January 14, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Letter from the clinic arrived yesterday. I’d had a busy day and when I pushed my bike through the communal entrance hall I’d almost forgotten to look for it. I dumped my bag in the flat and filled the kettle before I went back and sorted through the menus for pizzas and indian takeaways and envelopes. Most of the letters I leave for upstairs, so many people who have come and gone, I no longer know which surname is revelant.
There were just two for me, a slight envelope and a large packet which, at first I assume is an extra essay the college want me to mark after the batch last week. A late submission. The first envelope distracts me. Its my regular from Virgin Media who write at least twice a month and phone numerous times, trying to convince me to install cable television to go with my broadband and phone. They do not believe me when I insist that I’m perfectly satisfied with my four channels and an often cloudy five, played on a portable television/VHS combi that I’ve had since Mum and Dad allowed me to have a set in my bedroom at the age of sixteen.
I recently looked after a friend’s six year old overnight, who’s first words on walking into my flat were “that’s a small television” and, anxious not to hurt my feelings, added that it was alright, he would just “sit very close to it”. His mother despaired that she did not know how I could expect my nephew to visit when he was older if I was unable to guarantee a decent-sized television. I suppose that goes for your own offspring too, that they could refuse to remain in your care without one. I shall add ‘plasma telly’ and ‘call virgin’ to the list along with the buggy and muslin squares. If I even get that far. When Mum and Dad come to stay they ask if I’ll provide binoculars. With comments like that its become a matter of principle.
I’m back in the flat and pouring a cup of tea before I properly take in the large packet underneath the Virgin one and I notice that its not handwritten by the usual course administrator. In fact, its not handwritten at all. Its stamped ‘Private and Confidential’ in red. I then notice that its marked with the insignia of the hospital, which slightly undermines the confidential bit. I don’t open it right away. I feel slightly sick. Instead, I just look at it while I sip tea, then Dancing Queen plays on the radio, it temporarily lifts my confidence and I open it before I can think twice.
The first page letter says very little. It starts that they are writing in response to a letter from a Dr Porter. I am immediately confused and fearful that the letter is not intended for me. I do not know a Dr Porter. Then I realise that they mean Dr Marion, that they are not in the surgery’s inner circle of first name terms.
The letter goes on that they are aware that I am seeking treatment for my infertility. I wince at this. For all I know, ny ovaries, FSH levels and progesterone might all be functioning quite nornally. But, I realise that the very fact that I have no way without help, of getting sperm inside and conceiving, renders me such. I admire their forthrightness. Its the truth. I am infertile and I need assistance with this.
They offer me an appointment with Mr Xin next week. I am puzzled at this. I thought that I would at least be seeing a doctor. A friend coincidentally puts me right on this after her three year old son sees a ‘Mister’ prior to his grommet operation. Apparently it means that they’re more than a doctor. They’ve gone beyond it. A consultant. I am immediately reassured.
I quickly look at the date in my diary and see that its a Saturday and I’m relieved. I was worried that it would fall on a teaching day or an impossible to get out of appointments day and the guilt of phoning in sick would have proved too much and made me incapable of conceiving overnight. I had already feared that if I tried to phone to rearrange they would interpret it as an indication that I am not committed enough. Mr Xin, who is really a doctor, says that he looks forward to meeting me, and that’s it.
Along with the letter there is an information pack, with lots of forms I’m supposed to fill in prior to the appointment. My medical and family history; consent to donor treatment for the recipient and the recipient’s partner; consent to take part in medical studies; confidentiality rights; the knowledge that any future child will not be able to trace their father until they are eighteen; information on different forms of treatments, egg donation, embryo transfer, IVF, IUI. I feel an overwhelming uncertainty of which relates to me, I drop them all over the floor and think, what the hell am I getting myself into?
January 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
It was right that Lucy should become pregnant first. Despite being four and a half years older than her, I’ve always been a few steps behind.
As a toddler she was quick-witted, intelligent and labelled by my Nan as having “ants in her pants”. At infant school they put her a year ahead as they did not quite know what to do with her. While I sat still, was anxious to do what I was told and would have been terrified of being in a classroom of children a year older than I was, Lucy could not have cared less.
