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 Brené 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.

 

Hello….

from the other side (of the computer).

Sorry 😂 having gone to Adele’s concert over the weekend I’ve been using Adele quotes all weekend long!

I just wanted to say hi to all of you who have read, liked & commented on my blog. It really means a lot. Infertility can be a pretty isolating experience, so I was a bit worried about how it would be if my blog was just talking into a void…..thankfully, you’ve ensured I haven’t!

Also, if there is any topic you’d like me to write about, or any questions you’d like answered, please ask 😊

And yes, Adele was every bit amazing as I was expecting, and then some! We had fab seats, the weather was perfect & we had no probs getting to it from the concert. Adele has a wonderful voice, a beautiful smile and a great sense of humour – the songs were as good or better than her CDs which doesn’t often happen, and her chats in between were so friendly….I wish she was one of my friends! Her songs made many ppl cry anyway, but I was pretty fragile on the day, and then when she introduced one of my favourite songs of hers, she said it was about her son. So hard to have the best experience overlaid with my daily pain, but I guess this is my new reality 😢


PS if any of my blog posts resonate with you & you’d like to share them with others, please go ahead. If you know me outside of this blog, all I ask is please don’t share my identity 😘

Coping strategies – or lack of.

Last night wasn’t the first night I cried myself to sleep – though this is one of the few times I’ve admitted to it (silly isn’t it, feeling embarrassed about giving into tears). Sleep is proving more difficult than normal, which automatically lowers my coping abilities. Needless to say, today was it was a very tired me, trying to stay awake through Uni classes and attempt to interact with people normally.

Besides this lack of coping….all my normal coping strategies don’t seem to be of any help. Normally I like escaping into a trashy novel – I’m finding that most of them have the ability to make me cry (not really what I want when catching the train to town) or I’m not really that interested in someone else story. I’m even less interested in the magazine I normally like browsing – don’t really want to know how well someone else life is going! The reality is, I just don’t really care about anything at the moment.

Walking, gives too much time for thinking (and we all know how bad that can be!), colouring in can be the same. Having a nice coffee in a cafe, generally results in seeing babies and families, so I just feel sad again. Sunshine doesn’t seem to make its way into my heart & uplift me anymore – -if anything it causes some dissonance as I feel my mood should match the sunshine but it doesn’t.

So I look for distractions, keeping busy, unfortunately while I have lots of study I should do, I’m struggling to concentrate on it – it’s so easy to think of everything you shouldn’t dwell on while trying to read about everything I’m supposed to be learning.

But when it comes to bedtime (which I find myself delaying most nights) there aren’t any distractions, I can’t turn my brain off, and there’s no hiding from the pain.
Tell me, what are your most effective coping strategies? Maybe you can help me find some new ones xo

The Imaginary World in my Head.

{CW: miscarriage}

From quite a young age I’ve had a habit of imaging an alternative life, making things I really wanted to have happen, happen. If I was having trouble getting to sleep, or we were on long road trips etc, I played out scenes in my head – these scenes always felt pretty real. When you’re going through something as future based as IVF, you end up living in this world too – you need to keep imagining why it is you’re going through what you’re going through and your life’s on hold waiting for that life you’ve imagined, so if you’ve got a good imagination, it can feel like this imaginary world in your head is real.

The day before our last transfer, a good friend told me she was pregnant. That came with the usual avalanche of feels, happy for her, sad for me etc but I managed to not cry til I got home! But then we had transfer, and while waiting for pregnancy test day I imagined telling her I was pregnant too – she’d made a comment about none of her friends having babies at the moment (all our mutual friends had kids already), so I was looking forward to letting her know she had someone to be pregnant with. And then we got a BFP.

Finding out you’re pregnant, after so many negatives and losses, is as terrifying as it is amazing. Every bodily sensation is analysed in great detail, thousands of times over. And underlying all this, is a high level of anxiety. As part of my way of coping, I wanted to try and enjoy my pregnancy for as long as it lasted. Yes, this sounds a bit pessimistic, but when you’ve had your innocence and naivety about pregnancy stolen by loss, you’re all too aware that there’s a lot of things to get through before you’ll hold that baby in your arms. So this time we let ourselves dream, we tried to hold on to the excitement and hope when ever we could grasp it in amongst the anxiety. I let myself imagine being pregnant with my friend, I saw us going shopping together to get things for our babies, sharing, comparing & supporting each other through our pregnancy. I imagined us spending time together once the babies were born, going for walks, having coffee, messaging in the middle of the night when we were both up feeding. I imagined our babies growing up together, playing at the playground together, maybe even having family holidays together. Imagined our babies being friends like we were. All this, a whole other, future life – in my head. I hadn’t even told her we were pregnant yet.

