The Jamvanu Club

It’s a Monday. Not any particular Monday; just a regular Monday at the beginning of the week in May where I happen to be back home in Thika, Kenya, visiting family. It’s approaching noon and I have just arrived at my aunt’s house with my son, my mother and grandmother. We are there for a family lunch involving three households – my father’s and his two cousin brothers’. Accustomed to such impromptu gatherings and luncheons, this particular gathering was only established 2 days ago when we found out that some old acquaintances were travelling from abroad to meet with the men in the family for work-related matters, and since everyone in Thika usually comes home for lunch, my aunt had volunteered to host this meal at her home. She hadn’t had the whole family over for about month and, therefore, she took the opportunity to invite us all for a ‘jamvanu’ – a celebratory meal or gathering for a meal, if you like.

We walk into the vast kitchen where one end opens to the veranda, the soft tapping of my grandmother’s walking stick on the tiled floor gently announcing our arrival.

Aavo,” my aunt greets us in Gujarati, a common greeting used to welcome one into the home. Her daughter and daughter-in-law emerge from one of the adjoining rooms.

We all exchange greetings and dive right into conversations as my son goes about hugging everyone, “Hi!”, “Hi!” his favourite word.

My mother places the mixed vegetable rice dish that she had prepared earlier on the grey granite countertop of the kitchen table next to several other dishes that are ready for service. A salad that is waiting to be dressed sits beside a tray filled with various homemade chutneys and condiments of all colours. Green and red chillies prepared in numerous ways – dried, stuffed, pickled and cooked in oil and spices – form a part of this vibrant display. A glass bowl in the middle of the arrangement catches my eye. On closer inspection, I see it is filled with ivy gourd that has been cut into small pieces and mixed with jaggery and spices. My mouth watering, I make a mental note to try that later.

On the far end, jugs of lassi – some plain, some laced with a spiced tadka and curry leaves – stand tall beside another carafe with cool water. I peak into the Tupperware container and find a peculiar dish with chunks of avocados that are mixed in with passionfruit juice. One of the dishes to finish off the meal no doubt.

A loud ‘bang’ of the cupboard draws my attention away and I find my toddler son peering inside the drawer, his quick fingers about to grab the nearest bowl. Hastily, I rush off to stop any calamity from occurring, running after him as he makes his escape. He runs towards the front door, and I look up to find my other aunt approaching with a bowl of fruit salad, her teenage son and older daughter in tow. Just minutes before, her mother-in-law – the ever-independent woman – had driven herself to the house and she now busies herself examining the food on display. Always early to arrive, her inquisitive manner curious to the happenings around her falls short when it involves the actual cooking or preparing of food.

At last, all the women of the three households are now present. As I chase after my son, I come across the hive of activities taking place around us. There are two large pots on the kitchen stove where the curries are simmering away. Every so often, my aunt lifts their lids to give them a quick stir, before continuing with overseeing other tasks. Both her daughter and daughter-in-law are putting the finishing touches to the table setting, making sure there are plenty of glasses and bowls set aside to hold the numerous dishes we are going to consume. The oval dining table is large enough to seat most of us all together. The remaining few will be required to help serve the food and drinks. Jane, an impeccably tall woman with an elegant gait is sitting on a chair overlooking the portable gas cooker. Her dark blue uniform is the same shade as the gas tank sitting securely beside her. My aunt comes over to test the hot oil in the kadai by dipping a morsel of the batter mix, watching it sizzle as it quickly rises to the surface. Satisfied, she instructs Jane to begin frying the bhajias.

My mother and younger aunt have positioned themselves in front of the two-cooker burner, chatting animatedly as they work together. I watch as my mum rolls out dough to create perfectly round puris, placing them into yet another small kadai with hot oil as her sister-in-law takes the stainless steel slotted ladle and fries the puris into fluffy round pillows, taking them off the heat at precisely the right moment, before they turn a shade too dark. Within a few minutes, there is a pile of puris sitting high over newspaper collecting the excess oil on a large plate, waiting to be later transferred into a serving platter.

Taking advantage of time, the ‘younger’ generation decides to sit down to eat, filling our plates with all the hot food as it is being prepared. We’ll have eaten by the time the men arrive and so we will be able to serve the lunch to the rest of the group.

It’s not long before the kitchen countertop is full as completed dishes are added to the display, and a functioning system emerges. The well-trained eye will recognise that each dish has been precisely placed both for ease of serving as well as taking into account the pre-ordained approach to dining etiquette. It’s all in the details. For example, the condiments, salad, bhajias and curries will be served first, followed by the puris. Rice will not be served until the end, followed by the fruits. An important system to follow for any jamvanu to be deemed successful.

The honking of the cars at the gate signals the arrival of the men and all the ladies spring into action. The jamvanu begins.

Ever since I can remember, this is how it has always been in Thika, where I grew up. Jamvanus have been the norm in my family. They used to be a big part of my life too when I first moved to London, still a young girl enrolled in the education system. Back then, I relied on jamvanus to help satisfy my food cravings since boarding school and university provided me with limited choices. There was always a handful of families who regularly invited me into their homes to share meals with them, meals with other guests and meals to celebrate special occasions. I clearly recall the excitement of getting dressed for every jamvanu, and the feeling of being utterly satiated after gorging on the vast spread made generously for us. These wonderful hosts opened their homes and hearts to me. It was all done in enjoyment. For the love of getting people together. For the love of wanting to feed people. For the love of entertaining. Whether you were house proud or not, it did not appear to matter. What mattered was the ability to call people over and open your homes to them. An act of opening your home; thus, opening your heart. Out of generosity. A selfless act that brought so much joy to others.

This is where bonds were formed and forged, where memories were created. As a child, I learnt how to hold steady the tray with the chutneys as I made my way around the long table where diners were seated in a line patiently waiting for the food to be served, making sure not to spill any on myself or any on the diners opposite me. I took pride in being allowed to serve a dish (serve anything for that matter) as it felt like a privilege and felt like an important part of a ritual whereby everyone got involved. The excitement was evident on the eager faces of all the children as the ‘papad’ (or poppadom) dish was handed over to them – their initiation into the world of food service. It’s during jamvanus that I learnt the art of persuasion, whereby you convinced (read: coerced) the diner to take one more barfi, one more gulab jamun, a top up on shirkhand

“Ek chalse” (“One more will do”), I say.

“No, no”, as they wave away my hand.

“Khali plate che.” (Your plate is empty.”)

“Bow khailidhu.” (I’ve eaten too much”)

And so goes the conversation to and fro until an elder intervenes to take the laddu thali off me and dumps a piece right on the diner’s plate, insisting that they need it.

The best part of a jamvanu was that we got to eat like royalty; always spoilt for choice.  

In those days, I took the hospitality for granted. I never gave the jamvanus much thought and certainly didn’t give them the prominence they deserved. I had grown up believing ‘they’ would always be around.

And they were always around. Whenever there was a wedding, there was some form of (or several) jamvanus. Jamvanus in people’s homes; jamvanus in bigger venues. Whenever there was a religious event, there was a jamvanu. A puja at someone’s house was followed by a meal for all those attending. A ‘balmovara’ was followed by a jamvanu. Family visiting from overseas was an excuse to hold a jamvanu. A birthday always involved a celebratory meal at home. There was always an occasion suitable to have a jamvanu.

Today, after nearly 14 years of marriage, I feel lucky if we are invited over to someone’s house for a meal. Sure, there are the few people who definitely do love entertaining at home and who do invite us regularly. However, the numbers are few and it’s always the same people who volunteer. Over the years, the art of home entertaining has slowly but surely changed. Families have grown. Relationships have altered. Priorities have adjusted and adapted. The cost of living has increased. Labour is not as readily available. Helping hands to pitch in are scarce; for some it does not come as naturally to step in and help out. Houses are smaller. Not everyone can cook; not everyone enjoys cooking. Entertaining can also be tiresome and disheartening when an invitation is never reciprocated or extended back.

The very same people who used to host these elaborate jamvanus have grown older; they naturally cannot organise and manage as much. Their children (I consider myself as one of the ‘children’ and so these are my peers) see entertainment in a different light. Very few open their homes to entertain. Catching up with friends and families now involves more of dining out than in. Our lives appear to be busier. There is no time to always cook a meal from scratch, let alone feeding others outside the immediate family cohort. Life is tough and as much as possible, we try and make it easier where we can.

But in making life easier for ourselves, we have lost touch with truly connecting with people. Yet, this should not be the case.

I was in the car with my friend and her sister last Saturday, driving back from a clothes exhibition we had all attended together, when I let my inhibitions loose. Despite the initial excitement of visiting and seeing what’s on display, none of us bought anything, lamenting on the fact that we have nowhere to go to wear all these beautiful Indian clothes. This prompted a discussion on jamvanus. The jovial self-sympathy continued, followed by a feeling of self-importance as we joked with exaggeration about how nobody extends any invitations anymore and how the last time we might have seen the inside of certain family members’ houses would have been years ago.  

We were all in agreement about how we like to have people over, or want to have people over more often, but never manage to get round to it as much as we would like to. How we wished to host more jamvanus and make use of our homes and gardens; yet how we have found to struggle to get the help we need to make such a jamvanu run smoothly. Falling gracefully from my self-assured high horse, I soon realised the idiocy of all our comments. There was simply no reasonable excuse not to go ahead and make forth a jamvanu. We could just as easily have it on a smaller scale, a more manageable scale or even a paid scale. Where there is a will, there is a way.

