I met a stranger at the mall on Christmas Eve as I was waiting for Mr Bea to finish buying my present at the last possible moment. He asked if we had any kids yet, I told him no, he told me to hurry up, I didn't laugh, he asked how long we'd been married and if my husband was too fat, and then he advised us both to eat turtle's eggs.

"Turtles," he explained - and he raised his eyebrows slightly to make sure he was getting the word right, since I'd only just taught him what they were called in English after a complicated game of pictionary - "Turtles have lots of babies. So if you eat turtles' eggs, you will have lots of babies, too."

"Turtles have lots of babies because most of them die," I replied. But at that moment Mr Bea reappeared and my observation was left unheeded.

"I suppose you didn't think to just tell him you were due in May?" was my dear husband's first question, once I'd explained the conversation.

"That's not the point."

"Of course not. Out of interest, what was the point?"

The point, naturally, is many-fold:

1. Obviously I'm still not showing all that much.
2. Hurrah for considering infertility rather than laziness, selfishness, or child-hating as a reason for not having any offspring after 8.5 years of marriage.
3. Hurrah for considering male factor infertility.
4. Hurrah for giving me assvice I've only heard twice before.
5. Boo for unsolicited assvice.
6. Boo for telling me to hurry up.
7. Boo for not considering that childlessness is a valid choice for some couples.
8. My husband is nicer than me.
9. Pictionary is a timelessly fun and inexpensive game, suitable for all ages and cultural backgrounds.

The thing is, back in the dark days of IVF I had to smile these things off. I wasn't strong enough to take people to task. Now that I am, I can't just let it go.

Saying that, I also have less desire to detail the entire story from the beginning than I expected. In fact, the problem I'm finding with having people know about this pregnancy, is having people want to talk about it with me. Here on the blog I have some control over when and how I do so, but it's different face-to-face, with an uneducated audience - and I'm definitely showing to those who can remember what I looked like a few months back.

The thing is, I've put a lot of time and energy into thinking about having a baby over the last few years, and I've kind of been enjoying the break. Since around week eighteen, I've had an actual variety of thoughts, most of them not baby-related at all, and even before then I'd lost the constant churn that comes with having to decide what to do next - it was all "sit tight and try to suppress dead baby thoughts". Now people want to ask things, and I have to answer them.

When am I due?
Which OB am I seeing?
Will I be delivering in Singapore?
Am I planning on going back to work at some stage?
Do we know if it's a boy or a girl?
Have we starting picking names yet?
Am I feeling nervous?
Am I feeling well?
Have I had cravings?
Can I eat this? that? the other?
Are our parents planning to visit?
Do I mind if you touch my belly...?

Then there's the tricky one that strangers ask. "Is this your first?" What do they mean by "first"? It's the first time we've got this far...

I'm still trying to find my balance. I don't want to pretend the infertility never happened, but neither do I want to rehash the exhausting and emotional past. I don't want to overwhelm innocent questioners with awkward and unwanted details or spend hours chattering on and on, but neither do I want to rudely shut down the conversation.

Talking about it. Suddenly I'm being forced to, and I don't seem to have worked out how.

Snacking For Two is a collection of snack ideas for those with blood sugar issues who are pregnant or trying. Whether you've been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or insulin-resistance from PCOS, or are just having trouble controlling your appetite under the influence of too many hormones, hopefully you'll find something here.

These snack suggestions come from amateur eaters, not professional healthcare providers. They do not take the place of expert advice from a doctor or nutritionist, so you'll need to make sure the recipes fit within the guidelines suggested for you. It may be a simple matter of adjusting the ingredients to suit your needs, but you may have to skip a recipe entirely. Hopefully you'll find something you can use - at least for inspiration.

**Some recipe contributors have expressed interest in feedback. If you try an idea, let us know how it went by leaving a comment on the post. If you made any changes, please give details for the benefit of others.**

Pieces of meat can be prepared up to the point of cooking and stored, and you can also cheat by using store-bought marinades (or even buy the whole thing ready-to-cook). When you're ready to eat, just fry, grill, or microwave, and put them on a cracker or slice of wholemeal bread plus or minus a couple of salad vegetables. Otherwise, add them to a kebab stick with some vegetables and/or cubes of wholemeal bread, or toss them onto a bed of salad.

  • Lamb Chops/Cutlets/Pieces.
    Brush with olive oil and dust with black pepper.
    Marinade in 2 tsp grated onion, 1 tbl each of mint and coriander, and 2/3 cup natural yoghurt.
    Marinade in 3 tbl olive oil, 1 tbl lemon juice, 2tsp ground coriander seeds, 1/2 clove crushed garlic and 2 tsp honey.

  • Beef Balls/Pieces.
    Rissoles and meatballs.
    Marinade in 1 tbl olive oil, 1 tbl ground cumin, salt and pepper.
    Marinade in 4 stalks crushed lemongrass (or use lemonjuice), 2 crushed garlic cloves, 2 tbl sesame oil, 1.5 tsp five-spice powder, 2 tbl fish sauce, 2 tbl honey, and a bunch of chopped coriander.

  • Chicken Pieces.
    Marinade in 1/2 tsp each of ground coriander seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds, pimenton/chilli powder to taste, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tbs saffron-infused water, 1 tbl red wine vinegar, 1 tbl olive oil.
    Brush with pesto.
    Dust with ground chilli and cinnamon as in Taiwan-esque Chicken.

  • Fish Balls/Cakes/Pieces.
    If you're pregnant and/or just generally worried about mercury content, you might want to make your own fish balls and cakes. Otherwise, buy a brand you trust (try the Asian supermarket) and eat them fried on skewers, dressed with sweet chilli sauce, or added to an asian-style broth with a serve of greens.
    Tinned fish can also come in handy - on salads, crackers or bread.

When you've lost interst in cashews, almonds, pistachios, pine nuts, macadamias, walnuts, chestnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds... and all the other types of nuts and seeds I've left out (which should take a while) you can spice things up with these suggestions.

  • Thai chilli lime cashews.
    I don't have a recipe (someone?) but you might find them at your Asian supermarket. Nibble as-is, or toss them into a mango salad, eaten from the plate or wrapped up in wholemeal flatbread to eat on the go.

  • Honey roasted nuts.
    Nibble as-is or toss into a salad.

  • Spiced seed mix.
    Mix 75g pumpkin seeds with 75g sunflower seeds, 1 tsp soy sauce, and 1/4 tsp chilli powder. Cook in oven for 10 minutes at 190 degrees C/gas mark 5. Nibble as-is, toss into a salad, or grill on wholemeal bread with cheese spread and tomato.

Thanks Andie and Vee for suggesting a low-GI chip. You can also use wholemeal bread or pita, lettuce leaves (as a scoop with dip spooned on), beans, or celery sticks.

  • Mix 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 50g finely chopped red onion, a de-seeded and finely chopped chilli (or pinch of ground chilli, to taste), 2 tablespoons chopped coriander, and 200g cottage cheese for an Indian-style dip.

  • Hummus. I've always bought mine ready-made, but if you want to cook it yourself, combine 600g canned drained and rinsed chickpeas, 3 crushed garlic cloves, 100ml olive oil, 2 tablespoons tahini paste, 1 tsp ground cumin, and juice of 1 lemon in a food processor. Whip it up a bit, then add 1/4 cup water and process til smooth. Recipe from here.

  • Andie suggests this chip substitute:
    Wholemeal pita bread, olive oil, parsley, garlic.
    It's really simple. Slice pita bread in to six or eight wedges. Brush with olive oil and crushed garlic (to taste). Sprinkle with chopped parsley. Cook until crispy (about five mins) in pre-heated oven or under the grill.
    Proceed to spread with hommous, pesto, pumpkin dip, baba ganoush, or any other healthful dip (or topping) that takes your fancy!
    Tip: you can make a whole batch at once. Once cooked, they will store really well in an airtight container.
    Vee has a similar idea for those in more of a hurry. Track down some ready-made pita chips (such as these) or simply bake/grill slices of plain pita or lebanese bread til crisp (as above, but without the herbs or oil).

  • Beagle suggested this spicy cashew dip recipe. One to make ahead and delve into as needed.

  • It gets easier. I had a several some false starts. For me, once I got over the first ten to fourteen days, I was on a roll. My advice is to be strict in the first two weeks, and if you try and fail, just start again.

  • Exercise every day. I don't do vigorous exercise, but I've made a point of going for my "daily constitutional" walk, even if it's just a matter of taking the stairs when I'm going somewhere anyway. Apparently there are muscle-toning exercises you can do even if you're on strict bedrest, but you'd need to ask a professional about those.

  • Water is your friend. Caffeine, juices, softdrinks, alcohol and milkshakes are not. Plain water is fine, but the sparkling variety is mildly ant-acid, and I find it helps with nausea and heartburn so is good with meals in pregnancy.

