It seems that infertility presses the pause button on life, but fast forward on the old body clock. Something I feel acutely as next year I will have the pleasure of being labelled ‘geriatric’ by fertility doctors who would lead me to believe that on my 35th birthday I may as well throw my fertility off a cliff because that is the direction it is headed anyway. Shouting down after it “Be gone with you old eggs, you are no good to me now”. Western medicine and its love of the definitive cut-off is adamant that we become less fertile on turning 35 (or even less fertile in my case). However, I firmly believe that I am more able to fall pregnant now than two years ago when I started this tedious journey at my younger age of 31, and I’m convinced that I could be more fertile in a year from now. So I am calling bullsh*t on the geriatric label.
Despite my body clock rapidly ticking away, my life remains on standstill. This was brought into focus earlier this week when a close friend asked whether my husband and I would like to go on a sailing holiday in the summer. Essentially my response was no because I’m infertile, with the image flashing through my mind of Ron Burgundy in Anchorman 2 insisting that he can’t because he’s blind. Whilst Ron Burgundy’s words were intended as a parody, mine were embarrassingly sincere. With starting IVF in July I explained that we would need to see how a holiday fits with our medical schedule (a tedious sentence that I never thought I would say in my early thirties). Even if I wasn’t being harvested like a corn field that week, being stuck in a confined space with me shooting up on hormones maybe a “nightmare dressed like a daydream” to quote Miss Swift. Fancy a cold, refreshing beer on the deck of the boat? Well, you can’t because the boat fridge is entirely taken up with my drugs. Sounds relaxing doesn’t it. Still want me to come?
Many sacrifices are made in the name of fertility. All my spare cash is spent on supplements with unpronounceable names or on a fertility masseuse to pummel my abdomen and do something to my feet that is reserved onlyfor CIA black sites. All my spare time and energy is spent reading books and research on fertility, like I’m doing a medical degree on a poorly administered night course with non-existent support and no qualification at the end of it. So many things have been put on pause that I sometimes feel like I am no longer living my life.
Here are a few of the things that I would be enjoying if I were not infertile:
1. Drinking alcohol
The truth is that I do pretty well without alcohol. I now indulge in tipples so infrequently that it has been years since I have run home after a night out, or been quietly sick in my handbag on a train, or tripped on what I am sure are lawsuit worthy ‘uneven’ paving slabs, or been the only one crying with laughter because I find myself hilarious, or been convinced that I’m fluent in Spanish (at best I would scrape a grade C at GCSE). In summary, I make a tit of myself less often and that is a good thing. Being a teetotaller may be making me a better, healthier, more socially appropriate person but it’s not half as fun.
Ironically, my avoidance of alcohol encourages the incorrect assumption from friends and family that I am pregnant, when the reality is the exact opposite. I’ve spotted a few knowing glances when I’ve turned down the offer of a glass of wine, which is usually followed with checking whether I would like my meat well-done and a decaff green tea, all helpful suggestions for someone ‘in the family way’. I’m looking forward to the return to my carefree and guilt free days of tipsy nights out with my girlfriends and necking posh wine with my husband on date night.
2. Taking hot baths
This one applies to my husband more than me, as he has been accidentally boiling his precious baby makers for months. Baths have since been ruled off limits. I have joined in with the ban, partly to be supportive and partly because I’m unsure of the impact, if any, of the scorching heat on my internal lady garden. Hot baths are one of my favourite indulgences and I can’t wait to slip back in to one.
3. Decorating the study
The study would be a nursey, if there was a baby. It is the only room in our house that we have never decorated because there seems little point if we may have to change it again shortly afterwards with the arrival of baby W. But this summer will mark two years of no decoration. That is two years of magnolia. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
4. Eating sugar, gluten and conventional dairy
Otherwise known as the trio of deliciousness. Why, why, WHY do these three have to be risky for fertility? It is never kale is it. No, always cake and cream. I miss them and look back on my adventures with salivating delight. But I will try never to return to this trio, regardless of what happens with my infertility. My husband and I have made a pact to live to 100, and these three suckers will do nothing but hold us back.
5. Long distance running
Despite loving how strong running makes my body, the virtuous feeling I experience after a long run, and proudly identifying myself as a long distance runner, I don’t actually enjoy putting one foot in front of the other in a rapid motion (except when travelling home after a drunken night out on an unstable shanks’s pony – see above). But if it weren’t for infertility and the negative impact that endurance training has on my chances of conceiving, I would have signed up for another marathon or two. Berlin, New York, Boston (I wish) so many marathons, such little time.
6. Ski holidays
For two consecutive years we shied away from signing up for a group ski holiday, which are always arranged well in advance but efficient family members, just in case I was pregnant. Maybe hope is slipping away, or maybe we have taken the much needed attitude of ‘sod it’, but this year we jumped in with enthusiasm. After all that, I’ve decided that I won’t ski during this year’s trip but instead go snowshoeing (pouncy term for walking with the equivalent of tennis rackets strapped to my shoes). This isn’t related to infertility or health, but due to me lacking adequate ski skills. I have been mugged at gun point in London (if you haven’t visited, you should, it’s lovely) and the fear was less than when I learnt to ski as a rather hesitant 30 year old, sliding down the mountain on two planks, totally out of control. Skiing certainly takes my mind off work, the focus is solely on making it down the slope without dying, but it is replaced with extreme fear which I doubt helps to lower my levels of stress. And to me, it just doesn’t feel like much of a holiday.
Doubtless there are plenty of other things that have given up due to infertility that are now so ingrained in my thinking and life that I couldn't pick them out of a line up. It has changed me and I just have to hope that it is for the better, healthier and stronger (and slightly more boring).
Agreeing to do Sh*t
Trying to conceive also has the inverse effect of encouraging me to sign up to do all sort of sh*t that I don’t want to do. Back in the early days of trying to fall pregnant, before the confidence in my body became threadbare and being labelled with the ‘I’ word, I agreed to all sorts of undesirable things, convinced that I would be pregnant by the time it rolled around and I could justifiably back out. The list includes a marathon for which I was not in the mood, a triathlon for which I had no intention of training, volunteering to be the designated driver at multiple parties, camping weekends with friends (I hate camping)…. The list goes on and there was no escaping any of it. When will I learn that pregnancy is an unreliable excuse for an infertile woman? 'Never', seems to be the answer. Otherwise I wouldn’t have signed up with my sister-in-law for a gruelling triathlon in Cornwall this September, which I have no desire to undertake. But I’m confident I will be pregnant by then so I won’t have to actually do it, right? When. Will. I. Learn.
A new outlook on pressing play
The balance between not putting your life on hold, but altering your expectations and plans in the hope of a future baby, is far from clear and is personal to each couple. From my perspective, I’m not yet ready to restart any activities that damage my chances of conceiving, as I am in a place where I need to feel that I am doing all that I can to help my fertility. So for the foreseeable future my life will be different to before infertility struck.
But I should jump back in to life and press play on the fun things that would waste time or money should I fall pregnant, such as booking an expensive holiday a year in advance or decorating the study. Infertility could last for years and I don’t want to wake up one day and realise that I wasted my thirties just waiting…and waiting. And besides, I could do with Sod’s law on my side and it's a law that is pretty punchy in other areas of my life. Maybe Sod's law is the missing link in our fertility. So I'm determined to press play and have a bit more fun in 2017. Who's with me?