On talking

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.

 

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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-response saying “You will get a response from the nursing team within 5 working days for non urgent enquires” is not the ideal response. Something a bit more… human would have been nice.

And the 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.

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.

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.