Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Rope swing

Well, it's time for me to bid you a temporary farewell, for as of tomorrow morning, I shall be on my long awaited, much anticipated holiday. For two! whole! fun-filled! weeks.

I am acutely aware that a lot can happen in two weeks in our corner of the blogosphere. It seems like a long time to be gone. And the very words "two weeks" can, in themselves, be of great import to many of us. When I hear those words, I often also hear distant but relentless drumbeats, a low and ancient rhythm, measuring that time between not knowing and knowing. It's a sound which carries near water, reaching those waiting for a ticket off the island, and for others already on the ferry, pulling from shore.

So, if possible, and assuming the alleged internet connection actually exists, I may be checking in (though unlikely to be blogging), at least during the first week. After that, I shall be too busy trying to prevent our boat from crashing into rocks/sandbars/local sea life.

I am optimistic about this sailing lark. In my head, I picture myself in a pose not unlike that adopted by Russell Crowe in the film Master and Commander- you know the scene I mean? High in the rigging, wind in hair, exuberantly facing the sea spray as the mighty ship plows its way through the waters. Except in my version, without the five o'clock shadow and greasy ponytail. Plus, my clothes are a lot cuter. And, of course our boat will be quite a bit, um, smaller. And Russell wasn't gulping from a large vat of wine in that particular shot, as I will almost certainly be doing when not tying bowlines or whatever.

Speaking of yachts, E. has rung and texted me dozens of times since he went his obstinant way on the stupid trip down south. Apparently, the weather has been grim, the seas rough, and the food full of weevils. Well, I exaggerate, but not by much. He says he doesn't even need me to say "I told you so", because he can hear my dulcet voice telling him at every turn. That's either good, or worrying- not sure which yet.

While I am away, I hope some of you will stop in at the barn from time to time, maybe water the plants and just keep an eye on things. Should you be so inclined, you could always play on the rope swing I have rigged up from the hayloft for your amusement. Or, choose from the following activities:

1. Write me a Haiku. I've been playing around with this poetic form for a couple months now, and feel it is a perfect medium to capture those little infertility moments we all so treasure. For example:

Early morning panic
Sperm in cup, warm in my bra
Red light, green light, red.

2. Laugh at badly dressed celebrities with more money than sense at Fugging It Up.

3. Frustrated? Whack endless penguins at this ultimately pointless but completely addictive site.

4. Whatever your political leanings, view the internet hit satire This Land at JibJab.com.

5. Read one of the very excellent blogs listed on the lower right hand side of the page.

See you on Wednesday, 6 October.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth*

I have two stories to tell you- the first is what E. gave me for my birthday, and the second is why he wasn't here on the actual birthday itself. Originally I was going to split the telling into two separate posts. But when I began thinking about it, I realised that the events are more like interlocking puzzle pieces than discrete chapters. The resulting post is a bit longer than usual. So before you begin, go get a cup of tea, some snacky cakes or whatever it is you choose to dribble on your keyboard whilst reading.


Part One: The Birthday Present

I begin with the gift, since I know you'll be chomping at the bit to hear about that. (A little equine pun there for you).

By way of background, you must understand that, like many families, mine has some specific ideas about gift-giving and receiving. When I was growing up, my parents were always extremely generous- but not in the sense that it was a constant bounty of instant gratification. No, no- there were only two occasions of the year where the giving was a no- holds barred, lavish affair. Christmas, and to a lesser extent, birthdays. You saved up all your requests for those two dates, and as long as what you asked for was within reason, the wishes were, where possible, honored.

Consequently, as a child I learned that the way to get what I wanted was to either hoard my allowance until I could afford the "whatever it was", or to ask for it as a Christmas/birthday present. From a young age, I became extremely focused, discerning and...particular.

I mean, if you only had two shots a year at getting a certain item, you made damn sure that you didn't squander the opportunity by demanding a lot of useless shit. Stuff which might distract from the main event. Surprises were, for the most part, frowned upon. You made sure that the present giver was completely clear about what you wanted. It would not do to leave it up to chance. Because then you might get a lesser or undesirable alternate version, such as the Sunshine Family Dollhouse when your whole being cried out for Pole-Dancing Stripper Barbie. Because whatever you got, you were then pretty much stuck with it.

I appreciate this might sound hopelessly weird to some of you. It is, in some respects, a little odd to me- it smacks of something rather mercenary and rote in terms of the experience of giving. But it works for the Mare Family. We think it saves time, money, energy and disappointment all around if everyone is clear from the outset as to exactly what to buy. And you must understand that it's really not about being materialistic or grasping. Quite the opposite. It's a minimalist approach, about giving less in terms of actual quantity , but making sure that the thing chosen, while not necessarily the biggest or most expensive, is the thing most truly desired. It's reached the point where nowadays, we skip the whole charade at birthdays and my parents just give me money. Perfection.