And so, that day we came to an important conclusion. We formed the highly elusive, originally named ‘Jamvanu Club’. A club that celebrates what the tin says. At present, its members comprise of us three families and there are a few stipulations that must be followed. First, we each must host a jamvanu at home and this will be rolled over to the next member to host every 2 months. To ease the burden and pressures that come with entertaining, the host can choose to keep it as simple or as elaborate as they desire. The finer details still require some attention, such as if and when we get new members, would they automatically be bumped up the pecking order to host the next jamvanu? Would take outs and catering be acceptable as long as the gathering is at ‘home’? This is all relative and can be accommodated as we go along.

For now, this club is my vision to bring back that childhood excitement and joy. To rely on forging stronger relations and a sense of togetherness. For my son to experience the same camaraderie and learn as much as I did. For him to be able to spend time regularly in other people’s homes, getting to know them well and forming a strong memorable bond with the other children in the group. For him to know of the happiness that comes with a full house when guests come over to ours. For him to share food and ‘break bread’ and be treated as an equal at the dining table.

(As I planned to write this, my cousin assured me that there are indeed still a large number of people who enjoy entertaining at home. They – my cousin and her husband – have a group of friends who always entertain at home. There is obviously the one anomaly within the group who manages to avoid the situation whenever it is their ‘turn’, but for most, it works well. They have found their cohort; their Jamvanu Club. It’s now high time I find mine.)


We walk through the door to be greeted by a smiling lady, dressed in all black.

“Do you have a reservation?” she asks. We can barely hear her over the loud racket coming from behind her.

“Yes. For 7.30 p.m., under Chaand. We’re a few minutes late,” my husband answers as I quickly scan the room to see if I recognise anyone. It’s unsurprisingly busy for a weeknight as it’s a popular eatery with regulars. We had to secure a booking a few weeks back.

She hesitates… “There doesn’t seem to be one under that name.”

“For eight people, maybe under Jay?”

She hesitates some more, with the first signs of frown lines beginning to appear on her forehead. “We have one under Sandra?”

“Ah yes, that’s us!” Of course, the PA had made the reservation.

We walk across the entire length of the restaurant to be shown to our table and that’s when we first notice the other three couples already seated at the table. Pausing their conversation mid-sentence as they see us approaching, they stand up to greet us.

“Hello, I’m Sita”, I introduce myself to an exceptionally tall man with a firm handshake, whilst consciously making the effort to return it with a firm grip. I wouldn’t want him to think of me as delicate.

“Hi. Sita”, as I repeat to his wife standing next to him. I note that she is fairly tall too as she bends slightly to shake my hand. I’m used to being the shortest in the crowd. It has never fazed me. I turn to the other four members around the table, smiling as I return hugs and exchange quick hellos and ask about the family, having met each other on several occasions. Some I know relatively well; others through fleeting moments whilst chatting with their spouses.

Introductions over, they shuffle positions to make space for us and inevitably create the standard seating layout around the oval table; men on one side, ladies on the other side. Supposedly because we’ll have more in common to talk about in this position. It’s a business dinner after all, with the men doing business together, and the other halves joining them for a meal. I scoot down the L-shaped seat resisting the urge to brush off crumbs left by the previous patrons to occupy the space and join the ladies-end of the table, inwardly sighing. Once I’m settled into the dark green velvet seat that matches my trousers, with my coat and scarf piled high over my handbag snug beside me, the awkward fumbling for conversation fodder begins. Small talk – the bane of most conversations. A necessity of sorts, unavoidable in such an intimate dinner setting, and a few minutes pass by as so.

When my husband first mentioned this dinner a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t contain my excitement. It would be the second time in 18 months that we would leave our son at home whilst we go out to dinner together. We would be meeting up with adults, having adult conversations that do not involve current age-appropriate baby-related talk. I imagined a night out at a swanky restaurant in London, an enviable wine list – no, I prefer martinis – and I immediately started making a mental list of possible babysitters. I would wear the pink dress I bought from my last trip to Kenya. The stripes of the dress will match the new shoes; still unworn and sitting delightfully on the shelf, waiting to be taken out. Two whole weeks went by in this eagerness. Then one evening, my husband announces that the other members of the party prefer to keep it local, instantly dissolving all the excitement that was threatening to spill over. Dejected, I resigned to the fact that at least we have a dinner together to look forward to with the hope of reviving my sleepy brain awake.

With pleasantries aside and drinks to the rescue then, “So, what do you do, Sita?” asks the tall lady.

I pause for a second, because I’ve anticipated this question. Should I start off with ‘I’m a housewife’ or ‘I’m at home, looking after our son’?

I settle for, “I’m writing a book. Well, trying to anyway. I don’t work; I’m at home looking after my son. He’s not in nursery yet.”

These simple few revelations create a short-lived rising interest in the fact that I am writing a book, followed by a disinterest in little more as I explain that I am in fact not a writer and do not have any published material to my name. I am just at the very beginning of writing a book. Disinterest because I am essentially a housewife living in a modern world.

That’s the problem I have with segregating seating by gender; I find that I don’t have enough small talk and flamboyant exaggerations to discuss professions, motherhood and silly tales in my arsenal of dialogue necessary to engage with people of just the same sex. I subtly turn away from the three ladies who are now animatedly mid-discussion, having found several mutual interests as they share professions and have much older kids to mine, and move on to listening in on the conversations of the men around the table. They oblige by the sudden show of interest and in an effort to make me feel included, every so often they make eye contact whilst they carry on. Of course there is the usual and predictable chat involving sports and cars, but they also seem to discuss more and have more of – dare I say – intelligent talk. You’d expect that from a business dinner.

I’m looking for an opening to join in. I’d done my research on the profile of the tall man, our host for the evening, sitting diagonally opposite to me. I knew a little about the company he worked for and so I direct my questions at him. This evidently generates an interest from all parties around the table and finally it feels like we are all at the same dinner table, having one conversation.

Towards the end of the dinner, the atmosphere is more lighthearted. We have spent a fair amount of time by now together, sharing naans and digging into various paneer dishes, so naturally we steer towards personal references and, understandably, an openness that comes with it. I’m surrounded by accountants, bankers and pharmacists. Everyone appears to have a strong identity about themselves, confident in what they do and sure of who they are. They all have titles attached to their professions. Whilst everyone is exchanging anecdotes about their various professions, I wonder if I should mention that I have a Masters degree in Biomedical Engineering. This thinking comes from my intention to be taken a little more seriously. A contender fit for the company around me. I quickly dispel the thought. Even though I loved it and am undoubtedly proud for it, I graduated in 2006 and have never actually made any direct use of my degree henceforth. It did not feel the right time to be bringing it up this way. So then, should I tell them about the time I used to be a Production Editor for a scientific publishing house? It was my first ever job but, somehow, I do not think that this too would add any value to the conversation around me. Should I mention that I worked with my husband in pharmaceuticals? Relevant, yes. Yet again, I choose to not reveal. It wasn’t that exciting a time for me, and pharmaceuticals do not interest me much. Should I mention that I had my own online fashion platform? The banker and his wife might be intrigued, as I’ve noticed their choice of attire includes a skull head lapel pin and a white blouse with pops of brightly coloured buttons and a separate gold-embroidered black collar worn on top to complete the look, respectively. (The collar reminds me of one of mine that I love to wear over tops to jazz up an ensemble.) It could generate interest as there is lots to say about those years – some of the best years of my life – both on a professional and personal level. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and we closed the business down.

I move on.

So what do I have to show? An engineering background from a long time ago. A couple of random career paths, and now I am on to writing. I’ve written one non-fiction book that I am very proud of. However, all thirteen agents that I sent it to practically rejected it (if you also count the ones who did not respond). Still, I believed that I had potential. I then sought the help of a writing coach who alluded to the idea that I could turn it into a novel. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense and the more excited I felt to get stuck right in. This was in May last year, and as of only January this year, have I managed to sit down to do anything about it. I’ve been busy being a housewife and a mother. I still am (busy being a housewife and a mother), but I’ve now got a little help with childcare so that I can make a start on my writing. Now when someone asks, I can also say that I am ‘working’, albeit it’s not paid and completely feels like a hobby for the time being.

How do I explain all this succinctly so that I am reassured that I too, am considered as a worthy contender at such a business dinner table?

Each of us are holding onto our dessert spoons whilst ras malais, mango kulfis and cheesecakes are being passed around the table for all to have a taste, and I’m distracted from my thoughts as one of the other mothers mentions how she had recently switched careers to become a teacher. Holding up a spoonful of ras malai to her mouth, her tawny brown manicured nails cut short, she goes on to explain how both motherhood and livelihood were the causes for this change. A change in profession that she is happy for and seems content with, but she is quick to point out that she is obviously overqualified for the job.

This comment alerts me because, like me, she feels the need to address her intelligence.

Do we feel the need to justify and hold on to our past because we need to still feel identified? We want recognition, yes? It was part of our identity back then but, does it really matter now that I am 38 years old, that I graduated with an engineering degree when I was 22?

Evidently it still does. Recently, a friend looking to move jobs with a better offering than he currently holds sent out his updated CV to a recruitment agency. The recruitment consultant came back to ask for his A’ Level results and University degree enrolment and qualification to have on file. Needless to say, my friend was shocked. Apparently, employers still ask for such information. Approaching 40 and it’s not what you are today and what you have managed to accomplish thus far, but what you achieved 20 years ago that still matters.

Somehow, this does not add up. In an age where fame and fortune depend on how viral you become, where you must show up each time and cannot simply rely on qualifications printed on beige official documents, what you are now is who you are. Good or bad. Your past or the future you are versions of yourself. Like right now is another version of yourself. Perhaps they are all one identity. Perhaps they are all entirely separate entities.

Undoubtedly, the one thing most, if not all, individuals strive for is identity. An identity that we carve out for ourselves. Something of substance. An identity that we can identify with. An identity so that we can be identified by others. At 38 years old, I am still seeking my identity.

Who am I?

I’m Sita. A wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister. I’m me. Woman.

What do I do?

