The hardest part

I’ve written about this before, and I will continue to write about it, because it is one of the most difficult parts of infertility. If the world were only populated by adults and no one else had kids, this would be nowhere near as difficult. But it isn’t, and they do, so here goes:

My best friend is pregnant.

I knew S and her husband had started trying, because we discussed it when we went to Paris together six weeks ago (we drank our bodyweights in champagne, flirted with waiters and she told me off for ‘not being able to lose control’. Go figure.).

What I didn’t expect is that her uterus would be so frickin efficient. It turns out she fell pregnant two weeks later. Two weeks? I have been at this for two and a half years.

Fortunately, Paris gave us the chance to discuss it in advance. “When you tell me, please don’t apologise for having a working reproductive system,” I slurred as we sat outside a cafe in Montmartre. “I just want it straight.”

Despite the extent of our consumption, she clearly remembered the conversation. “We’re going to be best friends for years,” she said. “If you need to take a few months out, I understand.”

Yet despite her kindness and all our careful planning, the green-eyed monster has taken over. I want so much to be happy for her. Instead I feel miserable, and resigned, and jealous.

What she doesn’t know (although does probably suspect) is that in a few weeks we will try again.

Part of choosing to do a natural cycle was to remove the all-pervading headfuckery that comes with sticking to an unyielding drugs itinerary, feeling constantly bloated, and basically constantly thinking about your uterus.

But now the pressure I felt during my first cycle is creeping back, because I want to share this with her. From our clothes to the boy we first kissed to the year we got married, S and I have shared everything. To share my first pregnancy with her would almost make going through this shit worthwhile.

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Infertility uniform

You know how every celebrity who has ever got knocked up has a line of maternity wear? Can someone please consider doing a line of infertility wear?

You know what I’m talking about: an outfit that doesn’t press on your abdomen when you’ve just had surgery or you’re half way through stims and you look three months pregnant, and one which hides the ugly deep vein thrombosis stockings you have to wear for three days after surgery. And, preferably, something which provides, ahem, easy access. Even in winter.

Because dammit, we deserve to look as adorable as any actual mum-to-be. Especially during treatment.

This week I have mainly been rocking dungarees (because they don’t press) and high tops (hiding the stockings), with very greasy hair (because I Must Not Shower). Fashion week, here I come…

ps! In case anyone’s interested, I start my new job at the Very Big and Important News Organisation next Monday. I didn’t get the kids’ one, which is a blessing really. Apparently they decided not to hire anyone for the role, which kind of makes me feel better…

Sterile AF

Now I am not only infertile, I am officially sterile, as a doctor casually remarked about three minutes after I woke up from my anaesthetic.

Those who haven’t been blessed with artificial sedation as frequently as I (three times in nine months – have I mentioned that?) may not be familiar with the deep, seductive grogginess that comes with waking up from an anaesthetic.

All the cliches are true: it’s like being dragged up from a beautiful, comfortable, underwater cave. You want to stay there forever, but you suddenly find yourself in a hospital ward and it is bright and you can’t move and you can’t think and your brain is made of candyfloss and marshmallows.

Then, about three minutes later, a young, male doctor appears and goes: “Hey Emma. How are you doing? We disconnected your second tube but your uterus looked fine. Laterz!” and skips off. And you can’t answer, because your brain isn’t connected to your mouth yet.

So you are left alone, and your mind is swimming with the thought that there is now a zero per cent chance of your ever conceiving without the aid of medicine or the deposit on a small flat. And you cry, but not one notices because your partner wasn’t allowed to sit with you as you woke up.

Obviously I wasn’t going to leave it there. The awkward conversation happened about 45 minutes later, as he tried to slope out of the ward.

“Maybe next time you are telling a woman she will never conceive naturally, wait until she is able to respond?” I said.

He had the good grace to look sheepish. “Sorry,” he replied. Then he went home.

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.

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…

Pass the tissues

There has been one, modest blessing from all this trying for a baby (apart from all the sex. *glances anxiously at J*): taking pre-pregnancy pills, in all their zincy goodness, for more than a year and a half has meant 18 months free from colds. Hallelujah.

Until three weeks ago, that is, when J had a light sniffle – and two weeks and six days ago, when my face liquified and the contents of my head leaked out of my nostrils. Then, two weeks ago, J gave a gentle cough, and the following day I contracted a mild case of Ebola.

So yesterday, when J touched his forehead and exclaimed “why, darling. I do believe I am beginning to feel under the weather”, I ran. I ran for my life.

It was too late. It is 6pm and I am in bed.

This saga is frustrating for many reasons: firstly, being ill is crap and I thought I had found the glorious secret to avoiding it.

Secondly, I have to present a live podcast, in front of an audience, with people who are actually professionally good at it, this week. My hair is a mess and my roots are several inches long and I have nothing to wear and I don’t really know what I’m talking about and who does this podcasting bollocks as a career anyway? It’s not even a real word. It sounds like something a Teletubby would do.

But lastly, it is crap because this is not the time I am supposed to be ill. I have reserved that time: it is 5 June and the week thereafter, and then the run-up to my IVF, and then hopefully also for three months after my IVF, when I will merrily vomit my guts up before settling into a rosy, pregnant glow.

The period before that, though, is supposed to be our chill-out time, when we go on holiday a lot and drink too much and get so thin people gasp and go “to be honest, I think she’s lost a bit too much weight” and have lots of youthful, carefree sex. Being ill is not part of the plan.

Besides, I literally cannot take time off at the moment – I feel far too guilty about the five-day doctor-designated rest period after the laparoscopy (followed, ahem, by a three-day jaunt to Ireland for a friend’s wedding).

Urgh. Pass the tissues.

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.