out last spring, but it never happened. The damp stain on the kitchen ceiling is now twice the size, and the guttering has come down at the back as well.

My half-yearly appraisal is coming up at work, and I can't think of a single thing I've achieved in the last six months. Work was just what I fitted in around fertility tests and treatments and obsessing about how to improve our chances.

And there've been so many other things we haven't done - friends we've failed to visit, people we haven't even kept in touch with, birthdays I've been late in acknowledging, or have failed to acknowledge at all.

So yes, you could say my life has been on hold - and one of the great things about knowing that we won't be doing any treatments for the next four months or so is that I get my life back for a while and can make plans that don't involve sticking needles in my stomach or getting cameras stuck up my bits.

But then there's the question of what happens next. I still hold out more hope than I probably should do of having a successful treatment at the new clinic. But, and this may sound bizarre, now that I know how remote the possibility of success is for us, optimism for me also means thinking about what happens if we're not successful, and if we end up not being able to adopt. Because I need to know that whatever happens, we'll be OK.

And because I'm an optimist at heart, but I'm also a realist, I'm thinking of all the possible scenarios - and working on convincing myself that each of those scenarios will allow us to live a happy and fulfilled life.

So while I hope with all my heart that I'll be pregnant by the second half of this year, and while I know I'll be devastated if that doesn't happen, I also know that if we end up not having children, I'll come through that devastation and find a way to be happy. It won't be the life I planned, but it'll still be a good life. The life I've had up to now has not by any stretch of the imagination been what I thought it would be, but I wouldn't change a thing about it - the good parts or the bad.

And what all that means is that I need to start making plans. I can't go on wishing my life away, and ending up with nothing because Plan A isn't working out and there's no Plan B.

I'm cheating a little bit, because I'm not going to make any plans that are absolutely set in stone. But on Monday, a friend said she was planning to run a half marathon in October and asked if I would do it with her.

And instead of refusing in case I'm pregnant by October, I thought how nice it would be to have something to work towards if I'm not pregnant. I thought of the sense of achievement that I got from completing a marathon (very slowly) a few years ago, and how I'd always said I'd like to train properly and do another one, aiming for a more respectable time.

So yesterday I registered my interest, which is the first stage towards hopefully getting a place to run that half marathon. And now I have two alternative scenarios to look forward to in the second half of the year. One is that I'm happily pregnant. The other is that I'm fit, healthy and getting ready to run 13.1 miles through the royal parks of London.

I have to keep repeating it to myself, and it's very hard to do, but making exciting plans that might have to be cancelled if I get pregnant isn't giving up or admitting defeat.

It's giving myself another strand of hope.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


This isn't the post I was going to write this morning, but I wanted to share my excitement with you.

Last night, DH came home from work and told me about a conversation he'd had with his boss. It went something like this:

DH: [Something boring about work]
Boss: OK. By the way, how's the IVF going?
DH: We did two cycles. They were both unsuccessful.
Boss: Sorry to hear that. How's your wife?
DH: She's OK. Tired and stressed.
Boss: Are you going to try again?
DH: Hopefully.
Boss: And if that doesn't work out, you can always adopt.
DH: Yes, that's what we're planning.

So there you go, straight from the horse's mouth - he's coming round to the idea! We may not be able to adopt, we may not even get that far down the road, but if it comes to it, he's not going to turn the idea down out of hand.

The cogs may turn slowly, but it seems they've been turning after all!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


You know that glass half empty-glass half full thing? Well, my dad once laughed at me because I was driving him somewhere and said we'd have to stop and get petrol "because my tank's only about one-sixteenth full".

I haven't always been a hopeless cock-eyed optimist. In fact, I can pinpoint the year that my attitude began to change.

I was about 17, and we were living in a place which was about four miles from the nearest town. I very seldom needed to go into town on my own, but I can recall two occasions, about four months apart, when I cycled into town.

The first time, I was irritated to notice that the road seemed to go uphill in both directions - on the way there and on the way home.

The second time, there was no difference in my level of fitness. I took exactly the same route, and the weather was very similar. But this time, the road seemed to go downhill in both directions, and it was a much more pleasant ride.

Of course, the reality was that the road was gently undulating, and there was probably an equal amount of uphill and downhill cycling in each direction. The difference between the two journeys lay only in my attitude - on the earlier ride, I concentrated on the difficult bits of the journey, while on the later one I focused on the parts that I enjoyed.

The interesting thing is that it was when I was 17 that I first encountered a major setback in my life. I went through something that was very difficult for me and forced me for the first time to face up to the possibility of failure.

Coming out the other side, I had learnt that I had the resources to cope with that failure and to turn it around. I had learnt the value of hard work. I had also learnt how kind some people can be and that support can come from the most unexpected places.

And learning all of those things taught me to look for the good in people, to work to achieve my goals, and not to give up when things got tough. They were great lessons which have stood me in good stead throughout my life, and I couldn't have learnt them without facing failure and a certain amount of difficulty.