This is where I seem to stumble. I’m a housewife, a full-time mother but I’m trying to write a book whilst taking care of our son. (Pretty long-winded if you ask me. It would be nice to be able to keep it short. Like: Writer.)

At the dinner, I decided not to reveal about my past. It did not feel right to bring it up, in this setting, amongst these people amidst such chatter. Maybe in a different setting, a different turn of conversation, possibly yes. Here, bringing up old achievements would have felt like I was seeking attention. And that’s the wrong kind of attention I was seeking. I chose this career path by myself after all. The different offshoots and explorations are all my doing.

A phrase that my writing coach repeatedly mentioned to me whilst combing through my book came to mind. She said, “Show, don’t tell”. If writing is to be powerful, you must show the scene, the character, the theme, the mood. The reader must feel like they are witnessing it and are a part of it. They must be able to relate to the feeling you wish to portray. You should not simply tell it; it’s not a list.

‘Show, don’t tell’. I have this phrase written on a post-it-note stuck on my computer screen to remind me of its power whilst I begin working on my novel. And just like that, I decide that it is not necessary to dwell on my past studies and career achievements just to prove my intelligence. Intelligence cannot be proven; it shows. It shows in the type of conversation you engage in. It shows in what you speak of. It shows in the topics that interest you. It shows in the skills of being able to communicate with all ages, professions and genders. It shows in not being awed by other individuals – you are just as deserving. It shows in your outlook and thinking. It shows in your clarity and conviction of self. A’ Level results, a university degree, career path … these are all a part of the process of instilling knowledge. They do not define you. What matters is what you are today. What you are doing today.

So here is my today. I’m making a start on my writing with this blog post, with the intention to spur me on to writing my novel. These posts will be my practice runs, helping me find my style of voice and hone my writing skills. A writer-in-the-making.

“Hi Sita, unfortunately it is a negative”

“Hi Sita, we have received the result of the pregnancy blood test; unfortunately, it’s negative, we are all very sorry” is a phrase I have heard all too often. It’s a call I dread, one that tears open my wounded heart to bleed free each time.

The reason for this ache is infertility – the dark secret that our society tends to hide in the closet, afraid of its ugly head popping out when in company. It’s not that we are only ashamed of it; it’s also because we do not know how to handle it.

As I write this article, it has only been a day since I last heard the phrase above. Our second attempt at an embryo transfer using a donor egg had failed. And as of 2 months ago, I have been living with infertility for 7 years. What exactly does 7 years of ‘trying to conceive’ involve, you may wonder? Other than my life being taken over by the baby-making project, for me it has involved a whole bunch of things.

Hundreds of medical tests (I once had 21 vials of blood drawn out – no, this is not something I would joke about), nutritional advice, various supplements, hypnotherapy, theta healing, acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, meditation, spirit babies, energy work, a  laparoscopy, dye test, immunology testing, a hysteroscopy, an endometrial receptivity analysis (ERA) test, injections after injections and IVF. Multiple IVFs; followed by two donor egg cycles. (All the while, hoping and praying each month that I’m pregnant.)

For the longest time, I would keep this journey to myself, only revealing certain bits to a few individuals. It is so personal and unless you are in a similar position, there simply is no way you can begin to even understand. Then last October, circumstances prompted me to share my story. We had just been through a gruelling 9 months of IVFs with no success, and gossip was rife. Before anyone else made my story the headline of their storytelling, I thought I’d better take the lead role. I started writing, sharing aspects of my journey on my blog.

A year later, I am still here, with no baby in hand, but with a whole lot of other treatments under my belt. As of today, I can account for four IVFs, one ERA test (a mock embryo transfer test), two donor egg cycles and a total of four embryo transfers. And I have never been pregnant. Not once in all these years.

Since sharing my story, many people have commented on how ‘brave’ I am to let it out. Brave, because our society and culture at large, considers it taboo. Because we tend to prioritise and celebrate having offspring and everything related to children. But living with infertility is brave in itself. Having just received the news about my non-pregnancy, I am currently in a state of pure anger. I feel robbed and violated. I am infuriated and this fire is burning deep inside me. Anger because I cannot believe just how unlucky we (my husband and I) are. Anger because it is not fair. Anger because scientifically, they have solved every ‘problem’. Anger because spiritually, I have done the work. Anger because there is no explanation for it not working. Anger because I have no one to blame.

And I am tired; tired of society only measuring success and happiness if you fall pregnant. Tired of society only ever celebrating when there is a pregnancy announcement. If we, infertiles, still have to dutifully mingle and live within society, then it’s about time society takes responsibility and accepts the ugly, dark side of fertility. It is a burden we should be allowed to shed.

In a few days, this anger too shall pass. For I have been through this cycle many a time before. Writing is my way of letting off steam.

Infertility is always about compromising and learning to accept. Over the years and with great difficulty, we have come to accept that we would not get pregnant naturally. Then, after several failed IVFs, we came to accept that we would not be able to conceive using my own eggs. Now, after two failed attempts at using donor eggs, how do we bring ourselves to accept that perhaps this may also not work?

Bravery comes in various forms. My body is brave – it has repeatedly taken a physical beating and bruising with hormones and injections – but has survived and thrived. My mind is brave – after all these years, it is firm, has a voice and pulls me through each time. My spirit is brave – it has not been broken and is still willing to pursue and achieve what we desire the most.

Being brave also means re-adjusting to a major shift in life expectations. Bravery is to continue being a dutiful daughter, daughter-in-law, wife and sister. It means getting on with our responsibilities both in society and in family life. It means attending birthday parties and family gatherings, whilst supporting others in their happiness and success at falling pregnant, even though you can no longer share in their happiness as it is a stark reminder of what you desperately want, but don’t have. Bravery means working hard at everything you do, whilst making sure that your business prospers to secure the future of the children within the family, even though those children may not be your own. Bravery means to carry on because that’s all you know how to.

I know, there may come a day when we reach the end of our pursuit. When we will have to accept defeat and to move on. And on this day, we will have to be braver than ever before. But I know that I am not alone in this; for I have my husband beside me, along with my mind, body and spirit to lead the way. And we will be the bravest of them all.


(This is the original article that I wrote for the online magazine, GRIT. The theme for the Winter edition was ‘Becoming Brave’. Have a read of the ‘shorter’ version at GRIT.)

Catch 22

All artists, writers, actors and others in the public eye, such as politicians, are inadvertently open to criticism if they open up and speak their truth (or voice their opinions). The same holds true for someone standing up and sharing their journey of hardship. I’ve often deliberated back and forth between going public with my infertility journey. I certainly do not regret sharing it publicly; but I do wonder how far I should go with it – how much of the truth should I tell? By letting my story out, I am completely vulnerable and can be a subject of matter discussed – open to judgement. By (over)sharing, it’s like putting myself (and my husband) in the firing line. But if we (as society in general) keep hiding and covering up reality, we will never move forward. Believe me – it is so easy to ignore a situation. It is the ‘safer’ option. But perhaps, in order to shed light and bring awareness to a situation, we have to bite the bullet. I have found that more than being vulnerable, our story has actually struck a chord with many and, hopefully, given others some strength in knowing that they are not alone. It is the first step at chipping away the stigma that is infertility.

By writing (or using any kind of expression as a form of delivering your story), I feel you have a responsibility to be truthful and take ownership of your views. And the truth does not always taste sweet. (Ah, the bitter truth.)

In her weekly column for the Daily Mail, ex-Vogue UK Editor-in-Chief Alexandra Shulman’s post on Sunday was what I term to be ‘controversial’ journalism – it created a lot of debate but resulted in more readers being offended than agreeing to her views, and prompted Ms Shulman to delete her post on her Instagram page. (‘Good’ journalism, in my opinion, generates debate, where both sides can be argued with valid points and without name-shaming.) Her post was addressing the issue of not dressing ‘age-appropriately’. I personally tend to agree to a certain extent. Sure, everyone should feel empowered enough to dress however they see fit. But, there is a fine line between acting blasé and looking tacky.

I once attended an event a few years ago (I cannot even remember what kind of event it was – it was that uneventful), but it was full of culturally minded people – Indians. Anyway, there was a ‘mature’ lady sat at my table who was dressed in this absurdly inappropriate gown that showed a bit too much flesh.

(I know, you may be aghast that I, as a woman, am judging on how another woman dresses and whatever happened to letting each to their own and women empowerment? Well, I’m not one to shy away from voicing and owning my thoughts. I’m always up for a good, solid debate so I invite you to be a worthy adversary. To add; just as one aspect of women empowerment holds the flag for ‘freedom of choice’, another aspect celebrates differing opinions.)

Back to the above point of the lady and her choice of styling. I kept my initial thought to myself (I display some tact when necessary). After introductions, she found a need to voice her thoughts and proceeded to ask me outright, “Do I look like mutton dressed as lamb?”

(Full credit to her for being so direct.)

The question left me baffled for only a moment, after which I simply replied, “Yes”, whilst the other members of our table averted their gaze in, somewhat, confused fashion.

(Full credit to the both of us for being honest.)

Now, let’s refer back to the article by Alexandra Shulman. Where her argument fell short, was the fact that she specifically pinpointed Helena Christensen and her choice of a black lace bustier to a party. (I personally do not think the issue was about age appropriacy because Helena does look fabulous; the issue for me was wearing underwear as outerwear purely because, even if I was in my twenties, I would not dream of wearing that. Tsk tsk – fashion these days is just not that simple.) Name-shaming, regardless of how valid your view may be, just reduces your intention to pulp. Hence, this article generated a great deal of controversy. One could argue that without giving examples (i.e., naming), a more ‘general’ view may not be ‘juicy’ enough for the tabloids or for your story to gain traction. I think it’s safe to admit that any good journalism includes a bit of controversy – it’s only good ‘reading’ when the topic irks or resonates with you completely. Otherwise, we all tend to just bypass and ignore it. That’s why the politician with the most controversial viewpoints is discussed most and we pay attention to them most, whether we agree or disagree with their views. That’s why anyone who puts themselves out there is at the forefront of interest. Sideliners, unfairly, get forgotten. It’s the way of life. By putting yourself out there, yes you are vulnerable and open to judgement and objection. But it also gives you a platform to really open discussion on topics that are otherwise not understood.

