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.

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.

MIA: A Piece of My Heart

{CW: Miscarriage}

Dear Baby,

Today would have been your due date. We would have been eagerly awaiting meeting you if we hadn’t already met you. We really thought you were the one that we were going to get to hold in our arms. We did everything we could in the hope of you – I had another hysteroscopy to check there was nothing that would prevent you from getting all comfy, I took extra drugs, had intralipids, and we had pre-genetic screening of the batch of embryos you came from. You were the one that had all the right number of chromosomes. But still during the TWW, we worried. We’d nearly run out of hope, and could hardly comprehend that this time we might get a positive pregnancy result.

When we found out we’d got our BFP, we were so happy. The joy on your Dad’s face was a sight to see. We told our friends and family – wanting to enjoy the moment as much as possible for as long as possible, you see when you’ve already experienced a loss it’s hard to take a BFP as definite. But this time, we dared to dream. We wondered what you’d look like, we imagined our life with you, we started discussing if we’d choose a midwife or an obstetrician to look after you and me. I wrote letters to you, we talked to you. We talked about you with those who knew, helping to ease the anxiety that comes with such an exciting and scary time. I started a Pinterest board, thinking about what we’d need to get in anticipation for your arrival. I watched your cousins play, imagining you playing with them too.

And most of all, we dared to love you.

We really thought we were going to get to meet you, dearest baby. We’d never made it to a 7week scan before, so were super excited to see the flicker of your heart.

Instead, we found you’d gone…..and with you, had gone pieces of our hearts.

We will always love & miss you Baby.

xoxo

PS we left these flowers for you and your siblings today. 😘

Getting Caught Out

I really hope that someday, I’ll be able to write about the good…but for now you’re just getting the bad & the ugly….

Over the weekend I was thinking to myself about all the people who say it gets easier with time, that I won’t always feel as bad as I do now. I was cynical and wary…..nothing felt to be changing or getting better, I couldn’t see any way out. “Maybe they just say that ‘cos it’d be cruel to tell someone this is their lot”, I thought to myself. And this was all reinforced, when Saturday afternoon I was picking up some bits from the supermarket and a pregnant lady walked past me…I don’t know her, we didn’t interact, didn’t even make eye contact. But next thing I found myself struggling to catch my breath, and not far off being a soggy mess on the floor of one of the aisles (hopefully the chocolate aisle not the nappy aisle!). I managed to hold it together til I got home, the single tear that escaped when I made it to the car and the carby snack I grabbed on the way through checkout the only sign of my battle.

Then yesterday on my way to class, I thought maybe just maybe this burden of grief is ever so slightly lighter, I’d managed to concentrate just a little better and get some study done. It’s only just over 2mths since that day, so maybe for me that’s the length of time I need for full grieving, maybe now things are going to improve a little, I’ll take even the tiniest lift as I know it’ll help me get through another week. Maybe everyone is right, maybe my weekend meltdown was just PMS, those hormone gremlins taking over my head yet again.

Not long after I got home last night, I checked my emails…..I read the first line of an email from a family member…”We’re expecting #3″…..I couldn’t read the rest, I handed the tablet to my husband as I crumpled, crying uncontrollably, bent over as if in physical pain. He pulled me up, held me tight, stopped me from falling as by now my legs were shaking and I was crying so hard my teeth were chattering. A while later when I’d calmed down, he tucked me up in the couch with a heat pack (by now PMS had turned into cramps, such fun, good timing!). I was a soggy mess for most of the evening, & gave into self-medicating with chocolate (so hard to break the emotion eating cycle when you’re so low and haven’t developed any other coping mechanisms yet). Poor man, I don’t think he’s ever seen me like that before, I don’t think I’ve ever seen me like that before.

And just like that, the vague hope that maybe things will get easier is dashed, I’m back to wanting to hide completely from the world, struggling to concentrate or make simple decisions. The tiny thread that was holding my heart together has broken yet again, and if I’m honest it wasn’t even a bittersweet reaction I was having, there was no sweet in it at all. Logically I know I’m happy/pleased for them, by right now my head and heart isn’t able to feel anything good for them (though I don’t feel anything bad about them either….I can only feel for us at the moment)

That’s the thing with this place of grieving….you never know what’s going to catch you out.

That Crazy Lady.

I’ve always been keen on kids. From a young age, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a mum – a career didn’t really interest me. I was the kid at school who looked after the younger ones. I quickly became the neighbourhood babysitter. And I seemed to have a knack for it – I accidentally stole my friends babysitting job because the kids only wanted me after I covered for her one night!

I’d catch babies & toddlers eyes when standing behind them waiting for the green pedestrian light, or when travelling on a plane together etc. I’d make them laugh, distract them from their discomfort, especially on long haul flights when everyone was tired. I trained and worked as a nanny. As an adult I’d often end up holding people’s baby at parties – I got cuddles which I loved and the parents got a break. I was everyone’s new best friend. I could get babies to sleep when others struggled, I could get them to eat or take a bottle when they were determined not too. I seemed to have the magic touch – I’d smile at a kid & suddenly be their new favourite person, my in-laws even started calling me the “baby whisperer” (though I always asked them not to as I didn’t want them to jinx things for when I had my own kids……I didn’t think it might jinx my actually having babies!)

