Puppy Love

When I was 4 a large dog put a paw on each of my shoulders and licked my face….in a friendly way….but to me it was terrifying and I had a fear of dogs for a very long time.

As a child I never had a pet – other than a few tadpoles which we released once they were frogs. I bought my husband fish one birthday and we had then for a few years….I fed them for him while he was away, but they were his….after the first few months I found them a bit boring to be honest.

My husbands family had dogs growing up, and he has always liked dogs.

Over the past 5 years or so I’ve started having more to do with dogs, friends of ours have some, so every time we visited I got more and more used to them. Then for a while my brother lived close, and he has a dog, so when they went away she would come stay with us instead of going to the kennels. It was great, I had a part time dog – all the fun, without the expense haha. And in there friends kept trying to convince us to get a dog – then their dogs would have a playmate when they came to visit. And with my husband being away a lot everyone agreed it would be good company for me….even the counselor thought it was a great idea.

But Mr wasn’t so keen….he didn’t want the responsibility, making it hard to go away spontaneously, or having the pick up the poo. I started to wear him down though, talking about fostering dogs instead of getting our own – so we could try it out. He said we should get our own instead.

We couldn’t decide on a breed we both agreed on…..and then the conversations stopped….when I asked him about it, it turned out he’d changed his mind. He didn’t want to get a dog after all. I was upset, and upset with him for not talking to me about it.

Fast forward to near the end of last year (and several conversations with the counselor encouraging us to get one) and Mr said let’s get a dog after all. I was dubious and uncertain. Around the same time friends of ours mentioned they were planning on getting one of their dogs pregnant. So we decided if they did we’d get one of their puppies, as their dog is lovely, and it would be nice to have that link.

Everyone talked about how good a dog would be for me, how healing it is having a pet. No one thought about how it might be triggering for me, least of all myself…until we made the decision to get one of our friends puppy.

There was the waiting for her to go on heat, and have a date with the puppy dad.

Waiting to find out if she was pregnant.

Mr started telling everyone we were getting a puppy later in the year…..before the puppy was even conceived. Straight to happy & excited for him. No worrying about what if’s. Appearing to have moved on from the past trauma.

Everyone told me how exciting it was, how excited I must be. It just felt like going through IVF all over again. Waiting. Uncertainty. Waiting for disappointment. Waiting for heartbreak.

The dog got pregnant, friends had seen puppies on a scan. Yet another milestone similar to IVF.

And still I couldn’t day dream. Couldn’t get excited. Dogs can miscarry can’t they? Puppies can be stillborn?

We tentatively started discussing puppy names. Arguing over them. Choosing is hard. Trying to choose reminded me it’s probably the only name choosing I’ll ever do. We never chose names for the babies we lost (other than pet names).

And then the puppies were born. And yes I was excited that day, getting updates and photos. Looking at the lovely photos of happy mama dog. Watching her lick and feed her babies. So adorable.

And at the same time, a reminder that I’ll most likely never get to nurse a baby, care for my own baby.

I am looking forward to when we get to choose our puppy, and bring it home, and building a relationship with it and watching it grow.

But I’m also stressed, about how I’ll handle such a big change and responsibility at the same time as sitting Uni exams, and at the same time as trying to carry all these feelings that keep swamping me.

NB Not my photo, and not my puppy.

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Plan B….or C….or ??

Back at the beginning of 2015 I started University – studying psychology and sociology. I was at a pretty low point, having been through many unsuccessful rounds of IVF/FETs. I’d always wanted to get a degree, and I thought maybe going to Uni would be good for my mental health. I also thought once I had my degree I could become a counsellor….and provide support to people coping with IVF and loss. Who better right – first hand experience would make me a great match for this career.

Of course all my dreams about completing Uni included taking time out for a baby….
I didn’t take time off for miscarriages though….sometimes I look back and wonder how I managed to get my degree with all the other things that were going on in our lives. Other times my perfectionist bitchy voice in my head tells me I should have coped better. Duh!

