Thursday, 30 August 2012

People move on

Infertility took its toll on my friendships. Well, some friendships. It seemed to strengthen one set of friendships with people I now know are my true friends. However, there's another set of friends who it did the opposite to.

Ones who never got in touch after pregnancy losses, ask my husband how we were getting on. It also felt, sometimes, like I was a sort of a bad luck charm, a scapegoat for pregnancy loss, and that engaging with me would take the shine off other pregnancies. Maybe that's irrational, maybe not- but I think the "I don't know what to say" excuse for not getting in touch for people who are bereaved or ill could often translate as "I'm irrationally frightened to speak to you in case what happened to you happens to me". Although it was pretty horrible at the time, I've resolved it with myself. Although it's easy to say with hindsight, infertility helped me sort the wheat from the chaff, friendship-wise.

Most of the people who didn't say anything weren't that close friends anyway. And possibly didn't know what to say. Or just weren't that interested. Well, I can live with that. It might make them a bit thoughtless but, well, I've been thoughtless too sometimes.  It just doesn't hurt anymore.

Nearly all of them have been in touch since I had the Boy. And that's fine, it's nice of them to do that.

There's a couple of associates that I still feel rather bitter towards, however. Who knew a bit about the IVF, how long we'd been trying, the full record of losses. They knew because I trusted them enough to tell them.

One in particular knew fine that she should have got in touch after the miscarriages. She went around telling people she would, presumably because it made her look very concerned and deep. When I did see after a particularly heartbreaking loss, she breezed past and went, "Aw, Sushi!". She didn't tell me about her pregnancy, presumably because it was a tiny bit difficult for her. Either that or she thought it would be much easier for me if she just didn't say anything (it wasn't). The next time I saw her she waved from a distance and I thought, just-fuck-off-and-die, and ran in the other direction. Me and my husband sent a congratulations when she had the baby, she didn't get in touch. At the time I probably dwelled on it too much, but it all really, really hurt. All the more so because the stuff she was telling other people, asking for my address to send a card and that sort of thing, suggested she knew exactly how bad it all was but just didn't want to make the effort.

Predictably, she was then madly overly-friendly when I got pregnant. Facebook was about the only method of contact I had with her, and then only on my filtered friend list. She was giving it all "Oooh, your baby's going to have the same birthday as mine!", and that sort of thing. Like she was trying to re-establish a bond, but without making any more effort than writing overly familiar on my status. Like the previous two or three years hadn't happened.

Except, by that point I'd come to the conclusion that I didn't particularly want to have anything to do with her. I still don't. I've moved on from feeling angry about things, a process that had begun before I got pregnant myself. Now, the Boy takes up most of my time and energy and I concentrate on seeing friends I actually like.

I've been, well, not exactly avoiding her - our paths don't cross that much. But there have been a couple of times we have nearly been at the same event. And it's only a matter of time before I decide what to do when I do see her. Which is why I've got a tiny little bit of headspace wondering what to do when I do see her. I don't have the rage, but nor are we friends anymore, and I don't want to play her stupid false friendliness games.

Maybe the answer is to focus on the Boy literally as well as metaphorically. I can just go "hmmm" at her, take him out the room to look at the pretty leaves, or find one of my actual, real mates for us to talk to.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Too much information

This is a poo post. I'm sorry. I thought I would never write one, that the legacy of infertility meant I would remember that poo posts are not interesting. But having blogged about it once, it should get it out my system, so to speak.

I also never believed any of the stuff about what you ate during breastfeeding having an impact on your baby's digestive system. But I think I have learned something.

The story started when I bought a yam. I'd never had a yam before but was curious to try one. So I got one yesterday, peeled it and mashed it and had it with our curry.

Almost immediately after we finished eating, my husband started complaining about wind. I just ignored him, thought he was making it up.

This morning I got up at about 6am to feed the Boy. The Boy doesn't usually need nappy changes between about 8.30pm and 10am - he seems to manage to regulate things to allow him to sleep during these times.

As soon as I left the bed, my husband did the most enormous fart. I huffed at him about how disgusting he was, picked up the Boy and took him to the sofa. As soon as I sat down the Boy's bum made a loud "BRRRRRRAP!" noise. Almost exactly like my husband had.

I fed the Boy, put him back in his cot until he was ready to get up properly, and expressed. About five seconds after my husband got up to use the shower, I suddenly and desperately needed to use the toilet. After when seemed like an eternity my husband finally finished using the shower and took his time toweling himself dry despite my protests, because I'd been grumpy about his earlier trumping.

