Through the cracks.

After my last post, I was thinking I should see if I can actually find something positive to write for a change – and then a couple of (almost related) things have happened that I decided were share-worthy.

Growing up my family weren’t ones for saying they loved each other, hugs were fairly common (though I think as a child I had to be pretty demanding to get enough), though possibly not between me and my siblings. I think I was about 23 before either of my parents told me specifically that they loved me – as in verbally to my face, not like “Love, Mum” in a card or letter. So I also wasn’t in the habit of telling others I loved them. It’s like I had to teach myself to how.

My In-laws however, quite frequently tell each other that they love each other. My niblings on that side of the family have been told by their parents, grand parents, aunts/uncles ect from they day they were born that they’re loved. It took a long time before I told my niece that I loved her, not because I didn’t feel it, but because I didn’t feel comfortable saying so, and didn’t feel, being the uncle’s partner (so not married & not blood related), I was allowed to. I still remember the first time she said it back to me when she was about 3 – I almost cried.

As I wrote in a previous post I’ve been struggling to feel loved by others – I hear their words, and logically know its true, but actually feeling it….not really happening.

One of my closest friends has 2 beautiful little girls. I have loved those girls since the day they were born, in my mind they’re my nieces too (can’t have too many niblings can you?). They generally get pretty excited when I come to visit, running at me when I arrive, and climbing all over me, drawing pictures and snuggling in close. They’re pretty good at filling my hug tank up. The other day when I was visiting, the oldest was cuddled up on my lap, when out of the blue she turned in close and said “I love you”. Not only was I able to reply the same, without any thought, I noticed her words actually made their way through the protective wall to my poor beaten up heart. For a change I actually felt that someone loved me. And while I often leave my friends place with a bittersweet feeling (I’d so love to have a child as lovely and beautiful as my friend’s) for that small moment, it was perfect – and I’m claiming that as a win. A small movement in a healing direction.

And to add to that….my now 9yr old niece ended a message to me today with “love you” – all on her own accord, not in response to me saying it first

 

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Raw Honesty

So often we’re told to keep positive when going through shitty times, like infertility treatment etc, and while I know on some levels this helps, I think it’s also good to acknowledge the reality of unsuccessful treatment, and all that goes with dealing with the losses and disappointments. Lots of articles and blogs about people dealing with infertility talk about the silver linings, how much they’ve grown as a person, how they’re stronger now, more compassionate etc but often I find myself thinking that I haven’t grown or hot stronger –  and that maybe there’s something wrong with me. Sure, I get up out of bed everyday and do the things that are expected of me (like going to uni…possibly not things like going to baby showers!) but that doesn’t leave me feeling stronger. In fact most of the time I just feel tired, exhausted with life.

I appreciate the intent behind those articles and blogs – trying to give those of us struggling some hope and to feel like we’re not the only ones, but sometimes I just want to know how people are really feeling – the shitty, bitchy dark thoughts that take over when they’re not putting on a brave face and coping with the world. Because really, we spend most of our days in the offline world, trying to look like we’re doing ok, and surviving so I figure surely our blogs and articles are the places for that raw honesty. And I find I feel less alone when I read about others honest shitty thoughts, that maybe I’m not so bitchy after all. (Having said that I don’t want my blog to always be negative, and to sound like I’m a Moaning Minnie!). Because I think in sharing our pain we can create stronger connections with people – I know for myself its not easy showing my true thoughts and feelings to the world, especially now I’m well practiced at putting on a brave face and keeping on keeping on!

There are a few blog posts I’ve read in the past few months where I saw some more raw honesty, and while I wish these bloggers weren’t experiencing the pain, I was grateful they shared it with us readers – maybe you’d like to read them too, from The Ecofeminist, Delayed But Not Denied and Breathe, Write, Repeat.

Sharing our experiences with the world so honestly reminds me of this poem, which has always rung true to me….

So my request of you is, keep sharing your good days but share your honest shitty thoughts too ๐Ÿ˜Š

Why me?

Studying sociology and anthropology is a good and bad thing. Good because it makes me think about the world from other peoples perspective, which we all should try to do. Bad, because when it comes to my infertility and childlessness, it’s all about me – so I don’t actually want to think about it from someone else’s perspective, I don’t really want to be aware of my privilege in this situation, because despite all my privilege, it didn’t f’ing help me did it?!

