Saturday, February 26, 2005

At the crossroads on the Typepad trail

I am wrestling with the thorny dilemma of whether to up stakes from my home here at Blogger, and migrate to Typepad. I know there are a couple other people who have either done this or are considering it for various reasons.

Personally, this site suits me fine for the most part, despite certain limitations. I am used to it now, and don't get dry mouth and sweaty palms whenever I mess around with the template. But I would very much like to have things like categories, a feature which appeals to my basic need to file. I do actually spend a lot of my free time doing this blogging thing, and it would be nice to have a service that works well without some of the technical hiccups I experience here on occasion.
Also, I am very conscious that there can be problems with the comment function on this site, despite the supposed improvements recently made by Messrs Blogger & Co. I gather it can be chronically, offputtingly slow. Tell me, how bad is it? Just bad, or really, really bad?

Plus it must be fun to be able to ban trolly people. To thunder from on high (or, um, from across the keyboard)- "YOU! You and your ISP are hereby banished, mwhahahahaha!" Not that I have any great need to ban anyone. But, like the Queen's prerogative, it must be a useful thing to keep in reserve.

Oh, I don't know. I have been swithering about this for weeks now, and can't make up my mind. I am very fond of what I have here in its own simple way, but also know I could probably just pack my bags and load up the covered wagon.

I do suspect part of me is looking for what my mother calls "a geographical cure"- that is, simply moving somewhere else because I can, rather than facing up to what I need to do here. That being, to keep on working on telling this story. We're coming to the part where I want to hide behind the cushions- how much easier to go tinker around with fonts and layouts and categories.

What do you think? Should I saddle up and go on to Fort Typepad, or just hunker in my bunker here?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

A double bill of doctors

My goodness, it's turned nippy noodles here. Unbelievably filthy weather- cold, wet lashing snow/rain, wind. Just the sort of day where you want to stay in bed and pull the covers over your horns.

Unfortunately, I had a double bill of doctor's appointments today- Dr Best Friend first thing in the morning, and Dr Endocrine at the hospital late in the afternoon. Whee! I figured that all this various trudging around hither and yon warranted the whole day off from work, and I was right.

Dr Best Friend, my GP, was her usual lovely helpful self. I explained about our plan to go to the OC, and she obligingly offered to prepare me a pack of all my test papers/results/certificates. An eminently sensible solution so no matter where we end up, I will have copies of everything I need. Oh sweet baby Jesus, I love this woman. It was all I could do not to fling myself at her feet, hugging her knees, sobbing in gratitude.

With lightning efficency, she also took some blood for the HIV and Hep B&C tests, gave me a scrip for a refill of my thryoid medication, and passed me a small tube and biohazard baggie for the chlamydia test.

"You'll need to provide first stream urine," she explained.

"Oh, like the first pee of the day? Yup, can do," I said confidently.

"No, I mean, you need to collect the first drops you pass. Sometimes we ask for midstream urine instead, so you have to start, then aim for the tube halfway through. But not this time. Oh, and you need to fill the tube all the way up. Ahh, it can be a little tricky," she added, as my face fell.

Good Lord, I thought as I trundled off to the loo, peeing into a tube has suddenly become very complicated. How do I know when first stream ends and midstream begins? What if I miss the tube altogether when I start? What I can't fill the tube all the way? Is my bladder actually full enough? Fuck, I knew I should have a second cup of coffee this morning. Surely there must be a more girl friendly method for this sort of thing, like a funnel device? Maybe I should invent one. And anyway, why the fuck didn't E. have to do this test, never mind that this whole 'first stream pee thing' is probably ten times easier for boys.

I sat there for a minute or two, thinking all these things and wondering if I should go home and do it later. But then I pulled myself together, thinking IT'S JUST PEE, WOMAN! Just do it!

So I did. It was, as she said, a little tricky.

Then, for maximum entertainment, as I went back to the reception desk to hand in the pee tube in the baggie emblazoned with CHLAMYDIA TEST: BIOHAZARD in bright red letters, I bumped squarely into one of my work colleagues.

"Oh, HIIIIIII," I said way too loudly.

"Hi," he said. There was an awkward pause as his eyes flicked to the package in my hand.

"Just....just...passing through," I yelped, before practically throwing the bag over the counter at the poor receptionist, and sprinting for the door.

Only to realise as I reached the corner that I had forgotten my favourite hat in the waiting room. Yes, of course he was still there when I came back for it.

Later in the afternoon, up to the hospital to see yet another endocrinoloist. Turns out I flunked my last blood test, and my TSH levels have risen again slightly despite the medication. For the purposes of conception, it should be lower, and so my dosage is to be increased.

"Look," said Dr Third, getting out a scrap of paper and a pen, "this is your thyroid. And this is your pituitary gland. And these lines here are the hormones from one to the other, that's called your TSH. What this means is..."

I let him ramble on, despite the fact that I have seem the same crappy diagram drawn at least six or seven times by four different doctors in the last year. They sure seem to like drawing it though, so who am I to spoil their fun?

Supplementary prescription...take back to GP...test it again in three months...another appointment in six months...blah, blah, blah, blah. I left in a bad mood. I am a thyroid failure. Why the fuck can't I get this TSH level down?

Blasting cold wind. Wet snow in my face. Drunken yobs in the back of the bus. Having come to the conclusion that spontaneously combusting was not a viable option at that particular moment, I decided instead that the only thing to be done was to head immediately to buy that pair of chocolate brown suede knee high boots I had seen earlier.

They were on sale, I promise. A most delicious bargain.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Mouth versus head

Some time ago, I realized that if the world could see into my head and read my thoughts, I would be:

a. unemployed
b. institutionalised
c. burnt at the stake.

But today I became even more aware of the yawning chasm between what I am thinking and what comes out of my mouth. I'll give you a few examples:

Team Leader: Don't forget we have a group lunch today, to say farewell to Jane who is going off on maternity leave for the second time in eighteen months!

Mouth: Yes, of course, I marked it in my calendar! I'll definitely be there!
Head: Oh blech. I'd rather gut a pig and eat its raw liver with my bare hands than go to that lunch.

At group lunch, whispered gossip at the other end of the table.

