Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The geometric Waltons

The Boy has a bedtime routine, like most toddlers - a bit of In the Night Garden (a weird and quite trippy programme), bedtime, then his Dad takes him up to bed cos I tend to do more of the mornings.

Anyway, when he ascends the stairs, the routine goes:

Me: "Goodnight triangle!" (it always starts with triangle).
Him: "Goodnight square!" (normally)

And then we work our way through the shapes as he goes up the stairs. The Boy is very big on shapes. We normally have rectangle, circle, nonagon, hexagon, pentagon... although as I write this I realise we have both forgotten about octagons.

This started because we were trying to get him to say "Goodnight Mummy" but he refused and instead started saying goodnight to shapes instead.

It is a bit geeky. But I love sharing this routine with him.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Do you want fries with that?

We are about to finalise treatment at the new clinic. We're getting standard ICSI, but then, thanks to private medicine, we also have an array of extras.

It kind of reminds me of those relatively expensive Mexican fast food places, where cheese and chilli sauce come as standard with a burrito but if you pick the jalapenos and other extra things you find out it all adds up.

I don't want to write the particular technology that the clinic are pushing as there are only so many clinics that do it, but it seems to be heavily patented and its logo appears everywhere, from the screens in the reception area to the consultant's mouse mat. It gives them a better idea of what is happening so in certain circumstances better embryos can be put back, rather than actually helping the embryos.

I'd seen the fucking thing advertised everywhere in the clinic to the point that I believed it must be standard, but no, it costs the best part of a thousand pounds more for - based on a statistically invalid sample size - a six per cent improvement on odds.

Then there are other extras - I never thought I'd be paying someone to... what's the word... traumatise my womb lining. But that is now a thing.

Then there are options around extra drugs, and acupuncture and all the rest.

I had a root around the internet and none of the add ons seem to be backed up by much data. There are a couple of studies with a few hundred participants.

Last time round I would have spent hours researching all this, obsessing over it and then probably paying for it all too.

Part of the reason why I'm more cynical is that at least one of the things that were touted as a wonder solution during our first cycle - aspirin - is now meant to do more harm than good. In five years time the contract for the technology the clinic are pushing now will have run out, or they'll have bought another fancy bit of equipment, and they'll be encouraging patients to do something else.

Granted, some of it might boost your chances a bit, but I've yet to see any of the treatments that are press released to great fanfare getting over the 50% success rate mark, at least in a reliable study with more than a thousand participants and a control group.

I know from bitter experience that no treatment is guaranteed - essentially, you're paying for something that gives you a reasonable chance of getting pregnant and that's all. A burrito is a burrito and I'm wondering if I really need the sour cream on top and extra nachos.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

It's been a while.

So, first treatment at the new clinic today. And perhaps a lesson in how far I have come, both literally and mentally.

I've mentioned before that I hate driving, and that this was some sort of weird mental block that happened after an IVF miscarriage.

Today I managed a long drive on the motorway, and didn't feel that old horrible feeling that I was somehow not competent enough to drive a car. In fact, I quite enjoyed it.

I actually figured out the section of the same motorway I'm particularly worried about is right next to the hospital where I've had all my losses diagnosed and three rounds of emergency surgery, and once I realised that it seemed like less of an irrational fear.

So, to the clinic.

I did the usual form filling, got shown into the scan room, and sat on the couch.

Hello stirrups, hello monitor, hello dildocam and KY jelly. I used to spend more time with you than virtually anyone else apart from my husband.

Anyway, I did the whole "taking your bottom* off and getting ready", but stupidly hadn't realised that one of the bits of paper was for modesty purposes.

People still feel alarmed about internal scans? Who knew? These days, I've got a big skin flap that I can practically throw over my head.

Hello ovaries, hello bladder, hello follicles. You're looking better than the rest of me.

Then I went and sat and sat and waited for my husband. Christ knows what he was doing... well, He does and so do I. But you know what I mean.

My husband also has bizarre baggage. Apparently the, ahem, "sample" room at New Clinic is not as nice as the state clinic - although, ironically, the state clinic had the most horrible areas for female patients than anywhere I've been to. Although New Clinic has car magazine for men to look at before they go into The Sample Room.

I feel less wound up about the whole thing than I used to. I read somewhere that patients who are more stressed do better, presumably because they are more likely to be doing the Fertility Olympics with vitamins, exercise, mung beans and so on - this probably makes a marginal difference.

The clinic asked me about drinking, smoking, weight and did an AMH test. It sounds stupid, but if fish oil, reiki, "relaxing", Wiccan rituals or any of the other shit I worried about the last time - or at least worried that I should be worried about - came into it, presumably they'd appear on the questionnaire. There was a card for a counsellor, should I need one, but not a feng sui consultant.

At the moment, I'm more neurotic about the traffic making me late for the Boy's childcare pickup than anything else.

* Weird English. Bottom half of clothes, not actual bottom or butt (or, in a phrase even more ripe for confusion, a 'fanny'. My husband presented me with a box of chocolates 'because you had to get your fanny out today').

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

I know because he told me

I was sitting in a meeting earlier, and became aware of two colleagues whispering.

I left the meeting and one came out after me.

"Oh, are you pregnant? Donald says you are."

"No, I'm not. Really."

"But Donald was just saying you were pregnant."

"No, I'm just fat."

(Which is enough to make people shut up, you'd think...)

"But Donald said you were pregnant and we were wondering about how you'd cope with another little baby on top of everything else."

"I'm definitely not pregnant."

Possible explanations:

* My stomach is a bit lumpy, partly from needing to lose a bit of weight, but also partly from my previous pregnancy losses and successful pregnancy, which they both know all about. But they forgot because they are stupid.
* I am a freak who looks pregnant without being able to get pregnant.
* There's something about planning an IVF cycle that makes people speculate, they know by some sort of telekinesis that something is up.
* Donald is a weirdo and a bit of a perv. He has form for spreading rumours about me being pregnant, so much so that a few years back I had to have a word with my boss.
* Donald has been conspiring to drug me and take me on repeated visits to an IVF clinic in the dead of night, so I am actually pregnant but have no idea and miraculously few side effects or symptoms. This is why Donald is so certain but I know nothing.

A few years ago I would be thinking 1 and 2, and possibly 3. Now I think a combination of 1 and 4.

