Back Behind the Wheel

I’m sure it will be a betrayal of my thoroughly middle-class roots if I admit that I had my first ever driving lesson on my seventeenth birthday. Being born in January, I’d stalked the weather forecasts for days and prayed, possibly for the first time in my life, that the monotony of school would not be disrupted by snow, desperate as I was to get out on the road. Less than six months later I passed my test on the first attempt (I know, I know… apparently all the best drivers take at least three tries!) and off I went.

Because as if I was not lucky enough simply to have parents who forked out for all those lessons that got me there, I was also lucky enough to have access to a car that was only three years old. The bright red Mini Cooper, won by my brother in a competition, definitely had its flaws. This was a “proper” old-skool mini, not the modern day incarnation with all mod cons. My Mini had a non-locking petrol cap that made it the target for fuel thieves and meant I had to fill her up before every journey. She had a manual choke that required dedication to master. There was no de-misting system, and the only way to keep the windscreen clear in winter was to drive with the window partly open. And no, the heater was not very effective either! Thanks to that little car I learned all sorts of tricks that were certainly not part of the driving test. I was a dab-hand at jump starts and running bump starts.

But the downsides apart, that car to me represented a degree of freedom. Growing up in a village un-served by trains and with a bus service that rivalled Christmas in its infrequency, driving was a game changer. I was no longer reliant on lifts from my parents to go places and do things. And like a lot of seventeen year olds, I did things that make me cringe a bit now. Like the time I crammed five friends in to that tiny car – I’m surprised to this day that we ever managed to pull away. And there was the time me and my lead feet did a ton on the M25, just to prove that a Mini was capable of it (It probably lasted all of twenty seconds before I pulled in and dropped the speed back to something both more legal and more manageable for the engine – and fortunately I wasn’t clocked at that speed!)

My driving days, however, were pretty short-lived, however. I went to University in London, where I had no need of a car. I last drove during my first summer break back in 1999. Shortly after that, I did battle with meningitis and it was that which ultimately led to the surrender of my licence as a result of seizures.

Still a student in London, I didn’t immediately miss driving. Studying a professional course, from the second year onwards, summer breaks were short lived and I rarely left London. I honestly did not need a car, and likely could not have afforded to run one anyway. None of my friends drove at the time either, so I really did not feel that I was missing anything.

The first time I missed driving was during the time that I lived in Devon, where it became awkward to constantly beg lifts from people who I’d know for only a short time. But then I ruptured my achilles tendon, and entered a two year battle to walk, never mind drive, and it became the least of my concerns. It next arose when we moved out of London four years ago. Part of the attraction of our house was its proximity to the station and to all the local amenities, including my place of work, so driving was still not a necessity, but I came to realise how much more freedom it would give us. Sadly, at that time some ill judged indiscretions with medication meant I couldn’t haven’t re-applied for my licence, so I pushed it to the back of my mind. We at least had a car that Ian could drive.

After Thomas came along, my lack of driving became progressively more problematic. I was easily able to get lifts with NCT friends initially, with baby car seats easy enough to move from car to car. But it was more difficult when I wanted to go to places that others weren’t going. Taking Thomas to mother and baby swimming lessons was a particular headache. And as he grew out of his infant seat, the car seat issue became much more problematic too.

The biggest issue that I now faced, however, was after so long as a non-driver, I was incredibly anxious to get back behind the wheel. I was anxious too that I’d somehow fall foul of complex rules around driving with diabetes and be denied my licence despite being sure that I met the criteria to re-apply. It took a lot of liaising with my various healthcare providers, and reassurance from friends and family to finally pluck up the courage to fill in and send off the pages and pages forms to get my licence back. And it took them months to process them (This became frustrating, because I’d thought so long and hard about it, and I know that there is no way I’d contemplate getting behind the wheel, especially with Thomas in the car, if I wasn’t 100% sure that I was medically safe to do so. The suspicion that I may not be being truthful is difficult, despite knowing that not everyone is necessarily so careful and they have to follow protocol to help keep everyone safe.)

But this week, the brown envelope I’d been waiting for was on the doormat when I arrived home from work.

