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Friday, April 04, 2008

I have moved

All good blogger blogs eventually come to an end. And so it is with mine.

My new home is at:

Making Babies - http://www.makingbabies.ie

Please update your links. You can update your feed by clicking on the link in the footer of the new site.

Thank you all so much for the support and help you have given me here. I will miss this place.

Friday, March 28, 2008

So here it is.....



It has been sent to the printers so it's all out of my hands now. Yikes! The launch will take place on Tuesday 22nd April at 6.30pm in the Dublin Bookshop on Grafton St. You are all very welcome, in fact I would LOVE to meet you. I will send you an official invite closer to the time.

One of the most common questions I get asked is, "Is it new material or is it taken from the blog?". It is all new material and has very little to do with the blog, apart from the fact that it is written by me and I talk a lot about my own experiences in relation to the issue being discussed. Basically, it's a guide book to TTC which starts at the beginning, taking readers from the stage of recognising fertility signs and timing intercourse, through to looking for help, finding a fertility clinic, right through to IVF and beyond. It's full of facts and figures, advice on websites, where to buy HPTs etc, what to expect from medical professionals, how to choose a fertility clinic, how to cope with infertility, IVF, miscarriage, other people etc. I've offered my opinion where I thought it might be helpful and there are personal accounts and opinions from loads of other women (and one man!) who have experienced the topic in question.

It is opinionated, as I am, but I think anyone who has had to battle infertility while at the same time having to battle with the medical profession and the general public will agree that these things need to be said. I hope the book will be of some help to those that read it and I hope you like it! (Runs and hides.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

You just have to wish really hard...

I am gobsmacked at JLo's recent People magazine article, via Julie.

Despite trying to conceive for several years, "I knew there was nothing wrong with me. I knew that I could. Deep down, I really wanted it badly..."

Unlike the rest of us who only want it a bit, Jenny's faith, determination and general all-round perfection won the day. Despite trying for several years, she never once thought there was something "wrong" with her, it never entered her head that it wouldn't happen. Well, if you weren't convinced before that she is completely loola, here is all the evidence you need.

Hubby Marc Anthony's reasoning for the twin pregnancy is even funnier than the "twins run in the family" excuse - he says that twins were inevitable because everything his wife touches turns to gold! Has he ever seen Gigli?!?

There is something wrong with JLo and MAnt. They tried unsuccessfully to conceive for several years. They are infertile. If their twins were conceived naturally, then they were dealt a really big slice of good luck, and not just because they wished really hard for it. A spontaneous pregnancy after 3 years TTC has about a 1% chance of happening each cycle. Of course it is possible but most people would describe it in terms of a "miracle" and a "blessing", as opposed to an inalienable right due to their own perfection.

And there's the crux of the matter. Infertility is perceived in the media as an imperfection, in Jenny's own words, something "wrong with me". It makes her look old, weakened, more like us. Unlike the shot of "Jennifer and Marc clowning around with their $3,000 prams". See, Jenny's not like us, only good things happen to her. That is why she has $3,000 prams and we don't.

I am going to preempt the "You can't judge her, she has a right to her privacy" comments with this:

BOLLOX!!!! She has paraded her newborn twins in public for a reported $6m fee. She has put them on show, people are bound to ask questions about them because she has put them out there. Live by the media, die by the media.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I've been tagged!

By Peep. I must post six random things about myself. As I've said previously, I don't like talking about myself much, so let's see...

1. I love quizzes, any sort really - the harder and faster the questions, the better. So does DH - we are very competitive.

2. I have an extra-strong sense of smell. Not really an asset.

3. Although I don't make a big deal of it, bad spelling and punctuation really annoy me, to the point that they might actually affect my opinion of the writer as a person! And yes, if you find any typos on my blog, you may apply appropriate punishment.

4. I suffer from repetitive strain injury (RSI), although it is a lot more manageable now than when I was a full-time nerd.

5. A chain of events that just happened led me to think of point number 4, and it is a measure of my current state of calmness and serenity that I have decided to let it lie and not post about it. So point number 5 is - I am very calm and serene these days.

6. I'm a big Man Utd fan. Since 1975. That's the season they spent in the old 2nd Division. If I had been a glory-seeker, I would have chosen Derby County. Not that I regularly find myself in the position of having to be defensive about my choice or anything.

I tag LoTwan and John.

The Rules:
1) Link to the person who tagged you.
2) Post the rules.
3) Share six non-important things / habits / quirks about yourself.
4) Tag at least two people.
5) Make sure the people you tagged KNOW you tagged them by commenting what you did.

Oh, I've just read the rules. Number 6 is actually a very important thing but I can't be bothered thinking of anything else so it stays.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Anything you can do.....

I didn't win at the Irish Blog Awards........but my very clever and talented husband did!!!

It was great to meet up with some of my virtual friends and put a few faces to names. Big congrats to Grandad and Grannymar, who were joint winners in my category, Best Personal Blog. Also to Sinead and Twenty Major, who both made it three in a row - a pleasure to meet both of them too. Biggest congrats of all to Damien, who must have special powers to stretch time to be able to fit so much work into one man's life.

But what has fannying about at awards ceremonies got to do with infertility and babies? Not a lot, so it was back to business today. I spoke on East Coast FM on the subject of women having babies later in life. I was pitted against Dr James Clinch, a former Master of the Coombe hospital, who maintained that women should have babies between the ages of 20 and 25. I wasn't really sure what my role was to be until the discussion started, but it seemed like I was there to be the "older woman" who had had difficulties because of this. Never one to shy away from a debate on fertility, I found myself fighting the corner of the 30-something woman who is having or trying to have her first child. Gosh, we do get a lot of stick sometimes. It's all those hard-nosed career women, who selfishly put off having babies until their 40s cos they can just do IVF and create designer babies out of all the donor sperm and eggs available, that give the rest of us a bad name.

For the motion:
1. It is certainly easier for 20-25 year old women to conceive and carry a child.

Against the motion:
1. Most women are not "waiting" to have children, many simply don't meet their partners until later in life.
2. Try convincing 20-25 year old men to have children.
3. Our increased life expectancy has changed where we see ourselves in the ageing process and many 20-25 year olds are no longer socially, culturally or emotionally ready to have children.
4. There is little social or economic support for younger women who have children.
5. Male-factor infertility, which is not particularly age-related, accounts for as many cases as female-factor, so this affects couples of all ages.
6. 20-25 year olds are all a shower of irresponsible piss-heads who wouldn't know one end of a baby from the other [may be a gross generalisation].

Friday, February 29, 2008

Waiting for the man

The Irish Blog Awards are on tomorrow night. I will be wearing my new dress if the postman brings it today. If not, I will be giving my old dress one last outing. That's how I operate - I buy new clothes, I wear them all the time until I get to go shopping again. Then my former new clothes become old clothes and are laid to rest. It means I don't have to think much about what I wear, yet I usually look like I've made an effort. And because I work from home, people don't tend to notice that I wear the same clothes most of the time. However, I did wear my old dress to the last blog-related do so I could get caught out this time. Come on postie, come on!!!

I will also be talking about blogging with John Williams of McAWilliams on RTE Radio 1's This Week programme on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

No ordinary girl

Did I say I was ordinary? Nope, still an angry aul cow. It's those women, happily parading their pregnant bellies in front of me every time I visit my obs' office. Who do they think they are??!?!?

Now, I KNOW that I don't know what they've been through or what they're going through. However, STATISTICALLY, they probably just had to have sex a few times and haven't had much grief since. Yes, I should be happy for them that they have not had to suffer. And yet their carefree, jolly pregnancy banter does not make me happy. Hmmmm. Maybe us soldiers should wear an identifying wristband or something. Just so I don't go shooting accusing looks at some poor veteran, just because she had the nerve to smile whilst rubbing her bump.

