I started posting this in the comments, but it got too long. Here's what I'm hearing.

Most people don't like the idea of a deadline as a coping strategy. Or at least not when put in those terms.

Deadlines are set for other reasons, of course (though I really hate the idea that money is one of those reasons - it's just an extra level of unfair.) But no-one so far has said they told themselves, "We'll do X number of cycles, and if that doesn't work, we'll move on," purely because it helps them to think that way. Because it helps them to know that, whatever happens, they'll never go through this shit more than X number of times.

Yet I know there are people who do think that way. I met one at my first transfer. It was her second-last transfer, and I'll always wonder if she was successful, and if not whether she changed her deadline. Because when it comes to the "creeping deadline" strategy the "creeping" is as important as the "deadline". You calm yourself down by saying, "Only two more cycles, no matter what!" but you keep yourself from worrying about their failure by secretly giving yourself permission to carry on.

So, to sum up, I'm beginning to think coping involves giving yourself permission to keep going, and also permission to stop. Permission that doesn't hinge on the outcome of your treatment.

I'm also toying with the idea of "permissions". (Can you tell?) Permission to keep going. Permission to stop. Permission to hope.

What other permissions do we need to give ourselves in order to cope?

I'm going to attempt to make this post seem more important than it really is, by linking it to the National Infertility Awareness Week "Take Action" campaign happening over at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. Don't let the linkage fool you - I'd love to think of this as a selfless act of "reaching out" to the infertile community, but in truth it's as much about y'all "reaching out" to me. So let's not go overboard and paint me saintly, or anything.

I've been thinking about coping strategies over the last twenty-four hours. I want to start a discussion. I'm going to try to stick to simple outlines today, and follow up later in the week once I have your responses and thoughts. Now, obviously, different things work for different people at different times. Which people? What times? Would you find these strategies helpful? Well, what have you found helpful, then?

Here are two strategies I'm thinking of trying out:

Coping Strategy One: A Firm Belief In My Own Mediocrity (aka "that stuff only happens to other people")

It's paranoid to believe I'll be one of those unfortunate patients who, without any sort of explanation, fails one transfer after another, or loses pregnancy after pregnancy. Isn't it? I mean, I know these are real concerns and real people (some of whom might be reading this post) have to face them. Is it naive to make myself believe that won't happen to me, or is it necessary? And if it's necessary, how do I do it?

Coping Strategy Two: The Creeping Finish Line (aka "just one more cycle")

The trouble with agreeing to do as much IVF as it takes, is realising it sometimes takes an awful lot. The thought of being prepared, if necessary, to go through years of IVF can be overwhelming. What about agreeing to a limit, subject to last-minute changes of heart? Or does the pressure of having a deadline do more harm than good?

Well? What do you think?

From my most recent conversation with FS:

"...so just call me when you want to do another cycle. Although you'll probably go off to Singapore and call me saying you got pregnant all by yourself and don't need another cycle!"


"No. I'll see you next year." O...kay. "Til then, have a good Christmas and just forget about it."


Today is cycle day one. Or "CD1" as we in the biz like to call it. And guess what I didn't have during this luteal phase? Anyone? (Clue - look at the labels down the bottom. Hint - I did have the lap/hyst/dye, and I'm still on break).

Also - I appeared to ovulate around CD13. I have done that exactly once before, that I know of. I'm a 16-19 day gal. This year, it's been anything in the twenties, and only then with help from our friends the injectables, except for that last cycle where I started injecting on day 8 (or was it 9?) and ended up ovulating on day 17. So - unaided, day 13. I wasn't expecting that.

Now I know what you're thinking. Did I really ovulate that early, or did I have a strange and stunted luteal phase? And I'd be thinking the same thing, except... on CD12 of the cycle in question I suddenly thought, "Fuck! I think I'm ovulating!" and I marked the day down on my little fertility friend chart, and predicted that today... that's right, today... would be CD1. Which it is. So.

Now, I did have a little spotting on the day after the lap/hyst/dye, so it hasn't been completely spot-free, but I'm ignoring that because hell, if you can't spot for 24 hours after a lap/hyst/dye when can you spot?



Several theories come to mind.