The further through I got, the more complicated I realised it was. To register with appropriate professional boards I’d need to be a registered psychologist, not a counsellor. Also I was doing the wrong degree to become a counsellor. At the end of Undergrad I applied for the Psychologist programme….but didn’t get in. That’s ok, I could do my Honours degree (a post-grad qualification that follows an undergrad degree and includes a research dissertation) and then reapply. Becoming a psychologist providing support for people dealing with infertility and doing research in this area was my Plan B. If I could do that, maybe I’d have done something worthwhile, and actually be good enough, since I wasn’t good enough to reproduce.

Then our fifth miscarriage happened. Just as we moved house. Turns out that’s about my limit, and I barely survived the rest of that semester, and only just pulled off the grade requirements need to apply for the psychologist programme….. For the sake of my health and my marriage I decided to switch to studying part time. A wise idea for a change.

This year I am finishing my Honours degree, and I’ve now started working part-time. It’s full on, I’m still struggling with my head space. I’m still struggling to find a way to live in this world I don’t feel I belong in. And I’m not sure who I want to be when I grow up.

I’m not sure if I want to be a Psychologist – for a variety of reasons. But I’m also not sure if that’s because it’s so competitive to get in that it seems easier not to try. But also when I think about giving up my job to study full-time again, it actually makes me a bit sad since I like my job. I’m not sure I’m in the right place (or if I ever will be) to support people going through IVF, being that a large number of them will get the ending I always wanted. Maybe I’m just tired….this is my 5th year of studying after all….I kinda like the idea of having weekends again….

Part of me wonders if I was chasing the idea of being a psychologist because I thought I’d then feel good enough and that I’d have something worthwhile to contribute. Besides wanting to be a mum, the only other real goal/dream I had was to make a difference in other peoples lives. But maybe the work I’m doing already fulfills that, maybe I don’t need to be a psychologist in particular?

So I don’t know what Plan I’m up to or if I even want one – cos sometimes I wonder what’s the point of everything.

Sharp Moments

Again, I haven’t written for a while – surviving life takes up quite a bit of time and energy! And while I’ve had various ideas of posts to make, sometimes it feels like other’s have already posted on the same thing, so do we really need another one? I’ve also been having vague thoughts about setting up an entirely new blog with quite a different focus, so while I um and ahh about that I just don’t do anything for any blog haha.

I’ve had a few little unexpected moments lately that were like a stab to the heart, so I thought I’d just write a list of them. Might be a good way for people not living this reality to see how some of the most ordinary occasions can be painful…..and maybe you can add your own moments to the list in the comments?

  • Going to a cycle shop with a friend for them to look at new racing bikes, see a parent & child come in to purchase the child a bike. Not likely gonna get a chance to do that.
  • Friends talking about their family holiday of a life time, going to a theme park. Probably won’t do that now, yes I know I could go without kids, but then I’d be surrounded by all these families having a good time….
  • Niece starting intermediate.
  • Nephew getting prizes in sport, & the whole family congratulating him. I’d dreamed our kids would get raised in that supportive loving relationship.
  • TV shows you used to love, suddenly having pregnancy &/or a baby in them.
  • Sitting in a cafe, when a father and infant come in – just seeing the little cuddle shared, wishing it was my husband I was watching.
  • Seeing a young child at the local grocery store, buying things for their parents. I’d always dreamed of raising our child/ren in this location so they could have the safety and freedom I didn’t get as a kid.
  • When your walk to get coffee takes you past the local park where all the local kids sports teams are playing their Saturday games.’
  • Listening to your friends talk about socialising with their school mums group. Knowing that even if they occasionally invite you to events, you’ll always be on the periphery.
  • Doing a job that means you see mention of all the organisations around the country that support Mums, Babies and Families, and knowing you can’t escape a society that prioritises pronatalism.
  • Driving past the beach on a sunny day and seeing all the happy families hanging out together.
  • Logging on to FB, and seeing pregnancy announcements.
  • Logging on to FB, and seeing pregnancy loss announcements. Especially when it falls within days of the anniversary of your last loss.
  • Going to the airport, and getting blindsided by the MASSIVE billboard advertising the fertility clinic you used to go to.

It really does feel like there is no escaping reminders, but maybe I’m just over reacting?

Boxing Day Blues.

