Weeble wobble

Mum100-blog-IVF-wobble-falling-over-getting-upOn the surface, there was no reason for me to lose it. I slept well. We went for a jog around Abney Park cemetery. Beneath tall trees, we darted down paths between ancient gravestones, running in and out of sunlight pools. For breakfast, we ate fried tomatoes and mushrooms on toast. I sent some work emails. At lunchtime, Dad 100 made cheese and onion omelette with mixed salad. There it was on the table, red and yellow and green, ready to go.

The first piece of omelette was too hot. It brought tears to my eyes. I gulped water and started on the salad instead, cucumber and tomato slices in vinaigrette. I couldn’t make eye contact with Dad 100 because of an ugly feeling in my stomach. Quite suddenly it was there, as if an elevator had dropped a floor with us inside. I tried to hold back tears by concentrating on the next fork of food – blowing to cool it, chewing, swallowing too quickly. It was absolutely no good at all. My eyes were spilling over. Unfairly, I wanted my partner to guess what was in my head. Worse, I wanted him to make me feel better.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said.
Without looking up, I said, “I’m not expecting you to say anything.”

Except that was a lie. In that moment, I was craving answers. Why can’t I stay upright for long? How is this going to turn out? Don’t get me wrong, since the surgery there have been plenty of good moments. We’ve started with a personal trainer called Dave. We met him by the goat enclosure at Clissold Park for our first session. He had us skipping and squatting and side-stepping on the grass. We attracted inquisitive gazes from local dogs and toddlers, who were keen to join in. I’ve also taken steps towards work, emailing and meeting with prospects, contacting agencies. I’ve met up with friends for food and conversation. I’ve visited my Mum and stayed two nights longer than planned. These are all positive things. However, punctuating all of this have been sudden tiredness, sharp snaps of anger and turn-on-the-tap sadness. I’ve fixed up social activities then wanted to cancel. Right now, there’s a convincing illusion of complete safety inside our home, potential harm outside.

Mum100-blog-IVF-journey-ups-downs-glum-bags-past-futureIs any of this making sense to you? My head has been a jumble of sensations and thoughts over the last few weeks. Glumbags has been on the scene with his memories and predictions. And I haven’t known what to write on my blog. I don’t want to be gloomy, as we’ve all got enough to deal with in this community, so I have missed the connection that comes with weekly blogging. To write a piece, to press publish, to feel the arms of sisters around me – I have shrunk away from the very thing that makes this process bearable, enjoyable in fact.

Anyway, I lost it over that omelette.
Dad 100 said, “too much thinking about what’s happened, it’s not doing you any good.”
Through wonky ear filters, I heard, “why don’t you pull yourself together?”
I said, “I’m trying my best. Can’t you see that? I’m looking for a new contract and training courses. I’m meeting up with friends, even when I’d rather stay at home. I’m working out. Isn’t that enough? I already feel useless enough, without you adding to it. I can’t even carry a baby, for god’s sake.”

I always know within seconds when I’ve been out of order. I left the kitchen. I cried off a face of make up. Up in the bathroom, I scooped handfuls of cold water on to my face. I looked in the mirror and thought, yep, that’s about right – puffy eyes, blotchy cheeks, mascara smudge. I was due to meet with my friend Jill in an hour. I was so tempted to cancel, to swerve my writing class that evening. After crying, I always get tight temples and the start of a headache between my eyes. I could easily call it off, I thought. I can suggest meeting before our next class.

But this is exactly how the gloom wins. It wants me to cut myself off. This is the lie it tells. It says, “you just need a bit more time on your own, away from the world.” And it’s a convincing voice because it does feel safer to close the curtains, to curl up. It is more predictable to disappear into a Storyville documentary or to gawp at the latest drama on the news. Watching the world go mad is a terrible fixation of mine, when I’m avoiding my own life.

Of course, I do accept that not knowing what was happening inside my body – for so many weeks, months – has knocked my confidence. But strangely, all that build up to discovering the ectopic pregnancy, all the alarming symptoms and uncertainty over the diagnosis, the many hospital visits and the operation – that was easy compared to how I’ve felt since the surgery. Whilst going through it, we had to take the next step forward. There was no choice. We had to get to the next blood test or scan or examination. Now, the urgency has gone and I’m tumbling in space.

Thankfully, sense kicked in after my tear storm. I did meet up with Jill. She was great to talk to, actually. She pointed out why it was easier before the surgery.
“It was an anchor, all that stuff going on,” she said. “And what you’re telling yourself now is you should be over it, you should be back out in the world.”
“Yes, that’s it,” I said. “And the normal conversations involved in drumming up work, they feel like rejection. I know that finding new work involves talking to lots of people. It’s about numbers and the truth is I’m not yet having enough conversations – because the ones I am having, I’m taking way too personally.”

Then, for an hour or so, I listened to Jill’s stories. Turning points, those big reversals in life that switched her course – unexpected illness, job crises, family matters. It was such a relief to sit and listen. I asked questions and Jill answered them generously. She told me about her partner walking out unexpectedly and a sociopathic work colleague, who I wanted to slap on Jill’s behalf by the end of her tale. Then Jill mentioned not having kids, something I didn’t know about her.