I went into the shower and my husband did his tummy time with the Boy. This involves putting the Boy on my husband's chest, so he gets used to being on his tummy but still feels secure.

Anyway, when I came out of the shower I heard howls from my husband, and the throaty noise the Boy makes when he is amused.

The Boy had done an exploding poo right on top of my husband, managing to hit both his shirt and trousers. Served him right for taking so long in the shower.

Boy and husband both completely changed, I settled down to look after the Boy for the day. Whereupon he did another exploding poo, and needed yet another completely fresh outfit. And when I tried to get into the bathroom after sorting the Boy out, to wash my hands, it was once again being occupied by my husband.

And so it went all day - mercifully there were no more clothing changes required for anyone, but let's just say it's lucky we'd decided to go up a nappy size at the weekend. That bloody yam has the biggest laxative effect of anything I have ever consumed, and even works second-hand. The Boy was happy enough through all this and it wasn't bad enough to qualify as diarrhea or an upset stomach, but I was getting pretty weary of nappy changes by the time six o'clock rolled around and my husband could take over for a while.

I would love to say that it's all resolved now - and hopefully it is, as the Boy is asleep and the baby monitor is not picking up any ominous rumblings. But the yam was big enough that we still had some for tonight's dinner and I'm programmed not to throw out food, so I fear tomorrow may also be busy. And, lo! as I type this, I can hear my husband farting in the kitchen. A herald of jobbies to come.

More alarmingly, I have carefully pureed and frozen some to give to the Boy when it is time for him to be weaned. I think I'll start with less exotic meals while I build up my courage - if the yam sets us all off while the Boy is being breastfed then it will nerves of steel to give it to him in a less processed form.

I won't blog about his poos afterwards. I promise.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


I got a Kindle a few months ago. Since then I've been trying to rationalise my paperbacks. Beloved ones - my battered Discworld, Dragonlances, Tolkien and, erm, other books that aren't fantasy novels - have been saved. Other random ones have been kept. The rest have been shipped to the charity shop.

The Boy's book collection has been increasing at about the same rate as I'm throwing mine out. He can't understand anything - well, as far as anyone knows. But he does like being sat on me or my husband's knee and read to, for varying lengths of time, determined by his mood and the book. He even had a go at turning a page the other day.

We got some books for him when he was born. Since then, we've picked up a boxed set of Dr Seuss, and various other books.

So I've been clearing out one of my bookcases that's in my room to get shifted through to the Boy's. I've had to sort into three piles. Stuff that should have gone to the charity shop in the first place. Stuff that I definitely want to keep. And the third pile - stuff that's gone straight into the Boy's room.

I've given him the Bromeliad, and the Eagle of the Ninth trilogy. The Chronicles of Narnia, and, when I can figure out where I put my copy, the Hobbit. There's a family tradition of getting read the Hobbit from a young age (and hence all the sword and sorcery novels that clutter up my bookshelf!)

He's too young for most of them now; we will be sticking to Charlotte's Fleece and the Cat in the Hat, and I may steal the odd one back from time to read. But they are his books now. Although I need to figure out a way of stopping wee hands drawing on them before he'd old enough to appreciate them.

It's probably more interesting listing the kids books I've kept. "Bilbo's Last Song" - this was in my brother's book collection, and it still makes me cry when I read it. I've kept the "His Dark Materials" books, for various reasons - they're not really kids' books, at least not for young kids. I suspect all boys think Twilight is a lot of girlie nonsense, so I've kept it for now - I also think that Twilight will be largely forgotten in a decade.

And at some point I'm going to have to work out which Harry Potters are ok to have kicking about for general reading - I think I'd find it difficult to tell the Boy he couldn't have a book once he'd started on them, but then, being old enough to read and comprehend the Philosopher's Stone is probably old enough to understand what's going on by books 3 or 4, but also young enough to find them scary.

Speaking of scary, as a child, I was terrified, for months, after reading a version of Hound of the Baskervilles. I thought there was a shadow on my bedroom wall that looked like a dog's head. I also read the Judge's House - it's only now I've looked it up I know who wrote it or anything about it. I vividly remember being frightened by it, though. At the time I read it, it absolutely scared the beejaysus out of me to the point I had to hide the volume the story was in under some clothes, until it was time to take it back to the library.

