Going Alternative

I’ve started acupuncture, yoga, reiki and weeing on a stick every morning. It’s been 12 months, time to get serious.

The alternative to these ‘alternatives’ is IVF, so you can see why I’m desperately looking for something else that works. I’m even sleeping with a quartz stone by my bed that’s supposed to help with good fertility juju. Now even I think this one is grasping at straws, but after 1 year of trying and with my 38th birthday looming, I’m willing to give anything a go.

Yoga is an easy one. I’ve practised it on and off for many years. I recommend for anyone thinking of conceiving, it will get your body nice and balanced and relaxed. There are classes specifically for fertility, but I’m going for the cheap option; the class offered at the budget gym I belong to. Not totally relaxing when you can hear the music from the gym thumping through the walls, but still a good stretch.

Acupuncture I’ve had before on a dodgy shoulder so I was quite happy to see if tiny needles could free up my energy and get everything flowing where it needs to flow. Acupuncture stimulates the nerves in your body and frees up blocked Qi.  I can’t say I completely understand it, but studies have shown it can help fertility, so I’m in.  It’s also deeply relaxing and I found myself having a little snooze, which made for a nice post work power nap before the commute home.

I don’t think I would have sought out reiki if I didn’t already know someone who practises. She offered to give us both a session. The other half agreed dubiously and she came to our house one Saturday.

Reiki is based on the principal that the practitioner can channel energy into the patient by means of touch.  She had very hot hands and I felt like my body was rocking from side to side although I was lying completely still.  Despite his reluctance P found it relaxing and was impressed by her accuracy in pinpointing the past wear and tear on his body.  She couldn’t feel anything that was particularly wrong with either of us and said we just needed to be patient, which is basically what my regular doctor said.

Probably the most helpful of the new approaches are the ovulation tester sticks. They tell you when you have an LH surge, which means you are likely to ovulate in the next 24-48 hours.

I wish I knew these existed sooner. I began monitoring from about day 10.  We did our usual day on, day off routine during the expected ovulation time, but no positive test reading.  As it crept up to day 20 I began to think I had missed it, or that the tests were faulty, I had bought them off Ebay for a fiver after all.

I was about to give up, when boom! Day 24, my LH was peaking. So late in the month! This could be the reason it’s taken so long. We usually call a halt to the bedroom antics on about day 18 and after the enforced routine can barely stand to touch each other for 2 weeks. We’ve been missing the prime time spot!

After this revelation combined with all the good energy flow from yoga, acupuncture, reiki and, not to forget the quartz stone, I am filled with a new confidence. I’ve still got my first IVF appointment booked as back up, but I’m hopeful that by the time it takes the NHS to get organised I won’t need to go down that route.

How to write like Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is still the master of children’s fiction.

Reading The Witches as an adult is just as enjoyable as I remember it being as a kid.

The story is narrated in first person by the Boy, whose name we are never told. He lives with his cigar smoking Grandma, a nice touch so ensure she’s not the stereotype knitting Granny. She warns him about the witches who live disguised in society and whose goal it is to eradicate all the children from the world.

The dark tale is told with warmth and humour and just the right amount of grizzlyness for children.

I made my first short film based on The Witches as a film project at high school. We took the premise from the book, that witches have square toes and wear gloves and wigs, and wrote a film about discovering the supply teacher was a witch, ‘Square toed shoes!’

Dahl is a master with the sounds of language often making up words or giving them new meaning in sentences that are meant to be read aloud.

‘One child a week is fifty-two a year. Squish them and squiggle them and make them disappear’

The recipe for Delayed Action Mouse Maker includes:

‘A Gruntle’s egg, the claw of a crrrabcrrruncher, and the beak of a blabbersnitch.’ Read that out loud and hear how wonderful the language is for children.

The genius of The Witches is how far he takes the plot. Half way through there is a scene where the boy accidently gets locked in the room with a group of witches having their annual convention. *WARNING SPOILER ALERT. It is a tense few chapters as he hides at the back and listens to their scheming, witnessing another boy being turned into a mouse. The convention is drawing to an end and you think he will get out of the room and report all he has heard to Grandma, wrong. The Witches sniff him out and he is brought on stage to have the Mouse Maker formula administered.

As the reader you still think he will get away, that Grandma will come to the rescue or something will happen to allow his escape. But this is where Dahl’s genius as a storyteller comes into play. The High Witch administers the formula and the Boy, the lead protagonist, is turned onto a mouse. Most other books would have the hero rescued, but no, Dahl has the worst thing that can happen to the hero, happen. From here on in, the book is a roller-coaster ride. You have absolutely no idea where the story will go. The rules of the hero don’t apply and therefore anything is possible. I was hooked and stayed up to 2am to finish, something I haven’t done with an adult book since The Song of Fire and Ice series.

