I was offered a copy of this book to review, and I said yes, because I just thought it was a top idea. There are two aims. The first is to help you explain your child's conception to them - a sort of alternative birds-and-bees talk - openly and at an early stage so they can grow up knowing they're just another type of normal. The second aim is to help explain to your older child what's going on in mum and dad's life as they try again.

I was especially impressed with the second aim. When my mother discovered a lump in her breast I was already in my mid-teens, and even my youngest sister was as old as nine, but I believe it when people say that all children, regardless of age or maturity, are affected by upheavals in the household, and I am firmly of the opinion that age-appropriate communication, rather than hushed whispers and inexplicable tears and outbursts, is the kindest way. And when I say "firmly of the opinion", I mean "let me try to think up a whole other sentence just to emphasise how much I believe that". In fact, I would even go so far as to add two sentences, just to be on the safe side. There.

The book tells the story of a particular family who are trying to conceive their second IVF child. There is a brief and simple explanation of IVF itself, but most of this short tale is devoted to life outside the petri dish - the reasons for the treatment, the daily injections and frequent appointments and blood tests. I love the way it portrays the usual feelings of IVF as normal and not-the-child's-fault, and I applaud the subtle suggestions it gives in terms of how to react, both of which things are woven neatly into the storyline. On one page, the teary mother is sad coming home from the clinic after her blood test, so the little girl tries to cheer her up by offering her a lollypop. On another page, there's a chance for Grandma - or other babysitter - to take the hint by helping the older child craft up a get well card for mum on EPU day. Very clever and constructive.

I did an email interview with Leah Bryan, the author, although this is not to leave out Sara Riches, who has illustrated beautifully. Both of them come from our side of the stirrups, with Sara being the proud mum of two IVF sons, and Leah being the proud mum of embryos and reader extraordinaire to foster kids.

Leah's inspiration came one morning, and when she investigated, she found a clear gap in the literary offerings. "There was one in America where the characters are bears and that's supposed to help explain IVF. I thought that just made it more complicated," she said. By setting the story in a plain old family of three, it's all straightforward.

She's also kept the details deliberately simple, so parents can start reading it early on, but intends it to be used as a foundation, so parents can add information as circumstances or agegroup require. "I think that IVF parents know all too well the details of an IVF cycle so I made the book as simple as possible to empower the parents to add in details such as ICSI, frozen cycles, assisted hatching, donor eggs or sperm - any additional details that apply to their family and they feel their child is ready to hear about. Equally they can skip over some of the words and make it even simpler if they want to."

The book contains an album section at the back, where you can add your own pictures, or someone else's pictures, if your clinic was too stingy to give you an embryo photo like mine was, because to be honest, they all look roughly the same at the six-cell stage anyway. This personalises it, of course, helping to continue the dialogue, and also makes it seem that bit more special for the child. "I imagine it could be used regularly as part of storytime from when the child is a baby so that they'll always know how wanted they were and how loved they are," says Leah.

The book won't, of course, cover the many nuances of each individual case, but as she explains, "It does introduce the subject of IVF and makes it easier for parents to continue talking about it. Even young children are good at understanding real versus pretend." If I have one criticism, it's this: I wish the family in the story had names. As a reader, I find it easier to separate myself from the fiction if the author hands me a character complete with identifying moniker. This is probably just my thing. In any case, I'm going to call the little girl Leah, after the author, and poof! the problem has gone away. I'm sure the real Leah wouldn't object. After all, she's the one that said, "IVF is a very special way to make babies who otherwise might not be here and that's something to be celebrated." Obviously a woman after my own heart.

The Baby Doctor is available from Nunhouse Press.


Short Version: plans from here on out.

My mother asked what my plans were for returning to work. "Plans?" I thought. "Oh yeah - those things. I remember them now." I remembered them so well, in fact, that soon I was devising a quite elaborate one with Mr Bea, involving talk of frosties, breastfeeding goals, adoption, career choices, more international moves, and the astounding array of pros and cons that complicates family building with infertility.

"What would you prefer to do," he asked me, after we'd tied ourselves in knots via that old, familiar routine of looking for a perfect solution that doesn't exist.

"I'd prefer..." and I trailed off to consider my answer. "I'd prefer to take the rest of 2008 off being infertile. Let's pretend, between now and New Year's Eve, that we can fall pregnant again any time we want. I'll plan on finishing this degree, you'll plan on continuing your job here, we'll organise our holidays like people who aren't thinking about treatment cycles, we'll watch our son grow up as if nothing ever threatened to keep him from us, and we'll come back to these confusing questions in 2009." It sounded good to both of us. It still sounds very good. And it brings me to the purpose of this post.

Anonymous reminded me - and rightly enough - to move my blog out of blogher's trying to conceive category, and into the parenting one. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to, because I'm not planning on turning this into a parenting blog. Since the beginning, this has been the tale of our struggle with primary infertility. It has not been the tale of my career, my hobbies, my family and friends, my full autobiographical history, or my everyday perambulations through the town in which I live. Such things have been mentioned, but only as tangents to the main story. And I feel like the birth was part of that story*. But I also feel like everything to come is not. And despite flirting with the conceit that I want to close this blog in order to "give the infertility blogosphere a happily-ever-after ending" - which is what I came up with when I started drafting this post in my head - the truth is I just want a break from being infertile.

I'll keep this blog open for posts on general infertility or the infertility blogging community. Our personal story is going password-protected (email me, but I'll have to know who you are), although I can't promise the frequent updates you've slogged through enjoyed here. I plan to keep reading and commenting - I would love to see everyone I've come to know resolve their infertility, one way or another, and keep up with the friends I have made along the way. I may be back. Perhaps I will pick up the thread again on a quest for #2. Or perhaps - well, who knows? These are questions for 2009.

In the meantime, thankyou. Thanks for the comments, the emails, the pressies and cards, for coming on board with some whacky activity or other, for linking, for talking, for reading, for being there, for making this doable. I'm not sure what the journey would have been like without you, but I'm very sure it would have been much, much worse, and fuck, it was bad enough already.

And because I never know quite how to sign off on these things except by falling back on a lame cliche - all the best. I hope happiness finds you, or you it.


--
*After some deliberation, I chose an obvious title for that post. I didn't want people "accidentally" clicking over to find a birth story. I wanted a title which announced, in bold, neon writing, that it was not a post for a bad day. Perhaps just seeing the title upset some people. I didn't honestly think I could get away without causing any upset to anyone at all - infertility can be too sensitive a place. Hopefully what I chose was the best possible compromise. Apologies if it still stung.


Short Version: Birth Story.

For the first half a week I kept thinking, gosh, I haven't felt the baby kick for some time, I hope he's alright in there. Then I'd remember. He's out here. Our infertile fantasy has become reality. A blurry, fast-paced reality full of appointments with doctors, obstetricians and lactation consultants, hospital stays for jaundice, out of town visitors, and short bursts of activity punctuated by shorter bursts of sleep.

Labour was long, and it took several days to recover. Meanwhile, BayBea (damn, that sounded wittier in my head) got his first bout of nappy rash, and grew jaundiced and sleepy, leading to painful breast engorgement and subsequent cracked and bruised nipples. We were readmitted to hospital, where I had to fight tooth and nail to room in and breastfeed on demand, despite the paediatrician being on board with this plan. Everyone was "concerned that I wouldn't get enough rest" with the bright phototherapy lights and the fussing and unpredictable feeding patterns of a newborn. One night, after my least-favourite nurse tried to get me to succumb to her three-hourly, in-nursery, mum-gone-home-from-hospital feeding schedule by implying that I was an ignorant newbie who was going to harm my child, I found myself sobbing in bed. But they weren't tears of defeat. They were only tears of release, as I contemplated that after years of infertility and pregnancy loss, she was really fucking underestimating us if she thought we would roll over that easy.

Mr Bea brought me a travel mask, a pair of sunglasses, my breastfeeding guide, an armful of midnight snacks, and a wealth of freshly-googled information about newborn jaundice, and by the end of week one we had staked out our territory with the ward staff, and were getting into the swing of it all. Today I am thankful for the luxury of a cleaner. My housework got done this morning whilst I sat, and fed, and traced my finger around the line of our little boy's jaw. As I blog, he sleeps peacefully on my lap.

But I've missed a bit. Let me go back and give you the birth story.

The prostin gel was applied just before lunchtime on Friday the sixteenth. The Braxton Hicks-like contractions I'd been having started to get stronger and more regular within the next couple of hours, and with boyish excitement, SOB told me he'd be delivering our baby that night. I went home, napped, blogged a bit, and waited. Just after dinner, the contractions started becoming noticeably more intense. We popped some music on and I sung my way through a couple of albums' worth of cervical dilation, and then we both went to bed until 2:30am. That's when we made our move to the hospital. I lost my mucous plug on arrival, and they informed me I was 5cm dilated and The Foetus was doing well. Thus satisfied, we proceded to labour gently for the next several hours until SOB popped in on his morning rounds to see why I hadn't delivered yet. At that point I was 6cm dilated and The Foetus was doing well. We continued calmly.

