It’s been a while since I had an update on our fertility treatments what with the holidaying and back to working, so I thought a status update was somewhat overdue.
The first consultation for our next IVF cycle was meant to be this afternoon. Instead it has been put back a month or so as we were informed last week that there’s a problem as no doctors are in next week.
I can’t complain really. We are in the UK, which means we get treated (almost*) for free on the NHS (National Health Service). The cost of IVF is nothing like it is for you guys overseas as we are not expected to fund it ourselves as long as we are eligible. There are some strict-ish criteria, like you can’t be treated on the NHS over a certain age (I think it’s 39 or 40 but either way, older than I currently am) and I think you have to be healthy in terms of not being chronically obese etc. The rules for entry and number of cycles vary from trust to trust but in our catchment area in London it means we are eligible for up to three cycles.
(*Almost free as everyone has to pay something called National Insurance contributions from their salaries which fund things like the NHS and public services. This means we are contributing towards it but some are contributing more than others, such as those who are unemployed/retired – and some pay taxes without ever using the service. We also pay a prescription fee of around £9 per prescription and on my last cycle I probably used around 5 prescriptions – obviously less than if you get them privately. A lot of people also have private health insurance subsidised through work – I pay for mine but it’s less than if I got it not through work, which is for example why I was able to get my fibroid operated on in a shorter time than if I’d waited for my NHS turn to come round. So indicatively a cycle of IVF cost me around £50 last time for prescriptions and the tax I pay from my salary, whereas it would cost around £5000 upwards to go private.)
This also means we are somewhat more passive than active consumers – we are told our protocols, and we don’t get to pick whether there is any testing or any further investigation of reasons for infertility. In our trust the investigations extended as far as treating my known endometriosis, doing some scans, and removing a fibroid found during the miscarriage. For T it was a sperm test (for which he got the all clear and was so chuffed with himself he demanded a certificate!). Those along with my medical history of 15+ years of never getting pregnant were enough to jump right to IVF. There was a brief chat about IUI but the doctor advised me at my advanced age to get on with IVF! There was no investigation of why I might be infertile.
Of course I’d never wish to be subject to the whims of insurance funding or worse off, funding it ourselves. We could probably scrape together a cycle (which would have replaced our holiday this year and probably Christmas too). Maybe our parents might fund another cycle – T’s sibling doesn’t look likely to have kids so it would be the only chance of a grandchild on his side. And my parents were overjoyed when we announced our ultimately doomed pregnancy.
However it does feel like we can’t really ask for stuff. We can’t ask for tests. As a stats fan (and T is too, and much better at maths) I’m always asking why they aren’t maximising chances by testing. T says it’s a numbers game. By which he means most people who get referred on the NHS have fertility problems that would get treated by a dose or three of IVF. Tests cost more and probably only solve the problems of a few. Most people have one or two years of infertility, not 15. After miscarriage followed our first IVF cycle, I can’t help feeling that if there is something I could do to avoid that pain, I’d do it. But our treatment is in essence free so we don’t get to ask for those tests. And many people do have successful pregnancies from NHS treatments.
It’s not a great consolation though to those of us who are on the wrong side of the stats. I read all the blogs out there (well, not all!) and they talk about auto immune problems, and scary sounding reasons why my body might be incapable of getting pregnant on its own. In the time since July when I had the miscarriage, we’ve had plenty of opportunity to try things “the natural way”… We’ve taken antenatal vitamins and done the deed at appropriate times as given by apps or ovulation sticks. But I have little faith. (T says I need to believe but after 15 years, I don’t.) I’d love to be that couple for whom it happens but I really doubt it will be us (like my friend from uni who had one via IVF and then boom! Another one naturally within a year).
I guess part of me wants a Dr Braverman to tell me what’s what. But our doctors are fantastic and sympathetic (and one in particular is a total hottie! Even though he was probably still at school when I was at uni!) and so I’m not complaining. The NHS is overstretched and who are we to demand treatment for something that isn’t life threatening… I feel mad at the unfairness of it all, that I can’t do something so simple and human that school kids manage it first time. The irony that I was the result of an unwanted (or unkeepable) pregnancy.
And related to this, I wanted to tell you about something that happened a while ago at work, because I’m still sad/angry (sangry!) about it. It was quite a while ago now. I guess a week or so after I was back from the two and a bit weeks off I had for the miscarriage.
I was sitting in the office minding my own business and trying to finish some work. As you might know if you followed my first IVF cycle, I was on the Project From Hell which meant I was working all the hours in all the days on a very stressful project. And yes, I was probably bloated from the pregnancy and the drugs.
This woman – I refer to her as Cray-Cray – came over to speak with me. I can’t say I’ve ever encouraged it give her crazy reputation. This is someone who, following the birth of her child emailed a set of extremely gory photos of the baby, fresh out of the vajayjay to an entire list of work people – including ones far more important than me. Since then everyone has been like, oh, [her name], she’s crazy!
