Tagged: grief

IVF 2: mind over matter

People talk about the dreaded “two week wait” – the period of time between embryo transfer and the first pregnancy test. What they don’t tell you is that it is far worse the second time round, after the first cycle ended in miscarriage. That’s not to mention the years and years (not 2-3 but 10+) of fertility problems before that. What I hate about infertility and this whole treatment protocol (IVF) is that it has robbed us of our innocence. I feel like I’m completely cynical, waiting for bad news, expecting the worst, trying to prepare myself for disappointment. And it sucks.

Before infertility

Before I ever started thinking that I might have some “fertility problems”, I kind of figured I’d probably have two children in my twenties (ha!) and my whole plans revolved more about preventing the possibility of pregnancy rather than trying to get pregnant.

Now, I think, “How naive!” when my friends say things like, “Oh, perhaps I’ll start trying for a baby [in my late 30s] after we get married.” I think they don’t even understand that it might not happen straight away. It might not happen for years. It might never happen. Because, of course, for most of my friends it does happen.

IVF cycle 1

I feel like our previous cycle had us in a completely different frame of mind. Actually, I think T is in a similar frame of mind as the first cycle. To him, it’s a numbers game and it will happen eventually and we just have to think positive. In cycle 1, we did think positive. Everything was new and exciting. It was a bit like, if we just do it right, do everything they say – we’ll get pregnant. And we did! Until the scan showed no heartbeat and delayed growth rather than a baby. The little blob with a heartbeat that we saw in week 6 was as far as we got. So much pain.

IVF cycle 2

I’m having such a hard time with this cycle. I really am someone who tries to be positive, or at least pragmatic, but I find the whole thing depressing. I’m on this massive cocktail of drugs to try and treat the immune issues. There is so much scepticism about immunology treatment for infertility/miscarriage but quite frankly I’m willing to give it a go. But we are sort of neck and neck to where we were in cycle 1 (down to 1 blastocyst on day 5, 3BB transferred, no frosties) and we know how that ended. The effects of the drugs the second time round seem so much worse when I don’t have the optimism to sustain myself through it.

I am finding it really really hard to deal with other people’s pregnancies who I know in real life. It seems these natural conceptions are in my face all the time. At work and on Facebook (which I have resumed, cautiously, as of this week because I needed to try something, anything, to take my mind off this). It sounds stupid but I feel like it’s unfair when people conceive without any worry and nothing to overcome to get pregnant. This is my problem, not theirs, but the feeling is so hard to deal with.

T says I need to be positive and optimistic, but I just don’t feel it. He is great and lovely (he’s T: his superpower is kindness) but it doesn’t stop my mind running. This time round I’m thinking, “Do I feel any different?” and I don’t know whether anything is wishful thinking, grief, hope, or whatever. I more or less feel normal. My boobs actually seem to have gone down, which is both easier to deal with and worrying (because surely if I was pregnant, they’d get bigger?). They’re still bigger than normal but not as big as when taking the IVF drugs. I’ve felt a bit sick/hungry but then I think that could just be psychological. It’s a good thing I have T and Dog to cheer me up or I think I’d be utterly despondent.

Last time I managed to hold off testing until the day they told us to test. I didn’t have any expectations and was completely shocked when it worked. But this time I am thinking, I want to know. I want to try and get my life back if it hasn’t worked. I need to prepare myself mentally. I’m seeing my sister on test day and I think that at least she will understand (if you read my past posts, in a stupid irony, they went through the same thing a few months after us) but equally I don’t know if I will be such good company. Also there’s all the complex feelings of: What if she gets pregnant before me? Everyone else has; why not her?

I want to feel like it will be okay, but right now it feels completely overwhelming. Even if we make it to a positive pregnancy test, we won’t be able to enjoy that. It’s just one hurdle of hundreds and it seems inconceivable (ba-dum-tish) that we will ever jump all of them. (I’m short and bad at jumping hurdles anyway.) I think before maybe I had this dream life of what might happen – T and I talk about it all the time – we even have the name for our child picked out and we refer to him (or her) and I can feel the dream fading away. Like it just doesn’t feel real to me.

What’s different this time?

Quite a lot is different this time round. The actual IVF protocol is almost the same but with Menopur instead of Gonal F. Even though we retrieved only 7 eggs (instead of 12 in cycle 1) the end result was 1 grade 3BB blastocyst on day 5 so… I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. It still means only 1 embryo to pin our hopes on.

On the job front, I’m about a million times more chilled. I’m working my notice period whereas this time last year I was working a really stressful job. Notice period is nice! Everyone’s nice to you and nobody expects much. It’s like you’re doing them a favour just turning up to work! I’m doing like a hundredth of the work I usually do because I can’t do certain stuff on my notice period (eg I can’t do client work as I might steal clients!). I’m actually fine with this pace of life!

I spoke with my new boss on the phone today as well. It was great. I mean, I could have it completely wrong but we totally clicked in interview and it makes me so psyched to work there. I’m sure it will be a challenge and stuff but it’s different to what I’m doing now, and it’s more aligned to the type of work I like doing, so I think at a minimum it will be nice just to do something different. Also I’m getting a pay rise! Finally breaking a target salary amount that I always wanted to break! So on a personal professional level it makes me feel like I’ve achieved something. It feels like a good opportunity and I guess if everything doesn’t work out with this cycle then at least I’ll feel I’ve got something else good going on in my job. I think the worst last year was the realisation I was going to have to stick out my current job instead of going on maternity leave. (We haven’t even thought in detail about maternity leave as I probably wouldn’t be eligible for a lot, given my start date at the new job – but really I don’t care at this point and we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now I’m happy to give T most of the leave and he would be happy to take it – whatever it takes! We would be so happy to have a live baby.)

There isn’t much news with the new house but it’s still trundling along. We are trying! In the UK it seems to be a dark art. We are waiting on lawyers to sort stuff out. Really we are ready to move quickly once contracts are exchanged. I really want this to happen this month so it’s not happening when I’m starting my new job. Here’s hoping.

So right now we’re just waiting… on everything.

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Triggery trigger things

I have been thinking lately about what it’s like to be infertile / pursuing IVF / post miscarriage.

  
“One of these things is not like the other” – © Sesame Street

I realised that’s how it feels. I feel Other.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve had a whole lifetime of getting used to being Other. I was born overseas and I was adopted a few days after birth by my white British parents. Unlike some adoptees (note: I dislike the word but for the purposes of this blog I use it for brevity rather than “people who were adopted”), my parents actually lived in the country of my birth and even spoke some of my “native” language. (I say native as I was preverbal when I lived there so my native language is English.) I realised over the weekend when I was randomly thinking about it that my white British parents actually lived longer in my country of birth than I ever did. Strange.

Growing up with non-white features it was ingrained in me from the start that I was Other. (Okay, possibly not the start, but pretty much smacked me in the face when I moved to England.) The predominant beauty standards are white and you probably have no idea how internalised that beauty standard is. For example, it’s taken me until recent years, my late 30s, to understand that people of my race can actually be attractive. And for me – I used to hate how I looked so much, that I would stare for hours in the mirror at myself and wish that my eyes and nose and hair and skin were different, and I could just be “normal” (blonde, blue eyed). Even though there are probably more people who look like me in the world than not. Fast forward to adolescence and females of my race are fetishised as exotic and ascribed a level of ability with the opposite sex that has simultaneously served me well, as well as slightly repulsed me.

It’s kind of tricky growing up different. Of course I had a sibling, also adopted from the same country, who was supposed to make me feel less alone. Our parents wanted us to have that kind of buddy and racial mirroring, I guess. (They came from the era where “colourblindness” was the prevailing attitude, pretending you can’t see race, which is really quite confusing to transracially adopted kids. They didn’t know any better – I don’t blame them, but it really is confusing when people tell you they can’t see a problem when there is clearly a problem.)

It’s been a love-hate relationship between my adopted sibling and me all our lives. At times it’s felt like a reminder of my own failings, a mirror to my Otherness. At times it’s felt like I had an ally and at times it’s felt like we were both as clueless as each other. We don’t know how to be [our race], other than in looks. We had very few racial mirrors growing up (as they now talk of as important on transracial adoption forums). I hate to admit it, but I was kind of scared of people of my own race… they seemed so foreign… and if I really admit it, I probably still do. I’m insanely jealous of [ethnic minority] colleagues who have loads of [their race] friends. Like, I like white people; I really do – I live with one, and my family’s mainly white – but it would be nice once in a while to not be the token ethnic.

Infertility and transracial adoption is a strange and ironic kind of intersectionality where I kind of want to start singing Alanis Morrisette’s Ironic, aside from the fact that everyone knows it’s not really about irony. There’s a special sort of bad luck associated with that primal desire to have some sort of genetic connection to another being, which adopted and non-adopted alike seem to want more often than not, and the inability to have that even when your first genetic links were severed. It’s like lightning striking twice – no, you can’t have a genetic relation! Can you really lose both your first family and your potential family? That seems kind of double bad luck! You lose the ability to see your parents in yourself, and you lose the ability to see yourself in your kids. That is something basic, something primal, and something that pretty much everyone else takes for granted. It seems doubly unfair not to have both, no matter how “lucky” you are as an adoptee.

