Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The "fling everything at it" cycle was a spectacular failure. We got one good egg out of five, but the resulting embryo was slow-growing (did they manage to ICSI it with a duff sperm?) and we got a BFN. Oh . . . and high blood pressure and palpitations. So now I'm on beta blockers and freaked out about my health, as well as utterly miserable about the failed cycle. Plus, my theory that all this loss and subfertility was down to having bad eggs is now questionable - 1 in 5 normal eggs is the average for someone who's 40 - which is what I'll be in early February. So our fallback of donor eggs is now also questionable.

And tomorrow I return to work, where my closest work-friend just announced last week that she's pregnant. Joy abounds!

More details on the cycle from hell when I can bring myself to relive them . . .

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And so it begins . . .

We've started! I am now on day 3 of stims. Downregulation took a little longer than expected, but nothing excessive. Main problems so far have been trying to arrange accommodation near the clinic (for it is a long way from home) while not knowing when we need to be there and my total inability to make a decision on IVIG.

Oddly, it seems I am happy to inject myself with a range of hormones and anti-coagulants and to pop steroids and to have a large needle shoved up my hoo-ha to remove my eggs while under a sedation that leaves me conscious but in a state of forgetfulness, but I am wavering on the 3-4 hour infusion of a blood product that carries the risk of anaphylaxis, heart and lung problems and infection with everything from Hep A to vCJD.

Even more oddly, it's the vCJD that freaks me out the most. Apparently, the stuff will have been filtered, heat-treated and assaulted with detergents and alcohol so the chances of bacteria or viruses remaining are small, to say the least. But prions are more slippery customers and there is still a "theoretical" risk that they could get through. Plus, to date, prions cannot be tested for in blood. For this reason, the donors used come only from countries with no reported cases of vCJD in their native population and folk who have lived in countries that do have a history of cases (that would be mainly the UK) are not allowed to donate, and no IVIG is produced at all in the UK - it all comes from elsewhere (the US in the case of the stuff I'd be getting, I think).

It was my wee sister that pointed out that, since we live in the UK and our staple diet in the 80s/90s (when mad cow disease was rife) was mince and sausages, I've probably been exposed to all the prions I'm ever likely to need to give me vCJD if that's my fate. Frankly, it seems mad (ha ha) to worry about this extra, theoretical exposure - but I am.

Confession time - I am a hypochondriac. Not the type who secretly likes to be ill and visit the doctor, but the type who is terrified of illness to the point of it being an anxiety disorder. So I am also worrying about all the other risks from IVIG - and all the other risks from the various drugs I'm taking, many of which seems to carry contraindications relating to other drugs I'm taking, or to other conditions I have. Geez - I must really want a baby!

Next step is the Day 5 stims scan - to see how the follicles are coming along. Am totally open-minded on this one. My past experience would suggest there'll be lots, but my AMH level suggests that might be hopeful. It's a fine line for this treatment - my last IVF was nearly cancelled before egg collection due to over-reponse and I surely don't want that again, but too few would probably mean that the CGH test might not be feasible. We'll see . . .

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Here Goes Nothing!

Wow - I really haven't been on here since July?!

Well, not a lot has been happening - or rather, it has, but none of it has been very interesting until now. I have a new class at school - taking a while to bond with them, partly, I think, because I liked the last lot so much. And we're about to do a BIG IVF - with bells and whistles.

We're in the early stages (haven't even started downregging yet) of a cycle that will involve immune treatment and experimental testing of the chromosomes in my eggs. I'm terrified! And so pessimistic that I'm not even confident that the cycle will go ahead.

I am certain that this cycle will not result in a baby - I'm way past that kind of optimism. At best, I'm hoping for some answers as to why I've had such a hard time getting and staying pregnant. This might give me some clues. If we actually get to the stage of getting eggs (my last and only cycle was almost cancelled due to over-response, as were all of my Clomid cycles but then again, my AMH levels are now only just the right side of normal), then we might find out that they're all duff - that would explain a lot. On the other hand, if there's a couple of normal ones in there, and they make it to the point of going back in and I still don't get pregnant, or I miscarry again - that suggests that I'm not providing the right environment somehow. Not a lot I can do about that - though a cheery report on the BBC today linking obesity and recurrent miscarriage has me wondering - not that I've actually been obese at any of the times I had miscarriages, but I am definitely overweight and carrying it round the middle. Hey, one more thing to add to the list of "reasons I have f*ck*d up my own reproductive life" - 'cos it's not like I was casting around for reasons to feel guilty and self-blaming here.

On the other hand, the cycle might not bring any answers at all - just large hole in the bank balance and a sense that we really should have done something else instead. We can but try! And at the moment, I'm trying to remind myself of the reason I chose the name of this blog - my motto: "hope for the best, prepare for the worst and expect the unexpected". I'm doing really well at the last two, but not really getting to grips with the first. Watch this space . . .

Thursday, July 3, 2008

On Judgements

I was watching "Grumpy Old Women" the other night and one of my pet peeves came up. Firstly, so much of the program was about kids - "Grumpy Old Men" seemed to be about the world in general, whereas this seemed to be about family. This reminded me that we are a couple, not a family - to be a family requires children. My second issue (and the pet peeve) was the whole "how can she know anything about children when she doesn't have any?" thing. 

