I have called an emergency meeting with my Inner Therapist.

She sits primly on a straight-backed chair that looks like it came from St Vinnie's, with every good intention of re-upholstery, and was quickly demoted to the spare room. I sprawl on the carpet.

"Don't I get a couch?" I ask.

"You don't pay me," she answers, without looking up, "and I don't buy couches. Now. Why are we here?"

"It was the text message."

"Ah yes. The one where you got invited to coffee on Sunday with those friends you've barely seen all year. You know - your best ones. People go to therapy a lot because of that sort of thing."

"It's not just the coffee."

"The cake, too, huh?"

I leave a dignified silence where, otherwise, an undignified reply would be.

"It's your pregnant friend, isn't it? When you started trying, she hadn't even conceived her first. Now she's six months pregnant with her second." Inner Therapist is getting a bored, kind of glazed expression and I can see her mentally reshuffling her "dealing with other people's pregnancies" tape into the machine.

"I don't think it's that."

"You don't? Are you sure? I've got a really good broken record about it?"

"I know. Look... there's a different pattern here. Last night: Mr Bea's friend comes to town. Skipped it. No children involved. Well, I'm using a rather strict definition there based solely around physical age..."

"But you digress."

"Yes, um. Tonight: housewarming. Not going. Next weekend: work colleague's birthday. Declined. Cake in the tearoom last Thursday evening at work - couldn't make it. Too busy staring at the wall in front of me."

"So you're worried you're becoming antisocial."

"No!"

"Sounds like you're becoming pretty antisocial to me."

"Well yes, I am. But it doesn't worry me."

"I'm lost."

"You're my therapist! I'm lost! You help me find my way!"

"Bea, I've had a hard week. If you don't like it, you can make your own narky comments."

"Look, sorry. Ok, here's the thing. I'm feeling fine again now. I'm not depressed - I'm totally handling it. I'm just exhausted. I just want to be left alone."

"Just want to be with yourself?"

"Yes."

There is a long silence whilst we look at each other. I nod. I shrug and nod. I waggle my head and eyebrows slightly to indicate how completely it's all been summed up. I break eye contact. I look at my hands. I pick at my fingernails.

"Ok... no."

"I didn't think so."

"How do you do that?"

"It's my job. It's what you don't pay me for."

Inner Therapist sighs in a way which indicates truce and plops herself onto the carpet in front of me. "There are people you don't mind hanging out with, aren't there? Even look forward to socialising with?"

"Yes."

"And they are?"

"J, and S. Mr Bea. My sister. The people in blogland and on the internet."

"I'm sensing a common theme here."

"They know."

"Could it be you're just tired of lying? Of shrugging and telling people there's nothing going on? No plans for the future?"

"Yeah, probably. But the thought of explaining myself to all those people makes me more weary than ever. J, S, Mr Bea and the internet folk know and understand."

Inner Therapist nods, and stares into the middle distance.

"You're not replying."

She sighs. "I'm tired too, Bea. I don't have the answers tonight. Give me a raincheck?"

"Sure. Raincheck. Maybe the answer will just materialise..."


Monday

On Monday morning we wake up, argue about how to pack the car, and set off. We do a milk run through Brisbane, stopping off to buy, borrow and reclaim essential items we should have organised earlier. We haven't, for the same reason we haven't booked accommodation or flights. Because this holiday, like everything in our lives at the moment, is subject to change or cancellation without notice. It all revolves around IVF. Today, we're seven days post 3-day transfer.

It takes us about half an hour to get lost in what, essentially, is our own back yard. Mr Bea shouts at me to stop trying to find short cuts. I giggle and insist on turning right, because it's prettier. And it is. But the whole world seems beautiful today.

Several hours later, we drop in for a surprise coffee with my sister and her three-year-old niece-in-law. The little girl comes over all shy and my sister, in a misguided attempt to make us feel better about our childlessness, complains loudly about how ill-behaved the tyke's been all week until her mother, who knows nothing of our circumstances, starts getting annoyed and defensive.

