Thursday, 31 January 2008

Hormone soup

Got my first migraine for ages overnight last night - when I was on the Pill, I used to get them every month, which in retrospect was a pretty big clue that my system wasn't too happy. They used to render me completely incapable of doing anything other than lying in a darkened room, whimpering.

I still maintain that one of the most romantic gifts hubby's ever bought me was a packet of gel cushions, which you stick to your forehead during a migraine. They're really cooling and go some way to dulling what can be an agonising pain. He brought them home unexpectedly one day, having "seen them and thought of me", as the saying goes. I know it sounds daft to say I considered that romantic, but there it is - it was just a really thoughtful present.

Anyway, I managed to shift today's onslaught with a handful of painkillers and an extra 15 minutes in bed, which was good. The fact I also have a suppurating pustule on my right cheek, and my moods are swingier than - erm - a swingset, suggests that perhaps my hormones are in turmoil. Good - I hope it means I'm ovulating!

Got a letter from the clinic this morning, which caused my sphincter to liquefy as I assumed it was the HSG summons. It turned out to be confirmation that my smear was normal, which is great news. All I need now is the results of my bloods and then we'll be able to proceed.

I've sort of calmed down a bit about it all for the time being. Now that I know it's going to be a few weeks, I guess I've accepted that there's no point passing the time in a state of bug-eyed horror...

Monday, 28 January 2008

Good, solid baby advice

In a (successful) effort to amuse me, my fab cousin sent me a great spoof email about babycare.

These are some of the best pics from it. I have to say, the one with the tramp is my personal favourite!

The scary thing is, I used to work with a woman who would actually have benefited from these instructions!

The barren woman's hate list - item #6 - pregnancy films

I realise that there is emerging something of a theme to these diatribes - that is, anyone who's pregnant when I'm not makes the list.

However, I couldn't resist mentioning the recent spate of teenybop, American Pie-style rom coms with pregnancy as their theme, all of which imply that getting a bun in the oven is as simple as selecting a new lip gloss - and then, during the labour scenes, that ejecting said bun is only about as uncomfortable as a bikini wax.

Knocked Up would be the most obvious recent example - and boy, did they trail that film relentlessly - but last night I witnessed a trailer for a new flick called Juno, which appears to be about a gestating 8-year-old. A bus swooshed past me this morning carrying a board for the film. "Everyone's gonna love Juno!" the tagline claimed confidently. I can assure them that they're wrong.

It's worth saying that last night's trailer for this celluloid knife in the heart was sandwiched between the Pampers ad where the baby girl is trying on her mum's shoes, and the Clearblue Digital pregnancy test advert.

Tell me why I don't like Mondays.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

An evening off from all this

Just come in from what has felt like a complete night away from all this fertility crap, and it's done me a world of good.

Went with a friend to another friend's flat for pizza, Corona and an entertainingly stupid scary movie. After the film we were chatting and I ended up mentioning my blog. It's kind of weird that I haven't really discussed it with them yet, since they're two of my best mates. But at the same time, one of the reasons I set this blog up is so I can rant into the ether and not risk - as I have genuinely feared might happen - losing friends by becoming "that miserable bitch who moans about babies 24/7".

Anyway, when I told them what the blog was called, they completely took the piss - in an affectionate way - and ended up inventing a Victorian patriarch character called Baron Blog, complete with peaked cap and breeches. It was really funny and it felt ace to have a bloody good laugh about it all - it's been too long since I've done that. I'm lucky to have friends around me who can make me see the stupid side of all this mess.

My conclusion is that having the piss taken out of you is good for the soul. I'm so very sick myself of having the same old bollocks conversations about fertility problems. Usually it's insensitive acquaintances or relatives piping up with the "Still not pregnant yet?" queries, followed by the tea-and-sympathy remarks you get when you admit to having fertility treatment: "Just have to wait and see what happens... fingers crossed... must be so hard for you".

Don't get me wrong - I'm not saying I don't need or appreciate sympathy, but it's made me feel a good deal better to be made to giggle helplessly about the ridiculousness of having a blog by this name. So cheers, girls, if you're reading this, from Baron Blog.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

The return of the prodigal period

My stupid period, having shown itself briefly last weekend and then retreated, came properly on Wednesday night.

