Do you remember PE lessons at school, when the sadistic games teacher would choose the two most popular people in the class and get them to pick teams for that day's game? And of course, they would pick the star athletes first, then their best friends, and eventually all that would be left would be the ones with two left feet that nobody wanted. And of course again, the ones with two left feet would never be chosen by the sadistic games teacher to pick the teams.
I used to be one of those two-left-footers, and the team picking always used to end up in one of two ways. Either one of the team captains would eventually sigh and realise that, with only me left, she would have to accept me on her team, or there would be too many people in the class for that particular game and so two or three of us would end up never being picked, and would spend the rest of the games lesson running round the perimeter of the hockey pitch, or being tasked to run up and down the sides of the netball court, ready to retrieve the ball if it ever went out of play.
The feelings of inadequacy and exclusion that I felt in those days, as I held my breath, waiting to find out whether I would be able to join in the game at all and desperately trying to pretend that I didn't care if I ended up on the sidelines yet again, are replicated and magnified in my current journey.
Yesterday I met a friend for coffee. I met her through an IF internet forum, and our shared experience has helped to ensure that we formed a strong and deep friendship from the beginning. She is the same age as me, has similarly crappy eggs, a husband with similarly crappy sperm, and is a similarly poor responder to the IVF drugs. Like me, she has had three failed IVF cycles.
With all this in common, I should have been nothing but delighted when she texted me just as I was about to leave home. She said she had some rather wonderful news to tell me, but would quite understand if I decided I couldn't face it and changed my mind about meeting her for coffee.
It took me half an hour to drive to the place we'd agreed to meet, and my feelings on the way over there surprised me. I didn't want to see her, I didn't want to hear her good news, and as I got closer, I felt more and more miserable and sorry for myself.
When she arrived, she asked how my job situation was, as the last time I saw her was just before I finished work. I shook my head, said, "No job, no baby, no future" and had the greatest difficulty in not bursting into tears on the spot. And that's odd, because when I'm not feeling daunted at the magnitude of the task in front of me, I'm actually quite excited about my new portfolio career.
It's hard to explain how you can be genuinely happy for a person's good news and yet at the same time feel as though that good news is breaking your heart. In the great PE lesson of life, she just got picked and is bouncing happily towards the game, while I'm left wondering whether there's going to be room for me in the team, or whether I'm going to be left running up and down the sidelines looking on for ever.