This came up in relation to "Supernanny", who doesn't have children of her own but appears on TV telling other folk how to bring theirs up - and a very good job she does of it too, in my opinion, but clearly not in the opinions of some. She and I have a couple of things in common - neither of us have kids and we've dealt with more children in a few years than most people will encounter in a lifetime.

I sat down and worked it out. In the 12 years I've been teaching, I have taught around 250 children. Apart from the first class, who I only had for 6 months because I was covering long-term sick leave, I've taught each of these children for at least a year - about 110 of them, I taught for 2 years. That's a long time to spend 6 hours a day, 4.5 days a week with someone. I think I've got to know a lot of them very well. And since I've taught in the same school for 8 of the 12 years, mostly at the Primary 1/2 level, even though they leave my class I continue to see and chat to them till they leave the school. 

Do I know each individual child better than their parents know them? No - absolutely not! Do I know children in general better than many individual parents knows children in general? Hell, yes! I've had 250 examples of childhood behaviour and 250 opportunities to see what works. So I get really upset when people (especially people who know me) imply that I can't know about children because I don't have any. Interestingly, none of the parents of the children I've taught have made this implication - on the contrary, they sometimes ask me for advice on how to handle things that aren't even school-related! And when that happens, I feel deeply honoured. 

On the baby front, I have friends who, before they gave birth to their own child, hadn't even held a baby - never mind changed a nappy. I supplemented my pocket money from my early teens by babysitting. From the age of 16 till when I left home for Uni (and occasionally while back during the holidays) I babysat for a family with three wee girls. I changed nappies, gave night-time feeds, soothed crying babies. I have helped out with nephews and nieces and friends' babies since then. But again, I've had that same "you can't possibly know" thing - ironically, mostly from the same folk who hadn't had anything to do with babies till they had one themselves. 

Of course I don't know what it's like to be a parent - though I have probably spent more time imagining it (good and bad) than most. But I DO know about children. I think this is one of the things that makes me particularly sad that we have failed (so far) to have any. A couple of dear friends have commented on how unfair it is that I haven't been able to become a mum, because I want it so much and because they think I'd be a good one. I hope I would. I think I'd have as many hang-ups as the next person and I know I would make mistakes, but I think I would be a good enough mum - and CM would make a great dad too. And it does feel very unfair that we're not getting the chance.

Don't get me wrong - I am not anti-parent at all (if I was, why would I want to be one so much?) - but I am anti the kind of parent that thinks that simply by producing a child they have been endowed with some kind of instant wisdom and omniscience. There is a story in Jewish mythology that Adam had a wife before Eve. She was created in the same way as Adam - out of the earth - and her name was Lilith. One version of the myth is that on giving birth to a child, she believed that she had created life all by herself and demanded that she be worshipped for it. Remind you of anyone? 

This has been a very whiney post, I think. But if you can't whine on your own blog, where can you? Plus, I think this problem goes much further than me. I'm privileged to know a few women who are in the same situation - who have been trying and failing in the mum stakes for quite a while. What strikes me about them is that they have thought more about what it means to be a parent, how to be a good one and how they would parent if they got the chance than many actual parents I know. And they would make amazing mums. It's the one thing that gets me through the "maybe this is a judgement on me" worries about infertility and loss. I only have to look at these other women to know that if anyone's making judgements here, they're making the wrong ones!!

Interestingly, research seems to support this. The BBC reported that a study on surrogacy presented to the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in 2002 found that "mothers who had relied on another woman to carry their child tended to show more warmth towards their babies than mothers whose child was conceived naturally". No wonder - they'd probably tried just about everything to get there and had years to contemplate the role of a mother. Nothing would be taken for granted!

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Weather Is Sunny But I Am NOT!

It's been a while since I posted. Lots has been happening and nothing has been happening. The IUI failed (surprise!), we got an offer of donor eggs and had to turn it down and I discovered that one of the clinics we've visited in the past is now offering a world first in genetic screening of embryos.

Having been so sure that not getting pregnant on the IUI was only going to be a blip on my radar after all that has gone before, I was actually pretty upset about it. And call me stupid but, for the first time in our more-than-5-year-marathon of trying to conceive, it occurred to me that finding out that you're not pregnant when you get your period and your hormones are making you feel miserable anyway is a little inconvenient. So I spent about a week in a seriously bad mood, swinging between wanting to cry and wanting to snap someone's head off. A fun time for all! And the move back into "trying to conceive" after about a year and a half of enforced time out has brought back a lot of my sadness and jealousies about my inability to join my friends in the Mum Club.

After the negative result, I'd called the clinic to see where we were at with the donor situation and heard that things had "dried up" a bit on that front. In an attempt not to spend too much time wallowing in the failure and the lack of anything to follow it up with, I threw myself into work and committed myself to even more than I had already. Keeping busy and being around people are my best defences against depression and anxiety - and there's nowhere better for keeping busy and being around people than a school - and sometimes nowhere worse ;-). I've put my career on hold for more than 5 years - not that I'm hugely ambitious, but progress of some kind is good. I'm not after serious promotion, but there's a couple of things I'd like to try and I kept putting them off because it would be too hard to do them while pregnant (ha!) or having treatment. The extra responsibilities I've had this term have helped me to make some decisions about my future in teaching and have made me feel a bit more useful about the place.