I can only speak for myself as an adoptee. Others have different stories… We aren’t some amorphous mass of adoptedness. A lot of the time when I read stuff on adoption forums and blogs, I feel like I can’t relate, and maybe that’s another layer of intersectionality – the treatment of ethnic minorities (UK term) / people of color (US term) in the UK (where I live) and the US (where most bloggers/forum posters seem to live). I think my experience growing up overseas in a primarily American expatriate environment followed by “assimilation” in the British environment in the UK gives me a specific perspective that probably differs from a lot of what I read online. I don’t at all dismiss those voices, and equally I think it’s good if we recognise we aren’t all the same – some dichotomy of angry or grateful (the adoptee tropes) – we are all different, all complex, all different shades.

My feelings about adoption have changed and developed, which is apparently common with adoptees. As a younger child and adult I really downplayed the idea that genetic links mattered and that there was any need to have a child related to me by blood… I kind of thought it didn’t matter, because it didn’t matter that my family wasn’t genetically related to me. (I always saw myself having children, though.) As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become more “woke” (as they call it in adoption rights parlance) to the idea that adoption isn’t just as tickety-boo as it might seem (I’m not opposed to it but I think there are reasons I would hesitate about doing it, particularly in the UK where there is far less of a domestic adoption “market” as there is in the US/overseas, meaning that we don’t really have babies adopted to order and more likely involving traumatised children who have been involuntarily removed from their parents). I’ve also become more in tune with the idea that I’ve lost my genetic links and my cultural heritage and that that’s a loss rather than just a fact, and I would like if possible if my child could have that familiarity and genetic link to its parents.

I don’t know if I’m really explaining it very well… It’s just how I feel. Both my partner and I were adopted as babies; we both had largely positive experiences (though mine was negatively impacted by being a different race to the predominant one) and we both feel that our adoptive families are our families, and we feel secure and happy in our families. And yet – we both would like to have a child who is genetically ours. We haven’t fully explored what our choice would be if/when we decide to give up on the fertility treatments. I can’t say for sure what I would want, but I don’t think we would automatically move towards adoption (plus I think it’s insulting to think that just because we were adopted, we should “just adopt” – it’s really not that simple). Life without kids isn’t worthless, no matter what the media might portray. We enjoy our life right now with Dog and without children, so maybe we would just not have kids.

And here we are, putting ourselves (mainly me) through this gruelling and intrusive process, just to grasp that teeny tiny flicker of hope that it might work and we might become parents. I started down regulation just over a week ago and honestly, I feel pretty crappy.

First of all, it makes me feel like I have perma-PMS. I now have a big zit on my chin, which always makes me feel really self conscious (I had very bad acne as a teen which only healed when I went on the pill – bad skin just added to my intense hatred of my looks). I’ve also piled back on the weight which I don’t know whether to attribute to a bad month of eating (staycation, Easter, general PMS-like feelings from down regulation) or to the side effects of the Buserelin. Either way I’m back up to a high weight and I’d been doing really well losing 4-5kg, so it makes me feel awful and fat. Plus whatever’s in Buserelin (it dampens down your body’s natural cycle which is then kick started by stimulation meds in a couple of weeks) makes my boobs grow enormous.

The upside of this is that T really likes the bigger boobs; the downside is I hate them. They feel sore and I feel like they make me look fat. He says the drugs make me more moody too, which is probably not a surprise as they basically mimic PMS symptoms. Ugh. So I’m spotty, with greasy hair, humungaboobs and fat as well as moody. It’s basically the dream combo for making a baby! (Nevertheless we did have a bit of how’s your father over the weekend, because you may as well take advantage of having big boobs when the situation arises.) I’ve found myself feeling more emotional than normal, which is maybe a side effect of down regulation. (Or: I’m just a moody cow.) I feel more than ever that there are situations in which people (let’s call them breeders) act in a way that is massively triggering.

One such occasion happened last week when I was on the tube. The tube was delayed for ages due to some kind of mechanical problems which means it was way more crowded than usual. I was standing up for part of the way and was feeling kind of gross (as for some reason I’ve also been feeling a bit nauseous, probably due to the Buserelin or possibly that I keep stuffing myself). A guy holding a toddler obnoxiously asked people to move down inside the carriage (people do this and it’s very annoying because the carriage was already really crowded and people weren’t standing there just for fun). Someone in front of me vacated their seat and I went to take it, and then this guy holding the toddler kind of muscled in and said in a really loud voice “Could I have that seat please” – indicating the child as a reason. I duly gave up my seat.

This is probably a London etiquette thing but the basic hierarchy for seats is: disabled people, pregnant women, old people – then everyone else. There’s no place in the hierarchy for children, and in many cases, people will ask their children to stand up or sit on their laps if lots of people are standing. The other point is that children travel free. So by taking up a seat, a child is taking a seat from people who have paid, whilst they haven’t paid. Now, I always give up my seat to people who fall in the above categories. Believe it or not, I’m especially attuned to pregnant women because to see one is basically to be punched in the face with your infertility. They have these badges they wear saying Baby On Board which is depending on how you see it, either a smug way of saying they’re pregnant but more likely a British thing of asking for a seat without actually having to ask. If you see someone with a badge on, you need to offer them a seat. Everyone knows that. (Strangely it always seems to be me giving a seat, rather than a man.)

What bugged me and triggered me about this man was his sense of entitlement. Sure, it’s not fun standing on a crowded tube train with a toddler. But he was travelling in rush hour, which is when most people are getting to work (it seems unlikely he was, given his casual wear and the kid), and there were delays, meaning that most of the carriage was full of standing people. Like I said, it’s absolutely not the norm to give a seat because someone has a child (it was an able bodied, verbal child) and then it soon became apparent that this guy was there with his wife/partner, as he started speaking in a loud “Daddy” voice to the toddler about “Mummy” for the entire journey. I’m all for fathers being happy to be fathers but parents who shove parenthood into everyone else’s faces really p*** me off.

In fact the man sitting next to him immediately got up and offered me his seat, because he also seemed to grasp how ridiculous it was to be told to give up your seat for an able bodied man and child. (Note I didn’t say anything about feeling nauseous or ill or anything, because as a non-pregnant non-mother we are pretty much implied to be invisible and pointless… I don’t get a vote.) I appreciatively took the seat and then wham… a woman gets on with a Baby on Board badge, and nobody offers her a seat, so I jump up out of my seat and she waddles through the crowd and takes it. (I’m not mad at her, just mad at all the people closer to her who should have given up their seat – including the able bodied man and child… The guy just carried on yabbering to the child really loudly, as if he thought he didn’t have to give up his seat for a pregnant lady.)

Point was of this whole story is how a seemingly innocuous event can make you feel terrible. Maybe it’s the down regulation and the drugs that are making me feel bad. Maybe it’s my history of infertility and loss that makes me feel like I’m constantly reminded of how I’m a second class citizen because I don’t – can’t – have a child. Maybe it’s a lifetime of feeling Other. Or maybe it’s all three.

I got a seat eventually, when the obnoxious Daddy got off (not after giving the entire carriage a running commentary in baby voice about every single stupid aspect of the journey – basically being inconsiderate to everyone else, either because he thought his job as Daddy was so important or he just didn’t care). It’s such a stupid small thing, but the effects of that journey are still ongoing. I am still smarting from it a week later, still feeling inadequate and still feeling resentful. I even feel resentful that I’m resentful. Like, I shouldn’t even care what some dimwit does on the tube, but I do. It’s pretty much impossible to escape one’s childlessness and the constant reminders that we are lesser human beings because we haven’t managed to perform this basic human function.

And yet. There are good things happening too. (I promise you I’m not sitting around in a fug of childlessness… I’ve been childless my whole life so I’ve had time to get accustomed to the idea!) Hopefully our house is moving ahead, which is a good thing. I mean, it’s exciting to think we might have our own home. We even went to the Ideal Home Show at the weekend just to look around, as we got free tickets – it’s fun to play dream house although our new place is tiny and doesn’t have space for most stuff! T made me think of fun things like what would my ideal cooker be. (He’s great at cheering me up. It would be a big range cooker! Impractical for a small flat!) On Sunday we introduced Dog to our friends’ dog – they’d never met – and went for a long walk. They aren’t friends as such given the other dog is 4 times Dog’s size, but the other dog “gave” our Dog a cow’s ear (URGH) to chew on, which Dog’s almost beside himself with happiness about. (I, on the other hand, am disgusted.)

Work is much easier now I know I’m leaving! It’s quite gratifying when people are being annoying, to think that I don’t have to deal with them for much longer. My work friend left last week which was sad, as it means I don’t have her to chat to any more, but I did inherit her desk which is a total prime desk by the window in the corner (not overlooked – win!) which is fun to think of as it means I have it for the next couple of months whilst working my notice! Which is quite nice!

So actually I’m sort of happy about things. I’m just working through my feelings on here, and aside from the Buserelin Blues (which should be a song – boo-boo-be-doo) I am generally okay. I need to work on not getting worked up!