There’s a conversation happening round New Zealand at the moment that was started by a political party making a comment along the lines of “people shouldn’t have children if they can’t afford to raise them”. There is so much wrong with that statement I don’t really know where to start – there’s several essay’s worth of content there for sure. But the general idea coming from it is that ‘poor people’ aren’t desirable parents, it’s their fault they’re poor so therefore they don’t deserve to be parents.

I’m sure you’ve had similar thoughts, and I’m not proud of these, but through out disappointment after disappointment, I’d often make snap judgements about other people and their ability to reproduce: one night stands – how does everything align to make that even happen?! Those people that smoke, drink, eat unhealthily – how do they get pregnant so easily (cos of course I can tell this just by looking at them) when I give up every enjoyable food & drink in the vague hope that this might be the magic combo that works. People that have barely anything, and living on benefits etc – why do they get to have 6 kids when we have so much more to offer and we don’t even get one?!

These uncharitable thoughts continue, Why me? Why don’t I get to be a mother? Surely I deserve to be a parent? And particularly now that treatment is finished and we’re facing life without children, I often get caught in this cycle of Why me? What did we do to deserve this life we didn’t choose?

But actually, why not me? What makes me so special that I should be spared from experiencing life’s shittyness – why do I deserve parenthood more than anyone else? We all say we’d never wish infertility on our worst enemy – but making these judgements about other people that manage to get pregnant when we don’t, we’re (unintentionally) saying we don’t think those people should be allowed to experience the thing we most desire.

And it’s this awareness I don’t like – because really I’d like to wallow in my bubble of self pity and not face the ugly truth of those thoughts I already felt bad about.

But the reality is, for all that this childless outcome is pretty f’ing shitty, why not me?

PS: Despite this ‘annoying’ awareness I’ll probably still spend a decent amount of my time stamping my feet, yelling (possibly silently) “Why Me?” every time I have a bit of a meltdown ๐Ÿ˜œ

Flowers in Winter

I wasn’t really planning on this being a metaphorical post, but now that I’ve created a title I can see how it could be one….

A few years ago someone close to us was given a Daphne bush when they had an ectopic pregnancy, and then when we had our miscarriage last year, they gave us one. I haven’t known anyone who’s had a miscarriage/baby loss since ours, but I’ve often thought it’d be a nice thing to do – who knows, maybe it would become a ‘thing’ to give a Daphne bush to someone grieving their baby and that future.

Last week I noticed that this Daphne bush had started flowering – it’s possibly a little early (but plants seem to be a bit confused with our weather here….I have hyacinths flowering already!), but it reminded me that in a couple of weeks it will be a year since our last transfer, and then a year since we lost our well loved embryo. And while nothing really takes a way that pain, I figure being reminded by a pretty flower (and I love the scent too) is one of the better ways to be reminded.

And while I don’t really feel like I’m blooming, I’m still alive, taking one day at a time, so I guess a bush that flowers most in winter shows its possible to survive the dark days.

Do you have any special reminders of your losses?

Magnetism

We caught up with friends today who are here visiting from overseas. We hadn’t seen them or their 2 girls for about 3 years (and they don’t know about our struggles). It was barely a split second before the girls stopped being shy and decided Mr & I were their new best friends (possibly helped along by the unicorn gifts!), snuggling on our laps, holding our hands as we walked around the nature reserve and asking us to carry them.

It was nice to see my child magnetism might be returning – and that these kids at least don’t think I’m a bitter old women. ย And I even managed to actually play and have fun with the girls #winning

But seeing this lovely family, with great family dynamics, building wonderful memories together, seeing my husband playing so nicely with the girls and being so loved by them – reminded me so strongly of why I want a family of our own.

That’s the thing isn’t it….just because the treatment is over, doesn’t mean the dream is.

Can you feel the love tonight?

Have I given you all an ear worm now? I started out with LeAnne Rimes lyrics “loving you, isn’t something I should really do” – but it didn’t quite fit with what I want to write…so now I have both songs mingling in my head!

A few weeks ago, I was watching a conversation on Twitter, someone was being open about the depressive episode they were going through at the time, and many others were sending (virtual) hugs and other words of support. This particular tweep commented that while they appreciated the thought, real hugs weren’t actually something they wanted right then, and another person responded that they’d felt the same when they were grieving the loss of a loved one – they didn’t want the contact, and couldn’t feel the support even though they knew it was well intentioned. But they did say, once they’d got out of the deepest depths of grief, they were really grateful for the love, support and hugs that were still given to them during that time, and that that was what got them through.

