We Need to Talk About Infertility

A couple of years ago, at possibly one of the lowest points in our infertility struggle, a friend told me that I was the strongest person they knew. It gave me pause for thought and made me truly consider how other people viewed me. What followed was a good deal of sensible talking from people blessed with greater clarity in their thinking at that time than me and they gently brought me round to the conclusion that I was doing myself no favours by keeping our infertility struggles such a closely guarded secret.

That part may astound you, if you were a reader of my blog back then, or you’ve delved in to the archives now. For a considerable period of time I gave a blow-by-blow, technicolour account of our story, dildo-cam dates and all, right here on the internet.

In my real life, however, I wasn’t being quite so open.

It turns out that it is much easier to type words on a screen and send them off to in to the ether to be seen by relative strangers than to look someone in the eye and say “we desperately want another child and can’t have one.” Of course my closest friends knew the score, but my life is filled with countless other people who couldn’t have helped but notice “something” was different, yet not had any idea of the truth.

I suppose I was worried, as always, about what people might think of me, or what they would say and do if party to those private details about me. I struggled with the acceptance of being imperfect, of needing help and support.

The problem, of course, is that we live in a society that so often prizes strength and coping. The ability to keep a smile on your face at all times and leave your problems behind you wherever you go without allowing them to cross over in to any other area of your life. However, it is easy to become too fixated on that. Too desperate to appear to be coping that you either forget – or, as in my case, more actively refuse – to let anyone know that you have anything to cope with. But strength is relative. Ironically I was hiding my struggles out of fear of judgement, yet what people were seeing was someone who seemed very “un-together” and more than a million miles away from “strong” as I randomly fell apart. In short, a mess. Because without the whole picture, that is exactly how I looked.

With even a small part of the picture (the desperate struggle to conceive, which was just a part of what was going on at the time) things instantly begin to look very different. And when I did open up, it was immediately obvious how it changed people’s perceptions. I wonder still how more honesty on my part might have influenced the support available to me and hence the entire experience from an earlier point.

There were plenty of truly horrible individual moments in the process of IVF. Sneaking around making surreptitious phone calls to the fertility clinic in working hours, terrified that someone may overhear. Shutting myself in my surgery at work to receive the phone call that left me in floods of tears as I learned that none of my eggs appeared to have fertilised, whilst the names of waiting patients came up in the appointment book. Beginning to miscarry the pregnancy that I already knew had failed down the toilet at work whilst patients shuffled in to the waiting room to await their turn to see me. Being asked at least twenty times a day by patients how I am and affixing a smile to respond that “I’m fine” when really I was anything but. Waiting those two long, hard, harsh weeks hardly daring to hope that the tiny bundle of cells you saw under the microscope is turning in to new life inside you. Then peeing on a plastic stick and facing the reality as stark as the blank white space that stares back at you, before leaving the house for “business as usual”, passing pregnant bellies and prams full of newborns and their piercing cries.

All of those individual moments, however – even the actual moment of physical miscarriage, – pale in comparison to the enormity of the whole thing together. The inability to do what high school sex education would have you believe happens at the drop of a hat as soon as a boy and a girl slide between the sheets together.

That and the fact that because we already have a child we were supposed to somehow be okay with this. Let me tell you now, wanting another child has never in any way meant that I don’t love and appreciate the child I have. He’s one in a million and absolutely irreplaceable. He’s my moon and stars, my reason for everything. I love him more than I’ve so far found the words to truly express. In fact, the love that I feel for him is one of the many reasons that I’d so love to have experienced motherhood again from the beginning. It’s not wrong to want another child in exactly the same way that it’s not wrong to not want children at all, or to want just one. We all have our own personal dreams, and more than one child was amongst mine. To be unable to achieve that dream is still devastating despite my beautiful boy.

(If you still doubt me on that, take a look at your own wider family and those of your friends. Having more than one child is not some sort of exceptional circumstance. Its a basic and common maternal desire that I shouldn’t find myself repeatedly apologising for.)

One of the many hard things about infertility after having a child is just how inescapable it is. People make assumptions that because you have one child you must be able to have another. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked when we’ll be having another – a drawback of working closely with the public is that they think it’s ok to keep asking me such personal questions when, really, it’s never ok.

