This is 36

IVF, miscarriage and the power of a beauty ritual

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I've had the same manicurist for years. I met Pria when she worked in a very hip nail-art bar in Shoreditch - a place I'd go every three weeks to have my talons transformed with florals, love hearts, stripes and abstract patterns. As a spendy (childless) freelancer with a good disposable income and a flexible diary, I well and truly committed to it and statement nails became a signature part of my look.

Fast forward to today and Pria's been freelance for quite a few years and is now the preferred nail tech - as its referred to in the beauty industry - of some of the world's coolest celebrities, pop stars, and influencers. But amongst all of those glamorous clients, she still found time for me: while I was pregnant, nursing a new born and more recently, trying to keep a very energetic toddler under controI.

I was always incredibly grateful for her home visits during those early days of motherhood when her patience was well and truly tested. (Such as the simple gel mani that took nearly two hours because my 10-day old son wouldn't stop feeding and screaming). While it may sound vain and self-indulgent to some, those snatched couple of hours were so important to me.

With lockdown restrictions, I haven't been able to see Pria for months, but last week I booked an appointment for a new set of nails to celebrate my 36th birthday. It was needed more than ever.

"How are you?" she asked, as she sanitised her kit and I got comfy, placing my hands on the table ready for my nails to be transformed - the familiarity of the ritual so instantly comforting. "I'm not good to be honest," I replied.

Not good was an under statement. I'd spent the previous two days crying while my son looked at me confused, asking every now and then,'Mummy, ok?’

As Pria got to work removing the old gel polish from my fingers and starting on my birthday design, I told her of how we'd been trying again for a second baby with IVF. The first attempt straight out of lockdown was successful but sadly - devastatingly - ended in miscarriage just two days before my son's second birthday. The second attempt just didn't work and I'm not sure which was worse.

There is a quiet comfort to someone just sitting and listening. Someone who knows you well - your family, your life, and the journey you've already been on. But who, at the same time, doesn't want to fix you, make it about themselves or fill you with cliches.

The design I chose this time was a pale pink marble effect base with 'Scorpio', my star sign, written in Olde English-style letters in chrome gold across my fingers. A rose decorates my pinky, 36 on my thumb (my age) and the symbol of Scorpio is on the other.

I had the same design four years ago in 2016, nearly exactly to the week. I was booked in for my egg retrieval operation - the original round of IVF that brought me my son and my half dozen frozen embryos - and I wanted a design that would make me feel strong.

This time around there is so much more sadness with two failed attempts behind me. Two precious embryos gone. The strength is still there, but buried a little deeper amongst the disappointment and worry.

I'm not in a hurry to buck myself up or buy into that whole toxic version of pretend positivity. But every time I look at my son's beautiful face, I am reminded that this is all worth it. He reminds me that when this works, it really is magic and so worth holding on for. Grief is after all, the price we pay for real love.

"I feel like me again," I commented, as I said goodbye to Pria. 'I think I feel a bit stronger".

"That's my job," she replied. “To make you feel better”.

Never will I try and do this all again with bare nails. I think they might just be my super power.

From today and throughout November, all donations to my Kofi page will be given to Little Village - a London-based charity that I volunteer for and is very close to my heart. Little Village provides good quality baby clothes and equipment such as nappies, cots and prams, donated by local families, to local families that need them. As you can imagine, help is very much needed right now.

Thanks for all of your support so far and if you’re a new reader, welcome.

Until next time.

Cat x

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