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.

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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.

Bad For Your Health

When you’re TTC, any information that comes from the ‘how to help conception’ Google searches becomes heralded as must-follow instructions.  Since researching conception I’ve come across a few old favourites; gents – don’t put your phone in your pocket, ladies – eat that pineapple!  But the more you look, the more dangerous and unverified information you come across.

Some sites will tell you to eat  something, where others will tell you to avoid it.  Then there’s the plastic bottles, soap, cycling etc. etc. etc.

I saw a post from a ‘Microbiome Expert’, suggesting adopting a ‘diabetic diet’.  This same person talked about ‘unnatural fertility treatments’, which is not exactly the right tone to take with people who are trying everything that is thrown at them.

As part of a tweet, someone shared a post about how there is more infertility now than there was ‘back in the day’.  Tell that to Henry VIII’s wives or Samuel Pepys.  There’s an interesting article here about (in)fertility through the ages.  People have always struggled with conception, they just didn’t have the support of the internet behind them.  Twitter was responding to the tweet with ‘so true’, ‘yes, exactly what I was thinking’.  Well, on the 40th birthday of the world’s first IVF baby, I know I’d rather be living in a time when I can Google search things, then make rational decisions and I can go (and have gone!) to the doctor to ask for help and support.

I probably won’t start huffing on exhaust pipes and maybe I will eat more green beans, but there’s no point getting caught up in a tirade of blame that the world is accountable for my lack of babies.  And that leads me to this:

It Only Takes One Time

All the information I have read suggests that you should expect to be ‘trying’ to conceive for about a year before thinking that something might be amiss.  Apparently about 20% of all couples trying to conceive get pregnant within the couple of cycles.  Then 60% up to 6 months and a further 10% within a year.

These percentages vary widely across different sources, but whichever way it shakes out, I seem to know everyone in the lucky first cycle.  So many of my friends have told me, once pregnant, that they planned to ‘give it a try’ and found it worked first time.   “We never thought it would be straight away”, “it was literally the first month”, “I thought we’d be trying for a while”.  Of course I am pleased for them, but as anyone that is going through conceptions issues will agree, I am also hugely disappointed.

It is difficult hearing that the friends you didn’t think wanted kids are now expecting (‘after just one try’), the couples you thought would experience difficulty – which is a horrible thought to have about your friends and is a judgey side of yourself that you meet a lot when TTC – ‘caught first time’, and the people that you think are making irresponsible decisions and will probably make terrible parents (oh, hello again judgey!) have found themselves knocked up, without even planning it.  This last one particularly annoys me, because it implies that birth control is a choice they aren’t aware of, and parenting will just be a side-effect of a roll-in-the-hay.

When your life becomes about ovulation calendars, egg/sperm-promoting food stuffs, blood tests and hospital appointments, it is really hard to maintain an measured temperament when anybody gets pregnant.  Even if they’re only an acquaintance.  Or a character in a show.  Or on an advert!  But when you’re hearing the news about your friends, it seems like extra salt in the wound to be given the additional detail of conception having been immediate.  It’s feels like a baring of fertility.  My womb’s bigger than your womb…or something.

The moral of this little story, is that if you do become pregnant (yay for you!), then be kind in the way you share that information.  As we all seem to keep our fertility journeys behind closed doors, it is difficult to know what others are experiencing, so be gentle in your good news.  It makes it easier to take and we might still get you a bottle of talc and a pack of nappies when the baby arrives.

R.

 

 

A TTC learning journey

Another Fathers Day passed by but this time it felt a little different. We were visiting friends who are expecting a baby, who had for so long expressed little interest in having a child yet, if at all. We’ve also been trying to conceive for quite a while now without success. Looking on Facebook there were loads of posts from friends celebrating their dads, or being tagged in posts as a great dad. It’s these days when it feels a bit harder, knowing that we’re still not there yet…

…but we keep on trying.

We don’t know where we stand yet. There’s visits to the fertility department at our local hospital to give samples, blood tests at the doctors and swabs at home. A worrying discovery is that mature sperm decreases from 90% down to 50% after the age of 40. Hopefully when we both have our results back we might find out a bit more to why we are having difficulty and what we can do to help us on our production quest!

As a generalisation, looking on the web or social media it seems to be mainly women talking about the fertility. To a degree, men can be a little hands off with the process, but there are men out there to also care and take an interest in what they are trying to create.

There are many things we don’t know, and that’s partly down to our own ignorance. We’ve only really started to research it a bit more to know what’s going on with our bodies and why things might be difficult, but there are a few things that pop-up frequently and can be disorientating. So, for anyone out there who may be reading, here’s a helpful list, that we’ll add to as we learn more.

D.

TTC – WTF?!

