28 September, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Mothering

I'm currently away from home, mothering my mother who is vanishing as she stands right before me, unable to understand why I do the things I do only because they must be done to help her, confused at the additional struggles that would make life difficult for anyone, let alone someone who is slowly forgetting everything, including herself.

I talk a lot on this blog about finding joy in the small things, and we still laugh and enjoy a cup of tea and a citrus slice, or the snow on the mountains today, or the elephant seal pup on the beach on Saturday.

But it is not lost on me that this will be my only experience of mothering anyone, when things happen in reverse, and there is no great joy (and even the little joys are disappearing daily), and there is in its place only sadness. 

21 September, 2015

Infertility: why I'm glad I live in New Zealand

There are many reasons I'm glad I live in New Zealand - though today, the weather is not one of them! But these are the infertility/no kidding reasons why I'm glad I live here:
  1. IVF/assisted reproduction here is regulated, protecting both the child and the mother from unscrupulous operators.
  2. IVF is publicly funded for two cycles (provided you’re under 40 years of age, and transfer only one embryo), which isn’t as generous as Australia or Canada or many European countries, but is still much more generous than so many other countries in the world (including of course  US).
  3. New Zealand is not a religious country, so we don’t have quite the same emphasis on church and family that throws up a lot of situations causing pain for others.
  4. Our first female Prime Minister had children, but our second didn’t, and it really wasn’t much of an issue (unlike the misogyny and vitriol that rained down on No Kidding Julia Gillard in Australia), reflecting perhaps a society that is (relatively) open to difference.
  5. We have a social welfare system that, although it isn’t particularly well-funded, will still provide care for us in illness or our old age if we need it.
And last, but certainly not least,
  1. We don’t have baby showers.

14 September, 2015

Searching ... searching ...

Calling all Blogger experts!

I find the Search feature on Blogger to be really inconsistent, especially compared to that of Wordpress, where I write A Separate Life and other blogs. For example, all posts in my Gifts of Infertility Series have been given the label Gifts of Infertility, but if I search for that series or label, I don’t get all the results I should. In fact, eight of the 23 posts in that series are missing in the search results – ranging between #1 and #18, so it’s not an issue of the order in which they were posted.

Another post I refer to and link to quite frequently, entitled Why?, never shows in the search results. I even searched for "Why?" with the post Why? up on the same page, and it was not included in the search results!

I can find everything easily behind the scenes in my lists of posts by searching for particular labels or words, so why doesn't it work on the front end of my blog?

Any suggestions for a solution, so that others can find my posts easily?

11 September, 2015

Gifts of Infertility Series - # 23 - Our Marriage

I’m slowly coming to the end of this Gifts of Infertility Series. The one big issue I haven’t yet touched on, the issue that I don’t write about often on this blog because it’s not just my story, is that of our marriage.

Going through infertility and loss was incredibly stressful. It was stressful for me, making me question who I was; it was stressful for my husband, unable to do anything to help (and whose hair went grey over the year of our first and second losses), and it was stressful on our marriage. We had both changed in this process, and we were both finding that life together wasn’t going to be what we had hoped.

We’d been together a long time by the time we faced infertility. We’d had our ups and downs, made many compromises, and were looking forward to having children together. When that didn’t happen, we could have taken it out on each other. But we turned towards each other; we mourned together.

We tried to comfort each other, and - knowing that words wouldn't help - we rediscovered the real value of touch. Not in a sensual way (though that was still there), but in an intimate, caring way. Simple hugs, or a touch as we passed, reminded each other we cared, that there was a place we could feel safe, with a person who would love us no matter what. We learned that even when words are too hard to get out, emotions too difficult to express, a touch can speak volumes.

We showed patience with each other, more than ever before, and learned to focus almost exclusively on the positive, on what we had together, on what we loved about each other, and on what made us smile, or laugh. We learned that life can hit you with sadness when you least expect it, so we should embrace happiness with joy and enthusiasm when we have it.

As I learned to take care of my own feelings, I became more acutely aware of my husband’s feelings. He didn’t react the same way as I did, but that was okay. I didn’t place any expectations on how he should behave. (Though some of this was instinctive, much of it came from the advice of a few wise women who had been through this before.) This was helpful, as I think the burden of his overwhelming sadness at the same time as my own might have been too much to bear. We shared with each other, but we also protected each other. My friends, and my online friends, gave me outlets to share my grief and sadness, without expecting him to be all things to me. Because he was grieving too, and as we all know, that is a lot. So he didn’t really start opening up about his feelings until he saw a definite improvement in my demeanour. He felt that he could do this when he felt I could cope with his grief. I think too he also learnt from me that opening up was okay, and that grieving was okay too.

Ultimately, I think our losses and difficult no kidding journey in those first years helped forge our relationship into something even stronger. We turned to others, but in doing so we didn’t turn away from each other. Yes, we were lucky. Not all couples are able to come through this with a deeper, stronger, kinder relationship. But you know, my observation is that most of us do. It's a lovely feeling too, knowing that we're together because we want to be, not because we feel we have to be.

When we travelled a couple of years ago for five months, some people sounded puzzled that we could go five months with each other as company, as the only people we talk to, as our social fun, and emotional support. They joked that they were surprised we hadn’t killed one another, which of course said much more about their relationships than about ours. Yet the truth is, we didn’t find it an effort at all. Once we got home, it was also another year before my husband started getting work more regularly, so we also had a lot of time together after the trip. I did say to some people, perhaps only 50% joking, “there is such a thing as too much togetherness.” But actually, we don’t really have issues being together 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our relationship is probably the beneficiary of the “no kidding” factor in our lives. We both feel this way. We don’t have to be parents together, so we don’t have to have battles about different parenting philosophies and styles (and believe me, we would have had a few battles). We don’t have to crawl in bed exhausted from looking after children, wrestling with toddlers or teenagers, or juggling our annual leave so we can look after the children in school holidays. We don’t struggle to find time for ourselves as a couple. On the contrary, we need to be sure we find time for relationships with other people, and give each other some breathing space.

As a couple without children, we are able to just “be.” It doesn't mean we don’t have difficulties. But having been through some tough times, and having survived these, we are able to know each other in a different way than I suspect we would have if we were parents. For that, for our close relationship now, I am very grateful.

07 September, 2015

Unselfish, unconditional love

Last week I visited my elderly mother. She needed to attend a medical appointment two hours away, and my sister who lives close to her was away. Last night, we visited my parents-in-law for Father's Day. We took them a meal they like but don't normally buy for themselves, and I baked a chocolate cake. (Twice, actually, but you don't really need to know that I threw the first one on the floor, as it slipped out of my hands getting it out of the oven!) My mother-in-law commented that we are "the only people they have." Practically, she is correct, as her other three sons and daughters-in-law, and seven grandchildren, all live overseas.

Don't ever tell me that the childless are selfish, when so many of us nurture and care for those who need it, without question, with love and support and generosity and thought.