A Life Less Complicated

Discussion in 'The Other Half' started by mediumwhiteamericano, Jul 15, 2011.

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  1. Some of you may remember that I started a blog a few years ago that was well received by fellow arrsers. It got pulled as there was a chance of having it published - sorry about that. *Well, that never came about so I am blogging it again. Below is the opening couple of pages. If you'd like to follow it then you're more than welcome.



    Wednesday 18th August 2004

    Beth is sitting alone in the conservatory.* I am in the kitchen preparing to go out and collect some groceries or something just as trivial.* I know she needs to talk but I really don’t know what to say.* It wasn’t supposed to be like this; long periods of silence broken only by Beth crying and the dog trying his best to work out what’s wrong.

    It should have been a lot easier for the pair of us as we knew the statistics were stacked against us.* However, faced with the reality of the situation, I for one was totally lost to the scene unfolding around me.* You see, for the previous 3 years I had been the support structure for Beth.* I had escorted her to appointments, collected medical supplies, sorted finance when required and, more importantly, been the strong one when times were hard.* In a way, I had divorced myself from the situation in order to look after the patient: Beth.

    And that is why I am standing in the kitchen desperately searching for the right words to comfort her.* I am not grieving for the loss of what could have been the child we both so desperately want to love.* She is the one the doctors have focused on.* She is the one who has had to subject her body to daily injections with constantly increasing levels of strength.* She is the one who has endured intrusive procedures whilst wishing she was somewhere else instead of staring at a cold, faceless ceiling.

    And I am the Husband.* I am the one who has stood by and watched as she has travelled this path.* She knows she is not alone and that I am there for her whenever she needs me.* But she needs me now and I am lost as to how I can let her know I love her with every ounce of my body and soul.* I am only a spectator, almost an outsider to a show that is playing out in front of my eyes.* If anything, I have a small bit-part; that of a supporter.* There have been times when doctors have refused to make eye contact with me whilst nurses and reception staff have failed to even recognise I am in the room.* And that has hurt.*

    But this is not about me, not today.

    This is the aftermath of our failed attempt at In Vitro Fertilisation; IVF.

    I am trying to make the transition from Support Worker to grieving partner.* I know I need to be with Beth, hold her, comfort her and help her to move forward and look to the future but it’s so bloody hard.

    And so, with tentative, almost childlike steps I make the journey and we come together as Husband and Wife, joined in a grief that is just so hard to explain. You see, the thing we have lost, a couple of miniscule cells, was such a small and delicate thing.* What we have lost however, represented so much more to us than we could ever realise.* At the most basic level it was three years of hard work combined with, literally, a considerable amount of sweat, tears, love and prayer.* At the more emotional level, that small group of dividing cells represented the one thing we both desperately wanted more than anything in the world; a child of our own to hold and cherish.

    Today was perhaps the hardest day of my life.

    Early Days

    It had always been our plan to start a family when we both turned 30.* I don’t know why we picked that age; it just seemed to be a good solid number.* Both Beth and I knew that we had things to do before we settled down to ‘family life’ and therefore we both were happy with the plan.

    At the time of agreeing this great plan we were both 27 and about to marry.* We had met two years earlier though mutual friends and we were simply enjoying each other as only young lovers can.* She was, and still is, a damn fine Primary Teacher and I was just about to leave the Army following ten years of service.

    If the truth be known, we first discussed children and numbers whilst visiting Alton Towers with my parents.* Back then it was so easy, almost naughty, to plan our futures down to the last detail.* Things like where we would live, the type of dog we would have, how I would look after her by writing one Best Seller every two years.* It is fair to say that we were young, desperately in love and keen to get on with our future.

    And so, we embarked on our lives together with the same amount of bravado that all young couples seem to posses.* We holidayed in Spain, took up new hobbies and generally enjoyed our time together.* It really didn’t seem like three years had passed before we began to realise that the baby scenario would soon be upon us.

    It seemed strange at first, not using contraception, as I for one had spent my whole adult life ensuring that angle had been completely covered.* However, this was the real deal for the pair of us.* It wasn’t for fun, although it was great at the time; this time we really meant business: we were making a life!* Now to some, that may sound a little corny; making a life.* But that’s what it all boils down to: the bringing together of DNA in order to create another Human Being, is the bottom line.* It’s one of the most basic functions we can complete and thousands, if not millions of people do it on a daily basis.

    In the early days we were just happy to enjoy the moment, the sheer excitement of the situation and the potential consequences of our actions.* There was no need to worry as we had so much on our side.* Youth, health, a strong love for each other and, above all else, a determination to succeed.* I have to say that it is a wonderful feeling when your partner turns to you and lets you know that she is ready to bear your baby.* It really is a great feeling and one that I will cherish forever.

