Essence

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

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

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

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Purpose

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

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

Sunrise

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

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

What Heals You

So I have decided to give CarlyMarie’s “Capture Your Grief” project a go this year. This project is run as part of Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. I don’t often speak publically about our losses (besides here where I am relatively anonymous), but I have vague thoughts of sharing our story more openly, rather than carrying it around like a shameful secret. Maybe participating in this project will help me open up more, maybe it won’t, maybe it’ll help me feel like I’m healing a bit, maybe it won’t. Feel free to join me with this project 😊

Above is the list of prompts for this month, and you can read more about these and the project itself here. Whether I complete every day we’ll have to wait and see! While I plan to take a photo for each prompt each day, the writing and posting may happen in multiple days all at once. No fixed plans, we’ll just see how it pans out along the way.

Midnight Ramblings

Heart racing

Panic rising

Emotion swelling

Tears falling

Body crumbling

Curled into a ball

Wrapped up tight

Hiding from the world

Where I don’t belong.

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Nearly midnight, & I couldn’t get to sleep, when a vague attempt at poetry came to me, hastily emailed it to myself in the hope that by getting it out of my brain, I’d get to sleep. It didn’t help the sleep, but here are some words.

Where are the words?

I keep wanting to write, but don’t know what to say…seems the feelings don’t change so much and I mostly feel like I’m just being negative all the time – & I know how tedious that can make reading! I even struggle to find the words to reply to your comments with I love reading & really appreciate.

Irony is I’d like to improve my writing, and maybe start writing for magazines or something (something thats not a university essay at least!)….but I don’t know what to write about (that would be good enough!).

I wanted to write a post for World Childlessness Week last week, but had a few too many feels, and didn’t think I could add anything to the conversation already happening. Currently feeling like I’m in some weird no mans land – not in Treatment world, because we don’t know if we’ll actually do any more treatment (and when each person in a couple is on a different page this is a really tricky, fragile uncertainty)….but because we haven’t reached a definitive agreement on doing no more treatment, I don’t feel like I fit in the childless world. When infertility leaves you feeling like you don’t fit in the world, feeling like you don’t fit in the infertility world too is not a great space to fit in. Humans always want to feel like they belong somewhere.

To start with it felt like the counsellor was of the belief that we shouldn’t keep trying and therefore kept asking me the hard questions, but I’ve since realised over more sessions that she takes turns asking both of us the tough questions. I suspect that we both ignore these questions in between sessions, hoping that either they’ll go away or that an answer will come to us without us having to face the question. I’m starting to feel that I’m probably gonna have to be brave and face these questions, and the fear of the future, in order to actually heal some and be able to live with what ever decision we make – but with how quickly panic starts to rise if I even slightly glance in the direction of those questions, I fear facing them head on will find me falling apart even more than I already have….and I don’t know how I’ll be able to keep going with everyday life, if I let that happen…..it’s like I need to find a large chunk of time with no commitments so that I’ll have time to put myself back together before I need to function again. And in the meantime til I find a chunk of time, I’ll just keep looking the other way and hoping the question will go away. Or maybe, I’m slowly putting myself back together after all our losses, in order to fall fully apart again….

Coping with other people’s babies….

I’ve always had a soft spot for other people’s kids and babies….I’ve been a babysitter since a young age, and then I trained & worked as a nanny…I’m the one who makes kids smile on a long haul flight…at friend & family gatherings I was the one that would play with the kids, or rock the babies to sleep to give their parents a break. My in-laws even called me the ‘baby whisperer’ at one stage (I always told them not to jinx me….thinking that by jinx it’d just mean I’d have an unsettled baby…not that I’d have no baby!). I’ve always found joy in babies – making them smile and giggle, or rocking them to sleep always left me happy & contented.

Slowly over the course of our IVF treatment, I stopped playing with other peoples babies and kids….it was too painful. I think subconsciously there were a few reasons I pulled back from the kids in my life…I think I was worried that by enjoying other peoples kids it must mean I didn’t want my own enough and that it would invalidate my own pain and losses, or that if other’s saw me playing with the kids they’d think I was coping with life better than I was and not realise the pain babies and kids can trigger…and maybe I was worried that not being able to have kids was a sign that I didn’t deserve to have any enjoyment from other kids too. Or maybe people would think I was some crazy lady who would steal their baby since I couldn’t have my own….

