Mother’s Day in the UK was a while ago, but I saw this video on Facebook from the Today show and it made me cry.
Mother’s Day message – Today
Everything has changed for us with the arrival of baby B, after many years of infertility, medical intervention and loss. This time last year I had just got my positive pregnancy test for B and I was so scared it was going to go the same way as our previous year’s pregnancy, little PB who was lost to miscarriage.
For Mother’s Day here in the UK I posted this message on Facebook, with a picture of my mum with me and one of her with baby B.
“It’s my 39th Mother’s Day as a daughter and my first as a mother. Heading to see my mum, who first met me when I was a few days old and has loved me ever since. She’s now [Grandma] to B but she’ll always be [Mum] to me.
Both of us had a long and difficult journey to be a mother. Thinking of all the mothers out there today, especially the mothers without children and children without mothers. I promise not to take it for granted. ❤”
I hope for anyone who finds this day difficult that you know that we see you. And I hope that next year you’ll be celebrating Mother’s Day with happiness.
Well, I did it! This is my final post for NaBloPoMo, the blogging challenge for November. I can’t quite imagine how, but I’ve managed to
bore you post every single day in November. Wowsers! (Now I can go back to the usual blogging-every-few-days thing and stop the 11pm panic setting in…)
Things I blogged about in November:
Whether I should tell my ex that I’m pregnant (my most popular post in November) – answer: I haven’t as of yet, and have no immediate plans, though I’m pretty sure it’ll come up
How not to react when someone congratulates you on being pregnant – about pregnancy after loss and the emotional implications (second most popular post)
Going to my friends’ (gay) wedding – a beautiful Scottish weekend and how #loveislove as far as I’m concerned
And a bunch of other stuff. Because I really did manage to do it every day (UK time, anyway!).
One of the bittersweet things I notice from the stats is that my all time most popular post (other than the homepage) is from June 1 last year. Entitled “Day 53: Not so Clearblue”, it was my first ever experience of a positive pregnancy test. I was so happy that day!
One year on and quite a lot wiser (though still fairly headstrong and stupid), I know that a positive pregnancy test is only the first step. That pregnancy – my first ever pregnancy in all my 30-something (closer to 40) years, ended in a physically and emotionally painful miscarriage. This time last year I was holding a deep sadness in my heart, rather than a baby. In February this year, my first baby’s due date, I really thought my heart was breaking.
This November, I feel a lot different. Reading those posts, I want to give 2015 Me a hug. And tell her it will be alright (so far). Today I am 33 weeks pregnant with a little fat guy who’s currently taking up residence in my uterus. B (for Baby – I couldn’t bring myself to give him a cutesy nickname like our last one had) is due mid January 2017 and with each passing day I feel like he’s more and more likely to make it.
(The little bugger keeps kicking my innards and bouncing on my bladder, anyway.)
I’m thinking of 2015 Me and Last November Me and all the Mes who’ve been and gone and are still partly here. The bruised Mes, the hurt Mes and the Me who’s still here in November 2016, who never quite believed and yet is still somehow still going. And all the Not-Mes too who are going through their own hardships – the pain of infertility, the complex feelings around adoption, and all the other things we find hard to put into words.
A year ago I already knew you, my blogfriends, and I knew how much you’d saved me. I don’t know if you do. Blogging gave me an outlet to try and put those feelings and experiences into words, and to understand I wasn’t alone.
So, thank you to BlogHer for the blogging challenge – but moreso, thank you to all my blogfriends for being awesome.
You mean the world.
I’m very conscious that the tone of some of my posts has switched from infertility/loss to a cautious acceptance of pregnancy to (probably from the outside) a complete embracing of pregnancy, and I wanted to address that a bit and try to explain the whole storm in my head. Because despite what it may look like from the outside – babymoon, shopping for baby stuff, baby shower – I know that this is not a “normal” pregnancy.
I have never, ever gotten pregnant on my own. (Okay, you know what I mean!) I’ve never had an “oopsie”… I’ve never had a pregnancy scare… I’ve never felt funny one day and thought back to my last period and realised I was late. I was in a long term relationship for a really long time, during which I (and probably everyone else) thought we’d have children. But we didn’t. And before then and after then, despite being in relationships where I could have become pregnant, I never did.
We’re still not sure what caused my 10+ years of childlessness. (It certainly wasn’t lack of baby-making activity… just saying.) It wasn’t until I started blogging (I think April a year and a bit ago) that I finally started to put a name to what I had. Infertility. I kind of just thought I was a freak who didn’t deserve to have children. I was adopted, so I shouldn’t care about biological stuff anyway, right? (It turns out many adoptees do, a whole lot more than “normals”.)
A disparate range of afflictions – heavy, painful periods, endometriosis (2 operations to clear the decks), a possible blocked fallopian tube, some polyps, a fibroid or two, some chemical imbalances – that all conspired to prevent me getting pregnant all through my twenties and most of my thirties. An ex who didn’t understand the loss I felt the first time I had an investigative laparoscopy and they found extensive endometriosis and a likelihood I wouldn’t get pregnant naturally.
Fast forward a few years. I split with my ex. I met T and I told him everything. I mean everything. By that time I was approaching mid 30s and I knew I should not get into a relationship with someone who might want kids I wouldn’t be able to give him. T being T, said, “We’ll just do IVF.” And me being me, I didn’t even raise it (and we had a nice few months of going at it like rabbits, both for fun and just in case) until T suggested it was time to make the appointment about having kids…
One blog, two cycles of IVF, about 20 different drugs, two pregnancies, one loss and one ongoing later and here we are. I’m pregnant. 28-and-a-bit weeks. We’ve just been on babymoon. We have a mini collection of tiny outfits. A plan for a baby shower. A name and a nickname. T reads to B every few nights, a story about dogs just like our Dog. B kicks appreciatively (or maybe, “Do the voices!”) and Dog snores as Dog always does, possibly unaware that he’s scheduled to get a baby brother.