    Over the following six months we began to grow slightly concerned over the lack of progress.* You see, Beth had suffered from irregular and painful periods as a teenager and had therefore been prescribed the contraception pill as a solution.* In fact, her hormone levels were so screwed up it was the only way of re-balancing her.* Therefore, it came as no shock at all when the doctor told us of his slight concern and that he was referring us to the NHS clinic for further consultation and tests.*

    I say it came as no surprise although, with hindsight, it was to be the beginning of a long and emotional journey for the pair of us.* It was also the time when I began to experience the transition from Husband to Support Worker.* I am sure it was unintentional but, when I look back, I am sure that’s when it first occurred.

    Things soon settled into a routine after that first consultation at Winchester General Hospital under a leading Consultant and his team.* It was here that my feelings of second citizenship began to develop.* For example, when we first met one of the junior members of the team, he was quick to settle Beth down and begin the work up of endless forms and questions.* Not once did he bother to ask me how I was or if I was settled.* Nor did he look at me when confirming my details which were done via Beth.*

    At the time I let it pass as I had heard this was the norm when dealing with our type of problem.* Obviously the focus was on Beth as she was the one who would eventually have to carry our baby.* It was, however, the first time I had experienced such behaviour, and as Beth and I left the building, I was aware of a niggling voice in the back of my head that would, over the coming months and years become such an issue that I often found it very difficult to bite my tongue.* Why?* Because I was there as well; travelling along this path beside my wife.* At times I wanted to shout at the doctors just to let them know that I also hurt, was also devastated, also wanted to cry.

    If I am brutally honest I was quietly fuming with their behaviour which was both insensitive and arrogant.* It alienated me from the process and, in part, from Beth at a time when we needed to be there for each other.* These feelings of anger and frustration stayed with me for a lot longer than I ever thought they would.* The NHS really need to take a hard look at themselves and how their behaviour is perceived by the very people they are trying to help.

    All in all we were under the NHS team for about nine months.* As every cycle came and went we began to realise that, perhaps, we would need to look for other avenues of treatment if we were to achieve our goal.* Whilst the NHS team had tried their best and provided the relevant drugs at the correct times it just wasn’t working.* On occasions, however, I did feel they had to be pushed along in order to arrive at a decision in our favour.* Whilst I am loathe to give them a hard time, I have to say we very rarely saw the same doctor twice and I still feel that had an impact on the way our treatment was monitored.

    Beth’s treatment included various forms of drugs, one of which was to be injected at critical times during her cycle. *Prior to this it was tablets but when she switched to injections I began to suffer.* I know it’s a strange thing to say when I am not the one actually being injected.* However, I defy anyone who loves another to sit there and not feel for that person as they prepare a needle dosage and then inject it into themselves in the same place on a nightly basis for up to four weeks.

    At this time, and for the first time in my life, I felt an emotion so strong it scared the hell out of me: guilt.

    Here I was, sitting in our lounge, trying not to watch Beth inject herself with drugs in order to realise our desire for a child.* And it struck me that, realistically, that’s all I could do.* At times she would swear as it hurt so much.* At other times she remained silent but in considerably more pain that she was letting on.* And, throughout the entire process all I could do was ask if she was OK.* Yes, I felt useless and yes it was devastating.

    To deal with this guilt I would often channel it into humour, pretending that I was not watching as I was afraid of needles and that I would faint if I had to do it rather than Beth.* However, in the back of my mind I was asking if I actually would have the courage to do it?* Would I be able to do what she was doing?* I often think about that question, even today, and I really don’t think I could.* And that’s where the guilt lies.* It was at this time that I began to see Beth in a new light; she was as hard as nails and twice as tough.


    Also, I recognised that the distance between the pair of us was growing in terms of patient and supporter.* It was Beth who was collecting the prescriptions and administrating exact dosages on a nightly basis whilst I provided humour and soothing words, tea and biscuits.* It was also Beth who suffered the many side-effects of the drug whilst I carried on with the mundane chores of everyday life.

    This form of treatment continued for three cycles.* Now, it was a period of our lives where we began to realise that time was measured against Beth’s cycle.* She would inject and, at the optimum moment, I would provide my DNA and we would wait with baited breath.* This was, perhaps, the hardest bit for the pair of us.* However, as time went on we became hardened to the expected result.* We likened it to sitting on a roller coaster as it really was a case of riding the ups with the downs.* Whilst we enjoyed the highs of trying to make a baby, well who wouldn’t, we really found it difficult to deal with the fact that at the end of every cycle we were left with nothing.*

    And so, we would begin the whole monthly process again, starting with the visit to the NHS clinic for the normal round of questions and suggestions about the way ahead.* Again, it was during these times that I was almost excluded from the process as Beth was the main focus.* However, I was beginning to fight back.* I began to develop the art of asking the questions as that meant the doctor would finally have to acknowledge the fact that I was actually in the room!* Well, that was the plan.* What happened, however, was that they would answer the question whilst looking directly at Beth.* Damn!

