Three Long Years

It’s been three years now since we started trying to conceive a second child. Almost two years since our devastating secondary infertility diagnosis. And almost a year since our final attempt at IVF spectacularly failed.

Time is passing and my longing for another pregnancy, and more importantly another child to love and nurture does not diminish. It still sits heavy as a stone in the deepest part of my heart. Maternal instinct is a base desire, not a longing that I can control, and so I know it will remain, even if the intensity wanes.

I never imagined that I’d be someone who counted off so many years of trying, and failing, to conceive. Well, who does?

To clarify, I’d imagined infertility, I just did not imagine how it might weigh me down. Before we began trying for our first child, I expected to run into some difficulties. My complex health history made me believe it wasn’t going to straightforward. But back then I was naive. I thought if it didn’t work out then I would find a way to be okay with that, because I was prepared for the possibility. I certainly didn’t think I’d cry over every period for all eternity, or count off the months of failure one by one, always knowing exactly how many had passed.

And I don’t know, perhaps I would have been some approximation of alright if fate had destined us to be childless. To think about not having Thomas now hurts with an intensity I cannot put in to words. But if I’d never known him, and the joy he brings I could not miss him with that same passion. It would obviously have been different had we been able to have no children, rather than only one. I would be a different person and it’s impossible to know how I would have coped. I had so many consolation plans. Plans for an entirely different life. I knew we’d have extra money, I’d have more opportunities to invest in my career. I’d planned the places we’d go and the experiences we could enjoy. I guess in trying to have a child I was making a choice between having a family or completing other exciting life goals; the things that study, poor health and other circumstances had contrived to deny me in my twenties. I wanted a family, but the alternative was palatable enough – exciting enough, even – that it might just have been alright.

And it’s not as simple as saying that my current reality is not “alright”. I wouldn’t trade having my amazing boy in my world for anything at all. Nothing. I wouldn’t even change him for two children if neither of those were him. But having only one child whilst wanting more leaves you in a limboland where the absence is particularly acute. We’re still parents. But we’re also still incomplete. And if happiness is related to the difference between your expectations and reality, then I’ve fallen through the crack between both of my anticipated realities in to the one situation I did not foresee and so it’s unsurprising that it’s come with a weight of sadness. And whilst I know for sure that career achievements, exciting world travel or even learning to fly a plane are no replacement for, or in any way comparable to, having a family of your own, they must surely provide a better means of distraction from what you do not have. Instead I am confronted day in and day out at the school gates and swimming lessons, or the local soft play centre and playground, by other parents with their broods of siblings, or the buggy pushing mothers with their round beach ball bellies as proud evidence of the next addition to come. I cannot run, never mind hide.

In the last three years that we’ve been trying in vain to grow our family, I’ve seen people go from not yet being pregnant with a first child to having two children. It’s hard to shake that feeling of being stuck in the slow lane whilst everyone else accelerates past, reaching the destination that I long for, but can never attain.

I suppose what I’m saying is that it’s still hard. Even after all this time. And despite having Thomas – I’ve said it before but it always bears repeating that my sadness does not reflect a lack of gratitude for what I do have. I’m still allowed to mourn what I do not.

I think it always will be hard. But I recognise that it’s a bit like other forms of grief. It began as an endless ocean with soaring waves that I could neither avoid nor see past. Gradually the waves diminished a little, but they’d still strike me unbidden with no warning of their approach, often overwhelming me in the process. More recently the calm periods have felt a little longer. I can often predict the waves before they hit, even if I can’t avoid them entirely. I’m a little better at riding the storms. I go under less frequently. I know the ups and downs, the waves and the storms, will continue. But I also hope they’ll continue to lessen in their frequency and impact.

Three years is a long time to try for a baby. A long time to spend counting days and hoping. No one expects it to take so long. No one wants to believe that they will be the ones for whom there is no resolution, no miracle. No happy ending. So no one plans for how to stop counting. We’re not actually trying any more. We can’t pursue any further fertility treatment and even adoption is, currently, a blocked road. For obvious reasons we don’t use contraception, but we’re not “trying”.

Still that little flicker of disbelief that this is where I find myself burns on. Unconsciously I suppose I still hope for a miracle. I still cry each and every time my period arrives. That is increasingly infrequently these days, which at least reduces how many times I face the hurt of that particular reminder of what is not to be, but in itself reminds me of the ever worsening state of the situation. The dwindling chance of a biological possibility of a miracle. Sometimes I wonder if using contraception would help cement the absolute reality of the fact that we will not conceive. If I was actively trying to prevent a pregnancy, would I be better able to move forwards without counting how many months have passed?

No. Probably not.

