Taoist Tai Chi has recently brought me a new persona. I like her. I think she's good for me.

From time to time she asks me to perform the set for her.

I make my bow and, in the pause before Commencement, she leans in and asks me what I'm thinking.

"I'm thinking of the set," I reply. "Of all the moves I have to do."

"Then you're doing it wrong," she chastises me gently. My arms drop to my side in a posture of defeat as she continues. "The whole set is made up of one hundred and eight moves. But you will complete it more perfectly if you forget about one hundred and seven of them."

"Right..." I respond, blankly. The expression on my face adds, "What the fuck?"

"To perform each move perfectly, you must let it fill your mind completely. Like this...

"Left Grasp Bird's Tail.
Grasp Bird's Tail.
Single Whip.
Step Up And Raise Hands.
White Stork Spreads Wings.
Left brush knee.
Strum the Pei Pa."

I try:

Left brush knee... Chop with fist... Step up, deflect, parry, punch...

"Better," Master Bea says, watching me keenly. "But your movements are still full of fret and distraction.

"Listen and watch: this move, and now this move, now this move, now this move... The rest is too far in the future. How can we worry about Cross Hands, before we Appear To Close Entrance? Who knows what will happen in between?

"Of course there is a bigger picture - an underlying aim. But having resolved ourselves to it, we must cease to think about it. There is no need to calculate how many steps lie between Grasp Bird's Tail and Strum The Pei Pa. Let your mind focus on Grasp Bird's Tail, and when you have finished, let it focus on Single Whip. This move, now this move, now this move... and - well. The set completes itself.

"Try again."

I Carry Tiger to Mountain.
Then Diagonal single Whip.
Now Fist Under Elbow.
And Go Back to Ward Off Monkeys.

"Good. In this way, we can perform even the longest set. We need never be afraid to charge ourselves with such great and daunting tasks. The end will always come to us, one move at a time.

Now Slanting Flying.
Now Step Up and Raise Hands.
Now White Stork Spreads Wings.
And Left Brush Knee.
Needle at Sea Bottom.
Fan Penetrates through the Back.
Turn and Chop with Fist.
Step Up, Deflect, Parry, Punch.
Step Up to Grasp Bird's Tail.
Single Whip.
Wave Hands Like Clouds.
Single Whip.
Reach Up to Pat Horse.
Separate Foot to Right.
Separate Foot to Left.
Turn and Kick.
Left Brush Knee and Turn.
Right Brush Knee and Turn.
Step Up and Punch.
Turn and Chop with Fist.
Step Up, Deflect, Parry, Punch.
Right Foot Kick.
Hit Tiger at Left.
Hit Tiger at Right.
Right Foot Kick.
Strike Ears with Fists.
Left Foot Kick.
Turn and Kick.
Chop with Fist.
Step Up, Deflect, Parry, Punch.
Appear to Close Entrance.
Cross Hands.
Carry Tiger to Mountain.
Whip Out Horizontally.
Left Part Wild Horse's Mane.
Right Part Wild Horse's Mane.
Left Part Wild Horse's Mane.
Right Part Wild Horse's Mane.
Left Part Wild Horse's Mane.
Left Grasp Bird's Tail.
Step Up to Grasp Bird's Tail.
Single Whip.
Left Fair Lady Works Shuttles.
Right Fair Lady Works Shuttles.
Left Fair Lady Works Shuttles.
Right Fair Lady Works Shuttles.
Left Grasp Bird's Tail.
Step Up to Grasp Bird's Tail.
Single Whip.
Wave Hands Like Clouds.
Single Whip.
Creeping Low Like a Snake.
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg.
Golden Cock Stands on One Leg.
Go Back to Ward Off Monkeys.
Go Back to Ward Off Monkeys.
Slanting Flying.
Step Up and Raise Hands.
White Stork Spreads Wings.
Left Brush Knee.
Needle at Sea Bottom.
Fan Penetrates through the Back.
White Snake Turns and Puts Out Tongue.
Step Up, Deflect, Parry, Punch.
Step Up to Grasp Bird's Tail.
Single Whip.
Wave Hands Like Clouds.
Single Whip.
Reach Up to Pat Horse.
Cross Hands to Penetrate.
Turn and Kick.
Chop with Fist.
Brush Knee and Punch.
Step Up to Grasp Bird's Tail.
Whip to One Side.
Creeping Low Like a Snake.
Step Up to Seven Stars.
Retreat to Ride Tiger.
Turn Around to Sweep Lotus.
Draw Bow to Shoot Tiger.
Chop with Fist.
Step Up, Deflect, Parry, Punch.
Appear to Close Entrance.
Cross Hands.
Closing of Tai Chi.

