Saturday, October 30, 2004


"The difference in the two of us
Comes down to the way
You rise over things I just put down."

- "Happiness" by Grant Lee Buffalo

I began to wonder if my ongoing and intense irritability with the world was somehow simply due to lack of exercise. So I went to the gym last night, and tried to outrun my demons on the treadmill. When that didn't work, I let them chase me on the rowing machine. Finally, by the time I hit the elliptical trainer, I was a soggy mess, but the pursuit was waning. High on endorphins, I pumped some iron (ROAR! FUCK YOU, DEMONS!) and then skipped back to the changing room feeling pretty good for the first time all week.

Whereupon I ran straight into my seven-and-a-half months pregnant former boss. In her bathing suit. She was leaving work for maternity leave the next day, so she wanted to chat to say goodbye and all that jazz.

As I have already indicated, I like FB very much, I think she is a class act . But in my present state of mind, encountering a woman so heavily pregnant, wearing that little clothing was, gosh...unsettling? I honestly didn't know where to look. My eyes were drawn, as if by tractor beam, to her voluminous belly, while my brain was squeaking, "Don't stare like a fixated freak! Don't stare like a fixated freak!".

By the time I left the changing room, the demons had found me again, and were making up for lost time by gnawing a hole somewhere around my midsection. I walked home berating myself for feeling this way. Wondering why I can't simply be happy for her.

This expression "I'm happy for you" is one that is causing me some consternation at the moment. It's not so much that I am finding it hard to reconcile some truly volcanic pissed offness at the universe with the uncomfortable awareness that the happy news of others should really elicit something other than a weak grin. It is not even so much that anyone is expecting that of me- it's that I am expecting it of myself.

But why? Why do I expect it of myself? Why do I think I need to be happy for the pregnancy of others, at a time when I am so profoundly unhappy with my unpregnant self? Would it be such a bad thing for all concerned if I took a moment here and there to acknowledge how I feel, rightly or wrongly, that the whole world seems to get pregnant apart from me? Knowing that even if a much longed for pregnancy is achieved, that it can be such a fleeting gift, that it can be taken away in the blink of an eye, seemingly on a whim from the fates? Can I not churn through some anger and bitterness about that, without slapping a happy face on?

I thought that I had attained some sort of understanding how delicate the emotional interplay with others can be. That all relationships take on shaded patterns, and so very rarely is the path of the emotional arrow straightforward. Take love, for instance. There is only one person in the entire world for whom I feel simple, uncomplicated, unquestioning love. And that is E. This is not to say that he doesn't occasionally bug the shit out of me, but the love I feel for him is so pure. It's the one true and clear thing in my life.

And that is not to say I don't love other people-of course I do. My parents, for example. I love them very much, and sometimes with something akin to simplicity and joy. Other times, the picture is much darker, with violet shades of guilt, magenta of regret, scarlet anger, navy hued sadness. I live, quite happily, knowing that the colours of our relationship are not always going to be blue skies, but more likely the Northern Lights. Complicated and beautiful.

I wish that in the middle of the hellish maelstrom of my inner world at the moment, that I could, automatically and on cue, be able to pluck something elusive as "happiness" for somebody else out of this mess. But I have trouble feeling happy for myself at the best of times. So why should I keep trying to wave my wand and summon the fairy godmother of happiness, when I am limp with the pain of longing for my arrival of my own good news? When all the happiness I can muster may still not save someone from pain and loss?

Because, I whisper to myself, because the world does not revolve around you. Because no matter what happens, a generous heart is a sign of a hero.

I so want to be a hero in this. I want to be able to step outside myself, step back from the stunted knot of bitterness. Take your face in my hands, and press a happy, uncomplicated kiss on your cheek. And I want you to know that a part of me is doing just that, even though in some cases, it might look for a moment like I am turning away from you with a tear in my eye.

Even if, in some cases, I am already gone.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Time brutality

There are not enough hours in the day. There are simply not. I am suddenly desperately busy at work, and trying to fit in everything that needs to get done: test scheduling, phone calls, banking, booking flights, obtaining currency for various destinations, laundry, shopping, sex on certain days, cleaning, doing E.'s taxes, arguing about where we should live- it seems overwhelming. Not impossible- just terminally exhausting.

My real life support system is somewhat lacking. For some time now, in my professional life, I have felt extremely...what's the word? Vulnerable? Exposed? Scared shitless? Like any minute now, the ice I have been walking over, praying the freeze has gone deep enough, will crack. Sending me plunging, screaming into dark water. Ostensibly, I have someone superior to me who is meant to help me out, give me guidance and support. But in reality, there's no substance there. There is no one to go, no one who really understands what I am talking about. There is no one covering my back.

Many of the "infertility chores"- the scheduling, for example- bring a kind of emotional baggage that weighs on my mind, more than a little bit. I can't just make the appointment and forget about it. I have to worry for the next two hours- what if that day turns out to be not OK after all? Should I have gone for the later time? What if something comes up? What if, what if, what if. Really, I worry about my sanity. I honestly don't know how people with kids manage to work full time jobs, or go through secondary infertility together with their other responsibilities. I take my hat off to anyone who does it, my admiration is boundless.

When things get hectic, I try to calm myself with deep breathing and take things one at a time. But I am not so good at that. I'm more like a whirling dervish. En route to emptying the dishwasher, I see the laundry which needs to be folded and that reminds me that it's time to buy some new underwear, because will you just LOOK at the state of those old knickers, and where did I leave my stockings, speaking of undergarments? What, have no stockings? Perhaps rearranging clothing in cupboard would help. Let's go see.

And so on. Yes, I am a basket case. No, I don't think that behaviour is very healthy either.