There is no conclusion to this really. I’m in no doubt that those waves of sadness will keep coming and when I focus on it, infertility will always hurt. But for the majority of the time the joy in the family I have surpasses the disappointment of the unfulfilled dream. That’s a positive, three years down this endless winding road that began on that fateful September day three years ago where we committed to “trying again” without a thought at all to the possibility of failure.

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Peaky Blinders, German and Lots of Laughs… #LittleLoves

I’m late with this post, largely because yesterday’s return from our trip to Vienna turned in to, if not quite the travel day from hell, then at least a very trying experience and we didn’t make it home until the early hours of this morning. So definitely no time for writing about all the things that I’ve been loving this week, especially as there have been so many.

Read

With incredibly poor timing, my Kindle went wrong in the departures area at Gatwick. Faced with the prospect of nothing to read all week, I rushed in to the nearest bookshop to pick up some “real” books. I didn’t have long to choose, but since I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh had been on my Kindle purchase shortlist anyway, it immediately caught my eye. It absolutely did not disappoint. Pretty much everything, I’d seen about it was comments along the lines of “OMG twist!” and now I know why. Employing a clever device indeed, it was compelling enough that I could even forgive a few of the slightly implausible threads. I couldn’t put it down but was sad once I’d finished it and had no more – an irrefutable sign of a good read.

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Since the paperbacks were on “Buy One Get One Half Price” I also picked up Lucie Brownlee’s Life After You, the true story of what happened after her husband’s unexpected death. I seem to have an attraction to death and grief memoirs and for the life of me I have no idea why. Despite the subject matter, however, this contained several laugh out loud moments. The humour is dark, naturally, but the entire book is incredibly sincere and down to earth and ultimately reaffirms the truth that the will to not simply exist, but to live, is strong and the human capacity to heal after trauma can be tremendous.

I’m now half way through The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell, which makes for the third book in a row that opens with, and centres around, death. Much as I’m also enjoying this one, I think I ought to opt for cheerier subject matter next!

Watched

Given that we’ve been away, I’ve actually managed to watch a reasonable amount this week. Browsing through new additions to Netflix last weekend, I spied Peaky Blinders, which is a series friends of ours have recommended several times. To be honest, it’s probably not the sort of thing I’d usually watch if it weren’t for the recommendation, and the first episode seemed a bit slow going in places, but I’ve got quite in to it now, so I’m passing on the recommendation to you.

We also caught up with An Inspector Calls on iPlayer. I was reminded it had been on by Jess’s Little Loves post last week and can’t believe that I’d forgotten to watch it. Thank goodness for the wonders of modern technology and catch-up TV! It is one of my favourite plays and whilst a television adaptation will never to compare to a really good staged version, I wasn’t disappointed, and thought the casting was spot on.

Finally, we’ve also been watching Frozen on Netflix. I’ll hold my hands up and admit to being a closet Frozen fan. Thomas loves it too, and its appeal definitely isn’t just to girls. Ian, however, rolls his eyes every time I belt out the soundtrack in the car and has so far resisted the purchase of the DVD. So imagine my delight when we found it on Netflix. There is no way my husband can resist that, I thought. My excitement has been short lived, however, as it turns out that it was available only whilst we were in Austria. English audiences are not so lucky. (We watched it twice this week though!)

Wore

Sadly my White Stuff delivery didn’t arrive before we left, so no new clothes were worn on our trip. In fact. It’s been another jeans and converse week, with a reappearance of the raincoat towards the end. I really must do better next time…

Heard

Since we spent the week in Austria, I heard plenty of German. As a language, I’ll never love it as much as Italian or French, but I did love hearing Thomas’s attempt to speak a few words. He was very hesitant at first to try out saying “Thank you” but he quickly became a pro to the point that he was thanking people for anything and everything. He raised a lot of laughs from the guy in the local corner shop where we bought travel tickets by saying “Danke schon” about twenty times in the space of five minutes.

I’ve also loved hearing Thomas make people laugh for other reasons, especially in a week where he has exhibited some challenging behaviour and made me wonder how many onlookers were silently judging my apparent lack of parenting ability. His earnest little running commentaries have been very amusing though. Every train or tram journey was accompanied by detailed explanation of what was happening and where we were going. He lectured a man waiting at a tram stop in the intricacies of the changing points on the rails, to much laughing all round, despite the language difference. On arriving at the airport he rushed up to a man in a lift in order to tell him “we’re just going up to the top floor with our suitcase so we can go to the desk to check in. Then we will get on another aeroplane, which will fly in the sky and take us home….” And on and on!