At 1:30pm SOB turned up again to see why I hadn't delivered yet. We spoke about rupturing the membranes to get things going, but when he examined me I was at about 8cm, and The Foetus was fine, so we agreed that it wouldn't be long now and we would leave things alone. He also introduced me to his colleague (SOBC) who would be covering for him until the birth. The next couple of hours saw us going on yet more walks around the labour ward and using the TENS machine which, I had earlier discovered, seemed to intensify the contractions and bring them closer together, rather than providing any relief. Soon we knew transition labour had begun.

At 7:30pm SOBC popped in to see why I hadn't delivered yet. I was at 8.5cm dilated and The Foetus was fine. We went ahead and ruptured the membranes, and the fluid was nice and clear. The midwives were asked to page him when I started feeling the need to bear down, an event everyone agreed was an hour or so away at most.

I think it was about 9:30pm when I started losing my cool. The whole "breathing through contractions" was getting old, so I decided to try screaming instead. At 10pm the midwife examined me and said I was 9.5cm dilated. I asked for some gas, but it made me feel like I was suffocating, so after the first half a breath I just used it to hit against the bed, until after a few contractions something flung off across the room and Mr Bea quietly took it away from me. About 10:15pm I finally found the urge to push.

At 11pm I started asking why I hadn't delivered yet. I was tired of people telling me how close I was - they could tell me our baby had blonde hair, but it seemed to want to stay where it was, ie on a head jammed securely in my pelvic canal. But The Foetus was still doing well, wiggling into new, different, and sometimes counter-productive positions right up until the last minute.

At 11:30pm I started noticing the contractions getting further apart, and less intense, so I decided to call for assistance whilst I still had some strength left to play my part. The ventousse was brought in, and they turned me over into lithotomy position which oh good lord why would anyone give birth that way? My tailbone protested so strongly that I leapt off the bed, sending the foetal monitor flying onto the floor in a terrific crash where it continued to blip cheerfully as the attending staff jumped this way and that in startled panic. After they'd taken stock of the disarray, the bottom half of the bed was dropped down. The equipment was reorganised. I mumbled some lame remark about having not destroyed anything after all, and people laughed. We awaited the next contraction.

The first application of the ventousse nearly did it. I could feel him starting to crown, and when SOBC told me one more push would see him born, I actually believed him, despite the last day and a half's experience. "I can do one more push," I said, with sudden resolve, and in another couple of minutes, I proved myself right. Everything gets kind of jumbled after that. They told me the head was born, then the shoulders. To my utter surprise, someone put a baby on my chest. He felt heavy. And the kicks - they felt exactly the same from the outside as they had done for months on end.

SOBC asked Mr Bea to cut the cord about four times in a row, and Mr Bea dithered awkwardly. I sobbed uncontrollably and asked everyone in the room, individually and sometimes twice, whether the baby was ok, and never really took in their answers. At last I heard Mr Bea confirm that he seemed fine and the midwife said she'd help the baby latch on. Somewhere in the background SOBC was delivering the placenta, and telling me I'd torn a bit and he was going to put in a few stitches. I got an oxytocin injection. I made a passing comment about how weird my belly looked. I saw the baby latch on and suckle.

And then, for the trouble he'd caused us, for all the stress and the grief and the uncooperatively not wanting to be conceived or born despite every effort on our parts, I gave him the biggest serve of his life for some time yet to come, which everyone seemed to think was hilarious except for me.

At some point, all the others evaporated and left the three of us alone in the delivery suite. "What do you think?" I asked Mr Bea. "Shall we keep him?"

"I am way too tired to go into that now," he replied. "Let's talk about it in the morning."

Stats: Born 11:47pm, 17th May, 42w1d, 36hrs after prostin gel applied, head 37cm, length 54cm, weight 3.81kg.

Photos and Name: check the pwp blog later in the week.


Update re: twitter at bottom.

Thanks for all the emails, comments, and even gifts that have arrived this week. It's been enough to bring more than one tear to my eyes.

The Foetus and I are still doing fine here. This morning's monitoring showed everything to be as normal and healthy as at the last visit, and, in fact, there was so much movement going on last night that I ended up making a casual remark about him "having a fit in there". And shortly afterwards sitting down for several hours to google "intrauterine seizures".

SOB asked what I wanted to do. "I want to do whatever is safest," I told him firmly.

"Well, with everything looking so good, we can continue to monitor," he explained, "but at this stage, and with such a favourable-looking cervix, the potential benefits of a gel induction probably outweigh the potential risks."

Enough said.

So I had a dose of prostin, took the train into town for a meaty and sustaining lunch, and returned for more monitoring. Because The Foetus still looks fine and the Braxton Hicks-like contractions are starting to get nice and regular - although not yet painful - we have left it at that and I've come home. The nurses studied the CTG trace and unanimously predicted we'd be arriving at L&D between 10pm and midnight. SOB agreed, but asked me to front up first thing tomorrow at the latest. You'll have to excuse my lack of stats. Since the machine was recording everything, I chose to focus my mental energies on fashion magazines, so I really can't tell you exactly how far apart anything is or anything like that, however, I do think you should watch out for this season's floral prints.

I feel like I should say something profound, or meaningful, but I'm coming up short. Yesterday, I bought some groceries. The cashier asked, "How many years of marriage before get baby? One year?" and she waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

"Nine," I replied.

"Oh. Nine years," she repeated, her face becoming serious. "You try try lah, or just wait?"

I drew breath to answer before I decided what to say. "It's been a bit complicated," I admitted after a pause, and she managed to nod in a way that conveyed sympathy without a trace of pity or awkwardness. Then, as she handed me my change, she looked at me directly and sincerely. "Then I hope it goes very very well for you."

Yes. Well. Amen to that.

(Further updates probably through twitter, right sidebar, sorry, never did get around to fixing that.)

--
(Update re: twitter - it's 9:30 here, and things do seem a bit more intense, but I'm guessing it'll be more on the "midnight" side of 10pm-midnight.

Anyway, I dropped in because a couple of people have asked about twitter. You should be able to see updates on the sidebar as I text them, just like reading a really short post, in a sidebar. Otherwise, click a bit, see what happens.)


Short Version: latest appointment update, probably inducing Friday if no progress. Then some musings about the fundamentals of marriage, during which I discuss infertility and baby names.

I suppose I should update you on our latest appointment. After monitoring everything possible, no problems have been detected. I am feeling reassured for now. If nothing happens by Friday, however, we will probably try to induce. I rung Mr Bea to report on the appointment and told him that, whatever happens, he should avoid scheduling work meetings early next week since he'll no doubt be on paternity leave. This seems to have made him irritable. Husbands.

--

"The trouble with all your name suggestions," I said to Mr Bea, "is that they're far too common."

"One of my requirements is that the name be recognisably common," he retorted.

Seeing the impasse, I pressed my fingers to my temples and said, "I wish you'd told me your baby naming policy years ago. I could have gone off and married a whole different person."

He looked at me strangely - carefully - as if deciding how to react. Then he broke into the grin I was expecting and turned back towards the computer to google the biography of the most famous person to hold the name under current consideration.

It was a flippant comment, til he paused. I guess, in hindsight, it's kind of strange. You know, what with the male factor infertility and so forth. What with the IVF and the OHSS and the years of misery and loss and so forth. I'll admit I sometimes thought about how different our lives might be if he was fertile. I even remember asking myself, once or twice, if I'd trade him in for a different model with proper sperm. It never took long to answer no, of course not. It was like asking if I'd prefer to die than to struggle with infertility. Fertile or infertile, I always thought of him as the right choice of husband - there's more to the package than genes, after all. There's being able to navigate the maze of challenges life can throw at a marriage. You can't just pick that up at a sperm bank.

Baby naming, on the other hand - now there's something to make you consider your alternatives. I mean, this is the first time we've differed fundamentally over an important parenting decision which will affect our child for the duration of his life. These things, so seemingly surmountable next to the years of barrenness and grief, these are the real tests. It's not the biggest crises you have to watch out for, but the problems which most show your weakness and differences. The creeping catastrophes; the questions upon which you just can't agree. Sometimes the deal-breaker isn't donor versus IVF versus adoption, it's Billy versus Bobby versus Benjamin. On the home stretch of an apparently healthy pregnancy, it's worth keeping that in mind.

(Thankfully, we have made headway on a shortlist.)


Short Version: last-minute name crisis, and labour-inducing TCM.

So, several months ago - like, four or five months ago - we decided on the perfect name for this baby. Wait, no, that's the fantasy version we've been caught up in. What actually happened was we both thought we'd agreed on the perfect name for this baby, when in fact we had misunderstood each other entirely. Only recently did we discover this fact, which has led to much starting all over again from scratch. Obviously a good time to be starting from scratch on name choices, what with the baby overdue and visitors in the house and the subsequent not-having of private conversational moments. Does anyone know what cultural tradition withholds the name announcement for the longest time? Because I'm thinking of claiming that cultural tradition.

--

Everything is still fine enough in there to continue waiting, apparently. I've got to admit, this is starting to make me nervous. Mostly, I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus in utero, but I also have minor concerns about the level of intervention I'm looking at if labour doesn't happen as it should, mainly because I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus during a highly medicalised birth. Basically, I'm worried about the safety of The Foetus. I just think we'd all be better off if everything went normally, don't you?