I step in whilst things are still polite and say, looking kindly but pointedly at my sister, that I'm sure she's a good girl really. Unfortunately this earns me a lengthy lecture on the lifetime achievements of this precious little accident.

They offer us dinner and a sofabed by the fireplace for the night.

We decide to eat and press on. At Tenterfield, the caravan park lady offers us a van, but says our dog will have to sleep in the car. It will be minus ten degrees. We pitch our tent in the dark.

And that's when it starts. The spotting. The cramping. The feeling that, once again, it's all about to come crashing down.

Tuesday

On Tuesday we waste a lot of time stopping for a cooked breakfast. Overnight I have calculated the cumulative chance of success from all the transfers we've done so far. Three embryos gives us fifty-fifty. We've called heads, and it looks like we've thrown tails. But that's no reason to panic. We just need to keep tossing the coin. I shed some quiet tears, but my jaw is set and I remain composed.

The highway twists and turns along some invisible boundary between identically featureless sheep paddocks, which soak up the landscape in every direction.

And the spotting stops.

Later that day I shoot myself up with hCG in the carpark of a roadhouse just outside Dubbo. I use the empty cardboard box as a sharps bin, and put the remaining drugs back into our brand new car fridge, bought specially for the purpose.

("But why do you need a fridge?" my sister had asked, repeatedly, shooting down my feeble excuses until finally I sighed and admitted that it was for transporting IVF drugs. "Oh," she'd replied. And changed the subject.)

We make it to West Wyalong, which is full to the brim with tourists, except for two tent sites in the caravan park at the end of town. We hide the dog in a brown zip-up bag and afterwards realise the park is dog-friendly. I boil a kettle in the camp kitchen for hot water bottles whilst Mr Bea changes into his thermals and cleans his teeth.

Wednesday

In the morning, we strike camp and hit the road, telling our campervan neighbours we are headed for the Great Ocean Road. "You won't make that all in one hit," they say knowingly.

I shrug, matter-of-fact. "Yes we will."

One hundred kilometres down the road and we nearly run out of petrol. We are stupid, stupid. Our prayers take us into Grong Grong, where we find we have just enough cash between us to buy petrol from the only pump in this town of 150 people. The children want to pat our dog, but their grandfather shoos them inside.

That night, we reach the Great Ocean Road.

Thursday

The next day we hit the usual sights. The Twelve Apostles. Broken London Bridge. The Arch. My camera is on the blink, so Mr Bea takes photos with his mobile. It rains. It shines. Someone tells us Queensland won the Origin. I am wearing a maroon duffle coat which is not as warm as it looks.

We talk about Australian microcultures. In the age-old rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, the former is often acused of being Americanised and the latter, hopelessly tied to Mother Country's apron strings. The puritanical "Zero Tolerance" speeding campaign of New South Wales supports this view, with radar-gun-toting police officers billboarded all down the highway. By contrast, Victoria's "Wipe Off Five" slogan seems positively European in its liberal permissiveness. We get pulled over for a random inspection and told to fix our windscreen, which has a crack in it. Then we return to our farmstay accommodation, where I look bitterly at the sauna thinking about how I'm 99% sure I can use it, but holding back on the basis of that 1% hope. Shit. I hate how important that 1% can seem.

Friday

We walk on the beach. We read. We battle to start the fire. We lie around in the spa, as it rains on us from above. I worry. I check for more spotting. I begin to hope again.

Saturday

Loading up the car, we stop off at some wineries to purchase a 30th birthday present for our Werribee host. I offer to drive, because I can't stand reliquishing control on such a road - with its hairpin turns and steep drops onto a rocky ocean floor. When Mr Bea works this out, he is angry. He is hurt that I don't have faith in him, in his ability to carry us safely to our destination, even along such a treacherous path. He is dangerously close to drawing a metaphor, but leaves it unsaid.

