Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Gifts of Infertility Series - #16 – Humility

Looking back at my previous posts in this series, I realised that you could look at this and be gobsmacked at my hubris. I sound as if I think I am awesome. (Actually, I am awesome. So are you. But recognising that and accepting it without apologising is still hard. We women are I think conditioned against this.)

The truth is that before infertility and loss I felt like many people do – indestructible. I wasn’t in perfect health all the time, but I was very lucky. I wasn’t the prettiest, or the thinnest, or the best at anything, but I had grown up lucky enough to take pleasure in being athletic, and academic, and being reasonably well adjusted socially. In other words, I was beyond lucky. I recognised this to an extent – I didn’t grow up with a lot of money, but I was lucky enough to travel as a teenager, and be exposed to many people who suffered from poverty and war and health afflictions that I never even saw back at home. So I knew I was lucky. Perhaps that lead me to thinking that because I had been lucky, I’d continue to be lucky. Deep down, we don’t really think it will ever happen to us, do we?

Until it does. And when it does, it is a shock. Infertility teaches us we are fallible in the most personal of ways. If we can’t fulfil what we think of as our most basic biological functions, we come to a place where we will either drown with the knowledge that we have flaws, or we learn to accept that we have these flaws and are far from perfect, and love ourselves anyway.

Accepting we are fallible is humbling. It is also, I think, liberating. Letting go of pride let’s us decide what is important to us, what we really want to achieve in the world, and most importantly, what we can achieve in the world.

Humility teaches us to consider others, to appreciate them for what they are – flaws and all - too. After all, if we can accept our own flaws and failings, we can accept theirs too.

I’ll finish with a couple of quotes I found: 
Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.
Thomas Merton 
With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings.
Ezra Taft Benson

Monday, October 20, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Birthdays

On my birthday eleven years ago today, I learned I would never have children.  Since then, though, my birthdays have included: 
  • A weekend in New Zealand's Hawke’s Bay wine region with my sister and her husband
  • Dinner at most of my favourite restaurants in Wellington, often planning our next trip
  • A weekend away in Brisbane
  • A landmark celebration in South Africa
  • A dinner last year in London with family who were also there from Qatar, marking the end of our five months Lemons to Limoncello trip

This year it will be quiet, due to our impecunious state, but we’ll raid the wine cellar (okay, the cupboard off my office) for a good bottle of something, and my husband will cook a nice meal, and I might make a wicked dessert.

And the memory of 2003? That’s all it is now – a memory.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Shying away from exposure

Yesterday was Babyloss Awareness Day, and a lot of my friends have posted about it on Fb. I commented and appreciated these posts. But I didn’t post one myself. Which is not to say that I didn’t think about my own two lost pregnancies, or those of my friends and relatives who have lost babies – from young babies to still-births to early miscarriages.  We have all known the grief of losing a life we had such hope for, even if our losses and experiences were very different.  But this isn't something I talk about openly to all my FB friends. Or my family.  Maybe particularly my family.  Hmmm.

Now on the radio that is the soundtrack to my life, they are discussing the Apple/FB egg-freezing policy. They have a panel discussion, and invite comments. I wanted to get my two cents worth in, so I sent a comment. But I did it under a pseudonym. And not Mali either, because I've pretty much come out as Mali. No, believe it or not, my pseudonym has a pseudonym!

The weird thing is that I am perfectly prepared to speak out about infertility and my feelings about it. But on my terms. So I guess that I am still wary of being part of a public discussion. I feel exposed – but I think I might feel that way about any other topic too. New Zealand is a really small place, and the odds are that people I know personally and professionally will see/hear my comments. Well, that’s my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, October 13, 2014

#Microblog Mondays: What’s the point?

All too often, when women (women in particular, but maybe men too) find out that they will never have a child, they feel useless.

“What is the point of my life?” we ask ourselves, we ask each other. And we shake our heads in confusion and grief.

But then time passes, and we talk to others and they help us, and we heal and in turn our experiences of healing, and an infectious enthusiasm for the future, help others too.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.
Charles Dickens

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gifts of Infertility Series - #15 – Self-compassion

A key to developing compassion and empathy was at the same time developing it for myself. I’d always been quite hard on myself. Anything else seemed self-indulgent and selfish. I’d been brought up to think of others and put others first. And as a result, at times I think I was a bit of a doormat, a pushover, and lacking confidence. So it was tough to allow myself to feel some self-compassion. But it made a huge difference.

The peace of mind that is possible after developing some self-compassion and self-acceptance was life-changing. Previously, I had spent untold hours, days, weeks feeling bad about myself, filled with guilt or imagining what others were thinking or saying about me. Of course, these were always the worst case scenarios. But when I learnt to be kind to myself, I learnt to deal with stress more easily, I learnt to relax, and I learnt to be kinder to others too.

“But that’s easier said than done!” I hear you say. So I'm going to share a mental exercise that helped me for the first time to feel some real self-compassion. It was at a time when I was weeping over the loss of my second ectopic pregnancy. I was in such pain. The pregnancy had come so close to the uterus, but not close enough. And it was now potentially life-threatening, or at the very least threatening to take many months to resolve. I was grieving and upset. And yet I found it hard to give myself any compassion.

Until I read or saw the advice simply to step outside of myself. To imagine the Mali who was sobbing on the floor as a child, as Mali-the-child. And as I did, I wanted to hold her, to tell her she was allowed to feel sad, to agree that life sucked, and to comfort her, to reassure her that it would get better. To let her know she was loved, and that she was enough as she was. I felt the love flow into me, and it helped. I was still grieving … but it helped.

Over the next months and years I needed to rationalise this idea, I needed to fit it into my real, everyday life. I couldn't go around treating myself as an eight year old! I realised that if I had seen any of my family or friends in the pain that I had been in, I would have stopped and comforted them. I wouldn't have told them that they deserved this, that maybe they weren't good enough, that maybe they were being judged. I would have held them and loved them and told them they were enough.

Logic of course brought me to this. After all, didn't I deserve to feel some of that love, some of that compassion? Why did I think that I deserved less than any other person I knew? Logic answered: I don’t deserve less. I shouldn't treat myself worse than I would treat strangers, people I was counselling on the ectopic site, friends, or members of my family.

And so I developed some self-compassion. Which is not to say I go easy on myself, ask nothing of myself any more, tell myself that any sort of behaviour or thinking is okay, let standards slide. No, sometimes still I am far too hard on myself. But I don’t beat myself up for things I can’t control any more, or for mistakes I might make. I practise self-compassion. It helps.