In other news obs office news, obs is talking about a 39 week induction. I asked what method was most likely to get baby out alive. Because of my history, I have a slightly higher chance of placental problems and stillbirth if I go past my due date so this is the safest method. I was hoping to avoid another induction after my last experience but this is a different team, a different hospital and word of mouth and Internet feedback is very positive. So I may never have the "Honey, I think it's time" moment but that is last on my list of priorities at the moment. And I'm secretly excited that I may get to meet baby a week or two early!

What do you think? Did you have a history of infertility and/or miscarriage and choose a different option?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Ordinary day

I have a blogging problem. I don't really like talking about myself. I have no problem talking about infertility - that is a sort of separate entity I was landed with. Infertility tells a good story, can be a cliffhanger at times. But I am much more ordinary. I am glad, I strived to be ordinary for a very long time. Now I am just an ordinary woman with an ordinary pregnancy, even if it did have dramatic beginnings.

I could talk about my husband, but he can do that for himself. I could tell you about my beautiful son, he is much more extraordinary than me. But that is not my story to tell. And he is already getting good at the Internet (he can navigate his way around YouTube) and starting to read, so it could come back to haunt me in a few short years!

Instead I will leave you with some photos of my best boy:

james2
james1
james4
james3

By the way, I am not signing off! I need you to listen to my whinging for at least another three months!!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

This post is all about pregnancy

25w4d today. Past the 24 week viability mark. Although those in the know suggest that 26 weeks marks the point at which hospitals make a reasonable effort at viability. Almost there. Of course baby must be born alive first.

I have been blessed with a trouble-free pregnancy. That is, if you discount my ten weeks of vomiting hell, and the fact that I have spent the entire pregnancy making sure baby is still alive and trying to work out my chances of keeping her that way.

My obstetric care has been great and I am looking forward to a birth with a team that I trust. However, this is only because we have paid for it. All pregnancy-related care is available on the public health service (i.e. free) in Ireland. However, I just couldn't face telling my history to a different consultant on each visit, constantly reminding medical staff of the cocktail of drugs needed, begging for early scans, recovering on a maternity ward after a D&C. Mind you, private care doesn't always guarantee that staff actually read my file. A nurse recently told me that my obs must have delivered a baby for me in the past. I said, no, I was certain she hadn't. The nurse inquired as to why my file was so big. I guess six miscarriages trumps a live birth in terms of column inches.

My little baby is doing fine and so am I. I think I am functioning as a normal human being again. It helps that I don't have to hide from the past - my book is out soon so talking about that means talking about the last three years. We have not reached the finishing line yet but we have to act as if we will. The alternative does not bear thinking about.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Irish Blog Awards Shortlist

I have made the shortlist for Best Blog and Best Personal Blog - thank you very much! Does that mean I can buy a new dress??? Pleeeeeeeeaase.

My very talented hubby has made the list for Best Newcomer. Why don't you drop into him and say hello!?!!

Big thanks once again to Damien for making it all possible.

Friday, February 08, 2008

What did she say?!?!??

A very odd thing happened yesterday. First of all I got some free, last minute tickets for the Digital Media Awards, for which I was nominated in the Best in Blogging category. That was quite odd in itself as there's supposed to be no such thing as a free lunch (or dinner, as in this case). I got to meet Deborah, the Humble Housewife, Grandad and K8 the Gr8, which was cool.

And then, the oddness. I, eh, won. What?!?!??

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It runs in the family

Jennifer Lopez's father has confirmed that she is expecting twins and has asserted that twins run in the family "so it's a hereditary thing".

There is surely a gene that combines celebrity with twin pregnancies. Has anyone researched this? Julia Roberts, Diana Krall and CNN's Nancy Grace have all confirmed that they conceived twins naturally (they run in the family) in their late 30s to late 40s, while many more celebs - Geena Davis, Holly Hunter, Patrick Dempsey's wife - all conceived twins in their 40s seemingly without the need for any intervention. This appears to affect women from their late 30s onwards - we haven't seen the same trend amongst the younger celebrity mums. They should make a film about it!

But let's just assume for a minute that my theory doesn't stand up. What if any or all of the above did actually need an injection here or an egg there? So what?!?!? Why are celebs so reluctant to talk about it? Of course it is their business (but it's not nice to lie) and nobody is under any obligation to parade their private lives in public, but there doesn't seem to be the same reluctance to talk about other medical conditions. While celebs don't like to appear to have any imperfections, many have survived reports of illness and some have even seen their profiles raised because of it. Kylie's career has flourished after battling breast cancer, Kate Moss is more in demand than ever after her drug "addiction". Those celebs that have spoken openly about IVF - Marcia Cross, Courtney Cox, Brooke Shields - remain as popular as ever, and even more so amongst those of us in the know.

Maybe I am too immersed in this world to see the wood for the trees. I have never experienced the "stigma" of infertility, never seen it in practice. The annoying comments, yes of course, but nobody has ever tried to make me feel as if my babies or I are inferior because I needed a prescription to conceive them. In fact, I feel like a champion because I have managed to overcome all the odds to get this far. Why can't everyone see it that way?

Update: I have been informed that, while JLo's dad may not want to talk about IVF, JLo herself has spoken openly about it. Good for her! My trusty researcher, Dr Google, informs me that she has been doing IVF since 2006 so she has probably been through the mill. Looking forward to reading about her experiences.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Facebook



I hope I haven't hurt anyone's feelings but I have given up doing all the extra stuff on Facebook.

Radio

I will be talking about infertility and blogging on Roisin Ingle's show on Newstalk tomorrow at 11.20am.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Interview

Below is the text of an interview I did with Damien Mulley about the blog and my upcoming book.

Book week: Interview with Feebee from The Waiting Game

Feebee blogs over at The Waiting Game and has a book out in March about fertility issues. The book is called: Trying To Conceive. Feebee will be one of the people on the panel discussing blogging and writing a book on the afternoon of the Blog Awards. She was kind enough to answer some questions I sent to her. As well as being nominated for the Blog Awards, her blog has been shortlisted for the Digital Media Awards on February 7th. Best of luck to her. (Transparency: I’m judge for the DMAs)

Tell me a little bit about The Waiting Game, why did you start the blog? I sometimes blog as I find it therapeutic and sometimes I feel I have to blog to get the word out about something, almost like I have duty to inform people. Do you feel the same?

I started the blog after I had my first miscarriage in September 2005. I called it the Two Week Wait because that’s how long I thought it would last. The “two week wait” refers to the time between ovulation and when you can test for pregnancy. It can be a very long two weeks and your mind can go into overdrive imagining pregnancy symptoms. If you google “two week wait symptoms”, you get hundreds of thousands of pages of women discussing symptoms and potential symptoms and trying to work out if they are pregnant. The idea behind the blog was that I would document my two week waits for a couple of months until I became pregnant again and then someone else could take over and so on until we could build up a good resource of bona fide two week wait symptoms for others to obsess over.

Well, two weeks came and went, and another two and another two and before I knew it I had unwittingly documented the slow descent into infertility. Most infertility bloggers start out at this point but mine begins in a much more hopeful place and slowly slips into despair.

I didn’t tell anyone in real life about it for a long time. I mentioned it on parenting and infertility boards and that’s where most of my traffic came from at the start. Then I started reading other infertility blogs and we swapped links. There’s a great network of support around the world and some brilliant writers in infertility blogland. It’s not a subject that people ramble about indiscriminately and I think that most bloggers tend to choose their words carefully, which usually makes for interesting reading. And of course there’s the soap opera element of month in month out fertility treatments, doomed pregnancies and fraught personal relationships with the outside world. The lack of understanding of the fertile world is often something that is turned into comedy by bloggers and, despite the difficult subject matter, infertility blogs make me laugh out loud a lot of the time.

