"The greatest of all mistakes is to do nothing because you can only do a little."
-Sydney Smith, 1771 - 1845.

I got into a taxi last Thursday and asked the driver to take me to the Rid.ing For The Dis.abled A.ssociation of Singapore. And he asked me a bit about it, and I could only answer in part because it was only my second day as a volunteer there, but I explained that riding helps disabled children with balance, motor control, communication and confidence. And that I help by wandering along beside them for safety and encouragement. He nodded, but with a firmly unconvinced expression on his face. "I just... how shall I put this?" he said. "Horse riding costs so much money - surely they could learn those things through other, cheaper sports. Then the money would be better spent."

Well, fuck, the money would be better spent feeding the starving children of Ethiopia than helping the disabled children of Singapore play sport of any kind. I mean, wouldn't it?

After the lesson several volunteers had a disgruntled discussion about a group of university students who'd come to write an assignment on the association recently. Apparently they'd found themselves described as "a bunch of middle-aged expatriate ladies who lavish praise and then sit around drinking tea" which "totally missed the point". And I have to agree, it did totally miss the point. But at the same time it was not (I reflected as a forty-something-year-old woman with an upper-crust English accent offered me a chocolate slice which she described as wonderfully moist, deliciously rich, and baked by the wife of the Dutch Ambassador to Singapore for an absolutely marvelous charity stall she'd attended recently) wholly without truth.

So I was already forming a post in my mind where I discussed the fact that these women could have been lolling about in the salon complaining about their maids instead of lifting a wheelchair-bound child in and out of the saddle and watching him finally pluck up the courage to trot halfway down the arena - not to mention what would happen to a twenty-seven-year-old ex-polo pony without the RDA to find a use for him - and the fact that the facilities form part of a polo club that would exist with or without a charitable sideline, when I saw the book.

Doing A Little Good - the coffee table book of the Riding For The Disabled Association of Singapore. And the quote, inside, from Sydney Smith. It summed it up well, really, because when all's said and done, perhaps the RDA is one of life's more frivolous charities - but, you know, half a dozen physically and intellectually disabled children smiled today. And I think that's worth something.

Ok, you might have to click and enlarge to see the "with crunchy aloe vera bits!" green splodge label properly.

I'd also like to take this chance to apologise to anyone whose blog I haven't commented on lately but should have. My litany of excuses goes like this:

First, my laptop stopped connecting to the internet. This makes it very hard to keep up because Mr Bea's laptop doesn't know who you all are. Especially difficult if I have started reading you recently, or if you have requested not to be listed on my blogroll. I am assured my laptop will be made to connect to the internet once we have our own broadband account which we are in charge of (instead of using various wireless points). Should hopefully happen next week sometime.

Secondly! I am having trouble commenting even if I can read your blog. Typepad is giving me the most trouble, although this is not 100% consistent and everything from blogger to wordpress has bitten me in the arse. If I don't have your email address, just pretend I said something far wiser than you could ever have imagined and that all your problems are now solved. Because that's how I wish it went in real life.

If it makes you feel any better, my mobile's giving me trouble too. The world is trying to silence me. It must think I talk to much.

Litany ends.

Sooner or later it's going to come up. Someone will say, "Let's go out to eat!" and this will bring about the question of where. "Somewhere different," you'll agree. Then all at once it will come to you.

Why not the first and only, Chinese, revolving restaurant, located on top of a flour silo - in Singapore?

I have decided, on the Fifty Good Deeds front, that Thursday will be "report card day". I hope that's Bridget-Jones-esque enough for the genre. This, then, is report card number one, on the subject of tissue selling.

Now, if you're hoping to find, within this post, sordid tales of international black-market organ trading, I might as well disappoint you up front. We're not going to be talking about that kind of tissue. No, we're going to be talking about the kind of thing you blow your nose on, you know, the papery stuff. Oh, alright then - there'll be a short but highly shocking story about international black-market organ trading at the end.

Back to the paper. Tissue sellers are found in many corners of the globe. It is, let's be frank, one step up from begging, but it's not begging, because as we all know, that would be illegal in Singapore along with many other things (such as failing to flush the toilet, chewing gum, and being naked in the privacy of your own home if the neighbours can see you but not, since 2004, oral sex between consenting, heterosexual adults and thank goodness for that).