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My licence!

And in a fit of efficiency, Ian rang the insurance company that very evening and had me added to his policy. Despite not having driven for 15 years, and fully disclosing my medical exclusion, it made the policy cheaper! (It may be to do with working in the NHS.)

So all that was left was to do battle with my nerves about getting back behind the wheel.

And today, I did it.

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I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous. Our current car – a VW Tiguan – is an absolute tank in comparison to the Mini that I last drove. It’s also an automatic and I’ve only ever driven manual before, and also has a fancy electronic parking brake (which to you and me means that it basically has no handbrake!) We started in an empty car park  on the local industrial estate with the intention of going forwards and seeing how I felt. Happily I discovered that perhaps it really is like riding a bicycle (although now I’ve driven one I have no idea why automatic cars aren’t more popular in this country. I still firmly believe that very one should learn to drive manual, but once you now how to do it, why bother?!)

Thomas did unnerve me a little by yelling, unprompted, from the back seat “No, We don’t want to go on the main road!” when I left the car park. But we all survived, and even Thomas admitted later that Mummy isn’t a bad driver. Finally, after all these years as a passenger, I feel confident that yes, I really can do this.

I have, you may be relieved to note,  also booked some proper refresher lessons with an instructor (in a manual car) to go over some of the finer points, like night driving, motorways and parking. But I’m sure that I can do it.

And it will change our lives. On the days I’m home alone with Thomas I’ll no longer be quite as restricted in what we can do. Getting to friends’ houses for play dates will be easier. Taking Thomas to certain activities will be possible. And we’ll be able to make much greater use of so many wonderful local attractions and amenities. I’m so looking forward to this new chapter in our lives!

Five Minutes of Fame in Mother and Baby Magazine

This month, I’ve received my five minutes of blogging fame! You can find me, sharing my secondary infertility and IVF story, in the October edition of Mother and Baby Magazine.

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According to them, I’m a “Woman Redefining Motherhood”, which is a lovely way to be described. As much as I may have blanched when I heard the headline, I suppose I have to admit that it does fit. I have had to reshape my vision of motherhood based on the circumstances that we’ve found ourselves in. It also seems a very apt description for the other bloggers in the same feature – Alice who writes very successfully about single motherhood at More Than Toast  and Emma, whose blog Treatment For Ted supports her fundraising for her son who suffered a brain injury at birth.

What I think all three of us have shown is that motherhood takes many forms, and often it doesn’t turn out quite how you might have imagined, planned or chosen, were choice something that were possible. But blogging can certainly be an invaluable aid and support no what your journey.

And even if you don’t write a blog yourself, finding others who have written about the issues you may be facing can be enormously helpful too. My story may not be as “inspirational” as the others, but I’m still glad to have had the opportunity to share it with a wider audience. Secondary infertility is surprisingly common, and becoming more so, but it’s still rarely talked about, smothered by the assumption that “you’ve had one child, you’ll be able to have another.” I’d be delighted if my writing could reach and support even just one more person going through this issue in silence.

Mother and Baby Magazine is on sale now.

(And no, my surname isn’t really “Love”, “love”ly as that would be! The magazine selected that name for me, since I don’t share my real surname online!)

What Do You Do All Week?

Sometimes, when I make it to the end of the week and look around me to see the devastation of un-done housework in my home, the incomplete piles of laundry and the empty kitchen cupboards, even I wonder just what exactly it is that I do with my time? Pre-Thomas I worked five and a half day weeks, kept up a successful sideline in freelance writing, found time to keep my house nice and chores done and still had time for hobbies and other enjoyment. It’s certainly seems true that children, or even just a single child, change everything and can take up an awful lot of time.

For the sake of recording real life, the way it really happens, though, I wanted to take some time to actually examine what I do do with my time in a fairly typical week. Because sometimes I allow myself to get overwhelmed and feel like I’m failing at everything, succeeding at nothing at all. It can easily feel like I haven’t actually done anything, just because one or two things I’d intended to accomplish remain incomplete. I let the guilt cloud in and imagine that I’ve let Thomas do nothing but watch Toy Story for hours on end, even when sense tells me that it plainly isn’t true!