5 is the only way in which Donald would be right, and it is just too disturbing.

I don't even like the thought of him checking out my body in any way, shape or form, which he clearly has been (and to make matters worse, I've just realised one of the buttons on the front of my dress was undone. Yuk. Suddenly a niqab seems like a good option).

Anyway, a few years ago I would have been sobbing about this. I think now I know who the people with the problems are, and it is not me.

Monday, 3 November 2014


It's been a bit of a strange time here, both as a nation and as an individual.

The "No" side won the referendum, but since then people have been joining the Yes parties en masse - over 2% of the electorate. Opinion polls show that a majority of people now back independence. Everywhere you go, people are talking about politics. We were promised more powers and there's a mood that they must be delivered and soon.

For me, I'm at a bit of a crossroads too. I was getting a bit fed up of my job and have a second interview with another company, but for reasons pertaining to childcare I'm not sure that it is the right path to take.

We're also speaking to a clinic about another IVF round, and need to call up and book an appointment.

Part of me is still torn about this as I'm worried about Huntington's Disease. But then if I am a carrier and the Boy has it, it seems sensible to have another child so the Boy is not alone. I know there's a risk that a second child could also have HD and the whole thing is a moral maze, but I think I just have to hope that everything will be ok.

One of the reasons we've decided to do a straight cycle rather than a donor one is that I could so easily only have found out about my Dad's HD after completing a donor cycle, which makes me think that any potential donor could have their own genetic flaws.

My parents aren't quite as bonkers as they were a few months ago, but my Mum keeps gabbling about HD being sent up into space, which is apparently "what they did with the disease the gay people get." I thought she was talking a lot of old nonsense, like the time she thought my frozen embryos were kept in my domestic fridge freezer.

Despite my initial skepticism, it turns out there is indeed a project to study HD in space but whenever she mentions any of this I get a mental image of my parents orbiting the Earth in a space station dressed up like Freddie in the "I want to break free" video, slightly bewildered but bickering pointlessly, and it I have to go and hide in the toilet until I stop giggling.

Anyway, we are at the point that we need to call up the clinic and do our initial tests.

I feel a bit under-prepared - or, maybe, that's the wrong word. I'm less obsessive about it than I was the last time. I need to start popping my folic acid tabs in short order (I should have started them before this), and I'll be cutting out alcohol and am doing more exercise. But I don't think I'll get to the stage of eschewing carbonated drinks or chilli, or doing any of the more dubious things I did the first time around. At least, I hope not.

So, lots of choices to be made, and things will no doubt change over the next few months. They're going to be interesting.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Making your mind up

I'll catch up with comments and everyone else's blog shortly, I promise.

It has been almost comically busy in our lives, thanks not to individual fertility, childbearing or mad parent issues, but a big national issue that's dominating the whole country; whether to vote Yes or to vote No to independence.

Women have been particularly targeted by both campaigns. Here are two of the main adverts that each side has put out:

The woman who made up her mind:

Yes means...

What do you guys think? Which one works best?

And, for bonus points, which one has been absolutely slated?

Friday, 22 August 2014

The killer in our midst

I woke up this morning, went downstairs, pottered about the living room and then saw something that made me leap backwards.

There is a dead mouse in our living room.

After we moved here eight months ago, the  cat initially refused to go outside. Then she started hanging around the door, watching us sitting in the garden.

I tried to pick her up a couple of times and put her outside, but she ran straight back in.

Then she started tentatively going outside herself, then I looked up from the kitchen window one day and realised she was boldly strolling around the garden.

Now she gets annoyed if she can't go out.

We had thought that she was going to be - if we're completely honest - a bit too crap to hunt. After all, she was eight years old by the time she got access to the outside world. She never shows any inclination to do anything other than sit on my husband's knee.As far as we knew, her hunting instinct had been replaced by her routine of sleeping in our bed, eating nice cat food and watching telly.

But now, not only has she managed to sneak outside when we thought she was inside, she's made her first kill.

Anyway, I am hiding upstairs from the dead mouse, rather pathetically. The cat is sitting on the chair next to me, looking nonchalant. Perhaps she expects my husband will eat the mouse for breakfast.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Point scoring

The Boy has a development check soon. To assist the health visitor with this, I have a form to fill in ahead of time.

It feels like sitting my masters exams again.

Some of it is easy.

"Does your child correctly name at least six body parts?"

"If you point to a picture of a ball or other similar object, can your child correctly name them?"

Well, that's alright.

But then we get to the following:

"If you give a simple instruction to the child, like "put the ball on the table" do they respond?"

Well, yes, but only if there's nothing else more interesting to do at the time

"If you draw a straight line will your child copy you?" 

I don't know. This question made me worry that I don't do enough drawing straight lines with the Boy, until I realised this was ludicrous.

"Can your child thread beads on a string?"

Well, generally we've discouraged any playing with beads in case he eats them.

One of the questions has a lump with what looks like one arm, one leg, and a face with two eyes but no other features. Your child is meant to identify this as "daddy", "man", "spaceman", or "monkey".

I tried this with the Boy. He looked baffled. He said "Eyes", and when I pushed him, "Peppa". I think he is as confused as I am as to why the NHS needs me to do this (must start reading Weber at bedtime, for both our sakes).

Does your child put objects back in the place where they're meant to be?

Well, sometimes. I struggle with this and I am 32. And define 'meant to be'. We recently found 3 DVDs wedged into the DVD player...

What sentences can your child say?

"No" is a complete sentence.

Monday, 23 June 2014

More parental and HD stress

I'd put off seeing the genetic specialist who'd already seen my sisters. I just couldn't face another appointment, got sucked into other things, kept telling myself it'd be ok.

But my thoughts have been turning to another IVF round and I thought I better find out what exactly the score was with being a donor, recieving eggs, embryo testing and so on.

A lot of what I'd been considering was - and I realise this is going to sound stupid - based on what my parents told me. That although my sisters and I were at risk of carrying HD, it'd only manifest itself in our late 70s, and take another 20 years to kill us. And that, if we were carriers, and our children also inherited the gene, they would get it at the same age we did.

Except, that turns out to be only half right. While my Dad has a mild form of HD, HD is more likely to become stronger if you inherit it from your father than your mother. So if one of us does carry it, it could appear in our 40s.

