When I Have Children

Only when your fertility is challenged, do you start to consider all the little bits & pieces that have built up over the years, about the expected inevitability of ‘when I have children’.  Now that I’m preparing myself for the very real possibility of those expectations not being fulfilled, here are some of the things that have unhelpfully come to mind;

My boys will have long hair and my girls will have short hair* – a contradiction maybe?  Allowing boys hair to grow, not being afraid to rebuff comments about them ‘looking like a girl’, or ‘needing a haircut’.  What is the obsession with tiny boys getting a buzz cut?  Similarly, strolling through the resistance to cut girls hair because they ‘look so sweet’, while at the same time trapping their hair in everything and constantly brushing it out of their faces.  Shoulder length hair all round, I reckon.

Breast is best – I’ve always felt my boobs have purpose and I assumed that breastfeeding would be where they’d come it to their own.  I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t already given my boobs a fair crack at finding their purpose in life, but no-one can deny boobs for babies (although I know they do).  I’d be cool and calm about breastfeeding, having no inhibitions about when and where to get them out.  I’d also know when to breast milk should make way for fruit & veg.  I’d be able to have confident conversations with my friends, which were supportive and constructive about their breastfeeding (and when to stop!), because I’d be speaking with experience on my side.

Toys for all* – There is so much conversation about gendering children’s playthings, that we already follow the great work of Let Toys Be Toys on Twitter (let’s call it research), as well as various others that are fighting the good fight for equal access to dinosaurs and dolls.  I have already become a militant preserver of gender-neutrality in the gifts I buy for friends and family’s children, as well as the annoying person contradicting the parent that says orange is too girly for her son.  Colours are for everyone!

Baby box/Baby shower (*?) – Now, I do not like baby showers and I have often protested their intrusion.  There are various reasons for this, but they mainly fall in to ‘adopted Americanism’ (see also gender reveals) and ‘it’s too early’.  How can you celebrate a baby yet to arrive?  This attitude only solidified further when the perilous world of fertility opened up.  Having said all that, our office do baby boxes similar to the Finnish idea.  It’s a lovely way to provide a gesture of preparation to the family, and can include treats for mum, dad and baby.

Bedtime* – Routine and story time.  It’s never to early to start reading to kids.  Books are the first thing I buy for the offspring of friends and family (something for the baby box!).  I often see friend’s having their lives dictated by their children’s refusal to go to bed.  I get that.  But I also know how soothing and special a bedtime routine can be.  It’s a tiny pocket of bonding, every day.

Names – This one makes me the saddest.  There have been a LOT of conversations about baby names, whether it’s hypothetical, or for an impending arrival.  I’ve had lists in my purse, the back of a diary, in school exercise books, of names that have taken my fancy over the years.  Most have dropped off, some have remained.  I’ve had a couple of middle names given in my honour – who would I give that privilege to?  All the times that I have enthused about the etymology or a previous bearer of a name.  I guess we’ll never get to meet baby Florian or Xerxes (this one is actually D’s choice!  A joke I hope).

Miscellaneous – When people talk about managing expectations, I have seen so many parents varients of these things, so while I’m about it; only using eco-friendly nappies and babywipes – maybe even trying the washable ones!, wooden toys and no brands, a wide range of delicious, home-cooked food, limited screen time, rainbows every day, magical powers etc, etc.

* Of course some of these things may still be on the agenda, if we follow other routes to parenthood.  I’ll still have the opportunity to impose my own brand of parenting, even if it’s by an unconventional methods.  Lucky kids!

R.

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Geriatric Mother

Although it is looking ever more unlikely, if I were to have a baby, I would be a geriatric mother.  This has been the case for a while now.  Should I get pregnant, the baby would arrive well beyond my 35th birthday, the grim marker of becoming a ‘geriatric mother’.

No fear though, because the imminent new royal baby will be born to a geriatric mother.  I take comfort that even princess Meg gets the ugly title.  And she’s not the only one.  There are lots of women that I admire, that have had babies after the geriatric label has been applied; Dawn O’Porter, Angel Adoree and lots of my friends in real life.  In fact, most of my friends have been over 35, or pretty darn close to it.