It got me thinking about how I felt after my miscarriage last year, and after that day earlier this year when my world fell apart. I didn’t want to be hugged by anyone, not even my husband, and to be honest months down the track there are still only a select few that I’m happy to be hugged by (and of course that changes with each situation). And when people told me they loved me, or were sending love to me, it didn’t mean anything to me – logically I knew it was a kind thing to say, but I just couldn’t feel it. Again, even with my husband I couldn’t feel the love when I told him I loved him or if he’d said it to me – but on some logical level, I knew my survival, and our marriages survival was relying on me to say and do these things even though I couldn’t feel them. So I made myself say them, and made myself hug my husband and a select few others, hoping that one day it would stop being an effort, and I’d actually feel the love that I was told surrounded me.

In my foggy grief stricken haze I could vaguely see that I was closing in on myself, and blocking everyone else away – it’s a common survival mechanism after all. The thing that struck me most though, was that not many people could see (or at least acknowledge) that that’s what I was doing. So they allowed themselves to be pushed away, gave me time and space to heal & grieve my way. But what I realised on some level then, and even more so in hindsight, was that the few connections that remained were vitally important. And I could have done with more. If everyone lets themselves be pushed away, then the result…..is I’m left alone, with only my head for company. Humans are social creatures, we need connections with others, loneliness causes as many if not more health issues as things like smoking. Yet, we are so quick to think “I don’t know what to do, I’ll just leave them, give them time to heal”, waiting until the person dealing with grieve, depression etc is ready to connect again.

Now I realise there’s a fine line between not giving someone space so they’re not lonely, and overcrowding them. But I’d suggest risk the over crowding, because you might be the only one stepping into that space and giving them a life line to hold on to while dealing with their pain.

So if you know someone grieving I suggest you find ways no matter how small, to maintain some connection with them, so if they want to talk or need company the space is not too big for them to cross. Tell them you don’t know what to say or do – they probably have no idea either, because when you’re that down you have no idea whats going to help. But acknowledging that, helps being people together. Send little texts every few days, so they’re not alone. Drop off baking or a meal – home cooking is often loaded with love, and that sometimes gets through….knowing someone did something specially for you, might not seem to make it through the clouds of pain right then….but it will be remembered, like a glimmer of light, later. Send them a card, treat them like you did before what ever happened – as in don’t contact them less, don’t stop inviting them to things etc. Even just saying ‘you might not be up for it, but if you are we’d love to see your face” or words to that effect. Tell them you want to visit, or go out for coffee etc, and then ask when – if action is reduced to one decision its so much easier to handle.

And by doing these little things, you make it easy for them to dip their toes back into life again when they’re ready, the space around them isn’t so big it feels scary to step across, you minimise any awkwardness they might be feeling, and most of all you keep them wrapped in a bubble of connection and love….that one day will break through that protective ice barrier, and they’ll learn to feel love again and to give love again.

Please, what ever you do, don’t let someone grieve alone – even when they push you away.

Fragility

For all that we talk about recognising and accepting our limits, and making choices that are best for ourselves – in reality it’s a lot harder to put this into action.

It’s easy to get caught up in expectations, society niceties and family responsibilities. Earlier this year I said (mostly to myself) that I wouldn’t go to gatherings such as family events, where all our niblings’ would be together, and wouldn’t go to friends kids birthday parties etc (self preservation right?!), but would make an exception for niblings’ birthdays…..so when a certain someones 3rd birthday came around, I agreed we’d be there, and despite Mr’s misgivings, convinced him to come too – partly out of duty and partly as moral support for me.

As the day got closer I recognised I was feeling pretty fragile…a bunch of triggers and a whole pile of stress does that to you I guess. But instead of acknowledging my fragility and changing plans accordingly, I stuck to my normal ways – do everything you’ve committed to, don’t let anyone down, and plaster a vague attempt at a smile on your face while faking it til you make it.

In hindsight I should have politely changed my mind about going to the party, and organised to see the birthday child at another time, when I was feeling more up to it and when I wouldn’t have to deal with the family gathering with all the kids together. I got caught up with not wanting to let anyone down, and still wanting to be a great Aunty, that I didn’t think about what worked for me…or even realise that a 3yr old wouldn’t remember if I came to their party or not – and actually children would probably prefer having time with an Aunty where said Aunty can smile and be more playful, than a token gesture.