  • Mornings are especially trying, because you'll be starving and tempted to go for a quick-fix of carbs, and that'll stuff you up for the whole day. Ditto the midnight snack. Homemade smoothies can work well here - whip up something just before bedtime based on plain natural/greek yoghurt, fruit, milk or cream and perhaps a few nuts, and it'll be there and ready to get you out of bed first thing in the morning. I follow this up with a cooked breakfast - a bit of rindless bacon, eggs, or some sausages. If that's too much for an early start, pre-prepare some hardboiled eggs - you can even take a couple with you on the road.

  • When you make a meal, make a snack, too. Make dinners with a little left over so you can wrap it in wholemeal flatbread plus or minus some added lettuce or cheese for your mid-morning snack the next day.

  • Use different herbs and spices. It will add variety and stop you getting bored. It can also help overcome some pregnancy-related food aversions.

  • Have a weekly "cook-up". Make big batches of things you can store, like soups or casseroles. Store them in snack-sized portions, and use one for a snack or two - plus or minus some wholegrain bread or salad - for a meal.

  • When you eat out, check the starters menu. Main meals are often carb-heavy, and the restaurant carb of choice is usually high GI - potatoes, white rice or white bread. Starters, by contrast, often focus on proteins or vegetables (except for the ones which are exclusively carbs - obviously don't order those). It can sometimes be better to order two or three starters instead of a main - a little more expensive, but then you're drinking plain water instead of wine, so it evens out. You might also be able to ask the waiter about "upsizing" a starter to main course size. In any case, make sure s/he brings your starter at the same time as everyone's mains, because otherwise they'll have to sit and watch you slowly digest your whole meal and no-one will bring their food until it's all cleared away.

  • Keep a snack box ready and waiting to be popped into your handbag. Nuts, cheese, wholegrain crackers, apricots... take it with you wherever you go. Good for emergency hunger pangs or nausea, and it'll keep you reaching for the first (high GI) snack you see when you're out - or even at home!

  • Swap your carbs. Go for higher-fibre alternatives. Jasmine rice and long grain rice are high GI, but you can swap them for basmati or brown rice to keep things a bit more in check. (A good general rule with rice is to steer away from the fastest-cooking ones and towards the slowest-cooking ones.) You can also ditch potato in favour of sweet potato or yams, white/refined breads and pastas for the more sustaining wholegrains/wholemeal varieties, and flaked cereals in favour of noodle-shaped bran cereals or oats. You can also swap flavoured yoghurts for unsweetened, natural yoghurts. Make sure you balance the meal with a nice serve of protein.

  • Don't overcook it. You want your body to spend time digesting the food, not your stovetop. Examples: do your pasta al dente, and your vegies on the crisp side.

Add your own tips in the comments!

Thanks to Vee for this recipe. So indulgent, you'll be amazed to find it's not sending your blood sugar straight through the roof. The perfect dessert.

per pop-
fat 0.4g
protein 2g
carbs 8.5g
cholesterol 2mg
energy 205kj (50cal)
GI 46 low

45og (15oz) fresh or canned mango flesh, roughly chopped
200g ( 6.5 oz) no-fat, no added sugar vanilla yoghurt
1 tablespoon shredded coconut

Put the mango, yoghurt and coconut into a bowl and mix to combine. Divide the mixture into ice block moulds. Add the stick and freeze.

Tip: substitute mango for another fruit. If you're like Max and Vee, you might also want to add a little extra coconut. Doable in a variety of sizes.

Thanks to Vee for this one. Casseroles may have a long cooking time, but they're not difficult to make. The big plus is they freeze well, so you can cook up a big casserole on the weekend, have some for dinner, and store the rest in snack-sized portions to eat throughout the week. When you get peckish, just pop a portion in the microwave and eat as a mini-meal with some wholemeal bread, or wrap it up to munch on the go.

Serves 4
per serving 2058kj (492 cal)
14.3 grams total fat (6.2g saturated fat)
26.7 cards 3.7g fibre- low GI

2 teaspoons low fat dairy spread
1.5kg lean beef chuck steak cut into 3cm pieces
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 fresh small red thai chillies, sliced thinly
2 teaspoons of dijon mustard
1 large brown onion (200g) sliced thickly
2 medium tomatoes (380g) chopped coarsely
410g can tomato puree
3/4 (180ml) cup dry red wine
1.2 cup (125ml) beef stock
1.125 liters of water ( 4.5 cups)
1 cup (170g) Polenta
1/4 cup (20g) finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Melt spread in large saucepan: cook beef in batches until browned all over. Cook garlic, chilli, mustard and onion in the same pan, stirring until onion softens. Return beef to pan with tomato: cook, stirring, 2 minutes.

2. Add puree, wine stock and 1/2 cup of the water to pan: bring to boil. Simmer, covered about 1.5 hours or until beef is tender, stirring occasionally.

3.Bring remaining water to boil in medium saucepan. Add polenta: cook stirring over medium heat about 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir cheese into polenta.

4. Stir parsley into casserole just before serving with polenta.

A small wrap is a snack, a couple at once is a meal. When you make something wrappable for dinner, make a little extra, and store the leftovers. I like to eat them by lunchtime the next day for reasons of food hygiene. Be sure to use wholemeal wrapping bread.

  • Stir-fry wrap
    Your favourite stir-fry can just be wrapped and eaten.

  • Casserole wrap
    Casseroles, like these two, go well with salad.
    Add salad leaves, tomato, carrot and/or other salad vegetables as desired.
    Lamb casseroles are especially delicious with salad leaves and fetta cheese.

  • Curry wrap
    These go well with salad leaves.
    The world is your oyster! Go Thai one night, Indian the next, Japanese or Malaysian after that.
    You can easily cheat with sauces from the supermarket.

Haloumi is the best cheese ever. You can grill or pan-fry and eat it on its own, dress it, put it on a cracker as a snack, or dice it up for a kebab.

  • Dressed Haloumi
    Grill, griddle or pan-fry a slice of haloumi cheese.
    Squeeze over some lemon and sprinkle on some thyme.
    Eat on its own or place on wholemeal cracker or slice of bread.
    Add a slice of tomato if desired.

  • Haloumi Kebab
    Place diced haloumi on a skewer.
    Add cubes of wholemeal bread, roasted pepper/capsicum, courgette/zucchini and/or button mushrooms.
    Grill or fry.
    Dress with a squeeze of lemon and some basil or thyme for added flavour.

    Tip: make lots of kebabs at once and store ready for quick cooking and eating.

  • Haloumi Salad
    Toss salad leaves with cherry tomatos.
    Add pieces of cooked, rindless bacon and/or chopped nuts (eg pine nuts) as desired.
    Grill or fry some diced haloumi and add to the salad.
    Wrap the whole thing in wholemeal flatbread, or just eat from the plate.

Taiwanese Fried Chicken is crumbed, deep fried, and then dusted with cinnamon and chilli. This is the same, but without the crumbing and deep frying. Instead, cook your chicken through by microwaving (extra-easy), grilling, griddling, baking, or shallow frying in olive oil and maybe a bit of butter.

Ground cinnamon
Ground chilli
Sliced chicken breast

Cook. Dust.

Buy tiny jars of pesto. There's lots of different types - classic basil and pine nut, roasted aubergine/eggplant, roasted red pepper/capsicum and almond, sundried tomato...

You put together a quick, pesto-flavoured bite in one of two ways - coat and cook chicken or fish, or spread onto wholemeal bread or crackers.

  • Pesto Mozarella Melts
    Spread pesto onto a wholegrain cracker.
    Top with a slice of mozarella cheese.
    Zap in microwave for about 20 seconds.

  • Pesto Cheese Kebabs
    Spread a slice of slightly stale wholemeal bread with pesto.
    Dice, and put onto a skewer with a cube or two of haloumi cheese.
    Grill or fry.
    Add a squeeze of lemon before serving if desired.

  • Pesto fish/chicken
    Buy small, thin fillets of white fish, salmon, or diced chicken.
    Spread with pesto.
    Grill, fry, bake, microwave.

Fruit, milk and even yoghurt (who knew?) count as carbs when you have gestational diabetes, but not all carbs are created equal, and the nuts are somewhat balancing. If you drink it with a protein-rich cooked breakfast, you're all set. It'll certainly go further than a sugary breakfast cereal with a glass of sweetened juice, and it makes a worthwhile snack at any time of day.

1 orange
1 banana
150ml milk
150g plain natural or greek-style yoghurt
25g walnut bits
1tsp clear honey

Blend. Drink.

Tip: make it before bedtime, and get your husband to bring it to you in bed the next morning along with your injection.

What would soup be without lentils? Non-lentil soup, that's what. Probably potato, or mushroom, or fish, or any number of other soups. It's a lengthy question to answer in full, actually. But let's not think about that now - this one's got lentils aplenty, and can be made up in a big batch to freeze in snack-sized portions.