So it was ironic that I then got a call from the clinic telling me that they had a donor and that, if we went for it, everything would be happening at exactly the busiest and most inconvenient time of the term. After a bit of discussion and soul-searching with CM, I had to say no. I can imagine there are people who would think I'm nuts for deciding that way, but what it came down to was this: saying no to the donor just means we don't get this donor - another one will come along and we will get our chance - but taking time off work and having to offload my responsibilities onto others, just when they are also at their busiest, would guarantee that I'd blown that chance and it wouldn't come again. 

So much of what I have tried has failed over the last few years. This term's responsibilities aren't necessarily what I want for the rest of my life and I haven't necessarily shone in everything I've done - but if I make it to the end of this term then I won't have failed in them. And that is so important to my self-image right now. As I've said before, I could do every treatment under the sun and still not have a baby and at the end of all of this, regardless of baby or no baby, there will still be me. Whether I become a mother or not, my state of mind is everything to how I deal with what comes next.

The day after I said no to the donor cycle, a friend told me that a new genetic screening method had just become available at a clinic I'd had contact with in the past. It's a treatment that would give us answers, which is something I want almost as much as a baby. If our embryos didn't make it to testing or all tested abnormal, then we'd know that this was our problem. If we got a normal one or two, we'd shove them back and if it didn't work, we could draw some conclusions about my ability to create a proper environment for successful pregnancy and decide whether surrogacy might be a good idea. Oh, I know that normal embryos don't always implant even in "normal" women, but we'd still know that we could create normal embryos. If we got a normal one and I got and stayed pregnant - well, we'd thank our lucky stars and probably never go near a fertility clinic ever again. So we have an appointment with them at the beginning of July.

At the time of hearing about the genetic thing, I thought it was fate - I'd get a chance to see if we could produce our own genetic child before trying donor eggs. However, after a bit of time, I realise that it doesn't matter which opportunity comes up first - I'd go for either of them. Basically, I want to be someone's mum and I want CM to be a dad. And after all this time and loss and failure, I find that I'm not too fussy over how that happens. So hopefully we'll be doing something soon. There's the small matter of an ankle that needs an MRI and a bowel that needs checking for IBD, but both consultants have given me the green light to plough on with fertility treatment regardless and I'm not going to argue with them!

But I still feel flat and old insecurities are creeping back in. I find myself again: watching for signs that friends are pregnant; worrying about social gatherings and whether there'll be kids, or an announcement or whether all anyone will be talking about is their kids; being sensitive about comments made by my nearest and dearest about their kids; feeling resentful about what others have that I don't; wondering if people are leaving me out of things; wondering if friends are bored of / embarrassed about / irritated by our ongoing sadness; etc, etc, etc. And to top it all, I'm planning my 40th birthday. OK, it's not till February next year, but when I started out on all this it was "babies before 35" (and had number 1 worked, I'd have managed that), then it was "babies before 38", and then "babies before 40". Well, I'd have to get pregnant NOW to do that, and since I'm on day 3, that won't be happening.

So the sun may be shining outside, but it ain't doing it for me.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Where Do I Fit?

We've just come back from friends' wedding reception - a very relaxed do in their flat and its garden (the wedding was last weekend and we missed it, sadly). The party's going on all day and I think we arrived in a lull, so there were just our friends and two other couples. All three couples had kids under three. There was much talk of working part-time, nurseries, nappies etc, etc. Our friends were talking about how their day was likely to progress. It sounds like the evening will be full of the voluntary childless folk - out for a good time, bit of dancing, a small drink etc, etc.

As we left, I was painfully aware that we don't "fit". It was lovely to see my friends (and one half of one of the other couples, who is someone I like enormously and hadn't seen since she'd had her wee boy) and I care about them very much. I'm genuinely interested in how their life is going and what their wee one is up to. But, naturally, their life revolves around their child.

Then there's the evening crowd. That used to be me! I used to like a good party - meeting people, getting a bit merry, listening to some good music (not so big on the dancing), staying out late, chatting with friends. And, apart from work, that used to be my life. But now, I have to stay sober and I'm getting a little elderly for the late nights and the loud music - and I just don't want that life all the time anymore.

Now . . . I know where I want to fit, where I would fit, where I would be happy to fit. But the problem is, you need a passport to get there, and I don't have that small, pink, loud, lovely passport. It's not like applying for a job or passing an exam - it doesn't matter how much you want it and how hard you work for it. If fate has decided against you - you can't have it! You can go through all the treatments under the sun, eat brazil nuts till you puke, treat your body like a temple, hang upside down from the lightshade after inter.course (if you're still having any!), bankrupt yourself and lose all your friends due to your obsession . . . but you still won't necessarily get that baby. 

And please - "just adopt"? Anyone who thinks there are perfect little babies piled up somewhere waiting just to be handed out to the next deserving couple that comes along and asks politely shouldn't be reading a blog like this. The adoption process makes the IVF process, with all the hormones and needles up the hooha and the shocking success rates and vast amounts of money, look like a walk in the park. We consider adoption roughly once a week, but there's only so many times a couple can pull themselves together and be strong again before they have to consider the damage they're doing to themselves and those around them. But I feel that's another post.

