Child’s play

Over the years, I have had well-meaning advice from many friends, family members and the general public who I’ve chosen to share aspects of our story with. Some are obvious, some are downright hilarious and others are, well, at that point you just go with the flow and try everything.

Stop the caffeine and alcohol. Great if you conceive within a year or two. I think minimising is being more realistic when you’re as far gone as I am. At least when you’re preparing for, and in the midst of, IVF, one should cut down on these vices. Now I’m back to my ‘usual’ content. (Side note – how many babies have been conceived on a drunken night out?)

Temperature monitoring. This is relevant if you don’t know your cycle or if you need to figure out when you’re ‘ripe’ and ovulating. I, on the other hand, am so in tune with my body that I can recognise every twinge, every cramp, every gas-related change; hence, I scrapped this really early on. (Knowing your body is a good thing. But it really messes with your head too.)

Put some weight on. (Remember, the advice applies to me directly; for others it could be the opposite.) Actually, no one told me about this as my bodyweight is fine. Incorrect; actually my GP mentioned it in passing; but they didn’t really know much about infertility so they were just passing comments as their way of being helpful (as GPs do). But, it really helps to have some tummy flab when going through IVF; those injections need fat. With washboard abs, I’m afraid things are only worse. Thankfully my bikini body is better suited for a swimsuit.

Legs up in the air and cycle baby, cycle. This is a good one. Once you’ve done the ‘deed’ (let’s call it sex), proceed to lift your legs up in the air and cycle. I have been reassured that this has worked twice for someone. Bang. Cycle. Boom. Baby.

Pillow under buttocks. If you haven’t figured it out, this is similar to the previous one, and the pillow props you up to keep everything inside.

Be stress free. Been there, done that, moving on.

Amulets and talismans. In my quest to try ‘everything’, I’ve worn an amulet for 6 months. Other than chafing my arm, I don’t think it served any purpose. On that note, I also drank a concoction of things that I still don’t know what they contained, nor do I wish to.

Testing early. Man, those peeing-on-stick things can be so sensitive these days. You can test literally within a few days of copulation and know if you are with child or not. I did a few. Then did some more a few days later. And more when I actually should have done them. Zilch. Na-da. Now I just don’t pee on anything.

No smoking. I don’t so didn’t apply to me. Didn’t apply to my husband either. (Although, I’m not sure how accurate the whole smoking-related-to-infertility thing is. Many a folk have reproduced irrespective.)

Stop spinning. As in spin classes; as in cycling. Only applied to my husband. This journey even took that away from him. (Again, I’m dubious. Are [male] cyclists all infertile?)

So, there you go. A show of hands for all those guilty of the above please? I know of many people who have followed one or more of the above and fallen pregnant. I think they are worth trying if you are still in your first or second year of TTC. After that, consider it as child’s play.

This is a f*cking joke. (Excuse my French.) And the joke’s on me.

Extremes of TTC

Why choose now to share my story? I told a friend about my plans of writing and telling the world. The friend rightly said, ‘Not hiding is great; but posting is totally different to not hiding’. It’s true. I’m conscious of the fact that once it’s out there in the open, I’ll be vulnerable, and I could be a subject of matter discussed. However, I’m already feeling vulnerable having gone through this and gossip is already rife. That’s what has prompted me to write. Perhaps it might resonate with others, or not. Perhaps it’s just something I need to do. Whatever the reason, I feel it’s the right thing to do. For now, at least.

I’d like to point out that those who are already going through this journey know exactly how it feels (even though circumstances are different for all and each story is different, no matter the journey), and they can each provide you with their own version; they’re pros in this field after all. I’m writing to let the other side of the world know; the ones who have no inkling as to what this journey involves.