But all that is ahead of us, for a while.

So, which books are forever in your not-for-chucking pile? Which frightened you as a child?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The House of Flowers

Funny place, Belgrade. If you give it a cursory glance, it just looks like any other Western European capital - McDonalds, pavement cafes, the usual. Make the tiniest scratch into the surface and you realise it's very different.

Outside the city centre, it can be difficult to get a menu in a Latin alphabet. The national museum has pieces of a downed US fighter plane on display - when you look at the bombed office block in town, you can understand why.

When we visited, there were no cheap airlines that flew there - the many excellent bars and restaurants avoided that sameness that can afflict those in places colonised by Brits on Ryanair weekends. There is an Irish pub, but it's bizarrely called the "Three Carrots" because there was some sort of mistranslation regarding shamrocks (although there's a Serbian version of the Pogues, called the Orthodox Celts, which are apparently immensely popular). It seems somehow seems dated for all this, but also more original and engaging.

On one hand, the last Balkan war is so recent that it and the debate over Serbia's future means that it overshadows the Yugoslavian era. But, on the flip side, Belgrade is only developing contemporary tourist attractions - it's a lovely place for a meal and a drink, but there's a shortage of things to see. So, we visited Tito's Mausoleum.

It's actually a much bigger complex than just one museum. There's three, altogether. The gardens were a little overgrown when we went. The fountain, which must have been a cutting edge piece of sculpture in its day, was almost dry and had the odd bit of litter floating in the remaining water.

Although the garden had seen better days, the first museum we visited, the museum of 25th May, was excellent. It had a wing dedicated to the communist era of Yugoslavia. Which was interesting, although I'd covered a lot of the material studying communism at university.

More surprising and unusual was the temporary exhibit. Which was about John Lennon! "Give Peace a Chance" and other of Lennon's songs played over the loudspeakers as we wandered around. The gist of it was that Lennon had sent Tito seeds of a tree to plant in the Peace Park. It was strange, but immensely cool and a good way of getting across Tito's links with the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War - and totally not what we expected!

The mausoleum itself - the actual House of Flowers - was a bit more traditional. Tito's tomb - the Yugoslavs hadn't embalmed him in the classic Soviet style, so it was a normal marble affair. There was a recreation of Tito's office too. More interesting, there was a display of batons. Which sounds tremendously dull but wasn't. Baton races were held by young people all over Yugoslavia to mark Tito's birthday. Some of the batons were incredibly ornate, with hammer and sickle motifs, or friezes that reflected the origin of the baton - pastoral scenes, sailing boats, as well as more industrial themes.

And, finally, there was the Museum of Stuff That People Gave Tito. It wasn't called that, but that was what it was! There were African headdresses, Oriental rugs, and other beautiful items from other heads of state. Then there were more personal items that people from across Yugoslavia had sent him - knitted mittens from a peasant woman, sheepskins, wine, and other hand crafted objects.

My main memory of this last section is being followed by security guard. Everything was behind glass and there was absolutely no way we could even touch it, let alone steal it. But this uniformed chap followed us around at a fairly indiscreet distance, presumably in case we managed a Mission Impossible style heist and left with our short pockets bulging with ceremonial daggers and embroidered handkerchiefs. Or maybe the poor bloke was just bored.

Anyway, I bought the Cookbook I mentioned in my last post. It's fascinating. Tito ate lobster with Nixon, and shashlik kebabs with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Ceaucescu was entertained over cheese and egg soup while Tito was served goulash and grilled chicken by Stalin.

I was going to post one of the recipes, but I suspect that they have possibly lost something in translation - they seem to have fewer herbs and seasoning then I'd expect. So, if you want to try the barbecue food that the Queen was given on her first visit to a communist country, then the book says they had cevapcici, and pljeskavica, along with kajmak (cream cheese - I tend to blend cottage cheese, lemon and pepper rather than making my own) and pittas for dipping, and a salad. They go well with chicken and bacon parcel things, which aren't given in the book but are very nice!

I don't know if or when we'll ever go back to Belgrade, although I would like to, someday.  I suspect we saw it in a state of rapid change, and that the handover of Serbian war criminals for trial will eventually mean Belgrade will become a mainstream destination. But it was fascinating visiting when we did.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The hoarder

I love cookbooks.

