Saturday, November 12, 2011

Plan B

2011 has been quite a year. Some ups, a long period of feeling down, but now I feel like I am getting my mojo back to some extent and beginning to reclaim my life. The long and the short of it is, although we are still to some extent trying to conceive, I am beginning to come to terms with the fact that our chances are between slim and nil at this stage. Most days I am OK with that, some days I am a weeping, snot dripping wreck.

And so to plan B. We have decided to explore the avenue of adoption. To be honest I'm not 100% sure that it will be the right thing for us, but we have decided to give it a shot and see how we go for now. We attended an information session during the Summer, got our application pack and have started the ball rolling to some extent. The biggest obstacle holding us up at the moment is waiting for U.K. police and social services clearance. Like many Irish people our age, John lived in and around London for ten years between the 80's and 90's, at around 14 different addresses. Even finding these addresses was a challenge in itself, but luckily his mother kept an address book during that time which survived until now. He filled out the relevant forms, wrote letters to a number of borough councils all over the greater metropolitan area, and we are still waiting to hear back from them.

In the meantime, we've been hatching plan C, a more short term plan. The idea came to me after the adoption information session. The speakers at the session advised us to get as much time and experience with children as we can. Now I have years of experience with kids and babysitting. I became an auntie at the age of 19, and served my time as a nappy changing baby sitting aunt in my late teens and twenties. John hasn't so much experience, as he only became an uncle ten years ago, and only two of his nieces live in Ireland, the other three are in Australia.

Anyway an idea came to me out of the blue. An ex colleague of mine has a family member who is hugely involved with the Chernobyl Children's Project in our area. Part of the work they do is organising respite holidays to Ireland for children from disadvantaged backgrounds in countries like Belarus, during the summer and at Christmas. After thinking about it for a short while we decided to take the plunge and make enquiries about volunteering with them. As it turns out, they are always on the lookout for host families, and were delighted with our expression of interest. So we applied for Garda (Irish police) clearance, and supplied references, all of which came back spick and span. So the plan for this Christmas is that there will be a group of children ranging in age from 7 to 14 arriving from Belarus in mid December. We will be hosting two of them, from the day we start our Christmas holidays on December 23rd, until January 4th.

We were given the option of saying what our preference was in terms of boys/girls and ages, so we have decided to go with the younger end of the age spectrum (hopefully true believers in Santa!) and girls, as I have a few young nieces in the same age group, with whom we can hopefully arrange a day's visiting/play date. We are both apprehensive and excited at the thoughts of it all. I can imagine there could be difficulties getting them to settle in a house with no other children, but I am hoping we will be able to establish a support network with the other host families in the area. Mostly though we are really looking forward to it. If nothing else it will give us a dose of reality. And we certainly won't have a quiet house this Christmas.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Days like this

Last weekend we went out for dinner with one of the few couples we know outside of cyberspace who are also experiencing fertility difficulties. The husband is a long standing friend/in law of John's, in that he was originally married into John's family, but sadly his wife passed away at a young age some years ago. Happily, he met his second wife, a lovely vivacious lady, a few years later and they married four years ago. Since then, they have been trying to conceive, and like us, have been through the mill in a huge way. They are currently coming to terms with their third failed IVF attempt.

Every so often we get together for a good old natter and a catch up. With us women, the conversation always turns to how we are faring in the infertility stakes, how we are coping with it, how very few people get what we are going through, and how crappy the whole deal is. The wife and I are both youngest daughters of large families, so we have a fair bit in common when it comes to family dynamics. We both are aunts several times over. We were discussing general life things the other night, when I mentioned that I had been at a christening the previous weekend. "How was that?" she asked, meaning "Did you get through it ok?". "Not bad actually, but then it wasn't a family one, so that's slightly easier". "I know what you mean, it's harder when it's family". A breath of fresh air, not having to explain the emotions behind steeling yourself for the attendance of a family celebration centred around young children. "How about you, any communion or confirmations in your lot this year?". "Yeah", she sighed, "one two weeks ago and another next weekend".

