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.


Vee said...

Oh Shit Bea !! That sux !
I was tempted just to scroll down to the end of your post and get an answer. I didn't, I read every beautiful word you wrote and I thought this was it for you !

I am so sorry. Hold each other tight.

Nobs said...

Wow - beautifully written! It sucks that it didn’t work. I found myself reading your post and hoping it would work, and then seeing myself when it turns out it didn’t. How while you were full of hope there were lots of words, and then when the big N comes, there is just nothing. Keep on posting – I’ll read every day. If all goes well we’ll start our second cycle in August or September.

Meg said...

Oh Bea...

I am empty of words.



and making tears for you.

Anonymous said...

Bea, It hurts so much doesn't it? I'm so, so sorry. Cloud

StellaNova said...

That hurts. Reading it, I feel your pain, your emptiness, your lost hope. I am so, so sorry.

No meaningless platitudes suffice. I am thinking of you.

soralis said...

OH Bea I was hoping for good news at the end of your post.

I am so sorry.

Hopeful Mother said...

Bea, I'm so sorry for you and your hubbie.

Paige said...

Your words left me in tears. I am so so sorry. I wish I could say something to make it stop hurting. ((hugs)) and hope for the future.

Richard said...

My thoughts are with you both.


Dramalish said...

I'm so sorry.
Your post was beautiful.

Dawn said...

Bea, I am so sorry. I don't know what else to say. But I love the way you described af as an animal pacing its cage. Your writing is so vivid and real - have you thought of writing a book? You really are very talented.
Hoping the best for you.

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