Friday, 29 February 2008

Mother's Day - pah, bah and grr

The subject of today's rant was going to be Mother's Day. As you might expect, I am sick to the crusty ovary of adverts for it, of pink posies everywhere I turn, of entreaties wherever I look for mums to put their feet up and relax in a warm bath of self-congratulation.

So that's what I was going to moan about. But then I thought no, it's not exactly fair of me to complain about a day that recognises the achievement of having a child. After all, it IS an achievement - I can't manage it, can I? - and I can't call for the cancellation of a world event just because it pisses me off. And, crucially, I also appreciate my own mum, and I imagine Mother's Day is a lot harder for people who've lost their mothers (or their children) than it is for people like me who've never been mums.

I was also going to bemoan the fact there isn't a Barren Women's Day, where those of us going through fertility treatment are given flowers and chocolates in recognition of our efforts.

Fortunately, before going off on this tangent, I did some research and discovered that there IS a National Infertility Day in the UK, on 19 July - though I don't think Hallmark have cottoned on yet. (Hmm, business opportunity? "Roses are red, violets are blue, your ovary's fucked but I still love you.")

In other news, still no letter from the hospital, so definitely no HSG this month as my period has now tapered off and this would be the ideal few days in which to do it.

I spoke at length this morning to a family member who is also going through fertility investigations. She's a little older than me, so the clinic's moving faster, and she's learned this week that she has to have a laparoscopy, during which they will also perform the HSG. The benefit of this is at least she's out for the count during the procedure, but the drawback is of course that it's abdominal surgery, which has its own risks and painful recovery process.

By a weird coincidence, we've been seeing the same consultant at the clinic. She also endured the scan with the condom-clad Espace, except they "couldn't find" one of her ovaries. (How? HOW? Surely there are only so many places it could be? It's not going to be in her ear, is it?!) It looks likely she has fibroids and potentially another issue underlying that, hence the surgery to investigate further.

We had a good old natter and wry chuckle about how pants the situation is, and how "hilarious" it is that our respective life plans are all ballsed to hell. We also had the "I hope we get pregnant at the same time" conversation - because we both recognise that any joy we felt at the other's happy news would be diluted by anguish for ourselves. I'm not ashamed to say that a little part of me dies whenever I hear that someone is pregnant. I don't think that makes me a bad person. I just think it makes me a woman who is going through a very difficult time.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

A rant on bags and wombache

I'm having a glass of very cold white wine.

While I was travelling down the escalator to catch my train home, some scum-sucking, bottom-feeding shitbiscuit of a human being ripped the little leather dog off the new Radley handbag that I got for my birthday and ran off, cackling maniacally.

I know that in the grand scheme of city crime, this is not a big deal. I also know that I am lucky: I was wearing an iPod, a new watch, and carrying my work laptop (in a Radley briefcase which also has no fucking leather dog anymore, as I ripped that one off in a fit of pique when it kept jamming in the zip).

In fact, that my assailant chose to purloin a small leather dog rather than any of the more valuable possessions listed above indicates what a profoundly stupid turd she (yes, she - no doubt she has 17 babies at home as well) is.

But the pointless stupidity of the crime makes it all the more enraging. I mean, what, pray tell, does she plan to do with it? Sew it onto her crappy Asda bag and pretend it's designer? Start a leather gimp-dog kennel for Barbies?

The bag was new, and from my mum, and lovely. It's now sitting looking rather forlornly at me, with the empty "lead" on which the dog once hung dangling ineffectually, rather like a flaccid penis.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so upset if I weren't already pissed off about the fact that I am bleeding like a stuck pig, and suffering one of those periods that makes you wish you were a boy, and hate boys for not having things like wombs that cramp and ache and twist all the livelong day.

It's the sort of period where you waddle leakily to the toilet every two hours only to discover that you're too late and scenes from the Saw trilogy have been reenacted in your pants. The sort that delivers unexpected stabbing wind-type pains up through your bits, which cause you (even in meetings) to leap out of your chair with an aggrieved expression, in the manner of someone who has suffered a similar fate to Edward II.