We arrive at our friend's house and help prepare the festivities. Most of his friends have young children. I try to talk to them, but everything revolves around their babies. Polite small talk about our drive down turns into long descriptions of their lives as new parents in two sentences or less. I volunteer to cook the barbeque. It is easier when the topics are restricted to rare, medium or well done. Later I feel guilty accepting praise for my "selfless" toil.

In reality, these people scare me. People, I realise, scare me. I have become very good at coping, within the confines of my little social bubble. But far from the animated young woman who graced such occasions with her witty conversation and easy laugh but a year ago, I have become a mere shadow, looking constantly for occupations to keep me from talking to people. To keep them from talking to me. All the while wishing they would just go home.

Sooner or later, these days, the small talk turns to questions of family. Do we have one? Do we want one? There are singles and couples, bragging about their carefree lifestyle and claiming they are years away from that sort of thing. I want to tell them they are fools. Their fertility is declining as we speak. When they finally begin to try will it be too late? Then there are those who confidently claim they will start a family in about two years' time. I long to burst their bubble. I envy the fact that things will probably turn out exactly the way they've planned.

And the parents. The ones who complain. The ones who rhapsodise. The ones who titter about their accidents. The ones who discuss trying for number two, number three. I have little in common with them, now. I used to see my future self in them. Now we are walking on divergent paths, getting steadily further apart.

As the party dies away, I visit the toilet. The spotting has started again. I am distraught. I excuse myself to my room, where I begin to sob, alone.

Sunday

Sometime after midnight, Mr Bea comes to bed. I tell him I want to go home. He is mildly drunk, and gets very annoyed. We're not due to head back for a couple of days. We've come all this way. We haven't seen D in ages. We've barely managed to catch up. If I'm so sure about the result, waiting another day or two won't make a difference in the long run.

But it will make a difference now. I try to explain, but I'm failing. He's squeamishly refused, in the past, to hear the gory physical details, but tonight he will hear them all. Because he needs to understand that it's not just psychological. It's about blood, and mucous, and strange sensations within my pelvis. It's about hormones - both natural and artificial - and their tears and snot. It's about sex. It's about how the hot, urgent arousal of an LH surge becomes the languid lovemaking of the luteal phase until the hormones come crashing down, leaving me like a sexless cunt who spots, and cramps, and then stops long enough to get hopeful again, and each time the seesaw tilts she hits the ground a little harder, til she's winded, and crying, and begging the playground bully to stop, please stop.

And meanwhile my period paces around in its progesterone cage like a disgruntled beast, swiping painfully at the bars every so often, making me wince, making me groan. I want it over. I want it to stop. I want it to stop now.

We sleep, fitfully. And in the morning he wakes me with a kiss and tells me to pack. We excuse ourselves from our surprised host, citing "personal stuff", and point the car northwards.

Around dusk we stop. Too many roos on the road. When we set out again, we gain a sense of security, however false, from hiding in the wake of a road train. We make it as far as Parkes.

Monday

The spotting has stopped again. I blink back tears and turn the heating down as we chew up the miles. The songs on the stereo reinterpret themselves into IVF ballads.

"Baby, I really need your love...
It's cold outside,
I'm trying to hide...."

"How can I explain personal pain?
How can I explain? My voice is in vain..."

"...Trying to catch the deluge in a paper cup.
There's a battle ahead
Many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road while you're travelling with me.
Hey now, hey now. Don't dream it's over...."

And it's funny how it hits you. Mother's Day can be fine. First birthday for your friend's boy? No problem. But all of a sudden you'll come to a railway crossing in the middle of nowhere, and you'll feel a sudden urge to turn around and tell the kids to help Dad by keeping an eye out for the train, just like your mum used to say, and all of a sudden it hurts. It hurts a lot.

On Monday night we pull into our driveway. I shower and sleep.