1. It's a coincidence. See what happens next cycle and this time, buy a bloody OPK to give yourself some credibility.

2. The physical handling of your uterus during transfer is causing the spotting. Well, it was pretty firmly handled during the lap, so why didn't I spot like crazy because of that? The dye cleaned things out? Maybe? And what about that first cycle - you only got a little spotting and that was at about the time your period was due? Lots of holes in this argument, I'm afraid. At any rate - no transfer, no pregnancy so even if this is the reason, there's no solution.

3. The luteal phase hormones he's given you are causing the spotting. But the spotting wasn't worse with higher doses of hormones. And those hormones are supposed to prevent spotting, so this would be a really perverse thing for your body to do. If this is the case, over the next few (rest) cycles you should get a normal luteal phase length with no spotting. Easily tested. And then I guess we can discuss completely natural cycles, and see what happens.

4. That durrned embryo is causing the spotting. The amount of spotting seems to have been more or less inversely proportional to your hCG reading on beta day. You spotted the most with the BFN, and the least with the first cycle, which produced the highest beta. Although, to be honest, there were less spotting days with the BFN than with the next cycle, even though the spotting was heavier, and... I just think you're being dodgy, that's all. At any rate, what are you going to do about it? Monitor, OPK, record, gather more data, try to achieve some statistical significance.

5. The mental stress of cycling was causing the spotting. Relax and it will happen! (Hahaha - gotcha.) Alternatively - it's the power of springtime! Lucky I'm moving somewhere equatorial then, isn't it?

In any case, what I have to do seems pretty clear. OPK, record, monitor. See what happens. Mull. Draw shaky conclusions.

And he told me to forget about it!

I told my Grandma. Grandma "IVF doesn't work, is painful, expensive, and therefore just shouldn't be allowed" J. I've wondered, since she unwittingly said this to my mother*, how she'd take the news.

"It doesn't always work," she says. I know - but there's still a good chance of it working in our case... probably... eventually. "It's expensive," she says. Well it's valuable. And within our means. "It's painful, and difficult," she says. We've been doing it since January. We've got through this much, we'll get through some more. "But why... what's wrong with you? Or can't they explain?" It's not important what's wrong, Grandma. The point is, we need IVF if we want to conceive a child.

And then... then she smiles. And then she laughs. "Well this is good news!" she tells me. And it's my turn to look at her askance. "Well, I thought you weren't trying at all," she explains. "This gives me much more hope for good things."

Later, taking the kettle off the stove, she tells me how she's going to put us on her prayer list. "And I've had a lot of success lately. Not," she cautions, turning from her teabag jiggling to look at me through the top of her glasses, "always in the way I'd imagined, but good news nonetheless." And she turns back to pour the milk.

For a second, her confidence infects me, and I believe that her prayers are our missing ingredient. Then it's my turn to caution. "Just don't hold your breath, Grandma," I say gently.

"I never do any more, darling," she replies, and sets the tea down. And her thousand-yard stare goes straight through the window, and into an emptyness beyond. Life goes so quickly for her now, and she's given up trying to forsee all the twists and the turns. Things happen in the twinkling of an eye. One day, all of a sudden, I was born. The next, out of the blue, we were married. And tomorrow, all this will be over, who knows how? But she remembers what it's like when you're young. And remembering, she smiles in sympathy - a smile to save up for an older me, for the day I understand.

*Within days of a) my revealing the news to my parents and b) my EPU. Good timing, Grandma J.

The woman at the cafe looked sideways at the pram trundling past, and I saw the flash in her eyes. Envy? Grief? It was similar to looks I'd seen on her before, handing in her form at the counter, waiting for her blood test. I remembered her sullen mumble of thanks - belated, like a nicety almost forgot, when the receptionist whispered her good luck on what must have been another beta day. Other times she'd just sat, distant, not bothering to suppress a sigh.

I wanted to say, "I know," and thereby take from her a little of the melancholy she so clearly overflows with. So I met her eyes, but she dropped them quickly away.

And in a second I'd moved on, unrecognised.

The embryologist was talking in a low voice to a couple in the hallway as I headed for the changing room. I heard him ask, "Have you had decent eggs in the past?"

"No, we've always had terrible eggs," the woman replied, and she seemed so composed.

"Ah," he responded, awkwardly, and, "Well."

