Several bloggers have talked about past griefs and upheavals and how it's helped them cope with their current infertility. And that's not to say it was always worth it. Some lessons just aren't worth the teaching. Nevertheless, at times like these you come to see these tiny, silver linings on that long, black cloud. For me the long black cloud was my mother's breast cancer.

To put it bluntly, my parents handled the whole thing badly. It took an awfully long time for our family to repair the fallout from that episode, and thank God we had the chance. During the seething years that followed her illness I nurtured a fervent wish to come down with some horrible, life-changing medical problem, just so I could show them how it should be done.

I know - serves me right, huh?

You see, I believe a patient has responsibilities. Responsibilities towards those who want, and try, to help. Responsibilities which, if carefully observed, will be rewarded a hundred times over in the kindness of friends and family. Because let's face it - even those who've walked in your shoes can easily forget what it's like. The rest have no hope. And few of us are lucky enough to know that one-in-a-million person whose talent it is to soothe. So if you can stand being lectured for a moment or two, I want to give you my opinion on how to be a model patient.

The biggest mistake my parents made was withholding information(1). We were given the barest essentials - less, I would say, than the essentials. Our parents would retreat pointedly to their bedroom to discuss specifics. Conversations were whispered around us. My mother was "going out" today. She would "be in hospital for a few days". With a few extra words we could have been told, quite straightforwardly, that she was having chemo, undergoing surgery, being treated with radiotherapy. Questions were not invited. Any sort of curiosity about the subject was actively discouraged. Yet when our behaviour clashed with my mother's treatment - when, for example, I asked to go out in town with friends in the middle of, unbeknownst to me, my mother's radiotherapy and high risk period for everyday infections - well, let's just say things went badly for me. The lesson is this: in order to demonstrate care you need to know there's a problem. And the more educated you are about that problem, the more likely you are to succeed in helping. As a patient, you have a responsibility to provide people with the information they need to support you. You have no business getting angry with someone who doesn't know better, unless you've first tried to make them understand.

Of course, it can be hard to rehash every aspect of your latest treatment to everyone who remembers to ask, and nobody wants to give a Problem X 101 lecture or Q&A session to every new person they tell. You need to provide this information in a way everyone will feel comfortable with. A list of resources to consult, or an appointed "public liason" officer who is equipped to pass on news and answer questions. Someone who can give out advice on what to do for you, and when, and how.

You also need to spare a thought for how your supporters feel. Perhaps they're not hurting like you, but hurting they are. Hurting, and feeling bad for focussing on themselves in your time of need. You need to give them permission to process how they feel about this. Permission to turn to someone for their own support. If you can find the energy to care for them a little, you will get it back in spades when they return, refreshed, to care for you. When my mother had breast cancer, we had no-one. Shortly after her diagnosis, she sat us down and theatrically ripped up a Kid's Helpline poster, saying, "If my children have problems, they come to me and no-one else." It was as if she was afraid, already, of disappearing from our lives. In the end the person she hurt most was herself.

Lastly, you have a responsibility to direct and correct the help you are given(2). No-one will learn how to treat you unless you teach them. Don't make them guess, and don't let mistakes become habit. Give clear and specific directions, and if people do something wrong, correct them kindly and immediately. Then praise them for trying. You don't need to get nit-picky - if they're improving, reward them and leave it at that. Next time you can expect better again. It sounds tiring, but it's less tiring than seething in resentment over inappropriate remarks. If you can't summon the energy to explain yourself, you need to tell people to leave you alone. When you do this, ask them to check back in at a specific point in the future - tomorrow, perhaps. Or simply ask them to talk to you only via your liason officer. Far from thinking you demanding or ungrateful, your supporters will be relieved to know where they stand. Believe me, I know.

For my part, I think I'm doing ok. Not "model" perhaps, but it's clear I've gained something from what our family went through. And it's worth it. For everyone. Especially for me.

Today is the day I would have been due if our first pregnancy hadn't been "chemical".

I'm not saying this because I'm having a hard day. There is no unresolved grief here. Still, it didn't seem right to let it go by without mention.

(1) I feel I should explain here, because it sounds like I'm making an in vs out of the closet argument. Most people don't know about our IVF, and I'm happy with that decision. Moreover, those that know don't know everything. We don't generally give them cycle dates dates. We don't discuss our diagnosis. I certainly don't give my mother daily cervical mucous reports, complete with details of whether there could be any "semen confusion" or not.

The point I'm trying to make above, is that you should give someone the information they need to support you. Or else stop expecting their support. For example, you might just want to tell them you're having a difficult time at the moment, and are expecting it to continue for a while. You might want to say it's about infertility, but go no further. Or you might say you're doing IVF. There are resources which address all these levels of detail, from general-purpose supporter tools to books on the medical process of ART. I don't think you should be more specific than you feel comfortable with, I just don't think you should leave them hanging.

I also think if your situation directly impacts on someone, they have the right to extra information. If your mum is taking you to the hospital for your retrieval and looking after you for the week afterwards, you really need to explain a few things to her so she's equipped and organised to help you. That you're having an IVF retrieval, for example. In other words, you need to give them a level of information which is appropriate to the level of support you're expecting from them. In much the same way I thought I, as someone living with a cancer patient, had the right to know they were having chemo on a certain day. When someone goes through pre-treatment stress and post-treatment sickness, it has a direct impact on their interactions with those living under the same roof.