Tuesday

It's fifteen days post 3 day transfer. I wake as it gets light, wander down to the corner shop in my ugg boots for milk and juice, and get myself ready to go to the clinic. I kiss Mr Bea on the forehead, take his monthly rail ticket and catch the train into town.

The nurse asks me what I think. I shake my head. Did I test, then? No. I just don't think it worked. I could be wrong. Sure, I could be wrong.

They take my blood and I battle home through the peak-time crush.

And now I sit, trying to piece it all together. Trying to unearth some kind of meaning, or at least a common theme. But if it's there, I can't find it. To me, it just looks like a whole lot of shit that happened.

So I call the clinic.

And they tell me FET #3 can take place in August.


Seven Books I Love

1. Around the World In Eighty Days (Jules Verne) - the book that changed my life. I guess something about taking a gamble and then cobbling it all together as you go along. Finding a new way when the plan fails, but keeping your aim in mind. That sort of thing.

But I also took it more literally, and the story led directly to my leaving Australia in 2001 with a few toiletries and travel items plus several changes of underwear in a carry-on bag, the clothes on my back and a credit card in my pocket, vowing not to return until I'd visited all the continents of the world. I missed Antarctica (see number eight of "seven things I'd like to do before I die"). Oh, and I haven't been to South America, but I've been north, so sometimes I cheat and count it anyway.

2. Mort (Terry Pratchet) - the first gift I received from Mr Bea.

3. Last Chance To See... (Douglas Adams) - who else can make you laugh as you read (and learn to care!) about the devastation of our planet and it's environment?

4. Natural Capitalism (Hawken et al) - if you've complained about petrol prices recently you need to read this book. Only after that can we talk. Read it - it's Very Cool, and also Important.

5. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) - a great story but it was the unexpected diversions and tangents that made me go, "Huh. I never thought about it like that before." Things I never thought I'd run into in a fictional tale about a WWII cryptographer and his grandson.

6. Something by Greg Egan - I'm not sure what. Could be Diaspora. Could be Axiomatic - his short stories. But today I'm going to go with Quarantine, because the guy in it was able to choose which part of the probability curve he existed on (it's science fiction) and I really want to be able to do that at the moment.

7. A Rage To Live (Mary S Lovell) - the biography of Richard and Isobel Burton. (Richard Burton the 19th century explorer and linguist, that is.) Incidentally, also the tale of a truly inspirational involuntarily childless couple. When I think of the possibility of a life without children, I think of them.



Seven Movies I Watch (Or Have Watched) Over and Over

1. The Princess Bride - I'm pretty sure I could still recite most of it, given a push-start.

2. Father Of The Bride (Steve Martin Version) - I used to babysit for this family that stayed out past midnight and owned very few videos. But it's not bad! Not deep, not hysterically amusing, but fun.

3. The home movie I once tried to make entitled, "[Mr Bea] Goes To Work!" Editing's a bitch. Lost to the annals of time, sadly, but etched so very deeply into my memory.

4. These are all very domestic so far, aren't they? What about... Spaceballs, The Movie. The movie of my pre-teen years.

5. The Heathers. The movie of my teen years.

6. How many times counts as over and over? Because I've become relatively unobsessive-compulsive since graduating from high school. And more empowered when it comes to movie viewing choices.

7. Ok, I'm going to go out on a limb here and list A Hong Kong Jackie Chan Movie. I'm pretty sure I've never seen any individual movie in this category more than twice, but that may be splitting hairs somewhat...


---
On a more personal note: this blog will be unattended until beta day, owing to us going away for holidays. That's right! Away. On holiday.


1. His taste in comedy and sense of humour.

2. His concern for me in times of distress.

3. His willingness to put up with my moods even without explanation, and his ability to say the right thing at the right time. The second seems to have declined somewhat with age... but still solidly above average, I think.