I've seen how other instances of failure in my life have taught me a lot more than my successes. And perhaps that's what makes me an incurable optimist - because if things are going well, then they're going well. But if things are going badly, it gives me an opportunity to learn and grow, and I often end up with something better than I had originally thought I wanted.

I know now that it wouldn't have been right for DH and me to have a honeymoon baby - we had both lived alone for a long time and needed time to get used to living together before adding a baby to the mix.

We've learnt a lot about ourselves and each other and about our relationship in going through this whole IVF process. I think in many ways it's made our relationship stronger, because we're able to show each other how we're feeling and support each other through the hard times. It's taught us to communicate better and not to bottle things up or make assumptions about what the other is thinking.

I think it's also given me more understanding and compassion for other people - not just those going through IF, but those going through other difficulties as well. I see more shades of grey and am more willing to listen and try to empathise with the decisions that other people make.

So in many ways, I can be happy that we've gone through this experience for the things that it has taught me and the ways I have grown as a person.

But as the eternal optimist, I still can't let go of the hope that one day we'll be parents. This has been a learning process. I've learnt. Now let's get on with making babies...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Samson and the bald patch

So, on Saturday I finally got round to cutting our hair. When I phoned Foresight last week for more information, they told me they send off their hair samples to the lab once a week, on Fridays. Since we'd already missed the chance to get ours to them for last Friday, we decided to sort out our samples on Saturday and then send them off during the week.

The hair needed to be the newest growth (ie, the closest to the scalp), about an inch in length. The amount that we need to send is about a tablespoonful.

It turns out that that's an awful lot of hair. The woman on the phone told me that I should lift up the visible hair on top and take it from underneath - which was fine when DH was cutting my hair. Mine isn't long, but it does cover my neck, so he lifted up the top layer and took off an inch all along the nape of my neck. It feels a bit scratchy on my collar, but (I'm told) it looks fine.

DH, on the other hand, likes to keep his hair very short at the back and has no hair to speak of on the nape of his neck. I ended up lifting random bunches of hair all around the back of his head, snipping off whatever was underneath, then replacing the random bunch. The back of his head is now pretty unevenly covered, and he has a bit of a ridge in one area where you can see that a middle layer of hair is missing.

But there was one place where the scissors must have slipped a bit, and however I tried to arrange his hair, I couldn't cover up the little bald patch that I'd made. It's about half the size of a penny, and I'm sure the hair will grow over it fairly quickly. And of course the great thing is that it's on the back of his head, so as long as I keep him away from the barber for a couple of weeks, he should never know about it.

But I wonder when he's going to get bored of calling me Delilah...

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The new clinic

So, I was going to tell you about the information pack from XXXX clinic.

It talks about statistics - the average live birth rate for my age group (unfortunately, I now fall into the 40-42 age group, though I am at the lower end of it) is about 12% - XXXX clinic has a 24.7% live birth rate. Their rate for the 38-39 age group is 42.5%.

They say they pride themselves on assisting couples who have complex problems or have been unsuccessful elsewhere. Currently about 75% of their patients have had unsuccessful treatment at other clinics. They also claim not to select patients on the basis of age or clinical history.

I suppose that still leaves it open to them to reject patients on the basis of current FSH or AMH levels, and I have seen people comment on message boards that they haven't been allowed to start a treatment cycle because their FSH level was too high.

The cost of the actual ICSI procedure is cheaper than at our old clinic, but with more extras - during the treatment cycle there are daily blood tests which are billed separately, and there will almost certainly be more drugs. Looking at it now, I'm thinking the total cost will end up being much the same as our last two cycles, but I'm prepared for the strong possibility that it will go over that.

Before making an appointment, you have to fill in a very detailed form with full medical history of both partners. We didn't have to do this when we booked into the other clinic, and it does give me confidence that they'll be looking at our particular history and test results and tailoring the treatment to us.

So the next thing we need to do is get a copy of our file from the old clinic and fill in all the paperwork to send off to XXXX clinic for an appointment. The wait for an appointment is likely to be around eight weeks after that, and then they do a monitoring cycle before going for the actual treatment. The next time I'm going to be able to fit a treatment in with work is late May/June, which should fit in reasonably well if I start the ball rolling now.

I wouldn't say I'm excited about it, but I do feel more optimism than I did before IVF #2, when it felt as though we and the clinic were just going through the motions for the sake of being able to say we'd done all we could. This time, the treatment will be very different, a lot more tailored to my specific circumstances, but also a lot more onerous.

If he'll just give me the chance to get started, I can see this having a chance of working...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Quick whinge before I leave for work

Every year in January and July, I have to deal with the part of my job that I hate the most - liaising with my contacts in each of the 17 offices around the country to work out people's training needs for the next six months and then booking people onto courses.

It's a thankless task, and I've discovered that it's impossible to please everybody - and even more impossible to persuade more than half of the people I have to deal with to meet the deadline they're given.

