Saturday, July 31, 2004


Great news! Today I received a letter from the British Olympic Committee, informing me that a space has opened up on the Olympic Worrying Team, and they want me, Barren Mare, to join them at the Winter games as a member!

I don't know why I am surprised at the accolade. I mean, I earned this. I have been training extra hard lately, really racheting up the intensity that little bit more. Well, clearly the efforts have paid off, and I'm in.

I knew I was meant for international worrying greatness from a young age. My mother is a championship fretter herself, so you might say it's in the blood. But I have that extra ability to turn a normal situation into a brow-furrowing sleepless night. As a child, I began with the simple things- would my Christmas presents include the Mandy doll that I so longed for? Would I have my colouring assignment placed up on the "Best Of" wall in Mrs Yikers' First Grade class? Would I win the spelling bee, or be picked last for the volleyball team?

By adolescence, the seeds of a worrying winner were well sown. I managed to fret my way right into the regional championships, as the judges were hugely impressed by my efforts in the "Will Ricky ever kiss me, or does he like Amy better?" episode. And all through college, the medals lined the walls, as I wrestled with (what was then) one seemingly awful decision after another.

But it was really when I went to graduate school that my Olympic potential was first realised. A number of fairly horrendous things did go on-for example, harrassment by a professor and being threatened with a shotgun whilst being evicted from my apartment by my psycho landlord. Since it seemed that bad things were really happening at last (and not just ones I dreamed up), I worried my way through each incident with considerable aplomb.

However, I didn't quite make the grade. True, I was in the running, briefly, during the divorce. And I was actually an Team alternate during my three hellish years back at university when I gambled everything on re-training and achieving a qualification that would allow me to get a "real job".

Then I slacked off. I met E., who is a medal winner himself.

We used to compete with each other once in a while, just to maintain our form, but I usually won, which he hated. We also realised that our worrying matches took up a lot of time, and though our love of the sport was strong, it also interfered with our ability to get anything done, or make any decisions. We didn't have the sponsorships to turn pro, and lacked the funding to train full time as amateurs. I began to resign myself to the idea that history would always mark me down as a contender, but not a winner.

So thank God for infertility! It's given me that extra boost I needed to achieve my dream of Gold Medalist. I know the competition is fierce, but I have a couple of months to hone my skills before we have our appointment at the Ass-Con Centre, including worrying that the appointment won't go ahead on schedule. And depending on what we find out (assuming we actually do get anything resembling an answer), I may have even more material to work with.

I won't say anymore-I wouldn't like to give too many training tips away to my rivals. But I'd like to know what I'm up against. If any of you out there have been picked to represent your country, could you let me know?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Throat Monster

It's funny how things change. A few months ago, if you'd asked me if I minded being around pregnant women and babies, I would have said, "Och, no. No problem. Yes, it makes me a little uncomfortable, but not so bad that I have to excuse myself from the baby shower or anything."

Today I went to see Doctor Best Friend. She's not really my friend. I realise I never explained how she came to be designated as such. You see, I like this woman. She's nice, really nice, and I might even have something of friend crush on her. She's been great about giving me all the preliminary tests as soon as I asked, she's a dab hand with the old needle, and she doesn't blow smoke up my ass about "just relaxing". After our first meeting, I decided that she was going to be my new best friend in the sense of getting me where I wanted to be in terms of treatment. And so she has been.

Doctor Best Friend asked me to come in for a sort of check up after all the thyroid carry-on and to make sure our referral to the Ass-Con Centre had gone ahead OK.

As I sat waiting, a woman with an adorable baby in a big pram came out. I helped open the door so she could manouever the behemoth of a buggy out into the hall. The baby stared up at me with big googly eyes. The mother snapped at me that she could manage. I sat down feeling superfluous.

Two seconds later, a hugely pregnant woman waddled past and took a seat for her appointment.

It's really odd when you can identify the exact moment when the bands that have been holding your heart and hope and courage in place suddenly give way. I felt an elastic pinging sensation in my chest.

Doctor Best Friend called me in. We chatted about the appointment in October, and she suggested E. get tested again. We discussed going private instead of waiting on the NHS, and she told me that the Ass-Con Centre gave good care, that they were good people. But we agreed it would be best to have E.'s swimmers checked out again before October, so he and I will have a clearer picture as to what we might be dealing with there.

Then, as we were winding up, she asked me about work. Work sucks right now, I said, and all of a sudden I got the worst case of throat monster- you know, where you nearly choke to death on the tears that are rising up on you, the lump in your throat swelling out of proportion, your eyes watering.

Maybe I'm just feeling sorry for myself, but I realised afresh how utterly miserable I have been lately- at work, at home, in my sleep. I looked into Doctor Best Friend's endlessly kind blue eyes, and I wanted to cry and cry and cry. Everyone around me is pregnant, everyone else gets to be a mother. I want it to be me, I want my turn, I want for E. to be a father, I want us to be a family.

My wanting is like a monster of its own. Now I come to understand that while it has grown quietly, it has grown. It has sharp teeth and strong claws. And it has slowly reached up and taken hold of my life in a vice-like grip. I am strangling on the force of my wanting things that I cannot seem to have. The monster has me by the throat now, and I fear it will be so hard, so very hard to ever shake it loose if things don't go our way.

I didn't cry. I didn't say anything about how I was feeling. I pulled myself together. I made some lame comment about that's life, and anyway I have a great support system on the Internet blah blah blah.

I really don't think she would have minded if I cried, but I hate crying in front of other people. I prefer to do it in the privacy of my own shower, or under the covers.