So that's why I'm having a glass of very cold white wine.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Living in limbo-land

The dreaded bug is much improved by a day of rest, thankfully. Having eaten little since Saturday night, my appetite has been restored by some magic ginger biscuits and I've just indulged in tuna with salsa verde and spinach, which hubby (bless him) made when he got back from work to cheer me up.

However, my [insert suitably enraged expletive] period has retreated into the hills once again, after nearly breaking my heart when it arrived unexpectedly this morning. It's been an odd one all round as I've had no major cramps - usually on cycle day one I'd be doubled up. I suspect it's executing the trick where it comes, disappears and then returns with a "this time it's personal" vengeance three days later, bringing with it extra-strong cramps just so I realise what a lucky, lucky lady I am.

Earlier, while it was still in full flow, I thought I'd take the opportunity of being off work to ring the fertility clinic. I'd been instructed to do so on the first day of my next cycle so we can get the infernal HSG booked once and for all.

After being put on hold for a small eternity listening to the fucking score from The Piano (I mean honestly, do they REALLY think that's going to calm women in my position? The way I am feeling right now could NOT be addressed by soothing Michael bloody Nyman music!), I was told that my referral letter had only gone off to the local hospital's X-ray department on 14 February, as they had to wait for the results of my epic collection of swabs and bloods to come back first.

I learned it can now take up to six weeks for the X-ray department to pull their fingers out (no doubt of some other poor bitch's bits) and get in touch. Evidently I have to wait for them - I did ask if I could ring and see if they could fit me in since my cycles are so unreliable, but "it doesn't work like that". I asked the nurse point blank if it was likely to be this cycle and she said no. She said I'd probably get the letter with the instructions in "a few weeks" and should then make contact on the first day of my NEXT period.

Quite apart from the fact that we have our follow-up appointment at the clinic scheduled for 8 April, and will have to cancel it if by that date I have not yet had the HSG, which is now extremely likely given the nuances of my cycle, have I mentioned that I am FUCKING PETRIFIED of having this test? Having it dangling in front of me like some sort of perverse speculum-carrot, and getting psyched up for it only to be told it'll be at least another month, is like a form of torture in itself.

I just feel I can't go through this again. We tried so hard this month, and hoped so much. I wept and wept this morning when my period came - but then, as usual, I picked myself up and got on the phone to sort next steps, only to be told I have to do it all again.

It's like climbing a mountain and giving it your all, only to reach what you thought was the summit and see an infinite line of ever-larger peaks that you have to surmount. At which point you'd be sorely tempted to swig the last of your hipflask of gin and chuck yourself off the precipice.

Talk about a double whammy

I was floored yesterday pm by an out-of-nowhere tummy bug which had me hugging the porcelain for most of the afternoon and evening. Not to provide too much information (that would be unlike me, wouldn't it?!) but it was the kind of bug where halfway through expelling satanic matter from one end, you get a nudge from the other end to announce its urgent need to be pointed at the toilet too.

Anyway, the Exorcist-like expulsion stopped late last night, but I was so muscle-sore and basically pissed off with the world afterwards that I barely slept. I was so knackered and poorly, in fact, that I didn't pay much attention to the grumbles in my womb or the fact I couldn't lie flat on my tummy in comfort because of spikily sore boobs.

Having finally fallen asleep at 6.20am, I knew when the alarm sounded at 7 that this wasn't going to be my day. A tentative trip to the bathroom confirmed it - there was no way I could go to work and actually be any use to anyone there. I made the decision, made the call and crept back to bed for some much-needed sleep.

I've just got up again as there's another call I need to make now it's gone 8am, and I've been to the toilet again. Guess what? I got my period.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Testing, testing

I peed on a stick again this morning, in a display of flagrant disregard for economic prudence.

Wasting two tests in one week when I categorically know I'm not pregnant is really silly, but I helped my friend move house earlier today and knew I'd be lifting a lot of heavy boxes, so I had to be sure. It would have been more foolish not to check. Or at least that's what I've told myself to justify my profligacy.

I knew the test would be negative, and of course it was. In fact, I didn't take it as diligently as I usually do. My pre-test preparations usually involve re-reading the instructions (which I could probably quote verbatim right now, having studied them so many times, but there's that pesky obsessive-compulsive streak again. I'm like the smug kid in the exam who knows the set text off by heart but still takes the time to read through it carefully, while everyone else is flipping through pages and scratching answers into the paper with increasing hysteria).

