The Bravest Thing…

‘Are you sure about this?’ I say to H.

He nods.

‘No, really. Are you sure? I mean, are you worried about it?’

‘Are you worried about it?’ he says. ‘That’s more to the point.’

‘Oh god yes,’ I say. ‘Of course I am. I’ve been worried about it all day.’

This conversation has become very much academic because we have now reached the sliding doors of the doctor’s surgery. We enter in silence, and I check myself in using the new touch-screen.

‘Impressive,’ I say.

‘Hm,’ says Herbert.

There’s no-one else in the waiting room except a mother with a toddler, who is screaming and clutching her left ear. We both wait in silence. I fix my gaze on the dot matrix screen, as it endlessly circulates a request to ensure the surgery has an up-to-date phone number on record.

Eventually there is a bleep and my name appears on the screen.

‘You’d better go first,’ says H. ‘She’s not expecting me to walk in.’

I knock, state the blooming obvious that I’ve brought Herbert with me, and we sit down. Herbert’s chair is pressed against the back wall, and he doesn’t move it.

‘The last time I came to see you, I was applying for an egg freeze and share,’ I say, handing her the letter from the clinic. ‘Well, I’ve just been turned down.’

‘Oh, I’m sorry. Did they say why?’

‘Sort of. But I don’t understand any of it. I was hoping you could interpret.’

My GP frowns at the covering letter, and then at the columns of figures that accompany it. ‘I’m afraid this is a bit beyond my level of expertise,’ she says at last.

‘Well,’ I say, ‘in a way that’s a relief, because we were feeling a bit stupid for not understanding it.’

There’s a pause, while I gather up my courage. ‘In any case,’ I say, ‘we’ve decided not to wait any longer. We’ve decided we’d like to start infertility treatment please.’

There’s a brief flurry of activity from my GP as she begins to scroll through my notes. ‘Remind me of where we’ve got to?’ she says.

‘I have anovulatory cycles.’

‘Aha, yes, found it. Hm. Yes. You’re right, you’re unlikely to manage it on your own. We’ve tested your hormone levels before, and…’ another squint at the notes ‘…well, we’ve not really found anything at all, have we?’

She looks up. ‘Right! Good. First steps are with you,’ she says, looking at Herbert.

‘Oh,’ says H.

‘Because we already know about your wife, don’t we?’


We leave with a plastic tub and the instruction to call the pathology lab at the local hospital.

‘Excellent,’ I say to H. ‘For once the ball’s in your court.’

‘Hm,’ says H.

‘I always feel sorry for men giving sperm samples. I mean, it can’t be easy bringing yourself to orgasm in an NHS toilet cubicle.’

‘That won’t be a problem,’ says H, ‘if I’m not allowed to ejaculate for 4 days beforehand. God knows how I’m supposed to achieve that.’

‘I’m sure you’ll manage.’

‘And I thought you got a special little room to do it in, not a toilet cubicle.’

‘I’d heard you got special NHS-issue porn.’

‘Ugh,’ says H, ‘I don’t think I could bear to use that.’

‘I dunno, it could add a little extra frisson.’

‘I’d have to work on that in advance, I think.’


For our own entirely separate reasons, we’re both in need of a drink. For my part, I feel like we’ve just witnessed the bravest thing I ever did, taking the first, shaky step towards having a child.

I’ve always had so many fears and objections until now, but getting the news that I couldn’t freeze my eggs took me to pieces in a way I never expected. All those concerns suddenly felt like a surface layer imposed on a deeper urge. I was afraid of what having children might do to my life, but that didn’t silence the part of me that still wanted them.

And, at thirty-three-and-three-quarters, with a whole raft of existing fertility issues, I realised I couldn’t afford to wait any longer. In an ideal world, I’d still leave it for another few years, but that risked losing what little chance I had in the first place.

‘Do you know what Betty,’ said Herbert as I sobbed a wet patch onto his shoulder, ‘It’s time. Let’s not put it off any longer. It only makes it worse for you.’

Brave words for H, who openly admits he would never have children if I didn’t want them. And now, nursing a pint of bitter in the pub, his courage is wearing thin already.

‘You’re not saying much,’ I say.

A shrug.

‘Seriously. Talk back.’

‘There’s nothing to say. Not everything requires a response.’

‘But this does. It’s important. Tell me how you feel about it.’

H takes a breath. ‘Okay,’ he says, ‘I’m terrified. Alright?’


43 thoughts on “The Bravest Thing…

  1. What a post. Yes, it’s bravery, but I love how you capture the love, too. Yes, I’m using “love” twice in one sentence. I’m working up to three.

    Best wishes to you and H.
    (How do the cats feel about this?)

  2. coraggio to you both. now my menopause is technically over I’ll be going to the fertility clinic too, with very very little optimism. good luck betty herbert x

  3. I was choked reading your blog and I just had to add my feelings too. You are both incredibly brave and because of what you are having to do to have a family will make it even more special. You will both be amazing parents especially H. (if only he knew it!)and by opening your heart to all and sundry will ensure the best of help and advice.
    Good luck my lovelies, keep a stout heart! xxx

  4. Ah yes, being indecisive is my special super-power! But I think you and I are not so rare as we seem, it’s just that we’re not really allowed to say we’re not sure. Thanks for your good wishes.