When I got nominated for the Irish Blog Awards last year, I started to mention my blog to close family and friends. I was also going through an IVF cycle at the time and realised it would be easier to explain myself in writing than face to face most of the time. It really has worked. Most of the time when you try to explain how you feel, the reaction is something along the lines of “Oh, it can’t be that bad, you can’t possibly feel that bad”. Followed inevitably by “You seem very stressed, maybe you just need to relax”. Stress does not cause infertility any more than it causes diabetes or myopia. That is because it is a medical condition that needs to be treated or cured. But popular opinion tends to believe otherwise. As does the media. So you tend to get a torrent of advice (or assvice as bloggers prefer) every time you mention the subject. Writing a blog means that you can say exactly what you want to say without the fear of assvice. And when you say it often enough and consistently enough, it starts to sink in. I get considerably less assvice today than I did a year or two years ago. Maybe people still think I need to relax/get over myself/move on/be thankful for what I’ve got but they no longer say it to my face so that’s good enough for me!

Blogging is also useful for answering the Sunday supplement type reports on infertility and miscarriage that raise their ugly heads periodically. Whenever such a lifestyle piece is published, you can be guaranteed that come Monday morning, you will get several emails telling you the good news that going on a cruise or drinking red wine or playing tennis will indeed help you conceive. Infertility is not taken seriously as an illness in the media and a blog is a useful outlet to answer back with scientific facts when necessary. I have a reasonable readership (400-800 hits per day depending on where the soap opera is at) so I hope that someone somewhere is persuaded every now and then. I get a lot of googlers, often asking the specific question I am addressing, i.e. “does swimming cause miscarriage?”, so I hope I can be of some help to them too.

I find your blog a tough read at times, there’s so much to deal with. What kind of reaction do you get from friends, family and strangers?

I generally get a really positive reaction from people that mention that they read it. They are usually very sympathetic and supportive and nearly always mention that they had no idea how difficult infertility/IVF/miscarriage can be. That is the most satisfying part of writing the blog, that I have managed to get the word out about what one in six couples goes through. I think that’s one of the ways in which blogging is truly revolutionary – the fact that you can now get a first-hand insight into how certain events and situations affect people’s lives. It’s a job that was previously left up to authors, playwrights and scriptwriters and that usually meant compressing the information into a specific format. Now people can read about almost any issue, no matter how difficult or personal, as it happens and in whatever format or style the author wishes.

On a personal level, it means that I don’t have to explain myself all the time. If we are going through a particularly difficult time, then friends and family can have a look at the blog and decide for themselves if it is a good time to call. I think it has helped them deal with me and vice versa.

How big an issue is fertility in this country and in the developed world as a whole? Is it one of the many unseen, yet common issues of modern times?

It affects one in six couples and this figure is rising all the time. Everybody knows somebody who is going through it, whether they know it or not. Some people prefer to keep quiet about it, others try to talk about it but whether or not they are open, everyone comes up against the cruel, thoughtless comments that are bandied about on a daily basis. “Maybe you weren’t meant to have children”, “You’re so lucky you don’t have kids, mine are a nightmare”, “Why don’t you just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant”, “It’s because you drink wine/drink coffee/exercise/don’t exercise/work too hard/obsess too much/live in the city/are too fat/are too thin/don’t eat meat/eat red meat/don’t eat fish/need to relax that you haven’t conceived yet”. You really have to have an answer for every thoughtless comment and after a while, you gather quite a portfolio.

The bottom line is that it is a very, very common medical complication and it is rarely spoken about very misunderstood by the fertile world. It’s bad enough that you have to watch your friends and family have so easily what you would literally give your right arm for, without having those same people betray their lack of understanding with an insensitive comment. You’d think, if most people know how much joy a child can bring, that they would understand how much pain not being able to conceive or carry a child might bring, but no. There needs to be a lot more discussion about how stressful it is (studies have shown infertility patients to have stress levels equalled only by cancer and AIDS patients) and how family and friends can support those suffering.

So the book. How did that come about? Did you consider writing a book for a while? What else is there out there in this area?

I thought about writing it when we had been trying for about a year (I thought I knew it all then – ha!). Then I got pregnant by IUI and everything seemed to be going well and the book fell on my list of priorities. When I miscarried again at three months I thought, right, I’m going to make something good come of this mess and so started to write a proposal. That was October 2006. About two months later, I sent the proposal to four publishers and two got back to me straight away. I spoke to both of them for a couple of months and eventually signed a contract with Liberties Press in March 2007.

The book is called Trying To Conceive. It’s a guidebook that takes couples through every step of the process, from the heady early days right through to IVF and beyond. It’s not autobiographical but I do offer a lot of insight into all the processes and suggest coping mechanisms for everything that infertility can throw at you. Coping with infertility involves about 10% of going through the motions of treatment and 90% of dealing with the emotional side of it, something that is not discussed much in other books or in society in general. There is nothing else out there like it, and nothing at all written from an Irish perspective.

I didn’t get the book deal because I have a blog but it certainly helped to have an existing profile, an audience and a substantial body of work. It is also a useful means of publicising and verifying my status as someone who has been there, done that.

What’s the work ethic for a book? Make a plan, do it, chapter by chapter or gather all data and then sort it all out?


I got some great advice from a friend who was about a year ahead of me in the non-fiction writing process. She had done a huge amount of preparation before sending in a proposal and suggested I do the same. I already had most of my data in my head so I did some market research, wrote detailed chapter plans and a substantial amount of background information, which all went into the proposal. I also wrote one complete chapter. When the time came to write the rest of the book, I didn’t deviate much from the original chapter plans. There was a certain amount of research to be done as I wrote but the main story didn’t change much.

How long have you been working on this?


Almost a year in total.

When do we get to see the fruits of all this effort? Has it been worth it, do you think?

It is due out at the end of March. It has definitely been worth it and I hope it’s going to help lots of people. At the very least, I hope it sparks some debate about infertility in this country.

Do you know how it will be marketed and promoted, will you be actively doing so?

I’m hoping to do lots of media when it comes out. It’s such an emotive topic and it’s rarely out of the limelight for long so I think there will be plenty of people willing to talk about it.

What’s next after this?

Well, I’m hoping to have a baby in May!

Irish Blog Awards

I told you not to vote for me for Best Blog!!! But thanks very much to anyone that did. I also made it into the Best Personal Blog and Best Specialist Blog categories so thank you, thank you, thank you!

And my darling hubby made the list for Best Newcomer.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Feel the fear and do it anyway

We did something crazy, reckless and very uninfertile-like today - we brought DS to a scan. I am 22w3d with very regular movement so after careful analysis of the ongoing risk management program, we decided to give it a lash. Outcome: successful. Baby is alive and kicking, all bits and parts (including the girl ones) present and correct. And the big boy is pleased as punch, albeit a little disappointed that she didn't wave at us or talk to us during the show.



I was pretty surprised to see, on a quick google, how many pregnancy and parenting sites advise bringing older children to scans to involve them with the new baby. Really??? Similarly, questions on message boards about bringing older siblings to first ultrasounds are always greeted with enthusiastic, positive gushing. Now, this is the first scan, the one at which you find out if your baby is alive or dead. Is it really such a fab idea?

I know most women don't have the infertile, hab-ab fears that I do. But most women also don't have the fortnightly scans that I do, so a first scan at 12, 14 or even 18 weeks is likely to be the first feedback they get on baby's health. With one in four pregnancies ending in miscarriage, wouldn't you be just a little concerned? Maybe I'm just too much of a realist spoilsport. Or maybe the uninitiated just look at women like me and reckon we bring the stats up. It's true, we do. And then we reel them off at every available opportunity to try and make you feel the fear!!!