Next steps for IVF: 

I have my first scan on 12 April. This means in a week’s time I could be starting stims and I also have some of the reproductive immunology stuff from Dr S to take. Maybe a week or two after that, egg collection. Quite exciting… although daunting to think of how many other steps there are after that. T and I were talking about it and thinking ahead to next steps if this doesn’t work. Like if we move, we might have to go to a different clinic for the next cycle. We might change eligibility so might not get another NHS cycle, which would mean going privately. It sounds negative but I find it easier to try and plan for contingencies and think that we have a plan if it doesn’t work out.
I am hopeful. It’s just that I’m slightly more realistic… slightly more bruised than I was in Cycle 1.

Two steps forward, three steps back

I don’t like to post about private private things, but sometimes I feel like I just need to vent. Today I feel like I’ve been making all this progress, trying to get a new job and new house and new fertility (ha!), but it feels like it’s two steps forward and then I’m running backwards. (Not easy to run backwards but I seem to be doing great.)

In previous posts I mentioned that I split up with my ex a long time ago. I mean, years ago. In the intervening years I met T, and he and I (and Dog) are a unit. However what I may not have mentioned, and what doesn’t occur to most people is that I am still married to my ex. He lives in the marital home I moved out of years ago, before I met T. And for a while I carried on paying the mortgage contribution that I always did (just over half of the mortgage as I also contributed towards bills) and then I reduced it over time, but I still pay a proportion of the mortgage (around 1/4 – 1/3) as he can’t afford to pay it on his own.

What happened since I left is not something I fully understand, but it ended up with him losing his job and essentially being unable to work. So I’ve continued to pay towards this mortgage. For a while I tried to get it sorted out and transfer the mortgage to him, and then nothing happened. And then he lost his job which meant that the mortgage lender wouldn’t give him a mortgage, because he had no income. So then I tried all of last year to get something sorted. The fact was that he couldn’t buy me out, because he had no income. And he didn’t want to sell the house because that’s the only thing he has left.

Basically I know he is emotionally and mentally fragile so I’ve continued to support him financially. I earn considerably more than he does (especially now he doesn’t have a job) so although it was a stretch and prevents me from saving anything myself (until I made huge efforts to pay of debts and finally had more, last year) I still pay it. And I felt guilt for leaving in the first place. (And maybe also relief for finally understanding that it wasn’t a healthy place to be.) And sorry for him for being unable to look after himself. So I carried on paying, and I didn’t sort anything out. I didn’t want to pressure him.

Every time I pressure him, like I did at the beginning of last year (and probably half heartedly the year before, and…) he ends up having a meltdown and not being able to cope with it. He’s been getting better and finally agreed to a solution which was for my stuff to go in storage (as he didn’t want me to come round to the house and pick it up) and for me to transfer my half of the house to a mutual friend who could afford to be nominally on the mortgage. I don’t really care who gets it; I just want to be separated financially. 

This started off as being a rather poor deal – he put down the deposit initially (as I was only young and hadn’t any capital) and the proposal was that I get around 10% of the house value. This is kind of bad but over time it got eroded because he couldn’t afford it, with the final value of what I get paid to transfer the deeds being around 2.2% of the house value and less than a year’s rent where I am staying now. The idea being that he will offset the remainder of the payment to be paid in 10 years, when he will either have the money or sell the house.

In the end we’re so far down the line now that I just want out. I have agreed to everything, just to keep the peace and to try and get out of the agreement. We can’t even finalise our divorce until we have sorted out the financials (it’s a condition in the British courts that you have a financial agreement to finally get divorced). In the beginning I wanted to fight for my fair share (which would be 50% of the value less the deposit he put in) but now I would basically give it away for nothing. Well, I am doing – it’s 2%. I paid half all those years and I get 2% out of it. Nuts.

What’s really upsetting me now is that we found a place to buy. We can afford it whether or not I have the other mortgage – the payments would be about what we are paying in rent now. However there are now changes happening with Stamp Duty in the UK. (It never rains but it pours!) This means that if you have two homes then you have to pay stamp duty (a kind of tax) on both of them. The second home has a 3% surcharge on it. It’s meant to catch out “fat cats” who have multiple residences, not some middle manager who’s trying to get a divorce and whose ex hasn’t managed to settle. Believe me I’m not making any money here.

I guess I’m just feeling kind of depressed about it (not clinically; don’t worry) because I feel like I’ve conceded on everything. And we still haven’t sorted it. T and I have now been together longer than my ex and I were married! (It was a short marriage but a long relationship.) It’s crazy that I can’t just be let go and that we can’t both (my ex and I) move on in our lives. I feel like there are a lot of people making a lot of money out of this, and neither of us are benefiting. My ex isn’t benefiting from being in the old house which probably reminds him of us. It’s really sad because it is a lovely house… I really loved it when we bought it. But it’s a reminder of sadness now. And T and I are stuck in limbo because we can’t get our marital home (let alone get married! Not that I even want to any more!) without me settling with my ex. It seems nuts that I am still linked to this person who I am not with any more. He’s older than me and I never expected him to be financially dependent.

Don’t know what I’m trying to say here. I guess there have been some glimmers of hope. I had the other job interview last night – subject to many last minute changes, it went pretty well. Unfortunately it was a complete personnel change for one reason or another, so I ended up meeting the guy’s boss, which I guess is a good thing! And he was great. Although a bunch of stuff made me feel like I’d be more upset if I don’t get the job, like working all over the weekend on the presentation – it was oddly satisfying, but then I felt invested in doing well! Clever them! The meeting was really positive but now I’ll just feel more upset if I don’t get an offer. And the ones last week who were really positive – I’ve heard nothing from them either! It’s a bit of a weird limbo. I guess that’s where I am now… Limbo.

Work wise it is tough. I’ve had a pretty bad time lately and I’m feeling quite negative about it. They just treat me like **** sometimes which makes me react badly… And then I’m sure people think I’m terrible, and it just kind of gets me into a funk. The funny thing is that the non worky-work stuff (people at work who I don’t work with) is pretty good. I feel happy to see people and stuff, and a lot of them are nice. Of course, fat pregnant b**** is still hanging around like a bad smell but for the most part I ignore her. And I think she’s going off in May or something so not long now. (Actually seems like ages.) I just feel worn down by being treated badly a lot of the time, but equally I know it could be a lot worse. I mean, I could be treated badly and get paid badly. At least I can afford to live.

Argh, this is a depressing post probably but just me venting! There are good things too. I think sometimes it gets on top of me. Like I’ve done all this swimming but ultimately I’m swimming upstream and as soon as I stop swimming, I’ll be right back where I started. Sometimes it feels like the universe is punishing me. “You left someone so you are never allowed to be happy!” I’ve done everything I can to make his life easier, and I’m still being punished. Even if I did go back, it’s just not fixable. And I know what a proper, equal, respectful, loving, demonstrative and fun relationship is like now. (Not to mention dog sharing! I don’t think we could ever split up because of Dog.)

Generally in myself I’m okay. But sometimes when you sit and take stock, and yet another person announces their pregnancy, and more people bring kids into the office (I’m just being mean here – they were cute, not babies, so I was happy to entertain them and encourage them to eat sweets and get a sugar rush like the bad auntie I am), and everyone else has a house that they can work on and settle in, rather than a rented place (ours isn’t so bad – it’s cool inside, I just don’t like the area)… Etc etc (insert contrasting not screwed up life here)… Well, sometimes it wears you down.

But! We are okay. I still think for all this crap, I’d do it again. I would give up my previous existence, give up my house and my comforts and my 3 holidays a year and my big garden to come and live in a one bedroom studio with T and Dog. I’d give up my designer handbags and my smug marriedness and nice middle class life to come and live in grimy London. Really I would give it all up as long as I had T and Dog.

So yeah, I’m having a bit of a morose day. But I’m lucky I have those glimmers of hope, and for that I’ll keep swimming.

On grief and moving on

I think the saying is true: Life does go on. At various times in my life I’ve been grateful or resentful that is the case. It’s like: You have this big thing that happens to you and to anyone else it’s just a normal day. You look at people going about their daily business and you want to scream at them: He is dead! Do you understand? My baby is dead!

And then you realise inside many of them there is a silent scream, just as there is in you. Because loss is part of the human condition. Every one of those people has their own silent thoughts, and maybe one of them has struggled more than others, and maybe that one who has struggled the most isn’t you. It probably isn’t you. I remind myself that when I’m screaming. Silently. 

And to most people and in most cases, I’m okay. I can forget about loss for most of my day. Of course it’s there in the background but it’s the same background grief that is a part of my being. 

Until this happened, this infertility, this thing that I never put a name to – this no, we don’t have any children – I don’t think I fully appreciated the Other Loss of my first family and culture, of kinship and of people who look like me. What this journey so far has taught me is that it’s not as separate as I might have thought. 

When I started this blog, it was purely to talk about my infertility and IVF treatment. That’s where I saw my loss as being greatest, and my feelings as being in greatest need of release. But it became something else… I somehow had all these thoughts swirling about that I’d never given words to – the thoughts on being adopted. 

I don’t campaign for or against adoption. I write about my feelings as a 30-something transracial adoptee, which aren’t as simple as for or against. (I hate that word; like amputee – some adoptees might say it’s apt.) I thought before it added context to my infertility story. Lately I think it maybe adds the context for my life. 

If you read adoptee literature you read that adoptees often feel the need to be the appeasers, to want to make people happy. In one way I’m like that: I always want to reassure people I’m perfectly okay with being adopted. I turned out okay. But on the other hand, I’m very much one of those “marmite” people. In real life, people seem to have a more extreme reaction to me than they do to others. I used to tell myself that was okay – the people who love me, love me intensely. My friends are awesome. But really I’d just rather people liked me. 