And I realised if I started, how hard it was going to be to stop. I only had a 10 minute appointment, but I already have enough tears inside me to last the rest of my lifetime.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Attack of the Infertile Tomatoes

My mother and I had a long telephone call on Monday night. Despite the distance, we do manage to speak at least once every couple weeks, thanks to my discovery of an insanely cheap international telephone provider.

Do you know, it costs less for me to phone my parents all the way across the Atlantic Ocean than it does to phone across town via my normal telephone line. That's typical of Rip-Off Britain. Every time E. and I see those wanky ads about how many people are "returning" as customers to Bastard Telecom, we roll our eyes. I mean, strictly speaking, we did return to BT when we moved house last year- but it's not like we had a CHOICE in that, did we? No, we did not.

But I digress, and I've not even begun.

My mother and I talked of many things, of boats, kitchen renovations and of my tomato plants. She wanted to know how the tomatoes were doing.

You see, this is the first year I have had a garden. When my parents were here a few months ago, there was a plant sale for charity at work. Actually, it was more like a plant bun-fight, as we say here, with people grabbing whole boxes of sweet peas and geraniums, trampling colleagues in the rush. Two women nearly came to blows over some unspecified herb. And I came home from work with some nice little tomato plant cuttings.

My mother took one look at the little container I had picked out, and shook her head. "We're going to need something.. a bit bigger."

She was right. I now have many-vined tomato plant monsters, sprouting ample green arms up the wall, spilling over the large pot, and threatening to take over the entire patio. It's like Garden of Regime Change. Pretty soon the neighbouring poppies will start marching and waving signs saying "No Blood for Soil".

Anyway, I remarked on how the plants had yellow flowers, but no actual tomatoes.

"Hmm," said my mother, the much more experienced gardener. "Sounds like you need to do a little pollination assistance."

She went on to explain that although tomato flowers should be self-fertilizing, this may not be happening. No pollination, no tomatoes.

"Yeah, I know how that is." I said, a touch bitterly.

The solution, she said, was to try a little manual pollination with a Q-tip.

I traipsed out the following day, and gamely probed at the little buds. Further Googlage suggests I should just try shaking them to loosen things up. But I don't think that's going to help-it's mighty windy at times here, and surely there has already been enough shaking to pollinate this small army of tomato plants. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Infertile tomatoes. Figures.

At least my research confirmed my suspicions that those plants are up to no good. To see what I mean, check out this.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Pencil me in

As part of the whole Sperm Meets Egg Action Plan this month, E. e-mailed me at work this morning to ask me for a note of "the crucial dates".

Why, you may ask? So he can put them in his diary, of course, or more specifically, his Palm Pilot thingee, which will chime repeatedly when the appointed time arrives. His particular diary-gadget has an alarm sound like a mini British fire engine. Nee-naw, nee-naw, nee-naw. Time to impregnant girlfriend! No doubt that will make him snap to it like a lean teenage greyhound at the track.

Of course, I had to explain to him for the gazillionth month running that whilst I am quite regular, and whilst I do my best to monitor the situation, I am not blessed with the second sight as to the exact moment at which I will ovulate. If I plan on it happening early, like Day 9, it will invariably be delayed until Day 15. And vice versa.

So I got out the calendar and counted out the days, feeling frustrated and a bit aggravated that our sex life is reduced to appointment slots in a Palm Pilot, but resigned to the inevitable. Guessed which weekdays looked likely, so he could plan on commuting that week. E-mailed to say he needed to be here from X August to X August.

In response:

E: I don't understand. What days do you mean?

Mare: How is what I sent you in any way unclear? I need your presence, and more specifically your most enthusiastic sperm, on X day of the week this month. Followed by the next day and the next day and the next day. I might ovulate before the last date mentioned, but you'd better plan on being here EVERY DAY UNTIL THAT HAPPENS.

(OK, I didn't mention the sperm part of it. I'm sure the IT guys get enough yuks out of my emails as it is).

Telephone call from E. this evening.

E: Listen, I don't think I can do every day/night that week. The commute, you know, the early morning starts. It's a killer.

Is this the appropriate juncture to mention that our living arrangements suck? I honestly don't know what we will do if we actually do manage to have a baby, how we'll juggle two jobs and two flats in two cities. E. and I have discussed this ad nauseum. We have been over it about ten million times, round and round in the same endless vicious circle.

Commuting is really not an option. We've both done it once upon a time, and trust me when I say that whichever one of us was doing it would lose the will to live in about two months.

Especially in winter, which is particularly bad. Have you ever experienced winter in Scotland? It's dark almost all the time. At Solstice time it doesn't get fully "light" until about 9 or 10 am, and it gets dark again at about 3 pm. It's damp, it's dreich, it's cold. You wake up in the dark, go to work in the dark, come home in the dark. Trying to do the hour and half plus commute each way in winter is a one way ticket to depression, insanity, death. I do know a couple of people that do it, but not one of them is over 25. All that keeps them going are the same youthful reserves that allow them to drink eight pints of lager and go clubbing on weeknights. But if they keep it up, they will have that grey, hollow-eyed look that all commuters in Scotland eventually get.

The obvious answer would be for me to give up my job and move to the Other City, but both E. and I loathe that place with a fiery passion. We definitely don't want to bring up a family there. He only stays there because he has a job (which he more or less dislikes) and it's not easy for him to get another one. And I (more or less) love my job, or at least appreciate that as far as jobs go, it's (usually) good, with plenty of benefits and a very child-friendly attitude. All things considered, we both think it's lunacy for me to give up my job, especially since it's not clear if I ever will get to avail myself of that child-friendliness.