Of course, E. didn't grow up in my family (which is good, because otherwise trying to conceive would not only be futile, but twisted and illegal). He has his own ideas about how to give presents. He more or less humours me about being told what to buy. Where we run into trouble is when he deviates from that strategy.

Case in point. A couple years ago, I asked him for a particular radio for Christmas. I don't know if you'll have seen these in the States? One of those groovy vintage-looking Roberts Revival radios. A red one.

Now, I don't really listen to the radio all that much, but I thought when I did, it would be cool to do so by means of such a deliciously cute device. And it would look great on the kitchen counter.

E. nodded when I told him this. Then he started asking questions about the specification. What the sound was like, the battery life, was it stereo or mono, etc, etc.? I told him I didn't give a shit. I wanted it because it was cute, not because for the sound quality. He went away and thought about it, and still the questions came. He did some research and began talking about a different type of radio, one with far better sound for an equivalent price.

I got a bad feeling.

"Listen," I said, "Just so we are clear. I really only want the Roberts. If you don't get me that, don't get me a different radio. I don't want any other radio."

"But the Tivoli is so much better."

"I don't care, " I snapped. "I only. want. the. Roberts."

I went on to make a big stroppy noise about it, halfway hating myself as I did it, but you know, not wanting him to spend his hard earned cash on something I would hate, when I soooo coveted the Roberts.

Christmas Day rolls around. I reach for the radio-sized box with glee. Rip, rip, rip paper off and...oh sweet Jesus gay, he bought me the other radio. Argggh! Noooooo! Deviation! Error! Error! You have deviated from the list!

Turns out, after a little convincing, I absolutely love the Tivoli, which in its own right is an extremely groovy piece of kit and yes, a great radio. He was right. I was wrong. But it was one of those moments when you look at each other, and realise how complicated being with somebody can be. I sat there in my jammies on Christmas morning with the box in my hand, confused. Struggling to overcome every ingrained pattern, every notion of what it meant to give and receive that I had carried with me since I was old enough to say "I want".

OK, so, let's talk about last night. (Thank God, finally, I hear you say).

He shows up with food, and a box containing my gift. He was very late because he had only just been to the store to buy dinner and the present (another key difference is our approach to time management, but we won't go there). He is all excited about how much I am going to love this cool thing he has bought me. I open it.

It is a pair of ugly casual hiking-type sandals.

Now, I am not a casual sandal wearing kind of girl. I love shoes, but I hate my feet- I have awful feet and disgusting deformed toenails. So I tend to limit sandal wearing to one high end designer pair for those occasions where anything else would look wrong with an outfit.

E. knows all this. He knows very well of my footwear proclivities.

What pops out of my mouth is: "What are these supposed to be?"

He turns away, starts putting away the groceries. He says quietly,

"I just can't do anything right, can I?"

Now. Before we twist the knife that statement drove into my heart and start concluding that I am a shrew-bitch from hell for treating my sweetie pie like this, I need to tell you Part Two.

Part Two- The Trip

Early next week, we are going on vacation. We have planned this for months. After much discussion, we decided that this year, rather than the usual "fly and flop", we would do an "activity-based" holiday. I might as well tell you, it's sailing- like, on a yacht.

E. was the primary instigator for this. Sailing is a hobby he would like to get more heavily into. I have resisted for several reasons, not least of which is that I have a pathological fear of drowning, and so perhaps understandably not so sure water based activities are my thing. But the trip is a compromise- a way for us to experiment with some beginner sailing in a warm, sunny location.

Now. We are going to be spending two entire weeks doing this activity, to the exclusion of most everything else. All sailing, all the time. Bit of a risk for me, if I hate it, but I'm cool with that.

But I was somewhat less than amused when E. announced to me that he wanted to spend this weekend in the south of England with a friend of his...on a sailing trip. The very thing we are about to spend two weeks doing on our vacation. Instead of us packing and getting ready and organized together for a trip, the nature of which I am a tad anxious about, he wanted to go off sailing all weekend. I was to fly down on my own next week to rendez-vous with him at Gatwick airport.

It's not that I am trying to keep E. from going off to do something he enjoys, where the opportunity presents itself. It's just that every single time we travel, something goes pear-shaped. Lost tickets, wrong passport, forgot the driver's license, flights cancelled or delayed due to terrorist threat/hurricane/drunken pilot. I mean, c'mon. Getting from point A to point B is not as easy as it used to be. And I am going to worry the whole weekend that he will get injured on this other sailing trip, or lost at sea, or delayed. In which case, apart from anything else, our vacation together is fucked. Our vacation, the prospect of which, apart from this blog has been the one thing keeping me from completely losing my sanity over the last several months.

