01 October, 2014

Gifts of Infertility Series - #14 - Mindfulness

The emotional pain I felt during and after my ectopic pregnancies was acute. Everything hurt. Everywhere there were reminders that other people got pregnant, and had happy families. It didn’t help that I went through these losses at Christmas, when there is such a huge, inescapable emphasis on mothers and fathers and children. It hurt. Everywhere we looked, it hurt.

My second ectopic, almost exactly a year after the first, after we had dared to hope it was in the right place, after we had actually been brave enough to tell my immediate family that I was pregnant (I had to explain why I wasn’t drinking on Christmas Day after all), was a nightmare in endurance. The pain didn’t seem to end. I bled daily for close to seven months. I couldn’t begin to try to conceive again until this was resolved, and that required many more blood tests, doctor’s visits, treatments, hospitalisations and surgeries. And so much waiting. As a counsellor said, during that time, I experienced hundreds of little griefs. Each time I was reminded of my loss, it was another stab in an already painful wound.

I needed comfort, but nothing would really comfort me. Except the little things; the little things like the summer sun warming my back, hearing a tui call in the trees outside, or a joke on a sitcom that would make me laugh, for a split second allowing me to be happy and carefree. Or, when we escaped other people and sought out a remote cliff, I was in awe at the beauty of the deep blue of the Tasman Sea, white seagulls riding the wind, the contrast of the green hills and clear blue summer sky. Even the view through the windows of the trees outside my house could, in certain lights, make me smile. The sadness always returned, but I learned fairly quickly to take those moments of joy when they came. In fact, I learned to seek them out, because they made the pain bearable. They allowed me to breathe, to smile, and to relax.

I realised later that I was learning mindfulness. I was learning to appreciate the moment, not to think about what had happened, or what was about to happen, or what might never happen. I was experiencing the moment. I thought back to a book that a dear Thai friend gave to me when I was living there in the early 90s. It was by Thich Nhat Hanh, and talked about “doing the dishes to do the dishes.” I finally understood it.

Mindfulness is good for its own sake, to calm us and bring some peace to our minds and hearts. But mindfulness also taught me to appreciate what I have now.

"Happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have." 
H. Schaatel


  1. Agreed. In the days & weeks after Katie's stillbirth, while I was at home on leave, I forced myself to go out for walks every day that the weather was good. Not only was the exercise good for me, physically & mentally, but I found I could still take pleasure in the sunshine and the autumn colours. It was quiet, being at home all by myself all day, but it was what I needed.

  2. Grief drives me to the seaside. Long walks along the shore. The sounds of the waves and the wind louder than my thoughts help me to return to simply be.

    (Seven months?! cruel and unusual, HB would say. Unbearable if you ask me)

  3. Oh, dear goodness, bleeding every day for almost 7 months? I cringed to read your experiences, but now I marvel even more at how far you've come and how much you've learnt and shared with us.

    I didn't know this practice was called mindfulness. Now I know! Thanks for that and for this post.

  4. I know I probably say this in most of my posts, but this is so spot on to how so many of us feel. I can't imagine the heartache you went through, but the worldview you have now appears to be one of peace and beauty that I can only hope to have one day!

  5. Really appreciate this series, Mali. Mindfulness is something I work hard to practice every day. This line in particular spoke to me: "I experienced hundreds of little griefs."

  6. Beautiful! And I think you are right on how important this is when we are going through particularly hard times and trials. Being able to slow down, appreciate something beautiful or wonderful going on around you is so soothing. It has definitely helped me on many a hard day. Thank you for continuing to share your wisdom and thoughtfulness!