Which obviously means doing an egg share is a complete non starter.

Things then got a bit frustrating with the genetics man, who I think already thought I was weird; admittedly, years of infertility does change your boundaries when it comes to fertility treatment.

I asked if we could get pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (ie, the embryos get scanned for HD before being transferred).

He said we couldn't in the UK as we already had a child. He said we couldn't. I thought he meant on the NHS, as it is very rare for health boards here to fund someone who already had a child.

I thought this was kind of bizarre, and so asked if we could get PGD privately. He said no, "they" thought it would be unfair if one child had been cleared but not the other.

I then asked about getting it abroad. The guy looked a bit weirded out and waved his arms, saying it would be very expensive and difficult to get (which, frankly, seemed a bit odd; I've read enough about IVF to realise that some countries have very liberal laws about donations and screening).

I can do a test that, if I don't have HD, would clear me to go down the original egg sharing route.

If I do have HD I can find out, practically to the year, when it will onset. Which means I'll roughly find out when I will die, too.

I'm not really sure what to do. In some ways, if I was going to have it at 40, then I'd rather know now so I could get around to writing my novel, stop spending on a pension and try to enjoy life more. I could practically advance book my ticket to Switzerland to be euthanised (if I do have it, I'm fucked if I'm hanging around until the bitter end, choking on cranberry juice in a home somewhere, smelling of wee).

But then, I'm not sure how I'd cope with having the certainty of  HD. Depending on how strong the gene is, it becomes problematic to buy a house as nobody wants to lend money to someone who isn't going to be around in 25 years.

Perhaps most importantly, if I get the test and know, then the Boy will know he has a 50:50 chance. At the moment he has a 25% chance of having HD, and I feel those odds are more comforting.

Having thought about it and done some light research, it appears that the genetics man wasn't entirely familiar with IVF abroad; I've found clinics where IVF with PGD can be done for less than a regular cycle here.

 I think I'm inclined to want to do a PGD cycle abroad, which would eliminate HD, although I don't think I'd want to know if I was a carrier.

I think my husband thinks it would make sense for me to get tested before we do that, which could bring the egg sharing option back into play.

I might need to try and get some expert advice from somewhere - I think the genetics people probably aren't too familiar with IVF, but my normal sources of infertility information don't have much on genetics.

Sunday, 1 June 2014


I was doing some voluntary work in my hometown. Pausing outside one of the doors in the very ordinary road I was on, I heard shouting:

"I want to rip your arse!"
"I want to sniff your fanny!"
"I want to fuck your cunt!"

And so, a group of lads, in their 20s, came towards me. I took a step back and started studying my clipboard.

One came up to me and said:

"Awright! Do you want to come with us?" and gestured further along the road, bottle in hand.

I don't know if the normal chat up tactics there revolve around having your mates hurl abuse and then think you'll be - what? have your self esteem so destroyed you'll shag anything? - enamoured enough to swap bodily fluids with them.

I declined, to much laughter from the guy's mates.

I called the police, and suggested they might want to send a squad car around to check on the party of 8 loud, drunk men wandering aroun a small, quiet town. They called me back later, and weren't terribly interested. It is my right to give a statement, but they're not going to follow it up, realistically.

I've been angry about misogyny this week. Elsewhere in the world, a pregnant woman has been stoned to death in an 'honor' killing, another woman has been sentenced to death on trumped up charges for denying a religion she was not brought up in (hopefully she will be freed). Two teenagers have been gang raped and hung in India; after the police refused to investigate, people from the girls' village refused to let the bodies be cut down until suspects had been arrested.

And let's not forget the missing girls in Nigeria. Whatever they're going through now, it is unlikely to be pleasant.

And that's just the ones we know about. All over the world, countless women and girls have been abused, raped and tortured this week. Just for being female.

Me being shouted at is in no way the same as some of the horrendous abuses perpetuated against women elsewhere in the world. But the motivation of a small subsection of inadequate, small dicked, badly educated, easily threatened men is the same the world over. Men whose hate is ignored by a disinterested state, or who actually, terrifyingly, are in charge.

I don't hate men. I am, after all, happily married to one an the mother of a very small one. But there's just no excuse for the men who hate women, however that hatred manifests itself.

Monday, 26 May 2014


I've been badly neglecting my blog, sorry about that.

Things that have been happening are:

The cat has gone outside! Tonight, for the first time ever. I looked through the kitchen window and realised she was in the garden. She back around and in looking like she was expecting a row, so I fed her cat treats outside. She's not very keen on standing on grass, just like she wasn't very keen on standing on anything that wasn't carpeted before we moved. It's a start.

The Boy is well and we are about to start potty training, and move him into a bed that he can escape from (although I'm not sure if I'm ready for either). He can recognise his numbers but won't say four, five or six for some reason.

The garden is coming along well. When we've got actual flowers and stuff I'll post photos, but we have peas, sweetcorn, potatoes, sunflowers and nasturtiums.

Other than that, we're more or less ticking along ok.

It is not a very exciting blog update, but then, I'm quietly enjoying having an uneventful time at the moment!

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Gone fishing

Spring is here, and much has been happening...

The garden is going well - some potatoes have surfaced, the peas are growing, and we hopefully have some seedlings in the herb garden. Either that or they are weeds. Better still, a thrush has appeared a few times, and we have had bumble bees visit too. I will post photos of the plants soon, although it's not a lot to look at as the garden was covered in either gravel or grass when we moved in. But it's less barren than it was.

The Boy had his first camping trip. He enjoyed it until evening time, when he kept trying to put his coat on and get in the car. He was also clearly having withdrawal symptons from electronic equipment. His favourite part of the trip was finding a book with numbers in a bookshop, along with feeding the ducks.

I am monumentally busy, partly with work, partly with the Boy, and partly with that thing that's happening here later on in the year, which you may have read about and which I will not mention by name on here, but will blog about shortly.

The cat is getting a bit grumpy. When we came home from camping, she'd clawed loads of the carpet off the stairs; she's never done anything like this before. When we sat outside in the garden, she stood inside and scolded us, and refused to join in. She didn't sleep with us either. She seems back to normal now, but she's definitely getting more set in her ways.

I went to see my parents at the weekend. They are on their best behaviour. For now.

All in all, it's not been a bad spring.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

An update

Not a terribly exciting one, but I've been neglecting my blog...