I also think you should encourage people to ask questions (but not to expect answers). Asking questions shows they care and want to find out how to help you. People generally respect non-answers such as, "That's not important," or, "I don't really want to go into all that." If you give these non-answers, make sure you actively affirm it was still ok to ask. The important part of the dialogue - the subtext of showing you care enough to keep up with each other - doesn't need details. (Ok, you can go back.)

(2) As in, for example, the help registry. (Ok, and back.)

Oh good, the year nine debating team has arrived, complete with their inexplicable viewpoint that infertility is not, in fact, a medical condition worthy of the same attention, funding, and level of treatment as any other medical condition.

Probably they will point out that infertility is not life-threatening (the role of pregnancy in significantly reducing the risks of breast and other reproductive cancers notwithstanding), whilst rather inconsistently giving the nod to treatment for a whole host of medical conditions which are merely debilitating, or in some cases inconvenient.

Those who cite overpopulation will no doubt balk at the idea of imposing restrictions on fertile couples, including forced sterilisation and termination/redistribution of extra children. Moreover they will not want to give up modern medicine, which saves and prolongs an astounding - nay, detrimental - number of lives each day. And most of them will see no problem with jetting off to Spain for their next holiday, or binning leftover food.

I can almost hear speaker number two warming up an appeal to natural selection which completely overlooks the fact that a society committed to this idea should be shutting down whole wings of the local children's hospital (for starters) before it touches a single fertility clinic, given the (relative lack of) heritability of fertility disorders (especially those aquired secondarily, possibly by accident, long after birth). Let's also not forget the forty percent of ART patients who have no fertility problems at all, heritable or otherwise (whose partners are infertile).

Sooner or later someone will wonder aloud why people don't "just adopt", revealing a deep-seated ignorance about adoption. Hint: "Annie" is pretty outdated now. And was fictional to start with.

But you needn't listen to me. After all, I'm dangerously obsessed, highly impatient, entirely selfish and/or just plain evil. I'm probably also career-driven and old. Or else childishly young, in dire need of a focus in life, and petulant. Or am I describing a perfectly fertile person? It's so hard to tell the difference.

Through the magic of cut and paste, I'm looking forward to never having to expend energy on this argument again. Think it'll work?

There's a "Six Strange Things" meme going around at the moment. I was going to join in, but I couldn't think of anything to put. Following Mel's example, I asked Mr Bea.

"What about me is strange?" I said.

He thought for a moment. "Nothing, really," he answered. "You're a thoroughly unremarkable person."

"But all the other bloggers can think of lots of strange things!"

"Well, maybe your lack of strangeness is, in itself, strange." This met with a flat, unimpressed stare. "What are the others putting?"

"One of them used to get freaked out about changing her earrings, and another once punched a girl in the eye because she wanted to know what it felt like to punch someone."

"That is strange. Well, haven't you got any strange tales from your childhood? What about the dragons?"

Ah yes, the dragons.

I used to share a room with my sister. But there were dragons in the cupboard. Our parents explained to us over and over again that they were imaginary, but this did nothing to lessen our fear. So there were imaginary dragons in our cupboard - they were still dragons, weren't they? Night after night, upon hearing our wavering calls, our father would make the trip into our room to switch on the light, throw open the cupboard door, and proclaim, "Look! No dragons! Now go to sleep!" And we'd sigh with relief, because obviously he'd made the dragons go away, for a short while at least. Sometimes we'd get to sleep before they returned, sometimes not. But this was the problem - we both agreed he'd made the dragons go away, but we disagreed as to how.

My sister surmised that our father's presence was the key. Only he scared them off, and unless he was there, the cupboard doors should be kept firmly shut to delay their inevitable attack until we could call for his backup. I, on the other hand, after performing a number of controlled experiments under strict laboratory conditions (ie broad daylight) and later, in the field (ie just before bedtime), concluded that even I was able to make the dragons go away - by opening the cupboard doors. To me, the solution was clear: the doors should remain open. Thus began a series of escalating bedtime arguments based around the fact that my sister would not sleep with the cupboard doors open, and I would not sleep with them closed.

One particularly bad night our long-suffering father burst into the room brandishing a broomstick, a look of fury in his eyes. "Where are these dragons?" he demanded. "I'm going to slay them with my sword!" The next ten minutes were dramatic. With a curdling battle cry, he threw the cupboard doors open and immediately fell back as the dragons descended upon him. Holding up his imaginary shield, he steadied himself for his attack, thrusting forwards into one dragon's vulnerable underside as it descended upon him. It recoiled. "Help me!" he cried. "I can't see them because they're imaginary! What are they doing now?"

"There's one to the right above your shoulder!" we cried. "Careful! The second one's about to lift you up in his talons by your hair!"

"Hah! Hah! Hah!" our father grunted, thrusting his "sword" this way and that. "Did I get them?"

"Yes!" we squealed, delighted. And so the fight continued, out of the bedroom, through the hall, and down the stairway until at last our father booted them into the garage with his foot and slammed the door, shouting, "And stay out!" at their retreating forms. And from that night on, we slept comfortably in our beds, without fear of dragons bursting out of our cupboard.

But we refused to go into the garage for anything.

You guys know about the letter-writing media campaign, right? Well, Jules has put together a media contact list for those in Australia. More about it on her blog.

