Time to Say Goodbye

This is the final weekend of eclipses and marks a new phase for all of us. The last eight months or so have been very unsettled and resolutions will now be seen to manifest. The past is the past, and our presents belong to clean slates.

Wow. I’m struggling even to write this. I’ve been absent from here. I have left teaching and have been establishing new routines and new ways of being. I am happy and significantly less stressed. And, I have started writing the book that my soul has been called to write for at least the last couple of years, if not longer, subconsciously.

Today, though, I needed to say goodbye to my grief about not becoming a birth mother during this incarnation. I will be eternally grateful that those people closest to me have not given up on me. I am still invited to the baby showers of my extended family. Difficult, but I am truly grateful.

I am also grateful that they all fell pregnant after most of my healing had been done, when there is some residual around Baby Showers, but nothing else.

Today, I had to resolve the last part. I didn’t know it before today, even though I had a feeling I wasn’t entirely good, but today I knew for sure.

I have been good with people falling pregnant, being pregnant, having babies. I haven’t been okay with Baby Showers and couldn’t understand why. I figured the actual baby would be more difficult to handle, but no. Not for me.

About three days ago, symptoms of anxiety started to surface. I wasn’t sure I would make it to the Baby Shower today. I kept breathing and talking sense to myself, and I knew in my heart that I needed to make sure I went. People can’t be sympathetic forever, and there comes a time when you stop being invited to events. There also comes a time when you need to move on within yourself.

I worked this morning (not that I necessarily call Sunday’s client, work at all). I came home for a shower, put the dress on I had been wanting to wear, felt overdone, and changed, resulting in feeling boganesque. I wasn’t going to win by changing outfits continually, so I stayed dressed this way, resisting the urge to wear yoga pants, cons and an oversized cardigan.

The anxiety became stronger. I started to experience heart palpitations and nausea. I questioned why I committed. At this point, I stopped, took some deep breaths, and acknowledged that I loved these people. That’s why I committed. Because I’m grateful I was invited and because I want to be part of these children’s lives because I want to be part of their parents’ lives.

These are my people, and I’ve been very absent for a very long time. IVF altered me and made me not me for a long time and I lost a lot. I didn’t know how to come back and I don’t want to lose these people.

I cried on the drive in. Thirty minutes of increasingly feeling worse. I willed myself to stop crying and to stop shaking. I tapped whilst I drove.

Even though I’m feeling exceptionally vulnerable, I completely love and accept myself.

Then, I forced myself to fake smile and visualised talking to people and feeling safe, confident, unimpacted. I debated calling ahead, asking to be met outside, asking to not go in and giving the gifts and apologies and running away. I debated turning around and going home. I debated pulling my head in and just going.

I arrived, took some deep breaths, grabbed the gifts, and walked to the door. I hugged the Mum to be and thanked her for the invitation. I spoke to my mum to be sister and burdened her for a while, then went outside to relieve her of my angsty self. I started to breathe evenly and calm myself. I spoke to people. I interacted. I think I did okay.

I left to see members of the birth family.

I drove home. I cried most of the way. I felt ridiculous. Then I spoke to myself and loved myself like I would others in this position, and I owned my grief.

It is okay to still feel this way. It is okay to hurt. There is no time limit. There is no pressure. This was the time. This was the place. This is the beginning of a new phase. I had to grieve and cry out this residual from my old phase.

It is okay. I am okay.

Whilst I had been in the shower, I had had an epiphany or realisation for why Baby Showers are such a struggle. I share this in case one day you, or a friend, or family member, go through something similar.

Baby Showers are a celebration of motherhood. And it is important to celebrate this journey.

As a middle aged woman who has failed in this society to bear children, for me, this celebration is hard. For me, it highlights my inability to conceive and carry, and it highlights that I don’t live a normal life, have never been normal, and probably won’t ever be normal.