I take extra care to pee only onto the furry bit at the end, for exactly the recommended number of seconds, and ensure I keep the test pointing downwards until I've replaced the cap. My OCD streak then flashes once more, as I have a habit of placing the test reverently on the bathroom floor and covering it with a towel or a piece of loo roll until sufficient time has elapsed that I may look at the result. I find this method allows me to hope for longer. It's just too depressing to watch the non-development of the blue cross in the window, because I understand from women who've had positive tests that the relevant line appears IMMEDIATELY, in bold technicolour.

Anyway, this morning's session had none of this assiduous attention to detail. I splashed wee onto the stick - all of it, not just the fuzzy bit; it was like Niagara Falls in a hurricane - with an attitude of brazen indifference. I hurled the test onto the floor in a cavalier fashion, and gave it a hard stare that would have made Paddington proud as the blank window stayed blank. I then snorted, chucked it in the bin, ripped the cardboard packet in half for good measure, and jumped into the shower. For all that, though, I still cried.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

A horrible story, and my rage

I fear this post may make you all think badly of me. But there was a story in the news today that just made my heart ache and my head spin. A newborn baby, found dead in the woods, having been dumped there shortly after birth.

I know there's a chance the mother could have been so ill, or disoriented, that she didn't know what she was doing. I know that the baby could have been born dead, and she panicked. I know that I have absolutely no concept of her personality, her background, or the circumstances that led her to abandon her child. I know that I have no right to judge her.

But I said I'd always be honest here. And what I honestly feel - in addition to the heartbreak over the poor baby, who I can't even think about without breaking into tears - is rage. Because how can it be fair that a person who is capable of dumping a baby in winter gets to HAVE one, and a person who wishes for a child with every atom of her soul, every minute of every hour of every day, doesn't?

Of course, that's just the point. It isn't fair. It isn't fair at all, but then neither are lots of things. The logical part of me understands that. But the other part of me - the yearning, desperate part that cries at song lyrics and adverts - wants to stand on something tall and scream.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A big, fat birthday negative

Reader, I peed. I answered my "to pee, or not to pee" question in the affirmative. I got up for work this morning, went into the bathroom and, with the calculated cunning of a serial killer, turned on the shower so hubby wouldn't hear the cellophane rustling. (Pound signs spin behind his eyes in the manner of a fruit machine whenever I "waste" a test.)

It was negative. Of course it was. I didn't actually get upset - I knew it would be, and when it was, there was just a feeling of "ok - that's done". Didn't cry at all.

Instead, I gathered myself together, went to work and had a good day - really nice lunch, plenty of chocolate - and I was doing fine until Counting Crows' 'The Long December' came on my iPod on the way home. At the line "maybe this year will be better than the last" I surprised and embarrassed myself by finding that my eyes were suddenly swimming.

Perhaps I'm pre-menstrual. I mean to ease the pain by imbibing much red wine, and perhaps a cheeky gin and tonic, later tonight. Guilt-free alcohol consumption is a small consolation for the blank pregnancy test currently lying in the bathroom bin, but whatever gets you through the night...

Monday, 18 February 2008

I've got a problem with my Wii

No, what follows is not one of my typically scatological rants. Hubby bought me a Nintendo Wii for my birthday - a present that was not, I suspect, entirely selfless, but I have to say I love it.

I had requested one in the hope that it'd help me banish the bingo wings I've developed since we got married; if muscle pain is an accurate gauge, the plan's working. I played with it late into Saturday night - now I can barely type, and audibly grimaced whilst reaching up for a hand-hold on the train home tonight. Which alarmed the man next to me.

(That we spent Saturday evening avidly playing with a Wii is evidence of how interesting our sex life is at this point in the month, when it no longer matters. The activities we'll consider on the tacit understanding that we won't have to have sex are increasingly preposterous. I fear it can only be a matter of time before the evenings find me embroidering and him gluing together a miniature replica of the HMS Ark Royal.)

It's also extremely good for venting frustrations, both of the fertility and general variety. The boxing game in particular excels in this respect. Selecting that option in the Sport menu for the first time, I amazed (and frightened) hubby by flooring my large, male opponent within seconds. Twice in a row.

