Monday, 20 September 2010

Short pause

One of the worst things about dealing with IF is the inability to make any plans. I can't tell you how many holiday plans we've made and then shelved in the last two and a half years. But one trip that has been postponed way too many times and for way too long is a trip to see my brother and SIL in South Africa.

Well, once we knew the clinic wanted us to wait three cycles before jumping back on the IVF train again after our latest failure, that was the first trip we booked, and I can't wait to see them. You can picture me getting to know my sweet nephews again, having endless chats over cups of (decaf) coffee with my wonderful SIL Jeannie, and exploring the local area - they've moved house since we last visited them, to the opposite end of the country.

See you in ten days...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Amazing day

We had an amazing day yesterday, and I'm so glad I have my new camera.

First, because I've always remained anonymous on this blog, I thought I'd show you a picture of me. So here I am, along with a few other people (you may not be able to pick me out, as I'm amongst the 80,000 people being shown on the big screen there).

And here's the man we were all there to see (along with the heads of some people in between - I may have my new camera set up, but I don't have any photo editing software on this computer yet).

The whole day was amazing, but to experience 80,000 people falling silent in prayer was just incredible, and I'm so glad to have been part of it.

The BBC, of course, has found it practically impossible to report anything at all about any aspect of the visit without mentioning the words 'protest' and 'child abuse'. It's intensely frustrating, but for me and 79,999 others, yesterday afternoon and evening was all about celebrating the many good things about our Church and sharing in the experience of the first ever State visit by a Pope to the UK.

Friday, 17 September 2010

He gets it

We were talking about money again last night. We have a joint current account, joint savings account and each have separate accounts as well. So far, the IVF has come out of the joint savings account, but there's not enough in there for the last attempt, so we need to find the money out of our separate accounts. I'm owed a bit of money which is about equal to the amount I need to find, and I was discussing with DH last night the fact that the person who owes it to me hasn't mentioned it for a while and I hope they haven't forgotten about it. I'd rather lose the money than fall out with this person, and it's an awkward time to ask for it, but I lent it before the redundancy was on the cards, so my own circumstances have changed significantly.

DH's instant response was that I mustn't worry about paying for the final IVF - he would cover the lot out of his own savings. I said things weren't that bad, and I should still be able to pay my share, but the response meant a lot to me and gave me a warm glow. It's not about the money - it's about the fact that he gets it. He knows how important this is to me, and it's as important to him as well.

There was another sign this week that he gets it. There was a lot of talk on our family e-mail group on Wednesday about SIL's pregnancy, the scan, the painting of the nursery, etc. As it happens, I was fine with it - now that the scan has happened and I've really appreciated how worried they were about the baby's heart, I think I've got over my jealousy a bit. But as soon as he got home from work that day, he gave me a huge hug and said how worried he'd been about me all day with all that talk going on.

He's come a long way from the man who said a year ago that he'd heard about some woman who couldn't have children and didn't want to be around pregnant women and babies and was glad I didn't feel that bad about our situation.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

A hug in an envelope

Yesterday morning, as I was changing the sheets on our bed, I paused, as I always do, to read the note that I keep under my pillow. It's from my SIL in South Africa, and she sent it with a little fertility charm. With the other little cards and notes she has sent over the last few months, I treasure it, and often go back to read them when I'm feeling a bit low.

Then yesterday afternoon a card arrived from my SIL in the US. Being on the other side of the world and busy with her seven children, she hasn't always been quite up to speed on what's been going on with us, and there have been times when I've wondered if she and my brother even cared. I feel bad about typing that now, because in a few words in the card that she sent yesterday, she conveyed all the love and concern that you could hope for.

I always knew really that she was thinking of us and praying for us, and she has sent the occasional e-mail, but somehow this card made me cry, because what she said was so perfect, and it made me realise how much I had been underestimating - or perhaps underappreciating - her.

But right now I feel very blessed, because yesterday I had a great reminder of how lucky I am to have two SILs who, although far away, are among my best friends. And how even luckier I am that when we're not able to see each other face to face and give each other real hugs, they're both so good at sending me a hug in an envelope when I most need it.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010


My SIL had her 20-week scan yesterday. There was a certain amount of apprehension about it, as at her 12-week scan a possible problem was picked up with the baby's heart. They had five people in the room with them for this scan, including a cardiologist, and had a tense few minutes as these five professionals said nothing while examining the scan.

Fortunately, they finished up by saying that all was well, the baby looked fine and they could see no problems with the heart. They also told my brother and SIL the baby's sex, so I now know whether I'm going to be an aunt or an uncle (and no, I'm not going to tell you until the baby's here!).