So here is a sample of what I got up to last week. Although it includes a couple of atypical occurrences, there is usually something else unusual that crops up in other weeks. I suppose you could say they are ordinary extraordinary moments.

On Saturday we were up bright and early (read 5am) as usual. I should really have so many more hours to do things, since we get up these days at a time we most definitely would still have been languishing in bed before we had Thomas. But those early morning hours aren’t always my most productive, and Thomas is usually at his most demanding in terms of creative play. Last Saturday I had some “me time” meeting a friend for lunch in London. We all went up on the train together and my boys headed off for some fun riding various forms of London transport – this is Thomas’s idea of a heavenly day out. They had to rush back in the afternoon to meet the builders who were due to start work on propping up the back of our house on Monday, to get the scaffold tower up. I enjoyed an afternoon by the river, eating burgers and drinking wine, plus catching up on all the gossip. I was still home in time for bath time and story time though, and spent the evening doing work-rleated stuff.

On Sunday we fitted in a supermarket trip, then went to visit friends and their week old baby girl. Thomas had a lot of fun with their older daughter, who is his age, and more of our friends turned up with their daughter too. We drank tea, and had plenty of baby snuggles, which was way better than staying at home doing housework. I managed to squeeze in a run in the evening.

On Monday our building work started. Fortunately, given the amount of dust created, I was at work all day. My lunch break was taken up picking up prescriptions, a trip to the bank and other errands that had risen to the top of the “must-do” list. The evening was spent clearing up much of the dust created during the day!

On Tuesday I’m not at work. Thomas was due to move up in the 3+ class of his regular music class. This was a pretty big step, since in the 3+ class the children go in on their own rather than with a parent. Moving up was the suggestion of the teacher, who has known him since he was 3 months old, but since he was going to be the youngest in the class, I still felt a bit nervous. As it turned out, he couldn’t have been more eager or excited and I was told afterwards that he was totally focussed on the session the entire time and really enjoyed it. He came running out shouting “Mummy Mummy” with the biggest grin on his face to back that up too. It was a bittersweet moment – another reminder of just how much he is growing up. The walk home was pretty slow as he stopped to look at every leaf, twig and stone that caught his eye and we’d only just got through the door when our lift arrived to drop us to a play date with NCT friends. I finished up the day with another run. I’d say it was a pretty good day for Thomas, and me too.

On Wednesdays I’m usually at home with Thomas, but this week I spent the morning taking nearly ninety impressions of teeth for sports mouth guards at a local girl’s school. It was a pretty intense morning where we worked literally non-stop, and had quite a bit of pre-teen girl hysteria to deal with (they tend to set each other off!). I found out the following day thought that the lab were very impressed with my imps and not a single reject, so I guess it was a good day at the office! Ian had taken the day off to spend with Thomas, so in the afternoon we had a family trip to the park and a quick Starbucks date. I then had an appointment with the stirrups at the fertility clinic to have my endometrium scratched. So that was as fun as it sounds. (For which read, not at all.)

Thursday is a work day, but got off to a stressful start. Thomas wasn’t well. I think this is often the most difficult part of being a working parent – the juggling act that comes when they are unwell. A whole day off work is not only incredibly expensive for me (I’m self-employed) but also stressful because it means rearranging so many appointments and we are currently so busy that we have literally no where to rebook them. I hate letting people down, and I hate the fact that staff at work also suffer the fall out. Fortunately I managed to get a doctor’s appointment fairly early. He has an ear infection (again) and by that time Calpol had perked him up, so I was able to drop him at nursery and head in to work. (Cue, more guilt!) I knew there was a risk I’d have to leave again to pick him up, but even seeing some patients was better than nothing. Fortunately we made it through the day unscathed! I spent my lunch break attempting to shave some money off my extortionate IVF drugs bill by shopping around. Thursday evening I was on my own as Ian was out. I fall asleep on the sofa really early feeling grotty and it was only when I woke up I recalled having accidentally pulled out my insulin pump infusion set several hours earlier. Unsurprisingly my blood sugar is really high – the reason why I feel awful. Insulin and water on board, I have an early night.

