World Kindness Day 2018

Today, Nov. 13th is World Kindness Day. It’s my kinda day – with all I’ve been through I’ve lost my belief in a lot of things, but I still believe in kindness….probably even more strongly. A charity I’m part of, Good Bitches Baking, has the goal to make New Zealand, Aotearoa the kindest place on earth. Gotta love a good ‘fuck off’ goal, and I definitely love this one. They’re asking people to start conversations about why #KindnessMatters to you, and to make some noise about kindness. So I thought I’d write a post about the different kindnesses I’ve been on the receiving end of during our infertility trials. (And it’s a good way to take a moment to focus on the positives and feel gratitude which they say is good for healing…win win really!)

  • My best friend lives in another city, several times she posted me ‘just because’ gifts and sometimes she even posted me cake. Besides the fact I love getting mail, having something pretty or sweet turning up unexpectedly in the mail really made my day – it was what got me through another week sometimes.
  • My Mother-In-Law and Sister-In-Law, on a couple of different occasions, left dinner on my front door step while my husband was away, so when I got home from University classes I didn’t have to think about making myself dinner. And there was generally enough for another night or 2 too! Having one less thing to think about freed up a little mental energy which made a bit more space for coping.
  • A friend, who (in the nicest possible way) I hadn’t thought was super close, sent us flowers after the 2 miscarriages she knew about, and recently texted to see how I was doing, knowing it was about the time our baby would have been due.
  • My siblings and parents chipped in for two of my sister-in-laws to surprise me with a night away, winery tour, shopping, sunshine & lovely company. It’s a good distraction when you feel like your world is falling apart.
  • My brother stopped by to say hi, and brought me coffee.
  • A new (as in length of time we’ve known each other) friend offered hop on a plane and come spend the weekend with me so I didn’t need to be alone with my grief. That thought meant a lot. Same friend also sent ‘just because’ gifts that really showed she knows me.
  • A person I met in an online support group, joined my Christmas Ornament swap, and sent me an extra special Christmas decoration along with the ornament. Sometimes people you haven’t actually met in real life can be life savers.
  • Friends got together and organised the delivery of a care package after our miscarriage.
  • Another brother and his wife, bought us a plant to remember one of our babies by.
  • The nurse that prepped me for my first D&C, called me a mum, and very gently talked through the process.
  • Dr Devora Lieberman from twitter sent me a copy of her book.
  • A group of friends who I met through Twitter, but have transitioned to offline friends too (not that online only friends are any less!) organised a email roster – so I got an email every day of our last treatment. It was truely an amazing thing, to receive an email from someone who cares about you, every day, with no expectations of engagement/response. A small moment of care & distraction that got me through each stressful day xx

And while I’ve mentioned a lot of ‘things’ being delivered or given to me, it’s not about the things. It’s about the fact that someone took the time to think about me, and to let me know they were thinking about me. I can feel lonely at the best of times, so when life is a struggle those lonely feelings can amplify, having someone reach out in those times really makes a huge difference.

Let’s keep this conversation going – what kindnesses have you given or received? Why does #KindnessMatter to you?

*Disclaimer: this is by no means an exhaustive list of all the kindnesses I’ve been on the receiving end of.

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All or Nothing.

I generally think I’m an all or nothing kinda person – I’m either doing really well at sticking to my healthy eating plan, or I’m really not! And also, I grew up being told I never finish projects or stick to things, so often I feel I have to complete something because I said I was going to (being true to my word is really important to me!), and a lack of self-trust (and a lack of what some people call ‘gut instinct’) means I can easily keep going with a project or idea for longer than I should. Generally about the time I finally decide to stop doing something, I realise I should have made that decision earlier (fine example…going part time at Uni!). So despite the creator of Capture Your Grief, specifically saying, only do the days that feel right, and look after yourself etc., it wasn’t until TheEcoFeminist wrote this very wise post, that I gave my permission to stop doing this project. Part of me had felt maybe if I keep pushing through it, I’ll find some healing – you know ‘gets worse before it gets better’ kinda thing. But I was finding doing the project had me thinking about the babies we’ve lost, ALL THE TIME (and it’s not like I don’t think about them pretty much every day anyway) and looking at other people’s Capture Your Grief posts on various social media sights. It started negatively impacting my sleep, which is generally a bad sign, and brought on an all encompassing grief attack. Yep, I’d captured my grief all right, I was literally drowning in grief.

