On the care and keeping of uteruses

What’s interesting, from a sort of detached sociological point of view, is the effect of my infertility on other women.

Mostly, it brings out kindness: in the past few weeks, two friends have confided to me that they are pregnant in the most thoughtful ways possible. Lots of “I’ve been trying to figure out the best way of telling you” and “I feel so bad” and “if you want to avoid me for the next few months I will understand”-type stuff. In short: apologising profusely for the crime of having a fully functional uterus.

There is the odd bit of unsolicited advice, which drives me mad but is essentially well meant: “Have you tried acupuncture? It worked for my friend’s sister’s cat…” is a classic.

More rarely: “Are you sure you really want this? You have to really want to be pregnant for it to work”. Those are not good people.

Last week, though, I went to meet J and some of his friends for a drink. They were already pretty far ahead of me, booze-wise: J had entered that charming stage where his words stop having spaces between them.

While he was talking to (slurring at) someone else, his friend looked at me meaningfully.

“Emma, how are you? After the IVF, I mean?”

I took a deep breath. “Well, it was really hard at first, but you know we’re getting through it and-”

“Because when I had my abortion, I just felt so much guilt. That I had to make this choice. That some people can’t make this choice but I had to… it was awful.”

It’s important to point out I am a big fan of this person. She is kind and has supported J through some hard times. She has recently experienced a family loss and is, I imagine, struggling through that. She was in a committed, loving relationship and on a stable income at the time she chose to terminate her pregnancy (ie. it wasn’t hardship that drove her to do it), but I absolutely respect her reasons for doing so. Also, at this particular moment in time, she was drunk.

Still, though. I had no idea how to react. Clearly this had been a hard decision for her: years after, she is still grappling with feelings of guilt it gave her. But it felt almost as though, as her opposite – the “not fertile enough” to her “too fertile” – she needed me to validate her decision. To say it was ok, she made the right choice.

I couldn’t, of course. Even I, the noble (hah!) sufferer, cannot make that guilt go away. I could sympathise, but I couldn’t empathise: I’ve never even seen two lines on a pregnancy test – I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to wish one of them wasn’t there.

What it did remind me, though, is that this uterus-owning business is a complicated one. Whether you choose to use it for its intended purpose, or decide not to, or like me you don’t have a choice – or even, as Lena Dunham has done, you choose to get rid of it altogether – what’s certain is that you will experience a profound amount of guilt.

Good luck out there, ladies.

ps. OMG Lena! It’s a post for another day – but I cried my way through the whole thing. What a brave, beautiful piece of writing. Thanks, Lena, for putting into just the right words thoughts I can scarcely bear to form in my head. Read it here if you haven’t yet – and have a box of tissues ready.

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Career advice, please

Just before Christmas, after the failure of our first round of IVF, and after I had quelled some of the ensuing grief with the eminently well thought-through decision to get a cat, I threw a tantrum about the fact I had put my career on hold for the two and half years we have been trying for a baby, and decided it was time to get a new job.

I interviewed for two positions. One was at a Very Serious News Organisation which has things like a pension and half price gym membership and medical insurance and a wellness programme. The other, a bit of a curveball given my career so far, was referred to me by an old boss who for some reason thought I’d be good for the role: editor-in-chief of a well known kids’ media brand.

I signed the contract for the Very Serious News Organisation a few weeks ago, and handed in my notice, and I’m due to start at the end of next month. I lay awake for a few nights, worrying about the implications for my next cycle – but given the hysteroscopy I was supposed to be having today has just been pushed back by another month (thanks, NHS!), I have resolved to stop worrying about things moving along too quickly…

Then, last week, after more than a month of radio silence, the kids’ brand got in touch: can I come in and do a presentation? What would I do with the brand in my first 60 days? How would I make kids return to its website? How would I run the team?

I’ve been quite fragile in recent weeks (cf. “operation pushed back by a month”), so I almost turned it down. But ever since I was a kid, my dream job has been to run Smash Hits magazine (or similar, given its sad demise in 2006). In the end, I decided I owed it to my 11 year old self to at least have a go.