I could not, and still can’t, take Thomas to swimming lessons, soft play or even school drop off without being faced by round beach- ball bellies and double buggies containing two smiling siblings. The friends that shared my first pregnancy long ago moved on to second and third children and it’s difficult not to feel somehow left behind. Everyone else moves forward whilst my own life stands still. It’s hard not to feel a bit jealous of those who didn’t even have a child when we started trying for a second child, but now have two, three or more. It’s hard sometimes not to think that it should be my turn by now.

Sharing just what exactly was happening behind the closed doors and the tear stained face was definitely a turning point though. When work colleagues knew what I’d been hiding, my behaviour obviously made sense. It wasn’t so much that I was forgiven, as that they were reassured I hadn’t changed fundamentally as a person. People suddenly saw someone who was actually coping reasonably well with difficult circumstances rather than the slightly flaky person who’d been standing before them a moment before. The “strength” word came up again because people could see the heavy load I was carrying, rather than seeing someone who was beginning to buckle underneath seemingly nothing at all.

And some of the conversations around me changed, because topics that were off limits were easier to see. It turns out that you cannot always expect people to be sensitive in their questioning if they don’t have any idea. Although, for reference, it’s not really anyone’s business when or whether other people plan to have children and it’s never really appropriate to ask. Just because someone has one child, don’t assume that automatically means they can have another. If you know a woman has miscarried don’t tell her “its for the best” or even “you can try again”. Sometimes trying again will cost thousands of pounds, or simply not be possible at all, never mind the emotional toll it will take.

Actually, that is the other reason I was glad that I started to open up.It gave me an opportunity to educate a few people on these home truths about the suitability of their questions. The fact that this is necessary to do though simply underlines how much of a taboo infertility still is. It turns out that I was far from alone in hiding what we were going through behind closed doors.

In recent years we’ve seen a lot of progress in the conversations about miscarriage, about subjects like birth trauma and about mental health. Yet infertility doesn’t yet seem to be a fair game topic. So many women hide what they are experiencing and so often they only reveal it when they have a positive outcome. Their happy news is shared with the story of what a struggle it was to get there.

The problem with that is it not only allows the struggle to be immediately glossed over by the fantastic ending, it also sometimes gives a false impression of the success rate of infertility treatment. If people only ever hear the good outcomes, it’s natural to assume that that is all there is. But sadly that is not the truth. Whilst success rates have improved, and we have much to thank modern medical science for, there are still plenty of us who don’t ever get that happy outcome. Sometimes miracles don’t “just take a little time” – they may never arrive. And sometimes it really is the end, even when it is not okay. Dreams, it seems, don’t always come true and believing you can is not always enough.

I’m glad I ended my personal infertility silence, but I wish I could do something to support others – who want to – to do the same. Of course fertility and trying to conceive is a very personal thing, and not everyone wants to open up. But we need to create the right environment for those who do. It’s time to open up about infertility and all the myriad ways it affects us. It’s time to normalise it, to raise the profile and end the inappropriate questions of young women (and men) about their family plans. It’s time to let others know they are not alone, no matter what the outcome. It’s time to be there for people facing infertility, so they don’t feel they must carry the burden in silence.

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

Living Arrows – Train Reading

This weeks picture captures a whole bunch of things about Thomas within it’s confined frame. We were on the train – his favourite place to be -and he’s reading, something that he’s both good at and finally increasingly coming to actually love. More than that, though, he is reading a Thomas the Tank Engine book. Despite the array of books that he owns and is able to read himself, he still loves going back to these well worn stories, and to watch him become absorbed in them all by himself tugs at my mummy strings!

Thomas reading

(The final thing this picture captures is his hand inside his waistband. This is on the list of “Things people should tell you when you have a baby boy”!)

I wanted to be able to share something new for Living Arrows, but I also can’t help myself but include these two pictures from our trip to a local sunflower trail last week too, because I really love them.