Last night we played hypotheticals.

Bea: Ok, what if, ok... you had an identical twin brother.

Mr Bea: And...?

Bea: Well, you're both genetically identical, but an adolescent illness left you infertile and he unscathed.

Mr Bea: Boy, was I unlucky.

Bea: Well, in one sense, yes. But in another sense - check out the option of using your genetically identical twin brother as a sperm donor! He said yes, by the way.

Mr Bea: Oh absolutely.

Bea: You'd have no problem with that?

Mr Bea: None at all. If the IVF/ISCI failed, I'd be there in a flash.

Bea: If...?

Mr Bea: The IVF... well, you know.

Bea: But not instead?

Mr Bea: Well...

Bea: Keeping in mind, of course, my family history of breast cancer, the fact I spent ten days in hospital with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, my needle phobia, the expense, the inconvenience, the heartache and anguish and did I mention the genetically identical and limitless supply of fresh donor sperm?

Mr Bea: Isn't there something about mitochondrial DNA?

Bea: I'm pretty sure that only applies to artificial cloning techniques.

Mr Bea: Huh.

I regard him steadily for a moment and he squirms with discomfort.

Mr Bea: You know, this is all so hypothetical, after all. I mean, hypothetically, we would actually capture a unicorn and fly on its back to the Magic Cloud Palace where we would drink of the Elixir Of Fertility And Eternal Life.

Bea: I see.

Mr Bea: Anyway, I made you dinner.

Bea: No, let's stick with this. This is interesting.

Very interesting...

Bea, you need some rest.

Tell me a story to help me sleep?

A story? Well, alright then.

Once upon a time, there was a girl called Bea. She had met and married the man of her dreams, but they couldn't make a baby together.

That's so sad.

It is sad.

What did they do?

What didn't they do? In the end, after they'd talked and talked, they decided to go to a doctor. The doctor said he could make them a baby, one way or another.

And did he?

Well, it was hard. Months went by. First, Bea got sick, then she ovulated irregularly, and when she did, the little embryo failed to implant. Even Mr Bea started to wonder if it was ever going to happen. He started to seem scared, and that made Bea scared, too.

So then what happened?

They kept trying, of course. And one day, just as they thought all hope was lost, what do you know? They fell pregnant. And do you know what happened then?

No, what?

They had a baby, and lived happily ever after. But that's a story for another time.

Goodnight, Bea.

Thanks. Night night.

I have called an emergency meeting with my Inner Therapist.

She sits primly on a straight-backed chair that looks like it came from St Vinnie's, with every good intention of re-upholstery, and was quickly demoted to the spare room. I sprawl on the carpet.

"Don't I get a couch?" I ask.

"You don't pay me," she answers, without looking up, "and I don't buy couches. Now. Why are we here?"

"It was the text message."

"Ah yes. The one where you got invited to coffee on Sunday with those friends you've barely seen all year. You know - your best ones. People go to therapy a lot because of that sort of thing."

"It's not just the coffee."

"The cake, too, huh?"

I leave a dignified silence where, otherwise, an undignified reply would be.

"It's your pregnant friend, isn't it? When you started trying, she hadn't even conceived her first. Now she's six months pregnant with her second." Inner Therapist is getting a bored, kind of glazed expression and I can see her mentally reshuffling her "dealing with other people's pregnancies" tape into the machine.

"I don't think it's that."

"You don't? Are you sure? I've got a really good broken record about it?"

"I know. Look... there's a different pattern here. Last night: Mr Bea's friend comes to town. Skipped it. No children involved. Well, I'm using a rather strict definition there based solely around physical age..."

"But you digress."

"Yes, um. Tonight: housewarming. Not going. Next weekend: work colleague's birthday. Declined. Cake in the tearoom last Thursday evening at work - couldn't make it. Too busy staring at the wall in front of me."

"So you're worried you're becoming antisocial."


"Sounds like you're becoming pretty antisocial to me."

"Well yes, I am. But it doesn't worry me."

"I'm lost."

"You're my therapist! I'm lost! You help me find my way!"

"Bea, I've had a hard week. If you don't like it, you can make your own narky comments."

"Look, sorry. Ok, here's the thing. I'm feeling fine again now. I'm not depressed - I'm totally handling it. I'm just exhausted. I just want to be left alone."

"Just want to be with yourself?"


There is a long silence whilst we look at each other. I nod. I shrug and nod. I waggle my head and eyebrows slightly to indicate how completely it's all been summed up. I break eye contact. I look at my hands. I pick at my fingernails.

