What to expect when you’re not expecting

**Note: I first wrote this in December. It’s taken until now for me to have the courage to publish it. I am going to be fairly ruthless with comment moderation, and I make absolutely no apologies for that.**

When you commence fertility treatments, they will hand you a brochure. It will have a smiling woman on it – possibly holding a baby – and there will be a short, meaningless phrase about hope and something alluding to conception. It will say that it is designed to help you through the process of Assisted Reproduction and let you know what to expect. It will purport to contain information about what to do if during your treatments you are confused or need help.

It is a lie.

A well-meaning lie, but a lie all the same. You will turn to it in times of desperation and despair, and it will offer up nothing useful. You will clutch it in your hands, crinkling the pages you will probably cover in tears, searching in vain for something that will help you get through this. It will tell you what to do if a needle breaks. It will tell you what to do when you run out of the drugs you must keep pumping in to your bruised and swollen belly, but what it will never tell you is what to do if you run out of hope: what to do when your heart keeps breaking well after you think there is nothing left to break.

At the moment, my husband and I are on a break from trying following the end of a very long (unsuccessful) cycle of Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) designed to get my ovaries to release one or two eggs to give us the best chance of conceiving. I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), which affects many women, in many different ways. In my case, it makes it hard for me to maintain my weight, and my hormone levels are affected to the point where it appears I don’t ovulate without help. We tried less invasive tablet-based medications, but they weren’t successful, so we’ve moved on to a drug called Puregon. It’s administered by the patient, every night at the same time, using a device that looks something like the pens diabetics use. It’s relatively painless, except when you get a blunt needle. You have blood tests about every two days, at the crack of seven am, and you get your results phoned to you between two and four o’clock same day. You hope that your “numbers” go up (Your progesterone increases to the point where an ultrasound is needed to check whether your follicles have developed enough to release an egg), and they’ll eventually tell you to “trigger” ovulation with another – scarier – injection, and “Timed Intercourse” commences (Or as my lovely IVF nurse puts it “A very busy weekend”), and you lurch into what is commonly known as the Two Week Wait, to see if you’ve been successful, or if you’re jumping back on the merry-go-round. That’s about half a step shy of full blown IVF, so the stakes are growing higher every time the next step up fails.

Essentially, I kept stabbing myself until they told me to stop, squirted blood at them every two days and then went and had lots of sex with my husband. I also peed on a lot of expensive sticks.

I learnt one thing very quickly. It doesn’t matter how well-researched you are. It doesn’t  matter how well-prepared you are. It is going to suck and you are going to hate it. Reducing it to the medical components helps for a time. Focusing on the outcome itself helps for a time. Jocularity helps for a time (I’d been twittering about this under the hashtags #babbyquest and #stabbyquest).

But eventually, you will break. Everyone breaks. If the US is looking for a new torture method (sorry, enhanced interrogation technique), I’ve got one right here.

I broke towards the end of this cycle. Day 28, my Calendar says. I had been on injections for 27 days, when most people are on them for between 10-14 days. I had just had another “Your numbers are not rising” phone call and I was exhausted. I was hormonal. I was desolate.

I was in hell.

I talked to my father, he of the perfectly timed “Are you okay with that?” and I broke. I sobbed. I heaved. I told him my deepest, darkest fears. That I had no hope left, and I was desperately afraid that’s why it wasn’t working: That my negativity was hurting our chances, because a lot of the time I struggled to be positive. That every bad result made me feel so awfully guilty for putting my husband through this, that I was tired of everything being so hard.

Nobody wants to be the weak one, croons Tim Freedman. We all want to go from strength to strength. I wanted to be strong. I was not. People have told me I handled the negative outcome really well. And I suppose I did. Because handling the hope was so much harder. It’s a slippery, liquid thing, and it slips through your fingers like water. Droplets might stick to your fingers, and that actually makes it harder. If you are without hope, you can deal with that. When the answer is No, at least it’s an answer. Maybe is not an answer. And that’s why it’s so hard. You toss to-and-fro between grief and joy, but each time it’s harder to feel anything other than desolation.