Of course, it may not have been this project at all that brought on this latest deep, dark grief attack. It may have been the lady who did my manicure (the one that was a birthday treat, supposed to be a nice experience of pampering)….the one who’s baby is due 2 days after the due date for our most recent miscarriage. Yeah, that was fun, sitting there captive, listening to her talk about going on maternity leave etc!

Or it could have been, just a normal, unexpected, wave of grief as sometimes happens. Whatever the trigger, it’s been a long lasting, smothering, horrible grief attack.

It’s really hard to keep your head above water, when none of your coping strategies seem to be making any difference, nothing seems to be changing, and then when it starts having a really noticeable impact on your marriage….well, combined with the general “don’t know whats going on with my life, everything is in limbo”…..it really feels like you’re a bunch of tiny pieces being tossed around in a horrible stormy sea (and believe me, I know how that feels to sail through an actual massive storm). There’s a decided feeling of ‘What’s the f%@king point?!’

It’s a real shame there’s not set of instructions for dealing with this kind of grief – follow these steps and you will start to feel better, or at least see some progress. Instead you try a bunch of different tips and tricks, and then try them all over again, and if something helps you keep  doing that, til it stops helping, and then you starting trying everything else all over again. All the while, trying to support your relationships and your partner to get through this safely too.

So in summary. Grief sucks. What ever you’re going through at the moment, I hope you’re taking care, and that you’re surround by people taking care of you too xx

Day 8: Support

Support: Share your favourite support resources. Have you come across any therapies that have aided you and if so can you recommend any for others?

In all honesty I don’t feel like I’ve found anything that’s helped yet. I saw a psychologist last year & the beginning of this year, & while I found it good to talk with her I didn’t feel like I was making any progress as such…..maybe I needed to see her for longer but things got busy in those early days of pregnancy & while I was anxious I thought .i was doing ok, so to manage my time I stopped seeing her…..and when we lost this pregnancy I just couldn’t bring myself to tell another person our sad news….so I haven’t been back & I never told her. A few months ago we started seeing a grief counsellor together….I felt with the toll Grief was taking on our relationship that going to counselling together would benefit us both & help strengthen our relationship, so we found someone new to both of us. I do think it’s valuable but I also think there can be a period where it gets worse before it gets better as it brings all the feelings you’ve tried to hide back up……boy do I hope that’s the way it works, cos I’d really like it t9 get easier sometime.

Additionally I’ve been reading some books in the hope of finding something that feels like it’s helping. The pictured two are the current ones, I’m only part way into Empowering Fertility and Saying Goodbye literally just arrived today, so I’m not sure what they’re like yet. I did read Resilient Grieving a while ago, and while I like the concept, I didn’t find a lot of it was relevant to my situation…..often things about grieving talk about honouring memories, but when you don’t have anything tangible, no photos, no shared events etc like you do with someone who’s lived, or when there’s been a body to hold, it’s hard to make any of those suggestions work for you. It did however remind me that maybe I shouldn’t be expecting so much of myself yet, when it’s only been 6 months since this most recent loss…..and I have 6 years of accumulated grief….

Would love to hear if you’ve found any resources or therapies that have helped.

Day 7: Wisdom

Wisdom: What advice do you have for friends and family wanting to help a loved one who has experienced the death of their pregnancy/baby/child?

Don’t leave them to grieve on their own. I know one of the common phrases when someone is going through a stressful time is to give them space, but if everyone is giving someone solace, they end up alone. And feeling alone & lonely is the last thing you need on top of grief. Admittedly it’s a fine line, I know when I’m grieving strongly, my emotional energy levels are low and socialising is tiring and hard work, but there are ways of ensuring someone doesn’t feel alone without overwhelming them. Just a quick text or email, with no expectation of a response (make that clear when you contact them), even a letter or card, or drop off some baking, a meal, send flowers, buy a plant in memory of their loss. Suggest going for a walk together, keep inviting them to events, but always make it clear you understand if they can’t make it. Ask them what kind of social events they can cope with, or like, or want. And ask again later….people’s needs, wants, coping strategies etc change over time, and not in a linear fashion. Ask what situations are hard. Don’t assume that cos they look like they’re coping they’re doing ok….struggle doesn’t have a look. Think about when and how you ask someone how they’re doing…..if I’ve turned up at someone’s place for a catch up & as part of the greetings they ask how I’m doing I’m likely to say I’m ok, or fine…..but if you wait til I’m settled in with a cuppa or whatever, feeling more comfortable, & the ask how I’m doing, or how I’m coping, I might be more open and actually talk about….it depends on the day and how I’m feeling, I might be out for distractions and not want to think about it, in which case I’ll brush over it, but I also might feel like talking or more connection, in which case I’ll probably be more honest. Take the decision making out of things, the cognitive impact of grief shouldn’t be underestimated. If someone is grieving it’s probably taking all their brain power and head space to get through each day……if you say “let me know when you want to catch up” & leave the ball in their court, they have to think about suggesting a catch up, deciding when they’re up for it, when and where etc….lots of decisions…..if instead you say ” how about a coffee on such n such a day” they just have to think about yes or no…..much easier when your brain is struggling.