"Ok... no."

"I didn't think so."

"How do you do that?"

"It's my job. It's what you don't pay me for."

Inner Therapist sighs in a way which indicates truce and plops herself onto the carpet in front of me. "There are people you don't mind hanging out with, aren't there? Even look forward to socialising with?"


"And they are?"

"J, and S. Mr Bea. My sister. The people in blogland and on the internet."

"I'm sensing a common theme here."

"They know."

"Could it be you're just tired of lying? Of shrugging and telling people there's nothing going on? No plans for the future?"

"Yeah, probably. But the thought of explaining myself to all those people makes me more weary than ever. J, S, Mr Bea and the internet folk know and understand."

Inner Therapist nods, and stares into the middle distance.

"You're not replying."

She sighs. "I'm tired too, Bea. I don't have the answers tonight. Give me a raincheck?"

"Sure. Raincheck. Maybe the answer will just materialise..."


On Monday morning we wake up, argue about how to pack the car, and set off. We do a milk run through Brisbane, stopping off to buy, borrow and reclaim essential items we should have organised earlier. We haven't, for the same reason we haven't booked accommodation or flights. Because this holiday, like everything in our lives at the moment, is subject to change or cancellation without notice. It all revolves around IVF. Today, we're seven days post 3-day transfer.

It takes us about half an hour to get lost in what, essentially, is our own back yard. Mr Bea shouts at me to stop trying to find short cuts. I giggle and insist on turning right, because it's prettier. And it is. But the whole world seems beautiful today.

Several hours later, we drop in for a surprise coffee with my sister and her three-year-old niece-in-law. The little girl comes over all shy and my sister, in a misguided attempt to make us feel better about our childlessness, complains loudly about how ill-behaved the tyke's been all week until her mother, who knows nothing of our circumstances, starts getting annoyed and defensive.

I step in whilst things are still polite and say, looking kindly but pointedly at my sister, that I'm sure she's a good girl really. Unfortunately this earns me a lengthy lecture on the lifetime achievements of this precious little accident.

They offer us dinner and a sofabed by the fireplace for the night.

We decide to eat and press on. At Tenterfield, the caravan park lady offers us a van, but says our dog will have to sleep in the car. It will be minus ten degrees. We pitch our tent in the dark.

And that's when it starts. The spotting. The cramping. The feeling that, once again, it's all about to come crashing down.


On Tuesday we waste a lot of time stopping for a cooked breakfast. Overnight I have calculated the cumulative chance of success from all the transfers we've done so far. Three embryos gives us fifty-fifty. We've called heads, and it looks like we've thrown tails. But that's no reason to panic. We just need to keep tossing the coin. I shed some quiet tears, but my jaw is set and I remain composed.

The highway twists and turns along some invisible boundary between identically featureless sheep paddocks, which soak up the landscape in every direction.

And the spotting stops.

Later that day I shoot myself up with hCG in the carpark of a roadhouse just outside Dubbo. I use the empty cardboard box as a sharps bin, and put the remaining drugs back into our brand new car fridge, bought specially for the purpose.

("But why do you need a fridge?" my sister had asked, repeatedly, shooting down my feeble excuses until finally I sighed and admitted that it was for transporting IVF drugs. "Oh," she'd replied. And changed the subject.)

We make it to West Wyalong, which is full to the brim with tourists, except for two tent sites in the caravan park at the end of town. We hide the dog in a brown zip-up bag and afterwards realise the park is dog-friendly. I boil a kettle in the camp kitchen for hot water bottles whilst Mr Bea changes into his thermals and cleans his teeth.


In the morning, we strike camp and hit the road, telling our campervan neighbours we are headed for the Great Ocean Road. "You won't make that all in one hit," they say knowingly.

I shrug, matter-of-fact. "Yes we will."

One hundred kilometres down the road and we nearly run out of petrol. We are stupid, stupid. Our prayers take us into Grong Grong, where we find we have just enough cash between us to buy petrol from the only pump in this town of 150 people. The children want to pat our dog, but their grandfather shoos them inside.

That night, we reach the Great Ocean Road.


The next day we hit the usual sights. The Twelve Apostles. Broken London Bridge. The Arch. My camera is on the blink, so Mr Bea takes photos with his mobile. It rains. It shines. Someone tells us Queensland won the Origin. I am wearing a maroon duffle coat which is not as warm as it looks.