I therefore presented myself at the clinic at 8am yesterday morning for my day 2-5 blood test. This is the fourth or fifth time I've had this test now, and my results have always shown a good egg reserve, so I'm not sure why I need to have it again except that maybe the clinic prefers to do its own series of tests rather than relying on my GP's results.

This might be wise - the last time I visited the doctor for bloods, the nurse took about 10 minutes to work out which coloured tube my blood needed to go in, all the while musing aloud "I should really know this by now" whilst I sat silently seething and thinking "Yes, you bloody should."

Their finest hour was when the doctor gave me the assorted baggie of pot and paperwork for the sperm test. After I arrived at the clinic and fished said pot out of my cleavage to present it to the receptionist, it turned out we'd been given the brown paperwork that's designed for drug testing of athletes' spunk, rather than the green documentation for infertility!

Getting my period also meant that I thought I'd have to book in next week for the dreaded pingu-whatsit. However, I chatted with the nurse who relieved me of some nine vials of blood yesterday morning and she reckoned it would take at least a month for my referral to come through from the hospital's X-ray department. Apparently they need the results of the smear and swabs I had last week - to make sure all is well with the cervix before they break it, I assume!

I admitted to the nurse how scared I am and she said that she wouldn't lie, the procedure is unpleasant and can be very painful. But she also said it's better to be prepared for that, as often it's the women who go in expecting nothing worse than a smear who panic when they experience the pain and end up having a truly traumatic time.

Anyway, the upshot is I have to await a letter, and then when I get my next period (so some time this decade, then) I'll need to ring up and book in. This means I have a reprieve for this cycle. I mean to pray very hard to a God I'm not sure I believe in for me to fall pregnant this month so I can avoid the HSG altogether. (I love that phrase, "fall" pregnant - like it's easy, like it's something that you just trip into unexpectedly. A better description for me would be "claw my way desperately" pregnant.)

So, the cards are dealt, the "dye" is cast - or soon will be, right up where the sun don't shine. I'm frightened, Aunty Em, I'm frightened! Catheters and speculums and cramps, oh my!

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

More scaredy wuss-ness

I'm not sleeping brilliantly these days, plagued as I am by images of catheters plunging into the depths of my uterus and spewing twin jets of dye into its every crevice.

And it's just occurred to me that my grand masterplan of chomping a fistful of ibuprofen an hour or so before the pingu-pillage might be foiled by the hospital's somewhat lackadaisical attitude to timekeeping.

Before I went for my pelvic scan in March, I was issued with written instructions urging me, several times and in block capitals, to drink copious amounts of water beforehand. Having a full bladder evidently pushes all the relevant organs to front stage, thus making for a clearer picture. I followed the instructions to the letter; my mum, who accompanied me to the appointment, adopted a military attitude towards my water consumption, even bringing a bottle in the car with us to "keep me topped up".

The scan was scheduled for 9.20. Had it taken place at the appointed time, everything would have been fine. Unfortunately, we were still sat waiting at 9.55, by which point I can confidently say I have never needed a pee more in my life. You have to wait for such scans in the radiology suite with all the pregnant women - which was nice - but my stomach was so distended by my groaningly full bladder that I could easily have passed for six months gone.

Nerves didn't help - this was my first diagnostic test in a properly clinical setting. I suppose I was scared the scan would reveal some sort of gurning gremlin, squatting in my tubes like a germ in the S-bend of a toilet cleaner ad and chuckling malevolently.

By the time we were eventually called in, I'd taken to dementedly pacing the corridor and thinking for the first - and hopefully last - time in my life that I wished I'd brought some Tenalady. It's actually quite painful to need to pee that badly. I'm certain that had I laughed - admittedly unlikely in the circumstances - coughed or sneezed, there would have been an embarrassing accident.

The nurse who scanned me actually had the gall to tell me off for having "too full" a bladder. She said she was scared to press on my tummy with the scanner - presumably in case the slightest pressure caused me to issue forth a steaming geyser of wee. This was a fear I wholeheartedly shared. She instructed me to go to the loo and "pee a bit - but not a lot" - a feat which requires a pelvic floor like a steel trap. However, I managed it - but not before having to hop off the bed and hobble down the hall clutching my aching bladder like Gollum. "Tricksy little nurses - they advises us to drink but they lies!"