Hands

While there might be an image of an elderly lady, tottering along behind a pram, this really isn’t the case.  Being in your mid-thirties is often a time of stability.  Many people will have found a groove in their career, there is disposable income that hadn’t been there before, greens are being intentionally eaten, and often people have started to put down roots, maybe even got on the property ladder.  It’s something that The Dinky Blog explains perfectly in their name; double income, no kids yet.

I sometimes ask if we should’ve started trying sooner, not reassure myself, but to check whether we’re both on the same page.  We talk about the reasons that we came the decision to have a family when we did.  Neither of us were in the right place to have done it any sooner, for lots of reasons.  In fact, one of the things that has held the wolves at bay for such a long time, is that we are rarely in the same place at the same time.  After a while, people just assumed we had decided on a jet-set life, instead of children.  Most people still assume that.

While we might be finding conception a right ol’ ball-ache, I’m glad that I’ll be a parent at this point in my life.  I used to congratulate myself that I hadn’t got pregnant as a teenager.  Now I’m happy that I didn’t get pregnant in my twenties.  That is not to say that some people don’t make great parents when they’re younger than we are now, but I know I couldn’t have done it.  It may seem a cliché, but I feel that now is when I will provide the best that is possible for a child.  Our relationship is as solid as it’s ever been (if a couple can take on infertility together, they can take anything on!), we’re both in good jobs and we have our lovely little house.  More importantly, we’re much better human beings now than we were a decade or more ago.

So kids, we’re ready for you…

P.S. We’ll be celebrating my 35th birthday by going to Fertility Fest.  That’s how I know we’re real grown-ups!  That, and going to bed at 9.30 with a good book.

R.

Mind Games

A week ago today, I had decided not to go to my fitness class.  I came home, cooked a nutritious meal and went to bed early.  But I could barely sleep.  I woke up in a raging sweat in the middle of the night.  I wrestled with my mind for the next 48 hours.

For those couple of days I was both pregnant and not pregnant.  Psychologically, at least.  Even though I’ve been dancing to this merry tune for years now, I amaze myself with the feats of imagination that this brief period invokes.  It honestly feels like a kind of madness.

My period wasn’t late, it just hadn’t arrived yet.  It’s known commonly as the Two Week Wait, but two days is plenty of time for my mind to spiral out-of-control.  Suddenly anything can be attributed simultaneously to pregnancy and period.  Raise in temperature, ache in the lower back, feeling tired.  But, rather than reacting rationally and calmly to events as they unfold, I find it impossible to stop my mind from whirring.

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I wonder whether I should exercise, or not.  How will I explain not drinking on Sunday night?  Will I be able to go to the Spa in May?  Thank goodness I didn’t apply for that job, because who knows what will be happening in the next few months.

At the same time, my mind was preparing my imminent future for both elation and grief.  Every minute detail of those few hours was split in to ‘I know I’m not pregnant’ and ‘I am definitely pregnant’.  Which stories do I listen to?  Those that tell me that you just know when you’re pregnant, or those that didn’t realise until months down the line (I have had both these examples from close friends).

I could not stop thinking.  That’s the worst bit.  My mind would not switch off from the push-me-pull-you, the superstitions and expectations.  Desperate for an answer, but not wanting reality either way.

Needless to say, I’m not pregnant.  The moment my period came, my mind came to an abrupt halt.  I couldn’t even conjure up the speculations of moments before.  But I know, despite having done this for months (and months, and months!) the torture will return every month.  No matter how unlikely conception is that month, or how certain I am one way or the other, this spiralling insanity is an unstoppable surge.  It’s exhausting.

Just another pleasant side-effect of trying to conceive.

R.

What’s Your Problem?

Good question!

Since discovering the TTC community online, both through the blog and on Twitter, I will I admit to being more of a voyeur than a participant.  One of the main reasons for this is that there is no ‘story’ to tell and no problem to seek solidarity on, other than remaining childless.