But I think what I hate the most at the moment is that most of the people I'm dealing with are in their twenties or early thirties. They've been out of university a few years and have gained professional qualifications, many of them picking up spouses along the way. And in my experience, there are way more women than men in the lower echelons of my profession.

What all this means is that every time I get in touch with my group of contacts, at least one of them either has just disappeared on maternity leave or is just about to. And there are usually several people who need to be taken off the waiting lists for courses because they're disappearing off on maternity leave too.

And when I have to do the course bookings on the day AF shows up, every new person I have to congratulate on her impending maternity leave makes me wonder all the more why it's never my turn.

Perhaps I'll hand in my notice today and see if I can go and get a job on an oil rig or in a seminary or something...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Random thoughts

  • I was telling someone at work this week about the hair analysis thing, and saying that I was going to be scalping DH some time in the next week. She joked, "What, so you're sending off your DNA so they can clone you? Isn't that a rather extreme way of getting a baby?" Now there's an angle I haven't explored yet...
  • A couple of weeks before Christmas, I was halfway through the two week wait for IVF #2 and I went into a bookshop that was having a closing-down sale. I haven't told anyone this, but there was a beautiful little set of books that I bought as a present for Rucksack. If there's no sign of a baby coming for us by the time my sister's baby comes along, I'll probably give it to him/her as a Christening present.
  • I have similar signs of naive optimism all over the place - the big pack of Granola bars that I bought from Costco because my SIL once said that eating one of those before she got out of bed in the morning was the only thing that used to control her morning sickness, the little teddy bear I bought for DH over a year ago with the t-shirt saying "No 1 Dad" and the little rucksack on its back that I intended to give him when I told him I was pregnant, the highchair I bought for my goddaughter 10 years ago that her mother returned to me when I got married saying, "You'll be needing this yourself soon" (and I do use it - when my nieces come to visit)...
  • Today is CD 27 of my first cycle after IVF #2. My first cycle after IVF #1 was only 24 days. My cycle is usually 25 or 26 days, so I'm expecting AF to show up any minute now. I've had PMS, but no spotting. I want AF to show up, to prove that everything's still working.
  • One of the things that IF robs us of is blissful ignorance. If you find out that you're pregnant at 6 weeks gestation, you're spared four weeks of worry and stress. I've fantasised that my last AF wasn't a real AF and that I'm actually pregnant from IVF #2. I'd love it if someone suddenly told me I was 8 weeks gone, but I know it's just a fantasy.
  • The postie just came and delivered the information pack from XXXX clinic. I need to read and digest the information, and then I'll probably tell you all about it tomorrow.
  • I'm having a hard time at work at the moment. The firm seems to have been taken over by a bunch of intellectual pygmies with the vision of myopic rhinos. It's hard to see things you've put your heart and soul into being trashed. It's harder for my head of department, who is a wonderful and caring man with a huge intellect and great vision and has worked there for 20 years and built the department up from nothing.
  • That woman has another post up on her blog. She seems to be trying to pick a fight. She wants to keep arguing until she's crushed me and proven all my arguments wrong, because she is the Holder of the Truth. I'm not playing. I'm crushed enough already, thanks.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Could it be the snow? Another couple of inches have fallen overnight, and it's still falling thick and fast. I just had to cancel my appointment with the osteopath, and my back is protesting gently, but once again, there's no way I can get the car out of our street.

Could it be reluctance to stop enjoying the foods that I know are going to be banned while I've still got them in the house? We're eating the Christmas goodies as fast as we can (as our expanding waistlines will attest), and we invited the neighbours round on Sunday to help us clear some more food from the fridge, but we still have loads of chocolate left.

Could it be exhaustion? To get these hair samples off to Foresight, first I need to get hold of DH and scalp him. Even when I'm working from home, he's out of the house from 7 am to at least 7 pm, then we need to eat, and then we just collapse in a little heap and stare blankly at the goggle box until it's time for bed. His eyes are red-rimmed with exhaustion, and my insomnia is back.

Could it be fear? While we're still planning the hair analysis, the healthy-eating diet and the treatment at another clinic, we still have hope to cling to. Could it be I'm just scared that when we eventually make the appointment, that hope will be taken away from us? I need a good dose of that courage that Egghunt was talking about yesterday.

Whatever the reason, I printed off the forms yesterday at work, but couldn't bring myself to start cutting his hair and answering all his questions when we finished supper, so we've now decided to put it off till the weekend. They only gather together the hair samples and send them off to the lab on Fridays, so that essentially means we've put it off by another week.

We haven't written to Mr No Nonsense to request the copy of our file (he told me on Monday that we both needed to request it, so we need to write a letter that we both sign).

I have rung the potential new clinic and asked for an information pack, but haven't had a response yet and haven't followed it up.

So I'm not totally inert - but I am giving a pretty good impression of a bear that's retreated to its cave to hibernate. It feels a bit like the time before we arranged our first fertility appointment - we talked about it and went round in circles for about three or four months before finally taking the plunge - and then hugely regretted all the shilly-shallying around afterwards.