I've got a few mainstream celebrity chef books. Particular favourites are Feast by Nigella Lawson, Nigel Slater's appetite, the first Hairy Bikers' cookbook, and Jamie Oliver's Italy.

But I also love my books that cover particular geographic areas. There are few more enjoyable ways to find out about a foreign land than eating its food. I've got Indian, Thai, Polish, Hungarian, North American, Moroccan, English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, a couple of pan-African cookbooks and books that cover the Balkans, South African, Scottish, Irish, Mexican and Spanish. And Georgian, French, and Belgian.

Just listing them makes me realise how many places I'd like to cover but don't already; Korea, Jamaica, Scandinavia, West Africa, Serbia, Mozambique, New Zealand and Australia (although, oddly, the only Australian dish I can think of is the pie floater!). 

I also covet books on specific ingredients and techniques. I've got books covering mince, slow cookers, canapes, pasta, baking and chicken. But I can easily persuade myself that I need books on sausage making, barbecues, potatoes, fish and, well, just about anything else.

My absolute favourite for looking at is Tito's Cookbook. I got it in Belgrade, at Tito's Mausoleum. It's fascinating, with photos of Tito meeting celebrities and world leaders- people you'd want to have dinner with, like JFK, Elizabeth Taylor, as well as those who you definitely wouldn't, like Saddam Hussein and Ceaucescu -, as well as the menu that they ate and selected recipes to try. Okay, it's maybe not the best actual cookbook in the collection, but it's a tiny glimpse into a fascinating life.

Apart from a few select titles, I'm moving the rest of my library to Kindle. But I doubt I'll ever let go of my cookery book collection. I love the photos - but there's also practical benefits too. I don't think Kindles and kitchens mix very well. My books can cope with a little bit of flour and sauce in a way that my Kindle probably can't.

Now the Boy is a little bit bigger, I'm trying to spend some time actually cooking recipes from the books, rather than just reading. I used to cook loads and lost the urge during early pregnancy, and never regained it until now. We've had  jerk chicken, salmon curry, empire biscuits, chilli, a tomato and rice bake, halloumi and beetroot, feta, mint and pea tart and sweet and sour chicken.

It's all good (well, the jerk chicken and rice and beans meal wasn't the best, and gave me horrendous oniony farts. But it was worth trying, anyway). Tomorrow we are having a poached salmon salad.

I sometimes think my husband would prefer mince and potatoes though, and is too polite to say!

What are you cooking today

Monday, 20 August 2012


Before the Boy, I spent a lot of time with the cat. I promised myself that she'd always get attention, always. Because she'd been our faithful companion through the worst of times and I didn't want to let her down.

I did, of course. Not to the point that she was actually neglected - she always got her biscuits, her food, water, a clean litter tray and a berth in our bed at night, and treats when I remembered. But, inevitably, there has been less time to stroke her and make a fuss of her.

Gradually, she became a bit more withdrawn. Not sitting on my husband's knee at night, not sitting next to me on the sofa while the Boy napped.

I didn't think about it much. Until the other night, when we woke up, I fed the Boy, and started making breakfast. And then my husband said, where's the cat?

We rattled the biscuit box, which is usually enough to summon her. Nothing. We couldn't remember if she'd gotten into bed with us, although I had given her some cat treats the night before.

We looked in the cupboard with the camping kit, in the big cupboard with the computer junk. Under the bed, under the cot. In the Boy's room. Nothing.

My husband went outside to look. We couldn't work out how she could have gotten out, but we were getting frantic.

Through all this the Boy sat and smiled benignly, and I felt terribly guilty.

Eventually I found her curled up behind the door in our room. She gave a faint miaow when I touched her and was listless when I picked her up. Then, when I put her down on the bed, she skulked off and hid again.

She was obviously just not herself, and I was frightened something was badly wrong with her. She's never been sick before.

My husband took her to the vet. We'd normally both have gone, but it seemed ludicrous for both of us and the Boy to take her.

We're still not sure what was wrong. The vet took her temperature and said she had a fever. She had an ibuprofen (or something like it) injection.

To my intense relief, she came home and has been perkier ever since. She still keeps her distance a little, but is joining in more with family life - she was back on the sofa with me today.

Better still, my husband was playing a game with the Boy with a plastic wire ball, putting it just out of reach on his side and encouraging him to roll over to grab it. The cat realised what was going on and began headbutting the ball towards the Boy!

So, it's been a happy ending. But I think it's been a lesson to me to appreciate the cat more. Picking her up and seeing her looking so ill and sad made me realise how much I've been missing.