So here I am, still resolutely childless, trying to get into the minds of eight year olds to understand how they use the internet, and feeling kind of weird about it.

In the unlikely event I actually get it, would immersing myself in a world of kids be the right choice? Would interacting with them on a day to day basis cushion the blows of infertility, or would it serve to emphasise the fact I can’t have my own? At nearly 32 years old, I am a sucker for kids’ cartoons and books. Infertile or not, I would genuinely  rather spend an afternoon watching Nickelodeon than Sky News. But does that extend to spending time with actual kids? I’m not sure.

On the other hand, if I did ever have a baby, the job in question would make me the coolest mum in the playground. I’m a little worried that on some subconscious level it’s the hope – one day this will make me a cool mum, thus I will surely definitely have a baby in the next few years – that is causing me to want this job.

Maybe it’s time to be realistic and stick with the sensible one. On the plus side, that would mean I wouldn’t have to do this presentation.

 

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.

Return of the bitterness

Ever since I found out about my two blocked fallopian tubes, I have adopted a sanguine, laid-back attitude to fertility. Even J has to admit I’ve been pretty relaxed.

Want to bring your kids round? Not a problem – I’ll supply the toys. A Facebook post on how awful motherhood is? Like! (Or Sad Emoji With Single Tear, depending on how much my heart is wrenched). Pregnant lady on the Tube? Why, of course you must have my seat. I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Then we spent last weekend at my best friend’s house in Bristol. My friend, S, has Baby A, who is now more like Toddler A, for she is 18 months old, saying lots of words (including ‘Dada?’ as she pawed wonderingly at J’s beard) and is generally at a very cute stage. Plus, S has what we jokingly refer to as ‘such an eye’, which means A is always dressed in a little pink tutu or tiny Nike high-tops or dungarees with a kitten on the bum or something similarly adorbs.

We spent the weekend playing with A, making dens with her and generally playing house. On the Sunday morning S and I went for a run, leaving J reading Each Peach Pear Plum with her. My ovaries.

It was fun – but this week I have felt the bitterness beginning to return.

Instagram posts of people’s kids make me cross. Someone I went to school with posted a sad lament at the fact her daughter had stopped wanting to breastfeed and I wrote a lengthy reply along the lines of “at least you have a daughter, you ungrateful bitch” (and then immediately deleted it, of course. I’m not a monster…).

Then, earlier today, I saw a heavily pregnant woman walking towards me, and got the full range of envy/hate/bitterness, all in one rush. I haven’t had that for a while. It took me by surprise. I think it took her by surprise, too – not many people scowl furiously at pregnant ladies.

It’s now just under two months until my laparoscopy. We sent off the IVF documentation to the genetics clinic this week. I just need to breathe, and be patient. And, probably, I should get off social media for a while…

100/100

O hey. Sorry about the radio silence. I have just returned from a week eating schnitzels and regaining all my Christmas weight in Austria.

Our week away was not, in any way, relaxing, for we were accompanied by my entire, extended family of in-laws, including a seven month-old in the throes of cutting her second and third teeth and two boys, aged four and 18 months, who – well, they are two boys, aged four and 18 months. The result was that our trip was soundtracked by a constant, low-level hum, punctuated by periods of intense shrieking.

On one day, as she attempted to quell the screams of her snot-covered toddler, a cousin, the mother of the two boys, confessed her and her husband’s enthusiasm for a third had begun to ebb.

“We decided both to write down on a piece of paper how much, out of 100, we wanted a third, and he had 60/100 and I had 70/100. The trouble is, now he [proffers toddler] is like this [indicates screaming], we’ve both gone down to about 10/100.”

That afternoon, as it all became too much, I dragged J out for a walk up a mountain. Having gazed at the view (some clouds, a motorway) for a few minutes, we headed down through a forest. I had to ask.

“We’re about to go through a difficult period. IVF is going to be horrible. After this week, out of 100, how much do you actually want kids?”