As a writer of children’s fiction this is the kind of storytelling I aspire too. The unexpected and the bizarre.

Then there’s the fabulous illustrations by Quentin Blake that formed such a familiar part of my childhood. It was like reminiscing with an old friend and remembering why you’ve been friends for so long. I particularly love the character sketches from the witches’ conference, each unique well-dressed lady, and how slightly grotesque they become with the removal of the wigs and gloves to reveal their bald heads and claw like fingernails.

If you’ve not read The Witches in years, or ever, then I thoroughly recommend it. Read it to your kids, read it for yourself and get lost in Roald Dahls imagination.

What are your favourite books from childhood? I’d love to know.

5 Reasons to stay Positive when you’re not Positive

I’ve read a lot of blogs recently from disheartened woman waiting to conceive.  I’m in the 2WW (2 week wait, for those of us in the TCC (Trying to conceive) club), and while I know I’ll be upset, disappointed and behave like a crying little girl if this isn’t the month it happens.  There are plenty of reason to stay positive, when it’s not positive.

Reason 1 – Money, Money, Money

Not to sound crass or in any way suggest that keeping hold of your money is a substitute for having a baby, but, helloooo shopping. 

We started a baby fund about 12 months ago.  I’ve gotten used to a certain level of comfort in my life and I don’t want to give it all up when we drop down to one income for a while.  So we worked out how much we’d need every month to cover our expenses for a year and set ourselves a savings target. 

If I’d gotten pregnant in the first few months, there’s no way we would have come close.  We would have had to give up the cleaner, the organic veg box delivery and my monthly massage.  Like I say, I’ve gotten used to certain comforts.

Now, we’ve reached the savings target and beyond.  As I’m still not even pregnant, we used some of the money to get solar panels installed on the house.  We’re eying up a new car, and if we keep going much longer, we may even be able to afford to get married. 

Of course money is no substitute for having a family, but I will be glad go get rid of the old Rover and upgrade to a car that actually has electric windows and air conditioning.

Reason 2 – Health

In order to provide a lush and nutrient rich vessel i.e. my body; in the last 9 months I’ve stopped drinking (apart from a glass or 2 at the bad end of every month), given up caffeine, cut back on sugar, I’m eating 5- 7 fruit and veg a day, am going to the gym twice a week and walking 5 miles every weekday.  I take daily folic acid, a multi vitamin and fish oil without the vitamin A. 

I’ve been told frequently when I run into friends that my skin has never looked so good and my hair is positively shining. 

Reason 3 – Time with myself, my partner, and the cat

I feel each month like we’re on borrowed time and it will be taken away from us very soon by a crying, hungry, demanding little person.  And while I won’t begrudge the little time sucker, I appreciate every month that gives me time to see friends and hang with my other half.

We’ve booked 2 weeks holiday in Thailand, (refer to point 1 above).  I wanted one more adventure, riding elephants, hiking in the jungle and swimming in the sea.   Of course there’s always the risk I may have to do all of these things while in the early stages of pregnancy and trying not to throw up into my snorkel.

I’m spending quality time with the cat and unashamedly treating her as if she is my baby, no I don’t put nappies on her or anything weird like that, she just gets a lot of attention.  She has the top of the range food (again refer to point 1), sleeps curled up with us on the bed at night and she loves being chased around the garden like any of my friend’s toddlers.  Yesterday I treated her to a new toy which can only be described as a Freddie Krueger glove in a clown theme.  I want to say she loves it but we’re both a bit unsure.

Reason 4 – Career

When we started TCC and I naively thought it would happen immediately, I freaked out a bit that I would only have 9 months of work left for a while.  Being not long into a new job and feeling like I still had a lot I wanted to achieve, I set myself some work based goals.  In the last 9 months while not achieving a lot in my fallopian tubes, I have managed to achieve quite a bit at work.  I’ve even been promoted.  I don’t think I would have been so focused had I not been quietly planning my maternity leave.  Still planning…

Reason 5 – Freedom

Spending a lazy weekend reading a good book.  Deciding in the evening to go to the pub because we can’t be bothered cooking.  Booking same day tickets to see a comedian.  Sleeping in on a Sunday.   Spontaneously popping to London to visit friends for the weekend.  I am making the most of all the things I’m told become difficult once you are a parent.

So while I sincerely hope this is the last ‘poor me I can’t conceive’ blog I have to write, if the big test comes back negative next week, I will console myself knowing there’s a few more pennies in the bank, my hair looks good, and I can sleep in on Sunday with no one to wake us but the cat, and at least we can lock her outside when we need to. 

