Occasionally - but not very occasionally - I find myself wanting to title a post Just A Little Bit Harder Than It Should Be, but then I think, well, if I start naming posts that, where will I stop and how will anyone tell one from the other? So I relent and think of a different name instead. Today, that name is Fred. For want of something more accurate, but less unique.

Yesterday's consult was far too easy. After slightly more discussion than I transcribed in my post, FS decided on another long down-reg protocol using synarel and puregon. I confidently claimed an ability to get hold of some synarel in Singapore, and we got down to haggling over FSH doses. Oh, how infertility likes to laugh in the face of my confidence. The punchline this time is that Singaporean fertility specialists have decided they don't like synarel and will not stock it anymore. Ten days, people! I am supposed to start sniffing in ten days!

Now, it's not a major crisis (yet), but why does everything have to be just a little bit harder than it should be?


(Also, why, when I ring SOB's office asking about IVF meds, does the receptionist say, "Bea! Haven't seen you in a little while! How's your baby?")


Slight change of protocol. Now starting everything at beginning of next cycle, spending whole cycle in Australia. Crisis averted!

I had a telephone appointment with FS this morning. I want to shelve our OHSS embryos and do another stim, but it runs against the generally accepted way of doing things, which is to use up your frosties before starting again.

In our case I think a new stim is clinically justified. The most likely reason for our failures thus far, according to two separate specialists, is that this batch of embryos is affected by OHSS. Even if that's wrong, continuing to transfer in the same way, getting the same results, teaches us nothing. A new batch will at least test this hypothesis. Besides, with six embryos in the freezer, we can afford to be super-conservative with our stims, making it highly unlikely we'll repeat the OHSS, yet sure we'll make to transfer, even if that means using our frozen backups. It takes some of the stress out of the cycle.

Can you tell I've been rehearsing this speech? For months? Here's how our conversation went:

FS: What can I do for you, Bea?

Bea: Well, I'd like to do a new stim...

FS: No worries. We'll start straight away. Anything else?

Bea: Clexane*...?

FS: If you want. Is that it? Well I guess I'll see you when you're up to the injections then.

Bea: Oh. Good.

I've just added myself to cyclesista. We're on to IVF/ICSI#2. Retrieval early/mid-August.

Now I know what you're thinking: "Did I miss the post where we got the results from the testing cycle?" Well, no you didn't. But those results will be in before the retrieval cycle, and they're unlikely to change our basic protocol. And if they do, well, gosh - a change of plan would just shock me to the core, I don't think. As it is, I only have ten days left to get me some synarel, so I need to keep moving.

And I need to do a good deed! In view of the fact that my previous two Kiva loans are being repaid ahead of schedule, I've decided to make a third. This one goes to Yadigar Djabrayilov, who needs to repair his truck so he can go on supporting his young family after the death of his wife and their displacement from their home in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan.

I've decided to do a weekly treasurer's report, to let you know how our Fifty Good Deeds fund is going. This week we're up to $68.65.


Babyblues is also getting into the spirit with more on Operation Smile. They're raising donations!

*Clexane is a brand-name heparin, like Lovenox.

To what extent do we get the friendships we deserve?

When I think back, I'm amazed HSGF and I were ever so close. During our inseparable phase, we befuddled each other constantly with our mutually alien worldviews. She would say incomprehensible things to me, like, "But you must have a crush on someone," and I would say incomprehensible things to her, like, "If you want to go out with him, ask." I think I was addicted to her drama, or at least fascinated by it, and she? Well, I don't know what she saw in me. She once told me she admired my strength of character. Another time she said she was jealous of my hair.

In hindsight, that lonely day in the toilet seems predictable. It's not that she's an uncaring person - I once saw her cook a large batch of shark-cartilage-laced rumballs for a woman she knew with cancer - but she and I could never relate. In a lot of ways, I guess I got what I came for.

I emailed a friend over the weekend about UF's baby shower. Happily, I did my time as the group's Shower Gift Organiser before we started IVF, so for the time being I am officially off the hook. I thought now would be a good time to hand over some money and forget about the whole thing. "Gosh, I don't know," came the reply. "I'd have to contact T and C to discuss things and sort something out and we're all just trying to hang in there with life at the moment, it's not going to be simple..." and I found myself murmuring, "Fuck, guys, is anything ever?" and succumbing to a familiar thought: "These people are actually insane."