"Whoa, take it easy," hubby said in a vaguely uneasy voice. "Who are you visualising?!"

I expect he thought I'd name my psychotic ex-boss. I expect he thought I'd name a living entity. He was clearly not expecting me to name my own sexual organs.

"Oh, my ovaries," I said. "Them and my uterus. Basically the whole sorry collection."

Anyway, to the point of this entry: I bought the test. I just sort of found myself in Boots after work, with it in my hand. (I actually had to hide amongst the multivitamins for a bit, as a colleague was paying at the till, and I didn't want to start a rumour - particularly not one that's likely to be unfounded.)

I've not yet decided whether I'll actually do it in the morning or wait and see if my period's late. To pee, or not to pee - that is the question.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Wishing and hoping

As the days count down towards both my 29th birthday and day 28 of this cycle, both of which occur on Tuesday, I find myself in the familiar territory of hoping against all odds that we have conceived this month.

Even though I haven't had a 28-day cycle since I came off the Pill (the best I've managed is 33), it's entrenched in my psyche that day 28 is the day on which it is reasonable to start thinking about pregnancy tests.

I used to be able to set my watch by my period. It would come at 10am on cycle day 28, come rain, shine or, indeed, prospect of sex. That I once had such a reliably regular cycle is the one thing that makes me doubt the fertility clinic's current draft diagnosis of PCOS. I just don't understand how I could have developed the condition and not known anything about it throughout my teens and early twenties - even during the prolonged, erm, periods (sorry) when I wasn't on the Pill.

So even though Tuesday is unlikely to bring my period along with my birthday cards, I can't help but wonder. Despite the cynicism borne of 22 months of disappointment - despite even my own better judgment - I have started symptom spotting. Every pelvic twinge, every grumbling cramp nearly reduces me to tears as I assume it heralds the arrival of my period; meanwhile, every passing moment of nausea, feeling of lethargy or tender ache in my boobs brings with it a stab of fierce, almost painful hope. To hope so hard is physically and emotionally exhausting.

I haven't done a pregnancy test yet. I haven't even bought one. (If I added up how much I've spent on pregnancy tests over the past 22 months, it would approach a monthly mortgage repayment and probably induce heart failure in my frugal husband.)

I have a vague plan of doing a test on the morning of my birthday. I'm fully aware this could spoil the day - it spoiled Christmas Day, which also happened to be cycle day 28. But I'm willing to accept the high probability of starting my 30th year in tears on the loo with a blank-windowed plastic stick in my hand. I'm willing to accept it because of the payoff if things turn out differently.

I'm not even going to try to put into words how wonderful it would be if I got a positive result - all I can see when I try to visualise it is the word JOY written across the sky.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A 28-year-old, nulliparous lady

Got a letter from the fertility clinic today. It was an interim report on our referral appointment, addressed to my GP, but we'd been sent a copy. It's good that they're keeping us in the loop and progressing things, but the way the letter is worded sums up everything that's clinical and inhuman about this whole experience.

I am described as "a 28-year-old, nulliparous lady". Bonus on the lady front - my private education ensures I articulate myself well even when inside I'm chanting "fuck, fuck, fuck" - but even I, with my two English degrees, didn't know what nulliparous meant. Turns out it means "has never given birth to a child". Bit of a sledgehammer to the heart, that one - though I suppose it's better than "childless" or, my own blog moniker, "barren"!

The letter goes on to recount my medical history ("nothing significant of note"), smear history and summary of menstrual issues. It does the same for hubby (though with fewer references to periods and more references to sperm). It then says, and I quote:

"As a couple they have a history of primary sub-fertility. Their coital frequency is normal and they deny any sexual dysfunction."

Do you see what I mean about how it's worded? I'm not saying I'd have preferred it to state baldly that we "shag three times a week and aren't into kinky stuff", but come on.

It then talks about my blood pressure, which was "raised at 142/95, but that could just be the stress of attending clinic". She's not kidding. In my defence, I'd say anyone's blood pressure would be raised if they'd just been informed they were to have five vaginal swabs and a scan with a Renault Espace. (Also, little does the consultant know my blood pressure is always high. Like my dad, I exist in a perpetual state of semi-apoplexy.)