Must ... get ... back ... in ... action ... again... (but not right now...)

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Treacherous tear ducts

Yesterday was my follow-up appointment with Mr No Nonsense after failed IVF #2. I went on my own, because DH finds it hard to get time off work.

I called the clinic up in the morning to make sure the appointment was still going ahead, as the minor roads around here have not been gritted and we had another inch or so of snow overnight. Nurse First Time answered the phone, and she recognised my voice and confirmed my appointment time before I even said who I was. She then remembered which direction I was coming from and recommended the best route to take in order to avoid the roads which are really bad. That's the sort of personal touch I'll miss if we move to a big London clinic.

I had a bit of trouble getting the car out of our road and almost gave up and cancelled the appointment. Then I got stuck in a traffic jam on the way there and arrived just in time, having allowed bags of time.

Mr No Nonsense was the friendliest and chattiest that I've ever seen him - surprising, since the meeting was essentially our parting of ways. He said his recommendation was that we should not try again, as our chances of success were vanishingly small.

I said we were thinking of having one last try in another clinic which seems to have had good results with older women. I named the one I had decided on (we'll carry on calling it XXXX) and the Lister, which TBD recommended. He said he doubted if XXXX would treat me. As he put it, "They'll both be happy to take your money for an initial consult, but there's a reason why XXXX has such good statistics - if someone doesn't look too hopeful, he just won't take them on for treatment." I'd heard that suggested somewhere else, so it wasn't a huge shock to me - and to be honest, if he thinks he can't help me, I'd rather he didn't take my money and give me false hope.

He said we could try the Lister and they probably would take us on, but that he still didn't hold out much hope.

We briefly discussed donor eggs - he wasn't sure how much of a donor programme the Lister has, but at the current clinic they don't have one at all because of the shortage of donors. They do have link-ups with clinics in Spain and the US for people who want to go the donor route.

I asked whether he would recommend using donor eggs with DH's sperm (something that we almost certainly wouldn't do anyway), and at first he said he would, since there are some normal sperm in DH's sample. Then he flicked through to have another look at DH's SA results and muttered, "Hmmmm, I'd forgotten how bad these results were." So I guess that makes it a no, which makes things simpler in a way.

He mentioned embryo adoption as a possibility, but again couldn't help with sourcing the embryos, as his clinic is too small to have a regular supply of embryos from people who have finished their treatment and are willing to donate, and there's no national register.

I held it all together pretty well and managed to give a reasonable impression of a mature and responsible adult until the end, but then my dappy old tear ducts let me down and started leaking salt water all over his consulting room, revealing me as the overemotional female that I apparently still am. He wasn't enormously comfortable with that and immediately offered to go and get me a tissue, coming back with a box of tissues and Nurse First Time.

After we finished, Nurse First Time invited me to go into another room with her, but I said I just wanted to get home. It was only as I was going out to the car park that it occurred to me there might have been something more to discuss rather than her just giving me the chance to compose myself before I left, but I think it's over anyway - I've said goodbye to that clinic and all there is left to do is to get a copy of our file from them to take along to whatever appointment we have next. Or maybe just to file away at home somewhere to prove that we did all we could.

As I was waiting to leave my parking space, someone else was driving in and got stuck on the snow and ice. I leapt out of my car clutching a plastic seaside spade and dug her wheels free. As a distraction technique, it worked to clear my leaky eyes until I got safely home.

And then I got on the internet and found that there's another whole post on that blog I was responding to at the weekend. And it's basically attacking a lot of what I said, which the author has a right to do if she wants to, because it is after all her blog. But to find that people who have IVF are being universally condemned as people who are willing to "kill their children in order to give birth" - that was hard. As well as being totally untrue.

But never mind that it made me feel even worse on one of the saddest days of my life. It was probably meant to, in order to make me recognise my sin and repent.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Bread sauce

You ask, and I provide...!

Bread sauce is a wonderful traditional accompaniment to poultry dishes. It is part of the traditional British Christmas dinner, and is traditionally served with turkey or goose at Christmas. (So, you get that it's traditional? I'm just reading this back and noticed how many times I used that word!)

You can also serve it with chicken, although it's a bit of a faff to make from scratch on a regular basis. It's a thick sauce which, when cold, can get pretty solid and goes very nicely with the meat in a sandwich. (Good old stodgy British food at its best - a sandwich made of two slices of bread with more bread in the middle!)

In medieval times, bread was frequently used to thicken sauces. Bread sauce is the sole survivor of these medieval sauces, and this makes it one of the oldest sauces in British cooking, flavoured with spices brought in from some of the earliest explorations across the world and thickened with dried bread.

Here's a link to Delia Smith's recipe for bread sauce.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Because my comments are still going astray...

My comments on Wordpress are still going astray, and there are two things I really wanted to say on other people's blogs today.