We talk about Australian microcultures. In the age-old rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, the former is often acused of being Americanised and the latter, hopelessly tied to Mother Country's apron strings. The puritanical "Zero Tolerance" speeding campaign of New South Wales supports this view, with radar-gun-toting police officers billboarded all down the highway. By contrast, Victoria's "Wipe Off Five" slogan seems positively European in its liberal permissiveness. We get pulled over for a random inspection and told to fix our windscreen, which has a crack in it. Then we return to our farmstay accommodation, where I look bitterly at the sauna thinking about how I'm 99% sure I can use it, but holding back on the basis of that 1% hope. Shit. I hate how important that 1% can seem.


We walk on the beach. We read. We battle to start the fire. We lie around in the spa, as it rains on us from above. I worry. I check for more spotting. I begin to hope again.


Loading up the car, we stop off at some wineries to purchase a 30th birthday present for our Werribee host. I offer to drive, because I can't stand reliquishing control on such a road - with its hairpin turns and steep drops onto a rocky ocean floor. When Mr Bea works this out, he is angry. He is hurt that I don't have faith in him, in his ability to carry us safely to our destination, even along such a treacherous path. He is dangerously close to drawing a metaphor, but leaves it unsaid.

We arrive at our friend's house and help prepare the festivities. Most of his friends have young children. I try to talk to them, but everything revolves around their babies. Polite small talk about our drive down turns into long descriptions of their lives as new parents in two sentences or less. I volunteer to cook the barbeque. It is easier when the topics are restricted to rare, medium or well done. Later I feel guilty accepting praise for my "selfless" toil.

In reality, these people scare me. People, I realise, scare me. I have become very good at coping, within the confines of my little social bubble. But far from the animated young woman who graced such occasions with her witty conversation and easy laugh but a year ago, I have become a mere shadow, looking constantly for occupations to keep me from talking to people. To keep them from talking to me. All the while wishing they would just go home.

Sooner or later, these days, the small talk turns to questions of family. Do we have one? Do we want one? There are singles and couples, bragging about their carefree lifestyle and claiming they are years away from that sort of thing. I want to tell them they are fools. Their fertility is declining as we speak. When they finally begin to try will it be too late? Then there are those who confidently claim they will start a family in about two years' time. I long to burst their bubble. I envy the fact that things will probably turn out exactly the way they've planned.

And the parents. The ones who complain. The ones who rhapsodise. The ones who titter about their accidents. The ones who discuss trying for number two, number three. I have little in common with them, now. I used to see my future self in them. Now we are walking on divergent paths, getting steadily further apart.

As the party dies away, I visit the toilet. The spotting has started again. I am distraught. I excuse myself to my room, where I begin to sob, alone.


Sometime after midnight, Mr Bea comes to bed. I tell him I want to go home. He is mildly drunk, and gets very annoyed. We're not due to head back for a couple of days. We've come all this way. We haven't seen D in ages. We've barely managed to catch up. If I'm so sure about the result, waiting another day or two won't make a difference in the long run.

But it will make a difference now. I try to explain, but I'm failing. He's squeamishly refused, in the past, to hear the gory physical details, but tonight he will hear them all. Because he needs to understand that it's not just psychological. It's about blood, and mucous, and strange sensations within my pelvis. It's about hormones - both natural and artificial - and their tears and snot. It's about sex. It's about how the hot, urgent arousal of an LH surge becomes the languid lovemaking of the luteal phase until the hormones come crashing down, leaving me like a sexless cunt who spots, and cramps, and then stops long enough to get hopeful again, and each time the seesaw tilts she hits the ground a little harder, til she's winded, and crying, and begging the playground bully to stop, please stop.

And meanwhile my period paces around in its progesterone cage like a disgruntled beast, swiping painfully at the bars every so often, making me wince, making me groan. I want it over. I want it to stop. I want it to stop now.

We sleep, fitfully. And in the morning he wakes me with a kiss and tells me to pack. We excuse ourselves from our surprised host, citing "personal stuff", and point the car northwards.

Around dusk we stop. Too many roos on the road. When we set out again, we gain a sense of security, however false, from hiding in the wake of a road train. We make it as far as Parkes.


The spotting has stopped again. I blink back tears and turn the heating down as we chew up the miles. The songs on the stereo reinterpret themselves into IVF ballads.

"Baby, I really need your love...
It's cold outside,
I'm trying to hide...."

"How can I explain personal pain?
How can I explain? My voice is in vain..."

"...Trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup.
There's a battle ahead
Many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road while you're travelling with me.
Hey now, hey now. Don't dream it's over...."

And it's funny how it hits you. Mother's Day can be fine. First birthday for your friend's boy? No problem. But all of a sudden you'll come to a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere, and you'll feel a sudden urge to turn around and tell the kids to help Dad by keeping an eye out for the train, just like your mum used to say, and all of a sudden it hurts. It hurts a lot.