The next paragraph describes my "normal, anteverted uterus" - which research tells me means "tilted forward" - and my crazy right ovary, which "displays multiple small antral follicles arranged around the periphery". I liked that term, arranged. Made it sound like an exhibition - like it had made an effort to dust off the old follicles in preparation for the scan.

The same paragraph goes on to state, somewhat intriguingly, that "there was no evidence of hirsutism". Whether this means simply that I don't have a beard, or that during her miner's-lamp explorations the consultant was also checking my most intimate crevices for hairy patches that put me in mind of the transformation scenes in werewolf films, is not elaborated on.

That particular paragraph concludes that "both ovaries were accessible". (Yes, but not without serious manoeuvring by the Espace. Everything was accessible to the four winds after that thing withdrew. I travelled home feeling not unlike the Dartford Tunnel.)

The letter finishes up by surmising that our "primary sub-fertility" is likely a result of "an ovulation factor", i.e. PCOS. It then describes what has to happen next - that is, bloodwork (done) and HSG (aaaargh).

It says nothing about the process for booking in for the HSG, though, which I'm a bit concerned about. My period's due next week, on my birthday (but of course) - it's unlikely it'll come, as it likes to string it out for weeks, but if it does I need to get the appointment sorted pronto or we'll miss another cycle.

Oh well, Valentine's wine to drink and chocs to nibble. Hubby's card this morning simply said, "I hope that this is the year". I wept into my Special K.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Spring has sprung

On my way out of the hairdresser's yesterday afternoon, I was stunned by the unseasonable warmth of the day. The air even had a slightly smoky, sweet scent that suggested someone, somewhere, was barbecuing. It was the first time since October that I've looked up at the sky and felt a stab of pleasure just at being outdoors.

Of course, February tends to do this. We'll get a couple of days of mid-teens warmth - all the flowers will start to bloom; tortoises will crawl out from hibernation; people will, as I witnessed in Sainsbury's this afternoon, begin to wear sandals - and then wham! Next weekend we'll be knee-deep in snow.

I turn 29 next week. If my birthday isn't accompanied by howlingly bad weather, then my mum's, the week after, surely will be. For the past two years we've spent my mum's birthday in the fracture clinic with my nana, who has fallen on ice and broken a bone for two consecutive Februarys. With a whole extra day in this leap year in which to injure herself, my mum has jokingly forbidden her to leave the house until March.

If this post seems uncharacteristically poetic and whimsical as I muse on the strangely clement weather, don't worry. The moan is coming...

What's hard for me about spring, aside from the fact that it marks the passage of yet another season and still no baby, is that it's THE season to be pregnant. Flowers coming into bud, trees being reborn, lambing season - the analogies are just teeming. Everything's in bloom, it would seem, except me.

I think the reason I struggle with other pregnant people is that the sight of them really brings home the slamming realisation that my body doesn't work as it should. Everything else that I have achieved in my life - good grades in exams, my degree, my M.Litt, getting jobs, getting promotions - has been arrived at by a direct equation of hard work + effort + desire = success. This is the first thing I've really wanted that I haven't been able to get simply by pouring blood, sweat and tears into it.

Tori Amos sings, in one of my favourite songs, 'Spark', from the album From the Choirgirl Hotel, which she wrote immediately after miscarrying: "She's convinced she could hold back a glacier/But she couldn't keep baby alive/Doubting if there's a woman in there somewhere/Here, here, here".

I think that puts it really well. Not being able to do something as basic and innate as reproduce makes you doubt what the hell you're actually for.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A self-basting turkey

I've talked this week about the depressing nature of TTC sex, and I've been thinking (Carrie Bradshaw alert again) that it must be even harder for couples who weren't sexually compatible in the first place.

We're lucky that we had a fairly decent sex life before all this started, and yet the experience has categorically dampened both our appetites. Imagine having none to begin with! It'd be ghastly.

There are aids available to help people struggling with the difficulties of TTC sex. We tried Preseed - a lubricant that comes in a little plastic tube with a twist-off cap, which you squirt up yourself 20 minutes or so before intercourse.