Friday is another work day. Where I can walk to work on Monday’s and Thursdays, Friday is more of a rush as I have to get the train. I crammed in getting my fertility drugs ordered during my lunch break today. The best part of getting the train to work as far as Thomas is concerned is that I have train tickets, so we can visit the station on the way home to see the trains, even if the ticket barriers are closed. We watch the trains for a bit and meet Daddy from his train, as he makes a special effort to get an earlier one on a Friday. I squeeze in another run and then finish up a few projects I have on the go.

Back round to Saturday and I’m working this week, so that is my morning taken up. I get home around half one and we head out to get our filthy car washed. (Thomas loves going to the wash down! And judge all you like, but yes, we get our car washed at a hand car wash. Why would I spend my precious time getting wet and grubby when someone else is willing and able to do a better job of it for seven quid?) And then another quick supermarket trip to keep the cupboards topped up. The remainder of the day is devoted to the long-neglected housework so we end the day with a presentable home again. I end up dealing with a “Call Service Error” on my insulin pump, which involves a long phone call, but eventually is sorted.

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When I look back at it like that, I realise just how much I do manage to get done. The early starts and middle-of-the-night wake ups have a lot to answer for when it comes to my energy levels, so it’s unsurprising that some evenings it’s all I can do to get dinner made and the bare minimum of essential tasks done. Thomas is actually getting a lot of my time, and Ian’s time too. He actually gets to participate in a huge range of activities most weeks, even if we don’t have a big “day out” or trip planned – this week he had his music class, a play date, two park trips, riding his bike, painting, plus plenty of trains, cars and duplo. My work is stressful, and in many ways more-so for being part-time as I can no longer carry things over to the next day the way I once did, and I always have the stress of ensuring I’m away in time to pick Thomas up. I’m still managing to fit in exercise. And actually, I’m still managing to fit in a reasonable amount of relaxation time, including watching the odd television series or DVD.

I”ve wondered, in some of my more irrational moments, whether part of the reason we’ve not been able to have more children is because the universe thinks I’m making too much of a hash of raising the one one we have. I do sometimes wonder how on earth I’d cope with the the two or three I wanted if I feel like just one is sometimes tough. But obviously, I would. After all, you don’t know what you can do until you have to do it. When you have to do it, you tend to get it done! And I really think that I am managing to keep all my balls in the air right now, so I’m sure I’d squeeze in another if it was tossed to me!

So yeah, that’s what I do all week…. and I’m linking this up with the lovely Hannah over at Make, Do and Push

Anniversary, Mk IV

Yesterday was our fourth wedding anniversary.

On the one hand, I can’t believe it’s been four years since our wedding day. Sometimes it feels as though it were yesterday, with my memories still crisp and fresh.

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On the other hand, I cannot believe that it’s only been four years. So much has happened in that time including moving out of London, buying our current house, pregnancy and parenthood, and, most recently, infertility. In a lot of ways it has been four of the easiest years of my life, certainly in terms of my own health. But these most recent months have definitely been a challenge too, and it’s helped me realise that we’re definitely stronger together.

Today we attended a review at our fertility clinic, following our recent failed cycle. One of the remarks our ever-patient consultant made as we weighed up different options, was that we must be careful not to let this destroy what we already have. I’ve seen, through close personal experience, exactly how infertility can do that. But I’m confident in saying that it really isn’t likely to happen to us. We’re a united team. Two people who are better as one. As nauseating as it may be, I really do love my husband just as much, if not more, than I did on our wedding day. Our love is easy, comfortable like a well worn shoe that I can’t wait to slip in to each day. But at the same time, our relationship continues to grow and change in fresh ways. I simply cannot imagine being without him, through rough and smooth, until we become grey, wrinkled and immobile. As much as I want another baby, I still want our family of three much more.

We both took the day off work yesterday, and with Thomas in nursery, spent the day re-visiting our former childless life. We took the train up to London, took a spin on the London Eye (for the first time in 10 years for both of us)

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We then enjoyed a stroll along the Southbank to the Tate Modern, taking in a bubble performer and sand artist.