This has led to much googling of terms such as "what does a mucus plug look like" and "ways of inducing labour". In terms of the former, it seems mucus plugs (should you see one prior to labour at all) can have anything from a distinctly, well, pluggy appearance, plus or minus a tinge of blood, all the way to the other end of the spectrum which is very nearly indistinguishable from globs of semen. The problem with which is, of course, that globs of semen are also very nearly indistinguishable from globs of semen.

On the "inducing labour" front, having ticked off all the at-home methods, I found myself reading about acupuncture. One article, based on an interview with an acupuncturist, raved that when labour-inducing treatment is given from 41 weeks, about 80% of women go into labour within 72 hours. The remaining 20% are given a followup round of treatment, and nearly all them will go into labour within 72 hours of round two. "Wow!" I thought. "So what he's saying is, nearly everyone he treats goes into labour by forty-two weeks! That's incredible!" So without pausing to so much as cynically ask what happened in the control group, I marched me off down to the clinic in Chinatown recommended by my yoga instructor.

I don't know what you're picturing here. I know when someone says "TCM practice in Chinatown" to me, I get visions of crowded and narrow alleyways punctuated by incense-spewing temples, wooden shopfronts decorated with lanterns and dragon motifs, mysterious little doors with bells on them leading into cluttered, poorly-lit dens, wizened old Chinese men with crazy beards and crazier mannerisms, and racks of pungent-smelling dried stuff, the origins of which you don't want to know.

It would be more accurate to picture a doctor's surgery. You know - blandly-coloured waiting area, polite nurses in crisp uniforms, practitioners strutting down the hallway in neat, white coats to their neat, white consult rooms with computer screens and tidily-framed certificates on the walls, the pungent smell of rubbing alcohol... doctor's surgery. I registered at the reception desk and cast around for a magazine. The nurses took my temperature and blood pressure, and I was called in by a young, female practitioner with neat, black spectacles, to whom I explained my situation.

"I see," she said, and wrote something in Chinese on my neat, white, patient card. "Could you stick out your tongue, please? Uhuh." More notes. "Now let me check your pulses..." What followed was a history of a vague range of medical conditions or complaints, at the end of which she announced that she would recommend a session of acupuncture, followed by "some herbs". You've gotta hand it to these TCM dudes. They don't hold with any of your new-fangled concepts like Explaining Things To Patients.

The acupuncture happened in a treatment room, and was augmented by a scary electrical device turned up high enough to make all four of my limbs twitch with every pulse. "Any pain?" she asked.

"It's not pleasant..." I replied diplomatically, hoping she would make it stop.

"Yes, but if no pain, then ok." And she left the room. For a loooooong time. And lo and behold, if my uterus didn't start to cramp and contract*.

Eventually she came back, switched off the torture device, and released me with my powdered... whateveritis which I am to take twice daily for four days, in a small amount of warm water, thirty minutes after a meal, and definitely not in conjunction with any "western" medicines.

My uterus stopped contracting on the way back down the hall.

I'll let you know how it goes.

--
*Although it has been doing this at random anyway.


Short Version: conversations with the fertile world: how I feel about "getting my body back".

I have an email sitting in my inbox and I don't know how to reply. It's from someone who's due just after me, and she chats merrily about how, like her, I must be looking forward to "getting my body back". I feel like I only just did. I'm more afraid of losing it again.

I don't have to explain it to you. I don't have to explain the tyranny of non-functioning organs and hormones. I don't have to explain the helpless pleading to follicles, eggs and embryos. I don't have to explain the gradual, humiliating submission of my self to my LH or P4 levels, despite expensive and painful efforts to whip them into line pharmaceutically. I don't have to explain the unbidden and unwanted anger, jealousy, frustration, anxiety.

To some of you, unfortunately, I have to explain what I wish you all knew yourselves: the triumph of winning the battle against one's own body. For some, this means refusing to be controlled, any longer, by a menstrual cycle, or defined, so completely, by infertility, childlessness, or loss. For me, it has meant lucking out in the treatment lottery. This pregnancy has been a leash on my errant body, a tattooed symbol of power and ownership. For the first time in a long time, my body has been doing what I want. I have it back. Now, this moment, I have it back. Who knows what happens from here?

I realise that even amongst those who have been pregnant, not all of you have experienced pregnancy in this way. At least since Twin A, I've had things go normally (touch wood) and that makes a difference. Still, I think all of you - however different your path so far - can draw on enough common ground to appreciate my point of view, and can see why I'm not feeling impatient to "get my body back". So I don't have to explain it to you.

I wish, though, I knew how to explain it to her.



I saw one, tiny glimmer of light when we got our MF diagnosis. Whatever lay ahead of us, it wasn't going to involve the type of lacklustre sex that has no purpose beyond that of producing a baby.

Let's just say I'm experiencing a sense of irony.

--

Almost forgot - there's some nursery pics up at the picture site. Don't get excited - we haven't painted and decorated (being a rental property) more just purchased and organised.


Short Version: 1. Post-partum depression act, please read. 2. Maternity clothes discussion. 3. Baby kicks. 4. Warning of impending absense due to visitors.

First, for the Americans: this about post-partum depression legislation (via Rachel, who provides info on post-partum depression and infertility).

--

"I'm busting out of my maternity jeans," I announced the other day.

"Too much belly?"

"I'm busting out around the thighs."

"Oh... ah... er..." Mr Bea trailed off, looking panicked.

"It's probably all muscle," I hinted.

"Absolutely!" he agreed, with relief. "Bound to build up the leg muscles with all that extra weight you're carrying." He paused and looked at me. "I've stuffed that one up, haven't I?"

At nearly forty weeks, especially after infertility, I am disinclined to rush out and buy more maternity clothes. So it's on, people: the race against time and fabric.

--

The other night, I was lying on my side on the beanbag when The Foetus gave a nice, solid kick. And I heard the beans go "shush". All of a sudden, it felt like he didn't just exist inside my own body, but as part of the world. That little shush somehow made him a good bit more real.

--

My parents-in-law are arriving tomorrow. If I drop off the face of the earth, try not to read too much into it.


Short Version: general Monday update, everything fine and the same, random observations.

Do you know what it feels like? It feels like The Foetus is trying to physically push his way through the cervix by bracing his legs against my ribs and diaphragm. Not gunna work, little buddy. You have to set off this whole hormone cascade and actually dilate the thing first. Trust me.

--

Today I saw SOB and everything is still fine, although I got that feeling again where... well, before he palpates my abdomen he rubs his hands together vigorously to warm them so I don't get a shock when he touches my bare skin, which is all very good and professional and everything, but as I lie there watching him do this, him towering over the exam table, I just can't help but expect him to throw his head back and cry, "Bwahahahaha ha haaaa!" It's a mite disconcerting.

--

Today, SOB signed off on my birth plan. I know! First labour, and I have a birth plan. How cute! The thing is, though, we're giving birth in a foreign country, with its own cultural practices, and no-one, including SOB, is inclined to wait until I'm 7cm dilated to have an argument over my fong.

--

People keep commanding me to be things. "You're so close! You must be excited/nervous/impatient/etc!" At this stage, I find I'm neither excited nor scared. I'd describe myself as quietly waiting to see how it turns out. It seems infertility beat my sense of anticipation into such a pulp it has not yet recovered. As for patience - we've waited this long, another couple of weeks seems easily doable. I'll get back to you on all these. They may change.

--

I've also been asked if we're ready. I'm never very sure how to answer. The best I can do is tell you that, give or take a cot, a carseat, and a cute little cloth nappy stash, we're about as ready as we've been for several years. Which is to say ready enough, I hope.

--

New pictures up on our picture site. Email me if you want to see and can't.


Short Version: as the title suggests, really. Pretty sure it's not going anywhere fast, though.

So I wouldn't call them contractions. They're twinges. Cramps. They're uncomfortable enough to make me slow down my walking and, every so often, to suck in my breath. Last night they disturbed my sleep. But they don't last more than a few moments, and I get the idea a contraction, as such, should hang on for, at the very least, what? ten or fifteen seconds at a stretch? If not much, much longer. So I think this is more of an irritated, my-pelvic-floor-is-squashed-now response to having The Foetus sit so low, rather than an actual onset-of-labour type thing. Plus it seems to happen in response to either a) The Foetus moving or b) me getting up to walk around or c) my bladder and/or bowels becoming full, but never d) just spontaneously off its own back. However. I thought I'd mention it.


Short Version: perhaps you'd call it nesting, but I think it's more accurate to call it hoarding.

"Check out our freezer," I said to Mr Bea. "It's half-full of frozen food, and the other half is coming soon."

"Excellent thinking."

"Then I had a sudden urge to stock up on toilet paper."

"Well, we do have a lot of guests arriving, that's for sure*. And we don't want to run out of toilet paper."

"I've also started hoarding beer."

"Oh."

"You don't seem pleased. I thought you'd be pleased about the beer."

"Beer is pleasing, I'm just not too keen on the picture I'm getting in my mind of my nearly-nine-month-pregnant wife struggling uphill from the shops to our apartment with her little grocery cart chock-full of beer, whilst the neighbours stand around and tut and whisper behind their hands about how I probably beat you when I'm sober."