I have everything I ever wanted. A T, a Dog, and a baby on the way. A house (well, a teeny flat), a job I enjoy which pays me enough money to pay for the tiny flat… a nice family and a soon-to-grow little family of my own.
And yet… I’m scared.
Here’s the thing, for those of us who’ve experienced a loss before, I think we have a sort of PTSD (and I don’t use that term lightly: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I really thought the pain of however many years of infertility, the insensitive questions (literally a couple of days ago a friend messaged me, “Have you ever considered having children?” and if I hadn’t been pregnant, I would have felt a lot worse…), the constant pregnancy-birth-mother’s day-first-day-of-school announcements on social media were something I could deal with, because my feelings about never having a baby were so deeply buried, and it had always been thus.
And then we did our first cycle of IVF. And I got pregnant! It was amazing. It was exciting. We were optimistic. We passed those milestones – the repeated positive pregnancy tests, the ultrasounds, the little heartbeat flickering away, the… miscarriage.
The “ball of cells”, the “at least you know you can get pregnant”, the “it happens to loads of people”, the worst pain I could have imagined, obliterating the searing physical pain which was also most definitely not “just like a heavy period”. The dismantling of plans and dreams. The going back to a horrible job with unsympathetic management. The commiserating holiday at the dream destination. Disney, the place to bring your kids… the happy place. The misery of pregnancy weight gain without the baby. The loss of hope.
And I know that what we “suffered” is experienced by hundreds of thousands of people, and others have it much worse. I never had to give birth to a dead baby. I can’t even imagine the pain of that when passing my almost-baby was so painful. I never suffered repeated losses, because it took over a decade to make it to our first pregnancy. Our first loss. I’ve never had a real live child running about who died. I know it’s not the Pain Olympics. But I also know that what feels monumental to me is smaller than what many people have dealt with.
Maybe it’s because of this, because my decades of childlessness were more of an absence than loss, that our one hard-won loss last year hit me so hard. Because I really felt like maybe I was just not meant to have kids, maybe it would never happen, and when I got pregnant on IVF cycle 2, an ostensibly less successful cycle than cycle 1, I felt not joy but mounting fear that this would be another suckerpunch, another loss.
Pregnancy after loss is not like pregnancy, period. I see those pregnancies of friends and on social media and they’re so full of joy and excitement and that seems naive to me, like tempting fate. I saw our first baby’s heart beat. That meant we were in the tiny percentages of unlikeliness that something bad would happen… but it did. I barely slept leading up to our first scan, and I knew not to trust it. When we saw the heart beating, I cried. I don’t know whether from joy or fear. But it wasn’t the end of the anxiety and I didn’t “feel pregnant” and I didn’t rejoice. As each milestone passed – 12 weeks, 16 weeks, first kicks, T would ask me, when are you going to feel better? And I couldn’t answer him. He had to believe for the both of us.
Of course, over time, anxiety has decreased. How I feel about baby B now is nothing compared with how I felt in those first, fearful weeks. I don’t know when the anxiety moved to more manageable levels because it has been 6 months of slow, gradual reduction and trying to be as happy as others seem to be for us. All throughout this pregnancy, now in its 29th week, I have kept up this internal monologue of rationalisation… Read the stats, understand the risks… Know that every day that passes, the risk reduces. But I will never be like those carefree friends who have never suffered infertility or loss.
What helped for me was passing the halfway mark – 20 weeks, which coincided with “coming out” to people at work (though I told my boss and HR sooner due to the legalities). It may sound crazy but as T said to me, it’s okay now to tell people as you’d want them to know if the baby died… It’s no longer a “ball of cells” or “happens to everyone”. It is an actual acknowledgeable baby. People would be able to talk about it if we lost him, instead of having to pretend that he never existed. That makes a difference, I guess. As is being treated like an obviously pregnant woman. Getting seats on public transport. Having a sympathetic doctor who took my anxiety seriously and referred me to an amazing midwife. And the biggy – feeling him kick.
People who don’t worry about pregnancy loss tell you how annoying and uncomfortable it is, but honestly, I embrace every discomfort. Even when I wake up at night with back pain, even when my body is a mess of extra chub and stretch marks, I am thankful that I am experiencing something I never thought I’d ever experience. And I’m scared now that I’ve started to dream about him, our son, that he might not get here healthy and alive. That whatever pain I felt least year about losing our first baby, it would be a thousand times worse now I’ve felt B kick, that I’ve felt my skin stretching, that we registered him at nursery and bought him little outfits, that everyone knows.
There are those little reminders. “Is this your first child?” – I always answer yes. I know that’s not strictly true, that we had another almost-child last year, that B is our “rainbow baby” – but I can’t bring myself to tell that sad story to every smiling face who asks. People congratulating us then musing about maybe trying for a baby soon. I want to scream at them, start yesterday! It might never happen! (But of course it will, straight away, because you’re not us.) People who congratulate us in a thoughtless way that triggers off all the feels. I’ve taken to saying, It took a lot to get this far. A lot of medical interventions. About 20 different drugs. So no, I won’t be having a second child. I don’t even feel confident I can get this one here safely, but those words remain unspoken, always in the back of my mind.
That friend of mine who asked me the other day if I’d ever considered having kids – she has one, and told me that they liked him so much, “We might try for a sister for him soon.” She’s in her 40s… Oh, the naïveté! Imagine being able to think, I’ll just have another one and I hope it’s a girl. Like that’s your worst likelihood. Not, I hope we can have a child. I hope my baby doesn’t die. Just, I hope we can make a sister for him, but if it’s a brother then I guess we’ll deal with it.