Just saying though, it can happen. Probably does all the time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dream on

Last night I dreamt that A died. No reason, as usual; no heartbeat. The doctors thought it best to wait and see if I went into labour on my own. I thought I could still feel her moving but they said no, that was impossible. The paralysis came back in a second, all the familiar thoughts locked it in place. My little girl gone, reduced to nothing. The still-growing age gap. The dread at trying again. The senseless comments. Some thought it was "obviously" "for the best". Others couldn't see why I was coping so badly given that, at 22 weeks, it was "just another miscarriage".

A is fine. So why did I do this to myself? I am happy now. All the other stuff hasn't gone away, nor do I want to hide it away. How could I anyway? But I am very adamant that I don't want the past to ruin the future. The dream was so vivid, the feelings were so intense and so accurate. Why now?

I tell ya, this was one morning I was very glad to wake up.

The Internet says: For expectant mothers, dreams of miscarriages are common in the second trimester of pregnancy.

Now, if only I could find some stats for the live birth rate amongst expectant miscarriage dreamers!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

I am finally expecting

I am having a very easy pregnancy. Memories of my ten weeks of nausea and vomiting hell are fading fast. I have no pelvic or back pain, no tiredness or irritability, no memory loss worth mentioning. My little daughter, A, reassures me that all is well every time I ask her. I am happy. The agony of the last three years has been for something.

What I mean is, I hope it has been for something. I have been given the luxury of hope, I have even been handed the gift of expectation. I hope and expect to hug and kiss A in a few short months. I can hardly believe it. But already I can feel the softness of her skin, I can touch her tiny little baby hands, I can smell her hair, I can feel the letdown as she feeds. We are all expecting. DS is already reorganising his life to fit her in, he never forgets about her. Every piece of his future contains a space for her.

If we lost her, I would die. I am sure of it.

Update: No, this is not a suicide wish. "Die" is meant in a figurative sense, "die inside" if you will. Like before only much, much worse.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

It's a girl!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Irish Blog Awards 2008

It's that time of year again - nominations for the 2008 Irish Blog Awards are now open. I remember saying after last year's bash that I hoped (I was in the middle of an IVF cycle, I was full of hope) I wouldn't be still stuck here in Groundhog day by now but such is life and here I am.

So, feel free to nominate me if you think I am worthy but don't get carried away! I am not the best blogger and this is not the best blog. But maybe there is a little niche for me somewhere!!??! Thanks!

The best of times, the worst of times

With a nod to DD, here is my year in review:

January: The start of our first IVF.

February: The worst moment of our infertility career - only two follicles at first stim scan and the realisation that we could be dealing with an ovarian reserve problem.

March: Two eggs retrieved, both fertilised, two embryos transferred and a pregnancy against all odds. And then another miscarriage. Followed by baby #3's due date. Not a good month.

April: Another failed cycle.

May: Another pregnancy, another miscarriage, another missed birthday. And then the hardest blow of all, confirmation of our worst fears - an FSH of 17. Definite ovarian reserve problem and virtually no chance of a baby. IVF #2 begins.

June: Only one slowly developing follicle despite antagonist flare protocol with max dose stims. Cancelled. TSI. Pregnant again. Devastated again.

July: Another pregnancy. Looking good this time. Ha ha, only joking. Massive hair loss. Time to stop.

August: Blah.

September: Back to the clinic on the sly. Pregnant again.

October: Still pregnant.

November: Still pregnant.

December: Still pregnant.

Monday, December 24, 2007

To absent friends

This year there will be four empty places at the dinner table - our 19 1/2 month old, our 9 month old and our newborn twins. And the others that couldn't make it in order to give this baby a chance. Happy Christmas my darlings - I love you and miss you all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Digital Media Awards


I have been shortlisted for the Best in Blogging category at the Digital Media Awards. Sharing the honours are:

Head Rambles
Ice Cream Ireland
The Limerick Blogger
The Humble Housewife

Monday, December 17, 2007

Normal at last

Baby was alive and kicking on today's scan. Well, was actually asleep for most of it but definitely alive. All is as good as it can be. And the best news - "this is now a normal pregnancy". Now, if a normal pregnancy is one where the nursery is decorated and the birth plan is written by six months, then this is never going to be a normal pregnancy (my birth plan will probably be: get the baby out alive by whatever means necessary). But if normal means that my baby has as much chance of life as any other 16w3d baby, then that's the best Christmas present I could hope for.

In other good news, my nausea has reduced to negligible levels, I can stay up until midnight at a push, I have started to put on a few pounds and I have a definite bump. My god.....................I am pregnant!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hope and hapiness

Sixteen weeks tomorrow, I can hardly believe it. All is well and I am the happiest girl in the land. I did have a brief panic last week and decided not to post about it. A lot of close family and friends now read my blog and I didn't want to worry anyone.

All that happened was that I lay still one morning for about an hour and couldn't feel the baby moving. Went about my business and came home with some niggly doubts in my mind. Lay down again for another hour or so and nothing. Tried again later, nothing. Shed a few tears, went back to my (home) office, couldn't quite stop the tears and before I knew it I was back at the bottom of the pit of infertility, crying and wailing like a pro.

I chilled out a little the next day but didn't quite get my groove back until junior started bouncing again the following day.

So, once an infertile, always an infertile? Well that is certainly true but does it mean we can never enjoy pregnancy like normal people? I don't think so. It is terrifying at times but it is also the most fantastically wonderful feeling in the world and I can't stop smiling when I'm not crying. Pregnancy is so important, so special and so worth waiting for. I know it will upset some people to read this and that is the last thing I mean to do but I just wanted to reassure those that are still waiting that it does make all the badness go away.

And I am so proud of myself, for getting through everything, for keeping going when many thought I should stop, when even my doctors didn't know what to do with me. I knew it was the right thing to do, the only thing we could do and when I hear my DS talking so excitedly about the baby (it will be a girl and he will call her Josie or Annie) all the time, I can't imagine what a loss it would have been if we had given up.

I know I am talking like a woman who thinks she is going to have a baby. I know it's not that simple, I know there will be dangerous times ahead. But I have to be optimistic, to enjoy this time that we have waited so long for. And maybe there will even be a baby at the end of it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Free to good home

42 x Cilest tabs

30 x 50mg/1ml ampoules Gestone

9 x 5ml vials Heparin (25,000iu in 5ml)

2 x 10g bottles Suprecur containing 15mg Buserelin

54 x 1.5g Ametop gel tubes + 94 dressings

84 x 2mg Estrofem tabs

17 x Cyclogest 400mg

30 x folic acid 5mg

If you want any of the above, email me your address and I'll send them on.

So, yes, I have finished most of my meds. Will be staying on aspirin and Naltrexone but it's bye bye to my lumpy, bruised and battered belly. Will be holding my breath for a while, probably (hopefully) for the next six months.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

All I want for Christmas

All the good news in blogland recently has been making me weepy. Of course it would probably make me weepy in a different way if I wasn't experiencing some good news myself but I'm sure we all understand how that goes.

I can't believe I'm part of the gang. Pregnant I can do but second trimester? Am I really going to be one of those bloggers that gets a happy ending?

Everyone I started out with has a baby now. I stopped reading, many stopped posting and I gradually removed them one by one from my links. Same happened to my second batch. Then I slowly came across a group of women who seemed to be in the same shit state as me - endless failed treatments, multiple losses, failing ovaries and advancing years. I love these women - I didn't even unsubscribe when some of them became pregnant before me! But not everyone gets a happy ending or even a happy beginning. My Christmas wish is that at least all of us will.