E. is unfortunately prone to similar tendencies. Only, as we have established in my last post, without the side trips to the dishwasher.

He, too, tries to get too much done, do too many things at once, exhausts himself with endless juggling. Though when I first met him, he was worse. It used to be that when we would speak on the phone in the evening, he would be doing something around the house at the same time, like making a cup of tea, or drilling a hole in the bathroom wall.

"Hon," I'd say, "what's with all the crashing and banging?"

"That's nothing," he reply, "I'm just grouting the tile in the kitchen splashback."

"But sweetie darling, you're on the phone, talking to me. It's distracting."

"Sorry," he'd say, and continue on doing whatever it was he was doing, until he made up his mind that our alloted minutes were up. Then he'd cut the conversation short, and basically hang up on me. I was initally anxious to appear cool and chilled out about stuff like that, so I bit my tongue for nearly a year. Then fnally, I got pissed off and confronted him about it.

"Look, I am a busy person," he explained. "I need to exercise time brutality."

Time brutality? What, pray tell, is time brutality?

In the end, the excuse of time brutality is one that I have adopted to suit my own purposes, and turned to my advantage. I now happily deploy this whenever he phones and I don't want to speak to him, right at that particular moment, i.e. when in the middle of bidding for something on eBay or typing a blog comment, or whatever. Can't talk now- time brutality, I chirp and how can he argue? He can't. He just wishes he had never introduced the concept.

Like many people, when E. is stressed and busy, the things he least wants to do fall through the cracks. Take for example, his next sperm test. We had the little chat about the timetabling for this- you know, abstinence balanced with relatively fresh swimmers. Well, actually, I lectured, and he responded by assuring me that he knew what he was doing. After all, he'd already done this once, right? He was totally on top of it.

Or, as it happens, not so much. When he informed me that he was intending to hand in the sample on Thursday morning (the only possible time this week), I raised my eyebrows.

"Really," I said, "because unless you've either been taking care of business on your own, or else getting up to something you shouldn't, with some other person, then I was under the impression that it had been a couple of weeks since we, ah, you know. Cleared the pipes. So you have a bunch of elderly swimmers in there. And if you do it now to refresh the batch, well, you won't have abstained for 3 days, as nice Dr Tick Tock asked you to. "

"Didn't we have sex over the weekend?" he demanded.

"No," I assured him, "I can say, with some certainty, that we did not. Unless I was unconscious at the time, in which case, ewwww. And how could you not remember, one way or another? Is not every carnal encounter with me forever emblazoned on your soul?"

Remind me to add: "organize sperm" to my ever growing list of tasks.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Sackful of weasels

I don't know what my problem is, but I have been as irritable as a sackful of weasels all weekend. The relentlessly optimistic part of my brain is already chiming: "Hey! You're not usually like this! Maybe it's a sign that you are pregnant."

To which I snarl, "Shut up, brain." I don't think I'm pregnant. I think I am just extremely cranky. For no apparent reason.

Like most people, I am very bad company when I am in a grumpy mood. Unfortunately, I have been taking it out on poor E. who has been very patient with me. He doesn't deserve the brunt of my bitchiness, but really, if only he would put his fucking dishes in the fucking dishwasher, he would immediately eliminate about 60% of my daily snipe. Honestly, it drives me berserk, the constant ensemble of plates, dirty cups and spoons in or next to the sink. The fucking sink being directly next to the fucking dishwasher.

This is truly a long running irritant, but maybe because I am in a pissy mood, this weekend it has seemed worse than ever. For example, yesterday I had just finished emptying the dishwasher, and the tray was still pulled out when the phone rang. I went to answer it (wrong number), leaving the empty tray and the door open. By the time I came back, E. had managed to walk up to the counter, dump his breakfast dishes in the sink and walk back to the table. Readers, I proceeded to rip him a new one. I felt badly later, but my God. I can't tell you how many times I have begged, pleaded, cajoled, whimpered, nagged, promised blow jobs and the sacrifice of baby goats, if only he would do this one thing- Put. the. dishes. in. the. dishwasher. Please. Please. Pleeeeeeeease.

Neglect of the dishwasher aside, everything else has seemingly conspired to get on my nerves as well. The list is long and mundane. And, at the risk of annyoing you all with my endless ramblings about the scheduling of one measly test, I will tell you that I received a letter from the private hospital for my HSG appointment. Happy news, yes? Oh Yes. Except.

Except that they have scheduled it for the one and only day next month when I will be unavailable, and indeed, out of the country. Which means I will have to call up and try to get it rescheduled. Or else cancel E.'s birthday trip to Amsterdam. Consequently, I have been worrying about it all weekend. Now, I am sure I will be able to sort out something else, but it continues to make me fret, which I hate.

Lastly, I discovered, quite by accident, during an online search for something entirely unrelated to fertility, that my ex-husband and his new-ish wife have had a baby son. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut. I know I have absolutely no right to complain about anything the ex-husband may do. And if the fertility gods smile kindly on him, and not me, following the demise of our relationship, well, boo fucking hoo. But I confess it bothers me a little.

I mean, didn't he get the memo? The one that says he has to spend the rest of his life pining for me? Living in monk-like solitude burning candles by the shrine of his great love lost? Not getting on with things, finding a nice girl who was actually willing to have sex with him (whereas I was not), marry him and bear his children. Living happily ever after, with wife and son in harmonious bliss, while I flail desperately. The bloody cheek of him, how dare he. I suppose it shouldn't surprise me- he managed to irritate me intensely while we were married, and why ruin a perfectly good trend.

Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go sulk in the corner with a petulant little scowly face.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Stand in the place where you live

When I went back to university not so many years ago, I had this one professor with a....distinctive style of lecturing. Standing at the podium in front of 150 students, she would talk for an hour AT TOP VOLUME. Now, bearing in mind that a good many of the other lecturers would mumble their inaudible way through the material, this was not always a bad thing. She was screechy and extremely nasal, but you weren't going to miss a key point as a result of not being being able to hear her properly.

The only time it became unbearable was when she became overly excitable about one of those key points. She was fond, for example, of posing "yes or no" questions to the class, which no one had any intention of answering in front of their peer group. When enough of an excruciating pause had elapsed, she would SHRIEK the answer in a banshee cry- OVER AND ABOVE what was already TOP VOLUME.

"THE ANSWER", she would bellow, "is NO!"

And the "No!" would be sort of drawn out in a long pitchy nasal kind of wailing shriek. "Noooooooo!" Think Cartman from South Park, only female and about 3,000 time louder.

I nicknamed her "The Jackhammer". Which, unfortunately, kind of caught on amongst my fellow students, and I lived in mortal dread for the next year that she would find out it was me who had labeled her so. Especially since she was my course adviser, and I needed her to sign stuff on a regular basis.

I tell this story apropos of nothing, really, except that to this day, sometimes when I am answering a question for myself, I hear her voice in my head. If nothing else, she was definitive. And loud.

The question for me the last couple days was brought about by the whole "HSG-Christma"s dilemma. (To digress again for a second- I do wonder if those two words- "HSG & Christmas" have ever been juxtaposed before in this way- I'll have to keep an eye on the Google searches.)

Specifically, a number of you posed the very good question/suggestion/advice that I could have the HSG done when I was home visiting with my parents over the festive season. Thus cutting through the logistical knot of when to go, and as opposed to being jerked around here, trying to hoop jump referrals, re-scheduling yadda yadda.

Now, can I just say that:

a: this was a very good suggestion, and thank you to everyone for your comments and views
b: I had already thought briefly of the idea, but hadn't really gnashed it over in my mind at that point of writing the last post.

I have thought about it. And Class, the ANSWER is NOOOOO!

See what I mean? The Jackhammer.

Now I will try to give you an insight into my thinking. This is difficult, because at the risk of being overly cryptic, the main reason would involve writing about a conversation I had with my mother, and my feelings thereto. Now, I know I write about all sorts of personal stuff here, but I made a solemn vow awhile back that one of the things I would not blog about in any detail is my parents, or our relationship. I had once written a post about something that happened with them which, in retrospect, was unkind, and not the kind of thing I would want to air in public. I felt really uncomfortable about it, and finally deleted it. So I am trying to stay true to those self-imposed limits. Also, I am scared my mother will find my blog, kill me, then disown me.

But let us suffice to say that at this point, I think it would be better for me and my mental health if I took care of it here.

The other reason is also a little hard to articulate. But I got to thinking that the whole treatment option in America vs UK touches upon an issue which does come up for me from time to time.

You see, moving here was very hard in lots of ways. Maybe it was because things went badly wrong for the first two or three years, but I spent a great deal of time regretting my decision. I thought a lot about what I had given up, what I missed. About whether to go back.

However, much as some people are able to make the world their pingpong ball, I really couldn't face the prospect of another international move- which, in reality, would have been a retreat- and the inevitable starting all over again with nothing- no home, no friends, no job. And it wasn't even if as if I had burned my bridges- it was that I felt those bridges were never mine in the first place- that they had never existed.

Finally I decided the only way to not make myself crazy was to focus, fully focus, on living here, and to not constantly compare the two places, or long for things which may or may have come to pass if I had remained in the States. To make the best of things in the place I had landed, the place I had chosen for better or worse, to call home.

Now, I know that what is being proposed- namely, one test- is not the equivalent of saying "adieu" to my adopted homeland and relocating permanently to America. That in fact, it would be a good solution to a logistical problem, no more. I realise this. And, believe me, depending on how things go for us, we certainly would not rule out the option of pursuing treatment in the States someday.

But in the short term, I feel like I need to somehow make this work for me here. I am hopeful that in learning my way around the system, I can gain some control, which will enable me to make some positive decisions, based on the best possible options, and not necessarily what looks easiest at the time. I am not wholly confident that I can successfully negotiate the minefield of treatment Scheduling with a capital S, as Karen so aptly put it. However, at this point, I am determined to try.

For example, after I wrote the last post, I wrote a letter to Dr Best Friend asking if we could expedite the whole referral process. She phoned today to say of course, she would get on it right away, and that I didn't need to go in for an appointment with her next week just for that. That I was on a "treatment journey" and her job was to help me tie this up as neatly as possible. I have yet to hear back to confirm an appointment date, but it was step in the right direction, I thought.

I love Dr Best Friend. Remind me to ask her, when next we speak, if she can fix me up with some heavy duty painkillers prior to the HSG, cause from the sounds of it, ibuprofen is not going to cut it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The HSG that stole Christmas

In reviewing my recent post about our first visit to the RE, and the comments thereto, I got to wondering if maybe I have been doing my usual habit of getting ahead of myself. By this I mean my tendency to leap from Point A to Point W in the space of a few nano-seconds. I do this with everything, it's the way my mind works. I'm known for this at work- it's both an asset and an irritant to my colleagues.

These great cognitive leaps, often without so much a thin bungee cord to bring me back, are frequently taken without any solid fact, foundation or substance. I rely on intuition, flashes of insight, the eureka! method. Quite often, I'm right, and it's simply a case of dispensing with the slow, plodding blah-blah-blah reasoning to take us there. And other times, I'm just talking crap. E. is generally very good at reeling me back in, which is one of the reasons I love him so.