Some moments I still feel like that. But I do know those moments will pass, and I will keep going. It doesn’t make those moments hurt any less. It doesn’t make them any shorter. It doesn’t make them any less likely, or any easier to endure. But they do end. If nothing else, you will eventually fall into a broken, miserable sleep. Things don’t seem brighter in the morning, but you just might be too tired to be sad.

I keep writing “The worst thing is” and coming up with another worst thing. They’re all worst things. There’s very little good here in the land of Maybe. There are moments of joy, but it’s in spite of what you’re going through, not because of it. My husband was already awesome. We already knew how deeply we were committed to starting a family. We’d already had tough medical appointments we could laugh through that brought us closer together. The result may be worth it, but this journey?

Let’s be honest. This journey is freaking awful. It’s painful, it’s messy, it’s undignified and quite frankly I am sick to death of my Ovaries, Uterus, and associated LadyParts being the focus of so much medical attention, hope and hatred.

Probably the hardest thing to cope with though, is the waiting: Waiting for results, waiting for appointments. Waiting for your body to have enough rest so you can try once more. Waiting to see if it has worked, waiting for the nurses to call back and tell you what to do when it hasn’t. Waiting for hope to flicker and die so you can pick yourself up and start again.

I cannot prepare you, if your own road to parenthood involves a fight.  I cannot tell you it will be okay, because there will be so many, many times when it will not be okay. I cannot give you advice, because you need to find your own way through this.

I could keep telling you how bloody awful it is, and you might eventually understand me. But when your own time comes, you will find some of the bits I hate easy and some of the bits I found easy the equivalent of a spot of waterboarding between your rack session and the part where they stick bamboo under your fingernails. Everyone is different. I can tell you, though, that regardless of the professionalism of the Clinic staff, the sheer amount of science behind all this, it boils down to hope, and playing the numbers. One in four. Fifty percent. Whatever your chances are, they are not, nor will they ever be, one hundred percent.

I can tell you that we’re going to keep fighting. You probably will too. I can tell you that we don’t fight alone. Those of us who fight for the chance to be parents quietly cross our fingers for each other. We giggle about torturing our uncomfortable families with detailed descriptions of the menstrual cycle of an infertile woman, and trying to dance around saying “Now we just have lots of sex and see if anything sticks around” to good-natured fathers and brothers without making either party blush. We are an army of hope. We are the few, the bloated, the hormonal.

One day, Medical Science willing, we will be parents.

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Cheeses Swept

It’s been a hell of a few months. I’m working full time again, studying full time, and I’ve just had a really hard few months. The next few posts will kind of expand on that, I hope. But I will be trying to write here regularly again. If for no other reason than I’ve got some great new recipes I’ve been using, and I really want to start getting back into writing about what I’ve been learning in the kitchen.

In terms of my weight, I’ve lost about five kilos so far this year, which is far too slow. But things have just been so busy, I really haven’t been committed enough to an exercise regime, so all of my weight loss has been food related. 

Anyway, there’ll be another post up today, do try not to have a heart attack. The guilt would kill me.

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Christmas in the Kitchen

Christmas has come and gone, the tree was taken down today, and I’ve finally got my house back from the spread of presents I was making covering every available surface.  Thank God!

This year, everyone but the kids got homemade gifts. Most of them got this:

What you’ve got there is a box of chocolate chip cookies, homemade truffles, Tomato and Chilli Chutney and Parmesan and Cheddar biscuits. I made eight of these baskets to give to family members and friends. Recipes on all of those to come.

We also had several family events around Christmas which I made things for, and since Christmas I have tried to make something or do something every day since.