These are the friends who, when I let out a cry of frustration during a study session a few weeks before our final exams, fell over themselves to offer me valium and prozac, when all I really wanted was to rub my temples momentarily and get on with it. A high proportion of the group (nearly half) have taken extended (6-12 months) "stress leave" from their jobs since graduation. If I started telling you about their complicated relationships we'd be here all night, and we'd end up angry. In truth, we don't really understand each other, but they like having me around because I calm them down, and I like having them around because they wind me up. In a lot of ways, I guess I'm getting what I came for.

It comes to the crunch with this: I haven't been the one they've turned to for comfort or solace in times of need. When such-and-such happened to C, she went to M. And when that other thing happened to M, she went to N. And N has gone to T, and T, N, and K and K have done their fair share, but there have been precious few times when anyone's come to Bea, which has been ok up til now, because I've never needed to go to any of them. Anne spoke about not wanting to be a leech, and perhaps there's some of that going on, but in any case it says something about our friendship when I can't ring them and tell them they've fucked up, because I don't feel they owe me any better.

The thing is, I have other friends. Friends from whom I can demand more. So why haven't I chosen to confide in them? Well, here's where it gets tricky. The people I've confided in so far have been my friends. The people I would be (arguably) better off confiding in are our friends. And I can't say anything if Mr Bea doesn't want them to know.

The pathology lab where I had my fasting blood test was on a street literally filled with cafes serving breakfast. What, then, do you think were the odds of me randomly choosing the one outside the obstetrician's office? Taking Uterinus's Law into account, that is?

Luckily, these guys flew down to distract me:

In the wilderness, rainbow lorikeets survive on nectar. In the central business district of Sydney, they prefer to steal sugar sachets off the saucers of teacups, completely unperturbed by the presence of diners, dogs, and small children wanting to pat them.

Surveys reveal that two out of two lorikeets prefer milk to English breakfast tea, although they will drink either unless physically beaten away.

P.S. Thanks to my secret ode nominator. I feel really special! But also thanks to those who comment, or just read along.

I had trouble explaining this trip. It started at the check-in counter at Changi Airport. "Do you have any bags to check?" I was asked. "No," I replied. "None at all?" "None." "You're not transferring any from another flight?" "No." The woman behind the desk paused to look at me suspiciously. I shrugged. "I'm only going for a few days."

But of course that only led to more questions. I found myself changing my answers each time I was asked, trying to find a satisfactory explanation. Is it a business trip? "Yes. No. Sort of. It's a family thing. I'm visiting friends. I mean, it's more or less a holiday..." No matter how hard I tried, the conversation would end the same way - with someone's doubtful frown concluding, "You've come an awfully long way just for that..."

The thing is, I was never lying, exactly. For instance, I did get to meet the irrepressible Max and Vee, who are currently battling through what I hope is only the start of a 40 week wait, and I think I can safely call that "visiting friends". It was great to meet them both, to flesh out the people behind the blogs, and to enjoy a chat and a beverage or two, even if some of us take for-absolute-freaking-ever to get to the bottom of a glass, or the end of a thought. It's just nice to converse without feeling on guard against innocent small talk or thoughtless comments. Plus it turns out they're both thoroughly likeable people, and not once did they attempt to murder myself or anyone around us with an axe, so, bonus. Still, it's a long way to go for a mug of chai latte, a glass of red wine, and a chin-wag.

Really I was there to see MD, get my endometrium biopsied, and have twenty-three vials of blood sucked out of my veins in two sittings, the first of which required a prior, twelve-hour fast. What in the world did they want with twenty-three vials of my blood? you might ask, as I certainly did, although not til later, which is probably remiss of me. My answer came in the form of this list:

Fasting glucose, fasting insulin, fasting homocysteine, T-cell subsets, protein C, protein S, anti-thrombin III, APC resistance, FSH, LH, prolactin, testosterone, TSH, SHBG, tissue transglutaminase Ab, serum copper and ceruloplasmin, antinuclear antibodies, anticardiolipin antibodies, anti TjA antibodies, thyroid antibodies, lupus anticoagulant, immunoglobulin A, antigliadin Ab, CA 125, B12 and folate, blood group, hep B and C, VDRL, rubella, HIV, FBC, MTHFR C677T, prothrombin G20210A, factor V Leiden, nitric oxide synthase.