So, what does 6 years of TTC involve? Other than your life been taken over and now my biggest fear is peeing on sticks (it has surpassed my previous fear of swallowing pills), 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 (the fear of swallowing dissolves after popping about eight different pills in one sitting), hypnotherapy (with the promise of continuing to hypnobirthing if one should ever get to that stage; ha, the irony!), theta healing, acupuncture, reflexology, yoga, meditation, spirit babies, a laparoscopy, dye test, immunology, a hysteroscopy, injections after injections and IVF. Multiple IVFs. I think that covers it all. (All the while, hoping and praying each month that I’m pregnant.)

Hey, at least no one can fault me for being mediocre.

I. HAVE. DONE. IT. ALL. And still no baby. And no, don’t tell me that I just need to ‘relax and let go’. (FYI – Don’t ever tell that to anyone who is trying for a baby. It takes all their willpower not to punch you in the face.) ‘Let go’ of what exactly? The hope and dreams that millions of others have and achieve? Or to surrender and accept a different reality? (You know, one of the lures and advice that some IVF clinics use is to explain how in war-torn countries and others who are in horrendous situations [like rape] still conceive. You can agree or disagree with this.)

I do not know if it a society thing or if it is in-built in to our human psychology; but, we are engineered to always put all our efforts and concentration into something we desire. Live it; breathe it; feel it … isn’t that so? So, for those who think the solution to my lack of baby is that I need to relax, how exactly should I carry on without putting effort in to it? How do you propose I go in to IVF half-heartedly and really ‘forget’ about what it involves? How exactly should I ‘let go’ of something that has been a part of my life for all these years? Perhaps writing this is my way of letting it go. Perhaps accepting a different alternative is. Just how unfair is that? I agree, when all else (science and the likes) fails, you are almost forced in to a position to accept a different reality. But don’t minimise the gravity of TTC by belittling it and sugar-coating it with the word ‘relax’. It is not a sweet anyone wishes to savour.

And what if I have relaxed? What if I am (and have been for several months at a time) at that stage where emotionally and mentally I am calm? I do meditate after all. I’m doing things that make me happy. I’m not over-exerting myself. Then what? I’m still in the same situation I was as before.

I have a story

It’s been 6 years since we moved in to our house, 6 years of trying for a baby and I’m still here, 6 years later, with no baby in hand, but at least I now have a story.

Phew! It has taken every ounce of my courage to bare all to you, the world, which comprises of friends and family … and acquaintances. We all have a story; our life story. For some, days go by and life goes by as planned. For others, life doesn’t turn out the way you always imagined it to be. And these are the stories that are most interesting because, well, everyone loves to gossip about the person who is in woe or who is going through a ‘difficult’ patch, right? So, I thought long and hard, and before anyone makes my story the headline of their storytelling, I thought I’d better take the lead role.

I got married when I was young – just shy of 25 years. Life had always been good, and I’d already been dating my husband for 7 years prior to marriage. We were in no rush to start a family, both building a career and both happy together. After 4 years in to marriage, we decided we were ‘ready’ for kids. (I know some of you mums out there might snigger and say, ‘Can you ever be ready for kids? You don’t know what you are getting yourself in to!’ Well, it’s a life choice and yes, some like me, make a conscious decision of it.) Simultaneously, we started searching for the perfect house to be our forever home. We’ve always led our lives by planning, managing and living within our means. It’s what being reasonable and responsible is all about, right? We found the perfect house. Like many a folk, buying a large, family house signals one thing in particular to the rest of the world; they’re planning for a family. It’s funny how everyone has preconceptions about everything.

So, whilst we settled in to our new home, the trials and tribulations of making a baby started. 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, 5 years and now, 6 years all went by. (I note each year because I wish to stress the enormity of it all.) 6 whole years … and counting. 6 years of trying for a baby. That’s 72 months of disappointment each time. That’s 72 times of pulling myself through in the hope that the next month will be a positive. That’s 312 weeks of planning my life around thinking, ‘When I have a baby…’ That’s about 2200 days of always having the thought of a baby at the back of my mind. Oh, and throw in three rounds of gruelling IVF and we’re still with a no show of baby. If only you could ‘think’ a baby in to existence. (I challenge anyone in to thinking that they can ‘will’ the universe in to producing what they want. Ever read ‘The Secret’? Well, it doesn’t work.)