Why am I saying this? I don’t really know. I guess all this pondering on loss and the idea we might never have a bio child has made me feel much more aware of my genetic discreteness. As in, I am a genetic island. No bio parents [that I’ve ever met since 10 days old or at all] and no bio kids. It’s quite a weird feeling, but it’s one I’ve had all my life. 

Over the past few months, I’ve felt much more aware of my lost cultural heritage. As a child and adolescent and younger adult, I really didn’t care. I actually got sort of pitying about older adoptees who would tell me they suddenly got this urge to find out their roots. They’d say “I felt the same way you did at your age.” Maybe it’s just a thing: The same way that adults of a certain age want to have kids. Maybe adult adoptees feel more and more the loss of their first life. 

I’ve always been very laissez faire about being adopted. (My own adoption, not anyone else’s.) I felt relieved that I’m not one of those who feel a lot of grief about it. Of course I always knew I had some feelings locked up about it, but I could deal with them. (As children, my adopted sibling and I would enjoy watching movies about adoption. And as an adult, I’ve read countless books on adoption. I think you gravitate towards those feelings… I think of it as a cathartic poking of a nest, or something.)

Lately, some thoughts I’ve been having:

  • I wish that I had learned something of my birth language. I don’t even know what it is, for sure. How dumb is that? And I can’t blame my parents for this because they used to ask us a lot. They were very aware of not making us different than their bio kids. (Of course, we were… No amount of wishing would make it not so.) But I kind of wish they’d forced it on us. (They never forced anything on us like that, which is why I quit piano aged 5, whereas sibling #2 is now amazing at it.) Adoptive parent lesson: Don’t trust a 5 year old to make life changing decisions. 
  • As a child, I found the idea of open adoption really scary. I was just fine with never being in contact with my birth family. I didn’t want them to come and snatch me back. Whereas as an adult I kind of think, why wouldn’t you want to have a large extended family of people who love you? It’s not like love has to be limited. Too much love is an okay problem to have. And being transracially adopted, it really would have helped me to have some reference point of people who look like me. (Sibling #2 does, to the extent that we are from the same race. We don’t look the same at all, though, in the same way as you don’t look the same as a random person from your race. And we both have the same problem: lack of native race role models.) In my parents’ defence, they did at least live in our birth country for several years – but this was when we were too young to remember it. 
  • I feel like my birth culture is too far away from where I am now for me ever to go back as anything more than a tourist. Which is probably why I’ve never been back. Again, my parents offered to take me back. They took my sibling but I said no. This was a few years ago. I don’t know why I didn’t go. Maybe that I don’t want to see it through their eyes. I always told myself that I would only go myself if/when I have a baby. It’s like I don’t feel I can legitimately go back until I can close the circle. (Not sure what that means; blethering.)
  • I’ve always felt the loss of my first father more than is ever acknowledged in literature. Everything focuses on the mother, but for some reason I feel more connected to her. My parents met her. They never met my father. I wonder if he ever knew? I’ve thought of him ever time I’ve seen an older [my ethnicity] man. Every time. (I probably get the ethnicity wrong 80% of the time.) I somehow feel something different about him that I can’t put into words. All I know is that every time I see a man of a certain age from that race, I think that could be him. (I know it’s not him. I mean that there are very few reference points for men of my ethnicity in the UK. Even fewer than for women, who are exoticised/ fetishised to a degree.)
  • I kind of think it would be cool if people of our age, from our home culture but living in the adoptive country, could “adopt” adoptees. What I mean is: As an adult I’ve always felt envious of people who have their own cultural traditions. In the uk this is mainly black people. I’m not white but I’m not black, and it often feels in the western world that there’s this racial dichotomy and if you don’t fit in either then you don’t fit. It’s probably no coincidence that my BFF is mixed race (US: biracial). As an adoptee (me), and as someone brought up by her white parent in the UK when she looks black (my BFF), we have a lot of similar feelings and experiences. But in the UK, black people have an identity and she has black friends, whereas I have hardly any of my race and none from where I come from. And no easy way to find some. It almost feels like I would be like a white person culturally appropriating. “Ooh, I love your food.” (I don’t even like the food.)
  • This is going to sound waaaay like projection and anthropomorphism, but I feel even more of a kinship with my dog. I can’t help feeling that there’s something horrible about taking him away from his mother as a tiny puppy (fitted in the palm of my hand) and bringing him up in a human environment. I love him more than anything and I feel like I have given him a nice life, and he’s the absolute apple of our eyes, but when he sees another dog he’s like “OMG! OMG!” and I feel like maybe for all the love and toys we’ve given him, ultimately he’s a dog and he’d probably have liked to have grown up with his dog family. But also I think: If we hadn’t adopted him, someone else would have…  (Yes, that probably does sound like projection. It’s an interesting thought though.)

Anyway, I don’t know what I’m saying really. I think the time off Facebook has probably given me more time to think! I’m definitely coming out of the grief zone. I mean, I don’t want you to think that I sit around wrapped up in my grief. It’s not that bad at all. I feel like my blog is my place to explore those feelings, so if I seem overly introspective, it’s more to save my everyday from being weighed down by tears. (I picture myself in a house where the walls are crying… It’s not like that, I promise. I’m not living in some sort of gothic Victoriana.)

It really wasn’t too bad, this weekend. On Saturday, we went to see an apartment. (We had promised to stop doing it after the last one fell through, which lasted all of a week when this one in our desired area came on the market.) I really liked it! The main problem is that it’s more of a 1 bedroom than a 2 bedroom. And of course for longevity a 2 bedroom would be better. That doesn’t take into account how insane London is though. It’s nuts. I’m not kidding when I tell you that you’re looking at £500k for a normal small apartment. Realistically we could afford half a mill but who wants to go into that much debt? Anyway, we have found where we want to live – it’s just a case of finding a good place we can afford!

We went on a little boat trip and then we went to selfridges (as we had a rare dog free time, as we had been to see that flat) and we bought some food from the food hall, because austerity (ha!). 

Of course, this weekend was Valentine’s Day weekend. There have been many posts for and against, so I thought I’d chuck my hat in the ring. I’m for. 

Mainly because I am suspicious of anyone who doesn’t want to celebrate love. I love love! Of course, it kind of sucks a bit when you don’t have a valentine, but in valentines’ past I have been out for “unvalentines” with friends, and it’s super fun. I remember a night out with the girls many years ago where we went out for cocktails and dim sum (way before it was cool) and then went and danced stupidly in a terrible club. Other years I’ve been out with friends, or I’ve been in a relationship. And believe me, being in a relationship where you are lonely is the worst thing of all. 

The argument for not celebrating Valentine’s Day is one I’ve heard a lot. I’m totally fine with other people not wanting to celebrate it. I don’t think everyone has to be exactly like me. (Imagine how dreadful the world would be… It would be extremely messy, for starters.) That thing where people say “I don’t need a day to celebrate love because we celebrate it every day.” Yeah, I get it. But why not, if you can? I like to think we celebrate it every day. I will never take T’s love for granted. (In fact, I annoyingly ask him a lot whether he still loves me.) I like romance and I like everyday love. Actually I think everyday love is better than romance. It feels nicer, like worn in shoes you can actually walk in. 

So here’s our Valentine’s weekend in pictures… The few I remembered to take!

 The ferry. It was very cold and breezy. T insisted he wanted to go and investigate where the north circular (road) turns into the south circular. We went and watched the ferry and then walked under the river for what seemed like miles. It’s a fun experience! Though a bit chilly!

   
Valentine’s morning we took Dog and walked to one of our favourite spots which is a cafe by the Thames. Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows is my favourite drink!


For a good start to the day, I recommend a full English breakfast. I’m sure you guys in the US and Canada aren’t into this, and I love American breakfasts too, but nothing quite compares to a full English. Dog sat on his own chair and had about half of mine (plus his own special dog sausages which they keep and provide for dogs, which are basically left over sausages from the previous day and perfectly edible). If Dog and T are happy, I’m happy. 

 
Happy Monday everyone! 🇬🇧
  

We’re on a break

Facebook has been the chronicle of my life since 2007. I wasn’t young enough (sob!) to have it at uni. I was of the age where we had uni email addresses – our first – that were strings of numbers @uni.ac.uk. I can still remember mine. (A string of seven numbers; I can barely remember a phone number any more.)

Before Facebook, I had a fairly clear delineation between my public life and my private thoughts. I had a diary I wrote in, at first every night, with a padlock, and then as I got older, a journal with multicoloured pages in which I’d record my innermost thoughts and dreams in a way that I assumed was both amusing and poignant. 

Who was I writing for? I don’t know. The folly of youth. I never really thought I’d be famous or anything. I didn’t think they’d eventually publish my diaries interspersed by anecdotes of my amazing achievements. (Would it be the Nobel Prize? The Booker? Or maybe the school drama prize? – I did win that one, hilariously.)

I think I was writing for the self I wanted to express. The self I half wanted to be and half already was. I’d write a lot about how I felt rather than what I did – and usually there was some sort of yearning involved. Typical adolescent angst. I don’t think I was special in that way. 