Living in the middle has potential, but not that much potential, since it would still be a commute, but this time for both of us. One of my colleagues who lives "in the middle" has a youngish baby, and she speaks longingly of moving back in. Not to mention that most of the soulless little breezeblock communities that make up much of the area of land between the two cities really don't appeal. We've looked many times, shuddered, and given up.

So here we are. Pencilling in times to be together for starting a family, when at the moment we aren't even able to be a full time family to each other. It gets me thinking about moving back to America, burning our boats and starting over. Despite the obvious attractions, neither of us can quite bring ourselves to pursue that step. And depending on the path our appointment in October takes us, we may have enough big steps to contend with at the moment, without taking on an international move.

Sometimes the only thing I am clear about anymore is that almost nothing is simple.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

As Nature Intended

You know that Roy Lichtenstein print-the one that says "Oh my God, I forgot to have a Baby!"?

Well, according to Josephine Quintavalle, this sort of forgetfulness is at the very root of the causes of infertility.

For those of you not already familiar with some of the current ongoing debates about reproductive technology in this country, allow me to introduce Countess Josephine Quintavalle, co-founder of "Comment on Reproductive Ethics (CORE)", a "public interest" group.

CORE should really be called Criticism of Reproductive Everything, because that is their basic stance. Quintavalle is an outspoken critic of IVF. "Everyone seems to think they have the absolute right to babies and that medicine can put it right for them if they can't," she complains.

She has been at the epicentre of legal challenges brought on behalf of CORE against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority including a really interesting preimplantation genetic diagnosis case which I will write about once I have done more background reading. But her remit seems to extend to commenting on as widely and obnoxiously as possible on all things reproductive.

In fact, the Countess of Asshats has said so many unbelievably infuriating and irritating things, there is enough material to keep me blogging for quite some time.

Let's start with the Ovarian Tissue Transplant case. 32 year-old woman, diagnosed with cancer has some of her ovarian tissue frozen prior to undergoing chemotherapy. Once she is well again, the tissue is replaced. She gets pregnant. No one is quite sure if her success was a result of the tissue treatment, since she did have one remaining ovary during the chemo. But whatever. It's nice news for her, and it may represent hope for a lot of women facing up to the possibility that cancer treatment will render them sterile.

In wades Quintavelle. According to her, this is all cause for concern. Quintavelle is worried! Very worried! Because this treatment may end up being used as "a lifestyle choice for designing when you want to have children." She has commented that "women should have children, "when Nature intended," in their mid-20s."".

Whoa! What a revelation. And to think all this time that I have been Iabouring under the misapprehension that nature will allow me to have children in my early thirties, or possibly even later. But I guess Mother Nature must be really pissed off with me for having the temerity to try to get pregnant now. If only I had known! Was there a memo or an e-mail or something? Did anyone else miss it, too?

Even if I had received the memo, I'm not sure what I would done about it, considering that during my mid-twenties I was trapped in a loveless marriage, obsessing over someone I couldn't have, working in a dead end job earning a pittance, friendless and alone, severely depressed and anorexic.

But hey, no worries. Because despite my utter utter selfishness in waiting until I was sane, solvent and in a secure and loving relationship (does all that constitute a "lifestyle choice"?) I now realise that all I need to do is have some ovarian tissue removed, frozen and transplanted later on. Hooray! Sign me up, cause that sounds like fun. Just the thing to enable me to carry on greedily pursuing my career and my goals in life, and defer having children until after menopause if I feel like it. Pass the Chardonnay!

I think most people do appreciate that all technology, including reproductive medicine can to some extent be dangerous, can potentially be abused. There are ethical problems that do want careful consideration and healthy debate. But, correct me if I am wrong here, I didn't get the impression that anyone would ever sign up for IVF as a part of an overall "lifestyle choice".

I wonder if Countess Quintavalle has any notion of the misery, the heartache, the stress- leading up to the point where a couple come to understand that if they want to pursue their dream of being parents, they require assisted conception. I somehow doubt it, sitting in her privileged sphere of judgmental self-righteousness. It seems to me what Quintavalle is really saying is that the only people with an absolute right to have a baby are the ones who get pregnant naturally. Like her. The rest of you women out there should also make sure that you have babies when Nature intended! What? Haven't got your act together in time? Infertile despite your youth for some other reason, like you simply don't ovulate? Well, in that case you are expected to suck it up. No medical treatment for you, you selfish/unworthy bitch, clearly you are not meant to be a mother!

All I can think of in response is that if you remove the "O" from Countess, it spells something extremely rude.

Friday, July 23, 2004

In case you were wondering

I'm definitely not pregnant.

We've already talked about how we'll get our act together better this cycle. We'll plan ahead, so it's not so stressful trying to co-ordinate E. being here on the crucial days. How we'll keep our hopes up.

What we haven't talked about how is how I snuck home from work this afternoon to eat ice cream and cry.

Thursday, July 22, 2004


I was lying in my hammock on Infertility Island as nightfall came. A peculiar stillness fell over the forest, and there was no sound apart from the low hum of bees in nearby tropical flowers, or the occasional gentle chortle of the bullfrog in the swamp. The moon started to rise, and I rocked back and forth, waiting for sleep.

Then I heard the sound of running feet. I swung myself out of the hammock, and stood up. In the distance, I could see shadowy forms, moving quickly down the hill. Torchlights bobbing in the darkness. And a persistant whisper across the island, growing louder by the minute.