For me pictures of our sunflower adventure, read the full post here

Linking up with Donna at What the Redhead Said

Living Arrows

 

Happy Days: Festivals, Camping and Dates

So. I made a decision to return to blogging partly because I had so much that I wanted to record in a way that I can easily look back on. And I was full of enthusiasm and inspiration and raring to go and then…. Well, then this week happened to me! Safe to say it has not been one of the easier weeks of life or parenting with Thomas managing to simultaneously push almost every single one of my buttons. Something is clearly bothering him, although we haven’t got to the bottom of what and it has been reflected in his behaviour. Add stressful work and general life stuff in to the mix and it would be very easy for me to throw up my hands in despair.

But.

There has actually been quite a lot of good stuff this week. So I’m linking up this list of little happy moments with Katy and Sian

    • Fun, and a couple of pints, in the sunshine at a local community music festival. Thomas had a ball dancing, and was also excited that there was a fire engine in attendance. Firefighters are a big thing at the moment – he’s even told me that he might want to be a fireman rather than a train driver (*shock*horror*)

  • Thomas really enjoying a full day of Judo camp, despite being quite anxious about going and being one of the two youngest ones there.
  • Sleeping out in the tent in the garden with my boy. He camped out with Daddy last weekend but was desperate to have Mummy join him too. We had heavy rain and thunder to contend with, but it was lots of fun even though it was only the back garden!

  • Getting all of the back to school shopping done without too much hassle. I actually bought all of his shirts, shorts and trousers back in July with 20% off but we needed to go to the school outfitter for all the specific stuff. We had a giggle when the first pair of PE bottoms the lady bought out pulled all the way up to Thomas’s armpits and looked like proper clown trousers! I was also winning because I had his feet measured and they haven’t really grown, so the new school shoes we got not long after Easter should last a while longer yet!
  • A “date” with my little man at the Cinema. We went to the Kid’s Club screening of “Sing” so it was £2 a ticket. Although it is an old film we haven’t seen it yet and Thomas has been wanting to for a while. It was actually really good – I couldn’t help but sing along – and Thomas gave it a massive thumbs up.
  • A date with Ian… well almost. Thomas was meant to stay with my parents on Wednesday night and so Ian and I snuck out for dinner and drinks. We’d just ordered when we got a phone call to say that Thomas was inconsolable. We still haven’t got to the bottom of what was upsetting him – he’s stayed with my parents lots before and never had a problem, so we know it isn’t that. We did manage to wolf our dinner down pretty quickly befre heading back though. Small wins!
    • New clothes in the sale. Including this dress which I have had my eye on all summer, so even better to get it at sale price

  • Nice little notes and comments – I signed in to my work computer today and received a little thank you note from one of our hygienists for something, and I’ve had some really lovely feedback forms from patients too this week, which is always good for the soul, especially when things are generally stressful and pressured.

Phew. That turned in to quite a list. Good to know there is plenty to be thankful for even when the week has felt like a struggle!

What Katy Said

Not Waving, But Drowning

I’ve debated long and hard about posting this and have slept on it more than once. I’m anxious that comes across as whingy and whiny and could so easily be misconstrued. I’m in no way trying to criticise anyone else, I’m just trying to be honest about interaction online makes me feel. I’ve finally decided to post it, despite what people may think – if they read it at all!

I don’t know how to start this post. And it’s fairly obvious that the same thing has been true for the last six weeks or more. I could say it was writer’s block, but that wouldn’t be strictly honest. It’s not that I’ve a lack of things I could say. It’s more a lack of inspiration, when confronted with a blank screen, for how to say them. It’s less a lack of ideas and more of an inability to translate the confused storm of thoughts and emotions in my head in to comprehensible words and ideas on the page. And a lack of desire to do it because… well, what’s the point?

I thought for a while that I was turning a corner. We’ve got exciting plans coming up in the next twelve months and finally, for a short time at least, I felt as though our failure to have more children didn’t matter so much any more. Not that I was over it, but that I finally felt that I  could get over it. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel was switched on by finding things that excited me almost as much as the idea of growing our family.

But then, almost abruptly, someone switched the light out again. And I retreated back around the corner. I suppose it was a combination of things. Many of them small and seemingly insignificant. Not least of all, though, were the births of so many babies around me. And online over and over again I came up against announcements of pregnancies. Invariably second, or more usually third, pregnancies. At least half of them seeming to have happened within mere weeks of the decision to try, or even without any planning at all.