  5. The best of lucks on this exciting stage of you lives! I am 44 now and I always thought one day I would have kids but never felt the “need” to make it happen, never had that urge that makes women get teary when they see baby clothes. Most of the times I am ok with being childless, but other times I wonder…

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this and your previous thoughts on the issue. People are always taken aback when I tell them that at (nearly) 32, I am still on the fence about having kids. You have managed to put that indecision into words better than I ever could, and it has helped me to read it.

    I think being able to make the decision one way or the other would be liberating for me, so I hope you feel some measure of that emotion in addition to the fear. And, of course, I wish you the best of luck going forward!

  7. That’s so good to hear – maybe we should start up a ‘reluctant father’ support group. I do think it’s harder for a lot of men, who perhaps don’t see the appeal of babies as women do. But then, loads of men are desperate for children too.

  8. Oh Betty…

    Brave, incredibly brave of both of you (Mr Muddling was always clear he would NEVER do anything involving NHS porn) and scary in equal measures

    I’ve rewritten this comment many times but what I want to say is good luck, plain and simply good luck

  9. Oh you absolute bloody STAR! The fact that this is an amazing blog post (which it is,for many many reasons,sheer honesty being right up there) is kind of secondary to the fact that I am just so happy for you as I read this – not for the obvious reason (the taking the plunge bit)but because I can just tell that you have had a real breakthrough and that makes me really happy! If it’s any help, Mr Welsh Garden was exactly the same on the having/not having children front – I really identified with that bit where you said that H has openly admitted that he wouldn’t be bothered about having children if you didn’t want them – I know LOADS of men who stand in exactly the same place on that,and once children come along they become amazing dads,instantly. You and H will be amazing parents. Good Luck! x

  10. Wow, good luck to you both. I have nothing useful to say , but I’ll be thinking of you.

  11. I often find men to be more trusting than women in relationships. Sometimes I think of it as them being a bit less… well… proactive. They trust things to just stay the same sometimes whereas women often seem motivated to change things. This is a massive generalisation the likes of which I always criticise myself. But I think there is a grain of truth in it.

  12. Wow, this IS brave! Cheering for you both . . . I will just say that my Dad had never held a baby before me, & he lit up & said he was just waiting for the right baby . . :)

    Much love & many hugs –


  13. Ha ha well I’ve told H that *so* many times – I sometimes wish he’d comment too, as it feels like a huge responsibility for me to represent him all the time. It’s terrible to say, but I’d never trust him to represent me in that way. I was absolutely amazed when he read through the first draft of the book and said he was pleased with how he came across. Not that I was trying to stitch him up – but I know that, in the same situation, I’d have been much pettier about the details.

  14. Great post Betty. I love how for a blogger, the ‘bravery’ of some of life’s big moments is mirrored and matched by the bravery of writing about it in public.

    This is not the first time though that I am left wanting to hear from Herbert in his own voice. The thing that strikes me most about Betty and Herbert is the level of trust involved in one partner trusting the other to record their relationship on both people’s behalf. I know I would not have allowed any of my partners to do that nor they me! It is such a symbol of what you have together.

    But still, there is a part of me that wants to know what Herbert REALLY thinks and feels.

    You can tell him that!

    Good luck both of you

  15. Thanks. I’m absolutely convinced that H will adore any children that arrive – and I think he is, too. He’s just never the biggest fan of change!

  16. Wishing you lots of luck. It IS a terrifying journey but it sounds like you are both ready (as you’ll ever be) to make it.

    We were in a very similar position to you at the same sort of age. I now have three daughters and my ambivalent-over-children husband absolutely dotes on them. It’s been a long process involving lots of drama getting there, but I am so glad we braved it all.

    Huge amounts of luck to you.

  17. You’re absolutely right – we thought hard about whether to blog about this, and what swung it was the thought of how much advice & support we got with the seductions.
    Sadly H is on his own for producing that sample – in any case, I suspect it will be all over very quickly after four days of abstinence!

  18. Oh dear, that just made me cry a bit too now! All I’m going to say on the matter is: bollocking biological clocks and their fundamentall confusing nature!

  19. Thanks – we’re kind of banking on it taking a while, to be honest, as it’s all been a bit of a rushed decision. H is – ahem – ‘producing’ his sperm sample on Friday morning, so it’s good to be making a fairly rapid start.

  20. Bravo, what a huge brave step for both of you. I know it all looks a bit daunting but remember you’ve got your twitter family behind you, with all it’s experience and good humour to support you on your journey. Not to mention all the pregnancy & child-rearing advice you’ll get when you’re successful.

    And there’s nothing to stop you accompanying Herbert to his cubicle and assisting with his ‘contribution’ is there? Maybe that will be Seduction Week 1 in your 52 Seductions sequel?

    Good luck x

  21. Sitting here in tears and I’m not even sure why! After your last post I’d wanted to make some slightly flippant comment along the lines of “yay, you may as well give up all forms of contraception and see what happens” ; turns out I’m thrilled for you that you’ve decided to make it a positive decision – and I think I’m crying a little bit for those of us that have definitely passed our optimum moments (trying to think of a way of not saying “sell by dates” :-D )


  22. Well done, loves. A big step but life is about moving forward isn’t it?

    And, don’t be disheartened if it takes a while. Many of our closest friends had their children in their (very) late thirties, some with infertility treatments, some without and all of them have healthy happy kids.

    At 33 you have given yourself time to allow infertility treatment to work.


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