The first is HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Myndi and Short Stuff.

The second is a response to this post by Egghunt - or more accurately, to the post she links to. The comment below is the response I tried to post to the linked post - but because that blog is also a Wordpress blog, my comment disappeared into the ether again (fortunately for me, and unfortunately for the rest of you, I had copied it before I pressed 'submit', so I didn't lose it altogether). Anyway, this is what I said, expanded a bit from the original.

It's simply not true that "every IVF procedure will 'eliminate' almost two dozen embryos" - no clinic can guarantee that every person treated will get anything like that number. Clinics in the UK aim to collect between 5 and 10 eggs, and I have never known anybody over here who had as many as two dozen embryos.

From 6 eggs on our first IVF, we got two embryos, both of which were transferred. From 4 eggs on our second, we had one embryo - none were 'eliminated', but all died inside me and were duly mourned. There was also one other embryo on our first IVF that died within 24 hours of fertilisation - nobody 'eliminated' it or 'got rid of it', it just died.

In the normal run of things in natural conception between healthy couples, it is estimated that only about 25% of embryos that fertilise actually implant. So it's not surprising that a large number of those created through IVF also fail to survive, especially when you consider that many cases of infertility are caused by abnormalities in the eggs and/or sperm, so that the proportion of embryos which are healthy is also likely to be lower.

There is an awful lot of misinformation about and prejudice against IVF, and until I found myself in that situation, I always thought I would obey the Church's teaching without question. My decision to go ahead with IVF involved a lot of research about exactly why the Church is opposed to it, a lot of prayer, and more mental anguish than many people can imagine, because I knew that for the first time ever, I was deliberately thinking of doing something which was at odds with what the Church taught.

The author of the post Egghunt linked to obviously came to a different decision, and that's fine - had I lived in the US, where my research indicates that adoption would be much less difficult for us than it would be over here, I may well have come to the same decision.

But although the Church is opposed to it, for reasons some of which I believe it may reconsider in years to come, Jesus Himself never said anything about IVF - obviously, since it didn't exist in those days. But he did say a lot about love and compassion for your fellow human beings, and about how only God can judge us, and we shouldn't judge other people.

It worries me to hear and read comments from people (and I'm not just referring here to the original poster Egghunt linked to) who seem to believe that they are 'better' Catholics than me either because they have never faced this decision or because they have made a different decision from the one I made. I'm ashamed to say that I used to have that attitude towards Catholics who used contraception or had sex before marriage.

I like to think this experience has given me more humility. I'm a sinner, as all of us are sinners, and I'm no better than anybody else. But I only have one Judge, and I too would react with extreme anger if some other member of my church's congregation took it upon themselves to write me a personal letter and tell me that what I had done was sinful.

And now for something completely different

Yesterday I made the most amazingly delicious soup I've ever tasted, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you, in case you ever have all these ingredients to hand.

First, you need to have a big family party. Serve stuffed olives and antipasti before the meal begins. When you finish the last few about a week later, keep the garlic-infused olive oil that's left in the bottom of the bowl.

The family party should also involve plenty of bread sauce, of which about half is left over, because you made the same amount that your mother always provides on Christmas Day, forgetting that half of that is used for the Boxing Day party and sundry other big family meals over the next few days. Cheat point - my bread sauce came out of a packet, so it's as simple to make as emptying the packet and stirring it into the milk as it heats up.

The family party should also involve a large ham boiled in Coca-cola - seriously, if you've never tried this, you must! All I did was put the ham in a large saucepan (technically, I think it's called gammon before you boil it - never did work that one out!), add a large onion cut in half and then pour in enough Coke to cover the top of the ham (or gammon). Bring to the boil - it is a bit difficult to tell when it's beginning to boil, because of course it fizzes from the moment you put it into the saucepan - and then simmer for the same amount of time you would if you were boiling it in water (this depends on the weight of the gammon. Or ham). When the ham is cooked, remove it from the saucepan and keep the liquid, with the onion still in it, in a large jug.

A week later, cut a large butternut squash into big chunks, drizzle the leftover olive oil from the stuffed olives and antipasti over it, and roast at gas mark 6 for about half an hour.

When the squash is ready, pour the remaining stock (about half of what you started with, as you've been using it in stews and sauces during the intervening week), complete with the by now pretty much shredded onion, into a saucepan. Put it over a medium to high heat and when it looks close to boiling, add the butternut squash and the leftover bread sauce. Reduce the heat a little so it doesn't boil and heat for a bit longer until everything is thoroughly warmed through.

When you get bored of waiting for it to be ready, take it off the heat and put the whole lot through a blender, then leave on the stove for later.

When your husband walks in several hours later, heat it up while he takes his wet boots off and freshens up a bit. Serve it with freshly-made bread, and I can guarantee that he'll be delighted that he just spent four hours taking five different trains through the snow and ice to get home to you.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

A decision?