A girlfriend of a friend from school is around 2 weeks behind us – and they constantly post pregnancy updates on Facebook. I can’t stand them. I can’t look at their confidence and I worry for them that they don’t know the risks, and I resent that they are so blasé about it, but then I tell myself that their way of doing things is the normal way, not our way. You shouldn’t spend your pregnancy worrying that it’s going to end, that there’s not going to be a live baby. That’s just us. At Halloween she dressed her bump with blood and doll parts so it looked like a baby clawing its way out. I can’t imagine she’s ever looked at blood coming out of her and wondering which parts were her dead baby.
And part of me is jealous that it’s not me posting bumpies and milestones and cutesy pregnancy announcements (ours would be Dog and a pair of booties, now you ask). But I don’t think I could cope with the idea of unannouncing. It was bad enough last time having to unannounce to the very few people we had told. It’s almost worse having to deal with other people’s grief. Pregnancy-wise, I’m just going to lay low, off radar (well, off social media) until-when-if B is born. If he arrives safe then I will be able to tell people, this is our son! This is Dog’s little brother! I can breathe. Meanwhile, I’ll participate in the rituals of baby shower and shopping and dressing the bump and enjoying other people’s happiness for us, and I’ll try my best not to let the worries take over. Fake it till you make it.
But until then, I will talk to my bump, feel B kick, and try and impart some reassurance to him that his mama is doing her best to keep him safe until it’s time in three months to try and get him safely into the world.
Well, not much to report here. Still waiting until our first scan, where we will find out (possibly) if this pregnancy is viable or not. Although obviously the main goal is to get to 12 weeks and then full term, this is just one of the many hurdles we have to jump in order to get a bit closer to that goal.
It’s hard. It’s really hard being bloated and fat and my face swollen up (from added weight and also from the steroids) and with humungaboobs and generally not being able to fit into most of my clothes. It’s even harder to think that this might be all for nothing, as it was around this time last year when our first IVF cycle ended in miscarriage. I’m sort of making a lot of excuses to not do things (like drinking and socialising) and I feel like I want to know one way or another. If it’s all bad then at least I can hop right on the crash diet bandwagon.
Our scan is on Thursday. This coincides inconveniently (!) with my penultimate day at work, and I’ve promised people lots of cake (home made) on both the Thursday and the Friday, so I have to go in even if we get the worst news. I guess if that happens I can at least have some farewell drinks. I had sort of not planned any and said I’d do cakes instead, so everyone just thinks I’m being antisocial rather than pregnant.
It seems like we are just waiting… And waiting… And I know this won’t be the end of the waiting. I suppose I’m seeing the scan this week as some kind of confirmation that we are not immediately about to miscarry. I know enough from going over last year’s scans in my head what would be a good outcome and what would be a bad outcome. Last year we didn’t know so when they said, “There’s a heartbeat!”, we took that to be good news rather than realising that them asking for a second scan a week later was bad news. So basically unless we get the all clear this time (and we will actually be more at the timing of the second scan for the first one this time round, 7 weeks 1 day) then I will assume it’s bad news.
I can’t even describe how bad I’m feeling about my body right now. I can barely look at myself and I actually avert my eyes when getting out of the shower so I don’t catch a glimpse of myself. I seem to have developed fat in places I didn’t even know I could be fat. Anyway, I guess if it actually ends up in pregnancy then I can accept it, but it’s pretty hard to deal with right now. I’ve had to go and buy other clothes but it is wrecking my self-esteem right now.
In terms of symptoms, I can’t tell what is symptom and what is meds. A few things I’ve noticed (other than humungaboobs and general bloat) – I have definitely got some kind of strange reactions to food, not cravings exactly but I do feel like I am more bothered about what I do and don’t want to eat. Maybe that’s psychological. I am also feeling nauseous when I’m hungry, but maybe that’s just greed. And secondly my sense of smell seems worse (I mean better) than normal, in that I’m more bothered by bad smells. I had to make T move his trainers (sneakers!) outside of the bedroom because they were making me feel sick! And I’ve also had a bit of a nasty taste in my mouth every now and then. And I’ve even felt a tiny bit dizzy every now and then. Plus I seem to have this crash (maybe sugar!) in the late afternoon. So either way, this whole IVF / meds / possible pregnancy thing does seem to mess with your senses.
I’m mainly just trying to keep busy, and have been doing okay with that. This week we had a bank holiday in the UK, which means we have the Monday off work. (This is not that big a deal when you’re working your notice period, but it’s nice anyway.) This weekend we have a big girls’ weekend planned. I’m hoping that this means I will actually be able to celebrate (ish) my pregnancy rather than feel terrible about impending miscarriage, but it’s been arranged for ages so it’s not really like we can rearrange it.
It will be four of us who were at school together, and we worked out we haven’t all been together since we left school (about two decades ago, eek). I’ve been in touch with all of them since school and we’ve met up individually but never the four of us. The most we had recently was 3 out of the group plus my BFF (who didn’t stay at the same school and currently lives overseas so can’t make it). But everyone lives in different places and one of us lives really far away so we just don’t really get the chance to meet up. She has a daughter who is at school – the only one of us with a child – and I haven’t seen the kid since she was a baby! That’s nuts.
Anyway we (well, I) have planned lots of fun things to do. So aside from just catching up we will be able to have some fun. I had to resist planning everything out to the last detail. I’m sort of a quite disorganised person but I do like to plan events as I don’t like having to wait in queues or not know what we’re doing! But I had to pull back a bit and stop going crazy! We are going for tapas on Friday night, a bit of sightseeing followed by afternoon tea and a show on Saturday, and brunch on Sunday. We are staying at one of the friend’s parents’ place in London (she lives really the other end of the country) so that should be fun, as it will be like being back at school and having a sleepover!
