Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The relativity of mental illness

The phone went off today. I answered and it was my older sister.

She was in tears, so much so it took a few attempts to get at the bottom of what was wrong. It turned out she was really dreading a counselling appointment she has tomorrow.

I talked her though writing things down so if she got so wound up she couldn't speak she should still communicate (her therapist apparently wants her to rehearse it all in her head), having something lined up to do afterwards to cheer herself up (her husband is an arsehole and won't do anything, and agreed with her that the things she's upset about are very upsetting.

I had to go, but then spoke to her again later. It was the same conversation, although I suggested she take up some sort of exercise as that helps (her back hurts), line up something to do with her kids (she might).

I found myself getting rather irritated a couple of times (and I hope it didn't show), when she wanted to talk about our brother dying and how she'd never got over it, and had I got over it? I still think about him, but generally get on with my day to day life, because that's what you do.

I find it frustrating that my sister rejected virtually all the suggestions.

At a loss to suggest anything else and not really knowing what else I could do, I got the conversation back onto more normal stuff, she chatted for a bit and said she had to go.

I also find it quite difficult because I genuinely have had mental health problems myself, to the point of being on ADs a few times. Twice through pregnancy losses, once through a career related drama last year.

To be honest I'm still not feeling entirely myself about the career thing and miscarriage happening so close to each other (I will blog about it at some point when I've figured out how to make it less identifying), but I have been religious about going to the gym recently, doing my actual job, spending time with the Boy and hobbies and just trying to tread water until I figure out what to do next.

It's difficult because you can't measure mental health problems so I know I can't tell her that x, y or  worked for me so she needs to give herself a kick up the arse.

 I also can't get sucked into her calling constantly as that will pull me back into bad mental health myself, which helps nobody.

I know from bitter experience that as a society we just aren't set up to help other people through depression or bad mental health, but I don't know what to do beyond what I have done.

I did, once, find a newspaper cutting that my mum was going to send my sister, that was from a right wing newspaper and inferred that the high rate of women on antidepressants was down to us wanting to "have it all".

I know this was a bit bad of me, but that article mysteriously found its way into a recycling bin outside of the house. It probably had a negative impact on my mother but not as bad as the one it would have had on my sister had she read it.

I guess it's all about trying to find a balance.


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The fun bits

IF blogging tends to be a bit of a depository for negative thoughts (at least it is for me), a way of getting stuff out there.

But soon, the Boy is "a five" as he calls it. We are all very excited.

Hights of the last five years, that make it worth all the IF crap and then some, are to do with travelling. I love travelling, so does my husband. The Boy does also.

There was the time we took him to a caravan when he was a toddler. He - and I know this sounds like Bad Parenting - got into a box with a lot of switches and played with them. We turned on the oven and the caravan lights all went off.

 We found someone to turn them back on but in the meantime it was past dinnertime and we'd only bought stuff to put in the oven, so he demolished half a ginger loaf we'd bought. We all like ginger cake and I have some ready for his birthday.

 I have to travel sometimes for work and when the Boy was very little we often combined this with a family weekend away (tbh, we still do). I'm not sure whether kids are happier staying in hotels than they're generally given credit for or whether this is early experience - I didn't stay in a hotel until I was 13 and he seems to just take it all in his stride.

If we're staying in a hotel or airBNB now he likes jumping on the bed, checking out the toilet, trying to persuade us to let him sleep in the biggest bed, going through the TV channels and all the sorts of things you do when hotels are a novelty.

If he particularly likes the hotel room we sometimes have to work hard to persuade him that the rest of the city is worth exploring.

 He hated camping in the Lake District; I've got a photo taken of him just after we got there and it started pouring rain. He's sitting in his car seat, staring straight ahead, scowling (it did get better, he loved the waffles we got in Penrith).

He liked camping in Galloway. It was sunny but windy; I blew bubbles for him outside the tent.

He loves Romania because of the trains, the pub at the beach that had a trampoline, that everyone was kind to him (they really were), the bread and the amazing playparks in Bucharest.

We went to Spain, unexpectedly after the miscarriage, becausse neither I nor my husband could face the dark days between New Year and school starting back without a distraction. The Boy kept us going; he loved the room, loved the toy shop in Malaga, and was generally happy with his toys afterwards. And he even ate his dinners.

The other thing - for me - I love about being a parent is teaching him to try different foods (we've got the encouraging him to travel bit ok - although I do worry about where he will end up! - and are trying to set him up not to be fussy about food).

We have a game where he gets £1 if he tries a new food, and his Dad or I get £1 if we end up eating it. He always tries the food in the end, if only to stop one of his undeserving parents from ending up with the money.

Maybe, reading this back, I should be so hung up on the infertility years that I'm training him up to move two blocks down, only eat my food and go to the same resort every year on holiday.