"I didn't see any tutting or whispering."

"Nevertheless. Maybe you should leave the beer-hoarding to me."


--
*We are booked solid with guests during May and June. I also have my uni exams somewhere in there. And something else might be happening... what is it...? Oh yeah. We will probably be taking care of a newborn. If you don't really hear from me until July, you'll know why.

--
P.S. If you were in Australia last night, or for some reason had access to Australian news, you might have noticed that my clexane video from IVF Shoot 'Em Up made a news montage about the recall of said drug. My belly was on national news! Cheers for the head's up, Jules.


You can't get a good bitch-slapping round here even if you ask for it! You guys are sweet. But I don't want to lose my perspective - it's one precious thing I've gained from the infertility - so those who offered to bitch-slap if asked, I hope you're prepared to make good on your offer if and when.

Short Version of this post: stuff is happening. Don't get too excited - I think I still have a good couple of weeks to go.


Question: hypothetically speaking, if your husband comes to bed late despite prompting, would you say a proportional response involved a) a small amount of verbalised irritation or b) beating him out of the house with a pillow in a wild frenzy, then locking the door, forcing him to sleep outside on a sun lounger under a sky threatening to rent itself apart with a violent, tropical storm? Hypothetically speaking?

I think my hormones may be fluctuating again. I've woken up with the same kinds of hot flushes I experienced in the first trimester; my breasts have suddenly gone up another cup size, with accompanying tenderness; my pelvic cavity has regressed from a cheerful, hardworking body part to a whiny, toddlerish body part ("Slow dooooooown!" "That huuuuuuuurts!" "I need to go to the toooooooiiilet!" and so on - pretty tolerable, but it does seem heavier down there); The Foetus seems restricted, more or less, to squirming rather than kicking; and I just feel, kind of... restless. Like pre-menstrual restless. I'd say it's my nesting instinct kicking in, but to date I have only progressed as far as getting grumpy at the standards of tidyness and cleanliness around the house, but not as far as doing anything about it.

So I'd say my hormones are starting to fluctuate. Suddenly, it really does feel like the end is coming close. Which I think, together with the fact that the storm didn't actually break until 6am (by which time I had relented and unlocked the door), is why Mr Bea has decided to be patient and forgiving with me.


Short Version: invitation to a bitch-slapping. The bitch would be me. Subjects discussed - birth, infant care. And infertility, again.

You know how, sometimes, what you need isn't unconditional validation and support, but a good, stern talking-to from a friend? This is one of those times. It's about the birth. Well, it's not just about the birth, that's the whole issue - it's about the infertility. It's always about the infertility.

Every so often someone asks me why we're keeping The Foetus' sex a secret (except from you guys), even though we know ourselves, and I say something flippant about how much I enjoy teasing my mother, but that's not it only a small an initially small but steadily increasing part of it. If pushed further, I will add that we wanted gifts in a more imaginative variety of colours than the traditional pink or blue, but that's really nothing to do with it. When Mr Bea and I discussed it together, our reasoning was two-fold. First, there was this sense in which we were still feeling trepidacious about letting people know we were "having a baby" at all. We were far too scared to commit to having this baby.

But we also just... well, we just wanted to keep it a surprise. It was our private information, and we controlled it. Infertility made that precious to us, having taken so much of our privacy and control away. Even if we had tried to keep as much as possible of our journey a secret, we would have needed to tell our GP, our fertility specialist, his nurse, his reception staff, the phlebotomists, the scientists and lab assistants, the anaesthetist, the hospital admissions people, the clinic's nurse counsellor, the chickie who comes in twice a week to freeze semen, the accounts department, the claims staff at two separate insurance agencies (one state, one private), several pharmacists, the security staff at the airport who checked my needles through, and any number of people at the clinics in Sydney (where our recurrent miscarriage specialist works) and Singapore.

Now I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking, "Girl, if you're complaining about a loss of privacy and autonomy, you're talking to the wrong face. You had insurance, two sets of gametes, a functioning uterus, and a partner who was on the same page. Come step in my shoes and we'll see just how violated you feel." I'll cop to that - it's true. Infertility doesn't treat us all equally, and so far it has treated us relatively well. But although it takes more from some than others, there's no doubt it gets a certain piece of us all. It has robbed me of my desired level of privacy and autonomy.

And, God help me, I want it back.

Somewhere in my presumed-fertile past I didn't much care about my birth experience, and not so long ago I had whittled my aspirations down to a single, live, take-home baby (bonus points for being healthy). So when, and how, did this new transformation occur? When did I start worrying about the fact that I might want pain relief or need any number of interventions? When did I gain this ardent passion for exclusive breastfeeding? Why do I feel such a need to prove that I can do it alone? And how, when there are genuine things to worry about, can I be afraid of simply... needing more help?

Also, where the fuck do I get off even wanting these things? Did I not get beaten down hard enough, that I've bounced back so quickly and with so many extraneous demands? Have I learned nothing? Have I forgotten it so easily?

I want to be ok with whatever has to happen. My head has my priorities straight - I'll be fine, it says, with anything that brings The Foetus home safely. I just want to be sure my heart will agree.

You may start speaking sternly now, I can take it and won't hate you, I promise.


Short Version: Another appointment, everything fine, officially at term now with SOB saying he doesn't mind when I go into labour from here on in. I discuss my labour preparations.

"I don't know why the prenatal class teacher spent so long drilling us on pelvic floor exercises," I said to Mr Bea the other night. "Every time The Foetus headbutts my bladder I get practice pretty much automatically!"

"Er... yes," he answered, awkwardly. "Is that the kind of bawdy, intimate humour you have girlfriends and a blog for?"

Based on that conversation, I'm supposing he doesn't want to hear about the evening primrose oil capsules I've decided to stick up my neveryoumind. Do you want to hear about the evening primrose oil capsules I've decided to stick up my neveryoumind? Wouldn't be the worst thing you've read on the blogs today, would it?

I've got these evening primrose oil capsules. I've heard you should stick them up your neveryoumind on a daily (or is it twice daily?) basis, starting from about thirty-six weeks or as soon as you get around to it afterwards. Ideally, this should be combined with perineal massage, which is something else Mr Bea would be embarrassed to discuss, although I would like to point out that he's man enough to actually do what he has to do. (It was the same all through fertility treatments. We have this unspoken agreement that the sperm samples he obtained in the clinic "men's room" were produced more or less by magic.)

But bless him he will, for example, brew up a nice hot cup of rasberry leaf tea, which he doesn't like talking about either, but that's more because it bores him. So I've got the rasberry leaf tea, the pelvic floor exercises, the perineal massage, and the evening primrose oil up the neveryoumind, but I am in two minds about one matter: sex. You see, I've heard that the prostaglandins in semen are most efficiently absorbed through the gut. Then again, you won't get any perineal massage or pelvic floor workout that way, will you? Things to ponder. And perhaps to discuss, but only with girlfriends and blogpeople.

So have I missed anything?


Short Version: Cot purchase and safety/environmental/animal welfare announcement in one.

I nearly posted to ask you to resolve a moral dilemma for me, except then I thought of the perfect answer. So now I'm posting to boast about my answer under the pretense of keeping kids safe by disseminating information about the hazards of cots. Let's face it - most of you are well-versed in this stuff already, being the info-savvy, long-prepared, safety-conscious people you are. Frankly, if anyone knows this stuff and takes it seriously, it's an infertility blogger, think about it. Then again what the heck, you can't repeat an important safety message enough times, and there's always the chance you'll tell me how wise and clever I am. Therefore on with it.

It started when we saw a second-hand cot for sale. I know, we have the bassinet for starters, but it won't last for long, and I happened to see this at a good price, plus, hey! recycling! so I arranged to view it, tape measure in hand. Why a tape measure? Because I wanted to make sure it conformed to safety guidelines (pdf), and for that you need a tape measure to figure out how big all the gaps and things are. Happily, the cot passed the test and we arranged delivery to our flat.

That's when the dilemma started. Because the people wanted to get rid of not only the cot, but also the bedding, and they were using far more of it than is recommended by Sids and Kids in their safe sleeping FAQ (pdf). There is also the issue of using second-hand mattresses, which is discussed in the above brochure, and although the SIDS people haven't found enough reason to recommend against using one provided the mattress is otherwise safe, I am paranoid enough to want a new one anyway. So my dilemma was this: so much bedding, so little desire to use it. What does one do with two cot bumpers and five tiny pillows that one considers to be a death trap for infants? As well as a second-hand mattress which is arguably safe, but you never know?

When you have things to get rid of you have several choices: you can sell them, you can give them away, or you can chuck them. Now, whilst chucking them seems wasteful, selling them or giving them away involves a high risk that someone else will use stuff on their baby which you consider to be below acceptable safety standards, and there's something not quite moral about that. Profiting from their ignorance (by selling) does seem worse than passively accepting their ignorance (by offloading for free) but it doesn't really make the second option right.