And now I am off to bed a little early, to schedule in some cat time.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Crying Game

For the first few weeks of the Boy's life, he cried when he was hungry, or needed a nappy change. Although these crying episodes were more frequent than now, at least you had a 50% chance of being able to fix what it was that he was unhappy about.

As time has gone on, sources of upset have become more complex and harder to fix. Recent ones, as far as we can work out, have been:

  • He gets bored in his carry cot. We need to walk under trees so he can see the branches above, or hold him in our arms, to make him calm down.
  • He can't grab one of his toys that hang in front of his bouncy chair in his little, chubby hands. A felt snail that came with the chair is particularly likely to incur his wrath.
  • There are no toys hanging in front of his bouncy chair to grab onto. Especially the snail, which he has a love/hate relationship with.
  • The clockwork frog bath toy my mother got him. He hates it. He watched while we held it in the air above him and looked dubious. My husband put it into the bath behind him and it swam into his hand. He went nuts and was off kilter for the rest of bath and towelling time.
  • Some books that we read to him. Not all books. The Cat in the Hat is fine. "Oh, the Places You'll Go", a lesser known Dr Seuss offering, makes him cry. (NB. I am aware that it's probably just the tone of voice, him being tiny and all, but he does genuinely seem to take against some books and enjoy others. But then, I quite like Lord of the Rings but have to mentally restrain myself from defacing "Fifty Shades of Grey" advertising stands, so maybe there is something more to it).
  • He is very tired, but there is something interesting happening with the TV/the cat/the lights that he doesn't want to miss.
  • He is very tired, but the wrong parent puts him to bed. How could we??? This incurs a screaming fit that completely wakes him up again.
It is all worth it though. He isn't a crying baby at all, despite what I've written. It's just fascinating and frustrating, in equal measure, watching what upsets him. And reassuring him is easy.

Although, he is always beautifully calm when he wants to charm old ladies, workmates other random passers-by. Stuff you would think would be really upsetting, like the vacuum cleaner or John Travolta in Hairspray, he doesn't mind at all. And one smile at the end of a wailing fit is enough to make my heart melt.

I wish the Boy and the snail would make it up, though.  The frog is a bridge too far.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Wean's world

Weaning time is almost upon us. And by weaning, I mean the gradual process of introducing solids, rather than getting the Boy immediately off breastmilk (weaning apparently means different things in different versions of English).

I'm quite excited about it. I have an extensive collection of recipe books, and am looking forward to getting the Boy enthusiastic about eating good food, doing baking, and learning more about where food comes from. I've been re-reading the "children's food" chapter in my Nigella Lawson books, and have a couple of specialist books on weaning, as well as finally buying the Hairy Biker's family cookbook (a book subtitled "Mums know best", which I found cut me like a knife when I was going through IVF treatment).

But, anyway, much of that is a longer-term project. For now, the immediate concern is when to start giving him solid food. This is the confusing bit.

Everyone seems to agree that babies should get nothing but milk until 17 weeks. Which is fine. After that, it gets a bit more hazy.

At the hospital, some of the midwives said that, although the government's line was 6 months until solids, that they thought there was a good case for introducing them a bit earlier.

Since I got out of hospital, most, although not all, of the health professionals I've come across have been manically advocating the 26 weeks rule.

I'd done a bit of reading myself - my family are prone to food allergies, so I wanted to make sure. Then I found a study saying that there was evidence that waiting until 26 weeks can actually cause allergies.

I asked one of the weaning experts about this, and she said something like "but our guidelines are from WHO which do the whole world so they're right", and said that if there were allergies in my family I should definitely wait until 6 months (she actually gave the impression I should maybe start thinking about weaning by the time the Boy is about 30).

As far as I know, the US and France recommend weaning at 4 months, and there's an argument that later weaning is of more benefit in countries without a reliably clean water supply. And no-one knows what causes allergies, so it seemed a bit of a leap for her to imply that they were definitely related to introducing solids before 26 weeks (I always trust health professionals more if they admit they actually don't know something! Some of them always, always make stuff up rather than letting you think they are not all-knowing).

On the other hand, my family all seem to be quite competitive about who can wean their babies earliest, and think that waiting until even 17 weeks is ludicrous. It is political correctness gone mad, and never did any of us any harm. And all our allergies are caused by "genetics" and are not remotely to do with early weaning. I pointed out that they couldn't actually know this for sure but got a dirty look for my trouble.