250g red lentils
1 tblsp vegetable oil
A large onion, finely chopped
A garlic clove, finely chopped
A celery stick, finely chopped
200g tinned, chopped tomatoes
Half a small, green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp harissa paste
1/2 tsp cumin
600ml vegetable stock or water
Salt and pepper
1 tblsp chopped coriander (to garnish)

Put the lentils in a bowl of water.
Heat oil, fry onions, garlic and celery til soft.
Add lentils and tomatoes to the pan.
Add chilli, paprika, harissa paste, cumin, stock, salt and pepper.
Cover and simmer 30-40 minutes, or until lentils are soft. You might need to add water periodically.

Not On Fire has another great lentil soup recipe.

The main - sorry snack menu is here. For anyone with blood sugar issues who is pregnant or trying.

"So," said Mr Bea the other day, "you've put on about 7kg since the start of this pregnancy, right?"

"Yep," I replied.

"And, I notice on our detailed scan report it says the baby weighs about 350g."

"That's right."

"So... where's the rest going?"

"Well there's the amniotic fluid, of course, and the placenta. I'm also carrying around an increased blood volume - and gut volume, for that matter, considering my constant appetite and the fact that food doesn't... move through as fast when you're pregnant. I may have the teensiest bit more muscular weight, just from carrying around the extra seven kilos, but that's probably negligible. And then the rest is..."


"Well, the rest is fat."


"Yes - breasts, hips, tummy, face. I'm just rounder than I used to be."


I'm not particularly feeling sensitive about it. Presently I'm within a kilo of the most I've ever weighed, and at 21 weeks I think that's allowed. Granted, I was a little concerned when it started piling on at 1kg per week at the start of the second trimester - going from 50kg to nearly 80 in six months didn't sound right, and was bound to be a shock to my system. But since I started the low GI diet (cue daytime TV hairdo and sparkling smile) I'm down to a more reasonable half a kilo a week gain, I have a manageable appetite, more energy, more time in my day to do the things I need to do, and I just feel so much healthier!

Nearly Dawn has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and was asking for snack ideas. And think of all those PCOS chickies with insulin resistance! They need to snack, too. Now, I haven't been diagnosed with either of these as yet, but I did struggle to make the recommended dietary adjustments after weeks of insufferable hunger, nausea, migraines... oh, and a positive glucose test at sixteen weeks. Snacks were a particular problem. It seems what we need is a low GI infertility and pregnancy snack compendium, and who better to get us started than my gracious self? Well, ok, but give me points for actually starting it.

All foodies are encouraged to contribute recipes, and those who've had GD/insulin resistance should add tips or corrections. As always, please also check with your health professional - I'm just some gal who hasn't even been diagnosed with anything rambling on about my personal experiences, so keep that in mind.

For our first installment, here are some General Things I've Learned About Eating Low GI For Pregnancy.

  • It gets easier. I had a several some false starts. For me, once I got over the first ten to fourteen days, I was on a roll. My advice is to be strict in the first two weeks, and if you try and fail, just start again.

  • Exercise every day. I don't do vigorous exercise, but I've made a point of going for my "daily constitutional" walk, even if it's just a matter of taking the stairs when I'm going somewhere anyway. Apparently there are muscle-toning exercises you can do even if you're on strict bedrest, but you'd need to ask a professional about those.

  • Water is your friend. Caffeine, juices, softdrinks, alcohol and milkshakes are not. Plain water is fine, but the sparkling variety is mildly ant-acid, and I find it helps with nausea and heartburn so is good with meals in pregnancy.

  • Mornings are especially trying, because you'll be starving and tempted to go for a quick-fix of carbs, and that'll stuff you up for the whole day. Ditto the midnight snack. Homemade smoothies can work well here - whip up something just before bedtime based on plain natural/greek yoghurt, fruit, milk or cream and perhaps a few nuts, and it'll be there and ready to get you out of bed first thing in the morning. I follow this up with a cooked breakfast - a bit of rindless bacon, eggs, or some sausages. If that's too much for an early start, pre-prepare some hardboiled eggs - you can even take a couple with you on the road.

  • When you make a meal, make a snack, too. Make dinners with a little left over so you can wrap it in wholemeal flatbread plus or minus some added lettuce or cheese for your mid-morning snack the next day.

  • Use different herbs and spices. It will add variety and stop you getting bored. It can also help overcome some pregnancy-related food aversions.

  • Have a weekly "cook-up". Make big batches of things you can store, like soups or casseroles. Store them in snack-sized portions, and use one for a snack or two - plus or minus some wholegrain bread or salad - for a meal.

  • When you eat out, check the starters menu. Main meals are often carb-heavy, and the restaurant carb of choice is usually high GI - potatoes, white rice or white bread. Starters, by contrast, often focus on proteins or vegetables (except for the ones which are exclusively carbs - obviously don't order those). It can sometimes be better to order two or three starters instead of a main - a little more expensive, but then you're drinking plain water instead of wine, so it evens out. You might also be able to ask the waiter about "upsizing" a starter to main course size. In any case, make sure s/he brings your starter at the same time as everyone's mains, because otherwise they'll have to sit and watch you slowly digest your whole meal and no-one will bring their food until it's all cleared away.

  • Keep a snack box ready and waiting to be popped into your handbag. Nuts, cheese, wholegrain crackers, apricots... take it with you wherever you go. Good for emergency hunger pangs or nausea, and it'll keep you reaching for the first (high GI) snack you see when you're out - or even at home!

If you're a low-GI foodie, please send a recipe! You can email me at infertilefantasies at gmail dot com, or leave a comment. I plan to put up a haphazard collection of tasty and delicious low-GI/diabetic-friendly snack-sized recipes with one recipe per post, under the label "snacking for two". If you want to go crazy with sending photos, etc, be my guest. If you want to do a post on your own blog, let me know and I'll link.

The single most helpful measure I've found isn't watching what I eat, but watching what I drink. Apart from all the unnoticed carbs, some drinks contain caffeine or alcohol - both of which lower your ability to deal with glucose. Meanwhile, plain water is fantastic, but gets boring. These low or no caffeine/glucose/alcohol alternatives are a kinder, but still have some taste.

  • Sparkling mineral water. This one may also help with pregnancy nausea or heartburn. Drink it plain, with a slice of lemon or lime, or use it to dilute unsweetened juices to lower their punch.

  • Unsweetened fruit juice is more sustaining than soft drink, and even more so if the fibrous pulp is left in. Dilute with sparkling mineral water to lower its impact even further.

  • Teas and flavoured water. There are a million things you can pour boiling water over to achieve a great flavour, and many of them are caffeine-free. A tea infuser makes things easy, but you can easily just use a cup or mug, plus or minus a strainer. Drink it hot, or chill it to serve with ice.
    Orange peel and a cinnamon stick.
    Fresh mint leaves, plus or minus green tea.
    Fresh ginger (chopped or crushed) with a squeeze of citrus (lemon/kumquat etc).
    Honey and kumquat (good for sore throats).
    Rose petals.
    Dried apple pieces.

  • Lassi, either salt or sweetened with fruit.

I kind of invented, kind of adapted this the other night, and it is so good! It also thaws well from frozen for sandwiches, wraps, or a mini-meal snack, and the flavours are versatile enough to work with a variety of salad or roast vegetable ingredients. The trick to making it super-simple is to get the herbs pre-minced in jars or tubes from the supermarket. It's so simple you can whip it up as you're preparing tonight's meal, and freeze it (in snack-sized portions) for later as you're doing the dishes.

1-2 tsp minced ginger.
1-2 tsp minced garlic.
1-2 tsp minced parsley.
1-2 tsp minced coriander (or coriander pesto).
1-2 tsp ground cumin.
Dash of olive oil.
Cubed beef or lamb.
Ground black pepper.

Mix all ingredients together in a casserole dish. Marinade for a few hours or overnight if you have time. When ready to cook, cover the meat with water and place in a pre-heated oven for an hour at 180 degrees C. Check and stir a few times towards the end to make sure it's not drying out, but the idea is that the water will just be gone as the casserole finishes.

I nearly forgot. Imagining Ourselves - from the International Museum of Women - is (in case you're just hearing about it now) holding an online exhibition which has been running all year and to which I submitted an entry earlier. They're rounding things up with a series of "best of" votes. I'm in the Oceana category, and you can go here to view the entry and vote for me. If you want. That is, if you really like me... sniff, eyelash flutter.

**Update From Comments**

To help "Untitled" win, here are directions for voting that explain in excruciating detail how to vote:

1. Click on this link to join the Best of Oceania conversation: http://imaginingourselves.imow.org/pb/Conversation.aspx?id=99〈=1

2. If you are not already registered, please click on the link “Join Now!” If you are already registered, then click on the link “Login to Post a Comment”

3. After you have registered or logged in, a conversation box will appear and you just have to type in "I vote for Bea because she is truly the Best of Oceania!"

The voting ends on December 27, so visit soon!

(Thanks Renee and Sanja!)