Anyway, to return to the point - my latest witching hour concern is that, should I be compelled to wait an age for the pingu-pokery, my painkillers might have worn off before I even go in. Argh and thrice argh.

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Rampant dread about the HSG

Thought my period had started yesterday, which would mean I'd need to book in for the HSG this week as it has to be done within 10 days of a new cycle starting. My plan was to call into the fertility clinic for my day2 blood tests tomorrow morning and while there book in for the procedure, probably for Friday.

That spurred me to do some more detailed research about what the HSG actually entails, and I have to say I am now absolutely sick with terror. I want to cry whenever I even think about it.

I've read a few blog sites where women have posted about their experiences, and a disconcertingly high proportion have used phrases like "the worst pain I've ever experienced", "excruciating", "100 times worse than delivering twins vaginally" and "I passed out it was so bad" to describe it.

I'm a big wimp at the best of times and have been lucky in that I've never experienced severe pain in my life. I've never had a tooth out, have only one filling, have never broken a bone or had surgery, and until all this started, the most invasive procedures I'd ever endured were routine smears. I've never found smears to be that bad, and while speculums are cold and uncomfy, I've never felt that they actively hurt, so I'm really hoping that stands me in good stead for this...

The consultant at the clinic told me that I should take 800mg of ibuprofen beforehand to "ease the cramps". She said I'd feel these when the dye is pushed through my tubes, and that they are like bad menstrual cramps. OK, thought I, period pain is nothing I haven't dealt with before, and there was something reasonably reassuring about it being a familiar type of pain rather than something unexpected. But from reading some of the comments on the web, it seems these "cramps" in actual fact resemble late-stage labour contractions, and that DOES scare me.

There are also lots of people who found the insertion of the catheter through the cervix unbearable. That bit really worries me - after all, the worst part of a smear isn't the speculum but the bit where they scrape your cervix. It's not active pain, it's more a sort of unpleasant, fingers-on-blackboard sensation of what the FUCK are you doing touching one of my ORGANS?!

I almost want to be cross with the women who've posted comments featuring words like "agony" and "excruciating" - but then I suppose they are just sharing what the experience was like for them in an effort to prepare others.

Having said all this, my period has now vanished altogether, so I don't think it was a period after all - perhaps just some spotting as a hangover from the travails of the Espace earlier in the week. I need to ring the clinic tomorrow to find out what I should do. Part of me wants to get this horrid HSG over with - spending the next couple of months sick with dread over it doesn't appeal to me. And of course, even if it's horrible, it's worth it to find out what's going on.

However, there's a really big part of me that just wants to have one more cycle before getting it done, in the desperate hope that a miracle will occur and I'll conceive without having to go through it.

In the words of Eliza Doolittle: Not bloody likely.

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

First consultation at the clinic

So, 'tis done. What now follows is an honest and candid account of what happened to me this afternoon, in the hope that sharing is both therapeutic for me and helpful for others. I have before me for sustenance a lovely, juicy, large glass of red wine.

I shall also try to be as witty and caustic as I can, but bearing in mind I spent much of the afternoon with what I can only describe as a Renault Espace parked up my bits, I may falter!

First, the main news: it looks like I have a polycystic ovary. Just the one - my left one looks fine, but my right one appears to resemble a barnacle-covered rock. My uterus is present and correct but filled with a whole raft of endometrial crap owing to my not having had a period since November. But the possible revelation about PCOS is enlightening to say the least - and also treatable, or at least surmountable, with ovulation stimulating drugs.

We had to wait nearly 45 minutes before being called in for the consultation proper, although I was weighed (took my boots off - every little helps) and measured and blood-pressured during the wait.

We were asked if we minded a medical student sitting in, and I said why not - after all, what's one more pair of eyes in an embarrassing situation like that?! When we went in, the consultant took a detailed medical history first from me - age at first period, menstrual cycle habits, dates I was on the Pill, any medication or allergies etc - and then from hubby. We were then asked a series of questions about our sex life - which I answered while he stared at an invisible spot on the wall.

The consultant then announced that since I was due a smear anyway, they'd do that to rule out any cervical conditions. She also explained the clinic's blanket policy of testing for a series of STIs through taking swabs at the first visit. I was tested for chlamydia after a previous relationship with a slightly seedy cad, and told her as much, but she was adamant: I was having the swabs. After that, there'd be a vaginal scan to determine the health (or otherwise, as it turned out) of my ovaries.