We are struggling to conceive the one thing we desire most and to top it all, we can’t even travel half the world because it’s been taken over by a deadly superpower, Zika! You’d think the TTC (that’s ‘trying to conceive’ for all you fertiles) couples have enough on their plates already than to worry about where they can go on holiday to unload their stress!

The good news is that my marriage is stronger than I would ever had imagined it to be. Plus, I no longer fret about body image since I’ve had more than two dozen individuals prod and look through my lady parts. Also, I’ve learnt a whole new language and abbreviations that only the infertiles have the privilege of learning, such as TTC. (That’s the most basic abbreviation btw; like learning the alphabet. I’m dispensing knowledge to you slow and steady, so don’t worry of getting bogged down with the new lingo). And finally, I’m no longer hiding the fact of what I’ve been through. It’s a burden I need to shed; a form of therapy if you like.

So, buckle your seats and follow me whilst I share my journey, and let’s see what it brings out. Raw, short stories, anecdotes, anger, my own true feelings … I’ve included it all. I don’t know what I hope to achieve, but as I said, I have a story to tell.

Culture be damned

Judge: What is the motive?

Jury: Culture

Us Indians (referring to all from Indian origin) are culturally inclined. Our food, our family life, our clothing, our mannerisms, our relationships … all tend to include our great heritage.

Or, with all things, we like to have it included in some areas of life, whilst not really caring for in other areas. We like to pick and choose. The problem this creates is a form of lost identity. You cannot pick and choose your identity. You can create a whole new identity. Or you could embrace the identity you have. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be split.

Over the years, I’ve observed how we, the generation Y millennials, like to shun away from cultural associations and activities. Yet the very next day, we drag our offspring to some activity to impart some ‘culture’ on these innocent minds, because, god forbid, they grow up to be brats with no ounce of tradition or culture whatsoever, or identity of where their predecessors come from.

I’ll give examples (much to the distress of my readers) as it’s easier than beating around the bush. The last few weeks and coming weeks have been full of festivities and celebrations in the Indian calendar – Paryushan, Navratri, Diwali, etc.

Navratri – 9 days of celebrations, including garba

How many Gen Y millennials actually went for garba, or usually partake in these celebrations yearly? Answer is, usually the same individuals who like to celebrate this festival. So the regulars.

How many took their kids to the kids’ version of celebrations? Answer is – all the rest not included in the above. I cannot fathom why you wouldn’t make time to engage in cultural activities, but have the time to make sure your kids do not miss out.

Diwali – possibly the biggest celebration in all Indian religions

The usual decorum is to perhaps send your kids to learn how to do Rangoli. But when was the last time you did a Rangoli yourself at home, for the joy of just celebrating Diwali?

Dressing up for Diwali needs its own paragraph. This is the time to wear our finest jewellery and traditional attire as it’s a big family celebration. Yet, many choose to wear an ‘Indo-Western’ top over jeans. However, if you look closely at the family unit, the offspring will always be on show, wearing their very best traditional gear.

See the repetition I’m trying to address? It’s all to do with time. We don’t have time for tradition and culture. Yet we want our kids to be fully engaged in it. My point is if we, the Gen Y millennials, are not actively partaking and cherishing our culture, how can we expect the next generation to follow suit? Sure, they will be fine for a couple of years whilst you drag and parade them around. But what do you see happening when they can think for themselves? At the most, they will become like us. At the worst, they will be worse than us. So who suffers in the end?

Judge: What is the verdict?

Jury: Death by suffocation. (Actual death undetermined – culturally inflicted human death, or human-inflicted cultural death)

Monkey see, monkey do

Apart from the obvious physical similarities (hair and all), what’s the common denominator between humans and monkeys? We all love to do what the other is doing. We like to be a collective. We like to fit in with society. Shame on us if we have a different opinion to the other.