I was quite surprised to find that Ms Shulman had taken down her post on Instagram, as I would have hoped that she ‘owned’ up to her views and stood her ground. Perhaps, it was a case of trolling? Whatever the reason, since the post is public on the Daily Mail, why let trolls or people with other opinions bring you down? (This is a topic to explore further … maybe in the future.)

It’s a catch 22 – by putting your views out there you should expect backlash.

(Because we all know that saying where we judge someone by what they read, etcetera, I better address the fact that I read the Daily Mail. On most days [not daily], this is where I get my information about the happenings of the world. That and flicking through the news on television. I’m not ashamed to admit this as it gives me all the information I want. I also read many books, occasionally read the New Scientist, follow many writers and artistically inclined individuals, and catch up on other worldly events on social media. That sums up my reading ‘material’.)

I had left a comment on Ms Shulman’s Instagram post (sadly since the post has been deleted, you nor I can refer to it anymore). Amongst other things, I wrote about how, in my opinion, celebrities only make up a small part of the community and the problems we face at large; they do not need more fickle exposure. She (Shulman) has the platform to actually write about something more valid and she should use it (the platform). If it has to be celebrity-centric (since she is of that ilk), why not talk about meaningful issues that we all face today?

For example, in an interview in February this year, the actress Selma Blair spoke about her multiple sclerosis diagnosis on camera for the first time. It is so brave and heart-warming to see someone in the limelight who is so honest about what they are going through. Did she think she would be vulnerable once she is opened about her diagnosis? Probably. Did it stop her from getting her story out? Nope.

I can probably count the number of celebrities (or women in the spotlight) who have come forward with their struggles with infertility; Michelle Obama, Chrissy Teigen … okay I can’t think of anymore at the moment, but there are a few names we all have come across.

Kudos to them all for raising awareness and for letting individuals like myself, know that we are not in this alone. That infertility is not taboo; it is real. And that is affects our lives profoundly. (Actually, my husband would probably disagree with me a little. You see, he bought Michelle Obama’s book ‘Becoming’ because he was interested in reading about her infertility journey. Turns out, she mentions it and that’s it. He [my husband], felt a little deflated that that was all to it [infertility]. He was expecting so much more to help and reassure him that, yes, there are powerful individuals who have had the same difficulty as we have. That we are not alone in this. [I cannot comment as I have not read the book].)

On the other hand, how many ‘Indian’ celebrities do you know of that have come forward with their infertility stories? You know, whilst doing the rounds at the various fertility clinics and meeting individuals in the same boat as us, you hear whispers from the grapevine about certain Indian celebrities who have had fertility treatments in the same clinics that we have visited; yet, this is all just ‘gossip’ since these celebrities have not come forth to claim the stories. Is it a cultural problem, to not address this head-on? I’m not convinced. Are we prone to more secrecy in our lives? I’m not sure. (I would refer to this attitude as ‘The Indian/Cultural Lie’ – a good title for another post, no?)

It takes a lot more guts to ‘confess’ and be open about something so deeply personal. But perhaps, it takes just as much strength to hold it in and not let the world see your pain. One releases your pain but relinquishes your privacy; the other maintains your privacy and keeps your ‘image’ intact, but you never get to share your struggle (at least not with the ‘public’). However, I have no doubt that either way you choose, you still live with the wound(s).

It’s a catch 22. You are damned if you do or damned if you don’t.

Coming back to the beginning of this post where I explained how I’ve often deliberated back and forth between going public with my infertility journey, and how any good ‘debate’ requires solid arguments from both sides, here is a take from another view. A couple I know had no trouble conceiving their first child. However, they experienced secondary infertility and had to go through IVF to conceive their second. Other than a select few people, they have not told anyone about this. Their reasoning was that, “We didn’t go around announcing to everyone that our first was conceived naturally, so why should we go about announcing how our second was conceived?” Truly valid points. It is actually nobody else’s business how they had their children.

Everyone chooses what aspects of their lives they wish to share with the world. My belief is that if you have the platform, you should use it to share because however raw, difficult and painful it can be for yourself and those involved, you may be able to help someone else.

If you prefer to keep it to yourself, that is okay too.

In the end, celebrities are just like all of us. Some are brave enough to shed light on important issues; some are brave enough to not let it affect them. But, thankfully, no matter the access to platforms or the bank balance in our accounts, we all have moments of fashion faux pas.

So, so stoic

The human body consists of 12 biological systems that carry out specific functions necessary for everyday living. The circulatory, the digestive, the endocrine, the immune, the lymphatic, the nervous, the muscular, the reproductive, the skeletal, the respiratory, the urinary and the integumentary (skin); all systems that keep us alive. We also have many organs; five of which are vital and essential for survival – the brain, the heart, the kidneys, the liver and the lungs. Just as we are so reliant on the effective functioning of our human body, we are just as reliant on our human spirit. They come as a pair, this human spirit and this human body. Unflinching and resilient, they can be put through the test – time and again – and still triumph over adversity, with their resolve still intact and carrying their bruises as proud badges of honour. If one falters, the other overcompensates, never letting go. Like a pact. Like a promise. Like yin and yang.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about just how remarkable these two lifelines are. During the last 2 weeks, I’ve been watching episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale. Fictional – yes. Plausible – probably not. It is set in the future of mankind. Other than an already-exhausted storyline of a ruling fundamentalist regime that treats women as property of the state and where fertile women are forced into sexual servitude, it is largely based around the notion of collapsing fertility rates as a result of sexually transmitted diseases and environmental pollution. I do not know about the worldwide prevalence of STDs, but I do know that infertility is on the rise. And many people believe it to be because of environmental and lifestyle factors.

The hardships, pain and trauma inflicted on the handmaids got me thinking about concentration camps of the past – and present. It got me thinking about the people whose bodies and spirits go through so much; and about those that survive. This led me to reflect about traumas that near, far and dear ones have faced – or are facing – and how they have survived. I further pondered over ‘smaller’ inflictions, injuries and discomforts that we all face. How we endure and overcome illnesses, both in our physical selves and those around us. And how our body – time and again – stands tall. How our spirit – time and again – has proved that it cannot be broken unless we break it ourselves.

On the 16th of January, I started the preparation for my 4th IVF cycle. A period of downregulation followed by stims (injections) again. Then the egg collection (in sedation), fertilisation, followed by the 6-day wait to blastocyst stage. If you’d like a re-cap on the whole process, have a read here.

(I am still finding it difficult to comprehend that I have been through multiple rounds of IVF. I once had vouched never to go through more than two rounds, and I cannot believe I’m done with number 4. Again, I reiterate: could IVF be disguised as an addiction after all?)

Did you know that the brain is the only organ that can ‘sense’ pain? When we feel pain anywhere in the body, it is the brain that is ‘feeling’ and sensing it. It is the body’s pain receptor. That is why, when the brain is being operated on, there is no pain because there is no other sensor in the body that can, well, sense pain for us. FACT. (This side story has a purpose.)

I have come to develop a ‘method’ whereby I can ‘minimise’ any pain felt by simply thinking outside my brain. It is actually really difficult to describe in words, but it’s something that I have stumbled upon accidently whilst going through the various physical pains over the infertility years. For example, during the IVF cycle just gone, I found I could somehow reduce the pain during the injections by simply ‘thinking outside my brain’. It lasts for a few seconds only, but it’s there – the pain subsides. As bizarre as it sounds, it is real. Not only does it work for injections, but for other inflictions and interventions too. (Again, this side story has a purpose too.)

On the 27th of February, we found out that this cycle was unsuccessful too. That’s 6 weeks of putting my body and spirit through the test again. And we survived.

On the 16th of January, I also underwent a ‘mock’ embryo transfer (or ET, as we like to call it), in the form of ERA. The Endometrial Receptivity Analysis (ERA) test is a biopsy to determine the window of implantation (i.e., to determine the period that is most receptive for me to have an embryo in the uterus for higher chances of implantation.). It is sensitive to the hour (± 3 hours). For most women, the period of receptivity is standard. For others, it can be shorter or longer, and this test is advisable if embryo implantation has not been previously successful. The results demonstrated that I am indeed late responsive. In other words, I needed to have the ET done 12 hours (±3 hours) earlier than standard.

As I said before, the ERA test is a mock ET. This essentially means that the body is prepped as if it was going to be receiving an embryo; but instead of the embryo, a biopsy of the endometrial lining is taken. So, the drugs to prep are the same as before. This time, I had some undesirable side effects; the not-so-glamourous haemorrhoids and a fissure. (I thought I had gotten all the prodding covered; it turns out there was still one more hole left.)

You know, we were actually advised and offered to take the ERA test last summer, before we had the ET. However, after much consideration, we decided to not go for it because, “Many people get pregnant naturally. I’m sure Jaya’s embryo doesn’t know that it has to reach her womb on Day 5, and Isabelle’s embryo doesn’t know that it has to reach her womb 12 hours earlier.” (That was my reasoning. And my gut instinct was against going through the ERA test. In addition to actually feeling physically sick every time I thought about more treatment, more tests, another 7 weeks of more drugs, and so on, I had no energy left. I had already been ‘on treatment’ since April 2018.)

(And, just to be clear, both Jaya and Isabelle are figments of my imagination.)