I'm relieved because I love my brother and want him and his wife to be happy, and because you wouldn't wish those sort of problems on anybody anyway. But I'm also relieved because I would have felt quite irrationally guilty had there been any problem with the baby, because I was so jealous of this pregnancy. I never wished them any harm or wanted anything bad to happen, but I'm very conscious that I haven't been as pleased or excited for them as I should have been, and that at times I've really struggled with the whole situation.

Now that we've had this little worry, and I've had a chance to examine my feelings and acknowledge how uncharitable I've been, hopefully I can look forward to welcoming my latest little nephew or niece in January without these nasty little feelings of "it should be me, not them".

Monday, 13 September 2010

Riding along in my automobile

Yesterday was an absolutely perfect late summer's day. There was real warmth in the sunshine, the sky was blue, and with the knowledge that there will be very few more days like this before the autumn sets in, we didn't want to stay indoors.

After Mass, we put the roof down on my zippy little two-seater and went for a spin on the country roads around here. We meandered down little single-track roads, stopping for cyclists and horses along the way, and eventually stopped at a lovely little country pub, where we sat in the garden to have a late lunch.

I've always found the car a very good place to talk. You have a captive audience - nobody can just wander off - and it's sometimes easier to say things that are a bit difficult when you're not facing each other. Having something else to concentrate on (the road ahead) and not being able to react too much physically (sometimes even a hug can disturb the flow of the conversation) also help.

The reason I needed to talk is because I've been having a bit of a crisis of confidence recently. I've now been unemployed for a little over a month, and the rejection of redundancy followed by the huge knock-back on the day of our follow-up appointment at the clinic have just made me doubt myself a bit. I don't want to go into detail about the knock-back - you never know who might be reading this - but there was a very major and very sudden change of attitude which I found both surprising and puzzling, given all the other circumstances.

I've had my moments since then, but yesterday, for some reason, I just felt really low about it. I know I'm good at my job, but I also know that I'm very bad at dealing with artificial situations like interviews and role plays (essentially, the thing I did badly on at the second interview for that job was a glorified role play, and I just wasn't able to replicate the real-life situation I was supposed to be representing). I feel as though I'm always going to stumble up against this reality when applying for jobs - being expected to jump through hoops that I find impossible to get through in order to reach the position where I'm actually able to demonstrate my ability to do the job.

I'm planning to go freelance, at least for a while, but I stumble up against the same problem - I can do the work, but I have no experience of marketing myself and selling it. And if I have piles and piles of beautiful work gathering dust at home, but nobody who wants to give me money for it, then I might as well not bother doing the work at all. It'll cost me between £2,000 and £3,000 to get myself set up for this - will that expenditure reap rewards by bringing in several times that amount, or will it just bring me to the end of my savings a bit more quickly?

So I've been worrying, and trying to work out how much longer my savings will last, and wondering how I can economise and make them stretch further. And then I've wondered if it's daft, when we're in this situation, to spend another £10,000+ on a fourth IVF treatment when we have such a low chance of success.

And that's what I talked about with DH as we bowled along the little country roads with the sun on our shoulders and the wind in our hair yesterday. He listened and understood my concerns, but he was totally supportive of what I'm planning to do, and he believes I'm capable of doing it.

He said three things that really helped to reassure me. The first is that he's seen that I'm doing groundwork for this new freelance work at the moment, and he thinks I'm right not to rush in and to ensure that I'm fully prepared before I start trying to sell my work.

The second is that it takes time to build up this sort of work, and even if I don't make any money before Christmas, that doesn't mean the effort I'm putting in now won't pay off in the longer term.

And the third is that as far as he's concerned, our priority for the rest of this year is not earning money, but giving ourselves the best possible chance of success at our final IVF. And he brought that up all by himself, without my having mentioned it at all, so I feel reassured that he's still fully on board with the baby thing (maybe more so than I am at the moment, as I can't help worrying about the cost and the high probability of failure).

So we had a lovely day, I got a lot of worries off my chest, and DH was great in offering both practical and emotional support. I knew there was a reason why I married this man...

Saturday, 11 September 2010

When did I become so blase?

Yesterday I visited another of my friends, mother of another of my godsons. For no reason other than the general busy-ness of life, I hadn't seen her for over a year, so we had a lot of catching up to do. Although we had spoken on the phone, there are some things that just don't get communicated in a phone call.

I was sitting in the kitchen chatting with her while she finished preparing lunch, and she was asking me about my redundancy and what I planned to do next. I told her about the job that had fallen through, and that my current plan is to see if I can make freelancing work.