But maybe he'll take us somewhere exciting that we wouldn't have tackled without him, someday.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Romance isn't dead

There was an article in a right wing tabloid today... a couple who are having their second child naturally after a first IVF baby have claimed that IVF is "just as romantic".

Really.

I think there's a bit of naievety in there as they seemed to be lucky on their first go at IVF and have experienced the full horror of the infertility trenches.

But... still? Romantic? My top non-romantic things about IVF are:

The drugs. Last time round, I ended up weeping copiously when I started the progesterone. Then there's the downregging, the stims, everything else. They make me want to smack my husband rather than engendering any romantic notions.

Then there's the stirrups and general poking about in your fanny. I'm fairly disinhibited about all this now. Let's face it, if they got to me then I wouldn't be counting my IVF goes on two fingers. But romantic they are not, unless you're got very strange ideas and boundaries.

The fear of failure, that you're throwing money, emotional investment, side effects and generally feeling shit at something that might never work.

I know I'm one of the lucky ones in that I did eventually have a baby.

But, y'know, if I had the option, I'd take even the most perfunctory quick shag as being about a million times more romantic then and infinitely preferable to fertility treatment.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Mother's Day

Since we had the miscarriage I've been pondering about the theory that secondary infertility is just as difficult as primary infertility. And why I don't think it is.

Realising you're infertile, or at the very least not as fertile as you'd like to be, isn't a very pleasant thing to do through. For years women are fed the idea that if they're not really careful that they'll get pregnant at the drop of a hat, but that it's easy to manage fertility.

It's a bit of a shock to the system that it doesn't always work like that, and I think always takes a bit of time to work through.

Personally, I've accepted being functionally infertile now. Although it caused me immeasurable pain in the past, I've now got to the point that I might as well rage about not being able to sing, or - to use a more practical example - being shit at parking. There's just no point in getting upset about not being able to get pregnant without a lot of help any more, I'm good at other things and in other ways have been quite lucky.

Losses also causr their own grief, in their own way. Not neccessarily in any logical fashion - the most upset I've been was having a chemical pregnancy after my first ever IVF shot.

The missed miscarriage was awful too of course, but I wasn't in anywhere near as bad a state. It's partly because you get a bit easier at managing things; aiming to be as out of it as possible for the actual miscarrying (not for everyone, but I don't trust my body to do anything well when it comes to pregnancy, even miscarrying), already knowing that things can go wrong, and of course I had the Boy.

That's the difference. If there hasn't been an adoption, or a bereavement, then the vast majority of people who have secondary infertility have their child in their lives.

The drugs still give me a thumping headache and a bad temper. But a couple of mornings ago the Boy came into our bed, snuggled under the covers and we miaowed at the cat until she came over so I could teach the Boy how to stroke her (put your fist out until she bumps it with her head, then front to back, and if her tail flicks she's getting annoyed).

Teaching your kid how to treat animals, or read, or swim isn't the only thing you can do. I'd probably have gone further at work, travelled more, learned more if I'd decided not to invest so much time and money in IVF and then the Boy. Neither option make anyone a better person. But I don't regret my decisions, although I am very aware that IVF doesn't always work out for everyone.

I got another negative today so I'm very nearly out for this cycle. But at least I got to spend the rest of the day taking the Boy to the park and then digging for worms in the garden.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Schrodinger's pish stick

I've been getting sick in the mornings. I know, I know, that this is from the progesterone more than anything else. But still, at 3 days post transfer, I cracked and decided to pee on a stick. It was negative.

I hate the waiting. I don't think I've ever had a cycle where a negative turned out to be a positive a few days later.

And, I don't know if this is just because I'm getting a bit older - although not, apparently, any wiser about early testing - but the drugs feel awful this time around. In addition to the weeping I'm also getting spots everywhere - my face, my scalp... urgh.

But at the moment I am neither pregnant nor not pregnant.

I've also been arguing with my husband a lot. He's been preoccupied with lots of other things, which we've been talking about more than the cycle. But I'm getting really fucked off with him hiding upstairs on his computer while I sit downstairs with a thumping headache, fielding questions about trains and atoms from the Boy.

Tonight's row was at dinnertime, because I was trying to put together a plan B if this cycle doesn't work. I find this is immensely helpful. It means if the cycle doesn't work I'm not totally pulling myself up off the floor, I've got something positive to focus on. Normally it involves booking a holiday or, more generally, having something lined up to look forward to.

So I was talking to him about holidays and generally trying to make myself feel like it wouldn't be quite so shit if this cycle doesn't pan out, and then he came out with "Oh, but it might still work this time".

I felt like stabbing him with my fork.

I think his point of view is that the drugs are driving me up the wall, that we're maybe doing this too soon after the miscarriage and we need a good long break after this cycle. And that we're going to a kiddie theme park near a big post-industrial city in a few weeks so I should be content.

