The myth and misappropriation of the ‘biological clock’

Great long read article in The Guardian today on the ‘Foul Reign of the Biological Clock’. The term was applied to female fertility in the late 70s (by way of a single newspaper article) and has been manipulated and misused ever since.

There’s so much bogus bad science related to IVF and infertility. Why does nobody talk about age-related male infertility?  Why aren’t men pressured to freeze their sperm in the same way that women are encouraged to do so with their eggs? How has infertility become linked to selfish ‘career women’ and women desperate to ‘have it all’?

Anyway, good article. Made me annoyed, sad and depressed all rolled into one.

21 weeks 

Babies

The three of us are doing well. I have another cervical scan this Wednesday but I’m feeling quietly confident that my cervical ‘helmet’ is doing its job. Things feel pretty calm down there. Yes, I have started self diagnosing my own plumbing. No, I haven’t been to med school.

I had my 20 week anomaly scan last week and it was good to see that both babies have the requisite number of arms, brains, legs, noses and heart ventricles. 

Big Val still has plenty of room and is in a rather comfortable feet down position. Check her out – she even has a pillow. She’s doing the uterine equivalent of ‘Netflix and chill’:


Richie McCaw though…..is not a Richie McCaw after all! The sonographer is pretty sure that he’s actually another girl. It’s hard to tell because he’s tucked away behind his sister and he’s rather squashed and mysterious. He’s head down and we saw Big Val kick him in the face live on (scan) TV. Poor little guy/girl. Anyway I guess we need to come up with a new name as she probably won’t be the captain of the All Black rugby team in real life anymore. Here she is – cute nose:


Bump

I have given up on wearing trousers unless they are of the elasticated waist variety. I bought 2 maternity dresses in Topshop as I can’t really go to work in sweat pants. There is a lot of terrible maternity wear out there ladies ….plenty of florals and wrap around tops (think Kate Middleton in pastels). Topshop, COS and Asos are still good. Anyway, my belly is expanding and people keep moving their hands towards me to touch it. In the words of Missy Elliott, keep your hands off my ba bump ba bump bump:


General Zen

Overall I’m feeling good. We have some stressful stuff going on related to husband’s job situation but I am trying not to wallow in it too much. In the meantime I’m saving as much as possible and figuring out ways to squeeze the maximum amount of ££ from my rather stingy (by British standards) maternity leave allocation. It’s tough – living in London is expensive. Luckily my mum is retiring soon and has offered to come and help us once the babies are born. I’m hoping to take 6 months off work…which I know must seem like loads to American readers. It’s easy to get bogged down in negative thoughts at the moment – probably a combination of hormones, anxiety and weird nesting instinct. Sleep is interrupted by midnight worries about money, jobs and if we have room in this flat for the minimum amount of baby stuff. So I keep reminding myself that:

  • I am bloody lucky to be pregnant after all the years of trying
  • Plenty of families in London manage every day in much worse circumstances than us
  • I could be living in a mud hut in Africa with no water, sanitation and certainly no maternity leave
  • Nobody likes a moaner

My luxurious triple lined uterus

Happy to report that my womb lining is both ‘triple lined’ and ‘luxurious’ according to my lovely Egyptian gynaecologist. He is always enthusiastic about my uterus, which is nice.

Anyway all is looking good down below. My donor (donor C…Carmen as I like to call her) is also doing well. We’re heading to Madrid tomorrow so we’re  ready as soon as she’s  ready for egg collection. There will be lots of hanging around and waiting this week but that’s ok. I suppose there are worse places to hang around and wait than Madrid.

We’ve booked into an AirBnB place and guess what the owner’s mother is called? Carmen. Yep, we’re meeting Carmen tomorrow to pick up the keys. Karma (Carmen) or what?

Fertility is a Feminist Issue

The older I get, the more often I’m asked why I don’t have children. Enquirers include colleagues, cab drivers, facebook friends, acquaintances, cleaning ladies and shop assistants. It is a frigging rude question, and the correct answer is ‘mind your own business’.

Holly Brockwell is a journalist, blogger and editor. She recently wrote an article for the BBC entitled, ‘Desperate Not to Have Children‘ where she had the sheer temerity to state, out in the open, that she does not want to have children. The troll response to this bland statement of fact was to accuse her of being a ‘selfish media whore’, an ‘attention seeker’, who is ‘in need of psychiatric help’. A torrent of gender specific abuse levelled at her because, even in the 21st century, women who do not want children (and say so) are considered selfish, egocentric failures.