Mouth: What's everybody talking about?
Head: Don't ask! Don't ask! I know why they are whispering. Whispering means the bad thing! The baaaaad thing!

Colleague: Oh, Whatshername is also pregnant again.
Mouth: How nice for her.
Head: I knew I shouldn't have asked. I now wish to stick a fork in my eye.

Later that day, the phone rings. It's my friendly former boss, now on maternity leave.

FB: Hi, I am at the front of the building. I had to stop by to pick up some stuff. And I have the baby with me! Do you want to see him?
Mouth: How lovely, I'll be right there.
Head: AIEEEEE! Drop the phone, move quietly toward the fire exit, and run, run, run for your life! Or do you think she would notice if I just went and hid in the bathroom until she goes away?

At front, FB is gently rolling the baby carriage back and forthwith the bundle of joy inside.

Mouth: Hi, how are you, you look great!

FB: I feel OK. Look, here he is.
Mouth: Oh, how sweet.

FB reaches in to the carriage to adjust his tiny little furry hat. She says: Do you want to hold him?
Mouth: Ooh, yes, please.
Head: Right. As soon as she hands you the kid, break for the revolving door. She's probably too milk-logged to keep up with you.

FB: He might be a little grumpy. I couldn't find a quiet place to feed him.
Mouth: Yes, that must be tricky around this office.
Head: AIEEEE. I am holding a small squishy baby boy. Baby flesh! I smell baby flesh! I see baby flesh!

Baby starts to cry. I joggle him up and down, trying not cry myself and/or gobble him whole.

FB: We'd better go, I think he's going to start to scream the place down in a minute. Guess he needs his nap.
Mouth: OK. Here, you can take him back now.
Head: Yes, take him, along with my left ventricle.

FB: Don't worry, I'll visit again soon.
Mouth: Oh yes, please do. It's nice to see you. Give me a call so I know when you are coming.
Head: Even though I will not be here. For the foreseeable future, I will be at home, in my pyjamas, cramming large slices of cake into my mouth.

FB: Bye now!
Mouth: Bye! Bye baby boy!

The head goes dangerously quiet. The only sound is a wet splash as my body suddenly disintegrates into a puddle on the floor.

Monday, February 21, 2005

For whom the bell tolls

I shall I put it? Sullen. Sullen intermixed with a pinch of numb and sad. Sometimes, for a bit of variation, I add a bit of pissy/bitchy/cranky into the equation. The mood combinations usually go something like this: Sullen/sad. Sullen/numb/sad. Sad/bitchy/cranky.

Sometimes I am deep into a good sullen groove, and then suddenly somebody will say or do something to catapult me abruptly into full-on cranky mode. I'll be staring out the window, thinking vague depressing thoughts. The gray skies, the trees bending awkwardly in bleak wind, the smallest flakes of snow melting on the salted sidewalk. And then..that guy with the extremely wet hacking irritating cough? COUGH COUGH COUGH. Yeah you, asshole. Go get a bottle of cough syrup, or go home or something, you are bugging the LIVING SHIT out of me with your constant phlegm-globbers over there. OK. Where was I? Oh, yes, the bleak February skies, the cold ducks shivering on the frozen pond.

And so forth.

Actually, I am three quarters through reading a most enjoyable book which has a recurring theme that sums up the feeling rather nicely. The book attracts comparisions to a certain series about a Mr H. Potter, a lazy and not entirely accurate sort of conjoining of genres, indicative of careless critical pigeonholing. I mean, really, is every novel with the word "magic" in the text ever published for the rest of time going to be compared in this way? Let us hope not.

Anyway, the book, which has a leisurely pace, is about eight babillion pages long, with incredibly detailed footnotes. (The footnotes alone could actually be an entire book- I happen to like that kind of thing very much). I won't try to explain the plot, which is both straightforward and convoluted at the same time, except to say that it is set in England, in the early nineteenth century. And certain characters keep getting drawn/kidnapped/lost in a very eerie and otherworldly faerie land.

This is not a pretty faerie land of daisies, tinkerbells and small talking toadstools. No, this is something else entirely- bleak, ancient, discordant, spectacularly grand but at the same time dark, dark, dark. The transfer into this world is usually accompanied by the mournful tolling of a peculiar, far-away bell. Throughout the book, the sound of this bell signals that a shift is taking place, and with it a sense of uneasy dislocation.

I hear a bell of my own lately. One moment I'll be trundling along, engaged in some task, or conversation. And then, usually without warning, a distant melancholy ringing. When I look up, I realise I have lost my place. Instead I find myself trapped in some strange gray landscape, with the faint taste of salt and tears in my mouth. Some days, it's so very hard to bring myself back again.

It can be difficult to properly explain this fugue state, particularly people who have never been there. Sometimes lately, when I speak of it to people outside of blog land- I see a certain look in their eyes. A look which says, "Oh dear, is she still going on about that? I thought they had decided to fix it, so why don't they just get on with it already? How long has it been now? Really, one of these days she is simply going to have to accept that this is the way things are. Pull herself together and stop talking about all this emotional stuff. Like strange bells. There is no bell. I don't hear a bell."

Of course by that point, the sad ringing is usually overwhelmingly loud. It drowns out their voices, and their quizzical eyes.
By that point, I am already far, far away. Wishing someone would cough, or slurp their coffee, or chew their potato chips with their mouth open- if only to jerk me back to this world, and anchor me with anger.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Testing, testing one two three

Right, where were we? Oh, yes- next!

When I said in an earlier post that we would be able to move on to doing our first IUI as of my "next cycle", I should clarify that what I meant was the next cycle after we both get all these other tests done. Specifically, HIV, Hep B & C and for me, chlamydia. And then see the consultant. And then see the nurse. And do the hokey-pokey, turn ourselves around, that's what it's all about!

E. went to his GP yesterday to have his tests done, and to quiz the doctor about treatment in the Other City hospital. Or, in the OC, as it shall henceforth be known. (Editor's note Thanks to Amy for that suggestion.) E.'s GP has apparently been through some of the infertility funfair himself, so we'll call him Dr BeenThereDoneThat.