Besides, those little packets of tissues are a useful, nay essential, part of Singapore life. Sooner or later you're going to learn about hawker centres and food courts. Think shopping mall food court. Ok, now pretend the food is actually really good and prepared on a short-order basis. Right, now lower the price. Lower - that's more like it. You can get a full and delicious meal for around S$3.00. That's about $1.90 in the US, or $2.50 in Australian, or $2.20 in Canadian, or 1.5 euros, or a quid, or for gosh sakes where are you from then well why don't you just go ahead and perform your own currency conversion. The fact is you can't cook a meal in your own home for that little.

However - and here's the catch, plus the place where I get back to tissues - when you rock up to one of these places, it will be crowded, and busy, and you're going to have to find a place to sit down. And little packets of tissues are the locally-acknowledged placeholders. Pop one down on the table in front of where you intend to sit, then wander off at your leisure to survey your food options.

You might think, from this, that not-technically-begging sellers of tissues do a roaring trade in Singapore. Really, I haven't a clue. And there's a debate to be had about whether one should encourage this type of behaviour at all or outrightly refuse to participate, instead favouring the middle-class beggars with official badges and little receipt books which line the most popular shopping streets of this city, shaking their tins and ringing their little bells. But that's a complex debate and we can have it later, or indeed not at all.

Because the woman who came towards me through the crowd as we stood under the shelter of a shopfront, waiting for the usual afternoon deluge to pass; the woman who offered those little packets to one person, then another, gracefully accepting each refusal and moving on - well shit, she was selling tissues you know? And I realised my first Good Deed didn't have to be a big one. So I gave her some money, and she offered me a fist full of packets, but I only needed two. And then she moved on, and it was done.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, a nineteen-year-old girl was waking up in a bathtub full of ice. She vaguely remembered the previous night's clubbing, and the mysterious but charming man who had bought her a drink. As her eyes started to focus, they fell on a telephone sitting on a chair by the tub, and a piece of card containing a set of printed instructions. She shook her head slightly, to dispel the fog, and squinted at the words. "Important!" the card began. "You need to dial emergency and ask for an ambulance..."

I feel a bit funny about the report card thing, like I'm crowing to the world about how great I am, especially when I've started with something so small. But I had this intention of, sort of, making it part travelogue, part report card, part validation of the little things that lots of people - probably you! - do from day to day that go towards making this world a better place.

Grand gestures are grand, but they take organisation and there's a lot of good intentions that fall shy of that initial hurdle. Sometimes I think you should just do something, however small, or reach into your pocket rather than tie yourself up analysing where the money could or should end up.

Besides, it's my first week - you expected world peace? If I can achieve that I will be crowing.

Lastly, a timely reminder to be careful with your drinks if you're out partying this holiday season. Those organ traffickers are everywhere. So I've been told by a friend of a friend of mine.

It's almost exactly a year since we were told ICSI was our only option for having a genetically-related child. I've spent the year whining, and moaning, and crying, and getting depressed, and feeding my highly-developed ability to stress over things which are a) unlikely to happen and b) not under my control anyway. And I don't regret a minute of it. I was completely justified, and I make absolutely no apologies. Nevertheless, I feel it's time to move on.

I just can't do 2006 all over again. It was, like, way hard, man. We will never, ever get our baby if I continue in that vein, because, put simply, I won't be able to continue at all.

So allow me for a moment to experiment with being a "good person". I don't want my fertility journey to be punctuated solely by inevitable failures, disappointments and setbacks. I want there to be moments of light, pockets of pride, days of sunshine. Crap like that. I am determined to go from weepy pussy-job to bitter old crone via vomitously perky gal. I am therefore setting myself this challenge: during our next year of fertility treatments - or whatever else may come - I'm going to perform Fifty Good Deeds In Celebration Of Life. And, to keep me honest, I will report them back to you.

This is also, apparently, a way of integrating into the local community - a staggering 15% of Singaporeans over fifteen years old are active volunteers . Come on - fifteen percent. That's pretty damned good for modern society.

Now, about the ads (if they're not here now, they're coming in a minute). I've put them there with the idea of donating any money to worthy causes. So go! Click! You know you want to.

Finally, if you have any requests or suggestions for Good Deeds you especially want done, you just go right ahead and leave them here. Then you can be a do-gooder by proxy. Now doesn't that sound fun?