When finding people to follow, I quickly noticed that people shared their stories of miscarriages and IVF, of PCOS and endometriosis.  They shared it upfront, even in their bios, often sharing the years their journeys have taken and the dates of their losses.

Aside from saying we have been following the catalogue of dos and don’ts, taking the right vitamins, using the apps and the ovulation sticks for over two years, there is not much else to say.

I have never miscarried.  I have never been pregnant.  I have never done a pregnancy test.  I have never even missed a period.  Sure, my cycle might change in length by a few days (and I mean a few days – as in 2 or 3 either way.  Not even a week), but nothing of concern.  My blood tests have been fine and my hormone levels are good.  I had thought I might have thyroid issues, but got the all-clear.  His samples have been ‘normal’ across the board.  We’re both reasonably fit, non-smokers.  I try to avoid booze as much as possible (which is not easy, particularly when you’re stressing out 2/3 of every month).

So, what’s the bloody problem?  Apart from a suggestion from the sonographer that there might by fibroids on my uterus wall (we’ll find out at the end of Feb, because who doesn’t love a 5 month wait?!), my best guess is timing.  While we have tried getting busy every day, every other day and by the guiding light of the star charts (this one is not true), sometimes we are hindered by the simple fact of not being in the same place at the same time.

The best description I can think of for our situation is that of military families that, because of work, spend time apart.  But, I work at a university and he works in theatre, so it’s not even as though we can garner sympathy.  It just means that while I am mainly at home, he is often away with a show.  Sometimes, it’s possible to catch up regularly, because he’s local, but sometimes he’s literally on the other side of the world.

Having said all that, we have been going at it long enough and with enough full months in each other’s company, that there has to be something more.  But what?  And will it help me to share me experiences more widely?  At the moment, I feel like a charlatan, like an impostor in a world where people have identifiable reasons for their plight.  They have their badges of honour, for brave fights and battles against adversity.

I know how this might read, but it’s not a poor me story.  It’s a shout into the unknown, because of the unknown.

R.

 

Obligatory January Post

Guess what?  Still no baby!

Since having the last of the tests, we’ve been in a quiet phase, fertility-speaking.  It’s also been busy, busy, busy (when are the festivities ever relaxing and peaceful?!), so there hasn’t been much time for posting.

We made a decision in October that for the next three months, we would try our best to put procreation first.  That probably sounds stupid, given what this blog is all about, but it’s amazing how life often throws out curve-balls that knock you off track.  So, for November, December and so far in January we got busy at every opportunity.  Needless to say, there’s nothing to report.

However, there have been enough people we know saying that they WILL stick to blogging this year that it seemed like a good bandwagon to jump on!  There will be some decisions to be made and hurdles to leap in 2019 and that the navigation of baby-making will be as fraught as ever, so we’ll try to remember to write it all down!

So, here we go again…

R&D.

Good Riddance, October.

It’s been a while since the last blog post, because the last month has been a bit all over the place.  It is the busiest time of year, work-wise, so fitting anything in around the chaos is difficult.  Add to this a dilapidated old house (hasn’t Grand Designs taught us that as soon as major renovation starts, you immediately get pregnant?!), a knee operation and the ongoing fertility tests and there is so little time left.

At the start of last month, I had a hysterosalpingogram (a word I am very proud to have mastered spelling and speaking!), which is a charming procedure that is as invasive as it is undignified.  Asking for some thoughts from the Twittersphere, I got a few responses that helped to calm the nerves.  My pain threshold is fairly high (she says, in full knowledge of never having experienced childbirth!), so I didn’t have any difficulties.  If anything it was uncomfortable, having someone you’ve never met shoot dye up your foof, no to mention being filled with the aforementioned dye.  Nice!

The discomfort continued when we left the hospital for the car park, only to run into my aunt.  She works at the Women’s Hospital photographing babies (yep, really), so was thrilled to see us there.  I blurted out “it’s nothing exciting” and incessantly pressed the button in the lift until the doors closed, leaving my aunt to draw her own conclusions.

