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

Choosing To Have A Baby

Today is a really big day in Ireland.  In 1983 an amendment was made to the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland, which recognised the equal right to life of mothers and their unborn children (Wikipedia for info).  This meant that abortion became illegal, only changing in 2013 to allow abortion if the mother’s life was at risk (Wiki again).  Today a referendum is being held to repeal this amendment.

It is difficult to comprehend a world where a mother does not have a choice in whether she has her baby or not.  Currently in Ireland, if you are pregnant, whether it is consensual, by rape or incest, you have no choice in whether it is best for you and the baby to go through with the pregnancy.  Even if a fatal foetal abnormality is diagnosed during pregnancy.

Now, as established, we do not have children.  But, we have chosen to try for a family.  Other people in our position might think differently, stating the inequity of the situation; wanting a baby, but struggling to have them and those that find themselves pregnant having abortions.  However, we have always believed that babies should be born as a product of choice.  This choice works both ways, so today we stand with the women of Ireland in having a choice over their bodies and the choice whether to bring babies in to the world.  #Repealthe8th #VoteYes

yes

Mummy Friends

Over the years I’ve had many chats with friends that are soon-to-be-parents, where they have said that they hope our days-out and meet-ups won’t fall in to parental discussions about attainment, feeding and poo routines.  I have always said it didn’t matter, as long as they still included me in the conversation.  I have been around children before!  They’re funny and fascinating and I can hold my own in a conversation about them (punctuated of course with ‘not that I have any experience’).

 

In fact, I have had far more experience with children than most of my friends had had before they were parents (not that it’s a pre-requisite!), but then it’s easy to be a perfect parent when you don’t have children.  There something funny though about meeting a friend’s offspring when they’re just a few weeks old and being directed on how to change a nappy, when at that stage I could still testify that I’d changed more nappies than they had.  In the early days when new babies arrived, I was privileged to be the go-to babysitter.

 

As my friends’ children have grown up, I’ve grown apart from their parents, even those that have been my closest allies.  It becomes an assumption that as a childless adult, you ‘won’t be interested’ in birthday parties, picnics or even babysitting.  The most hurtful of these occasions was when I received a picture from a group of friends that had arranged to meet-up, telling me they missed me.  I wasn’t invited.

 

I understand that my friends might not want us to feel awkward in their child-filled environment and I try to keep that in mind.  Given that most of them have assumed we’re a care-free couple, rather than any focus on our lack of progeny, perhaps they want to spare us.  I know that my friends are good people (that’s why I’m friends with them!), so I find myself generous to their oversights, because I don’t have experience of their parenting world.  But I’d still like to be in their world, with or without my own children.
R.

We’ve got something to tell you

Both our parents have asked in one way or another whether we’ll have kids.  As with everyone else that has asked, we usually answer in a casual “maybe one day”, “perhaps when we’re both in the same place at the same time” type response.  Nothing that sets alarms bells going, or makes people feel uncomfortable.

 

Because telling people, even those that are really close to you, that you’re doing everything you can to procreate but having no success is not exactly an easy topic.  In fact there are very few people we’ve told and even then only one that knows some of the minutiae.  We have not told either set of parents.

 

People often assume that we’re having too much of a good time to think about having children.  The fact is that we are living our lives as they are, because waiting for something that might never happen is unbearably depressing.  The one friend that I spoke to said she thought we were just being casual about the prospect of children.  In some sense I’m glad that’s what she thought, because it means it is not something that defines me (yet), but it also sad, because it only increases the isolation.

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged by women of a certain age, that you will get asked if you have/want to have/are planning to have children.  Add to this that we’re in a secure, long-term relationship, we’re legally-bound and own property and people assume you’re just getting things in order for the inevitable.  In no way do I condone the interrogation of couples about their life choices, but it remains a fact that people don’t talk about (in)fertility.  Experiences only tend to be shared after a baby has come along, or a couple have decided to adopt, foster or not have children.

 

No-one should feel they have to share their experiences with all and sundry, but in not talking, it feels like we’re creating a bigger chasm for those around the edges.

 

(I recognise the irony in sharing our experiences in a blog…)
R.

Mother’s day…

I’ve never been one for Mother’s Day.  I like to think that I love my Mum everyday and say thanks to her when the time is right, rather than when shops/tv/social media tell me I should.  That’s why I bought my Mum a phrenology head one September – because I thought she’d find it interesting.  I don’t ‘do’ Mother’s Day in the same way I don’t ‘do’ Valentine’s Day, or anything else.  I get totally caught up in Christmas, but that’s another story.

Things are different when you’re hoping to be a mum though.  You’re surrounded by posts from new mums, experienced mums, generations of mums and mums and mums.  It’s lovely, but it can be quite isolating.

I know I shouldn’t feel like this, if I don’t celebrate my Mum on Mother’s Day, but it pulls in to focus what I’m feel I’m missing out on.  Maybe if a baby comes along, I’ll want to celebrate Mother’s Day, so that I can bathe in the ongoing glory of creating life.  I hope that I won’t, so that I’m not a hypocrite, but I suspect vanity will overcome – I am incredibly vain after all!

A friend of mine posted the picture below, which I thought was lovely and it has helped to remind me that everyone has their own thing going on.

Mothers

 

I don’t like the saccharine nature of Mother’s Day.  It’s as bad as the friends that wish you happy birthday only because Facebook reminded them.  But I wouldn’t begrudge someone sharing a promotion, feat of strength or creative accomplishment (I probably would, but in a different way and certainly if they didn’t bring me some of the delicious-looking cake they’ve baked!), so I won’t let myself be bitter because I don’t have the joy of over-sharing baby photos.  And if I do have that joy, I hope I’ll remember today.

R.

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