29 December, 2011

Speed wobbles?

I wobbled a bit today.  My husband was going to meet up with a former work colleague, who now lives overseas.  He visits every year or two, and always calls my husband to meet up.  I don’t know him well, but that doesn’t usually bother me.  This guy used to be my husband’s young workmate, he looked up to my husband, and I admit I occasionally wanted to take under my wing so I could spruce him up so he could find a woman!

But time has moved on, and he’s living overseas, married with two kids.  And for some reason this morning, I felt old, barren and fat.  And I couldn’t bear the thought of going and being polite about his two kids, meeting his young, fertile, no doubt slim wife.  So I sent my husband alone.

I haven’t felt like that for a long time.  With the benefit of years, I am so much better able to cope, and with the benefit of years, I am so much more in tune with myself, and my emotions..  And on reflection, I think my insecurity was/is related to a family issue that upset me, rather than my infertility.  After all, I managed to spend Christmas Day with three kids running around, and had a good time.   

Still, whilst it undeniably gets better, you do get the occasional slap in the face with a wet fish.  I had mine this morning.  By tonight, I’m determined it will be fried.

25 December, 2011

Wishing you all peace and love

It's Christmas morning.  No children running around this house.  Just an aged mother, a husband reading a book, and me on the computer.  That's okay.  It's quiet, peaceful, and we'll see at least one kid at lunch-time. 

I remember how horrible this time of year can be - both my ectopics occurred in December.  And so to my bloggy friends who are still struggling with this time of year, with the obsession with family and mandatory happiness, and with friends and relatives announcing their pregnancies today (that has happened to me too), I send you my love.  I hope that you can find some peace today and beyond.  It will come.  However horrible you feel today, it will come.

And remember, when in doubt ... there's always chocolate.  Or wine.  Or both.

20 December, 2011


Pearl asked on my last post "If I stop right now and decide I can try to move on, will I regret it a few years from now? "

I can't of course answer that.  I firmly believe that for most of us, we will know when it is time for the decision that is right for us.  I didn't have a choice to stop trying to conceive - my IVF clinic told me/us to stop.  But I/we didn't then look at donor egg, or fostering, or adoption.  That was our choice.  We drew a line and said "enough."  I won't say I have never wondered if we made the right decision.  But most of the time, I know it was the right decision for us.  I don't regret it, and in fact, as time moves on, I am less and less likely to regret.  And I'm not the only one.

Example 1:  Over the weekend, my husband and I were roped into babysitting our adorable 3 year old niece while her parents attended a wedding.  At the end of the evening, my exhausted husband looked across the chaotic room covered in Lego/books/blocks/half a chocolate marshmallow Santa, and said "maybe we should be glad we don't have children."  He was kind of joking, but not really. 

Example 2:  Chatting with a friend who went through pregnancy losses about the same time I did, she commented recently "you know, I look back and think that maybe we were lucky we didn't get what we wanted."

I think our brains are amazing at convincing us that we make the right decisions.  They stop us regretting the choices we make.  I think we are wired to believe our choices are right, and to like or at least accept the lives we have.  It is perhaps a version of Stockholm syndrome.  If we don't, won't or can't adjust to our new realities, we will be miserable.  It's called survival.

13 December, 2011

Acceptance - What is it?

This post from This is More Personal got me smiling, and thinking.  In particular, this paragraph made me think back, and remember feeling this way too.

“I remember hearing from women further down the path than I, and listening to them talk about acceptance, and me thinking, loudly: “BULLFUCKINGSHIT. That is just bullshit. How could anyone ever accept this hell. You are lying to yourself. I will never accept this.”

I suspect I might have been one of the people she has sworn at! 

I think part of it is the definition we ascribe to the word acceptance.  For me, acceptance means the ability to live our lives the best way we can, within the constraints of our lives.  In other words, we can’t have kids (whether short term or permanently), but we can still have a good life, enjoy ourselves, and appreciate the parts of our life that we wouldn’t have if we have children.  That latter part is the hard bit often.  Acceptance doesn’t mean that we are rejoicing we don’t have children, and it doesn’t mean we didn’t really want them.  It’s that guilt thing again.  It is not a betrayal to accept the life I have, and make the most of it.  I mean, what choice is there?  And isn’t it better to be happy than sad?

Of course, none of this happened over night – for me, or I suspect for any of the women who have gone through this.  It takes time.  But yes, even for those disbelievers out there swearing at me right now, it is possible.  And it’s good.  Acceptance means that the burden of guilt, the burden of sadness, the burden of wanting what you don’t have, all that is gone.  And there is a real freedom in that.

07 December, 2011

Honoured to be asked ...

