The motherhood conspiracy

I have long been convinced that there is a motherhood conspiracy and, once you give birth (or perhaps even before), you become party to that conspiracy.

As I am not yet ‘in the club’ I can only guess at the extent on the conspiracy but I am sure that it includes the following: 

  • not revealing how difficult raising a child actually is;
  • not revealing how painful childbirth actually is;
  • not discussing the finer details of pregnancy; and
  • not discussing plans to conceive or the difficulties which are encountered along the way.

I am obviously going against the grain here, hopefully that won’t get me thrown out of the club before I even get the invitation! 

As I have mentioned, my first friend to get pregnant discussed everything openly with us and shared all the disgusting details of pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood but, as she did not have any difficulties conceiving any of her thre children, she was not party to my final assumption.  

I raised the subject with my closest work friend last week (she has just returned after maternity).  She knows that we are probably trying although even I am reluctant to discuss my concerns openly with her.  I know that it took her quite a while to conceive but she didn’t admit to it until she was pregnant and I, out of politeness, did not pry.  One of our mutual friends with a younger baby has also revealed that it took them over a year to conceive.  This really surprised me, they have been married for several years and she had always said that she was not ready for a baby.  Her pregnancy was a surprise to most of us (her friends) but had obviously been in the offing for sometime. 

This led me to contemplate the fact that it may actually be quite normal to have to try, to have to count, but you don’t realise it as nobody talks about it.  I can understand the reluctance as I myself have not openly admitted to anyone that we are trying.  The problem is that it raises expectations and, with that, questions.  If you are having concerns the last thing you want is a daily inquisition over whether it is working, what you are doing, what you should do.  It may also be that it is simply not polite, being British it is not the done thing to acknowledge sexual activity in any way.  The subject is taboo.  

I am thrilled to have finally found out how to tag terms in my blog and to now have likes and followers! Thank you all, it is most encouraging to think that somebody is now reading what I write. Hopefully it will also go some way to helping others who are also trying, also counting, to make them realise that they are not alone, that there are a lot of people going through it.  We may even go some way to exposing the conspiracy! 

Fertility and me 

It seems this subject is very topical.  Alex Jones (One Show presenter on BBC1) has just done a one off documentary entitled “Fertility and me” (personally I prefer “35 and counting”). I missed it when it aired on Monday but watched it on demand (thoroughly modern of me).  It was essentially about trying to conceive after the age of 35 (she was 38 at the time it was filmed) and she raised many of the same arguments I have for leaving it until now to try.  

I tweeted her to say how brave I thought the show was and she, very surprisingly, responded to thank me.  However, I had not been totally honest in my tweet as I also found the documentary very depressing.  It left me feeling disheartened.  Apparently after the age of 35 you have a 75-80% chance of getting pregnant within a year (which is just coming round for us), those odds are ok.  It is the odds for the 20-25% that fall outside of the bracket that scared me.  As soon as you look at the chances of success if it does not happen naturally for you the task seems impossible.  

As I mentioned, we have friends who have been/are going through IVF, some successfully, some less so, all expensively.  Science is miraculous.  The things they can do these days is incredible.  Being able to shoot still-wiggling sperm into the centre of an egg and watch the cell division on a time lapse camera to determine the best quality egg is amazing.  However they can’t do it all yet, if your eggs are too old and too tough there is no breaking through their tough exterior.  There are other options of course but I am not sure that I could carry a child which was not genetically mine like the woman did on the show.  

It was a success story for Alex.  She has recently announced her pregnancy, at 39. I am really pleased for her.  Let’s hope we have similar luck! 

Check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zq9m82p for some additional information on fertility after 35 

Let the trials commence 

So, so far we have only been counting, approximating  when I am ovulating and increasing our activity accordingly. He’s been leaving it in, I’ve been lying on my back and doing the post-coital bridge famous amongst wannabe conceivers but that is the extent of it.

My research has been limited as pre-nuptial it was all about the wedding, we were doing all of the above but not thinking too hard about the fact it was not working.  It was the post-honeymoon return-to-work, return-to-life-without-a-wedding that did it.  I can now completely understand why people have babies immediately after getting married! 

So I started thinking about it, started to really think about it and started to really want to be pregnant, to have a baby.  I googled ‘ovulation’ and started accurately recording my cycle.  I think it is fairly short.