What ever story was taking over my brain, I avoided babies, I avoided conversations about babies and pregnancies, I even saw my nibing’s less than usual (though I was also really busy with Uni and surviving). Recently though a friend of mine had a baby….it was her 2nd (her first was through IVF so our friendship has managed to survive ok)….but I hadn’t held a baby since she had her first one (who is now 3)….yep thats how long I avoided babies for….I didn’t really feel I could keep avoiding them though and not see this baby so I went to visit a few weeks after she was born…..I was pretty apprehensive & anxious before visiting….I wasn’t even sure if I’d cope with holding the baby let alone being in the same room, so wasn’t sure if I’d actually take an opportunity to hold the baby. I kinda didn’t get a choice, my friend just handed her to me! I didn’t cry, I coped. I felt pretty awkward – wasn’t sure how to be interested in the baby the way I used to be, while coping with all the issues in my head. I survived. (even if it all caught up with me later in the day & I had a cry)

After that I kinda thought, maybe it was like exposure therapy….maybe I just needed to keep holding babies, and eventually I’d get comfortable again, and be able to play with babies again…maybe even I’d get to reclaim my joy again….Cos otherwise infertility has stolen yet another thing from me.

I used to be a bit of a kid magnet prior….they always seemed to like me….but I also seemed to lose this throughout IVF….recently a new friends 7yr old, who I’d thought was a bit cold to me, decided to draw me a picture & wanted to do my hair….so maybe this exposure therapy is working and I’m slowly being able to reclaim my place around other kids. I’m still struggling to work out how other peoples kids fit in my lives – part of me thinks maybe I become the aunty figure for all the kids in my life, and be the best aunty I know….maybe thats the way forward, just making the most of the kids that are around me….but then how do I balance that with the bittersweet pain I’m left with when these kids want their mums, or go home after a sleep over at Aunty’s, or after these kids have grown up and are too cool to spend time with their parents friend…..How do you reclaim joy without dishonouring the pain?

How do you cope with other peoples kids in your life?

Uncovering Feelings

Recently I was thinking that I’d started to feel (a little bit) better….better/ok is all relative though, so having been feeling pretty shitty for so long it doesn’t take much to feel like an improvement. How quickly our bars for ‘ok’ are reduced!

However, I also recognised that this was the time for some healing to occur, when there’s a tiny glimmer of emotional energy to process things. So we made an appointment with a grief counsellor, someone neither of us had seen so that we could have a clean slate to start healing as a couple, not just working through things individually – things had become a bit fragile with our relationship so strengthening our marriage is also important at this stage.

We had our first session yesterday. It was quite confronting, the therapist asked some hard questions – ones I at least struggled to answer. While logically I realise I need her to ask the tough questions so I can process and accept my feelings….emotionally it’s terrifying. Made me realise how much I’ve boxed my emotions up in order to feel less pain. Flip side is you feel less anything. But now her questions have started making gaps for feelings to escape. I’m not sure I really want to feel them even in order to find a way to start actually living again.

She also was surprised at the amount of treatment and loss we’d been through, and that I’m still wanting to keep going. While its obviously always been still there as a big possibility, I’d been ignoring the fact that it’s most likely we are still facing a childless life – grieving our baby boy was enough, I didn’t want to feel the feels of facing a childless life too. But now the therapist has started asking questions, that reality has been shoved in front of me again. I don’t want to think about it. I don’t want that to be my future. The few thoughts I’ve had about it since yesterdays session has already started the feelings of panic and absolute terror welling up. Utter lack of control and powerlessness, overwhelming fear of the future. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to face these feelings full on, they seem to big for me to handle.

I learnt pretty young that life isn’t fair….but this, this losing a dream, is a whole other level of unfairness!

Compassion, empathy & a dash of self-care.

Many times I’ve gone to write another blog post…many reasons not to – mostly because Uni work had to take priority and I was trying to resist procrastinating….and then most of the times I thought of good things to write was when I was trying to get to sleep – and as sleep is a bit hit and miss these days I didn’t want to interrupt the “I might fall asleep soon” process to write my ideas down….   So instead of several clever post ideas this will be a wish mash touching on a few things I’ve thought about recently.