I'm not sure why, but about a year or so ago, I started searching infertility blogs on the internet.  By this stage I had been blogging for a while, and although I'd talked about my infertility briefly, I really hadn't felt that it was the place to go into details.  I had earlier found great support on an internet forum, and have made some lifelong friends, but as they drifted off, became parents (through whatever means), it just didn't seem the place where I could talk about my thoughts any more.  And so it had been some years since I'd had an outlet for my thoughts on this most personal of subjects.  And I wondered what the on-line community was like.

So I googled.  One of the first sites I came to,  read, and liked, was Pamela's Silent Sorority/ A Fresh Start.  She'd written a book, and I downloaded it - one of the first ebooks I bought - and enjoyed it.  Here was an intelligent, articulate woman I could relate to, a woman who says it like it is, a woman who has inspired so many others going through infertility.  I found a woman about my age, who was also living a no-kidding lifestyle, and who understood the negatives and the positives of this choice.  I didn't feel quite so alone.

She inspired me to start reading more widely, ultimately to start blogging, and to "come out" more publicly too.  And now, she's asked me to write a guest post on A Fresh Start.  If you don't visit her blog regularly, you should.  And you especially should to read this post!

Thanks Pamela.  For everything.

06 December, 2011

At ease ...

Ten years really is a lifetime ago.  I can honestly say that the only time I felt sad in the weekend (well, when I wasn’t thinking about my father who would have turned 83 yesterday), was when I was thinking about my husband and the lack of children in his life.  (I've got a post brewing about how this affects our men - and our their loss affects us.  But that's for another day.)  I had a good weekend, even while I recognised the ten year mark.  The sadness has gone.  Maybe not permanently, but certainly for most of the time.

You see, I can’t imagine what it would be like to have a nine year old – or can imagine it only fleetingly -  simply because I never had an eight year old, or a seven year old, or a six year old, etc etc.  It is simply too much of a mental leap to imagine being a parent of a nine year old, and so I just don’t think about it.  I could try to force myself, but that would be like hitting my head against a brick wall.  And why would I do this?  I think this is actually how time heals, and why it is possible for me to say now that I’m very happy with my life.  

I know that after pregnancy loss, some women spend the entire nine months thinking about where they “should” have been in the pregnancy, and then a lesser number spend time marking how old their children would have been.  I do that only rarely.  I remember following how many weeks pregnant I would have been, in the first few months after my ectopics, my brain torturing me to remember, scared to forget, if that makes any sense.  But after I wrote all the details down, I was free not to dwell on it.  And so it helped me heal. 

These days, I rarely think about dates or what-ifs – and if I do it tends to end up here on this blog, so perhaps gives a distorted picture of how I feel about my infertility, my losses.  My ten year anniversary crept up on me by surprise.  I have to think back and calculate how old my eldest would have been.  But it is all theoretical.  The emotion that used to be there, isn’t there anymore, not usually.  My infertility, and my losses – they’re still part of me.  They made me who I am.  But these days I am at ease with that.  I like writing those words ... at ease.  They represent a release of sadness, of bitterness, of guilt.  They show acceptance, and peace.  And I like that.  Because that’s how I feel right now

02 December, 2011

Ten Years

In commenting on another post about their month of remembrance and sadness, I realised December had arrived, my own month of memories.  I realised that it was at this time that I found I was pregnant for the first time.  I was in Manila on a business trip, and calculated that I was late.  I had been as regular as clockwork.  In fact, by the end of the day my period was due, I suspected something was up.  I stopped over in Singapore for the weekend with family, and put it to the back of my mind.  When I finally got home, I plucked up courage to go buy my first ever pregnancy test.

By that stage we had been trying for almost two years.  I travelled a lot for work so being in the right place at the right time wasn’t really working for us.  I hadn’t really been stressing about it, though I was feeling a little sad as I suspected it wasn’t going to happen.

I remember seeing the line come up.  I walked downstairs and showed my husband.  I remember sitting down, in shock, not knowing what to think.  I remember my husband sending me flowers the next day at work, and a few days later being particularly innovative about managing the “why I wasn’t drinking” stories at some functions I attended.  But it had no sooner sunk in that I was pregnant than I started bleeding.  My wonderful GP acknowledged I’d probably had a miscarriage, but insisted on testing my hCG levels to ensure it was exactly that – a miscarriage.  Of course, it wasn’t.  I do wish all GPs exercised her caution – there would be fewer deaths from ectopic pregnancy, fewer emergency surgeries and medical treatment, fewer women traumatised by coming face to face with their own mortality. 

I look back today, and realise it has been ten years since that first BFP.  It seems like yesterday; it seems like a lifetime ago.

30 November, 2011

It's time to send those cards again

December is almost here, the beginning of the official Christmas (or for those of you in the US – holiday) season.  It can be a tough time for those of us without children.  I’ll write more about different aspects of this, and how I get through it, later in the month. 

