Friday, August 22, 2014

Talk to me

I've had an idea.  If I'm honest, I didn't have the idea.  I am copying someone else.  Even before I made my first ICLW comment on a new blog, I read something that interested me.  My Life is About the Journey invites emails from individuals who genuinely seek advice on parts of her journey, to help them through similar experiences, to share the wisdom.  What a lovely idea, I thought.

The reason I keep this blog is twofold.  I like sorting out my own thoughts about a No Kidding life, and writing is one way to do that.  Having an outlet for my thoughts and frustrations, and knowing I have a place where I'm not alone, is my major motivation for keeping this blog, even all these years after my initial losses and my entry into a post-infertility No Kids life.  But the secondary reason is that, now I no longer volunteer at a loss/infertility website, I also wanted an outlet where my own experiences might help others.  I try to maintain an open, friendly and welcoming atmosphere here.  But still, blogs often create a relationship at a distance.  

So I have created another page with an invitation to email me, with questions, or suggestions for new posts, based on my own experience.  I might regret this!  I hope I don't get hit by spammers, or the "just adopt" brigade who have left some nasty comments on my blog in the past.  (The delete button works wonders!)  

But as the years pass, and I find it harder to find new topics for posts, I thought I might try it. After all, I want to remain relevant, not just for those who are at a similar stage of coming to terms with a life without children, but also for those who are dealing with loss, and might be facing the prospect, or for those who are newly entering a No Kidding Life after infertility or loss.

It's an experiment.  But I figure it's never too late to try new things.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This time last year

This time last year, I was meeting the lovely Klara for the first time.  She and her husband are once again enjoying a northern summer, with the stunning scenery of Slovenia as a backdrop, enjoying summer produce, and - no doubt - she at least is doing some swimming in Lake Bled.  I, on the other hand, am at home in Wellington this year, enduring rain, hail and wind, looking for jobs, getting back to fitness, and getting things done around the house.  Winter trundles on.  But the good memories remain.  I wrote last year that this - new friendships and good memories - was one of the gifts of infertility.

The memories are boosted by the fact that I've finally finished my last photobook covering our overseas odyssey last year, and it includes pages on our all-too-brief sojourn in Slovenia.  All my friends who have seen it have gasped at some of the photos, and last night, one friend in particular (who is living in Europe) has determined that she must visit.  The gift keeps on giving.

Recently too I can add another new friend to the list of gifts.  A blogger who I missed seeing in Italy last year, but who has conveniently (for me at least) moved to Wellington.  She might be regretting that now, as hail batters my skylight as I write this.  But I'm not, because it is another gift, the chats and coffees we've shared so far this winter, and the ones we will hopefully share in the future.

I know that the whole concept of gifts of infertility was (and maybe still is) foreign to a number of my readers, and will be to any new readers who land here.  So I wrote another post where I outlined how I feel I had come through the pain to recognise these gifts. I found this post again when I was looking up exactly when I was in Slovenia.  And I feel it still stands.

Right now, I'll enjoy remembering beautiful Slovenia, how I felt about it this time last year, and celebrate new friends.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Those Walls of Babies

Back when I was doing my Masters in Political Science in the early 1980s, a fellow student and friend was writing her thesis on the Patriarchy and Women’s Reproductive Health.  She researched the way women were treated in the reproductive health field, ranging from contraceptive prescription practices, to the voice (or lack) that women had in their treatment.  I remember her commenting on the lack of privacy given to the woman in the layout of operating theatres and delivery rooms, where the hospital bed ensure that the patient faced the doors.  Fortunately, these days, this no longer occurs (I can personally vouch for that given my recent experience).  But there are other areas where women’s needs are ignored, even in the practice of medicine that is devoted to women’s health.

What I am about to discuss may seem trivial to some.  I don’t put it in the same category as the lack of physical privacy and dignity that I referenced above.  But it is real, and for many women, very distressing. 

I’m talking about the dreaded Wall of Babies.  Those of us who have been to fertility clinics are probably familiar with these.  The photos sent in by happy customers, spreading their love and thanks to the doctors and staff of the clinics who helped them have their children.  (Given my situation, I’ve never been to an obstetrician’s office, but I would expect the same there.) For those of us who visit these clinics, the photos are both a source of hope, and a source of pain.  Personally though, by the time I got to the fertility clinic they were mostly a source of pain, reminding me of what I had already lost, and what I might not be able to have.

So back in March, when I first visited my gynaecologist (here in NZ we go to GPs for regular smears, and other routine gynaecological issues, so I’d never actually seen a gynaecologist - outside of hospital - before), I was surprised to find that behind the examination bed there was a board covered in photos of babies.  I will say that it gave me an unexpected ouch moment. To be fair, it may have been a particularly traumatising examination that made me react to all those photos.  But it felt like a bit of a slap in the face, nonetheless.  I want to say that it didn't really bother me, but obviously, months later, I'm still thinking about it, and remember how I felt.  But I have been thinking primarily of women who might have been through the same things I've been through (pregnancy losses and infertility and unsuccessful fertility treatments), or worse, but more recently than me, women who aren’t 12 years on, women who still feel the pain of their experiences or situations acutely.