Yes, I'm off to google them now, too. As far as the biopsy went, I believe my words to Vee were, "It was nothing." Undrugged (I even neglected to take the suggested ibuprofen), I got myself into the stirrups, was swabbed, then had a flexible, plastic "thingy" passed into my uterus. The sucking and scraping lasted less than a minute and produced enough cramping to make me say "ow" in an adamant, yet conversational tone, plus some bloody tissue which was put into a jar. I felt a bit queasy for a minute or so afterwards, but by the time my jeans were buttoned I was already saying, "Wow - that didn't hurt at all," which is only a slight exaggeration of the truth.

"That's it then," said MD's nurse as she showed me out the door. "What now - up to Brisbane to visit family?"

"No," I replied. "I'm home on Wednesday."

"Really?" she said, and I sagged as I found myself facing that doubtful frown yet again. "You've come an awfully long way just for that..."

Results in three weeks.

Deeds: Unicef envelopes on plane. Carbon credits. Filling out survey at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum (I was rewarded with a coffee table book afterwards, but I didn't know that was going to happen ahead of time). Going into great detail about the strengths and weaknesses of said survey upon being asked casually by the people running it (strangely, no extra coffee table book for that).

A couple of shout-outs:

Babyblues deserves to feel good for using her doctorly skills to help Operation Smile recently. I'm sure her time and expertise was very much appreciated.

And Katie made her holiday shopping go further by purchasing a scarf to benefit a local animal shelter.

My iPod shuffles onto Can't Stop by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I am transported. I'm in York, England, in a park by the canal within view of the minster, boots on my lap, cloths and polish beside me, and an old toothbrush in my hand. Mr Bea is in the apartment behind with D, rearranging our boxes of stuff in his spare room. The military is about to move D back to Australia, and our things are hitching a ride. "What will they say about these?" I ask jokingly, indicating a carton of frilly underwear.

"Don't ask, don't tell," D replies. Then he hands me my boots. "These need to be spotless," he says meaningfully. "Like, military clean. Here's a toothbrush." I take everything down to the park to sit in the sunshine of late spring and sing softly to myself as pensioners stroll past with their dogs. I am full of hope and anticipation. We have given away over half our stuff, dropped off most of the rest with D, and completed our prenatal doctor and dentist appointments with flying colours. Tomorrow morning we will head south again with what we expect is all we need to create the next phase of our lives: me, Mr Bea, a few odds and ends (like prenatal vitamins!) in a backpack, and an exhilarating sense of adventure.

"The world I love
The tears I drop
To be part of
The wave can't stop
Ever wonder if it's all for you?"

When I come back to the present, I find that question has been answered in the negative. Sometimes the realisation that this world doesn't revolve around me is the only thing which keeps me from thinking I'm on some kind of karmic blacklist. And yet I find myself connecting with the song once again. I am more mature now - humbled, quietened - and I have learnt a lot about taking life as it comes. This time, instead of singing it with a fearlessness born of innocence, I sing it with a fearlessness born of adversity.

"The world I love
The trains I hop
To be part of
The wave can't stop
Come and tell me when it's time to."

[Video clip] [Lyrics]

I'll be back well before you have a chance to miss me. But just in case, here's another song from my iPod:

"Better Days" by Pete Murray

And I saw it coming
I saw emptiness and tragedy
And I felt like running
So far away
But knew I had to stay
And I know when I'm older
I look back and I still feel the pain
I know I'll be stronger and I know I'll be fine
For the rest of my days

I've seen better days
Put my face in my hands
Get down on my knees and I pray to God
Hope he sees me through till the end

I noticed the smallest things
But I didn't notice the change
It was hot in the morning
Then it turned so cold, twas the end of the day
There was no condensation I just felt like I was in space
I needed my friends there I just turned around
They were gone without a trace

I've seen better days
Put my face in my hands
Get down on my knees and I pray to God
Hope he sees me through till the end

Now I have just started
And I won't be done till the end
There's nothing I have lost
That was once placed upon the palm of my hands
And all of these hard times
Have faded round the bend
Now that I'm wiser I cannot wait
Till I can help my friends

I've seen better days
Put my face in my hands
Get down on my knees and I pray to God
Hope he sees me through till the end

Seen better days
Put my face in my hands
Get down on my knees and I pray to God
Hope he sees me through till the end

Seen better
Na Na Na Na Na Na Na [x4]

The BBE Gen-Y Youth Hub is a program aimed at "out-of-school youths who are unemployed and youths at high risk between the ages 10 to 18 years old" in Singapore. They provide "a range of developmental and rehabilitative programmes, with the objective of helping the out-of-school youths and youth at high risks to be reinstated into schools while equipping them with social skills, vocational training and IT skills. Recreation and the arts, creative and performing arts such as graffiti, mural painting, music, dance and drama will also be offered to provide a balance in their lives. Job opportunities will be created for out-of-school youths who are not eligible to be reinstated into schools."