I've just realised what the moral of this story is. No matter how "imaginary" you think someone's problem is, you're not helping until you give it the validity they think it deserves, and agree to tackle it with them accordingly.

Shit, this writing things down really works sometimes.

Actually, now I've realised that moral makes it a lot like Smarshy's post about infertile women being like toddlers. Except my version has better choreography.

First of all - check me out at report card ten! I feel I should say something auspicious to mark the occasion. In the absence of inspiration, I'll leave you to imagine I just did.

My, but Thursday has come around quickly this week. Luckily, the recent booking of my plane ticket home for FET#5 gave me the perfect idea. Carbon offsets - purchased, in this particular case, from climate care who seem to have some dinky projects.

Now, as The Guardian points out, there are pros and cons to carbon offsetting. They should not, for example, be used as an excuse to burn more stuff. And I must admit, this business of flying backwards and forwards for IVF troubles my conscience. But. Firstly, it is difficult and, I can't help but think, risky to transport the embryos all that way, and secondly, oh my goodness the cost.

It would cost us an extra AUD$6000/10 000 (per frozen/fresh cycle) to do IVF in Singapore as compared to Australia. That's a lot of plane flights. From our individual perspective of people who aren't actually made of money, the choice seems clear. Kind of sucks for the planet, though. Somehow, it doesn't seem right that people should have to choose between healthcare and the environment.

There is, of course, the school of "gosh but the world is overpopulated and the environment under strain and you're sucking up resources to have a child through IVF!" to whom I say, please graduate from the year nine debating team into the real world any time now. Why should I care about the planet if I have nobody to inherit it from me*? And what's with letting all these "I'm gunna teach my kids to bludgeon baby seals everwhere they go!" people breed? Even with the international flights and IVF, I know my family won't be contributing as much towards the heat-death of the universe as some fertile souls I could name. And yeah, read a book on the issues surrounding adoption (all the paperwork there's gotta equal a return flight or two) and maybe consider that the glorious days where tribespeople roamed the earth living in harmony with nature weren't, you know, all you've romanticised them to be. And anyway, you've just returned from a shopping holiday in Spain who are you to talk? Mote, eye, speck, etc?

So my solution is this: I'm limiting my use of air-con, walking, taking reusable bags to the supermarket, pledging to teach my children to be environmentally responsible and oh - buying carbon offsets.

*Because I'm basically a good person? Oh, ha, that's cute. No you're right. People are basically good.

Benjamin Disraeli - nineteenth-century statesman, literary figure and first Earl of Beaconsfield - is the one most often attributed with the saying, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and peesticks." It's true, you can go and look it up yourself*.

It's possible I've already ovulated. I'm confused because it didn't come up on my OPKs this time. Now, I know those things don't always work, but every single month so far since I started using them**, they've shown a very clear second line which concurs with a very clear thermal shift and secondary fertility signs. But not this month. No, not the month I actually *really need* to pinpoint ovulation so I can plan an international flight for my upcoming FET. This month I get zip; snowy, snowy expanses of white; nuttin. And a very lacklustre thermal shift to go with it. So the question is this: what the fuck, guys?

But let me be more specific: have I really ovulated, when, and what day should I book my plane ticket even if I did, given my luteal phase seems to vary from 12 to 16 days? And shouldn't I get off my arse and book that appointment with the man I hope to make my Singapore obstetrician, despite the fact I can't think of a better acronym for him than SOB***?

Perhaps it's worth making a bit of a review here:

  • Sore breasts - check.
  • Breast size has increased by half a cup - check.
  • Fertile cervical mucous - check. Not very convincing, but check.
  • Frenzy of setting up alternative blogs, engaging in online bioethical debates, looking up postgraduate master's courses, buying copious reading materials and enrolling in Chinese language classes - check****.
  • Ovulation pains - er... check. Even though I seem to have noted them first on the left, then the right, then both sides at once and finally back on the right, which is somewhat dubious.
  • [Ahem, hem] feels different - check. Why is this one not mentioned in FF? It's the most consistent sign I know. Also - what the heck happened to those hot, luscious ovulatory urges I look forward to every month? Not check. Very cheated about that.
  • Thermal shift and FF coverline - check. More or less. Well, the coverline is dotted.

I think I'd better buy a ticket. A flexible one.

*Huh. Well, there you go. I still think my version's better.

**ie Twice.

***Suggestions appreciated. I believe he's really nice.

****And my mother asks what I do all day.

UPDATE: after going through the bathroom bin looking at old, musty peesticks (come on - you would too, probably have done once or twice) it appears I do have a second line on one of them. Which one, I wonder? It was towards the bottom of the bin. Possibly from day fourteen or fifteen. Damnit, why did I have to fuck this up? Why did I have to fuck this up the month I'm trying to fly around Chinese New Year, the biggest holiday in the entire calendar like, as in, more biggerer than Christmas? Do you know how many Singaporeans have family in Australia?

Also, I booked my appointment with SOB. Still after suggestions for a better name.

Me! Me! I've got news!

Well, after traipsing around all evening being told by various travel agents that flights were booked out til March, I have managed to hook myself up with something online. Phew! Worried? Me?

I'm travelling on the 9th. Let's hope I got my dates right.

Mr Bea: Whatcha doing?

Me: Navel gazing. Literally. I'm marvelling at the invisibility of my laparoscopy scar.

