Monday, 23 March 2020

Timely resources

I'm taking a break from my project today, simply because my mind won't turn to it. NZ has just announced a lockdown for four weeks, and I'm just getting my head around it. I'm glad we're doing it now, rather than when it is too late. If lockdowns work, then it will have been well worthwhile. But this news reminded me that now is not the time to go quiet on everyone in our much-loved No Kidding circles. Or wider.

So right now I'm going to flag some posts others in our community have written recently:

You might have been hiding under a rock if you haven't seen posts from many other No Kidding bloggers about Jody Day's update of her book, Living the Life Unexpected, in her Global Blogtour. If you're feeling alone right now, this is a great resource, and so are the blogs of all those included in the blogtour, so it's worth checking out these wonderful blogs. You'll have seen some of these posts appear in my blogroll of favourite No Kidding blogs. I wasn't involved in this blogtour because of other projects, so I'm really pleased all those other amazing people have been writing about it.

Jody has also written a great post about Mother's Day (as it has just ended in the UK) in the current situation, and that might give you some comfort too, I hope.

Infertile Phoenix wrote a lovely post here about using the tools she developed during and post-infertility, and it is worth checking out, as it's a very good reminder..

This community online has always been so supportive of each other, and I've always been proud of that. It's something we can continue to rely on, especially if we are isolated from our normal support networks. And it is a model we can use to support our family and friends as they are isolated too.

I'm going to try to follow my own advice:
  • Learn how to calm myself
  • Don't think about the what-ifs
  • Feel joy and gratitude
  • Connect
  • Be kind (as our Prime Minister always reminds us all) - to myself and others.
  • And breathe. As I often say to others, but say to myself just as often, I must remember to breathe!

Take care. I'm Not Kidding. And Arohanui to all.

And here are some flowers to brighten your day:

Monday, 16 March 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 8 - Write

When I went through my ectopics, I would struggle to sleep. I’d feel exhausted, from all the emotions, but when I would put my head down on the pillow to try to sleep, it would all churn around and around in my head. The what-happeneds as well as the what-ifs kept me awake. My second ectopic in particular took a long time to resolve with multiple hospitalisations and procedures, and trying to keep track of those, and so many blood tests and results and appointments, made it hard for me to let my brain stop thinking about it all. I had this tremendous need to remember it all. The same thing happened during IVF, and later as I began living with the definitive knowledge that I would never have children. Although there can often be relief from this decision, the grief and the what-might-have-beens and should-I-have-done-mores can be overwhelming. My brain did not find it relaxing!

During my ectopics, I discovered that simply writing down the details of my appointments and results and what was said or what happened that day helped relieve me of the need to remember. Later, I found that just emptying my thoughts onto paper – or computer screen – helped me to breathe out, and relax. Many people are very private, so writing (or maybe even just talking into your phone to record your thoughts) is something they only want to do for themselves. Others – like me, back in the early 2000s – find message boards or Fbk groups where we can share our experiences and fears with others who know what we’re going through. The ability to do that anonymously is also helpful for those who are nervous about having a public presence. Talking to others, helping those who might be a few weeks or months or years behind us, helps us feel less alone, and helps us help others. Being able to do that feels good, and I needed that. We all need that.

Later, as I began volunteering, and then eventually began blogging here, I found that responding to a question or issue someone else raised often helped me figure out what I thought. And by writing it down, I didn’t have to hold onto it. Being able to have relief from intense emotions or feelings of loss or failure is really important for our recovery and mental health. Being able to put those thoughts away for a while, or being able to figure out what we think, and what is important to us, really helps. I found that learning to understand myself and my emotions helped me regain control over them. All of this helped me fully re-enter society after loss, find my new normal, and embrace my life as it is.

Writing – or more accurately, recording, or perhaps expressing yourself (choose which fits best for you) – might start as simply as jotting some test results down. Or listing frustrations, or things that people have said to us that we want to remember, but don’t want to go over and over in our heads. It might stay at that level, and if it works for you, that’s great. Or maybe just venting once to a good friend might be all you need to sort things out, or to express hurt or frustration. Or maybe you might find other ways to heal, through craft or art or music or dance, for example. Perhaps you’ll follow a progression, as I have. Perhaps you’ll go further – some people have turned it into a calling, with articles published in major newspapers, or turn it into a business or career, turning loss into purpose. It’s different for all of us. But I do think it’s important to have an outlet, even if it is just a scrap of paper with a list.

I write about other areas of my life too. It stops me going over and over events, to myself, or – quite often – to my husband! If I can get something down on paper, it stops me fuming quite as much as I might otherwise. Last week, my 2020 Blogging with Friends project asked me to write an advance eulogy or note of appreciation to someone who is still living. I wrote about my father-in-law, but found it difficult. As I would write about something nice, I would remember things that had hurt or frustrated or confused me. I fumed and decided I wouldn’t write about him at all. But at least I had it all written down in draft, and I could let it go. By the next morning, I knew I could edit most of the negative stuff out, and focus on the positive. It was, as I wrote here on A Separate Life, a lesson in kindness, if not understanding. And you know what? I feel better about it – and him – now.

So it’s a lesson I keep learning. I have a number of draft posts written, about a whole range of issues – about childlessness and not about that at all – that I might never post. But the act of writing them, of really developing and articulating my thoughts, feelings and beliefs, almost always helps. I highly recommend it.