Dr BeenThereDoneThat had initially been less than complimentary about the OC when E. asked him many months ago. I'd read a bad review on a message board as well, which worried us a little. But for some reason the doctor's tune has now changed. Or maybe he is just telling E. what he wants to hear.

In any event, there was nothing said to convince us that we should forego that plan and instead stick with the local Ass Con centre. I don't particularly care if the nurses are a bit brusque, or if the price is a bit higher at the OC. What I care about is getting some fertility assistance sometime this century. And so far, the OC ticks that box.

E. should get his test results by post in 7 days. Dr BeenThereDoneThat cautioned E. that if the HIV test came back positive, it was going to possibly affect his life insurance. E. replied that if he is HIV positive, it would seem we have bigger problems than just insurance. I know that doctors have to tell you this stuff before they test, but damn, it sounds stupid when it comes out of their mouths.

E. e-mailed me to tell me he'd had the test. "Ouch," he wrote. "Needles are ouchy in my arm!"

I sat there doodling, trying to work out how many times I have been stuck in the last year. Then I e-mailed him back.

"Tell it to someone else. Love, Pincushion."

Next up- my (*yawn*) visit to my (*yawn*) GP for more of the (*yawn) same.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Can I make an observation?

In this house, it is an ill-wind that brings the words "Can I make an observation?"

I don't know why the observer never learns that in uttering that phrase, he or she might as well grab a sharp fiery stick and prod the soft underbelly of the observee.

"Can I make an observation" usually means: " I am about to say something I don't think you really want to hear, but I am going to say it anyway, although I will try to frame it in neutral tones so I sound more like an interested passer-by than an accusatory asshole, even though in this context I really am an accusatory asshole."

It doesn't help when the observer picks a particularly bad moment to start making such "observations". Take this morning, for example. There I was, standing in front of the closet doing that work-wear crisis thing, feeling especially bloated and cranky.

Actually, bloated doesn't begin to cover it. I feel like every ounce of moisture in my body has suddenly migrated to my lower belly region where it has congealed in one gigantic pooch of misery. On days like this, where comfy boy-jeans or oversized combats are out of the question, all I can do is scrabble around the wardrobe for one of my pairs of drawstring fat pants.

I have two pairs of these trousers, both of which are vile and heinous. The hems are too too long and drag on the ground. Also, I was finding that the drawstring tended to make my shirt bunch up in the front in a weird position over the pooch. So I cut the string off altogether, and now the pants just sort of hang in a limp manner below around my waist region. I say "waist region" because I am short waisted to the point that for all intents and purposes that part of my body barely exists.

Anyway, there I am, late, blemished, waterlogged and crabbit. I ask you, is this a good moment for E. to come up to me and say, "Can I make an observation?" No. No, it really is the worst possible choice of timing.

"What?" I snapped.

"This is a really messy house. I mean, there is stuff everywhere all the time. It's dusty. The counter tops are covered with stuff. It's messy."

"Well, I guess the fucking CLEANING FAIRY hasn't shown up this week then," I roared as E. beat a hasty retreat into the shower. I flipped him the bird, threw on my fat pants and stormed out of the house, wearing too much lipstick to compensate for the appalling state of my skin.

I've been stewing and mulling over about this all day. I know that there was probably nothing personal in the comment- E. was not intending to cast aspersions on my housekeeping skills, but GGGRRRRR AARRRGH, it irritated me. Especially since I can't remember the last time I saw him with a feather duster in his hand. Especially since I went into the kitchen straight after and it was all his crap all over the counter! Especially since, in all honesty, not a messy house. It's really not.

What this makes me think about is "The Deal". You know, the way couples negotiate the division of household labor, or even labour as we call it here, adorning it with an extra "u" for good measure. Everybody has to adapt to their particular circumstances, and almost everyone I know does their best to figure out what works best for them as a team, as a pair.

Our deal is fairly well set. We never sat down and agreed it- it just happened, due to our strange living situation. We both work demanding, full time jobs. E. does most of the grocery shopping (because he usually has the car) and most of the cooking because he likes it (and because despite my best intentions, I am really crap at it). He does all the chores involving the other flat. At the moment he also does almost all the commuting back and forth. And I do pretty much everything else here. The laundry. The bills. The ironing. The dishes. All the cleaning.

But sometimes, when I am having a very busy week at work, stuff slips. Only human, I tell myself. Despite best superhuman efforts, still only human.

I really would like to figure out a way to balance the juggling act a little better- to take better care of myself, of E., of us, and of our home. I can't see how I can do that unless we try a radical shift, like me working part-time. I'm just not ready to do that yet, for all sorts of reasons.

I suspect a more immediate solution might involve E. picking up his own goddamn socks for a change, but in all fairness to him, I think he has a lot on his plate as well. Which means something else might have to give. But what? There is not much give left, for either of us. At the end of the day, most of my remaining energy is sucked dry by the spectre of infertility. Leaving me exhausted and indifferent to the invading hoards of dust bunnies, those wispy barbarians now laying siege to my home.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005



Not pregnant. So very not pregnant.

All right. ALL RIGHT.

You know what? You know all that stuff about [insert simpering internal tone of voice here] "being more likely to conceive in the three months following an HSG, since it clears out the tubes"?

You know all that earlier chat about how [insert quavering indecision here] "It'll be good to wait a few more months anyway, since I'm just not sure I'm ready to leap into ART".

Well, guess what. I am OVER IT. I am so over it, and ready to move on. Bring me some fucking fertility drugs, stat.

Oh, and while I am waiting for those fucking drugs, I must have some booze.

Yes. I demand to have some booze.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Ten Things

Ah, Valentine's Day. Day of the Valentine. Day of Lurrrrve. I don't about you, but personally, I have spent the last 12 hours in a giddy haze. Wandering over paths strewn with rose petals, fresh delicate buds springing up beside me with every step. Bluebirds singing on the gently wafting boughs above my head. Small woodland animals, like bunnies and baby foxes, emerging from the forest to gaze up at me adoringly.

Because after all, that's what Valentine's Day is all about, right? It's not just the cheap tawdry commercialisation of overblown sentimentality commemorated by the purchase of half wilted flowers, tacky card and other heart shaped tat. Right? Right?

