THIS ( EN­VI­OUS) LIFE PHILIPPA GALVIN

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Viewpoints -

YES­TER­DAY, I sat at my com­puter and did some­thing I never imag­ined I would have to do. I drafted an ad­ver­tise­ment. Once I’ve fin­ished it, I’m go­ing to place it in the clas­si­fieds sec­tion of my lo­cal pa­per.

The ad will ap­peal to the ran­dom pop­u­la­tion of read­ers and will ask if any one of them would like to do­nate their fresh, healthy eggs to me and my hus­band.

We are one cou­ple among many that has ‘‘ un­ex­plained in­fer­til­ity’’. That is, no one can tell us what the prob­lem is, ergo, no one can fix it. It can be very frus­trat­ing. In fact, it goes so far be­yond frus­trat­ing that at times the only re­sponse I have left is to bang my head re­peat­edly against the near­est hard sur­face. I no longer recog­nise this ver­sion of my­self.

Myr­iad as­so­ci­ated dif­fi­cul­ties ac­com­pany the prob­lem: the loss of your iden­tity and sex­u­al­ity; the in­cal­cu­la­ble stress on your re­la­tion­ship; the fi­nan­cial bur­den; the in­abil­ity to func­tion at work; the hu­mil­i­at­ing med­i­cal pro­ce­dures; the huge pause but­ton on the rest of your life.

One of the worst things for in­fer­tile cou­ples is that, at a time when they need friends most, they slowly but surely lose them.

As the ba­bies keep com­ing, you sub­con­sciously tick those friends off your list and seek out the di­min­ish­ing num­ber who re­main child­less. Even now, the last re­main­ing log­i­cal por­tion of my brain is telling me this course of ac­tion is at best fool­ish and at worst con­sti­tutes self- harm. It’s like fac­ing a wild beast and cov­er­ing your eyes to avoid be­ing eaten.

I am for­tu­nate to have a lovely friend, who has done me count­less favours in re­cent years.

Last month, my lovely friend called to let me know, be­fore any­one else did, that she was preg­nant. She and her part­ner had been try­ing for two months. We have been try­ing for seven years. I said ‘‘ Wow.’’ I said ‘‘ Wow’’ again. I said ‘‘ Well done, you two, that’s great news.’’

Then I put the phone down and wept. I love this per­son, and if there was any­thing I could wish for her it would be ex­actly this.

But the il­log­i­cal part of me stepped in and sud­denly there are a fi­nite num­ber of ba­bies in the world, and she’d just grabbed one of them.

A cou­ple of weeks later, we found out that our sev­enth round of IVF had failed. My lovely friend called to check on me, as al­ways. She sug­gested we meet up, for cof­fee, din­ner, a walk, any­thing. I man­aged a few mono­syl­labic replies. I said I’d call her. I didn’t mean it. I just said what­ever it took to get her off the phone.

Two weeks have gone by. I haven’t called her. But I have been think­ing a lot about what hap­pened in that short phone call be­tween two good friends who care about each other.

I’m ashamed to ad­mit it, but it’s clearly envy. Pure, unadul­ter­ated, de­bil­i­tat­ing envy. The feel­ing is so in­tense that it over­whelms me. It’s so in­tense that it’s stopped me speak­ing to a wo­man who has done noth­ing but of­fer me friend­ship and sup­port dur­ing the past 41/ years.

So, this morn­ing, as soon as I’ve put the fin­ish­ing touches to my weird ad­ver­tise­ment, I’m go­ing to email my lovely friend and ask how she’s do­ing and see if she can fit in a cof­fee, din­ner, a walk, any­thing.

It’s a start. Who knows, then maybe I can work my way back through our list and re­in­state all those lovely new mums and dads that we fool­ishly crossed off.

this­life@ theaus­tralian. com. au

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