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We crossed the river to St Paul’s and had lunch in a pub close to our wedding venue – the same pub in which we whiled away the afternoon of our first full day of marriage, drinking Prosecco and re-living our favourite moments from the day before. This time we enjoyed a very drinkable sparkling Sauvingnon and delicious burgers, before wandering back – past where we married – with a stop for ice cream and then Pimms.

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It was nothing show-stopping, but it was a fantastic day – helped, of course, by the gorgeous weather.

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So, here’s to the next four years – and many more thereafter. After all, my parents celebrate their Ruby wedding this very weekend – married thirty-six years before us, in the very same place. It may sound like a lot to live up to. But I don’t think so. We’re in for the long haul, and nothing much else has ever felt so right.

Fertility vs. Career: My Two Pence on Kirstie’s Latest Crusade

Like many other parents, I’ve been reading the reactions and debate prompted by the interview with Kirstie Allsopp in yesterday’s Telegraph with great interest. And whilst I neither passionately agreed not disagreed with many of the statements in the piece, I found myself, for the second time in 18 months feeling like she may have slightly missed the point.

To be fair to Kirstie, I’m not sure that these comments were ever supposed to be the focus of the interview, which was initially intended to promote an upcoming craft venture and began by discussing the death of her mother – which carried important messages in itself that have been largely ignored in the media storm that’s followed.

To be fairer still, her appearance on Newsnight, where her opinions were not subject to the direct sweep of an editor’s hand, she was able to clarify that women should “Do what you want, but be aware of the fertility window. Make your choices in an informed way. This has been a taboo topic. People have not discussed it.”

That is a statement that I can wholeheartedly agree with: The idea of informed choice (not so much the part about it not being discussed. Are there really many women who aren’t aware of the finite nature of female fertility?) And that statement contrasted sharply with the slightly prescriptive and didactic tone of her opinions as they were written in the Telegraph article.

You see, I don’t believe that there can be a “one size fits all” approach to when to have children, which was the first thing that struck me on reading it. Her thoughts seemed like a mass over-simplification. It seemed to me that there were too many assumptions being made. Such as the fact that finding a partner – the right partner – to have children with is easy. Many people simply aren’t ready to settle in to a relationship that, if children result from it, will be ongoing to a greater or lesser degree, until they are older and have matured more. Had “life experiences” or “found themselves”, use whatever cliches you will, but I know that I was a very different person at 28 to the one I was at 21.

Kirstie’s pathway also relies on the fact that all women have the kind of support from family that allows them to disregard some of the financial implications of having a family young – such as the cost of housing, whether rented or bought. Sadly that isn’t the case for vast swathes of the population.

And finally, there also seemed to be the massive assumption that starting a career as a thirty-something is any easier than conceiving as a thirty-something. For many people fertility hasn’t yet become as issue in their mid-thirties, and equally some people will establish careers successfully at this stage in their life. But we cannot ignore the fact that society is not set up to accept this “alternative” pathway, and for many women the barriers are huge either way. And this is why I think Kirstie is missing the point. The problem is not simply when women choose to have children. The issue is much bigger than that.

I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who has done exactly what Kirstie seemingly advises against. I spent over six years at University and subsequently established a successful professional career. Then I settled in to a relationship (and got married, though that is slightly beside the point) where I wanted to have children. For me, that urge did not arise until my late twenties, and had nothing to do with my career, and everything to do with simply not wanting children until then. So we bought a house together and then had a baby, at the age of 31. You could say it’s easy for me to disagree with Kirstie based on my circumstances alone.

But I’m not naive, I know that it doesn’t work out that way for everyone. And I’m also writing this from the perspective of someone who is knee-deep in infertility and all the heartache it brings – one of the very things we are supposedly being warned about. We’re the prime example that even if you start well before 35, the unexpected can happen. For us, that was Ian’s fertility “dropping off a cliff” at the age of 32. In short, we’re a prime example of just why a “one size fits all” approach won’t work. And for us, the very fact that I have a good career has allowed us to afford all of the expensive fertility treatment necessary to (attempt to) overcome our problem. (The bill now stands at around fifteen thousand pounds. Infertility is an expensive business.)