The pint-sized tin-rattler who approached me on the street and offered his hand in greeting - much in the manner of a used-car salesman - before launching into his pitch, sold it almost entirely from the angle of education. "Do you believe education is important?" he asked conversationally, still pumping my hand up and down with great vigor. And I had to agree I do. But it's not everthing, is it?

After all, Abla Akla, who became one of my debtors in The Week Good Deeds Forgot has precious little of the stuff under her belt, yet has managed to repay 25% of her loan already.

(And just in case you were wondering how our little fund is going, the adsense account is up to US$55.64 - a little over halfway to what we need before we can collect and disburse the funds.)

Since I'm writing this, you know I decided that educating the disadvantaged youth of Singapore was worth my donation. In any case, it seemed the only way to get the lad to let go of my hand.

Karaoke Diva is fundraising for a charity close to my heart. Go over and support her as she Races for the Cure to breast cancer.

You've assured me my standards are fine, but I think I still have a fault and it's this: my expectations are crazy. As a consequence I'm caught in an ever-dwindling spiral. You see, I place far too much importance on my own ability to read people - I expect them to respond as I think they'll respond. I choose the one or two friends I "know" won't let me down, place all my emotional eggs in their basket, and fall to pieces when that basket goes crashing all over the floor, sending the contents flying. Then I become even more guarded and selective, and the spiral continues. Because sadly, and as many of you confirmed, it's often the people from whom we expect the most that we gain the least.

But many of you also said this: sometimes it's the people from whom we expect the least that we gain the most. And where are those people in my life? Locked out - that's where. Locked outside in Good Friend Hurt Me So I'm Certainly Not Risking It With You Land, figuring they might as well trudge slowly away. What a warm, trusting, and optimistic soul I am.

The other thing you've confirmed to me is this: Category One friends are hard to come by. But this is also true: Category Two friends are still fine. Maybe they're not gold, but you can buy a lot with silver if you get enough of it together, and whilst I agree with Karen O that you can't substitute endlessly (no amount of Category Eight friends can make up for someone special) perhaps four or six Category Two friends is enough to be getting on with for practical purposes.

Whatever way you like to think of it, the conclusion is this: instinct says withdraw, but logic says open up.

The wisdom of the internets:
Full text available in the comments. All the responses were so thoughtful and helpful, but I wanted to pick out these parts.

Baby Blues: "Opening up about infertility... puts our heart out there, vulnerable and easily hurt. And when you don't get the reaction that you're expecting, it hurts the most!"

My Reality: "I have no regrets about telling people that we are infertile. [...] I have found that most people have been great in supporting me."

Carrie: "...now I feel like I know what her friendship limitations are, and that's great, because I know not to rely on her too much. [...] Some people...are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they just disappear."

Mary Ellen and Steve: "True friends are hard to find."

Karen O: "If having high standards mean fewer friends, it also means there wouldn't be a lot of drop-out friends..."

Megan: "I had a surprising experience last friday with a friend i know through my profession. [...] He said all of the right things at all of the right times. [...] Having just experienced a loss, i'm finding that i'm telling all of my friends about it. it's almost like a weeding process."

Karaoke Diva: "I have yet to find a real true friend who can handle everything I have to give."

Mel: "...a true friend [...] asks how you are even when you tell them you are sick of people asking how you are(they know you don't really mean it)."

Ultimatejourney: "I've been VERY guarded about who I share our story with. I've probably missed the opportunity to gain closeness with some people, but I've also avoided a lot of the pain."

Aurelia: "...Some of the most awful ones I later discovered were people who had their own fertility problems, which they had never resolved or dealt with emotionally."

Melissa: "I do think when people know (and they say they're our friend), they owe us to be there in bad times as well as good."

Sarah: "It's weird what i've found about my friends."