Then, when the ET failed in September last year, it was obvious that the next plan of action would need to include the ERA test. I couldn’t go through another round of IVF without having the ERA test. It would not make any sense.

As I normally do, I voiced my thoughts with people around me. I was explaining my reservations of ERA to two of my friends. Upon hearing me out, one of my friends stated the obvious; “In natural conception, it’s biology that is doing the work. And biology knows best.” So simple; yet so true. (One of life’s mysteries is biology. Or so I believe.) This simple statement made me warm towards ERA.

The biopsy is actually undertaken in the consultant’s room. It does not require theatre-action. In the comfort of the room, in the presence of the consultant, the nurse and my husband, this ERA biopsy is the most painful thing I have come across (unsedated). Yet, I didn’t flinch. My body was patient and brave. My spirit was strong. I did that thing where I ‘think outside my brain’. And my doctor was impressed. She said that I am “So, so stoic”. And because of that, she was able to go in and take not one, but three biopsies. Because both my body and spirit have shown – time and again – just how resilient they are.

“So, so stoic.” This is what I remember most from that day. And I wear it as a badge of honour.

The preparation for the ERA test began on the 31st of December 2018. I had my biopsy on the 16th of January 2019. That’s 17 days of putting my body and spirit through the test. And we survived. Again.

[Stoic (noun). Definition: a person who can endure pain or hardship without showing their feelings or complaining.]

This is what all human bodies and human spirits have in common. In face of hardship, we survive. And thrive.

One a day

Somewhere, in a far, far away land, lives an individual who writes to me almost daily, detailing snippets of their day-to-day life, weaving stories amongst the mundane and often voicing thoughts for no particular reason other than knowing that they will be heard and understood.

Welcome to our world of what we call, ‘One-a-day’. It consists of some fun between two friends; a way to keep in touch regularly so that the already-strong friendship survives the nautical miles that sometimes can create an intangible distance.

We believe the one-a-days began back in December 2009 (by calculation, this year we will be celebrating a decade); but we seem to have lost some content between us whilst trying to keep track of the different email addresses we’ve been assigned to over the years. The idea behind the one-a-days was to email each other some information every day – whether it’s a single sentence or a long paragraph – letting each other know the happenings of our lives as we build on and live through our respective ‘lives’.

‘Why not simply send a message via WhatsApp or text’, you may ask? Or how about writing a letter?

WhatsApp and text messages comprise of sending information quickly and intermittently throughout the day. They may consist of mundane content, but do not actually contain much detail. The random, meaningful thoughts that pass through our minds cannot really be expressed over WhatsApp. (Sure, I WhatsApp my family every day; but I follow it up with a phone call to actually have meaningful discussions.) I believe in order to sustain a friendship, you would either have to try and meet somewhat regularly, or have some form of regular communication that can surpass distances and time zones. It requires effort. Keeping track of each other through social media is hardly a friendship. Strong, solid friendships can easily take off from where you last left; but regular contact is necessary especially in a time where communication is so easy and relationships so fickle.

Letters and writing letters are actually my favourite. Who doesn’t love receiving a hand-written card or letter in the post? Heck, who doesn’t love receiving post that does not include bills and leaflets? But, letters have their limitations in that they take time … time to send and receive. This ‘waiting’ has its own beauty, and is reminiscent of romance and bygone eras. It is nostalgic. Some of my most cherished treasures include handwritten letters that my parents and grandparents wrote to me whilst I was in boarding school. I only kept a few because I was not aware of their importance back then; but now they form a link to my childhood.

So, what is so special about the one-a-day emails? Well, it’s the freedom to express whatever we wish, knowing that it will be received in current time. It’s the notion of being able to write your thoughts down as they flow, without having to pre-plan. The sheer randomness of our conversations and the ability to go off-tangent immediately in the next sentence, makes it exciting and interesting to read. It’s actually getting to know each other better, even though we have already spent so much time together. It’s finding out new nuances and characteristics that we would not have otherwise known. It’s about giving us the time (and opportunity) to discuss things that matter to us – things we perhaps may not have time to discuss when we meet up because meeting up always consists of short periods, where you try and fit everything together. It’s a form of keeping an already strong friendship, even more solid.

The non-revolutionary ‘one-a-days’ … for friends, by friends.

How long is a piece of string?

What do you classify to be an experience? How does the duration of that experience matter?

For example, to experience snow, is it enough to just step outside and feel the snowflakes falling on your cheeks? Or do you experience it fully when you build a snowman? What about if you stay outside for too long and catch sinusitis? Is that then the ‘full’ experience?

My brother once explained that a job interview is just as important as the job itself. I’ll elaborate. You could easily ask for a job and get hired; thus, missing out on the valuable experience of actually preparing for – and getting through – an interview. The outcome of the interview is irrelevant; it’s what you gain from the experience of the interview that counts and will help mould your future.

On that basis, it got me thinking about the duration of my fertility journey. I’m always questioning why this journey has chosen me. Why 6 years (and counting) of TTC? Lately, I’m beginning to realise that many of life’s experiences are lessons in disguise. So, what is the lesson in this for me? The more I delved in to it, the more my traits became stark and the more I admitted about myself. Knowing the way that I think, I act and I behave, I came to realise that I’m an achiever. An achiever who gets through it by putting in the work. An achiever who doesn’t take shortcuts without feeling guilty. An achiever who is willing to try many new things. An achiever who is not afraid. An achiever who will only feel satisfied when I know ‘I have done my best’. Of course, I falter and often question my path; but then I pull myself right up again and continue. This is me; this is my personality. You can call it a flaw(s), but this is my DNA. Therefore, in this warped mind of mine, I realised that if I experienced infertility for 1, maybe 2 years, before successfully conceiving, I would not have felt as if I ‘really’ experienced it at all. Perhaps I wouldn’t have called it a struggle at all.

(This is no disrespect to anyone out there. I am just explaining how I deal with things.)

So, if I don’t want a 1-year infertility journey, do 6 years make it viable? This brings up my next question: “Is a hardship deemed ‘hardship’ according to the number of years you go through it?”

How long is a piece of string then?

You know, when we first started TTC – when you’re at that stage where you are excited and naïve and sometimes spill your plans to an unsuspecting individual – this individual mentioned that it usually takes couples 1 year to fall pregnant. I was a little taken aback I must admit, as I thought it just ‘happened’ when you wanted it. (I have been told by a few couples that this has been the case for them.) But, I was ready to put in the ‘work’ for the year.

My grandfather always used to say that couples should try for a baby soon after marriage. Should we have tried earlier? Or would we still be in the same position as we are now, but with only more years under our belt? Or perhaps, would we have been blessed with our babies earlier? Hindsight. Plus, the notion that everything happens at the ‘right’ time. I know for a fact that we would have been different parents if we had conceived earlier or with little difficulty. Our thinking, our priorities and our outlook has changed dramatically for having gone through this journey. It’s inevitable. Perhaps, that is the lesson, laid bare.

Is part of the reason for going the ‘whole hog’, as explained in my last blog post of more IVF, (if that fails) donor treatments and (if that fails) ultimately, adoption because I am not ready to give up and willing to put myself through it all, because I know I can? (These are real thoughts that go through my mind. I could sit here all day and have a conversation in my head!)

This week has been particularly difficult for me because I’m preparing for an ERA test (more on that in another post), and have some horrendous side effects, so much so that I’ve had to remember 11 different time slots to take five different medications. I’ve had moments where it all gets too much. Then I remind myself of my commitment to the treatment, commitment to our babies and, most importantly, my commitment to my husband and to us.

But everyone has a threshold. Was mine the 6-year mark? Conceivably so because that was when I decided to pen my thoughts? Or perhaps not, because I’m still going through further treatment? Or actually, have I reached my threshold and now I’m on the home-stretch because in some way or the other (after our decision to adopt if we need to), we will get our babies?

In school, my two favourite subjects were Art and Physics. Art nurtured my creative side, and Physics nurtured my analytical side. It made sense. I wasn’t one for memorising or cramming. My favourite theory was Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. I tend to find that I apply it in my daily life. (As you do.)

Are experiences all relative then? Are experiences all that matter?

Early on in the TTC journey, around the time when I was going through my first IVF, I met up with a friend for lunch. This friend had also gone through some difficulty with conceiving and was successful in the end. They pointed out something that has stayed with me all these years. According to them, miscarriage is better than not getting pregnant at all. Their reasoning was that in a miscarriage, at least you know you can ‘get pregnant’. The chances of conceiving again are there. Your body has been able to conceive with your egg and your partner’s sperm. If it has achieved this once, it can (hopefully) achieve it again.

I have never been pregnant in all these years. Sure, I have been a few days ‘late’, but have always tested negative. I have had every symptom and sign under the sun, and then some. I have also had that ‘you just know’ feeling that many attest to. But, still no pregnancy. And I tend to agree with my friend’s point above.

During the last summer when we found out that the ET had not worked, my mum tried to console us by saying that the pain could have been worse if we did fall pregnant after having gone through all the IVF, but then miscarried. I can completely understand her point. Having gone through all the various treatments, then to fall pregnant and then to lose the baby is beyond awful. However, I related the story above from my friend and explained that at least then I would know that I ‘can’ get pregnant. I would at least have got to experience being pregnant, however brief it was.

(I am not in the slightest assuming that a miscarriage is easy. I am just honestly laying down my true feelings. I just hope that I am never in that situation to have to go through that too.)

On top of it, even though we only had an embryo, it was still our ‘baby’. The grief we felt is akin to losing a baby. It actually felt as if we had lost a member of our family. Grief, like love, is absolute and cannot be measured in time. Either you are grieving, or you are not. Either you love someone, or you don’t. You cannot half-grieve or half-love.

It’s all relative in the end. Our experiences are relative to what we know. And, perhaps, experiences ARE all that matter in the end. For without these experiences, how would we come to know what we know?

