Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Dont let the B£$tard get you down!!

Lets not beat around the bush, infertility sucks! 

It has tested me to my limits I have had to dig deeper than I knew was possible or ever thought would be necessary in my life.

Ten years in our diagnosis remains that of "unexplained infertility"  - what is that, really!? Is there anything truly unexplained in today’s modern scientific age?  I sometimes think the Dr’s just want to stuff DW full of meds rather than target a specific problem, OR…  we are special, I prefer the latter!

Today, and it changes every day, my frustration is that I have no choice in the matter, I didn't choose this.  It just happened, to us. 

No matter what we do we don't seem to be able to twist anyone's arm to convince “them” to help us create our family.  In fact we don't even know whose metaphorical arm to twist, her womb or my sperm? None of it has worked, our bodies don't want to play ball, they just won’t.

But here's the snag, "they just won't”… YET.  At any moment this could all be over, 10 years of anxiety, fear, rage, helplessness, fad diets and supplements all over.

I remember saying to our infertility counsellor, “at some point we have to envisage a life without children, embrace the difference and live that life”.  What if that time is NOW?  How do you know when to stop?  What if, when you stop and are enjoying the difference, a pregnancy occurs?
What I do know is that infertility will try to wrestle the very "you" from you, the challenge is to usurp it – to stand strong, lean hard on that person next to you, surmount the mountain and enjoy the view from atop that mountain peak until the next bout begins and another mountain is to be climbed. 

To express that feeling of being "Pushed hard" I have written a little something, I hope you enjoy it...

 Pushed Hard


Pushed hard, at full tilt as close to the wind as I am made to go. This young vessels captain is younger still than it, out of depth but somehow still afloat.
Survival becomes the end, joy and inspiration cast overboard shed in order to endure.  Their absence makes our passage no less haunting as the merciless seasons push harder seeking out my doubt and waning courage.

But I must not falter or ease off there is too much here at stake and glancing to the stars at night I am reminded still not of joy, but promise. A future promise which if this is to be survived will be all the more fitting a prize.


(Written on reading Psalm 118, Message Bible)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Do Men Feel ANYTHING...!!???

The ugly truth bit…

My dad never ever remembers his dreams so you can imagine our delight when, sat together one evening last week, my dad confessed to having had a dream the other night.  It was a momentous occasion and one for us all to practice our pop psych learned in the pages of “Psychologies” magazine, Derren Brown etc. By the end of the evening Dad had been diagnosed with pretty much every mental affliction known to man!

Of course we all went ‘round the table asking what each other’s last dream was. The truth is I lied because mine was downright depressing.  My last dream (that I remember) about 5 days ago featured my older brother asking how I was coping “you know… with the erm… the infertility side of things”.  In my dream I wasn’t able to reply I just started to cry.  In real life now the instant I woke up I started to cry for real.  Not a great start to the day, and certainly not the kind of comical dream the family was looking to hear!

The light relief bit…

There is a point to this woeful  tale of pity!  Bear with me and read on!!

I can tell you about some things I like:

I like to surf, I used to love Rugby especially tackling until it screwed up my shoulder, I love beer my favourite is “Butcombe Blonde” (and not just because it contains the words But and Blonde). I like being my own boss, I really like to play tennis Singles not Doubles. I like to watch the tv lying on the floor.  I love peanut butter. My favourite coffee is an Americano, hot milk and a bit of sugar.

You get the idea, I know what I like and it mostly evolves around food and sport.  I know equal ops would insist I say that a love of food and sport is not exclusive to men but stereotypically it just is! I am therefore a stereotypical male!

The “I’m about to make my point” bit…

When I told my DW about my dream in the quiet and privacy of our own home, three days later she hugged me tight and said “I’m so sorry.  Sometimes when you plough on and take care of me so well it’s easy to forget how you feel”.

Ask a man what he likes to do/eat/play etc and he can tell you straight away.  I am not saying it is right or helpful (I have learned it is not) but ask a guy how he is feeling about his ‘n’ years long infertility and he probably won’t say much there and then.  But he does feel SOMETHING and maybe, three, four, five days (weeks even!) he might finally talk about it.

To my DW and on behalf of fellow menkind sorry for putting our other halves through this emotional constipation. If it helps those other halves out there living with a caveman I don’t think WE always know  even know we are doing it.