Samantha: "I forgave her, but our friendship was never the same."

Serenity: "...over the years I've found that people are mostly self-absorbed. And they rarely realize that other people's problems are bigger than themselves."

Beagle: "...when life is running along smoothly, we never find out who [true friends] are [...] It's not you. It's just one of life's harder facts that not all relationships can weather a storm."

Somewhat Ordinary: "The one friendship that I've actually dissovled is a very self-absorbed person... It is her total lack of caring to even remember what I tell her that has forced me to stop returning her calls and e-mails."

Caro: "I'm beginning to put myself out there and the friends I have told are getting better at checking on me every so often."

Vee: "I think every one is at a different stage of their life whether they are still partying, or married or have families etc. So our interest are at different levels, but in the end I think they will be friends but we will just reach that point at a different time...."

(Apparently those weren't my final thoughts after all. Lots of new thoughts being mulled over. Post/s coming. Discussion going on elsewhere in the meantime.)

A few days back, I had a lot to say about friends. I think I have less now, but perhaps it's just better distilled. Let me start with a story about my oldest girlfriend, from whom I received an email over the weekend.

When I was twelve and thirteen, High School Girlfriend (HSGF) and I were inseparable. Then came The Cancer. My mother was diagnosed when I was fourteen, and things changed for our family, and for me. Initially, HSGF said she was sorry and gave me a big hug, but after a month or two - around the time of my mother's surgery - she started complaining that I wasn't fun anymore. I didn't want to giggle about boys, I wasn't available for much extra-curricular socialising, and after a long period of suffering in silence I snapped and told her I didn't want to hear about the latest fight she'd had with her mum, because she should be bloody grateful her mum was alive and well. Shortly afterwards, she took up with a new friend, and when a teacher found me locked inside the girls' toilets crying when I should have been in class, HSGF was happily ensconsed in her own world somewhere, and hadn't even noticed I was gone. I knew it was over then. Something had been permanently lost. Years later, I think it must have been tough to know what to do at fourteen, and I hold nothing against her. We still keep in touch. But since that day in the toilet she's never been... how shall I put it? She's no longer a Category One friend.

Some months after that Mr Bea came along. He was fourteen too, and male to boot, but despite these considerable disadvantages he knew what to do. And it turned out to be surprisingly simple - apparently what I wanted was for someone to ask me, from time to time, how I was really, and then stand awkwardly by, occasionally mumbling, "Um..." In short, I needed someone who was prepared to put themselves aside to care about me*.

I know - I can get really self-involved sometimes.

Earlier this year, when I was... well let's just go ahead and use the word pregnant - with Jester, I started a private blog to give factual updates to family and friends. And I asked University Friend (UF) to read the blog, but she declined to do so despite several requests - an act which culminated in her announcing her pregnancy to Mr Bea on the same day we received the pathology report from the D&C. I heard a lot during the next few days about how stressed she'd been over telling me and blah blah blah which was all very sweet but here's the thing: it was absolutely no fucking good to me. She gets no points at all for being so wrapped up in her own Announcement Dread that she neglected to care for me, despite clear and specific written instructions on how to do so.

Mr Bea suggested she mightn't want to hear about a pregnancy gone wrong in the middle of her own, and I guess that's true, but let's compare: she fell pregnant the first month off the pill, has no previous personal or family history of pregnancy complications or loss, and at the time I contacted her was already weeks ahead of me and into the second trimester in perfect, textbook fashion. I had an assisted pregnancy after years of trying, a history of biochemical losses, an unpromising initial beta, sub-par ultrasound results... Other than reminding her in some vague and general way that things don't always work out, I can't see how my situation affects her. Call me harsh, but that's not an excuse.

Despite this, I was forced to concede that I, too, am only human, and possibly I wouldn't have fared any better had the roles been reversed. I arranged to call her to clear the air. She said some good things in the fifteen minutes of conversation before she rushed me off the phone, telling me she was going to "let me go" now, even as I tried to keep her on the line. I told her I was coping badly, and wanted a friend to check in on me - her, anyone - and email or text was fine. She wrote me one email two days later. She promised to pass my news around. I have heard nothing since, from anyone. I wonder if they think I tell them these things for their own entertainment.