Lest we forget.

Gaga over baba

Have you ever been in a situation where you are the minority in the crowd? As a result, you feel uncomfortable and get a little anxious? Take, for example, a dinner party where all the other couples at the table are pregnant, and your coupling (made up of your partner and yourself of course) are not (pregnant). Awkward.

It’s purely awkward because all couples with child tend to only talk about babies and all things baby-related. Snippets of the conversation may go like this:

“Where do you shop for your fancy maternity dresses?”

“Oh man, the nausea is extreme.”

“Have you planned your baby shower?”

“Do you know what you’re having?”

“I feel like a whale”. (Okay, I’ve taken a bit of poetic licence for this one.)

“Can’t wait till the baby comes along with all those sleepless nights.” (Chuckles) (As in, they chuckle whilst I hide a groan in my drink).

“I’ve been gyming and going for weekly yoga and pilates. Need to stay fit and keep off the weight as much as possible”.

“Oh, I swim.”

“Have you been to those hypnobirthing classes?”

“Doesn’t my little cherub look just like his daddy in this 4D scan?”.

“Would you opt for a caesarean? I think it’s so much easier.”

“OMG, my obstetrician is so attractive!”

“You have to book yourself in at the Portland; the scones are to die for”.

“We fell pregnant by accident and I had my first when I was 40.  I was so thrilled when my doctor announced that I have eggs of a spring chicken”.

Blah. Blah. Blah. And the conversation continues. Even the masculine halves of the couples interject and lend in to the conversations.

Two words: baby obsession. It’s as if once you fall pregnant, all you can talk about is baby. Suddenly, you seem to lose your identity as an individual and only promote yourself as a mother. Normal, adult conversations give way to baby talk.

I guess you can tell that we have been ‘stuck’ in such a situation before – my imagination does not reach such heights on its own. The dinner seemed to drag on for about 9 months. The fact that the others knew about our struggle to conceive didn’t seem to alter the topic of conversation, because – I suppose – that is what their new baby-brain has wired them to do henceforth (that is, talk about baby only).

My husband has a knack for cheering me up when I’m down and in this case, there was no exception. He explained, “These pregnant couples probably had nothing else in common to discuss and so that’s why they talked baby all evening”. In my non-pregnant brain, I interpreted his explanation as, “They are boring, so I wouldn’t have been able to have a suitable conversation with them anyway”. Anyway, never again. Lesson learned.

(Have you ever wondered how the term pregnancy and all its affiliations are so loosely used to add importance to every situation, to make a complaint more profound, to bestow attention to an already inflated ego and to add weight to every stand? If so, I discussed just this is a previous post here.)

Through observation when we are out and about, the one topic of discussion that comes up most is the lack of sleep caused by newborns. Don’t get me wrong; lack of sleep can be detrimental to your productivity (whatever that is). But, the first obvious trait of a newborn is that they wake up every few hours. To feed. To poop. To cry. Everybody knows that. You don’t have to be a parent to register that in your head. Yet, when parents talk about it, it’s as if they never knew such a thing exists (“Baby or the witching hour?” – I hear you ask).

Newsflash to parents: if you are pregnant and get to full term, you will result in a baby. If you result in a baby, be sure to ‘budget’ for sleepless nights.

It’s tragic, but most people with children tend to complain about life as parents. Homo Sapiens have been reproducing for over thousands of years. Our ancestry dates back to many generations. Many of us have lived in the same era as our great-grandparents. Yet, our generation feels that being a parent is a novel idea and nobody else can understand their position. This got me thinking … are we made up of a society of serial complainers? The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced. I voiced my thoughts to a friend who has a baby but has never once complained to me about parenthood. I asked this friend why is it that they never feel the need to complain like the others? This friend simply pointed out that their baby sleeps fairly well and eats well most of the time. Plus, they have help with their cooking and cleaning. This enables them to not be totally exhausted. Fair point(s).

Okay, let’s get back to understanding all those who complain regardless. My friend’s reasoning strongly supports the age-old saying about ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. This prompted me to conduct a little research of my own. I listed down names of all the couples (parents in my generation) who I regularly associate with and then collected data based on their habits. I found that an astonishing 91% of these people have at least some form of help (e.g., nanny, house help, grandparents, night nurses – the new rage, etc.) Of these, only 20% are purely grateful for their situation and have never complained (to me at least); 30% seem to complain at every given chance (or whenever anyone is prepared to listen to them), and mainly discuss sleep deprivation; and the rest (50%) have expressed the occasional ‘obligatory’ complaints, but generally tend to ‘get on with it’.

Conclusion: we are most definitely a society comprised of serial complainers. It is not only the ones who have presumably conceived easily that complain (you could almost forgive their naivety); even those that had some difficulty in conceiving tend to have complaints.

I can completely understand how difficult it can be for parents when a child is unwell and does not sleep or rest properly. But if the reason is because that’s what babies do (poop, eat, [lack of] sleep and cry), then zip it.

I’ll have you know that for all the lousy ‘lack-of-sleep’ complaints you make, there are thousands of infertile couples who would gladly be in your position and would fully ‘embrace’ the night-time episodes of parenthood.

Looking around in today’s world (well, at least a world based on most of the people who I’m associated with), the ‘village’ has been replaced by ‘household names’, such as nannies, house help and grandparents. The ‘enjoyment’ in bringing up children has been replaced by strict regimens, timetables and inflexibility.

With all the obsession over babies, having babies, pregnant with babies, nursery decoration, millions of toys, schools and everything else baby-related, adults tend to forget their own individuality and identity. I think that we have already established this point. Yet, what is also frustrating is that somehow parenthood makes you forget all that you had, including the people who were around you prior to babies. Children are priceless; but so are the relationships that we have built and nurtured over the years, pre-kids.

If you recall in my last post, I wrote about how we had no plan for 2019 other than deciding if we should (could?) go for another round of IVF. Well, one Saturday night a few weeks ago, we got the clarity we needed. We both (my husband I) decided that we would not settle for ‘life without children’ and are willing to go the ‘whole hog’ to having our baby (babies). This means that we are willing to go through more IVF, (if that fails) donor treatments and (if that fails) ultimately, adoption to achieving what we desire most. Because we are whole as a couple, but incomplete as a family. Because we are damn good people with a lot of love to give. And because we will make damn good parents.

And once we become parents, I’m going to try my damn hardest not to forget who I am and the relationships I have nurtured; the two things I’m most wary of after witnessing it around me. Affirmations completed.

Curve ball

It has been a while since my last post, Summer of ’69. It’s actually not because I have run out of stories to write about. On the contrary, when I had first come to the decision to tell my story, a whole storyboard began to formulate in my mind. Almost chapter-like, all these emotions and thoughts started to automatically slot themselves into subjects. The subjects began to create titles. All at once, I had this indescribable urge to note down the million thoughts, each fighting to get noticed. It’s as if the sheer act of making the decision to tell my story instantly prompted my brain to override and overflow with information. I had to keep a notebook to record all these thoughts; often jumping out of bed – just on the verge of sleep – to pen them in my shorthand.

However, I was thrown off-guard as soon as I published the last post. I was not quite prepared to have a surge in emotions once I had actually written it all down. It felt like a release; as if all the emotions I was bottling up finally came to the surface and overran.

And then someone said something, which threw me over the edge.

They casually but strongly explained that couples going through IVF should go through at least nine embryo transfers before they should ‘give up’. According to ‘statistics’ that their doctor mentioned, by going through nine ETs, you should end up with at least one baby. Their reasoning is that for fertile couples, it takes 1–12 months to conceive a baby. So for those having difficulty, nine ETs are recommended.

Now, give yourself a moment to take it all in. We have been through three rounds of IVF and have only produced two embryos, which resulted in two ETs. It’s not rocket science to work out how many rounds of IVF this person expects us to trudge through to get to the ‘optimum’ nine.

How did I respond? Exasperated! But, I did keep my cool and was cordial – again, credit to my nerves of steel! (For someone who is generally short-tempered, I can actually be very patient. A paradox in itself.)

My next ‘planned’ post in my storyboard is quite light-hearted, with some dry humour. I have not managed to pen it yet. I was an emotional wreck in the aftermath of the comment said above, right after my last post. I just felt like life was so unfair and everything appeared to be going wrong at the same time. I was just no longer interested nor inspired on all fronts; life, work and family.

Having released all the pent-up emotions of our conception struggle through writing, the uncertainty of it all suddenly became stark. For someone who thrives on control and planning, I do not know how my life is going to be next year. (I know no one knows the future; but at least we can all plan certain things – simple things such as holidays, things we wish to do and achieve, many plan when they want their babies, etcetera.)

My only plan involves deciding if we want to try IVF again. I simply cannot begin to comprehend beyond that. Usually at this time of the year, we start to wind down and reflect on the past 11 months. But it is also the time to plan the strategies for the new year; work strategy, life strategy and individual strategy. For the first time – as far as I can remember – (I was going to write ‘as far as I can remember in my adult life’, but as children, we also have a sort of plan since we know what the next year will bring in terms of schooling and goals), I have no strategy or plan in place.

I came across this piece of text by Jeff Foster that completely resonated with how I’m feeling:

If you are lost.

If nothing makes sense anymore.

If all your reference points have collapsed.

If the old life is crumbling now.

If the mind is foggy, tired, busy.

If the organism is exhausted and longs to rest.




This is a rite of passage, not an error.


You are healing in your own original way.


Contact the ground now.

Breathe. In, out.

Make room for the visitors:

The sorrow, doubt, fear, anger.

An ancient emptiness –

They just want to be felt.

They just want to pass through.


You are a vessel, not a separate self.

You are a sky, not the passing weather.


An old life is falling away.

A new life is being born.


Others may not understand.

But trust anyway.