I’m both lucky and unlucky. Unlucky that we’ve been hit by infertility in the way that we have but so lucky that I managed to essentially “have it all” initially with both a career and family elements falling in to place. And it really is luck, as much as anything else. For the heart of the matter, the root of the problem, is the reluctance of society as a whole to accept, never mind support, anyone trying to do more than one thing at a time. Women are constantly derided for trying to do it all, warned they are foolish for putting career before family or lambasted for “only” wanting a family, yet often totally unsupported In the workplace if they try to combine both things.

I agree with Kirstie that, in general, fertility is the most immovable obstacle. We can’t overcome the hurdles that nature has placed with any amount of medical science. In an ideal world, it would be the priority. But for that to happen we need a societal shift. What is really missing is the support for women entering careers later in life and an end to pervading ageism. And what we really need is an end to the notion that family and career are mutually exclusive options. We need greater acceptance of flexible working options for both men and women. We need more affordable childcare options. And we need an end to the attitude that work and family can’t co-exist. We need to eradicate the fear – an the opinions and policies that drive it – that women instinctively feel for their careers when they begin to contemplate family.

So yes, I think Kirstie has missed the point. I don’t think the answer is to tell the daughters of our generation to focus on having babies first at the exclusion of all else. Nor do I think we need to remind them that they don’t have all the time in the world in which to have children, because I think that message is already being delivered loud and clear. I think the focus should be on changing the attitudes of all the children of our generation – both male and female – and our own attitudes at the same time. We need more help for everyone to live their life the way that is right for them, without having to make a choice about whether “family” or “career” dictates the way.

Right now, Kirstie’s suggestion might well be the best of all options, but that in itself isn’t good enough.

An Unintentional Hiatus

I’m back.

I know, you probably didn’t notice that I was gone. But last week my blog temporarily vanished and I was left with only a flaky 3G signal to access the internet.

It’s a long and boring story, but to cut it as short as possible, our previous ISP was taken over by a massive corporation who put profits before people (sorry, but it’s true). We wrangled with them for a MAC code to allow us to switch, but in the end they terminated our internet connection without warning simply because we’d made steps to change the phone part of the package. Nice of them.

Because my blog is “self-hosted” in the truest sense – on our own servers – it vanished. And throwing the whole thing, large image files included, up on to someone else’s servers via a 3G service wasn’t really an option I wanted to contemplate.

So I took a break. From blogging. And from being attached to the Internet in general. It probably did me good, although the timing wasn’t great in the midst of our second IVF cycle which threw up some complicated circumstances that sent me running to Medline, and where it would have been handy had Ian been able to work from home.

But in the end it made the switchover less painful – no MAC code or active line takeover required. And it turns out to have been worth it because our new connection is staggeringly fast and confers a host a great features for my geeky husband.

So that’s the explanation for my absence. It’s made me wonder all over again just exactly what we used to do not only before the Internet, but when dial up was the only option since the data connection available to my phone inside our house is awful, and thus about equivalent! While a break may have been good for me, it’s better to be back!

The Disservice of False Hope and Internet Insincerity

Women are well known, collectively, for frequently being fond of so-called “over-sharing” online, and, particularly in light of much of what I’ve written in the last few months, I’d have to include myself as one of those people. The voice of disapproval for our readiness to document all the details of our lives is also easy to hear. My response to that, for the most part, is that if you’re not interested, don’t read. No one is forcing you to, after all, and what harm does a little online sharing do, so long as all basic online safety rules are followed?

In fact, I’ve frequently gone so far as to lean completely the other way, in praise of the value of online communities for support. That factor was a contributor in my decision to live blog our recent IVF cycle. It’s the very reason I’ve come back to blogging, albeit in slightly different guises, over and over again in the course of the last nine years. I could digress for hours, but simply put, writing and sharing online has the capacity to make me feel better about tough situations, and also better about great situations too.

