What IF: the highs and lows of making babies in your thirties

My prologue in the drafting phase

Baby steps

Swarana and I were married in 2016, in our mid-30s, and — the deafening tick-tock of our biological clocks ticking in our ears — we started trying for a baby shortly thereafter. However, our enthusiastic endeavours, though spirited and numerous, were nevertheless fruitless. And so we sought assistance beyond the usual conception supplements, non-spermicidal lubricant, pregnancy tests and all manner of ovulation tracking apps.

Coming to term

There is a cavalcade of emotional trauma when faced with a dilemma like this, accompanied by an intellectual and political self-flagellation. At first, it’s the shock of comprehending that our baby cannot exist with both partners’ genes — it will never be “ours” in the purely genetic sense. You can take comfort by saying the mother will carry the baby, and so will feel, for all intents and purposes, like the biological mother, but words of this kind fall on deaf ears during those first days of disappointment.

Privilege and procreation

Our story continues because of wealth. We are not rich people, though we are not poor. We are able to save, unlike the two fifths of the UK population who cannot gather £100 at the drop of a hat. And our respective families have enough saved were we to ever be in desperate need. Poverty is not just personal destitution, but lonely destitution, when there is no one around you who can offer help.

Learning the lingo

You can assess the longevity of an online community from its use of acronyms — in writing, we all work on our WIP (work in progress), perhaps with a YA MC POV (young adult main character point of view) in a SFF (science fiction fantasy) realm with an M/M relationship (two chaps). The writing community, you see, is established.

Foetus factories

Picking an IVF clinic is a minefield. Each has its devotees and detractors, because success rates are roughly 50/50 across the board. In the end, we picked one on a friend’s recommendation that claimed to specialise in women with low ovarian counts (if you know someone who has been open enough to divulge their fertility troubles, I suggest getting their input rather than poring over faceless reviews).


The elation and surprise was intoxicating. We laughed and cried, and never quite believed we had achieved naturally what the NHS deemed too unlikely to assist with, and what the private sector demanded thousands of pounds to deliver. For free! (barring conception supplements, non-spermicidal lubricant, pregnancy tests and all manner of ovulation tracking apps).

Elementary etiquette

I would love to affect the etiquette regarding everyone’s Super Sleuth friends. At least be more like Columbo and keep your thoughts to yourself until the end! Be less like Holmes with his arrogant “Aha! I have found you out!” style of detective work.

  1. The woman may not be pregnant, but trying to become so. Perhaps fruitlessly. For who knows how long? She might be sensitive to so many setbacks, she certainly doesn’t need a public trial to ascertain the contents and efficacy of her womb.
  2. Being excited for someone is charming, but internalising it won’t quash that excitement. Keep it to yourself, and then when your friend feels safe and ready to reveal it, you get to say: “I knew it! That day in the pub, I knew it, oh I’m so happy for you!” Just delaythe congratulations. No dramas.

The blame game

There is a persistently present demon that raises its head in every step of the baby-making process — culpability. If a body isn’t producing eggs or sperm as it should, there is blame; if an ovulation fails to produce a pregnancy, there is blame; and when a miscarriage is endured, there is blame. Have I irreparably poisoned my body with years of consuming prosecco and coffee? Did I sneeze too hard? Did I offend some supreme being, and if so, to which one must I make the appropriate dedications?

Roxy the Wise

Masturbation station

In the infinite catalogue of evidence proving how men have it easier than women in every avenue of life, page 1,045,447 details how egg collection for women involves sedatives and surgery, while men are asked to watch porn in a room and unceremoniously beat one out into a cup.

Scratching the surface

The rest of the pregnancy passed without too much incidence, until the third trimester, when Swarns developed an unquenchable itch all over her body, but with no visible skin rash or irritation. After being fobbed off by our hospital’s triage (“Don’t come in if you are itchy, you might spread an infection around the ward!”), we mentioned it to our consultant, who ordered blood tests and diagnosed her with cholestasis, an elevated level of bile acid in the bloodstream. Apparently, it wouldn’t harm the baby, as long as he didn’t reach full term, when there was a high risk of still birth (or, as we referred to it: “bad things”, still incapable of uttering the unthinkable).

That’s our story

It’s a happy ending — or a happy beginning, really. But the journey matters. It matters because we rarely talk about a lot of these things, because it feels easier not to. Why dredge up those torments and grief when you can let the sediment settle at the bottom of your soul?

The big man himself

Writer of stories, movie reviews, and sundry other whims. Also a sub-editor, so you are welcome to shout at me about typos.

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