Of course, ultimately there's a limit to my responsibility for other people's parenting decisions. I don't, for example, feel the need to picket stores that sell cot bumpers and baby pillows, or accost strangers wheeling prams in order to grill them on their tot's sleeping arrangements. On the other hand, I am clearly responsible for advertising used equipment as "used" and for being honest about my reasons for getting rid of something if asked. If I were to make up some reply about not liking the colour, that would obviously cross the line. But am I required to explain myself to people who don't ask me? If I am, is that enough, or should I go further by refusing to hand over the goods to anyone intending to use them for a baby, contrary to safe sleeping guidelines? If the second, am I required to ensure, absolutely, that the products don't get used for someone's baby in the future, or is it enough to gain reasonable satisfaction of such? What about my responsibility to the environment - to recycling and reducing landfill?

These were the questions I was going to pose to you when the answer hit me. The perfect place for unwanted and unsafe baby bedding is the local animal shelter or vet clinic. (Or, if you know someone, a neighbour with an elderly dog.) Why?

  • Cot mattresses are ideal surfaces for medium to large sized dogs with mobility problems (including those with arthritis or those temporarily bed-bound from illness). The soft cushiness will help guard against debilitating and potentially dangerous bedsores, yet the surface is close to the ground and therefore relatively easy to get onto and off. Depending on the make of the mattress, it may also include protection against leaky bladders and drool.

  • Small pillows can be used in clinic settings to prop patients into good positions - for comfort, ease of breathing, attachment and use of IV lines and other equipment, extra protection of wound areas, or positioning for x-rays.

  • Cot bumpers, with the help of scissors, needle and thread, can be turned into mini-mattresses for small patients, or a number of thin pillows.

Any way you look at it, vet clinics and animal shelters can make good, safe use of your unwanted baby bedding, and I feel that by handing it over to such an organisation for that defined purpose, I have made a reasonable enough effort to ensure that no harm comes from their future use. So that is what we have decided to do. Perhaps you can think of further ways to safely dispose of unwanted cot bedding (and if so, please add them in the comments).

To sum up, there are a few reasons I went ahead with this post:

  1. I wanted to remind people to check their safe sleeping guidelines when setting up their nursery. These guidelines can save little lives!

  2. I wanted to remind you not to dump when you can recycle! The planet (and your local vet clinic, animal shelter, or whatever) wants to put your unwanted stuff to good, safe, alternative uses.

  3. I was feeling smug about my solution and wanted to display my smugness publicly.

So there you have it. Goodnight and sleep well.


The IIFF Awards have been handed out. Head on over to the ceremony!

Short Version: I admit to the wisdom of my readers, and start nesting a little. Oh, by the way, I had another appointment and everything is normal. Weekly appointments from now on.

You were all right. Those of you who said it was no big deal and that it would work out either way - you were right. However, those of you who encouraged me to try and smooth the road by being prepared - you were also right. And those of you who pointed out that a bag packed by Mr Bea is a dubious proposition... well, let me take you back to our honeymoon, and a lesson I should have already learned.

In the hurly-burly of our wedding preparations nearly, gosh, nine years ago now, Mr Bea was assigned the task of packing a honeymoon bag. Long story short, he did quite well except for the underwear. Now, whilst I'm sure we can all find amusement in the fact that my groom forgot to pack any underwear at all for his bride to take on our honeymoon, I'm not so sure I'd be laughing about it in the maternity ward.

So I have packed. More accurately, I have thrown what I would like to pack into a plastic bag and dumped it into the bassinet, which is now out of its box and set up. I have also managed to drag Mr Bea to Ikea to buy dinky little storage solutions, and I have sat down and, well, I guess organised is the only word for it, the baby stuff.

"So that whole pregnant/nesting thing - not a myth?" Mr Bea said, poking his head into the nursery last night.

"Apparently not, from what I've read, although I do wish my instinct would kick in," I replied, stuffing a onsie into a drawer along with other onsies of arguably similar size*.

"Right..." he said, looking pointedly around the room.

"All these other people are way organised. You should see the Spock's nursery, with its ocean theme, and its boat-shaped bookshelf, and its drawers upon drawers of thrice-washed cloth nappies and infant clothing."

"How many pre-washes are you up to?"

"So far? Zero. Although, in my defence, most of our nappies haven't arrived yet."

"Yes... I do think you made a good choice when you decided against a legal career."

"Are you going to poke fun, or are you going to come and learn about the organisational intricacies of my changing system?"

"Will you hit me if I answer honestly?"

Anyway. I haven't got anything photographable yet, but at least I can see what we've got and where it is. And I'm in with a decent shot of being hygienically-clothed in the hospital. For now, I think we're good.


--
*"0-3 months" really does cover quite an eye-opening range of sizes, doesn't it?



Short Version: I wonder whether I need to be getting more organised.

Tell me if I'm wrong. By the time most of you wake up in your respective time zones and read this, I will be thirty-six weeks pregnant. I have, you know, stuff. After yesterday's car seat purchase, I officially have the sort of minimum requirements needed to get us through the hospital stay and, say, the first two days at home. It's not washed. It's not neatly laid out in a cute, fully-decorated nursery. It is, in point of fact, stuffed into the built-in robe in the spare room such that I can close the door and no visitor will know we even have stuff.

I haven't packed a hospital bag. Mr Bea asked when I was planning to pack a hospital bag. "I guess sometime..." I said, equivocating over whether to delete another 500 words of the essay on surrogacy I've been rewriting over and over again for several weeks now. "Damn, I've gone and contradicted myself again. I'm going to have to completely restructure this whole argument. We also have to pre-wash everything at least once, but you know, they say first stage of labour lasts eight to twelve hours, and is it just me, or is that heaps of time to throw some stuff into an overnight bag and put on a couple of loads?"

"And maybe arrange the nursery, set up the bassinet, put a few spare meals in the freezer, that type of thing?"

"For example."

"It depends. Are you also going to be rewriting your essay still?"

"Ah! I think I've worked it out! Do we own a copy of anything by Kant?"

Probably it'll all get done in a flash when my nesting instinct kicks in suddenly, any day now.

Right?



Short Version: another no-news/good-news appointment, and then I talk about baby kicks. And don't forget the IIFF!

I had another no-news appointment this morning. I am now at the same weight I reached at the peak of my OHSS. I thoroughly recommend that anyone who wants to stack on over a dozen kilos does so over a few trimesters, rather than a few days. Also, I love my exercise ball! I am back to not feeling achey and stiff, although I do still have to be careful about moving around, stretching and changing positions.

--

When I returned from my latest "IVF Holiday", back in August last year, I decided to watch Saturday Night Fever on the plane. They say babies start learning things long before birth. The Foetus seems to have picked up some disco moves. "Ah, ah, ow, ooh... staying alive." I'm telling you, he's been simultaneously jabbing me in the upper right rib and the lower left pelvis, just like Johnny T on the dance floor.

I've been meaning to describe how it feels for a while now. For some reason, I kind of expected the kicking to be a pleasant sensation, and, well, it is and it's not. I mean, fundamentally, it is. It is because it tells me he's still alive. Heck, it is because it reminds me he's in there at all. I like thinking about his little hands and feet as they pummel against my insides. "That was a foot," I think, and I get a wonderfully giddy sensation just thinking about these feet.

On the other hand, I am surprised (even though I shouldn't be, now I come to think about it) to find that the physical sensation itself is not really what you'd call pleasant. Put it this way: if I didn't know it was being caused by a baby, I'd probably say it was irritating. So did I, in the throes of our battle with infertility, spend one too many days thinking how great it would be to feel a baby in my belly, and not quite enough being logical about the whole thing? I was pretty sure I hadn't done that. I was pretty sure I had things in perspective, and not in some idealised, rose-coloured view. Luckily, I still feel I would have done it anyway. It's one of those "hurts so good" things.

"What does it feel like, exactly?" asked Mr Bea.

I tilted my head to the side and considered. "It feels like..." Bubbles? Pops? Gas? "It feels like..." Dancing? Mini earthquakes in the belly? Shocks? "It feels like a small creature moving around inside my abdomen."

"Illuminating."

"But not just any creature. Not, for example, like a large mouse with scratchy, tickly nails or anything like that. More like..."

"A pre-term human baby?"

"Right!"

It might be more comfortable if I could teach the little Disco Monkey in there to moonwalk, but I think Staying Alive is a much better theme than Thriller.


Short Version: I am beginning to feel physically uncomfortable, but I'll cope. Everything otherwise fine.

Extra note: don't forget to put your entries together for the upcoming IIFF!

It's finally happening. I guess it was bound to sooner or later, although, actually, scratch that - I can think of a whole range of scenarios in which late-pregnancy discomfort doesn't happen, and I think I'll take the backache, thankyouverymuch - but nevertheless it's here, so I am writing to sigh resignedly about it.

I can't do things for long. This is somewhat annoying. For instance, my back gets sore when I sleep. I'm still getting enough sleep, it's just happening in shorter snatches over a longer period. My back gets sore - in a different place - when I sit. I am still working on my course, but it's happening in shorter snatches over a longer period. My feet get sore, and sometimes swollen, when I stand. I am still doing the housework, shopping, etc, but it's happening, well, in shorter snatches over a longer period. The leg cramps have come back. It's distracting, and just not nice.