I then effortlessly moved into, "And that fits in better with our other priority. I can't remember if I told you, but we found out last year that we can't have children. We've had three unsuccessful attempts at IVF, and now we're gearing up for what will be our final attempt, so I'm trying to keep the stress in my life as low as possible and concentrate on relaxing and being as healthy as possible."

There was no angst, no telling her how difficult the year had been and how unhappy we'd been about it - just a bald statement of the facts. But of course, it was the first time she'd heard these facts, and she hadn't had a clue we were going through all this.

Things went a bit quiet, and she didn't really respond to the next thing I said. Then suddenly she flung down her spatula and rushed over to give me a huge hug, and I noticed that she was crying. She just choked out, "That's so unfair. You would be such a good mother", and it took her a while to get herself under control again.

Perversely, I felt good that she felt so bad for me. But it did make me wonder how I managed to be so matter-of-fact about it. I suppose once you've been living with something for over a year, you have to harden yourself to it a bit. I'm not sure that anything quite matches the devastation of the first appointment when you're told you're infertile, or the first failed IVF - though I may learn differently if our last attempt fails and I have to face that finality.

For now, I seem to have grown a hard shell over my heart to protect myself from all that emotion. I know our final attempt will break through that shell, and at the moment I'm not ready for that to happen. I'm quite happy to live in limbo and pretend to myself that it's just one of those things, that you mention in passing while catching up over lunch and a cup of tea.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Oh boy

The universe is throwing big clunking messages at me again this week. The first is that whatever happens, there will always be children and young people in my life. The second is that, even though I love babies and toddlers, you can still have a great relationship with a child even if you've missed the first couple of years of his or her life.

On Tuesday, I was babysitting for my sister when I got a call from a friend - the father of one of my godsons. He and his wife were having problems with their eldest son, and asked me if I could help. I agreed to go over and see them yesterday.

So yesterday I spent the late afternoon and evening with them, just interacting with the three boys as normal and chatting with the mother. The father didn't get home from work until 10 pm, at which time the younger boys went to bed, the eldest boy went to watch the telly and I spent about an hour closeted with the parents as we talked through their concerns. I then went through to the other room and spent the next hour or so talking to the boy, then called the parents in and mediated while they talked together.

I've known this boy since he was two or three, and I always enjoy seeing him. He's now just short of his 17th birthday, and is the same sweet boy he always was, but with a veneer of stroppy teenager on top. The problem is largely cultural, I think - he seems a very normal teenager to me, but his parents are immigrants and expect him to behave in the same way as teenagers in their own culture. He himself was born in the UK and has lived all his life in South London, where teenagers behave very differently from the way his parents are used to.

I think everyone went to bed a bit happier, and I hope that even if I haven't helped, at least I haven't done any further harm, and I've certainly given all three of them a different perspective on the issues. The parents have often said that in the absence of the support network they would have back home from their extended family, I am their surrogate extended family, and I take that role very seriously, knowing how much it means to them.

I got home at about 3 this morning, and would probably still be slumbering peacefully if I hadn't had to get up to move my car - the only available parking space when I arrived home was a space down on the main road which is restricted after 8 am, so I struggled down there to move it at 7:30.

On the way home, I was thinking about parenting and adoption, and I realised that although I missed the first couple of years of this boy's life and have known his brothers from birth, I'm as fond of him and have as close a relationship with him as with his brothers. I know you can't compare a relationship with a friend's children to a parenting relationship, but it made me realise that the fear I have that I wouldn't be able to bond with an older child is probably ungrounded.

And now I must respond to a text that has just come in from my sister, asking me to babysit again next week. You see - always children in my life...

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

New camera

Since before we got married, I've been wanting a digital SLR camera. When we got engaged, a friend gave us a terramundi money pot, and as I was pretty much the only one who ever put money in it, it was understood that when it was full, the money we got out would be mine. As time went on, it came to be known as my camera fund, and we talked about buying my D-SLR camera when it was full.

A few weeks ago, DH said that if I emptied the terramundi now, he would make up the difference between what was in there and the cost of the camera I wanted for my birthday. So last week I smashed the terramundi and went out shopping. The contents of the terramundi probably paid for about a third of the camera, and DH has now reimbursed me for the rest.

So I am now the proud owner of a Nikon D5000, and I LOVE this camera. It takes such sharp images, even in ridiculously low lighting, and I took some great pictures of my nieces at the weekend.

The first picture I took with it was, of course, of the terramundi.