Blade Runner is still an awesome movie

I love the strange, the surreal and the bizarre in film, as long as it’s told with strong narrative, interesting characters and beautiful camera work. Blade Runner has all of everything I love in cinema, twisted together into a film noir futuristic sci-fi, set in the distant year of 2019.

This movie has been through 6 official iterations, of which 3 have been available for cinema release. I saw the Final Cut last night, which is apparently the final final final cut, the way Ridley Scott intended it to be.

It was at least 10 years since I’d seen the original so I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head what was different. But 20 minutes on IMBD tells me (SPOILER ALERT) there is no voice over, which I don’t remember from the original anyway; there is no happy ending; and there is an additional unicorn scene giving the paper unicorn at the end a whole different significance which film buffs everywhere are happily debating. Whichever your preference it’s still a damn good movie and I recommend watching any of the available versions if you haven’t already.

As a film student I spent many late nights feasting on classic and cult cinema. Some old beauties like Metropolis and some best forgotten, umm Barbarella. In my home town we had a beautiful old theatre with terrace seating and gilt covered balconies where they used to screen classic films. I saw Gone with the Wind here, the 4 hours was tough with the old small seats; A Clockwork orange, which my friend walked out on in disgust; and silent Charlie Chaplin movies accompanied by the Auckland Philharmonic Orchestra.

I saw the director John Waters speak at the Hay Festival a few years ago. In preparation my friends and I had a series of John Waters movie nights. Rediscovering the delights of Cry Baby, Polyester and the fabulous Hair Spray.

If you have seen any the movies I’ve so far mentioned, you’ll have an idea of the type of films I like. My partner on the other hand, loves action and disaster movies. I’ll watch any genre as long as it’s a good film, so I don’t mind Rocky or Deep Impact, but I’m not going to watch The Expendables III.

The one genre we do agree on is sci-fi. We both love strange worlds, alien invasions, robot and human relationships, I like the theme of forbidden love, he likes the sex scenes. We spent about 3 months of Sundays watching back to back Battlestar Galactica series.

What I don’t get is action hero films. Sure Wolverine is a walking hunk of sexy man, but how many superhero saving the world films does anyone really need to see in one lifetime? Can there be any more versions of Superman?

How is it that the dolls (sorry action heroes) that men played with when they are boys, have spurned countless serious movie franchises and it’s okay for grown men to get excited about these films. But if there was an equivalent for woman, say a Barbie series for adults they would probably get laughed at as pointless and stupid.

Although let’s face it we probably wouldn’t be interested anyway. I’ve long given up on the dream of perfect hair, long legs and elegant clothes. Perhaps that’s it, men aren’t yet ready to give up on the dream that one day, just one day they may discover a secret power and use it to rescue pretty women and save the world.

Maybe then they’ll stop watching men in tight trousers leaping about buildings and start watching the latest bitter sweet story of a transgender refugee living rough on the streets of Slovakia told through the perspective of her blind dog. Break out the popcorn, that’s the kind of art house festival film I’m talking about!

This is not a hen do

Yesterday I went to a pre wedding get together.  This is what hen dos are called when you’re in your mid 30’s.  A group of women and a couple of men enjoying a hearty lunch in a North London tavern.  There was a distinct lack of drinking for a hen do.  But as half the group were either pregnant or breastfeeding I guess it’s not so surprising.   Apart from one trooper who had expressed all morning so she could enjoy some good wine on her first day out from her 4 month old.

Then there was me, making 1 glass of prosecco last 4 hours because I really really hope I’m pregnant.  Even though it was only day 9 of my cycle, but you never know I may be one of those early ovulators.  I hope I’m one of those early ovulators, otherwise I just passed up an opportunity to get sloshed with some of my dearest friends on a rare child free occasion.

Hen dos have changed significantly over the 20 years since I’ve been at attendance.  From the Kitchen Tea that my oldest sister had.  Where everyone brought presents for which to start her kitchen with.  The premise I suppose being that the kitchen would be her domain rather than her husbands.  These days you’re more likely to get a ‘bedroom’ present than a spatula.

My first actual friend got married at the age of 25 which we all thought was terribly young.  I’ve since moved to the UK where young weddings seem to be the norm.  There was a butler in the buff making us cocktails that had to be drunk through willy straws.  Then we hit the town in true hen style with embarrassing attire for the bride and a list of silly things she had to accomplish through the night.