Today is my due date for my first IVF. That means My Reality is dealing with a similar date around this time. I wish I was having my babies today and I wish we had never plunged the depths of despair that we have this year. But how can I complain? I have got a happy beginning, if not yet a happy ending. I get to approach Christmas for the first time in three years with hope and happiness.

I'm not sure what I'm trying to say, just wish I had a magic wand, that's all.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What to expect when you're expecting

I picked this up recently for the first time in four years. I remembered it to be an enjoyable and exciting read, and if I ever had any cause to question it before, it didn't stick in my memory.

Now, coming to it with a new pair of eyes, I put to you the thesis that it is part fiction, part comedy, heavy on rhetoric and completely unsuitable for those that don't have "normal" conceptions, pregnancies and births.

Take this gem for starters:

"A positive test [after IVF] doesn't necessarily mean a pregnancy." (No further explanation.)

?!?!???????

"A fetal heartbeat appears between 10-20 weeks of pregnancy."

And my favourite:

"As remarkable as modern medical science is, when it comes to pregnancy diagnosis, it still sometimes takes a back seat to a woman's intuition. Neither tests nor doctors are infallible. You know your own body - at least externally - better than your doctor does. "

Oh please can I go and spread this piece of wisdom around TTC boards????

Other gaffs: Missed miscarriages are very uncommon (in most cases the baby has died several days or weeks before the woman has any sign there is anything wrong), second trimester miscarriage is caused by something wrong with the mother, not the foetus (most commonly caused by chromosomal problems), an ectopic pregnancy will not give a positive on a HPT (HCG will always rise when implantation starts - if this happens outside the uterus it may stop rising once it reaches a certain level but it this will happen long after you have had a positive HPT) and poor nutrition after the first trimester will harm the baby (the baby takes what it needs from the mother's body so it will generally only be the mother that suffers).

I only flicked through most of the book so there may be more. I did look up induction as I was induced on my first pregnancy and had to laugh when they warned that labour after induction may be "unpleasant". I wonder if they'd consider having your legs sawn off without anaesthetic "unpleasant". Or if they generally consider labour to be pleasant.

I'm not one to take the softly, softly approach. I like to know how things are going to be so I can prepare properly. This book takes the "don't worry, sure everything will be just fine" approach and while it is conversational and informative in the areas in which the authors have their own expertise, there is a lot of padding and fluff that may not wash with anyone that has had a bad experience.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What is the difference between me and a 15 year old?



Answer: nothing!

We both have an identical risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities. Woohoo - I won at something!!!! F*** you statistics, I knew I'd get you in the end! And let's not forget the fact that you said I only had a 30-40% chance of getting to this stage of pregnancy. Premature ovarian failure??? Advanced maternal age??? Look who's laughing now?!?

Ok, ok, victory dance over. Normal service resumed. I know how common late miscarriage and stillbirth is, especially amongst us lucky infertiles. And I have never had an easy pregnancy, not even on my successful one. We nearly lost our darling son, a threatened miscarriage where we were given odds of 50-50. In my naivety, I took the midwife's word for it. I now know that a heavy bleed followed by a small-for-dates foetus is almost always followed by bad news. Then there was the eroding cervix at 25 weeks, not to mention the fun and games of a 42 week induction. But we made it so we know it can be done.

Speaking of miracles, DS has taken over the housework! He comes home from school, inspects the stairs and announces that he thinks they need a hoover. Whatever you say, boss. He's going through a real "helping" phase - all I have to say is "I have a job for you" and he jumps to attention. He is going to change the baby's nappies and the baby will sleep on the bottom bunk of his bunk beds and he will look after it. Up until this pregnancy he wanted a brother but now he is adamant that he wants a sister. He thinks the video looks like a boy but is still hoping for a girl. DH thinks boy too. I don't really mind, there are so many good things about both. Hell, I don't care if this baby is a hermaphrodite with two heads as long as it doesn't die.

I am still fairly nauseous but the vomiting has stopped. I've even put on a pound. I have a tiny little bump, only visible when naked. I can feel the little one swishing about in there so I think it is still alive. I know I have been very celebratory today but most of the time I am filled with caution. Just taking things one day at a time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Introducing Baby B



I cried in the waiting room beforehand. I hadn't thought much about the scan in the lead-up to it and when hit with the reality of the possibility of another lifeless three month old foetus, I crumbled. But today was our day. Heart is beating, baby is growing and everything is the right size and in the right place. And then, the icing on the cake - the nuchal fold measured 1.2mm. We have to wait until Wed for the blood test results but based on the scan, we were told the risk should be in the thousands. The nuchal fold test gives an assessment of the risk that the baby has Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities. We had both braced ourselves for this as we expect that if it can happen, it will happen to us. All we wanted from this scan was a live baby, anything else was only ever going to be a bonus.

And now that we have been properly introduced, I don't just want a baby, I want this baby. I just can't believe how lucky we are. Part of me is still very, very angry that it has taken so much of our lives to get this far but.......oh.......just look at that video.......what was I saying???

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11w5d

Tomorrow is 11w5d. It is the day that last year's baby died. For no reason.

I have been wondering what the pro-life movement (or to call a spade a spade, the anti-abortion movement) makes of people like me. I continue to create embryos, despite the fact that they are almost certain to die. It is not my intention to kill them, but if I know that my body has a predisposition to kill babies, then does that make me somewhat compliant in their deaths?

Obviously this is not a personal view. Nor is the idea that IVF destroys life. IVF doesn't destroy life, it creates it. It creates a life that would not have existed if it wasn't for IVF. So I suppose in the same vein, I am desperately trying to create life whilst doing everything in my power not to let my biological flaws get in the way.

While we're on the subject, I don't believe that life begins at conception. Viable life begins at implantation - a fertilised egg only has about a 25% chance of implanting in the uterine lining, so how can it be seen as anything other than potential life? For all those who want to save "leftover embryos" (if only - how many of us are lucky enough to have anything to freeze???), how do you propose giving each and every one of them life when medical science can only give a 25% chance of success to couples desperate for a child?

Next scan is on Monday. Finding it hard to believe I will ever get that far.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

In brief

Cramps Friday night. Nausea Sat and Sun but no vomiting. Very little nausea Mon and Tues. Meltdown. Too chicken to call obs for scan, just not ready for another miscarriage. Wed - an early vomit and hunger-related nausea. Thurs - nausea back to psychologically comfortable level. No better birthday present. Well, that and the fantastic camera and lens I got from my wonderful friends and family.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I know I asked for it but.....

I wasn't going to mention this but then I read Artblog's post about her situation and the fact that nobody talks about it and decided to confess.

In the grand scheme of things, I am the most grateful, overjoyed pregnant woman in the world. I can't believe that our baby is still alive, the tightness in my chest has subsided and my anger and bitterness has been sidelined. But it hasn't been all celebrations in our house in the last few weeks. Mostly, but not all.

Up until last week, I just had 24 hour nausea to deal with. It was horrible but I knew I probably wasn't going to vomit most of the time so I was able to do a few normal things during the day (I work from home). In the last few days, the safety net has been taken away and I am vomiting regularly. I thought this might relieve the nausea intermittently but it doesn't. I have tried the wristbands, ginger, crackers, eating small amounts regularly but nothing makes a difference. I constantly feel like I'm just about to throw up and sometimes even make my way to the loo voluntarily, just to get it over with. Everything makes me want to puke - every smell, taste, crap programme on the telly, that bloody alarm on my phone that signals yet another injection, my Pavlovian response is textbook. I remember Beth talking about the weepukes a while back. While I'm still a long way from what Beth went through, I have succumbed to the weekpukes.