If Holly’s article had been written by a man I doubt it would have attracted even a fraction of the same vitriol.  To me, this is all about control. Her article gets to the heart of what society still deems women to be for – producing babies.

One of the rights women have fought for is the right to choose if and when to have children. As a woman, I say to those internet trolls, and people in general – fuck off out of my sister’s body and choices. Now.

Normal FISH

  
Our Spanish donor egg clinic insisted that DHs sperm be ‘FISH tested’ – basically something involving fluorescence and DNA. We were worried about this because A. Hardly any UK clinics bother with it and B. If it came back positive, could it have been to blame for our last 5 miserably failed cycles? Is this clinic trying to frame us for a side helping of PGD?

Anyway. We handed over 500 euros and went for it. I also had a blood test for toxoplasmosis – 10 euros – bargain. I have a vague recollection that toxoplasmosis has something to do with cat shite.

Everything came back negative today – normal fish, no cat disease. All good. I guess they aren’t trying to fleece us, they just want to make sure we have a full MOT before getting on the donor bus. Ok then.

In Madrid

….our first appointment with the donor egg clinic is tomorrow. Strangely nervous – I’ve been eyeing up all the young women in the neighbourhood wondering which one could be ‘the one’. Definitely more Penelope Cruz -a-likes than pale English roses but that’s fine by me.

Anyway, more tomorrow. For now we are enjoying the 26c sunshine, the tapas and the cerveza. Hasta mañana.

An update

So my period arrived yesterday….exactly 21 days since my last period. 21 days?! What’s going on? Officially my shortest ever cycle. Does this count as an AF PB?

I’m usually 27 days, nice and predictable. Could this be related to the IVF? Hopefully I’ll revert back to normal next month. I don’t like it – makes me think of the M word (Menopause! Menopause! MENOPAUSE! ).

Anyway, I know I need to get a grip. In other news, I am officially still not pregnant despite hopeful fornication around ovulation this month. In addition to that, we need to get retested for HIV, hepatitis and syphilis (hey, a new disease!) before our trip to the Madrid donor egg clinic next month. Imagine if, all this time, rampant syphilis has been to blame for our infertility. That would definitely be one for the Wandsworth Guardian (local newspaper).

DH also needs to find out his blood type. I’m B positive, in case you were wondering (I discovered this only recently). Apparently this makes me artistic, sensitive and prone to colds, according to one crackpot website I browsed. Sadly it didn’t mention that it may also makes me prone to pregnancy.

Plan B(aby)

I’m feeling better this week. Dare I say (cautiously) optimistic, (quietly) hopeful and even (a bit) excited? It’s time for plan B.

Farewell own egg IVF, you cruel mistress. Hello donor egg IVF, you beguiling temptress.

After 5 miserable rounds of IVF we have decided to try something different. Well, ‘decided to try’ is a bit coy; we HAVE to try something different. We have two options at this stage – donor eggs or adoption. I want to be pregnant. I want the morning sickness, swollen ankles and stretch marks. I want to give birth. I want to be one of those people who post annoying bump photos on Facebook (no I don’t). I want a baby which is genetically half ours, and will hopefully get my husband’s smile, eyes, killer bod and BBQ skills. Maybe I’m a bit selfish but I would love to experience motherhood and birth in the ‘traditional’ manner. We are both keen on the idea of adoption and that will certainly be plan C, but I think donor eggs are the way forward for now. If it doesn’t work out then at least we’ll know that we did everything possible to make pregnancy a reality. I know adoption could work for us, but I’m just not ready for that yet.

So – we’re off to Madrid! There are lots of highly regarded clinics in Spain and no waiting lists for donors. It’s cheaper than the UK. Our hospital consultant in London has given us his blessing and recommended a couple of clinics. I’ll be able to have scans with him in London and just fly to Madrid twice – once for the initial consultation in September, and then later on for the egg transfer. I won’t need to do any injections or rely on my creaky old ovaries. I just need to make sure that my womb is ready to receive 1-2 nice embryos courtesy of our young, fertile donor and husband’s sperm.

