Thursday, 28 May 2009

Infertility bore

I'm beginning to worry that I might be boring my friends will all my thoughts about my infertility. I had lunch with a lovely new friend today who said she felt I carried an "overwhelming sadness" around with me about it. I don't think she meant it in an awful way, but it did make me think a bit.

It's certainly true that it's become something of a pre-occupation at the moment. This is partly because I'm not working, so it's taken more of a central position in my list of things to think about on a daily basis. It's also because I'm actively undergoing tests and taking my BBT every day, so it's very much something that takes up a lot of my time. And of course, it IS a very emotional thing to deal with, and I do tend to talk to my friends about it because that makes me feel better.

The thing is, I'm not sure that I can do anything about it. I tend to think that in much the same way as I'm very tolerant of my friends (quite naturally) talking all the time about their new baby, they should be just as tolerant of me talking about my attempts to have one! What do you think?

I had my first appointment with a specialist here the other day, and it went really well. My husband and I are being sent for a raft of tests, many of which the NHS simply wouldn't have bothered with if we were still in the UK. So, I'm feeling very positive about that.

And on other topics... It's currently 47c outside! ! The first time we saw that on the car thermometer we thought we were hallucinating! We're slowly adjusting to it, though - basically you don't go outside for more than a minute or two between 11am-3pm unless you're in a car. The evenings here are lovely, though - very warm and relaxing. We went to the beach the other day at 5pm, and it was perfect! The sea really was the temperature of a warm bath.

You certainly don't get that in Peckham....

Monday, 25 May 2009

Don't marry an airline pilot

The other day, I came across this entry on a blog by the ubiquitous David Learmount, Editor of Flight International and general rent-an-aviation-expert for any newspaper or news programme you care to mention.

He wrote it last year, and I'm not sure why I didn't come across it sooner. I don't generally find myself agreeing with a lot of what he has to say, but this did ring true:

"Pilots must have a gypsy soul to survive. That may not be new, but it's particularly true as the downturn bites. Ideally, pilots should have no family ties beyond mum and dad. If they acquire a family en route, every member of it has to be incredibly tolerant of the pilot's chosen lifestyle. "

I have to agree. The best way to get through your pilot training and the first few years of employment is to be single, no doubt about it. Of course, many relationships DO survive this period (ours, for one) but it's a tremendously difficult time, and not one we care to remember. Many relationships failed during my husband's ATPL training, for a number of reasons: distance, money worries, inability to spend time together due to pressure of work, stress generated by fear of not getting a job at the end of it all... You get the picture. Then, even if a job does come up, it's usually low paid, and could in fact be anywhere in the world! I remember my husband applying for jobs in India and the Far East. Luckily for us it never came to that, although of course we have now had to make the move anyway, although thankfully later on in his career when he had enough hours to secure a job with a serious, legacy airline. I feel we've both discovered a bit of our "gypsy soul" in the last few months. This isn't a career for the faint hearted.

I digress, but Learmount then goes on to talk about how airlines in general are taking the piss at the moment when it comes to pilot recruitment, going so far as to expect pilots to self-fund their own type-rating BEFORE offering them a job (so called pay-to-fly schemes, which are now very common - amongst them Thomas Cook and Ryanair, and I imagine many others). In fact, Ryanair have stopped recruitment at the moment for experienced First Officers, preferring instead to take ab initio students, as this MAKES THEM MONEY. Don't even get me started... grrrrrr....!

So to elaborate - don't marry an airline pilot - unless:

  • You have an incredible amount of patience
  • A solid job that earns decent money
  • Don't mind doing a lot of stuff by yourself
  • Don't mind moving all over the world
  • Are a dab hand with ebay/ freecycle/ putting up shelves one-handed/checking tyre pressures
  • You have a great sense of humour
  • You're a very trusting sort of person... AND
  • You love him more than anyone else in the world.

And to be honest, if that's the case... You should be fine. Really. There are times when it will all drive you crazy, but I promise, it WILL be worth it. Honest.

And remember - marry the MAN, not the pilot. If you marry him just because he's a pilot, you'll be very disappointed!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Long-haul lifestyle

So, I've been here almost two months now, and if you'll excuse the pun, it's flown by. Even though I haven't been working - although I expect to be working part-time soon - there has been so much to do. Just settling in takes a lot of effort, I think. I've certainly had my ups and my downs. I cried for a lot of the first week, with the shock of just being here and realising I wasn't just on holiday, I think - and then I just suddenly turned a corner, and began feeling better and better. It helps that I've made quite a few friends here already, and I add more every week, which is just great. I miss my friends at home, of course - but luckily with the magic of Skype I can call them for hardly anything at all. It's brilliant. I have no idea how expats coped before Skype!

Talking of which, I spoke to my husband earlier, who was in his hotel room in the USA. Several large bodies of water, many time zones and thousands of miles lie between us, but Skype made it seem like he was next door, and it was SO cheap.

We're both adjusting to the new long-haul lifestyle. Although my husband was often away when he was based in the UK, he was often just at other regional airports, and even if night-stopping abroad, rarely so far away that there was any significant jet-lag or time difference involved. Now that my husband is doing ultra-long-haul routes, it's a complete change for us both. There are pluses and minuses to both short and long-haul. The short-haul guys generally work a busier roster, but obviously generally get to sleep in their own bed more, whereas the long-haul crews are away for maybe 4 days at a time, but then spend longer periods at home in between. We've certainly seen the benefit so far of these extended periods of time together - for example my husband had a whole week off in one go last week - but it's also very hard when he's away for 4 days, and I'm still settling in to a new country with no familiar things around me.