At the moment, I only have the standard 18-55 mm lens, but there are a couple of big events coming up for which I'm going to need a good telephoto lens, so I'm debating between the 70-300 mm lens and the new 55-300 mm lens, which only came out last week. The new one is apparently lighter, but may not be as good quality as the 70-300. And it's so new that there haven't been any reviews of it yet, whereas there are dozens of reviews out there of the 70-300, all of which say what a great lens it is. Whatever I get, I'd like to have it and know how to use it by 18 September, which gives me only 10 days. If any of you have any thoughts on the matter, I'd be very interested to hear them.

I have a lot to learn about digital SLR photography, but I'm going to have a lot of fun learning it!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The extra guest at the party

So, on Sunday morning I was steeling myself for an afternoon of baby talk with my pregnant SIL. I felt a little as though I was missing a layer of skin - sort of weepy and oversensitive. I also had a bit of a backache, and was desperately hoping that my back problems weren't going to re-emerge.

And then everything suddenly became clear, when I discovered that AF had decided to show up for my birthday party as well. It was only CD 21, so I wasn't expecting her at all - but how nice of her to join me and make me even more hyper-aware of the fact that I wasn't pregnant.

As it turned out, we had a lovely afternoon. There was a fair amount of baby talk, and it was the first time I've seen SIL since her bump started to show, but I coped pretty well with it all.

After they left, DH asked me how I was feeling and if I'd been OK with all the baby talk. That man has learnt a lot over the last year - even six months ago, it would never have occurred to him that I might not be OK. But I got lots of extra cuddles from him, and his sensitivity to my feelings really helped.

I'm a little bit freaked this morning, as I just read an article which said that only 47% of women who attempt IVF are ultimately successful. It was only a survey of 2,000 women, though, so who knows how skewed those results might have been.

But I think I'd better get used to smiling and being nice about other people's pregnancies, regardless of whether AF is here or not, because I'm not liking those odds...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Utterly spoilt

Thank you for all the birthday wishes. As it turned out, the day couldn't have been better yesterday.

My 40th birthday celebrations last year were completely coloured for me by the fact that on my birthday, I didn't hear at all from one branch of the family (one of my brothers, his wife and seven children, the eldest of whom is my godson). To be fair to them, I did get something in the post a few days later, but on the day, there was no phone call, no e-mail, no text message, nothing even on Facebook. The more ways there are of getting in touch, the more disappointing it is when someone fails to do so.

Yesterday, I had two phone calls, an e-mail and a Facebook message from them, and it makes all the difference knowing they're thinking of me. I also heard from every other branch of the family, saw both my sisters and received dozens of cards, presents and messages. BOTH my sisters brought cakes that they had made. And of course, my parents are here for the weekend, so we had a lovely time with them as well.

Here's a picture of the table covered with my cards and presents, taken with the fantastic new camera that DH got me (in poor light, without the flash - not bad, eh?!).

Today my youngest brother and his pregnant wife are coming for lunch. It's very unfair of me not to be looking forward to it very much, especially when they're making a huge effort to be with me on my birthday weekend, but this is the pregnancy I've struggled with most - it's their first child, and she is VERY excited about it and talks about pretty much nothing else, and I so desperately want to be nothing but happy for them, but the jealousy just creeps in despite my better intentions.

Anyway, now I'd better go off and clear all that stuff off the table so we can have some breakfast...

Saturday, 4 September 2010


Today is my birthday, and I'll be spending it with my parents, sister, BIL and nieces. The weather forecast promises sunshine, and we're going to have a barbecue and enjoy one of those beautiful late summer days which always feel like a bit of a bonus.

DH has got me a fantastic present - I know, because he sent me out to buy it myself on Thursday, but I'm still not going to tell you about it until tomorrow (or maybe Monday, since my parents are here for the whole weekend).

It's going to be a great day, but not perfect - because there's someone missing from the party. If IVF #1 had worked, we would have a three-month-old baby - or possibly twins - here. If IVF #2 had worked, I would have a newborn. And if IVF #3 had worked, I would be exchanging notes with my pregnant SIL, who we are also hoping to see this weekend.

I'm not even going to think about the fact that I'm now 41. That is no cause for celebration at all. But being able to spend a bright, sunny weekend with people I love - that is.

Friday, 3 September 2010

What a relief!

Yesterday I was driving home from a shopping trip when I had a sudden and startling realisation, which lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.

You may think that I've been boring you with every little detail of my concerns over the last few months, but there's one I've kept hidden and just worried away at from time to time on my own.