Mine is that the drugs are making me feel like shit, but in order to cope with this I need him to be a bit more supportive and actually come up with plans and suggestions that aren't as a result of me prodding him. I am not getting any younger, I hate the limbo of treatments, and I need a more definite timescale for career purposes, and, more importantly, the more you can ignore the emotional trauma and just do cycles the more likely it is that IVF will work. And yes, a break would be nice but it needs to be something a bit more life affirming than what we've got planned so far.

>>>> Later notes <<<<

I feel a bit unreasonable for some of the stuff I was moaning about. The whole point of IVF is that you get to do stuff with your kids, after all, and even if I wouldn't choose to spend a day in a children's theme park normally, I'm sure it'll be lovely memories for us and the Boy.

We also had a big talk and hopefully he'll be a bit more supportive from now on.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Transfer day

I have been weeping since I started progesterone. It'll take something relatively small to start it off, but once it starts, I can't stop.

I also feel absolutely foul. I have that horrible hair-sticky-up, too-hot, bad-tempered feeling that's similar to very bad PMT. I couldn't wear makeup to the clinic and my face looks like corned beef.

Despite all of this, I thought it would work out fine if I drove myself to the clinic because we couldn't get childcare.

We didn't want to ask my parents as to be honest, driving myself up was less stressful than explaining to them. They had, coincidentally, tried to invite themselves over today to drop off a toy the Boy had left there at the weekend, but I said it was a bad time as we'd be out.

The drive involves going along the motorway and then taking a complicated route around the edges of the city centre. I was feeling relatively pleased with myself when I managed to get there without going the wrong way once.

I started crying when I got into the fucking clinic, and then I was sort of low level sniffling for most of the time I was there.

To make matters worse, I used to get a weird twitch in my leg when I was giving presentations at work. This stopped a few years ago.

But when I was in the stirrups and had the catheter in, my fucking leg started trembling. I'm not consciously doing it so I can't stop doing it either.

I hate my leg. Fuck sake, leg, letting the side down.

The staff didn't mention the weird shaky leg thing but they were like "Aha! You've stopped crying" a couple of times. Which immediately set me off again.

When I set off for home, I went the wrong way straight away. So I had to double back.

Then a roundabout appeared when I didn't expect it and I realised I had was somehow driving into the city centre rather than onto the motorway.

Finally, I got back onto the right route and decided it would be a good idea to stop at a shopping centre on the way home.

This was a good plan until I couldn't find a parking space and then accidentally drove into another car while looking for one.

Mercifully at low speed and only with slight damage to both cars, but probably not a recommended course of action in any of the books I used to read about increasing one's IVF chances through meditation and eating mung beans.

So, the actual transfer seemed to go pretty well. But I am SO getting my husband to come next time.

When I got home my mum had left the toy in a bag in our back garden, along with, inexplicably, a bottle of chilli sauce.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Prostap, again

Aside from completely failing to keep up with the 100 books challenge (I started playing the South Park game instead) I went to the clinic and had another prostap injection.

So now, for the fifth time, I'm getting headaches, hot flushes and feeling sleepy. Oh, and fat. All hormonal medication seems to inevitably make me fat. Even 'normal' things like the Pill (which also gave me horrendous thrush... a silver lining of having no tubes is no contraceptives).

This time around, I've been doing far more exercise than I usually do not just when cycling, but generally. Admittedly, this is only partly due to the keeping-fit-for-IVF motivation, it's also because all the mums doing pickup at the Boy's school seem to do some sort of fitness and I didn't want to be fat, unfit parent for the next thirteen years or so.

(Incidentally, I saw figures recently about healthy life expectancy in deprived neighbourhoods vs affluent areas being almost 20 years, so presumably this herding instinct/peer pressure to exercise is part of the reason for that gap).

The exercise is making the side effects less bad, although I don't know if it's just that less sitting around gives me less time to focus on them. Although then I worry I am not doing it properly if there's no side effects.

I'm also wondering how many times it's healthy to go through a fake menopause. I have been assured that there's no long term health effects of multiple IVF treatments.

Is that the truth or does nobody really know yet; wonderful though fertility treatment is, it's a relatively new technology and, as far as I can discern, the drugs regimes are much newer than IVF itself.

But I've got to make the best choices with the information and circumstances that I have, so I am sitting here feeling hot, a wee bit headachey and slightly mad.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Books and films so far this year...

See post below for an explanation of what I'm doing, but so far this year I have managed to consume...

Lisa Jewell, The Girls - this has been the most "chic lit" thing I've read. I used to really enjoy Lisa Jewell books years ago but hadn't read any for a while. It was good at the start but ended very abruptly, with some very improbable happenings to tie up various subplots.