While Christmas Day itself was a non-event, as desired, it still resulted in feeling fragile. We had 8hrs in a car driving home, and besides the brunch we’d made together before leaving, we survived on petrol station food (only thing open on Christmas Day!) & candy – so by the time we arrived back in our township I was tired & cranky, and full of feels. I can only assume it was the sitting for hours with too much space to think that brought the wave of feels on. Mr then insisted in popping by his parents for a quick Christmas drink (they live 2kms from our house…), being social was the last thing I felt like doing, but he didn’t want to wait til the next day when we’d be fresh (he was going back to work late morning) so I reluctantly agreed. They’re super positive people, I sometimes wonder if they can even feel ‘negative’ emotions, so when I said “I’m ok” rather than “I’m great”, they jumped on the phrase, asking “why only Ok?” – I think I was also feeling a bit defensive, feeling like they expected me to be great because we’d been away, and I’d got my way of not having a family Christmas…..who know’s, I’m good at making stuff up so that could all be in my head. I managed to brush the inquisition off by saying I was tired from being in the car all day. They of course went on to tell us all about what Mr’s siblings were doing for the day, and all about the grandkids etc. Last thing I wanted to listen, to but I tried to appear interested & present. Then they showed a video clip of the youngest grandkid walking (he’s only just started)….the phone was handed to me so I watched that clip then set the phone down, however my FIL said ‘oh there’s another clip, just swipe for it’, I really didn’t want to watch another video of someone else’s baby walking, so just said “It’s ok” and set the phone down on the coffee table. Unfortunately it was within reach of him and he picked it up, found the clip and held it in from of me to watch….no escaping that then. Luckily Mr didn’t insist on visiting for too long and we were home shortly afterwards.

I never can tell if he just isn’t aware or if he chooses to ignore it if I don’t seem to be in a good mood because he doesn’t like dealing with the uncomfortableness. He never acknowledge the visit might have been difficult…he loves hearing about his niblings so it probably didn’t cross his mind.

Christmas Day was finally over, and I naively thought that was it. However, Boxing Day came, and with it a whole new wave of feels. I’d been so focussed on surviving Christmas I hadn’t put a care plan in place for the days after….silly really, when I know in the past the days after have been just as hard. Mr went back to work and there I was at home with only myself for company……I don’t much like my own company at the best of times. I’d thought I’d be focussed and super productive on my Uni work and therefore not have much time for feels. Unfortunately it’s really easy to be thinking & feeling stuff about non-uni related things at the same time as doing Uni work…..though my productivity levels were nowhere near as high as I need them to be….distracted by the feels, and having had a week of indulgent eating, I just wanted to eat my feels…..yes I had medicinal ice cream in the afternoon.

One too many Christmas Pregnancy Announcements finally pushed me to log out of my social media accounts and take a break – I’d planned to for the time we were away, but hadn’t…justified to myself by the fact I was watching lovely twitter people donating to charities on behalf of other twitter people (if you’re on twitter look at the #nzsecretsantasubstitute hashtag for some kindness stories). The irony of course, is without the distraction of social media, I’m even more alone with my thoughts, but scrolling mindlessly through social media just leaves me feeling lonely & left out, and reminds me of my childless state, so either way I can’t win.

Thankfully I have some fun plans in place for New Years Eve and the days that follow, so hopefully as I get further away from Christmas and closer to the New Year, the feels will reduce in intensity for the time being. And hopefully I’ll be visited by a burst of productivity that will see my Uni work actually progress! And thankfully my favourite local cafe reopened today, so at least I have good coffee to get me through!

Did you get caught out by the Boxing Day Blues too?

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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.

That Festive Season.

I’ve been meaning to write for ages. I thought once I’d finished Uni for the year I’d have more time and headspace and would get a couple of posts in before Christmas, but now I find it’s 6weeks or so since Uni finished & I’m just scraping together some time & energy to get a post in. Also to everyone who has commented on various blog posts in the last few months – I’ve read them, and appreciated them, and struggled to find the words to reply to them. So, sorry I haven’t replied to you individually. Hopefully I’ll do better at that next year, as I really do like the connections one can make through blogs.