As I stood there, I saw a young woman in a frayed bikini, running toward me. "Wait!" I called out to her as she swept by. "What's going on?"

"It's GetupGrrl. She's crying." she called over her shoulder, her voice already distant.

I found myself moving right after her. And as I ran, my feet re-tracing the well trodden steps to Grrl's hut, I saw others all around me. Throngs of women were emerging from the woods. Others were arriving from the beach. Even the watchtower was abandoned as the lookout descended the ladder.

At Grrl's hut, the crowd was so large I almost couldn't see the building. The front porch was covered in flowers, and offerings of floor cake. It was so quiet.

A familiar face emerged from the crowd and took my hand. As we stood vigil together, I saw more and more women arriving.

"Look," my friend said, clutching my hand tightly, and she pointed to the sky and the water. Parachutes were opening in mid-air, as new arrivals leapt from a low-flying plane. Just offshore, a small ship had arrived and made anchor, a raft prepared to bring more ashore.

"They can't all stay here," I whispered. "Some of them don't belong".

"They're here for Grrl. And I think they're allowed to stay as long as they are needed," my friend told me.

"What's happened?" I asked.

My friend shook her head.

"Bad news. It's bad news."

We were silent for a time.

Finally, I said quietly, "I really hope Grrl will be OK. Our beloved Grrl." The words caught on the lump in my throat. I looked around me, at the sea of faces, the torchlights flickering.

And all around me, the women mumured in agreement. Their voices carried across the water, over the hill, through the forest.

Our beloved Grrl.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004


I don't have much to say today. Instead, I bring you a picture of my poppies.

Monday, July 19, 2004

One in six

Ah, statistics. Those little facts and figures that are somehow supposed to give meaning to our existence, barometers by which we can measure our role in the universe as compared to others. A number of which to pin hopes of success, or to indicate the chances of failure. Even if those numbers are distorted, or only apply to certain groups of people, or are based on some wonky research methods, isn't it just so reassuring that somebody has thought about it. Yes indeedy, a statistic tells us that somebody has gone out, investigated the situation and is reporting back on where we stand.

There are a lot of statistics relating to infertility, but the one that has stopped me in my tracks way before we even started trying was "one in six". As in an estimated one in six couples will have trouble conceiving. One in six translates into 17% (all you clever clogs out there may know that- I had to look it up. Math is not my forte.)

Now, what does that really mean (apart from imaging yourself as the odd pair out in a room with five pregnant couples)? How do I put that in a bigger context- more to the point, canI put that in context?

A little rummaging on Google reveals this:

* Out of 6,000 US solidiers who fought in Iraq, one in six suffer trauma disorders

* One in six adult Australians cannot read basic medical instructions, according to a United Nations development report launched in Sydney.

* One in six Americans use the wireless internet.

* One in six workers in the U.S. telecommunications industry has been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

* One in six High School Seniors admit to driving while high

* One in six UK workers put in more than 48 hours a week

* One in six households in the UK will be powered by windfarms

* One in six adults in the UK have a neurotic disorder

* One in six US prisoners are mentally ill (says Human Rights Watch in their 215 page report)

* One In six Americans is at risk from dangerous chemical accident exposure

So, living in the UK, I'm just as likely to be overworked, neurotic and powered by a windfarm as I am to be infertile?

I think the bottom line is that it shouldn't matter so much what the numbers say. But it's hard to get a fix on where you are, because people don't talk about it- so you never really get a sense of quite how many others around you are out there struggling. We celebrate pregnancy and birth- we hide away miscarriage and barrenness.

To E. and I, it feels like every other couple in Scotland who wants a baby has one (and even some that don't want one). Of course, if that were true, there wouldn't be such a long waiting list for fertility treatment. And maybe the numbers don't lie after all. But does that mean we've become...a statistic?

Sunday, July 18, 2004

A place of my own

E. and I had a little fight on the drive back through from the Other City this morning.

You see, E. and I, despite having very similar tastes in a great many things, have somewhat different perspectives on how a weekend should be spent.

E.'s version involves bounding out of bed at 8.30, running down to get the paper, which he reads very fast while hoovering up his breakfast. Then, if the weather isn't favourable to his partaking in one of his "guy activities" which totally exclude me, (such as fishing, golfing or cricket), he proceeds directly to nagging me about what we are going to do this weekend. Where are we going? What are we doing? When? Things to accomplish, things to do do do.

My weekend mode involves a rather different charging of the batteries. I wouldn't describe myself as lazy, but I work damn hard during the week, and I like to sleep late if possible, then pooter round the house. Hang up the laundry, tidy up a bit. Then do some shopping, or read a book. Go to the gym if I am in the mood, or go out for a walk. Or go online.

It's the last item on my agenda that E. objects to. Now, I admit I do spend rather a lot of time online. And that has been a habit for a number of years now- the "infertility thing" has only exacerbated this behaviour. E. doesn't know anything about my blog, or my message board, and he can't understand why I would choose to spend hours tippy-tapping to all my virtual friends.

Not that he knows who any of my virtual friends are- he can barely remember the names of the 'real friends" he has met. And even then he can only identify them by some external characteristic.

E: "Jennifer? She's the one who goes out with Mark?"

Me: "Yes, Jen and Mark. The only Jennifer I associate with. They've been here for dinner about three times. We're invited to their wedding. How can you not remember?"

E: "Is she the one you used to work with?"

And so it goes.