Alrighty then.

I am woken from my fitfull snooze by an overwhelming sense of dread. "What have we done?" I ask myself. "We've made a hard thing harder. We've increased our chances of failure." And my eyes flutter open in alarm.

They meet the black of the sky, and a smattering of lights twinkling far below. I am hanging somewhere over the islands of Indonesia, between the choice I have committed to and the consequences I will have to bear. And I sigh, relieved, because I realise this feeling is normal, or in other words meaningless.

The eagle has landed, dawdled around the streets and idled at the hotel. Now she's vaguely wondering what to do next. Willing to take requests.

In cycle news: it's 1-2dpo and we're waiting to see what sort of luteal phase we get this time. I'm currently choosing to believe all our luteal phase troubles are behind us, but tune in for progesterone-fueled angst as the week progresses.

It's Fly Day. Two months and two days since Mr Bea flew away. Last week, he wrote me one of his lovesick poems, of which this title is my favourite line. Being of a less romantic bent, I replied with a shopping list. Flour, bicarb, sugar, eggs, oil or butter, milk, syrup, thickened cream, bacon.

Since he's been gone I've waited out a two week window, had morning sickness, received a more-than-negative-but-less-than-positive beta result, made the decision to take a break, quit my job and move to a country I've never visited before, turned in my notice, taken our beloved dog backwards and forwards to the vet clinic for a mysterious waxing and waning illness, applied for and obtained a Singaporean residency visa, witnessed (indirectly) the births of three children - two of which were the second born since we started trying, the other of which was born to my first IVF cycle buddy, and one of which I wasn't told about at all until after the birth, filed tax returns for myself and Mr Bea, completed the pre-removal insurance and customs paperwork for our shipment, sat for a long-deferred family photo, had a general anaesthetic, laparoscopy, hysteroscopy and dye study, attended a weekend conference related to my job, taken our beloved dog backwards and forwards to the university teaching hospital for specialist care having reached the limits of experience of half a dozen general veterinary practitioners, worked full time during the busiest two months of the year, congratulated several more people on their pregnancies, whilst wistfully thinking about how close in due dates we'd be if only that beta had been a teensy bit more positive, sorted and packed an entire household of belongings and transported most of it into storage, made some decisions about my career path, cooked real food, finished dozens of DIY jobs in order to make the house ready for tenancy, contacted insurance companies, mortgage brokers, and banks in order to completely rearrange our finances, finalised our utilities bills and arranged for bills to be paid in our absence, voted in a by-election and changed both our addresses on the electoral role, worked through a big backlog of thoughts and feelings related to our cycles so far, arranged to have our property marketed and rented out, had the car serviced and detailed and put up for sale, revealed and discussed our infertility amongst selected family and friends, booked myself on a plane, supervised shipment of the core of our belongings, kept the house in presentation condition for viewing by prospective tenants at a moment's notice, blogged, applied for a new job in an entirely different industry, mentally prepared myself as well as can be expected for our treatments to come, arranged for our beloved dog to be cared for by family until she's well enough to fly, held someone else's newborn and smiled, researched the rental property market in Singapore, and ovulated, on time, by myself.

Can you hear me roar?

I want you to know two things. First, I didn't do it by myself. I had a lot of help from family and friends, and I do include you guys under "friends". Thankyou so much. Second, a lot of people have implied that I might be finding the move to Singapore stressful. All I can say to that is, "Not compared to infertility." Compared to infertility, it doesn't even raise a flutter. So if you've read this far and thought, "Wow - I couldn't do that!" like I thought two months ago, then sister - you are wrong.

So, where am I at the end of all this? Well, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Mr Bea and I will be cooking pancakes together for breakfast.

And I'll see you on the other side.

I want to talk about my mother's breast cancer. That's not true. I want to talk about me. But bear with me whilst I come at it via the topic of my mother's breast cancer. It started when I was fourteen.

At the time, it was everything - our whole world. We ate it, slept it, watched TV around it, came and went from the house according to its will. My mother wasn't one to bore people with the gory details - even though she arguably should have because, just a heads up, gory details are a lot easier for your children to deal with than unexpected violent and seemingly irrational mood swings - but nevertheless it was there. Always there.