It surprised me to see a Wall of Babies at this doctor’s office, and I didn't expect it.  His special interests are listed as laparoscopic surgery for a range of gynaecological conditions, and it seems to me that this is the larger proportion of his business, rather than obstetrics (though he does do some obstetrics work).  He doesn’t (as far as I can see) work in the infertility field at all.  (And I have to say I really like him as a doctor, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend him.)  But he is aware of the impact of losses.  He was my doctor 12 years ago, when my second ectopic pregnancy was diagnosed in the public hospital, and I remember him being kind then, despite having to deliver the news in the waiting room under a huge diagram of pregnant bellies.

It does though seem to be an “industry standard” where doctors like to show off their happy thank you photos.  From my years in this field, it seems to me that there are dreaded Walls of Babies in OB/GYNs' offices all over the world.    

And it made me wonder: 
  • Do the baby photos give their pregnant patients comfort and confidence in the doctors’ abilities?
  • Do the baby photos ever upset any of their patients?

 The answer to both these questions is obviously yes.  

I wonder what the overall impact of such photos is on patients?  Are they beneficial?  Do more patients walk out happy as a result of feeling hopeful or inspired? I hope that the answer to this is YES, that this is what doctors believe and is the reason they display these photographs (rather than from pure ego - "look how my patients love me!").  

Or do they do more harm than good?  Do more patients walk out of their offices upset by these photos, feeling "less than," and/or reminded of loss?  

Does the good outweigh the damage done to gynaecological patients, or obstetric patients who have lost their babies? 

I suspect not.  I suspect that the trauma of seeing such photographs when someone is being diagnosed with cancer or other fertility-threatening conditions, or when they are losing or have just lost their babies, far outweighs the comfort a worried obstetric patient might feel during her consultations.  None of us visit an OB/GYN for fun, not even pregnant patients in New Zealand.  (Seeing an obstetrician during pregnancy here suggests a high-risk pregnancy, as midwives handle the majority of deliveries.)  Making it more emotionally upsetting seems thoughtless and even cruel. 

I wish that doctors would think about the principle “first, do no harm” in every part of their practice, and pay attention to the emotional as well as the physical well-being of the women who are their patients. At the very least, I wish that they would think about these photos and wonder how they affect their patients.  Maybe someone could even get a Master’s student to do a study?

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Getting lots of rest

Having recovered (mostly) from the surgery, headed back to the gym (starting out gently), and got into a head space where I can start focusing on getting some contract work, I came down with a cold – my first for a year or two.  I headed down to the pharmacy to get some medication that would help me deal with the symptoms, and maybe help me sleep too.  The assistant went through the usual questions – was I on any medication, etc – and then gave the usual advice – take in plenty of  fluids, get lots of rest. 

“That is, get lots of rest if you can,” the kindly shop assistant emphasised.  (Perhaps I looked tired?)

“Yes, I can, actually.  And I will,” I said. 

She looked surprised.  I guess it is unusual – a woman able to take time for herself and rest and recover appropriately from an illness, especially in the middle of the school holidays.

And I reflected that this is one of the advantages of not having children.  First, I don’t get sick very often, as I don’t have children bringing home all the illnesses from school.  (The reason I got sick I assume was that my 6-year-old niece was sick when she visited).  Second, when or if I do get sick, or need surgery, I am able to follow doctor’s orders, and get rest and take things easy.  This certainly helped my recovery from surgery – and I think it helped my recovery from the cold. Afternoon naps were possible, and so was sleeping late in the morning.  My cold is largely gone now, ten days later, and I'm heading back to the gym in an hour or two.

When it is cold and I'm feeling physically and emotionally miserable, I have to say that sometimes, not having children is a big advantage!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A rash impulse or a sound commitment?

As you can see on the sidebar, I have signed up to ComLeavWe, or International Comment Leaving Week.  It means I've committed to a week in August (21-28) of leaving six comments a day on blogs.  Now, many of you may do this every month, and will roll your eyes at both my enthusiasm and trepidation.  Feel free!  I have only done IComLeavWe a few times, though, so this is a big deal!

I do try to comment regularly, I probably average a couple of comments every day, but committing to six is going to be a stretch, especially with the issues I have commenting using the combination of an iPad and Feedly and an occasional dodgy internet connection. But it is good to commit to something.  

One of the reasons I don't do this regularly is that I don't hang out on infertility blogs - the women still trying to conceive, or going through an adoption process, unless I've known them for a while.  It's been many years since I was trying to conceive, and so their world is not my own.  Not any more.  Finding new blogs of interest to me, or where I might have something cogent to say, is therefore not always easy.  But I realised I haven't hunted around for new blogs to follow for a while now, and there may be other blogs that I read regularly but where I don't comment, and so I'm embracing the spirit of this.

And after all my discussions about role models and hidden doorways and different paths, and after reading a post today about our path being dimly lit, I've decided it's time to shine a bit more light on a no kidding life.  And to stop just doing it here where I'm cosy and comfortable, but to reach out and maybe do it elsewhere too.  Even if all I am doing is showing that we won't lash out in bitterness or jealousy, and that others don't have to censor themselves around us, and that in due course, we can cope with their journeys, even if they are on the path that we once wanted to tread.
I just hope I remember come 21 August!