Saturday, 31 May 2008

The danger of miracles

Everyone has got a story. They go like this: My husband's sister's dog's wife went through IVF sixteen times and then age 48 she got pregnant with twins. My colleague's brother's budgerigar's sister had a baby when she was 62. Did you see that story in the paper about the woman in Romania who had a baby when she was 70? My mother's best friend's brother's wife had her uterus taken out and then she got pregnant. Well I exagerrate - but you get the point. It is all kindly meant. Most of it is probably even true. But I am not sure it is helpful for me right now. Of course, there are miracles but the reason why they are miracles is because they happen very, very seldom. My personal feeling is that I have to draw a line under this at some time and so maybe I should do it now before I drive myself and everyone else insane. We all know deep down that there two major source of unhappiness in all of our lives: First is the refusal to see a situation for what it is. Secondly, the desire for something which we simply can't have. My feeling is (at least for today) that I need to focus on what I have and not on what I don't have. So that is what I will try to do for the next three days. Which, incidentally, my husband and son and I are going to spend on a house boat in Amsterdam. Photos to follow ...... And thanks so much for the comments.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Hospital hell

Today I had to ring the hospital. I put off doing that because I always finish up in raging temper when I have to speak to them. Today was as bad as ever. They had rung me because I hadn't gone in for a blood test to find out whether I was pregnant or not. So I rang them to confirm that I'm not pregnant. It would have been so good if they had said, 'I'm sorry about that' or 'that must be disappointing for you.' But they never say anything like that. I then explained to them that my husband and I are now trying to decide whether we should go through the treatment again. I asked if there would be someone at the hospital who could talk that over with us. The woman on the telephone said, 'Yes, you could talk to one of the nurses.' So I said, 'OK, so should my husband and I come into the hospital for that?' The woman said, 'Oh no, you just talk to them on the telephone.' So we've spent thousands of pounds at this hospital, they've done nothing for us and we're now trying to take a very difficult and emotional decision .... and the best that they've got to offer us is a telephone conversation with a nurse. I mean, nothing against nurses but I just find that laughable. This hospital has a world wide reputation for infertility treatment but nobody in the place has any communication skills. Their whole approach is to deny that there is any emotional aspect to anything that they are doing. I just find that so shocking. They've treated me like a piece of meat. The truth is that they never wanted my husband and I anywhere near their hospital. That sounds paranoid but it isn't - this is the third hospital we've tried and they've all shut the door on us - slowly and politely. If you've been diagnosed as having recurrent miscarriages then no hospital wants to know because they can't help you and your story is not going to end well. Yes, I'm angry - very, very angry. I just want someone in that hospital to say something kind to me. It wouldn't cost them anything. But they'll never do it.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Manic Amsterdam

We just went to Amsterdam for the weekend. It was a last minute decision. It took a lot of courage to go. We just couldn't make up our minds if it was the right thing or not. And in fact none of the plans we made really turned out quite right - but still we had a good weekend. I don't think that anyone can fail to enjoy Amsterdam. It's the right city for me because I hate cars and there are hardly any in Amsterdam. Under the law of the city if there's an accident involving a car and a bike then the car is always at fault (isn't that great!) I think all European cities will be car free in thirty years time and I'm looking forward to it. But it isn't just the bikes ..... it's the flowers, the canals, the height of the sky, the gabled houses, the pancakes, the friendly people, the quirky little shops, the smell of drugs and stagnant water. It's my new favourite city and I could move there tomorrow (I have a new favourite place about five times a year). Now that I'm back I'm in a very odd state. I'm running around the place doing and planning a hundred things. I'm jittery and nervous and I can't settle down to anything. I remember this manic state from the time after my daughter died. I think the idea that lies behind the mania is, 'If I book the right trip, or buy the right skirt, or read the right book, then everything will be fine.' But, of course, I can go on trips and read books and buy skirts until hell freezes over and it won't change anything. This afternoon I'll probably go to bed and cry. I don't answer the phone to anyone and I don't reply to most e-mails. Before my daughter died I thought that grief was someone sitting in a chair crying - elegantly. But that's not what grief is at all. It is far, far more dangerous than that.