And now? Well, it doesn't come up that much anymore. Don't get me wrong - if the Cancer Council come around, our family donates. If my mother hears of someone who's been diagnosed she might say a word or two, and we all know it's not just ordinary sympathy. It happened, there's no denying, but it's not happening. It's one of life's traumas, like high school or that time you broke your arm, but it's finished, it's over. There's little else to say.

I was thinking about this because of all the infertility blogs out there by all the people who've tried and failed and tried again. And don't get me wrong - inspiring stuff, but frightening at the same time. I'm reading all these stories about people who've done huge numbers of cycles, had multiple miscarriages, spent years pursuing treatment, and still can't see a light at the end of the tunnel. But what I tend to forget are all the blogs that went bust along the way. All the people whose stories I started reading, who got knocked up and subsequently stopped telling the tale. And what about those who never had a blog, because their journey didn't get that far? How many of us blogged from the very beginning?

Logical Bea wants me to write this down. Because she's said it before but it's not getting through, and she's tired of seeing me worry out of proportion to my actual situation. So here it is: the blogosphere contains a selected subset of infertiles. And those with the longest, most heart-rending stories are over-represented. Because the rest? Most of them are like my mother. At some point they find themselves with little else to say.

I wonder if that'll make me feel better.

Two more sleeps til Fly Day.

I see you standing bravely and I see you standing true
And I wonder how you stand at all with all that you've been through
And I want to soothe your hurting and I want to hold your hand
But I never want to be someone who truly understands

And if I can I'll...
...let someone else walk with you.
And if I can I'll...
...move on ahead and leave you.

And I see you huddled by yourself, black against the sky
And I want there to be somebody who holds you when you cry
And I wish you hadn't lost so much for what you hope to gain
But I plan to be just one more girl who doesn't know your pain

And if I can I'll...
...let someone else walk with you.
And if I can I'll...
...move on ahead and leave you.

And what I really want to do...
...is tell you sorry then just pass you by.

I thought of dedicating this song to a few people in particular, but I kept thinking of more and more candidates, and I didn't know how to choose. Let's just say if you think this is for you, it is.

I've given away the stuff we don't want, and stored the stuff we rarely use, and watched them pack the stuff we'd prefer not to do without. Now I sit, looking at the stuff I need.

A bowl. A spoon. A cup. A pair of chopsticks.
Sandwich ingredients.
Somewhere to lay my head.
My purse.
A towel and a dishcloth.
Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, moisturiser.
Half a suitcase of clothes -
Food, shelter and health.

And human-ness:
Devices for communication.
My dog.
The memories I'm trying to drink in, desperately and in vain.

It's not much, you know. Not much at all. Just the things worth clinging to, when everything else is gone.

*A removalist term I have learned. Removal and uplift - means they came today and packed and took away all the stuff for shipping. I also like the name - sounds like it means something good.

Four more sleeps til Fly Day.

*Update* - I think the itinerary is about set, now. I'm actually quite excited about it. I've just spent the weekend ghost-writing cover letters, and emails of introduction and enquiry. I'm taking a small slice of credit for her success as a royalty payment.

I think what excites me most is the attitude. That she'd have the gall to apply for even quite prestigious universities in some far-away country she's never visited, and then gamble a couple of thousand dollars worth of money she doesn't really have on the off-chance it helps her dream come true. And all on her own two feet - no mister or anyone else to carry her through. Damn. She puts me to shame.

So we've had the conversation about fulfillment in life, and expecting to find it through motherhood, and failing (at least so far) and turning instead to contemplate finding it through work. And I've decided this makes good sense. I'd like infertility to become background to a life in which I create and pursue other dreams. I'd like to think, for the moment at least, that motherhood, if/when it happens, will create a part, not the whole, of that tapestry. I just need something else in my life that actually means something to me. And a beer with old friends last night has brought me closer to deciding a path, closer to realising what excites my passion and has, for as long as they've known who I am.

But enough about me. Let me live vicariously through someone else for a moment.

My sister - who struggled to enter the career I may soon leave behind - is also creating and pursuing her dreams. Yesterday she obtained permission from her boss for 2.5 weeks leave. This morning she booked return flights to New York, and in exactly two weeks she departs our sunny shores to do a whirlwind grad school recon of the USA. Time is tight, and she's just sitting down to work out how much is possible. And I realised I know some USians, and some of them even live in the towns she's thinking of visiting. And I thought you might be neighbourly enough to give her some practical advice - especially with transport options.