I said I'd rather he didn't go. He said he would rather he did. We argued about it on and off for weeks, and then he went dangerously quiet. I was distracted by the wedding, and the idea I might finally be pregnant.

Last week, without telling me, he changed his flights, and arranged to go on the weekend trip. I found out when I got a confirmation e-mail from the airline.

I was incandescent with rage. It was, I told him, a twofold blow. Not only the fact that he was going when I really didn't want him to, but he had lied to me and gone behind my back as well. His excuse?

"I didn't want to upset you before the wedding ."

Eventually, after some bitter bloodletting and non-specific groveling for forgiveness on his part, I decided I may was well to make the best of it, and go with the flow. But, to cut what is turning into a very long story short, the change in plans led to a very mundane re-organising of things in our already complicated two-flat, two city existence, like where we leave the car and when and blah blah blah. All of which had a knock-on effect into when he would be logistically be able to come here to do all that- that date being not my birthday, but the following day.

Turgid, no?

The point, which I have, in a very long-winded fashion, finally reached is this:

His birthday present to me, while sweet and generous and all the rest, was sort of underpinned by the sailing fandango. It wasn't just that I am an ungrateful bitch. It's just that I had that feeling of not being heard, not being understood. It was that childish pang of opening the box, and it being the wrong thing, after you had so painstakingly explained what it was you did want. It was that feeling of having what I want for us together come second to what he wants to do off on his own, a relic from the early wars in our relationship. So, I hope you see, it wasn't as straightforward as me spurning his gift of ugly sandals.


In conclusion, I can tell you this. It's completely OK. Our relationship is not always perfect, no big revelation there. There's always work to be done, and we're always doing it. Those lessons will no doubt prove valuable when we return from this last break, ready at last to enter the infertility treatment fray.

Oh, and the ugly sandals? Helluva comfy. I've been wearing them since I got home from work, and you know what? Maybe they are kind of cool after all.

* With thanks to Marla for inspiring the post title.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Moi, birthday

There's a rumour going around that today is my birthday. After some deliberation, I have decided to confess. Yes, it's true. Today is, in fact, my birthday.

One of the reasons I wasn't gonna say anything is because the whole day has been such a complete non-event. The big treat of the day was a foofy coffee from *insert Huge Corporate Conglomerate Coffee Franchise here*, not the cheap filter coffee I usually make for myself. I went to work, went to the gym and came home. I had a shower. I ate two cold leftover sausages and a bowl of cornflakes, which is the only food in the house at the moment. I called my mother and scraped her down from the ceiling about all things Ivan related.

Now, I can hear you all, with a collective gasp of astonishment saying: where is E.? How could E., whose treatment of small ponies is usually so exemplary, be absent? Today of all days? Well. We'll come onto to the detail of that in another post later. It's a long story, but (more or less), it's cool.

However, I did suggest that it would be a grand gesture for him to send flowers to me at work today. You know, the kind of overblown romantic display which might be expected on the birthday of one's beloved partner, particularly when said partner is a little down.

The subsequent conversation, conducted by e-mail, went something like this:

M: It's my birthday. Where the fuck are my flowers?

E: Do you have any idea how much it costs to send flowers?

M: No, because you never send them.

E: To get a nice bunch costs £XX. For £XX I could buy you [insert number of desirable covetable items of a more permanent nature].

M: Mmm. I note I don't have any of those things either.

E: Oh. Well. Yes. Mmm.

Anyway. I'll see him tomorrow, and so I will postpone my childlike giddiness at the prospect of presents until then.

In the meantime, it may interest you to know that in horse years I am 10 years and 4 months old.

Skin care for the infertile

I am a little preoccupied with all things skin care right now. You see, to accompany the period pains, bloated body and general crapitude of another failed cycle, there is now a gigantic red spot above my right eye.

I say "spot" because that's what British people say when they refer to acne. To my mind this has always been rather less jarring and inoffensive than the word "zit". Spot can mean anything from a minor blemish to a more glaring defect. Whereas zit just seems to lump the whole spectrum of skin problems into one unpleasant category.

I always had pretty good skin as a teenager, but that changed when I hit thirty. Suddenly, my face was spot central. In an effort to combat what seemed like nigh on daily eruptions, I tried every wash, cleanser, blemish stick, oil remover, concealer and over the counter medicated goop known to womankind. I did everything right- never went to bed with make-up on, cleansed twice a day, gave myself gentle facials with soothing aromatherapy products, drank two litres of water a day, blah blah blah. And still the spots cropped up.

However, it wasn't so bad that I felt I had to go see a dermatologist. Except that one time.

Right around my final exams, I began to seriously wonder if I had accidentally contracted a case of facial leprosy. I covered it up as best I could, but it was really repulsive. I probably made it worse by the heavy layer of slap coating the scourge, but that was necessary, since short of placing a bag over my head, I felt I couldn't be seen in public without some camouflage. As it was, small children shrieked in horror at the sight of my visage. Grown men screamed, "My God, what the fuck is that?!" when they saw me coming.