In E.'s book, the whole online thing is just another sign of my tendency towards reclusiveness, toward hiding from the rest of the world. OK, I admit it would be unhealthy if I blogged to the exclusion of all other activities in life, but I don't. I work hard, I go to the gym three or four times a week, I read a lot, I watch movies, I do meet up with "real life" friends. It's just that ultimately, I prefer to be able to do my "socialising" in the comfort of my own home, wearing my pajamas if I so desire.

I think the main reason E. doesn't like my virtual life is because it's a place that doesn't involve him. And the fact that he regularly engages in hobbies which exclude me (and which take up the whole day) doesn't seem to count. Thus hence our fight.

I need to be able to find a way to explain to E. that by going online, I'm actually patching together my sanity. I'm re-connecting to people who understand what I am feeling, and who support me. And that by doing so, I am better equipped to come back to him in one piece, and be a person he would actually want to spend time with.

Is that so hard to understand?

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Class Act

Oh, frabjous day! The internet connection is properly fixed now. Turns out E.'s pal really did know his stuff.

Having my Mac back enabled me to receive an e-mail from an old and dear friend. Now, I love this friend. She did me the most enormous favour some years ago, and she did it with such unselfishness and generousity that she is in my good books forever. I would never hear a bad word said against her.

But I have to confess my heart sank just a little bit when she wrote "I know how you're feeling. We tried for a year, and gave up and got a cat. And then I got pregnant."


In other news, a woman at work, who used to be my boss, and whom I have the utmost respect for, came round to my veal crate- I mean, cubicle today.

About a month ago I had confessed to her that we were trying, unsuccessfully, and that it was beginning to cause some pain. At the time she got a funny look on her face, but I thought that was because she herself had had some difficulties in that department. She had never gone into detail, but she was pushing forty, and when you mentioned kids she got that sort of strained smile you see on women who have struggled with infertility and loss.

She took me into a private corner, and told me she was pregnant. I had this weird overwhelming urge to hug her and cry at the same time. I did neither. I listened as she told me about how it was going, and how the hospital staff were crap, and how her parents were so excited. We talked about how she is the second person from her department this year to get pregnant, and how the office would cope with her being away on maternity leave.

Then she said to me: "I came to tell you, because I wanted you to hear it from me. And I want to tell you this...don't give up."

Later I thought, what a class act she is. She didn't wait for me to hear it on the office grapevine, cause she'd been there before herself, and she knew it was going to give me a pang. She was upfront about it, and she didn't spin me some bullshit about "just relaxing". She told me what I most need to hear right now- that there is hope and that it will happen for me. I don't even care if it turns out not to be true- the encouragement was a balm to my nervous, gnawing, fraying spirit.

For me, the way she dealt with it is going to help me get on with being happy for her, instead of feeling like somebody else has been picked for the team ahead of me.

And contemplating whether we should give up and get a cat.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Wheel of sadness

When I went into work on Tuesday morning, word went round through the office grapevine that a colleague had been killed in a freak accident. This was distressing news, but it's quite a big organisation. So I didn't know him personally- although he was the boss of my friend K.

Since then it seems a sort of growing sadness has permeated the office. Today's rumour mill filtered news of the funeral- how people were getting there, who was going. Was there going to be a collection for charity. Who had been left with the wretched task of cleaning out the poor guy's desk.

Now that the initial shock has worn off, it seems the reality is beginning to jar, and the ripples are spreading through the office. He's gone, and someone is going to have to pick up where he left off.

I sent my friend K. an e-mail asking if she was OK, and have had no reply. I heard from another friend that K. is very upset.

I am annoyed with myself for being unsure what to do. What to say to her. I worry about how another colleague, who is burying her mother tomorrow, is doing.

And I realised that, despite my time on Infertility Island, where I have come to think of myself as someone familiar with the pain and loss of others, that when confronted with a situation in "real life", I fumble. And I feel just as deeply in both worlds.

I have also realised that lately, I am very sad a lot of the time. I feel like most days I am walking around with an anvil where my heart used to be. Everything hurts. I go to work, and someone has died, and I am sad. I come home, and I read bad, heartbreaking news from someone I care about out there in the blogosphere, and I am sad.

I am sad at work and sad at home. I am like a little hamster on an endless wheel of sadness. And when I try to look forward, I don't see an end to it. It makes me think that something has to change. Either in my life, or else within me.

Because my legs are getting tired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

It's not free

Today I received the appointment card from the infertility clinic. Well, in reality, it's not just a clinic-it has a rather grandiose title but I'm not going to go into that. Let's just call it the Centre.

I'm pleased, in that it only took two weeks from us sending back the form for the Centre to get back to us. However, our appointment is not until October.

It seems a long time a way. I know that realistically, for the cash-strapped NHS, this is perhaps not that long a waiting list. I am further appreciative of the fact that if we enter the Centre's Assisted Conception programme (which henceforth shall be known as "Ass Con"), depending on the treatment we receive, the costs may be somewhat less than we might have had to pay if we lived in another country where infertility treatment may not have been covered by insurance.

What irritates me a little is when people describe treatments on the NHS as "free." Correction, people, NHS services are funded by the taxpayer.

Every month, a good little chunk comes out of E's paypacket, and mine. I don't really begrudge paying it, since despite the myriad of problems with socialised health care, it's always worked pretty well for me. I pay it, and I use it when I need to.

However I would point out that I don't need it very often. With the exception of a pap smear every three years and the tests I have received so far for infertility, in the ten years I have lived in Britain, I have been to the doctor a total of maybe four times. And still every month the money comes out of my paypacket. So in terms of what I have cost the NHS over the years versus what I have paid, I reckon they haven't done too badly.