On Monday night we pull into our driveway. I shower and sleep.


It's fifteen days post 3 day transfer. I wake as it gets light, wander down to the corner shop in my ugg boots for milk and juice, and get myself ready to go to the clinic. I kiss Mr Bea on the forehead, take his monthly rail ticket and catch the train into town.

The nurse asks me what I think. I shake my head. Did I test, then? No. I just don't think it worked. I could be wrong. Sure, I could be wrong.

They take my blood and I battle home through the peak-time crush.

And now I sit, trying to piece it all together. Trying to unearth some kind of meaning, or at least a common theme. But if it's there, I can't find it. To me, it just looks like a whole lot of shit that happened.

So I call the clinic.

And they tell me FET #3 can take place in August.

Seven Books I Love

1. Around the World In Eighty Days (Jules Verne) - the book that changed my life. I guess something about taking a gamble and then cobbling it all together as you go along. Finding a new way when the plan fails, but keeping your aim in mind. That sort of thing.

But I also took it more literally, and the story led directly to my leaving Australia in 2001 with a few toiletries and travel items plus several changes of underwear in a carry-on bag, the clothes on my back and a credit card in my pocket, vowing not to return until I'd visited all the continents of the world. I missed Antarctica (see number eight of "seven things I'd like to do before I die"). Oh, and I haven't been to South America, but I've been north, so sometimes I cheat and count it anyway.

2. Mort (Terry Pratchet) - the first gift I received from Mr Bea.

3. Last Chance To See... (Douglas Adams) - who else can make you laugh as you read (and learn to care!) about the devastation of our planet and it's environment?

4. Natural Capitalism (Hawken et al) - if you've complained about petrol prices recently you need to read this book. Only after that can we talk. Read it - it's Very Cool, and also Important.

5. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) - a great story but it was the unexpected diversions and tangents that made me go, "Huh. I never thought about it like that before." Things I never thought I'd run into in a fictional tale about a WWII cryptographer and his grandson.

6. Something by Greg Egan - I'm not sure what. Could be Diaspora. Could be Axiomatic - his short stories. But today I'm going to go with Quarantine, because the guy in it was able to choose which part of the probability curve he existed on (it's science fiction) and I really want to be able to do that at the moment.

7. A Rage To Live (Mary S Lovell) - the biography of Richard and Isobel Burton. (Richard Burton the 19th century explorer and linguist, that is.) Incidentally, also the tale of a truly inspirational involuntarily childless couple. When I think of the possibility of a life without children, I think of them.

Seven Movies I Watch (Or Have Watched) Over and Over

1. The Princess Bride - I'm pretty sure I could still recite most of it, given a push-start.

2. Father Of The Bride (Steve Martin Version) - I used to babysit for this family that stayed out past midnight and owned very few videos. But it's not bad! Not deep, not hysterically amusing, but fun.

3. The home movie I once tried to make entitled, "[Mr Bea] Goes To Work!" Editing's a bitch. Lost to the annals of time, sadly, but etched so very deeply into my memory.

4. These are all very domestic so far, aren't they? What about... Spaceballs, The Movie. The movie of my pre-teen years.

5. The Heathers. The movie of my teen years.

6. How many times counts as over and over? Because I've become relatively unobsessive-compulsive since graduating from high school. And more empowered when it comes to movie viewing choices.

7. Ok, I'm going to go out on a limb here and list A Hong Kong Jackie Chan Movie. I'm pretty sure I've never seen any individual movie in this category more than twice, but that may be splitting hairs somewhat...

On a more personal note: this blog will be unattended until beta day, owing to us going away for holidays. That's right! Away. On holiday.

1. His taste in comedy and sense of humour.

2. His concern for me in times of distress.

3. His willingness to put up with my moods even without explanation, and his ability to say the right thing at the right time. The second seems to have declined somewhat with age... but still solidly above average, I think.

4. The lovesick poems he wrote to me.

5. The way he looks at me, and the way he sees me.

6. Anybody ready to throw up yet? Is it time to chip in with "his tasty physique and manly ways"?

7. The easiness of our every interaction - the way it all just feels right.

Musings: There are a lot of very "me" things on this list, I've realised. Of course, the reasons I stay with him/think he's worth procreating with in any way possible are less self-centred. I promise. But when I was first attracted to him there was a whole lot of other stuff going on and, well, I guess it was just like that. A bit. At first. I've grown since then. Honest.

Powered by Blogger.