It was therefore unfortunate that at the height of the outbreak, I chose to go out for a brisk run on my day off, wearing only the bare minimum of concealer. My keys fell out of my pocket somewhere along the way, and I had to go into the office for the spares- looking like a sweaty, oozing Swamp Thing. For added entertainment value, my then-boyfriend was at work that day, and he took one look at me before running to alert the Atlanta Center for Disease Control.

Some months later, I finally got a grip on the acne situation and it's never been as bad since. But any added stress still tends to make my skin flare up. Needless to say, infertility has not exactly been a boost in helping me keep my complexion dewy fresh. The problem is, I get a "starter spot", and then I agitate it by prodding it.

I know, I know, I know, I know, I knnnnnoooow- it's the worst thing you can do. You should leave it alone. Or, if you must deal with it, you should wait until it comes to a head and then gently, wearing new gloves made from the finest baby seal pup skin, do something with an extractor. (Not that I own one of those).

I know you should not go in, with oily fingers, touching it and under no circumstances should you squeeze it because that causes more trauma and possible scarring and....Look, for the love of Jesus Gay, can we just not talk about it. I can only moderate so much of my behaviour, and when I am stressed, I simply can't control myself on that front.

The result is typically a total mess. I spend an extra half hour in the morning doing artful things with my make-up to try to hide it. Apart from when I get really carried away, and then I am left with, for example, the thing currently above my right eye. It's so bright and glaring that if the runway flares at Heathrow airport fail at any time in the next few days, they know who to call.

So, I was sitting on the sofa last night, flicking through the channels, and a commercial came on for a new line of wrinkle cream. I don't know if they show this ad in the States, or if this is just a British version. It features a particular model whom I happen to detest for no reason other than she strikes me as even more useless and vacuous than other models, most of whom inspire me to no more than something akin to a vague dislike.

In this ad, the camera is angled up and the Model is sort of bending over, making cooing noises and playing peek-a-boo. The idea is that it is shot from the perspective of an infant in a crib. Annoying Voice Over Person proclaims that these kind of facial movements, i.e. "hello baby scrunchy giggles", can gives you lines and wrinkles! But wait! The new product, Botoxuloxo or whatever the fuck they have called it is meant to REDUCE YOUR LINES BY 454%. Thus removing the need to maintain a complete po-faced expression throughout your child's life . The ad finishes by Vacuous Model chirping, "Surgery can wait!"

This commerical offends me on so many levels. Arguably, the little subliminal plug for surgery irks me the most- the implication being since we're all going to end up looking like haggard old bitches one day, cosmetic surgery is inevitable. Particularly if we don't avail ourselves of Botulismlox as soon as possible. The message that making cute faces at your baby is going to do irreparable damage to your skin is also irritating.

But lastly, the notion that the wonderful benefits of Burpolox should be bestowed women with small babies seems to miss the mark somewhat. Clearly, the marketing people have never spent time in the company of an infertile woman! I mean, dear Loward, just think of the range of expressions infertile faces go through.

For example:

- The "we're only having sex tonight because I am ovulating, but I know that would hurt your feelings so I am pretending to enjoy it and have an orgasm" face.

- Teeth clenching, having just received assvice from someone who should know better.

- Squinting of eyes and craning of neck whilst holding negative HPT up to the light to inspect for the phantom second line.

- The plastered on fake smile when a colleague announces the news of her latest happy "accident".

- The open mouthed gawp disbelief when the hospital call to reschedule your appointment for the sixth time.

And there are so many more I have yet to experience. Yee gads, I'll be wrinkletastic at the rate I am going.

If there is a market for Browfreezerlox for those women whose faces are really showing some wear and tear, surely infertiles are a much better bet?

Monday, September 13, 2004

For better and for worse

I'm back from my weekend at the wedding. In this entry, as promised, the answer to several questions, (including, am I pregnant yet?) will be revealed.

Saturday morning rolls around. I wake from a disturbing dream of giving myself injections. This does not bode well, I think. But it seems my period has not arrived. So, sticking with the earlier plan, I convince E. to drive over to Boots the chemist with me to buy a pregnancy test.

"Are you sure that's a good idea?" he asks.

"Sure, why not?"

"Because," he says gently, "I am afraid it will ruin your day if you are not pregnant."

"It'll ruin my whole month if it turns out that I am not pregnant. But it'll be even worse if that is the case, and I have deliberately avoided the champagne!"

He sees my point. He needs shaving foam anyway, so off we go. We get the stuff, and stand in line behind a couple with a two day old infant as they argue with the check-out girl about the price of whatever New Infant care item they were wanting to buy. The HPT packages (buy two get one free) suddenly feel slippery in my sweaty palm.