Now, look, I know it's not maybe not that simple and there are a lot of complicated issues about the NHS. I know that the money I pay goes to keeping those services ticking over, in case I DO ever need to phone up my surgery for an appointment, etc, etc.

I am talking about the fact that until our infertility woes arose, I was a healthy young woman who put no additional strain on the NHS. I was employed, I paid taxes, and those taxes included National Insurance contributions. I will continue to pay those taxes as long as I work (and assuming we don't abolish the NHS altogether.)

So it's not "free". And there is a waiting list. And let us not forget that the Centre does in fact charge additional fees for Ass Con treatments like IUIs, plus up to £3,000 a pop for IVF.

Maybe I should start saving up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

My fault

Yessssss! Sweet Jesus Gay, I'm back.

In the end, I have had to McGyver an internet connection out of my 10 year old laptop, a paperclip, frog modem and a section of my small intestine. It's painfully slow, and all the fonts look funny, but it's at least a connection.

Yesterday I ran home at lunch time to phone my ISP to establish if the problem lay at their end. Cue Telephonic Abyss of Death. The automated voice that greets you when you ring my server is so disdainful and depressing, it makes you want to stick your head in the oven. As if infertility and a wonky internet connection aren't bad enough, you have to listen as Automaton drones through the options.

Press 1 to speak to somebody who knows nothing about your problem, press 2 to be told that we have lost all your billing details again, press 3 to go straight into the Seventh Ring of Hell.

Finally, after 20 minutes on hold, I got through to a slightly more animated drone- that is to say he actually was a person rather than a computer voice, but that was about the only difference.

He went away and goosed my line or whatever it is they do, and came back to report that it was my problem.

Noooo, I wailed. Are you sure? They say it's a 50% chance either way that the cause is male or female. It can't be meee!

Well, he went on to say, it's working fine on this end. Are you sure you're not using any birth control, like a firewall or anti-virus software?

Of course I'm not. I don't even own any birth control!

Well, could you check?

I wouldn't know where to look.

OK, go to your clitoris and click on "run"…


Your clitoris. Your S-T-A-R-T button.

Look, pal, I'm running a Mac here. Leave my clitoris out of it.

With that our conversation came to a frosty end.

So, dear blog readers, I am still none the wiser as to the cause of my internet woes. I have cleared caches, checked settings, looked knowingly at systems logs, done the Hokey Pokey and turned myself around. An insanely expensive computer should work. It does not. E.'s friend, a reputed computer genius is coming out to look at it this weekend.

One thing is for sure, like it or not, I depend on the internet, my friends at my message board (also known as Camp Control Freak) and the blogosphere for my sanity. Without it, I realised I am alone with my thoughts and fears about what is happening to me, and to us as we struggle to get pregnant. That's OK some of the time, but quite daunting as a permanent prospect.

I wonder if the Apple helpline people would blame it all on me, too?

Sunday, July 11, 2004



For no apparent reason, my home internet connection has up and died. Why why o why? An outage, perhaps? Gremlins in my computer? I am sitting in the local internet cafe, looking over my shoulder to make sure I don't bump into anybody I know, and looking for an answer. It's been down all weekend, and the server tech support is closed. Their web site indicates there is nothing wrong. All systems appear to be go on the computer, all the lights flashing as they should be, all the settings announcing "connected". But I am not.

This makes me intensely irritable. More so than I usually I am. It also makes me realise how dependent I have become on the blogosphere for my sanity right now. And how desperately alone I feel without it.

Saturday, July 10, 2004


A little update...

The ever delightful lobster girl commented on my earlier post and mentioned OPKS. Had I ever used them?

The answer is yes. I did try OPKs for awhile but I kind of gave up for various reasons. Quite a lot of the time we have to just plan on E. coming through from the Other City during what we think will be "Fertile Goo Week". We have to block out a whole section of dates ahead of time on the calendar. If we try to do it on a piecemeal basis (like me phoning up and saying "hi honey, I'm about to ovulate")- inevitably he won't be able to get here. So OPKs don't help much there. Such is the insanity of our lives.

To be honest, I also gave up on the OPKS because I can ovulate anywhere from 9-16 days, and it was costing me a fortune to keep enough of the little fuckers on hand. Between that and the price of petrol driving back and forth- and we haven't even gotten to the expensive treatments yet.

However- and despite my earlier assertion that the opportunity had come and gone:

I did another mission later on tonight (denial, thy name is Mare) and fossicked out something that looked sorta kinda eggwhitey. Since my body appears to be wholly dedicated to the production of odd mucus at the moment, maybe it was encouraged to join the party.

So we went for it. I nearly choked to death on my own phlegm in the process, but hey.

Now I am left to wonder, did we time it right after all, or did we miss it?

The airline staff have just handed me a standby ticket and told me to wait in the lounge.

Friday, July 09, 2004


Well, fuck-a-doodle-do. I think we missed the window of opportunity. E. turned up last night, bearing vast amounts of decadent food to help me feed my cold. Including a gigantic chocolate fudge cake- is he prescient, or just sweet?

While he was unloading everything I snuck off to the bathroom to ascertain whether there were signs that we might still be in business. (Another bit of rhyming slangage for ya-"Cervical position=fingers on a mission".) Temping was useless this month since I had been running a fever on and off for most of the week which had thrown everything out of whack. But I find that the old mucus test tends to be the best barometer for me.

So there I am, foraging around only to discover that the vast amount of fertile goo I had been secreting for most of the week had DRIED UP. Completely gone. Gone, gone, gone. And for me, once it's gone, that's it. Ovulation has passed me by.