(That’s as far as my understanding of monkeys goes. I can imagine that they are less complex individuals. Or they may be just as complex as we are. Clearly, I’m still undecided. Needs more follow-up.)

During my hiatus from the blogosphere, which involved a lot of the writer’s block-type thing and a considerable amount of soul searching, I’ve realised that our biggest and most underused asset is CHOICE.

Choice. Choice to choose from left or right. Choice to decide for yourself. To think for yourself. To know for yourself. It applies to everything imaginable, and then some. We have a choice. So let’s stop following the rest and let’s start firing the neurons to power our own mind. We all want to control our own destiny. Yet, how many of us succumb to someone else’s version?

I’ll spill a little secret that I’ve come to realise. Do you know that destiny is not binding? Every action and choice you make can create a new future? You have the power within you to create a change. It’s all down to choice. The sooner we realise this, the better for everyone.

She’s pregnant! (Screams headlines)

That must have got your attention, right? Such is the power of the word ‘pregnancy’. And no. No I am not pregnant.

Have you ever wondered how the term pregnancy and all its affiliations (e.g., bump, baby, etc.) are so loosely used to add importance to every situation, to make a complaint more profound, to bestow attention to an already inflated ego, to add weight to every stand? Let me elaborate.

Why is one, when making a complaint about a certain something to a certain customer services, compelled to list a whole set of events about how much unnecessary time, money, effort, annoyance they had to dispel all the while having their pregnant wife be witness and an accomplice to their troubles? For example, you are not happy with a certain manufacturer for supplying faulty goods. Do you think the manufacturer really cares that your pregnant wife had to come all the way with you to return the faulty goods? The fact that the wife is not pregnant (yes, I know these people!) is beside the point. Why do you need to make her pregnant to create more of a fuss?

Or, how about the scenario when you just drop the ‘bump’ so causally, in the hope that what you are trying to emphasise will suddenly make more of an impact?

This morning, I came across an advertisement on the radio informing listeners of the dangers of cycling and to watch out for cyclists. The sketch was really well written from the point of view of a woman, who was warning motorists to just keep a watch for her cyclist husband because, you know, accidents happen. That is all well and good and easily understood. Then why does it have to take an almost hysterical turn saying she would love for her cyclist husband to be able to come home to her and her bump? Really? Isn’t her life important enough to her husband and humanity, that only if we mention ‘bump’ would it seem more profound?

Since when did pregnancy, and all things related, become a benchmark for importance? Why is the world so fixated with these terms?

Don’t get me wrong. Pregnancy is a wonderful thing and you are very lucky to have ever been pregnant. I for one have been trying to get pregnant for years, but it will happen when it’s meant to happen. But let’s quit devaluing the sanctity of it by portraying it as feeble, weak and poorly. Heck, I’m told that when a woman is with child, she is ‘glowing’ and has this inner power and wisdom about her. Seems more apt a description of a warrior princess than a poorly, helpless woman who needs to be used as a pawn to gain sympathy.

Newsflash – not every family has offspring. Not every woman is with child. Then why should your importance and worth be judged on this?

One-track mind

Mornings are usually jovial in our house. Whilst devouring my red berry muesli and masala tea, the Stud of the House and I engage in silly antics such as deciphering the relevance and meanings of our previous night’s dreams, and basically pepping up for the day’s tasks ahead, which includes what we should take as packed lunch and what we should have for dinner.

I know that I have basically gone AWOL over the past few weeks. So many unexpected turn of events have taken place since mid April and I am just beginning to come to grips with these. One of these being the sad demise of my dazzling grandmother. (I will write a post in ode to her soon.)

I find that I am in a constant self-battle to keep myself occupied and busy. The age-old saying on everyone’s lips goes ‘there is always so much to do but so little time to do it’. Well, in my case, there is always so much I want to do and find so little time to do it. I’ve been like this as far as I can remember. It is probably inborn. There is some inert force that keeps me pushing myself to new limits and, whilst this is great and a good characteristic to have as an ego booster, it leaves me beyond exhausted by the end of the day. Heck, who am I kidding? I wake up exhausted the next day. Hence, the jovial mornings we share to try and boost some energy in to the day.