Right. So. The gory details. I was shown into a small consulting room - the doctor said hubby had to stay behind (to his profound and obvious relief, I might add) - which contained a small bed (avec stirrups - oh joy), a sink, a TV screen which was about to broadcast the contents of my vagina to anyone who cared to watch, and a series of instruments reminiscent of the scene in the horror movie where the psycho opens his satchel to reveal his murder kit. No, not really. The instruments came later!

The smear proceeded fairly ueventfully. The highlight was the moment where she'd opened and fastened the speculum but then tutted and said she'd have to "slip it in a bit further. It's because you're so tall - you have a long vagina," she mused. Does a girl take that as a compliment?!

So, smear and swabs successfully completed, the Renault Espace was brought out of the garage so we could commence the scan. She put a condom on it - really - and then squidged a big glob of good old KY onto the end. And then in it went - and because this is an honest account, I'll say that it entering wasn't entirely unpleasant - but I have to admit that I did experience the promised "pressure and discomfort" when she started moving it around in order to broadcast my organs.

The scan was much more thorough and in-depth, in the literal sense, than the rather basic "yep, you have sexual organs and are indeed female" slimine swipe I had at the hospital back in March. The consultant was also massively more helpful - she tilted the TV so I could see it, and explained what the various blobs were - perhaps in an effort to take my mind off the Espace doing a three-point turn, but nevertheless it was interesting. It wasn't actively painful - but it was uncomfortable, and there was pronounced discomfort when she pulled it this way and that trying to get a better picture.

The upshot of it all is I likely have a polycystic ovary. I need to have a series of blood tests taken over the next eight weeks, as well as a procedure called a hysterosalpingogram. This is to happen within 10 days of my next period, at the hospital. Basically they drive the old Espace again but this time with a slim catheter-type thing on the end which is inserted through the neck of my cervix so they can inject a load of dye into my womb and tubes, thus determining if there are any blockages. More on that later, depending when I get a period...

All in all, then, a slightly traumatic experience but one that was easily copable-with and which may also have given us a much-needed diagnosis. If it is PCOS, they can give me ovarian stimulating drugs and hopefully we'll be on the road to parenthood (albeit possibly of twins!)

Here's hoping...

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The fertility clinic looms...

So, in just 48 hours time I will have experienced my inaugural fertility consultation. I'm led to believe that what we can expect from the first appointment is:

  • repetition of a lot of questions which we've already answered
  • the removal of more blood from my veins (you could now fill an entire new person with the volume of blood I've had siphoned off in the interests of investigating my plumbing)
  • another scan, both of the pelvic and business end variety

More than anything (OK, not more than anything - that moniker is reserved for how much I want a baby) I just want to know the timescales we're dealing with. If the IVF waiting list is years long - enough to put me well into my thirties and with dwindling natural fertility - we need to know now so we can start both saving hard and begging, borrowing and stealing to pay for it privately.

As I'm trying to be throughout this blog, I mean to be entirely candid about our experiences of the fertility clinic and, if it gets that far, IVF itself.

In the meantime, sorry to be so dull but I don't really have a lot to say whilst I'm battling the butterflies about Tuesday. I'm awaiting the appointment with so many mixed emotions that it's hard to make sense of them:

  • relief that it's finally here
  • frustration that we've had to wait so long
  • a selfish sense of "why me?" disbelief that it's got this far
  • fear about all the invasive procedures to come
  • worry about how my marriage will fare through this pressure
  • guilt that he's having to go through this simply because he married a barren woman
  • dread that we'll ultimately be told I can't have children

There's a Sarah McLachlan song called Answer which I've interpreted towards this whole experience. The lyrics, which routinely make me have to rummage in my bag for a tissue whilst listening to my iPod on the train of a morning, go like this:

"If it takes my whole life/I won't break, I won't bend/It'll all be worth it/Worth it in the end/For I can only tell you what I know/I need you in my life"

I sing this, sometimes, in my head to the vague non-entity that I pray will one day be my baby.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

The barren woman's hate list - item #5: celeb bumps

I realise this diatribe has echoes of my previous post condemning all pregnant women, but to me pregnant celebrities deserve a rant all of their own.