People say that it will all be worth it in the end and there's the rub. Sure it will be worth it if I give birth to a live baby next May, I would live this day every day from now until then (but please no) if I got a baby in return. But it could all be for nothing once again. Statistics certainly seem to think so. And while I'll endure any amount of injections and procedures, will raise the money for as many cycles as it takes, I'm pretty sure I couldn't go through this over and over again for nothing. Maybe I've finally met my match.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A temporary reprieve

We left for Rome on Thurs. I was sick. We were waiting in the departure lounge when, as usual, an early queuer decided to ruin things for everyone else (we were flying Ryanair of course). So I stood unnecessarily in a queue for half an hour before boarding time (had forgotten to book priority boarding) and thought I was going to pass out. Then, as if all my Christmases had come at once, an angel from heaven came and ushered us out of the queue and towards the plane. And as soon as the plane took off, I was cured.

I ate dinner at about 11pm, stayed up until after 12pm and felt no pain. After a quick vomit the next morning, I was fine for the day. I did manage to enjoy it for a while but by the evening I was getting worried, especially when I had some pains in my lower right abdomen. There were some tears that night and the next morning but I kept going, did all the sight-seeing, went out for nice dinners and generally had a good time. I had a scan booked for yesterday morning so knew that one way or another I would be put out of that particular misery before long.

I didn't have to wait that long. As soon as we touched down in Dublin, it was back. By the time I got home, I was heaving and retching and went straight to bed. Have been feeling horrific ever since. Don't know why all my symptoms went on holiday when I did.

And it doesn't matter. My baby is still growing, its heart is still beating and that's all that counts.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Bleurgh

Ok, ok, I've had enough - make it stop!!!!! Note: I am not complaining, it's just that I'd say I'd be just as happy with a little less sickness.

We are off to Rome to visit my brother for the weekend. I am dreading the flight but I am looking forward to spending the entire weekend in a different bed - I am very bored of mine.

Monday, October 15, 2007

At last, a wish come true

I am sick. Since Wed I have been feeling so terribly nauseous that I can't concentrate on anything else. All I can do is get through the day minute by minute and hope for a lull so I can get some work done. It eased up a little over the weekend and of course the familiar dread took advantage of the gap in my attention to make itself know again. So for now, horrible as it is, I am very happy to be sick. It's not that I think that strong symptoms guarantee a healthy pregnancy - I know well that they don't. It's more that when I am sick, I have no time, space or energy to worry about anything else. And I would rather feel like shit than feel the fear.

Today is International Baby Loss Awareness Day. Anyone affected by pregnancy or neo-natal loss is invited to join in the "wave of light" and light a candle at 7pm.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Thank you

I am overwhelmed at your support. Thank you so much.

Monday, October 08, 2007

So far, so good

Our little miracle has a heartbeat. Hoping for some arms, legs, fingers and toes next.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Six weeks

Six weeks today and starting to thaw out. I've been pretty knackered, had sore boobs and queasiness so have started to relax (not a typo!) and hope for the best. What else can I do? Of course the fear is still there but it is not the fear, as most people think, of losing my baby. It is the fear of returning to the horror of infertility, the pain, the bitterness, the minute-by-minute struggle to get through the day. I can't go back to that, I just can't. I have to keep going, I have to have this baby.

Monday, October 01, 2007

5w3d

I want to be sick. (Or should that be, I want to want to be sick.) I want nausea, vomiting, cold and hot sweats, knee-trembling, earth-moving sickness. For those of you who have been there, done that and think I don't know what I'm talking about, then maybe you haven't experienced the sheer terror that is pregnancy after recurrent miscarriage. Or maybe you have! I'd be interested to hear your opinion.

Today is the first day that I haven't had breakdowns on the hour, every hour. That is because I am quite tired (a little smile is escaping as I type - yay, a symptom!). It's impossible to imagine but I sincerely hope the day will come (soon, like tomorrow) when I am exhausted, sick and aching all over. Please.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Proper pregnant?

I am pregnant, I'd even go as far as to say that I am proper pregnant. What is proper pregnant? It's when the lines on your HPT get darker over time and then after about a week, you stop testing and start counting down the days until your first scan.

I am 4w5d. I said that 5 weeks was the holy grail, that if I could reach that milestone then maybe I would be in with a chance. Please, ahem, allow a lady to change her mind. Six miscarriages can tend to make one quite confused in the head. And I have become a CRAZY LADY. To quote my husband, "insane". And there is little chance that two more days will change that.

I have to believe that I still have a chance but no, I just can't get my head around the idea that you get pregnant and then you have a baby. I know other people do it all the time, they conceive and then what seems like a few weeks later, they have a baby - a real, live newborn baby. The thought is beyond a dream for me. But the alternative does not bear thinking about.

So I am going to close my eyes and put my fingers in my ears and sing a happy tune for as long as I can. No more testing, just breathing - in, out, in, out.....

Sunday, September 23, 2007

You can take the girl out of infertility.....

We had a wonderful holiday. I was amazed at how normal and content I felt when taken out of my usual surroundings. Of course I had moments of anxiety but they did not predominate. So life outside of infertility is possible. If you can just work out how to remove the remnants of it from everyday functionality.

One thing I was fairly sure of when I returned was that I didn't want to write this blog any more. Maybe another blog but not the one about that poor girl who couldn't have a baby and couldn't cope with the consequences of it. I just wanted to be normal and even if I couldn't really be normal, I wanted to pretend to be. I did it for a couple of weeks while we were away, I could certainly try it for a bit longer.

I was in the 2ww, hence the optimism. We hadn't really given up TTC, well we did for one month but that was all I could bear. So we did a cycle of Clomid with follicle tracking. Didn't I mention it? No, actually I wanted it to be a surprise. Wanted to wait until the second trimester to make my announcement. What a dreamer I am! I would have had to have had the most perfect pregnancy of all time and even then I would surely have cracked after a few weeks.

I am not having a perfect pregnancy. At 4w2d my HCG levels are still very low but at least they are rising. I don't want a beta so am just torturing myself with pee sticks.

So I am still the same poor girl who couldn't have a baby, who couldn't pretend to be normal for very long, who couldn't stay away from her blog. I don't want to be, I want to be the holiday girl. If I can just make it to 5 weeks, I might be in with a chance.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A final request

Dear God or whoever,

For two and a half years I have been as good as gold. I have followed every piece of medical advice I have received, I have made countless sacrifices for my family and I have tried to be considerate and helpful towards others. I have done everything I could possibly have done to try and have a baby, and despite the psychological toll, I have put on a brave face most of the time. I have worn my brave face to christenings, birthday parties, weddings, even when it has meant toilet breaks to let the tears flow.

When our first baby died, I thought these things happen, this is my turn. When our second baby died, I tried to focus on the positive things that had come from knowing her. When our third and fourth babies died, I concentrated on the fact that IVF had worked for us against all the odds. The fifth, sixth and seventh babies were unexpected and only with me for a couple of weeks, I congratulated myself on becoming pregnant the old-fashioned way and hoped I would never need IVF again.

This time I have run out of excuses, of explanations for why one baby's death is just a stepping stone towards another's life. This baby is surely my last hope, for every possible reason. So please God or whoever, please look after this one and even if it takes a little bit of magic, please don't let this one die.

F

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Out of office

Off on hols for a while to clear head and get a bit of perspective.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The boy


Sunday, August 19, 2007

No escape

Nope, nothing is better, everything is the same except worse. I am only ok as long as I don't interact with the fertile world. The only solution I can think of is to move to China.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Liveline

I got a chance to answer Mary Kenny today on Joe Duffy's show on RTE Radio 1. I was only brought in at the end for a couple of minutes but I have to say that the two women on before me had absolutely nailed her at that stage, with a helping hand from the presenter (Damien O'Reilly was standing in for Joe Duffy). I was only getting warmed up when the segment ended but I think she had got the message by then.