I have been on the contraceptive pill since I was about 15, dual reasons, heavy and painful periods and an increased interest in boys (which scared my poor mum silly, home town rep and all).  I have changed pill quite a few times, had a few issues over those 20 years with erosions, endometriosis scares etc. but nothing which would really raise fertility concerns.  

Coming off the pill was hard, to start with my periods were so irregular I was constantly tired, zapped of energy and I didn’t know whether I was coming or going.  They have almost settled now (I still start and stop a bit) and I seem to be on a 24 day cycle, give or take.  As well as the irregularity the pain returned, as did the ferocity of the flow! 

I have to take codeine for at least one day, sometimes up to 3, for the doubling-up cramps and at the start of my period proper I have to get up at least twice a night.  It does seem extreme but it’s not really something I discuss with friends so I don’t have any real comparison.  

I use a mooncup (www.mooncup.co.uk) and have done for years. I am reasonably environmentally conscious and that, coupled with not having to buy tampons/towels every month, was the driver for doing so.  I much prefer it, no waste, no fuss, but you have to clean it throroughly and it does give me an issue with thrush (irritation at the base I assume).  It is however struggling to cope with my natural flow, particularly in the first few days, hence the disturbed nights.  Being a girl is gross! 

So, anyway, back to taking it seriously, starting the blog, I looked at some other blogs about fertility and conception and found some tips.  Somebody recommended Agnus castus (which I think sounds like (i) a Harry Potter character, (ii) something that gives you food poisoning or (iii) a Latin legal term) and somebody else had had success with a fertility enhancing lubricant.  I decided to try both.

I went to Boots in my lunch hour to stock up (extremely conscious of running into a colleague or friend).  Agnus castus (which auto correct changes to Angus cactus) is strictly taken to relive the symptoms of PMS so that was innocent enough a purchase but the lube is right in amongst the pregnancy tests.  It is apparently a sperm life-jacket/turbo engine which helps them swim faster/better to propel them toward the egg.  I was on my period at the time so we both waited with baited breath to give it a go…

Pier pressure

There isn’t any really and it wouldn’t be a reason to have children in any event but we are one of the few childless couples left in our group of friends.

Yes we have been together longer than most and had been settled in our jobs longer than most but they have still over taken us at some stage.

The first friends’ babies probably arrived not long after we left Uni (for the main out of wedlock) and it still felt outrageously young to me.  I was probably still at Uni (having spent 6 years on various courses) and still, in the main, living and acting as a student.  Babies did not even enter my head back then.  

We had nieces and nephews of course (on his side) but his siblings are older and were already married before I met them so it didn’t seem unusual.  His sister and sister in law were much younger having their children than I am now though, much! 

So babies were not entirely alien to me, I was used to handling babies, used to crying, used to breasts being whipped out in front of me.  It was such close exposure to pregnancy that was new, we lived the first (very unexpected) friend’s pregnancy as if it were our own.  She regaled us with tales littered with gory details.  

I thought she was mad.  She had just come out of a long-ish term relationship, met a guy at an event and two months later she was pregnant! We had crisis talks.  She had missed a pill, just missed a pill.  She was pregnant.  No sign of trying there.  

NB – she is now happily married to the guy with 3 beautiful children so it all worked out well.  She has not really had to try for any of them, she ‘counted’ for the second two and told me to ‘lift my bum up’ (already doing it) but that is all.  She is a few years younger though. She can pinpoint exactly when the boys were conceived.  They must not do it that much! 

The second friend’s baby was just as much of a surprise.  She was married, straight after graduation.  He had an affair and she left.  She met someone else fairly soon and boom – pregnant.  They too are now happily married with 2 children.  Another success story.  She would probably agree that she was very young having them.  

His best friend had two in quick succession, before he had a job, before he had a house and before he had any money.  The baby was not planned, they weren’t trying.  The second followed immediately after (which she regrets). We obviously have some very fertile friends.

That said, there are exceptions (which prove the rule).  We have friends who would make the best parents, who are as kind and loving as anyone could be, who desperately want children but are struggling.  

They have counted, for much much longer than I have.  Counted not only days but courses of IVF, painful courses, followed by bitter disappointment.  We are not there yet, we may never have to be (God willing).  It is so horrible to watch them go through it.  So hard.  