I was going to write about empathy and emotional labour – I had a situation where someone basically got into a “my shitty time is worse than your shitty time” situation, and as they were saying how hard life was having a baby, it felt to me a bit like yet another situation where those of us without kids end up filling the gap and making allowances for those that do have kids. But then I also realised I was just in a really shitty space and hurting too, and really want it showed was just that at the end of the day everyone regardless of their experience, just wants to be heard and have their feelings acknowledged. Hard to give that to others when you’re struggling yourself though, and sometimes when you’re not feeling heard yourself it can feel like you’re the one doing all the listening to others.

There’s been a bunch of talk on social media about mental health and asking for help, particularly if feeling suicidal. Lots of calls for people to reach out, ask for help, speak up when they’re struggling. Personally I find this really hard – especially as a number of times I have tried reaching out the people weren’t able to provide the help I needed. Having been raised to be independent (number one priority for us growing up was to learn to be independent – can’t rely on anyone else!) and having had my emotional experiences invalidated almost constantly as a child, it’s hard enough to admit to myself when I’m not coping with the world, let alone tell someone else. I’ve even noticed lately that when someone asks “How are you?”, the worse I’m feeling the more likely I am to ignore the question – because I can’t bring myself to lie, but also I’m not always sure the other person really wants to know. And even if I know the other person is a genuine friend who does care, I get a bit sick of myself not being happy so I don’t want to seem like I’m always complaining/struggling so I just don’t answer…particularly easy to do if the question is in a message or online – just respond to the rest of the message and ask them about themselves. Not a particularly good way of coping with the world – logically I can see that. But the reality is, and I’d imagine this is similar for others when struggling with life, when things are shitty all energy goes on survival, so the best coping straggles aren’t always chosen. Which also means someone isn’t likely to be in a place to help at the time when they most need help. Especially if self-esteem is lacking and you don’t feel like you deserve help….

The problem is if we’re all so busy focussing on survival, yet we’re all expected to reach out for help when we need it…..we don’t end up getting the help we need, but we also end up more isolated and less connected. It’s a fine line between putting ourselves first, not spreading ourselves too thing, and helping others, checking up on them, and staying connected with each other (genuine connection not just a quick ‘like’ of someones Facebook post or tweet). I am not good at finding this balance at all – often the worse I feel about myself the more I try to look after others, and do kind things. Not a bad thing – but often means I don’t know how, or feel very awkward looking after myself. And this gets worse when I feel like I’m not good company….super easy to end up hiding from the world, which isn’t a great solution either.

Oh dear, now I’ve completely lost my train of thought and can’t remember what else I was going to write haha. I guess though that does remind me of something else….it’s really easy when recovering from a loss, to think you’re back to ‘normal’. The obvious grieving like crying all the time and staring blankly out the window get less or have mostly gone, physically things are as ‘normal’ as they’re going to be, and life keeps going on. And if you’re like me, you stick at things you’ve committed too no matter how shitty and tough things are. After previous losses, while it was hard I managed to keep going with my Uni work, and somehow managed to keep getting the grades I needed. However, after this recent loss it’s been much harder to keep going – I know some of it is purely the amount of stressors we had – we moved house around the same time as this latest miscarriage, I was trying to get used to a different university and a bigger workload…of course it’s going to be hard. But this time the effects of grief were more subtle…concentration was really lacking. I am so easily distracted – not helpful when you’re trying to prepare for some big exams. Getting irritated and overwhelmed by almost everything, also not helpful. I kept going and I completed the exams – time will tell whether I managed to drag out the grades I need or not….and I mean drag…it often felt like I had to tell my brain to work, and that it was like my brain was trying to climb up a steep hill…took a lot of effort to get anywhere. Acknowledging the toll this has taken on the rest of my life has been hard – I should have been able to cope…so the annoying part of my brain thought. But the reality is, we need to let ourselves be ok with making changes to life so we can do more than just survive. For me that has been making changes to reduce my Uni workload, so I have space to put in some more self-care activities…like exercising and eating better. Problem is, when you’re already feeling like a failure, this can easily add to those feelings. Logically I know I’m making the right choices, and doing what I need to do to look after myself. But the emotions don’t keep up with that. We’re still in limbo land, we don’t know if we’ll do any more fertility treatment or if thats us done. I don’t know if I’m building resilience and health to cope with another cycle, or if I’m rebuilding myself as someone who won’t have kids. Adding changes to the only plan I have for the future – my studies – to that, makes it even harder to know who I am and what future I’m creating…..and without these things, it can be pretty hard to get out of bed each morning.