Short version: scan results (fine), sleep problems (his), booty-shakin' (on hold), too much information (ew).

I'm not actually sure what else to say about the scan results, since I'm still trying to minimise the amount of time I spend obsessing over numbers, especially those that fall well within the normal range. Everything looks fine. Our boy has a nose. I mean, he had a nose before, but I had this sudden moment when she showed us the nostrils and I thought, "Wow. A nose. Our baby has a nose. With nostrils." It made me a little teary.

He also has "very prominent" genitalia, according to the ultrasonographer, which is funny because there's nothing quite like seeing your husband try to look puffed up, modest and awkward all at the same time. I bet she says that to all the Dads. I wonder how many of them are actually genetically related. I wonder how it makes the others feel.

SOB also started discussing the withdrawal of clexane, but after I explained how much pleasure it gives me to stab myself with a blunted needle and inject an irritant solution under my skin on a daily basis, he agreed to support my habit for a couple more months. He has also agreed to doppler the shit out of all the relevant blood vessels before making me go cold turkey. So that's nice.

On the way home I sat on the same bench where that Indian guy came and spoke to me back in April. It made me all teary again.

I think I might have to buy one of those pregnancy pillows. The problem began with the fact that, from the week of EPU, I started feeling the heat more due to that wonderful progesterone we all know and love, and the effect is only getting worse over time. For a while now I have been waking in the morning to find a tracksuit-clad Mr Bea huddled into the lee of my body, breathing gently into his cupped hands to stave off the frostbite. Earlier in the pregnancy, he tried waiting til I was asleep to open the windows and turn the aircon off, or at least take it up a few degrees, but this invariably resulted in my waking violently from some kind of fire-related nightmare, which was unpleasant for us all.

Lately, the problem has been compounded by blanket-stealing. I don't mean to do it - it happens whilst I'm asleep - but I keep getting hold of the blanket to scrunch it around my bust and belly in a cushion-like way. This leaves the tracksuit-clad Mr Bea huddling blanketless in the lee of my body, breathing vigorously into his cupped hands, shivering, and cursing my name. I think a pregnancy pillow might help. And perhaps a zero-degree sleeping bag.

One day a couple of weeks ago I felt some round ligament pain, which lasted about twenty-four hours. Since then, I've had a distinctly "heavy" feeling in my pelvis. I wouldn't call it uncomfortable, exactly, although I have an inkling of how it may become so. At the moment, the problem is limited to two spheres: sex and dancing. In terms of the former, I must* report that the more conventional positions are becoming unpleasant, so for the duration of the pregnancy we will be having unconventional sex.

Aaaaaaand when you've finished trying to rid yourself of those mental pictures, maybe you can supply me with a few new dance moves. A couple of times, such as when listening to those bands Mel told us about the other day, I've found I can't swivel like I did last summer. What does one do on the dance floor when one can't swing one's hips? I urgently need to know.

*Because I take my journalistic duties seriously.

P.S. The ultrasound gallery is up. Please email me if you want an invite/URL of the site.

Now that Aurelia's credited this series of posts with discussing the meaning of life, I feel bad moving on to some quite obvious conclusions.

Throughout history, there have been those who trade years of their lives for art. They have lived at the margin of their health, rather than follow some easier, but less satisfying road. Others have traded their lives for sport, for human knowledge, or for a cause they believe in. It shouldn't be difficult to accept that some would trade their lives for the opportunity to parent. In a way, we all trade our lives for something.

People gave all sorts of reasons for their answers to the genie's dilemma, and I do believe those reasons are sincere - after all, more so than any other medical condition, infertility affects the whole family. It's overly simplistic to do what I'm about to do for the rest of this post, which is to focus on just one aspect of the decision-making process.

Nevertheless, those who are most in the thick of the anxious phase of their treatment were willing to give up more to have it work out. Perhaps their answers wouldn't change on a break between cycles. Perhaps, when contrasting their answers with Pamela's, I cheated a bit by using Pamela's thoughts from this post rather than the answer she actually gave here. But don't we always say, when someone in our blogosphere is suffering a terrible blow, that it's best not to make any rash decisions in the heat of emotion? That it's best to wait and see if that initial reaction still makes sense over the weeks, months, and sometimes even years to come? I feel our genie has illustrated the prudence of that suggestion.

The second thing I want to say is about the value we place on ourselves as individuals, and how the way in which we make this valuation affects our ability to find closure with infertility. I know if I was asked directly whether a woman's value lay in being a mother or having a functioning reproductive system**, I would deny it emphatically. A woman's value lies in the life she chooses for herself, and there are many wonderful paths available for the choosing. I believe that, and I don't value other women according to parity. But when that genie appeared a few posts ago, it revealed a lie in my words, because the fact I'm willing to trade some of my life for an ability to parent or reproduce shows exactly how much of my own valuation of myself is tied up in these roles.

It's not just women, of course. Mr Bea blokily refused to be pinned down. He doesn't want to admit that he values his nurturing side, but he wouldn't answer, "None at all." In my eyes, a person's value does not lie in their ability to parent or reproduce, but a person's valuation of themselves may heavily depend upon it.

There are only two roads out of the desert of infertility and into the promised land beyond - you can either complete your family to the extent you desire, or you can learn to value yourself fully with what you've got. Many of us stop interventions before reaching either of those goals, but until you're ready to answer the genie with, "No deal - every one of those years is worth the same to me, whether I have (more) kids or not!" you haven't truly arrived at the end of your journey. You're still wandering, lost amongst the sand dunes, in search of a home.

We have our Big Scan scan today. I want to catch a glimpse of Canaan.

*Is "biblical" the right word? It seems very Christianity-centric, and I can't exactly claim The Promised Land as Christian-specific, now can I?

**I don't have to explain the subtle difference between these two things.

Update: scan went well. More tomorrow.

It started out as something simple, and then your comments took it in all these different directions. This is how the question arose: I was reading about QALYs - Quality Adjusted Life Years - and how they may be used in decisions about the distribution of scarce healthcare resources. The idea is that "if an extra year of healthy (ie. good quality) life is worth one [year], then an extra year of unhealthy... life must be worth less than one...[and] the value of the condition of death is zero.(1)" Healthcare is then distributed along utilitarian lines, so as to produce the greatest amount of quality-adjusted life years (as opposed to the greatest number of calendar years).

I asked Mr Bea how many years he would give up for the opportunity to have a child, and he refused to answer. "It's like you're asking me to put a value on having children," he protested.

"It's not like what I'm asking, it is what I'm asking."

"You might as well ask how much money a child is worth."

"I could do that, too(2). Apparently, for example, women place a price tag of three hundred thousand US dollars on male fertility. You're just lucky I have expensive taste. But the problem there is that a grand is worth a lot more to someone with one grand and ten, than to someone with ten grand and ten. Life is a more universal currency."

Until, that is, you post the question on your blog and the first thing everyone says is, "It depends how many years I have left..." I suppose I was assuming a "standard" life expectancy of, say, 80 years. Then again, there's got to be a twenty-year age spread amongst you readers. If I'd included this assumption in my question, would the answers have been skewed by age, with younger readers willing to give up more time? And would this have been because youth places less value on being old, or because age has more to lose? What if I'd asked you to assume you had another forty years, regardless of what age you are now? What if I'd said you were being asked this at twenty? What if I'd had you express your answer as a percentage of the time you have left?

But the complications go beyond concerns over accuracies of measurement. Most medical conditions affect the patient to a far greater extent than they affect the patient's family and friends. Infertility is different - there are the children to think of, and most of us also have partners. Some of you mentioned grandparents - the desire to become one before you die, or to give that gift to your mother and father - but I think it's fair to say these are lesser stakeholders. There will always be lesser stakeholders.

At the extremes, Pamela said she would not have children knowing she was going to die, as it wouldn't be fair to them, and Aurelia, also ignoring her concerns for herself and husband, said she'd be happy just to bring her kids into the world(4). That the same focus can lead to such opposing conclusions is interesting in itself.

The general trend, however, is that most of us would give up at least some of the years of our life in exchange for our parenting dream. Rachel chose to phrase it positively, instead of negatively, but it amounts to the same thing. Bascially, what most people agreed was this: life as a parent is more valuable than a childless life. Well, duh. I mean, we're all here blogging about infertility and how robbed it's made us feel.

Let's examine this result from a distribution of healthcare point of view. It leads us in two very different directions: on the one hand, we should be helping couples to overcome infertility (one way or another), since this will cheaply produce a lot of QALYs throughout society. In other words, if an involuntarily childless year is only worth 0.7 voluntary parenting years, and 12.5% of the population is infertile, the sooner they can get kids, the more QALYs can be produced in society as a whole. In other words, overcoming infertility will arguably, dollar for dollar, raise the general standard of welfare to a greater degree than, say, cadaverous organ transplants. Infertility vs organ transplants. Organ transplants? Infertility(4).

