The unspoken synonym

f I encourage you to share your stories, I have to be honest about mine.

My husband and I have had sex three times in the last year. 

I lie in the dark. Duvet tucked in tight either side of me, my legs gently crossed, my arms folded over me like an envelope. He lies inches away, but really across the forest and the desert and the ocean, some distant terrain. At night, we are lost one from the other. I listen to his syncopated snorts and feel a gentle irritation travel through my skin. 

burn

The photograph is of a pretty, hopeful woman, with a crooked smile and the type of freckles that let you know that she is pure. She stands holding her two tiny twins, one in each arm, and the sun offers a gentle warmth to her and the surrounding cornflower blues.

maybe babies

What comes next, my maybe babies? Are you burrowing in, finding a home within me, or are you still out of reach, like some fluffy cloud floating in springtime skies?

We are content to have made it this far. Transfer was a thing of wonder, a shooting star, (maybe) once in a lifetime. I am not twisted up in knots waiting to hear; I am some thing of peace, I am soft and pliable to the universe, travelling with it as it takes its twists and turns. Even in your (pre)sence, you have washed quiet over me and I feel soft waves lick at my sandy toes.

The steel girders of my life

I slip under with the riptides. I am carried from soft moments of peace, to crescendos of piercing pain. Our third cycle of IVF has ended just as cycle one and two did: with ubiquitous unknowns. As I came round from sedation after egg collection, our embryologist, incredulous, shouted at me, “I get you eight eggs! You should be overjoyed! Make quick decision!” Oh, but my love, how little you know.

Time ticks by...

I struggle to drag air into my lungs through short, sharp breaths; I let my eyelids drop for a moment, dig my watermelon red nails into the edges of my fingers to feel something, anything, other than this anticipation. My blood pumps heavy and travels through my body, and I practice mindfulness, force myself not to follow its journey through my wrists, my neck, my head – snapshots of physical fear manifesting. Thoughts of frustration languish in my mind. I read the names of all the staff listed on a poster on the wall, I unlock my phone, check Instagram over and over, thoughtlessly return to the staff list. 45 minutes pass by like this.

Easter Sunday egg

Easter Sunday. Bunny rabbits, chicks bursting forth from their eggs, baby lambs – these are symbols ripped from the heart of pagan springtime festivals and appropriated into Christianity. They celebrate fertility, birth, beginnings – and for Christians, they represent Jesus emerging from the tomb, resurrection, new life.

Message from an old friend

You have packaged up your lie in pretty paper, I’ll give you that. I would guess that it’s yellow and crinkly and reassures you that your intentions are good, that you only have my interests at heart. I picture you folding the corners up so neatly, safe in your new home, warm light enveloping you. You touch your belly, smile at your handiwork and send it over to me.

Languages of love

On Friday, I had lunch with a colleague; she is seven months’ pregnant following just one round of IVF. She asked me how Pete is doing in all of this. I pause but then I open my mouth and some words tumble out: generic, white noise to fill the space.

Mother's Day honours

On this Mother’s Day, I honour all of the ‘invisible’ mothers. Those of us who have loved and lost too soon, those of us who have held tiny fingers with tiny fingernails, those of us who never met our momentary miracles, and then those of us too who have fought fiercely but only have dreams to show for it.

third time lucky?

I’m weighing it up. How do you know when to call time? I always said three rounds, never anticipating that it would come to that. And here we are, throwing ourselves at what should be our final fling.

Obvious choices?

“And of course, if this second cycle doesn’t work out, we will move to egg donation”…

My consultant drops this into our discussion so carelessly, the obvious next step in my fertility journey. To her, it is routine, no need to pause for thought.

Legacy

When I leave the sauna, wrapped up in layers of musty, old garments and towels, a bobbly hat topping it off, I look up at the vast inky canvas of sky, speckled in stars.

there is no running away

A cramped craft shop on a dusty track in Unawatuna. Canvases are piled high, simple but sweet pictures, designed to appeal to the travellers who pass through this tourist town. I stumble upon a cheeky oil painting, the outline of an elephant’s butt in bold orange and yellow strokes of the brush.

infertility is a waiting room

Infertility is a waiting room, with hospital pink walls and the heating up far far too high. In it, I sit, patiently and then sometimes not so patiently, breathing in ten beats and out ten beats, choking my anxiety as it rushes in.