And of course attending something like this when not in the mood just becomes a vicious cycle…feeling apprehensive, means I’m more socially awkward than normal, so interacting with anyone/everyone feels weird (whether or not anyone else notices that I have no idea) so then I leave the situation feeling weird & like I’ve let everyone down anyway! Sod’s law really, isn’t it? And being fragile going into a situation means that things like seeing cousins playing together hurts my heart more, and a certain child turning 3 is an even bigger reminder of our “what if” that would have been 3 a few weeks ago if they’d become more than just a “what if”…

It can be really difficult navigating all these social events – you never know how you’re going to cope, and you figure you have to start attending/participating in life eventually, so you try things again before you’re quite ready….think I’ll be avoiding these kind of gatherings for a while now (she says as she realises there’s another family birthday party coming up in a month or so, that will probably end up trapping her just the same!)

I hope you’re all finding ways to navigate this situations in a way that works for you – I think it’s a constantly evolving and changing combination of our coping abilities and the events characteristics, which means we might never have a perfected way of coping…but I guess we just have to keep trying don’t we?! xo

Where does Hope hide?

Hope is a funny thing, I don’t think any of us would go through as much fertility treatment as we do, if we didn’t have some glimmer of hope to hold on to. But when you decide to stop fertility treatment where does hope go? As far as I can tell the decision to stop is more complicated than just losing all hope. Being hopeful definitely becomes very difficult.

Often in the early days I scoured the internet for people’s success stories, reading about someone else’s miracle helped me feel hopeful……but as time went by, this hope tended to be replaced with envy. Envious of others success, envious of others BFP, envious of people getting natural BFPs, envious of people who didn’t need as many rounds of IVF, envious of others having more eggs, better eggs, less procedures, less side effects…..

And now that we’ve stopped fertility treatment….envious of those who are still going through treatment, envious of those who shill have hope. 

Over the weekend we were talking with people we know, who are embarking on a trip overseas for a donor egg cycle. They told us their plans, the process, the details, the sightseeing they’re going to fit in too. And through it all shone their hope. It was exciting and hopeful, I felt hopeful. 

And then I remembered…..we’re not sharing this process with them…..it’s not our hope.

That sneaky feeling of hope hadn’t gone anywhere….it was hiding all along…

Now I need to tuck it away again, and figure out how to be hopeful for others without feeling it for ourselves.

PS. Please don’t go suggesting we try donor eggs or any other options – those options aren’t for us.

Keeping the lid on the box.

Just like that, you suddenly find yourself back at the “crying yourself to sleep” stage. An unfortunate cocktail of stress, PMS and a random collection of unexpected triggers. Conversations with people about furniture their buying for their kids, pregnancy scans that show up in blog posts, over hearing someone talking about their friend who’s been through 4yrs of IVF, and a lecture on public health rationing for elective surgery to name a few. The last one definitely sent me down memory lane, thinking about my last elective surgery which was a D&C last year for the one we thought we’d got lucky with. I’m very grateful that in New Zealand we have publicly funded health care. My local hospital has 2 surgery slots a day kept for this of us needing a D&C – I was able to be seen quicker through the public system than by using my private health insurance, which is a very rare thing indeed! It does sadden me that though that there is the need for this many surgeries.

Logically it makes sense to be back in this space, grief stages and all that. Emotionally it doesn’t help me on the coping side of things. Being so busy with Uni had lulled me into a false sense of security about my dealing levels. Now I feel more like I’m just keeping my feels stuffed in a box, with one foot on the lid trying to keep it shut, while the rest of me keeps trying to keep on doing what needs to be done. I have a strong suspicion that come the mid year break, I may just fall to pieces again.

In the mean time, I’ll keep on keeping on with the assistance of coffee & chocolate.

Definitions

Bit quiet here..buried under assignments. Has meant I have had time or energy to think or feel much which isn’t a bad thing….though today ended up a low after some random thoughts (not helped by barely sleeping last night!).

One of the assignments I’ve been working on recently was about infertility…..we had to hand a draft in & then the tutor gives feedback, we can make changes then hand it in for grading. One of the pieces of feedback was around a choice of word j used and it got me thinking. 

I described infertility as a chronic illness (I was relating to some of the similarities about it and other chronic illnesses, she reckoned it should be described as a chronic condition. But when I looked up the World Health Organisation definition of infertility….it called it a disease!

So then I’ve been trying to figure out what the differences between an illness, a diesease and a condition are…..seems everyone agrees their different, but not how they differ.

I’m no wondering, how do you think of infertility? Is it an illness, a disease or a condition (or something else) to you?