On the other hand, if a young, childless fertile woman and a young, childless infertile woman - with the same life expectancies, aspirations, health complaints and prognoses - both present at the door of an ICU with only one bed, does this mean we should choose to treat the fertile woman, simply because her future life is more valuable to herself? How many times have you heard it said, in the wake of a tragedy, "And the worst thing is she had three kids"? On the other hand, how many times do people also say, "If I go, at least I'll have had the chance to raise my family a bit"? What do these statements say about the value society places on parents vs other individuals?

More importantly, what does it say about you? Pamela explains herself from the point of view of her hypothetical children, but I wonder how much her answer reflects her gradual reconciliation with living childfree? Those willing to give up the most time, on the other hand, were Geohde, M, and Aurelia - 2ww, 2ww, and pregnant after recurrent loss. Invested? Fuck yes. I'd say so. Would their answers be the same if I'd asked them in a break between cycles? I don't know, but I wonder.

When I posed him the question, Mr Bea accused me of trying to put a value on having children. "How many years do you think a child is worth?" he said, in an attempt to turn the tables.

"I'm not sure" I answered, and I was tempted to say both all and none. "Maybe ten years? Fifteen?" I guess I think I'm worth 25-40% more as a parent. That's the thing, you see. In the end, are you really putting a value on your kids? On your desire to parent? Or are you placing a value on yourself?

I want to see what you think of this. I have some further thoughts of my own.

1. Beauchamp and Childress, Principles of Biomedical Ethics, 5th Edition, p207. (Back)

2. Financial decisions in the real world of infertility are, of course, complicated by the gambling factor. And then the whole thing is complicated by all sorts of other factors. (Back)

3. Barb also said she wouldn't give any, but her answer revolved around a healthy mistrust of magical creatures instead of thoughts for her offspring. Similarly, there were others who would "give all", but Aurelia was the one who specifically centred her explanation around her children. (Back)

4. I am nakedly making up figures here, but I bet if you collect and crunch the numbers, that's true. Not saying it's right - bald utilitarianism makes me itch - but a lot of people use it to argue against funding for fertility treatment ("the money would be better used...") and I don't believe that's the correct utilitarian conclusion.
**Updated to add - on page two hundred and fifty something, B&C make exactly this point, but using arthritis vs organ transplants. I'm feeling pretty clever over here. (Back)

Before I tell you about how I've started looking pregnant in the past week or so, I want to ask a question about infertility:

Imagine a genie appeared to you out of... I don't know... a bottle of prenatal vitamins. The genie says, "I will grant you your dearest wish! You will have a child! But there is a price to pay - your life will not be as long as it would otherwise have been. I will shorten it by taking some years away from you."

"How many years?" you ask, tilting your head to one side in consideration.

What would an acceptable answer be? How many years of your life would you exchange for the fulfilment of your parenting desires? None? All of them except for a single moment with that baby in your arms? Something in between? I want to discuss this after I see people's answers.


"Sort of." Apparently that's what my brain will come up with when caught off-guard by a direct question seeking to affirm my current gestatory status. "Hey, are you pregnant?" "What? Um... Sort of."

I am off-guard, mind you, despite the new maternity wardrobe, the fact that I have twice been offered seats on public transport in the past week, and have only several days left to sort out which scheme will best pay for our prenatal care and delivery. "Sort of." Yes, well done. Feeling I should offer some kind of explanation, I add, "We haven't really started talking about it yet."

My friend nods with understanding, then gently replies, "It looks quite obvious, though."

I guess we'll have to start talking about it soon.


Last night I was lying in bed on my back watching my belly, trying to decide if it had grown, or changed shape, or starting wagging school to smoke cigarettes behind the bike shed or whatever, since the last time I looked.

And... it moved. If I'd blinked I would have missed it, but there was this kind of jabbing sensation and the skin poked out momentarily. Funny, I expected a lot of steps between "maybe, unless it's gas" and "holy shit I can see it from here!" Needless to say, I called Mr Bea in and we sat staring at the spot for several minutes, seeing and feeling nothing, until eventually he said, "Well, you know what they say about a watched belly..."

"It isn't hot?"

Which brings me to the other thing. I playfully sat on Mr Bea's lap last week, and he's asked me to refrain from doing so again for the duration of the pregnancy. The way he grunted was quite unflattering. Then, a few days later, he unthinkingly kissed my belly during an intimate moment, and then he got this startled look, like, "Holy crap - that's not the shape I'm used to!" and it completely threw him off his game and we had to start all over again. Despite his protestations, I don't think he finds the bump sexy.

This was further confirmed when he came home drunk from the work Christmas party and tumbled amorously into bed, saying, "Hey babe - shall I go to the twenty-four hour supermarket to get something for you to eat?"

He also seems overly confident that I'm going to be back to my former shape in the future. This week I had to pack away the pre-pregnancy jeans I'd been wearing unbuttoned. "You can wear them again next year," said Mr Bea with confidence. "You think they'll fit?" I replied. "Sure," he said, waving his hand dismissively. "Why not?"

It's lucky I have so much confidence in his ability to look past the superficial. Otherwise I might start feeling insecure.


Last thing - I've posted a couple of belly pics up where I put the Vietnam Travelogue earlier this year. It's password protected, but some of you already have access. If you don't, or can't remember what I'm talking about, but want to see, email me. I need your email address to add you. Ultrasound gallery coming later on the same site.

Don't forget the genie question!

I was quite bothered that the Handmaids took on the names of their Commanders (Ofglen, Ofcharles, Offred). Seems so domineering, de-personalizing -- another tool in taking power away from women in Gilead. So archaic, even. Then I realized that we do the same in our culture, but with last names. Does this make it okay? Even women who keep their maiden name (no pun intended) after marriage tend to refer back to their father's name. Do our customs continue to de-power and de-identify women? What would a culture that values the matrilineal look like?

Several couples we know have chosen to combine their two surnames into a new family name, and I think that's ideal - symbolic not only of equality between husband and wife, but of the new family unit which is formed by marriage. Unfortunately, though we toyed with the idea ourselves, we couldn't put together a name that wouldn't have made all our wedding guests snort their toasting champagne out through their noses, so we had to let it go. I, like many of my married friends, am known as "Ms (My Surname)" or "Mrs (My Husband's Surname)", with the former being used 99% of the time*. Only a minority of my female friends go by their husband's surname in day to day life.

But even there lies a big difference between this society and Offred's. Feminism includes the right to submit. These friends of mine - like my mother - have freely chosen to take on that name, and they can choose to keep it. Moreover, all these women keep a name of their own - the first, or given name. Offred is named merely for her current usage, which is decided by the unseen Powers That Be. Not only does the name identify her work, instead of her unique self, but that identity is completely lost and changed each time she is reassigned, and her ability to choose her identity is virtually** removed. Becoming Mrs (Your First Name) (Your Husband's Surname Here), of your own free will, is a very different thing - especially since the role of "Mrs" is so flexible in the modern day.

There should be a passage here about the use of matrinymics in various cultural traditions around the world, and the effect of those traditions in the modern day (preferably with statistics about women's pay, domestic violence, and a comparative breakdown of the roles males and females play both inside and outside the home, etc etc) but I'm going to leave it there, because man, there are enough doctoral theses in that to keep a whole anthropology department going for decades.

*As an aside, I've only found this difficult in the UK. "Ms" wasn't on a lot of forms, and sometimes I didn't even have the option to write it in. Our bank, for example, could never think outside the Mrs/Mr dichotomy. I also found myself having the following conversation when giving details: "It is Miss or Mrs?" "It's Ms." [Wary Look] Whereas at home, or in Asia, I get asked, "Miss, Mrs or Ms?" without the blinking of an eye. It's particularly puzzling, because the Australian and Asian attitudes to marriage are, if anything, more conservative than the modern Brit's.

Most puzzling are the times a British person is heard to say how they want a certificate that legally recognises their relationship - and they describe, as points of inclusion, all the legal rights and responsibilities of marriage, including those which are permanent and ongoing - but they don't want to get married. I always ended up raising an eyebrow and saying, "Sounds like you do." There's probably some connection there with the culture's relative inability to recognise non-traditional name choices.

**She has a sort-of choice, but it's one horrible situation against another.

On pg. 112, during the birth day while Ofwarren is in labor, Offred is thinking about the baby that is about to be born. At this time she also talks about the unborn babies and the fact that they had no way of telling until birth what type of baby would be born. She states: There's no telling. They could tell once, with machines, but that is now outlawed. What would be the point of knowing, anyway? You can't have them taken out; whatever it is must be carried to term. While reading this, I found myself thinking back to my first pregnancy where I wound up with conjoined twins. Then and even now, I wonder if I would've been better off not knowing. I miscarried, so I did not have to make a choice, but in light of that, ignorance may very well have been bliss. How do you feel about the abundance of technology when it comes to reproduction and pregnancy? Do you think that sometimes not knowing so much can be a good thing?