So I should maybe clarify that all my chat about Dr TickTock alluding to a preliminary diagnosis of "unexplained" was really the result of my reading between the lines. Drawing inferences, leaping to conclusions. He hasn't said anything on the basis of that one visit, except to look over what thus far appears to be a perfectly normal file. All my bloodwork- normal (apart from the TSH, and we've fixed that.) All my cycle charts- normal. E.'s first SA- more or less normal apart from a potentially wonky morph issue. Accordingly, Dr TickTock made a few cryptic remarks, which I have proceeded to interpret in an inimicable fashion. Plus, he's ordered more tests.

It's here the fun begins.

One of the things that has begun to dawn on me in recent months, with a growing sense of foreboding, is how much schedule juggling is required when undergoing infertility treatments. I know that in the big scheme of things, I am a complete novice, but already I am daunted by the logistics of trying to arrange the next set of tests. For reasons that will become clear in a minute, I'm slightly obsessed over how it's going work out. So at the risk of boring you all stupid with the tedium, here's the deal:

As I mentioned, Dr TickTock wants an HSG for me before doing anything else. There is, however, at least a seven month waiting for an HSG on the National Health Service (NHS) in Scotland. My tax dollars at work- HA!

In order to obtain this test any time soon, I have to get a referral to the local private hospital, where I will pay hundred of pounds for the exact same doctor (who would have eventually done the test at the NHS hospital, if I could be bothered to wait til next April) to carry out the procedure. However, the referral to the private hospital can only be obtained from my GP. The receptionist would not let me speak to Dr Best Friend on the phone for this, and the first appointment I can get with her isn't until the end of next week. There is then at least a three to five week waiting list at the private hospital, and I understand ideally it's best to do the HSG during the first part of the cycle, prior to ovulation but not during my period.

Assuming we manage to get the HSG done by the end of December, we are supposed to go back to see Dr TickTock for another consultation. But if we haven't, for any reason, managed to accomplish this, together with another SA for E., we will have to postpone that appointment, and wait for another opening. Which would be likely to be in an additional three months time, so say, March.

Now, this would not be so bad- the timescales, while not roomy, would probably be manageable. Except that my parents, in particular, my mother, are very keen for me to come home in early December. You see, thanks to the extortionate airfares if one flies at Christmas, as opposed to three weeks before or three weeks after, we don't usually see each other during the peak festive season.

My poor mother. In her heart of hearts, she really wants a daughter, who having married a nice man and produced two bouncing grandchildren, lives within a day's drive. Instead she gets funny infertile me, shacked up with an intractable Scotsman in a foreign abode. The rest of the year, she bites her tongue (more or less) about the situation, but I think she finds the distance at Christmas truly dismaying.

As a compromise, the plan was for me to come on my own at the end of November/beginning of December. We were going to squeeze in about 10 days of undivided family time, complete with mother-daughter shopping trips and father-daughter fishing off the boat dock. I confess, I was rather looking forward to all this. Christmas here tends to be something of a muted affair, with just E. and myself, so the idea of a break in the sun with the folks beforehand was very welcome indeed.

Looking at my calendar, and the possible dates for the HSG, I've now had to rule out early December as a likely time to fly back to the States. Unless I take out an additional mortgage to pay for the HSG and the airfare for a flight closer to Christmas. Except that the horrendous expense aside, E. doesn't want to go there for Christmas, and neither of us wants to be apart over the holiday. Which takes us into January, when E. was hoping to get away for a short New Year's break, when it may be hard to get away from work, and when a close friend was asking if she could come to visit for a week.

I'm sort of tearing my hair already. I know I can't please everybody or even please myself. I know the HSG has to get done as soon as possible to enable us to move on. But it's already seeming unfeasibly complicated. Who should I decide to disappoint, and when? I know the timing may well work out. Then again, given the number of variables conspiring to fuck things up, it may not. Either way, it's going to make it very difficult to plan anything. This is, frankly, something of a bummer.

I feel like sending out a seasonal greeting which announces that, due to the requirement to have X-rays taken of my uterus and fallopian tubes, Christmas is cancelled this year.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

My house was a very very very fine house

One of my colleagues, "Ann", used to be my neighbour. Our flats were on the same street. If I leaned out my kitchen window, I could see her front door. When we moved last year, and couldn't fit everything into the van, she helped me lug my oversized house plant and rug up the stairs to her spare room, where she kindly allowed me store these items for over a month. She cooked me dinner in her warm yellow kitchen on my last night in my old home, since I had packed up all the pots and pans, disconnected the fridge, dismantled the table. She didn't make fun of me when I told her, after the move was complete, that I had cried when I locked the door of my old flat for the last time and shoved the spare keys through the letter box.

So when Ann came into work this morning, and told me that my old flat is on the market again, that there is a big FOR SALE sign outside, I don't think she was surprised to see my face fall a little bit. Ann understands how I felt about that place.

I lived in the flat for over six years. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it. I bought it, rather recklessly, given my marriage was about to end, and the prospect of divorce meant my husband would probably be entitled to half. In the end, he left, and it was all mine.

It was a funny, slightly ramshackle home, all unusual angles and rooms with strange corners. It needed work, since it was an old building, and the floor boards were uneven, the insulation non-existent, the plumbing vintage, the plaster crumbling. At night, when the wind blew, there was a strange sound in the gable eaves, a dull thumping, like a dead man hanging, swinging feet against the attic wall. Despite all that, it had the best karma of anywhere I have ever known. It was utterly cozy and inviting. I felt so completely safe there, so very much at ease. I filled it with comfortable old furniture, and stacks of books. I spent many a happy night, with a coal fire burning low in the grate, the sound of the river burbling gently in the distance, cuddled up under a quilt with a book and mug of tea. Or on a long summer evening, sitting with my laptop at my long wooden scrubbed oak table, watching the light pour into the kitchen window, the white cat on the wall of the garden opposite. It was my nest, my shelter in a storm, my solace. It was home.

