Even though it’s been twenty years by now, I can still distinctly remember my very first period. I HATED the feeling of those plasticy, sweaty pads stuck to my underwear. I was desperate to try something else even then. My mother tried to scare me with stories of TSS and irremovable tampons, but I didn’t care, I just wanted to be comfortable.
Later, I switched to cups, and then… reusable pads. I had no idea that they would feel that much better than the disposable kind, but they absolutely do. Seriously – believe the myth. I tried one, and then ordered a dozen. I have been using the same brand for around eight years now, so I’m definitely a convert. And after one too many dashes through the rain to find Jo some pads, I was determined to make her into one as well this summer.
Cue my welcome-to-Ghent-here-are-some-menstrual-products-darling gift, cute prints, and some mild persuasion…
After reading through tons of information, reviews, and clicking on so many price lists my eyes go funny, I narrow it down to three possible clinics in London we want go visit so we can compare. I email all three of them, excited that this is actually coming together for us.
They don’t immediately reply, so I use the contact form on their website instead, thinking maybe they didn’t receive it.
They don’t reply again, so I Google various email addresses of the clinics, and email all of those.
They still don’t reply, so I go onto a fertility forum and, mildly worried, ask the other people there for help. I am reassured it’s normal, and to wait longer. Apparently some clinics take weeks or even months to email back.
I run out of patience much sooner than that though, and I task Jo with calling them (I am terrible at phone calls, especially the important ones). I sit anxiously next to her with a huge list of questions to ask them up on the computer screen.
No reply. OF COURSE. Dammit people!
I am in the sickeningly green-and-white doctor’s office in Ghent, reading him a list of what I need to be tested for – various STD’s, Rubella, thyroid levels, hormone levels.
As always with these types of appointments, I feel as if I need to be prepared for a fight. I remind myself that I need to be articulate, well informed, but smile enough so he’ll want to help me. I have practised what I am going to say in my head. Yes, we have considered our options in Belgium. Yes, we are sure. Please just do this for me because otherwise we’ll be paying out of pocket in the UK.
But then… he agrees to test me without any protest. Just like that. The doctor draws the blood, says the results will be quick, and sends me on my way.
It feels suspiciously easy.
I am five years old. My favourite toy is a baby doll that cries if its dummy falls out. I call her Katy and take her everywhere with me.
One fateful night, her dummy falls out and five year old me wakes up grumpy and confused. I rummage around in my bed for the dummy but I can’t find it. She is crying and crying so I do the only thing I can think of at the time – I pick up the doll and smash it against the wall until the crying stops.
I never wanted to be a mother.
“Maybe we should go to Copenhagen.” I lean over the table and look at Jo, my eyes burning after a night of heavy research on the internet. “…Or Norway. But then they have that Barnrett law, so that’ll cost us.”
“Hm.” Jo nods calmly while she eats her lunch. She has known me for years and as a result is rarely fazed anymore by my crazier moods.
“Cyprus or Greece are out, of course. Maybe the Czech Republic? I’ll check the donor law there.”
We drink some coffee – made to be ready right when Jo arrives from Dutch class – while my brain spins on at strange speeds. “That leaves… well, not France, obviously. Or Italy. Not Turkey either. Spain would have been nice. Of course then there’s…” I count on my fingers. “…the travel costs, the treatment costs, the stay itself, which it all depends on how long they would require us to stay there so…”
The internet plus desperation is a heady combination, and I refuse to stop until I’ve thought about it all.
Cue the summer of clinic searches!