I'm on my own again this morning - in all this snow and ice, I've sent DH away to make sure his parents are OK, get some shopping in for them, etc. The easiest way for him to go is to take the train straight from work and come back the next day, so I'm expecting him back some time this afternoon. I'm glad he's gone, especially as their boiler broke down yesterday, and although it was repaired within 24 hours, I think he needed the reassurance of being able to see them and see that they're all right.

With the evening to myself last night, I wrapped myself in a blanket and ate too much cheese (boy, did I feel sick by the time I went to bed - will I ever learn?!) while watching Top Gear on the telly.

I also had a phone call from a very dear friend. We each have the calling plan for our phone where UK calls are free for the first hour - let's just say this was a two-call conversation.

She is the only person I knew before all this started who had gone through IVF. She conceived twins on her second attempt, and although her circumstances were totally different (she and her husband needed IVF because her husband had had chemotherapy for cancer, and they had frozen some of his sperm before he started treatment), she is the only one of my family and close friends who really understands what we're going through. She has also come out the other side and survived, so is a fantastic person to talk to about it all.

I told her about IVF #2 and that we were thinking of changing clinics and going to one in London. Instantly, she said, "Not XXXX?" and mentioned the one that's currently top of my list. I cautiously asked her what she knew about it, and she had nothing but positive things to say.

Somehow, although she never went there herself, and although her IVF treatment was almost 10 years ago, I trust what she has to say almost more than I trust my own research.

So it might change again a thousand times, but for today, I think my mind is made up - and for today, that gives me a sense of peace. And now, because I've got the house to myself and it's cold outside, I'm going to go and soak in a really long hot bath with a good book...

Friday, 8 January 2010

Mind games

So, this is the post that's going to make you all realise what a total fruitcake I am (if you hadn't already).

For the first time since we started this whole business, this month I have no two week wait. I know for absolute certain that I can't have conceived this month. There are two reasons for this certainty. One is that at the time I was ovulating, we were staying at my SIL's house, sleeping on the floor on a peculiar arrangement involving a cot mattress and the cushions from a sun lounger, with seven other people and two dogs in the house, I had a bad back, and there was no way we were getting any action.

The second reason is that DH suffers from delayed ejaculation, and even at the best of times there is a fairly mechanical extra step we have to take in order to get his crippled swimmers anywhere near my rotten eggs - and we haven't taken that extra step at any time during this cycle.

After I got the BFN (twice) on the last IVF, I stopped taking the Cyclogest and my period showed up as normal. Approximately 10 days later, I experienced all the usual symptoms of ovulation (though I still haven't gone back to charting, so don't know what my BBT has been up to).

So only an absolute fruitcake would keep catching herself noticing symptoms and wondering if they meant anything...

Thursday, 7 January 2010


The first time I went to the US, I had been working in China for 18 months. It was the early 90s - before the big cities started to have Western supermarkets and stock Western goods in a lot of places. You could only get cheese in Beijing - there was only one type available, and the excitement when we had visitors from Beijing and they would bring a block of standard Beijing cheese with them was huge. Deodorant had to be sent from England, and even if Cadbury's chocolate had been available locally, my volunteer's salary wouldn't have been enough to allow me to buy it.

I went straight from there to the US, and the biggest feeling I remember on my first trip to Walmart is of bewilderment. There were such riches in there - you'd have something on your shopping list and not only would you be able to find it, but you had a choice of several different brands. The choice paralysed me - I wasn't familiar with these American brands, and I just didn't know which one to pick. I ogled and admired, and then I left the shop with empty hands.

I'm facing the same problem now.

When we first realised we might have a problem, I discovered that there was a hospital five miles from our home which offered fertility treatment. It was the natural choice, and the only one we could get to without travelling for at least an hour each way. When I realised how intensive the treatment was, and how many visits to the clinic would be needed, I was grateful that it was so close.

After Mr No Nonsense was so dismissive of our chances at the follow-up appointment after our first IVF, I wondered if we might be better off going somewhere else. But there was nowhere else nearby, and proximity and the fear of the unknown won out over the thought of having to juggle travelling for a couple of hours a day during treatment with working full time and everything else. Plus, although Mr No Nonsense was a little brusque, Nurse Perfect was, well, perfect, and I was happy to stay with her and the other staff, all of whom knew my name and treated me with friendliness and consideration.

Now we're looking at it again. I've come round to the idea that if we chose somewhere near where we both work, we wouldn't have so much added travelling time, because I could just nip in there on the way to work.

And this is where our problem begins - because halfway between my office and DH's office, and about five to ten minutes' walk from both, is Harley Street. And Harley Street is stuffed with fertility clinics. So suddenly I'm that 23-year-old in Walmart again, bewildered and dithering.

Do we go to the chap who specialises in couples who've had failed treatments elsewhere, who gets the best results in the country and who gives you a blood test every day during treatment (including Saturday and Sunday - eurgh, more travelling into London) and adjusts your medication according to what it shows? But he's also the most expensive in the country, and I've read a number of complaints about the impersonal way patients are shuffled through the waiting-room and the fact that they're often seen up to two hours after their appointment time - which would negate the advantage of being near the office.