Then I met E., and things changed. He loved the flat too, but admittedly wasn't quite as immune to the problems as I was. He wanted someplace with better heating, better plumbing, more modern. He didn't like the lack of parking, the dearth of storage, the tiny bathroom. It was too small for the two of us. And we both had to admit, it was totally unsuitable for a baby, a family. We started talking about moving. When we finally decided to start trying to conceive, we began actively looking for a new home at the same time. And when we found our dream house after months of searching, I had no choice but to put my flat on the market.

I sold it to a single woman not much older than me. At first, this delighted me, since I had felt so safe and happy as a woman on her own in that flat. CIearly it was perfect for the single girl! Then, as the sale was going through, she started coming round to ask questions about the central heating, to measure up for carpets, to criticise the existing decor. During one of those visits, she let drop that she thought the flat was "OK", but she wasn't, like, "in love with it that much". Sort of take or leave it, you know. I felt like she had stabbed me in the heart. How could you not love my flat, you heartless bitch? Everybody loves my flat! I love my flat! Fuck you! Don't buy it then! I somehow resisted the urge to push her down the stairs and slam the door in her ungrateful face. (My mother, when I told her this story, shook her head and explained that this is why in America, the buyer and seller are kept apart at all times).

I consoled myself that it was for the good of the relationship and for the family that was to be. That it was time to move on, time to let go. That all things change. That all change is good.

Unfortunately, just before we were about to move into the Dream House, things went very badly wrong. Disastrously, fatally wrong. The deal fell through. I had to be out of my beloved old flat in six weeks, and we had nowhere to go. Somehow, I managed to keep from falling into a sobbing quivering lump. I drew on some inner resource of fortitude, sucked it up, and found somewhere else that we could buy. Maybe not our dream home, but nice all the same. With much teeth gnashing, hair pulling, and monumental nagging, I ensured we were able to get the paperwork done in record time. And here I am today.

Until this morning, I thought I had pretty much forgotten about my old flat, as I am happily settled into what is very much our home together. But now I realise I had simply packaged it up most of my memories, and shelved it. Because I will always be a little wistful, remembering the place I loved so much. Because I know what was special to me has become someone else's rung on the property ladder. And because it is yet another reminder that we continue to make decisions based largely on the hope of things to come. Hopes which have yet to be fulfilled.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

The accidental tourist

Well, well, what a very interesting and informative experience today's first visit to the RE turned out to be. Truth be told, I felt like something like an armchair tourist, abruptly plunged into the thick of things, into the action. All these months of reading as others discuss certain medical procedures, thinking "Huh" with an interested detachment. Then today, suddenly, it's me with the dildocam up the fanoir. And all the while, part of my brain is humming that surely, this is something that happens to other people, to serious travellers. Surely I am just an accidental tourist.

Here are some things I discovered today, in no particular order:

1. Wearing high heeled shoes with a complicated strap, hard to take on and off? Bad idea. I had to remove said shoes to be weighed and measured (still short, no discernable weight gain from the holiday- v. good.) Then I had to do it all over again when they sprung the ultrasound on me without warning. Never mind not having had a chance to spruce up the old bikini line, I could barely get my damn shoes off! Afterwards, it took so long to re-do the strap as I put the shoes on again that the nice nurse had to evict us from the room, with me hobbling along trying not to fall over.

2. In future, bring lots of change for the parking meter.

3. The waiting room at our clinic is a treasure trove of magazines. Lots and lots to read- I may cancel my subscription to Fashionista Monthly. Even E. was impressed at finding an old issue of Guy Gadgets. "Look," he whispered in awe, "just three years ago, my Palm Pilot cost £££Lots. And I only paid £Lots!". Yes, dear, that's good. Shut up and let me read about how tweed is the new black.

4. My RE shall from henceforth be known as Dr TickTock. Here's why.

According to Dr TickTock, assuming the diagnosis turns out to be "unexplained", the statistical average for conception is the same after 3 years of trying au natural as it is if we went ahead and did IVF. So in other words, if we tried for two more years, we'd be just as likely to get pregnant as if we did IVF tomorrow.

Did you just pause there? Yes, so did we. There were several things I took from that comment. Firstly, that the doctor is already leaning toward the "unexplained" angle. I mean, having gone over our medical histories today, I can see why he might be of the preliminary view that nothing is leaping out at him saying "PICK ME" as a cause for barrenness. But you know, that is not to say we necessarily want to languish in purgatory for another two whole years! Secondly, given that the current NHS waiting list for IVF is lingering around two-three years, it wouldn't surprise my cynical little self if that stat coincides nicely with the timescales in which medical intervention might finally be available.

Doctor, with that comment you appear, with all due respect, to be entirely missing the fucking point. It's far too early in the process to start settling on that happy co-out "unexplained". Plus, we don't want to wait two more years to become parents of our first child, never mind his or her sibling. That is the very reason why we sit here before you now, in the infertility clinic. TICK-TOCK already. Your moniker is now bestowed.

5. When lying/sitting in the dildocam chair, wand in situ, my hands immediately assume the "demure folded on chest as if expectant mother pose". Does everyone do this? Totally unconsciously, as if to nuture that oh-so empty womb. Empty that is except for the three, count'em three follicles already vying for supremacy. Two in my left ovary, one in my right. It was so nice to see them, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling. I felt like saying Hi kids! Wanna make friends with some cute sperm? Right this way, one at a time (or two, if you must). Everything else looked OK, as far as they could tell.