I'd love to put the weaning expert woman and my relatives in the same room and watch them fight it out. The winner would get to give the Boy a rusk. Or not.

Anyway, presumably as long I'm not pureeing up donner kebabs over the next week and getting the Boy to wash them down with some Pepsi Max then we will probably be ok.

But I'd love to know what the guidelines are where you are!

Monday, 13 August 2012


About a week after we got the Boy home, I had an episode where I woke up late at night, with a tight feeling in my ribcage. I felt sick - and was sick - a couple of times. I took some painkillers and went back to bed. I just assumed it was some sort of trapped gas from the section.

Otherwise, I felt pretty good. I lost the pregnancy weight very quickly and recovered from the section well. I didn't think I had anything to worry about.

Then the pain happened once, twice, three times more. Just randomly, not on consecutive nights. Eventually, about six weeks ago, I asked the GP about it. She put me on some meds and said that being pregnant might have damaged my stomach lining. And that to take the meds and that, hopefully, they'd clear it up.

So, I did. I kept forgetting to take the pills, but I did get through the packet. During that time  I felt a bit achy during the day a couple of times, and got sick after a pub lunch one day. But I was really hoping that there would be nothing else wrong - I've had my fill of hospitals.

Last night, we had pizza and chips as a treat. And in the middle of the night, at about 4am, I woke up with very bad pains. I couldn't find the painkillers without waking everyone else up. So I sat on the sofa, read, tried to go back to bed, was still in pain and finally, at about 5.30am, the Boy woke up anyway. So I had the paracetamol and went back to bed.

This time I managed to sleep until about half past 8. On previous occasions, the pain had stopped - this time, the painkillers had masked it enough for me to sleep but it was still there.

I swithered about going to A&E but decided it really wasn't that bad. I phoned NHS 24, after answering a few questions, the nurse said she reckoned I have gallstones.

I looked online and everything fits. Gallstones seem to commonly appear after pregnancy and rapid weight loss. Once they're there, episodes of pain often occur after eating fatty foods - and had takeaways at the weekends in the Boy's first few weeks, which was when I was more likely to be afflicted. Thinking back, afternoons where I've felt a bit of low level pain or sickness tended to be after I'd had a bigger than usual lunch. It all fits.

While it's a painful and annoying condition, I don't seem to have it as acutely as other people. Ditching the occasional takeout will help my weight loss efforts - I'm now trying to shift the weight I gained during IVF cycles. So it just forces me to be a bit more healthy for the time being.

I'm almost less enthusiastic about the treatment, which for most people seems to be removing the gall bladder. I won't be able to lift the Boy for a while afterwards, and it gives you a dodgy stomach when you recover, apparently.  It almost sound like more hassle that just dealing with the odd bout of stomach pain. But having said that, I can feel an ache in my stomach even 12 hours after I first woke up, and the gall bladder may only get more angry if it's left.

'Angry' is the wrong word, though. Semingly tricky gall bladders are "grumbling"! The thing is sitting in my stomach going "Fuck sake, I tried to tell her not to have pizza. But oh no no. Silly cow did it anyway. And now I'm down here being sluggish. Grumble grumble grumble."

It's funny - after treatment and pregnancy I thought I wouldn't have any more medical appointments for a while. If I do need to get my gall bladder out, it feels like I'll need a season ticket to the operating theatre. And at least I've got a fairly good idea of what clothes to take.  I'll just have to wait and see though, maybe it won't come to that.

Maybe Mr Grumbles will perk up a bit if he gets some sushi and stir fries, and start singing "Always look on the bright side of life".

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The gossip

In the last week, I've met two people who have mentioned IVF to me. The first was someone I met at a baby group. The second was an aquaintance whose daughter had IVF.

With the first, I outed myself - although I think the person in question was more looking for an audience for the story of her IVF journey, rather than a general chat.

With the second, I  didn't. I was too scared! I explained we'd had a baby - I hadn't seen this particular lady for a while. She said

"Ooh! My daughter's having twins!"

I made the appropriate remark, and wondered quietly if they were IVF. She then volunteered:

"She had that IVF, you know."

And I nearly said, "so did I", but then she continued;

"She had that endometriosis, you know. All her insides got scraped out and everything - "


" - and it still didn't work. So then she had to have IVF. And it worked first go. Which was good, because you only get two goes on the NHS. And after that her husband would probably have thrown money at it."