Friday, 23 May 2008


People type such wonderful comments on this blog. They are people who don't know me at all and yet they take the time to say they are sorry. It helps so much. What is the exact way in which it helps, I wonder? Some how it helps me to know that what has happened is bad. It's strange that I should need somebody else to tell me that but I do. It was like that after my daughter died. She'd been dead about three months and I met a woman who I hardly know in the street. Often I didn't tell people what had happened because I couldn't take that risk. But some how I did tell this lady. And she just burst into tears. I was so grateful to her for crying but I was also shocked. I looked at her and I thought, 'Oh yes, it's really bad. That's how bad it is.' But I had to see her cry to know that. It's odd that, isnt' it? I think there's two reasons for it. Firstly, whatever is happening in your life becomes commonplace after a while. No-one can feel sad all day every day. So sometimes you need someone else to tell you that it's sad. Secondly, there's always someone who has got a worse story to tell and so one doesn't (or I don't) feel entitled to too much grief. It helps a lot when someone says, 'Yes. It's really bad so it's OK for you to feel terrible.' I don't have people around me who are saying that. I think they have become too frightened and worn down to say anything at all. Everyone really needed a happy ending to this story and there just isn't going to be one. The weather is actually quite warm here but I find myself wearing jumpers, socks, scarfs. The days are very unkind. I can sometime do a simple administrative task but even that can be too much. My level of isolation is hard to bear (even if it is partly of my own making). This blog is helping. Thank you so much for those comments.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008


You know how it is when something really horrible happens? You think - ok, now I'm going to stay in bed and cry forever and I'm going to starve myself to death and I'm never going to talk to anyone again. And you really, really want it to be like that. But then you get bored of lying in bed and you start feeling really hungry ..... and you hate yourself because you are so resilient. You hate yourself for not starving or dying. But some how you can't do either. You're tough even though you really don't want to be. Just at this moment I actually feel all right (although I did spend half the day lying in bed crying) and I'm shocked at myself for not feeling too bad. I like the lady who writes a blog called 'Awful but functioning.' What I'd like to know is how do you stop functioning? I don't seem a talent for it.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Well, it turns out I didn't have to wait until Friday. I already know that the IVF didn't work. I found out late last night - the day which was the anniversary of my daughter's death. Great timing. I find that these things are organised to cause the maximum amount of pain possible. I just don't believe it. To be specific, I can't believe that at the end of all this we've got nothing. Nothing at all. For months I've been trailing back and forwards to one hospital or another, and I've had hundreds of blood tests and I've had my feet stuck in stirrups again and again. And I've had one metal instrument after another shoved up my vagina by people who behave like car mechanics. I've poisoned myself with masses of drugs and spent my time being foul to my husband and son. And at the end of all this? Nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a piece of paper. The whole thing was just one massive waste of time. And the worst thing is that I can't even blame this on anyone else. I knew that we shouldn't do IVF. I don't even approve of IVF. But still I went throught with it. And now - nothing. Our situation was bad and now it is worse. And still the days keep on coming and we keep on living in them. What choice do we have?

Monday, 19 May 2008

The blackest night

Tonight is the blackest night. I miss Laura so much. And I'm terrified about Friday. I'm pretty sure that the IVF hasn't worked. And they'll just telephone us to tell us that and then they'll put down the phone. And after that I'll be expected to get on with my life. And the next day will come and the next and it'll just go on the same. And people will look at me and they'll see nothing at all. I'll look just the same. But inside I'll have died. I want SOMETHING TO HAPPEN. I really I don't care at all if I get pregnant again and I miscarry. At least that way SOMETHING HAPPENS. But I won't even get that. I'll just have to get up the day after and go on as though it doesn't really matter that much. Oh Laura I want you back so badly. Our lives would be totally and completely and utterly different if you haven't died. This punishment goes on endlessly but I can't work out what I did. Maybe on Friday I'll just take my son and go away somewhere, anywhere. Maybe somewhere by the sea. If I just got up in the morning in a different place that might help. If I could just go somewhere where I don't have to pretend.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Laura's flowers

I think I might be about to put a photograph on my blog! OK, so it doesn't sound too exciting to you because you've been doing it for the last five years. But I'm someone who finds it difficult to operate a toaster so for me this is big progress. And this is a very important flower. It's Laura's flower. It comes from her rose bush. In truth, the rose bush was given to us by my husband's former colleagues. It was one of those thoughtless, corporate kind of gifts. And when my husband left that company we fell out badly with everyone there. Partly that was due to the fact that I considered that those people behaved very disrespectfully to us around the time that Laura died ..... But leaving all that aside the rose bush is wonderful. We are going to be moving house and country in two months time. The rose bush is going with us. I just hope it survives the move.
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For the last few days I have felt dangerously well. I know that it can happen like that sometimes. At the very worst times of life one is often filled with a strange energy. After my daughter died I had days when I could have conquered the world. Nothing was beyond my reach. That's what the last few days have been like. On Monday I wrote a very challenging article on late abortions and sent it off to all the national papers. On Thursday I read from my new book. That was a great evening. There were five of us who read and loads of people turned up which was a real surprise. Then yesterday I sent out a play that I've written to nine different theatres. But all this is very fragile - very. I'm like a great big red balloon, sailing through the sky, full of hope and promise, cheerfully waving in the wind. But it will only take one thorn and the balloon will be gone in one sharp bang. Nothing left but a small and twisted piece of rubber. Tomorrow is the third anniversary of my daughter's death. On Friday we get the results of the IVF. Balloons are a wonderful sight to see but they don't last long.