So that’s what I’ve been up to, apart from the waiting. Here are some pictures from the past few days (mainly of food!)… I do take other pictures but they all have people / Dog in, so in the spirit of maintaining some semblance of anonymity, you get food!
I made lemon drizzle for my coworkers last week. I can’t actually remember if I already posted these, but I had a sort of sudden desire to make it, and it turned out quite well! Not as lemony as I’d like so next time I would add more lemons. I used Mary Berry’s recipe for lemon drizzle traybake. Next time I’d probably use 3 or 4 lemons rather than 2, but everyone said it was really nice anyway!
I did another pregnancy test last week just to check, at 6 weeks, whether I was still pregnant. Looks alright!
I had a bit of fantastic news: my sibling who lives really far away was in town, so we went for afternoon tea with T at the Langham Hotel. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages as it is meant to be one of the best afternoon teas (there are so many in London you barely have time to try them all!) and it didn’t disappoint. I also wanted to go there as I am a super fan of Cherish Finden, who is the head pastry chef at the Langham. It was great to see my sibling and catch up, and the most amazing thing was that Cherish Finden came out and we met her! Seriously I was almost crying, I was so happy. She is one of the judges on a show called Bakeoff Creme de la Creme, and she is known for being a bit scary but I love her. All I asked for was a photo, but she came and chatted with us for ages and was really nice. Not at all like her fierce on screen persona! The afternoon tea was fantastic as well.
Cherish Finden on Bakeoff Creme de la Creme.
On bank holiday Monday we decided to take Dog to the city farm. For those of you who live in the country, a city farm is where city people can go and pretend to be in the country! I actually love going to the city farm because it reminds me of our first date… T asked where I wanted to go and he suggested the city farm (although in his head it was the zoo). We went and fed the animals and held hands walking around and I just thought, he seems like a great guy and he can think of interesting things to do! Nowadays it is a good place to go because we can take Dog. A lot of places in London aren’t very dog friendly so it’s nice for him to be able to get out and about.
Last night I made a salad! Told you this pregnancy thing is messing with my tastes. I hate salad! But this salad was mainly “bits” as in protein. I don’t like lettuce much but this was the best salad ever! We are lately addicted to Brianna’s home style honey mustard dressing. It’s great on avocado (it even has a picture of avocado on the label) and it tastes just like the vinaigrette at The Wolseley, which is a posh restaurant in London which does the best avocado vinaigrette ever. Anyway I was very proud of myself for actually making something that wasn’t pizza or pasta.
And here is a picture of me today.
I’m still waiting, in this enhanced two week wait (before the first ultrasound that gives an indication but no guarantee of viability) so I’ve been trying to distract myself. Unfortunately when working one’s notice this means there isn’t a whole lot of work to distract yourself with, and also it leaves you (well, me) a bit open to the whole “Getting annoyed with everyone in the world” thing, probably exacerbated by social media.
So here in no particular order are the things that are annoying me this week…
- Rude people. This category encompasses almost everyone on the Being Annoying list. I just think the whole world would be much nicer if everyone was nice to each other instead of being rude.
- Antisocial behaviour (such as manspreading and BO) on public transport. Travelling on public transport is not fun at the best of times. And I’m not pregnant officially so nobody gives up their seat for me. (I really want to make it to 12 weeks so I can get a smug-pregnant-person’s badge. Transport for London does these Baby on Board badges which are meant to be so you can offer a pregnant lady a seat without being scared to offend someone who isn’t pregnant. I’ve never had one although this is the second time I’ve been pregnant.) I actually got up and moved away from a person the other day whose legs were manspreading into my seat. And being pregnant, this may be a symptom or it may just be my extreme sensitivity to smell, but I cannot stand the body odour of some people on the tube – it is making me feel sick. Another time last week I actually asked a guy to stop hitting me with his rucksack. He just went and stood in front of me and kept moving around so it was banging into me and I was like, Can you stop hitting me with your rucksack? Everyone on the tube was flabbergasted as people in London don’t actually like to make eye contact, let alone tell someone when they’re p*ssing you off. But he stopped, and I just stood there being angry.
- Entitled millennials. Now I am an official old person but I have had it up to HERE (imagine a marker) with millennials and their stupid bitching about nothing. Like, seriously, someone asked you to turn your music down because it was 4am on a weekday? How dare they! (This is a specific reference to my horrible new neighbour who has surpassed even my previous Neighbour From Hell in inconsiderate behaviour, and woke up everyone in the block by playing loud music at 4-5am – her excuse being that she suffers from “anxiety and depression and bipolar” and needed to invite some friends round for an unplanned party because of it. Because her right to feel not lonely surpasses everyone else’s right not to be woken up in the middle of the night. She has now started a war on our apartment’s Facebook page saying everyone is being horrible to her and anyone who doesn’t like it is obviously OLD.) No consideration for other people… And I realise I’m sounding like my parents here.
- Being a childless woman. It’s like you get all the crap bits about being female (sexism, big sore boobs, periods / side effects from IVF drugs) and none of the good bits! Smug mums banging on about breastfeeding! Mums in general whinging about their children in a completely annoying way when other people would do anything to have a child. People who do bad things to their own children. It’s just depressing that people who don’t deserve children seem to have no problem popping them out, and then us infertiles have to suffer psychological anguish because we don’t get to have children.