How are you all? How are you coping with the “Festive Season”? Are you like me and lacking in anything like jollyness? I thought that even though I know Christmas is a hard time of year for me, that this year would be tolerable – ‘cos I haven’t done lots of the things I normally do that generally result in me being stressed, tired & overcommitted. I thought having less social occasions that I normally do would help minimise the difficult moments, and therefore this year wouldn’t really be a problem. Jokes on me! Doing less of the normal things has resulted in some less stress, but also means it feels less like Christmas. I wasn’t feeling the Christmas Vibe so I wasn’t too bothered about what we did for Christmas – I thought…..then people started changing occasions around, and having different family events on different days etc…and I wasn’t so keen on change.

I had a moment last week when I suddenly realised why I was a bit out of sorts….the week before Christmas has a couple of ‘those’ dates, so they were looming, I saw several pregnancy announcements, Christmas is hard anyway, Christmas is even harder with some of the weird family dynamics going on, and I had PMS. Yay, so F#$king typical of that to start right when I already have enough emotional stuff to deal with.

And while some of the family Christmas things we’ve done have been nice, there’s always the bittersweet edge to it all. Going home alone at the end of a family dinner. Being the ones that have to be flexible & accomodating around the kids. Watching the others spoil their kids, knowing that the gifts their parents & grandparents give them will always outshine what we give. The having fun times with a nibling, thats promptly followed by the thought “I’ll never get to do this with my own child”. It’s hard to fight against societies narrative that Christmas is all about the kids. It doesn’t need to be that way, but when some of the family do have children its quite likely their focus will be on their kids.

On top of that, my friends with kids, & functional families are spending this time of year planning their Christmas Traditions, having lots of catchups…they end up really busy…while I’m home on my own as my husband is away for work over Christmas & New Years. I’m very grateful for friends who have made plans & time that include me, and those moments will likely be the nicest ones, away from the tensions of family obligations. But it’s a fine line to walk between too much socialising & being over committed, & having enough company & distraction – it’s hard to get the balance right!

How are you managing this time of year? Any tips you’d like to share? How ever you choose to spend this festive, or not so festive, season, I hope you look after each other and have others look after you – and hopefully you can have some nice moments in there too. xo

The Grinch of Halloween

I’m currently hiding away, pretending not to be home and feeling like a right party pooper. The neighbourhood is filled with happy families and noisy kids going trick or treating.

For a start, this was never something that was done when I was a kid, so I’ve never participated & it’s never really been my thing….it’s possible it’d have grown on me if I had my own kids begging to play. Instead, I’m wishing everyone would shut up & go home. I don’t want to listen to their happiness & I don’t want to sit here anxiously hoping no one rings the door bell. I closed the gate (which we don’t normally close) and had meant to hang a sign on it saying No Trick or Treaters, but I got home a bit later than planned and everything was in full swing, there’s been no chance to dash to the gate without being accosted by various creatures.

And because there’s no sign out, I don’t want anyone to see I’m home – which means I haven’t had dinner, as when I’m in the kitchen I’m in full view of anyone walking down the street. Also means I can’t do the things on my to-do-list I’d planned to do tonight, because its all set up in the spare room – also in full view of the street. So I sit here getting crankier, and hangry, and pissed off at the world at yet another occasion stolen from my by infertility. Yet another day of the year I’m reminded I don’t belong, and get my grief thrown back in my face.

One day hopefully I’ll be able to willingly hand out lollies to random kids….but for now I just hope I get some dinner soon.

Decisions, decisions.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages, finally found a little free time and having handed in my last assignment a smidge of energy. Please note up front, this post is not asking for advice.

We didn’t go into fertility treatment with a pre-arranged limit, to be honest at the time it felt like we levelled up before we’d even started – we’d only be TTCing naturally for about 6mths when we found out we would need IVF. And then our Dr. told us we were the ideal couple, the one IVF was designed for – our only issue was tubal damage, and as IVF bypasses the tubes we’d be all good. In fact, the Dr told us about a family who got their whole family (3 or so kids!) off one cycle – as our first cycle was publicly funded, the idea of getting more than one child of one cycle was perfect. We’d get our family without financial considerations having to be a big part of deciding whether or not we’d try.