And he glanced at me as I went by, and stalled a little til I passed out of earshot before continuing. "Well," he resumed, "the thing is..."

And I shut my change room door.

I started noticing her in May. Tall and slender, she was always seen in tailored trousers, a stylish button-up shirt with collar, and a neat jacket or knit jumper. Low, black leather heels, and a loose clasp around her long, reddish-brown hair. Poised and graceful. Confident and controlled. The expression on her delicate features meandering between polite, pleasant and blank.

When she hands in her forms, she always smiles. If she walks through the door ahead of you, she holds it. If you let her into the lift first, she bows her head modestly and treats you to a polite expression of gratitude. She is always alone, independent.

That day, I saw her once again, lining up for another embryo transfer. Not yet, then, I thought. Not for you, either.

As I went past into the theatre, she smiled politely at me.

"The girl next to you in recovery was so young," my mother said, as we left the hospital.

I knew the one. She'd been there with her mother, too.
"They were freezing her eggs," I replied. "They got forty-nine, and forty-five were mature. They froze all the mature ones."

"So that's different from what you had?"

"They froze our embryos. The success rate is much higher."

"So why freeze eggs?"

"Because you have no sperm to make embryos out of, usually."

"But why would you be doing IVF at such a young age if you had no sperm? Oh. You don't think...?"

I shrugged. "I don't know her story." There was a pause.

"You don't think she'll get OHSS like you had, do you?"

"I don't know." Probably.

"She seemed in so much pain, Bea." I nodded.

I remember her telling the nurse, through tears. I remember her limping to seated recovery, heat pack held against her swollen abdomen. I remember her baby face - barely twenty. And her mum, stroking her brow, helping her home.

We held the lift for her.

1. You know that extra boost of confidence and certain "feelgood" factor you get from wearing your fancy pants? You know - the expensive lacy ones with the matching bra? Well, feel free to go for that on lap day, but make sure you take along some wet wipes and a substantial pad for afterwards, especially if they're cream or white in colour.

2. If your mum says it's no trouble to remove all the craft supplies from on top of your old bed, or if your sister offers you hers because she's staying at the boy's house tonight - even though she didn't clarify whether or not this offer extended to the dog - don't decide to doss down on a mattress on the floor somewhere. Trust me. You'll find out when you have to stand all that way up in the morning.

3. The following are, to a greater or lesser degree, acceptable recovery viewing: How To Lose A Guy In Ten Days, Hitch, Lucky Break, Chain Of Fools, Tin Men, Ocean's Twelve, Human Nature, The Big Lebowski.

4. If you get a feeling, on leaving your your parents' house to return home, of having left something important behind - check your toothbrush. Toothbrush, my dear.

5. If they find nothing wrong, that's good. It's just good.

6. Having laparoscopies doesn't make your tax return or removalists' insurance evaluation paperwork go away.

No endometriosis. No endometriomas. No suggestions of cancerous or pre-cancerous tissue. No hyperplasia. No fibroids, no infection, no tubal blockages. No funny looking fluid. No adhesions or septae. No weird and unusual congenital abnormalities. No polyps. No curette, in the end, because he decided he could only make things worse from here.

("Told you so," he said. I was hoping he'd say that.)

There's no cysts, no polycystic ovarian syndrome. No systemic disease of any kind - not with my thyroid, my liver, my kidneys, my adrenals, or my glucose metabolism. No hormonal inbalances. No clotting disorders. No immunological problems, or at least not any he believes worth testing for. No visible problems with our eggs, or the embryos that make it to transfer, and nothing wrong with our sperm that can't be solved using ICSI.

I have no pain (only a little discomfort, but ask me again tomorrow). No explanation for the mysterious spotting or the chemical pregnancies.

Oh, and no baby.

An aside on my mother, the dear: she teared up (but fought back bravely) in front of the admissions nurse because she couldn't shake her deep and abiding fear that the comic films I'd borrowed on DVD for my recovery would cause me to laugh too hard and break my wounds open. She chooses the most bizarre things to worry about (shut up, I am not).

Hearing her worry like this has a profoundly calming effect. I toyed with the idea of taking her to all my procedures from now on for this reason, but I really don't think she could stand the stress.