My work area looks like some kind of low-impact, executive gym (but with much cheaper decor). In addition to the laptop, books, notes etc, there is an exercise ball, a yoga mat, and an airer with towel and swimming togs hanging over it. Add a beanbag and a few cushions and you get the idea. This is because, over my long period of getting things done in short snatches, I need to stop and stretch the achey bits out, rest them quietly, and eventually immerse them all in water for twenty minutes so they can go back to their normal size. This leaves much less time for goofing off, and goofing off was so one of my favourite things. I suppose you could say this is nature's way of reconciling me to the end of pregnancy, the process of labour, and the start of infant care. Nature is such a bitch sometimes. She couldn't think of a nicer way?

Nevertheless, with a little extra work, I am still able to keep the symptoms under control, which is one more thing to be thankful for on top of everything else. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll go and be thankful for it on my exercise ball.



Short Version: 32wk appointment, hospital tour, prenatal classes, shopping list - all coming along fine.

The Wardrobe Begins

A couple of days ago, we got our first baby clothes. My sister sent them, and they arrived in the mail. One T-shirt says, "If you think I'm cute, you should see my aunt." Apparently she considered, but eventually decided against, writing her phone number underneath.

When I took the clothes out of the package, Mr Bea took them to look at. "They're so tiny!" he breathed. "Are babies really that small?" I had to gently point out the tags that read, "Size 3-6 months."

My mum and mum-in-law also announced purchases, so I gave in and bought a few cloth nappies to round out the mini-collection.

Prenatal 101

Saturday was our first prenatal class. Friday night, Mr Bea asked if there was anything he should have read up on beforehand. "I think the purpose of the class is to learn stuff, rather than to show off your knowledge," I responded. Nevertheless, when I arose in the morning, he was already on the couch studying Breastfeeding Made Simple. I raised an eyebrow at him, and he said, "Hey - this could totally be on the exam."

In this first of three classes, we discussed normal labour, starting with anatomy.

"This is the cervix," the midwife said, referring to her poster. "In this picture it's closed, as it has been since it let through that tiny little sperm who swam up your reproductive tract and fused with the egg to make your baby." Um, yeah, whatever.

There was a run-through of the stages of labour. "Early signs might include nesting behaviour such as cleaning and tidying..."

"That'll be easy to spot," Mr Bea whispered from the corner of his mouth.

"...or irrational displays of emotion..."

"No help there, though."

Lastly, we learned some massage techniques. Mr Bea was instructed in light massage, sacral counterpressure, hip and pelvic massage, head and jaw massage, and various pressure points. "So how did you all feel about that?" the midwife asked when we were done.

"Maybe you should set him a homework assignment for practice," I replied. "After all, massage is going to be on the exam, right?"

The Fortnight Zone

We have hit SOB's fortnight zone. No more monthly appointments for us - the longest I'll go without seeing him from now til the end is two weeks. Next appointment we get to discuss our "birth plan", which in our classes is more accurately referred to as our "birth philosophy". Everything is fine, except that the boy, who is apparently already big enough to fit into newborn nappies, has decided that the normal presentation he's been dutifully displaying on pretty much every ultrasound so far is getting kind of old, so he's trying out breech. We're not to worry about that until next appointment. I think I'll be not-worrying in cat-stretch position, for what it's worth.

Tour of Delivery

After the appointment we went on a hospital tour, and learned all about hospital policies such as immediate bonding and breastfeeding, rooming in, free lactation advice and consultation, etc etc.

"Is it your first baby?" the tour guide asked us, and I affirmed that it was. "It'll be very exciting for you!" she enthused, to which I answered, "Not too exciting, I hope." Everyone laughed except me.

Near the end, we went up to the fifth floor to see the VIP suit where local celebrities and other people who have much more money than we do stay. The fertility clinic is on the fifth floor. A couple excused themselves as they shuffled from the back of the lift through our tour group of half a dozen heavily pregnant women and their doting partners and down the hall in the direction of the IVF centre. Most of the group moved aside absently and continued listening to the tour guide. Mr Bea and I turned to watch them disappear round the corner.

I hope they get here one day.


Short Version: complaint story about a restaurant's chef.

Sometimes I forget to specify that I want my meat well done on account of the pregnancy and the parasites and so forth, and sometimes the wait staff forget to ask. And sometimes I mistakenly assume things, like that crumbed, fried fish will come thoroughly cooked.

This is no problem.

But when I apologetically explain that I should have requested it well done in the first place and could you humour me by just please putting it on for a little longer til it's cooked through because, you know, doctor's orders, the long-term welfare of my unborn child, etc, there's something I want you to understand.

I don't care, chef, if you feel insulted for some unknown reason.

I don't care, chef, if your "professional opinion" is that this is how the fish is supposed to be cooked.

I don't care, chef, if the fish will end up tough, or dry.

I don't care, chef, if it will take too long (and thanks, by the way, for deliberately making me wait forty minutes until others had finished and were getting restless before serving my revised meal, and I hope that made you feel better about your inadequate penis size).

I don't care, chef, if you send the dish backwards and forwards from the kitchen via an increasingly uncomfortable and apologetic waiter with fresh arguments as to why I should just eat it like it is.

I don't care, chef. I don't care. Why would you even think I'd care?

You see, I'm too busy, monsenior fricking chef, considering the fact that I don't want to risk ingesting live parasites that might cause permanent disability to my child. It's what you might call an "overriding concern". If you think I'm going to stop caring about that for long enough to bow to your overly-weighty ego (or perhaps your insecurity complex?), then you are profoundly confused in your thinking.

And just, like, deeply, freakishly stupid.

And a prick.



Our neighbours moved out a couple of weeks ago, and so far, no-one else has moved in. On the weekend I was just stepping out when some prospective tenants came to view, and in a prospective-neighbourly way I said hi.

"Hello!" they responded, and then, giving a downward flick of the eyes towards my belly, one added, "Do you live next door?"

"Yes, we've been here about a year now*," I told them, turning the key in the door and pressing the button for the lift. "You're looking at moving in, then?"

"Well, we're just having a look," they replied, as the real estate agent grinned woodenly in the background and vaguely tried to usher them inside. The lift came, we said our goodbyes and I stepped inside.

I wonder if, two seconds after the door closed, they turned to the agent and said, "You know what? I think we've seen enough."


--
*Tenancies in Singapore are generally two years long.


Short Version: leftovers cooked up - recording pregnancy signs, arguing over trifling organisational matters to do with nurseries, plus thanks for the comments on the last post.

Thanks for the breastfeeding advice. I feel reassured. I'm still thinking about the pros and cons of various buying/renting options as per suggestions, but in a much more relaxed and informed way. Also, cheers for the extra book suggestions. And the tips! Some really great tips.

Today, however, I need you to weigh in on a much more important subject: should a reference book on parenting be classified under "book" or "nursery item"? I say "nursery item". Mr Bea says "book". Having to move them backwards and forwards across the house in a passive-aggressive ritual of unspoken marital defiance is getting kind of old, but at the same time I know from experience that it could go on more or less forever before one of us gives in.

--

I haven't been recording signs and symptoms well this last month, and I feel like I might regret it, or not, who knows? In any case:

  • I started getting Braxton Hicks contractions around the beginning of the third trimester. Mr Bea witnessed one and expressed surprise over how it looked. Apparently he was expecting my stomach to go inwards with each contraction. I pointed out how muscles get hard and bulgy when they contract and tried using my arm muscles as an example, but unfortunately I don't have any arm muscles.

  • I started being able to feel daily foetal movement from, say, 24-25 weeks. Gradually I started being able to feel movements more than once a day. At around thirty weeks the movements have become fairly regular and frequent, and much more varied. This chain of events didn't build steadily - rather, The Foetus has had wriggly and non-wriggly days. Even now he has quieter days where I have to concentrate a bit more to make sure he's moving enough. I can't feel as much when I'm walking around.

  • I got swollen ankles this one time. I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't had OHSS. When I had OHSS I tripped over the carpet in the hospital and went crashing to the ground with my drip stand. I broke the tubing and fluid and blood went everywhere, but it looked and sounded more dramatic than it was, which, by the way, is always the best type of accident to have, especially when the nurses are already running around like chooks with their heads off and you've just added extra jobs to their list, because they'll look upon you with sympathy and appreciate your "bravery" instead of clicking their tongues at your clumsiness and refusing to bring you your pain meds on time.

    However, I did manage to hit my shin on something as I fell, and the other night I noticed that I had an indent where the scar is. Except it wasn't an indent - just everything else was outdented. But only slightly. I went for a gentle swim and that seemed to help. It hasn't happened again since.

  • I am coping in this heat. I have been using the fiendishly clever trick of adjusting my physical activities to keep myself within a comfortable range. I do pretty much all of my exercise in the aircon (yoga/shopping centres), in the pool, or after dark, and I never overdo things. I don't, however, know how much longer I can cope with people asking me how I'm coping in the heat. On the other hand, thankyou for your kind concern, and please don't think I'm ungrateful for it. I only sound ungrateful. Ok, fine, I'm an ungrateful bitch, but it's the hormones. Can we get back to the book classification question?


Short Version: I had another appointment, doppler scan, all fine, stopping clexane. I then embarked on research into breastfeeding. Includes book review for Breastfeeding Made Simple.

So I was standing in this shop the other day after my appointment.