The only place I feel I do fit is with other infertiles/miscarriers. The relief of spending some time with another person who is going through the same kind of stuff as me is enormous. I have laughed and cried with girls I wouldn't have known under other circumstances. But it's transient - so many of these people will have their babies - so many of them have and that is as it should be - and then . . . 

 . . . where do I fit?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Bit of Teacher Blogging

The scene - In church for the school Easter service. Sitting with my class at the front of the church waiting for the service to begin.

Small Boy: Why is there a cross on the lightshade?

Me: Well, that's kind of why we're here today. Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross at Easter, so it's a special sign to remember Jesus.

SB: Why did Jesus die on the cross?

Me: [starting to wonder where this is going and whether my theology is up to it] The rulers of the land where Jesus lived were worried that he was getting more powerful than them and they were jealous, so they put him on the cross to die.

SB: [thoughtfully] Hmmm. I suppose they didn't know about the other Jesus then.

Me: [silence and frantic thought, followed by] Um . . . the other Jesus?

SB: [in slightly exasperated tones] Yes - you know! The baby Jesus that came at Christmas.

Think we need a timeline lesson. And I'm getting worried about the upcoming stuff on birth ceremonies - we'll maybe stick to the girls' naming ceremony for Judaism.

Oh - and a good one today - 

Another small boy: [on spotting me as he comes out of after-school art club] Hi Mrs S.

Me: Hi there. What are you doing in art club today?

ASB: Art.

I had to ask!

Monday, April 21, 2008

So - Bad luck Only Comes In Threes, Does It?

Our IUI cycle is progressing. 

Our luck during the cycle has been appalling - we've been stuck in several two hour + long traffic jams getting to and from the clinic, turning a journey that should take just under an hour into a three or four hour marathon (and that's without the appointment and the other end of the journey). 

I've had a horrible time at work - far, far too much of it and a child who has decided to choose now to spend half the morning screaming (every day!). 

I managed to break the saline ampule for my first HCG jab and ended up at the local hospital at half past midnight on a Sunday night to get more. 

I think my single enormous follicle decided to pop early so we had a mad rush to the clinic a day early just in case. 

And when we tried to get away for a nice weekend with relatives (and with the second lot of HCG on a cold block in my bag), we missed our flight because the airline we were meant to fly with won't give you the option of checking in online if you're carrying sharps but then they have no method for allowing folk on earlier flights priority over those on later ones if you have to check in at the airport and then the folk in front of us in security had decided to pack their bags full of liquids and not declare them (including a tin of SOUP - I ask you!). So we got our car back from the long-stay car park and drove there, praying that the drugs would last out (think they were OK). 

The weekend was a change rather than a rest, and on the way back CM took a wrong turn and then, in trying to get back, we suddenly found the road ahead of us closed (with no warning at all ten miles back when we turned on to the road). I think we'll be staying off the roads for a bit - which is just as well, since there may soon be a petrol shortage here in Scotland.

SO I'm on to the second week of the 2ww - except, with the second HCG I think it might be closer to a 3ww. Must call clinic. Not feeling optimistic. Friends have said that I'm using up all my bad luck with the other stuff so that, come the decisive pee-stick, all the good luck will have been saved up for a BFP. 

Well, my IVF cycle (now almost 3 years ago) went similarly. I overstimulated and nearly got cancelled - got that happy news on the Friday just before my parents' 4oth wedding anniversary celebrations. Had to wait till the Monday to hear that we could go ahead. Then the family dog was knocked down on the day of egg collection (she survived, thank goodness). I was wheeled into the surgery fretting about the poor dog, oblivious to the fact that they were about to stick a huge needle up my hoo-ha! 

On the day of embryo transfer we discovered that CM had left the car in the wrong place and it had been towed and we had to run (ouch!) to my folks house to catch a lift to the hospital (nurses greeting us with enquiries after the health of the dog). We discovered that, despite having 13 embryos, on day 2 we only had one grade 2 (and it was a 2 cell) and one grade 3, 4 cell to transfer - and none to freeze. 

In my 2ww, I got caught outside all day in major heat without enough water and my car broke down at a friends flat and I had to climb the 5 flights of stairs 6 times between the car and the phone. Since this is an IF/miscarriage blog and not a TTC no 2 blog, you'll be able to work out how the IVF cycle ended. Since I've had 3 more miscarriages since then, am three years older and IUI only has a 10-15% chance at the best of times, I'm not holding my breath.

BUT - that's OK with me. I'd rather have this pessimism (realism?) than the optimism I had 3 years ago that led to real misery when there was no BFP at the end. Our hopes (such as they are) rest with donor eggs. 

On a final note: 3 comments on my last post - a record for me! That cheered me up no end :-). I've got myself onto the Stirrup Queens etc list and I'm going to get out there and read more blogs and make more comments. Thanks girls!

Friday, April 11, 2008

What Might Have Been

As part of some additional responsibilities I've acquired in my job this term, I went up to visit our school's nursery to talk about their pre-school year kids' transition to Primary 1 in August. What a mixture they are - some looking WAY too young to be coming to "big school" next year and some that would fit right in with my Primary 1 class already. When I arrived, they were having their story to settle them before home time. When it finished, the nursery nurse said "Shall we let the mummies in?" and the children started smiling and shouting "yes!". The mums came in and children rushed forward to greet them. The nursery teacher introduced a couple of them to me and they asked me some questions about how things would be for their wee ones when they start school. Once they were all gone, we had our meeting.