Erm, so, within a couple of seconds, I knew more than I suspect her daughter would have been happy with a random stranger knowing about her medical history and a bit about her family finances too.

I don't know - it's a tricky one. If fertility problems are discussed in hushed tones as "women's problems", then people that go through them are isolated. But then, the reason I really didn't want to tell her about my own IVF after that was that I wouldn't have been very comfortable with her going around saying "That Sushigirl, she had both her tubes cut out of her! And spend loads on treatment!"

I suppose being open or being closed about IVF doesn't guarantee sensitive treatment. But there should be some sort of middle ground. But I don't know what that is, although maybe the key is that I'd have found it less uncomfortable if I heard it direct...  it was the fact that the person in question might not know her details were being discussed that made me squirm, rather than the discussion itself.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Fast food

Since we got home, the Boy has been breastfed. He gets an expressed bottle about once a day -partly so my husband gets to feed him, partly so we don't have any issues with using bottles when I need to go back to work. But apart from that, it's all me.

There's loads of benefits to breastfeeding and I don't particularly want to list them here. But one of the odd things about it, that I hadn't thought about before I did it, is that you're always on the clock.

Consequently, the Boy and I are together the vast majority of the time. Sometimes I run the odd errant when he's having his daytime nap. Or I've given a babysitter - my Mum or sister - a bottle of milk in case he wakes up, so we can have a little couple time. About two or three times, I've gone out in the evening - popping to the shop, usually - leaving my husband with him. Evening time is usually when the Boy does a lot of eating. I always feel a bit apprehensive leaving him, but I've always come back to find the Boy and my husband contented.

Which they should be, really. There's loads of spare milk in the freezer, and I always leave at least 130 mls fresh before I go out. And there's even an emergency carton of formula.

That should mean the Boy is never hungry. You'd think.

I'd gone to a function tonight - because I think it's a bit unhealthy all round if I never leave the Boy, and my husband never gets to look after him alone, and besides which, it's nice to have a little bit of adult conversation. I fed the Boy just before I left. I got on the train, went to the event, excused myself at bang on when I was meant to leave, and quickly walked back to get the train. I was away for less than three hours.

When I got on the train back, I called my husband to let him know I was on my way. He said that the Boy had drunk all the fresh milk he'd been given. For some reason my husband had waited until the fresh milk was totally finished before he took the frozen stuff out the freezer.  In the half hour between finishing the fresh bottle and getting the frozen milk defrosted, the Boy had screamed. Then he had refused the bottle, screamed some more and fallen asleep.

The train journey took around five minutes - I didn't go far. It was the longest five minutes of my life. I kept imagining the Boy's little face all twisted up and making his hungry cries, which are particularly piercing.

You know, rationally, that you're not going to get investigated by Social Services for your baby not having a bottle ready immediately when he wants it. And that the Boy is not going to say in his wedding speech "...and I'd like to thank my Mum, even although she once went out, leaving me with my Dad, who didn't feed me straight away when I was hungry when I was 11 weeks old." But I felt like a complete cow for going out, and like the whole episode was a big black mark against me as a parent.

The journey was made even longer by a tremendously irritating chap sitting across from me. The conversation went something like this:

"Are you okay?"

"Yes, I'm fine. I'm just tired."

"Oh, right. It was just you looked a bit worried."

"I'm fine, thanks." I started playing with my phone. Because I was a bit worried about the Boy not being fed and I didn't want to share this with a random bloke on the train.

"Oh, you were miles away, miles away. You must have been thinking about something."


I mean, who does this? I don't mind talking to random people on the train, but why keep going on at someone who is so obviously preoccupied that it's the first thing you can think to talk to them about? Why? Why?

Mercifully, the bloke's mobile went off at this point. He had the conversation and then said,

"Oh, aye. I was just on the phone. I was just on the phone, you see!"


And then it got to my stop. By this point, I just wanted to sprint to the house to feed the Boy. But the annoying twat started walking really slowly up the stairs in front of me. The stairs are too narrow for more than two to walk abreast, and another woman was passing him so I had to wait for her to get by. But it was like going on the train was some sort of special occasion for him and he had the wring the maximum enjoyment and social opportunities from using public transport. He started talking inane gubbins to her as well;

"Oh, you're going faster than me! You're passing me!"

And I had to stop myself from attempting to hurl him bodily onto the tracks.

