It’s the part of IVF that everyone hopes they’ll never get to. The round which you know in your bones is going to be your last. The one where you’ve been through so many iterations of yourself along the way you know there’s nothing and nobody left other than to turn up, check that bitter tick in the box and Just Fucking Do It.
I am on my own. In the middle of the night I wake up and it hits me that I’m 40 – almost 41 – and I have given my all to a fight that has never been mine of the making. My heart and tummy seem to physically drop, like you’ve driven over a hill too quickly; I stare up at the ceiling and wonder how has it come to this. After a few nights I stop wondering. I only know: it has come, to this.
I can’t outrun this anymore with hope, odds, or clinics. My subconscious knows because that’s why it’s enjoying making me lie awake from 2am – 5:30am in a bastard pandemic, making me feel fucking old and searching for bastard Becca’s peach coloured under eye corrector which of course – Brexshit – has sold out, everywhere. It’s gleeful when I rise like a creature from the deep, physically creaking, rasping for the coffee I know in a few weeks is going to have to go decaf. It sits with me as I sob an awful lot at everything, and while I want to blame Russell T Davies for creating utter TV perfection in It’s A Sin, and my wonderful neighbour Ruth reassured me she too didn’t sleep at all ‘the night after Colin’s episode’, I recognise I am crying the tears of someone who sees the horror of what was effectively the gay community’s Covid – the fear, the tragedy, the unspeakable loss – through the prism of motherhood.
“I view everything now as a mother,” I sob to my husband. “Look at what Colin’s mother had to do. I can’t bear it. Look at her strength. LOOK AT WHAT SHE DID AS A MOTHER.”
There is silence. The cat, sitting with us in her spot on the sofa, resettles herself. The bitch ain’t bothered. My husband looks at me, unsure for a split second how we’ve gone from the best television of 2021 to me wailing like a banshee. He holds my hand. We both know what this is really about, and Colin’s story is tonight’s infertility advent calendar window. Expressing where we find ourselves now in a language either of us truly understand – it may as well be a foreign one. Despite my husband’s unexpected undergraduate French AS level – designed to avoid a particularly tricky Engineering module – neither of us know how to speak it fluently. I suspect we never will.
The sleeplessness goes on for over two weeks. I am spent. It’s a good month and a half at least before I need to get familiar with pills and needles, but February seems to want a clear out. I cry in work meetings (thank god for camera off), I cry watching the news, I cry doing the ironing. The Six Nations start and I decide to iron pillowcases for the first time in a year. Now, I don’t want anyone to think I’m a sheet or duvet cover ironer – fuck that – but back in the day I liked an ironed pillowcase. As I start steaming the shit out of 100% cotton, it brings back all too familiar memories of when I wept over laundry and losing babies. My husband pops his head around the door at half time and the sight probably made him wished he’d made for the beer fridge instead.
“I will never get another Pumbaa,” I rasp, incinerating the pillow cases. The tears are proper gasping flashbacks into IVF clinics and hospital scans, those great big rectangular lifts that take you from the safety of home to confronting reality. I don’t even feel bitter or sad that I’ve had to muller myself this much physically and mentally to try and achieve our dream. All I know is that I am feeling exactly how I felt when my baby died, and I know that I am having to touch the same physical pain in its rawest centre, to confront yet another loss. “I will never have another Pumbaa. It will never be another Pumbaa.” I stab the iron down on a fresh cotton victim. “I will never have my own baby.” It is like a stone dropping down a well. I am in freefall.
“Have YOU spent 2021 feeling exhausted and emotional? Are you crying like you’ve pacman gobbled oestrogen and progesterone? Are you waking up most mornings at sparrows fart? Then maybe you’ve been miss sold PPI, sorry IVF.”
We turn down the ERA. My consultant is on the fence about it and the thought of doing all the drugs again only to have another womb biopsy – eight rounds in, I simply cannot rouse myself. I. Am. Spent. I ask her whether she thinks having come this far, I’m being irresponsible in this decision. Her voice is warm down the phone, an absolute feat given she can’t see me. “No I don’t,” she says, and I believe her. I have nothing left to give, I say. I just need to do the next go to basically say I’ve done it. I’m coming to the end. I don’t want to even think about it. She agrees with this approach, advises me to just let nature take its course.
So here I am. Booze free after a spectacular zoom cocktail class with Bar From Afar. A new love of tequila and margaritas. Cutting down the coffee, but still having one full fat a day because hey, I got pregnant doing that. Having the painful conversations about adoption. Looking forward to our vaccinations and what I hope will be Harry and Meg’s explosive interview with Oprah. I haven’t come this far to fall off a cliff edge when the next go doesn’t work. You win some, you lose some. Not everyone who does IVF gets the baby. My brain seems to have finally realised this is my IVF Testimonial, my last trot around the pitch. I gotta say it, particularly when I’ll be bending over taking it in the upper quadrant and up the vadge: DAMN, I played WELL.
I know all about a turd and rolling it in glitter.
I’ll see you on the other side.