But just recently, I’ve begun to see things from a slightly different perspective.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the Internet is full of insincerity. It’s awash with people who will tell other people just exactly what they want to hear, regardless of whether they are qualified to offer advice, or whether what they are saying has even the remotest basis in reality. Online, people will tell half truths with absolute conviction and say things that they wouldn’t say directly to your face, because their own faces would give away what they really thought.

None of this is done through malice, or has even the slightest resemblance to “trolling”. It is probably driven more by an insatiable need to please, or to reassure or to be supportive. Knowledge of the existence of these behaviours is not in itself new to me, but the thought that it may be harmful is. What if, far from supporting other women, it’s actually doing them a disservice?

A case in point is a recent discussion thread I was party to in which it was clearly apparent that the thread starter was most probably experiencing an early pregnancy loss – or, to use a horrible, clinical term, a chemical pregnancy. Difficult for me, of course, because it so closely mimicked my own recent experience.

In summary, a woman at five weeks of pregnancy, experiencing ongoing light bleeding and pregnancy tests having shifted from showing positive to showing negative, asking for advice and help and reassurance.

The thread followed a familiar pathway. Immediate supportive noises along the lines of hoping that all is ok. So far so good. But then begins the stream of false hopes. How it was probably one of those notoriously unreliable tests. Tweed ample was too dilute. It was done at the wrong time of day. “People bleed all through pregnancy all the time” type stories. And then it escalates to the realms of true false hope – the suggestions that it must be “The Hook Effect”. Yes, I had to Google it too. It’s an apparently rare (very rare) phenomenon that occurs when hCG levels become so high that they can’t be read by a standard home pregnancy test. If it happens at all, it tends to happen after 12 weeks and at hCG levels exceeding 200000 mIU/ml. For someone barely five weeks pregnant, it’s clutching at straws.

The thread is punctuated by responses from the original poster about how much reassurance she is getting. And then of course that it “must be the Hook Effect” and lots of love and thanks all round.

In the midst, someone pops along to sympathetically share their own, less good outcome and the information that they were given by their doctors. That, however, is givem short shrift and they are told in no uncertain terms by the original poster that they will only trust advice from their own doctor.

Which leads me to wonder why on earth the question was posted in the first place. Why ask for advice, only to throw it back in someone’s face? The answer is that people are seeking to hear what they want to hear. And that, naturally, is things which will make you feel better, and tell you that it is all going to be OK.

Sometimes I want to be the voice of dissent, the one telling the different but wholly realistic story. Pointing out that only time, not strangers on the internet, will tell if it’s going to be OK. But I don’t. I’m mindful of what my grandmother taught me: if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all.

And perhaps that is the motto that too many people live by. Perhaps it is what forces them to send false hopes out over the ether in response to other women that they have never met. It’s nice to be nice, but I’m still shaking my head, because the other thing I was always taught was to be truthful and sincere.

How is doing anything else helpful in any way? It may make the person you are responding to feel better for a short time, but there is still a good chance that their new found hope and optimism will come crashing down around their ears very shortly. A cycle of building hopes, having them fall, then be raised again and finally crash down has to be considerably more emotionally exhausting and overwhelming than just dealing with the bad news from the outset. I honestly think that false hopes can be the cruellest of things.

Perhaps it’s just me. And just because I’m a realist. But the bottom line is, and will always remain, that what will be, will be. No words typed on a screen by a stranger hundreds of miles away will influence the outcome in any way. Of course, neither will rushing straight to your doctor, if we’re honest. But it’s this impatience and need-to-know mentality, itself borne of the instant-information capability of the world wide web, that probably drives people to ask so many questions of others online. It’s all the sharing that we do in the first place that makes us want more, and quickly. It seems we find it so much harder to wait for anything these days.

This shift is potentially harming us all, though, by degrading our ability to be supportive in an honest and helpful way and eroding the true value of so many online communities.

I’ve long known that you can’t trust much of what you read online. But not everyone is so cautious and it seems like we’re slowly but surely turning in to a nation of people who use the Internet to supply the version of life we wish was really happening.

But of course that isn’t real life, so it still hurts eventually.