I guess the point I wanted to make in a round about way is, be kind to each other, including ourselves. Practice good self-care, but also reach out to those around you – humans can cope with things a whole lot easier when we give each other a helping hand up. xx

Another Rollercoaster Ride

I’m sorry it’s been a while since I wrote….have been meaning to write this post for ages, but life & feelings keep getting in the way. I’ve um’d and ah’d about whether to write this post or not…..I feel a little like a fraud after everything I’ve written before now….but then I also realise I said I wanted to show the reality of life after fertility treatment….and it doesn’t always go the way we expect, so being open about that is probably a good thing too. Fully away also that not everyone reading this will get or understand or agree with our decisions – and that’s ok, if this post is triggering for you I’m sorry & I understand you moving away from the blog….but I’ll also put up front (in case you don’t want to read til the end) this is not a happy blog post.

Towards the end of last year, while we were still struggling to come to terms with a childless life, we somehow stumbled ourselves on to a page where both of us realised we weren’t ready to be done with fertility treatment. As much as we knew fertility treatment was painful, last year was painful too and we didn’t feel like we were making any progress in accepting it (despite spending lots of $$ on therapy!) – so suddenly we found ourselves looking into treatment options we hadn’t considered before.

And before we knew it, we’d remortgaged paid a deposit & booked flights to Europe….we were going to try again, with different treatment in a different country – surely that boded well for us, taking a different approach to all the other times…..the healthy eating & taking tonnes of supplements kicked in – though tripping around Europe with all the cakes and baked goodies did mean there was some (lots of) indulgences! Treatment went surprisingly well – was hard to believe….and was interesting watching my anxiety responses kick in before I even had any news on the days we talked to the clinic – trauma responses take a while to get rid of I guess!

Once we returned home, life was a whirlwind – sold our house, bought a new house, Uni started (which involved going out of town for a course)…..it was quite hard to cope with this much Life going on, all the while wondering if I was pregnant….when we finally got the blood test results it was positive…the pain of all previous times over rode any excitement and all I had was tears….I hoped that further into the pregnancy my worries would be more manageable and that there would be space for excitement…..We made it to our first scan at 6 1/2 weeks….the anxiety levels before this appointment skyrocketed….last time we had this scan it hadn’t been good, I’d had some spotting leading up to this time, so I wasn’t feeling super positive…..but there was a heart beat….I cried, there was a baby growing in me….it was amazing….it still didn’t feel real…I still wasn’t excited….I was so scared….I kept having words with myself…there was a heartbeat…all the signs suggested everything was going fine….I just needed to keep breathing….

We made an appointment with a midwife, we moved into our new house, I kept trying to do some Uni work, I felt uncomfortable in my own skin but mostly I could remind myself it was all for the greater good…it’d all be worth it……

We went to our 9 week scan, both of us pretty sure everything was fine….the anxiety didn’t really get too high this time, surprisingly….we were in new territory….but it would be ok.

Except it wasn’t. There was no heartbeat. Our baby had stopped growing a few days after our last scan. Our world was falling apart all over again. We swore & cried, & left the appointment….and just as we hopped back into our car, someone trying to park next to us, drove into us – nothing major just frustrating, we held it together, exchanged details….and as we drove off…the driver got her baby out of the car…..F’ing hell, she got lucky and drove into us….we got nothing.

That was a week ago….feels like yesterday and forever all at once. I went to hospital a few days ago for surgery….at least now physically I can start to return to normal. I’m not sure how to heal our hearts thought. And as for what’s next who knows….everything seems a bit pointless at the moment, so we’re focussing on breathing, holding each other close & medicating with chocolate.