6. Not to be hung up on the whole ultrasound experience, but there is something decidedly odd about having your beloved partner stand at your side while a male doctor shoves a foreign object up your cooter and wiggles it around. Even in the interests of medicine, etc. I think E. was more worried about it than I was, though. Afterwards, on the drive home, he kept talking about how if we went to a private clinic, we might get a female doctor. I think at some point we need to have a chat about little it's going to matter as to who gets the tour of my nether regions during infertility treatment. To be honest, I was more disconcerted by the fact that during the ultrasound, the angle at which Dr TickTock was standing as he was wielding the wand meant that as I lay/sat in the chair-thingie, my bare right foot was sort of wedged up against his warm leg. Oh God, at least I hope it was his leg.

7. E. can do his next SA in a week or two, but there is a seventh month waiting list for my next test, an HSG. Seven. Months. Apparently this is due to the fact that they only do eight HSGs a week, and at least two people just don't show up because they got their period/got pregnant/forgot. Eh?

This announcement was followed by one of those lovely moments when you can read your partner's mind, because without missing a beat, E. and I, swiftly and in tandem, established where we can get the test done privately( (i.e not on the NHS), how long it will take (three to five weeks wait after referral), and what it will cost (couple hundred pounds). Check, check, check. All do-able.

As we were leaving, I looked back and saw Dr Ticktock pick himself up off the floor where he had collapsed under our barrage of questions, making a quiet note on our file: "Diagnosis: Willing to pay."

Monday, October 11, 2004

Journey to Camazozt

This Wednesday, E. and I have our long awaited appointment at the Ass Con Centre . You would have thought by this point I would be positively giddy with excitement at the idea of going to talk to a medical professional who may actually be able to help us. Instead, my primary emotion at the moment is... exhausted numbness.

There's a word you sometimes hear here-"fashed". "To be fashed" in Scots means to trouble, to worry over. The expresson, "I cannae be fashed" translates roughly along the lines of: "Whatever, I don't really care." Or: "I can't be bothered worrying about it, such is my general indifference". And that's how I feel today- I cannae be fashed.

Having thought about it in preparation of writing this post, I'm not entirely sure why I feel this way. Could it be that my scratchy throat has emerged into a full blown cold, stuffing my head with hay and confuzzlement while I sneeze and blow my sleepwalking way through work? Or something more pernicious- a deep seated emotional weariness with the whole process? I don't know.

Truth be told, whatever the reason, I feel completely bone tired right now. Exhausted down to my core. And more than a little numb. That worries me some, given that it is so early in the process to be so...done in.

Infertility feels like an unhappy infatuation, a desperate crush. I have pursued the object of my affection relentlessly for over a year now. I have flung myself, repeatedly, recklessly and wantonly at my dream. And in return, not received so much as a backward glance. Never mind returning my phone calls or love letters- conception, pregnancy, or motherhood don't even know I exist. My desire has been so wholly unrequited for so long now that I have trouble imagining how I am going to keep up the chase indefinitely. I mostly feel the way I used to on the morning after a big party, having made a complete bunny boiling fool of myself in front of somebody I really liked.

Having had my heart stomped on ten ways to Christmas is something I have experienced before in my life, particularly one really ugly and extended episode. It was made worse because I willingly put myself in that position again and again. And it took an enormous feat of self-love to elevate myself beyond what, in retrospect, what a totally unnecessary cycle of pain. Sometimes lately I find myself feeling like my dalliance with infertility is becoming all too familiar, too similiar.

One of the most refreshing things about going on holiday was the minor epiphany that I could probably one day be happy without children. That I really could imagine some sort of life for us that didn't include children. Since then I have drawn back a little, reminding myself that- almost undoubtedly- there is a gaping chasm in reality between going on a fun holiday with the two of us without worrying about family commitments, and facing down an entire lifetime without a family. But it did plant a little seed in my mind, one that now occasionally whispers, "You don't have to do this, you know. You don't have to keep beating your head against the wall. You can make the pain go away by accepting things as they are, by resigning yourself to a childless life. By not trying- if it happens, if happens, but so be it."

This is confusing. We had already decided we didn't want to settle for things as they are. But I also don't relish the idea of the ongoing emotional rollercoaster that this process appears to involve. You know, I guess I'm just not all that het up about the idea that we finally get to take ourselves to the infertility clinic, a place I profoundly hoped that we would never see the inside of. I'm not sure I have any faith that we will get any answers soon, if at all. I'm not sure that those answers are going to be the ones we want.

And all the while, the voice in my head, so seductive, so compelling. That giving up is the best thing I could do. That I should just accept it. That I was never the type of woman who was so sure motherhood was the only option, however achieved. So why struggle like this? Why do this to myself?

The answer, I think, is this: because I also don't like the feeling that voice gives me. I don't really buy into notion that all I have to do is stop trying and all will be well. Above all, because the voice reminds me of the giant disembodied brain, IT in A Wrinkle in Time sucking my will, stealing my choice. Feeding the lie that doing what seems easiest right now is actually that- easy.

I know that one day it really may be time to stop. And I hope if that day comes, the good insights of the minor epiphany are not too far behind. That we won't be too worn down to make the choice. That it will be just that- a choice-rather than an slow, exhausted deflating. That until then, I can bring myself to feel something other than resigned weariness.

That I wake up on Wednesday, and remember, again, why we began down this road in the first place. How we arrived here. And where we want to go.

Friday, October 08, 2004

A very Important Task

I have the feeling that normal service has yet to be resumed. It's kind of the way you feel right after Christmas (or, in Scotland- New Year, since the party goes on until 2 January).