Potentially our doctor set us up with false expectations, but as we got 6 embryos in the freezer (no fresh transfer) off our first cycle, we though we were on to a good thing. 7 transfers laters, several cancelled cycles, another surgery, a chemical pregnancy and a miscarriage we’d used up our allocation of public funding. We had to decide if we were going to continue, and if so where would we find the $$, or if we were going to call it quits. The doctor told us it was a numbers game, more times you try the more likelihood there is of success. Some lovely family offered us some financial support so we decided to continue.

We signed up for a package deal – 3 cycles for the price of 2 and a bit….and if you get to the end with no success a refund equivalent to about 2 cycles. We figured we wouldn’t need 3 cycles, but thought’s Sod’s law would have it that if we signed up for 3 we’d get luck on our first cycle. Another 3 transfers later (2 of them were transfers of 2 embryos at once), another chemical pregnancy and another miscarriage, and we’d reached the end.

We were devastated. We got our refund. It didn’t mean anything to us. The arrangement was it’d go back to those who’d helped us out, so we couldn’t even have a fancy holiday to cheer ourselves up. We’d thought that was the end, we were tired, heartbroken and out of mental & emotional resources. We were struggling. We’d said that was our last try, but were tempted to try again. We were told we could use the refund to try again if we wanted to.

We decided we would. It would be setting us up for at 13th embryo to be transferred….in my family 13 has been a winning number for us before, so surely that meant this time it’d be our turn….it was a numbers game after all, as the doctor kept saying.

We started our 6th round of IVF as the New Year rolled in. This was going to be our lucky year. We got a good number of eggs, it was going to be our turn.

None of them fertilised. It was all over.

Apparently, its really common for couples to not be on the same page at this stage. One wanting to continue or to try other options, one wanting to stop treatment all together. Both view points valid – its either the devil you know or the devil you don’t really. Both options scary and full of emotion. It’s really tough when you’re not on the same page. It’s not like there’s a solution that’s a compromise, either way one person is going to get what they want and the other isn’t.

But we’d gone into the final cycle saying that was it, we were drawing a line in the sand, if it didn’t work we’d walk away and start trying to learn to live again in a life we didn’t choose. It was tough, we were broken and lost. People tried to convince us to change the plan, they didn’t understand. They couldn’t grasp that being on a different page from each other at that point, could be a breaking point for our relationship. We had to choose our marriage over the idea of a family. We had to try and find a way to keep that strong, but somehow find a way to not dissolve under the weight of a decision we didn’t agree on nor wanted to make.

And now we’re nearly at the other end of the year, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve healed much. It’s been months purely focussed on survival. It might be common for couples to not be on the same page when it comes to making the decision to stop fertility treatment, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

If you’re facing a decision like this, I’m really sorry. It’s painful and tough, be gentle with yourself and each other. Take your time. Feel the feels. xo

Asking for help.

A few weeks ago I womaned up, and booked an appointment with a psychologist. Just getting the appointment is not that easy, as most of them have a couple of months waitlist here! I was a bit unsure of going, meeting someone new, having to talk about myself, and I thought I was doing ok – but I’d said I’d get some help once I got to the quieter part of the year, so I made myself go ahead with it. And I figured, even if I didn’t get anything out of it, I’d at least get the experience of being on the receiving side, which would be useful since I want to be a psychologist when I finish studying.

I’m glad I did – I’ve been back a second time now, and have some more sessions booked. I have a suspicion I’ll need to go for a while. It’s not easy, but sometimes the best self-care is doing the hard things, what needs to be done, not what is the most comfortable.

I think particularly when dealing with fertility treatment, we get so used to just keeping on keeping on. We survive, we put one foot in front of the other. Tick another appointment off, another cycle off, keep plastering that smile on, keep doing whats expected of us. It takes a bit of time after treatment to realise that that doesn’t have to be how it is all the time. Asking for help doesn’t come naturally for me, but I realised that while I could keep on keeping on, I’d done it for years after all, now it was time to stop focussing on surviving, and figure out how to start thriving.

Hindsight also has me thinking, I probably should have made more use of the counselling services offered through out treatment – so if you’re going through treatment, or coming out the other side (what ever that looks like), I’d recommend taking care of yourself by finding a good counsellor or psychologist – for you and your partner, together and individually. Because infertility takes a toll on all aspects of life, and you deserve to have a life thats more than just surviving xo