When I met E., he immediately cautioned me that as a rule, he is not a man who gives flowers. And with the exception of the Big Two (i.e. birthdays and Christmas), he doesn't do much random gift-buying. No spontaneous tokens of affection like Chanel lipsticks or jewelry, or anything else a girl might actually want deep down in her in most frivolous heart of hearts. He doesn't even do lingerie. Well, except for the sports bra he bought me a couple of years ago, but that was Christmas, and anyway, I am not sure that really counts.

No, E.'s idea of a good present is ten bags of groceries with enough food that I don't have to leave the house for a week at a time. And you know, who am I to argue with that?

Therefore imagine my supreme surprise to find, upon waking and stumbling into the kitchen for the first caffeine infusion of the day, a large bouquet of posies (in that nice vase we never use because nobody ever buys flowers around here). And small envelope with card next to baggy of red-foiled heart shaped chocolates. And a white kitten with a big red bow around her neck, on which was threaded a Tiffany's diamond ring on a platinum setting. No, wait, I made that last part up. Actually he'd bought me a bunch of books, none of which I want to read, but all of which can be exchanged for others I do want. Yay!

Oh joyous love-infused kitchen twirling. Truly, I am all-a flutter with delight, glazed with affection.

So with advance apologies for the sheer nauseating fluffiness of it all, and accompanied by a string-quartet, I now bring you: Ten Things I Love about E.

1. He has the best smell of any man I have ever met. Sometimes, when he is staying through the Other City during the week, I will unearth one of his t-shirts from under the bedcovers, and lie there with it pressed to my face.

2. Sometimes, when he is in a really good mood, he goes bounding around the house on the balls of his feet like a five year old, doing a little happy dance.

3. He has an appreciation for language. Sometimes, when we are speaking he will stop me and say "What did you just say? Rhapsodic? Tertiary? Parsimonious? Wow. Excellent use of word in context!" And then he will make sure he uses that word in his next business meeting.

4. He is very kind to people in need, even when there is absolutely no chance of having his generousity reciprocated.

5. In private, he rarely calls me by my name. Instead, it's always "sweetie pie, sweetie or my sweetie".

6. He has the best bottom of any man I have ever met. Honestly, it is so perfectly sculpted, an absolute work of art.

7. He phones me as he is walking home from work, opening the conversation with the same phrase "Hi sweetie. Anything fresh?" Then he gives me a running commentary about the stuff he sees on the way. Then he phones me before bedtime. 'So, still nothing fresh?"

8. He like to read, and talk about the book afterwards. He always has two or three books on the go at one time. He is fond of non-fiction tomes about history, wars and battles, aircraft and tall ships. He enjoys a constant infusion of true-life tales of seafarers, inventors, and polar explorers.

9. I mentioned the grocery-buying already. Big, big gold stars for that.

10. We have a similar sense of humour, and find the same things hugely funny. Like the way he refers to his work pass as his "morgue tag". Or when we were looking for a cottage to rent for a week in Scotland, and we found a place that boasted of a nearby cafe offering something mysteriously known as "Heat-away Pies."

"Heat-away pies," he gasped, clasping his hands together. "We must book immediately!!" Ever since then, every time we go anywhere, before we make a reservation, one of us will turn to the other, and mumur, "heat-away pies?"

Setting aside the goofy sentiment, I admit that of course there are many more than just ten things. Some of which are hard to put into words or a list, and are well beyond the bounds of a Hallmark card on Valentine's Day. But believe me when I say, there are other things. Things which in looking back over the last frustrating, infuriating, disappointing year have made me pause.

Pause and reflect, that if even nothing else comes out of all this, I have the privilege of experiencing an enduring love.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Jumping the hoops

I am happy to report that, after all the strum und drang of the decision-making, we are resuming our regularly scheduled program. That is to say, the interminable waiting around for further appointments. There is, however, one small change to the plan to tell you about.

My appointment letter from the Ass Con centre finally arrived after seven weeks, for a date at the end of March. However, long before that happened, E. and I decided our patience with the good old Ass Centre was pretty much exhausted. So we started looking into alternatives.

This being a country limited in available licensed fertility treatment, our choices are not abundant. But there is one option worth exploring. That is the possibility of a private hospital (i.e. feepaying, not NHS) in the Other City, where E. works and where we keep a flat for him to stay at during the week. While not hugely convenient for me, this is a much simpler solution as far as he is concerned. And let's face it, anything to make E. happier about the prospect of missing work at short notice in order to go wank into a sample jar is worth considering.

The reason we had not gone there in the first place is because E.'s GP had previously gave it the two thumbs down. Apparently this doctor had had some personal experiences of his own there which were not entirely positive, in all senses of the word.

However, a preliminary telephone call to this other clinic revealed a much more optimistic timetable. We can have a consultation within a week from making an appointment. A week! Seven little calendar days, as opposed to sixty! Then, for reasons I cannot quite fathom, we have to see a nurse, the purpose of that appointment being somewhat unclear. For further reasons which are also shrouded in mystery, this will entail the longest delay, since it will take about three weeks to see him/her. Go figure. I cannot.

But before anything else can be done, we are both required to undergo several more tests, in particular a screen for HIV and Hepatitis B&C. This is a new regulation as of December 2004, and it irritates me immensely that nobody mentioned it to us before now. We would have had to have had it no matter where we went. I do wish, in the midst of all the rambling and stuttering about random nothingness, Dr Ticktock had actually remembered to advise that we would need to have this done. I could have had the tests done in January when I was at the GP having my arm stabbed for the thyroid check.

Well. Never mind. I have an appointment in two weeks' time for the further blood tests, whereas E. can get an appointment in three days. Lastly, for further entertainment value, I also have to have another Pap test. It's known here only as a "smear test", an unpleasantly graphic term which always sort of makes me shudder. And, while they are rootling around up my fanoir, I will also have a required chlamdyia screening for good measure.

Then, then, then, FINALLY- assuming these tests do not reveal anything disastrous- we will then immediately be cleared for takeoff for our first IUI at the private hospital, at the start of the next cycle.