Our family Huntingdon's (other families have land and titles, and possibly a line of pedigree Labradors, we have a disease...) turns out to get stronger through the male line. So my sisters and I are unlikely to get it until late on in life. If I have HD, and the Boy also has it, then his children may get earlier onset HD.

All this is second hand, as I've been frenetically busy with work - or possibly doing displacement activity, however you view it - that I haven't had time to speak to a counsellor myself. Our mortgage is sorted, but I'm actually at the point that I'd rather not know too much.

My relationship with my parents is almost non existent. We met up with them briefly so they could look after the Boy for a while, which was mostly because I thought it might be good all around if I didn't cut things off between him and them.

That went ok, but then a few days later Mum texted us to invite us down for dinner, then phoned up both me and my sister because, independently from each other and for very good reasons, we hadn't replied within about 8 hours. I tried to speak to her but she just wanted to whinge about everything - how ill my father is, how the NHS aren't doing enough - which I thought was a bit rich given their recent adventures abroad. 

("The holiday was the only thing keeping your father going"; I get that not being able to do long haul trips is a bit confining, and my parents have spent a lot of time in this destination, but really, I am heartily fed up of my Mum making our the world has ended, particularly after the book/HD diagnosis).

The conversation ended badly, and then she sent an e-mail to all her children trying to justify telling us we might have HD and then immediately pissing off on holiday, not giving us any more information, and blaming it all on her consultant.

On happier note, we are at a crucial point in gardening. Having sprouted things inside, we have moved them outside - potatoes and peas. The sweetcorn I'm trying to sprout isn't doing too well, and I think I may have killed some sunflowers by forgetting to water them, but hopefully we'll have things working soon.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Gardening Rules

Do not eat the compost

Do not eat the seeds, it is ok to eat them when they are corn, but not now

It is ok to move the pots of newly planted seeds, but not upend them

Do put the seed potatoes into the planting box nicely

Do not ram the seed potatoes into the planting box as hard as you can

Do not eat the compost

Do not eat the peat planters

Do not eat the seed potatoes

It is good to put the seeds in the earth in the peat planters and then poke earth over them gently

Do not eat the filled peat planters; they are not burritos

Do not eat the compost FOR THE LAST TIME

Playing on the slide during planting is actively encouraged

The cat does not want seed potatoes, ungrateful beast

Do not suddenly learn how to open the garden gate and run into the road while my back is briefly turned

Watering the plants is good, but NAPPIES MUST STAY ON

He still managed a mouthful of compost. Eugh.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

The calm after the storm

I picked up my parents from the airport last week. Mum was clearly still in the huff about her book and made a couple of snitty comments, despite the fact I'd given up a fair amount of time to do the pickup run.

I am glad I did though as my father looked awful - he'd been sick on both planes and I had to gently take charge of the luggage trolley as he couldn't manage to steer.

They dropped me off, I gave them a ready cooked dinner, then everything was virtually silent for a few days.

Then me and my sisters all got a somewhat cryptic text saying my dad was getting a home visit from a doctor (bear in mind that this is extremely unusual here).

This time it wasn't me that snapped, it was my oldest sister, who went a bit overboard, but called up to give them a bollocking about announcing there was a genetic disease in the family then flying off on holiday and not giving any further explanation.

What appears to have happened is that my parents told the consultant they knew what Huntingdon's was but actually didn't. They assumed it only affected old people and, although they realised fifty percent of people inherit the gene, thought it was its rare to develop symptoms.

My understanding is that the fifty percent who carry the gene on from a parent will develop the disease at some point, but the big uncertainty is when it appears - if you get it late in life its likely something else will kill you first, but if you are unfortunate to get an early onset case then it is deeply unpleasant.

Mum and dad were told they'd be referred for counselling and i think were meant to go to a session before deciding to tell us, but were so preoccupied with going on holiday they called everyone before they'd left the hospital.

I think they understand now - my mother was initially grasp why it wasn't simply a case of everyone supporting her and I think was horrified when she realised she'd made a mistake.

But the last time i spoke to her she was still moaning about not being able to go on long haul holidays with my father again, and my patience is wearing very thin. She hadn't managed to look at the NHS information on Huntingdon's and still seemed woefully ignorant about the condition.

Anyway, the actual appointment turned out to be with a genetic counsellor rather than a doctor, who we are all seeing separately. Hopefully I'll get some answers soon.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

An idyllic weekend

Friday, 4pm: Arrive in handsome market town full of quirky, independent shops. So looking forward to weekend break.

4.06pm: As we're pulling into the car park, the Boy makes a series of unedifying burping noises and then covers himself and his car seat in sick. Clean car seat and Boy as best we can.

4.07pm: Realise we have forgotten the Boy's pushchair.

4.55pm: Arrive back at car. During shopping trip, the Boy attempted to invade the back area of a butcher's shop and began howling on the way back to the car after being made to walk.

5.30: Arrive at log cabin. Pour drinks, start cooking dinner.

6pm: On toilet as everything goes black. While my back was turned, my husband claimed he was tidying up while the Boy broke into the cupboard with the fuse box and somehow turned everything off. After failed attempts to resurrect power, sit in dark while my husband fetches someone from reception to fix electrics. Husband tells man he can't understand what happened and pretends fuse box spontaneously stopped working. I cannot look campsite man in the eye.

6.30pm onwards: Plan was to feed Boy first then have romantic date night. This collapses into farce as, partly because of fuse debacle and partly because we can't work the oven, the only food we have available for the Boy is gingerbread cake. We feed him this in desparation and he is then either on a sugar high or so excited he can't sleep. Evening degenerates into too much wine, eating fish while Boy charges around our legs, and many attempts at putting a hyperactive toddler to bed.

Saturday morning: Go to a child-centric tourist attraction, then onto another handsome town with plenty of shops. Agree that we will go to bookshop and I will look at display of children's books with the Boy while husband browses, then vice versa. Plan collapses when Boy tries to dismantle window display then becomes increasingly truculent at my attempts to stop him. March him to back of shop and hiss at husband that we have a few minutes to get out. Dash around shop picking up a couple of books. Boy has full on meltdown in shop. We hustle him out. Bookshop man looks at me pityingly and tells me it gets better.