Mr Bea: Invisibility? No, there it is there. (Laying head on my chest.) Although you're right, it is difficult to see from your angle. I could get you my shaving mirror?

Me: Er... that's ok. Thanks anyway. Still, it's amazing how well the body can heal sometimes. I can't find my paracentesis scar at all.

Mr Bea: Really? I always thought it was this one here.

Me: Uh, yeah, you're probably right. Look, I realise you're trying to be helpful, but I was kind of enjoying the sensation of being unmarked by these events, at least in the physical sense.

Mr Bea: Oh. Well, I mean, I could be wrong. After all, there's a similar-looking scar up here, and I know you didn't have two paracentesis tubes!

Me: Where?

Mr Bea: There.

Me: Oh, look at that, there is a scar there. Um. Yes. Yes. You know though, there are times I want you to provide analysis, but at other times I'd prefer emotional support and verbal validation.

Mr Bea: Is this one of those other times?

Me: This is one of those other times.

Mr Bea: That's cool. I can do validation.

Me: This is my other laparoscopy scar.

Mr Bea (sharp intake of breath between the teeth): Ooh, ouch. That looks horrible.

Me: Second thoughts, it's probably best if you stick with analysis.

I guess it's good he pays such close attention?

In other news, I've discovered the secret of a really good blog roll - maintenance. I'm up to "J". Dear lord, why haven't I maintained it better? Anyway, mistakes, requests for changes, etc, let me know.

"I'm sorry to dump all this on you," said Maternal Bea, looking weary and overwrought. But Inner Therapist Bea gave a dismissive wave of her hand as she plonked the teacup on the table in front of her.

"Maternal, I've seen just about every one of this lot," she replied. "I'm amazed you're not round here more often. Now tell."

"It's those two again," Maternal said. "Willing Bea, and Able Bea. They've been at each other's throats, and you know what that does."

"There's no happiness for anyone unless both of them agree," Inner Therapist replied knowlingly. "And they used to, mostly. But Able hasn't come on board with this whole having a baby business, and there's been no peace ever since."

"Exactly. We got a short reprieve after the last cycle, when Willing was all for a break. Able leapt on the opportunity to shine, and it was really nice for a couple of months there."

"Let me guess - Willing to get on with FET#5 now, are we?"

"But not Able. FS holidays. Dates all wrong. And every day - every day - Willing comes to me in tears, saying, 'Able won't help me,' and 'Able kicked me,' and, 'Able sprung a lethal trap for me involving pits and knives and heavy, falling rocks, and if Anxious Bea hadn't made me carry equipment for my own protection I would have died!' I mean, it just doesn't end.

"Of course, I take Willing aside and I point out there's plenty of things we'd be Able to do, if only we were Willing, and perhaps it's not all one way. It doesn't help."

"Will can be strong," Inner Therapist agreed.

"And I don't mind her being strong. Sometimes I look at her and think she's not strong enough. I just wish she'd stop throwing these useless tantrums, they give me a headache. What do I do?"

They paused. Maternal rested her elbows on the table and rubbed her fingers over her temples, and Inner Therapist gave a long, thoughtful sip on her tea.

"I know this will go against your nuturing instinct," said Inner Therapist, eventually, "but sometimes when you're not getting anywhere it's ok to just make the problem go away temporarily - for the sake of your sanity, and that of the others around you."

"What are you suggesting?" Maternal enquired.

"Give them lollies. At least it will make them shut up for a while."

"Lollies" ended up being a book-buying spree. Nothing fertility-related, I'm afraid. This part of the cycle - the part where I could be ovulating any day now drags almost as much as a 2ww, and sometimes it goes on for as long. Sigh.

I just discovered this blog (warning - cute baby photos - you can also look here if you want the info without the baby photo'd demonstration of the concept).

So many people are going password protected at the moment, and some of them might find this idea a better compromise. Basically, by setting the security levels on each post, you end up with a public blog anyone can read, an extended blog for registered users (anyone can register by providing their email address), and a private blog for those you trust. There are twelve levels of security so you can get quite specific about who reads what if you like. You can even publish posts for no-one but yourself. And! There's no little messages telling everyone there's a post here but you can't see it nanana-nah-nah.

Anyway - I got Jenny (who runs it out of the goodness of her heart) to set up a site of my own to fiddle around with and think about. I'll let you know if I decide to switch. Based on my history with blog maintenance, I wouldn't expect it to happen overnight, exactly.

In the meantime, it sounds like a useful tool, so I wanted to pass the info along.

Dad. Please stop asking me if I "have an itinerary" yet. I do not "have an itinerary". I don't know when I'll "get my itinerary". As soon as "an itinerary happens" I'll let you know. I'll even give you my flight number*.

2. My good deed this week - and I encourage you to join in, it won't take long - was to join Amnesty International's flotilla to Guantanamo Bay. It's basically an online petition, but in flash. Anyway, if you want to know all about it, Amnesty will gladly tell you.

3. Ours has officially sold, for a grand total of two and a half Stims (or eight FETs)**, which is more than we were expecting. We are now not only car free, but my mother has stopped asking how we're going to pay for all this. Which probably means she's stopped lying awake at night picturing me on the Singaporean gallows for drug running. So really, everyone wins.

*Not a euphemism. I'm talking about an actual flight number.