If screaming that it’s not bloody fair makes me both pathetic and a bitch, then I’m guilty as charged.

I wanted to write about these feelings. I wanted to offload. To look for more support. To turn my silent scream to a shout for more help.

But it became stuck in my throat, unable to find its way from inside my head and my heart, out to the world at large. Or, at least, the online world. Because… well, what’s the point?

Here is the honest truth about why I stumbled: It’s because hardly anyone is listening. It’s because I don’t think that anyone wants to listen to my self pitying prose, over and over again like a stuck record – and I guess I don’t really blame them. But I also think people don’t want to listen because they simply don’t care. It’s not relevant to them, they don’t actually know me and have no desire to get to know me. And that is fine. Everyone is free to read and interact and do exactly as they choose. But it does mean, if I’m to be as honest as I’m promising, that the internet is not the shiny, happy land of help, and love and connections and support that so many people make it out to be.

The truth is, it’s exactly that for a tiny minority of people. Five percent of the people who get, probably, ninety five percent of the support. It’s a tiny minority of people who turn to online communities and are made to feel less alone as a result. And they go on to make up the vast majority of the people talking about just how great online communities are, and how much they’ve gained from them.

For the rest of us, the internet can often be just as much of a lonely place as the real world so frequently is. It can often feel like an exclusive party, to which we cannot get an invite, but it’s all there to be seen behind a glass screen.

I’m not saying that it’s the fault of the people for whom the internet provides so much and facilitates so many positive relationships. But I do need to say that it isn’t as easy as writing a few blog posts, commenting on others, joining up to forums or email lists and sending a few tweets. It’s really, really hard for some of us to get engaged, despite trying over and over again. It’s often said that you get out what you put in, but that isn’t always the whole truth. And of course, for those of struggling the most “putting in” can often be very hard to do, at least at the level that seems necessary in order for just a single tweet to get read these days. But by it’s very nature, the internet is a bit voyeristic, and it’s so easy to see all these people having a great time and forming so many positive interactions and wondering just why the hell you can’t get a piece of that.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had some great support from a few people, and if you’re one of them, I want you to know how much it is appreciated. I have a few singular readers here, a few correspondents on Twitter. But I don’t have community.

It shouldn’t surprise me. I’ve always been one of those people that doesn’t really “fit in”. Friendships don’t come naturally or easily to me. The only part of my life where I have absolutely no trouble getting people to trust and like me is in my professional sphere. I don’t understand why I find it so easy to be popular in that arena, but cannot transfer it to my personal life or online, where it’s all supposed to be so much easier.

I know that I find it hard online partly because of my career, and the fact that I don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to online interactions, and the caution I apply for privacy reasons. However, I also find it difficult because often I’m not even sure where I am trying to fit in. I can’t fit in to the infertility community, given that we can’t pursue any more treatment and, worse, I actually have a child, so I’m concerned that I’m seen as some kind of imposter. I don’t fit in with those who write parenting focused blogs because… well, because I’m concerned I’m seen as “not a proper parent” I guess. Because I write more about infertility and my sadness than I ever do about parenting. And perhaps most of all because my blog is “just for fun”. Because I have a successful professional career and have no desire for my blog to be another.

Yeah, if I’m honest it seems these days that if you don’t treat your social media connections and online writing like a job, you simply get trampled underfoot. Or perhaps swept aside and left behind may be more apt. The internet is such a crowded place, perhaps it’s just simply that you have to be able to shout loudly and inevitably, therefore, everyone has to be a bit self centred.

But the world where I want to fit is the world where people care more about people than page views, reviews or sponsorships. I first discovered blogs more than a decade ago when I went online looking for personal stories. For people living lives like mine. I cared (and in many cases still care) about the stories of the people I discovered, finding resonance in their voices. I started my first blog nine and a half years ago because I wanted to contribute, and to get back. But gradually that aspect of blogging has been eroded. Everyone is a “professional” now, telling stories that sell a product as often as they write about what really makes them tick. And if you’re working to deadlines to briefs you don’t often have the time or the scope to share the purely personal and what really makes you tick. I know that. There have been plenty of posts from blogs I read recently describing the “pressure” they feel under. And besides, I’ve done my own fair share of freelance writing (but always – always – separate from my blogging).