So tonight I had a chat to my mother about Friday. She's staying with me at the hospital and taking care of me overnight, so I had to get her up to speed. We talked for a while. I was calm, and I was brave. She was worried - I could see. Then she said, "It's just... no don't worry."

"What's that?"

"Well it's just... it makes me so angry. You hear these stories about these people who have babies and they don't look after them properly, don't even have the sense to care for them half the time, and the children are abused and mistreated, and then there's you two and... it just makes me mad, that's all."

And I saw myself shrug, and I felt myself smile, and I heard myself say something about not getting angry every time you realise life is unfair. And I talked for a bit about the people who live in countries where IVF isn't funded; the people who barely have money for food and shelter let alone fertility treatments; those for whom ART holds no hope or prospect; my first ever TTC buddy - a teacher from a small regional centre in one-child China with a pittance salary and no access to IVF - therefore no hope for a child - whose school nevertheless makes her take a pregnancy test every six months as a condition of her employment, and what sort of fair is that?

And much as I believe there's a time for anger, there's also a time to put anger aside. And there's a time to end the useless flailing, and take a more considered approach. There's a time to lament the past and the present, and a time to focus on and make choices for the future. A time to laugh, a time to weep. A time for every purpose under heaven.

She used to sing me that, you know, as she tucked me into bed. I guess I get my chance to whisper the lullabies after all.

So I got my new referral this morning from the GP. And a script for some pain killers. And she asked if that was all, and I said yes, and I thought we were done. Then she asked how I was going. Fine, I'm fine. Are you still taking folic acid*? Well... I've kind of stopped for the time being. I'm on a break. How many cycles have you done? Are you feeling disappointed about the results? Does your family know what you're going through? Do you have access to counsellors at your clinic?

Sooner or later I was bound to cry. And its hard to convince someone you're really ok when you're blowing your nose at the same time. In the end, reluctantly, she let me leave. Maybe she decided I wasn't going to abuse her prescription medications after all.

Later, I walked aimlessly through the supermarket. Despite a bare pantry, I couldn't figure out what to buy. I realised how long it's been since I tasted food. I looked at ingredients - eggs, vegetables, spice - and I tried to remember how to cook. My herb garden feeds possums now. The tomato plants yellow and die. I am thin, I am gaunt**.

When I came home, I scrolled through my archives. Looking for change. Hoping for progress. Trying to work out if they're right, these people who look at me, with their furrowed brows, their faces of concern, and reduce me to crying so easily. And I found a good reason to blog. I know now, for sure, that these are not my darkest hours***.

I am waking from a very bad night, full of terrors. And although my fears were valid, and remain unresolved, they are more manageable by this, the light of day. The worst may not be over, but at least, as I wake, I can smell the coffee, and breathe the warmth of toasted bread. And I am grateful for these little tastes of life.

*Interestingly, she recommends a pregnancy and breastfeeding formula containing iodine, for those living in Australia. This is because our soils are iodine-poor. The same prenatals that are adequate in, say, Europe, are not so good here, for this reason. Check your label!

**Don't hate me for this. I have lost a significant amount of weight this year. Stress kills my appetite. It may be part of our problem at the moment.

***This post from April is what I mean.

You have two healthy children, born two years apart, and you thought your family was complete. Until The Accident. When you lost it very early on, you were sad, but that doesn't make you my friend.

When you felt how upset you were, you decided there'd be a number three. Several weeks later, you were pregnant again. I bet you pissed on a stick. I bet you believed it.

You aren't allowed to lament your loss of innocence in pregnancy. You aren't allowed to speak of being afraid. You are an innocent. You don't know the meaning of fear.

Please do not simper, or whine, or lay your hand dramatically against your forehead every five minutes, as if this will make me go out of my way for you. And let me tell you, when you relate your heroic birth stories - with the ceasarian sections, and the bit where you had to stay in hospital and how the pain killers kept making you sick and oh! what you have to go through for these children! - you sound just like a little kid. A little stinky preschooler who wets her pants and cries to mummy.

The truth is: you suck. You can't play with us, and you will not be invited round to my house after school.

See also: Pregna Donna.