It does perturb me a little that after a YEAR of preliminary testing, they have somehow managed to pull another bag of needles out of the magician's hat at the eleventh hour, another set of hoops to jump through. But it must be done, and so jump we will. Jump on cue, unwavering, right through the center. Hoping that one day, we will make it out of the never-ending ring, and at last, onto the next stage.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Teething trouble

In the last couple months, I have become more and more resigned to the idea that this conception thing is just not going to happen on its own. So while I made a half hearted attempt in the month following the HSG to chart my temps and so forth, since then I have been more or less treating the whole thing with an indifferent shug of the shoulders.

Not for me the monitoring of every twinge, or the scrutinising of every craving. Instead of scanning the night sky for the shooting stars of pregnancy symptoms, I have been shuffling along with my eyes on the cracks in the pavement. I figure if the comet is big enough, a piece of it will plummet through the atmosphere and hit me on the head anyway.

However. There have been two stange occurrences perhaps worth mentioning. The first happened the other day as I was sitting at my desk, looking at the healthy apple in front of me, wishing it would magically turn into a bar of chocolate. All of a sudden there was this...seismic rumbling in my nether regions. It only happened once, briefly, and felt very peculiar. I'm about halfway into the two week wait,and have never experienced anything quite like it before. Or at least not since I started paying attention. But it's probably nothing.

The other thing is more of an ongoing phenemenon, and is also rather odd. My teeth have become extremely sensitive to hot and cold. I bit into my sandwich yesterday, and suddenly my whole mouth was filled with raw nerve endings screaming for mercy.

Again, more than it being a sign of pregnancy, I attribute this to the fact that I am well overdue for a visit to the dentist. I blame this unfortunate lapse in dental care on my father.

You see, for the past couple years, I have been going to the family dentist in Florida at least once annually whenever I came home for a visit. I like this dentist- she's a bouncy, jolly woman about my age with the most brilliantly white pearly gnashers you could ever hope to see. It seemed as if she liked me too, apart from the initial blip in our relationship when I opened my mouth during the first exam.

"Agggghh!" she screamed so loudly that staff came running into the room to see if she was being assaulted.

"Problem?" I drooled into my bib.

"What is THAT?" she cried, "That enormous silver filling on your left back tooth. It's the size of SIBERIA."

"Ah, yes" I dribbled. "Welcome to the world of Scottish dentistry. They did that to me last year. Pretty unsightly, huh?"

"We'll fix that," she muttered grimly, marking my chart.

From then on, every time I went back, I was subjected to a relentless barrage of treatments to restore my teeth to pristine white fillings. I put up with this, even though it was becoming a bit wearisome and unnecessarily expensive, because although a bit on the Heavy Metal side, the Scottish fillings are basically OK. And I come to Florida to see the parents and hang out on the boat dock, not lie in the dental chair.

Anyway, during my last visit n November, I broached the subject of making an appointment to see the dentist. My mother winced.

"We can't go back there," she moaned.

"Whyever not?" I asked with some surprise.

Turns out that during the hurricanes, my parents ended up in close evacuation quarters with another local couple. To while away the time between gusts, the talk inevitably turned gossip about various mutual acquaintances, including the dentist, who happened to live in the same condo development as this couple. And this couple knew lots and lots of very interesting things about my dentist, which they happily imparted to my parents.

So. The next time my dad went to the dentist's office, what does he do? What, indeed. He blurts out all this salacious hurricane-gossip, to the complete and utter mortification of the dentist. Apparently my dad's foot was so far inside his mouth by the end of his indiscrete comments that it had to be surgically removed so the dentist could resume work on his teeth.

To this day, I will never know what possessed him. My dad is possibly one of the most shy, taciturn people I have ever met. Having a conversation with him can be like...well...pulling teeth. It was wholly uncharacteristic of him to be so...chatty.

The only explanation I can think of is down to my father having worked with this dentist for some months now, undergoing months of long term dental restoration, some of which had become rather harrowing. Like the time he accidentally swallowed the expensive custom made filling the dentist was trying to fit. I guess after you've been sent home by your dentist with a pair of rubber gloves and an order to "recover the goods", you reach the point where it seems like a little friendly banter between pals can do no harm.

Anyway, my parents are too embarrassed to go back to that dentist, and frankly after all that, I'd prefer to steer clear myself. Maybe it's time to think again about finding a Scottish dentist, even if they are a little heavy handed with the mercury.

In the meantime, I shall try not to take the strange feeling in my mouth as portending anything signficant. I will simply grin and bear it.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Previously on...

Lest anyone remain in any doubt following my ramblings and gibberings in the last two posts, a decision has been made as to what to do next. That decision was actually made a little while ago. We're going to try treatment.

That was always the original plan, so we're not really veering off our chosen course. I was simply trying to explain why I felt there was rather a lot riding on getting it right, whichever way we went.

If you're wondering why on earth I didn't just spit it out earlier- well, if nothing else, blogging allows you to be the editor in the telling of your own story. And I confess to taking a small amount of satisfaction in drawing out the tale in true serial soap opera fashion. Just wait until we get to the next chapter- there might be a cliffhanger every month! Oh, what fun for you and for me.

Also, it took me over a month of teeth gnashing and nail biting, plus gut wrenching talks with E. to reach this conclusion. It only seems fair that you should be kept wondering for two posts or so. I might have written it all a bit quicker, but somehow having to go to work every day can knock the stuffing out a decent writing schedule, you know?

I was thinking this morning that sometimes it must be tricky if you are new to someone's blog. How do you to pick up the thread? I mean, in some cases, there can be months of complicated backstory to wade through. Imagine if you missed a key detail, like the shot of the sled in Citizen Kane.

We're all so used to handy recaps at the start of a new episode in a TV series, with Voice-Over Man intoning, "Previously on...." We get brief clips to help us fill in the blanks, just in case the TiVo failed, or we were in the bathroom or making a cup of tea duing the crucial moments in the last show.

Maybe I'll start doing that at the beginning of every month. It might be really boring at first, though.

"Previously on Barren Mare... the intrepid couple tried to get pregnant. Yet again, they could not. There were tears. There was some comfort food. There were attempts to grapple the heart's emotions into a headlock. There were hackneyed metaphors employed at every turn. TUNE IN NEXT TIME FOR...oh, more of the same."