Other things I’ve made recently:

Lindt double layer Cheeseless cake (I had a very, very bad day and completely forgot to put the Cream Cheese in a freaking Cheesecake! Still tasted good, though), and Reinderps (As I Christened them because they all seem to have eyes looking in different directions) for a family function, along with my first attempt at a Pavlova:

Just before New Year, I made what have come to be know as Corset Cupcakes:

They’re Red Velvet cupcakes with Chocolate buttercream frosting:

And here they are undressed:

Then, I got the breadmaker my father got me out and started making bread:

And then since I was in a making mood, I made some Cheese!. Now that going to need a whole post by itself, so there is tomorrows post taken care of.

My exercise routine kind of fell by the wayside a bit during the Christmas New Year bit, but given I’ve been in the kitchen for several hours a day, it’s been hellishly hot and our kitchen is not air-conditioned, I don’t feel in the least bad about it.

More to come.


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This Will be My Year

Don’t start. I know. Long time, no posting. 

There will be regular recipe stuff coming up soon, I promise.

The New Year is kind of like a blank page. You have a whole year to fill in, achieve things in, get things done. We set goals, reminders, fill in our calendar and tell ourselves “This year, things will be different”

They probably won’t. We all know that, too. But we keep trying. I kind of love that.

This year, as every year since I started blogging, I am going to try and blog more. I have been a little bit mad in the kitchen lately – everyone’s Christmas presents were handmade apart from the kids – and my excellent father buying me a breadmaker! That you can also make jam in! has not helped.

Rediscovering Vanilla Garlic has not helped. Discovering Cheese making recipes I can do at home without special equipment definitely hasn’t helped. Every minute I am at the computer I am full of all these new ideas.

I am starting a Bachelor of Business next month as well. I am chock full of all these THINGS I MUST DO, all these plans. I am filling up the calender, determined to see more people instead of being the hermit I was last year. I will clean out the spare room (which frankly is a disgrace). I will print off the photos from the disposable cameras we had on the tables for the wedding.

I will send my aunt the photo album I have put together for her. Really, I will.

I will also be writing more, here and elsewhere. THAT I promise myself. Even if I never hit publish, even if I send things off and nothing becomes of them, I will write more. I wrote something just before Christmas in about twenty minutes (The time it take to bake a batch of Parmesan Cheese biscuits, so technically 18 minutes), and I was thrilled with it. Not in a “Wow that’s a great piece” boasty way, but I felt about eight hundred times lighter getting the words out of my head. It was cathartic. I’d forgotten what that was like. Eighteen minutes to write something I barely needed to edit to be happy with, because I meant it. Because I lost myself in the clack of the keys, in the words tumbling from me. 

There’s a Semisonic song called “This will be my Year” that always comes to mind when people get so excited about the turn of the calender to a New Year. We do not magically become different people when the clock strikes midnight. It is, after all, just the passage of time. There’s nothing mysterious about that. But with the passage of time and our relentless need to mark it comes the occasional focal point. I am using the barrage of New Year blog posts showing up in my reader, combined with the Pomodoro thing Jason Wilson has got going as one of mine. 

I have been stymied the last ten years. The last four, I have realised it but not done much about it. Some of that is that I have been more content than ever. More happy than ever, and there has been more doubt, heartache and unadulterated joy in my heart. Happiness and sadness are time consuming. Before that, I lived in a kind of holding pattern. I lived by the calender. I filled my days and nights with ways to forget that apart from my family and my shrinking circle of friends, I had very little in my life. And it was entirely self-imposed. I felt stupid and guilty and ashamed of things I had done in the preceding years, and I cut people and projects off and out of my life so I wouldn’t have to face reminders of how badly I had behaved. How little of my potential I was living up to, and how powerless I felt to change that. I had stopped living that life probably four years ago, but I had not let go of it, because I couldn’t without letting go of all the walls I had built to hide it. A few Friends From the Internet helped, but I was still so unwilling to be completely myself in case I was found as wanting by others as I was by myself. 

That changed when I met Jeremy. 