People are fond of saying, "They didn't used to have all this back in the old days, and people got along just fine!" Actually, people did not get along just fine. Women and children died or became seriously, even permanently ill. It's true that much of the time there's nothing you can fix simply by knowing - a lethal defect is still lethal, no matter when you find it out, and a whole host of measurements fall under "wait and see and hope the odds go your way". Some of the people in these situations will be glad just to know, and some of them will regret their loss of ignorant bliss.

But. But. There are also tragedies which can be averted today. Averted because we know about them on time, and can act. So, much as it can be hard sometimes to deal with the overload of information available to us, I wouldn't trade the angst for a single mother or child who might be saved.

On pg. 70, Offred is discussing her past studies of psychology and at this time she mentions a study done on three pigeons trained to peck at buttons for grain. She states: Three groups of them: the first got one grain per peck, the second one grain every other peck, the third was random. When the man in charge cut off the grain, the first group gave up quite soon, the second group a little later. The third group never gave up. They'd peck themselves to death rather than quit. While reading these lines, I could not help but identify with the third group of pigeons. Sadly, I think I've come to a point where I will never give up, even if it means death before success. How about you? Do you identify with one of these groups? What do you think Atwood's intention was in including this bit of information?

This very much explains the way couples can get "trapped" into following a certain path for too long. If results were predictable, the point of moving on would be clear.

Intrigued by the idea of a book tour and want to read more about The Handmaid's Tale? Hop along to more stops on the Barren Bitches Book Brigade by visiting the master list at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters. Want to come along for the next tour? Sign up begins today for tour #9 (The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler with author participation!) and all are welcome to join along . All you need is a book and blog.

At a certain point this year I figured something out. Life is better if you can learn to be happy with "so far, so good". It's a struggle - it doesn't come naturally, or at least not to me. I have to do things to manage my focus - I have to consciously and demonstrably highlight happy circumstances and events, so making them into something that can't be as easily overshadowed by uncertainty or despair.

A glass of wine for a good result on a recurrent miscarriage exam.

Two mooncakes for a successful transfer.

A special dinner for a heartbeat.

And a good deed for every week that goes by where I still have enough left to give.

Adsense wrote me a cheque for my Fifty Good Deeds campaign, and I feel like the money is ours. You read and clicked, and you helped me get by from one deed to the next. I couldn't have done it without you, so I want you to tell me where the money should go. I didn't raise great, gaudy piles of money, but there's a little over USD $100, so I'd like to donate it to several charities, keeping an international focus. Please leave suggestions in the comments, and if I'm still confused, I'll set up a poll later.

I guess I will often be tempted to worry over the uncertain future. But this week I think I can feel him move, and that deserves some sort of celebration.

P.S. Awards Ceremony post at IIFF.

Short Version: Mr Bea brings his sister up to date, and I remember Jester's would-have-been birthday.

Mr Bea told his sister over the weekend. The conversation was definitely due. Because of a complex and tedious array of social interactions, every other member of our immediate families - including both my sisters - is fully up to date with our story except for her, so as you can imagine that's a fair old information gap. The conversation went like this:

Mr Bea: So anyway, here's a piece of news - Bea's pregnant. Eighteen weeks.

SIL: Oh my goodness congratulations! Has everything gone smoothly so far?

Mr Bea: Uh. Well...


It was Jester's due date a few weeks ago. I was asked how I feel about it, and I feel ok. In many ways, I think it helps to have The Foetus to focus on - a baby who is here, now, who I can still do something for, and with all the lovely pregnancy hormones to boot - but it's not just that. For every due date that passes, there has been a slight release, as if I have to bring each embryo to term in my mind, if not my body, and once that's done, my responsibility is over. I mean, clearly he's not here demanding feedings or nappy changes - my work must be finished.

I suppose it's the final point at which the loss becomes a reality. Sitting here, even now at 18.5 weeks, I can't quite get hold of the fact that The Foetus is in there. My entire experience of pregnancy is very abstract, especially for those pregnancies which were "biochemical". But not having a take-home baby - that I can't fail to comprehend.

So as each due date passes, something in my mind pulls the last piece of understanding into place. Oh, I get it - it's over. It really is time to move on.

Short Version*: I muse about the ability to plan your way through various stages of life, including pre-infertility, treatments, pregnancy and parenthood.

Long Version:

I used to be a planner. I was always dreaming big dreams, exploring my options months, or even years, in advance. And then came infertility. How many of our biographical musings contain that phrase?

Over the last couple of years I've learned not to think ahead, because thinking ahead is either overwhelmingly scary, or painfully disappointing. I've coped rather better this year by never thinking beyond the next step. In the end, I actually lost the ability to worry about anything more than one step away - though there's often been enough anxiety in that to keep me in goodly amounts of stress. But whilst this bite-sized approach has kept me from exploding vomitously up til now, I am starting to realise I'm in danger of... not eating the best meal. Uh, let's leave the eating metaphor behind.

At the end of the first trimester, people started asking us questions - important questions; ones we hadn't got around to thinking about because, you know, they weren't part of the next step. Do we want prenatal testing? Are we planning to find out the baby's sex? Will we be buying a delivery package or paying as we go? These have always struck both of us as being rather out of the blue, and we have floundered for a response, no matter how clearly we should have seen them coming. I'm starting to realise that, all going well at the detailed scan, of course, more of these questions will come: when shall we book prenatal classes? what are our preferences for delivery - room type? thoughts on various drugs and procedures? what stuff should we have waiting at home on the presumption that all will go well? what should we tell our families about when to visit? We don't have to start considering these questions yet, says my infertile mind breezily, but an insistent voice has begun to point out that my planning timeframe does need some adjustment. Perhaps, it says, I should start learning to think two steps ahead.

Immediately I have begun to try and think a frazillion steps ahead, just like I used to. Aside from the fact that I can't think about "happily ever after" without imagining an overwhelming range of tragic alternatives, it makes me wonder: how many steps ahead do you have to think when you're a parent? I believe one is good for infertility and two is fine for pregnancy, but between those telling me, on the one hand, that parenthood removes all spontaneity and everything must be strictly planned, and those telling me, on the other hand, that you can't plan anything any more when you're a parent because the kids will always throw a spanner in the works, I admit I'm a little confused.

But wait. Don't answer that yet - it's too many steps away. At the moment, I'm aiming for two. It's going to take some work to get it right.

*I'd forgotten temporarily about the short/long version thing. I'll have to get into a habit.

Remember you all told me I should go for that extra appointment to check growth, if it would ease my mind? How you said it wasn't useless at all, if it would ease my mind? How I agreed wholeheartedly with the philosophy that one should never be afraid to ask for rechecks, if they will ease one's mind? Yeah. I've been stuck on that last bit.

What I wanted, at the time I wrote these posts, was reassurance that it was all going to be ok. Now, I love you guys and you always do your best, but without an ultrasound wand and my case history in front of you (er... well, the wand then) there's only so much you can do. And whilst a followup appointment has sufficient power to reassure, it comes with no such guarantee. You have to go into that room willing to hear the truth, not just your prefered scenario.

Today I decided I was ready for the truth. As luck would have it, the clinic had an afternoon cancellation, so I was able to go down almost straight away. And everything is fine. Even my urine glucose is fine.

SOB took more measurements this time, I think partly in demonstration of the "margin of error" concept, although it was an outside-the-margin measurement I was worried about on the last scan. He also noted - seemingly apropos of nothing - that I probably wouldn't start feeling movement for another couple of weeks yet, which I take to mean either that we have an anterior placenta*, or that he doesn't want to see me rushing in there for another check next week just because I can't feel proper movement. Probably both fair points.

Anyway, there you have it. Another non-crisis averted. I am profoundly relieved.

*I just double-checked the ultrasound pic he gave me. The placenta is indeed anterior. I think even I can work that one out.

Pregnancy Brain exists. I used to imagine it was simply a result of tiredness, feeling unwell, and spending too much time daydreaming about the baby, but I've lived to realise how wrong I was. It's more than that. It's real, and it's stupefying. In the last few days alone, I could have benefited from the following list of advice:

  • If a recipe does not call for peeled, chopped tomato, there is no need to go to the shop and buy several tins of it, sit them on the bench with all the other ingredients, and afterwards panic because you have several tins of peeled, chopped tomato left over at the end of the cooking*.
  • Grasp the juice. Grasp it. Do not let it fall to the floor, splashing spectacularly all over your face, hair, clothes, legs and kitchen.
  • If you are chopping chillies, and your nose gets itchy, don't rub it.
  • If you are chopping chillies, and your nose gets itchy, and you rub it, don't try to wash the burning sensation away using detergent, thereby spreading the hurt all over your face.
  • If you are chopping chillies, and your nose gets itchy, and you rub it, and you are trying to wash the burning sensation away using detergent, thereby spreading the hurt all over your face, don't breathe in through your nose.

I could have benefited from that list. Instead, Mr Bea benefited from my fine, comic display.