4. The lovesick poems he wrote to me.

5. The way he looks at me, and the way he sees me.

6. Anybody ready to throw up yet? Is it time to chip in with "his tasty physique and manly ways"?

7. The easiness of our every interaction - the way it all just feels right.

Musings: There are a lot of very "me" things on this list, I've realised. Of course, the reasons I stay with him/think he's worth procreating with in any way possible are less self-centred. I promise. But when I was first attracted to him there was a whole lot of other stuff going on and, well, I guess it was just like that. A bit. At first. I've grown since then. Honest.


1. You mean apart from get pregnant like I want to?

2. But girls can do anything, can't they?

3. Get motivated enough to tick some stuff off from the first list.

4. Look skilled whilst playing sport.

5. Go through life without doing things I regret from time to time.

6. Cook anything that involves sculpting or wrapping. (Eg Fish cakes, spinach and fetta triangles... that sort of thing.)

7. Work out what photos to enlarge and hang in the living room. And where.

Musing: I don't actually feel 100% comfortable with this list. I think a lot of the things listed fall more into the category of "things I could do if only I wanted them enough and was willing to put the effort in". I think I prefer to think of things in that light. Like, I could make fish cakes, but I find it difficult and I don't feel like rising above that difficulty. But I could. If I really tried.

The only things that really belong on this list are numbers one and five. I think that's why they hurt so much.


It's become clear that doing all those lists at once is pretty exhausting. So here they are, in chapters.

1. Parent (you're going to be hearing this one a lot round this little blogging group, folks).

2. Busk - some sort of horribly earnest self-composition about how angry and unfulfilled I am being middle class. And infertile.

3. Find a job I like - maybe parenting?

4. Live for several years in an Eastern Asian country (see - that one wasn't about having babies at all).

5. Volunteer for a role in some overseas aid organisation, and, like, help people whilst exploring new cultures and stuff.

6. Um... be a grandparent?

7. Become a real live creator of... something creative. Like the author of a play, or the director of a short film. Something that gets seen by strangers. Blog doesn't count. Sorry - you guys aren't strange enough.

8. And! Visit Antarctica. If you wait several posts you'll see why I just thought of this one.

Oh! And P.S. If you're wondering what all this is about, ask Meg. She'll tell you.


People often write letters to their newborn babies, knowing it will be years before they learn to read. More before they learn to understand. But you will probably never read, or understand. So I feel strange, writing this.

Maybe it would be more fruitful to write a letter to the embryo who makes it. The special one I hope is in there - the one who will taste, touch, and witness the double edges of my maternal love, cutting both ways. But then, that would feel strange, too. Because I'm not sure that one exists. Yes, I can feel him/her in my mind - like Santa Clause, or the Tooth Fairy. People keep assuring me s/he's real, but I'm too old to accept a few cake crumbs as proof of existence.

You, however, my precarious little embryo - I can believe in you. Your life, however brief and insignificant, is as solid as anything upon this earth. As solid as a mountain, or the wind, or the history of time itself.

Tonight, you are safe. You nestle amongst your siblings, more unique than snowflakes and twice as cold. Nothing is going to harm you tonight. But tomorrow, we will set in motion a series of events which will lead to your development or demise. I am afraid for you, because the odds are against you. But I will do it anyway.

I can't leave you in safety. It doesn't make sense. Without risk, there is no gain. Without peril, there is no possibility. I only wish the danger was smaller. I won't make it go away.

But don't think I do this without regret. My decision may be clear, but my thoughts are turbid with fear and melancholy. It's the right thing to do, but baby - I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for what I'll put you through.

I hope one day you'll understand.

XO.

---
Update 26/6/06: Our little embryo survived the thaw and started to grow again. None were lost this time... none yet, at any rate. Now s/he goes into that black box of uncertainty - 16 days til we look for her on the other side.


I am having a round table, inside my head. It's being attended by various speakers, but two in particular are causing the most stir. First, there's Donor Bea - the Bea who had more embryos than she could use and decided to donate them to another couple, then went on to donate some eggs as an encore. Then there's Recipient Bea - the Bea whose ICSI failed; who turned to consider donor sperm.