Saturday afternoon: Go to holiday camp pool. Boy very well behaved. Have drink in lounge afterwards. Boy, who should be tired after swimming, keeps either trying to chat to men watching rugby or makes energetic escape attempts. He begins to tantrum and, again, is hustled from the room.

Sunday morning: Pool again and then home. Look for homely country inn or tearoom for lunch. Everything shut as it is Sunday. Feed Boy crisps in car for lunch.

Oh, it wasn't quite as bad as all that; we went to a bird of prey centre which was excellent, one of the places we stopped for food went out of their way to bring toys for the Boy, which we massively appreciate.

It's always a learning curve, though; this time we learned that Duplo will nearly always help, to keep sick bags in the car, to immediately block access to the fuse box, to have a list of things we need to take with us, to remove the Boy from shops the moment he starts looking like having a tantrum, and to always have some sort of emergency, vaguely healthy food in stock when we go on any weekend or day trips.

We also learned the Boy can easily demolish half a gingerbread cake; where he puts it we cannot guess.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Boiling point

Both my parents have been more or less ignoring me since the birthday conversation, apart from - since I'm meant to be picking them up from the airport in their car, which broke down on the way to dropping them off and which I've had to arrange to be repaired.

Things had moved on a bit from there too. From speaking to one of my sisters, it turns out some of the stuff in Mum's book is factually inaccurate. Mum'd made out she'd arranged a taxi home for my sister and a letter to my brother's girlfriend to let her know my brother was dead, but it transpired my sister had had a much bigger hand in things than Mum recorded. I genuinely don't understand why she did that; the charitable explanation is that things have gotten muddled in her head.

From speaking to my other sister, there seems to be some doubt that Dad has actually been diagnosed with Huntingdon's or has to be tested for Huntington's.

I had no contact whatsoever from my mother about the book, apart from her thirty second stroppy birthday message. But I have had two or three messages asking about the car, and when I ignored them - largely because I was still upset - today I got another one about the car.

There was a vague plan that my brother in law, who is more diplomatic and less personally involved, would give them a call. But being repeatedly asked for car updates while they ignored the book issue just made me snap.

So, shaking, and worried I'd just burst into tears, I called them up. After a big palaver (they have a different SIM card for that country, an any calling seems to need lots of fannying around with phones) I spoke to my Dad, said the car was fine but I was still angry about Mum's book. so got put on to Mum.

Och, long story, and I won't give you a blow by blow account, lest I sound like Vikki Pollard. But anyway, Mum initially came out with a lot of mad excuses; she had told me it was about my brother dying (no. Just no. She didn't), she didn't realise reading about it all again would upset me, she'd apologised to my sister (???).

She did say she is upset generally because I am nasty to her (I do get a bit snappy with her, for reasons outlined in previous posts, but not anything to justify this by a long shot).

I am also the bad one for stressing her out, which stresses my Dad out. Which kind of sounds like she should be given a licence to do whatever she wants just in case it somehow hastens my father to shuffle off the mortal coil.

She did apologise, eventually, after a lot of sticking to guns on my part. I was fucking sellotaped, welded on to the gun.

So, I think I got my point across and didn't let her wriggle out or obsfucate. In return, I will try and be a bit more patient.

It's alright, for the short term. But I think, long term, I'm going to be a lot more discerning about what I accept from her as fact.

Urrgh. I hate this sort of stuff; no matter how truthfully you think you've acted in an argument, just the fact that you've had a fight and blogged about it makes you seem like a candidate for daytime television chatshows.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Shovels and spades

As well as the novelty of staying somewhere with stairs, we've also being adjusting to having a garden. I have never, in my entire life, had an outdoors space I owned. We are both really looking forward to growing things.

The only problem is that the previous owners weren't into gardening, and the biggest usable plot was gravelled over.

About a month ago, I organised for someone who wanted gravel to take most of it away, but - annoyingly - he took the clean stuff on top and left the dirty and hard to dislodge bits underneath.

So for the past few weeks, whenever we have had a dry day at the weekend, we've been using a riddle (ie, a box with criss crossing metal wires at the bottom) to separate the gravel and the soil.

We also had a bizarre day last weekend where we went driving around the coast looking for seaweed but failed to find any. Then spent part of yesterday picking up bits and pieces of kelp before finding an enormous bank of seaweed just along the beach.

So most of this afternoon has been spent finally ridding ourselves of the gravel, digging in the seaweek, and removing random bits of brick and pipe from the bed.

We have potatoes sprouting in the garage, and some peas. We have a big patch of earth, which doesn't look like much, but is the beginnings of a vegetable garden. I'm absolutely exhausted from doing the most physical work I've done in years. But it is all very satisfying.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Mean girl

I had a think about what to do about the book. I'd posted my not-mentally-ill sister her copy. I was considering calling my Dad.

And then I thought "Fuck it."

I think one of the reasons I got stuck so badly in the middle of things when I was 14-15 is that no-one stuck up for me then, and I was too frightened to really have it out with my mother. She'd usually send my father in to soften me up and then shout at me when I was on my own.

I think any relationship dynamics can get stuck in an unhappy rut if people fail in the same way all the time. I couldn't force anyone else to say my piece for me but I sure as hell could say it myself.

Given she's abroad, I texted her saying how upset I was that I'd been told it was a book about my mother's childhood but literally half of it was about my brother dying, how I didn't want any of it going online, and that she shouldn't be sending all this stuff to my ill sister. And that I didn't want to be in the book or have anything to do with it, and I thought she needed to see a counsellor.

True to form, I got a reply from my father saying I'd been too hard on her.

Rather than being softened up, I said it had all been bad enough the first time and I couldn't stop myself being dragged into it as a teenager, but it wasn't happening to me as an adult.

Dad then called - the line was terrible so we could hardly speak - and he said they're not publishing it but it will be an "internal family document". I tried to say I wasn't actually happy with this either but he couldn't hear me. He is calling tomorrow.

I found out later that my mother had called both my sisters and told them not to read the book, and that she "hadn't handled things very well". But that I'd been nasty to her.

Both my sisters have said they were glad I'd stood up to her (I think partly because it'd saved them the trouble), and that they were happy the self publication had been knocked on the head. Neither of them have read it; my ill sister deleted it, as I've said, but my other sister was dreading reading it.