- Pregnancy after loss. I literally can’t enjoy it because I’m just waiting for it to end. It’s nice we got this far but I don’t have any faith in it right now. I’m beginning to hope, and I sort of hate myself for hoping because we hoped last time and it didn’t work. I don’t want to be this fat, swollen and hormonally ranty without actually ever getting to enjoy pregnancy. I can’t just “snap out of it”. Maybe I’ll feel better IF we get to 12 weeks, but we’re not even halfway there yet. This sucks. It also means I have to keep making excuses and sounding like an antisocial ***** because I don’t want to go out drinking and have to make up a lame reason why I’m off alcohol. I just want to get to the point where we can acknowledge the pregnancy. I guess that’s 12-14 weeks.
- Solicitors/lawyers. OMG What do they actually do? We’ve been waiting for our house to go through for like FOUR MONTHS. We have all the money ready to go. They’re just delaying over nothing. I feel so mad that I could have spent my notice period on holiday and moved house but instead we are stressing that it might not even happen before I start my new job next month. And I really don’t need that stress. As for the divorce… When can I have it? This is ridiculous. I’ve been with T longer than I was actually actively married. I might be having a baby with him, and my divorce from my ex still hasn’t bloody been finalised. It’s like lawyers just make money out of other people’s pain. ARGH.
I’m sure there are loads of other reasons why I’m angry. Maybe I’m PANGRY. (Pregnant-angry. Who knows. Maybe I’m imminent-pregnancy-loss-angry.) I definitely seem to be thinking more evil thoughts lately. Although I haven’t said much to people about it. I just think them in my head.
Sit with me on this one… I may be some time.
(Or: Seeing things through other people’s eyes)
We had a kind of exhausting weekend, full of the kind of social butterfly activities which remind you that you are too old for this shiz. I always thought of myself as the young one, mainly because all my friends were a few years to a lot of years older, and now I realise I really have no claim on that title given my advanced age and general overall desire to sleep.
On Friday night we went out for dinner with friends so we could celebrate Dog’s birthday in advance and hand him over for the weekend. It’s very comforting to have friends who are almost as crazy about Dog as we are! We went to a really nice pub and had a very civilised meal and Dog actually behaved… Although that was possibly more to do with the fact that he had four humans feeding him burger and fries under the table. Still, it was his birthday weekend so was good to be spoiled!
For the first time in this IVF round I had to do an off-site injection (where I bring all the injection paraphernalia with me). I was kind of keeping my eye on the clock and when it was due, I just headed off to the bathroom and injected my Menopur. Not too bad! Although obviously no sharps bins in pub bathrooms so I had to repackage the syringe and take it with me. Progress!
We were dropping Dog off with our friends as we were away for the weekend doing a birthday celebration overload. First of all we had T’s aunt’s 70th birthday party. This was about 2.5 hours away which meant we hired a car, which is exciting as we don’t have a car and meant we could pretend to be proper grown ups and whatnot. We had to be at a small village in the middle of nowhere by lunchtime on Saturday, and it being family and “old” people, we couldn’t be late.
Unfortunately for T, he happened to mention that it was sort of near-ish to an outlet shopping centre I really like, and he wondered if I would like to go en route… Is the pope a Catholic?! So we ended up taking a slight detour to the outlet and eyeing up all the merchandise. Fortunately for T, I am still on austerity until we buy the house, although I did have my eye on handbags in Coach and Kate Spade. I decided not to go for them given we are trying to get this house sorted, which means our bank accounts need to be nicely under control and it makes no sense to spend hundreds of pounds on handbags anyway. (But… They’re so pretty!) It was fun to walk about though and a pleasant detour ahead of a busy birthday weekend.
The 70th party was really nice. It was all of T’s extended family, some of whom I’d met before and some I hadn’t. I don’t know if this is a personal thing or an adoptee thing but for some reason I always find it fun to meet people’s families. I love big family get togethers. I guess maybe as we lived overseas when we were younger, we didn’t get to see our extended families very often so it sort of felt like a treat. Also, this is probably definitely an adoptee thing, but I find it fascinating when I meet people’s families and can see the family resemblances. It’s like… If you never had that yourself, it’s sort of mesmerising to see it with other people’s families.
It just so turns out that in T’s family, the family resemblance is really strong between the females. Firstly his mum and aunt look really similar. And then one of the aunt’s bio daughters looks the spitting image of them when they were younger. And it struck me that whilst there is probably far less focus on T himself having been adopted – because he’s white, adopted into a white family – it’s still visible that he doesn’t look “the spitting image” of his parents like his cousins do. It made me wonder how that made his mum feel when she looked at her nieces who looked so like her and her sister. It’s just one of those adoptee things that you wonder about.
In the end we had a fab time. They put on a great lunch party and everyone was really friendly, including those I hadn’t met before. I think you can sort of see where T’s kindness and friendliness comes from, as his family is very like that. Strangely it also reminded me of my ex’s family, who were sort of my surrogate family as we lived a lot closer to them than to my family. (It’s strange when people split up how you don’t just lose that relationship, but the entire extended family.)
Being slightly detached too it means that you are reminded how other people see things. Like people are still sort of interested (generally in a kindly way) that I don’t “look” British, and yet I speak “very good English”. Depending on the age of the person I’m usually more or less tolerant of comments like that. To be honest, I see people of my own race and I’m moderately surprised when they speak perfect English. I think it’s a sort of cognitive dissonance that you get as a transracial adoptee – you look one thing but you act like another.
Following that very genteel and civilised 70th birthday, we then had to drive another couple of hours to get to a surprise 30-something party. This was the one I was worried about as it was for T’s friend who I’ve never met! We’ve been together a good few years and I’ve met lots of his friends but this was for one from his hometown. When they meet up, it tends to be on boys’ nights out and so I just never met this bunch before. They were all 30-something couples and we surprised the birthday boy by turning up when he thought he was going for a night out with his wife.