    It came as no surprise to the pair of us that the NHS could only take us so far along the path towards babydom.* Finally, after nine months, they decided to call it a day.* The Consultant and his team were good but no good for us.* It was the little things really, such as not seeing the same person twice, not reading notes prior to seeing us and having to be made to explain the whole picture every time we met someone new.* We both felt it was time to move on and that was the end of the NHS.* There was also the small fact that the NHS had nothing else to give us; I think we jumped before they got ready to push.

    Over the entire period we spent with the NHS there is one episode that will stay with me for life.* The Consultant, a wonderful eccentric old chap, your typical country gent, complete with red cheeks and comfortable waist was the type of man we should all meet at least once. *One of the only times he spoke to me, he turned and, with a twinkle in his eye, offered the following pearl of wisdom:

    “Young man, now is the right time to, you know, add the spice of life!”

    MWA

    A Life Less Complicated
     
    • Like Like x 2
  2. Schaden

    Schaden LE Book Reviewer

    Well I for one am at a loss for words...
     
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Mate. I'll be straight with you. It's well written but it's not my kind of read....too sensitive and invasive (into your emotions and thoughts-not mine) for me. Engaging though. Probably not in the way you intend it to be, to be fair, but good nevertheless...
     
  4. Not enough ******* for my liking, but I'm sure MWA knows that already
     
    • Like Like x 6
  5. I would like to know what that Fally chap has to say about this matter.
     
  6. Like it very much. Thanks for posting.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  7. we had a very similar experience back in the day ,our consultant being the emminent prof Steptoe, a physically and mentally challenging process that in our case did not come to fruition. Life goes on somethings are not to be, at the end of the process some tears were shed, but it was decided that a porsche would suit our image of " no breadsnatcher "couple in their twenties on good money with no worries about having to provide inlaterlife for the rugrats ce la vie.
     
  8. My mother had the privilege of being Medical Secretary to Dr Patrick Steptoe in the 1960's whilst they were both employed at Oldham and District General Hospital in Lancashire.

    She mentioned that he had a type of 'wandering hand' condition that was usually cured by a punch in the bollox.
     
    • Like Like x 3
  9. Thanks for feedback; there's quite a bit more so if I am allowed by the MODS I'll keep posting every so often.