The difference with kids nowadays is that everything is more accessible. Everything is more shared. I never would have dreamt of sharing my deepest fears or thoughts or dreams, but nowadays they’re insta-fodder. (Preferably with an artistic photographed background with an inspirational quote over the top of it.)

When I was younger, I felt I was the only one. The only what? The only… Me. The only one who felt that kind of existential angst and confusion and fear I could never be loved. Now, any teenager you can see is baring their heart online, pouting for selfies, telling the world what an amazing time they’re having – and sharing their suffering. With all of this online we are simultaneously together and alone. 

Studies have shown that people’s moods are easily affected by what they read online, especially on social networking sites like facebook. Facebook itself did an experiment where people saw positive statuses or negative statuses and it affected how people felt about themselves. It does have an affect on my mood. When I see all the baby announcements, or yet another amazing holiday selfie, sometimes I feel a bit disillusioned with my life.

I’ve always been an early adopter of tech. I was on online forums before my friends even discovered the Internet. (I still don’t quite get people who don’t have social media… I think, how do you know stuff?!) I’ve been top poster. I’ve been online popular. And I’ve been burned (flamed!) by people who probably wouldn’t say it to my face. I know the pitfalls. I know that not everyone (anyone?) online is who they say they are. And yet… I don’t hate it.

On balance, I love it. I love the idea that I can get online on my mobile in almost every situation. That feels magical to me. I remember the days of dial up, when you had to wait to see if your extension cable telephone cord would let you online after a few tries (when your housemate was using the telephone!). I love the immediacy of needing to find something out, of wanting to find out a fact and googling it, or wanting to get in touch with an old friend and looking them up on Facebook, of finding anyone’s online footprint. Knowledge is power – and it’s at our fingertips (as long as we’re prepared to trawl through the other rubbish out there). We can find out anything, and anyone.

Because everyone has Facebook. (I know; they don’t. But most do.) And everyone has an extremely photogenic life. I mean, if you look on Facebook you’ll see that almost everyone you know is loved up, successful at work, eats healthy, goes for runs and foreign holidays and has exactly two photogenic and well behaved children. 

Or that’s how it seems, anyway. My “real life” friends and I have a bit of an offline laugh about it. It’s funny, especially the real self-promoters. To be fair, I’ve probably fallen into that bucket before. (Wasn’t my wedding the most photogenic out there? Isn’t everyone’s?) It’s a legacy of being unpopular (or so I thought) at school… The desire to be seen as successful, and happy, and it somehow seemed easier to be my best self online. It still does. 

I’ve loved Facebook. I had a quick look at my stats, and I spend over half the time on my phone using the Facebook app. My first thought in the morning is “What’s going on?” It’s how I spend my downtime. I connect with friends, I spout a load of rubbish on discussion forums and I post pictures of food and Dog. 

And what is it all for, really?

Last week, I felt pretty bad. Anyone who reads my blog would have noticed this! It was my due date for PB, the baby I miscarried last year. Also, everyone on Facebook appears to be pregnant or having babies. And to top it all off, there was a wonderful (*sarcasm) meme sweeping Facebook about motherhood – posting 3-5 pictures of how wonderful motherhood is, depending on just how smug your fertile friends are. (Way to make you feel barren.) It was kind of too much for me last week. 

So last week I went cold turkey. Well, not exactly cold turkey; more like room temperature turkey. I had already switched off notifications several months ago, probably at least a year ago, to stop myself from feeling obliged to look at it every time I saw a red dot. (This did nothing to stop me. I still checked it all the time.) I unfollowed and “acquaintanced” a few people (so they wouldn’t show up on my news feed / I wouldn’t post to theirs). Then I thought “What the heck? I might as well log off for a bit.”

I still had messages on. (Because you never know what you might miss on that, and my, like, real friends message me on there!) And I logged on briefly to check notifications for a group I manage (in case anyone wanted to join- it would be mean not to approve them just because I was “on a break”). I didn’t read the other notifications. I posted once on a page I manage. But just stopped engaging with my personal profile.

For the first few days I felt my finger hover over the Facebook app on my home screen, as if it had a life of its own. I moved the app to several screens back so I wouldn’t automatically touch it – “just to see what’s going on”. You know what? Nothing massive happened. Life goes on. I read more without having Facebook. I thought more on the tube. I listened to music. It wasn’t too bad.

What was I doing it for?

I don’t know – a bit of sanity. I felt so oddly grief-stricken last week (not odd in the way that I shouldn’t grieve, but odd in the way I thought I was past grieving). I felt like I needed to do something to protect myself. (The mummy posts really didn’t help. But it’s not their fault they’re fertile and I’m not. I just needed a break from feeling sangry.) I know my friends are on Facebook but I also know they’re off Facebook, too. One of my friends emailed me to see if I’d survived the christening. Another Whatsapped me for a chat. Others didn’t because… I didn’t really tell people it was our due date. That’s okay. I don’t feel like everyone needs to know. (The thing about grief is, you want everyone to know your pain sometimes, and others, you just want people to be nice without them knowing. A strange mix of psychic empathy that very few possess!)

For me it worked to insulate myself for a while. For someone who spends half their life on social media, it was kind of drastic, but also kind of okay. It’s been a week now and I don’t really miss it any more. That’s not to say I won’t go back. When I first went “on a break”, I thought I’d struggle to make a week. Now it’s a week, I think, I might as well leave it for a bit longer. I have friends who hardly ever go on Facebook, and they’re just fine.

Right now, I have a battle to fight.

Right now, we’re on a break.*

  
(*I reserve the right, like Rachel, to demand the reinstatement of all relationship rules STAT.)

Things to be happy about

It’s been a tough week but I made it! It’s Friday! I locked my laptop in a drawer and I skipped (shuffled) out the office door. 20:10 and the weekend has begun.

This week has been a week of highs and lows. I really did not anticipate all the feels associated with my due date yesterday. I may well have had a gigantic pity party with one lonely guest: me. 

Anyway, here’s some things I’ve been thinking this week:

  1. Grief is complex. I didn’t even think I was grieving. I kind of thought I was doing really well and being terribly British about it. (I probably was; it’s called repression.) The Weekend Of Babies last weekend didn’t help. (Note to self: Christenings, and dinner with friends who have babies on the date you were supposed to have yours are not a good idea.) I felt sangry all this week. The b**** at work was b****y to me and I almost cried. A lot of feelings kept bubbling away in the background. I found myself thinking about my own adoption a lot, for some reason. I constantly felt angry, and depressed, and sad and almost cried in Starbucks, and probably bored all my blog friends to death about it. And last night, I came home and I was still sangry and then I couldn’t find a charger and I went stomping round the house and T went to bed, and I eventually gave up and went to bed, and T asked me what was wrong and then I cried my eyes out. I never cry. And he held me and I cried some more, and Dog licked me and I cried a bit more and went to sleep. But you know what – it was probably a good thing to let it out. 
  2. Blue doesn’t have to be sad. I decided I needed a new coat and I’ve been ordering loads over the last few weeks, and then sending them back because basically I’m a frustrated goth and I need to get something that isn’t boring and is me but also suitable for work rather than hanging out in dark caves. Finally I found it, and debuted it this week. And it was half price on sale from French Connection! Cobalt blue is my favourite colour after black (joint with bright red; I’m very primary) and I’ve had so many compliments on it, it’s crazy. (Although T says it looks like a Margaret Thatcher coat, he doesn’t get fashion, or that’s what I’m telling myself.)  
  3. Bluetooth headphones. Sometimes I forget that I actually like music. I used to listen to it all the time when I had a car but now I don’t really listen to it because I don’t have a CD player any more and, y’know, tech has moved on. Plus I always lose headphones (actually I think T nicks them). So I managed to get them working this morning and they are awesome and mean I can have this world of music when I’m on the tube and right now I’m on the tube listening to Sia’s Elastic Heart which is one of the most beautiful songs. When I first saw the video it almost made me cry. Apparently people thought it was dodgy or something because it has a child and an adult dancing together… Crazy. Watch it. Listen to it and you’ll see what I mean. 
  4. Austerity is kind of satisfying. T and I decided this week that the only way we will save enough for a house is to put ourselves on the household version of austerity measures. This came about because we found where we wanted to live and then it turned out that his parents giving us help with the deposit was conditional on them thinking it was a good investment. The place we were looking for was off plan which means a larger up front payment, and they felt it was too risky. But before then we did all the budgeting to figure out how we could save really heavily to build up our deposit, and T’s way more financially minded than I am so he drew it all out and now I know I ideally want to live on £10 a day (average spend on top of rent and bills and food, quite challenging when you can easily spend £8 on a takeaway lunch in the city, and my favourite Starbucks is £3.80!), with £100 discretionary spend per month (clothes, makeup, Dog treats! I easily spend several hundred a month on random things and presents, so it has made me check myself). It sounds weird but I find it really satisfying. I love being generous and buying lots of stuff for people, but I also enjoyed the challenge this week (one week!) of saying “Do I really need this?” and actually thinking, maybe I don’t. So much that the coffee guy at work was really chatty to see me only today (rather than every day for my daily hot chocolate with extra chocolate) and once I explained to him why I hadn’t come by every day as usual, he gave me my hot chocolate for the price of a cheaper latté! He said he wanted to be at my housewarming party when we finally managed to buy a house. Bless him! Also I finally found the ideal mid heel ankle boots that I’ve been looking for forever on Amazon for £17(!!!) and I’ve worn them every day. They’re great! Much better than the more expensive ones that killed my feet which I gave to my sister. T’s parents did us a favour by making us think more about building up our own deposit to reduce the risk. 
  5. I’m maybe not as bad as I thought I was. I went for two interviews recently and I found out that both of them want me to go for second interviews! Which is really nuts. The first one, I didn’t even think the guy liked me and seemed to want something completely different from what I do. I was gobsmacked when he apparently thought I was great and through to the second round. And for the second, I really thought the guy was fantastic and hoped that he would like me, but thought it probably wouldn’t be exactly right as it was in a different sector from the one I work in. (I’m not madly looking for a new job but I’m always open to opportunities. Every job I’ve ever got was a kind of thing where an opportunity presented itself and I took it. So I’m interested to have the conversations.) Aside from that, I had a bit of stress at work and I thought it was going to be really difficult at a new client, because they’d completely underscored the work (it was in my area of expertise and they were trying to do something in 8 weeks / 5 people something I usually do in 12 weeks with 10 people… Umm). I thought I’d been dropped in it, but then the director mailed me to say he thought I made a good impression in the workshop (yeah, that one yesterday, on my due date) and that the boss obviously respected my opinion! Bloody hell. And this week a guy at work told me I had a good reputation in their area, which meant a lot as I kind of feel like nobody knows I’m working my backside off. And one guy left, and he gave me a massive hug and said he’d enjoyed working with me… All these sound like little silly things, but I often feel bad/unconfident/stressed about work and it seems like a tiny bit of validation somehow. And I needed it this week.