For the last four or five months, my periods have been lighter than I was used to. This worried me, and I had managed to convince myself that this was a sign that I was going into the menopause proper, that they were soon going to tail away into nothing, and that by November I might not even have any eggs left to try with.

As time went on, I got more and more concerned. It wasn't just a one-off, but it continued for several cycles. I began to long for the unpleasantness and flooding that I was used to. I had been given dire warnings to expect the AF after my latest failed cycle to be heavier than usual, and when it was reasonably heavy, but not unduly so, I really worried.

So there I was, driving along the A41 yesterday, when suddenly, out of nowhere, it was as though a lightbulb went on over my head and melted my fears away.

Five months ago, I had my hysteroscopy - and had a polyp removed. And polyps are one of the major causes of heavy periods.

So what I've been experiencing as much lighter periods over the last few months are actually what they should be. And as evidence for that, I have the scans that I had on my latest cycle, which showed that the lining came away as it should at the beginning of the cycle, and then plumped up to a good thickness later on in the cycle.

I mentioned this to DH last night and told him how I'd been quietly worrying about this for months. First he castigated me for not having told him earlier, then he said, "Anyway, remember what the doctor said in our follow-up meeting."

I did remember, and wasn't reassured at all. But DH went on: "He said that egg you produced was perfect."

We really were in two different meetings that day!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

You don't know unless you've been there

This morning, I feel huge sympathy for the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who was forced to make a statement yesterday in which he revealed the fertility struggles that he and his wife have had.

Apparently, rumours have been circulating in Westminster for years about his sexuality. Well, he married quite late and doesn't have children, so it's obvious, isn't it? And obviously many people believe that it's impossible for two people to share a hotel room - even one with twin beds - without having mad, rampant sex together. Obviously, he should have realised the extent to which many journalists' minds are in the gutter and had a bit more sense, but when he was paying for these rooms out of his own pocket, I can quite understand a pragmatic Yorkshireman deciding to save money by booking a twin room rather than fork out for two separate rooms.

What distresses me the most about this story, though, is that he and his wife obviously thought that revealing their private pain would draw a line under the story. And yet the newspapers this morning are still full of innuendo and speculation, and the political blogger who started the rumours about Hague and his aide is apparently set to make further "revelations". In fact, when searching for an article to link to just now, I found that only a couple of tabloids published remotely sympathetic accounts. The broadsheets were all too ready to display their continued scepticism.

Leaving aside the question of whether it's right to out someone as gay in order to sell newspapers, as if it were some terrible crime that brings into question that person's suitability as a politician, I find it incredible that in the face of such a difficult personal revelation, the people who started these scurrilous rumours obviously feel no shame. Far from it - they scent blood, and circle ever closer, waiting for the chance to go in for the kill.

But then, I know and understand a lot of what William and Ffion must have gone through. I think of my own distress after not much more than two years of trying to conceive, and never having gone through the pain of miscarrying a much-wanted pregnancy, and I can't even imagine going through thirteen years of repeatedly getting my hopes up and then having them dashed yet again.

I don't think anybody who has suffered any form of infertility can have anything but sympathy for the Hagues this morning - for the private suffering they've gone through, for the vicious rumours he has had to put up with while this was going on, for the agonising decision to expose their pain to the world, and for the heartless reaction of journalists and bloggers who see nothing but a scoop, something to sell their papers and maybe make themselves famous for a few days, or get themselves a promotion or a pay rise.

Clearly none of these attack dogs have experienced this sort of suffering first hand, and clearly they have no understanding of it. But I hope that some of them at least will come to regret the pain they have caused, and continue to cause, to a couple who have already suffered enough.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Getting fit

The latest step in trying to create the perfect environment for a baby to snuggle into is that I'm trying to get fit again - I haven't done a lot since I had all those problems with my back earlier this year, and my gym closed down a couple of months ago.

The manager of the gym has now set up on her own, offering personal training, and I've signed up for that. I've just finished my second session, and boy, can I feel it! She's very good about not pushing me too hard - I felt a twinge in my back at one point and she instantly stopped me doing what I had been doing and changed to an exercise which didn't use my back so much. But there's no hiding at the back of the class or coasting when you get tired - with someone watching you the whole time, you have to work hard all the way through.

My favourite exercise is the boxing - I'd never done it before, but I have plenty of aggression to work out at the moment. I wonder if I can get a pair of gloves for myself and get DH to wear the pads...

The rest of today will also be reasonably active - we finally have a couple of dry days, and the shed desperately needs to be painted. I might even manage to treat the decking and mow the grass as well.

Job hunting can wait until tomorrow - I need to get my house in order first...