Ah the joys of being part of a large Catholic family. The annual Spring run of communions and confirmations. Back in the 70's, when there was very little money around and my parents had seven mouths to feed besides their own, these occasions involved dressing up in your frock (usually a hand-me-down) or suit, going to mass to receive your sacrament, coming home for a nice family lunch and then visiting your Granny in the afternoon to show off your finery. Nowdays it's a different story. Now in fairness to my family, the communion dresses are still passed on from cousin to cousin to younger sister, and they go in for a lot less fanfare than some of the Momzillas in the town where we live. But it usually involves a get together of aunties, uncles and cousins, with a buffet lunch back in the house, bouncy castle and a cake. (By the way, where does it say in the bible that the twelve apostles finished up the last supper, then bounced for two or three hours on a temporary inflatable structure? Or did this come in with Vatican Two?)

While it is lovely to get together with our families for these occasions, it's still painful when you are the only couple rocking up to the gaff with no kiddies in tow. A couple of smallies run by me, stuffed with rice crispie buns and making for the garden hand in hand, and I think that our little one should be running with them. I join a conversation between my sister and sisters in law, discussing how alike two of their little girls are, and I wonder what ours would have looked like (long curly dark hair, chubby cheeks and pale blue eyes like her mother, I tend to imagine). I hear parents comparing notes on the different stages, like "well if you think the sleepless nights were bad, the teenage years bring a whole different challenge". Sometimes I get through these days fine. Sometimes I dive into a vat of white wine to ease the sting, and end up weeping to myself in the bathroom. Sometimes I just want to scream "I'm an infertile, get me out of here!" John knows if I say it's time to go home now, it really is time to go home, and we make a hasty exit. The overwhelming feeling I always get though is that we will probably never host days like this in our house. And that is the most painful thought of all.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Updated link to John's surfing thang

John finally got around to putting his TV appearance on youtube, so here he is, in all his rubberclad glory.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

John's TV debut

As I mentioned last month, John made his debut on live TV today extolling the virtues of surfing on RTE's Daily Show. Here's the link, John's bit starts around 1.54. We had a really enjoyable day, and we got to meet not only the Daily Show team (Dáithi O Sé being a not so secret crush of mine!), but also the presenter of our favourite morning radio show, Ian Dempsey. John was a wee bit nervous, since the show was going out live, but all in all he did really well and I was very proud of him.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A mother of none

Something has been bugging me for quite some time now, and I have been trying to find the words to blog about it. It's the way adults are defined in the news in terms of their parental status. A father of four was stabbed in Limerick. A mother of two was killed in a car crash. Mention of their number of children always thrown in to further compound the tragic effect.

A number of months ago, two women and two children were stabbed to death in a town in County Limerick. One of the women was the mother of the two children, the assailant was her ex partner. The other deceased woman was a friend of hers. I can't remember the names of the victims, but as I was driving home one evening, the tragic events were reported like this on the radio. "Jane Bloggs, aged 25, her two children John and Conor, and her friend were stabbed to death in the house in the town in County Limerick". Yes you read correctly, the mother and two children were named in the report, but the other victim, a twenty year old woman, didn't warrant being mentioned by name, it would seem because she was neither a mother nor a child. What the fuck is that all about?

If I was killed in a pile up on my way to work the news would read "A forty one year old woman was killed this morning on the M7". But if it was one of my friends who happens to be a mammy it would be "A forty two year old mother of three was killed this morning on the N17". Not nearly as tragic for the loss of a non mom. It wouldn't take account that I am a wife of one (an ex wife of another, but we won't go there!), a daughter of two, a sister of six, a sister in law of nine, an aunt of nineteen (or 23 if you count in the four on John's side), a niece of four, a cousin of too many to count, a colleague and friend of many. But a mother of none, so hey, it wouldn't really count as a tragic loss, would it?