Now is when we start thinking about sending cards.  I’ve seen discussions from friends in the US and Canada, the inadequacy they feel when they send out their own cards, with photos of two (with the odd beloved pet thrown in) when they receive cards with photos of their friends and all their children.  The pain of opening cards and seeing yet another seemingly happy family, perhaps a new arrival in the photograph, and then have to look at those photos till after New Year.  What a sock in the face that must be.

Fortunately, here in New Zealand, the personalised photo cards are very rare.  In fact, the only ones that I ever receive are from friends in the US.  I find it a somewhat odd custom.  Perhaps we’re a bit lower key in New Zealand, but we don’t presume to think our friends want our faces looking back at them throughout the festive season.  In the spirit of the season, we send cards to our friends and family that are about them, not about us. 

I carefully choose cards that will fit the recipient.  I think I would have done that regardless of whether photo-cards were traditional here in New Zealand.  (After all, I do it with my own home-made cards for friends and family throughout the year).  And I hate to bow to a tradition if it doesn’t work for me. 

So at Christmas, my religious friends get a card with a biblical scene on it.  Children, or friends/relatives get cards with Santa, often humorous ones in New Zealand that show Santa with a suntan, lying on the beach with the reindeer, a beer in hand, and a barbecue sizzling away in the background, you know the type.  Other friends will get elegant Christmas trees, or decorations, or for my Buddhist/Muslim friends/family I will hunt out New Year cards. 

It means Christmas cards have never been a source of pain for me.  And for that, I’m very thankful. 

Perhaps I lie.  They can be a bit painful, but only when I either a) receive a card from someone I’ve forgotten to send one to, and it’s too late to get one posted before Christmas, or b) when I don’t receive one from people I really want to hear from!

29 November, 2011

Warning: The Debt

My husband and I went to see The Debt on the weekend.  Helen Mirren is a favourite of mine – and the reviews were of a talented cast and intelligent script.  So I was keen to see it.

I will try not to give any spoilers.  I will try to choose my words carefully.

I thought the movie was very good.  We went for an Indian meal after the movie, and discussed it.  Any movie that causes a discussion or debate, that lingers beyond the movie theatre, is good in my book.  The Debt is not a big “shoot-em-up” movie, but one based on suspense, a mystery, and characters finely honed, subtly portrayed.  My kind of movie.

It was a thriller.  So I knew there would be tension.  I found it in an unexpected place, in a very powerful presentation of how the woman agent’s bravery far eclipsed that of her male colleagues.  I almost physically recoiled at the scenes in the fertility doctor’s office.  I hardly recall feeling so horrified at a movie.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying there was blood or gore or cruelty.  They didn't need these devices to make a powerful scene.  I don’t think men will get how creepy, how very disturbing, those scenes were.  Brilliantly played, I thought.  But yes, horrific, and traumatic.  I think any woman would find them so.  A woman who has been through infertility might find them especially so.  

Which is why I felt I needed to make this a public service announcement.  I want to warn you, if you’re feeling raw and vulnerable about seeing fertility specialists, then that this might not be the movie for you.  Personally I’m very glad I saw it.  But I feel light-years away from a fertility specialist’s office these days.  It might be different if I had to walk into one next week.

22 November, 2011

No regrets?

It is easy for those of us without children but who had wanted children, in our lower moments, to think that if we only had children all our problems would be solved, or to dwell on how happy and fulfilled we would be.  And yet we all know that’s not how it would be.  There’s a saying warning us to “be careful what we wish for.”  And for good reason.  Nothing is ever quite what you expect. 

So at times, I think about what my life might be like if I had children.  And my mind doesn’t always turn to the positives.  More realistic now than when I was trying to conceive, I wonder if:
  • my life would have turned into drudgery, and the house turned into a tip, because I cannot imagine I would have been Supermum.
  • I would be constantly tired and irritated.  I know I wouldn’t have found a hidden energy.  I suspect that any reserves of patience would be hiding out with the hidden energy.
  • I would feel resentful of my husband, resenting the fact that he wanted children, and blame him.
  • I would forget those years of wanting children, and remember only the years when I didn’t want children. 
  • I’d be fatter because I finished off my children’s food, or if I’d be thinner because I’d never get time to eat.  I suspect it would be the former.
  • I’d have grown gray not so gracefully, simply because I wouldn’t have time to get my hair coloured.
  • my days would fly by, never being able to achieve what I had planned, and see the years fly by in turn, or alternatively, if the days would drag by, the chores never-ending.
  • I would feel trapped at the end of the world, trapped in my life, trapped looking after children.
Of course, I will never know how I would have felt.  But sometimes, these days, I do breathe a sigh of relief, and think that maybe I was lucky I didn’t have children. Sometimes, and increasingly often, there are no regrets. It helps, it really does, to look honestly at this side of my life that might have been, to be honest about my personality and capabilities, and even (at times) to be glad that I don’t ever have to find out.

After all, isn’t happiness wanting what you have, not getting what you want?