**The "Stim" is a unit of currency used by infertiles the world over, but its value varies depending on region and insurance cover. The price quoted here is the out-of-pocket figure for an Australian Stim after PBS, medicare and health insurance rebates. It does not take into account the cost of airfares. The FET is the lesser unit (as "cents" are to "dollars").

Whilst it is relatively straightforward to make currency conversions between, say, Australian Stims and North American Stims, difficulties arise when trying to work out how many Stims equals a Baby.

Now go join the flotilla!

If there's one rule you should remember when listening to someone's opinion, it's this: anyone who says things are black and white is wrong. It might be hard to work out how they're wrong at first, but you can be sure they are. That's where the solid moral ground runs out.

Says Saletan, in his recent article on the embryo bank set up by Jennalee Ryan, "That's the central question Ryan's venture poses. She didn't invent commerce, quality control, or trait selection in human reproduction. Those trends are rampant in the egg and sperm markets. All she did was extend them across the line of conception. Does that line matter? If it does, you'd better figure out how to square that with your views on abortion and stem-cell research. But if it doesn't, you'd better figure out where to draw the next line. Because the logic of what Ryan is offering—more control, more customization, higher quality, fewer hassles, lower cost, and lower risk—won't end here."

And that's the problem, isn't it. There's no logical boundary to this moral problem. At what point does the state have the right to interfere on behalf of the child? When the genetic and social parents are being selected(1)? Once the embryo is conceived(2)? At some point during gestation? After the baby's born? Or perhaps when a social worker has documented several years of systematic abuse? And to what extent is the state obligated, or indeed allowed, to interfere on behalf of the adults? To protect donors from exploitation? How about the potential for exploitation of infertile couples by birth parents or surrogates?

It's not good enough to demand one rule for infertile couples and another for everyone else. That's exactly the inequality Ryan is striking back against. It's these inequalities, and not some evil industry or amoral desperation, that drives businesses like hers forwards. And it's only through increased access to improved reproductive technology that these conundrums will ever come close to being resolved.

So let's start insuring IVF properly - either through state or private cover. Let's fund those research programs. Let's treat infertility like the medical condition it is. I look towards a future where infertile couples have an honest shot at parenthood, as if they're just as important as everyone else(3). A future where no-one has to get hurt.

Sure, we'll still need some tidying up around the edges; some case-by-case musings over unusual scenarios(4). Society can handle that - it happens in every facet of life. After all, nothing's ever black and white.

(1) I include, here, the selection of genetic and social parents in instances of natural, as well as artificial, conception.

(2) I don't buy into the argument that full human rights should be conferred at conception. I haven't met a prolifer yet who truly thinks an embryo is just as important as an adult human being. The simplest demonstration of this fact is the scenario in which the baby has to die in order for the mother to live. I have not spoken to anyone who wouldn't terminate, however regretfully, the life of that unborn child. And now we're back to drawing lines in the grey.

(3) I should add that in some parts of the world the entire social welfare system leaves a lot to be desired. Take it as read that everyone in society should be treated as if they have value.

(4) There are, of course, other valid ways to build a family than having the female partner of a heterosexual couple gestate their genetically-related child, and I don't mean to imply otherwise. Let's not even get into the whole issue of same-sex couples, for example. But there are an awful lot of heterosexual couples who only turn to alternative methods of family creation after reaching the limit with ART (we may yet fall into that category). In the ideal I'm striving for, those involved in alternative methods of family creation (donors, adoptive and birth parents, etc) will be there because they want to be, not because they had no other choice(6). See also comment #1.

(6) Except parents whose children are forceably removed from their care on reasonable grounds. There's choice and there's abusing your freedom until it gets taken away. Go on, find me another unexplained grey area to write a footnote about.

I don't know how many of you are following Infertile Myrtle's Precarious Peregrination Through the Land of IVF, but this week she peregrinated past a onsie reading "Worth The Wait". Which I thought was lovely and subtle, even though it would no doubt still lead to nosey and impertinent questions from complete strangers. But hey, at least it'd be a different brand of impertinence.

On the Johnny Depp front, I'm going to declare the argument closed, for now at least. An overwhelming majority of those surveyed on two blogs voted for Johnny Depp. Those who thought it wasn't Johnny Depp were heavily divided in their opinion and many of their suggestions didn't fit with the profile of being an A-list contemporary of Charlize Theron, perhaps someone known to have modelled watches for the same company. I think, for example, we can agree it's highly unlikely to have been a young Freddy Mercury (on Mr Bea's blog). Moreover, Mr Bea appears to be the only one on the planet who thinks it's Jason Lee. But, you see, I haven't definitively proven it's Johnny Depp, and apparently there's no such thing as "more right" - you're either conclusively right or conclusively wrong. And since neither of us is conclusively right, no-one wins.

I guess we can agree on that, at least.

But I think we ARTers have learnt enough sound lessons in "more right" and "less right" to know such a concept exists. I'll therefore leave it to those whose world-view allows it to decide who's more right in this case. (Hint - it was me.)

...Now that it's nearly over. Which is a shame, because Mr Bea and I need someone to settle an argument for us, which seems like the perfect de-lurking activity. Regardless - delurking week or not, can you please tell me whose face you think this is?

Recently seen on an a billboard advertising jewelry at the local cinema. I apologise for the poor-quality photo - my excuse is it was taken at night, indoors, at a crowded shopping mall, with a point and click.