Asne Seiersad, Bookseller of Kabul - This is a book drawn from the author's experience of living in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. It's very sad with some initially sympathetic characters turning out to be not so sympathetic. It was like a small window into an Afghan family; any of the stories could have been their own book.

Philippa Gregory, The Virgin's Lover - a book about the scandalous love affair between Queen Elizabeth and Robert Dudley. The main character was Dudley's wife, Amy. Who is really fucking irritating and, abandoned by her Dudley, turns to the church to find a bloke to tell her what to do, which is to cling onto her husband. I was willing her to grow a spine...

Kazuo Ishiguoro, The Forgetful Giant - One of the disadvantages of doing a reading challenge is that you don't get to reread or really think about books. This book philosophised about the advantages and disadvantages of leaving the past behind and forgetfulness. I did really enjoy it but it was delibarately ambiguous and inconclusive. I think I'll reread it when I'm finished the challenge.

Anne de Courcy, The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj - This was a history book about young women travelling to British India to marry. It was fascinating and well written, with plenty of anecdotes. However, I'm not entirely convinced the British in India were as straight laced as they'd have you believe, and I'd expected a bit more about the Indian Mutiny and losing the Raj. Very good, though.

Tim Marshall, Prisoners of Geography - A series of essays about geopolitical pressures and conflicts on Earth. Produced last year, I'd love to see an upate this year sometime. Assuming a Twitter inflicted Armageddon doesn't happen before the second edition is printed.

Terry Pratchett, the Shepherd's Crown - I loved Terry Pratchett all through my teens and early 20s, stopped reading for a few years, ordered this and then didn't read it at first. I wish I'd picked it up earlier as he never lost his flare for a moment. He introduces some fantastic new characters and I caught myself looking forward to the next Discworld novel to find out what happens next. Great as a book, bittersweet as a Pratchett fan.

Vicky Bhogal, Cooking with Mummyji  I saw this in a second hand shop and snapped it up as I love British Asian food and I'd meant to buy this when it came out, ages ago. I haven't cooked enough from it to review it as a receipe book but I enjoyed all the anecdotes. Interesting, for all the author makes great play of the matriarchal role in teaching cookery, a lot of the receipes are credited to her Dad.

And a film...

Trainspotting 2 - As mentioned, I don't get to the cinema very often, but everyone went to see this. It wasn't quite as sharp, funny or zeitgeisty as the original, but it was still excellent. The scene in the Orange Lodge was standout, and Begbie is more terrifying with age.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The culture project

I read about the 100 books in a year project recently and thought it'd be a good idea to try. I like reading but stuff going on have meant less time on this, and I'd like to rekindle my love of books. I'm a relatively fast reader, a skill the Boy, gratifyingly, seems to be picking up.

However, I know there are going to be dry reading months, and I've decided to make this 100 movies/books year. The reason is I love films almost as much as books but get only a small window at night after the Boy is in bed, or a rare date night, or a kids' film that we all want to go and see at the pictures (cinema or movies to you), to add to the total.

The rules are:

Mostly, any film or book counts to the total.

I will generally discount any kids DVD I wouldn't choose to watch without children (endless Thomas the Tank Engine and similar) or children's films I do find quite entertaining but can recite them backwards (anything featuring the Minions).

I started off this challenge trying to read literary books. This very quickly felt like the worthiest, most middle class project ever. Although I think I'd be failing the challenge if by the end I could say I'd read 100 romance novels, I'm aiming for a mix.

I'm not counting Game of Thrones because I love Game of Thrones and would watch it over and over again, forever. If I ever start watching any of the box sets everyone else raves about then I will probably count that. I will draw up the rules on box sets as I go along, if I have to.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Gearing up to try again, and clinic woe

So we thought we should go back and see the clinic to talk about the next transfer, and booked an appointment.

We then got a vaguely snotty letter through the post from the clinic saying a consultations cost £130 if you finished treatment more than 2 months ago, or unless you had treatment booked.

I don't mind paying for treatment at all and realise it's reasonable to charge for consultations to discourage timewaster, but this seemed just a bit grabby.

I e-mailed the clinic to explain that the reason we needed an appointment more than 2 months after treatment was that I'd had a miscarriage that got detected at 12 weeks, we had frozen embryos and asking that under the circumstances could they waive the fee.

A few hours later I discovered a voicemail on my phone from one of the nurses apologising for not calling me last month (??? We let the clinic know and they did call us back) and then saying sorry we'd lost our baby and to give her a call on Thursday or Friday.

None of this was very helpful. In practical terms we're going to see the clinic before then anyway and I suspect they'd not read my notes, in emotional terms it kind of temporarily pulled me back to the time around the scan and surgery.

Anyway, on the plus side, we're going to see them. On the minus side, AF hasn't appeared yet and it's six weeks since I had surgery.