First of all, how MANY of them are there?! I'm sure when I was avidly reading Smash Hits, More! and Heat as a teenager and student, and even in my early twenties, the world was not populated exclusively by knocked up actresses and popstars. Every show I watch seems to reveal another gestating geisha girl: Myleene Klass, Lauren Laverne - and those are just the most recent that spring to mind!

The worst ones are those who are given the gift of a child despite an improbably hedonistic lifestyle, and then proceed to piss motherhood up the wall by engaging in unseemly activities such as alcoholism, drugs, anorexia and being photographed with no pants on. I'm not sure if blog ranting can result in being sued for libel, but Britney Spears and Nicole Richie, I'm thinking of YOU. Anyway, my understanding of libel is that it has to be untrue.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

The barren woman's hate list - item #4: my own reproductive system

One of the hardest things about this whole experience is that I feel I am at war with myself. Ever since we got hubby's sperm test back (the results, I mean - they didn't post us the crusty pot) and thus confirmed that the problem is solely with me, I've felt that my own body is conspiring against me.

Here's a dark confession: the other night I sat in the bath and actually had a conversation with my own sexual organs.

I told them that with the days till our consultation at the clinic ticking down, they had only a finite window of opportunity in which to get their acts together and basically comply with the demands of the role nature gave them. I said they had better consider this a final warning, as further disciplinary reviews would not be forthcoming.

I ended with the following words: "Because if you don't, I will subject you to an increasingly invasive, painful and humiliating series of tests. You will be rammed, scraped, probed, pumped, injected with chemicals, and stared up by a succession of probably male doctors, and you will crack before I do."

I believe I may then have slapped my own lower stomach, hard, in frustration.

Now that's not normal, is it?!

Dreaming of you

Dreamt about my baby again last night. I say "my baby" when really it was just "a baby", but in the dream she was mine and I'll be damned if I can't use the possessive about her.

I was feeding her, and I woke up with my boobs actually aching with longing. I could still feel her on me. Had a bit of a cry before getting up - it was weird as I felt bereft, like I missed her, so vivid was the dream. How can you miss something you've never had?

Haven't mentioned this latest dream to hubby yet. A few weeks ago, at dinner, he related one of his own to me, and I think my reaction scared him. He said he'd woken up (in the dream) to see a wee girl standing in our bedroom doorway. Rather than being alarmed, he just accepted it as normal and remembered thinking "What's our daughter doing up at this time of night?"

When he said that line to me, it floored me. I did one of those spectacular cries that really defines "bursting into" tears, and then just sat there at the table, sobbing uncontrollably, tears dripping into my pasta, while he just patted my head awkwardly and apologised for upsetting me.

It wasn't him telling me that upset me. It was the notion that he too is being plagued by these dreams of longing and hoping for something we might never have - all because he married a barren woman.

The barren woman's hate list - item #3: pregnancy tests

It's amazing the amount of vitriol and bitterness I can feel towards an inanimate bit of plastic. But by God do I despise these things.

The digital ones are worst - there's something so nasty and final about reading the words "Not pregnant", and you can't exactly hold them up to the light in the hope the "Not" will vanish - but their prohibitive cost means I've only graced them with my hCG-less wee once or twice. (When feeling flush, kerboom. See what I did there?)

I don't have a favourite brand - again, cost means I usually resort to Boots' or Sainsbury's own - but I definitely prefer the ones you can pee directly onto. Clarting around with a small pot and a lively stream of wee without my contacts in is not among my top-choice ways to start the day.

What I hate most about pregnancy tests is how soul-destroying it is to "fail" one. Because my periods are so irregular, there's often the temptation "just to check". Every time I say I'm not going to do one, but every time I wake up at 5am and brew a wee knowing full well I'm going to tiptoe to the bathroom, turn on the tap so hubby doesn't hear the cellophane rustling, and pee on a stick to my heart's content.

There's the brilliant moment where you're waiting for it to work - I usually cover it with a bit of bog roll so I can hope for longer - when you imagine what the joy would be like were it to be positive.

But then there's the inevitable blank result window, and every time sees me squinting and scrutinising it pathetically, holding it to the bathroom light in my desperation to see a line that never has been and probably never will be there.