I might add that Mr Bea tried to bias the results by naming the file according to who he thinks it is. Just in case any of you happened to look at the file name before making your decision. Ha! He thinks he can sway things that easily!

The Verdict

The verdict, essentially, is that Mr Bea won't admit he's wrong. Perhaps I should have seen it coming. To fill you in on the background, I also said Johnny Depp. Then I said, no, wait, it's a non-celebrity look-alike model. Then I looked at the billboard opposite and there was Charlize Theron wearing the women's version of the watch or I'm a fried turkey, so we agreed it was reasonable to assume this "mystery man" was, indeed, an A-list celebrity. So I said it had to be Johnny Depp.

Mr Bea says Jason Lee.

Now. I have a whole lotta votes for Johnny Depp and zero for Jason Lee, and ok a few who said not Johnny Depp but someone who looks like him but then you didn't know about Charlize Theron at that stage, and one or two other votes here and there but all in all, according to the jury, I think I won. Add to that the fact that Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron have modelled the same brand of watches (damnit, why can't I find an image of this ad?) and I think my case is solid. Mr Bea wants to return "unproven" and call a retrial. He plans to throw the question open on his blog (can't tell you where, though) and see what happens. I'll let you know.


For the longest time I've felt like I'm on hold. I would rather think of myself as on standby. I can't.

I've been brushing up on my first aid this week, down at the Red Cross of Singapore. As things would have it, my partner is a forty-two-year-old childless woman. I've known her for three days. On the second day we exchanged the usual information about age, marital and maternal status. "I look so young because I have no kid, lah," she said. "But really I have fourteen kid. I call them niece and nephew." And she showed me a picture on her phone. "The newest, ah. So small. I spend so much time taking care of all of them."

It's not a new concept, of course. Neither is the lament that our society is becoming too individualistic. "I say to my husband, lah, what if we have no children? He say, no worry, I take care of you, you take care of me, lah. But it's me who takes care of my mother now. She worries for me, because I think now I can't have children and there will be no-one to care for me when I am old. But kids don't care for their parents now. You can't expect, nuh."

That night I have a dream. I am pregnant, but only briefly. When it's finished, I feel empty, devoid of any tangible evidence - even a solid memory - of what I'd so fleetingly known. A woman at the supermarket, passing by in the cereal section, tells me my baby's soul came loose from its body and got caught in another's fertilised egg, and is out there, living in the world. Later, I meet a long-lost friend in a place neither of us have visited since we were seventeen. She shows me her belly and tells me her news. And I'm struck with awe because I realise, as I touch the outside of her rippling womb, that the soul she carries is familiar. And that it belongs not to her, or to me, or to the baby itself, but to our village and our world and the family of humankind.

But she pulls back, and her hands encircle her bump protectively. "Mine," say her eyes. "Mine, mine, mine." I know then, she will hover when I hold the baby. She will decline my every offer of help. And I will resent her for it. I wake up crying.

On the train I see people going about their day, minding their business, taking care of their own. None of them expect to be hit by a truck. None of them imagine they'll collapse. But, says our instructor, we as a society should be prepared for these events. We must be willing to step forward. But most importantly, we must be able. It takes skill to walk into a crowd and convince everyone you can help, and it takes knowledge and practice to direct your actions. When you walk out of this class at the end of the week, I hope you will no longer be helpless. Instead, I hope you will be on standby.

There's new stuff happening at the International Infertility Film Festival site. Namely, the team at Imagining Ourselves are calling for submissions on the subject of infertility for their upcoming theme of Motherhood. Anyway, I wrote all about it here. Please pass the details on - I would love to see the subject of infertility represented as part of this project.

I want to talk about two things in this post. I'm telling you this upfront because I'm worried my points will eat each other and you'll end up walking away thinking, "Right - sorry, was Bea trying to say something?" So I want to talk about two separate things. One is the stigma surrounding male infertility, and the other is That Friend.

You know That Friend. For me, she's the first person I told about our infertility, way back when we started seeing FS. I've known her a long while and her history of trustworthiness, sensitivity and compassion drew me to her amongst all others in my life, and she does try. Goshdarnit, sometimes I just want to hug her for trying, but I'm afraid to go near in case I lose control and cause her grievous bodily harm for irritating the actual fuck out of me. Yes. That Friend.

Now, I'm willing to admit it's not all her fault. Not by a long shot. How could she have known, for example, that it would make me want to scream when she called me up those times during her pregnancy, timidly asking if I wanted to have coffee with her and she can have someone sit #1 if I'd like because she doesn't in any way want to make me uncomfortable only she can't really hide the fact she's showing now and we don't have to talk about any of this anyway, we could just discuss the weather if I like unless I want to talk about it of course in which case she's more than happy to lend and ear and all I could think was coffee? Seriously? You're planning to drink coffee at me? Why don't we just go for a nice, big, dirty syringe full of junk down a back alley somewhere? I mean do you see me drinking coffee?

Which is, of course, way over the top. Way.

No, I don't blame her for that. Nor do I blame her, really, for the story I am about to tell*. It could have been anyone, that's the sad thing.

You see, she was telling me, this time, about a social event she'd been to recently (oh really so you go to social events now well you don't see me going to social events etc) where a woman had casually mentioned in conversation that her daughter and son-in-law were doing IVF with donor sperm. Friend's husband, knight in shining armour that he is, rode to the rescue. He told the woman firmly that she should stop talking about her son-in-law's problems to everyone, as the poor man would be horribly embarrassed. "Some people are just so insensitive," was the conclusion, at which point she paused to reap my approval.

