27 April, 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 12 - Accept

I’ve been working up to the idea of acceptance over the last weeks, talking about surrendering, appreciating what you have (even if it is only the sun on your back), honouring your losses and the pain you’ve been through, and daring to look to the future, amongst others. I know the idea of acceptance can be really scary, and a denial of everything that we’ve lost, or been through, and so I haven’t pushed it. Coming through infertility does not mean that you can flick a switch and all of a sudden “accept.” It’s not a case of saying, “oh well, that’s over then.” Though I know some friends and family may think it is, and may encourage you to accept when you’re not ready. For this reason, I’ve seen a lot of people stamp their feet (metaphorically), and declare that they will NEVER accept being childless.

But … getting to acceptance is pretty critical to our ability to go on to embrace our No Kidding lives. So it is something to be considered. The good news is that there’s a process to go through to get there. It probably differs for us all, but I’ve outlined some of the ways that helped me get there so far in this 2020 healing project, and in the many posts I’ve written previous about acceptance. (You can find them all here). But when you’ve been through these steps, overcome so many hurdles, then acceptance almost sneaks up on you. That probably seems unbelievable to many people who are still struggling. That’s okay. You don’t have to feel it. But I do ask you to believe me that you will get there. When you’re ready.

Even those of us who have now accepted our No Kidding lives for many years might find this relevant in current times too, as we adjust to change, and how to cope with it. I wrote just a few days about the world shifting beneath us, when what we thought might be our lives turns out not to be – either permanently, or temporarily, as we hope is the case in the current situation. Acceptance might help us deal with this, and I always find it worthwhile to think about. So I make no apologies for writing yet again (!) about acceptance!

I think that it really helps to first define acceptance. What does it mean to you? Or, perhaps more helpfully, what does it NOT mean? To me, it has never meant that we think it was okay that this happened to us – that we never conceived, that we lost pregnancies, that our child was born still, or that the phone never rang with news of our child. It doesn’t mean either that we have to like it. And it most definitely does not mean that we deserved it. Acceptance is not a judgement about blame, or self-worth, or merit. It is not even an admission of defeat, because that brings negative connotations. I actually don’t think acceptance is a negative thing at all.

Acceptance is, to me, an acknowledgement of what has happened, and what is my reality. My No Kidding life, now and in the future. That brings us to the second step – taking acceptance, and making it part of us. Because when we can do that – without self-recriminations, without judgement, without cringing – we can put an end to the battle. That makes it so much easier to forgive, honour and to dare. Sure, we carry everything we’ve been through with us, but with acceptance, we carry the lessons, rather than interminable pain. And the burdens we’ve been carrying lift too, as I wrote here,

Acceptance means that the burden of guilt, the burden of sadness, the burden of wanting what you don’t have, all that is gone.”

For me, that brought a real sense of peace. It allowed me to open up to something new. And even if you don’t feel it yet, the mere idea of that can be exciting. 

(From The Process of Acceptance here)


24 April, 2020

When our world shifts beneath us

Mel got me thinking about how quickly things change and how, just three months ago, we were all blissfully unaware. Well, except my husband, who likes to be a bit of a doomsday prophet sometimes!

Yes, life has changed in ways we couldn't have imagined. The world has changed in ways we couldn't have imagined. Earlier this week, there was one day where there was not one single passenger arrival in New Zealand! That's unthinkable, not only because tourism is such an important part of our economy, but because New Zealanders love to travel (we kind of have to, stuck in our corner of the world) for business and leisure, and because we all have friends and family all around the world.

It made me think about when, in the past, we've had to deal with sudden change. We could all think of events that happen that suddenly change our lives. A year and a half ago my MIL had a stroke, and her life and that of her husband's was never the same again. In an instant, they couldn't really say good-bye, they didn't even have a moment to stop and appreciate, together, their lives and 63-year marriage. Bam! Everything changed.

On a lesser note, Fbk reminded me recently of the sunny Easter Saturday in 2016 when we took a whole lot of garden rubbish (ours and our in-laws) to the rubbish dump (along with the rest of the city!), and afterwards, as we were organising things in the in-laws house, I slipped down their stairs and broke my ankle. Any plans I had had for the next six weeks were out. I was housebound, and totally reliant on my husband. In practise, that's not much different to the current situation. Except that there was no danger outside, and after six weeks I was able to resume life as normal. Those are pretty big excepts.