The barren woman's hate list - item #2: smug tickertape things

By this I mean those wretched, bastard tickers that pregnant women and new mums insist on having at the end of every piece of email correspondence or forum post they submit.

Most of the tickers chart how many weeks pregnant its owner is, and are illustrated with insipid pictures of bunnies and butterflies and other such girly shite.

As the pregnancy progresses and the ticker owner's fervour grows, they can even be adorned with photos of the baby in the womb. Bah.

Even worse are the tickers charting how old the bloody baby is after the birth. My question to the women who use these is: Where do you plan to stop? It's all very well notifying your every last acquaintance that "My baby is 10 weeks and 2 days and 4 hours and 18 minutes and 42 precious cutesy seconds old", but what's the cut-off point? Can we look forward, in a few years' time, to alerts such as "My baby had his first wet dream today" or "My baby's divorce papers came in the post this morning"?

So here's my pledge to you all, my fledgling blog community: if I ever do manage to conceive a baby, I will never - mark this, EVER - create a ticker or anything similar with which to festoon this blog, my emails, or any other piece of correspondence I care to dispatch.

And while we're on the subject, I shall never send any round-robin emails containing graphic, too-much-information slideshows of my scan photos, the labour and birth, me breastfeeding or baby's first dump to every last contact in my address book either. That's a promise.

Any mums or pregnant ladies who may have stumbled on this bilious and rage-filled blog might also like to heed a bit of friendly advice. Before you send an email that includes a ticker, stop to think for just one second of any friends you have who are or may be trying for a baby. Just consider their feelings and delete the ticker in your messages to them - it won't kill you, and it'll have the double Brucie bonus of meaning they won't want to kill you either.

The barren woman's hate list - item #1: other pregnant women

Obviously I realise this makes me sound like a demon, but the point of this blog is to be honest with myself about my feelings and hopefully reach out to other women who share them.

So yes, I loathe, despise and detest other pregnant women with a fanaticism bordering on psychotic. Particularly the ones who absently stroke their bumps while talking to you or browsing the supermarket shelves.

They just look so bloody smug. And they're everywhere - or did I just not notice them before?

Friday, 4 January 2008

Crying at the TV

Watched a weird programme last night about "reborns". These are dolls that resemble babies so closely that they appear to breathe, move and smile. They have real hair and are weighted and jointed like babies. They can even have milk spots and be designed to look like photos of real babies.

Him indoors vehemently felt I shouldn't watch the programme, and retired to bed in despair when I insisted (I believe my exact words were "Fuck off, I'm watching it"). The reason I was so keen was that I thought it would inevitably cover infertility, and therefore feature other barren women who feel like I do.

One of the hardest things about this is feeling that I'm the only one. I have a few really close friends, but as lovely as they are, and as much as I need them, none of them is in a position to understand. My best mate from uni days got pregnant the first month she was off the Pill, and now has a gorgeous eight-month old son and, because our usual daily at-work email exchange is on hiatus because of her maternity leave, is rarely in touch.

Of my closest mates now, two are a couple of years younger than me, and whilst they are both sympathetic and willing to listen, neither has felt their own biological clock yet or is the least bit broody, so through no fault of their own they don't really "get it". My other close mate is herself a mum to an 11-year-old, who came along unexpectedly while she was very young. She's a brilliant mum, but she never experienced what it's like to yearn for a child and not be able to have one.

Anyway, this reborns programme didn't touch on infertility at all, and was frankly so odd that I was left thinking it might have been a spoof. The narrator just seemed ever so slightly surreal and sardonic. If it was a pisstake, I didn't find it funny - but then I wouldn't, would I? I'm too close to the subject matter; it's all too raw.

However, I don't have a problem with others trying to make light of a difficult topic. I think that's probably quite healthy. Channel 4 does good spoofs anyway - I remember really roaring at the Brass Eye paedophile thing that so many people complained about.

I'm ashamed to admit, I did cry at the reborns. I was doing OK until one woman was given her doll to take home. She carried it out to her car, and then you saw she'd bought it a car seat, which she proceeded to reverently strap it - this DOLL - into. That floored me, and I wept till my chest hurt.

The dreaded sperm test

We did this in October. They said hubby could produce it at home as long as we could get the sample to the clinic within 90 minutes, so we decided we'd both take the day off work and then drive it into town while the traffic was light.