But let's think about what happened. A woman talks freely and openly about male infertility, and the crowd shouts her down. "Don't speak about that!" they cry. It's shameful, you see, it's taboo. Something to be embarrassed about. That's what their reaction says. So who's insensitive?

On a more practical note, what should they have said? How about, "Are your daughter and son-in-law ok with you telling people this?" If the answer is yes, what's to hush?

I love That Friend. I wish she, and the world, knew the right things to say.

*Don't worry, there's plenty more I can still blame her for, if I'm in the mood. I've learned you can never tell for sure which people will help you through. Despite their best intentions, there are those you should never call for comfort when you have bad news. Unless you find the experience of boiling rage comforting in some way. Bless her little cotton socks.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. There may be Something Up with my luteal phase.

Back in December when fertility friend gave me a coverline which concurred with my OPKs and secondary fertility signs, I confidently started marking off the days. Thirteen or fourteen of these, I thought, and Bob's my uncle. Which, as you all know, would have made Flo my aunt.

On the thirteenth day post ovulation - right, I thought, on cue - I started with the merest, tiniest bit of spotting. By the end of day sixteen I was almost ready to go out and buy a HPT, despite my FS's claims that if I got pregnant without either IVF or committing adultery I would be entitled - nay, obliged - to start my own religious cult. My dipping temperatures and lack of pregnancy-related signs kept my foundless hopes in check, although I did start to get excited about the possibility of cycling in January. Which I would have been able to do if my period had arrived tomorrow, instead of today. Thank goodness it didn't arrive several days ago though, or I wouldn't have been likely to completely miss my parents when I go back in February*. Perfect timing, I'd say.

Turns out I've been wasting my energy on Dr Google, because it's not polyps, or endometriosis, or an imbalance in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. It's just my reproductive system's idea of a great, big, fun, practical joke. Well I hope it's having a good laugh - next month, it'll get a taste of what's coming to it**.

*Just to clarify, because there were an awful lot of negatives in that sentence, this means I will probably NOT see my parents in February. If my cycle had ended several days ago, like I thought it was going to, I would probably have had a day or two with them. So yes, either yesterday or tomorrow would have been better. But hey! Anything could happen. Let's not call it til... March.

** Bit anticlimactic, really.

Also - go play the mind game. It's not that it's fun, exactly, but it is interesting.

You guys know how inconvenient ART is. It's not a question. I know you know. But it never ceases to amaze me how those around us - even those you think have been made to understand - fail to catch on.

Example 1:

Mr Bea's Dad: So - I thought I might drop by in June. Is that good for you guys?

Mr Bea: We, er, don't know. Bea? How good might June be?

Bea: Let's see... based on our history so far that's FET#5 in Feb, FET#6 in March/April, then May/June is either FET#7 but could equally be IVF/ICSI#2... actually I'd say June is bad. Of course, FET#5 could bomb so badly that IVF/ICSI#2 happens in Feb/March, or else we could still be plugging away doing FET#12 of IVF/ICSI#1 sometime in December, though that's extremely unlikely. It's hard to say.

Mr Bea: Or you could get pregnant. For real this time.

Bea: Oh. Yeah.

Mr Bea to his Dad: Um - did you get any of that? Well, to summarise it's probably best if you ask us again in May...

Example 2:

Bea: So, Mum, I'm coming home for another cycle in February.

Bea's Mum: February? When in February?

Bea: I don't really know. Maybe mid? I'll know the dates once I ovulate in January. It's kind of weird giving you specific detail about my ovulation dates, by the way.

Bea's Mum: But we're going away in February! And it's booked! And can't be unbooked! Now I feel bad in case we miss you! You're really not sure when?

Bea: Really not sure, plus it's no big - if I miss you in Feb it's sadly quite likely I'll see you in March/April. I can't have everyone I know trying to plan their holidays around our cycles, that gets silly.

Bea's Mum: But then we'll miss you in February!

Bea: Like you'll miss me in January.

Bea's Mum: Oh, I wish I knew when to plan things!

Bea: Yup. And me, babe*.

Bea's Mum: Is Mr Bea coming?

Bea: No, he won't be coming unless I actually, physically need him**.

Bea's Mum (surprised): Oh? Why not?

Bea: Because it's not practical, or even possible, for him to take two weeks off in every six, that's why. It's the same reason I'm not going to be able to hold down a full-time job here. We've been through this.


One day perhaps they'll understand, just like you do.

*I might not have actually referred to my mother as "babe".

**Even then we have frozen sperm as back-up, but we'd like to use fresh, especially the new, vitamin-enhanced fresh stuff coming our way*** in 2007. Also, remind me to tell you Mr Bea's fly-day semen-dash story sometime. Unless I already did.

***No pun intended.

I've had them for a while. Reusable shopping bags. They're kind of cool, because they fold up into little wallet-sized parcels for ease of use. Also, they have water-wise slogans on them - very environmental.

But it's always remembering to take the damn things, isn't it? At home, they lived in the car. I got into the habit of putting them back in the car after each shopping trip. Now we have no car* (how green is that?). Nevertheless, I think I've finally done it. I've finally cultivated the habit of taking my little reusable shopping bags with me whenever I might want to duck into the grocery store on the way home**.

