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.


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