So this post is a call to all US citizens and travellers. She needs an itinerary and she needs one fast.

Here's the long list of programs she's applied to:
Texas A&M Uni, UC Davis, Cornell, North Carolina, Uni Pennsylvania, Purdue, Tufts, Uni Wisconsin-Madison, Washington State, Colorado, Virginia-Maryland.

Here's the short list of programs she's really interested in:
UC Davis, U Penn, Purdue, Tufts, UW-Madison, Washington, Virginia-Maryland.

Here's the really short and gravely unambitious list of universities she thinks she has time to visit:
UPenn, UW-Madison, Washington, Purdue.

These aren't necessarily her top four from the short list, just the four she thinks make a nice-looking intinerary, based on a few hours' internet research. Well. That won't do.

She has fifteen full days in the US, and two half-days on either side. By bus, train, plane or car, I think she can make it to more than four universities. I've been on the road with her before - I know she can cover more ground than this, if she thinks it's possible. Help me show her it is.

She wants to have a full day at all the universities she visits.
U Penn has requested she visit on the 1st of December, and Virginia-Maryland wants her there on the 4th.
She arrives at JFK on Saturday the 25th of November, and leaves again on Monday the 11th of December.

So if you have any tips, send them on. And even if you don't, think of her in a couple of weeks time, and remember to wave her hi.

What's with the lack of non-car directions on uni websites? Where are the public transport options, people? Good grief!

Well, I think you all deserve a prize for bothering to comment on that one. I've decided your prize will be my taking that post off the top of the front page before I make us all sick.

I'll let you know what my conclusions are with respect to this train of thought, but I'll try and spare you the angsty hand-wringing and constant expressions of self-doubt along the way.

Having said that, I did find the comments helpful. For a start, I remembered everyone goes through these little moments, especially when coming up against obstacles to the accomplishment of their plans (and as Carol points out, IF can come between a gal and even her dreamiest job). Then there were a couple of practical pieces of advice - Serenity mentioned life coaching, and Steph had some specific suggestions about social work which bear thinking about. I've also been musing over Lut's choice to have the family first, and the rest later - in direct contrast to the way people usually think about it. I think it's a smart idea and I hope it catches on. Also, it makes me less afraid to explore other paths now, rather than feeling the need to commit for life. Which may or may not have been what she was driving at.

In any case, I don't think I can bear looking at such a pitiful post any longer, so let's just push it down the page a bit and agree not to mention it any more.

I don't like talking about what I do for a living. I go to these social gatherings now and then where people ask me and then when I tell them they look all enthusiastic for about twenty seconds because it sounds like something that should be interesting to talk about, even though in practice it's not. Then they come up with these stories about so-and-so who really wanted to be what I am but never quite got there, and inevitably they ask me why I chose my job. I dread these conversations. Perhaps I should explain.

You know those women who decided on a whim one day not to use contraception and are now complaining about getting knocked up and raising a kid? Don't you just hate them? Well, metaphorically speaking, I am such a woman. People kept asking me in high school what I wanted to be when I grew up and I got bored with telling them I didn't know, so racked my brains and gave them the best idea I had at the time and, well, since then I just haven't managed to think of anything better. That's the whole story. And now I'm here, I don't exactly like it, but I still can't think of anything better. Well I can, but, see profile re: infertility.

And to make matters worse (warning: middle-class whining about complete non-problems continues for another whole paragraph) my sisters are, metaphorically speaking, the infertiles who struggled for years to gain what I take for granted. Woe, and again I say woe is me. I like to say I inspired them. Whatever - point is they both chose the same career path I did, and they both strove hard for years to claw their way into my position whereas I skipped and hopped straight from highschool to uni to graduation to my first job in the minimum possible time, all the while trying (but failing) to think of a more appealing alternative. Yes, it really sucks being me.

I think I'm ready to get over it.

If the longest I can work full time without throwing some sort of "stuff all this I'm going to Morocco to find myself" fit is under a year, it's time to move on. Mr Bea, bless him, has been very tolerant up til now. He says, as if he's not directly contradicting himself, "Sure! Alternative Career Path A sounds perfect for you - go for it!" and also, "You know, the career path you're on suits you so well, I really think returning to it** is the right choice!" plus, from time to time, "Well, just don't forget to send me a postcard! With camels on it!"