But Pregnancy Brain doesn't always cause the sort of lighthearted slapstick that leaves you holding an icepack to your burning, bubble-blowing face whilst your amused husband finishes dinner. Sometimes it results in real hurt. So to all those fertile, pregnant women who were temporarily too stupid to figure out the appropriate way to treat an infertile friend, let me say I now understand! It's still true you were being a fuckwit, but it totally was the hormones after all! Nevertheless, perhaps we would all benefit from one extra piece of advice:

  • Infertility sucks. Don't be an arse to your infertile friend.

Remember: it's all fun and games until someone has to cry their eyes out**.

*Peeled, chopped tomato recipes gratefully accepted.

**If I'm ever an arse, please point it out, yeah? I'm a little dim at the moment.

The trouble with infertility is that it's defined as not having children. And everyone on earth has not had children at some point in their lives. So when people think of infertility, they think, "I used to not have children. It wasn't so bad."


I had planned to post something more lighthearted today. I had things on my mind - thoughts on having a boy vs a girl, a maternity shopping report, but the truth is my worry over Monday's measurements has eclipsed everything else. I guess that's the other trouble with infertility. It cultivates unhappy expectations.

Last night I told Mr Bea I was thinking of getting another scan done sometime over the next two weeks, and he angrily dismissed my fears. The argument ended when I walked out, suggesting he should just forget the whole conversation and go play on his computer. Several hours later he came up to me in the kitchen. "I'm sorry," he said. "I just really don't want anything to be wrong."

The fact I burst into tears at that point would be more significant if, earlier in the week, I hadn't cried over such thoughts as that millions of people throughout history have lived and died without ever tasting a rose petal and hazelnut steamer*, but I think these tears had something in them.

I'm still deciding about the extra appointment. It's useless, but that's never stopped me before.

*Don't be one of them.

The Short Version: had 16wk scan appointment, everything more or less ok, my concerns over blood glucose and foetal measurements, pink or blue?

The Long Version: I've decided to take a leaf out of Lut's book and give short update notices for those who want to check in without having to read through a whole pregnancy post (or a whole post, come to that). Today was the sixteen week appointment, and The Foetus is alive and most definitely bigger and more baby-like. I have, however, been left with two niggling concerns. And two other things to think about.

Sugar Mummy
I had a small amount of glucose in my urine. You may recall my blood glucose concerns from such episodes as "That Whole Weekend I Spent With A Splitting Headache and Nausea" and "The Time I Couldn't Stop Feeling Hungry For About Six Weeks Straight". Well it seems my blood glucose is, in the words of the nice nurse, acceptable but not good. I have been trying to eat a low glycaemic diet, but carbs are so easy and readily available and to be honest, I've been a bit patchy about the whole thing. No longer. I am to focus on proteins and fibre, and hope I don't develop gestational diabetes. It will require higher levels of planning and organisation, but I think I can do it.

Little Wonder
Since scan number one, we have been consistently measuring four to five days behind. I'd stopped worrying about this. Today, however, we are measuring eight to nine days behind. SOB felt that the growth was still "consistent enough", but then that's the kind of thing he would say, given there's very little to be done about it. I think the only course of action I can take is to google myself into a frenzy resist the temptation to worry about things I can't change, and wait to see what the next appointment brings. Unless you can tell me right now, for sure, that it's definitely nothing to worry about.

I officially decided to retire the last of my pre-pregnancy clothes over the weekend. I outgrew my tops some weeks ago on account of my new bustline, but I have been wearing the bottoms, despite having to hold them up using rubber bands on an increasingly frequent basis. I don't want to jump any guns, but it may be time to get some maternity wear.

Pink Or Blue?
SOB startled us both this morning by asking if we want to find out. We had each spent about zero seconds thinking this question over, and certainly hadn't brought it up for mutual discussion. I, for one, was still too stuck thinking about the old live/dead mystery to worry about the boy/girl one. After a hurried, ten-second debate, to which Mr Bea's entire contribution was a disorientated shrug, I said yes, sure, tell us. It's not 100% for sure at this point, of course, but it looks like The Foetus is... a boy. On which, more later.

Next appointment: the detailed scan at 20 weeks.

I'm still here. I haven't been murdered in my bed, despite leaving the keys in the outside of the front door when I got home last night, and not realising it til I went out again this morning. I have also been feeling fine which, as you can all imagine, is as much of a worry as all the not feeling fine I did last week. However, Dr Google has assured me that feeling fine, or not, is perfectly normal at this stage, so I am trying to distract myself from my worries until Monday's appointment.

For instance, I booked a nice, distracting, leg and bikini wax. Of course, one of the first things they did was get me to fill out a form which asked if I was pregnant and if so, how much? and then when I said about 3.5 months (which took some calculation - I've only just changed my ticker from days to weeks, for heaven's sake) they made me sign a disclaimer because it's still so early and waxing could make something happen to the baby and they usually don't wax unless you're at least four months, and have I asked my OB about this?

At 15.5 weeks, I couldn't for the life of me see how a leg and fairly conservative bikini wax was going to make any difference, so I signed away, had myself waxed, and later googled myself into a post-hoc frenzy which, luckily, reassured me that, in fact, you can carry on waxing as normal throughout your entire pregnancy - brazillians if you like* - with nary a problem. Which is just as well because it was obviously a bit late by then, and also my hormones have made me, in the shocked and giggling words of my waxer, "hairy like a man". Between beauty therapists and lingerie saleswomen, I am beginning to feel like quite the freak show.

After the de-hairing, I gave in to a craving for roast beef with bonus scolding from the chef (who actually troubled himself to come out of the kitchen to me) for ordering it well done, on account of the foetus, when medium would have tasted much better.

All in all, not entirely as distracting as I'd imagined.

Still, I bore up like the true veteran Jenna and Serenity think I am, despite my history of non-heroic blubbering in the face of adversity, for which I make no apologies, it being an entirely rational reaction to the situation. I am, of course, very much honoured to have been thought of in this way, although saddened at having to strike these two wonderful women off my List Of People I Can Meet Up With In Real Life, for fear of disappointing them gravely.

As for other nominations - well, I get stuck with these things. There are so many people to name, and not all of them have blogs. I'd like to give an award to everyone who's emailed me or IM'd me to keep me company and check up on me, or even left a comment. There have been different people at different times - Serenity herself, for example, chatted me through the lonely away-days of FET#5. I can't mention everyone I need to here, although I'd like to second all the nominations so far. To choose a random number, let me add four: Jules, Patience, Vee and Geohde. Cheers, guys. It's not the ultimate prize you're after, but please accept a Blogger Flame of Fortitude.

*Although I don't know any Brazillians at the moment, and I wouldn't recommend they let me wax them, regardless of my current fertility status.

I remember being helped from a wheelchair onto an x-ray table to have a paracentesis tube placed under ultrasound guidance at the radiology unit of the hospital where I was being treated for OHSS. It was February 2006.

As I lay back, the nurse gave a chuckle and a wink. "The things we do for kids!" she said, and there was a general echo of friendly laughter around the room. Then she continued more gently and seriously, leaning closer and brushing the hair from my brow: "It never stops, you know." For a long time those words gave me comfort. For a long time I wondered why.

On Friday I cross-pollinated The Secret Society from Mrs Spock's blog, and it threw a new light onto The Mummy Club and its hazing rituals. It was also quite timely, it turns out, since my hazing began this morning when I phoned my mother. Somehow or other I ended up hearing my birth story - suffice to say it includes an emergency C-section and a stay in the NICU - as well as a cheerful history of my mother's breast-feeding difficulties. To finish, because by then she was on quite a roll, I got to hear about the arduous battle to have me sleep through the night, which was finally won, for the very first time, when I was no less than fifteen months of age. "You were such a horrible baby," my mother concluded dreamily. "No wonder I got depressed."

But you know what? It all kind of rolled off my back. Now perhaps, in my mind, it's just too early to be worrying about those sorts of things, but to a certain extent I think I've already been hazed. Our conception story may seem pretty par for the course - tame, even - to most of you, but from the untrained comrade it commands awe and respect. C-section? NICU? Sleepless nights? I'll raise you one bout of moderately severe OHSS, three biochemical pregnancies, a miscarriage and a vanishing twin - not to mention the infertility, IUIs and IVF. When it comes to rocky beginnings, my own mother can't beat me. But that's going to take her a while to accept.

That radiography nurse, on the other hand, awarded me my Mummy Club papers long ago, on an x-ray table in a hospital, during an injection of local anaesthetic. Far from labelling me an inductee - or an obsessed tryhard who doesn't know when to call it a day - she spoke as one member of The Club to another. "The things we do for kids!" she chuckled. And then, because she could see I was freshly arrived, "It never stops, you know."

I didn't write this post, although I wish I had. This is a guest post brought to you by Geohde's Great Blog Cross-Pollination! Read carefully - you have to guess whose it is.