My husband lost his sister to a brain tumour ten years ago. She passed away at the age of thirty six, an indescribably huge loss to the family she left behind. She was married, but didn't have any children, due to infertility. She left behind a husband, two parents, three brothers, a sister, parents in law, sisters and brothers in law, cousins, colleagues, pupils and countless friends. People who still feel her loss acutely to this day. When her name comes up in conversation, most people ask me was she married and did she have kids? When I say no, she didn't have kids, people don't quite know what to say then, but the implication is that her passing was somehow less of a tragedy than if she had children. Tell that to an eighty year old woman who stands at her beloved daughter's grave, a woman who will never get over that loss until the day she dies. Now that's heartbreaking.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


I happened to come across this story last week on the net. Further googling yielded much the same story, a plethora of headlines proclaiming "Lesbian couple conceive quintuplets without IVF", with further text claiming that the chances of this happening without IVF were one in sixty million. The article I linked to here claims that the couple conceived quintuplets without using fertility treatment. So did a bright star guide three wise dudes to the maternity hospital where they rocked up weighed down with enough gold, frankincense and myrrh for the five new arrivals?

Is everyone missing something obvious here? The couple had IUI to conceive their babies, which carries just as much, if not more risk of multiple births, if managed poorly. It appears that the babies are all non identical, which would point to super ovulation, often an occurrence in IUI. Why didn't their fertility specialist spot that the mother had five or more ripe follicles before he carried out the insemination? Was this treatment of the pee on a stick, inseminate and fingers crossed school of IUI?

Am I the only one who thinks that there is a huge amount of misinformation regarding fertility treatment in the way this story has been reported? Surely IVF quintuplets are an extreme rarity these days. It really pisses me off the way IVF and high order multiple births are seen to go hand in hand.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Celebrity Surfing

Around six weeks ago, I had a missed call on my phone, followed by a text from one of the instructors from Lahinch Surf School. She was looking for John and only had a phone number for me. We kept playing phone tennis, missing each other's calls for days until she finally caught up with me at work a couple of days later. Dying to know what it was all about, I had to ask her. They had got a call from RTE (our national broadcaster, for my non Irish readers) the week before. They are doing a feature on one of their daytime shows about people who have taken up hobbies later in life than usual, and were looking for someone who has recently taken up surfing, preferably in their 40's, who is really enthusiastic about the sport. Needless to say John ticked all those boxes, so they got in contact with us.

John has been surfing several times a week ever since in all weathers, and today was the day for filming. So we arose at 6.30 this morning, packed up the car with surf boards and gimpsuit to head for Lahinch for 9am to meet with the show's director and cameraman. We were in the presence of greatness in terms of the Irish surf world, as John got to surf with this dude. Needless to say he was chuffed to bits, particularly as John Mc said afterwards that it was obvious that John had put in the time with his surfing. So on Tuesday 8th March we're heading up to Dublin for the show. It's going out live (Live TV! My husband on Live TV! How mad is that?!) at 4.50pm. I will put up a link to the RTE player after the event.

Just to bring him back to earth, I made him clean out the cat shit out of the litter trays when we got home. Can't have him getting too big for his surf boots, can we?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

No ordinary kitty

It was love at first sight, for me at least, the first time I clapped eyes on him. A roundy little bundle of fluff, he scampered across the yard, a few paces behind the rest of the feline tribe that live in my mother in law's shed. John had been trying to talk me into getting a kitten for a couple of months. I was so far resisting the idea. I wasn't really a cat person, or so I thought. I used to be one, when I was a kid. The last cat I had been really attached to, a gentle tabby by the unlikely name of Elizabeth Purrin, had died in the big freeze of 1982, when I was twelve years old. No other kitty had captured my heart since then. My dad had a number of extremely spoilt moggies over the years, but none of them endeared themselves to me. Nah, not a cat person, me.

Until that day in 2005. And there he was, a stripey little tabby with white socks. So fluffy he seemed clumsier than the rest of them. I picked him up for a cuddle, but never having being handled by a human before, he wasn't all that keen, but he didn't claw or hiss. So I set him down on the ground and he scampered away. My mother in law, who had been watching us through the kitchen window, smiled and said she would keep him for me. So the deal was sealed. "He has to be a Tigger, hasn't he?" I asked John. "Definitely a Tigger".