I am stressed from work, poked & prodded in the name of exploration and now discombobulated by our unexpected encounter.  You’re not supposed to have unprotected sex after a hysterosalpingogram, to avoid ectopic pregnancy (we start off being careful, but end up stupidly cavalier under the caveat that ‘we’re not getting pregnant anyway!”).

The month is rounded off by a double-whammy weekend, where Saturday sees the arrival of our niece’s baby boy and Sunday welcomes a baby girl for one of our best friends.  These are two of the people that we thought would be far behind us, when it came to having children – one is incredibly young and the other is incredibly independent.  The whole period is nicely tied up in a children’s party surrounded by all our friend’s offspring (which was actually a really lovely day).

How we survived,  I don’t know.  It was a relief to have two weeks no waiting, but for every month that goes past, it feels like another lost chance.  We’ve decided to give the next 3 months all we have, so that when it comes to our follow-up appointment in February, we know we’ve done our best.  And that’s really all there is to do!

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Good riddance, October.  Only good things and colourful leaves from here on!

R.

The 5 Year Plan

I’ve never had any particular plan in mind when it comes to life.  I’ve pottered through the every day, doing things that interest me, following paths that lead somewhere different and getting involved with stuff that makes me happy.  One step followed another, and while I wouldn’t say I was meandering aimlessly, I didn’t set goals for career, relationships, bank balance.  Sometimes I regret that.

Some of my friends have these plans.  Married by age X , achieve X career aspiration, live in X.  For some of them it’s worked out.  For some, it hasn’t.  I wonder if life would be different if I’d had a plan?

It’s only when the map of life doesn’t unfold the way you expect, that you realise that you were expecting to follow a certain path.  I expected to have had a baby by now.  And it is only in the seemingly endless pursuit of this baby, that I have noticed what I haven’t done.

I challenged myself a few years ago to apply for a much better job, one which I thought I’d excel in.  I got the job and have progressed really well, building a solid foundation to build a ‘career’ on.  Having said that, a years or so ago, I noticed that I’d stopped pushing myself, because I thought I’d be taking time out on maternity.  I put up with a lot of crap, because I thought I’d be able to take a step away to focus on parenthood.  Now that I recognise I’m stalling and babies are not on the horizon, I’ve started looking around for new steps and even put in my first application.

I’ve always been on the curvy side of life.  I’m fairly body confident and have flaunted my shape to some extent.  I thought by curves would embrace pregnancy and bear fruit, so I didn’t need worry about the extra hip rounding or boob swell (why would I?), but the older I got, the more I realised that my healthy attitude had been overshadowed by sedentary and I became conscious of people thinking I was pregnant when I definitely wasn’t (and why do people feel the need to ask anyway?  Even strangers?!).   So, I made an effort to put activity back on my radar and think about my food more healthily and embrace my curves for me, instead of what might or might not happen in the fertility future.

There are a lot of things that I get involved in, volunteering my time and energies in various organisations, charities and groups.  For the most part I love it, but it can be so busy.  Friends often comment on not knowing how I have the time, but you fit in what you want and for me, that’s a bit of everything.  But, I thought I’d have the irrefutable excuse of time off to be a mama.  I thought I could keep going until mother nature made a mother of me and I couldn’t be denied time away from the hectic world I inhabited.  As it hasn’t happened,  I have decided that I don’t need to channel my energies in to anything that I don’t want to.  I can take time off, even if there isn’t an excuse.

So, I still don’t have a plan, but at least now, I am not resting the hope of any change in my circumstances on something that may never happen.  I’m going to do, or not do, things as I choose, because they make me happy, not because the path I thought I was on turns out to be a dead end.  Maybe I don’t even need a path.

R.

An Atheists Guide to Conception

A friend recently posted on Facebook about her & her husband’s decision not to go to Kerala in India.  It was an awful post, not because they were in any way deriding the region, but because the decision they had made (which was due to health reasons) was stated as God’s way of keeping them safe.  They had prayed in their decision-making and God guided them to changing their plans.

This description is infuriating, because what actually happened was they made a decision based on the facts presented to them.  To suggest that God held them in the palm of his hand, where he was letting others literally drown was appalling.  Some people had commented as such on the post and were invited to ‘meet for coffee to discuss’.  The post, on both Facebook and Instagram has now disappeared.