Or do we go to the chap who used to work with that one and has now set up on his own? He uses similar methods, has studied under the master, but is less well-known and so less busy (and less successful).

Or do we go to the clinic that's attached to one of the famous teaching hospitals, where the daughter of one of my colleagues had a successful treatment last year? That may not be possible, because I've heard that they have quite a low cut-off limit for FSH levels, and mine is probably above that.

Or do we try the one which offers a deal on three treatments for the price of two? We did say we'd try three times in total, and this will be our third attempt. Can I cope physically and psychologically with another three attempts?

Or do we go to the one which specialises in treating older women with gentle IVF, where they use lower doses of the stimulating drugs and aim for fewer eggs but higher quality? Fewer eggs than I had on my last cycle would mean one mature egg - that really would be putting all my eggs in one basket, but if the quality was better...?

Or do we choose one of the others that I haven't even looked into yet - but maybe I should, because one of them might be the perfect one?

I think I'll be happier once we've made a decision - in reality, that means once I've made a decision and then explained my reasoning to DH, because he takes no part in all of this research, however much I try to get him interested - and presenting him with all these options would just upset and confuse him.

But who's to say I'm not upset and confused too...?

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Wordpress blogs

I just wanted to let Myndi and Egghunt know that I'm thinking of them - I've been trying to comment on both your blogs the last few days, but when I press 'submit', my comments just disappear. Hopefully I'll be able to comment on your blogs again soon, but until that happens, please don't think that I'm ignoring you - I will keep trying!

The other side of it

It was a wonderful Christmas celebration with my family, and overall we had a very good fortnight. But...

When my brother and sister-in-law, who were seeing my sister for the first time since she announced her pregnancy, were exclaiming over her in excitement and trying to work out whether the baby had been conceived in Spain when we were there for their wedding, I was reminded that I ovulated on their wedding day. We were having our last-ditch attempt before going for our first appointment at the clinic, and we had high hopes for a little Spanish baby - before we got home and Mr No Nonsense shattered our dreams with his blunt assertion that DH's sperm were so bad that we would never be successful on our own.

When Niece #1 was chattering away to DH on the way back from setting off the Chinese lanterns, she said, "I'm going to get married before #2 and #3, because I'm the oldest. And then I'm going to be a mummy before them as well." He reported this to me as a cute thing that she'd said. And I said, "I'm seven years older than her mother."

When I was waiting for DH to meet me at the supermarket and help me carry the shopping home, I overheard a conversation between an expectant father and a middle-aged woman. He was saying that he wasn't really excited about the impending birth, and they launched into a long conversation about sleepless nights, dirty nappies and what hard work parenthood is. Before I accidentally told them a few home truths about people who don't appreciate how lucky they are, I picked up my heavy shopping bags and started to trudge home without waiting any longer for DH.

These are just three examples among so many. Reminders of what we're missing crop up in both expected and unexpected places, and often seem to hit me just when I'm feeling at my most vulnerable.

I had another long talk with DH about this about Monday. I said I knew we could have a generally happy life without children. But I also knew that for as long as I'm not a mother, I'm going to feel incomplete, and I'm going to be wounded day after day by little comments and incidents which remind me of what I'm missing out on.

He's not doing so well either. He was completely knocked back by our first IVF failure, because as soon as I'd had the embryo transfer he was absolutely convinced that I was pregnant, and that our problems were over. In his mind, he made no allowance and no preparation for the possibility of failure, and he's been struggling ever since.

It all came to a head on New Year's Eve, when he refused to come out with me - because he just wanted to close his eyes and forget that 2009 had ever happened. I'm glad I now understand that, and we've done a lot of talking since then and hopefully understood each other a bit better.

But when will this ever get easier? If we don't have children, will the little incidents, comments and overheard conversations ever lose their sting? And will I ever manage to go more than an hour without thinking about this?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Family Christmas celebration

Wow, three whole days since I posted, and here's what I've been up to...

We had a marvellous time with my family. My parents arrived on Friday and stayed until Sunday early evening.

On Friday I made mince pies and boiled a ham in Coca-cola - if you've never done this, I can heartily recommend it. Not only is the ham beautifully tender and delicious, but it makes the most fantastic stock - I used some for the gravy on Saturday, and will use the rest to make some soup later in the week. I also made a cheese and onion pie for Friday's supper - one of my father's favourite things.

I was up early on Saturday to start cooking - we started with parma ham and melon, then we had roast goose with two types of stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, ham, roast potatoes, roast parsnips, sprouts, carrots and peas, and a gravy that was about 80% Coke from the ham and 20% port. For pudding we had a choice of Christmas pudding with cream or brandy butter, trifle or mince pies. Then there was a cheese board. My mother had made the trifle and brandy butter and brought them with her, and I did everything else.

