They say laughter is the best medicine. In my case, it's not quite the perfect tonic, but it is helping.
In January, we shall be embarking on our first round of IVF. It is at this point that I feel the need to inform you that I find humour in nearly everything. It's a coping mechanism and I am very sorry to admit this, but I have laughed inappropriately at the funerals of three much-loved relatives. Please don't judge me - I loved them very much. But I have sat through a priest falling asleep mid-committal and watched my great uncle trip on some flowers and plummet towards his dearly-departed mother-in-law's open grave (which he declared she somehow did on purpose). If you could have got through that without so much as a guffaw, then you probably shouldn't read this.
IVF: I know that I don't have to explain to you what it is because it is a very normal thing today. You all know someone that has gone or is going through it. You may even be going through it right now and you are reading this to seek that little bit of camaraderie at what can be a very bewildering time. It can feel like a very lonely journey. It doesn't matter how many stories you are told about others, the fact is that it is only you going through it right now and the only thing you want to hear is the guarantee that, in nine months' time, you will be holding your own baby and your life will be absolutely perfect. Because I am sure that all people with children will tell you that they have absolutely perfect lives and don't regret their life choices at all.
You've most likely got a partner alongside but I know that doesn't always help with the feeling that you are alone. Anger and resentment can inevitably creep in depending on your own circumstances. In 2013, when we first found out about our fertility issue, my beloved had to go into a room and "produce" a sample. This room was a wonderland of every type of magazine and DVD imaginable, set out to help him on his way. Well not every type. They have standards - they had a Nespresso machine. Off he went to do his business while I was left with a copy of Prima magazine and said coffee machine sans Clooney. I think this was the first time I realised the physical imbalance of IVF and this is where the resentment began to creep in.
To date, my husband's journey has consisted of four "productions". Now I am not saying that this is an easy thing to do when it can often be under very stressful conditions - mainly me screaming up the stairs "have you finished yet?" every couple of minutes which I doubt any man has ever found encouraging. You see, you only have an hour's window to hand the sample in to the people behind the special hatch at the hospital (I imagine this to be the darkest age in the history of Narnia) and as our local hospital is a nightmare to get to, you have to factor in traffic, parking conditions and wind speed etc.
My journey has consisted of multiple blood tests and scans, my fallopian tubes pumped with dye under no sedation and, generally, my private parts paraded about in front of many different people. That was just the testing. I know that far worse is yet to come. If anyone mentions anything even vaguely IVF-procedure-related in front of me, it causes me to instantly cross my legs, hug myself and wish I was ten again. However, one of these episodes left me crying with laughter. A pleasant, new qualified nurse was tasked with working out my BMI. It was her first time using the machine. She proudly announced my BMI was 63. 63!!!! I had been near staving myself to make sure I was in an acceptable bracket for IVF funding, so I knew it was 20 something. She had just recorded my BMI as being "most likely dead through excessive consumption of KitKats". Unfortunately, whilst taking my weight correctly, she had incorrectly diagnosed me as being 3' 9" by not moving the height scale up.
Once people know you are on this journey, they want to talk about it. And be warned - people always have a story to tell. Some have been very encouraging. "It's worked first time, every time" (*groan*). The harsh reality is that this is not the norm and luckily I know this. Mainly though, stories aren't great. People mean well but I don't think they realise how being told about their friends' unsuccessful rounds can really affect someone who is going through it. My favourite "encouraging" tale was being told of a friend's friend who died after giving birth because of cancer caused by the IVF drugs. I have told my friend that they should never seek a diplomatic job, nor audition for Jackanory.
You don't have to feel alone throughout all this. There are amazing support networks out there and a couple of really great forums online. You need to know that the forums are awash with acronyms and it took me about a year to work out that AF meant menstruation ("Aunt Flo") and I still have absolutely no idea why anyone would bring their family into this. There are people on the forums who also see the lighter side but mainly it is all very serious; all about the business of it and I highly recommend you visit them if you are feeling down. Everyone on there is wishing you well and it will feel like a great big virtual cuddle when you need it the most.
Obviously there is a very serious side to all of this. Believe me, there are days when I cry a lot. I cry for the baby we lost. I cry because some days everything just seems so unfair. I cry because I feel guilty for being resentful. I cry at Christmas adverts. I cry when I see puppies. Ultimately, I cry for what has been and what may be. But most of the time I continue to smile. I just don't want to let it consume us because if this doesn't work, we are left with just us, and that is still a very good thing.