The fact is, what little satisfaction I do derive from my job is completely offset by the enormous level of stress it causes me. Causes me, mind you - other people don't seem to respond this way. And there are many who find my job intensely satisfying, but for some reason not me. The bottom line is I've been trying to follow a career path I find to be highly stressful and mostly unsatisfying. I mean, it's just stupid, isn't it? Plus I'm not very good at it.

Also - and this is key - in the shit fight between Mr Bea taking the job he really actually does want in Singapore, continuing to do IVF, and devloping my career, developing my career got so totally done over by the other two it woke up in hospital in a completely foreign state where the authorities are still waiting for it to recover its memory so they can ascertain its identity and contact its next of kin. And no-one, it seems, has so far reported it missing.

To sum up.

Please help Bea discover her purpose in life. A small prize* goes to the winner.

*Prize may be, like, really really small.

**Read "falling back on it".

Well, I've had my last day at work*. I am now officially "between jobs". I worked the last shift alongside a colleague who has been wonderful to me all year. She's taken up slack for me, covered and swapped shifts for me, she even came in on her Sunday off to help me out for two hours during the pre-beta crisis of our most recent FET.

But here's the thing. She did all this without knowing. She may have suspected that something was up, but she never asked questions or demanded explanations. If she saw I needed help, she gave it. And she never once acted like I owed her one. I am, and will forever remain, thoroughly grateful for her.

I guess I felt she had earned a right to know. So before we said those last goodbyes, I told her. Just a brief outline - nothing detailed, nothing heavy. She said she was amazed at how well I'd held it together, and I laughed drily and said it was comforting to know she hadn't been spying on me closely. And she wished me luck, and she said she hoped I found happiness in the end.

And then she paused, looking worried. "I just never realised it was so common to have trouble," she said. One of our colleagues has just given birth to an IVF baby, and another has been advised to start treatment, and is weighing her decision. Three other workmates have lost unborn children in the last twelve months. We are only a small business.

"And you know how I feel about kids," she continued. She feels ambivalent, and more inclined towards her career at this stage. "My mother and sister conceived fairly easily, though," she added, looking sideways at me.

I shook my head firmly. "My mother has three children," I replied, "and never spent longer than two months trying to conceive any of us. You're not your sister, neither are you married to her husband."

And there was a pause, whilst I considered what to say next. But in the end I felt I had to.

"It's more common than you think," I told her, "and you have less time than you're expecting. You're already in your thirties - your fertility, and that of your husband, will start to decline significantly in a few years' time, and dramatically once you reach forty. Don't assume. Don't wait til you're ready, or finished with your career. Above all, don't wake up on your forty-first birthday with a sudden and burning desire to procreate and not enough time for Plan B."

In the silence that followed, she played absently with her ear lobe and stared at her lap with a troubled expression on her face. I waited. When at last she looked up, she promised to give it some serious thought, and I felt I had done my duty, so returning part of the enormous favour she'd done me.

She'll probably be fucking pregnant by March.

*Actually, they've asked me to do a couple of casual shifts next week, and like a fool who thinks time will just expand to allow me to get everything I need to done and then some, and is having many moments of anxiety over how we're going to pay for this lifestyle we've agreed to follow, I accepted.

You guys rock. You really do. Things are much clearer to me now than they were this time last week, although I'm sure it won't last. Luckily, we've written it all down. And now, for what it's worth, I want to tell you what I've learned.

I've learned that, in this uncertain world of infertility, it's impossible to set the rules ahead of time. Saying you'll quit after cycle X, or you'll do as much as it takes, no matter what, is a recipe for anxiety - as is any other rule about how you'll react on a given day, or to a given situation. There's enough worry without the fret over whether you'll be able to follow through on your self-made promises. And that's not to say you should throw out all your standards - but you need to give yourself permission to take it as it comes.

As for the short game, the flash points where everything is an overwhelming crisis - they're going to come and go. You may be able to identify a pattern, or a situation that sets you off, or you may be struck down without warning. Whatever the case, you need to ride them out, nothing more. Analysing and problem solving mean nothing here. The only thing that counts is your ability to distract and de-stress. Meditation or exercise, whatever music puts you in a better frame of mind, breathing exercises, or busying yourself with some sort of achievable task - whether work or recreation - can tide you over until the panic subsides. Until it's time to make the next choice; to roll the next set of dice.