For one thing I have an infertile woman’s resentment of women who bring their children to work / plaster the workspace with photos and artwork and bring them into the office during holidays. I’m not kidding you – Christmas time turns into crèche time every few days, with screeching children running around the office. And when someone has a baby, it’s practically the rules that they bring it in for people to coo over. I don’t work in a very informal environment – it’s pretty corporate – but unfortunately the rules are relaxed for children and they’re probably too scared to say anything for fear of being sued. I find it kind of unfair that the rule isn’t the same for dogs but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. (I’d probably stay even later hours if my dog was allowed to come in to the office.)
For another thing, Cray-Cray is quite simply too intense for everyday conversation. Unfortunately for me there are very few women in my group who do exactly what I do so she decided we are the same. (I am actually super encouraging of women and I feel it’s my duty to encourage and help the more junior women… But perhaps you’ll understand my stance when you read the next bit.) I always felt a bit guilty that my first instinct was to make excuses to stop talking with her. She has this way of staring into your eyes in a very intense way and quite frankly I find it deeply offputting.
Anyway, the conversation went something like this…
Cray-Cray: Hi Nara, are you busy?
Me: [still staring at computer screen and typing] Yes, I’m pretty busy right now.
CC: [ignoring obvious cue to leave me alone] How are you?
CC: [ignoring the universally acknowledged “Fine”-means-I-do-not-want-to-talk cue] So how is work going?
N: Fine… I’m very busy right now.
[Insert brief exchange re clients and work where she tells me she would like to work for me on some project if there is a space and I’m thinking, over my dead freaking body…]
CC: So how’s your personal life? [WTF? Who even asks that?!]
N: It’s fine thanks; how are you?
CC: Where are you living now? [What? I genuinely don’t understand where this woman learned the art of conversation as it wasn’t from a human.]
N: [My area of London].
CC: Oh, you should move over to near me!
N: I probably couldn’t afford it. [Thinking: When oh when are you going to go away?]
Then The Thing happens.
It happens almost in slow motion. Cray-Cray focuses her crazy stare on my stomach. Bear in mind I am sitting down, I’m maybe a size 10-12 (6-8 US) compared with the 8-10 (4-6) I’ve always been before, but still not very large, not obese or anything. I’m still probably in the bottom quartile of my friends, or maybe I just hang out with larger people or something, but I don’t feel like I am chronically obese even though I want to lose weight like all women seem to want to do.
CC: [Staring very obviously at my stomach, more obviously than anyone ever could… Unambiguously] So… ANY NEWS?
CC continues to make crazy eyes at me and my IVF / miscarriage / sitting down stomach.
Me: No. I don’t know what you’re trying to say. Are you saying I’ve put on weight? I’m not pregnant, if that’s what you are trying to ask.
CC literally doesn’t miss a beat and continues yapping, entirely oblivious or uncaring about the upset / offence she has caused. For another few minutes.
I don’t hear what she is saying because the sound in my ears is white noise.
It’s that anger, that sad-angry burning white resentment of her and everything she stands for.
She’s a mother. Some crazy f***er has actually chosen to impregnate her. (Did she talk incessantly and stare wildly into his eyes during the deed? One can only try to put that horrific image out of one’s mind.) She has a healthy child. Nobody would wish anything less, but I resent her. I want her to leave me alone, forever. I never want to speak with her ever again. EVERYONE KNOWS YOU NEVER ASK SOMEONE IF THEY ARE PREGNANT, EVEN IF THEIR GIGANTIC PREGNANT BELLY IS RUBBING YOU IN THE FACE. IT’S JUST NOT BRITISH.
Instead, I just try to ignore her until she goes away.
Instead, I tell everyone in the office who will listen the hilarious story (with actions) to demonstrate how cray-cray she is and how not-pregnant I am.
Most people find it hysterical. We are British (she is not – Portuguese I think) and it is unthinkable to any Brits that anyone would ever ask if someone was pregnant. You don’t even mention it until there’s a huge bump in your face and even then you probably only offer them a seat on the tube without mentioning it.
Never has this happened to me before. Yes, people inappropriately ask about plans for having children but never has someone done something so blatantly offensive and upsetting as this.
Anyway, it’s now months later. I’m more or less over it, but then what happens last week but she has decided – in this age of hotdesking – to come and sit in my aisle. I have a fixed desk because of a specific thing I was working on. So do a bunch of people round me. There is a whole office of hot desks, and she has decided in her infinite, CRAY CRAY wisdom, that the best place to sit would be right by me!
You couldn’t make it up.
Footnote: I have my period today. (Of course I do… The ultimate punishment for infertiles.) It’s about a week early. This means that I have even less patience than normal… and every time I have to walk past Cray-Cray I want to slap her.