Monday, 23 July 2012

A lot can happen in 15 months

I cant deny, or try to gloss over it, being infertile is not a a good experience, it is a journey that causes you to grow and to develop but one I where if at all possible I would change course, I would leap off at the next stop and change direction, you wouldn’t have to ask me twice.  However, much like a sailor nursing a broken mast I am at the mercy of the tides and these last weeks they have brought me rather close to the rocks.

I have found that in the mess of infertility I have had some good days and weeks where blissfully untroubled by our infertility I bob along much like a “normal” person.  But sometimes in the normality of life I have found the trickiest of obstacles that bring the rocks  rearing up close.  Take today for example…

A good weekend, the best for months in fact, a walk by the river, my first surf this year (things must have been bad), no discussion about treatments, Dr appointments or what-to-do-next, just ralxing with my wife.  Given the unseasonally good weather we are experiencing I decided to get my hair cut!  As it turns out the hairdresser who was booked to sort out my unkempt mane used to regularly cut my hair until one day she seemed to have left,or so I thought (remember I’m a guy and don’t pick up on sublte signals), it turns out she had been on maternity leave  and had had a little boy “Archie” 15 months ago.

In the course of the conversation it dawned on me how very normal it is to have a baby take maternity leave and come back to work, all in the space of 15 months.  I also realised how unnatural it was for us to have not moved on even an inch in our attempts to tobecome parents.

Conversation moved on to, of course, holidays.  I was in the hairdressers after all.  In her 15 months she and her baby boy had been abroad four times (maternity pay sounds good!).

 To my surprise this knocked me sideways the most.  My DW and I have felt so ground down by infertility, we have retreated so far in to our shells that even a trip to the coast for a surf had felt impossible all year and a trip abroad just too much to get our ever-so-slightly-depressed heads around.  Instead I had spent my Monday )the beauty of being your own boss) looking at holiday cottages for two.

Of course many parents and single friends would love a quiet week away romantically snuggled up with your other half and of course  I will enjoy this too, but when I acknowledge I would have so liked a cottage for “two or more” it just makes me sad.  It is the simplicity and normality of wanting to become a parent, to raise a child, that the sadness becomes burdensome.

Walking away from the hairdresser I realised too that like her if all had gone to plan our baby would have been 15 months (and 20 days) old.

I realised walking home that a lot can happen in 15 months and in that moment entirely without choosing I was reminded of our intransigent, stubborn  infertility.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Surviving Fathers Day...

Surviving Fathers day

Although “we” were pregnant for 7 weeks (4 of them unwittingly so), no matter which way I look at it I am not a father, and the likelihood sadly is that I will never be.  So Father’s day should be horrifying, right?

After spending just shy of a third of my life TTC I have the benefit of time to reconcile myself to my not being a father.  Thankfully this explicit celebration of fatherhood takes place just once a year and so my lack in this regard is not so noticeable on a regular and public basis!

I recognise the challenge such a day presents the infertile man, or couple, and I too have felt terrible on father’s day.  That said I have to confess to being very comfortable with father’s day.

Fortunately my Dad has been great.  I know I am blessed to have been raised by a man I can look up to, love and respect, the same is not true for everyone.  I am happy to put my celebration of him and others like him ahead of my (sometime overwhelming) desire to have been a Dad.  In the UK in particular we are so ashamed of celebrating people and telling others the love we feel for them, that I do not want to stand in the way of such a positive day.

I don’t begrudge loving, caring fathers their day of recognition and treats, being a father is hard work and they deserve it. 

Can it still sting - yes!  Do I sometimes avoid church - yes (did I this year – yes!)! Do I limit my contact to family at such a time - most of the time, yes!

It is not Father’s day I find the most challenging but rather the oh-so-casual ignorance of our (unexplained) infertility.  The all too regular occasions when it is overlooked, for example being unthinkingly side-lined from a Godsons birthday party, being told I am lucky I get to lie in, this is when I am made acutely aware of my infertility, this is when it really stings. 

What has hurt me the most has been people’s lack of thought and care along the way 365 days , not just on father’s day.


It's too late; the dinner of my grief is left out in the cold. Cold like your comfort.  Tasteless and unwanted.