The whole evening was weird for a number of reasons – not unenjoyable, but a bit strange. The first is that all the others knew each other. They were long time couples who were married with kids and so the mums knew each other as a result of the dads being old friends (of which T is one, but he moved away). It was sort of strange firstly because I wasn’t drinking, and everyone else was. T and I had discussed tactics and we thought I would order a drink but he would drink most of it and I could just take sips. (The things he does for love!) I think a lot of British culture depends on drinking, so it’s really weird not to drink, as social occasions revolve around it. Because of this, it’s easier just to order and drink and take a few sips than it is to not drink – as soon as you don’t drink, people start asking questions and I really don’t want to have to deal with questions about pregnancy when I’m going through IVF.
Secondly, as a result of going through IVF I think my hormones are probably all over the place. I actually didn’t mind the idea of having a drink or two (I’m in the stims phase) but I don’t think it mixes well with the meds. For the first week or so of stims I’ve had really bad headaches, and now I feel not that bad but the alcohol made me feel sick. We started off in a pub and then went for a meal (the type of meal people assume I like because of my ethnicity… I don’t like that sort of food at all, haha!) and I just sort of spent most of the evening feeling a low level of nausea. I was also very conscious of needing to remember to take my injection and the stress (mild!) of having to get away from the group and inject in the toilet (like a druggie!).
Thirdly, all of the people in the group – there were three other couples – were parents. And literally the main topic of conversation with the females was about children. They were sort of beside themselves at being on a night out because they don’t get to do it very often. So they wanted to get completely drunk and let their hair down, and they didn’t really have many other topics of conversation than their kids.
I guess I just felt a bit of an odd (wo)man out, not having kids and not really wanting to get drunk. Really I feel like I am past that stage – I like a drink or two, and I like going out for cocktails with my girlfriends or having wine with T over dinner, or going to the pub – but it’s not a big thing. Most nights I could do it if I wanted to – I just don’t want to. I have Dog to get home to, and I’m tired and old (!) and it just doesn’t seem the draw that it was in my twenties. And it always feels a bit weird if you are the sober one in among all the drinkers!
What I also found was that the men spoke to me a lot more than the women did. I think the women realised that I wasn’t in their gang and didn’t have kids, and I just think based on previous experience that men tend to be a bit less standoffish when deciding whether to be friendly or not. They weren’t unfriendly, the women – they were polite, and nice. But I could tell that we didn’t have many topics in common. At least one of them was a full time mum whereas I am a full time worker (for my dog!). So it was a bit weird I guess. They kept bringing up kids and asking the awkward questions (where they assume we don’t have kids because we don’t want them) and talking about whether they wanted any more, and I just thought wow, it must be nice to have the luxury of assuming you’ll be able to have another child if you want to.
The other thing is, I was the oldest out of all of them. And I probably started trying to have kids around the age that they had theirs… I just didn’t have any due to infertility. If everything had gone according to plan, I would have the two or three that they had. The youngest person there was early 30s and I’m late 30s. And the funny thing is, I really didn’t look like the oldest. T said “That’s what having kids does to you!” – I was sort of in shock! And the way that people moan on about kids, sometimes I do think that they possibly aren’t as great an addition as we think when we are going through fertility treatments!
It probably sounds like I’m being really negative but it wasn’t bad at all – it was fine. But I’d sort of rate it as less enjoyable than the family lunch – chances are, the only time I’d ever see them again would be if T and I got married. Or maybe they’d get more interested in me if I had a kid!
In the end, after a Sunday lunch with T’s parents we got home and we picked up Dog and it was his birthday. Every time I’m away from him I’m super excited to see him! It’s probably a bit pathetic but I really do miss him when he’s away. It always seems very quiet at night when he isn’t snoring his little head off!
The IVF update:
Stims: I’m finishing up Week 1 of stims with 250 of Menopur with the Buserelin down to 0.25. Over the week I have had a few headaches but they seem to be calming down. My boobs are now swelling up like gigantic humungaboobs, which T is very happy about. On the plus side they aren’t sore any more like they were during my period and down regulation, but they do make me feel self conscious and fat. It took me ages to find something to wear for the weekend parties as both my boobs and stomach are all swollen. My belly feels like it’s all swollen too, and I can sort of feel what I imagine to be my ovaries, but I feel generally better than I did earlier in the week.
Next scan: My first scan is on Wednesday instead of today (Monday) based on the fact that I was a slow responder last time and they think it would be pointless to scan me today. I don’t feel like I’m in any danger of OHSS as I have swollen up but I feel sort of okay. It actually worries me as it makes me think maybe I’m not responding to the stims. We will have to see on Wednesday.
Immune stuff: I’m still taking the supplements (baby aspirin, Omega 3, Pregnacare, Vitamin D) that Dr S recommended. Once they have an idea when my transfer will be, based on when egg collection is likely to be, he wants me to go get an intralipids infusion and also start heparin injections and prednisolone for the NK reaction. I won’t really have much of an idea until Wednesday as to whether my ovaries are responding. In the first scan I only had 6 + 3 follicles, which sounds a bit rubbish. I’m hoping there will be more than that.
Head stuff: Aside from the constant reminders of childlessness (which I’ve sort of gotten used to), I’m feeling generally okay. From memory, Gonal F seemed worse than Menopur is now, but it is probably a result of being very chilled out at work due to working my notice! I have some work to do for a guy I like working for, but there’s really not much pressure so it’s quite enjoyable. I’m due to start my new job in June which will mean more money and a bit of a change, which I think is positive!