Now blogs are the platform for writing anything and everything. And it’s not that I think that is wrong. I’m in no way criticising any one or what they choose to do with their online lives. It’s just all so different from where I started. And I think that where I started no longer exists. I feel like a foreigner in a strange land.

I wonder if what I think of as a “blog” needs a new name. Or if the sites that share three reviews a day under the banner of a blog need to be renamed simply “personal review sites”. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter. I believe what I desire no longer exists under any name. I don’t feel that I have a voice, or a community, or the support network that I’m so desperately seeking and no way at all to find it.

When I write I’m not waving. I’m slowly drowning.

Losing Touch in the Facebook Era

imageI have a confession to make. Yeah, another one.

I don’t really like Facebook.

Okay, okay, these days that’s not so uncommon. It seems like hoards of people are jumping up and down to decry what was certainly once the world’s premier social network. And I have a lot of the same concerns as those people. I worry about issues of privacy. I get tired of the same inane links doing the rounds. I don’t need to know what someone I once went to primary school with had for their lunch, nor hear about their child’s potty training exploits. And for an infertile, Facebook can simply be an enormously painful place, full of scan pictures, bump pictures and happy announcements, the like of which I’ll never have another opportunity to annoy others with. The Facebook timeline can easily become a constantly updated reminder of your infertility, and surely no one willingly wants to expose themselves to that torture over, and over, again.

Beyond the hurt and upset all that baby news can bring, however, is a greater potential for my heart to ache, and a deeper cause of my current dislike for Facebook and the methods of tenuous social connection it’s spawned.

You see, it takes just a few minutes of clicking around to find out a good deal about the lives of people who were once really important to me, and to whom I was something more than a “friend” on a list, picture on a screen or short status update. It takes just minutes to find their wedding pictures, and the fact that they have a beautiful baby now. All four of their sisters are easy to click through to, also with spouses and almost enough kids for a football team between them. I can chart their moves around the country, and stops around the world. All without having spoken directly to any of them in several years. In fact, to the youngest of those sisters, I’m almost certainly an unknown, for she was just Thomas’s age the last time I saw her in person.

This isn’t heartache about the “one who got away” in a traditional sense. It’s not wishing I were married to that person instead (In case you were in any doubt, I wouldn’t change my husband or child for the world – my ending may be differently shaped than I imagined, but it’s still happy). It’s more the reminder that they once were there, and thanks to the online world that reminder is almost impossible to suppress. Sometimes I guess we’d all like to know what ever happened to those friends and lovers of yesteryear and even lose ourselves in the fantasy of what our lives might have been like if we’d taken a different path. But there’s a difference between idle daydreaming and actually being able to see how the story unfolded. Thanks to the interent, it’s pretty easy to get a real idea of that.

And that’s great. It really often is. But also it leads to wondering. Wondering if you hadn’t moved from friends to lovers, whether you’d still be good friends now. Or worse, to realising that you almost certainly could have been friends still. That you’re over the moon for them that everything seemed to work itself out after that shaky start to adulthood back in the late nineties. That you get real pleasure from seeing their happy ending.

And then, inevitably, you wonder just why it all faded away.

I can’t help but think that, wonderful though social media can be for relieving isolation and creating new connections, it actually does a disservice to those vital, long-established and well-worn, real-world connections that we’d fostered in the old fashioned way for years, the relationships that made up our past and contributed to who we are in our present. Thanks to the ease with which we can now find our classmates of thirty years ago, or that person you met on holiday and wrote – pen and paper style – to for months after you got home, we tend to assume that everyone is still within easy reach.

That’s the problem. That’s what I dislike.

In short, I think that Facebook makes us feel far more connected than we really are. It makes us lazy about keeping up the connections. Sometitmes we’re lazy about it until we realise that they’re gone. They slipped through our fingers whilst we were busy wading through game requests, memes and endless personality quizzes. And then, as the final insult, Facebook rubs it in our faces, showing us those lives we were so nearly privy to and intensifying the sense of sadness.

I know it’s not all down to Facebook. Obviously friendships take work and effort from both sides and at the end of the day I only have myself to blame for the people I’ve allowed to slip away. But I do think that social media doesn’t really promote cherishing the old. It facilitates the new. The always moving forwards. Despite the hoards of people that we haven’t seen in years that populate so many people’s friend lists, it doesn’t really help us keep up those relationships in a true sense.