Zzzz. No wonder the Neilsen ratings are in the dumper. Maybe we could go one step further, and hire Movie Trailer Guy. Do you know who I mean? Every time you go to the movies, it's always the same voice booming out during the trailers before the main feature begins. And it always starts with some cheesy synopsis of the film, accompanied by stirring music. For example:

"In a world... where every day is fight to the death....where giant racoons roam the earth...where hard men are driven to harder choices.... a new kind of hero will rise to LEAD THEM ALL OUT OF THE DARKNESS..."

E. and I are obsessed with Movie Trailer Guy. Sometimes, when we're driving, or engaged in some really banal task, one of us will suddenly turn to the other and intone deeply,

"IN A WORLD...where every bend in the road uncovers another pothole...where making a left turn at the junction is a fight to the death...a lone driver will beat the odds, survive the traffic and arrive at the destination... ON TIME."

Try it sometime, it's very amusing and entertaining.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

You have questions, I (sort of) have answers

Gather round, adorable muffins, gather round- it's time for Question & Answer Time with Mare. No pushing now, you are all guaranteed a good seat.

At this juncture, it may be worth explaining how we have come to our current conclusions on adoption in this country. The easiest way seems to be to try to answer some of the very interesting and relevant questions raised in the last post, or those questions you may be thinking to yourself in your pointy little heads at home, wondering to yourself, "But why don't they try X solution"?

As a general health warning, please remember at all times I am talking about us, in our particular set of circumstances and in terms our particular "goals" for family building. Me and E. If you are a prospective adopter in this country, in any doubt whatsoever about the policy in your area, or how it might work for you, then I beg you not to take this as a definitive guide as to how the system works. Talk to the agency or the local authority before you run screaming out of the room.

Ready? OK. Let's go.

If the agency you want to work with has a certain policy about age, could you find one with more flexibility?

The first thing you have to understand is that in Scotland, there are no "private" adoption agencies in quite the same way that you would have in America. Every local authority (i.e. Argyll & Bute Council) is an adoption agency, and depending on where you live, there are also some volunteer charity organisations, such as Barnado's or Scottish Adoption Association.

That's it. That's all there is. So in our area, there is limited choice. It gets even more limited when you realise that some of the charity organisations have some initial criteria for acceptance, i.e. that you are Christian, married for two years or more. Strike one, strike two. Some local authorities/agencies require you to wait an additional six months to a year after completing treatment (to give yourself time to "mourn". Ha. As if you can put a timescale on that.)

Yes, you can do international adoption with a local authority in some areas, if they have the necessary approval, but some appeared to be more, um, geared up than others.

So if it's the local authority that has this dumbass policy, could you maybe just move to a different area, one with an agency with a more reasonable mindset?

The thing to bear in mind is that the age limit thing is a policy, no more. In reality, it might be that we would have no problem at all. For example, we are both in very good health. And it might be that in our circumstances, being slightly older would not be an issue. I am simply going on the information I received from the agency and did the math on timescales. For us, and our desired route and choices, it just doesn't look like a sure thing. The point is, once we get past a certain point, we personally may be setting ourselves up for another difficult hurdle in a process with enough fucking hurdles already, thank you very much. I just wanted to be absolutely clear about that before we started tripping blithely down the ART path, thinking we can come back to adoption later.

The yardstick of age 43 upwards seems to apply quite broadly in most areas of Scotland. So there is no guarantee that if we moved elsewhere we would be any better off.

Plus, you know, apart from the adoption problem, we kind of like it where we are. We both have good jobs in a country where good jobs are relatively scarce. For me to work in England (or America for that matter) would require a further round of professional requalifications. Right now, I'd frankly rather stick my head in a blender.

Could you perhaps undergo secret treatment while on the waiting list for adoption?

I love this idea- it's Operation Stealth Ass Con! Shh, I'm shooting up on the sly. Doctor, bring me a Martini, shaken not stirred.

No, that would be very difficult. You both have to provide all sorts of medical information, including reports from a GP. I think it would get quite complicated, and if we were found out, it would be bad. Very bad. I don't want to start off the process by bending the truth. Plus, we'd sure to be busted when we undergo the lie detector test. (Kidding. There is no lie detector test. Just checking to see you are still awake.)

Acupuncture- good idea, one which I will probably investigate at some point. However, personally, if I am going to adopt, I would prefer to focus primarily on that, and not on treatment or getting pregnant. There is, frankly, only so much time in the day, and the logistics of overseas adoption appear quite complicated for us. So I would want adoption to be the first place for my energy. That seems to be very in line with the thinking of most agencies, and the reason they require couples to have finished with treatment before they start adoption.

I seem to recall something about you being a US citizen. Why don't you adopt in America and bring the child back to that place where you live, what's it called, oh yes, Scotland

Ya gotta love that lateral thinking. Points for effort, kids. The problem with that plan is that as far as I can work out, to bring an adopted child into this country, you must be approved for adoption here. In other words, even if we were to adopt in the US, we'd still have to undergo the homestudy etc, here and be approved. Plus, it then all seems to get hopelessly messy because E. is not a US citizen. Try confuzzlement on a grand scale. Again, don't get me wrong, I am sure there are ways around this, if we really wanted to make it work badly enough. But given that right now the overwhelming urge to put my head down on the desk and weep, I'm not quite at that point yet.

Isn't there somewhere on the internet you can get decent, accurate information on all this?

Well, yes and no. There are links, some of which are informative in a general way, like here. Many sites I have tried simply take you so far and then dry up to a dribble. I've tried joining a few Yahoo!groups and the like, but most of these require you to be "committed to adoption" and "in the process" before they are willing to accept you into their message boards. Never mind how the fuck am I supposed to work out if I am committed when I cannot even get the information I need.

My adoption research is like panning for gold- the odd glimmer of value, a whole lot of crap. And this is me we're talking about, Little Miss Googlemeister. I am truly not trying to be defeatist, but trust me, this is not easy. I have spent hours, hours, and more hours already trying to get information and discuss this with E. But I only have so much energy in one day, and not an unlimited amount of time to make a decision.

Huh. That sucks. Maybe you could cheer yourself up by eating some haggis. What is haggis, anyway?