Monday, 9 March 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 7 - Honour

I can well remember the guilt I felt when I began recovering in those early days after loss and after knowing my journey to have children was over. I was, at times, overwhelmed with it – the guilt seemed to be determined to stop any healing, any happiness. The guilt asked nasty questions, misled me, and told me lies. Maybe I didn’t want children enough if I could begin to feel joy. Maybe, if I could begin to feel joy now, it meant that I didn’t deserve to have children. Were my fleeting moments of pleasure, or laughter, a betrayal of the babies I had lost, or those I would never have? Were they a betrayal of my journey, and the pain I’ve been through? Etc etc.

I am sure many of you know the drill, as I’ve heard this from so many women (and a few men), over almost 20 years of involvement in loss and infertility fields. We’re so good at beating ourselves up, and that insidious guilt seems to come naturally. And we’re often so used to the pain, that we don’t know who we will be if we let it go.

But that guilt is dishonest (as I’ve written before here and here), and pointless. It manifests in a refusal to be happy, a denial that it is even possible. It sees us continuing to feel that pain, even welcoming in the grief of loss because it feels like we should. It feels as if pain and grief honours our journeys and our losses.

But I think that is wrong. Feeling joy, learning to be happy again, and embracing our lives without children is not a betrayal of our loss. Quite the contrary. I believe that it is a far better way to honour our journeys, our pain, the babies we lost or never had, the parents we would have been. When I’ve been able to help others who have experienced loss, or have followed me into a No Kidding life, I feel it has made some small sense of my loss. I remember the children I didn’t have, the babies I lost to ectopic pregnancy, and feel that I’m honouring them by sharing the lessons they taught me. And after all, what point is there in the losses of their lives and (if I’m stuck in grief and can’t move forward) mine?

Living well, growing and becoming better and happier people is the best way to remember who we are, and how we have pulled through. It honours our losses. It reminds us that we are valuable, and worthy, no matter what we’ve been through. It gives us purpose.

Honour yourself, honour your partner (if you have one), and honour those you have lost.
Honour them all by living well. 

Honour. It’s so much more productive than guilt.

Note: Apologies to all the North Americans who spell "honour" differently.  Thanks for your understanding!

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 6 - Forgive

There’s often a lot of self-blame and guilt around infertility or childlessness. We blame ourselves for not finding a partner, or not trying for children earlier, or for having bodies that don’t do what we want them to do. But these issues are not blame-worthy. We live our lives trying to make the best decisions with the information we have at hand, or with the capabilities we have at the time..

Whilst the information I had when I decided to wait to try to have a child may have been flawed (it was), my intentions weren’t. I didn’t want to have a child until I was ready, not for selfish reasons, but because I felt it wouldn’t be fair to a child to have them before that. I don’t know if trying earlier would have made a difference. But I do know there’s no point in self-recriminations, or in feeling guilty. Likewise, I do not and never have hated my body, even though it could not seem to get a fertilised egg to my uterus successfully. I forgive it. I forgive myself for the decisions I made. I forgive my husband for his decisions too. We all did our best. It just didn’t get us what we wanted. 

Forgiving ourselves is one of the most important things we can do to help our recovery. It enables us to begin to look forward, to feel joy, and to love ourselves. I've written about this before here. It helps us get over new things that might haunt us too.

And because it is important, it is my message again today:
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Forgive your body (or your partner’s body) for not being able to have children. It wasn’t your fault, it wasn't a punishment, it wasn't a short-coming. It simply was, as much as the colour of your hair, or whether or not you wear glasses, or how athletic you are, part of who you are.
  • Forgive yourself, and let go of the blame.
  • Frgive yourself for waiting, for whatever reason.
  • Forgive yourself for your financial limitations.
  • Forgive yourself for recognising your emotional limits.
  • Forgive yourself for not going to the ends of the earth.
  • Forgive yourself for recognising that your sanity is important.
  • Forgive yourself for recognising that your relationship(s) is(are) important.
  • Forgive yourself.

Monday, 24 February 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 5 - Love

Growing up, the idea that you might love or even like yourself was anathema to me, and I suspect most New Zealanders my age. We didn’t think about ourselves in that way – we were taught to focus outwards, not inwards. In some ways that is helpful, but in so many ways it is not. So when I first experienced loss, I didn’t know how to feel compassion for myself. 

But what I read, and who I talked to (mainly online), always came up with the same message. Be kind to yourself, be compassionate, love yourself. I never really got it, as instantly – when I would think about loving myself or showing compassion – my inner dialogue would counter with a long list of why I didn’t deserve love or compassion. Sound familiar? Too many of us do that. Just this last week, in a different blogging project, a friend wrote her “Things I like about myself” post which was really a litany of what she didn’t like about herself.

But then, in a book a friend recommended, there was a simple exercise about how to love yourself, and how to show compassion. It didn’t mean you had to love everything about yourself, or even like it or approve of it. But it did mean that you were worthy of love and understanding. I’ve written about it before here (in the Gifts of Infertility series), but I’ll repeat it because I think it is useful.

When we’re grieving, or angry, or simply feeling down, we should try not to self-recriminate. Instead, imagine that grieving, ranting, or sobbing person as the child we once were, clearly in pain, clearly needing love and understanding. Who better to understand them but us? Embrace the child, send all the love and understanding we can, because their pain is our pain. Let them know that pain is heard with empathy, it is understood, and they are loved nonetheless. I’ve done this exercise, and it always helps when I’m in pain. Sometimes years go by without needing it, then something pops up, and I remember how important it is to just express and feel that love.

Ultimately, isn’t this also how we would react to someone we loved who was in pain? Wouldn’t we would hold them, comfort them, listen to them, love them? Don’t we deserve the same compassion? Yes. Yes. Yes.

It makes life easier. It helps us begin to change what we don't like, or to accept what we can't change. It makes us better people too, more able to exercise compassion and extend love towards others. But it all starts with loving ourselves.