She did not bother with stabilisers on her bike and could balance on a skateboard when I could barely kneel up. She fearlessly dropped herself down the ‘death slide’ at the adventure playground, whereas I would climb the steps and stare down and on the third year of visiting had still not tried it. She repeated the feat on the ‘Devil’s Drop’ at Aqua World in Devon. I did not even bother with the pretence of climbing the steps, knowing it would result in anxious failure.
Lucy had fake ID at 13 and was drinking in pubs, (well, one pub that turned a blind eye) soon after. When mum and dad went to see the Rolling Stones at Wembley and left me in charge, Lucy and her friend Louise got so drunk they threw up all over her bedroom floor. I believed them when they said that it was a stomach upset.
She had her first boyfriend at 14 before I’d even realised that boys were not going to be my thing. His name was Darren and arrived to pick her up on a BMX. Dad answered the door to him wearing nothing but underpants and demanded to know where they were going on “that thing”. Darren pointed to the stunt pegs for Lucy to stand on behind, and they rode off to their favourite dating spot of the Esso garage wall. After she turned fifteen and had been seeing Darren for six months, I asked her if they were sleeping together as I thought that nobody else probably would. Lucy told me not to worry, they had used condoms the first few times and she’d got on the bus to the sexual health clinic and was now taking the pill. I’d yet to lose my virginity, with a boy or girl.
I started working Saturdays in a fruit and veg shop at ‘the parade’, bagging up potatoes and serving customers, most of whom I was related to or worked with my dad. I was happy with my £1.50 an hour and free bruised bananas at the end of the day. I grew fond of the owners Pat and Bill and was genuinely upset when, four years after I started there, I arrived one Saturday morning to discover they had done a bunk to evade the tax man. I was proud to get Lucy a job there. I naively thought that she’d develop the same affection for Pat and Bill, accept the pay, the hours and the fingerless gloves, but Lucy had other ideas. By the end of the first month she had phoned in sick twice and I was forced to explain that she was not going back. Instead, Lucy went to work at the new out-of-town shopping centre in McDonalds. She thrived under the rush, the quick service and the fact that it was not ‘the parade’.
After doing well with minimal work at her GCSE’s she stayed on at school. Whereas the small classes made me feel safe and I read, worked and thought of university because that was what I was told I should, Lucy felt constricted by the same teachers, same pupils, same, same, same and it just made her miserable. She drank more and stayed out later. The caring, brilliant Head of Sixth Form started to worry. He arranged for her to go on a trip for disadvantaged young people sailing a tall ship around the Isles of Scilly. She loved it, climbed masts, let out sails and got her belly button pierced in a tattoo parlour in Falmouth. When she got back she thought about McDonald’s full time, but again, the Head stepped in and muttered over his dead body. He swallowed his pride for his own sixth form and arranged for her to transfer to the big local college where she flourished. She made friends that remain so, got an NVQ and took a train to a recruitment fair in Birmingham where she signed as a travel rep for First Choice.
Lucy was the first in the family to go on an aeroplane, we all followed to visit her and mum and dad discovered that, after eighteen years in the same bed and breakfast in south Devon, that the sun really could shine on a holiday. When I went to visit her I was in complete awe as she strode around reception, averted complaints, arranged excursions and dealt with minor strokes, heart attacks and domestic violence incidents. Despite the differences between us, she’s the one that I love the most.
When she decided to return home, she dated Tony for three years, with several break-ups that they patched up before she realised that he never was going to leave his mum for her and she dumped him. Then she met James, they moved in together and eighteen months later she was pregnant.
Lucy told us that she was pregnant the day that she found out herself, two weeks after her period was due. There was no waiting for the twelve week scan for her. While she whooped and cheered, it was me who saw that while Mum and Dad wanted to be excited, their insides were etched with worry. My nan lost twin boys, my Mum had two babies that died, and my Mum’s three sisters all had complicated births, a mixture of preeclampsia, prematurity and long labours that ended in inevitable emergency caesarean.