I wanted to put something straight - for those of you who had expected to meet me recently wearing a wig or a sporting a shaved head, I only said that I was going bald, not that I was actually bald! The hair loss has thankfully diminished to what I think is a normal amount and hopefully the regrowth will follow. I don't know if it's because I've come off all my fertility meds, have stopped TTC or have started taking Chinese herbs - possibly it's a combination of all three. So now, instead of thick, long, curly, unruly locks, I have a manageable bob. I will make the most of it.

On the subject of stopping TTC, I am enjoying the break. I still know what cycle day I am on, still observe my CM at every possible opportunity, know exactly when I ovulated, am counting the days to AF. But I am free of the stress, pressure and expectation of the 2ww and I am thankful for that. Still a bitter aul cow when it comes to other people's babies and pregnancies but slightly more at peace with my own.

Love

"A heart is not measured by how much you love but by how much you are loved by others".

I disagree with the scarecrow on this one. I think your heart is measured precisely by how much you love. There's a wonderful line in the film "Marvin's Room" where two middle-aged sisters are talking. One has left home to get get married and bring up a family, while the other has stayed to look after her elderly father and aunt. The sister who stayed tries to explain to the one that left: "I've had such love in my life". The other sister says, yes, the father and aunt love her very much and she says, no, that's not what she meant. "I mean that I love them. I have been so lucky to love someone so much".

I have been so lucky to have been able to love my babies, each and every one of them. My love for them is not dependent on them loving me back. And no mother of five could have more love in her heart than I have for my darling, wonderful boys.

However, I'm definitely with the scarecrow on this one:

"Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking".

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Irish Times article in full

Below is my feature on fertility from Saturday's Irish Times. Contrast it with Mary Kenny's article in the Irish Independent on the same day.

One in six couples are now seeking medical help to achieve their dream of a baby. The visibility of older celebrity mums could be lulling women into a false sense of security, writes Feebee

Holly Hunter did it at 47, Geena Davis did it at 48, Marcia Cross has just done it at 44. So what's wrong with waiting until your forties to have your first child? I've lost count of the number of times I've heard someone in their thirties say that they want kids but just not now, that they're planning on trying at some stage in the future, and look at Madonna/Brooke Shields/Miriam O'Callaghan, didn't they have children at forty-something? Are these celebrity success stories part of a wider demographic, or are they simply lulling women into a false sense of security? Despite the visibility of older celebrity mums, age remains the biggest factor in fertility problems, according to Dr Tony Walsh of the Sims Fertility Clinic in Dublin. A woman's fertility starts to decline in her late twenties and goes downhill rapidly after the age of 35. After 40, the success rates are very low - 50 to 60 per cent of women trying for the first time will never have a baby with their own eggs. The hard truth is that it doesn't matter how much you take care of yourself or how good you look for your age, your eggs have an expiry date.

And yet, the average age at which women in Ireland had their first child rose to 28.7 in 2006, according to the Central Statistics Office - that's up by almost four years in the past 30 years. Likewise, the number of couples seeking fertility treatment continues to rise, with that figure now standing at one in six. So why is our sociological view of reproduction so at odds with the biological reality?

Dr Walsh suggests that the reasons are twofold. Firstly, our increased life expectancy has changed where we see ourselves in the ageing process, but the evolution of our reproductive tracts has not kept pace. He explains that the conflict between the genetic process within us and the healthcare advances that are helping us to live longer has not yet emerged into our psyche.

Secondly, the increase in women in the workplace, without the development of structures to support childrearing, has forced women into a situation where they will voluntarily defer pregnancy during their most fertile years.

It is not enough, however, to point the finger at women who have "waited". What did they wait for? The right man? Financial security? A roof over their heads? Helen Quinn of the Irish Infertility Support Forums points out that nowadays many women do not meet their partners until they are in their thirties. With the added pressure of getting on the property ladder, simply telling women that they should be having babies in their twenties is not an adequate solution. Helen feels that fertility education should take place in schools, so that women are armed with as much information as they need, once they are in a position to use it.

Educating the young is key. As debate rages around fertility and the older woman, it is easy to ignore the fact that infertility is a medical condition that can affect anyone at any age. The under 35s make up 20-25 per cent of Dr Walsh's patients. And what about the men in the equation? Male factor infertility accounts for at least 40 per cent of all cases, yet we rarely hear about it. As Dr Walsh puts it, "Infertility is not a woman's problem, it's a couple's problem."

Many couples choose to keep their infertility secret for various reasons - the unwillingness of others to talk about it, the lack of understanding of the subject, or simply because they don't want to court pity. So it is easy to see why those in the public eye may be less than eager to speak out. However, those that have chosen to go public have received tremendous support and understanding from the media.

David Arquette and Courtney Cox-Arquette reportedly suffered from recurrent miscarriage and needed several IVF (in vitro fertilisation) cycles to conceive their daughter, Coco. By most accounts, Brooke Shields did seven IVFs before having her first daughter. Desperate Housewife Marcia Cross has also made no secret to the media of the fact that she needed IVF to conceive her newborn twin girls, and has also spoken positively about the use of donor eggs.

So are these happy endings indicative of how far fertility medicine has come? Marcia Cross is quick to point out in interviews that she is one of the lucky ones, and that IVF does not work for everyone. Statistics from the Sims Clinic in Dublin show the real picture. For women under 35, success rates are good at 55 per cent; at 35-39 this drops to 34 per cent. By 43, only 9 per cent of IVF cycles are successful.

At the thin end of the wedge are those celebrities who are prepared to share their stories of IVF failure. Emma Thompson has spoken openly to the media about her failure to provide a sibling for her daughter, despite repeated IVF attempts, and Claire Grogan of pop band Altered Images reportedly endured 12 agonising years of infertility before adopting her daughter.

However, there is one way to beat the statistics and that is by using donated eggs. Success rates for IVF with donor eggs stand at 70 per cent across all ages. That is because the chance of success depends on the age of the donor and not the recipient. In fact, there is no real reason why a woman in her forties wouldn't conceive with the help of donor eggs.

Ciara (not her real name) and her husband battled for a baby for six years before they received the devastating news that they would need donor eggs if they were to keep trying. An ectopic pregnancy, two failed IUIs (intrauterine inseminations), and three failed IVFs had left them with no other option. However, with the help of counselling, they realised that this was a positive way by which they could make their family.

Ciara met her donor at a barbecue. After a few glasses of wine, she found herself chatting about her situation; before the weekend was out, someone had offered to donate. Her son was born last year. "He is all I ever wanted and all I ever dreamed of. I can give him my heart and soul, I just wasn't able to give him the genetics," she says.

Ciara feels that there is a huge need for people to talk more openly about infertility, not only to raise awareness of what couples go through, but also to allow those couples to seek support from those around them. She credits the support of her own family and friends for helping her survive the past seven years.

"I felt really special because this was an extraordinary pregnancy as far as I was concerned, and the more people that understood that, the better I felt about it. I loved the fact that people knew I had worked really hard at this, that I had battled against all of the odds and I had won. I felt like a champion.

"We have decided to keep the subject of egg donation private for our son's sake. It's not a secret, it's just that I am guardian of the information until he is old enough to make up his own mind as to who he tells."

HELEN AND ANTHONY QUINN

Helen Quinn started her journey when she got married at 28. Little did she know then that over the next 10 years she would be diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), she would discover her husband Anthony had sperm problems, and between them they would undergo one failed fertility treatment after another.

When the couple's first IVF cycle failed, they were devastated. Friends kept telling them that they could just try again. Helen says, "I couldn't understand why they were saying that, and it was only when they saw the documentary that they realised what 'trying again' meant."