Still, I'm coping well. I'm learning an awful lot about myself, particularly how resilient I can be if I want to be! I'm also forcing myself to get out and about and meet people, and it's really paying dividends. This morning I had coffee with a group of other expat women from all over the world, and it was fantastic. They were all really welcoming and helpful, and had all felt how I'm feeling now, so were full of empathy. There are so many lovely people in the world! We get so bogged down with negativity sometimes, it's easy to overlook that.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Adventures in infertility

The journey that infertility takes you on has lots of unexpected turns. Certainly moving out to the Gulf has put a whole new perspective on it. One of my concerns about leaving the UK was leaving the NHS behind, because I was being treated there by an excellent gynaecologist and I was firmly "in the system", something that my fellow Brits will understand is quite a feat!

Although we have great health insurance out here, it doesn't cover anything more than "investigations into infertility". Although this might be slightly helpful, providing cover for blood tests etc, it's not going to help at all should be need any further treatment than Clomid. Luckily, there's a national health service out here too, and despite its chaotic exterior, it has a great reputation for fertility treatment. What's interesting is that very few expats take advantage of it, so I felt like a real adventurer heading to my nearest primary care centre yesterday for my health card.

Finding it was like classic farce; the rather tired building was actually hidden behind a vast new one they've built but not yet opened, and the whole complex was hidden behind the most monstrous road works known to man. All the parking was on scrub land, any which way the locals could fit, and when I went in I went through the men's entrance (of course!!!) and had to be ushered through to the women's section by a rather embarrassed male indian orderly.

Once there, it was far from clear what I was supposed to do next. Arab women here are generally covered from head to toe in the black abaya, with their faces covered too, so it's particularly difficult to make eye contact and work out whether you're being spoken to or not. They also do not believe in queueing. It's quite incredible watching a crowd of women jostling for the attention of the women behind the desk, thrusting their paperwork over the head/under the arm/through the legs of the woman in front.

Luckily, my embarrassed orderly pointed me in the direction of the cashier, where there wasn't a queue. When I told her I needed to enrol she found an English speaking nurse who told me what ID was needed, and then once this was done pointed in the direction of a corridor to the left and told me to "wait there". Once I got there I saw a hole in the wall marked "medical cards - women" and the tell-tale mass of abayas. I stood in the "queue" for about half an hour, being overtaken endlessly, before the advice of an English gulf-based nurse friend came back to me - "don't queue, because the locals don't. Push in. You're white and western. Use it." Sadly, I couldn't see any other option, so I adopted the approach of standing directly behind the woman being served, and, being considerably taller, managed to attract her attention and receive my card.

Anyhow, health card achieved, I decided I would go the whole hog and wait to see a GP. This proved more difficult than I'd expected, as when I was handed the number card which told me where I was in the waiting list, it was in Arabic script. I also realised I had no idea what the number sounded like either, so being called in Arabic would be no help at all! So I asked a few of the women if they spoke English, and they were very friendly and wrote the number down in English for me, and one in particular, who didn't have her face covered, came and sat down next to me. She told me she was Sudanese, and finding that I was British, launched into a tale about how her son was severely disabled and that she'd recently been to the UK for an operation for him, which had been performed by a famous British surgeon who I met quite recently! The world is indeed a small place.

Anyhow, after waiting for about 30 minutes she told me I might as well knock on the doctor's door between consultations and ask how long I'd have to wait, which I did, again remembering my nurse friend's advice. On doing this the doctor told me that I was number 28, and she was now on 36. I had been leap-frogged! But nevermind, she said, come in and sit down. She explained to the Arab woman who barged in just after me what had happened, and she seemed to accept it with resignation - all's fair in love and queue barging here, it seems.

My conversation with the doctor was fascinating. Instead of asking how long we'd been trying for a baby, she asked how many years we had been married. Out here, contraception clearly isn't an issue! Once you're married, that's it. I also found out the other day that in order to get a smear test on the national health system you need to produce a marriage certificate. Anyhow, she asked me whether I wanted to have an ultrasound and blood tests done there at the centre or whether I'd just prefer an immediate referral. I said I'd prefer the referral, and she said "Yes, that's a good idea. You don't need this (meaning the chaotic doctor's surgery) do you? It's like a zoo out there!" Which seemed to be a rather good analogy. Particularly as it was next door to the ACTUAL zoo. Poetic, really.

Oh, and my nurse friend's other piece of advice about handling the system was "Cry. They don't know what to do, but want to help".

Luckily I didn't need this piece of advice on this occasion, but I'm keeping it in reserve...

Friday, 1 May 2009

Hoorah for Carol Ann Duffy

On a completely random non aviation related note, I was very pleased to hear today that one of my favourite poets, Carol Ann Duffy, has been named Poet Laureate, the first woman to be appointed in all of the 341 years the post has existed. I've admired her work since my teenage days. Here's one of my favourites - which chimed very well with my disastrous teenage relationships!

Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.

It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.

It promises light like the careful undressing of


It will blind you with tears like a lover.

It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram. I give you an

Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful
as we are, for as long as we are.

Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring, if you

Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your

Thank heavens my marriage isn't anything like the above. In fact, hoorah for not being a teenager anymore...! It's vastly over-rated.



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