I'd actually quite like an apology for her lying to me about the subject of the book. What she'll probably do is try and get me on my own when I'm feeling vulnerable and have a go at me (she once walked in on me when I was leaving the shower), although I hope this will be more daunting than it once was.

Anyway, Mum is upset, and while I wish the choice wasn't between upsetting her and going along with such a batshit and upsetting scheme, it was. And I think she really needs to consider why her behaviour was upsetting everyone else and why she thinks that's alright but her being upset isn't.

Ooh, the dramz! I'm going to have a nice cup of tea. I'm feeling much better about this than I was a couple of days ago.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

More about the fecking book

I was going to reply to comments but thought it might be easier to do a post on the whole book debacle.

To try and put this in context, it's probably worth giving a bit more detail on my Mother's "quest for the truth". I wasn't involved in any decision making over this, and it's obviously from the book that she didn't keep me entirely informed (things like my brother's friends writing to the family to offer condolences - I didn't see any of that). But then I'd come back from school and - for example - find my brother's autopsy report on the kitchen table.

I also remember a particularly miserable family holiday in which I had to accompany Mum and Dad to see the lawyers they'd hired, amongst other things, and the whole thing was discussed endlessly.

Mum could also something end up in a horrible competitive grieving mode. Once, after a few drinks at a family gathering, several months after my brother died, she started talking about all her work to uncover what had happened, which somehow ended up with her telling everyone that no-one cared about my brother dying apart from her. It was hideous and resulted in a massive row.

I know that sounds really awful and clearly the whole thing was very traumatic for her, but it was also horrible for everyone else. Everyone grieves differently but my mother's method was very difficult to live with. For the most part I just let her get on with it, as I had no choice.

I did become irrationally convinced I was going to die too, and began drinking quite heavily and did a lot of other stupid things because of this, and fell out badly with my old friends. I mean, some of this would have happened anyway - I was 15 - but I don't think I'd have been so nihilstic if I wasn't trying to cope with what was going on at home.

Anyway, I moved out and moved on. Our relationship got better, although she knows I don't like discussing my brother's death.

So, the book...

My mother has been writing this book for years. I read the start of an earlier draft about five years ago, but then got myself into her bad books by pointing out it was never going to be published unless she sorted out the spelling and grammatical errors. The earlier draft also made even less sense than the current version as she'd used a flashback device that made it virtually impossible to follow.

She did send it off to a publisher but this didn't worry me as, to be frank, it was absolutely no surprise when it got rejected.

A couple of years ago, when I was doing IVF, she said she'd rewritten it, and tried to get me to read the document. I just couldn't face her dragging it all up again so didn't touch the the folder it was in, which sat in our living room for a couple of weeks until she asked me if I'd read it. I said I han't had time and she looked annoyed but took it away.

She seems to have redrafted it again recently after going to a writing group. Since my Dad has been ill she has had a bee in her bonnet about being about to die (my granny had this also, for about the last 20 years of her life!). Then she discovered a cousin had been self publishing books on Kindle and that seems to have spurred her into action. Some of this is definitely about her wanting to be an author rather than it simply being about publicising my brother's death.

She told me the book was about her childhood before I read it, as presumably she knew if she'd said it was about my brother dying I'd have told her straight out I thought it was a bad idea. And that she's publishing it when she gets back, in about a fortnight.

I am actually quite upset I've been more or less forced to read it (I seemed to have a choice between ignoring her and it going online or reading it and being able to object, and reading it seemed the least bad option). Apart from dragging up a whole load of bad memories, which I don't want to relive, her book also implies there was some sort of foul play with my brother's death. There wasn't, but she just seems determined to blame someone, and I find that disturbing.

Anyway,  I don't want her to publish it because:

  • I think having details published of how my sisters and I found out our brother had died is massively intrusive. I wouldn't even be happy for my mum to show this to her writing group or for relatives to see it.
  • Ditto for my brother's partner, although the poor woman doesn't even know what Mum is planning. She might be ok with it, although I suspect she'd also find it upsetting
  • My sister has mental health problems (which I think are related to my brother's death). She's deleted the book without reading it but the nature of putting it online is that it will be out there, presumably forever, and I think she's highly likely to find out eventually, or read it after it is published
  • The book has elements of my Mum's competitive grieving; it says there can never be any closure for her, and she's written all this and made us read it because she loves my brother so much (the fact that her actions have damaged her relationships with her surviving children seems not to have occurred to her)
  • The conspiracy theory stuff is really awful
  • In other bits of the book she sounds borderline rascist and it just makes me cringe
  • It's really morbid; people and animals dying all over the shop
  • When I'm mentioned in the book outwith the context of my brother dying, which I am two or three times, it is as the subject of incredibly lame attempts at humour. This is fairly small beer in the grand scheme of things, but again, it makes my toes curl
Thank you all for your suggestions on the last post about where to go next.

I think there RE two problems. One is the immediate need to stop her publishing it. The less immediate, but in some ways more important issue, is to tackle why she thinks this is an appropriate way to behave.

I have considered letting myself into my parents' house and attempting to find and destroy all electronic and paper copies. However, I think this would make me a bad person, and anyway she has been working on it for years and I think I'd be unlikely to wipe out everything.

I will raise the points about legalities, stalking and putting too much identifying information online.

She has asked with help with formatting before, which I've said I can't do. While it is tempting to sabotage the project, it would make her think that I'm okay with the book and encourage her to carry on like this.

I think I will speak to my father and my sister (not the ill one, we've agreed not to mention any of this to her in case it makes her worse). I know if I speak to my mother directly she will be unreasonable, so I think either getting my Dad to speak to her or sending her a written communication may have a better chance of stopping publication.

Which kind of brings me to the issue of her behaviour generally. I've been greatly upset by this carry on; I haven't been sleeping, have had nightmares and just really feel I've been dragged back into a phase of my life I thought I'd escaped.

I really think that, given the way she acted during my teens, that she shouldn't be asking any more of me. I can understand her finding it therapeutic to write it but having to read it has the opposite effect on me. I think she does understand that it is upsetting for everyone else and must have realised none of her kids were very keen on her writings, but she seems determined to go ahead with it anyway. Either she genuinely can't grasp that it is upsetting or she thinks the gain she'll get from publishing trumps everyone elses feelings.