Friday, 9 May 2008

What I want

Over the last three years I've had to let go of a lot of comforting ideas I used to have about the way the world works. For example, I used to believe that if I looked deep - very deep - inside myself then I would know what I want and what is right for me. It turns out that that isn't the case. For the last three years I've been looking deep within myself and I'm still entirely confused about whether I should be trying to have another baby or not. In my rational mind I'm sure that I shouldn't. There are a hundred arguments which I use to support that idea. I'm not a natural mother anyway, I have other things I want to do with my life, the chances of me having another live baby are too small to take the risk, I already have one beautiful son and that is enough, I have moral problems with the whole process of IVF ...... Yes, my rational mind knows quite well that I shouldn't try to have another child. But there's some other part of me which just won't listen and goes on and on and on clammering for another child. That part of me is in some deep and primeaval place and operates at some level far below (or above?) my rational mind. One day the rational part of my mind is in control, the next day the primeaval baby urge takes over. But which of these people is the real me? Any guesses?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


Today should have been a terrible day. Not only was there the egg collection but all my child care plans for the next week fell through meaning that I won't be able to get any work done for several days. But oddly I had a good day. When I was in the operating theatre, legs up in those stirrups, drugged up to my eye balls, one of the nurses spotted the tattoo on my foot. 'Oh so you've got a daughter,' she said cheerily. 'Yes,' I said, 'but sadly she's dead.' The nurse then said very kindly, 'I'm sorry for your loss.' I'm not exaggerating when I say that she's the only person in the medical profession during the last three years who has said anything like that and it really helped.
I'm back home now, sore and tired, but still feeling surprisingly positive. Today made me remember two important things - firstly, happiness has very little to do with external circumstances. It's possible to feel really quite happy when everything around you is awful, and equally possible to feel dreadful when nothing bad has happened at all. So happiness is all about what's going on inside you. Secondly, my experiences today reminded me that what you give out is what you get back. Today the nurses were kind to me because I was pleasnt to them. Often they aren't kind to me because I've got a face like granite. It's important for me to keep that in mind - except that the whole point about being in a face-like-granite mood is that you've lost the perspective necessary to think in that kind of way.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Egg collection

Tomorrow I have to go into hospital for the egg collection. I hope I don't scream at anyone. I'm worried because I won't be allowed to eat for several hours and I'm someone who soon goes into melt down if I'm not able to eat. My husband will go with me for an hour or so because he has to (where else is the sperm going to come from?) But he'll get out of there as soon as he can. I should perhaps insist that he stays with me. Most other women seem to have their partners there. I shared a room with very smiley Flemish / Italian lesbians last time. But I don't really think there is any point in insisting. Having my husband sitting there looking like he wants to be somewhere else isn't really going to improve my state of mind. The only problem is that the hospital make you stay much longer if you haven't got someone to drive you home. Last time I just lied to them and said I was getting a taxi and then took public transport for an hour (bus, metro, tram) home. The journey made me feel really bad and I did wonder why I was punishing myself by doing that when I didn't really have to. But for some reason I do feel that I should take public transport to the hospital. That's because to me IVF feels very self indulgent. I can more or less justify it to myself but not if I'm damaging the environment as well. That's silly, I know, but it's how I feel.

Sunday, 4 May 2008


The IVF is going ahead and I'm actually really enjoying life at the moment. I've managed to get in and out of the hospital several times without screaming at anyone. Also, I have to say that the physical aspects of IVF are not too bad. In a way I don't want to admit that because I don't want to have to say that IVF is anything less than vile - but really, at least physically, it's OK, or at least the early days of it are. I had a really terrible reaction to Clomid and to Utrogestan (fertility drugs) so I was ready for real trouble with IVF but it hasn't turned out like that. I think the truth is that when you live through the kind of horrible times I'm living through then your expectations of what life has to offer become very low and paradoxically this means that it's far easier to be happy. Now I often find myself thinking, 'Mercifully nothing really bad is happening at this precise moment.' And suddenly just the fact that that is true turns a rather ordinary day into a really Good Day. I suppose it's rather like having a load of candles burning in a room. You can't see how bright the candles are until you turn the lights off.