1. There may or may not be an identifiable explanation for spotting during the luteal phase.

2. Specialists argue about whether or not it affects your fertility.

3. Plenty of people (including your Great-Aunt's friend's coworker) have spotted heavily during their luteal phases, in some cases losing up to 15L of blood in one day and requiring multiple transfusions, and have soon afterwards found out they were pregnant and gone on to deliver a healthy baby. Even though multiple doctors had told her she would never be able to conceive on account of having no ovaries, plus she hadn't had sex in about six years and in fact had been living as a hermit-nun on a deserted island since her husband died five years ago, and in THOSE days we didn't have access to all these fancy assisted reproduction technologies, we had to make our own fun.

4. Here is a somewhat random list of terms for you to ask Dr Google about, and later regret doing so:

  • anovulatory spotting (fixable by inducing ovulation)
  • ovulatory spotting (more mysterious and complicated)
  • coagulopathies
  • structural lesions
  • hypothyroidism
  • inflammatory lesion
  • dysfunctional uterine bleeding owing to immaturity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis* (to which I would add thoroughly-confused-by-infertility-drugs hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis)
    *reproductive hormone system, in plain English.
  • endocrinologic causes (hormonal problems) vs organic causes (non-hormonal problems)
  • organ dysfunction, such as liver or renal disease
  • endometrial hyperplasia
  • infection
  • iatrogenic causes (caused by medical intervention), such as chemotherapy, anticoagulants, steroid therapy, and use of IUD
  • anatomic causes, which include uterine leiomyoma, endometrial polyps
  • endometriosis

5. Tests:

  • hormone tests - luteal phase progesterone, serum prolactin, hell, haven't we all had enough hormone tests done to cover this bit?
  • hysteroscopy/hysterosalpingogram/sonohystogram
  • thyroid tests
  • adrenal function tests
  • laparoscopy
  • endometrial biopsy
  • coagulation profile

I'm booked for a lap/hysteroscopy/D&C next Friday.

I ask FS if there's anything else we haven't yet tested for. "I doubt it," he says, raising an eyebrow at me in a meaningful fashion, "but let's go through, shall we?"

He flicks the envelope and allows an impressive wad of papers to flutter onto the desk. "Done that... haven't got that... that's there, and that, and that... Well, technically there's one or two things left, but to be honest I doubt the results would actually mean anything. There's just no compelling evidence to say they're a) significant findings or b) the treatment is worth the fuss. By the way, have you visited the bird park in Singapore? No? It's fantastic - you really should. The bird park and the zoo."

Got it. Lap/hyst/D&C, bird park, zoo. Then, afterwards, back to rolling dice, gambling our embryos til they run out. Then another cycle. Blasts? PGD? Aspirin? Resection of hypothetical endometriosis? Let's argue about that when the time comes. If the time comes. Sure, let's stick to if. Just because you pepped me with your talk.

And don't forget to renew your referral. Your year is up.

Nurse tells me a day or two off is plenty for what I'm having. I asked her if she was taking my low pain threshold into account. She laughed. After an awkward pause, I joined in - oh yes, joking, ha ha - and decided to come and ask you.

At present, I have Friday, Saturday, Sunday off, only four hours in the evening to work on Monday, and Tuesday off. (I actually do still have a job, it's just I've said yes to everyone who wanted to swap shifts with me recently, which I'm paying for at the moment, but getting rewarded for from the end of next week.) It's crazy busy just now. Lots of mental effort, stress, powerwalking around, and some lifting required. Do I need to take Monday off sick, or just leave it? I'm assuming I'll be ok to go back to my more usual hours by the Wednesday... right?

It was a social experiment. I promise.

It started when I nearly walked into a woman on the way in. She was a mother, you see. But her child was with a younger woman, flush with the novelty of being in charge of a small person. I was walking a straight line to the door, and both I and the young woman and child altered our courses slightly to avoid each other.

The mum, on the other hand, kept walking right at me, and we had one of those awkward moments where each realises, at the last minute, that the other person is not going to move out of their path as expected. She was about my age, maybe a couple of years either way. It's not the first time I've had this problem lately.

So I started thinking. About social hierachies and who moves for whom, and whether one's status as a parent has anything to do with it. And then I started experimenting. By walking at people, to see if they'd move out of my way. Here's what I found:

Children ignored me unless I was actually going to step on them.
Teenagers moved.
Elderly women stuck to their course.
Elderly men mostly moved.
People around my own age were variable, and are no doubt an area for more detailed study.
Parents with children varied somewhat, but tended to stick to their course.
Parents whose children were nearby also varied, but tended to stick to their course.