Both of them are Thinking Of The Children.

"But there's not just The Children to think of," says Recipient Bea. "I mean, let's not be ageist. People over eighteen still count for something, don't they?

"You know - I'd love it if everyone's life here was simple and uncomplicated. Mummy and Daddy could have a 'special cuddle' which makes a baby. Then another - and hey presto, we're all growing up like the Brady Bunch. Except the Brady Bunch was a blended family, which is a whole complication in itself. And I guess that's my point. Things are always complicated. You do the best with what you've got.

"This is what we've got. We've got adoption, gamete/embryo donation, or giving up entirely.

"Give up? Well, frankly I can't see how that benefits anyone - especially not the donor kids. How can it be a benefit for a child to not exist?

"And adoption doesn't give me a pregnancy. I'm sorry, but pregnancy reduces my risk of contracting a highly unpleasant and life-threatening cancer, for which I have a family history. Allow me to be selfish enough for a moment to not want that. Allow me to be selfish enough to want to reduce my risks in any way possible. And if I can pretend to not be selfish for a moment, I also don't want it for Mr Bea or The Children. It's not nice for them either. I've been there.

"Which leaves us with donation. You know, I don't believe it will be the easiest road for any of us. But I believe we'd get there in the end. Me, Mr Bea, Little Bea, and Our Donor/s.

"Donor Bea - I know you understand me, or did once. Remember what it was like, and donate."

Donor Bea frowns. "I want to, but I'm worried."

"Worried about yourself, or are you Thinking Of The Children?"

"Perhaps worried about our existing children. How would it feel to have a sibling or half-sibling out there somewhere, being looked after by someone else? Perhaps worried about Mr Bea - but he's a big boy, and can speak up for himself. Certainly worried about people's expectations. What would The Parents expect of me? What would The Children expect of me?

"But these are issues I think I can muddle through. I guess mostly I'm Thinking About The Children themselves. You were the one who said it, Recip. We have a family history of cancer. We used to have issues with creating children out of our genes at all. Do you remember those times?"

"Yes, Donor, I do. But we were young, then, and overly dramatic."

"No we weren't. It was a serious concern. But facts are facts. We're probably not going to get cancer. We might not pass on any predisposition. And even if we were to get sick - we're sure we'd never regret existing. And we concluded our children wouldn't either. In spite of all.

"And in any case, we figured our possibly-cancer-predisposed genes were a long way from being worse than average. We were bright, we were, if not stunningly beautiful, at least naturally slim. On balance, we thought our genes were ok. Remember, Recip? We Thought Of The Children. And we decided to have them anyway. And Mr Bea agreed.

"But here's what we promised them, that they wouldn't suffer our anguish. We promised to be open, no matter what. We promised to tell them our whole family history. We promised they wouldn't find out, as we did, when we were already in our late teens. Because that was no time to find out. That was too hard."

"I remember, Don. I remember how angry we were, and for how long. I remember wondering how our parents could have thought they were doing the right thing. And I remember forgiving them, at last - even understanding them a little. I remember realising we wouldn't want to swap them for the world, but promising not to repeat their mistake."

"So how can I donate my genes, knowing that others may not share my view? Knowing that, even if they did, law may prevent them from accessing that information before The Child turns eighteen? How can I donate under those conditions? How can you receive?"

Recipient Bea pauses. There is the sound of a whole audience not breathing, as they wait for a reply. When Recipient draws in, finally, a long, slow breath, it echoes all the way from my head to my bowels, and even my heart stops and waits for her reply.

"I don't know. Maybe we can't."

There is an awkward silence.

"Maybe we need to change the conditions."

"I'm afraid," says Donor gently, "to remove a donor's right to anonymity. I'm afraid the donations will dry up. What would that mean for you?"