Perhaps a better comparison is the day I learned I would never have children. I'd had two ectopics, and IVF hadn't worked (poor responder for the last two cycles) and my clinic had said they would not let me try again. As just a year earlier I had conceived my second ectopic with the help of clomid/clomiphene citrate, they said I could try that again but should have another hysterosalpingogram to check my tubes were still clear. So I did. I went by myself. I'd already had one a year or so earlier, and wasn't bothered by it. I assumed all would still be okay. It wasn't. When I could not see the dye flowing through the tubes on the screen, I knew what it meant. I got dressed, and drove home in shock, blinking back tears. In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have driven. But that was the moment you can probably all relate to in some way - when I knew that my future was going to be different than what I had at one time assumed, and had hoped.

The next day, everything felt different. Even though pretty much everyone else assumed life was going along nicely, with no outward changes. In the words of a friend of mine, I "hadn't had anything, so I hadn't lost anything." Oh, how little did she know! Our world had shifted, and we had to navigate a new world. I"m sure you can all relate to that. So many of us have had to face this when we realised our world had changed, and our No Kidding lives were what we would have. My ectopic losses were similar - the "worst case scenario" changed so many times, each time "worst case" got worse than I thought it might. So many people will have had similar events in their lives - losing partners, divorce, job loss, injury or illness diagnoses, loss of pregnancies or family members, housefires, etc. These are all very personal events that bring great change in our lives.

That's the parallel I am bringing to this pandemic situation, and the lessons I learned from the last time the world shifted for me. So I'm trying not to think about what we've lost. That's not getting me anywhere. I'm focusing on what I have. Besides, I also know how lucky I am in all this. Because this year, as the world changed, I am not doing it alone. We are all experiencing different seismic shifts in our lives. I know how much others, both here and internationally, are losing, and how much fear they are facing, at a time when we are lucky enough that fear here is hope, eventually, that we will all be able to focus on what we have.

My No Kidding friends know how to do this. We've done it before. We can do it again.

Kia kaha. Stay strong.

20 April, 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 11 - Dare

When we’re going through infertility, we are conditioned to have our eyes on the prize. We focus on that above all things, and don’t divert from the path. We’re told to “believe.” We’re told to “never give up.” We’re told that science will solve our problem. We’re told that our lives will be better when we get that prize, that oh-so-elusive baby. We stay on the treadmill, trying cycle after cycle, trying treatment after treatment, or waiting month after month for that phone call. So it often comes as a shock when we are either kicked off the treadmill, or fall off it, exhausted, or realise the treadmill has completely lost power.

Even when it is obvious that our efforts have not and will never bear fruit, so many find it hard to begin to look to the future. The idea that the future can be good, that we could be excited about it, is anathema to the messages we’ve been absorbing (and promulgating) for the last months/years/decades. Grieving is normal, and we should let ourselves feel that.

But one day, when we’re ready, when we’re strong enough, and if we’re brave, we challenge ourselves by wondering whether our lives can actually be happy? It feels so scary, to let go of the dream, and open up to the idea of an alternative future. We search out examples of people who’ve been through the same experience, and we begin to open up to the idea. This is the beginning of acceptance. Being brave. Shrugging off what hasn’t worked for us. Daring to be positive about our lives. Beginning to hope for something new. And the rewards are wonderful.

13 April, 2020

Painful pandemic reminders

I was “chatting” with some other No Kidding bloggers the other day. We were all, to various extents, struggling with the lockdown. In general, I’ve been finding it okay, but that is probably because I’m in NZ, where our risk has been limited by very quick movement into a lockdown. We are still in a period of uncertainty, but I’m not seeing cases of COVID19 rise exponentially around us, as some of you have been, and that has made life in lockdown much easier. On the down side, I haven’t had a coffee for three weeks! (I don’t make coffee at home because a) I make terrible coffee, b) my husband hates the smell of coffee, so it’s best NOT to make it at home, and c) I’ve always been able to use it as an excuse to pop out and get a nice flat white - until now!)