Before continuing, it’s important to share that while we are atheists, we both grow up in households of faith and have worked in faith environments.  There is a huge amount of good done in the world by people working in the name of their faith, effecting positive change through belief and love.

In the world of TTC, there are a lot of people that lean heavily on their faith, describing their turmoil as being part of God’s plan.  This is where the frustration begins.  If (in)fertility was in a plan that could not be altered, then why would anyone engage in tests and charts?  Science is our friend in fertility, helping us navigate the wide horizon of possibilities.

It seems that the common response to trauma of any kind, in the modern day, has been to express – usually on social media – ‘thoughts and prayers’ to victims and their circumstances.  We are people that try to be an active part of the change we want to see in the world, so know this apathetic show of sympathy does nothing for those affected.  Donate, volunteer, lobby!

In the case of TTC, our bodies are doing the talking.  There is no master plan; what will be, will be.  Having said that, we will engage as much as possible with medical knowledge.  People have been studying procreation for years and there is more and more information and support available.  We will be prodded, poked, weighed and measured in the name of science.  This is not to say that we won’t be counselled and share our distress with each other and our friends, but we know that no cosmic or divine intervention will change our situation.

If there were a God and they had any involvement in conception, then it’s clear they’re a man.  A quick ‘sample’ provided and that’s a man done, where a woman bleeds for days every month.  That doesn’t even take in to account the discrepancy in fertility investigations; blood samples, dyes, ultrasounds, tablets vs. a date with a pot.  Women’s bodies are phenomenal, particularly when it comes to fertility and there’s no way a man would have given up that glory!  Long live Mother Nature and all who study her at medical school.

R.

P.S.  I know this may be a controversial post and is very Western-centric in the idea of God, but it’s my experience.

Good Day, Bad Day

It’s been a while since either of us have posted.  This is because we’ve had a really rough patch.  Our TTC issues are one of various casualties in not looking after our mental health.  As alluded to before, we face anxiety on a monumental scale.  In fact, the more ‘other stuff’ is ruled out of our TTC check-list, the more it highlights problems that have been with us for years.

In an effort to resolve part of our issues, we are trying to be open and honest with each other and to confront problems as the arise.  This is easier said than done.  It is difficult to be generous with someone’s feeling when it feels like you’re the injured party.  But it is the cruelness of depression and anxiety to cause isolation by driving a wedge between you and those you love.  It takes a LOT to face problems head on, but it’s better that the alternative.

One of the keys to this is TALKING.  It’s something that anyone TTC knows.  The first rule of (In)Fertility Club is…, except people don’t talk, and that’s the point.  People don’t talk about things because it’s dealing with something that is horribly difficult to say, or for others to hear.  But it’s good to talk…

Good day – Telling a friend on the phone about our fertility woes.  It was a revelation to feel like it’s a dirty secret, but just as delicious to share.

Bad day – Being caught up on the pregnancy of someone more than a decade younger than you.

Good day – Silent weeping at a play with an unexpected fertility storyline, next to the friend you shared your own worries with and getting a little squeeze of love from them.

Bad day – Trying to have conversation with people that you know have experience fertility issues because they were very (helpfully) vocal about it.  But on wonderful, surprise second baby joy, they seem to have forgotten about triggers and sensitivity.

Good day – Sleeping, for as long as you need to sleep, then still not having to get up if you don’t want to.

Bad day – Picking up on (real or imagined) signs in other people; cancelling a trip due to ‘health reasons’, buying a brand new dress that’s clearly too big, sudden social media blackout.

Good day – Being asked if you want company for impending hospital appointments, or at least a coffee afterwards.

Bad day – absolutely no contact, because nothing is worth saying.

Good day – Having really honest chats while running.  It’s a win/win health-wise.  You can say anything, without looking at the person, then distract them by pointing out a funny-looking tree.

The important thing in all this, is to aim for more good days than bad.  Knowing that an army of middle fingers against the world of worry and sadness, is better than trying to fight alone.

R.

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