And if you're ever wondering why, and there's no logical answer, try picking up a coin. Weight it on one side, according to your prognosis and the number of embyos you're transferring. Then flip. Because the universe plays just such a mystical game of chance.

If anyone still has any bullet-proof coping strategies they just have to share, you just have to share them. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'll be reading.

So much of the stress of ART is not based around specific events where things have gone wrong. Rather, it's a background stress - the not knowing how things are going to turn out in the end, and the wondering what bizarre and unexpected twist is going to derail it all next. Good, I can see you nodding along.

What I've noticed, and what I don't know how to deal with, are the flash points. The predictable meltdowns that punctuate a cycle. It's taken me four FETs to identify the pattern, and though I imagine it's not the same for everyone, I also suspect I'm far from unique.

Two days before the next test or procedure. That's when it happens.

Two days before the next blood test, ultrasound, or transfer, you can find me crying, hyperventilating, snapping irritably, unable to sleep properly, having difficulty getting through my day to day life, and feeling generally overwhelmed. On these days it reaches a point where having children becomes a secondary priority, eclipsed by the desire to just make it all stop. Of course, after a few hours, I am back on track. But while it lasts, it's horrible, just horrible.

I suppose identifying the pattern is the first step. Well I've done that. Good for me. But now what? Tell me - I'm not the only one, am I? So having been there, dealt with that, what advice can you pass on?

I'm going to throw out the first suggestion. Try to arrange things so I'm not facing additional stress on that day. Turn down the invitation to that social event. Arrange my work so I'm not doing the shift that causes me the most anxiety.

There's a balance to be struck between giving myself permission to opt out on that day, and keeping myself busy and distracted. But I think I'm working out how to strike that balance. Example: getting a haircut and having coffee with a good friend would be a good idea. Working a long and hectic shift followed by dinner with nosy relatives who can't stop talking about who's had which baby and when am I going to follow - bad idea. Sitting at home with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs and consult Dr Google - another bad idea. You get the picture. Still working on how to arrange my life so this is possible, but that's another post. Let's work with theories for the moment, and forget the practicalities.

What else?

I guess we tend to use "should" and "shouldn't" a lot more than is good for us, when it comes to what we think or do under certain circumstances. Because it seems for every permission there is an equal and opposite permission.

Permission to hope, and permission to not hope. Permission to be sad, and permission to have fun. Permission to get out there, and permission to stay in and crawl under a rock. Permission to give up, or to keep going. Permission to make your own choices, and not follow everyone else's - and I'm talking about those who have been in your shoes (those who haven't we obviously ignore because how do they know what they'd choose?).

Permission to indulge and nurture yourself, whatever that means today. But also permission to scold yourself and tell yourself to buck the hell up.

Permission, in short, to do what you need to do, instead of what you imagine you should be doing.

And here's one to add to the list - permission to change and grow. To start reacting differently to certain situations.

It's easy to fall into patterns of behaviour and, having established them, to repeat them ad nauseum well beyond their period of relevance. To choose an example - I think we all know what it's like to carry on as if we still like talking about other people's pregnancies. When people expect you to be "Pregnancy Sympathiser Person", it's easiest to play along. But if you eventually break this pattern, it's just as easy to get stuck in the new rut. People expect you to be "Don't Talk To Me About Your Pregnancy Person" and it can be just as awkward to move on from there.

Why do you (ok - let's switch to "I" at this point) feel the need to automatically respond the way I did before? To save myself the energy of coming up with a new behaviour, and establishing new social patterns? To meet the expectations of others? Whatever the reason, I'm sure it's not a good one. This is, apart from a shitty, fucked-up situation, also a life-changing series of events. I need to give myself permission to grow, to change, to adapt, to accommodate - to become the person I'm going to be because of, or despite it all.

I hope she's nice.

I also want to say thanks for all the thought-provoking comments. I feel I'm really learning something here. If anyone has any more, I'm all ears. Meanwhile, I'll be working on Strategising - Part Four.

Oh - also - I started temp charting today! I'm a little bit excited. Do you think "first thing on waking" means upon becoming "consciously aware" or "able to perform the brainstem reflex of hitting the snooze button and tying yourself up in the sheets for half an hour before realising it's morning"?

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