What is hard, though, and what some of the other No Kidding bloggers were also struggling with, is to turn my mind away from the pandemic that has the world in its grip, and write something here for those of us who didn’t have the choice not to have children. But even in a pandemic, reminders are still everywhere. Discussions on-line about parents struggling with home-schooling, or with bored children, or with the noise of a full house are everywhere. Fun videos families have made together are swamping social media. The Prime Minister designated the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny as essential workers in her press conference, and talked about the Teddy Bear project to put bears and soft toys in your house windows to provide amusements for children when they go on walks. Yes, even when we escape the house to go for a walk, we are constantly reminded that we don’t have children. If this is still painful for you, my heart goes out to you. It’s never easy to be reminded of what we have lost.

And even though it’s not painful for me any longer – or rarely, at least – and even though I have taken some delight in a house up the hill from me, that has posed and dressed their teddy bear in different ways over the last two weeks (so far I’ve seen their bear playing cricket, going skiing, dressed in the national soccer/football uniform, being a chef, and working on a laptop!), it still reminds me that my house is quiet, that I have no children to delight in dressing a bear or decorating trees with Easter eggs cutouts, or do some baking with me (as my niece did with my sister a day or two ago). Or, as I did yesterday, make homemade marshmallow (a NZ specialty)eggs with me. I brush these things off these days. But they still cause little pinpricks in my psyche.

And you know, that’s okay. It’s okay because everyone is feeling a little vulnerable right now. So if you’re feeling a bit more vulnerable or sensitive than you are usually, then that’s okay too. It’s one of the lessons I learned best during infertility and when recovering from it. That it’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel sad. Remember, we’re all with you, doing the same thing. We’ll get through this together.

Arohanui. (With love.)

07 April, 2020

No Kidding 2020 Project: Day 10 - Balance

One thing that I think we often lose when going through infertility is balance. It is easy to become obsessed – with our cycles, our daily temperatures, our medication and what we need to take next, and the will-it-won’t-it constant question. We’ve seen it a lot – people thinking that ending up like us – without children – is their “biggest nightmare.” We may well have thought that way ourselves. “What is the point of life” some/many of us ask, “without children?”

The lack of perspective, the lack of understanding that life goes on and can and will be good, can be overwhelming to many of us when cycle after cycle fails, or after loss, or loss after loss, or that phone just doesn’t ring. So many people who arrive at my blog, or yours, or on Instagram or elsewhere, are in that phase. Their life is over. No-one can tell them that it isn’t. We know that this sadness and despair doesn’t last. We do recover, at different speeds, and perhaps even to different extents. We know that joy in life returns.

At the beginning, when we might be feeling despair and utter loss, no-one can give us perspective. After loss, even if we might think “at least we can get pregnant,” but we don’t want anyone to say that to us! (I know I felt that intensely.) Platitudes from friends and family – all the other “at least” statements (at least the pregnancy wasn’t far along, at least you didn’t get to know the child, at least you haven’t faced loss, at least you can sleep in, etc etc) are unwelcome and insensitive. We are out of kilter, our lives are completely off-balance, and we are teetering in the middle of a plank over a stream, not sure what lies on the other side, reluctant to move forward, unable to move back, our arms flailing wildly. We can't find balance. But no-one else can give us balance either, even though they can help calm us, or let us know we can do it, and it will be okay. But no-one else can impose perspective on us. Even those of us who have been through it struggle to be heard. The newly bereaved might hear it, but say “not in my case, I’m different.” That’s okay. We’re giving them a message they might hear when they’re ready.

Gradually, perspective and balance does come to us. We start to see and feel the world around us. We understand that others react differently. We figure out that maybe those insensitive family and friends were trying to help, even though they only succeeded in hurting us. We compare our situations, and become sensitive to the pain of others. We stop playing the Pain Olympics in the negative, and start seeing comparison in a positive way. We understand things could be worse. We find gratitude. We begin to apply perspective. Because having been through tough times, and knowing now that the universe doesn’t give us everything we want, we know it could be worse.

And I think that is what is helping me through the current times. Balance, and perspective. It could be so much worse (in NZ at least). I’m healthy (so far), warm and dry in a house with plenty to keep my amused and active. Perspective and balance reduce anxiety, and make me feel calm (or calmer). I hope they work for you too.

Kia kaha. Stay strong.