So… It’s been a difficult week but I found some nice bits in it, and now it’s the weekend, and my main plans involve sleep, dozing and cuddling. That might be a bit abstract, but I think it’s a good plan! It’s all go next week with Dr S and the fertility investigations, for which I’m pretty hopeful. But before that, I’m just going to chillax with my boys [one human, one canine]. 

Have a good weekend everyone!

Close, but no cigar

Today is my due date.

To celebrate, I’m going to work, just like any other day. I’m working on a new client and I can’t afford to miss it. This afternoon, when I’m supposed to be wondering if that was a contraction or something else, I’ll be delivering a client workshop. I’ll be trying to instil a level of confidence, demonstrate quality and innovative thought. In the back of my mind, I’ll be thinking of him.

My baby died months ago, before he or she ever got to be a baby. In the absence of getting that far, I thought of my baby as a boy. He was a little blob (with a heartbeat), and then he wasn’t. The odds weren’t good, after 15 years of never getting pregnant naturally, after years of operations and investigations, after a long wait on the NHS waiting lists, after finally agreeing funding, our first IVF cycle – BAM! – pregnant!

That’s how it’s supposed to work. All the IVF success stories, the parents who showed infertility who’s boss. We were supposed to be those people. And then we weren’t.

A gradual narrowing down of odds.

Slow responder… 12 eggs retrieved.

Of those 12… 6 fertilised.

Of those 6… 3 were still going on Day 3.

Of those 3… 1 was good enough to transfer.

No frosties. 1 day 5 embryo transfer.

At 2 weeks… A positive test! My first in 30-something years.

At 6 weeks… A heartbeat! A blob with a flicker.

At 7 weeks (a second scan “just to see more clearly”)… My flickering blob wasn’t growing.

At 8 weeks… He stopped flickering.

At 9 weeks… Scan at EGU (Emergency Gynaecology Unit, sensitively located next to Neonatals) showed baby had died.

At 10 weeks… Baby pre-empted the planned EPRC and miscarried “naturally”.

At 11 weeks… 

I deleted all the pregnancy apps. Cancelled appointments. Stowed the positive pregnancy tests in my underwear drawer, where they still reside. (I can’t bring myself to throw out the only proof that I once was pregnant.) I put the baby book I’d bought in my desk drawer. (I never filled it in – I never felt confident enough.) Put the stretchy “might fit me as I grow” clothes back in the wardrobe. Went into hibernation.

I deleted all the pregnancy related dates from my calendar. I didn’t want to be reminded when week 20 would have been. There’s no trace of what once was, and yet even so, the due date lived on in my mind. A suckerpunch last weekend – a christening; baby celebrations. I persist.

I’m quite proud of my shrinking waist. I’ve lost 2.6kg since the beginning of my diet (Jan 4 – everyone knows diets start on Mondays). I’m getting there, and I’m slowly coming back to being me. I put on a bunch of weight through IVF and comfort eating and it made me feel terrible about myself. My reasoning was “if I’m not going to have a baby, I might as well enjoy myself”. The b**** at work (who’s fatly pregnant with her second, of course – life’s fair like that) asked me if I was pregnant back in summer. I wasn’t pregnant – I’d miscarried weeks before. I’m a size 10. It’s fatter than I want to be, but it’s smaller than average. (I’m a small person.) I wanted to punch her in the face. I still do.

T is there for me, and so is Dog. But neither of them really understand. To T, the baby was an abstract thought. He’s sad for both of us, but that sadness was back in summer when he never got to tell his parents they’d be grandparents. (I had told mine due to their requirement for all people in their presence to drink wine. Retraction of pregnancy announcements suck.) Dog of course is a massive comfort but I think he’s more bothered about where the next food is coming from than empathising with me about loss. (We’re the same, all three of us – taken from our first mothers at birth and raised in another family.) 

And me… I came back to life following the miscarriage. I’m still my old self, the funny one, the weird one, but something inside me cracked and if I allow myself to think about it (not often; I drown out the noise with laughter and fun and distracting work and Disney), I know there is a wellspring of tears. I don’t want to start crying because I might never stop. Nobody wants a hysterical snotbag telling them how to improve their organisation. I’ll go and I’ll talk and I’ll sit there in my work clothes and try not to think about my other life that peeled away from this one back in July. The life where I only have a short time before meeting my baby and everything changes forever.

In this life, everything changed and yet everything’s still the same.

I never thought that this week would be so hard.

Things to do whilst your baby isn’t being born

I’ve been a bit ranty and hormonal lately, and luckily (*sarcasm) for me, it’s because it’s my Time of the Month rather than because everyone in the world is being annoying. (Actually, I think it might be both.)

Oh yeah, I’m expecting my period next week. It was gonna be my baby, but y’know, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and that’s just nature’s way of telling you that baby wouldn’t have survived / had defects. I’m just going to have to try again, and it’s probably because I have a stressful job / didn’t try hard enough / didn’t lose weight / God decided it wasn’t my time to be a mother / maybe we should “just adopt” / I need to go on holiday and relax…

You know what? I hate being like this. Angry/sad. Sangry? It sounds corny but I have done a lot of work on myself lately, as the self help books call it. Several years ago, I came out of a very long term relationship with the guy I had naively assumed would be the father of my children. Infertility, and possibly the aftermath of adoption and never really resolving the grief of various things and my overwhelming insecurities really didn’t help. We both hurt each other and we still haven’t fixed it, but we are trying. (I want to draw a line, especially a financial line, but that’s proving difficult even though it’s getting to half a decade stage. Agh.) I think we both had huge reserves of grief that being together couldn’t find a way to fix.

I went a bit crazy with grief actually. After that, I spent time with some people who in hindsight did nothing for me (other than offering excitement and escapism, which I guess are valid things, for finite timescales). I dated unsuitable men. (Clue: He’s never going to leave.) I allowed myself to be seduced by a feeling I’d never had before: want. My want; their wants; feeling wanted. I grew up a bit. I learned how to be the aggressor, the dominant one, the wanter, instead of my long-held role as submissive, the pleaser, the subjugator of my self and desires. Including the desire to feel loved, cherished and attractive, and the desire to have children. 

A child. One child. 

A single child would be enough. I knew I didn’t have much time. (I also know I didn’t “waste” time. If I’d been working normally, which I wasn’t, judging by the ops, I would have had a baby with my ex.) When I met T, I had already learned the hard way what my wants were. How I behaved in a couple and the level of participation I wanted to have in a relationship. (100%, not too much to ask, eh?) I told him about how I was seeking commitment and a family. And he was adopted, like me, as a baby, so in some ways we had a common understanding. That desire for stability and a family. The desire to know someone biologically related or to look like your parents or your child. (Never underestimate that. I know if it ever happens to me, I think my mind will be blown.)

Do you understand kin? “Blood is thicker than water.” That’s what my mum used to say, thinking she was telling us that family mattered more. She never really thought that we didn’t share blood. That I’m no more related to my family than my friends. Than my dog! My dog is adopted too!

Kin is made of blood and marriage. Kith and kin. We are blood and water. Both give life. We need both, but they are not the same. I am not my family’s blood and I am not T’s blood. The only way I will ever meet a person who is my blood relative is if I track down my family overseas in a country whose language I don’t speak, family whose names I don’t know, who have been redacted from my history. Or if I give birth to my first known blood relative. 