As Lucy’s pregnancy progressed Dad smiled on the surface, but he told me how he would not be able to relax until the baby was eighteen months old and there were times when he was desperate for a drink. As Lucy excitedly planned trips to John Lewis and wanted Mum there for her advice and credit card, I saw that sometimes Mum did not want to, how her fear came out as sharp bluntness as she muttered that people did not make this kind of fuss in her day and how could anyone pay £80 for a changing bag.
As Lucy grew bigger, Mum said that she would have to have a caesarean, as if it was a foregone conclusion. I paid for Lucy and James to go to NCT classes which they giggled at the touchy feely approach – they were hysterical the week that the doula visited – but it at least opened a chink of possibility of a natural birth.
We were all there at the hospital the night that Jacob was born. There was nowhere else that Mum and Dad could be. On the surface they said that it was to support Lucy, and they did, but it was also the only way they could convince themselves that they had some control. As the three of us sat by the coffee machine outside the labour ward, Lucy bounced on her pregnancy ball, demanded snacks and then an epidural. Mum smoked and strode, hearing each new piece of ordinary information on progress as proof of impending catastrophe. Dad churned, prayed to the various God’s he’s collected since we were children and stared at the pub opposite. I tried to calm them, without mentioning what we were all there for, but neither of them was listening anyway. My own anxiety was under wraps as I knew that, with a little bit of Lucy inside, that it was all going to be alright.
Despite Lucy being wheeled into theatre, it was a natural birth, one last push and a tug of forceps, out my nephew came. It was a privilege to meet him for the first time just a few minutes later, wrapped in a blanket, heart confidently beating against my calm sister’s chest. I am grateful to them both. I know that their coping and entry to the world enabled me to think that my own pregnancy might be a possibility and after getting through one new, brilliant birth as a family together, we might get through another.
January 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There is still no word from the clinic. I feel like doing something, just waiting doesn’t feel like enough. So I decide to tell somebody else – Carol, my acupuncturist. I’m not generally one for hocus pocus, new age nonsense. In fact, if my comprehensive school had been like one of those American High Schools in films like Teen Wolf or the Karate Kid, where they produce year books of photographs and something quirky to say under each one, I’d probably have been labelled “the person least like to use alternative remedies”.
When my group of friends have a whip round for birthdays each year, the gifts for others have ranged from a massage, to a Jessica Rabbit. I have the good fortune to have friends who know that I would not easily receive, or put to good use, either.
Which is why I feel the need to explain Carol. She’s not been a flash-in-the-pan thing. I’ve been seeing her for the last eighteen months after my back gave way one Friday morning. First I saw an osteopath, in the hope of a quick fix, as I was due to be teaching the following week. The day I saw her, while the pain was acute, I could still get myself upright and walk. With a diagonal gait. On the day after I saw her, I was flat on my back on the floor. Luckily I was within reach of the phone and called her. She referred to my deterioration as a “healing crisis”, her tone of voice implying that I should have expected it, all part of the service, and offered me an appointment on Monday. Too incapacitated to refuse, she hung up before I could ask what I was supposed to do in the intervening two days.
After that, I called the emergency doctor who prescribed diazepam and codeine and I was upright and giggling within three hours. But, when I stopped taking the pills, the pain carried on. Knowing I would not get a repeat prescription out of Dr Marion, I resorted to desperate measures, of the alternative ilk, and I looked on the internet and found Carol. She was the cheapest acupuncturist I could find before my computer crashed. After three sessions the pain had gone and I’ve been going back for a top-up ever since.
I liked her straight away. She didn’t ask too much about the “holistic me”, just a few basic facts and got on with the needle thing. We chat about the X-Factor and Strictly and she wouldn’t dream of giving me one of those overly-caring and how-are-you-looks. She does, however, wish that I drank more water, something I fear that I will only ever disappoint her in.
Anyway, this week, after she’s looked at my tongue and checked my pulses (I allow this just to indulge her) I tell her. I don’t even take a deep breath to do it. I say that I’m thinking about having a baby and if there’s anything she could do, you know, to increase my chances. I mutter something about having seen something in The Lancet. Well, not the actual Lancet. A reference to it on BBC News or something. Then all my doubts tumble out, that I’m still not sure, how it’s a big thing, that I’ll be on my own, that the baby won’t have a father.