Back at the flat, I put my make-up on, change into my wedding attire. I struggle with my strapless bra and my strappy sandals. E. and I discuss his under-kilt strategy.

"I wasn't going to wear anything," he says, "I usually don't." (Answer one, part one- usually, nothing).

"It's gonna be gale forces winds today, sweetie," I reply. "Maybe you better put something on. Just in case of unexpected...gusts. "

"Good point," he agrees, and slips on a pair of blue brushed cotton Calvin Klein boxers. (Answer one, part two- depends on the weather.)

It is nearly time to leave. I go into the bathroom on my own. I take the test. My hands are shaking. I sit on the edge of the bath for the alloted minutes, watching the control line darken on its lonely ownsome. Coming out of the bathroom, I put the test down on the kitchen counter, under the light.

"Do you see a second line?" I ask.

E. looks at it. "No. Should there be one?"

(Answer two- no, I am not pregnant.)

We throw the test in the trash, and I put my coat on. We get in the car. We drive to the wedding, without saying much.

It is a lovely day, despite the wind. The bride is beautiful, radiant- even more so than brides usually are. At the reception, the tables are set with candles and very tall vases of white lilies. We sit with two single women and a gay couple (whom I shall call Alex and Joe). It's a nice mix, especially since they are cool and groovy people. We eat and we drink. We toast the happy couple again and again. The bride's father mentions the families with new babies, who have made a special effort to get to the wedding. My champagne glass is soon empty.

It turns out that one of the women at the table has recently finished an eight month relationship with a guy E. knows rather well, a funny coincedence, so they gossip about it. Further proof of what a small country this is. The couples with the small babies (three of them) are sitting elsewhere. The babies sleep, even when passed around to admiring friends.

The band plays jazz. The bride and groom twirl around the floor, kissing. One of the couples with a newborn stand nearby, cuddling their little person, bouncing her in their arms.

"Stop staring," E. whispers. My hand convulses around the stem of my wine glass.

"I was wondering what the baby's head smells like," I whisper back. E. takes my hand off the glass, holds it for a minute.

Alex comes around the table and sits next to me. He is pale, bald and smiling.

"I haven't been able to talk to you yet," he says, pointing to the tall vase, "you've been obscured by foliage."

Alex, it turns out, has been very ill. The lump in his groin, the one his doctors told him "not to worry about" for five years, was in fact very worriesome indeed. The cancer had spread throughout his body. He had a bone marrow transplant last year. Joe comes over to join us. I get the impression they have told the story many times before.

"It must have been very hard for you, " I say to him, "hard for you both."

"The thing is," Joe tells me, "is when it is happening, you don't know at first how bad it will be. And then it's happening, and you take it one day at a time. One treatment at a time. Part of you is looking on, wondering how you got to the point of this procedure, or that procedure. And you keep hoping."

I know, I think to myself, inside my head. I know. Out loud I say, "I am so sorry you had to go through that." They nod.

A heavily pregnant woman passes by our table, smoking. She stubs out the cigarette in the ashtray near E. His hand convulses on the stem of his wine glass.

I take E. to the dance floor, and we spin around. We dance the night away.

At 1am, the disco finishes. I kiss the bride goodbye, and tell them to have a wonderful honeymoon. E. and I leave the venue, heading out into drizzling rain and lashing wind. The queue at the taxi stand is a mile long. We decide to walk. I wrap my thin coat around me. The water gets on my suede sandals, my painted toes. It is cold.

"Tell me something nice," I beg E. as we struggle down the street. E. thinks a minute.

"I never knew before tonight that you are such a good dancer. You looked great, dancing. You looked so pretty tonight."

I thank him. "Tell me something too," he says, holding onto my arm.

So I tell him- how, when we came back to the table between songs, flushed and smiling, Alex had said to me how good we look together. How happy we look, how we glow.

There is rain on my face, and in our eyes. When I look up, I see we are almost home. I know again a simple truth- that we are really happy. What is not so simple is that at the same time, we are also a little bewildered. We are becoming more than a little sad.

And for better, for worse, we are in this together.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Semper ubi sub ubi

It may be quiet here at the Barn for the next couple days, as I will be away at the wedding this weekend.

I am reminded, as always, in reading all your lovely comments about my boredom how many warm, big-hearted women are out there, including that cheeky monkey Soper, albeit for her impertinence, I must gently hurl a chunk of haggis at her snottery head. She has a cold, so maybe ducking will help loosen the phlegm.

In return for your kindness, I may, upon my return, share with you an insight into that age old question. Namely, what does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? Of course, I already know the answer, but want to make sure on behalf of my readers that my knowledge is up-to-date and completely accurate. Perfect timing, as many men wear kilts as formal wear, for example, at a wedding. And E. will be donning his on Saturday.