"You are the Earth Saver," said the woman down at our local, recognising me last week. "Where are your bags today?" And she took one and tucked a big, papery wad of glossy junk mail inside. Luckily it included some useful recipes.

Other green things I've been doing: trying to use leftover food before it goes in the bin, leaving the aircon off, using only the necessary amount of washing detergent, planting the beginnings of a potted herb garden on the windowsill, taking the stairs instead of the lift.

*Actually, the car hasn't sold yet. C'mon now, baby - mamma needs a new stim cycle and an FET.

**This was aided by the fact my reusable shopping bags are so. much. more. comfortable. to carry home.

Also! In the spirit of good deeds Katie has challenged us all to do something extravagant for someone. Worth pondering over...

It may seem a little out of date to be blogging about Christmas now the New Year has flipped over, but sometimes it takes a week or so to figure out how you feel about something.

On Christmas morning, I picked up the present from SIL and began to open it. Seeing the back of a photo frame inside, I rolled my eyes and said, "Yep, as predicted, a photo of Nephew for Christmas." But it was ok - expected, accepted, a running and open joke we have with SIL about how parents are morally bound to give photographs of their cherubs away as gifts forevermore, or at least until teenagehood. Mr Bea and I were smiling at each other as I pulled it free of the wrapping paper and turned it over to have a look. Then my face fell.

"Ah, I see your sister has decided to start sending us photos of children we don't even know." Because there they were - Nephew on one of Santa's knees, and another little boy on the other.

Mr Bea craned to look. The other boy, it seems, is a long-lost and very distant cousin, born in the same year as Nephew. The parents have been hanging out. I may have met them once. I sat there for a moment, til Mr Bea gently pulled the picture from my hands and set it aside.

Later he called his parents. They were attending the traditional family gathering, although this year things were a bit less traditional with the addition of a jumping castle. "That seems over the top," Mr Bea said to his Dad. "In my day we were perfectly happy to amuse ourselves with a cricket bat so venerable it had been passed down from father to son for generations, gathering a new layer of duct tape at each handover, whilst stuffing ourselves full of too much sugar and trying to make sure our presents lasted the required twenty-four hour probationary period beyond which it is no longer a punishable crime to break them."

His father agreed. I, on the other hand, lost it. "Don't you see what this means?" I said. "Each year from now on, there's going to be this big, exciting thing at Christmas and each year our children - when, if and however we have any - will be left out."

"But that sort of stuff always happens to younger cousins," he said.

And I guess that's the point*. Ours weren't supposed to be the younger cousins. Ours were supposed to be the same age as the rest of them. Our child should have been sitting on Santa's other knee. Our toddler should have been bouncing tentatively up and down on the castle at the family gathering last week.

I know I'll still find people to share the experience of parenthood with - families we wouldn't have otherwise been close to, and even families we wouldn't otherwise have met - but they won't be the ones I'd chosen. This infertility isn't going to have as temporary an effect as I'd hoped. There are opportunities being lost forever**. At the end of Christmas Day, the wedge between what I thought my life would be and what I realise my life is grew a little bit wider.

*It's also this - what enticing treats will be presented at future gatherings to remind us, year in, year out, that our children are not in the same agegroup as the rest of them? "It's one thing," I said, "to struggle to keep up with a game of backyard cricket, but it's another to watch the older kids participate in an expensive, awesomely exciting and much-trailed activity while you're left to sit in the corner making your own fun. Frankly, I think it's rude. It means the main event of Christmas day is now something that excludes people who don't have children in the same agegroup as your cousin. The biggest thing about a Christmas family gathering should be something everyone can share." A week later, I still stand by that last sentence. Christmas is a family event, not a kid's birthday party. Phew, it's good to get that rant written down.

**Hopeful Bea won't let me post this without pausing to acknowledge, one more time, the opportunities which will no doubt be created. She doesn't know what they are, and the mystery is kind of enticing. Thanks, Hopeful Bea, now please tone it down before someone hits you.

I have heard it everywhere. Good riddance 2006. And to that I say, "Hear, hear."

And I have also heard it said (in the voice of the evil Prince Humperdink, except this time talking not to Wesley, but to a rather more abstract sense of despair), "I killed you too quickly last time - I mistake I do not mean to duplicate tonight*."

But Inner Therapist Bea says it is not a mistake to put aside your despair - it is important. It is what moves us forward. And sometimes it takes courage.

And Logical Bea says that all things, good and bad, have a certain chance of happening. In 2006 we have learned that bad things can happen to us, and that was a difficult, though important**, lesson. But if the bad things can happen, the good ones can, too. Each according to their respective probabilities. And the probabilities for us still lie in favour of success. Eventually.

Finally, I can't do better than Nica, who encourages us to remember the past, the disappointments, the grief - and hopefully the good times, too - but to set down our cup of wine afterwards and continue into the future. For the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

In cycle news: I'd like to report that so far 2007 doesn't suck. I am, for example, coming up to lunchtime on day 12po, and I'm not spotting. I'd call that a win for the home team.

In festival news: check out the latest list of participants for the upcoming International Infertility Film Festival. If you're still short of a new year's resolution, get in touch and I can put you on the list.

*Yes, off the top of my head. One day we can get together and choose parts and re-enact the whole movie verbatum from our memories just because we can.

**Important? Absolutely. Worthwhile? Yeah, well, ask me again later.

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