My last blood relative I never met (unless you count passing him/her painfully, clots of almost-baby, the blood of dreams denied). Each month my endometriosis and fibroid(s) and barren uterus conspire to remind me that I’m female, so I must suffer, and I’m infertile, so why not let me suffer some more? I don’t know how the religious infertiles do it. It must seem like a God with a pretty bad sense of humour who gives neglectful parents and paedophiles and murderers babies, and keeps perfectly nice people childless. As for purposely giving you suffering to “benefit” you somehow, or make you stronger, I know from experience that suffering does not automatically make you stronger or a nice person. I was probably more inclined to charitable thoughts and deeds and entry to a mystical cloud-home when I didn’t have a decade of infertility and loss under my belt. 

And yet…

And yet I have hope. I feel thankful (not grateful adoptee; grateful human) to have enough. I read on one infertility blog “God never gives us more than he thinks we can handle”. Well I’m telling you, God, up there divvying out the baby bingo cards for kicks (wtf?) – I can’t handle much more of this s***. I have a life to live, and I’m sure as damned not going to live in a state of loss and grief and want. You know what? Enough is enough.

I don’t know when enough will come, and I’m not really in the giving up hope mood right now because I’m stupidly dreamy at times and I believe in the magic of Disney and the happiness that comes from things that other people think are stupid. 

Like friends coming through for you in unexpected ways. (When I was mugged and my kindle was stolen, they bought me a new, better one.) 

Like a partner who loves me even when I’m fat and grumpy (“You’re always grumpy!” is his answer when I do my daily check on whether he still loves me, even though…), who dreams up silly ideas to celebrate Christmas, who taught me how to believe in magic and Disney again. 

Like family who are bloody cray cray and yet madly in love with each and every one of us, who want the best for each other even if they can’t really figure out what that is or relate to each other’s struggles. Not consolation family, not “real family”, just family. I’m happy I have one even if they drive me crazy. I could have had none. I’m privileged enough even to complain about them. My parents are both still here.

So in this time of waiting, I try and channel my energy, grief and anger into action. Here’s what I’ve been doing. There’s no guarantee it would work for anyone else, and I don’t even thinking it’s “working”, but it is keeping me busy. This plan is what I call The Long Haul.

  1. Finding stuff out. The first time we did IVF, I put my trust in the doctors and the protocol. It worked, and then it didn’t. Losing my first pregnancy was traumatic to say the least. Just when I think I’ve forgotten it, along comes something to remind me. I’m not willing to go through that again with the same levels of trust and ignorance. So I researched – on blogs, through blogfriends, Google, books, etc. And I know what happened last time round so at least I can understand what to expect. I blogged my first IVF cycle so I can look back and see how I felt and what I took last time.
  2. Allowing myself to be triggered sometimes. It sounds weird to say this, but the British way is not to “wallow”, and largely I haven’t. I’ve gotten on with life, and I’m pretty much back to my old childless self. We have had a lot of fun – we enjoyed two trips to Disney last year, and had a fun Christmas. I really don’t think about it (infertility, loss, adoption) very often. But I do allow myself space to explore those feelings, mainly on here. Seeing messages of support and responses to things I’ve written from people who understand has been a life changer for me. If there’s anything this “journey” has shown me, it’s that I’m not alone. It sucks that so many people are hurting, for many reasons. Knowing I’m not alone, or some kind of freak in the fertile / not adopted / white / male world is a comfort.
  3. Making appointments. It made me feel like I was doing something. We had a second opinion at a private clinic (who suggested we go ahead with the NHS cycle) and a more detailed scan. I also have an appointment with a doctor who specialises in reproductive immunology next week. I think I just want to know that I’ve exhausted every avenue and there are no more reasons to check.
  4. Losing weight. I’ve been on a vague diet since January 4 (the first Monday of 2016!). So far at my lowest I am down 2.6kg, which is not too bad. (I go up and down during the week… Usually on a low by Friday or Saturday and then up again after the weekend!) It is a way of feeling I am doing something and also feeling a bit better about myself. I found IVF really made me feel terrible about my body, with the weight gain from the meds and the comfort eating after the miscarriage. I have put on a huge amount of weight over the past few years, although I was probably underweight previously. My aim is to lose 10-15kg this year. I think it can be done! Unless of course I get pregnant, in which case I’ll at least have a consolation of getting fat.
  5. Saving money. T and I are seriously on austerity measures. We realised we have to save for a deposit if we ever want a chance to buy our own place. (Complications with my ex who is financially dependent – we are hoping this will be resolved soon after many years!) We sat down and worked out a budget and savings plan. It’s a bit tough but it feels good in a way to have a plan and a way out of our rental accommodation.
  6. Taking a FB break. I could do a whole blog post on this! Maybe tomorrow. This is a very big deal for me, but because of this week (due date) I feel like it’s self preservation. This does mean that I can’t vent as much on there or idly browse silly videos or pictures of food, but at least it limits the triggering baby exposure.
  7. Being open to opportunities. Weirdly I went for two interviews lately! I’ve been working really hard at work. Some days I feel like I’m getting somewhere, and others are a kick in the teeth. I’m working on it. I don’t want my whole life to be about infertility. Who knows what might happen?
  8. Spending time with my family. My crazy family this past weekend, but I mean my family – Us. Me and T and Dog. We think of ourselves as a family. (Well, Dog possibly thinks of me as a food source, but I’ll take it.) I do sort of take it for granted that I have these two amazing people human and dog in my life, who live with me and love me. So yeah, the loss sucks and there are some pretty tough feelings this week, but it’s not long till the weekend and the future.

So… Tell me what you’ve been doing to make your life more fun!

“Don’t give up” – and other “consolations”

[Warning: Angry/sad grief post. If you are an easily offended parent, feel free not to read.]

I’ve seen a few blog posts lately along the lines of “We were infertile too and we kept trying [or tried once…once!!] and now we’re pregnant so, y’know, just keep going and it will happen for you!”…

Public service announcement: For at least one long term infertile (me), it kind of feels like a kick in the face when you’re still in the trenches.

I get that you’ve suffered; I really do. And I even get that you can’t enjoy pregnancy like “normal” (fertile) people do. But please, can we stop with all the fauxspirational stuff about how you now have your baby? I’m happy for you, and I’m glad that it happens for some people, but honestly, “thinking positive” or otherwise is not the cause of my infertility. And it doesn’t help to keep perpetuating the idea that infertile people’s lack of a baby is just because they didn’t try hard enough, didn’t keep going, or didn’t think positively.

Tell you what I did this weekend.

I went to a family christening. It was hugely stressful (though usual caveats about how nice it is to see family); it involved tears (my sister, who had a miscarriage following IVF a few months after I did, and who always gets upset at family things), stress (mainly me, feeling extremely crappy due to the overwhelming sense of disorganisation and generally being expected to wait around all weekend to be summoned to baby worship) and even arguments between me and T (because he’s not horrible but he genuinely doesn’t grasp how crappy a situation it is and how bad timing it is and how I don’t want to go but it’s a social obligation and we’re British, so we couldn’t be rude, could we?). 

It’s pretty bloody stressful and upsetting to have to go to a christening and be dictated to on behalf of a tiny being, all the time whilst I should be nine months pregnant. My baby should be here next week. Might even have come early. Instead I have to stand and have endless photos taken holding the baby, and let’s face it, a christening is about a baby… It’s hard to escape the baby. (I’m happy for the baby; I just don’t want to spend my entire weekend with a baby.)

Not to mention the throwaway remarks…

“We only get together at hatchings, matchings and dispatchings [British saying meaning christenings, weddings and funerals]… Who’s it going to be next?”

It was meant to be me, next week, you bloody idiot.

Oh and then, what happens next but we agree to go round to our friends’ house for dinner (after spending the weekend away from home and away from Dog, who is being looked after by friends) and they have a baby.

I am sick of babies. I want my grown up weekend. I don’t want to spend the entire weekend being reminded of loss.

We go round to our friends’ house. They’ve kept the baby up specially. Baby is quite frankly being a brat (due to being kept up late) and of course all women want to spend time doing “fun” baby stuff, don’t they? We had food time (baby smears food all over the place) and bath time (because why wouldn’t you expect to spend time bathing a baby when you’ve been invited round to dinner) and of course this prompts the hilarious questions about whether we’ve been “put off having a baby”.

SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

So: parents – here’s an idea. If a person doesn’t have a baby, maybe it’s not because they don’t want one. Maybe they really want one. Maybe they lost one! Maybe it’s due next week!

Shut the **** up.

And you “inspirational” pregnant people and parents.

Remember how it felt when you thought you might never have a baby? Can you remember that?

Did it ever help when people told you “Never give up”? Did you ever feel convinced when someone else was pregnant or a parent? Did you think “Gosh darn that person’s situation is exactly like mine so that must mean I just have to do what they did and I’ll get pregnant tomorrow!”

Perhaps just looking at a pregnant person made you realise you were doing it wrong. Perhaps those helpful hints about how you might want to start thinking about kids made you realise something you didn’t know before.

But me? 

I know I want kids. I’ll settle for the singular. I’ll settle for a baby who doesn’t die. I’ll even settle for injecting myself every day, putting on stupid amounts of weight, feeling like a psycho and putting up with stupid people at work making my life a misery.

But here’s the thing. It turns out some people who’ve been through this “journey” suddenly lose their compassion chip as soon as they become almost-parents. And it turns out some people are still on this journey, and any amount of self-help crap is not going to change the fact that they’re infertile, and there is no guarantee treatment or positive thinking or whatever worked for you will work, so it really doesn’t help pretending that it will.