Anyone thinking "Wouldn't that spoil the spontaneity?" has clearly not been TTC for long - the level of checks, balances, red days, green days, temperature charts and everything else that have to be consulted pre-shag are similar to the preparations made prior to the take-off of an aircraft!

We didn't use Preseed because of any, erm, friction issues in that department, but purely as an experiment to help hubby's swimmers. (This was back before the sperm test, when we feared they might be struggling as much as my eggs.) It's supposed to contain minerals to help them swim and acts to balance all the acids in the hell-waters of the poisonous vagina (nicked that line from Ben Elton), which the Preseed marketing people describe as an environment not unlike Mordor.

We only used it about twice. It made me feel like one of those self-basting turkeys - and I'm a vegetarian, so that turned my stomach. And I don't think the image of his wife returning from the bathroom in a sort of waddling squat, barking "Come on then, this stuff isn't going to stay put for long!" did a lot for hubby.

As a result, I have about 16 tubes of the stuff gathering dust in my bedside cabinet, and not the faintest idea what to do with them. Suggestions on a postcard, please.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

The opposite of sex

Hubby and I've been doing the bad thing a tad more regularly of late. This is a cunning ruse to save me from the HSG by becoming one of the couples I keep hearing about, who got pregnant just after they had abandoned all hope.

When I say "more regularly", I do not mean that my life now resembles an episode of Sex and the City. What I mean is that we've ramped it up to three dismal attempts per week rather than our customary two.

Twas always thus - hubby's a few years older than me, so it's the age-old problem that I'm probably just reaching my randy peak now, while he, ahem, climaxed when Yazz was still in the charts. So it's no surprise really that any attempt to boost our quota quickly degenerates into an experience akin to picking a lock with a herring.

If I sound like a nasty bitch, it's because I am. But don't imagine that I consider myself to be blameless in the decline of our once decent sex life into something clinical. On the contrary, my military attitude to "the right time", and my total loss of interest in anything other than the raw mechanic of getting sperm into me, cannot put hubby in mind of a wild sex kitten.

"A feminine receptacle, that's what I am," sang The Beautiful South. Quite. TTC sex is iredeemably crap. The notion that it's all rather exciting and debauched as you finally kick contraception to the kerb is utter bunkum. I should think most couples have been together so long that they've certainly cooled their interest in sex with one another, if not reached the active-avoidance-in-favour-of-watching-telly stage, by the time they start trying for a baby...

In fact, I think the world is ready for a practical, no-punches-pulled, two-step guide to more fulfilling TTC sex - and I'm the girl to write it.

Step one: Position

This is crucial to the success of proceedings in two key ways. It clearly has a bearing on how well you perform your "feminine receptacle" duties - woman on top is hardly conducive to efficient storage of the dollop. However, the position you finish in also needs to be easy to rework into a comfy post-op arrangement with minimal fuss.

There are three basic post-op positions:

i) Lying flat on your back, ideally on or in bed.

Pros: This is easy to get into - especially if your stance for the deed itself was missionary. It's also easy to remain essentially lying down for a good while without losing the will to live - and if it's the end of the evening, you can just go to sleep.

Cons: Although putting pants on does contain things somewhat, there will be spillage - so not on the Egyptian cotton. (I've actually entertained the idea of approaching the people who make Dragons' Den with a pitch for some sort of plug designed for TTC. I reckon it'd be made out of the same stuff they make earplugs with - one size fits all, and it's rinsable. I can just hear Duncan Bannatyne's response. "For that reason, I'm pulling out.")

ii) Lying relatively flat with a pillow under your bum.

Pros: As above.

Cons: You need either an old pillow or one whose owner won't complain about a certain musky, mushroomy odour afterwards...

iii) Lying on your back with your legs up the wall.

Pros: Just feels more dedicated to the cause, this one. You feel like a genuine protector of sperm.

Cons: Uncomfortable, unsustainable for long periods, and faintly ridiculous, this position is not conducive to post-shag chill time. You'll list legache, backache and neckache among your immediate sources of misery, and should you reach for a slug of wine to numb the wretchedness, you're liable to choke to death.

Another caveat with this position is that it has to be scrambled into immediately. Even a few seconds of delay can ruin everything. The sensation of lying almost vertically upside down whilst the very substance you're seeking to retain dribbles down your back is a dispiriting one.