Just as you start enjoying yourself and relaxing a bit, deciding it's OK to sleep until 11 am, then wander around in your jimjams, watching crap telly and dipping into boxes of truffle-filled chocolates whilst pouring bottles of brandy down your throat, it's time to go back to work. Ugh. I have yet to finish unpacking, doing laundry, paying the bills, returning phone calls, tending to the withered plants, hoovering up the dust bunnies from under the bed or reading the rest of my bloglist. Bleh.

To compound my general meh-ness, I have picked up a bug on the flight home (or possibly while on holiday- running around that last night in my little strappy top despite the chill). I have scratchy throat and croaky voice. The plan is for me to lie in a little ball in my bed for 48 hours straight this weekend, arising periodically only to do various chores, like put another load of washing on. E. has promised to bring me cups of tea at regular intervals and not make me go to the grocery store.

There is however one essential task I must do. Fill in and post my absentee ballot. The envelope was waiting for me upon our arrival home, and yesterday I finally got around to opening it. I've put it to one side for the moment, figuring that I needed a day or two to reflect deeply upon matters. Such a big decision ahead. It's a tough choice, one that has kept me awake at night, pondering.

Will I vote for John Kerry with the blue pen or the black pen? Or perhaps, the racy number 2 pencil?

OK, I might make light of it, but it is important. Perhaps even more so, given the confession I am about to make. You see, unlike some , who proceeded to actually follow through on their carefully made decision, (albeit one which they may have regretted later), I...well....I....

I'll just say it. Election 2000. I filled in the ballot, then failed to mail it. Repeat, I failed to mail my absentee ballot .

Lame ass excuse? Well, I may have mentioned before that I have this real loathing of posting things. Going to the post office here is just an ordeal that I avoid, wherever possible, especially if it involves standing in line behind people who feel the need to explain their endless life story to the pond-water speed clerk as they carry out whatever it is that seems to take up nine hours, or at best, my entire lunch break.

Mailing the ballot would involve getting stamps to go to America, which means going to the post office. So the envelope sat on my hall table, and eventually, I decided it was too late (though it may not have been) and threw it away.

Now. That would be bad enough, but then it got a whole lot worse.

Because I am registered to vote in Florida. As I was in Election 2000.

That year, I watched from afar in increasing horror the events unfolding before me. As the lawyers waded in and the mudslinging began, I began having nightmares that it came down to just one or two votes difference between Gore and Bush, and then someone discovered that I hadn't posted my ballot, and the fingers of accusation would point harshly my way. Now, I know there is still debate about the final numbers. But it appears to me that in the big scheme of things, the margins were close enough for me to put my head in my hands for the next four years, cringing. What had I done? Or more important, what I had I not done.

It wasn't just even as if I had gone to the polls, and accidentally voted for the wrong person by misreading the buttefly ballot. It was that I hadn't gotten off my fat ass and posted an envelope! I hadn't cared enough to exercise my precious democratic right to vote, a right which the United States generously continues to bestow upon me for federal elections, even though I live overseas. A right that was arbitrarily taken away from some, in error, by the disenfranchisement which went on in Florida (and perhaps elsewhere for all I know) before the election. A right that people have fought and died for.

This is not intended to be a political rant. I had vaguely decided awhile back that while I would generally keep my political views more or less to myself (unless they encroach into reproductive rights, which are of importance to me but which I have not yet really gotten into in my posts). I felt partly like this wasn't really the platform for me to talk about politics, at least not in the broad sense, and partly because I feel like so many other people say it so much better.

But this is not about my political stance. It's about recognising that 4 years ago, I was limp and pathetic, feeling like it didn't really make a difference whether I went to get a stamp. I'm ashamed, because... well, as it happens, it may have made a very big difference. I'm not saying that I, Mare, would have singularly changed the course of American history. But that election was such a revelation to me- how all the individual voices do mount up, how each vote does have some weight.

How it matters.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Over and...not out

I'm back! I'm backity back! We got in very late last night after a very long journey. Then I had to go to WORK this morning, nightmare of nightmares. There are big goings on there. But perhaps more importantly, since I have been cut off from oxygen, I mean, internet access for the last two weeks, I also have no idea of what has been happening in Blogland. The loop, me, far out of and all that... So I have a lot of catching up to do.

But first I will tell you a few things about my adventures on the High Seas.

Firstly, E. and I did manage to rendez-vous at the airport as planned. He was not just on time but early, and very contrite. Spending three days bouncing around in a small wooden boat in rough swells with three other smelly, snoring guys was apparently enough to forcefully illustrate to him the sheer folly of his ways. He practically hurled himself at me as I came off the flight from Scotland, gibbering incoherently with delight at seeing my funny little face.

Oh, and amongst all the exclamations of how much he missed me was a confession that the trip had cost him an astronomical amount of money. Really. I had to extract the final sum from him in a slow and tortuous interrogation, but eventually he revealed exactly. how. much.

At which point I had to go find a bench to sit down on and put my head between my knees while breathing into a paper bag. Never mind, it's only money la la la. The important thing is that he had a good time. Which he didn't... and..oh, bugger, let's move on, shall we.

Has your flight ever been delayed at Gatwick Airport? No? Well, mine has, plenty of times. In fact, a couple years ago, we were stranded there on New Year's Eve and actually had to sleep at the airport. So you might say I have a fairly intimate working knowledge of the place. So on this occasion, when our flight was delayed by four hours, I very quickly became catatonic with boredom. The obvious thing to do was to read a book. But I have this weird habit, whereby I don't want to read any of my books or magazines til I get to whereever I am going, because otherwise I might use up all my reading material, and then what would I do. I did however surrepitiously leaf through all the magazines on the news stands. While we waited. For four fucking hours.