“Trying”

A year ago (34 and not counting) I went to my GP for my bi-annual blood pressure “more contraceptives please” appointment.  My GP knew of the impending nuptials.  She recommended that I stop taking the pill with a view to conceiving thereafter. Instead of six packets of Cilest I came away, slightly bemused, with a pot of folic acid supplements. 

Apparently it takes on average 8 months to conceive once you stop taking the pill.  Apparently. 

I didn’t (delusional as I was) want to walk down the aisle with a bump.  We discussed it further and decided to use ‘alternative contraception’ until at least February (3 months before the wedding).  Then we would start ‘leaving it in’.  I had visions of discovering I was pregnant soon after the wedding and having a late September baby.  This did not happen. 

The wonderful wedding took place and we departed for three equally wonderful weeks on honeymoon.  It was then that we really began ‘trying’ in earnest.  We consummated the marriage in the early hours of the morning after (having finally gone up to bed at 5:30am).  TMI? Fraid that’s par for the course.  

We consummated like rabbits throughout the honeymoon too, discovering anew our passion for each other, and for sex.  

I think I began counting days the month before the wedding, partly to make sure my period did not coincide with the wedding (in the event that I was not pregnant by then) and partly in an attempt to calculate my cycle.

35 and counting

So called because I am 35 years old and counting (see About page).

No affiliation, connection, link or confusion with:

  • the (hitherto unknown) TV film of the same name
  • the (hitherto unknown) romcom “35 and ticking”; or 
  • the similar WordPress blogs: “35andcounting” (which has some lovely recipe posts) and “35ncounting” (which doesn’t have any posts).  

As a result of their existence I ended up with 35counting as I had become attached to the name in advance of the due diligence exercise.

If anyone knows of any other 35 and counting films/books/tv shows/blogs etc. I claim no affiliation, connection or link to those either, this is just me, writing in my words, my copy, my IP.  All words and thoughts are my own.  Apologies in advance if they cause any offence.

The back story 

Trying to conceive? You may be forgiven for thinking that it could happen within weeks, particularly if you had no difficulties conceiving yourself or if you are under the age of 30.

I thought that, I thought it would be easy.  

After nigh on 20 years of trying NOT to get pregnant, of living in fear of falling pregnant, of becoming just another statistic for my European-capital-of-teen-pregnancies-hometown, and then (in later years) of not being ready, not being married, not being financially stable, not owning our own house, not having a big enough car, not having a safe enough staircase (still the case), I never really thought about not being able to get pregnant.  

Being brutally, anonymous blog-ily honest I never really wanted children until fairly recently (although that will not come as a shock to most people I know, this blog is more likely to).  

It’s not that I don’t like children, I do.

I am always told how good I am with children, how much they like me.  I relate to children (being a bit juvenile myself), I like babies, I like being able to sooth them, I like trying to understand them, I like watching them grow and their ability to astound with their intelligence, creativity, imagination and affection.  

Many wonderful friends have produced equally (if not more) wonderful children.  I like how they are similar to their parents in some ways and completely different in others.  

I dislike spoilt children and I have difficulty interacting with teens.  I am not sure why, at the stage when they no longer want to play and become more serious I am not sure how to talk to them anymore.  If anything I become more awkward than they are.  This is not a reason which would prevent me having children of my own though.  This is classic teen’age’.

It’s not that I have consciously chosen to put my career first either.  I have a career, one that most would consider relatively successful, I am a professional.  I studied hard (but not too hard) to become a professional.  I spent 6 years at university, I have 3 degrees, I studied abroad,  I used to be reasonably ambitious (more on that later), but I did not decide to put a family off until I had ‘made it’.  I certainly don’t think that I have ‘made it’, whatever ‘it’ may be.

The truth is that I don’t consider myself old, and not just because times have changed and 35 is no longer considered ‘old’ to have a baby.  My Mum was 35 when she had me, 39 with my sister and, like me, never really felt the urge to have children.  I followed suit.  I have never felt/heard the tick of the body clock, never cooed over a newborn, never felt the gut-wrenching urge to carry a child that some women describe.  I prefer dogs.

I suppose I always imagined that I would have a baby eventually, that I would marry, settle down in a child friendly house and then have a baby, just like that, have a baby.  

I thought it would simply be a case of, as Mickey Flanagan so eloquently puts it ‘coming off the pill and starting to leave it in’.  Not so.