The thing is, she interrupts me. You’ll always find reasons why you shouldn’t do it, and you won’t. Don’t try to talk yourself out of it. It’s the sort of thing that you can think about too much.
She stills my thoughts. And then she adds, I can imagine that you’d be really good with a kid. And besides, she goes on and rolls her eyes, everyone’s at it, and she rattles off people, unknown to me, who she knows have had children alone.
She asks me where I’m at in my cycle and I’m impressed at myself that I can now confidently tell her, and she nods for me to get up on the table. She gets to work, putting them in places that she never has before, one down near where I suppose that my ovaries might be. I sigh, satisfied that I’ve done more than wait for a letter and I ask Carol whether she things Micha B was just ‘too urban’ for X-Factor voters.
November 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
In the days waiting for the clinic to contact me, I start to wonder, question and doubt all over again. The phonecalls and the visit to Dr Marion briefly fill me with a tree-hugging, gleeful optimism that it might actually happen. But most of the time, I’m wondering how, if it’s successful, I’ll ever make it work and what the experience of my future child might be.
My worries range from the rational to the irrational. I worry that I won’t get through whatever assessment process that they put you through to decide if you’re suitable for treatment. That I might have some as yet unknown medical condition that means I won’t be able to conceive. Even if I get past the medical tests I worry that my body won’t be able to perform the procedure. I’ve never slept with a man. I came close once, when I thought I was straight and in love, but the whole ‘penis inside’ thing made me clamp-up, literally, and I knew that it wasn’t for me. I have similar trouble with speculums!
I worry that if I conceive that something will go dreadfully wrong. My parents lost two children as babies, events that remain unspeakable and I fear that I will be responsible for putting them through potential anxiety and pain all over again. I think of my younger sister Lucy’s pregnancy a year ago, how mum was desparate to take part, to be the mum that contributes to plans, but instead every trip to John Lewis was flooded by her own experience. Lucy coped as she always has done, sailing through, proud and optimistic of her growing belly. For me though, hyper-vigilant of my parent’s feelings and an anxiety to see them alright, I am unsure I will be able to do the same.
I think of my prospective child’s lack of a father and of my relationship with my own, a mostly bouyant Scot, who hails everyone in the street with his banter. How important it was for me as a child, in the small council estate community where I grew up, to know that I had a father who came further away than the Asda on the M5. I consider what it would be like for me not to have known him, and for my own child not knowing their father, a gaping hole that I’m not sure I’ll be enough to fill.
And, if I’m honest, I have doubts about any child being conceieved in this way. I predict the wrath of the liberal town where I live, where lots of women, single and in lesbian relationships, have produced wonderful, well-adjusted children. For me, however, there are moments when I just can’t quite get my head around the fact that my child could be conceived on a table in a hospital by a stranger.
Most of all I worry about money and how we’ll ever survive. I have a relatively well-paid job, above the national average, but a one bedroom flat is all I can afford. I’ll receive maternity pay but even if I work extra hours between now and then and save as much as I can, nine months off work is probably all I’ll be able to manage. After that, how will I meet mortgage payments and forty pounds a day child care?
I fear that as my child grows older we’ll visit my friends with their children in big Victoria houses, with stripped floors where everyone has their own bedroom, with piles of Crocs at the door and a trampoline in the garden. I worry my child will grow up with a longing to be part of some other family. I know that I can’t match what parenthood seems to have become.