Jeremy is a lot of things to a lot of people. All of them very different, not all of them positive. He is an acquired taste. There are people who adore him because they get him, and the things that annoy the living shit out of some people are kind of endearing to others. One thing he does to nearly everyone he meets is make them think. Because he pushes, and argues, and thinks out loud. He never stops, he is this bundle of energy and life and words and ideas and sometimes that is exhausting. A dear friend of ours summed it up in a way I hadn’t thought of before that was so utterly perfect. Jeremy has no internal dialogue. He lives his life and his thoughts so bare to the world. The way he draws the line between what he makes public and what he doesn’t actually impresses me, because he leaves nothing essential – nothing truly personal – out. It’s all there. 

I have been living the opposite for so long. I will not talk about something that means anything to me until I have what I’ve come to call The Narrative down. The Narrative is how I present whatever the issue is to the world. The Spin, if I’m honest. And I’ve realised I very rarely am. I’m not deceptive – I don’t lie – (anymore), but I rarely give anyone the full picture. People get parts of how I feel. Some people get the cheery parts, and some people get the gloomy parts, depending on how they respond to me. I think maybe three people get the full picture. Jeremy, my father and my stepmother. They are the three people who deserve – and will accept – no less. And the last two have only really been let in since I met Jeremy. Which isn’t really fair to anyone, least of all me. 

I am going to take Jeremy’s example, and live a bit more in the world, and not as if I am on a stage, performing like a monkey. If for no other reason than I am frankly exhausted by the constant struggle to get how I am feeling into The Narrative. Unlike Jeremy, I have always posted personal. I’ve copped it for that, and I railed against that for a long time. But you know what? It’s probably fair enough. If I put it out there, it’s public and people can respond as they will. I am done living for what other people think, and pretending – most of all to myself – that I do not.

Come at me, 2012. 

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I suppose I’m several posts behind

Chuh. It’s been a busy month. First the wedding, then the honeymoon, then settling back in to work. Anyway. This post I’ll do the wedding, there’ll be one about dinner later tonight, and tomorrow I’ll do the honeymoon.

Firstly, the wedding. I kept waiting to get nervous. I thought at some stage the enormity would hit me, or the nerves I’ve been feeling about walking down the aisle would kick in again…… I was not expecting to be wishing the minutes until four o’clock away. I just could not wait to meet Jeremy at the top of the aisle. And, wow. The smile on his face, and the smile on my face, and the joy that kept bubbling over from both of us was amazing. So many people came up to me during the reception to tell me how obvious it was that we were just truly celebrating how much we loved each other.

I give Jeremy so much stick, but, my God. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to be his wife.

Enough chuntering. Here’s the photographs:

I cannot tell you how gorgeous and well-behaved our flowergirls were (We didn’t have any attendants). They were just amazing.

I don’t think I stopped smiling for more than a few seconds all day.

I cannot put into words how happy a day it was. What it meant to me to have all of the people I love best there, sharing in such an amazing day, where I got to marry the love of my life.

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Not something that happens every day

Mea Culpa.

It appears that organising a wedding, taking medication that affects your moods and a full time job are not conducive to blogging. I don’t know how Jeremy does it.

Actually, I do. He gets up two hours before he leaves the house.

Anyway, point being I am getting married tomorrow. Neither of us will be blogging from the honeymoon, so there’s going to be a little bit of a lull around here. I will be taking photos of what we eat in Thailand, and posting about that when I get back.

See you in two weeks!

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Tandoori Lamb Cutlets with Bombay potatoes


I started off with this recipe. There’s not all that many changes:

Lemon juice in the tandoori marinade.

Lemon juice instead of oil when roasting herbs and spices

An extra tomato.

Added Coriander seed in with the mustard seeds

Bit more Spinach.

I cooked some rice for Jeremy, Cous Cous for me, to pad it out to six meals (Two for lunch tomorrow, two to freeze)

Here’s the bombay potatoes before adding the tomatoes

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