    Sorry about the lack of ******* Smudger....I had a tight deadline

    MWA
     
  10. Drugs and Support
    *
    Let’s be clear about one thing. *As you and your wife progress along the path of IVF you will need to prepare yourselves for the one essential item required to make it all happen: drugs, and plenty of them! *Whilst we knew drugs would be playing a big part in the process, it really was an eye opener, to me at least, to see just how much Beth was expected to inject and digest as the days and months ticked by.
    *
    I think the worst thing, as the partner, was the fact that I was unable to take part in this process. *Indeed, it was a very private thing between Beth and the drugs. *I know that may sound rather alien to those who have no love for all things sharp, or small round powdery objects, and you’d be right. *I am sure if the roles were reversed and it was me who had to stick myself with sharp objects then I’d be screaming like a worn brake pad, believe me.
    *
    Another factor that may come as a surprise is the cost. *Whilst we knew it wasn’t going to be cheap, when you get the call from the drug company to let you know they have your order and, by the way, how would you like to pay, you certainly sit up with a start! *I think the amount we spent on drugs for our first attempt was in the region of £1000. *Whilst not a fantastically obscene amount of money, it is a lot by any standard. *It was, however, worth every penny, despite the final result.
    *
    Side effects?
    *
    Oh yes, believe me when I say that side effects are all the vogue when you play with drugs at this level and magnitude. *We were both warned by the doctors that things would be different for a while and, indeed, they were. *I was specifically warned by the doctor about Beth experiencing the first stages of the menopause. *That is to say, hot flushes, sleepless nights, confusion, and short fuses to mention just a few. *I knew that when Beth got a flush she was capable of lighting up an entire room and those within it.
    *
    It would though, be unfair for me to pretend that we had a hard time with the side effects. *Beth was only lightly hit and for that I can only thank my lucky stars! *However, I have had a brief glimpse of the future and believe me when the menopause eventually comes calling, boy is it going to be fun!
    *
    There were two factors that caused Beth great concern; weight gain and knowing the drugs were affecting her in so many ways and being unable to do anything about it. *I also think that her knowing that I knew that she knew that I knew didn’t help either! *All I can advise at this stage is to ride it as you find it. *When your partner is down, be there for her and when she bites your head off, don’t respond in kind. *However, when she complains about gaining weight, you’ll need to call that one yourself my friend; only you will know the right answer! *
    *
    At this stage, the most important piece of advice I can give you is this; learn to laugh about the whole thing. *We found this to be the best medicine available at a time when stress levels are often very high. *But, and this is paramount, always laugh with her and never, ever at her. *That would be very silly indeed. *You also need to understand that it really isn’t her fault and, at the end of the day, she has injected and digested some serious dosages into her body for both of you. *When you need to, hold her hand. *When you need to step back and allow her the space she will undoubtedly need, make sure you move first. *And, when she is ready, when she needs that cuddle or reassurance, be there for her. *That’s all you can do, that’s your job, you’re her support at this time.
    *
    -
    *
    Elsewhere in this book I talk about feeling like a supporter to Beth as she has travelled along the path towards IVF and I have grown to realise that this is just one of many roles I have taken on since this whole thing kicked in. *I also guess it took a while to come to terms with the way the NHS wallers made me feel; almost like a second class citizen.
    *
    It’s a difficult one really as, when I took my vows all those years ago, I promised to treat Beth as an equal, a partner in all that we did. *There hasn’t been a day that has gone by since our wedding that we haven’t discussed various issues, making decisions, both trivial and important. *We have debated, argued for points we believe in and, more importantly, stood firm together in the face of difficulty.
    *
    And, therefore, I suppose that is why I have had to accept the role in which I now find myself; Beth’s support team. *Alongside me I find a team of supporters anyone would be proud to have on their side. *Beth’s parents, for example, are two people who deserve our thanks tenfold. *Simply put, they have been there when we both needed them. *They literally carried her to the car on the day after she had her first crop of eggs harvested and she needed to go back to the hospital, sharp like. *When she needed to talk to her mum, Carole was always ready to listen, offering words of comfort and support. *Likewise, Ben has been there to carry me through the most difficult of times. *His quiet resolve and bearing are two qualities that sit well on his shoulders. *At other times they were there just because it helped us to carry on when times got really dark.
    *
    Beth and I often joked about the whole process of IVF. *Why? Because that’s the easiest thing to do as it’s such an emotionally charged time. *If we had treated it as a major life changing event, of which it certainly is, it would have allowed other, stronger, emotions to surface. *I have called her ‘The Vessel’ from day one as; realistically that has been her role throughout. *Everything that has occurred, everything she has done to her body, and everything she has gone through has been for one reason. *Therefore, her body has becomes the vessel for our one chance of what we have dreamed of for so long. *And, you can bet your last pound that I wrapped her in enough cotton wool to soak up Lake Windermere!
    *
    Did she appreciate this? *Did she accept being told to sit down and read a book, or magazine? *Like hell she did! *That’s where I came in as the support team. *It really was a case of making sure the vessel was catered for at every turn along the road. *If she looked like she needed a drink, it was delivered. *If she looked hungry she was fed without hesitation. *If she looked tired, off to bed she went, grumbling as she climbed the stairs. *Did it get to me that I was the perceived bad guy in all of this? *Yes, it did, and yes, I do feel guilty about that but what you need to remember about the whole thing was that I had an equal share in this and if it meant that I carried and fetched like a chambermaid then so be it!
    *
    What else could I do? *I have come to realise that this ‘role’ was indeed my part to play. *My wife was showing her love for me and our unborn child on a daily basis and there was I, whinging to myself about having to make her a drink. *For God’s sake, how petty was that?
    *
    Gentlemen, if you are reading this book and you have come this far in the process; here is my advice for what it is worth. *Your partner loves you with every ounce of her body, perhaps more than you can and will ever imagine or realise. *She is putting herself through what can only be described as hell in order to make your joint dreams come true. *For that you need to be there 24 hours a day for her. *If she wants Beef Pot Noodle at some un-godly hour of the day then it’s up to you to get off your backside and find some, regardless of time, distance or cost!
    *
    Finally, what I will say about your supporting role is this; make sure you have your own support structure in place as you will need it. *You simply won’t be able to cope on your own and now is not the time to try and push on with the brave face. *In order to be there for her you need others to be there for you; seek them out now. *They will play their part so you can play yours.
    *
    *
    *
    *
     