This will give me an opportunity to conduct all the necessary investigations- strictly in the name of research, you understand. I'll let you know what I find out.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004


Bore (v.)

Weary by tedious talk, dullness or monotony.

-The Oxford Shorter English Dictionary

My primary emotion, as we turn down the home stretch of this cycle's two week wait, is not hope, fear or anticipation. No. What I feel at the moment is mostly... boredom.

I hate confessing that I am bored, because immediately that inner voice starts up. The voice that routinely and on cue, chimes out all the things your mother ever told you, taking up the chant,

"Bored people are boring to be with! Bored people are booooooring".

The implication of that saying is that: if I had enough inner resources to make the experience of waiting unsuccessfully to get pregnant into something interesting and positive, well, then I wouldn't be bored. So in other words, I feel dull, because I am dull. Well, OK, whatever. I am too bored to worry about how boring I might be. Really. I am too bored to care about the fact that I can't turn the soul-destroying siege of yet another cycle into something illuminating and entertaining for myself.

I recognise that infertility is not the sole cause of my boredom. If I subject the state of my life to a cool, clinical analysis, I can readily admit that many aspects of my life, even before we started trying, are/were boring. When I was younger, I traveled a lot and tried out several different career avenues, and those journeys took me some rather strange and unexpected places. Eventually though, I got sick of having no money, no stability and no security. So I opted for what was ultimately a rather safer & more conventional path. I got a job, I got a mortgage, I got responsibilities. And sometimes those bore me in a general sense, the way we all sometimes get tired of the usual drill.

One of the reasons we decided it was time to have a family is that we looked around at what we had. Though we agreed our situation was nice in many ways, we felt unfulfilled. We thought that having a child would be an enhancement on so many levels. We welcomed the challenge of parenthood. We felt that we would be better people for being parents, and we looked forward to having the opportunity to love and nuture a child. To think about something beyond ourselves, and what we had already created. It wasn't so much as we were bored with what we had- it was just that we wanted to move on to something that we both saw as a deeply enriching and fundamentally important experience.

Sometimes when we talk about the options, we discuss living child-free. I know for some people, child-free is really is not an option. In this house, however, we feel like we must keep all avenues open. Because the bottom line is that for us, it may turn out not to be so much an "option" as the default position. The status quo.

So while we start out agreeing that we like our lives just fine, we always come back, full circle. We've looked at where we are now, and decided it's not enough. That our careers, our hobbies, our properties, hot sex*, our holidays together- not enough. And not because it isn't good- it is. But because we've already looked past that and realised that we don't want to retain the status quo. We've become more and more sure of that over time, because unlike people who simply get pregnant as soon as they decide they want a family, we have to keep re-visiting what motivates us in that direction.

But I think it does become harder to keep re-evaluating a major life decision, one which we may, ultimately, never have the opportunity to make real. It just that it gets exhausting, every month, having to come back to that starting block. To work up the nerve, to conquer our fear of falling and throw ourselves off that high cliff, into the great unknown again and again. To keep asking the same questions that must, on some level, be asked yet again. Do we still want this? How much do we want this? Are we right to want this? How long can we carry on wanting if it never happens?

This is where we are right now. All we can do is hang on and wait for the point where we can add the extra questions. And I am extremely bored with being in that state. I am bored of waiting, bored of disappointment, bored of sex on schedule, bored of listening to other fertile types talk about their kids, bored of my life without baby. That doesn't mean I don't have all the other emotions mixed in there too- it's that today, like so many other days, the boredom is overwhelming. It cancels out everything else. It turns me into somebody I don't like- someone who is bored. Someone who is boring.

*just checking to see if you were paying attention, or if you were too bored by my boringness to notice.

Monday, September 06, 2004


We are going to a wedding this weekend, a couple who I have known and liked tremendously for about five years. They've been together for a long time, and it's one of those events that seems more a celebration of the life they already have together rather than the start of something completely new.

I am really looking forward to it, since it is sure to be a groovy party. This couple, they aren't just cool and trendy- no, they are jaw-achingly hip. Anything they have planned is bound to be so stylish that it should be featured in one of those wedding magazines, where said cool couple shows just how it is done. I imagine the food will be good, the music excellent and the booze a-flowin'.

The thought of a boozy event brings me back, (as does everything) to my current obsession- namely, will I get to test this month? Will I even get as far as buying a test, which for me would be unusual behaviour ? Dammit, I thought to myself plodding home from work on Friday, I really want to have an excuse to at least buy a test. How is it I approach my 34th birthday, and I have never so much as bought a HPT, never mind actually getting pregnant.