Anyway, I am not replying to her texts, and I just really can't face talking to her at the moment. She is bound to realise something is up in the next few days.

 I think she should either go to a counsellor or do something positive in my brother's memory (set up a memorial fund or similar), but I think we need to sort out the book thing first.

I had actually been wondering if she was developing or had some sort of age-related illness, both because of the otter business and because this book thing is such a staggeringly weird thing to do (I mean, this isn't normal, right?). But then, my granny didn't have any particular illness like Alzheimers but just got more stubborn and difficult as she got older; although she'd have been appalled about the book too.

Sorry this is such a long post and thanks for bearing with me, and for everyone's comments. It is really helping to try and pick my way through this.

It is quite therapeutic to write this out so maybe I should share it with my Mum (only joking!).

Thursday, 6 February 2014

The book

I didn't really want to read my Mum's book. But the prospect of her self publishing it without it being checked out seemed worse, so I forced myself to look at it. More in a way of trying to start trying to deal with the mountain of shit that seems to have come my way recently than anything else.

The first half is about my parents' early life, travelling around, but building up to "the tragedy of our family", and lots of references to children dying, and death generally. This is the best bit.

We then get to my bit when my brother dies in a car accident, after he emigrated - the plan was that he was going to start a new life and his longterm partner was going to follow later. About a third of the book deals with the immediate aftermath - incluing how some of us found out. I'm not terribly happy that I've been included in this.

There's also, over the course of the next few chapters, at least two or three viewpoints - I was finding this fairly hard to read - about exactly what happened when my brother died during the accident, from people my mother spoke to afterwards. None of them differ much.

Worse, she goes into a blow by blow account of how my brother's partner found out, references various discussions she had with the partner afterwards, and also includes the entire eulogy that my brother's partner wrote. I liked my brother's partner very much, but we lost touch with her after the funeral, I think for understandable reasons. I very much doubt that Mum has sought her out to get her permission, and the thought that she might stumble across the ebook turns my stomach.

There's a big section which is basically on the people who wronged her after my brother died, including people only tangentially connected with the whole sorry affair. It's just really boring, overly personal, and nobody - including my mother - comes out very well.

This bit finishes up with how she wanted justice and people held to account, and was going to go to the papers but "gave up for the sake of her family".

I'm actually pretty fucked off with all this. As a teenager, we had months and months of waiting on tenterhooks as part of my Mum's crusade to find the truth. I remember being deeply unhappy about it all but bottling it all up, until at least a year after my brother died, when she started talking about going to the papers and I objected. Shortly afterwards, I then found a "to do" list that she'd left on the kitchen table which included "going to the papers". I remember being upset and then her shouting at me for being upset and looking at stuff she'd left in one of the public areas of the house. I really got to the end of my tether with her and was very relieved when I left home.

Reading it all again, apart from bringing up some very unpleasant memories, I don't think that any of it is particularly newsworthy. I don't really understand what she's seeking to gain. Regrettably, people die abroad all the time.

Then there is a lengthy section about my parents travelling to where my brother died, which is mostly quite dull and goes into great detail about the guesthouses they stayed at and what they ate. Then the book goes into how the other holidaymakers at one of the places they stayed were uncomfortable when Mum started telling them about my brother dying, and how this made her feel bad, but she'd done it anyway even although my father told her it might not be the best idea in the world.

The book is also really badly written. The first section is the most interesting, but even then people randomly appear with no introduction. One of my siblings appears on a family holiday but is only born two chapters later. A close relative pops up in one of the final chapters but the reported excitement in seeing him is undermined in that he's never been mentioned before. I know what country they're staying in at various points in the narrative, but only because I'm related to them. The punctuation and spelling are pretty ropey.

I think she's written it as therapy, which is fair enough. But I think putting it online is deeply self centered, and is telling her surviving children its basically up to us to read it before she publically uploads it. One of my sisters is undergoing psychiatric treatment at the moment and, between the book and the HD, I don't really think this is fair on her. I don't think its fair on anyone.

I'm not sure what to do; I think I can reasonably insist that all references to me are deleted unless its rewritten. I think she needs to heavily edit sections dealing with my brother's partner; she's got an unusual name and I'm sure I've found her online, but it looks as if she's moved on with her life and is raising a family with someone else. Fuck knows what she'd make of my mother getting in touch and raking all this up again.

All the way through the narrative, there's a constant moaning about how my mother doesn't want to live in the country the family now reside in.

Still, at least there are no otters in the book.

What would you do?

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Car crash

Valery pointed out I'd published and then unpublished a blog, bizarrely about otters. I think I may not be able to explain the context of the otters in what might be a fairly complicated post, but basically I kept wanting to blog and then something else would happen and, well, this is what's been happening.

Firstly, my father finally got a diagnosis - Huntingdon's Disease. This is a degenerative brain condition, and it is genetic.

Dad is in his late 70s and I'm old enough to know that everyone has to die sometimes. All the same, it feels awful to read about the longterm prospects of someone with Huntingdon's, which usually involves full personal care and death by a secondary cause like pneumonia.

Then there's the more complicated genetic aspect. I might or might not have the gene. My family are quite long lived - we suspect my granny had Huntingdon's also and she lived to be 80something - so I don't know if there's any point in being tested now, as it'd just give me something to worry about (although apparently late onset in one generation doesn't neccessarily pass down).

But then, we'd been talking about doing another IVF cycle, possibly as an egg share. This throws up all sorts of ethical issues about screening and disclosure. To be honest I haven't even started reading about this as I'm too miserable about my Dad to start.

And then, secondly, there's the rest of my family's general bonkersness.

One of my sisters, who I don't generally speak to very much as I find her quite hard going, keeps calling up to rant at me about genetic diseases, and how inconsiderate my parents are (we'll come to that in a second). She stays at home, and to be honest I find myself so weary with work and trying to sort my own head out I'm just not in the right space to listen.

Then there's my Mum. Again, each of these could be a blog post in themselves. Mum has written a book which is partly about my brother dying. She has left this with my and my siblings to read when her and Dad go on holiday, after which she wants to self publish it. I really can't face reading it right now and, to be brutally honest, wish she'd drop the whole bereavement aspect of the book.