IVF makes you think. I’ve already been pondering adoption stuff a lot, I suppose as a result of this process because you have to face up to the fact that you may never have a biological child. One of the things I’ve had to try and wrap my head around is the sheer number of people who seem to be pregnant, both at work and in my personal life. Not to mention blogspace where many of my fellow bloggers are now pregnant. I’m happy for them and it gives me hope that it will one day be me, but I still have days where I feel like everyone else is moving ahead whilst I’m still in the trenches. I have to keep reminding myself that infertility and loss is painful whether it’s 1 year or 3 (or in my case, over 10). But generally I’m sort of philosophical about it because there’s not much I can change about it.
T and I are getting on well and he is super supportive which is great. We talk a lot about our future child, who already has a name, and we’re also planning to move into our new place in the next month or so, which is really exciting. I thank my lucky stars every day that I have such a great partner – he is just the best human I’ve ever met, and I always feel happy that we don’t appear to be sick of each other so far! We have a vague Plan B if this doesn’t work, and we will probably try and focus on doing some nice things like getting the house nice and going on holiday before paying for a private cycle. I kind of think that I’ve lucked out with T and Dog and that maybe that is as much luck as anyone can have.
So hopefully this will be our lucky cycle, but otherwise, I keep reminding myself… Everything will be okay.
I have been thinking lately about what it’s like to be infertile / pursuing IVF / post miscarriage.
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.
Let me preface this by saying I’m British. I feel like I’m always clarifying this on this blog, but I do think it adds context as – despite being The Biggest Americophile Of All Time (I was watching a programme on retiring to Florida last night and I wear a Disney ring to work every day – ha) – I live and work in London, which although it’s cosmopolitan and whatnot still has a heritage of Britishness and the “stiff upper lip”.
In the UK, we don’t really talk about pregnancy before 12 weeks. If you suspected beforehand, it would be considered very bad form to mention it. (Ref the annoying b**** at work who asked me if I was pregnant when I wasn’t – faux pas of the highest order.) We very rarely talk about miscarriage other than to brush it under the carpet (hurtfully) and so it’s pretty darned rare you’d ever hear people talk about infertility, let alone IVF. It’s this thing that’s cloaked in secrecy, to the point that my local IVF clinic even has frosted windows lest anyone see you waiting in there.
I’ve lived all over the place (not UK) growing up so I tend to think about things a bit differently to a lot of British people, but in the case of personal privacy I’m still probably “a bit British”. Like… I don’t really like talking about my feelings. (This isn’t a good thing but a legacy of the school I went to where they pretty much beat all weaknesses out of you. I couldn’t cry for years and I’m still scared of crying because I would lose control and never stop.) Whack this against the backdrop of adoption and the prevailing view that you should be grateful for what you have (“unwanted ethnic baby saved by white parents” narrative) and, well, I really don’t feel comfortable with expressing too much emotion around infertility, other than through an anonymous blog. (Which has been a lifesaver!)
I feel like I have this great community of blogfriends who’ve somehow since this time last year sprung up around me. I feel like you’re by my side, cheering me on, and that we share in each other’s successes and commiserate each other’s hardships. It’s awesome. I wish I could be more “honest” with you about who and what I am, because we’re friends now. But I’m very identifiable (being transracially adopted and quite searchable) and it’s for reasons of privacy that I am not open about who I am… I don’t want my work to find out (because they have already previously made things difficult for me and would not be sympathetic towards someone trying to get pregnant – pregnancy is protected in law but trying to get pregnant is not) and I don’t want my friends to know, unless I personally tell them.
A few people know that I have had a long history of infertility, but really only my very good friends. A smaller subsection of them know about the first IVF, but they only found out in retrospect. We didn’t tell anyone when we were doing it, and I’m glad we made that decision. It was stressful enough with going through the IVF experience / bad stuff at work and the subsequent miscarriage without having people ask what stage we were at and whether there was a positive test, and so on. I think I would have found that difficult. I find all the questions about when we’re going to have children really intrusive and this would just add another layer.
Then when we got the positive test, we never made it to the magic 12 weeks. During that time, I really felt tempted to tell people. It would have been nice to experience that positive news, but I was too scared. In the end, I told my parents who were overjoyed. But retracting positive news is just awful. I couldn’t even tell them on the phone when we had the miscarriage. I just had to text them. They asked if they could tell my siblings and I said yes, and again that was so painful although the outpouring of love and support was comforting.
Talking about it on the phone when I told my best friends was excruciating. I just didn’t want to talk. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to retract FB announcements and so on. Even now, I find it difficult to talk about in person and I really don’t want to. Maybe that’s some kind of British reserve. Part of me wants to yell out “My baby is dead! Be nice to me!” and part wants to never mention it again, because if I don’t say it, it didn’t happen.
I know if it ever happens I will not tell anyone. Probably until the baby is born. People who see me would know but I couldn’t face making a big to do about it. I’m not naive enough to think that a positive test is a baby. (Oh to go back to the naïveté of cycle 1, where I was so happy it had “worked”. I now know never to trust a positive test.)
So… What to do second time round?
I’ve started but I still haven’t told anyone. But recently my sister had the same experience, losing her IVF pregnancy a few months after me. (Horrible coincidence.) We have talked a lot about treatment and I even recommended her a clinic and some reading. She doesn’t know about the blog. I don’t know if I want her to read my innermost thoughts – especially the stuff about family – although we do talk about it in real life. Our relationship has really improved in recent years as we’ve had these shared experiences and can empathise with each other.
I feel like I should tell her, but my automatic response was to be vague about start dates. (We have started down regulation and she did ask me if we were planning to start another cycle, and she’s kept me updated with what they are doing.) It sounds strange but there’s part of me that feels worried about being in “competition” with her – I already know that I’ll feel terrible if it works for them and not for us (though conflicting emotions, all wrapped up in sibling history… I will feel happy for them as well obviously).