  11. That'll Do Nicely Sir...


    It seems strange, and I’ve talked about not feeling involved in this process, but when I have been asked to contribute to the ingredients, boy did I want to be somewhere else. *
    *
    I have yet to meet a man who has not, at sometime in his life, enjoyed those special unrushed moments, home alone, when all else is left to one side for the more pleasurable actions. *It’s one of the most natural things to do and we, the male of the species, are born experts. *That’s just the way it is.
    *
    If you’re still not sure what I am talking about then let me spell it out. *One man, one locked room, a brown A4 cardboard envelope of ‘reading material’ and your very own sample of DNA, yet to be produced or expressed as they like to call it. *And let’s not forget the obligatory plastic cup which, I have to say, is big enough to hold a sperm sample from a bloody elephant!
    *
    Feeling uncomfortable? *Welcome to my world mate!
    *
    Now, picture this. *You’re sitting in a room full of couples who, along with you and your wife, are waiting for their initial consultation with the IVF clinic staff. *This is the first consultation and takes three hours to complete. *During this time couples can expect to see four different members of the clinical team.
    *
    So, full room, first time consultation. *In pops one of the nurses and calls for Mr O’Connor. *Instantly I stand up and move towards her. *I note the look on the nurse’s face and then realise Beth is a step behind me. *I stop and look at Beth, then the nurse, then back to Beth; something’s got to give and everyone in the room knows it!
    *
    Diplomatically, thankfully, the nurse steps forward to inform the pair of us that, on this occasion, only I am required. *Every man in the room, apart from one, smirks. *Beth quickly sits next to a couple and delves into a Cosmopolitan. *I continue my journey into the depths of the building; oh happy days!
    *
    I follow the nurse along a very clean smelling corridor and she stops abruptly. *So abruptly in fact that I have to use all my strength to pull up before running into the back of her. *She takes a sharp left turn and disappears behind a half door which she shuts firmly behind her. *I sense the tone of her action; I am not following her into the room, clearly. *She smiles at me and delivers the first killer question of the day:
    *
    “How long has it been since your last sexual encounter?”
    *
    “Don’t sit on the fence will you!” I think loudly to myself
    *
    “About four days” I mumble whilst looking at my feet.
    *
    And, at that point, she produces what I can only describe as one of the largest, and I do mean large, sample pots I have ever seen. *I know for a fact she enjoys this and I can feel her laughing at me as I make a feeble attempt at humour by promising not to fill it to the top.
    *
    “Yeah, OK monkey boy, I can’t wait to see you fail!”
    *
    *Whilst she didn’t actually say that I know she is thinking it! *I make a mental note never to speak to her again and take a look at her name badge for future reference: Evil Nurse from Hell. I am not however, convinced that’s her real name.
    *
    I stand there, lost. *Surely she doesn’t want me to drop the tweeds in the corridor, as clean as it is! *She raises her eyebrows and looks over my shoulder. *I take this gesture to be the sign to crack on; I will God to strike me down whilst singeing her badly. *To my relief, she coughs quietly and points to a door directly behind me; I am saved! I quickly thank God whilst quietly making a pact with the devil to have Nurse ‘Smugandaloof’ burn in Hell for the rest of enternity.
    *
    I disappear into the designated room, firmly locking the door behind me. *I take a look around the space where I have to ‘express’ my boys. *Basically, it’s a toilet. *Yes, it has a nice chair artistically covered with industrial sized duck egg blue kitchen paper. *Yes, it has a couple of pictures hanging on the walls to give it that, shall we say, calming effect. *And yes, as expected, it has the collection of ‘helpful’ magazines every man needs in situations like these. *But, at the end of a very long day, it’s still a bloody crapper!
    *
    Classy!
    *
    Faced with the situation in hand, quite literally, a guy has little choice but to make things happen. *To start with I looked at the selection: FHM, Stuff, Heat and GQ; all as you can imagine, quite stunning. *I then found myself in the rather awkward position of being more interested in the 4x4 article in Stuff than anything else. *I really had to work hard to stop myself settling down in the duck egg chair, and kicking up my feet on the toilet lid for a good read. *In fact, the only thing that did stop me was knowing that Nurse ‘Little Humour’ was waiting outside for me to return the collecting trough as requested.
    *
    So, I expressed.
    *
    And then, dilemma; had I expressed too early? *Was there a time attached to these things? *Did they keep a chart of Husbands and Partners with points for who took an above average period of time to flip their lid, as it were? *I simply would not be known as Swifty O’Connor. *So, in order to counter such a claim, I flipped open the Stuff Mag, stretched out on the kitchen chair and spent some quality ‘self’ time alongside my little pot of expresso. *Believe me, it was a special moment for the pair of us!
    *
    After about five very relaxing ‘special’ minutes, I thought it was just enough time to give me the stud rating I so obviously deserved following such an arduous and harrowing experience. *All I had to do now was leave my little toilet and return the sample to Nurse ‘Starched and Sterile’ waiting on the other side of her stable door. *So, with a quick look in the mirror to make sure I was a little less flushed I unlocked the door and stepped out of the wanking booth. *
    *
    I handed her my pot, to which you would have thought I had asked her to actually drink the contents judging by the expression on her face. *In reply and complete silence, she handed me a tray to place my sample on and return to her whilst she snapped on a pair of industrial strength plastic marigolds. *Obviously she wasn’t into touching men’s jumping juice then? *Whilst I can’t really say I blame her, I couldn’t help but think she was in the wrong job. *Maybe something along the lines of scaring small children would have suited her better?
    *
    The final task; the re-entry into the waiting room crammed with people who had seen me leave. *This is another one of those nightmare scenarios as, whilst I am trying to look calm and collected, I know I am actually looking a little flushed and I also know that every one of those people knows that I have just tossed for England! *So, as I walk up the stairs, I plan my entrance to the last detail. *It’s so simple I relax as I approach the door; deep breath, let’s go.
    *
    In. *Turn left, forward, make eye contact with a rather large bloke and his wife, look elsewhere, forget about overflowing bin, kick bin over. Noisily! *Die quietly whilst sitting next to giggling wife. *
    *
    Next Please!
     