He paused.

“Right now, it’s pretty much at about 40/100. But on the other hand, I 100/100 don’t not want kids. And I think that is enough.”

One to keep in mind when we are the parents of shrieking, snot-covered toddlers.

Coping strategies

I have a strong memory of a trip to the supermarket with my mother and brother that took place when I was but a girl of 12.

At the time, my little brother was five. Because he was autistic, he found it hard to understand why he should be shoved into a shopping trolley once a week and carted up and down the aisles of a grocery store. He screamed the entire time. Screamed. When you’re 12 and a boy you like works at the supermarket in question, it’s not a cool look.

During this particular trip, though, my brother was quiet. We were a couple of aisles in when I figured out why: my mum was feeding him grapes out of a bag she had picked up – one of those ones they weighed at the checkout to determine how much you should pay.

“But mama,” I cried in anguish as another grape disappeared into my brother’s gob. “You are such a moral, upstanding woman. How could you so cruelly deceive the kind, gentle folk who put the food on our table?”

“Coping strategies, dear,” she replied. “We all need them.”

It’s day 23 of my cycle and, despite the blocked tubes and the laparoscopies and the IVF we are currently in the process of jumping through hoops for, the Little Voice of Hope piped up today.

“You’re not PMTing like you usually would be at this time of the month,” it whispered. “You had a dizzy spell earlier. You’re not spotting. You’re probably pregnant. Go on. Take a test…”

But like my mother before me, I am cunning. I have worked out a coping strategy, too. I let the voice whisper its sweet nothings to me. Then, when it is finished, I shout, at the top of my voice, “SHUT THE FUCK UP”. 

And then I get on with my day.

Some questions on Clomid

The last you heard of me (before I started moaning about my age), I was celebrating my enthusiastic new GP.

To be fair, she was great. But the pace of the NHS could be beaten comfortably in a race by most glaciers, and so I have lost patience and gone temporarily private.

I knew I wasn’t ovulating, for I have been diligently using OPKs and tracking BBT for months. Thus, I was pretty sure all I needed was a couple of rounds of Clomid and, boom, a baby would ensue. At the time, it made sense that I went private.

I’ve just started my second round and… I dunno.

The trouble is, there’s no one to ask. Mr Private Doctor is an appointment only kind of guy. I have exhausted the GP’s pretty limited knowledge of infertility (although her “aww honeyyy…” face cannot be improved upon) and it turns out literally no one in real life talks about infertility. Apart from on internet forums. Which make Donald Trump look like a beacon of accuracy.

So, here are the questions I would like to ask about Clomid, but that I have no one to ask. Answers on the back of a postcard, please.

  • When actually counts as the first day of your cycle? Because, you know, the bleeding started about six days after ovulation this time around, and progressing into more of a… gradual buildup. So I kind of guessed what my second day might be.
  • Related: does it matter if you take it on the wrong day? Am I going to die of that?
  • Related: today I felt a bit fainty. Is it because I took it on the wrong day? Am I destroying my (admittedly already not entirely functional) reproductive system?
  • Is it normal to feel like there is something sitting on your chest, all the time? Sometimes it’s about the weight of a small dog – a chihuahua, say – and sometimes it’s more of a three-year-old. Either way, breathing is not always completely easy. But that’s cool, right?
  • You know how Clomid is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it needs to release chemicals that make you ovulate? And you know how if you’re stressed you don’t ovulate? What happens if taking the Clomid coincides with your most stressful week ever? Will it still work?
  • Say, hypothetically, I got pregnant, and then I started bleeding because that’s pretty much what I do, and then I took more Clomid? What would that do? Really more as a thought exercise than anything at this stage.
  • Does my level of positivity have an impact on it working? Because right now, I cannot visualise getting pregnant. I’m trying to be super positive… but I just can’t imagine it happening.
  • Will you hold my hand please?

By the way, I have an appointment with an NHS specialist in February… but honestly, I can’t help but feel a new geological era will begin before the NHS works out what’s going on with my inner workings.