Phrases to know when TTC (Trying To Conceive) – in alphabetical order:

2WW /TWW – Two Week Wait (the Luteal Phase) – the bit where you have to wait and see if it was successful this time (see PUPO also), in our house it’s also know as Schrödinger’s baby, in which you are both pregnant and not pregnant at the same time.

AF – Aunt Flo, menstruation, period (who calls it this?!)

BFN – Big Fat Negative – Pregnancy tests with no lines, no happy faces, no babies.

BFP – Big Fat Positive – reverse of above.  Happy days all round

CD – Cycle Day – working out what day is the best day that ovulation and conception might occur.  3 days before is a general good time with a higher chance

CM – Cervical Mucus – a kind of egg-white liquid occurring just before ovulation

CP – Cervical Position

DPO – Days Past Ovulation

EC – Embryo Cyro/Freezing

HPT – Home Pregnancy Test

ICSI – Microfertilization (putting the best sperm directly in to the egg)

IUI – Intrauterine Insemination (putting sperm in the uterus during ovulation)

IVF – In Vitro Fertilization (putting the sperm and the egg in a petri dish and allowing them to fertilize in a lab, before putting them back in a comfy environment (uterus), which has been enhanced by fertility medication)

LH – Luteinizing Hormone – detected in OPKs

LP – Luteal Phase, days between OV & AF (again, who calls it this?!)

O or OV – Ovulation

OPK – Ovulation Predictor Kit

PCOS – Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

PNV – Prenatal Vitamin

POAS – Pee On A Stick (Home Pregnancy Tests, Ovulation Tests, and kind of tests that involve weeing)

PUPO – Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise (the time between fertility treatment and pregnancy test)

SA – Semen Analysis

TTC – Trying To Conceive

 

If we find more, we’ll add more!

R & D.

An Anxious Tale

I guess I’ve always been an anxious person. I think at the time, growing up in the 80s & 90s, it wasn’t something that I was aware of, I just considered myself a bit of a worrier and hadn’t attached the word anxiety to it.

As I got older anxiety slowly gained more presence, but it was still something that I hadn’t acknowledged and just assumed it was a way of feeling scared.  It wasn’t a constant feeling of dread and I had a good time with good friends.  It was only in recent years I realised that growing up I wasn’t exposed to a lot of different experiences, or encouraged to talk about how I was feeling with my parents, siblings or friends.  Mental Health wasn’t really a thing back then, it was a case of shake it off and pull yourself together.

I found, when growing up, that I would feel worried when I had to do something new, talk to someone I didn’t know or be in an unfamiliar situation (the same is still true now, but I try to be realistic).  This is a normal feeling for people, but my friends just got on with it and didn’t say how they’re feeling.  I would worry about something, before, during and afterwards.  Worrying that I hadn’t done as well as I could have done. I could never pull off being a blagger as I never had the confidence to do so.

Slowly it started to impact on my life, but I would try to ignore how I felt.  In times of extreme worry I would take myself out of situations. Little did I realise that the damage I would be doing to myself in later life.  I would try to overcome my problems, buy self-help books and read them in private.  I didn’t want anyone to know what I was feeling.  Eventually I got good at suppressing how I felt.

I lived a long time like that.  It was only when I met my partner who over time encouraged me to talk about things, that I started to get things out in the open and if I wanted to get help, she’d encouraged me to do so.

I wouldn’t say that I have conquered my anxiety.  I think it’s a basic human need to have anxiety to stay alive, but acknowledging it and talking about it have helped me to take the steps towards being able to live alongside it, without it controlling me.

I still doubt and sometimes sabotage myself.  I think that it is such a deep-rooted way of thinking that it takes time to change. The main thing is to continue to work at it and try to get the right balance.

If anyone is reading, it’s ok to not be ok.

D.

Social Drinker

I’ve always been one for the booze. My friends and family know this about me. It’s a running joke that I’m a lush.

Now that we’re on the never-seeming-to-arrive-at-the-station baby train, we are trying to do all the right things.  I take folic acid every day, D…doesn’t wear tight pants(?!)  and both of us are trying to reduce our alcohol consumption.

While that’s not a huge chore – I don’t mind being teetotal – but it raises questions when we’re around people we know.  They jump to conclusions.  Of course if I’m not drinking, it’s because I’m knocked up!  Would I ever be seen with a lemonade when there’s wine on offer?  Only if I were preggers!  Errr…

I suppose it’s a terrible indictment of my character that it’s just easier to have a shandy, than to explain why I’m having a cup of tea.  I’ll just have to be the reverse of this:

I try to be sensible now and covering up not drinking has become part of the secret charade of fertility.  In some ways it’s just an addition to my normal routine of hiding my wobbly tummy in case people mistake my decades-long love of chocolate for a baby bump.  This has been going on for YEARS.  When I was at University, a old man offered me his seat on the bus.  Naturally I took it.

R

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