 You have your slice of happiness, enjoy it but forgive me if I look on in scornful envy, I'm on a diet.

 There's no use being sensitive now, now you realise for yourselves the happiness we held, and dropped down the toilet.

 You were late, "late for a very important date".
1 year after our miscarriage and having just got pregnant one of our very best friends finally realised how special it was to be pregnant and what we had been through as a result of both our infertility and miscarriage, they were, in my opinion, a little late in realising this!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Communicate. It really is that simple. Or is it just me….?

When I started to Blog I thought I would write with an overwhelming sense of positivity, a bright beacon of hope in the blogosphere, infertility cast in a new light!

However my writing has coincided with our very last throw of the dice on our infertility journey, and 10 years in, I find myself going through a blow by blow face off with the realities of infertility and the impact it has had on my DW and I.  In short this blog is helping me make sense of it all.

 I have confronted my  issues or feelings head on in order  to try and exorcise them, to take away the fear that they may haunt me in the future  don’t worry this is a controlled experiment undertaken with the support of an experienced and specialised infertility counsellor to light the way and check my marbles en route!!

This week my self-help therapy was  sparked by my not being invited for (the second year running) to the 2nd birthday party of my godson, it suddenly dawned on me that I have never been to a child’s birthday party (as an adult) and I have never held a new born baby.

 “Poor me”, can you hear the violins playing as I sulk my way through the day…? 

Hold on a minute though!  I am not so sure that it is actually self-pity driving my deep sense of regret.  Both these experiences are fundamental to the the cycle of life, its natural cycle.  To not take part in them is to miss out and is likely to make even the sturdiest of men sad. 

 I would add too that I am not so naive as to think that this only applies to the infertile amongst us.  I feel horrible for my single friends many of whom are also by consequence “infertile”, and furthermore lonelier than I who is blessed with a brilliant wife.

 As I felt a growing sense  of sadness I instinctively felt I should pay attention to how I was feeling.  As I really got to know and to confront the issue I was suddenly surprised, what I hadn’t banked on was discovering… anger.  Specifically anger at my friends and family.

 I realised I have been harbouring anger against those around us who have hidden their joy from us, who have made countless decision on my behalf usually to save their own embarrassment because of a problem that afflicts US, not THEM! I realised it is not normal to not have met our “best friends” babies until they were months old or to have not been invited to our nieces  and nephews birthday parties, sentimental but important and exciting landmarks in a little life.  Maybe it would be a delight to hold a newly born child just days old, I would love to know how their skin feels and to discover this magical smell that new borns are rumoured to have!

 Infertility causes you to be brave, you just have to suck it up, therefore others awkwardness on your behalf is all the more grating as it pulls you lower than you have fought to climb.  We may have risen above our circumstance, but still, failing to acknowledge our accomplishment, others choose to decide just how far they think you have risen , – “we couldn’t possible invite them it would be just too hard for them”.

 If you are fertile yourself and you are reading this, leave your cowardice and guilt behind and simply involve others in the joy of your children by giving others the option before you make the decision for them. 

Communicate.  It really is that simple.  Or is it just me….?


If you sit still, quiet, smiling, for long enough (10 years) they might not notice.

It’s more comfortable to not notice, and they are ever so appreciative of you not ever bringing it up.

One time he noticed - “you’re so lucky you know, lying in each weekend”

I rather wish he hadn’t noticed, least of all commented.  Prompted by my longing for this excruciating moment to pass I issue myself clear orders.  “Move on, and remember….. smile”.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Infertility is not ok

It’s not ok.

You can’t convince me otherwise.

 “A friend of my sisters hairdresser got pregnant after 8 years, isn’t that amazing? Don’t you think it’s amazing…?”

Gorging on my need to please, to not embarrass the other I agree, politely, “That IS amazing, how old is the child now? How lovely!”

 Later I count the day of the month, the day of her cycle, the days until we next try, the years we have been trying and wonder how many times we must have “tried”.

Its nearly 600.  Others are always so curious to know but daren’t ever ask, so there it is, nearly 600.

600 is not ok.   Infertility is not ok.


Living with and through(unexplained) infertility is not ok.  That isn’t to say that they aren’t worse things to suffer, because there are, and it isn’t to say that life becomes pointless, because it doesn’t.  But still, its not ok.