And that it where it gets a little strange. Because over the weekend, I kept getting this not entirely pleasant mental image in my head every time I thought of buying a test. An image of a very small, dark and narrow room, with a single bed and one small window. A wooden desk rammed up under the weekend, stacks of books on the floor. A closet at the end of the room, by the doorway. Of me, lying on the bed with my hands folded over my stomach, eyes open, mouth pursed tight.

This image was accompanied by a low, not entirely soothing voice, whispering "This won't be the first time, you know. It's not the first time.".

Finally, I realised what it was. Here's the story.

My university/college education was, for a number of reasons which I won't go into, a little erratic. I went to one school for two years and then transfered somewhere else for the remainder, but then took half a year off in my senior year, and then came back the following year to finish up. Because of all the coming and going, I had lots of different dorm rooms.

Almost all the students at my college lived on campus. The range of student housing ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous- varying from a cinder block cell in the big square monolith, to a palatial room with en suite bathroom in one of the graceful houses set back along the tree lined streets next to the library. The system for allocating rooms was based on a sort of lottery, with points awarded to students who were most senior. So the more points you had, the higher up you were in the lottery pick, and more likely to get your first choice of room.

Of course in order to get the exact room you wanted, you had to know where it was- i.e. which building, and the room number. So it was fairly common, if you had a nice room in one of the nice houses, to have underclasspersons come knocking on your door for a quick peek, in hopes they could score it during next year's lottery. If you didn't know a particular room number, you could just opt for any room in a particular house and hope it was nice. The first half of my senior year, I got the house I wanted, but one of the worst rooms. It was extremely narrow, and the small window barely let in any light.

And that is where the aforementioned creepy image comes in. I now remember lying in my bed in that room. There was a pregnancy test in a box in the closet, and I had lain awake all night, waiting for enough hours to have passed from my last trip to the bathroom in accordance with the instructions on the packet, so that I could get up, pee, and find out if I was pregnant.

The funny thing is, I have absolutely no recollection of buying the test. I have this vague, fuzzy recollection of daisies on the box-but I don't remember the brand, or where I got it, or anything. And even worse, I barely remember who was the boyfriend at the time. I know, based on the room, that it must have been the first half of the senior year, therefore it was P. But I can't really remember worrying about getting pregnant with P., or the events leading up to that moment, lying in that narrow bed, in the narrow room, waiting.

I was halfway convinced I had made this up in my head, so tonight, I climbed up on the stepladder to reach the back of my closet. I pulled down the boxes with all my old journals. I kept a journal for years and years, and really only stopped last year when I felt like there wasn't anything to say. Hah- who knew the trials of infertility lay ahead?

Oddly enough, I didn't write very much at all that semester, but halfway through the month of September, a chunk of pages had been torn out. And I suddenly had this flashback, of writing over and over, where is my period? I'm late, I'm late, where o where is it, o dear God, I'm pregnant, what will I do, what will I do. Of not wanting anyone to know, of feeling ashamed.

At last, the final piece fell into place. In my mind's eye, I see myself get out of bed at last, and take the box to the bathroom. Sit down on the toilet with my knickers round my ankles, and...oh look. My period. I didn't need the test. Sweet sweet relief, I wasn't pregnant. I tore the pages out of my diary, and never wrote of it again. I never told anyone. I don't know whatever became of the HPT and the box. I think I threw it away eventually, when I finally moved out that room.

I don't know quite what the point of this story is. It is, in the big scheme of things, almost entirely unremarkable. College girl, age twenty, worried about late period, buys HPT, gets period before using test, throws HPT away. Not exactly headline news.

But I think there are two things about this memory that bother me. The first is, I thought I knew myself so well. I thought that I had such a clear picture of how I had become the woman I am today, of my history, of all the events leading up to this point, to how I feel now. Now I wonder if perhaps there are other things like this buried inside me somewhere, things I have hidden away. Things that I thought I was done with forever, the pages torn out and thrown away, like the memory of that scared girl alone in that awful dorm room. Things that will continue to rise to the surface, demanding to be acknowledged and given a voice.

Secondly, I feel very strongly about the idea that one sad and scary experience all those years ago is the closest I will come to an HPT. And for that reason alone, I am determined that this month, I will buy a test. If my period hasn't arrived by this weekend, as scheduled, I will use it. And if it's negative, I will have a short weep if I want to, wash my face, put my gladrags on, kiss the love of my life, and go drink some champagne to celebrate the marriage of my friends. If it's positive- well, we'll just have to reserve thoughts on that one for now.

That way, if nothing else, the first time I bought an HPT won't be the last time.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Better time management

If like me, you feel that there is just never enough time in the day, take heart. Now it is possible to blog and track extraterrestrial intelligence at the same time!

If only they would invent a similar program for, say, my laundry.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Gee, I just looooove your accent

In case you haven't picked this up already from reading my blog, I am American by birth, but moved to Scotland about 10 years ago when I got married to the person who would one day have the distinction of being my ex-husband.