In the past few years I’ve felt I’ve lost this knack….part of this I put down to not actually showing as much interest as before – a women in her child bearing Years is a prime target for all the “when are you having your own” comments. But mostly I worried I’d used up my magic, and actually I wouldn’t make a good mother. I also found myself looking, possibly not so subtly (or at least it felt very obvious to me) at other people’s children…..tiny new borns in prams, me peering round the edge of the cover trying to get a peak of such tiny beauty that would hopefully soon be mine, looking at cheeky wee toddlers exploring the world, glancing (well possible staring) at babies being carried in front packs…..

I fear I stopped being discrete about my observations, I think the desire to join the club must have been written in neon lights on my forehead…and I fear it left these mothers I didn’t know worrying I was a crazy lady just waiting to pounce on their baby and run off with them. This has spread to me thinking my friends and family who have children fear this too – that given half a chance I’d take their children to be my own, that I wasn’t safe tonhave around their children….

But as much as I felt I’ve lost my mind during this period of TTC, I’ve never wanted their children (even though I love them to bits)….all I’ve wanted is a baby of my own……I’m really not That Crazy Lady.

Guilty as Charged.

I am a Queen of Guilt, I can manage to feel guilty about pretty much anything. Though looking at BrenĂ© Brown’s definition of guilt and shame, I think its probably more shame I feel. But rather than explaining the difference, I’ll continue using the word guilt (and you can go read her books and see for yourself if her definitions work for you).

Guilt goes hand in hand with those feelings of failure – bit of a vicious cycle really. It’s easy to feel guilty for not having achieved the desired outcome, but particularly so when there are so many variables at play. My guilt has increased even more so since we finished treatment. I’ve pretty much read all the different things one could/should try in an attempt to improve chances, so there are lots of opportunity for feeling guilty.

The thing is when going through this, there’s this common thought bandied about by people going through it, medical professionals, well meaning others – if you’re going to have to walk away from treatment and having children at some point, then you want to make sure you know you’ve done everything you could have. But for all that we did do, having reached this point – I don’t feel like I did everything I could have. I don’t feel like I did enough.

I feel guilty for having put on weight, for not having done enough exercise, or for having done the wrong exercise (which is probably partly why I put on weight as I was trying to manage the guilt at the time for doing too much or the wrong type of exercise!), for eating the wrong foods, for taking too many or not enough supplements, for not seeing a Chinese herbalist for longer, for not getting that health issue checked out more, for being too stressed, for not feeling grateful enough, for drinking too much coffee, for only drinking decafé coffee (those chemicals you know), for having too much dairy, not enough dairy, for not having enough acupucnture, for letting my hair air dry (a cold head’s bad ya know), for drinking cold drinks, for not drinking enough herbal teas, for eating too many carbs, for not eating enough vegetables, for wearing my Fitbit, for having my phone to close to my body, for eating microwaved foods, for not being grateful enough, for using the wrong skin care products, for getting my hair dyed, for  gardening without gloves, for drinking that wine, for not sleeping properly, for not doing enough therapy after our loses to remove stored emotions, for not detoxing, for not doing the fertility diet beforehand to ensure I was in the best form, for using electric blankets, for having showers too hot……the list goes on. I’ve even started feeling guilty for the things I did when I was younger (working shift work, using paints etc etc).

So for all you go through treatment saying you’d do anything if it meant you got pregnant, the reality is you never know whats going to make the difference – if anything. And me, well I look back on what I did do, and just see all my imperfections. I didn’t follow my healthy eating plan to the letter so maybe that’s why it didn’t work. I didn’t give up coffee, alcohol, carbs, sugar or processed foods 100% so maybe that was the issue. If only I’d been able to be healthy properly, maybe it’d have made a difference. Because we all want to know why right? If we had a reason for why we didn’t get our baby, then maybe it’d all make sense. Instead, I just feel guilty for all the things I didn’t do, which leaves me feeling, that all this was my fault.

 

Anniversaries

This week is our wedding anniversary. Even before we started TTC we’ve always celebrated anniversaries, Valentine’s Days, even half year anniversaries on occasion. But once we started fertility treatment, it became even more important for us – part of celebrating the little things along the way. It was also a good way of reminding ourselves that our relationship is our top priority, above everything else going on in our lives.

The thing is, we started fertility treatment one week after our wedding. So it feels like our whole marriage has been overshadowed by hormone drugs, emotional rollercoasters & disappointments. We also had a bunch of other stressful situations with deaths, family health scares & big changes with both our jobs. It would be easy to say this marriage business wasn’t such fun, but we’ve both kept good sight of the fact we’re dealing with something bigger & seperate to the marriage itself. 