I think of my extended family members that, if it works, I’ll have to tell. I’m from a working-class family where everyone, apart from me, still lives in the same community where we grew up. All my cousins left school at 16 and they now have good, dependable jobs, steadfast heterosexual relationships that have produced healthy, happy children. There is my ninety year old Nan who, phsyically frail, still stands psychologically tall and whose blessing everyone still seeks. I am grateful to know that they love me and I won’t be dramatically cast out and scorned, never to be spoken of again. I predict that they’ll probably say congratulations and on the surface, my baby will be like every one that has gone before it, showered with presents and passed around for hugs. But when I’m gone, they’ll probably mutter about it not being quite right. They’ll struggle with the language to talk to the child about how they were conceived, won’t mention it, suggest that I don’t say a word until the child turns eighteen or come up with some tall story of a father who left before the child was born. I don’t worry about me in the midst of this, but my child, who I fear will be tarnished by the silence or made to live a lie or that they’ll be in a family they’ll never properly know or feel part of.
I start to wonder if, the fact that I’m questioning so much, is a sign that I don’t really want this.
The moment that I think this is the one where I realise that I really do. I see that all of my worries are my own and won’t necessarily be my child’s. It might be naivety, that love will conquer all, that where there’s a will, there’s a way, but it feels right. It’s just going to be more complicated for me and it’s going to take compromise on my part, of the way that I thought and wanted parenthood to be. If it’s going to work, I have to accept that this is how it is. The way I was brought up won’t be replicated in the life I’ll create for my child, nor the way of my friends and their children, but something in between. And that will be okay for us both.
I decide to phone the clinic, just to check that they received Dr Marion’s letter.
October 30, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I summon the courage to make an appointment with Dr Marion surprisingly quickly. The appointment is for late afternoon, I to work and vow not to think about it until I leave for the surgery. It’s actually not that hard. The more I accept that I do want a baby, the knowledge begins to sit more comfortably alongside the rest of my life and it’s reduced from the all-consuming over-size sofa that didn’t quite know how to arrange itself in my mind. So, before the appointment I manage to teach, respond to e-mails and arrange gatherings with friends. I tell myself to remain in the moment and not to think beyond the next task. Today it works. In my final class, I forget that I can’t be accosted by a student and I have to sprint to the surgery.
Dr Marion is running forty-five minutes late. They don’t tell you that until after you’re booked in and, once you’re booked in, they don’t allow you to leave, not even for a newspaper. In case she catches up, I’m told. I take a seat upstairs. There are twelve others waiting. Most are holding pink, five minute appointment-on-the-day cards with Dr Gary. The rest must be Dr Marion’s.
It’s a long wait. Each one of the fine minutes with Dr Gary come out with a prescription. Only one of Dr Marion’s does and they’re yellow with jaundice. I want to check that the prescription’s not for make-up. As each one of Dr Marion’s is shooed out I catch a glimpse of her and my new sprung self-assuredness that I know what I am doing and that I am justified in being there deserts me. Dr Marion is so brisk that she does, indeed, catch-up.
Dr Marion’s voice barks me into the room. She is tapping on the computer screen. She looks tired and older than I remember. I calculate, on ten minute appointments, how many patients she has seen today and see her for the post-1945 miracle that she is. In the unintentional silence she looks at me and asks how I am. I’m fine, I respond. She looks at me closer and I realise what I have said.
I apologise for taking up her time. I’m not actually sick, I tell her. Well, not this time, I can’t resist in my head. The thing is, I go on, I want to have a baby. How long have you been trying, she asks and I’m immediately confused. Does two weeks of internet searching and phonecall avoiding count as trying? I’m about to settle on telling her ten days, when I realise what she means and I splutter, no, no and I go all high-pitched and say that I can’t. I mean, I’m not in a relationship with a man. I’m single. A lesbian. That’s the quickest time I’ve ever outed myself to anyone. I want to go to a clinic, I tell her. With a donor. Only they need you to write a referral letter. I know that you’ll think I’m mad, and I know that babies are alot of hard work, and I may decide not to, but…I’m jabbering now. Dr Marion’s not even listening.
She’s picked up a dictaphone from her desk and waves it towards me. It reminds me of my old head teacher’s ruler and I realise that she wants me to shut up. She starts to dictate. Please will you see this infertile (I wince, but realise that it’s true) thirty-six year old woman for treatment. She stops at various points for more information before carrying on. Are your cycles regular, she asks. I have no idea. I have them. They must be. I nod yes. With regular, 28 day cycles for…..She stops again. Is it IUI? What? I ask. IUI? It’s the one with a donor, I tell her. Donor imsemination or something. I think you’ll find that it’s called IUI, she replies and looks withering. For Intra Uterine Insemination. It’s done.