I am what you can call, a jack of all trades, but really a master of none. I love to explore all opportunities and this can be my downfall in such that when several opportunities arise together, I will explore them all at once. I used to get burdened with thoughts of not being able to fully commit to any one cause and of always being on a jittery edge. Lately, I’ve realised that since we have no control of how life turns out to be, perhaps it is not such a bad thing trying to make the most of every opportunity. Life is not about succeeding at all times. It is also about having the courage to try and to broaden experiences. It is about seeing the potential in you and trying to realise it as much as possible. I prefer this ‘style’ of living to the monochrome version.

In the end, it is all about leaving a legacy behind.

This particular morning whilst having a lightbulb moment, I eloquently summarised my situation. (Indulge me, will you?)

I have a one-track mind…and this can aptly be described as ‘always sidetracked’.

Identity crisis

Our TV viewing at home consists of flicking between Sky Sports channels, Food Network channels, Music channels and Indian channels. This is pretty much it. Oh and for the ad hoc comedy moments of the ever endearing ‘Friends’ episodes. Other than these, we don’t use our Sky package to its maximum capacity. Oh, just to point out to clear misconceptions, I watch Indian channels not for the slow and overly dramatised serials that creepily make you want to dig a hole and bury yourself. For they are that mundane and suck the life out of you. I watch for some good Bollywood movies and educational series such as the Mahabharat and Ramayan.

I’m a die hard fan of Food channels and follow the latest chefs on the scene. I have been an avid supporter of MasterChef Uk, and watched a few various other versions in Australia. A couple of months ago, we got hooked to MasterChef India, Season 4. Purely because this was the very first fully vegetarian competition of its kind.

Several episodes in and we soon realised how melodramatic this was, akin to all other Indian soaps and series. The participants were as eager as all the usual ones you watch across the continents. However, the whole MasterChef India show has a different kind of excitement associated with it. The first episode of each week was seldom about food and cooking, and more about the silly antics by both judges and participants. The standard of cooking also did not appear to be as expected when compared with the UK counterpart. This could purely be because I am a vegetarian and since I have no ounce of knowledge on how to cook non-veg food, roasting a whole chicken would seem more complicated than making ‘kheer’. Or, it simply could be that it was not up to par. I am more inclined to believe the latter as one of the finalists, Ashish, plated a dish equivalent to the standards of the first round as his finale dish of the show. Thankfully he was suitably eliminated.

Looking past the dramatics of the show, we followed the contestants on their journey to be crowned the 4th MasterChef in India. Some of the dishes produced were inspiring and also looked pleasing to the eye. Others faltered. However, since we were not there to taste, who are we to judge really.

The weeks sped by and fast forward to Saturday just gone, the penultimate episode aired. This is where it all started to crumble. The episode was about the 4 remaining contestants and they had to cook their deciding dish to see which 3 will be the final 3. The bizarre fact was that the public were going to vote as to who they wanted to be crowned the next Indian MasterChef. This may seem norm to some, but to me, without having tasted any of the food, how are we supposed to vote as to who is deemed perfect for the position? Last I checked, this was not a popularity contest.

Voting began and the winner was to be announced on Sunday. However, in true Indian style, the winner will not be announced by a simple statement from the judges. There was a whole evening planned of what I can only describe as tasteless entertainment. It began with the 3 finalists prancing on stage with their version of Bollywood dancing. Because this is a cooking competition finale, and dance is a main part of the popularity show. Or so she says, whilst trying to make sense of this turn of events. This was followed by various plugs for other reality Tv shows such as Nach Baliye (a dance show!) and promoting a soon-to-be-released Bollywood film. Why? Why you may ask.