After 10 years I am not depressed as such, I do have a hope and an excitement for the future but just now things are a little harder.  My “normal” just isn’t antwhere as buoyant as it used to be.

For me where we are very much at the end of this journey to conceive (ttc) I am daily challenged by looking back at the last 10 years trying to work out what the heck it was all about (angry), to grieve in the now for the child we might never meet and the miscarriage we suffered (sad), whilst also adjusting to a potential future without children (insecure).  Dependant on the day, life is lived through one of these filters.

Going through life feeling either angry sad or insecure undoubtedly impacts my daily outlook.  It requires courage and commitment to choose to look ahead and not give up on yourself. 

Life carries on with or without you and there may come a point at which you look around and realise that in fact it moved on without you.  This moment came for me about 6-12 months ago.  I was shocked that we had only one or two friends who didn’t now have children or by how many people we had simply drifted out of contact with, I was shocked to realise my first nephew was going to Senior School.  Life had moved on. 

Somewhere in the fog I had been left behind sitting on the kerb, frankly unable, and perhaps unwilling, to keep moving on.

This moment brought home the reality that to pick myself up, and keep myself up, I would have to live a disciplined life.  Daily I would have to choose to be in touch with my feelings and the consequential impact they were having particularly on my relationships with others. 

Life with infertility has introduced a level of self-analysis and awareness that most don’t have to employ in order to function.  Infertility has slowed life down, I don’t have the capacity for other people that I used to and I now feel a pressure to appear positive and engaging when I do venture out in case my innate sense of vulnerability is sniffed out.

After 10 years I have concluded that infertility is not OK.  It does not feel in any way pleasant and I have not enjoyed any part of it.  Infertility is a silent thief, it is undermining and belittling.  It is not ok.

However, I have also learned after 10 years that I need not be afraid of eyeballing the lows and taking them head on, these are not the real enemy.  The real enemy comes in the form of a creeping sense of self pity.  This, whilst inevitable and entirely understandable, I find corrosive.  It is the rust that seizes up your joints, that quietly grinds you to a halt until you awake one day and realise that you can’t remember when you last laughed out loud.  My creeping shadow of self pity must be kept at bay through discipline and a keen sense of proportion - and a helpful dose of hugs from my DW and the occasional prod in the ribs!

It’s not ok but we will survive it and we will find our “new normal”.  In the early years I was determined not to be defined by our infertility.  Since, and with time I now appreciate that whilst it won’t define me (unless I let it) it will shape me, but maybe I have a choice as to the shape.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

The road less travelled
On this infertility journey we are unique, a secret society of fellow travellers.  Each weighed down by their baggage and each trying, and trying again, to find a new depth of hope and faith to tackle the day ahead.

I find no shame on this road.  I am proud of who I am and of the person I have no choice but to become.  I have learned there is no shame to be had in crying.  There is no shame in my anger.  There is no shame to be found in my envy.

I see no shame in finding a new love for my wife as she carries her burden and pain with dignity and courage.  I see no shame in holding my wife as she grieves the loss of a child we may never know.

Ours is a road less travelled, upon which we have to struggle to find our way, but we do and we will.

Ours is a road less travelled where two people have been brought closer than I had imagined possible, where secrets are shared and treasured, made sacred by the struggle we share. 

Bonded together by hope, and too often alone, we have seen the narrow path we have to tread but have committed to journey on.  When it has felt too hard I have learned to accept my limitations and accept that energy saved today will help for the tomorrows still to come.

I have looked my future in the eye and calling on all my courage I am no longer bathed in fear. 

This is the road less travelled

Pushed Hard

Pushed hard, at full tilt as close to the wind as I am made to go.  This young vessels captain is younger still than it, out of depth but somehow still afloat.

Survival becomes the end, joy and inspiration cast overboard shed in order to endure.  Their absence makes our passage no less haunting as the merciless seasons push harder seeking out my doubt and waning courage.

But I must not falter or ease off there is too much here at stake and glancing to the stars at night I am reminded still not of joy, but promise.  A future promise which if this is to be survived will be all the more fitting a prize.

(Written on reading Psalm 118, Message Bible)