It might not have been so bad except that we had a four hour trip upon our arrival on the other end, including a ferry ride, to get where we were going. We landed at midnight. So yes, it was four in the morning by the time we got to our destination.

And even that might not have been so bad, except we had to be up at 9am to start- wait for it- yacht training! As in learning how to sail the yacht. Now, seeing how this was a sailing holiday, this should not have come as a huge shock. But this was the part of the brochure I was a little sketchy about. I sorta figured this would involve learning how to tie a few funny knots and maybe do a little winching or whatever with the sails. But admittedly, I was quite vague on the particulars.

What the training really involved was five people on a not very big boat, tripping over each other. For four days, 9am to 6pm. Us and another couple, and an instructor, who was a slip of a girl far too wise for her years. The other couple was a nice, good-looking pair, but slightly vacuous and befuddled by everything. Happily, they appeared to be even worse at sailing then we were, which cheered E. and I up.

Together we embarked on endless mooring practice, jumping off and on the boat with ropes and lines in every different direction. Anchoring, taking bearings with a compass, or learning how to do certain things with the sails, depending on which way the wind was blowing. Tying knots. Man overboard. How to set off flares in an emergency, or call on the VHF radio. For example, did you know that when speaking on the radio, when you want a reply, you say "Over". When you are done with the conversation, you say "Out" or else "Standing by on..." whatever channel. It is therefore totally inaccurate to say "Over and Out". Doing so will earn you fifty lashes.

All this activity, all this leaping around in the fresh air- it was fun, yes, in a way. But it was absolutely exhausting. At the end of the second day, E. and I lay sprawled on the bed in the hotel, wide-eyed with fatigue in a floppy pile. Finally, E. raised his head slightly, and poked me in the belly with his index finger.

"Shouldn't we be having sex?" he asked in a pale voice.

"Too tired," I whimpered.

"But....but...but, oh, you're right, me too," he agreed.

The weather then turned crappy, and very windy which made it even more challenging. E. turned out to be rather clueless about how it all worked, which surprised me a little given the manly (not to mention expensive) sailing weekend he had just "enjoyed". But by the end of the training, I was feeling as if we had both learned lots. Ready to head out on our own! Slip the leeward line! Gybe ho!

At which point the instructor told me I needed to do an extra day. Me and only me. Out of the four of us. The dippy couple, on the other hand, were signed off, and sent away.

"I want you to go out tomorrow for an extra day," she said to me.

I looked at E. He raised his eyebrows. I know he can read my mind at times, and he was getting ready to say something diplomatic.

"I'd really like to have a day off. From sailing. I haven't had a break. No chance to sleep late even one day since we got out here, " I explained.

"And I'm supposed to be on vacation," I added for good measure.

"Well. OK. A day off, then you can go out the day after that," she said.

"I'd really rather not," I said.

"I think you really better had," she said, in a firm tone of voice. Meaning if I didn't there would be no two of us on our own. No gybe ho, no Master and Commander.

E. and I went back up to the hotel room. And I bawled like I haven't done in ages. I mean, ripping, sobbing heaving crying, of an intensity I have not experienced in a long time, even in a year of infertility. I failed! I fucking well failed, where everyone else had passed. This was supposed to be fun! It was our vacation. But instead of lying by the pool sipping a margarita in the sun, I was going to spend another day in the rain, bashing my knees against the seat while somebody accidentally bumped me in the ass with the tiller. Being made to go to what seemed to be ridiculous lengths while everybody else breezed through...and it was just too much like...well, like the way I have felt for so long now.

I sobbed in the shower, on the terrace, under the covers. E. kept patting me and bringing me drinks, which was nice, but not hugely effective, until finally he crawled into bed with me and spooned me for half an hour, whispering comforting things into my ear.

We had a day off. And then I got back on the fucking boat and did the extra day. It pissed it down with rain for hours, was freezing cold, and for extra amusement value, I fell off the boarding plank getting back on the boat after lunch. As in, all the way into the water. In front of the whole marina. Happily, I had my thermals on under my wet weather gear, but it was still more than a bit uncomfy, plus I gashed my shin. Lovely. And then I got back on the fucking boat and finished the day.

There was one other extremely hairy interlude on the first day out on the flotilla with just the two of us on our own boat. There we were merrily sailing along, getting the hang of doing everything without five other people to trip over. The weather was fine, the wind was good. Suddenly, during an exposed passage between two islands, the wind picked up and we hit some horrendous swell. The boat was being thrown about so badly we had to harness ourselves on, at which point there was a problem with the sail and it was all looking not a little alarming. I decided this was a good time to have an all out panic attack, complete with high pitched keening noices and being sick over the side. When we finally made it to harbour, I immediately went below, pouring half a bottle of strong drink down my throat in order to calm down.

So yeah, not all fun.

But those were the worst bits. After all that sturm and drang, there were wonderful times too. There was, mercifully, absolutely no baby talk whatsoever from any of the other couples, all of whom were childless. I ate and drank whatever I wanted and ignored, for the first time in over a year, anything to do with my cycle. After that first scary day we had a hot, sunny and almost windless week, with flat calm waters (not so good for sailing, but mighty soothing). Dolphins leaping off the starboard bow. Anchoring in amazing little bays off secluded islands. Brilliant starlight nights. Some excellent company with which to share a companionable gin and tonic on deck. Lastly, I finally got to grips with the sailing, learning to enjoy it.

Now back at home, I am ready to pick up where I left off. I have realised afresh that this habit of stubborn resilience is one which is now so ingrained that I find myself doing things, in more than one area of my life, that once would have finished me off completely. Fall down, get up. Fall in, get up. Fall over, get up.

Sail on.