Now I was one of those girls who, as a kid, loved forming girls-only
clubs that had secret signs and used invisible ink bought from the
back of comic books to write secret messages that boys couldn't see. I
have three sisters close in age to me, and we've been accused of using
a lot of inside jokes and even having whole conversations while hardly
using a word (my husband HATES this.) When I became a nurse, I was
inducted into yet another club, where medical lingo and sharing
gruesome stories over dinner was the protocol.

This week, as I sat at lunch with other girls on the unit, I think I
was inducted into another. My friends on the unit are all mothers,
with one other being pregnant herself. We were all commiserating over
our pregnancy symptoms and sharing stories, when one of the girls
leaned over and said, "You know, I hate to say it, but women who have
children are very cliquish, they're part of this Mommy Club. You know
you're one of them now. Have you noticed people will start telling you
their horror stories? That's the equivalent of hazing you."

And you know what? I think she's telling the truth. I've noticed that
since people have learned I'm prego, I'm treated a little differently.
Not like I was shunned before, but women talk to me more often at
work. Childbearing is a commonality that most women share. And that's
what can suck about it too. Not all women who want to share it can.

I know my pregnancy was a total fluke. I hit the 3% lottery and got
knocked up on a rest cycle the old-fashioned way. And it could have
been completely different. I could just have easily still be feeling
like the fat girl getting picked last for the kickball team.

Still, there is one secret society we on this edge of the blogosphere
are a part of, we out here in IF land. We have our own secret
language, our own horror stories, our own tales of triumph. Our
in-crowd might be smaller, but it is just as tight-knit. It feels good
to be straddling both circles, knowing that whatever the outcome of
this conception, there is always a place to go home to.

Did you guess whose post it is? Ok, I'll give you a hint - in the form of this list of paricipants. Now did you guess? If so, click here to find my post for today.

We have been blessed with good coverage for infertility. What it means, quite simply, is this: we have been able to put my health, and the welfare of our future children, at the forefront of our decision-making process.

I want to write more, but I'm hard pressed trying to figure out what else there is to say. It's been pointed out, over and over, that covering a major, life-changing medical condition which affects 12.5% of the population through no fault of their own, when doing so promotes the health and wellbeing of mothers and children, protects third parties from exploitation, and is cheaper than not covering that medical condition, is the only sensible thing to do, and all those points remain. But I wanted to talk about how it feels to be a patient with proper coverage. It feels great. It's a relief to be allowed to act responsibly.

See more points of view at the Blogtavism campaign.

A few weeks back I decided, upon suggestion, to buy a goldfish, but instead I came home from the petshop with a pair of baby terrapins. One was never quite as lively as the other, and a few days later she died. The other then started to sicken, but improved again with veterinary treatment. And then went downhill again and this week died also.

I'm telling you all this because I want you to say it with me so I can really hear it: the terrapins are not a metaphor for this pregnancy. They are not a metaphor, and their deaths say nothing about our chances of a live birth.

Mr Bea: It's true - you're actually starting to bulge*.

Bea: Do you think so? Do you like it?

Mr Bea: I like what it represents.

Bea: So you don't like it.

Mr Bea: Is that what I said? I don't think that's what I said.

Bea: You implied that, though you're pleased by the prospect of a healthy pregnancy, the bulge itself is a necessary, yet evil, downside.

Mr Bea: I think you're reading too much in.

Bea: You hate fat women, don't you? In fact, I find your whole view misogynistic. I suppose you think we should all strive, for the sake of our menfolk, to stay super-model thin forever.

Mr Bea: I stopped taking you seriously some sentences ago.

Bra Sizes

Well. I outgrew my Jester bra, bringing me back down to one, so I went shopping again. I'm now an E cup. I'm getting scared. I'm worried I'll run out of alphabet.

The other day I looked across at the trusty old counter and thought... that's 99 divided by seven which equals... fuck knows. So I caved and got a baby ticker which counts in a more comprehensible weeks-and-days fashion. Same place - over on the right sidebar, below the history. For those who would like to keep track. Although, from a personal point of view, the thing is making me feel skittish - it's been over two weeks since the last ultrasound and I'm just not sure what's going on in there*.

Vote For Mel!
She's a finalist for Best Medical/Health Issues blog and she needs your help. Please click here to vote for her (you can vote once every 24 hours). Hopefully it will allow her to raise awareness for infertility in what is National Infertility Awareness Week.

*Unfortunately, through a series of observations, I have deduced that the bulge still consists pretty much entirely of food. The eating of which I nearly have figured out.

I kind of want to write a whole litany of excuses explaining why this effort is so rushed and beyond last-minute, but I'm sending myself to sleep just thinking about it, so just watch and hope you enjoy! It's pretty self-explanatory... and spooky...

Then, if you haven't already, check out the rest at The Third International Infertility Film Festival - "Halloween Special".

So yesterday I turned in my final assessment for this semester. "You know what that means?" I said to Mr Bea.

"Toga!" he replied. But then he had to stay late at work, so it was a girl-only night after all. I decided to stay on the couch (sans toga, although my top was slightly Grecian in style) with a soothing home-made orange and cinnamon infusion*, watching TV and working on my IIFF entry. And then, of course, I donated what I would have spent, had I gone out, to the Queensland branch of the Cancer Council as part of their Girl's Night In appeal.

I guess, to me, cancer and infertility have long been related, ever since I watched my mother plunge head-first into menopause after chemo and radiation therapy. Years later, when I found out shortly after our wedding that she wasn't just an isolated blip on our family tree, I wondered seriously if I should be producing genetically-related offspring at all. But my mother remains opposed to having her genes tested, and such a high percentage of breast cancer cases - even amongst men, like my grandfather, who succumbed to the disease when I was five - are not related to the classic BRAC mutations at all, although new genetic markers continue to be found all the time.

In the end, what I came to notice about my family tree was this: not the people who had been affected by breast cancer, but the people who weren't. Dozens of them. Even on my mother's side. Whole groups who had lived to die of some other curse. And another thing: my mother survived. She has been in remission for fifteen years. It's true, she's been lucky, but breast cancer patients are getting luckier all the time - thanks to the efforts of organisations like the Cancer Council.

Even so, infertility has brought the spectre back to me these last few years. For one thing, there was that time we thought Mum's cancer was back. We'd already been trying some time. I dropped by the house and, unwittingly, she demanded grandchildren before she died - which event, she warned me, was imminent (a couple of months later, she turned out to be fine). On the other hand, despite reassurances from several doctors, backed by studies, I remained afraid of hormone treatments for a long time. I also fretted as time slipped away - I was supposed to have my kids young, before I started screening (which I'm due to start in 2008 - after, I was told, I'm finished breastfeeding, ha ha), and I also wanted them to be old enough to understand about treatment, should that happen and, well, I just wanted to feel like I had time to watch them grow up some.

I don't want to sound too dramatic. There is an excellent chance I will never face a diagnosis of breast cancer, and there is a good chance of cure if I do. It's just... well, you know how it is. You see just enough so you can't take things for granted anymore. I'd like to say that's the precious thing about it, but really I just wish someone would make the disease go away.

*I bought a new one-cup infuser. It's great! I peeled half an orange, threw in a cinnamon stick, and poured over some boiling water. One of my favourites.

Other Bloggers Who Spent The Night In To Aid Cancer Treatment
Vee of The Sweet Life - and her pink-frangipanni-scented bath.
Ellen at Miss E's Musings - sitcoms, couch-potatoing, and snuggling with the dog.
Pamela hasn't had time to relax or have fun this week, but made a donation anyway.
Melissa (the Stirrup Queen) spent time browsing the bookstore on their evening in (the store) to work out how much to donate to their local cancer charity.
Rachel stayed in, and gave her daughter, Hadas, a good start as she went out to help the local door-knock appeal.
Samantha enjoyed grilled tomato and cheese sandwiches on a boy-girl night in, and sent a donation to the American Cancer Society.
Serenity curled up in front of Mythbusters and then had a great night's sleep, with proceeds going to her local breast cancer charity.
Email me at infertilefantasies at gmail dot com or leave a comment to tell me about your night in.

Cancer's Reality - from Fellow Bloggers
Toddler Planet - inflammatory breast cancer, a rare form.
KarenO - breast and ovarian cancer in the family, and the BRAC2 mutation.
Vanilla Dreams - (password protected) - living with infertility after ovarian cancer.
Cancer Baby - she was named Jessica, and she was loved.
Imstell is a mum blogging in the aftermath of treatment for inflammatory breast cancer. Thanks, Whymommy, for pointing her out.
Lisa P sadly passed away earlier this year. Halfway through her battle with infertility, she was struck down by Hodgkin's lymphoma. (Check the comments on the most recent post.)
Email me, or leave a comment, if you know of other bloggers in our community who are writing about living with the reality of cancer who would like to be linked here. It might be themselves, or a close family member.

I also found this story offering hope to children whose parents have survived cancer for ten years or more. It seems they have an improved chance of remission if they end up facing the same cancer.

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