I’ve had people say over the years how lucky I am to have such a loving marriage, and maybe there is an element of luck, but mostly it’s a lot of hard – good & worthwhile, but hard – work. We’ve both had to consciously choose love, & choose each other over and over. That can be hard enough when just dealing with normal, day to day stresses – but throwing in all the IVF stress takes things to a whole other level. I experienced a lot of side effects from the drugs – physically & emotionally – and I wasn’t always (often) a nice person to be around. It takes a lot of strength to keep loving someone when they’re not being so loveable – thankfully, my husband is good at loving me, even when I’m struggling to love myself (which lets be honest, is most of the time at the moment).

We were looking through our wedding photos recently & reminiscing. It was such a fun & happy day. With all the loss & disappointment we’ve experienced since then, it feels like our wedding day was the last time I was truely happy. 

So celebrating this anniversary is a mixed bag. On one hand it’s hard to seperate our wedding anniversary from all the tough stuff we’ve been through, but on the other hand I’m super grateful that inspite of, or maybe because of, all the hard shit, we still have a great marriage full of love, kindness & support…….and that, I think, is totally worth celebrating.

Do You Believe In Miracles?

In the infertility community we often hope for each other get miracles – so we can defy the odds, or not need to the next step of investigation or treatment, or just so we can get rid of each others pain as much as we can.

And I think deep down (or not so deep) we all hope we might be one of the lucky recipients of a miracle.

Sometime during our second year of treatment, I think between our 4th & 5th FET (I could look the specifics up, but I don’t really want to go reading through that file just now!), we had a cycle cancelled due to what looked like a cyst. But further scans made the Dr suspicious it was a hydrosalpinx – fluid in the Fallopian tubes. This can bad for getting pregnant, as the fluid is generally toxic, left over from an infection, and it can dribble into the uterus and prevent implantation etc. So surgery was scheduled, to remove the affected tube & probably the other tube too (if you have it in one it can be likely the other will have it too, or get it soon), as it made sense while they were in there and potentially prevent a 3rd surgery later. On the one hand this was hopeful, but on the other it was terrifying. In some ways this seemed like the simple answer – obviously this must be the issue that was preventing our success, my tubes were so badly damaged we needed IVF anyway, so better to get rid of something that was hindering rather than helping right? But at the same time, removing both tubes stole any hope (however minuscule) or us getting a miracle.

Obviously, there were lots of feels to deal with about this – most of which I suspect I probably haven’t fully dealt with. Knowing you physically can not get pregnant without the help of specialists is a really hard hand to be dealt.

But despite all this, logically knowing there is no way I could get a miracle now, sometimes my brain makes up stories. Like this week, with the arrival of my period, but a period thats being all weird & different & not like what I’ve experienced in the past. Despite the fact this isn’t my first period after our last IVF cycle, & despite all other manner of logistically impossible things. Still, my brain & heart cling tightly to what will never be, hoping that somehow some way, maybe I’ll have defied science.

Of course after my brain suggesting stories like this comes the sudden fall back into crushing reality.

Feelings of Failure

Recently I mentioned to a few different people how this whole situation leaves me feeling like such a failure. They all responded along the lines of “but you know you’re not, don’t you?”. And thats the catch. Sure I can logically accept that I’m not failing at Uni (I don’t quite know how I’m getting good grades but I am!), I can bake things and make things and successfully carry out tasks etc – so I guess on those standards I’m not a failure. But I still feel like one, and having people respond quickly with “but you’re not”, instead of helping reduce those feelings, ends up devaluing my experience….which then leaves me feeling like I’m failing at feeling correctly too!

The thing with infertility and going through IVF is, it eats away at your self esteem, slowly and insidiously. And piles on disappointment after disappointment. So I’m not just feeling one failure – the dramatic end to our last cycle, or the fact that I now know I won’t have children. Its an accumulation of failures. It started about 5 years ago when the surgeon told us we’d need to through IVF to get children. Then was added to…Chemical pregnancies, Miscarriages, Negative results, cancelled cycles, need for more surgery, dropping egg reserves etc etc. And in amongst all of that you question yourself…what could I have done differently, what did I do wrong, how can I fix it? And it all just becomes one big Head F@$k.

Current society raises us with idea that if you work hard at something you’ll achieve your goal. And good things happen to good people. (I’m a sociology student, you’ll have to accept my sociological reckons LOL). These are so prevalent that they’re ingrained in us from a young age. Which makes it really hard to accept that sometimes no matter how hard you try, and everything you do, you might just miss out on getting the ending your hearts been set on. And as for the concept that good things happen to good people – well, we all know thats a load of crock don’t we….the number of wonderful people who do lots from their community who get hit with illness, death or misfortune etc shows that that’s just not the case. Sometimes bad sh!t just happens.

So somehow in amongst everything else I need to process, I need to find a way to learn to believe that I’m actually not a failure.