Have you ever noticed in India how they love their sponsorships and advertising? For example, whilst the recent Cricket World Cup was taking place in Australia, we were in India at that time. You can of course imagine the Indian team being sponsored, as well as the ads you watch/listen to in between breaks on television or radio. However, sponsorship goes beyond that. When the second team is batting, you swiftly get to hear every so often ‘This run chase is sponsored by Suzuki Maruti’. When a batsman hits a 4 or the ultimate 6, ‘This 4 (or 6) was sponsored by BSNL (or something like that!)’ – a broadband company. E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G is sponsored. Even the cement used to form buildings. It will have an ad of its own with an A list celebrity endorsing it.

This explains the sponsored entertainment for a finale cooking show. It just makes the whole thing tacky. As explained, in our house, we are very opinionated and subjective with our choice of television. I do not want to tune in to a cookery show only to see a finale that involves everything else other than food. I am all for culture and types of expectations each country has. But there is a fine line between tasteful and keeping in theme with the subject versus drowning in cultural expectations.

It is safe to say that this was our first and last experience of MasterChef India.

Celebrity conundrums

Over the years, I have affectionately stared at my favourite celebrities, bumped in to some on prominent streets in London and hotels, smiled awkwardly at others only to receive disgruntled stares and observed others during Fashion Week. These celebrities live a privileged life, mainly a result of hard work or family ties. Either way, life looks good.

Here, I’ve come up with pros and cons to what I believe surrounds a celebrity and their lifestyle.

Let me first define celebrity status using the following ‘Status Class Chart’ (for the record – these are strictly my own views and my own opinions; feel free to share if you agree):

Class A – Superstar;

Class B – Mediocre;

Class C – Only known because of their next-of-kin relationship to some Class A celebrity;

Class D – Those who are self-proclaimed, most likely through reality TV.

I’m not just talking about the monetary value that a celebrity has because that is all relative. Obviously if you are a celebrity, you are generally more well off than the rest of us. But it’s all relative.

Now, we all know and have always read about the perks of being a celebrity. I’ll list a few below:

  • Worldwide recognition – everyone knows you (well at least a handful do, depending on which celebrity class you belong to).
  • Endorsements – you get to promote worthy causes, and some not-so-worthy causes, but does the cause really matter when you get a fat cheque at the end of it?
  • Freebies, such as fancy clothes, handbags or perhaps a ride on a chartered plane.
  • Large social media following (this is regardless of what celebrity class you fall into, so a huge bonus in the celebrity world).
  • Access to the hottest tickets in town.
  • Reservations at top restaurants that normal individuals can only obtain once waiting patiently for 3 months on the advance booking list (although, I have heard that this is not always the case, and some A class celebrity’s wife rocked up at a top Mumbai restaurant expecting a table only to be turned away).
  • You get to name your child after your favourite fruit, or city, or something that sounds remotely posh but borders on non-existent in the dictionary, without any other family member battling an eyelid.
  • It always seems obvious to the rest of the world how in control you are and the power you possess.

Now for the cons:

  • You can never really slurp your spaghetti for fear of your face being splattered across the next morning’s papers.
  • You could never wear your most comfy track bottoms and hoodie when flying long haul. Or carry your hot water bottle on to the flight.
  • The fear of being relegated down the Status Class Chart can result in mental disorder at some stage. Very few celebrities live in no fear and I applaud those; however, all the ones I have seen always weirdly have an entourage of security that rivals Presidents.
  • God help anyone who does not recognise a celebrity when they are not trying to be inconspicuous. This could become a very embarrassing situation – cause uproar or silently turn away?
  • Once your status is established, if you try to do something out of your realm and it fails, there is no forgiveness or no turning back. The world is cruel. And just like that, you are off the Status Class Chart.

The deal breaker for me – you never get to sit in the front driver’s seat (of YOUR own car, might I add) and you never get to drive yourself, or your partner or your kids. This is a major bummer in my view as I cherish the moments I am driving myself. This is what REAL CONTROL is about.