All the way through the meeting, and on the drive back to school, and now and again since then, I was fighting tears. Because, in the words of Jessica (who I blogged about before), "It should have been me, it should have been me". Five years ago we lost a baby who would have been starting school this year. It was the first of the 6 losses and the only one for which we had a due date - the 4th of December . That baby would be four and a half now and would be starting school in August. Instead of progressing my career and visiting nurseries to talk about other people's children, I would have been enrolling my own child at our local school - the same one I went to myself. I would have been looking at the children I teach in Primary 1 this year and wondering how my own baby would deal with "big school" - if I was working - if I wasn't on maternity leave or a career break with another baby - one of the five "what if's" that followed the first one. But instead, I'm doing an IUI, waiting for donor eggs and filling up my life with ambitions that aren't really me.

You see, I wasn't meant to be the career girl that I seem to be turning into. All I ever wanted was to be someone's mummy.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Firstly, I was really sad to hear about Carrie's cycle. She and I have a lot in common on the IF/miscarriage front (among other things), and it would do my heart good to see success for her - for her sake, and to give me some hope it might work for me too.

We are unexpectedly back to treatment again. We were waiting for news on our donor cycle - we're near the top of the list but there's been a bit of a lull in donors/egg-sharers. So we decided to revert to the plan we had before we knew we were near the top of the DE list and go for an IUI cycle.

Having looked at the IUI thread on my favourite IF message board, I feel like this may be insanity. Those girls are mostly just starting out on their IF journey and I couldn't see a miscarriage listed in their sigs at all. It makes sense for them because IUI is what you do when you're in the early stages. But for someone with five years of trying, six months of Clomid, a failed IVF, endless IF/miscarriage testing and 6 early losses behind them . . .

However, we've established (due to the 6 pregnancies, no matter how short they were) that we can conceive without IVF. My AMH levels (hormone that indicates ovarian reserve) suggests that there's still some eggs in there. CM has some sperm issues, so the wash and scrub-up they'll get before their journey might do some good. Plus, the lovely clinic will let me have clexane with the IUI cycle to take account of my clotting issues and will also give me an HCG booster a week after insemination, which MIGHT help. Given my HCG levels have been abysmally low on the 3 pregnancies for which I had a blood test, it's possible that I have corpus luteum problems. Maybe, might, possibly - you can tell I'm not letting myself get too hopeful. 

That, and my hypochondriac nature is giving me panic attacks that the baseline scan (my first proper one in more than a year - apart from a quickie for the AMH level when they couldn't find my left ovary!!!) will show something nasty in there like endometrial or ovarian cancer. Oh, and the consultant I spoke to on the phone wondered who had told us to do a donor egg cycle as my losses were unlikely to be genetic and more likely to be "me". Yikes! Once I was able to talk again, I pointed out I was doing the DE cycle at HIS clinic and that all the losses were around 6 weeks AND I'd had every conventional miscarriage test and then some and, apart from some controversial immune issues that they wouldn't treat anyway, there's nothing amiss that some aspirin and clexane shouldn't fix. He then said that such early losses were pretty much a mystery to the medics and that just about anything I did from hereon in should be considered "suck it and see" thing. I felt miserable after this, but actually - he's right! I knew all this already - it's just hard to hear it from someone else. 

But, if anyone out there is reading this and knows anything at all about early pregnancy loss and donor eggs - is he right on that? Because 3 other IF/miscarriage folk have told me it was "the next thing to try" and everything I've read about very early losses suggests that genetic issues are the main cause. Hmmm!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Five by Five

Oh dear goodness - it's been 2 months since my last post. To be honest, when I started this blog, all baby-matters were on hold because of other health issues and so it felt a bit odd to have a blog about our attempts to become parents when there was no "attempting" going on, so I've felt a bit of a fraud. However, things have taken a significant turn in the last few weeks. The tummy consultant gave me the go-ahead to start fertility treatment again and, in the same week, just as we were wondering whether to try a round of IUI while deciding what to do next, our clinic called to say we were nearly at the top of the donor egg list and could we come in for an "implications" counselling session and to sign consents. Apparently, we could be matched and in a DE cycle within 2-3 months! Eek! And more of that to come in another post, I imagine.

This post, though, is inspired by the wonderful Carrie, over on Precious Little, who has tagged me and given me a big dig in the ribs to get on and post something . . . anything! Apparently, I need to come up with a list of hot men - what a trial ;-). There doesn't seem to be a limit on numbers, but five seemed a sensible number  - couldn't possibly put in fewer and if I went on longer I might not stop! So, in no particular order, I give you:

George Clooney
I know that finding George Clooney attractive is a terrible cliche but, in my defence, it took me a while to see the hotness. I was more into Anthony Edwards in the early ER days, and it was only once I'd seen a couple of interviews with George that I started to get it. He is witty, self-depracating and seems to have genuine principles. So I love him for his mind - honest.