I’m happy that people can move out of infertility into parenthood. Don’t feel you need to apologise. Be happy; be parents. But don’t presume to tell us unfortunates who are still in the trenches that your experience is the same as ours. You had a bad run. But you’re done with that now… And we are still here.

IVF #2: Feeling dejected

Or: Trying my best not to be sad and bitter

Our appointment for IVF #2 finally came around today. It’s been a while coming, as our timelines for IVF #1 were: Started in April 2015… Pregnancy and miscarriage in July 2015… Fibroid identified in July 2015… Fibroid removed in October 2015. (I got it done privately – if I had waited for the NHS referral I would probably still be waiting.)

So it’s now December and I figured we would be starting again over Christmas. It was going to be a bit earlier but our appointment was put back by a few weeks as they had no doctors in that week apparently. I understand – it’s the NHS; beggars can’t be choosers.

And yet I think I had more hope until today.

Today we went and were told that they recommended we start again on the same protocol. They said that they got 12 eggs last time (even though we only ended up with one embryo) and they fertilised 6 (even though we only ended up with one embryo) and apparently a 50% fertilisation rate is within the recommended level – it has to be below 40% for them to recommend ICSI (even though we only ended up with… You get the picture). 

I wasn’t rooting for ICSI or anything. I guess I was just hoping that they might have a bit more of a reason for doing stuff differently, to give me hope for a different outcome.

Not only this but I was told to wait for my period (due in 2 weeks, yay) and then go and get the blood tests done which you’re meant to have on day 2-4, and also to get the scan done to check everything’s fine with the uterus. So I have that scan scheduled for next week. I’ll probably have my period. They said not to worry, that they can actually see stuff better. (Yuck.)

And then here’s the big one: Once those things are done, I email them and they’ll put us back on the waiting list.

The what?

Oh yeah, there’s a waiting list of FOUR MONTHS. That is entirely different to last time which was a pretty much immediate start. I was picturing having to do all the not drinking and having horrible injections over Christmas and New Year. At least I get to do the celebrating… right?

Wrong. I don’t feel like celebrating at all. I just feel like… I’m a year older. A year closer to 40. A year further along from having these problems… Now it’s 16+ and I still haven’t even got close to a sustainable pregnancy. It will be APRIL by the time we might start IVF #2. I’ll be old, and still infertile, and it will be a year since we started IVF #1. I still don’t feel any sense of reassurance that they’ve identified any reason why I’ve never had a successful pregnancy – or why I’ve never gotten pregnant naturally over 15 – 16! – years. 

I’m past the age where my ovaries are meant to have shrivelled up. I’m at that age where they just kind of go, well maybe some women aren’t meant to have children. Maybe you should “just adopt”. (I don’t want to adopt… If you want to know the justifications then click on Adoption for my posts on the subject… Adoption is great for many people… I was adopted… I’m happy… but I DON’T WANT TO ADOPT. Okay.)

Everyone is pregnant. Everyone. I’m actually not even that bothered by it any more – I’m used to being the one who isn’t pregnant, who isn’t a mother. It runs in the [non-biological] family, ironically enough.

If I sound bitter, I don’t mean to be. I’m just tired. Tired of always being Other. I’m not white, I’m not biological, I’m not a man in my work world of men, and I’m not even capable of doing the things that women do without even thinking about it. Every day there’s another grinning mum-to-be on my timeline, and don’t get me started on the cutesy US-style pregnancy announcements and gender reveals that have started popping up. Send me one of those and I vapourise unfollow you! 

I suffer horrendous bloody painful periods every few weeks and they’re for nothing. It’s like an insult. I feel like: If I can’t ever have children then please can I have a hysterectomy because it’s not fair I have to suffer this every month for nothing.

Maybe I have PMS. (I shouldn’t do as it’s not for another two weeks!) Maybe it’s just that time of year and I have SAD. Maybe I’m tired of being the cheery one all the time. I’m tired of always being the one who’s trying to make things happier for other people. I’m tired of being the aunt.

I think T realised I wasn’t too happy with the “Do the blood tests in two weeks and then we’ll stick you on our four month waiting list” spiel but we both had to go back to work. We did discuss briefly how long it will take. He thinks if this one doesn’t work then we should try and get a private cycle in before our third and final NHS go. I don’t know if that’s possible. I think if you go private then you forego your NHS goes, but it just seems crazy to have to wait a year between tries. By the time I use them all up I’ll probably be over 40 and that limits your options. 

Thing is, I’m lucky and that means I’m generally happy. Not because I’m an “adoptee” (adoptee swearword), not because I’ve had a privileged life, but generally – I’ve done okay. I’ve come through the most horrendous work situation and out the other side… I don’t love it, but I can cope and I get compensated for coping. I have enough money that I’m not worrying about it, because I concentrated on paying off debts this year so for the first time (in foreeever!) I have a bit to spare. And I have enough that I can enjoy spending it on other people. I’ve kind of gone a bit mental lately. I feel like I almost have too much… That I had all this extra I haven’t spent because we were going to have a little one, and now we don’t – I might as well spend it on other people.

And other people have it much worse. They really do. I know that doesn’t discount my own suffering – everyone has their own stuff – but I remind myself of it because I want to remember that I have a lot. I have almost everything I want – I mean, I have everything, apart from a child. 

So I decided I would try to be a fairy godmother, where I could. (When I posted about this earlier, I was told that “It’s not the same as being a mother”… Believe me I get this – there is really no need to remind me. So in the interests of non-ambiguous nomenclature I will say I’ve taken up a habit of Random Acts of Kindness.) Having some spare cash makes it easier, when you have a busy life and are at work as much as I am, but it doesn’t have to be with cash – it just so happens that my lack of needing to buy any baby related stuff what with my baby not making it to term means I have some spare.

It’s kind of fun being a fairy godmother doing random acts of kindness / spending money on other people / spontaneous unexpected giving.

One of my friends was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. It was such a shock. Two small kids. We all rallied around and donated to a GoFundMe she set up to try and do something for her kids when she was gone. Miraculously, she’s in the 1% or whatever of people who seem to respond to treatment. She’s not out of the woods yet but everything looks so much better. She always loved horses so I sent her an advent calendar with Playmobil stables in. She said it was brilliant – I think it’s good to embrace the child within! And she has kids who will help!

Another friend has recently gone back to college. She has three kids and had a difficult time with money over the past year. I admire the fact that someone can be so determined to get funding and do that, with all the childcare and other demands on time. I messaged her this morning and asked if I could send them some money for Christmas. She was really shocked and said they weren’t “deserving” or “poor enough”. I said it wasn’t about deserving… I’d like her kids to be able to have something nice from Santa – something extra without worrying about the money. It sounds dumb (and maybe patronising – I don’t mean it to) but it’s not that much money to me but enough to make a difference for them.

My honourary little sister has been really ill lately and probably has to have another very serious operation. I took her out for a special birthday treat in London, and it was really fun to design an itinerary and send it to her and organise lots of fun stuff and pay for it. It seems extravagant but I feel like – I don’t have any other kids to spend it on. I can be like my fairy godmother was to me. Just the fun of making someone feel special. I want her always to feel that she can depend on me. And the same for my real “dishonourary”(!) sister – she has had a horrible time with almost the same results as me (miscarriage after IVF) and I have tried to send her lots of things in the post to tell her I’m thinking of her. I know we’ll talk when she wants to – I didn’t want to for ages. I only feel like I can talk about it a little bit now, and it happened back in July, almost 4 months ago.

There is a boy with autism on a Disney forum I’m on (via his mum, who posts the updates about him), and he’s almost grown up and yet he’ll never grow up because he has severe developmental delays. His mum can’t afford to take him every year so they have to wait until 2017 to go again – but he absolutely loves Disney. In the meantime, someone suggested sending him postcards when they went to Disney, and so people have been doing that, and I did it when we went. And then I thought: I now have his address… So when his mum posted that he had a crush on Frozen, I sent him some toys from Frozen. She always posts the videos of him saying thanks. It kind of melts your heart.

All of these things are small expenses for me but they mean something to other people. I try and do things with my time too, and not just money… I bake cakes for people. I try and make crafty things now and again. In a non religious way, I guess I sort of see it as tithing… I think that I’ve been fortunate so I should try and pass some of that on. Especially for kids… I don’t have children of my own and I might never do. So maybe this is the closest I’ll get to indulging my own kids. I think the best RAoK are the unexpected ones, and especially if it’s something the heart desires but can’t afford.

This is my way of dealing with it, I guess. “It” being infertility, having an excess of love that needs to be expressed in some way. (Poor T and Dog can’t take it all! They’d suffocate!) It feels silly really to be upset about these things when other people have far worse problems. 

I’ll be like the mad old auntie who buys insanely indulgent gifts. (I’ve bought the nephew a giant stuffed elephant because he wanted a real one for Christmas – it’s not exactly life size, but it is as big as he is.) I’ll be the friend who gives extravagantly. I want my friends to know how much I love them… I want to bring a bit of joy, however fleeting to people’s lives. I know there are probably deep seated reasons why I do this. But right now it’s the only thing that’s getting me through.