There is another pause. Then Recipient nods quietly.

"But there are more like you," she says, at length. Then she smiles, and winks. "You're just not that special, Don. There are others - more each year. We just have to find them."

"And they are...?"

"The new generation of donors. Those who are willing, not just to perform the act of donation, but also to take on the responsibilty. To be invisible, but available."

"And where does that leave the recipients - the Parents?"

Recipient Bea shrugs. "I'm not so special either. When it comes to the crunch - we'll be Thinking Of The Children."



----
This post in honour of Richard, whose blog you should visit if you haven't already.


First of all, I would like to make an apology to everyone who's been the victim of my irritating assvice lately. Yes, it's a phase. It comes and goes. Soon, it will go again. Promise.

Five Items

Fridge
Roasted artichoke hearts - two opened jars of.
Left over pregnyl, puregon, progesterone pessaries.
Hot bean paste.
Half a home-grown watermelon.
Tofu sausages.

Closet
There are less than five items in my closet at the moment.
This is a Long Story.
In fact, there are only two items: DH's interview suit, and a pair of calf-high lace-up stilettos (not part of the same outfit).
The rest is evenly strewn about the bedroom.

Car
Several wire coathangers.
A dog crate, water bowl, food bowl, and pillow.
Road maps for our city and Australia in general.
Some small change.
A mouth organ.

Handbag (Backpack)
Doggie poo bags.
A large pocket knife.
More wire coathangers.
A receipt for an FET cycle.
Several novelty keyrings, unused.


...I couldn't quite get the energy up for linkistration. Maybe I'll come back and edit in the 2ww.


I can't remember if speeches are customary at Christenings, but I'm going to make one anyway, because a lot of people have come up to me this morning to ask me about the cake.

First of all they want to know if it's our wedding cake, from all the way back in July 1999 - and yes it is so "ooh, gross, X-year-old cake, urgh" - I'll come back to that. Secondly people want to know why there's a piece missing. How intriguing - a missing piece.

Well, this morning I delivered the missing piece to Dr K's office. Dr K is our fertility specialist and we started seeing him in 2005. In 2006 we started IVF treatment, and I was in the unlucky 1-5% of patients who have the sort of complications that get you a month off work including ten days in hospital with tubes sticking out everywhere trying to decide if the side-effects of the morphine are worth enduring given that it only just takes the edge off the pain. If you like I can tell you all about it sometime.

Then we had to wait for some months until my body became reproductively capable again at which point we did technically get pregnant but only very very briefly. After that....

It was all pretty awful. Some studies have shown that infertility is almost as stressful as cancer, and other studies have shown it's worse. I really don't want to get into an argument about which is worse, and I'm not sure who's counting anyway - but my point is it was bad, and it's not just me saying it.

But it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Because it might not have worked, and it has. We would do it all again. Hell, we will be doing it all again. But anyway, you might be getting some idea here that I'm saying this for the sympathy or whatever, which I'm not.

The reason I'm telling you all this is simple. I want you people to eat some damn cake! And yes, it is X years old but you can pretty much suck it up, because if there's anyone in this room who wishes it wasn't quite so "mature" - then it's us. Nobody wishes that more than we do.

And I don't even care if you don't like fruit cake - I didn't like a single damn thing about IVF. So, you know - tough.

Here's what's going to happen. You're all going to be happy enough for us to eat the cake without complaint. Because I think we've earned it.

Hunky Dory?

Alright, well let's dig in.


There are fish again in the Aral Sea.

Fishermen are casting nets. Weathered boats are patched, repaired. The people, learning to row again.

The markets are filled with seafood once more. No longer a distant delicacy. Old recipes appear, renewed.

Older hands remember, quick, the flick and twist of scaling knives. The cut and shove of gutting knives. Unconscious memories of the flesh.

Long-forgotten things return. Welcome, cloaked in familiarity. The taste of trout. The feel of water.

The tenacity of life.


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