Oh yes, the holiday. Halfway through the diagnosis process, my parents booked a holiday which is something like a 24 hour journey, involving flight changes and much hanging around at airports. It is a self drive holiday in a country famed for violent crime, and they have picked three bases. I did have words before they booked it about the wisdom of doing this and insurance, but they did it anyway - and booked the cheapest and therefore least direct routes on offer.

They found out about the Huntingdon's less than 24 hours before they left, so while it's kind of nice they're having a holiday, I think they've been really fucking pigheaded to book something so ambitious when it turns out - for a start - that Dad can't do any driving. And, as my sister has pointed out, they've left without really making much effort to explain what the consultant said to anyone else.

And, well, the otters. Part of the reason I'm so worried about the pair of them going away is that, despite the fact that Dad has the degenerative brain condition, my Mum is the one that appears to have lost any semblance of common sense.

Among other probability defying beliefs, she is insisting an otter - and bear in mind this is unheard of in the town I grew up in - got into their fish pond and ate 18 big ornamental goldfish in one go, with the only trace being a dead fish left ten meters away. When quizzed on the unlikeliness of she becomes vague or dissembles; the otter must have hidden bits of the dead fish at the bottom of the pond (?), they were away for a few days and didn't know what happened, they were there and while someone might have stolen the (valuable) fish, she still thinks it was an otter. Because believing that a fat bastard of an otter did it is a lot less worrying and less immediate than someone breaking into their garden.

I don't know. Sorry this has been such a disjointed post, but my Dad being physically fragile and getting into what seems like an endgame, my Mum becoming so completely unreliable, my sister being a pain in the arse, and then having to start finding out about the likelihood of having Huntingdon's myself, testing, IVF, yadayada...

I'm usually a big believer in life being what you make of it and trying to find solutions, but I all of this seems so completely out of my control that I can't quite see a route out. Apart from maybe pretending that everything is the fault of the Otter of Doom.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Being bothered

Just like when I was struggling to have my first, everyone was pregnant, now my thoughts are turning towards possibly having a second, everyone else seems to be having a decision about either having, not having or possibly going for #2.

The thing is, pre the Boy, I was desperate to be pregnant. I would have done anything. But this decision seems more complex.

Reasons to go ahead are mainly that I think it would be better for the Boy to have a sibling, and that I don't feel my family is complete.

Reasons not to go ahead are that - and I don't know if this is bad to admit - IVF, apart from the cost, is so much fucking hassle. Traipsing to and from the doctor, trying to figure out what to do with the Boy, drugs in the bathroom, drugs in the fridge, giving up coffee and wine, all for a very uncertain outcome.

Then there's

* the money we could spend on a really good holiday
* the possible long term health consequences
* I'm not even prepared to attempt a natural birth so will my stomach overhang end up at my shins? (let's face it, with hindsight, the NHS should have fitted a zip during my first ectopic, the number of times they've been in there)
*is it good for the Boy or me for me to do something as energy sapping as IVF while he's little?
* The dubious pleasures of staycations for the next 16 or so years

Most of the reasons against seem short term or a bit silly. The Boy having a sibling seems so much bigger.

But then I also feel very lucky in the first place, and almost greedy thinking about a second. And, in a way, I feel a bit envious for people who are at peace to stop.

Although, I don't think the "at peace with stopping" thing is neccessarily IF related, although it might make it more acute. I felt a bit grumpy the other day when someone announced their second pregnancy, irrationally, even although we haven't finished unpacking boxes yet.

I think what we might do is try but have some sort of limit, either financial or on the number of attempts. While during the last round I would have pretty much done anything to get and stay pregnant, this time would be different.

But we'll see - I still need to talk to my husband.

Oddly, even after having no tubes, I still occasionally wonder if I should do a pregnancy test if my period is late. It is difficult making a decision about an area of my life that's so steeped in irrationality!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What I did for Christmas

I've been wondering what to post for a while, and was inspired by Mali's post on her Christmas.

So this is what I did over the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, we had canapes with the Boy (bearing in mind the Boy is still little enough to be filled up fairly quickly), and then had teriyaki duck breasts when he was in bed.

We had a heated argument about what to do with the Boy's presents. Really! My husband's parents used to get all his toys out of the box and set them up, thus saving much tedious fiddling with batteries and "insert tab A into slot B" instructions. Smaller presents went into a stocking.

Mine used to wrap everything and put as much as would fit in a pillowcase, with larger items under the tree.

We ended up compromising and having a small stocking (the Boy pulled out the orange and looked at us in utter disgust, clearly trying to fathom what was driving us to do such odd things), presents under the tree (I went a bit mad and accidentally bought him a wooden train set instead of a small stocking filler), and his main present, his slide, was set up.

We went for a walk down the beach in the driving wind, which I remember always doing in my childhood. The Boy started howling so we went home.

Lunch was smoked salmon on oatcakes, roast venison on the bone with all the trimmings, and trifle.

I think the main point of not setting up the presents in advance is to keep husbands out of the kitchen and out of mischief; mine appeared and started throwing a Gordon Ramsay strop about the bloody trifle topping when I was trying to simultaneiously plate up, carve and make gravy.

All the leftovers got turned into a massive hot crust pastry pie.

Then, because we are where we are, we had another big celebration on New Year. Which was the first time I'd had any number of people in the new house.

On Hogmanay, we had Chinese takeaway. This is because I remember really enjoying having the same at my granny's house on New Year when I was little. Everyone stayed up for the Bells apart from the Boy, who was too little to understand.

My husband, who had his kilt on for the occasion*, scrubbed the front step, to welcome the new year. The cat got fed up with him not being in bed so crept down the bannisters to above where he was sitting, and started hitting him on the head to express her general displeasure.

Then it was New Year's Day. I made potato scones and fried eggs, and most of us had a brisk walk to the beach to recover.

Then it was back for 70s style things on sticks, followed by roast beef on the bone, Yorkshire pudding, sausages, bacon, roast potatoes and then, after a rest, creme brulee.

Better still, the Boy was occupied by his cousins while the grown ups made a serious dent in the red wine.

And the 2nd is still a holiday here, which is handy for napping.

It all seems a while ago now; I've been detoxing for a fortnight after all the rich food. But it was fun.

* This seems to always cause some interest to those who are not native to these shores, but blokes generally wear underwear only with a hire kilt. My husband owns his, but normally wears trousers, so I had to hiss to him a few times to not sit with his legs akimbo.