So a few weeks later, John went over to the homestead to bring Tigger back to his new home and human slaves. In the meantime, he talked me around to taking two kittens, so that they would be company for each other. "Ok" I said, "but try to get a male, I don't want the place overrun with kitty incest". John decided to select the second candidate on the basis of friendliness. And so Tigger arrived back, with his sister Elizabeth Purrin the Second in tow. They quickly settled in on our sofa and our family unit became four.

If I hadn't been a cat person for years, these two converted me instantly. Straight away they knew what a litter tray was for. They instantly purred and cuddled us. Lizzie liked to keep her distance, sitting on the edge of our laps, while Tigger would climb on my shoulder, walk a few times around my neck and then drape himself around my shoulders like a little fluffy stole. When I came home from work in the evenings, he would follow me around the house miaowing until I sat down in the armchair, then he would jump into my lap, purring furiously and demanding cuddles. If John and I were sitting together on the sofa, Tigs would do his best to divide himself between us to evenly distribute his affections. John called him the politician. He used to lie back on my lap on his back, with his head supported in my hands. I have never before, or since, seen any animal display that sense of trust in a human. He was my little furry homie.

When we moved to our new house, he didn't welcome the change. He looked for reassurance constantly in the first few weeks after we moved in. Every time I sat down he gave me this look that said "Are you sitting for a while? Can I have a cuddle?" I remember one night John and I were grouting the tiles on the bathroom wall, when Tigger came in yowling at us. He leaped into my lap, and no matter how many times I put him back on the floor, he kept jumping back up. He just wanted a reassurance snuggle. So I had to sit on the edge of the bath, grouting with one hand while he burrowed into the crook of my elbow.

Tigger converted the most hardened of cat haters who darkened our door. He grew up to resemble the Norwegian Forest Cat breed, although not as physically big as them, he had all the other characteristics. The ruff of fur around the neck, the long tufts of fur in his ears, the snow shoes for paws, and above all the big bushy tail. Every time a new visitor was in the house, they did a double take when Tigs sashayed into the kitchen, his bushy tail floating behind him. Most people couldn't believe that he wasn't some sort of pedigree, that he was a humble moggie from John's mum's backyard. All our neighbours, especially the young kids who live in our cul de sac, knew him. I'd regularly hear cries of little voices shouting "LOOK!!! CAT!!!" when he would appear over the neighbour's wall.

Once they were used to going outside in our new house, we got the cats into a routine of night curfew. Every evening before nightfall we would call them into the house, and every night without fail for five years, they came home. Until one night last September. We were away for the night in Clare, and had left the two cats happily breakfasting on Saturday morning. What we didn't realise was that our new fangled catflap had had a technical glitch, and that when we had changed the timing settings on it, it was actually locking the cats out.

The day that Tigs was last seen, our neighbours saw a strange cat hanging around. There had been a few scraps with other cats going on, so there was obviously a turf war of sorts happening. Anyway we think the upshot of it was that Tigs got locked out of the house, lost the fight for territory and he ran off to find shelter. He hasn't been seen since. We searched the whole town up and down. We put posters everywhere we could think of - vets, shops, the post office, the library, everywhere. We put ads in the local paper, local radio stations, websites, friends of the animals. We put leaflets through every letterbox of every housing estate in this town. We got plenty of calls from people who had found stray cats, but none of them were our beloved Tigger.

What broke our hearts more was how much Lizzie missed him. She literally pined for him. She went all over the house calling with the most piteous miaow. Her littermate, her constant companion for the past five years had disappeared. All of a sudden she had nobody to play with, nobody to fight with, or chase up and down the stairs. All three of us were gutted. The worst thing of all is not knowing what became of him. If he is still alive, and there were multiple unconfirmed reports of him with the same square two mile area, we are pretty sure somebody took him in, as he is the kind of cat who would charm his way into any house.

If he's not, I'm sure he has a very special place in kitty heaven. I'm sure he sits at the right paw of the Great Ceiling Cat, for Tigger was truly a righteous kitteh.