Here's the bit where I'm supposed to draw some grand conclusion. I think my sample size was too small. I wonder if, for example, a full shopping trolley beats an infant in a pram. I don't know - I haven't tried. There's certainly a temptation to write something bitter about how parents think they're so much more important.

But of course, this social experiment says as much about me as it does about my "subjects". It says as much about who I defer to as it does about who defers to me. And perhaps it explains why I keep walking into people lately.

You see, I think my value system is changing. Once, I saw parents as people who deserved respect and advantage. Now I'm starting to see them as people who have everything they deserve already - much more than they deserve, for some. And perhaps I saw myself as Not Yet A Parent, whereas maybe I'm trying out the idea that I'm simply a Person, and all by itself that should count. I don't think my thoughts are entirely clear. I don't think my body language is, either. Hence I keep walking into people. Especially mothers, around my own age or younger, whose children are currently being supervised by someone else.

Or maybe they're just the most distracted.

First, I sorted out the "medical stuff" folder. In it I found receipts for several packets of pessaries I had not yet claimed from our health insurance company. Of course, I had to remedy that. So I presented my receipts to the lovely lady behind the desk, and she looked, and she said, "Ugh - progesterone pessaries. I hated those so much." And she smiled at me. Then she processed my claim and gave me $125 cash.


With the cash, I bought spotty-dots*. Three colours - red, green and yellow. Red for Stopping Here, green for Going To Singapore, and yellow for Wait, Let Me Think That Over For A Bit Longer. To my credit, I haven't used much of the yellow.


I then had a lovely chat with the relocation person. She sent me some paperwork, and talked me through what to do with it. My visa application will take about six weeks. She sent my details to the removalists, who will ring me directly to sort out what's going where and when. They may... and this is really exciting... be paying for the relocation of the dog (under our "air freight" quota). Guess I'll stop tossing up whether she can come and start getting her export certificates organised.


Next, I sat down at my computer and wrote my letter of resignation**.

Dear thingamy thingamy,

I know you're getting tired of fitting in with my IVF schedule, to the point of suggesting I take an unpaid leave of absence until I'm either knocked up or given up. Which was kind of sweet and offensive at the same time. Sometimes I think it's because you're genuinely concerned for me, and to be honest you have been supportive up til now. I know you "struggled" with conceiving your daughter (in that you had to have some fertility testing but fell pregnant just in the nick of time before starting any treatments) and I guess my heart hasn't been in it for the last few months, as far as my job is concerned. So maybe it's me.

Then again, maybe it's you. I would probably be coping better if I didn't have to put up with quite so much shit, and to be honest I disagree fundamentally with much of your management philosophy - something I realised long ago but for various reasons decided to ignore. You actually have quite a high staff turnover, truth be told, and I'm certainly not hopping back out the door in quicker-than-average time.

In any case, my husband lives in Singapore now, and besides, it's high time I took back some control over my life and made a few decisions about where it's going and what's important. So I quit. Four weeks and I'm outa here. Starting Monday.



I think... something in my life is starting to come together.


*I did have some cash left over. They weren't super designer gold-leafed spotty-dots.

**This is not the actual letter, obviously. I may want to do a few days' casual work for them when I'm visiting Oz as an IVF tourist, in order to pay my trip.


I also appreciate the comments over the last post. So the photo is going ahead. I'm over it already. Ho hum, it's official - infertility is always going to be a part of my life. That's ok. And my mum deserves her family picture. It's just nice to know you understood.

My mum has this thing about three. She wanted to have three children, all three years apart. (Of course that worked magically for her.) And every three years we have our pictures taken. First me, then me and my sister, and then the whole gaggle together, growing, and changing, and becoming old. We had one taken together the year of our wedding - a bride and her maids. Three years later we were scattered to the corners of the earth, and the set was made up of individual shots, each themed according to where our lives had lead us. My sister was graduating. My youngest sister had grown from an adolescent into a glamorous and self-assured young woman. And I? I was taking high tea at the Ritz in London. Life was good. And I was looking forward to the next picture, because in it I'd be pregnant, or nursing my baby. That was four years ago.

