Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Art of Turning a UFE to a FE (Part 1)

UFE = Unfertilised Egg
FE = Fertilised Egg

Baby making is an art form. It follows a well established structure and pattern in shaping the artistic work (aka baby). It must be carefully stage managed, played out in the right environment, with all those in key roles present and accounted for to ensure it is a hit (so to speak). In short, it requires an awful lot of stars to be aligned in order to be a success. Unfortunately for my husband and I, aligning those stars is proving to be much harder than we first thought.

Our artistic journey (turning our UFE to a FE) began when we decided that after eight years of marriage (cue in the drum roll) we were finally ready, willing and able to start a family. This was a momentous occasion not just for us, as we were living a very comfortable and enjoyable life as DINKS (Double Income, No Kids), but for our myriad of family and friends who had ‘given up’ and assumed it would never happen. It was a time filled with mixed emotions:
  • Excitement – This will be a new adventure with a new little person of our very own. 
  • Relief (for me and my husband)The maternal instinct finally hit. 
  • Fear – Good god how am I going to get through the birth, which surely must be one of the most horrendous experiences a woman can go through. Note I am one of those people who believe the actual miracle is the creation of the life itself. The process of bringing the life into this world is not – it’s just a means to an end. If that was the miracle why are women’s bodies biologically programmed to ‘forget’ the experience?
  • Uncertainty – If we switch to one income, will we be in a good financial position to support a child and maintain our lifestyle? What happens to my career? What happens to us and our relationship? How will I cope with the changes to my body after (hint - not well at all)? How much will our lives really change and will we be able to accept these changes?  But more on all this other stuff later.

So it was decided. We were going to take the plunge and do this. Surely it will be easy? We may not be up to speed on the whole process (got the basics down pat, but don’t ask us about cycles) but hey, men and women have been doing this since the dawn of time.  Even sixteen-year olds are managing it (albeit not intentionally). If my husband and I both turn up, it’ll just ‘happen’ right? We’ll have it done and dusted in no time.

Armed with this laissez-faire attitude and approach it would be fair to say that we didn’t take the whole process very seriously in the first three months. We didn’t really do anything differently because it was ‘just going happen’. It was fun, but not terribly productive.

At six months, we still weren’t worried. After all, we both knew it could take up to twelve months to conceive. During this time, things got serious. I started charting my cycle. I popped pills (folate and Omega 3 tablets every day). I made a commitment to myself to keep up some form of regular exercise. We had long discussions on how we wanted to care for our child, about the steps we wanted to put in place to ‘protect’ our relationship, about baby names, about who we wanted as godparents. I decided that I would see a nutritionist and a personal trainer while I was pregnant to keep my mind and body in check. I agonised over how I would maintain my career. I read articles on parenting and motherhood. I swapped stories with friends who have had children to get the inside ‘scoop’. I purchased books on pregnancy and babies. I even purchased some clothes and toys (I couldn’t resist) in preparation for the little one who was surely going to come soon.

We hit the nine month mark and still nothing. The frustration and disappointment began to set in. I mean we had names and even godparents picked out for goodness sakes! For most of my life, I had always operated on the principle that once you set a goal, you systematically put everything in place in order to achieve it. And really, hadn’t we done that? Sure, there were occasions in the last few months when I was travelling for work in the most inopportune times (I decided that telling work colleagues and clients that I was unable to travel as I was in my fertile period wasn’t really appropriate). All things considered, we didn’t do too badly. We went to the doctor to check in and see if we should start to be concerned. She reiterated that it could take up to twelve months to conceive (phew). But (yes, there was a ‘but’), she went through possible next steps in case there was a problem and also advised that we needed to think about these next steps sooner rather later as I am two years shy of thirty-five. 

Oh yeah, did I mention that as a woman your body apparently becomes a wasteland after thirty-five? I’ve had no shortage of well-meaning people giving me that look and saying “Well, don’t wait any longer, because you know, once you’re thirty-five...” Once I’m thirty-five what? My eggs fry up? A sign saying "No longer open for business" appears? My tubes magically tie themselves? I know it gets harder to conceive and that pregnancies carry more risks after this ‘magical’ year, but geez. What are these people hoping to accomplish by giving me this prognosis of doom and gloom? Is it meant to frighten my UFEs and I into submission? And what about all these celebrities and other ‘real’ people popping out children after forty? Answer me that! But I digress.... The upshot was that following the visit to the doctor, my husband and I decided we’d give it another go on our own for a while longer. This time we would be very diligent and disciplined about it. Besides, the doctor did say we should just start to think about the next steps.

Now it’s getting close to twelve months since we started our artistic journey and there is still no FE – just a bunch of UFEs (no offense, UFEs). There was one time we thought we had a FE because I was extremely tired, practically lived in the toilet and I was late (I mean really late). As it turned out, I was tired because I had worked eight, twelve-hour days straight. I also happened to be drinking an inordinate amount of water and tea (hence, the frequent trips to the toilet). Finally, it was simply one of those months where I was just late. Disappointing to say the least. I decided more action was needed so I went out and bought an ovulation tester. Every little bit helps right? I thought that month would be our month. I mean, how could we miss? We had everything!

How do we feel today? We’re still experiencing some of the same emotions, but with a different focus:
  • Excitement – Still there but now tightly contained.
  • Relief – At least my husband and I have each other.
  • Fear – What if there really is a serious problem and we can’t have a child?
  • Uncertainty – What have we done wrong? More importantly, what have I done wrong?  I’m a woman and by default, these things are "supposed" to come naturally to me. Surely I should have have known better?
     Oh, and there are two more added into the mix: 
  • RegretWhy, oh why, were we so indifferent about the whole process in the beginning? What on earth made us think we would be the exception to the rule? What a waste of six months or as I would say to a client – an absolute non value-add.
  • Guilt – We have so many family and friends who have had difficulties conceiving and our situation is nothing compared to what they have gone through. Really, we are in no position to complain. But we can’t help ourselves. The frustration, disappointment and whiff of fear remain.

My husband remains positive. He’s ready to take the next steps our doctor spoke about if need be. I am immobilised by my frustration about the fact that I cannot, no matter what I do, seem to easily ‘pick up’ this art form (in case you haven’t realised, I’m a bit of a perfectionist). I also cling to the belief (rightly or wrongly) that if I just do one more thing, our stars will align and our UFE will finally turn into a FE (clearly I’m also stubborn).

So that’s the story so far. I wish I could wrap it up in a nice, little package but I can’t. Believe me, if I could wrap everything up in a neat, shiny little package with a pretty bow and matching gift paper, I would. For now, I’ll end with this: to be continued.....


  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Hearing other people's stories helps a little when your own plans don't come to fruition, and it takes a brave soul to lay their vulnerability down for others to see.

    Kudos to you, M... and I hope to read one day soon that you've got yourself your very own FE ;-)


  2. Such a touching read ... thanks for having the courage to share it. Stay stubborn ... hopefully that one more thing u do will result in a FE!! MH

  3. Thank you for your comments & kind words, C & MH. Your support is appreciated especially as it is a subject that is very near & dear to my heart.