Steve McQueen
I know I said "in no particular order", but I reckon that if I had to put them in order, Steve would come first. Mostly because he was the first famous person I really fancied (apart from a couple of seriously dodgy crushes on 80s pop stars - I'm not even going to tell you - far too embarrassing). In my mid to late teens I used to babysit for a couple who liked staying out really late and so I ended up watching odd things on telly in the early hours (this was the 80s remember - Channel 4 was brand new and cable was something they had in America). One of the first things Steve McQueen starred in was a TV western called Wanted: Dead or Alive, which was shown at about 1am on a Friday or Saturday night on ITV (I think). Now, I generally avoid Westerns like the plague, but with Steve in it I found that one unmissable. A troubled character in real life, a bad boy in many ways, and not at all the kind of guy I would go for in real life, but I still adore him. I have a bit of a thing for Daniel Craig simply because he reminds me of Steve.

Joe Duttine
I have no idea what I first saw this guy in - it may have been a fairly mediocre comedy called Holding the Baby - and I couldn't really tell you what it is I find hot about him. He has a northern accent, which I rather like, and he has brown eyes - I'm a sucker for brown eyes. I don't know - it's a mystery! Also, I feel I really need to include a Brit, since all the others are from the US.

Gary Dourdan
This man is just beautiful! Those eyes - [sigh]. CSI is one of my favourite shows - the original being the best. I like CSI: NY too - see the next hottie - but I cannot watch CSI: Miami because David Caruso makes me want to shout at the telly. He took Jimmy Smits' (another gorgeous man!) place in NYPD Blue and I can't forgive him for it. And as for all the dramatic poses, his mannered handling of his sunglasses and oddly phrased speech - SO irritating. But back to Gary - yum!

Gary Sinise
Another Gary, another CSI guy. I liked him long before CSI though. I think it may have been in Apollo 13 that I first saw him. Again, a bit like Joe Duttine, I'm not sure what it is I go for in him. He's a musician as well as an actor and strikes me as a decent bloke in real life. I was really happy when he was announced as the lead in the new CSI franchise and he's doing a great job of it.

Do you know, I'm rather enjoying looking for nice-looking guys on the web. I'm beginning to regret restricting myself to five. But I'll stick to my word. Being new to this blog thing and not knowing any other bloggers well enough to tag (or hardly at all, actually), I'll open this one up to anyone who wants to spend a happy hour or so trawling Google images for pics of men they fancy - it beats reading up on infertility as a pick-me-up!!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Birds of a Feather

My sister and my best friend both had miscarriages before me. It's kind of a "third time unlucky" situation for me. My sister also had two years of infertility before her miscarriage. Since both of them now have two children each (a boy followed by a girl in both cases), I did try to draw some hope from this. But as I went past 2 years of trying and 2 losses, I felt less and less reassured by their successes. That said, I am so very pleased that it did work out for them, as it means I have my wonderful niece and nephew and my godson and his sister. I love all four of them, and if I never manage to have kids of my own then I can at least be the best indulgent aunty/godmother I can be!

My sister (I'll call her B - not her initial, but it means something to me) is three years younger than me. It was a bit of a shock to me when she came along, but I blamed my parents more than her - which, with hindsight, was very perceptive of my three-year-old self. We are close and have many opinions in common, but we are also very different - to her advantage, I suspect. I was reasonably academic growing up, always had a few friends, started dating in my early teens and generally life was relatively easy for me (tho' it never felt like it as a hormonal teen, of course). She was much less academic, stuck to a couple of friends and was a late starter on the dating front. But boy has she made up for it since! She is the most determined person I know and puts everything into getting things done. As a result, she has overtaken me on every count. She got married, had kids, a proper house and a proper job before I managed to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. I'd love to tell our primary school teachers that although I managed not too badly in tertiary education, it's my wee sister who is currently studying for her PhD while simultaneously holding down a job, raising two kids and renovating a decrepit house. Yeah, yeah, yeah - I'm jealous at times (would I be human if I wasn't?) - but mainly I'm incredibly proud of her and wish I had the tenacity and will-power she has.

I'm ashamed to say that when she had her miscarriage, I only found out after the long-drawn-out event and didn't have a clue what to say to her. I occasionally remind myself of this when someone avoids me, or says something stupid after one of my losses. Once upon a time, I was them. She and her husband had been trying for two years, had a go at clomid, got pregnant straight away and then found out at the 7 week scan that all was not well. Not wanting to believe the worst, she and her husband decided not to opt for a D&C but waited a further few weeks before finally accepting defeat. I wish I had known all this at the time and I wish that, if I had, I could have found a way to say the right things. Happily, she got pregnant again on the very next cycle and, although she had some very worrying early bleeding, this pregnancy resulted in my nephew (now a very spirited seven-year-old). My niece came along without the same drama two years later. Needless to say, all this means that she has a pretty good idea of how tough things are for CM and me.

I met my best friend at university. I had arrived a couple of days early at the halls of residence and had spent my evenings in the company of the Chr*st*an Un*on. They were a lovely bunch of people, and I continued to be friends with them for the rest of my time in halls. I have dabbled with religion in my time - I'm fairly sure there's something bigger than me out there - but I have an unruly side and when I imagined my time at uni I imagined more beer than prayer. So I was quite pleased to bump into KS - I'll call her this, because we quickly recognised and acknowledged that we were kindred spirits. KS lived in the room above mine and when we wanted to chat, she would bang her hairbrush on the floor or I'd bang mine on the ceiling.In Freshers' Week, we both dumped our boyfriends from home (not proud of that one - but mine really did deserve it) and took up with two guys who also became and remain best friends with each other. The romances with the blokes only lasted into our 2nd year, but the friendships are still in tact and all four of us will gather this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our meeting. Not bad, I reckon!