One of the stranger things about living in a different country is that because my accent sets me apart from the native Scots from the minute I open my mouth, I have to do a lot of explaining to do. If only I had a £ for every time I had been asked to explain how I ended up here- well, it'd be enough to pay for a round of IVF! It can be a little disconcerting. See, I was married. Yes, he was/is Scottish. Yes, we decided to live in Scotland, funnily enough. No, I'm no longer married. We got divorced, but I stayed. He re-married, I didn't, but I have a lovely boyfriend partner thingee.

Sometimes, depending on who I am talking to, this is just a little more information than I would otherwise prefer to give away. I try, wherever possible to limit it, but it's hard, because people are naturally nosey, I mean, curious.

The solution to all this of course would be to develop a Scottish accent so authentic that nobody would be able to tell that I am not "from here." Except that I never wanted to become one of those people who walked around pretending really hard all the time, dropping little Scottish-isms like "aye" and "aw right?" into my daily patter. It's too wearing, and frankly, I have better things to do with my time that practicing rolling my RRRRs and gargling out expressions like, "It's a braw brecht moonlit nicht, ye ken?"

It is true that over time, and as you might expect, my accent has changed. The Scottish people think I am Scottish, but maybe lived in America for awhile. The Americans think I am Scottish, or they aren't quite sure what the dealie-o is.

It is a common misconception in other countries, that all Scots sound like something out of Trainspotting, or like Billy Connelly. Or, worse, like Mike Myers. People here have many different types of accents, which is sort of remarkable, given that it is such a small country. You can sometimes tell a lot about a person from their accent, in particular, what part of the country they are from but also where they went to school. It's a generalisation, and not in anyway intended as class snobbery, but quite often I notice that people with more formal education or "upper class" Scots sound much more English, or just have less of an accent. The "working classes" on the other hand tend to have much thicker, much broader accents, laced with dialect expressions like, "Away an bile yer heid ya numpty,ye dinnae ken whit yer talkin aboot."

Translation: shut up, you stupid person. Visiting infertiles, take note, it may come in handy when warding off bouts of assvice from the locals.

That's another thing, nobody here refers to an accent as a "brogue". They don't describe it as "a lilt". Those seem to be peculiarly American inventions. No, here it's framed in terms of being "broad". The broader the accent, the harder it can be to understand. Though I don't usually have any trouble, except when I go to Glasgow. But I don't feel too bad, cause even the Glaswegians can't understand each other.

When I first came here, I did find it quite hard, especially when I worked in noisy bars. I once had a job in a pub that specialised in Scottish malt whiskys. They had the whisky bottles, about a hundred of them, lined up on a shelf above the bar, in alphabetical order. Someone would come in, and ask for a nip of Glenfiddich or Lagavulin or whatever, and you'd race over to that letter of the alphabet and pull down the bottle. Assuming you could work out what that first letter was meant to be. There were some whiskys with spellings quite different to the pronunciation. For example, Bunnahabhain, I always had trouble with that one, especially when the punter in question was slurring.

"I'sh like ah, ah ah. Voonahanone, pleashe".

At which point I would stand there with my thumb up my ass until somebody who spoke Drunken Scot would come along to rescue me. Another time, when I was working in a restaurant, a woman came up to me and said, " Canape?"

Canape, I thought. How odd. You've already eaten. Is this some funny custom whereby you finish off your meal with an additional tasty morsel?

"Canape?" I replied. "Mmm, no, I don't think we serve those."

"No, canape," she repeated.

"Look, I already told you," I sniffed.

"NO!" she shouted at me, "CAN. AH. PAY." This was accompanied by waving money in my face. Oh. Can I pay? Of course you can, thanks. What, no tip?

E. has a beautiful accent. The first time I ever spoke to him was on the phone, and I remember wondering if the person attached to that voice could be as delicious as he sounded. Wasn't I pleased to find out that, yes, this was the case. The funny thing, I am so used to his accent now that I almost don't even hear it anymore.

Except the other night, when we were having dinner with a side dish of infertility chat. You know, I got my period, blah blah, pass the potatoes, blah blah, shall we adopt if I can't get pregnant, blah blah is there any more wine and what is your opinion about donor sperm? At which point he said it. I practically dropped my second helping of meatballs.

"I think a lot about what my baby will be like," he said.

"Wait, say that again," I begged him.

"Which part?"

"My baby. Say "my baby" again."

"My baby?" he repeated.

Gasp, swoon. Utterly delicious. I wish I could capture it for all of you on an MP3 or something. He says it very quickly, and comes out sounding roughly like "ma bee-bee" with equal emphasis on the first and second syllable. Ma bebe. Our bebe.

No matter what the accent, coming out of his mouth, it sounds so beautiful to me.