Then there were the heady days of the pre-recession hen do.  These were my best friends from the London days.   Weekends in Budapest, Bath and Poitiers, with our early 30’s no mortgage no kids income.  Horse rides, spas, Michelin star restaurants and real champagne.  No pink boas or rude head dress but there were plenty of vodka cocktails and dancing till dawn.

Most of my friends are married now and the hen dos have been replaced by children’s birthday parties.  It’s nice to have an excuse to get friends together for a long afternoon lunch.  It was brilliant to catch up with old friends and meet some of the bride’s family before the wedding.  But as I finished my lamb chop with kale pesto, and took a sip of my made from real mint leaves tea, I couldn’t help thinking, I should have brought some willy straws…

They say the fun is in the trying

‘Every day.’ My friend recommends. ‘Twice a day if you can.’ I nearly fall off my chair. We’re sitting in a London café and I’ve just confided in her that we’re trying for a baby. ‘Apparently the reason why most couples take so long to conceive is because they’re not having enough sex.’ I don’t know where she got this stat from, she works from home so it might have been Oprah. ‘We tried for 6 months and when we started doing it every day; boom.’ My eyes are wide with fear.

Keeping a day on day off schedule for 3 weeks every month for the last 6 months has been hard enough. I’ve found my partner in foetal position in bed pretending to be asleep. ‘Don’t make me do it’ he whimpers. What I imagine he’s said is ‘Come hither you goddess of a woman’ I have to pretend this otherwise I’ll fall of the bed in tears feeling terrible about myself and another month will go by with no chance of getting pregnant.

To have a baby it follows that you have to have sex. A lot of sex, at a very specific time of the month, which is really difficult to pinpoint. The NHS recommend a blanket cover approach of every 2-3 days.

The first 3 months it was business as usual. ‘I don’t want to be one of those woman who obsesses over trying to get pregnant’ I haughtily say, ‘We’ll just keep doing like we’ve been doing and it will happen naturally when the time’s right’ firmly believing that despite my advancing years, we would hit the home run as soon as I had the coil whipped out.

After 3 months I started tracking my ovulation on P. Tracker. After 4 months I joined Mumsnet and read all the forums about TCC (Trying to Conceive). At 5 months I did the counting myself and realised the app had been telling me the wrong ovulation dates. What a waste of time! We hadn’t been doing it right, surely this month with sex every 2 days from day 5 of my cycle we couldn’t lose.

After 6 months I went to the Doctor, tried the everyday approach, and started a blog about it. ‘I thought you weren’t going to be one of those obsessive woman?’ My partner reminds me. ‘I’m 37 years old.’ I snap. ‘I don’t have time to faff about. Now get your pants off and come to bed!’

The Small Consolations

Another month goes by and I’m not pregnant.

I look for the positives in the situation. I eat a fish finger sandwich and don’t bother putting any veg with it.

We hit the pub. I order a nice bottle of wine, I can afford a better class of wine now I’m only drinking once a month. Another small positive.

Every month I’ve been working on the assumption that I am pregnant and therefore staying away from the no go food list. Not this weekend. At the deli I order 200 grams of a dark peppery Italian salami, a large block of camembert and some duck pate.

My hairdresser tells me my hair is in the best condition she’s ever seen it. I’m glad the small fortune I’m spending on folate and other supplements isn’t entirely going to waste.

For breakfast I have poached eggs with a bright running middle. Sunday roast is bloody and rare, how I like it. I have a warming glass of whiskey

I make love to my other half; not because it’s scheduled in but because we’ve been tipsy in the pub and laughing together talking bollocks over a good bottle of wine and remembering why we love each other.

It feels like a weekend off.

The Baby Project

I’m a late starter. The wrong side of 35, closer to 40 really… okay I’m 37years old. And 6 months ago my partner and I decided the time was finally right to have a baby. Of course it doesn’t happen as easy as that.

I’m used to going out and getting everything I want in life so it’s a bit of a sting that here I am 6 months later and no baby, not even pregnant. I know what the stats say, after the age of 35 it can take longer to conceive, there are more risks of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and all manner of other heart-breaking scenarios. Tabloids talk about missing out on motherhood and the selfish generation who puts their own gratification above that most noble task of breeding.

But then there’s the other stats; the average birth age in the UK hit 30 for the first time last year. According to the Office for National Statistics the number of woman giving birth aged 40+ has increased fourfold in the last 30 years. Menopause hits the average woman at around 50, we’re all living longer, healthier lives. The trend is definitely towards older, grey haired motherhood.

So I decided to see for myself and write what happens in this blog. Baby or no, grey haired mamma or selfishly shrivelled ovaries. I hope to provide information and entertainment for all those 35+ mums to be out there who aim to defy the media warnings and do things at your own pace. Late starters, like me.