I give her the fax number and she says that it will be sent tomorrow. She puts the dictaphone down, smiles and wishes me luck. I could hug her. I leave jubilant, task done, but also chastened. How can I go to a clinic and not know what treatment I’ll be having or how regular my cycles are? Conceiving a child is not some kind of joke. It’s time to get serious and do some proper homework.
October 23, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It is five whole days since I wrote it in my diary. My working week has been unusual in that I have looked at my ‘things to do’ list and methodically accomplished everything on it. Apart from one thing – the phone call to the clinic.
Every day I have told myself that I will do it after one work related task or another, that I will wait for a quiet moment in the open plan office that I share with thirty others. In the slightly more private stairwell there always seems to have been someone lurking, dealing with calls about offspring or things to be fixed or fitted. The smoker’s shelter is packed with huddlers, and beyond the office perimeter, it’s blowing a gale and venturing out would involve shouting for all to hear.
In the fleeting moments when I feel like I almost might be able to make the call, I tell myself that I’ll do it after Paula’s done the 10.30 tea round, when Chrissie’s back from lunch, or after Karen’s gone for the kit-kats, I don’t want to leave them short. Before I know it, another day has gone and each night in bed I resolve that I really will do it the following day.
When I do make the call it takes me by surprise. I’ve not thought about attempting it for at least ten minutes and I don’t have a pen or my diary with me. It’s my lunch break, the wind has dropped, the sun is out, and there’s a bench free in the park. No other human being is visible for a hundred yards and they’re all walking the opposite way.
I dial the number quickly, I know it off by heart, and it’s answered almost straight away. I immediately hear business, other rings and chatter in the background. It is a call centre. I wonder if it might be Bangalore. I am light headed as I realised that whoever it is I speak to, I probably never will again. A voice tells me that I am through to Jennifer and she asks how she can help. She sounds nearer than Bangalore and anxiety returns.
She asks how she can help again. I briefly consider telling her it’s my gall stones, but then I think that it’s Friday and, if I don’t say it now, another week will have passed. So I take a deep breath and, for the first time, I tell someone, another human being, what it is that I want to do. I want to try to have a baby. By donor insemination. Could she give me some more information please.
She gives no sign that she consideres my request preposterous. Instead, she tells me the cost. £150 for the initial consultation, £150 if they need to do a scan and £850 per cycle of treatment. I love her for her lack of hesitation and resolve I will add Jennifer to my list of possible names. The enormity of the sums don’t sink in, all I register is that it is indeed marginally cheaper to be inseminated in a coastal town than Harley Street. It’s all going so well, until Jennifer tells me that to make an initial appointment, I’ll need a referral letter from my GP.
I think of Dr Marion and shudder. At my doctor’s surgery all of the doctor’s referred to by their first names, Dr Gary, Dr Helen and mine, Dr Marion, as if this somehow denotes their friendliness. In Dr Marion’s case, it does not. She resembles a headteacher who once made me cry for talking when she did. The first time I saw Dr Marion, I’d had a cough for six weeks. It was not just a clearing-of-your-throat kind of cough. I was practically whooping. Dr Marion suggested something called buttercup linctus and dismissed me with disdain. Still spluttering two weeks later I readily agreed to see ‘the locum’ who, not yet afforded first name status, always seemed to have appointments. With time on his hands he took a full history, diagnosed asthma and prescribed an inhaler. One puff in the morning and the coughing ceased.
The second time I was churning with over-worked anxiety, so much so that to those who looked closely enough, I was shaking and had not been able to sleep or keep food down for days. Dr Marion did not seem to appreciate that for me, making an appointment was a sign of desperation. She suggested that I go for a run. Or perhaps a swim. The following day I specifically requested ’the locum’, a different one this time, who gave me a mild dose of diazepam and signed me off for a week. The reminder of the episode fills me with panic. Does once having been prescribed tranquilisers preclude someone from being a mother? For Dr Marion it surely will. That, or she will look at my notes and realise that I have been two-timing her with a locum and refuse to write the referral letter. Even if she considers my request, her diagnostic skills will probably mean she’ll pack me off to buy a real-life baby doll or lemon wool and knitting needles, as if that might salve the itch.