That’s the weird part I suppose. No getting around it – after our first meeting the clinic will match us with a donor who is blue eyed, blond’ish, slim and about my height. They’ll check that she is healthy and of sound mind. We’ll never find out who she is or see a photograph. We just need to rely on the clinic to do their part (and this is where the wonderful world of internet reviews come in….Madrid is a good place for blue eyed donors as there are plenty of international students from Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania and other blonde countries).

Anyway, I’m less concerned about physiological factors. I firmly believe that if we’re lucky enough to get pregnant the baby will be ‘mine’, hair colour or otherwise. The study of epigenetics has shown that much more goes into ‘building a baby’ than DNA. Our (imaginary, at this stage) baby will be loved and cared for, and we’ll tell her/him about the helpful donor when he/she is old enough to understand. I think that’s all that really matters. Who knows if we’ll make it that far? We just want to give it our best try.

Our first appointment will be on 21st September. In the meantime I remain (cautiously) optimistic, (quietly) hopeful and even (a bit) excited.

A Forest

Well, it has been a funny old week. I have had a Cure earworm for the last 5 days (earworm…where a song sticks in your head and won’t get out). It’s ‘A Forest’, which seems pretty apt at the moment. Not because I’m camping, or because I’m an 80s goth, but because of my current frame of mind:

I don’t really know what to do with myself. The last 18 months have been reassuringly organised. I’ve either been planning an IVF cycle or doing an IVF cycle. Now…I’m not, because I’m not doing any more IVF cycles, ever again. 

I’ve been crying rather a lot. Not in a dramatic fashion next to the coffee machine, but quietly and spontaneously, on my walk home, whilst listening to ‘Desert Island Discs’ or when I hug my husband. There’s a beautiful Christopher Wren church near my office where I go sometimes – I sit in an empty pew, close my eyes and enjoy the smell of polished wood and old Bibles. I talk to everyone in my head – family members here and departed, the ‘inner me’, God, although I feel strange doing that, like an imposter – and it just helps me feel better somehow. I went in there a few days ago for a quiet sob. The Vicar came over for a chat and I explained what has been going on. He’s a lovely man. It felt good to spill the beans to someone who knows nothing about infertility treatment. Maybe I needed that.

I do worry that I might have some sort of screaming meltdown at any moment. I’m doing fine on the outside – getting on with work, smiling, planning a family visit – but every now and again I’m gripped by the realisation that I AM NOT GOING TO GET PREGNANT WITH OUR OWN BABY. Our 5 cycles of IVF were a complete bust. I’m acting like a ‘normal person’ but on the inside I feel like I’m barely holding it together. What do people do in these situations? Quietly sob? Talk to a Vicar? Write a blog and get on with their lives? That’s what I’m doing. I think that’s probably the traditional British approach (perhaps minus the blog and the Vicar).

I’m also aware of the fact that I need to get a grip and remember there are people in far worse situations than me. I could be a disabled beggar in Kinshasa. I could be living in a makeshift refugee camp in Calais. I could be single and desperate for a baby. At least I’m halfway there.

So, what next? Well, I’m a hardcore organiser. I cannot relax. I must have spreadsheets. I am compelled to ‘do’. So it’s only natural that I’ve already started the quest for Plan B. More on that in the next post. For now, please enjoy the Cure.

7dp5dt – today is my birthday, tomorrow is my test day

….yikes. I’m dreading it.

My official test date isn’t until Thursday (10dp5dt) but I have the day off work tomorrow. I’d rather POAS without having to go to the office for the rest of the day, so…. tomorrow it is.

I’m not feeling optimistic. I wish I was, but I’m not. So today I am trying to put it all to the back of mind and focus on the good things in life, namely:

  • Today is my birthday and I’ve had so many nice presents, cards and good wishes from all over the world
  • My wonderful, funny, kind and handsome husband who I love very much and who loves me whether or not I am pregnant (ever)
  • My one-of-a-kind family including two grandparents who are still very much alive and kicking in their late 80s – and my extended family in New Zealand. I’m lucky to have them all.
  • My amazing friends around the world – all of whom I admire and am massively proud of
  • My job – which I love
  • My health – I’m alive! I’m reasonably slim! I still have all my own hair and teeth!
  • I live in London, one of the best cities in the world, and I never, ever get tired of it. Even when it’s raining and full of tourists.

I’ll report back tomorrow. Until then…..f*ck you home pregnancy test!