Helen and Anthony participated in RTÉ's Making Babies documentary in 2004; it was their third IVF, again unsuccessful. Following the programme's broadcast, they received unprecedented support, and not just from friends and family. Helen says: "You could be out shopping and someone would come up to you and say, thank you for doing that, for showing people what it's really like". It was important that the programme showed the reality of unsuccessful treatment, adds Anthony. "You don't tend to hear about failed IVFs, so people just assume you will be successful."

In 2005 the couple underwent their fourth and final IVF. Their daughter Rowena was born last year.

After Rowena's birth, Helen set up the Irish Infertility Support Forums, the first Irish website exclusively devoted to infertility. It's a support network for those who wish to discuss their problems with others in the same boat. "You can be anyone you want to be, you can say as much or as little as you want," says Helen, who feels it is a release for many of the members. "People who don't understand infertility can say very cruel things and you want to lash out, but you just take it on the chin, even though it really hurts. The beauty of the website is that you can come along and vent your spleen."

Would such a site work for men? Anthony feels it would certainly help men if they discussed infertility. "I'm sure there are men out there who feel they don't have anyone who would listen without making fun of them." However, he points out that as women endure most of the medical procedures, regardless of the cause of infertility, they are the ones more likely to talk about it. "If men were going through it, I'm sure they'd be telling the world," he concedes. "Everyone would know all about it, how painful it was and how long it took!"

JOANNA DONNELLY AND HARM LUIJKX

Joanna Donnelly conceived her daughter at the age of 32 "without a thought". When she decided to try again, she had no reason to believe it would be any different. Two and a half years, and several fertility treatments and early losses later, she is pregnant again by IVF.

Joanna and her husband, Harm Luijkx, suffer from secondary infertility, the inability to conceive despite having conceived a child naturally in the past. Furthermore, their secondary infertility is "unexplained", the medical profession's way of saying that they just haven't worked it out yet.

Having had no success with fertility drugs or with IUI, the couple reluctantly moved on to IVF. "IVF is not getting your teeth polished," says Joanna. "It was absolutely terrifying - the injections, the waiting, the anguish. I had to have 256 injections, 500 pills, 100 pessaries, not to mention the scans and procedures, and paid €5,000 for the pleasure. I did yoga, aromatherapy, reflexology, acupuncture and I took six weeks off work. Why should I have to go through all of that for something that other people get by having sex?"

How has infertility affected Joanna's life? "It has made me so sad. I have a beautiful new house, a gorgeous husband that I love to bits and a fabulous daughter that I worship, and yet I have been utterly miserable for two and a half years." Why? "It's because 75 per cent of your brain is working at trying to get pregnant and the other 25 per cent is thinking about it. When you want a baby, there is nothing else."

Irish Infertility Support Forums is at www.irishinfertilitysupportforums.ie

And Mary Kenny's article from the Irish Independent, also on Saturday 11 August:

There are some things you can't change and some you shouldn't. A failure to conceive may be one of them

IVF has been hyped up out of all proportion. It is being promoted by a competitive strain of medics who see both pioneering possibilities and 'loadsamoney' growth from the frantic desires of women who have, in most cases, left it too late to beget children in the manner that nature intended. If you want to educate people about fertility, teach them basic facts: nature wants women to reproduce young. The best age at which to have a baby is 23. But the IVF establishment doesn't teach that. Quite the contrary. They are talking about extending, indefinitely, the time in which assisted conception may occur -- 40, 50, 60 years of age. Borrowed eggs, fabricated sperm, and now, the latest horror -- spare-part babies. That is, babies conceived so as to provide bone, marrow or tissue for other babies.

Infertility has always been a source of sorrow -- it's in the Bible, it's in folk tales and sagas -- so biologists want to fix it. Sometimes they are able to. Then the issue gets into the hands of the consumerists, on one side, and the "equality" merchants, on the other. Howls go up throughout the land if IVF isn't "equally" available to all -- young, old, straight, gay, sick, well, poor, prosperous, married, single, separated, divorced, whatever. But why should it be "equally" available to all? Is it in the best interests of the possible child? Is it advisable that so many children are now being conceived through IVF? Questions remain about the long-term health of babies born through such assisted reproduction.

Parenthood is wonderful, but it is a gift, not a right. Not everyone is destined to be a parent and people can live happy and fulfilled lives without bowing before what is now a fertility cult of primitive dimensions. "We must have adoption for all!" "We must have IVF for all!" "We must go to any lengths to ensure that anyone who chooses to have a child, has the right to one!"

In my view, no we mustn't. And we certainly mustn't allow assisted-fertility fanatics to frogmarch civilisation towards the horrors of mixing and matching eggs, embryos, sperm (combining animal and human sperm is the latest wheeze) and all the rest of the ghastly experiments they have in mind.

The Elders should teach the wisdom -- which exists in all the great traditions -- of acceptance. There are some things you cannot change, and there are some things you should not change. A failure to conceive may be one of them.

Thankfully, in Ireland, enough young people are becoming parents in the way that nature intended. We should celebrate the population increase that has just occurred, without recourse to laboratory invasiveness.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Fertility feature in today's Irish Times

Have only just found out that a fertility feature I wrote for the Irish Times magazine is in today. For those with a subscription, it is here:

Feebee's fertility feature

Am in Sweden, back next week, talk then.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hasta la vista baby

I have a story to tell you about what I've been up today but it will have to wait - I am off to Stockholm to visit my sister.

So long suckers!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Life goes on

As usual, it's when the official period of mourning comes to an end that the real grieving begins. I am supposed to be over my baby's death by now but I will never get over the loss. I still think about each of them and what they would be like by now, what our lives would be like. I miss my 15 month old the most, he would be the life and soul of the party by now. And my darling little 5 month old, she would have made all the suffering ok if she had lived.

I still keep an eye on the birth clubs on the message board that I frequent. It is partly out of punishment but also out of curiosity to see what my children would be up to by now. Some of the mums are pregnant again. I can't understand anything any more.

I am coming up to my first ovulation since we have stopped trying. Is it any easier? Of course not. I always knew that it would be much, much harder to stop trying than it ever was to keep going. I have nothing to hope for, nothing to look forward to. I can't even look at other pregnant women and console myself with the thought that it will be me one day. Every day I struggle to keep these thoughts at bay but today I have given up. It's too hard. Everything is too hard. All I have left are memories of babies I never even got to hold, my dreams for their futures long since forgotten. I wish I could forget my dreams for my own future, they will take a lot longer to erase, probably a lifetime.

My hair is still falling out. I don't really see a way out of the stress. Damned if I do and damned if I don't.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow

According to my wide and varied team of medical professionals all over the country, all I need to do to stop my hair falling out is to relax. Super.

I am sitting very still in my chair, I am relaxed. Out of the corner of my eye I see another hair glide gently to the ground. It is only one hair, I will stay relaxed. No wait, I will just do a quick test to make sure it was just a rogue hair and then I will relax again. I run my hand through the back of my hair, feel no resistance and optimistically bring it round into my line of sight. Hmmmm - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve hairs. F**K B****X A**E C**T!!!! In a moment of madness I decide to test the other side of my head, just in case. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I went to buy some salon conditioner yesterday. I brought the usual one to the till and the girl said "Sorry, that one is for thick hair, we have one over here for fine hair". What???? Is she blind?? Why can't she see my thick, luscious locks? I bought it anyway, I reckon the hairs are still thick, even if there aren't so many of them any more.

This morning at breakfast, as if it came to him in a bolt of lightning, DS announced suddenly, "I know what will stop your hair falling out........a clip!".

What a wise and thoughtful boy, he has a solution for everything.