Step two: Accessories

No, not sex toys. I'm talking about stuff to occupy you afterwards. You're going to be lying around for ages, and I can guarantee hubby will get bored talking to you and slope off downstairs to watch The Battleship Potemkin or similar.

A book or magazine; the Sunday papers; an iPod; a coffee or glass of wine, depending on the time of day and your state of mind - all these come in handy, as does the phone, provided you won't feel too sordid carrying on a conversation while sperm trickles listlessly into your gusset.

It's worth assembling these items before you begin, otherwise you'll have to send hubby to collect them, which he may not relish. "Lying there shouting orders like bloody Cleopatra" is a post-coital accusation that has been levelled at me, along with the truly arresting "Just put a collar on me and call me Fido".

Sunday, 3 February 2008

The power of positive thinking?

Engaged in conversation with my uni mate via text message on Friday night, I attempted one of the wisecracks that are beginning to characterise my strategy for dealing with that big, messy bundle of emotion that comes under the generic heading "fertility stuff".

We were debating the logistics of care for her baby during a planned trip from her home in Fife to see her sister play in concert here in March. "If u like, my mum wld b happy 2 babysit," I texted. "She's gr8 wth babs and won't ever get chance 2 use her skills due 2 my fckd repro sys!"

My poor mate probably didn't know how to respond to that, and who can blame her? This is what I'm increasingly tending to do in conversations that veer towards reproduction - I'll attempt (usually crap) "jokes" in an attempt both to make light of the situation and to avoid any uncomfortable silences in which the assembled company wonders if I'm going to get upset.

I did it again last night. We had friends over for hubby's party piece dinner of tuna steaks, salsa verde and spinach. It was a superb night - another much-needed dose of really good fun. After a fair bit of wine, the evening reached the point where we were all demonstrating the various quirks and freakish talents of double-jointedness that we'd been blessed with... as you do. (I seem to have more of these than most - I can do a selection of impressive bendy things with my fingers, and it's comforting to know that should my career ever veer off track, there'll always be a place for me in a circus sideshow.)

Anyway, this was the backdrop for another of my barbed little jibes at my own situation. It had just been revealed that both hubby and I can sit on the floor in a weirdly yogic position that implies doubly-double-jointed hipbones.

Much merriment ensued. "It's such a shame we can't have children," I then unnecessarily pointed out. "Imagine how bendy they'd be!" I don't know why I did it, and continue to do it, other than that taking the piss out of it, and ranting at it, seems to be my natural coping strategy.

The response I got to my text "joke" on Friday was as follows: "Aw mate, don't say that, think positive, it's bound 2 help in some mysterious way".

At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to sound like Carrie Bradshaw, that got me thinking. Thinking positively is not something I've been doing throughout this experience. Optimism's not, as any readers who know me personally will be well aware, something that comes naturally to me anyway. I'm not the most upbeat, life-affirming type of gal in the most ordinary of circumstances, having inherited my father's propensity to "rage against the coming of the night". Being positive in the face of the genuine adversity of infertility is a ridiculous notion.

But would it help? Usually I think that people who skip about the world grinning inanely and proselytizing about the glass being half-full would be immeasurably improved by being shot at dawn. The procedure needed to turn me into one of them would be reminiscent of Jekyll and Hyde, and infinitely more traumatic than the HSG!

I categorically doubt the effect of positive thinking anyway. A recent study said that being optimistic and upbeat had absolutely no bearing on the survival rate in cancer patients. Now don't imagine that I've finally disappeared up my own arse in a fit of self-pity by comparing my situation to a terminal illness - I am not (yet) that self-obsessed. All I'm saying is that smiling lots and visualising flowers unfurling is not going to make my ovary magically not polycystic.

To put it more succinctly, I turn to a passage from Ben Elton's Inconceivable - a brilliant novel that's by turns funny and heartbreakingly accurate, and which is far superior to its subsequent film adaptation, Maybe Baby.

"I keep screaming inside, why the hell should I have to imagine a baby? Why can't I just have one?! Far less nice people than me have lots, and it's just not fair."

That's the absolute crux of it. Instead of an egg each month, I have a boiling ball of rage, frustration, jealousy and a sense of plain old Kevin the Teenager injustice.