The internet gives us more connections. But often they’re more tenuous, or more more fragile than any of us are willing to acknowledge. And despite all the ways there are to keep in touch, amongst the crowded webs of connections, it sometimes it feels harder to actually do so with the people that actually mean something in our life stories. Harder than ever before, when landline telephones and envelopes and stamps forced us to make the proper effort.

It seems sad that these days we all move on so quickly. I’m sure it didn’t used to be this way.

(This post is dedicated to Simon – I’m sure you’ll know who you are – and his sisters, should any of them every happen to stumble across it. I know that the cracks in this particular relationship pre-date Facebook, but I’m still sad about it, and sad that I can see the pattern repeating over and over for others around me.)

2014: The Year in Review – Blogged and Otherwise

Back on the first of January, I wrote this post about the year ahead. Looking back at it now is slightly difficult, because this year did indeed become exactly what I had so fervently hoped it would not. It became the year of infertility treatments and all that comes with them physically and emotionally. It’s certainly influenced my blogging too, and whilst I never intended for this to become an “infertility blog” it’s inevitable that it’s been the focus of much of my emotional outpouring for the last twelve months. As such, it’s almost become quite difficult not to chart the year in terms of the milestones on our infertility journey – which is exactly what I did yesterday. But there has been so much more to the year too, and to not make reference to that as this current, albeit somewhat arbitrary, chapter closes and a new one begins would be to do myself and my family a disservice.

We may have been mired in the heartbreak that infertility can bring, but at the same time I think we’ve been reasonably successful in seizing the happiness where we find it. In fact, it’s become perhaps more important than ever to me to do that whilst it’s been in such short supply. After all. even when life is handing you lemons, there are positives to be found and whilst they cannot completely negate the sadness, they can help tip the balance a long way. And, perhaps most importantly of all, no matter how difficult a period of time is, you cannot get that time back. Thomas will not be a two year old again. We won’t get back the time that has passed in his childhood. I’m pleased, and grateful, that he managed to bring so much light in to a dark time.

Not all that we’ve got up to this year has made it on to this blog. Some of that is due to laziness, some due to prioritising other things I’ve wanted to publish. Much of it however, I’m not sorry to say, is because there have times where we’ve been simply too busy enjoying ourselves to document it. After all, I don’t want to live our lives solely through a camera lens. But this is my round up of some of the highlights, whether they’ve been blogged before or not.

We’ve fitted in three trips away this year – to Center Parcs in the spring, Berlin in the summer and a short break to Brussels earlier this month. Thomas has also enjoyed five theatre trips – Not Now Bernard and Sensacional at the Unicorn, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Room on the Broom at the Lyric and Peppa Pig’s Big Splash. Thomas also experienced his first big screen film at the cinemaThomas and Friends Tale of the Brave. In fact, film has been a big part of the year as we’ve started to introduce Thomas to many of the Disney and Dreamworks classics, which kicked off a minor obsession with Toy Story. I’ve been pleased at how much he has also enjoyed the ‘classic’ classics though, such as Snow White and Pinnochio and things are shaping up well for a trip to DisneyWorld!

There have been plenty of days out this year. To the zoo, to farms and to local National Trust properties and the historic dockyard at Chatham, where we met a Gruffalo. We went up the Shard for a milestone family birthday. There have been trips to the big museums in London, and quieter trips to local fetes and to Carter’s Steam Fair. The train obsession goes on, and in addition to many hours spent train spotting at our local stations, we enjoyed another Day Out with Thomas and a ride on the Santa Special. There have also been many trips to London with the main intention being to ride on different forms of public transport and we took a train trip to the seaside.