Waiting on board the bus to board our plane home (as we were being held there as passengers hadn’t yet finished disembarking) he prattled on similarly. Ian asked him if he was ever quiet and without a pause he shook his head and said “Noooo. I can’t be quiet because I’ve still got plenty of voice in here (pointing to his neck ) in my voice box. There is so much voice in here” at which point the woman behind us dissolved in to snorts of laughter saying it was one of the funniest things she’s listened to in a long time. He then treated her to all of his terrible jokes such as “How do elephants fly?” Delivered every time as if it were the best, most original joke in the world. I absolutely love it when people just can’t help but smile and laugh and my lovely boy is the reason!

Made

Since we’ve been away, my resolution to make rather than buy treats has obviously been put aside for the week, and my on going craft projects have also languished at home. Cheesy as it sounds, however, we have been busy making memories. A proper post about our Vienna adventures will hopefully be coming up, but here is a sneak peak at a couple of pictures.

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And lastly…

If the above sounded cheesy, then this will sound even worse, but we had a minor incident with a missing wedding ring this week. Fortunately it was located again, but in the time it was missing I was reminded how the little things like a ring, or even the marriage it represents, mean nothing in comparison to our relationship. Without the ring we’d still have been married and still loved each other to the ends of the earth. That fact was somehow brought in to sharp focus by the momentary sadness of the missing ring. No matter what else happens in life, I’m so lucky to have my little family.

And now, onwards. We only had one week of full new preschool and activities routines before we were away firstly at Alton Towers and then in Vienna. So I’m looking forward to settling back in to the routine properly and cosying down as autumn begins. A bottle of wine is already chilling in the fridge, and the logs are waiting to get a roaring fire going tonight.

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Disney Music, Jam and Birthday Invites… #LittleLoves

It’s no secret – or at least I think it’s pretty obvious – that’s I’ve been in another bit of a slump lately. Not least because there are some health issues going on, but also the change of seasons and yet another round of everyone and their aunt announcing pregnancies or popping out babies. Yeah, that still isn’t any easier to deal with. And as far as blogging goes, I’m still feeling a lot out of sorts. A lot like I don’t fit in and can’t find the community I really crave.

The only thing I know for sure is that I’m the only person who can do anything much about most of these things, including relocating – if I ever had it in the first place – some kind of blogging mojo. And in efforts to address both that, and to bring a little positivity and happiness, I’ve decided to join in with the Little Loves linky for the first time.

I know what you are thinking – I’ve joined a lot of linkys before and have the staying power of… Well, something not at all sticky. I can’t promise this will be any different, but since it involves very little forethought or organisation in my part (my massive downfall when it comes to photo linkys!) and because it is one that several people I follow participate in and so keeps popping up in my feed reader, I will give it a try. And hey, even if I only join in once, it’s a happy post. That’s got to be good, right?

So here we go:

Read

BigLittleLies

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty utterly engrossed me. Moriarty seems to be an “author of the moment” but I have to admit to not having really got in to either of the two books of hers I’d tried before, including the highly acclaimed The Husband’s Secret. Maybe I wasn’t in the right frame of mind before though, and will have to try again after loving this so much. I don’t want to give too much away, but the book centres around a crime but keeps you guessing about the identities of both the victim and the perpetrator for a long time. There is an additional twist too that I’ll freely admit to not working out until right at the last moment. A great page turner for sure!

Heard

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Disney music! We spent over eight hours in the car with Thomas this week, going to and from Alton Towers. I must admit I’m pleased the Julia Donaldson audio CD obsession has waned in favour of the Now That’s What I Call Disney album and Frozen soundtrack. (Nothing against Julia Donaldson, but there are only som many times I can listen to The Snail and the Whale without going a little loopy.) I was belting out the tunes (to much eye rolling from my husband!) as we sped up the M1. I’m glad Thomas is such a fan, and it bodes well for our trip next year!

Watched

Not particularly original, but we watched the Great British Bake Off. We were driving back from Alton Towers with every intention to make it in time for the start, but roadworks, hold ups, horrendous weather and a child wriggling free of his car seat straps (naughty boy) all delayed us and we didn’t make it through the door until five minutes before the end. Fortunately it was up on iPlayer straight away and so I insisted we watch it before going to bed! I do love GBBO since becoming hooked during (I think) the second series which was on whilst I was pregnant with Thomas.

Made

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I think we’ve reached the end of the blackberry season and we made our final batch of blackberry jam, some of which I then used to make jam tarts. It’s delicious enough to eat straight out of the jar with a spoon. Not that I’d do that of course. Ahem.

