By KATE TAYLOR
Fertility treatment is a lot like doing the Nutbush.
You just follow the steps; left foot back, right foot back, left ovary stimulated, right ovary stimulated.
It’s fun at the start. You kick off with a whole lot of gusto.
But it just keeps going. And going. Keeping up gets harder, and then you start to wonder if it’s ever going to end, and someone please hand me a frozen margarita and show me to the nearest bar stool already because no amount of calf raises could prepare me for this.
Make that a virgin frozen margarita. Just in case the last cycle worked.
You’ll have to guide me to that stool while you’re at it too because I’m blind.
Being blind doesn’t define me, just the same as undergoing fertility treatment doesn’t define me. Even though on the days of scans, injecting hormones and going to the clinic it feels like this is who I am now. It’s not.
What defines me is in itself indefinable. But there are bits I can pick out. Writer. Wife. Vegetarian. Aunt. Germ freak. Sister. Blogger. Runner. News junkie. Tea drinker. Anxiety sufferer. Daughter. Recovering Milo addict.
I’m not just a 30-year-old who has to try really, really hard to have a baby. For absolutely no medical reason at all. Despite extensive testing.
I’m a spectacularly happy 30-year-old with a brilliant, brilliant husband who keeps me more entertained than an entire season of Modern Family, and an awesome job that keeps me busier than my fingers can type.
So what if ten months of the old-fashioned way isn’t quite cutting it? Same with four ovulation Induction cycles? Ditto two Inter-Uterine Insemination cycles? Give up? Hell to the no. I wouldn’t work as a journalist if I wasn’t at least one third tenacious. Or stubborn. Probably just stubborn.
Figures suggest that at least 15 per cent of Australian couples experience fertility issues. And for that, I have my very own fertility god right here in Ballarat.
He’s part of an elite crack team I’ve gathered around me and between my Dr., fertility nurses, and my acupuncturist, I’m either getting injected, taking hormones, being needled or taking my pants off for a scan on any given day.
It’s been two years now. Really, I could have had one and a half babies in this time if my body capitulated.
And now it’s time to talk about it.
Because there are very few people who do. Every now and then a B-grade celebrity writes a book about it, and most people know someone who has had fertility issues. But it’s all after the fact. Some antiquated form of social nicety dictates that IVF and fertility struggles must only be spoken about post-birth/adoption/surrogacy. After the bad part, that is.
Struggling to have a baby? Ssshhh… we don’t mention things like that in polite conversation. We just smile and nod and pretend everything is a-okay. Come and talk to us about it when you’ve got it solved, sweetie.
It makes practical sense, on one level. Most women don’t announce when they start trying to conceive because it makes it very awkward when people ask questions and then what happens when you are pregnant? You have to pretend that you’re not for 12 weeks, but because everyone knows you’ve been trying they keep asking.
But it is so much easier to just get your brave face on and put it out there.
Active IVF is the big hormonal elephant in the room. It’s a reflection of how horrifically judgemental the culture of womanhood has become. We do it all the time, even without bad intentions. It’s almost reflex. She’s too old to be wearing those skinny jeans. She’s single. She shouldn’t be promoted that high up. She’s put on weight. We think it. We say it. We have become highly critical beings, and we judge.
So why, exactly, would I come out and say I’m doing IVF? Why subject myself to that judgement?
Because I am lucky enough to be one of very few women who have completely let go of caring about what other people think. At all. I started my blog this year as my way of coming out of the proverbial closet. And there are way more women crammed in that closet than are out of it; many bloggers continue to use online names to keep their identity a secret, and reveal who they are only after they fall pregnant or give birth.
That in itself is not to be criticised. It’s a personal choice. But all the effort of keeping it to yourself, scheduling appointments around others so no-one figures out what you’re doing, evading all the questions about if you’re going to have kids… well, ladies, it all sounds like a lot of hard work. And it is. I’ve done it.
Exploding under the weight of all the stress and secrecy is an option. Blogging it out is another.
Some of the most renowned online identities are women blogging about fertility. The deliciously fantabulous Lollipop Goldstein, and her army of Stirrup Queens, for one. They are strong women. Powerful. Intelligent. The kind of women Beyonce sings about.
And now those online conversations need to go real time. Because we can’t have at least 15 per cent of our population melting down and exploding in the streets.
Some blogs, or posts, are sad. Some are funny. Some are informative. Some are happy. All are insightful, especially to someone who knows nothing of the fertility game. And there is a lot to know about it.
The one thing that is guaranteed is that no one can say the right thing to any woman undergoing fertility treatment at any given time. For this, I have my Hormone Horn. It’s similar to the Awkward Horn, of Hamish and Andy fame, but works for hormonal women.
I use it when someone says something stupid to me about fertility. Which is pretty much all the time. I smile blankly. And conjure a mental image of myself pulling an air horn out of my handbag and blasting it in their face. Then blog about it for the entertainment of everyone else.
It’s not all about the randomly hilarious aspects of fertility treatment and bringing them to the people. Because of course there are dark times.
I once spent an entire morning crying into a tea towel. Every single woman in this city has cried about something going wrong at some point in their life. Every. Single. Woman.
I’m acknowledging that. It’s the woman that doesn’t, that deserves the sympathy. Not me.
I blogged about that morning, and posted a photo of the tea towel. I was flooded with comments and calls and emails. And now that tea towel is famous.
Even among all the negatives, there are positives. The light among the dark, the amusing among the bleak; they all have to be written about.
It’s what a whole tribe of online women are expert at, and empowered by.
For example. Every now and then, research comes out saying that eating certain foods helps increase fertility. They always result in binges. Like the avocado diet.
Apparently eating more avocado can help. So I had avocado on Saladas, avocado and tuna salad, avocado wrapped in smoked salmon. Avocado dug out of its skin with a spoon. I ate pretty much my own body weight in avocado.
Then there was the olive oil diet. I had so much I technically qualified for Italian citizenship. Kate Taylorino.
Instead of avoiding questions about why we’re eating strange things and doing even stranger things, we need to embrace it. And blog about it.
Because, much like the Nutbush, fertility treatment shouldn’t be done alone. It just looks silly. You need people around you who know the dance, and to hand you that frozen margarita.
Kate Taylor is a Ballarat based freelance writer, currently practicing journalism at an independent newspaper and writing features for a local magazine. When she’s not writing for money in her Madmen-meets-Monty Python style home office, Kate campaigns to raise awareness of women undergoing treatment through local radio, national publications and her blog.
Have you or someone you are close to had difficulty getting pregnant? What have your experiences with IVF been? Do you think we talk about it enough?