Indispensable Men

“The cemeteries are full of indispensable men.”
– Charles de Gaulle

September 2020

Last week we all went back to work, another new normal, like our old lives but different. We’ve gone from 0-100 in the blink of an eye. After being in each other’s pockets for six months, day in, day out, Grace you’re now at nursery for three days and Evelyn you’re at school for five. I’m not going to lie, it’s nice having adult conversation again, talking to people face to face (albeit with a mask) and teaching pupils while simultaneously seeing the expressions on their faces. Its nice to finish a cup of tea and not spend most of the day either making food or clearing it away. It’s nice to not hear my name called out every other minute, “I want an ice cream”, “I’m trying to tell you something”, “wipe my bum” and “not that paw patrol, I want to watch REE-AL Paw Patrol”, (random adults with high pitched American accents playing with toys to weirdly mesmerizing music). But at the same time I already miss you, I miss the slower pace, I miss your dad being home before 6.45pm, not spending evenings on the laptop and phone, planning, marking, finishing off yet another email. I wonder if there’s middle ground anymore? We worked so hard for you to be here and went though so much, yet so easily we fall back into a life in which the scales are tipped towards one of work. A world where its too easy to get caught up in the frantic pace of today’s workplace, where people for one reason or another, whether it’s pressure from those above or the pressure they put on themselves, worry far too much they are indispensable. Your Grandpa always had a great work ethic, even as a Headteacher he was back at home before the start of Neighbours each night. On one occasion when him and grandma came to visit, I remember him commenting on how surprised he was by the number of people rushing around Victoria Station at 7pm, wondering why so many of them weren’t back at home already, to him work and life were always very separate entities.

February 2014

We were back at the hospital but this time not for scans or cancer treatment, this time to talk about fertility. I looked around, the waiting room was full of pregnant woman. I guess it’s entirely logically and far more efficient to group all patients with gyne issues together but it doesn’t make for the most comfortable of experiences. Another woman, who had just lost a baby was also there and was quite rightly upset about the position she now found herself in. But whereas I sat quietly wishing to be out of there as soon as possible she was quite vocal about the ridiculousness of the situation and the lack of empathy shown by whoever on high had made these organizational decisions.

We were called in to see the nurse and thrown headfirst into another world that we had no idea about. I imagine for most people who find themselves siting in front of a fertility nurse they will have been trying for a baby for quite some time. The prospect of IVF would probably be something they’d carefully considered, researched and come to terms with both emotionally and financially. We, on the other hand were once again totally clueless and in the hands of the professionals.

She welcomed us in with a smile and explained that the hospital team had already been in contact with the local Nuffield Clinic who did private as well as NHS treatment. They had agreed for us to start as soon as possible but the funding issue wasn’t quite as straightforward. Under normal circumstances to apply for funding, a whole host of criteria have to be fulfilled, thankfully because I was undergoing cancer treatment many of these conditions no longer had to be met. However, the uncertainty arose from the fact that in the documentation it was assumed that eventually the embryos would be put back into the my own uterus. Obviously that wasn’t going be the case given as I no longer had one of those and the nurse told us that the last few times she had applied and added to the form the embryos would eventually be transferred to a surrogate the funding had been declined. This wasn’t what we wanted to hear and although we were relieved to find out we could start the process within weeks, added to our anxieties was now the prospect of having to find five thousand pounds, clearly not something we had lying around. Fortunately, nowhere on the application did it explicitly say ‘will these embroys but transferred back to the woman from which they came?’ so this time she’d decided not to mention it in the additional notes. As long as no one probed any further we were just another couple who’d been having difficulties trying to conceive.

We waited a week to find out that the funding had been secured and breathed a sigh of relief, just in time for our first meeting at the Nuffield. The fertility wing of the hospital felt very different from the sterile ones we were used to. Photos of success stories and thank you cards adorned the walls, there was no magnolia in sight and plants and comfy chairs were aplenty. I read through the leaflets in the waiting area absorbing all this new information. I had so many questions. What did the know about surrogacy? How many embryos would they collect? Would we get enough? What happens if we get too many?

We sat and listened intently as the next medical professional to contribute to our story talked us through exactly how the process would work. In layman’s terms the first task was to create a bespoke cocktail of hormones that I would inject over a number of weeks to stimulate my ovaries into producing several huge follicles. More needles, this time into my tummy and this time I would have to do it myself. I wondered whether this would be as painful as the anticoagulant that your dad had put into my legs each morning for a month after the last op. Then, just under two weeks later and a few vaginal scans thrown in for good measure an ovulation trigger would “mature” the eggs and they would be collected via another needle through the foof while I was sedated. Again. Easy peasy, huh?

And so we left, with a bag full of viles and syringes and mix of emotions right through from fear and bewilderment to excitement and anticipation. But most of all, a real sense that despite everything the hope of a family was finally being realized.

September 2020

When I had to take time off for my treatment I worried so much about whether my classes would fall apart without me there. Today there are so many daily demands on us all and so many jobs to be ticked off the list that it’s not surprising people feel that if they aren’t around things might fall apart. But when I was away things didn’t fall apart, perhaps didn’t run as smoothly but ultimately others were there to pick up the pieces and the cogs keep on turning. The thing is, the demands from institutions and the digital abyss will always be there, but its the people who demand the least that often need us the most, the people who love us no mater how many times we appear to prioritize something else over them. And in all honestly the only people to which we are truely indispensable to is to you, to our families, our closest friends and to each other and as we head straight back into a life littered with far too many thief’s of time we must never forget that.

Forever & always,


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