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

Long Version:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Peeled, chopped tomato recipes gratefully accepted.

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

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


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

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

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

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

*Don't be one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next appointment: the detailed scan at 20 weeks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more points of view at the Blogtavism campaign.

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

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

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

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

Mr Bea: I like what it represents.

Bea: So you don't like it.

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

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

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

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

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

Bra Sizes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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