To say I wasn't in the mood anyway would be an understatement, what with my having to pause every five minutes for extended coughing fits. But I think if there had been a chance, I would have made a real effort- and I know E. would have.

I am frustrated. Much as I hate the goddam two week wait, at least I usually have some scrap of hope to hold on to and sustain me during that time. Missing ovulation without having so much as attempted to put sperm near egg is just...lame. It's a complete anti-climax, in more ways than one.

I feel like I have been running, running, running through the airport (you know, like in the movies where they pole vault over the barriers, etc). I am panting furiously, clutching my passport in one sweaty paw, gripping my stylish little Coach holdall in the other. Only I find when I at last reach the gate, the plane has left without me. The airline staff are disinterested. And there isn't another flight scheduled for a month.

Tell me, how is it I can work a full time job, book our summer holiday, manage six different email accounts, pay the bills for two flats in two different cities, keep those flats clean, maintain and insure a car, complete E.'s tax return on time, VOTE in two different countries for fuck's sake- and yet am unable to manage to have sex with my partner on a few crucial days every month?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Rhyming Slang

It dawned on me as I was trudging reluctantly toward another day at work with my sore throat that what the world of infertility really needs is.....Cockney rhyming slang.

For those of you who are unfamilar with rhyming slang, (or haven't seen Guy Ritchie films like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) it is said to have orginate in London's East End in the mid-19th century. Cockney rhyming slang uses substitute words, usually two, as a coded alternative for another word. The final word of the substitute phrase rhymes with the word it replaces. So for example- the cockney rhyming slang for the word 'stairs' is "apples and pears." Drunk would be "elephant's trunk"

As in, I fell down the apples and pears when I was elephant's.

Cockney rhyming slang then developed as a secret language of the London underworld from the 1850's, when villains used the coded speech to confuse police and eavesdroppers.

So, my thinking is that it's ideal for communications for all things infertility. This way, I can send e-mail from work about E.'s SA results and no one, except for others in the Infertile Rhyming Slang know will understand what I am talking about.

For example, instead of "luteal phase", I will say, "I have a really short Rutherford B. Hayes!".

I'm not firing on all cylinders this week, so thus far, all I have come up with are the following:

* infertile- snapping turtle
* ovulate- starting gate- (or alternatively, guess the date)
* babymaking sex- tyrannosauraus rex.
* pregnancy test- hope laid to rest (or alternatively, pee obsessed)
* ultrasound- theater in the round
* semen analysis- flaccid paralysis

Well... it's a start.

Infertility Rhyming slang- hours of fun for the whole non-family! Anybody care to join in?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Snuffling like a piggy

I have some sort of throat infection, and after two and half days of struggling to work, I gave up and came home at lunch time. My throat feels like it is lined with sand paper, and there is a dry, raspy cough going on, which intermittedly results in expulsion of unspeakable goo.

This is not good. I don't know why I am surprised- this happens almost every year during the so-called Scottish summer. It's the direct result of weather that changes so fast it can make your head spin. One minute it will be bright and sunny and almost warm, the next torrential rain. It's very very difficult to know what to wear every day. Inevitably you will be caught as I was over the weekend, in a downpour, wearing only a cotton t-shirt and thin combats (not shorts- I don't even own a pair of shorts- there is no need here).

Half the people at work must have been similarly drenched, because there are a lot of sore throats going around. Of course, this is a vastly unhealthy nation. Exposure to disgusting hacking and coughing by those around you is the norm. Take the bus to the town centre and you'll see what I mean- old men with smoker's cough gagging next to you, children with loose phlegmy gurgles.

E. is usually very kind to me when I am sick, but he has a real aversion to the sound of someone coughing, or blowing their nose- it drives him insane. If he hears someone spluttering away, he turns to me and says under his breath,

"That's totally unnecessary".

We have had arguments about this, because I take the view that when I am sick, it is necessary. And completely involuntary. Plus, E. being mortal is occasionally prone to the same colds and flus that we all get from time to time, with the same side effects, so he's not exempted from emitting the odd death rattle of his own.

But I agree with him that it can be unpleasant to listen to the sounds of someone else's cold. There was one occasion we were on a transatlantic flight, and for six hours we had to hear the woman seated behind us as she gurgled and snottered the length of the Atlantic ocean. E.'s description was "snuffling like a piggy". He'd rather not be in a ten mile radius of that sound.

Since I am presently snuffling away myself in a similar swine-like fashion, I wonder therefore how the hell I am going to entice him to engage in the necessary baby making activities, which must occur this week.

Assuming I can even bring myself to contemplate the notion of getting frisky when all I want to do is lie on the sofa in my fuzzy slippers, watch crap telly and drink tea. Oink.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Bar brawl

On Friday I did two very stupid things.

Firstly, I got paralytically drunk. This is not like me, and is especially not like me over the last year, when I have been, shall we say, mindful of moderating my alcohol intake. But I went straight from work on an empty stomach to a party. There I was plied with fizzy wine and more fizzy wine and then some red and on to the pub where I found myself imbibing vodka. Vodka! I swiftly crossed over from that feeling of being pleasantly merry to becoming quite plastered in very little time.

Somehow I managed to extract myself from that party before it got too silly, and go off to another one which had been scheduled the same night. Unfortunate. I usually avoid such things, but it was on the way home. So off I went, swaying and hiccuping mightily. As I was walking, I realised I was seeing double. S'blurry. Oops. Hic.

