I saw it on TV, so it must be true

Who wants babies? I did. I definitely definitely did. But in my imaginings I'd sail through a perfect pregnancy having married in a haze of a full recovery, before passing on my DNA to a being who could feed and care for itself from the minute I couldn't handle it anymore. 

I blame the internet. I've never Googled so much in my life - and for so many seemingly disgusting search words. If you're of a nervous disposition, look away now; in fact, just stop thinking about babies or zygotes of any form altogether. But, I digress...

I was 31 when I found out in a very roundabout way that I had very little chance of ever conceiving naturally. Shit daytime TV is (was, now it's merely a shit memory) one of my (many) vices, and one that I'm vaguely glad I was indulging when one Zita West featured on 'This Morning'; for those of you reading from outside the UK, this is a magazine style show that was on every weekday morning for god knows how many years. They used to have a weather man who jumped around on a floating map of the UK, and who was relatively recently arrested and charged for sexual offences against minors... gawd love 'im. Ms West informed us viewers that we could do a simple blood test by post to find out roughly how large our egg reserves were, with a view to estimating how many years of fertility we could waste on mental illness before the situation became critical. 'Ooooh what a good idea for working women!' remarked the presenters before moving on to a phone app to cook an omelette, leaving those of us who'd just pinned all our hopes and dreams on a £95 phlebotomist's fee hanging.

Perfect! This was the tool every woman with a ticking clock, a non-career in the music business and a penchant for bad decision making needed. Oh yeah - I was ALL OVER IT. Now, I'm a sort of fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal, and having only just settled in with a man after years of serial fucking up of relationships, I wasn't planning on making any babies imminently. This one was a keeper, and we all know what happens if you even so much as mention an egg before the end of year one right? Right. Now forget that last part. On a scale of good to bad, the test results I got back were the latter.

Whilst harbouring a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that perhaps it wouldn't be easy once I did decide the time was right, I also knew deep down that this was not a decision I'd be making after settling into a nice well-paid job, in the house with the picket fence, after the wedding of my dreams - circumstance would either force me into it, or it wouldn't be happening.

Fast forward a year; our house had burned down, we'd had a strangely accelerated courtship and spent time homeless, the usual stuff really. After a lot of deliberation, extreme sorrow-drowning, extreme hangovers and claiming of insurance that would invalidate our cover for life, we found ourselves variously staring down the barrel of a suitably lined petri dish. This blog post is my attempt at striking fear into the hearts of love's young dreamers everywhere, by sharing my ill-informed experience of what happened next. Don't ever say I didn't warn you.

IVF is a dish best served in a lab who don't have someone doing work experience with them on the  day you have your eggs wrestled reticent ovaries - and definitely not in a lab where someone who can't read the labels on the two bottles of pink solution is working on the day you go under the knife. This is the only excuse I can possibly fathom for what happened on the only day that really mattered for us; but strangely one that goes no way at all to making up for it. Let me give you a bit of background before I explain...

After a laborious few months of hormone injections, blood tests, and ultrasound scans of my aforementioned reticent ovaries, our first round hadn't produced any results at all. I was effectively barren, devoid of life, broken, paying the price for too much partying, etc, etc. Funnily enough, this is not a nice feeling, but funnier still, it wasn't an entirely unexpected position for me. I'd spent so many years trying not to get pregnant; stumbling around my twenties like a frightened rabbit (then a man-eating tigress), always leaping feet first into the next disaster. Child of a broken home, yadda yadda yadda, but I 'was young', apparently.

Now, fertility doctors are a quirky sort; ours gave us impassioned speeches about his own fertility woes, before simply typing our stats into an online calculator (available to the general public here) to find out if we'd ever reproduce. This same calculator was available freely on the clinic's website. Needless to say, I wasn't particularly impressed.

That whole story you tell children about the birds and the bees, the 'mummy and daddy have a special cuddle' thing? You don't get any of that. There's no romance. It's just SCIENCE. If you've ever watched 'The Big Bang Theory' you'll know that virtually no sex ever came from it. As if trying to conceive normally wasn't enough of a passion killer, this was the ultimate in libido murder.

Our first go didn't work. My dormant ovaries remained in hibernation and we were downgraded to IUI (where the sperm just gets squirted into the right place, in case an egg decides to turn up). The second go was where the trouble started. Using a different drug to stimulate my lazy ovaries had worked - a lowly 5 follicles that may or may not have contained eggs grew, and suddenly I was in a private hospital room we could barely afford, with a mini bar (because all surgery requires booze as a recovery aid, dahling!) and a room service menu, waiting to be plundered for gametes. Cue the work experience twat, who duly took my precious 5 eggs, went into the lab, probably just after lunch in the pub, and dolloped them into the wrong nurturing solution, because they couldn't tell the difference between the two bottles of pink stuff, even though they were labelled.

Ok, so I'm the first to admit that I've showed up to work hungover to hell, stinking as if the fermentation process were still happening in my organs; it probably was. BUT, I've never been responsible for people's actual babies. Their flesh and blood. Their hopes. Their dreams, their future generations... suffice to say, it's a big deal. Of the 5 good eggs, only 1 fertilised and the other 4 died. To say I was disappointed would be akin to saying Russell Brand is a bit of a flirt...

Two days later the call came to say we had an embryo, and that I had to drop everything and go (alone) to have it put back in. I was blissfully unaware of the previous night's events at this point, but from the urgency in the voice of the lab technician who called me, I figured out there was something afoot. Things were becoming a bit too real, science had done it's thing and I was about to stop trying not to get pregnant and willingly allow myself to get knocked up by a stranger in a room full of strangers with cameras, like some sort of MIT alumni gang-bang. Oh, the romance!

I arrived an hour later, and was called into a room with two uncomfortable looking medical professionals, one wearing a shower cap and a mask (perhaps to shield her from any possible onslaught of emotion, but a particularly bad choice of get up I thought) and the other grinning like some sort of wannabe game show host. It was then that it was finally explained to me, in terms that probably would've escaped me had I not had a more than full grasp of both the English language and the subtleties of body language, that some absolute twat who may or may not have ever worked in a lab before had in fact diminished my chances of conception by 60% overnight. Ever the pragmatist, I assuaged their guilt via the usual English politeness and apologetic pleasantries, and we ploughed on with the implantation.

I was shown my microscopic four-cell embryo on a screen - it looked, as expected, like frogspawn. I watched on as a tiny speck of light was injected into my uterus, feeling strangely numbed and unable to really enjoy what I had expected to be a moment of excitement and expectation. The deed was done, and this was definitely not some passionate exchange. Everyone in the room (yes, there were more than 2 people) was jollying me along, quipping about how 'it only takes one!' And seemingly attempting to distract from the presence of the enormous shitting elephant in the room. I left feeling I should be feeling, but not really feeling at all.

Two weeks later, I was a pregnant woman.







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