My parents, younger brother and his wife, sister and her husband and three children, DH and I sat down to the meal, and my other sister and her partner popped in briefly and took goose sandwiches away with them.

Nieces #1 and #2 had their own little table (actually our coffee table) and behaved beautifully, eating every scrap of food they were given and staying in their seats throughout the first three courses, until I cleared their table and put on a video for them while we had our cheese. I gave them their drinks in the dolls' teaset again, which was a popular move. #3 was also very happy to stay in her highchair as long as I kept plying her with parsnips and sprouts.

We had musical Christmas crackers, each containing a tooter that played a different note, and #1 'conducted' as we played several tunes on the tooters.

Our family tradition is that on Christmas Day we have our Christmas lunch and then watch the Queen's speech before my father dishes out the presents one by one. I had recorded the Queen's speech, so after we finished eating and persuaded #1 that we'd played enough songs, we watched the Queen and then exchanged our presents.

Then we went out for a short walk (or waddle, after having that much to eat). It felt so much like Christmas that we were amazed to see other people going about their business, coming out of shops and acting like it was just another ordinary day.

We set off more Chinese flying lanterns - one for each household. DH and I made our wish together as ours floated off into the heavens, and my parents, brother and sister did the same for theirs. #1 and #2 danced about excitedly watching them fly away, and #1 ran up the hill with my father to follow each one for as long as she could, while #3 looked on with an expression of total bemusement.

On Sunday I set the breadmaker going just before we left for Mass, so when we got home we were able to have freshly made bread with cold meat and cheese for lunch. We then lit the fire and had a cosy afternoon chatting, reading the papers and watching the cricket. The cricket was a real treat for my father, as it's only shown on satellite TV and he doesn't have that at home.

My parents left shortly before teatime to go and spend a couple of days with my sister, and after they'd gone DH and I toasted teacakes on the fire for our tea.

Yesterday morning we were back to getting up at 6:15 for the 7:10 train into London for work, and the day really dragged. Today I'm working from home - at the moment I'm just waiting for my study to warm up, as we turned the heater off in there over the weekend to use it as an extra fridge for all the party food.

All in all, it was a weekend to remember - a marvellous day on Saturday, and then I was pleased to be able to give my parents a real and much-needed rest on Sunday.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Just a quickie

Thanks so much for all your comments yesterday - it appears I do have more than five readers after all!

We're having all the UK family over for a Christmas celebration today - 8-10 adults and three children for roast goose with all the trimmings - so I must get down to the kitchen and get to work...

Have a good day, and thanks so much for all your support.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Good riddance to 2009

Yesterday DH and I went shopping to prepare for the Christmas celebration we're having this weekend with my family. Very unusually, I left my mobile at home, and when we got home in the early evening there was a text message from one of the neighbours inviting us round to see in the new year.

DH said he had a headache, and I thought it was probably dehydration, as neither of us had drunk much during the day. I plied him with drinks, massaged his temples and fed him a nice supper. He started to relax and feel better, but then when I was ready to leave at about 10, he refused to come with me.

It may seem unreasonable for me to expect him to come out when he has a headache, but before I mentioned going out he said that he was feeling better. There's also a history here. He very often grumbles about going out or tries to wriggle out of invitations. I look at his father, who hasn't left his house since October 2007 other than when DH and I have taken him in the car, and I worry about DH turning into his father.

As I set off next-door on my own, I was almost in tears, feeling a sense of dread that this was my life from now on, going to parties on my own and making excuses for my antisocial husband - and increasingly tied to looking after him as he turns further and further inwards.

I had a lovely evening with the neighbours, and at midnight we went outside and set off Chinese flying lanterns. We each wrote a wish on our lantern to be carried up to the heavens - can you guess what mine was?

I actually almost lost it when the wind caught my lantern as I was trying to light it and it looked for a few moments as though it was going to go up in flames without ever taking to the air. It just felt too symbolic of the loss of my dreams in 2009.

Fortunately, someone came and helped me to sort it out, and a couple of minutes later my lantern soared into the air and floating off above the rooftops, carrying my wish with it.

The neighbours are good friends and know about our IVF, and one in particular gave me a huge hug at the end of the evening as he said in such a gentle and caring way that he really hoped all our dreams would come true in 2009.

And then I came home to my snoring husband.

We had a long talk this morning and I told him how I felt last night and how I worried that he was turning into his father. He really opened up and told me how he's been feeling since we got back from Lanzarote. He gave me a lot to think about, and I'm glad we had the conversation - and as it turns out, I was right to be upset and worried about his refusal to come out last night.

It turns out we have a lot to work through in 2010. We're both glad to see the back of 2009, and now that we have the clean slate of a new year, we're hoping that one day soon we'll be able to look forward with optimism to whatever the future holds.

I hope 2010 will be better for us than 2009 has been - and I wish all five of my readers a very happy 2010 and hope that it brings good things to you too.