The plan worked well and we were there within 25 minutes (thanks to some slightly reckless driving), and it was much better for him than having to do it in some awful room.

The comedy part of the adventure was that you have to keep it warm, so after much deliberation we decided that my bra would be the snuggest place for the wee pot - a plan which again worked well until I got to the clinic reception and had to rummage around to retrieve it in front of about 12 people.

Thankfully I'm way, way past embarrassment on this issue now. I double-parked the car and was quite prepared to tell any jobsworth traffic warden who questioned me that I had some rapidly dying sperm between my tits!

That was the first time I'd been inside the fertility clinic. It's really nice inside, and it's good that our first visit was for the sperm test so I now have my bearings and know where everything is rather than encountering it for the first time when I'm nervous for one of my own.

I suppose they do everything they can to make such environments welcoming and relaxing. There were a few other equally sheepish, miserable and furtive looking couples our age rummaging in warm crevices for their own pots so it was reassuring to realise we're not the only ones.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Sex and infertility

This is our 21st month of TTC and I have to say it doesn’t do much for a girl’s sex life – we’re both absolutely sick of it.

Some of the tests we may have to take as things progress are going to make shagging even more of an effort. One involves us doing the deed and me hot-footing it down to the surgery to have some scaffolding erected up me and a sample – this is FOUL – of our mingled “juices” taken. The purpose of this is to see if my vagina is murdering hubby's sperm. He's Scottish and I'm English, so who knows, perhaps it resembles Culloden in there.

I keep hoping it won’t come to that and trying to take each day – or test – at a time and keep a sense of humour, but it’s difficult. I genuinely thought, when we started TTC in spring 2006, that I’d be knocked up by Christmas so it’s disappointing to have just gone through another Christmas and not to be. Everyone keeps saying "All in good time" - how rage-inducingly fatuous is that?!

We had a really bad patch about a year ago where hubby was getting so stressed about the whole thing he couldn't perform, but we seem to have got over that hitch and things are fine in that respect now - except, of course, for the fact that it isn't bloody working.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Welcome to the Barren Blog

So, it's a new year and it struck me that one way to cope with the way I'm feeling these days, and also with the rocky road ahead of us, would be to have an outlet where I can express my feelings with impunity.

The background to this blog is as follows. I'm nearly 29, and my husband and I have been trying to conceive (TTC) for 21 months with no success.

We've had his sperm tested and got a normal result, so we know it’s my fault. I've been referred to the local fertility clinic, where we have our first proper consultation in just over a week's time. I'm hoping to use this blog to record details of the procedures I go through and the emotions I deal with, in the hope that it'll be therapeutic for me and also hopefully help anyone out there who's feeling similar.

Despite infertility having consumed me - and consumed is the only word for it - for the better part of two years, we're really just at the beginning of the road to determining a) what's wrong with me, b) whether it can be fixed, and c), depending on the results of a) and b), how we can get me knocked up.

Right now I'm on cycle day 41 with no period (cue Geordie accent: “Day 41 in the Big Barren Uterus, and the housemates are bamboozled by the absence of Aunt Flo”), no sign of period, and no positive pregnancy test (keep getting negative results).

I've had four sets of blood tests over the past months (my arms resemble pincushions), which have collectively indicated that although I have a good reserve of eggs and am not going through premature menopause, I don't appear to be ovulating regularly, if at all.

I've also had a pelvic scan, which was fine – it detected nothing obviously wrong; everything's in the right place, there're no sizeable blockages, cysts or otherwise, and I’m not really a boy!

So what IS it? The options are a hormonal imbalance, something internal with my plumbing that's as yet undetected, or the delightful "unexplained infertility".

I have to say, in an abstract sense, it’s all really interesting – I didn’t really listen in biology at school so I’ve learned loads about the reproductive process. For a while I did the whole charting my daily temperatures fiasco - this is a slightly obsessive-compulsive thing to do and therefore not ideal for someone with a slightly manic personality.

The temperatures were all over the place so I gave up in the end without ever being entirely sure I was doing it right. You have to do it before you move or even speak in the morning to get an accurate reading. And I did it orally – apparently doing it up the business end is more accurate but I have not yet reached the stage where I’m prepared to start the day by ramming a thermometer where the sun never shines…