Over the last year, my mother has hinted, then requested, then begged and pleaded, and has finally, in view of my imminent flight* to Singapore, resorted to the maternal guilt trip. And I keep promising we'll get that photo done, and explaining how difficult it is to find a time when everyone's free. Lying, in other words, about the reasons behind my hesitation.

Because when I see that photo, Infertile Bea will be staring back. For decades to come. Immortilised on the wall, and later in my mother's photo album. I guess I was hoping to sweep this whole thing under the carpet. I guess I was hoping to move on and forget, leaving no record. But that won't be - the appointment is this Saturday.

I suppose my mum will like the photo despite it all. Maybe I can learn to live with it, too.

*As in, I am soon going to flee to Singapore, not as in my plane flight, which I'm not even close to setting a date for, let alone booking.

Er... I haven't actually sent this. I feel bad because this admission is going to disappoint some people. Don't get me wrong - I would, I absolutely would except I doubt it would get Mr Bea's approval. He's nice you see. We're like chalk and cheese that way. Maybe with a little tweaking?

But if you want to send it, be my guest.

Dear Family and Friends,

Ok, well I know there are people on this list who probably don't care very much, and are going to feel a bit astounded in a moment that I'm revealing this information to them on account of our relationship not being that close, but you see I only want to say this once so I thought a blanket email might get us all straightened out so we can get on with our respective lives minus the irritating comments and the hushed gossip. So here it is.

The reason I fly back to Australia each month is for IVF. We started fertility treatment in 2005, and our first IVF cycle began in January 2006. So now you know.

I've noticed that people often don't know what to say after I tell them this. Or at least that's how I usually excuse the things they say next. For those who are thinking of replying to this email, or indeed speaking to or interacting with me in any way in the future, I have prepared a set of guidelines for your prior edification:

1. I do not want to hear about your brother's wife's cousin's workmate who tried for years and miraculousy fell pregnant after they stopped trying/adopted/consulted a naturopath/etc etc. Their diagnosis is probably different to ours and their story of little relevance. Plus the fact that someone else fell pregnant against such odds that their specialist still bores people with the tale at dinner parties twenty years later does less to comfort me than you obviously imagine.

2. Do not offer us unsolicited advice. You have no idea how much time we have spent looking into every avenue and weighing every decision. I am also rarely in the mood to justify ourselves to you.

3. Do not send me any more unsolicited pictures of your young children. This is not because I hate you for reproducing or your children for being born, but is simply in order to avoid future scenarios in which, for example, I receive your birth announcement with attached photos on the same day my followup hCG titre confirms the imminent end of yet another hard-won pregnancy. Because that upsets me, that's why.

In fact, I would go further and point out that, since one in six couples experience infertility and few of them choose to broadcast their woes to the entire world in a manner such as I am now doing, a pregnancy or birth announcement sent to a fifty-strong CC list of family and friends has a pretty good statistical chance of landing in the inbox of someone who is, unbeknownst to you, struggling to conceive. I therefore request, on behalf of all my assisted conception pals, that you exercise some level of tact when making such announcements. Anyone who can attach a photo to an email is also capable of setting up an online photo gallery or babyblog, and I would suggest that a brief description of the bare facts, with a link for those who want pictures and further details, is ideal.

If you've already made this mistake, don't worry - I have forgiven you because you didn't know any better at the time. NOW YOU DO.

4. If anyone dares underestimate the impact that this is having, or implies, however indirectly, that this is less important than it actually is or that I am in some way over-reacting, or even - heaven forbid - tries to point out some sort of bright side, I will have you, I promise, and you do not want to feel my wrath.

5. If what you're about to say can be described as a platitude, just don't.

6. If you are travelling any time during the next year and want to know if we'll be in Singapore on such-and-such a date so you can arrange to stop over, the answer is, "I don't know and if it turns out we are be prepared for the fact you might have to absent yourself from our presence and make your own fun for most of your stay, depending on the prevailing situation." This is the best I can do. Live with it - we have to.

I thank you for your attention and look forward to your enlightened responses. If there is anything I have said which requires further clarification, I would be only too happy to help.


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