  12. Aye well a tight one will make ******* a tad difficult.
     
  13. Friends and Their Children


    *
    The one thing we have both found overly difficult to deal with was something that took us by shock and was totally unexpected. *You see, without fail all of our friends, both close and distant, have the one thing we were desperate for; children.
    *
    As I said, we really didn’t expect to have to deal with our feelings in such a way as our friends had been there for a really long time and had supported us through so many other difficult periods, as we had them. *It’s simply what you do; friends are friends. *Now, and this is the really scary thing, we found ourselves beginning to resent the fact that they had children but we didn’t. *What made things worse was the fact that the feelings also began to spread to members of our own families. *However, I also know that, if they eventually read this book they will know and understand that it was far from a personal issue. *They are amongst the most important people in our lives.
    *
    I don’t think there was an obvious start point to these feelings; they just crept up on us. *Indeed, I used to organise an annual BBQ in the summer to which all our friends, their children and even their pets were invited. *It seemed the natural thing to do as we had a large garden, I loved cooking and our friends enjoyed the opportunity to get together for the gossip and the general good crack. *I think at one event, there would have been a dozen kids running around, causing havoc but having a great time nonetheless. *The house was full with our friends and their friends with everyone’s kids and pets; it was great and the way we liked it.
    *
    Last summer I couldn’t do it. *How could I?
    *
    And this frightened me. *I realised I was beginning to resent the very people I loved the most because of their ability to have children; some of which were my Godchildren. *How crazy was that?
    *
    There were times when Beth was invited to spend the day with a friend and her children, where the plan was to enjoy a coffee and a natter with other mothers and, in turn, their children. *This was, in the purest terms, a living nightmare for Beth, as the last thing she wanted to do was sit in a room full of women talking about their children whilst the little darlings crawled or zoomed from room to room, often via Aunty Beth.
    *
    How did she cope? *By making her excuses and being busy elsewhere, that’s how. *Of course she felt sorry for lying and regretted it for weeks after. *It was, however, the only way she could think of avoiding such an invite because, at the time, it was the last thing in the world she wanted or needed.
    *
    I had the same difficulty when I started a new job in Andover. *The office was mainly made up of women and the men were few and very far between. *And, as is the norm, some of the women would bring their newly born bundles of energy into the office to show off to all, as was their right. *However, when the obligatory remarks were called for, I couldn’t bring myself to offer them. *I am sure this seemed overly harsh to the mothers who were holding their most prized possession in front of me for inspection but that’s the way it was. *It was only some time later, when I told them about our situation that they realised I wasn’t the nasty grumpy old bloke they thought I once was.
    *
    But, here’s the thing; it’s not their fault for having children. *You and I both know it’s the most natural thing in the world and couples like us are in a small percentage that needs a little extra help along the way to make things happen. *I know that may not ease the frustration you feel right now but it should go some way in helping you to keep things in perspective. *Believe me; I know what it feels like to walk along a street and spot children I would love to scoop up in my arms, giving them all the love they so obviously need. *I remember once when driving I spotted a little blonde lad with hair down to his shoulders and thinking how my son would look like that one day. *
    *
    I eventually had to stop the car as I was an emotional wreck because I knew there was no guarantee I would have a son, ever! *Then, and this came as a complete shock, there have been times when I have broken down, realising that I may never become a Grandad. *These are thoughts you will need to deal with now in order to move forward with your journey. *Don’t try to block them out as they will wait until you aren’t looking, creep up to slap you in the face and that hurts; trust me.
    *
    -
    *
    Unfortunately, I have sat and listened to my closest friend shout at his children and talk about how he wouldn’t miss his child if he was run over tomorrow. *This, above all else, has annoyed me to the point of nearly telling my friend a few home truths about just how lucky he was to have a child in the first place. *I mean, would he really want his child to be killed? *Really? What sort of a father says that to his child’s face and doesn’t expect it to remain with him for a lifetime? *Wake up you crazy bloody idiot!
    *
    Is it right however, to be so judgemental when Beth and I haven’t experienced the frustration of parenthood? *We have no idea about the daily workings of a family and for that I suppose we should, in some twisted way, be thankful. *We don’t know what it is like to raise a child, let alone a family. *Indeed, we both recognise that we can be perfect parents because we don’t have children and therefore know nothing of compromise and dealing with a screaming toddler, demanding sweets or some trivial toy that will be forgotten within the hour.
    *
    For these, and a great many more reasons we have the deepest respect for our friends and all they have achieved. *There is little doubt they have made sacrifices and will continue to do so for a considerable period of time as their children grow up. *But, we both know that no matter what they say or do, it is difficult for the pair of us to relate our true feelings to them as they simply haven’t experienced what we are going through. *And that’s why couples like us can feel quite isolated. *There are few people within our natural circle of friends we can turn to for support, although we discovered much later that they yearned to help in any way they could. *We know now that they were waiting to be let in, especially during the period following the failed procedure when Beth and I would close down, ceasing all contact in an attempt to gain strength from each other.
    *
    That’s not to say however, that we were left with no-one to talk to as we befriended many couples who were going through IVF alongside us. *I for one had never recognised the need for support groups but I was amazed at how strong and helpful they turned out to be. *We did meet one couple who were in a similar position to ourselves and we clicked straight away. *Both ladies instantly became friends and, in a way, drew strength from each other with long telephone conversations and coffee mornings when possible. *In the same vein, we husbands were able to do the ‘bloke thing’ and discuss various experiences whilst travelling the path of expressing DNA!
    *
    Over time we found that it was so helpful having the opportunity to discuss IVF with others in the same boat. *You find that there is little need to explain the obvious procedures as others already know. *There is no need to hide detail in order to maintain privacy as, again, people have travelled the same route. *And, perhaps most importantly, there is no need to mask true feelings as they are shared amongst couples who are in the small percentage needing IVF. If you get the chance I would strongly advise that you seek out other couples in the same position as you and talk to them. *Become their friends; it’s a very powerful tool.
    *
    Finally, what I will say about your friends and their children is this. *They have been your friends for a long time and will continue to be so for even longer. *Whilst they may not fully understand what you are going through, they will know it is a difficult time for both you and your partner. *Don’t shut them out as they are still and always will be, your friends.
     