Jennifer continues to talk on the phone. She’s giving me the fax number of the hospital where Dr Marion is supposed to send the referral. I’m too embarassed to tell her that I’ve come out without a pen. I thank her as breezily as I can, as if saying “of course, that’s fine” and she is gone, before I have a chance to ask whether a referral letter from a locum might count.
October 8, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Despite making the decision, I’ve done nothing for days. For some, it would have been a spur to action, prompting phonecalls, appointments and discussions, but for me, its been anything but.
I’ve simply languished in the thought that I’ve made the decision, and that’s been enough. Inside, I’ve been heady with the thought of it – I’m going to try to have a baby. As the week’s gone on, I’ve grown ever more confident – I’m going to have a baby- going from conception to birth in two rapid thoughts, with little consideration of how I’m going to get there. I’ve named and dressed my child and considered whether, after years of insisting I would send it to the just-out-of-Special-Measures local comprehensive, I actually will.
To do any more than fantasize has risked failure. I’ve been fearful that I’m just a phonecall away from someone telling me that I’m medically, psychologically, financially, unfit to have a child. The onset of my period has brought me to my senses. Its not going to be the immaculate conception. I’m going to have to do more than just think about it.
I make a start by switching on my laptop. Its old, full of virus and takes a long time to load. When my home page eventually pops up, I deliberately delay, check my e-mail and easyjet flights for next summer, before quickly typing in fertility clinics, almost as an afterthought.
I’ve decided that contacting a clinic will be my first option for a range of reasons. I know few men and those that I do are all attached and fathers already. I know very little about fertility and the process of insemination. Going to a clinic, at least for an initial appointment, will talk me through it. There are definite disadvantages, not least for my child, who, if I decide to proceed, will grow up not knowing who their father is, an absence that I cannot imagine. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I decide to look up a clinic, if only to rule it out, and press search.
The list pops up and my heart soars. Another step closer. Maybe I could successfully conceive a child by google and e-mail? The next click of the mouse takes me to a generic website for a private health company. Their local hospital is thirty miles from my home town. They don’t just do babies, but gall stones, appendixes, ulcers and almost anything else for those with private health insurance. The photograph of the building confirms the impression. It resembles a bye-gone sanitorium where people might once have been pushed around in wicker wheelchairs. The thought of a private hospital makes me wince as I remember that if I had been a boy, my father wanted to call me Aneurin. I scroll and click on ‘Treatment’, ‘Cost’, but it gives little information apart from “phone for details” and an 0800 number. Phoning would involve conversation with an actual person but I’m not quite ready for that yet. I click on the next.
The second is for a clinic in Harley Street in London. They do give prices. But they’re such a shock I immediately click cancel and pretend that I haven’t seen them. I convince myself that it must be cheaper to conceive in a small town sanitorium than inner-city London.
As I go to the third option, images fade in and out and music starts to play. Its all waterfalls, pebbles and pan-pipes. The blurb promises a spa-like environment and to attend to the “holistic” me. For some people, I’m sure this would probably be appealing, but it makes me shudder. They provide lots of information, PDF file after file, of treatment options, costs, the process, so much so that my computer freezes and I’m forced to control-alt-delete.
As my computer re-boots I remind myself that I’m trying to conceive a child, not book in for a facial. If I decide to pursue this route, while my baby will be born out of my love for it, I’ll also be embarking on a medical procedure that I will pay for. I don’t want to call it what its not. I dismiss the soft-tone waterfalls and return to the white-coat honesty of the private hospital.
I write down their number in my work diary, at the bottom of the list that I am intending to do tomorrow, as if making the call is something that I might actually do. I remember that I rarely look at the list, let alone accomplish the things on it. Still, its another small step. I’ll phone tomorrow.