There have been lots more ordinary activities as well. Our music classes and swimming lessons. Days spent in the garden, splashing in the paddling pool or digging in the dirt, plus a very first egg hunt. Walks in the woods and to feed the ducks and oh so many trips to the park and sandpit and riding bikes. There have been lazy days at home watching Toy Story over and over again, or creating ever more elaborate layouts with the wooden train track, not to mention the quarantine at the height of summer when Thomas finally succumbed to Chicken Pox. We’ve cooked together. Eaten together from picnics on the floor to “dates” in Starbucks, to ice cream cones. We’ve read our favourite books more times than I care to remember, but Thomas has begun to sound out the words of his favourites as he moves towards reading for himself. There has been messy play, and crafts and painting. There have been painstaking hours spent practicing writing the letters of Thomas’s name. There has been singing, dancing, den building and dinosaur chases. I’ve been a patient in Thomas’s doctor’s surgery more times that a healthy person should, and I’ve enjoyed watching what his imagination can create as he plays and telling stories through actions. We’ve also begun a love affair with Lego that I hope will last for years to come. In case you missed them I shared some videos that demonstrate what a happy, outgoing and cheeky kid I’m proud to call my own.

And that’s the truth. I’m so proud to call him my son. So proud to be his mum and get to share my time with him. He’s grown up before our very eyes this year, turning from toddler in to fully fledged pre-schooler, with such firm beliefs and strong opinions – that he’s not afraid to voice and which show him to be well on the road to becoming his own person. If my life hasn’t quite panned out the way I would have chosen if choice were an option any of us had, then at least I have my husband and my son in the life that I do have.

And as for me? Well I had my five minutes of fame in Mother and Baby magazine. My job continues to be a source of both great satisfaction and also, at times great stress. But I’ve hit some career development goals this year, even in the midst of the IVF turmoil, and of that I’m proud. We also bought a new car in the summer, and finally, after 15 years, I got my driving licence back this month, which will open up so many more opportunities for us in the New Year. I’ve also remained mostly heathy, and achieved another year – 31 in total – of living well with type 1 diabetes remaining, at least for now, complication free. And, well, I underwent a lot of fertility procedures!

It may have been a year of failed fertility endeavours, but it’s also been a year of growing our family in completely different ways. Of cementing our bonds and enriching our lives despite the trials.There has been incredible sadness and heartbreak. But there has been incredible happiness too.

Yes, it’s not been all bad at all.

And things can only get better.

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2014: A Year In Blog Posts

It’s that time of year already: The closing moments of twelve calendar months that make up the year and the time when we inevitably look back and reflect, before looking forward to the new year. I’m not naive enough to believe that the turn of the calendar page, the ticking over of the clock, really makes some monumental shift to our existence. Things won’t cease to feel the way they feel now at tomorrow’s midnight chime. But years are one of the many ways we mark time, and they do offer a theoretical blank slate and fresh start. It’s natural to segment our lives by these arbitrary date divisions.

One of the ways I’ve used to reflect upon 2014 is a look back through some of my blog archives. Flipping through post titles and opening paragraphs reminded me of a review meme I’ve taken part in before. And so, prompted by its appearance  yesterday on the same blog where I very first saw it – Six Until Me – I decided to repeat the exercise.

It would appear, from these opening lines of favourite and defining posts from each month of the year, that 2014 did indeed become “The year of IVF”. Or perhaps more fittingly “The year of infertility hell”. There has been much, much more to the year as well, but I’ll let this review stand not only because I’m proud of some of this writing, but because in years to come I know that it is exactly what I will remember this year for the most.

That, and the better aspects of the year deserve their own review!

January: If I’d ever imagined a caricature of conception, then the egg would have been cool and mysterious, aloof even.

February: I’m writing this with a photograph of you in my hand.

March: Wow, what a difference a week makes. And, because this one is also important to me: Wanting another child who is biologically mine – and my husband’s – does not make me a bad person, in exactly the same way that wanting a second child at all does not make me a bad person.

April: “Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

May: At a quarter past six this morning, with pale sunlight working its way around the edges of the blinds and Thomas chattering happily to his trains in his room, my heart broke just a little bit more.

June: I’m struggling a bit with writing here at the moment.

July: If at first you don’t succeed… …should you try again?

August: This week has been a tough week on the infertility front.

September: This month marks two years of trying for our second child.

October: It’s odd how a make or break moment of my life has come down to a plastic stick and three minutes. 

November: I didn’t know how I’d got where I found myself.

December: A couple of weeks ago we returned to our fertility clinic for a “follow-up” appointment after our last failed cycle.

Who knows where 2015 will take us…

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