  14. Therapy

    Having spent some interesting nights in many inhospitable hot-spots around the world, often being shot at by people who really wanted to kill me, I thought I was able to handle most stressful situations. *It had never really occurred to me that I would need to talk about how I was feeling inside; it really wasn’t my cup of tea. *In fact, it’s not really the British cup of tea as we tend to shun the concept of pouring our hearts out to people we have only just met. *Therefore, if you’d told me four years ago that I would be sitting in a small, overly hot, room pouring my heart out to a lady that I had only just met, I would have told you to think again. *However, that’s the way it was following our first failed attempt. *
    *
    I have to take my hat off to Counsellors as they really know what they are doing and I would strongly advise anyone who travels the route Beth and I have to use them if and when the opportunity presents itself. *They don’t push, they certainly don’t preach and they will listen with a neutral ear as you share your most intimate inner thoughts, and substantial fears.
    *
    I say fears because we all have them, every single one of us. *It took a while for mine to surface but my worst fear, having seen Beth go through so much pain and heartache, was to witness the entire thing all over again. *How could I justify her pain when I was unable to take my fare share? *This was a natural blockage for me and I was having serious thoughts about the whole second attempt. *
    *
    That is, until I spoke to Patsy.
    *
    She spent the majority of our first session unravelling me and my rather complex feelings. *As you have already read, I was wrapped up with the whole supporting problem along with the feelings of simply being a failure. *Believe me when I say it didn’t take her long to discover that little issue. * *Don’t get me wrong, she spent plenty of time with Beth but it was me she was keen to get her knobbly fingers into. *Why? *Because I had issues and I wouldn’t be leaving that stuffy little room until she had at least got an angle on them. *At first she spent some time fishing for a way in and when she took hold it wasn’t long before she had me cracked. Yes I lost some tears, yes I was slightly on the back foot and yes I was flatter than a pancake. *It was, however, a start.
    *
    Looking back, I know every second I spent in counselling I was healing. Their talents are not something I can pinpoint but if it could be bottled I’d certainly invest in the company. *These people have a skill and I am thankful for the time we spent with the many counsellors who helped me during this journey. *If I am deadly honest, I don’t think my marriage would have survived without their help. *And, when I look at things from this point of view it certainly helps to focus the mind.
    *
    My advice? *Open your heart and embrace counselling in all forms. *It’s not wet or weird or any other word used to describe something you really don’t want to do. *It’s simply a tool, a way used by people in our position to deal with issues that are way beyond our control. *Please, please don’t turn your back on the whole counselling thing as to do so will only delay the process of coming to terms with what you are going through.
     