Anyway, I burst into the flat to discover the Boy in my husband's arms, gulping on the bottle he'd initially refused. So I hopped impatiently about the living room, waiting for him to finish. He was still hungry, despite having had the two bottles. And as soon as he'd had enough, he went back to his usual easygoing self.

So, all sorts of lessons were learned. Don't rely on my husband to be organised enough to defrost milk in advance. Remember the Boy can put away an incredible amount of milk in the evening. And beware of mentalists on the train.

Friday, 3 August 2012

I am crap

Our pram (or travel system), is a very nifty piece of technology. The chassis is a basic pushchair. It has optional car seat and carry cot attachments. So it should, in theory, manage all the Boy's needs until he is 3.

Except - and this is a big problem - I can't fold the bloody thing.

There are two levers, almost level with the handle on each side of the pram, that you're meant to pull back and it neatly folds down.

The saleswoman demonstrated it to us before we bought it and it looked dead easy. I even had a go in the showroom and it worked fine then - it's very simple. And it is to everyone else, still. My husband can do it. My parents can work it fine. Even a friend with no experience of babies pulled the switches back with no effort at all, giving me a strange look for struggling with it.

It's really embarrassing. I stand outside our flat, pulling back with all the strength I have in my hands, getting all red in the face and cursing whoever designed it. It's like pushing at a door when you're on the "pull" side - there's no give. This goes on until I lose patience. Then I have to summon my husband or whoever else is around for help.Which is a bit inconvenient, given that we live a couple of storeys up and the chassis stays in the car boot.

I'm too scared to drive anywhere and take the Boy out in the buggy by myself, in case I can't put the fucking pram back in the boot at the end of the trip. I always pack the carrier - given the Boy is getting heavier by the second, I don't know how long I'll manage to carry him in it for.

It's definitely, definitely me. It's something to do with the angle that I'm pulling the levers back. But I can't work out what, exactly it, is. With my husband's somewhat exasperated help, I can pull one side back or the other (not, irritatingly, the same side every time). I've tried jiggling about with it, I've tried lots of different grips. I've tried it with the brake on and off. Stubbornly, it remains upright while I sweat and swear and my hands ache and I get annoyed at myself for being pathetic.
I will figure it out. One day. Maybe by the time the Boy is walking.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Flog it!

I recently bought a paper which, to my surprise, had a supplement on fertility treatment. Like most supplements, it was basically a vehicle for advertising, but the blurb on the front claimed it contained up to date information on treatments.

It didn't, as far as I could see. One of the few bits of editorial claimed that 'new treatments' could boost IVF success rates from 50% to 80%. But didn't give any detail on what those treatments were. The editorial also mentioned that infertility could be very difficult and that, basically, it wasn't only older women who suffered from it. That was really about it on the practical and emotional side - the rest was adverts.

And bad adverts at that. They made me cringe. One clinic, in the Bahamas, inferred that you'd do much better there as you'd be relaxed. The Lister had an ad encouraging readers to go there to egg share to save on costs. Another advert had dotted lines around the margins and encouraged you to cut it out and keep it - like it was a coupon for tinned beans (although it didn't promise a discount if you brought the token to the gynaecologist).

I don't really have a problem with people paying for IVF. I wish it was more widely available on the NHS. But it isn't, so people have to pay.

What I do object to is the whole thing being so monumentally tacky, and the idea that it's merely a case of picking the clinic and parting with the money. Egg sharing is a bit more complex than just getting a discount. The 50% success rate is unlikely, never mind the 80%. You can't relax yourself into getting pregnant.

I can't imagine such a thing being produced for any other form of illness. Plenty of people use private healthcare for all manner of illnesses, but surely no-one would produce a supplement in a national newspaper filled with adverts from cancer clinics vying for custom (Perhaps there are and I just haven't seen them. But it just seems repellant).

Maybe, just like any number of other products, the advertising for infertility treatment needs to be regulated. Fucking with your hormones, your emotions and your future can be bad for your health. At least compelling fertility clinics to link ads to a government website giving relatively unbiased facts would help.

But anyone who has ever seriously considered fertility treatment knows that it's an expensive and uncertain procedure. I suppose my main worry is that casual readers might pick up an advertising supplement for IVF, flick through it and get the idea that using assisted reproduction is perhaps easier than going to the dentists and that you can have a holiday at the same time... it doesn't really help anyone.