Since we left uni, we have almost always lived at opposite ends of the UK, but our lives have mapped each other ever since then. We have changed jobs, flats and boyfriends within months of each other for most of our twenties, met our husbands in the same month and she married hers five months after I married mine. So it wasn't a big surprise that we both had a bad time starting our families. She "anticipated" her wedding, as a polite relative once described getting pregnant before married, by a few months and was actually pregnant and going through her first miscarriage as she performed her bridesmaid duties for me. I didn't know it till I got back from honeymoon - she hadn't wanted to spoil the wedding, bless her. She had another loss but then, about a year after I got married and six months after my first loss, she conceived my godson. Like my sister, she had some bleeding in the early stages and had been told not to be too optimistic. She told me pretty quickly - I think shortly after she told her husband - and I felt such a mixture of happiness and jealousy. In between her 2nd loss and the successful pregnancy, I had had my first loss and I imagine she had similar feelings when I told her about that pregnancy.

Obviously, our lives have taken different forks now - she is working part-time, living in a little house in a little village as a mum of two. I am still full-time, city flat-dwelling and childless. This started to form a small wedge in the closeness of our friendship - I couldn't empathise with the new motherhood experience in the way she empathised with my losses. She was careful not to overdo the "nappy-head" mother talk, and particularly careful not to complain about the downsides of motherhood. On the one hand, I was extremely grateful but on the other I was aware that I was not hearing some important stuff!

It kind of reached a climax when I did my IVF cycle and she was pregnant for the second time. She was so sure that the cycle would work that she held off telling me, imagining the joyous moment when I told her I was pregnant and she would say "me too!" and we'd share our pregnancies in the way we'd shared so many other bits of our lives. When the cycle was a bust, I think she just couldn't bring herself to give me her news. Time passed, and it was only when I asked her if she'd thought any more about baby number two that she told me she was more than 16 weeks pregnant. It was such a contrast with the previous pregnancy - this time I was the last to know. I was very hurt at the time and I'm embarrassed to say that I started crying as we spoke on the phone. Again, she had had some bleeding with this pregnancy and had been in and out of the early pregnancy unit having checks. She had been in touch 2-3 times a week throughout my cycle and had been so supportive, but had mentioned none of this. I was as much upset that I hadn't been there for her as I was because I felt shut out. Really, I was the one that was responsible for the wedge in our friendship - her reticence was an attempt to protect me, not to shut me out. I had not long discovered blogs at this point and that night, in some intervention by the universe (or whatever thing that is bigger than me that is out there - see above re religion) in catching up with archived posts on a blog I had just discovered, I found some words which possibly saved our friendship.

I had followed a link to a blog called "Cancer, Baby" written by an incredible woman who had been experiencing infertility and then discovered that she had ovarian cancer. Her blog has gone now, and so has she - I have never cried so much over the death of someone I didn't know, but then, by the time she died I - and all the others who followed her blog - felt like I did know her. Although I contacted her husband after her death to express my condolences and my admiration for her, as an inveterate lurker (this will have to change now!) I only left one comment while she was still blogging - to let her know how much that one particular post had helped me. She replied with a lovely email, thanking me and saying how much it meant to her to help others - like I said, an incredible woman. The post was called "The Girlfriend's Unguide to Cancer and Infertility". It followed one on how, when meeting a friend with new baby, she felt huge joy for her, but found the phrase "it should have been me, it should have been me" running through her head. The "Girlfriend's Unguide" post was on how help is given to us and how we receive it - how we have to meet our friends part-way in our attempts to have them understand and help us. These two posts rang so true for me and helped me to sort through my feelings and find a way to put them into words. I then emailed my thoughts to my friend (including a link to Cancer Baby's post). KS mailed back and quickly our friendship was as good as, if not better than, before.

B and KS have been through some of what I have and have been unbelievably supportive to me - without them to talk to, I seriously doubt I'd have remained sane through all this. The fact that even they have said things that have hurt me, when I know they would never in a million years say anything they knew would cause me pain, demonstrates how miscarriage and infertility can affect the perceptions of those of us who've been chipped away at by disappointment. When Jessica, the author of "Cancer, Baby" died, her husband and parents allowed her readers to print one copy of her archives before her blog was taken down and I treasure mine. Her writing was wonderful - witty, clever, compassionate and honest - and she helped a lot of people through her blog. 

***edited to say: I had included a quote from Jessica's post here, but today I read an old post from another blog that said that her folks weren't keen on cross-posting, so I've taken it down.*** 

Thursday, January 3, 2008

So It Makes Me Very Happy To Introduce To You . . .

Points for anyone who gets the reference for the title! You have to imagine it sung by a frog - big clue ;-).

My second post and already I'm a lazy blogger (sorry Carrie!). I have to plead Christmas and the lurgy (two lurgies, in fact). Being a teacher - and especially an infant teacher - the end of the winter term gets a bit mad. There's the intensive artwork to make cards and presents for parents, practising carols for the end of term service, the party practices (yes, with 90 primary 1s in the hall at one go, practising games is necessary) . . . and, of course, the Nativity play. This year's Nativity went very well, thank you. One day, I'll tell you the story of the Nativity that led to me uttering the sentence "I dont have all day to go round tying shepherds' dressing gowns!" through gritted teeth - shades of Joyce Grenfell, and I'm sure any other teachers out there will have similar moments.

