We got a cat

After I got married, my mother gave me a piece of advice.

“Don’t get a cat,” she said. “When it’s time to have babies, just start trying. Don’t give in and get a cat. You’ll only regret it when the baby comes along and the cat keeps attacking the baby.”

Reader, I ignored her. Earlier this month, when most of London was frolicking in the snow, J and I made the (surprisingly treacherous) car journey to Battersea Dogs’ Home and adopted Nora Catty, a 10 year-old, grumpy rescue cat.

I’ve never been a cat person – I was raised around dogs, and all the unconditional adoration they bring. But in a peculiar way, it feels like having an old, bad-tempered cat might be a lot more like having a baby than looking after a dog. She spends most of the day asleep under the bed, only coming out when she feels like it. She gets into spontaneous bad moods. She is sassy, and fickle, and wakes us up in the middle of the night. I’m a little bit scared of picking her up.

But, since we’ve had her, she has absorbed my grief like a sponge. That empty hole in my heart has – temporarily, partially – been filled.

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On talking

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Whatever the opposite of a compulsive liar is, I am that. If we ever have more than a cursory chat, at some point during the conversation (maybe one or two glasses down), the thing occupying my mind the most will come tumbling out, like a confession.

Thus, since we started the IVF process, we have been telling people all about it. At dinner parties and barbecues, we have wondered at the marvels of science. Over glasses of wine with contacts from work, I have discussed the mechanics of egg retrieval. During hair appointments, I have explained how to self-inject. Almost everyone in my life knows about it – family and friends, obviously, but also colleagues (selected colleagues, admittedly, but far more than is strictly appropriate), friends of friends and everyone in between.

So it seemed natural that, when I got my negative test on Monday, I shared it. I posted a picture of this little cardigan, which I made when we first started trying for a baby back in 2015, and admitted our first cycle had failed.

The response bowled me over. I received dozens of messages – from family, from close friends, from those I should see more, from people I haven’t seen since school or university. People sent flowers and chocolates. People told me to stay strong and not to give up and that we were in their thoughts . Only one person recommended acupuncture – a record!

The outpouring swept me up when I should have been at my darkest, and has carried me through the rest of the week. I honestly think without it, my week would have been unbearable. It was a completely unexpected response to a post aimed more at showing others in similar situations they are not alone than anything else.

Obviously, as IVF becomes less of a novelty and more a part of our routine, the circle of people we talk to about our experiences will begin to shrink. But if I have learned one thing through this process, it is this: if you give people the opportunity to show they care about you, they will seize it with gusto.

Progesterone comedown?

Last night I dreamt I was at a hotel with all the generations of women in my family, from my great grandmother downwards, and they all wanted to know when the next generation was coming. They kept asking and asking, and my great grandma was angry with me.

Also, J had suddenly inexplicably become really fat, for some reason.

Of course it didn’t work

So, yeah, it didn’t work. Obviously it didn’t work. It was just… nothing. No bleeding, no particular symptoms, just two weeks and then a negative pregnancy test. The absence of a line. Just like all the other ones, only we had to wait six months to get to this particular negative test.

We went to Cornwall after the embryo transfer, and spent a week in a chalet looking out to sea. Partly because we both badly needed a holiday – all my leave this year has been used up for recovery after ops – and partly because I wanted to avoid the stress of my job.

We went on walks and ate pasties and tentatively began discussing, for the first time, the practicalities of having a baby: what sorts of names we like (we weren’t stupid enough to mention any actual names – just sorts of names), how we will fit a cot and a bed into our spare room, what our lives will be like.

Then we came home and tested, and those conversations seem like foolish over-optimism. How dare we begin to hope?

God, it hurts. I spent Sunday in tears. J and I sat on the sofa Googling “UK adoption process” and “how to come to terms with never having children” and “puppies for sale London” (well, come on).

Those hopeful discussions we had on holiday were inverted: what will our lives be like if we never have a baby? What will we do instead?

I texted my mum to tell her the news, then stopped answering the phone until my sister showed up on my doorstep with a Poinsettia and a box of Lindor and a look of sorrow on her face.

What doesn’t help is my clinic’s crap response system. They gave us an email address to contact if we had a negative pregnancy test. When you are grieving, an auto-responder saying “You will get a reply from the nursing team within 5 working days for non urgent enquires” seems unnecessarily callous. And the clinic’s counsellor is booked up until just before New Year’s Eve. So that’s great.

I know this sense of bleakness will lift eventually, but right now it is like a punch to the gut. I’m back at work, but all day I have had moments of being stopped in my tracks. I blink and try to remind myself we will try again. But the pain is so very, very bad.