I feel like I might tell her. Although I will say I don’t want her to ask about dates and things. It would be my idea of hell to have to give status updates all the time and having to give bad news. I’m already psyching myself up for the idea that it will fail even before pregnancy. Having done it once, I now know just how many hurdles there are to cross. This sounds like I’m being really negative but I promise I’m not! Just trying to manage my expectations. (I think the fact that we only hear about successes means that if we don’t have direct experience, we have an unrealistic idea of success rates.)
Who did you tell and when?
“…If you don’t mind me asking.”
Actually, I do mind you asking.
Miscarriage is painful enough to have to deal with in the virtual blackout we have that means that a pregnancy doesn’t “count” until it’s 12 weeks, and even then “It wasn’t a baby” and “It happens to everyone”. (Not my words but the words that many of us have to deal with in the wake of a miscarriage… In the wake of a painful revelation to friends that we lost a baby.)
Today this happened to me and I should be okay with it. I should be used to this being the first question that people ask, but I’m not. I felt angry that I delayed answering, wondering whether I could legitimately count it as a 10 week loss because the actual miscarriage happened between 9 and 10 weeks even though my baby stopped growing after 6 and a bit. (The bit is important, to me. He/she kept going after I saw his/her heartbeat on the ultrasound, but not long enough to make it to viability.)
I felt angry with myself that I felt the need to justify my baby’s existence. That somehow my baby wouldn’t “count” because it “wasn’t a baby” and it happened in the first trimester. I felt angry because that person made me feel that I had to explain and justify my sadness over the loss of my baby. (The person being a mother of two who, I sh*t you not, actually said she had experience of “infertility” because she had to wait just over a year to conceive her first… My heart bleeds.)
I just can’t.
She went on to tell me that there was a fantastic resource that some friend of a friend had set up, to support people with secondary infertility, which is “just as painful”.
My inner monologue went on overdrive: Okay so shoot me but I just don’t accept that. I absolutely get that it sucks, but come on… Please don’t try to console me with the fact that someone [who knows someone you know] can relate to what it feels like to be
forever long term, maybe forever childless because they can’t have a second child. I’m most probably being a total b*tch about this and I’m sorry (I really am sorry! Infertility sucks!) but I don’t think that the grief of never being a parent is the same as not being a parent of two. I have plenty of only child friends who vaguely wanted a sibling but who also have the most amazing relationships with their parents – and whose parents aren’t any less parents because of their one child. Infertile people are only going to get to be parents against all odds… Maybe never. Please don’t patronise us by trying to compare the haves with the have nots.
Anyway, this person was chasing me up because I haven’t been on Facebook for a while, as explained in a previous post. I’ve kind of responded to people who asked by saying I needed a break, and in some cases I explained about the miscarriage. I’m not quite up to public grief-sharing (I’m British, dontcha know) but it is kind of a straightforward way of not inviting too much further debate about the rights or wrongs of not being on FB. I liken it to the equivalent of the work explanation “women’s problems” in its abilities to get people off your back.
And yet. And yet I’m annoyed today because of this exchange. This person told me that they have a hard life too, yadda yadda, they don’t earn as much etc etc and I get that everyone has their stuff. I really do. Money stuff is stressful. (Which is why I’ve been trying so hard to get financially independent from my ex. It has taken years.) And yeah… Secondary infertility is stressful, I’m sure. I kind of wish I was in that position to feel that frustration… That my one kid could be asking me for a sibling. But I don’t have one child… And I may never have one.
It’s not a grief competition, of course. And yet… Maybe it’s natural to compare?
I know I’m not as hurt as those women who have repeatedly lost pregnancies. I know I’m not as badly off as someone who had to give birth to a dead baby, which is a grief I cannot even try to comprehend. I’ve been fortunate in many ways… I have had a privileged life (a life that started with loss but continued with giving, a whole new family that’s somehow still together even though they’re kind of crazy) and I have a good relationship and a good dog and a good job. I have barely anything to complain about and yet that one question made me feel upset and resentful, because to me it was questioning the validity of my grief.
The question was something like: How far were you along? Far enough to care that much? It happens to a lot of people. Is it reasonable to go off Facebook because you don’t want to have to keep looking at pictures of everyone else’s kids when you should have one of your own? When you don’t want to see the Motherhood Challenge or posts for Mother’s Day on what should have been your first?
And what I came to is this: Really, what right do I have to police anyone else’s sadnesses? None, that’s what. Someone else’s secondary infertility is bad to them, just as it seems an amazing luxury to me. And my “only 10 weeks” miscarriage is nothing compared to someone who’s had to cradle their dead baby after giving birth. We have no right to compare griefs and say one is worth more or less than another, because that way
msadness lies. And there’s enough sadness to go around.
So the next time I feel that resentment that someone is “only” dealing with secondary infertility, I’ll remind myself that I’m “only” dealing with my life. A life that isn’t that bad, really. As it stands, I’m going to enjoy the rest of this week’s staycation and especially the time with my favourite human, T, and my favourite dog, Dog. It’s a bit colder than I’d like but it gives us an extra excuse to snuggle. We had a great day today – we went to Hampton Court (home of Henry VIII – if you ever needed a reminder that life’s not that bad, check out how his wives ended up!).
In summary: Life’s okay – we just need to keep reminding ourselves and ignore the annoying questions!
If I was a certain sort of person, I’d probably have to post some boastful status update on Facebook about my new job – but I think I’ll pass! Instead here are a few from our staycation visit to Hampton Court Palace. It cost us nothing as we had free tickets! Definitely worth a visit if you fancy a little day trip in London. Be warned though that you will start to feel very sorry for all the women who were unfortunate enough to be married to Henry VIII!
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!
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.