I’ve actually made a bit of a resolution recently to make some sort of treat each week rather than buying stuff like cakes or biscuits. I find if I make things I enjoy and appreciate them more, and I’m more likely to want to make them last rather than eating them mindlessly. Shop bought biscuits are so much less satisfying that I often find I’ll mindlessly much through several ip without really thinking about it, which isn’t particularly healthy! I’d much rather enjoy a proper treat, that I’ve made myself, each week. Along with the jam tarts I also made banana bread this week and previous recipes have included my G&T cake, peanut butter cookies and Millionaire’s Shortbread.

We also made Thomas’s birthday party invites this week, which is a bit early considering his birthday is not until November. I knew I would be seeing a couple of the mums from Thomas’s old preschool that I now won’t see much now though, so I wanted to take the opportunity to hand them an invite as Thomas is quite insistent about certain people he wants to come to his party! (Let’s just hope they can make it, otherwise I might need to be creative to avert disaster!) I’m pretty pleased with how they look.

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Wore

This week I have been mostly wearing black skinny jeans – which has been a change after a summer of cropped jeans. I’ve also been wearing a raincoat – although we were lucky with the weather at Alton Towers we did have a few showers. And I’ve also been in my hoodys, as I refuse to put the heating on until at least October (although we have cheated and had the log burner going!) I have treated myself to few new things online this week though, so hopefully they will arrive soon and I’ll do better in this category next time!

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And Lastly…

We had a great time at Alton Towers this week using free tickets from our previous trip in June immediately after the Smiler accident. And now it’s Friday night, the log burner is going, I have a glass of wine and…. a whole week off work! We’re off for a quick break to Vienna. There is lots to love about life.

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Masquerading as a “School Mum”

The last week has been one of yet more change for our family. In fact, it’s been the final step in a gradual process which has spanned the summer, since Thomas left his previous preschool. This has been the week where everything has come together – the new preschool, wearing a uniform and dealing with full blown school-run traffic – and fixed new family routines that will persist in to the far foreseeable future. It’s easy to say that it’s been nothing like as momentous as the weeks of those who have four year olds, embarking on their first days in a formal education career that will span thirteen years or more. After all, Thomas hasn’t started school yet.

I feel like a fraud, with pictures of my small boy in his pristine, too-big uniform amongst the scores of photos of “real” school starters on Facebook and Instagram. I feel like a fraud writing about how big this all feels to us when it’s only a preschool rather than compulsory education. I feel a bit like people might think we’re pretending to be something that we’re not. Or making a mountain out of a molehill.

But then, when I stop and think about it properly, I see that there can be no denying that this week has been huge.

It may still only be preschool but he is now settled at what will become his actual school when he does make that transition this time next year. The only difference in the routine will be moving across the playground to a different building (and, of course, attending five days rather than three with none of our current flexibility to nip off on holiday for a week whenever we choose). He is wearing his first school uniform, slightly too big in all dimensions, but having that immediate effect of making him look taller, older, so much more grown up. And it’s pretty much the same uniform that he’ll wear next year too.

I suppose, the point is, Thomas’s new school has been a massive change in lots of ways. He starts earlier, we travel by car, he wears a uniform, plays in the playground with older children and eats lunch in the school dining hall. Next year, when he actually “starts school” the changes will be much smaller. To the point that I think Thomas will barely notice, certainly in the run up and until he fully experiences the differences in classroom routine, teaching and learning. He won’t be nervous about starting in a new environment where he doesn’t know many faces because he’ll already have done that; He’s doing that now.

So no, I’m not trying to jump ahead of where we’re at, or rush through milestones in anyway. But I cannot not celebrate this one. He may not have started primary school yet and I may not be a genuine “School Mum”, but everything we’ve done these last couple of weeks has felt exactly as though that is what is happening. Effectively, this week has been his “starting school week”. The start of eight years of attending the same place, wearing roughly the same clothes and seeing the same people.

It won’t feel like this next year. I’ve no doubt it will still feel huge, but it will already be comfortable by then. Familiar. Not such a leap in to the unknown for all of us.

Which is exactly what it has been right now. New people, new places, new systems, requirements and regulations. I’ve been overwhelmed with ensuring I know who is who, where to hang bags and coats and which email address to use for what. And I’m an adult, not a not-quite-four year old.

So no, there is no denying that this week has been huge. And I couldn’t be more proud with how my little man has handled being left for long days in an alien environment with strangers. The most we have had is the occasional lament that he misses his old school. What he gets up to whilst he’s there, who he plays with and what he eats may be closely guarded secrets (his word!) but the smiles on his face, and the utter engagement I glimpse when I slip in, unnoticed, to collect him, speak volumes.

He’s not a school boy yet, but in his uniform I can already see the school boy he will become. I’m allowed to be proud of that. And to want to remember how it feels right now, without waiting for the officially defined “starting school” milestone. If I don’t capture this one now, it might have slipped through my fingers by then.

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