Also while to you it might feel like ages ago, and the person experiencing loss might look like they’re “over it”, but it’s also possible they’re faking it, cos society has the, feeling like they should be over it, and for them it quite possibly feels like yesterday, so keep checking in. I know for me, that for at least until the due date of the pregnancy I just lost, I’m always aware of how pregnant I should have been…..I’d already imagine these months, and now I’m having to live them in a totally different way. Things like birthdays and Christmas’s are always going to be tricky…..good times to check in. Or even just acknowledge that you’re aware it might be tricky for them, it might not be, but at least then they know it’s ok if it is tough.

And from my understandings of humans, we all just want to be heard and know our experiences are valid.

Healing

Healing – What are your thoughts on healing, what does it look like for you?

Hmmm, healing feels like a big mountain I don’t know how to climb, no path to follow to know I’m making way through or at least in the right direction, and very uncertain about whether or not I have the fitness/ability/energy to make it up.

Rituals

Rituals – What are some things you do to remember your child/children?

We don’t really have any rituals as such, but we have bought these Christmas decorations to symbol our miscarriages. Each year bringing them out, and then putting them away hasn’t got any easier. I’m kinda wanting to ignore Christmas this year, but I’ll probably look out for a decoration in memory of our most recent loss to add to the collection. Maybe I will get a couple to remember our chemical pregnancies too….sometimes it feels like our CPs don’t count, but a therapist I was seeing did say they’re still losses & they’re valid, so maybe having something to remember them too will help.

Today

Today – where are you right now in your grief?

Stuck, is probably how I’d describe where I am in my grief right now, looking for cracks in it, that small moments of slightly better, or even nice moments, might make it through……such as having coffee & delicious cake with a lovely friend.

Essence

“Who are they to you? Do they have a name? What is the meaning of their name?”

We had little nicknames for our last 2 pregnancies, and I wish we had a nickname for our other ones too now, while we didn’t really share these names with others, we still refer to them with each other. We hadn’t ever allowed ourselves to choose names….we were keeping that fun for further into the pregnancies, though we talked through a few names we liked. And it was only the most recent loss that we even found out the sex, that one was a boy. Finding that out really changed things, made the loss more real and tangible and painful. I’ve seen some people talk about the loss of their baby inspiring them to live life fully etc, but from what I can tell, those people already have children or go on to have children – not saying that’s easier just different. For me, remembering my babies is remembering all my lost dreams and hopes.

I don’t have a strong spiritual or religious belief system, or even really a belief in what happens after death, so don’t really think of them in heaven or watching over me etc, but occasionally I’ll see a monarch butterfly and wonder if it’s one of them visiting.

Purpose

Hmm my purpose for giving this project a go, is to see if it’ll help me find away through this grief, I know it’s not just gonna disappear, & that I won’t return to who I was before fertility treatment, but if it can help to make carrying the grief a little lighter then that would be a start.

But when I think about the word purpose, I mostly think about how my life currently feels purposeless, like I’m a piece of flotsam bobbing around on the ocean. I constantly swing from feeling like healing/surviving requires too much energy (well, more than I’ve got), and wanting to create a F#@k Off plan B (which probably also accounts for the questioning/re-evaluating of my study/career plans that keeps happening). I haven’t really achieved the big dreams/goals I’ve had in the past, so I’m not overly hopeful that if I chose an IMPORTANT Plan B (that would show the world that I’m important, worthy, good enough….) that I’d achieve it….but having a dream/goal to work towards does give each day a sense of meaning which my life is currently lacking.

Sunrise

Well the sunrise here in New Zealand, wasn’t visible. But maybe the gloomy wet clouds is an apt reflection of my mood most of the time these days. In all honesty just getting out of bed is hard work most days, and sometimes it’s purely the promise of coffee that gets me up. So maybe this next photo is a more appropriate sunrise photo for me.

Yes, this was actually the coffee I drank this morning. I thought the floral arrangement was pretty sweet.