Arrived at the next party and attempted to sober up a bit. Difficult when bottles of chilled drinks are being placed in front of me. But I did my best, and managed to get it together somewhat.

One of the people at the gathering was a woman who I had worked with a couple years ago. She was presently on maternity leave, and so there was the inevitable cooing over the pictures of the bouncing ball of beautiful baby she had produced. I didn't mind that so much. But when I said wistfully (or slurred wistfully) that we had been trying unsuccesfully, the response was:

"Oh, I know. It took us two years. You know what the answer is...just chill. Stop writing things down."

At that point I took a renewed interest in the bottom of my bottle of alcopop. She proceeded to talk for the next half an hour about giving birth. By the time she finished rambling on about how the pain of breastfeeding was worse than her back labour, I was totally sozzled again .

For the rest of the night, when anyone asked me how I was, I replied "Infertile. And you?" This mightn't have been so bad, but it was several people from work, all of whom looked mildly horrified.

Finally, I spied a guy whom we shall call Craig. At this point I began the second stupid thing I would do this evening.

Rumour has it that Craig experienced some born-again type Road- to- Damascus conversion a year or so ago, and is now on the God Squad in a big way. I began asking him what, in retrospective, were a series of very intrusive questions about his faith.

So I quickly managed to ascertain that in Craig's world, things like infertility and cancer are caused by "sin". Hearing this, in my inebriated state was incitement to an intellectual bar brawl. Whose sin, I demanded to know? Are you implying that I am infertile because I have done something wrong?

No, according to Craig- it was because of the sin of the world. We now live in a fallen world tainted by the effects of sin. Things like infertility is one result of the human race's rebellion against God.

Riiiiight, so the world is a fucked up place, people are cruel, intolerant, and unkind. So that makes me, personally, unable to have children? That makes people get cancer?

It's all part of God's plan.

Was it God's plan to make you an asshole? Because that's what you sound like to me when you talk about attributing medical conditions to some amorphous notion of good and evil, to the idea that bad things happen to people as part of some grand design.

Well, in the afterlife, there will be no illness, no infertility- we will all live like happy bunnies in God's garden.

Great, so I can get pregnant when I am dead?

At that point I decided a little boogie break was in order- when reason fails, try disco. That was the end of my conversation on religion and infertility. The rest of the evening carried on rather uneventfully, apart from the fact I somehow ended up in the chippie eating a smoked sausage supper at one in the morning, but that's par for the course when you go on a bender here in Scotland.

Now, I should add a little postcript to this story. The first is that I appreciate religion is a "complicated issue". And I shouldn't lump people who subscribe to a belief system into one category. In some ways, it was inappropriate for me to accost Craig for his views on the matter. I didn't like what he had to say, but I aggressively initiated the conversation. In my dumb, drunk, hurting way, this was a form of lashing out. So, note to self, stay away from the booze at future work parties.

And this morning I learned that Craig's father died of cancer yesterday. If Craig can take some comfort in the idea that it was God's plan for that to happen, well, good for him. Good for him.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Infertility Island

A few days ago, the divine getupgrrl mentioned the feeling of being the last prisoner in the cell while others are pardoned.

This got me thinking about a particular image which I have been carrying around with me since my adventures in infertility began. It is not of a cell-block but of a large desert island.

The island is populated with some of the coolest, sassiest, smartest women in the world. There is a well established village, with an organised social structure- university, church, doctor's surgery, post office. There are also a number of outposts, where smaller groups live in tents or grass huts. Some women choose to live closer to the island interior on their own, emerging once in awhile when a passing ship is spotted.

There is a lookout tower, and this is usually manned by someone at all times. What are we looking for? The ferry, of course. This calls at the island dock on a regular basis. Quite often all the women on the island gather on the beach to watch the arrivals and departures.

Women whose time on the island is up, stroll up the ramp, clutching their boarding passes happily. Sometimes they blow kisses, and promise to write. A few do keep that promise, and their postcards and letters mounted on the bulletin board in the village hall.

The arrivals are usually a mixed bunch. Some step off the ferry with a bewildered look in their eye- like, "how the hell did I end up here? We were on our way to the Bahamas, and the next thing I knew I was on some damn island with a bunch of crazy girls." They spend a lot of time looking for the tourist information centre and asking when the next ferry is due.

Others are resigned to the fact of the detour, but confident their stay will be short. They prance down the gangplank, usually wearing a spangly bikini and clutching a dinky overnight bag. A few of the women observing on the beach look down at their own bikinis, once spangled, now frayed and faded. And the overnight bag has been long since washed away. They look at each other, raise eyebrows.

There are always a few who had a pretty good idea that a stopover on I.I. was inevitable. These women are toting gigantic backpacks, full of supplies. Mosquito repellant. Hammock. Battery powered fan. Pith helmet. Machete. Fishing rod. Guide book on how to build raft. We are glad to see these women, because they tend to be good in a crisis, and are always up for watchtower duty.

The saddest arrivals are those women to whom we once waved goodbye. We greet them with a hug, we wrap our arms around them to give comfort, and we escort them gently back to the guest quarters, where we try to ensure the beds are more comfortable and the air conditioning is on.

The ferry leaves at sunset. We watch as it steams away. And then we quietly disperse, making our way back up the length of the beach, back to the huts, the lagoon or the campfire.

All things considered, Infertility Island is not the worst place I have ever been. The weather can be variable, and the menu does tend to feature an awful lot of cake at times. But the company is undeniably excellent.

And if some days I walk the beach only to find my message in a bottle has washed back up on shore, well, I can but wait. Wait and watch for the ferry, which may one day take me home.