Mr H's mother is a woman of firm and decided opinions, many of which appear to have been gleaned directly from the pages of the Daily Mail. She is a devout Catholic, I am a committed feminist. There are many issues on which we do not see eye-to-eye: a woman's right to choose, UK immigration policy.... I could go on.
Mr H is one of five children - a fact which may well be attributable to his mother's religious beliefs, rather than to any strong maternal instinct on her part. She fell pregnant with Mr H and his brother soon after getting married and, in her own words, was 'absolutely devastated' to discover that she was carrying twins: 'I didn't want to be pregnant at all, let alone be having two babies'. Ten months after Mr H and his brother were born, she gave birth to a daughter. After what one can only assume to be a period of some twelve years' abstinence, there then followed two further babies - a girl and then, five years later, a boy. Although I can accept that ambivalence plays a necessary and important role in mothering, and that coping with three young children ten months apart in age is in particular a lot to contend with, from what Mr H has told me about his childhood, his mother reminds me of nothing so much as a turtle, who swims up to the beach, lays her eggs and then basically f**ks off and leaves her offspring to get on with it.
I will draw a veil over many of the more tactless remarks she has made over the time we've been struggling with infertility - suffice it to say that our difficulties in conceiving have not met with any degree of understanding or compassion from Mr H's mother. After I miscarried, she sent Mr H an email (she apparently could not be bothered to pick up the phone to speak to either of us in person). One particular sentence will forever be engrained on my memory (and please bear in mind that, at that stage, we thought we were dealing with male factor issues only): 'it is good that Ms H has finally relaxed enough in order to be able to conceive. Maybe next time, when she is less stressed about her studies, she will manage to carry to term.'
I was - and still am - speechless at her insensitivity. Had she perhaps been reading one of the many Victorian medical textbooks that warn of the dire effects of intellectual work upon a woman's reproductive system, or was this something she'd picked up from the Daily Mail? Does she in all honesty believe that my eggs have been addled by too much thinking?
Mr H has a few days' holiday left, which have to be taken by the end of the month. We are accordingly going down south to spend a long weekend with his parents. When you also factor in the smug fertiles and their intrusive questions, I think it will be a miracle if I get through the next four days without losing my temper and telling someone exactly what I think of them.