  15. The Alternative Angle
    *
    Following close on the heels of our failed attempt, Beth began to look around for alternative treatments. *She began with pamphlets and books but quickly moved to the internet. *It was almost as if she needed something to keep her mind busy. *
    *
    This is when I began to feel slightly uncomfortable as I had already had to battle with myself over the entire IVF process. *You see, I initially believed if things didn’t occur naturally then they should remain as they were; let it lie. *Trying to make the body do things it didn’t want to really made me worry in the early days and, if I hadn’t sorted my head out, it would have placed Beth and me on a collision course. *I realised that in order to achieve our goal I would have to accept that Beth would have to fill herself up with drugs and potions. *I settled my nerves by acknowledging that, as the drugs were prescribed and monitored, it was OK not to worry. *That was my plan and I was sticking to it.
    *
    And there lies the rub. *Beth was now beginning to look at treatments that somehow promised to ‘enhance’ the user’s ability to conceive. *Of course, the literature was glossy and the many graphs went to great lengths to show positive results and, to the layman, were certainly encouraging. *All seemed well and Beth was convinced such treatments were to be investigated and used in the search for parenthood. *I, on the other hand, was not convinced, at all.
    *
    *You see, in the back of my mind I believe that for every hardship impacting upon mankind there will be someone offering a solution that can be used to ease the pain. *The solution often comes with promises of great things and discoveries of new treatments with advancements in technology just over the horizon. *All this can be accessed by the neediest and often is, for the right price.
    *
    One of the treatments Beth found offered a ‘healing hands’ approach with various ‘meetings’ with fully qualified ‘consultants’ who would “assist in re-balancing her body in order to re-align vital connections”. *The price - £180 for an initial consultation (non-refundable) and £80 for future sessions with up to six advised as the minimum required; and that’s before they’ve even met you! That’s a cool £660 to be realigned, rebalanced and rebooted!
    *
    Yes please, and does that come with free wine glasses?
    *
    Look, here’s the thing; I am not a doctor and I cannot vouch for the reliability of these alternative treatments that seem to populate every corner of the market. *I may be doing them an injustice and therefore I can only apologise. *It just seems that wherever we looked there was a treatment that would ‘complement’ the hard work already underway through official channels. *In my mind it was like adding go faster stripes to an already fast car. *You wouldn’t get there any quicker but you would feel better in the knowledge that you looked good. *However, the last time I saw a car with stripes it was being driven by a teenager who, with music blasting, flew past me at a speed way beyond his control. *Did he look good? *I think not.
    *
    Was I being overly cynical with this? *Was I denying Beth the opportunity of looking good in her own fast car? *Perhaps I was and I know she was upset and annoyed with me and that made me feel worse in an already difficult situation. *I was not, however, prepared to bend on this. *Yes, we had the money to spend and no, it would not hurt trying. *So why the stubbornness? *I’ll tell you why; where does it end? *
    *
    There is no question that, at this stage of the game, both Beth and I were desperate to hold that child, to live through the sleepless nights and to play the role of proud parents; it meant everything to us. *We were sick of simply being the Godparents or the caring but slightly wacky Aunt and Uncle who could be relied upon to play with the children or babysit at the drop of a hat. *Because of these things, it would not be a large step to take before we fell into the trap of chasing every potential treatment in order to realise the dream we held so tightly to our hearts. *Yes it did hurt me to say no to Beth and I know she resented my resolve for some time. *In fact part of me still wonders if she ever fully forgave me.
    *
    But I had made the step from support worker, a position I held during the first attempt, to a fully paid up member of this partnership. *I knew I didn’t want to travel along that route and said so. *We were in this together and whilst I was happy with IVF and all the hardships that came with it, I was not happy to sign up to countless treatments that were being selected via an emotional rather than a more rational process.
    *
    I suppose it comes down to one thing; remaining focused on what it is you both really want. *It would have been so easy to let Beth have what she wanted as she was desperate for a glimpse of light that would, in some way, help her towards her goal. *There will be times when you will both need the other’s strength to cling on to and there will be times when you will feel that your combined strength is simply not enough. *It is during these times that you will need to dig deeper than you have ever dug in your life because that is where true love and strength lies, deep within the pair of you. *Trust me, it is there and it’s quietly waiting for the day you need it the most.