Very few people know about our infertility, and the truth is at this moment I feel closer to those who don't. For the last few weeks I've been regretting my decision to tell - it hurts so much to feel so let down by someone you trusted so much. My battered heart has been trodden further into the ground. I ask: is it me? Are my standards so high no-one can reach them? Am I just too damned self-involved? I want to know: should I write off the whole "telling" experience and just keep infertility to myself from now on, holding everyone at arm's length, even though at times that's not enough?

Today I realised it's like asking a friend on a date. You can go on as you are, which is comfortable enough, or you can take the risk and put your heart on the line. If they say yes - what wonder, what joy. If they say no - what devastation.

But if you never ever ask anyone at all - what loneliness, what emptiness. What tragic incompleteness.

And the truth, so far as I experienced it when I was just fourteen, is that you may break the relationships you thought would never fail, but someone else will come along. People you never thought of or imagined will be the ones who stick by you. If you ask. If you let them know. If you're prepared to put your heart out on the line.

(Final thoughts coming soon, after your feedback.)

*There were other friends and supporters, too. Age and wanting to get into my pants didn't seem to be the sole factors. Some of the people who let me down were adults who were old enough to know better, and some of the people who stuck by were, well, people who had no interest in copping a feel.

So on the other hand, hurrah for surging, because it means I'm flying off to Sydney on Sunday to see MD and get an endometrial biopsy and... some other tests*... done, and then I can move on to what I hope will be an actual treatment cycle. My sister asked whether I want someone down there with me. Apparently they have offered to buy my mother a one-way ticket. Of course, they are joking, and we will all be fine.

The Travelling Book, meanwhile, is winging in the opposite direction, to Thalia. If you haven't heard of the travelling book, or even if you have and have already signed up for it but not received it yet and want to make sure you're still on the list**, check it out on Beagle's blog over here.

Then there's So Close, which is going to Vee and, by extension, Max. I've decided to split the parcels to keep things moving along, share the love more widely, and give myself a little extra time.

What!! You're Pregnant Again!! Bite Me!! A Review

This booked was published in 2004. I wonder where the author, Sandra Zacchino, is now, and what she's doing, and whether she knows we're passing her book around the world and relating to her words. Because the thing is, it starts with a funny title, and some snarky language, but then there's Chapter Seven: Pages From My Journal. The next twenty pages take us from her initial pregnancy in 1999, through her loss, and to the years of secondary infertility on the other side. "Today I got my period." "Got fucking period." "Got my period as usual, that is about the only reliable thing in my life." "Today was horrible." "I got my fucking period today." Over and over, until your heart just breaks. And then, in Chapter Eight, I found this:

"I refuse to torture myself in every possible way in order to get there."

And I wanted to reach through the page and talk to her, because I didn't understand. Oh, I understand people who choose not to pursue fertility treatments in favour of living childfree or taking another path to parenthood. I can understand moving on, or sticking with low-tech treatments. But I can't understand why she battled all those years on her own, getting the same result, feeling the same hurt at the end of each cycle, asking the same questions, getting the same non-answers, passing up on the same options. I can understand her not wanting to "torture herself", but she is, and she does, and it's so hard to read.

I wanted to reach out and say, please make a decision you can be happy with - no matter how things turn out. Make a decision you can look back on without regret, knowing you tried what was right for you. Just don't keep passively riding the rollercoaster with your eyes shut, screaming, hoping someone will make it stop until eventually, they do. I can't imagine a worse torture than that.

*I feel like I should know what they are, but I don't.

**Because I, er, seem to have lost the list, so you might want to double-check you're still on it. Really - if you want the book, please drop round and make sure you're on the list, even if you've done so previously.

You feel cheated by the lines on the peestick. You want soaring romance, an intertwining of souls, a togetherness almost spiritual, and you think I'm giving you cold-calculated dates devoid of passion. But it's not like that.

It's like I'm drowning in signals and noise, pouring in from each part of my body.

I am aware of my lips, parting gently; my breath, spilling into my mouth and catching in my throat.
I am aware of my eyes' dilation as their lids slightly widen, then half-close.
I sense the roll of my hips, the tilt of my pelvis, the curve of my breasts, the arch and bend of my spine.
My fingertips warm from the feel of you; I think I could welt your skin with my softest caress.

I am a ball of sensation in the palm of your hand.

It has been like this since the beginning with you, and only with you. It is unchanged by fertility, and infertility, or by something as cheap as a peestick. The word "lust" is too trivial; "desire" too shallow. What should I call it? It's carnal, and animalistic, and mindless, and deep. That taste. That smell.