Generally, sheep's stomach stuffed with offal and barley. Wait, it's a lot nicer than it sounds. I had some chargrilled haggis in a restaurant the other night. It tasted like there was steak mixed in, and oh my. Yummy scrummy.

Listen, I adore you all for your wonderful support and concern. And I am going to be fine. Really, I believe that I will be fine. Maybe not right away, but someday. One way or another we will find a way, or make one. I just needed to be clear that in our case, we may not be able to go from Plan A to Plan B, and to be aware the risks of our choices. Because Plan B might not work out either.

But I do hope you'll stick around for the rest of the story. We can find out how it ends together.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Baby or the Tiger

This is a difficult post for me to write. We're at something of a crossroads here. And while we've now finally made a decision about which way to go, I confess it has taken its toll on me. I'm feeling a little emotionally exhausted, to be honest.

While I've been building up to this for awhile, I am a bit tentative about discussing our options. I've been doing a lot of information and data gathering, but am still not sure I have all the right pieces. So to add a gigantic caveat at the beginning- this is what I know, at this point in time. Some of it could be wrong, and if anyone knows something I don't, then by all means speak up.

After our unexplained diagnosis in December, we had decided to wait a few more months and then start treatment. But as I have mentioned before, I am the sort of person who likes not only an intermediate plan, but a detailed long-term road map. As we were having a breather before moving on, I wanted to know and to understand our family building options if, a year or two from now, treatment fails. I wanted to have a clear picture of where that leaves us.

The answer, as far as I can see from the research I had done about the adoption procedures in Scotland is: up shit creek without a baby.

The prospect of adoption throws up all sorts of hurdles for E. and I, in our particular situation. Most of the challenges are not insurmountable. If we did adopt, we would wish to go the overseas route. Scotland is really not geared up for overseas adoptions past the point of the homestudy, but I am a resourceful cookie, and there are ways to deal with this. Also, in order to adopt as a couple, we would have to get married- something E. views with great distaste, but which he would ultimately agree to for the sake of our family.

But there is a problem, one we cannot easily overcome. And the problem is this: by law, there are no age restrictions for prospective adopters. But in our area, in practice, the policy is that the oldest person in the adopting couple should be no more than 42 or 43 at the point at which the application is sent for approval by the adoption panel. E. will be 40 this year.

In theory, that would leave us a year or so to play around with some assisted conception larks. However, remember that nothing in this country moves quickly. It has been nearly six weeks since our last visit to Dr Ticktock, and I have yet to receive the letter confirming our appointment with the Ass Con crew. And that appointment will probably not be until April. Of course, the answer to all this NHS arsing around is to go straight to private treatment- which we are probably going to do immediately. However, before we do that, we would be required to pick up a yet another couple of tests to add to our butterfly collection, all of which is going to take another month or so.

I'm not saying the slowness and delays are insurmountable, but I am trying to give you a flavour of what we are dealing with here- and in the overall big picture, I know we have to factor in movement at the rate of pond water.

To cut a long story short, a year is not an unrealistic amount of time to undergo a proper course of treatment here, running the gamut from IUI to a cycle of IVF. And if it all fails, well, E. will still probably be about 41 or so.

But now for the hiccup. To work with the only agency I can find that appears to have any clue about overseas adoptions, we would have to go on a "preparation class". That class is only run once a year. There is currently at least a year waiting list for this. Prospective adopters are not permitted to undergo infertility treatment at the same time as adoption, so we could not put our names down and see how it goes. It then takes a further six to nine months to get a homestudy completed, although I know fine well it could be longer.

In short, it is very likely we would up against the clock in a major way in terms of E.'s age. Dealing with the medical system is frustrating enough, and neither of us particularly want to spend the whole treatment phase fretting over the passage of time. The answer might be that we would have to agree to adopt a slightly older child, but after some heart-wrenching discussions, we admit that right now, that does not work for us.

Some commenters on an earlier post kindly suggested that treatment might be viewed as "nothing ventured, nothing gained". I would normally wholeheartedly agree with that notion. But in reality, if we go down the treatment route, we are committing ourselves to a reality in which adoption might not be an option after all. Or, if we adopt, we must face up to the distinct possibility that should we then decide to pursue treatment at a later date, it is likely to be too late. And we forever forego the possibility of pregnancy and a biological child.

Treatment or adoption. We can probably do one or the other. It doesn't appear we can do both. Or, at least not if we stay in Scotland, but frankly, the idea of an international move back to America in the middle of all this is beyond what we are willing to contemplate right now.

I am put in mind of the story of "the Lady or the Tiger", where the condemned prisoner is forced to undergo a terrible test. Led to arena, and made to choose between two doors. Behind one door, a beautiful lady, whom he will marry on the spot. Behind the other door, a ferocious hungry tiger, waiting to pounce. The prisoner's secret lover knows what lies behind the doors- she can give him a clue. But which door will she choose? If he opens the door with the lady, he will live, but will be lost to her forever, in the arms of another woman. She would almost rather see him dead. But if he opens the door with the tiger, can she bear to watch her beloved ripped to shred before her eyes?

We are standing in our own arena. Behind one door is a baby. Behind the other is a tiger, of grief, loss and regret-even with the aid of my handy bullwhip, not easily tamed. There is no one to give us a clue as to what to do. We must decide for ourselves. And so, tightly holding hands, we are now moving to our chosen door. Knowing that one way or another, there will be a ending. Knowing that we have chosen with our eyes wide open, chosen as best we can.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Vox Populi

The S.I.P.P.Y. ("Scottish Infertility Political Posturing and Yammering") alarm went off a few days ago. I sent a squad car out to investigate.

Turns out there was a debate in the Scottish Parliament last week on infertility services. But wait! Before you start issuing tiny squeals of delight, let me assure you that it's not all that.

While I do applaud the efforts of the Minister for raising the issue, unfortunately a fair bit of the debate was also comprised of politicians engaged in self congratulatory drivel. Yes, well done, Mrs. Hairy McClary, thank you for sharing you once had a problem with endometriosis. Hooray for you, Ms Hortensia McCleod of the Clan McLeod on behalf of your constituency on the shores of Loch Shiel, for revealing that you nearly had to go through IVF once, but instead were saved by (and I quote) "a "miracle pregnancy!