Contact the ground.


Life has thrown me a curve ball.

And as of a few days ago, I have come to accept it.

Was my last post a trigger to initiate the recovery? Was it the defining moment to create a cathartic release, rippling through my very core? Are all these circumstances pre-determined, so that a rite of passage can be established? Do we have to ‘feel’ and go through these emotions of uncertainty to achieve clarity? Maybe having no plan is for the best. No more planning for ‘When I have a baby…’ No more planning for ‘How to be successful in work…’ Maybe having no plan is the key. The mind can rest.

Or perhaps, I’m in a better place today, a I write this, than I was during the last few days?

Or perhaps, I’m excited as we’re going on holiday soon.

Or maybe, time is the reason. The tolling of minutes into days plays a large part in how we perceive things.

Whatever the reason, it has worked (its magic!).

I wrote to a friend and mentioned that I literally want to ‘bum around’ for a while. “For once in my life, I want to stop trying too hard and I just want to be. Is that wrong? And if it’s not wrong, how long can I do that before it is wrong? As in, how long can I bum around for before I need to be productive?”

‘Rest and Digest’ mode – no more in the ‘Fight or Flight’. For I’m tired. For I deserve this.

My friend’s response was encouraging, and along the lines of: “It’s perfectly fine for you to bum around, for it’s not in your character to be a bum for life!”

I guess that settles it then.

And so, this post is ‘off schedule’, but timely.

Summer of ’69

Pun intended.

This is the summer where it all happened … baby-making was in full swing. I wish I could say that this was the summer where we were acting out like rampant rabbits, trying out all sorts of ‘positions’ and just having fun. Wedded bliss, eh? Nope. This was the summer where love-making gave way to sharps bins. The summer of IVF(s).

So actually, pun UNintended.

And even more actually, ’twas the summer of 2018. (Choosing a title asSummer of 2018’ just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as ‘Summer of ’69’. What it lacks in pizzazz, it makes up in content. And I’m exercising my rights to freedom of speech since, well, it’s my story.)

What people do not realise is that preparations for IVF begin months prior to actual treatment. It’s not a decision that you wake up to one day and begin the next. It is never that simple.

Let’s rewind to set the scene.

We had been trying naturally for a baby for 2 years before we embarked on tests and, ultimately, IVF. Our first IVF was in the summer of 2014. (The failure of it took me a whole year to get over; both emotionally and physically. Hence, it was a very big decision for us to agree on another round.)

During the 4-year period in between the IVFs, we explored every other avenue possible (e.g., acupuncture, nutrition, hypnotherapy, spirit babies, etc.) – I listed the crux of it in my post, Extremes of TTC. Although we achieved optimal results that demonstrated we should be able to conceive naturally, we never did. Not ever in all these years.

So now it was time to re-think our baby-making plan.

The year is 2017; the month: December. The decision to go for another round of IVF was set in stone. Preparations begin by getting inital tests done via my gynaecologist.

January 2018 – more tests

It’s now my husband’s turn and all necessary tests are done via his andrologist.

February 2018 – the hunt

Scouting for a clinic that we will be most comfortable with, which aligns to our priorities and principles, and will (hopefully) help us achieve our dream. We did not want to go back to the previous one – bad experience of which we’re better informed now. We attended several open evenings at various clinics. (Something I highly recommend you do because you can gauge it pretty well and also, it’s free. Otherwise, you’re paying a fee for every initial consultation.) By this stage, we had plenty of experience under our belt to suss out the right one (if any) for us, and by sheer luck, we came across one such clinic that resonated with us – IVI London.

March 2018 – tending to affairs

This is really about sorting life out, getting tedious things out of the way, putting work on the backbench and essentially clearing our diaries to make way for the IVF. We also undertook a stringent set of tests at the clinic (IVI London) in order to determine our treatment protocol. Some of these results take weeks to arrive; therefore, it’s always a waiting game.

April 2018 – it all begins

We’ve been to see our nutritionist again. We all know that natural conception is very different to assisted conception. It’s no surprise that nutrition-wise, this law also applies. Different supplements; different do’s and don’ts; different everything.

April 15th

I’m on a different protocol (drugs-wise) this time around on the IVF compared with the one in 2014. My AMH level (known as Anti-Müllerian hormone; key for all fertility issues) is remarkably low and that means I have a lot fewer eggs left than 4 years ago, and there could be a quality issue too. (You will start to notice IVF jargon surfacing from this stage on, including names of drugs. When I first started to formulate this blog post in my head, I wasn’t sure how detailed I would get in to it. I still am not sure at this stage; I only trust that the story will be revealed the way it’s meant to and the way it wants to.) I begin Norethisterone 5mg tablets, taking them twice daily for 15 days. These are hormone tablets designed to give the ovaries a ‘break’ and, once I stop taking them, I should have a withdrawal bleed 2–3 days later. This week, I also received delivery of my injections.

May 2018 – stims

May 4th

Day 2 of my cycle. (A cycle refers to the monthly cycle of a woman. Day 1 is the first day of the bleed, or period.) I have my baseline scan at IVI and all appears to be okay. Thus, I begin the daily injections, which are administered in the sub-cutaneous fat around the belly – remember I had mentioned that having some belly fat is advantageous? I’m on a protocol of Bemfola 300IU, Menopur 75IU, as well as Cetrotide 0.25mg. That’s three injections daily. The Bemfola and Menopur must be taken every night between 9 and 10 p.m. The Cetrotide is introduced on Day 5 of the stims (that’s short for stimulations) and needs to be taken between 6 and 8 a.m. I opt for 9.30 p.m. and 7.30 a.m.; timings for the evening and morning injections, respectively. The injections must be administered at precisely the same time each day; they are hormones after all.

The role of the Bemfola and Menopur is to encourage the follicles in the ovaries to grow. Usually in natural conception, only one follicle grows and becomes the dominant follicle each month (i.e., the follicle that grows to the optimal size and the one that releases the egg; all others die). In IVF or assisted conception, the aim is to grow as many follicles as possible to the optimal size. The function of the Cetrotide is to help prevent spontaneous ovulation. (When follicles reach a certain size, the body’s reaction is to naturally ovulate – or release the egg. In IVF, you most certainly do not want this to happen as you then cannot harvest the eggs.) I’m on a much higher dose in this protocol, with a total of 375IU of hormones injected. Last time I was only on 150IU.

The next few days pass by with the daily routine of injections, followed by visits to the clinic for scans and blood tests every other day to monitor the progress of the follicles. I administer the injections myself; I don’t trust my husband to do them (!) and at least this way I have some control of this whole process. They are so painful, and I soon run out of injection sites.

I have days when I’m bloated, moody and have headaches. With each passing day, it takes me that little bit longer to psyche myself before each injection, and frustrations mount when trying to calibrate the solutions for the injections. Then, I have days when I’m happy, full of energy and feeling positive. I take long walks in the woods, manage some light yoga and spend hours in the sun, reading. To help me get through it all, I have recurrent bookings of head massages and acupuncture sessions, and I alternate between the two.

All other life is on hold; I fill my days with things that make me happy; I only meet up with people who I want to see; I prep meals in advance; evenings are taken over by the injections, with a whole array of needles, syringes, antiseptic wipes, vials and, of course, the sharps bin, all reigning over the dining table. I feel like an apothecary, mixing powders and solutions with drawing needles and inserting needles. The perks of IVF.

May 13th

Day 10 of stims. I took my last Bemfola and Menopur the previous night. Today is the last day for the Cetrotide. Then the ‘triggers’ are administered in the evening. These are two sets of injections that must be taken at a pre-determined time, exactly 36 hours prior to the egg collection (EC).

May 15th

EC day. All this happens in the theatre, under sedation. The theatre is full with five clinicians; the doctor, the anaesthetist, the assistant anaesthetist, the embryologist and the nurse. And me of course. (Somehow, noting these details are important to me.) Hospital gown and hairnet in place, I prop my legs up on the stirrups to be securely fastened. It’s all very exciting. The oxygen mask goes over my nose and mouth, the anaesthetist administers his drugs through the canula on my wrist, I feel a cold sensation and a dizziness overcomes me. Within 5 seconds I’m knocked out.

It’s all over in an hour. I’m awake, back in my room; the doctor comes to inform me that they drained five follicles and collected five eggs. (Not all follicles contain eggs. This is true for all women. I was lucky that these five did.) After some tea and biscuits, and once they are happy with my vitals, I am released to go home. All medication is stopped for now so that my body can recover back to its natural state. No pills; no injections; nothing. Only my supplements as recommended by the nutritionist. Now, it’s just a waiting game.

We will get a call on Days 1, 3 and 5 from the embryology team informing us on the progress of our embryo(s). At IVI, they use the time-lapse guided method to monitor the embryos. This is when a camera continuously records the development of the embryos, so that the embryologist is not required to take them out of the incubator to examine; thus, avoiding any disruptions. Time-lapse at IVI is not an ‘extra’; it’s already part of the treatment plan. At other clinics, it’s an optional add on.

May 16th

Day 1 of embryos. The embryologist called in the morning to inform us that we have two embryos that are doing well. Out of the five eggs they collected, one wasn’t mature. The other two disintegrated as soon as they injected the sperm. (It is worth noting at this point in the story that our protocol involved ICSI – it’s a step up from IVF, whereby the sperm is directly injected in to the egg. It is all technical and the best sperm is chosen under a high-powered microscope. In simple IVF, the sperm and egg are put in a petri dish and allowed to fertilise on their own. For all our treatments, we did ICSI. You can look up the full meaning of ICSI yourselves; or e-mail me and I can explain more.)

By now, I am getting quite anxious that I may need to go through another round of stims at this rate.