Our scan date was booked, where we’d see our babies heartbeat and then we’d ‘graduate’ from the clinic, let out into the world to choose a midwife or obstetrician and be pregnant rather than having fertility treatment. I made a coffee date with my friend, for the day after the scan. I was planning on telling her then. Our blood tests results were still doing well, so I dared to dream we’d make it to the scan all ok, and then I’d see my friend the next day and tell her, and share with her all these dreams I’d had. We’d hug and talk and plan for our babies future. My imagined world was close to becoming my real world.

And then we went to the scan, and my world, imagined & real, fell apart. There was no heartbeat, there was no baby. We had a blighted ovum. I cancelled that coffee date. I needed to stay in my survival bubble with my husband.

We haven’t seen each other much since then. I’ve had to protect myself a bit. Because, not through any fault of her own, she’s a reminder – a reminder of how pregnant I should have been. I miss our friendship, but it will never be the same again, not that its over, it’s just different. There will always be a reminder of what might have been.

Today we had a bit of a chat via text messages. It was the first since her baby had been born. Her baby was barely even mentioned, but just the contact with her gave me flashbacks. Scenes from my imagined world, flashed into my brain, each one followed by the painful memory that that will never be. In the moments between messages I’d imagine her at home with this baby I’ve never met, but who was going to part of my babies world, doing her thing, learning to be a mum, and I’d remember I should have been not far off having that myself.

That imaginary world was all well and good for helping manage my anxiety when I was pregnant, but it was so real and I miss it so.

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.

Home (not so) Sweet Home

{Content Warning: Miscarriage}

We bought out current house about the time we started TTC – for me at least, this place had the things I wanted for a family home, and is in quite a family friendly neighbourhood. We always had a dream of moving to another suburb, preferably before the kids went to school, because of the community feel there, close to friends & it was a school we’d have liked our kids to be at. But we were realistic that we might not get there quite in time for them starting school due to finances. Then as it took more time to get pregnant I started adjusting my plans…maybe they’d start at the school closer to us and then could move later when we could afford to move. This was ok, I could cope with adjusting our dream – didn’t really matter exactly where we lived if we had kids, as long as we had a happy family…..

Of course the longer we stayed here, the more memories this house holds. Sometimes I’ll go to the toilet & have flashbacks to our first miscarriage…no one warned me how (physically) traumatic that could be!  The couch holds many tears, and has been my recovery space post medical procedures, where I’ve curled up with a book & chocolate trying to forget the phone call received earlier. The desk I study at is where I was when I got the call with our first actually positive test, its also where I was when I got the call in our 2nd pregnancy to say my HCG levels were still rising & so the bleeding was just normal early pregnancy bleeding. The garden is where our niblings have played together, & I’ve imagined our children running there with their cousins in the future. The apple tree was planted with the idea of kids being able to pick apples straight from the tree…….everywhere something reminds me of the struggles we’ve been through & the futures we’ve dreamed of.

As part of a ‘what ever happens’ plan, we’d started talking about moving (house prices have changed, so we’re in a position that should allow us to get a slightly more expensive house) and now that we’re facing a life without children, I really need a new start. Somewhere that doesn’t have all the memories and hopes stored in it. But of course, nothing much excites me at the moment so where to move to? We keep looking at the suburb we’d always planned to move to – it’s a lovely little community near the beach, one of my closest friend lives there & we have some family there. But the problem with a village like community – it’s family focused. I can’t figure out if being part of a community like this will rub in the fact we don’t have children more, or if the community will take us in, help me feel less lonely & therefore be somewhat healing? But also just moving to another house in another suburb, wouldn’t really be changing our lives, just our location. If we’re able to buy somewhere cheaper, gain some financial freedom then we’d be able to do more fun things to help distract us & create a new life. But I also wonder if we should be looking for something very different – such as an apartment, in a less family focussed neighbourhood.

They say you shouldn’t make big decisions while you’re grieving, but what do you do when you need to make a decision to help cope with the grieving? To create a new beginning?

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.

Hoping for Hope

Yesterday I met with a lady about possibly setting up a support group for people facing a life without children after fertility treatment. She’s lovely, and I was mostly able to talk very matter of factly about what we’ve both been through. Outwardly, I was doing what I seem to do well – putting on a brave face & faking it.

Inwardly, it was a whole other story. It was like when you cling to the top of a waterslide, trying to prevent gravity & the power of the water doing its things, clingy desperately, but all the while knowing you’re eventually  going to have to let go. At the same time, silently screaming “Nooo, don’t let me in, I don’t want to part of your group, let me go back to the days I had hope (however slight), let me just be between cycles, waiting for next Day 1 to get started again.”

No reflection on the lovely lady at all, I’ll have to join her eventually, my heart is just digging itself in for now, still ever hopeful that it’ll wake up and find it’s all just been a bad dream.

I just want to hold on to hope again.