“I haven’t exactly taken Conventional Road,” she said.

To listen to Jill was to be in the world. I need other people’s stories for relief from my own. I need to hear that other people have been through their own tough times and they are still up and out and doing life. Jill is a smart sixty-something year old, always sharply dressed, a great talker with an infectious laugh – you wouldn’t know, on the surface, there have been these big difficulties in her life. Her stories made me remember how much I enjoy writing. I love to exchange stories with people in the hope of connection. It’s what energises me the most – the identification that comes through sharing experiences.

Before our writing class, Jill and I tapped at our laptops for an hour. Out came this blog. It’s a human-shaped blog, rough around the edges, but it’s something. It makes me feel hopeful to see words on the page, after several weeks of not being able to write.

I have also apologised to Dad 100 – for expecting him to know how our story ends.

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A conversation with Dad 100

Mum100-blog-IVF-partners-strong-supportI had a chat on the sofa with Dad 100, asking him about our first IVF cycle. I wanted to capture his thoughts, to acknowledge the massive role he has played in IVF1. This blog is dedicated to all the amazing partners out there – thank you for the heavy lifting you do. x x x

How are you today?

Physically I’m still tired but as the day has gone on, I’m feeling better.

How long has the tiredness been going on?

Since you had the operation for the ectopic pregnancy, three weeks ago. At first, I put it down to having so little sleep on the night you had surgery. In the days afterwards, I thought I’d catch up – but I haven’t been able to shift it.

Why do you think that is?

I don’t really know. Maybe it’s a physical manifestation of sadness? The IVF process so far – it feels like a long time – and our first round has ended with a loss. There was also the stress and uncertainty after our embryo transfer, going backwards and forwards to hospital. Then having to make a quick decision about emergency surgery. It’s all caught up with me now.

We went to see The Quiet House play about a couple going through IVF – how did you find it?

I related to it completely. It was a mirror image of our story. The part that got to me was when they first started their injections. It reminded me of when we first started out and the huge hope we had. I was overcome with sadness.

What coping strategies are important for partners?

I guess it’s important not to bottle things up. I think that’s why I feel better today, because I’ve actually talked about it.

What do you need right now?

I need to rediscover things that make me feel happy, things I love.

What do you love?

I love you. I love spending time together, just hanging out. I love music and playing my guitar. Jamming along to records. I love good food and a glass of wine. I love being hopeful – and I am still hopeful we will have a family.

What would you say to other partners in our situation – when an IVF cycle hasn’t worked out?

Acknowledge your feelings. Don’t hide them.

Do you hide your feelings?

Definitely. I feel uncomfortable talking about what’s really going on. I have a natural response to my emotions to keep them inside – especially with difficult feelings. I tense up physically. There’s also societal conditioning that men aren’t supposed to admit to these feelings. I tell myself I should be able to brush them off and get on with my day. They showed that in The Quiet House play – how Dylan struggled to talk about his feelings.

So, now’s your chance to be really honest. How do you feel about losing our first pregnancy?

Primarily, I feel gutted for you – losing a fallopian tube. I feel sad that we’ve gone through so much and it didn’t work out. I was so sure it was going to be a success. When you had the operation, initially it was a relief after weeks of uncertainty. At that point, I just felt concerned for you. I wanted the operation to work and you to be well. When the immediate danger was over, that’s when the tiredness set in. It’s taken time to surface with me – like delayed grief.

What gives you hope?

We’ve been referred to a new hospital. There is a possibility we can continue our NHS treatment there. We’re also looking at private clinics. And our first round wasn’t a complete failure – at least one of our embryos tried to grow inside you, albeit in the wrong place.

How do you feel about starting IVF round 2?

It would be nice to have a longer break because it has been exhausting at times. But I accept time is of the essence. We need to crack on.

What about being a Dad? Do you still feel the same?

That hasn’t changed. To have a little person to think about – maybe even two – I would absolutely love that.

What have you learned in our first IVF round?

How much I love you. I wanted to be there every step of the way. The big thing was the night you had the operation. I prayed and prayed that the operation would be successful and there wouldn’t be any complications. When I came home to pack an overnight bag for you, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hospital. It was the middle of the night when I returned. There was nobody around. I had to find you. I went to the recovery area and I walked into intensive care – completely the wrong place! Luckily, that’s when I bumped into your surgeons. They told me you’d just come out of theatre. A nurse appeared and took me down. I had to wait for twenty minutes, so I ate a sandwich and a Mars bar – I hadn’t eaten for god knows how many hours – then the nurse came out and said I could see you. When I saw you, I realised how much I loved you. You looked so fragile, actually, coming round from the anaesthetic. I was very relieved you were there and you’d come through the operation.

Do you know how much I love you? You’re an amazing partner and friend in all this. Do I tell you that often enough?

You do. You tell me that you love me and you think I’ve been great throughout the cycle. It surprises me to hear that because I’ve just done what is necessary. I don’t think I’ve done anything that brilliant.

You have been brilliant – end of story! I love you very much.