May 18th

Day 3 of embryos. The embryologist phoned and reassured us that both embryos were doing well. They were developing correctly for this stage. Phew! Now to get through the next 2 days so that they could reach the blastocyct stage, after which they will undergo PGS testing and be frozen until the PGS test results are back.

May 20th

Day 5 of embryos; normally marked as the blastocyst stage. The embryologist called; the news was not that great. One embryo was lagging and still in the cellular stage. The other had not quite yet reached blastocyst and they want to give it another day. We were so deflated. We were heartbroken and so sure that this embryo will also not make it because, well let’s face it, luck has never been on our side when it comes to babies. So we did what all sane people do; we went shopping. Nothing quite like retail therapy to keep your mind off things!

May 21st

We had been waiting for the call from the embryologist. No longer nervous, we had succumbed to the impending outcome. Lo and behold, our little Trooper had been ‘busy all day yesterday and was ready!’ We were elated! I cannot remember the last time we felt such extreme happiness. It felt as if the baby was here already, in our arms. So. Much. Joy. Trooper was indeed a trooper! The other embryo did not make it.

They now take some cells from the embryo to send for PGS testing. They then freeze the embryo until the transfer. PGS testing is to check for any chromosome abnormalities. The result takes about 2 weeks to come back. If it comes back abnormal, IVI discourage transferring the embryo back in the womb as it would most certainly lead to a miscarriage. Along with the time-lapse method and blastocyst development, PGS testing is another one of the principles IVI believe in and stick to. So is frozen embryo transfer (FET). More on that later.

During this week, we had a long chat with our doctor at IVI and came to a decision; we will pursue another round of IVF. There are many reasons for this. First, we know that the PGS test takes 2 weeks to come back. Statistically, there is a 50% chance that the embryo is normal. I would still have to prep my body with drugs for the transfer; hence, another couples of weeks before the actual transfer takes place. If I do fall pregnant with this embryo and it results in a full-term pregnancy, the earliest I could do another round of treatment in the hope of baby #2 would be at least 18 months later. By then, who knows what the situation of my eggs will be like. Also, if this embryo is abnormal, we have no other left. So, in the grand scale of things, we would delay the whole treatment plan by 2–3 months and get another IVF cycle in, compared with a possible lifetime decision if we did not go ahead with it. It was the sensible thing to do.

June 2018 – IVF #3

June 4th

We had our nurse consultation to plan for the next IVF cycle. The clinic had some great news for us; the PGS test results of Trooper came back NORMAL! This means that the embryo has no chromosome abnormalities and should have the best chance of implantation.

June 8th

I’m at Day 14 of my cycle. I begin the down-regulation phase by taking Norethisterone 5mg tablets, twice-daily for 10 days. I cannot wait for the stims phase and have consoled myself that the only reason I am doing another round is purely to secure the possibility of a second child. I have no doubt that Trooper will be our first. (Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be ‘one of those’ people who have multiple rounds of IVF. I never knew I was strong enough, and I never thought I would succumb and surrender.)

June 22nd

Day 1 of my cycle and Day 1 of stims. I have my baseline scan and everything appears to be in order. All set to begin stims. I’m on the exact same treatment protocol as last time and I begin the Bemfola and Menopur injections that evening. I’ll start the Cetrotide on Day 5 of stims.

June 24th

It’s a Sunday and we’re celebrating my husband’s 35th birthday with a BBQ at home. (After 2 months of only concentrating on IVF, you inevitably get back to other life’s routines and commitments.) We had some friends and family over and it was fantastic. But by the evening, I was flat out. Exhausted from all the cooking and entertaining, the injections took longer than usual, and really hurt. I could no longer continue this way and needed to get back in the ‘zone’. I could feel the angst building up. It was all too much and we had to reign ourselves back.

June 25th

Happy birthday to my husband! We spent the most wonderful day together. Just what we both needed.

July – EC and a little break

July 3rd

It’s EC day! Same story as last time; but this time they drained eight follicles, which contained eight eggs. So far so good.

July 4th

Day 1 of embryos. The embryologist called to announce that out of the eight eggs, only six were mature, which they injected with sperm (again, using ICSI). However, four of these disintegrated, and we only have two embryos in the running again. F*CK. (Excuse my French. Lately, I have a tendency to swear.)

‘Nerves of steel’. ‘Nerves of steel’. I repeat, ‘Nerves of steel’.

July 6th

Day 3 of embryos. Both embryos are still doing okay.

July 9th

Day 6 of embryos. Yesterday, the embryologist informed us that both embryos were still at the cellular stage; so not looking good. They were going to give them one more day to see if they perk up and get to blastocyst stage. Today, they have not developed any further. So that’s the end of this round #3.

It’s alright. We still have one embryo.

Since everything is dependent on my cycle, the preparation for embryo transfer (ET) will still not be for another few weeks. What we love about IVI is that it is very focused on research. Their studies show that it is optimum to have the body recover after the stimulation phase. They prefer FETs over live transfers. This is partly because they prefer the body to get back in to its natural rhythm following from all the drugs taken during the stimulation phase. You can imagine that with such high doses, the oestrogen levels in the body have sky-rocketed. In a ‘normal’ conception, the oestrogen level in the body is around 1000. In IVF, the level could be around 5000 (in my case anyway). The other reason is that they advocate PGS testing, and results for this test take 2 weeks. So, it’s advisable to let the body recuperate while waiting for the results.

We take advantage of this recuperation phase and host another BBQ to make the most of the summer. We get back in the social scene and enjoy other people’s company for a few weeks. We also take a few days off to enjoy some sun, sand and sea.

Now we are all set for the big transfer phase.

July 30th

Preps for the transfer have begun. It’s the first of 10 days of another round of Norethisterone tablets.

August – ET

August 15th

Having discussed all our options whilst planning for the transfer, I agreed to have a hysteroscopy to increase our chances of implantation. Back in the theatre, sedated again. It’s my third sedation in the last few months. I’m an advent fan of it! Honestly, I get such a great feeling and for those few minutes, your mind is at ease. Not thinking or worrying. Think of it as an addiction. Again, the perks of IVF!

(Food for thought: could IVF be disguised as an addiction after all?)

We have also discovered that I have a slight clotting issue. This means that in addition to taking baby aspirin tablets, I will require further injections – in the form of Clexane – for several weeks. Clexane is notoriously known to be painful and cause severe bruising. Fun times ahead!

Hysteroscopy all done; I begin the dose of Progynova tablets. They need to be taken three-times a day, for possibly 10 weeks if successful implantation occurs. I will soon also start the twice-daily progesterone suppositories. Again, these will need to be continued for approximately 3 months if implantation is successful.

August 30th

ET day! The embryo had to first survive the thawing process, and it did. (One more hurdle overcome.) Back in theatre, but this time fully awake and alert, with a full bladder ready to burst any minute. (It’s not by choice – a full bladder makes for a clearer ultrasound.) It’s all very emotional. My husband accompanies me in theatre and holds my hand through the procedure. The nurse is pushing against my bladder whilst the ultrasound probe gives a visual of my uterus. The doctor is ready to begin. The embryologist is on alert, ready to hand over the long tube containing the embryo. It’s actually uncomfortable and painful; bit like a smear test. We get to see our little Trooper on the monitor as it’s been placed back inside my womb. All done, and the doctor reassures me that I can go relieve myself. The act of peeing will NOT in fact drop my baby out! The evening routine of Clexane begins.

September 2018 – the 2-week wait

This is the bit where you just have to rest and relax. Nothing strenuous; no heavy lifting; just taking things slow and easy. Another alteration in supplements and diet. It was great because my mum had flown in from Kenya to be with us and look after us. She had arrived just a few days before the ET, and I cannot express just how grateful we were to have her here with us, looking after us.

We had opted to have a blood test done to give us the outcome of the ET. We could just as easily have used those home pregnancy tests, but you know how I loathe peeing on those sticks! Usually, the test is done 11 days after the ET. However, to play to superstition, I opted to push it to 12 days. The reason being, in the first IVF we ever did (back in 2014), I started my bleed the day I had my blood test after the transfer. Hence, I figured, ‘If only I could get through the actual day of the test. If all is well and the day goes by smoothly, then surely it’s a positive?’ What’s one more day of waiting?

The test was booked in for the 11th of September. The weekend before the Tuesday, I was in a foul mood. I had cramps. I also had a feeling that the treatment did not work. Yet, I consoled myself that cramps could mean anything; even implantation. (Side story – another friend of mine was going through IVF around the same time as me. Even though she started her treatment after my first one in April, she had finished hers way before I began my second round. Different protocol; different clinic; different plan. Anyway, like me, a few days before her pregnancy test, she had cramps and some bleeding. I had reassured her that they could be implantation cramps. I was right. She tested early, and it was a positive!)

September 10th

Went well without any hiccups.

September 11th

D-Day! The morning of the test. Still no bleed (my period) so feeling really optimistic. My doctor comes to see us whilst the nurse takes my blood test. She’s feeling very optimistic and envelops me in a hug. (So much love from everyone at the clinic. So important emotionally.)

The results will be in that afternoon.

5.00 p.m. – my doctor calls and gives us the shattering news … ‘It’s a negative’.

As my husband pointed out, we just had our own 9/11.

So, this is how our summer went … all 9 months of it. The time it takes for normal individuals to make and have a baby. All I have left to show for it is an empty sharps bin, leftover medication, a bag full of syringes and needles and a face full of zits. Lots of them that still lurk and re-surface, continuously reminding me of the summer that passed.

How did your summer go?

(I could only recollect in such detail above because I kept a journal for each IVF cycle. I’ve lost count the number of times I wrote down, ‘This will be the last set of injections’; ‘The last IVF’; then, ‘The FINAL IVF’. Just to psyche myself up. Just to carry on. I now know what makes me tick … ‘I got nerves of steel, baby. NERVES OF STEEL!’)