Honestly, a bunch of us infertiles could have achieved more in a half hour coffee klatch in Soper's kitchen than Scotland's elected officials did in a hour of parliamentary discussion. All this blah, blah, blah, and no indication of the problem might be solved.

Note this: only one male MSP hung around for the debate. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that it was scheduled for after 5pm, not exactly political primetime. Or it could be that they all had something more pressing to do, like topping up their spray-on tan , or lighting the curtains on fire. But that did not deter our sole stalwart male politician from attending, oh no- after all, this was clearly an unmissable opportunity to spout crap.

Let's dissect a few gems, shall we?

1. "Members have raised issues about age. I agree that the age at which people qualify for treatment should be raised, especially as nowadays people who have careers often marry or settle down much later in life. However, I have a slight reservation. I do not condemn my parents in any way, but my mother was 37 and my father was 42 when I arrived. That was fine: I had caring, loving parents. However, when it came to asking, "Are you going to come and play football, dad?" that was a wee bit beyond his level. We must bear the needs of the child in mind."

Woof. Did someone fart, or does it suddenly reek of HFEA in here? To this I say, please, spare us your childhood trauma. I'm really sorry you didn't get whatever you needed from your daddy when you were growing up, but take it up with your therapist, not the debating chamber.

2. The sexual health of the nation is poor. We do not know how many infections there are. I would back the idea of a chlamydia testing scheme. For many people, the problem is a matter of lifestyle. They get into drink and drugs; they end up having sex and getting infections. That damages their lives.

Where do I even begin to discuss how very, very wrong this is? Thank, Mr MSP, for equating infertility not only with lifestyle choices, but to infer that it's all the drink! the drugs! and the STDs! causing the problem. How dare you suggest this is our fault, the result of our irresponsible living? And what the fuck would you know about the lifestyles of people needing treatment anyway, you ignorant moron? Do you have any evidence to back up your assertions, or do you just like the sound of your own verbal dribbling? And anyway, last I checked, this town is full of pissed-up junkies pushing prams en route to the methadone clinic.

If you are already thinking this asshole really should have shut up by now, just wait. He saved the best for last.

3. "Many contraceptive preparations damage women's fertility. They can limit a woman's physical capability to have children. Moreover, the sheer angst caused by fertility problems can cause mental health difficulties and those, again, can postpone children. There should be some form of counselling for people who have such difficulties."

In other words, all you women are to blame for using that nasty birth control stuff in the first place. Because birth control doesn't just prevent unwanted pregnancy, it ruins your fertility forever! Now look at what you've done, you stupid bitches. Made yourself infertile AND crazy. Get a shrink, or some electroshock therapy, you unhinged hysterical freaks. Oh, and just relax.

If you're wondering, what is that faint high pitched noise you are hearing right about now? It is the echo of my primal scream of frustration.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

In and out of the closet

It occurred to me this morning- as I stood in front of my closet in the usual frantic lather trying to decide what to wear to work- that infertility has wrought many changes in my life. Some are big and glaringly obvious. For example, sex on schedule, doctor's appointments, blogging, and weeping in the bathroom on a regular basis. Others are small and much more subtle. So subtle as to be barely noticeable until the odd revelatory moment, like today.

I am extremely fond of nice, simple, elegant, well-made clothes. I'm not a label slave, though I appreciate the work of some designers. I'm not into following trends as such. Though I will confess to liking that tweed thing that was going on a few months ago. This is a good country for tweed. But generally I try to adhere to clean lines and classic cuts in neutral colours, with the odd sploosh of red or pehaps forest green for good measure, on days when I feel like being a bit sassy. I know what I like and I know what looks good on me.

This is not to say I can afford to buy these things on a regular basis. I cannot. But I will wander the high end shops, stroke the pretty items, before recoiling in horror at the price and running screaming to Gap or H&M where I will pay a fraction of the price, albeit for something that usually falls apart in six months time if not sooner.

But sometimes, especially during the sales, I simply cannot resist. Out comes the credit card and into my bag go delicious, covetable items. A Joseph shift dress. A MaxMara coat. A pair of sleek Prada boots. Quivering, I rush home and unpack my treasures, doing a little dancce of guilty happiness around the bedroom before hiding the receipts from E. Although I don't know why I bother with that last part- it's my goddamn money, I earned it.

Now for the weirdness. The beautiful things hang in my closet unworn. Oh, every now and then I will go to a party or a special work do, and my finery will get a once annual airing. But for the most part, I hold back. My rationale is that once I wear the nice things, the specialness will be gone, or worse, the outfit will get ruined. And then what will I do? How would I ever replace my Marc Jacobs high heeled camel boots that I sought out so feverishly, that took me six months to find on eBay and shipped from the States? Where will I ever find another pair of black trousers so perfectly cut, so flattering? Can't risk it, oh no.

But a funny thing happened about a year and a half ago, when we started trying. You see, I convinced myself that I would, of course, get pregnant any second now. And then I would be too baby-bellied to fit into the beautiful things. Worse, I worried like a loon that I might somehow not be able to ever fit into those things again, as if pregnancy was actually a permanent figure-altering fixture.

So one day I simply started wearing the nice stuff. It was hard some days to break the habit of a lifetime. It was strange to go into work wearing something nice and expensive without any particular justification. And of course I still worried that any minute now I would upend a cup of coffee all over my cream cashmere sweater- but I forced myself to do it, because after all- about to get pregnant! Any minute! Maternity clothing impending! Trousers with expandable waistband soon to be required! Of course, there would always be nice hand bags on the horizon, but still- Nursing bras! Large, unflattering knickers!

Well, we all know how that has been working out. And here I am a year later, feeling as though not only have I endured a suckass time in not getting pregnant, but shit! I've worn out all my good clothes while I was at it. What a dumbass. Worse, now that I am reverting to my old fashion routine, people have asked what happened to that really nice skirt I wore a few months back? Do I still have those lovely kitten heels?

Yes, I want to say, yes I do. I still have all these things. I'll probably wear these clothes once more someday, even though some of the specialness has worn off, along with any of the hope or joy or naivete I ever had about getting pregnant in the first place. Even though all those things are now at the back of the closet. Even though the fit may never feel as right, ever again.