The flesh I am wants to grow and swell and hurt and tear, for you and descendants of you. Only my mind knows it's futile. There is no ghost to fear, just the machine.

You want soaring romance, an intertwining of souls, a togetherness almost spiritual. But it's not like that.

Sometime around... ooh... beta number two of FET#5, this woman I know asked if I was going to have any kids. "I don't know," I answered lightly and truthfully, followed by, "Hey, isn't that the Goodyear blimp?" But she persisted, wanting to know if I had plans, and I was too drained to lie, and too upset to explain. So I simply told her it wasn't a good subject and hey, isn't that the Goodyear blimp? and she looked horrified and said she was sorry to have pushed, and changed the topic.

To her teen daughter's recent, unplanned pregnancy announcement. Whatdaya think - three out of ten? Gold star for effort?

But when I got home I sat down at my computer and sent her an email. "I can recommend you an OB in Singapore." And I gave SOB's contact details, and some neat little what-you're-supposed-to-say sentence, and that was that. And when her daughter lost the baby a couple of weeks later, I passed on a few what-you're-supposed-to-say words.

You see, I can do it.

This week I arrived at the side gate at the same time as a father with a pram, and had one of those moments. One of those For Some Reason This Baby Amongst The Dozens I See All The Freaking Time Is Going To Upset Me (FSRTBATDISATFTIGTUM) moments. But I stepped forward and opened the gate, and I was watching Dad's retreating back by the time the tears started to well.

I can do it. You see.

And I guess I can go home for this miscarriage workup and visit my easy-conceiving friends and their growing bumps and their happily breastfeeding children, too.

I just don't want to.

(More on friends later.)

It's peestick day one. I'm choosing to optimistically believe I'll surge within the next ten days, and I have a body of historical evidence which supports this belief. Of course, I also have a body of historical evidence which runs contrary, but in the honourable tradition of Mendel himself, I'm choosing to ignore it. In the meantime, my eyes are peeled for 'signs'. These are all I've come up with so far:

Singaporean philosophy.

Mr Bea and I have often complained that film runs here seem to end the very second cinemas fail to completely pack a showing, giving a sort of blink-and-you'll-miss-it effect. Now this! Photo taken Thursday afternoon.

If you've ever wondered whether the cliche of Singapore as a heavily-ordered society is true, you need look no further. A footpath cobbler informs his customers...

It's easy to find a good deed to do on the road. We left donations at temples, museums and other attractions. We didn't bargain too hard. We ate at a restaurant which serves as a hospitality training centre for disadvantaged youth. All this was well and good. And then. Then came the night of the lottery tickets.

We were sitting in a coffee shop in Da Lat, drinking what is arguably the best coffee in the entire world, when an old woman came in - not begging, exactly, but selling lottery tickets for a small commission, which is a pretty close thing. As one of our guides explained, Vietnam has a daily lottery draw, which happens somewhere at 5pm. Tickets are about 35 US cents each, results are published in the national paper, and there's a cash prize. On a whim, I bought a couple of tickets. It took me a few moments to dig for the cash, and I chose my tickets from the bunch offered me, with a quick thanks. And then.

Then I happened to glance up into the woman's face. She was grinning with excitement. She said something in Vietnamese, and grinned some more. Her eyes were shining.

Later on, they started to close up shop, so we asked for the bill and made to leave. "What are you going to do with the tickets?" Mr Bea asked. Tracking down the winning numbers seemed an impossibly large effort for a fairly small and unlikely payoff. So when the waitress came back I gave them to her. She looked at them, and got that same grin and that same shine in her eyes. She asked whether they were really for her, and I said sure, why not, so she went off to show them to another waitress and we watched them talk excitedly.

It was strange. The reactions seemed all out of proportion to what we'd given. There was something about those little bits of paper - the potential, I suppose, the anticipation. There was some sort of magic in them.

And then.

Then I got that feeling again. The one where it's ok if we don't have any kids, because I can still experience that look on someone's face - the bright, shining eyes, the excitement, the magic. And I thought, pish tosh to all those who say there's nothing like the wonder of watching your child grow. Perhaps they've never bought lottery tickets from an old woman in a coffee shop in Da Lat.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to buy a return airfare's worth of carbon credits for deed number twenty-eight.

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