Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: A Lucky Escape

An overdue get-together, my friend arrived and we kissed hello on the cheeks. She then proceeded to apologise for being late - her family had a nit alert.

"Nits?'' I recoiled, taking an involuntary step back.

Just the night before, my husband and I had watched an episode of Modern Family, in which Lilly had nits and was used as a secret weapon against a much-disliked acquaintance. Her father had fended her off - like a lion tamer - with a floor lamp. I was tempted to do the same with my friend.

Another friend, her children now grown, flatly refused to assist our potentially nit-ridden friend to begin the de-lousing process, so I didn't feel so guilty about my display of abject horror.

There are definite advantages to not having children.

Monday, November 10, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Under-estimating friends and family

Recently I’ve had occasion to see someone behaving how I always wanted them to behave, rather than how the past had led me to believe they would behave (in a particular circumstance). It has made me very happy, and so pleased that I can upgrade my opinion of this person.

It has also made me think of the friendships and relationships that are lost and scarred by infertility. Too often I read someone writing that they have cut someone out of their life, because of the way they behaved. Sometimes this may be warranted – I can’t judge relationships that don’t include me – and I admit that a downgrading of relationship status is often necessary to protect ourselves at a time when we are very vulnerable.

But I do want to suggest that we should leave some connection open, however tenuous. They just might surprise us one day, and I wouldn’t want any of us to miss out on a relationship that once was, and can be again, good in our lives.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The F Word

A continuing theme I read in other IF or No Kidding blogs is the shock of having to deal with failure. I’ve written about this before, but I always think it is worth it to revisit it, for the benefit of new readers, or to remind old readers (and myself) to practise some self-compassion.

So many of us believed that if we worked hard we’d achieve what we wanted. There is still a theme of this amongst IF blogs, both amongst those who had their children (“we stuck at it,” “never give up,” “I knew I’d never give up” (how can you possibly know that?), “my faith will deliver,” and other slightly superior/judgemental statements). Or perhaps we grew up in the “girls can do anything” age, and truly believed that we could have it all. Or maybe we grew up being told we were "special" and we believed that meant we could have whatever it was we wanted..

Now, with hindsight, I look at people who say, “if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything.” They’re always the ones who were lucky enough to achieve whatever is their anything. Yes, they may well have achieved their goal through hard work, but hard work alone doesn’t do it. You’ll hear others – particularly in the IF community – refer to “wanting it enough.” Wanting something, even coupled with hard work, doesn’t do it either. I really hate hearing the implication in that statement that perhaps I don’t have children because I didn’t want it enough. Or maybe my friends here didn’t “want it enough.” I completely dispute that.

The truth is that achieving anything in life is so often by chance - genetic, parental, circumstantial, geographic, and many other circumstances that aid or hinder us in our goals. Working hard, whilst it is good, isn’t going to overcome other problems that occur by chance (or genetics). We need luck, finances, energy, good health, talent, looks, speed, strength or a high IQ (or a combination of some or all of these) to be in our favour, as well as hard work (or wanting something, or believing in it) to get what we want. Example: I’m not pretty. I have to work at looking presentable, but I’ll never be beautiful. Chance. I’m tall and athletic, and was a talented netballer when I was young. Chance. I wasn’t tall enough to represent my country though. That wasn’t going to be alleviated through hard work. Chance. I have a high IQ. I can learn things easily. That’s not through hard work. It’s pure chance, in the same way that my eyes are green. And I feel it is less praiseworthy than someone who works hard to learn something that I would pick up quickly. How is that different to fertility and infertility?

And as we all know, being fertile has nothing to do with working hard or wanting something enough. We all hear of people accidentally getting pregnant when they’re using contraception. And we all know (or are those people) who have gone without contraception for ten years, tried ten rounds of IVF, and still never conceived. But likewise, conceiving through fertility treatments isn’t a result of hard work or even perseverance. Sure, some people might say that they’d never have had their children if they’d stopped after one cycle of IVF. That might be true. Others say – after having their children – that they would have done anything to get them. But they don’t know that, because they weren’t forced to follow through. Still others know that they could have done 20 cycles and never conceived. Wanting it enough and hard work aren’t always going to reward us with the result we want.

Still, it is hard to change the habits of a lifetime, and stop believing that we’ll get what we want simply because we want it, or because we have tried and tried and tried, because we have worked so hard to the exclusion of all else. So we berate ourselves, we feel like failures, and we find that hard to cope with. That’s why I really dislike the word failure in the fertility context. It brings a degree of judgement, as if it is a failure of character, or effort, or virtue. Being infertile simply is - as much as the colour of our hair, or whether or not we wear glasses, or how athletic we are - part of who we are. It’s not a failure.

Most importantly, it doesn’t mean I am a failure either. Because I am not. Neither are you. Far from it. Knowing this intellectually is one thing. Accepting it emotionally is another. But it is possible to get there. Accepting that I wasn’t a failure, that the outcome really wasn’t my fault, helped me go a long way towards accepting not only my no kidding lifestyle, but other things that have happened in my life since. 

I accepted I’d never be beautiful a long time ago. I have also accepted I’ll never have children. Neither of those are my fault. Neither of those make me a failure. However much society tries to make us think that.

Monday, November 3, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: Maintaining our humanity

One of the kindest, most giving women I know endured at least 18 miscarriages and one ectopic pregnancy. Somewhere in the midst of those losses, she had her daughter. (She's the one person I feel can use the term miracle pregnancy.) And in the midst of those losses, she gave her heart and soul to helping other women going through losses. There are hundreds if not thousands of us who owe so much to her, and to another friend, who - like me - couldn't have children but helped and comforted those who were still trying. She was then hit by a nasty illness that is now chronic, painful, and sometimes debilitating.  Life hasn't been kind to either of these women. Yet they both still give, still care, and both still have wicked or wacky senses of humour, taking joy in life. I thought of them this week as I saw other people - including one most dear to me - go through difficult times and yet maintain their humanity. They teach, even when they don't know it.
Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.
Kurt Vonnegut

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The miracles of modern medicine

I grimaced a little a week or so ago when I realised how old I am now. Then I put it in context. I am lucky to be here, to be this old, even though it is not old at all in the context of our life expectancies these days. But after two ectopic pregnancies and a hysterectomy (without which I was bleeding to death), the only reason I am still here is the miracle of modern medicine. If I'd been born 100 years ago, I might well have been dead three times over.  Or more, because I'm not counting the things I have been inoculated against.  Or  the illnesses I have prevented by wearing long sleeves and sunscreen and insect repellent!

Of course, I'm not alone in this.  It got me thinking about how many of my family and friends have also had medical interventions we just take for granted these days.  Without these, I wouldn't still have my husband, his parents, my sisters, my mother, my littlest niece, my sister-in-law, at least one brother-in-law, and many good friends, not least all those who had emergency surgery for ectopics. Of course, any infertility blog knows that there are many important children in our lives now who would never have made an appearance without modern medicine.  

My mother is struggling at the moment, and we're hoping her current treatment will prolong and improve her quality of life. But she had this cancer 28 years ago, and it has only just returned. She has enjoyed most of those 28 years and we've had her for so much longer than we would have had without modern medicine.   I'm out of town this week, supporting her through her radiation therapy, and writing this in advance, hoping it will go well.

It is all a good reminder to appreciate what we have, when we have it.  And to remember how lucky we are to live in these times and this place.