We went to stay with my husband's mum for Christmas. My brother- and sister-in-law were there with their 4-year-old and 8-month-old. The heating had broken down, my BIL and nephew (the 8-month-old) both had nasty bugs and I had come down with the school cold on the last day of term. I can only hope that my BIL went away with the school cold, because the day we got home I started suffering from his throat infection. Can't blame the baby - although I spent quite a lot of time helping look after him - more in another post on that joy. I'm feeling pretty sorry for myself, with the sore throat, tickly cough and bunged-up ears and sinuses and resulting dizziness and headache.

Well, that covers my excuses for the lengthy pause between posts. Now I'd best get on with the introductions promised in post number 1.

I suppose my husband deserves to go first, since he's my unwilling fellow traveller. I'm really not sure how to refer to him here. DH, like on the infertility/miscarriage boards I frequent? Mr H (as in Hope for the Best)? Curmudgeon Man, since that's what I call him when he goes into one of his "the worlds done me wrong" riffs? Actually, CM sounds good and pretty much sums up his attitude to the situation in which we find ourselves - hey, who can blame him?!

We met almost 7 years ago, in our early/mid thirties (me early, him mid). The story of how we met deserves a post on its own, so I won't tell it now. A big anniversary is coming - not CM's and mine, but a sad one that led to our meeting - and I'll tell the story then. Anyway - we got married a year and a half after we met and started trying to conceive 6 months after that and that's what led me here. He's about 2 years behind me on the whole baby thing. Right now, he's dealing with the losses and the anger and sadness that brings. I've been through that, on to the "what if it NEVER works" and the "life isn't worth living without a baby" and have reached the outskirts of acceptance . . . I think . . . tho' I have a feeling there are probably some backwards trips to make as we contemplate a donor cycle and the possible real end to our hopes [actually, I've just let CM read this, and he informs me he has recently arrived at "what if it NEVER works" - good to hear he's making progress]. I expect a lot - if not most - women who find their attempts to become mothers thwarted by infertility and/or loss find their partners deal with it all very differently from themselves. I have friends I've made along the way whose partners are very similar to mine - would love to have kids but right now would be just as happy to call the whole thing done and get on with being childless if it meant a quieter life with less doctors involved :-). They're basically supportive but dont quite "get" what we're experiencing. As CM pointed out, since we've never even made it to a scan that showed anything other than empty, all he saw for each pregnancy was a couple of lines on a stick and it was hard to get emotional about it. My mum made me feel better when she told me that she reckons that when she was expecting me, my dad didn't really believe she had a baby in there till I came out! What I'm trying to say is that, we love each other, we'd both really like to have a baby but I'm the one doing the driving here.

Since I've already mentioned them, Mum and Dad had better come next. They shall be known, for the purposes of this blog, as "Mum" and "Dad" . . . but without the quotes. I'm very lucky with my parents, and I know it and appreciate it more than I can let you (or them) know. They are 66 and 71 respectively, still married after 42 years and Mum is in good health and Dad has recently gone into remission from cancer. I have a good relationship with both of them. Mum and I have words now and again, like most mothers and daughters, but mostly we're just fine and she's still the person I go to when things go wrong; Dad and I bonded when I was very wee - he was studying as a mature student when I was born and when my sister was born he was my main carer for a while, so we're close. I have my mum's sense of social responsibility and love of art and my dad's sense of humour and love of gadgets. I'm not telling which bad bits I got, for their sake and mine. Since CM lost his dad in his early twenties and many of my friends' parents have split and/or died and others have troubled relationships with their folks, I know how lucky I am and, especially after our losses and Dad's illness, I appreciate every minute of the time I have with them. This all sounds a bit mushy and twee, but since I know how much it hurts me when people with children complain about them and only talk about the bad things that come with parenthood, I've become more aware of how important it is to those around us, who might not be as lucky as we are in a particular area of life, that we express the good bits. That will not stop me moaning about them on occasions, so please refer back to this post at these times (and if the bitching gets really bad, then please remind ME of this post).

I'm not really sure what Dad thinks about the whole baby situation, except that I know he wants me to be happy and that he'd be a really fab grandfather (as long as we didn't have a child that loved football - then he'd probably disown them). Mum has been lovely throughout - except if she thinks I'm indulging in self-pity, when she'll give me a boot up the backside. Sometimes, I think it's OK to wallow a bit, so sometimes she gets a boot back. This is where the tension? . . . irony? . . . in the situation occurs. Mum and I have a lot in common, mentally and physically, but here, where the most basic function of being female comes up, our experiences are totally different. She produced 2 children with the minimum of fuss and in a timely fashion and I can't manage one. And on some level, this means she can't get it. But she does try and I know that she wants us to succeed more than anything. I honestly think that if she were the right age, she would have a baby for me somehow.

The lurgy has come over me again - I need p*rac*tamol and a lie down. In the next instalment: my sister and my best friend. They deserve a post to themselves because, sadly for them, they DO get it.