Wait. Let me go back a bit. I had another appointment to do the doppler thingy and decide what we're going to do about this clexane business. Upshot - all the relevant blood vessels, placental structures, and associated bits and pieces (such as the amniotic fluid, kidneys, etc) look fine, so SOB suggested it might be time to wave the injections goodriddancebye and maybe transition to low-dose aspirin only, or maybe not, considering there's no discernable medical need for it in my case but it might make me feel less freaked out about stopping meds. Anyway, after much frantic googling I decided to go hands-free. I've just had my first medication-free twenty-four hours since... mid-July 07. I am nervous enough to keep having to sit down and do a kick count for reassurance, but the fact that I can sit down any time and do a kick count for reassurance is making this a tremendous amount easier than other parts of the process have been, so all in all I'm ok. But what was I talking about? Yes - after the appointment.

To celebrate, I dropped in to buy more baby stuff on the way home, just a couple of sheets, nothing fancy, except suddenly I found myself in conversation with a sales assistant on the subject of breast pumps. I wasn't actually in the market for a breast pump, and she thought that very cavalier of me. "If you want to breast feed, you need to buy a good-quality pump before the birth," she warned, sternly.

Now, I know this isn't true, on account of the fact that the practice of breastfeeding predates the invention of the breast pump by some hundreds upon thousands of years. Which isn't to say I'm convinced I'll never need a pump, or that I think it'll all come naturally if I just shut my eyes and really believe, but starting out on the assumption that a prenatally-purchased breast pump is the only way I'll ever achieve my goal when I don't, at this time, have any reason to think I'll be worse off than the average mother seems a little... whacky? I'm looking for a more appropriate word, but I can't find it. It sounds like someone trying to earn a nice commission off a $700 breast pump, is what it sounds like*.

In response, I decided to go out to a bookshop and buy a book on breastfeeding, because as we all know, if some biological process isn't working out for you it's probably just because you're ill-informed, as any Aunt Jane will attest. In any case, I was dismayed to find that the first two books I picked up both espoused the same opinion - that a prenatally-purchased breast pump is essential for successful breastfeeding. They also went on about how different types of pumps serve different purposes, but failed to say how you'd know which to buy ahead of time when you don't even know what your supply's going to be like yet. Both turned me off further by promptly following this with dire warnings about using a fail-safe method of contraception whilst breastfeeding, although, to be fair, we were planning to use the failsafe contraceptive method of not doing IVF, so perhaps I'm on their side with that one after all. Anyway, I ended up shelving both of these and instead buying Breastfeeding Made Simple, which I wish to review even though I haven't finished it yet.

First I'll say this: be careful with this book if you're going to beat yourself up in the event that, through no fault of your own, things don't work out. The authors do acknowledge that special situations can stuff things up - they even have a whole chapter on physical or health issues - but first you'll have to read about how much stupider and less healthy formula-fed babies become not to mention the importance of the breastfeeding act, as distinct from the milk itself, and to be honest I think they cross the line at some points and enter into the realms of breast-feeding hysteria**. And they needn't think I'm impressed by their constant quoting of studies, because I happen to know that you can find a study saying almost anything if you really look***. So whilst, yes, I'm on board with and motivated by the idea that breastfeeding is a good first choice - I already bought the book, didn't I? - I'm just not convinced that adding a little formula or a bottle here and there is going to cause the world to end, or the baby's head to spontaneously combust.

If you can get past that, however, the rest is good, common sense. I like the way they talk about the history of breast-feeding and the evolution of certain practices and myths. I like the little notes on comparative cultural and species practices. I like the way they explain the normal, mammalian physiology and how their advice stems from it - in short, the way they want you to understand breastfeeding, rather than just learning it by rote - and I like the way this flows naturally into the area of trouble-shooting. I love that they don't mention breast pumps until page 188****. And I love the fact that, despite being a US publication, they realise that most of the rest of the world uses the metric system. Because seriously, what the fuck is an ounce, anyway*****?

Through my reading so far, and putting the "motivational" scare tactics about the importance of breastfeeding firmly into perspective**, I have started to gain confidence that, if things don't work out the way we want them to, it won't be my fault. It won't be, for example, because I didn't purchase the right breast pump at the proper time. At the end of the day, that's exactly what I was after, and I couldn't really ask for more from any publication. I guess we'll just see how it all plays out in real life*.



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*If you have assvice about feeding or other books, please feel free to comment. I'm not hostile to assvice, I just reserve the right to ignore it at my own peril.

**I don't want to frighten you off. Almost all of the book is quite sympathetic, they acknowledge and try to provide information on (and extra references for) specific problems, and the amazon reviews have people saying it helped them with their "breastfeeding baggage" and was "encouraging and empowering". It's just some of the stats they quote at the start about the importance of breast milk might be a bit hard on those who ultimately can't make it work.

***Actually, I am a bit impressed, just not as impressed as they seem to think I should be.

****The book is some 250 pages long. This is many more than the other books. The pages are also bigger and with smaller type. Mr Bea raised his eyebrows when he read the claim that it was "making things simple", but this sort of ground-up approach always takes a lot of space to put forwards. Anyway. I'm a geek. It fits.

*****Don't answer that. I don't feel like I should have to know.

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P.S. New belly pic up. Email me if you're confused about where.


Short Version: Other people comment on my pregnancy.

The woman at the local roti prata shop pointed to my belly and said, "Seven months." Then she waited, watching me keenly to see my reaction. "Close," I said, doing a quick weeks-to-months conversion, and she grinned smugly. I suppose this means I look roughly the "right" size, whatever that is.

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I met someone I hadn't seen for some time. "What's this?" she asked. And then she added, "Well done!"

Well done? I've always thought "congratulations" was pushing it slightly. Congratulations sits more comfortably with exam results or career achievements in my mind. Congratulating someone on their pregnancy seems a little like congratulating them on being tall. Nevertheless, it's the word we use to convey what we actually mean, so I don't spend much time thinking about it. But "well done"?

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Last Sunday, someone asked how far along I was. When I said twenty-nine weeks, she exclaimed, "Oh! So the baby could be born any day now!" I replied that I was hoping for a good 'nother month or two, thinking, holy fuck - did I just say as little as a month? "Babies come when they're ready," the woman counteracted sternly. Don't I know that, already.

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**Actually, I have another one:

This guy who works at our apartment praised me for going out and doing the shopping on foot. "Exercise very good," he said, giving me a big thumbs-up and an encouraging smile. "Very good for pregnancy. Just slowly, slowly - don't fast, lah. Very good!" This, and a few other comments (like the ones about how healthy I look) make me feel as if I'm gathering a little cheer squad around me, chanting, "Go Pregnant Bea!" as I enter the home straight. Which is very nice, but of course I need it now far less than I've needed it over the last few years. Mental note: must try to encourage others more randomly. It's hard to tell who really needs it.


Speaking of films, I finally saw Juno. I know - the discussion is over, but wait, because I have this one thing to add.

**Warning - post may contain spoilers.**



The two chief complaints I heard about this movie were that the adoption process doesn't work like that, which is something I'm going to leave aside for now, and that the whole thing was too pat and stereotyped. Highly-strung infertile career woman who would probably fall pregnant if she relaxed meets working-class pregnant teen willing to place for adoption and they all live happily ever after. I want to focus on the highly-strung infertile career woman. Because this is an infertility blog and it's the angle I identify with most directly.

Maybe my expectations were set too low, because I really didn't find Jenny's portrayal that bad. The first time we meet her is as she desperately puts the house in order before the initial visit. The picture frames are straightened and minutely arranged, the handtowels are monogrammed and perfectly aligned. In any other film setting, I would have thought, "We're about to meet an anal control-freak," but not this time. This time I thought, "We're about to meet a woman who, after years of heartbreak and turmoil, is nervous as hell and terrified of losing this chance." The careful arranging of picture frames might have drawn soft snickers from a few members of the audience, but I thought, "Don't laugh - you'd be the same."

So too at the merest blips in Juno's behaviour - like turning up unexpectedly, or an out-of-the-blue groan. "Is something wrong? Is there a problem with the baby?" she'd ask, with an edge of panic in her voice. And I thought, yes, I know how she feels. I'd ask as well.

And so, in all probability, would you.

See, it's not like I've traditionally been described as highly strung. On the contrary, I've been assured, in the past, that I come across as calm and laid-back. What I saw in Vanessa was not a woman who, by nature, was an anal perfectionist wound tight enough to snap at any moment, but a woman whose life, for the past five years, has been about loss and disappointment, hard work without rewards, plans that crumble and gambles that always work out for the worst. I saw a woman trying, but struggling, to live in hope. I saw grief. I saw the wounds of infertility.

I think it's important to remember, when you meet someone who's "just typical" of "that sort" that they rarely started off that way. It's so often not that they came to where they are by being who they are - rather that the same forces concurrently shaped both their situation and their personality.

When reminded, most of us claim to know this already. But when we can't be bothered with sympathy, we conveniently forget.


I got an email from someone just dying to get cracking on the next IIFF, so I've just posted the theme! It's a tight deadline - screening from Saturday 29th March - but I know you can do it! Anyway, read all about it on the site!

Whilst you're there, or, actually, in addition to going there, you might want to look at Stars - a short made for Rob's wife after the stillbirth of their son. It's being entered in Rumschpringe: A Very Short Film Competition, and to get anywhere it needs to be rated and favourited by as many people as possible. Go! View! Before Tuesday! Bring tissues...

*I almost forgot - any prizes won by the Stillmans will be donated to Ephrata's Neonatal Infant Care Unit.


I kind of wanted to get that last post off the front page before the weekend. I have a wonderful husband and I wouldn't swap him for anyone. Except maybe... no, let's just stick with that first sentence. Because, actually, it's true.

However, I don't have much to say. Maybe you could skip this post and go over to say hey to Vee and Max, because they do need support.

For those still reading, I should probably confess, after the bravado of Monday's baby purchases, that everything* is still sitting in its original packaging in the spare room (aka The Room That Doesn't Exist) with the receipts securely taped to the front. However, I did book prenatal classes. I guess I'm going to need to know about labour and delivery either way, and quite frankly it would be silly, at this point, to prepare for everything except the possibility of a live, take-home baby. I considered going in unprepared for any sort of good outcome, but I think it would be overdoing the pessimism slightly.

Because, check me out! I reached the end - no no, the beginning** - of another gestational week! Without any risk factors for preterm labour, stillbirth, pre-eclampsia, um, let's stop this list short by just adding "or anything else bad", I sometimes feel silly singing, "Whee!" as I tick off the little milestones. I imagine some of you reading, thinking, "Lady, you don't know the meaning of either fear or relief." So I want to set the record straight before we go any further - when it comes to last-trimester bollocksing-up of pregnancy outcomes, I do not know the meaning of either fear or relief. But I still get a small sense of victory each Friday as the ticker ticks over. So, for what it's worth, and with all due consideration, "Whee!"


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*ie. both things

**It's a fine line between too much pessimism and too much perkturdiness. We all waver.


Short Version: 28 week appointment gloriously boring. We celebrate the third trimester by buying not one, but two actual baby items, and I try out my brand-spanking new Shrewish Nag persona.

I don't have too much to say about today's appointment. Things are normal. They measured the same stuff as always and it was all normal. Except for the bits where I morphed into a shrewish nag. That was not like me at all.

When the first of our friends conceived (only shortly after we'd started trying ourselves), somebody in the group came across this paper about the enhanced cricket-hunting abilities of mother rats (upon which we all made lame jokes about getting her around to our houses to do pest control, whether she'd eaten any particularly nice insects lately... well, I told you they were lame). The jokes were based around the idea that pregnancy miraculously imbues one with various super-human powers. It's the "you grow an extra pair of hands when you have children" conceit. You know the one. Which, of course, is not how the paper says it at all.

The paper clearly concludes that it's not some magical superpower that comes packaged with the pregnancy hormones, like the ability to stack on weight or forget the question that just popped into your head within the space of time it takes you to draw the breath to ask it*. No, it's nothing as mystical and magical as that - it's just necessity plus practice. Which leads me to believe that anyone who needs to multitask like crazy at any job with demanding response times is going to have an enhanced ability to hunt crickets, metaphorically speaking, and the fact that, for most people, parenting is the busiest, urgentist, and multitaskingest job they'll ever have in their lives doesn't mean a childless person can't possibly acquire the same skills in a completely different way. Which means there's hope for us all. So goes the thought I'm clinging to.

You see, it's since I've started having to arrange my entire day around cooking, cleaning up after cooking, eating the very second I feel hungry, grocery shopping via public transport in a city where I need to go to five separate and widely-dispersed markets to do a full shop, and still getting the same amount of everything else done that I would normally do, that I've become a much better multitasker than I used to be, whereas over the same period of time, Mr Bea's life has gone on more or less as usual, which means he's still multitasking at the old rate.

And it's driving me batshit freaking insane.

Suddenly it seems like he never gets anything done. This led, earlier today, to the main problem, which is that, in the grand tradition of a hundred generations of housewives before me, I have started to bark orders at him. Don't question me - just do this, do it now, and have it finished within five minutes because I can't stand your fucking duffing about any more. Except in the long term that doesn't teach anything and is irritating to us both. And in the short term it makes him slow down and act stupid, just to be perverse.

So now I finally understand how it all happens, I have only two questions remaining: for me, it took the deep-seated urgency of a voracious pregnancy appetite to whip my skills into better shape. What will it take for him? And how soon can we start with that?

Because if I have to go through another shopping trip like this morning's, just to buy a co-sleeping cot and sling that I'd already decided on beforehand such that the entire trip should have taken ten minutes at most including waiting for the sales assistant to become available, I'm seriously going to have to get Mel to change me over to the Single Mum By Choice category on her blogroll**.

That feels much better. To finish on a positive - third trimester! Baby stuff! Improved multitasking skills! I wonder when it starts feeling "real"?


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*Yeah, well, I'm still sticking to my "pregnancy hormone" excuse.

**Don't worry, I'm not really serious about this at all, I'm just ranting and I probably shouldn't even joke. Although if anyone has husband assvice, feel free to add it to the comments.


Short Version: The Foetus vs My Sleep - rounds one and two of this exciting battle. Also, happy Spring Festival, and have a shiny and prosperous Chinese New Year!

A week ago, I informed Mr Bea that we had probably, all going well, had our last night of decent sleep for quite some time. The Foetus, you see, has started kicking hard enough to wake me up. A week later, I realise I should have placed more trust in my physiological abilities. Let me explain.

I'm a heavy sleeper. My body craves sleep. My mind craves sleep. In my past, my body and mind have conspired to produce awe-inspiring feats of sleep protection, well above and beyond the call of duty, or even, perhaps, evolutionary sense. My parents still tell the story of how I fell out of my holiday-home bed with nary a wakening. My record for unconsciously and repeatedly hitting the snooze button is two full, consecutive hours. I can carry on whole conversations with people who use the trick to make sure I really am awake this time, whilst serenely slumbering on. I can even answer the phone. "It's as if," my mother has sometimes commented, between clenched teeth, "you're still trying to catch up on the fifteen straight months of sleep you missed right at the very beginning." In fact, when next you wonder why babies scream at the same number of decibels as a jackhammer operates but ten times the stomach-clenching urgency, think of me. People like me are the reason for that.

So I should have known that my brain would have no trouble working around the slightly unusual sensation of being jostled from within. Last night, for example, I was in the middle of a dream. The plane flight I was on had crashed onto our old highschool sports oval, and the survivors - of which I was one - were being asked to audition for a new reality TV show. As I stood chatting to one of my fellow-contestants, I started to feel a kicking sensation in my belly.

"I didn't know you were six months pregnant," said a passing member of the crew, pausing beside us.

"Yeah," I confirmed, matter-of-factly. "It comes and goes." And right on cue, as we watched, my bulge stopped wobbling and flattened into the usual, non-pregnant shape of my abdomen once again.

I slept through til morning, at which time I awoke to find the pregnancy hadn't really gone at all - thank goodness. Never did find out about the reality show, though.


Everything feels a bit... thing... this week, what with the loss of Sylvia, Claire and Lucy. Forgive me if I don't sound as whacky as I would have liked. I can't imagine they feel like the world should keep going, just at the moment.

Short Version: I talk about parenting assvice.

First, there was the hazing, which I brushed off, laughing merrily. Oh, how merrily*. Then came the pregnancy assvice, which I shook my head at. (Did you know I shouldn't be picking things up off the floor, let alone doing any housework "in my condition"? Apparently it's true. I should either hire a maid or make my husband do it all. My job, so they tell me, is to remain seated with my feet up eating healthy, pregnancy-safe foods - preferably with "the girls" - and maybe popping out to yoga every now and again. I know! I would have fallen pregnant much sooner if I'd realised. Because it sounds so relaxing.) This week is an extra-special occasion, however, because I have received my very first ever piece of parenting assvice.

I feel so... accepted. So much a part of the club.

I have dreams in my head, you see, of trying all sorts of hippyshit parenting methods, such as co-sleeping, babywearing, exclusive breastfeeding, and yes, even cloth nappies. It's as if the infertility taught me nothing. My cloth nappying plans are the ones which have become the subject of specific criticism. Apparently it will be too much washing (quite a shock after all that time off housework, I suppose), will be dirty and smelly, will promote nappy rash, will be fiddly, and just generally won't work well enough. Now, I've read a lot on both sides of the cloth/disposables debate in reference to all these points, so I quickly accepted that no amount of rational argument would go anywhere. Instead, I pointed out how cute cloth nappies can be. Somehow, everyone seemed to think this was such a valid and important point, that we were left with nothing further to say.

The thing is, I started out wanting an easy, spontaneous conception and a low-intervention pregnancy. In reality, I have worked with what I've had to work with. But there was nothing inherently wrong with my first choice, as many happy couples will testify. So yes, I acknowledge your cloth nappy concerns, and I admit that there are pros and cons and that things might not turn out as peachy as all that. But if the best you can do is, "You'll see!" then you're wasting your breath. Because, trust me, I'm well on board with that idea.


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*Last night The Foetus was tumbling around and I was thinking contentedly about how great it all was when suddenly it occurred to me: holy fuck, that whole baby's got to come out of there at some stage! I expect this thought to represent itself periodically.


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