As a middle aged woman without children, you don’t tend to fit so easily into this world. You can carve out your spot, but you don’t belong to the motherhood tribe. You can’t talk about your kids or share wisdom about raising children, with others. Often, the first question you are asked is if you have kids. Or you aren’t asked, and people assume. After all, you look old enough now to be a mother, so you must be.

I don’t think we realise how much the expectation of women is to mother. Until you can’t. And then it becomes very clear. And I think the expectation marginalises those of us that cannot fulfill the expectation. Especially those of us who try and fail.

I dunno. I’m writing about childhood trauma. If I hadn’t miscarried in 2013, my baby would be turning four next week. Maybe that’s why Baby Showers are hard. Maybe, but not likely. Meh.

What is normal? 

Offspring is one of my favourite shows and nothing can break my heart so easily. Tonight has raised a grief so deep that I am surprised by its depth. 

I’m going through something, some type of transition in my life, that will completely turn my world upside down. I’m okay with that. But it would appear that a part of it includes grieving over my childlessness that little bit more. 

And man, that’s hard. 

I am okay with my life without children. I’ve created something, or am creating something, separate to that. 

But a deep part of me cannot let go of the sadness that sings inside my soul every time someone falls pregnant, or gives birth, or celebrates their children. 

These are things I will never have, never know. When I die, that is it. There will be no child to mourn my passing or to carry my line. As I age, there will be no one to put me in a home, or to share their home with me. I don’t have, and won’t have, the magical Christmases with excited kids rushing to the tree after Santa has been. I won’t coach their soccer team. Or go to boring school presentations, assemblies, performances. 

I am it. That is all there is. 

And tonight the grief has taken over. Another thing I couldn’t control. Another reminder I don’t belong. I’m not normal. And I won’t ever be. 

Unexpected Moments 

You know when something is so funny that you laugh so hard you double over, cry and make no sound? 

That was last night with Dawn French. Continually. 

But that wasn’t all. Laughter is great. It is entertaining. But Dawn French did more than entertain. She inspired, she motivated, she validated. 

30 000 000 Minutes is the story of the poignant moments, people and wisdom that constitute her first 58 or so years. And her story, in many parts, was my story, and probably your story. Her show is the story of the human condition: trials, challenges, pain, love, laughter and lessons. Beautifully woven into comedy and storytelling, genuinely, authentically, emotionally. 

I never knew she couldn’t have children. She tried IVF and similarly to me, she miscarried. I was jolted. The serious moment, serious voice, mirrored my experience and my process. Except that I have talked about it, written about it, blogged about it. I didn’t keep it private. I think it would have killed me if I had. 

And I am grateful that times have changed enough that childlessness and infertility is not as taboo as it once was. 

I am moving in to acceptance. I have started apologising to those that I hurt during the very dark parts of my journey. I also need to thank those that supported me in a way that I could see. 

It’s not an easy journey, and definitely not a fast journey. But it is a journey that tests every fibre of your soul and your life, and those that survive it, verge on heroic, I think. As those that survive anything, verge on heroic. 

Life isn’t easy. It really wasn’t meant to be. Without the darkness we lose appreciation for the light. And the light ALWAYS emerges … in its time. 

Don’t give up. 

The light is beautiful. 

  

Acknowledging the Moment

Just when I think I have nothing to say.

I am alright even if what follows makes it seem like I am not. I really am. I have a core of peace and understanding and acceptance that I rely on in times like this. And really, I truly am just acknowledging the moment.

And the moment is today.

And this is partly about the ‘what ifs’.

Had I conceived last cycle, my baby would be due today. No pun intended but I’m not labouring the point, merely acknowledging it.

Some may ask why. Hard to explain that one. With each of my cycles/attempts I would plot the due date and mark it on my calendar, and with each negative result, I would spend some time looking at it before deleting it. I deleted today from my calendar only a few months ago. And only after I accidentally stumbled upon it and remembered. But it stayed in my head.

Maybe because it was my last try.

My mood remembered it before my brain this week. I’ve been niggly with no patience. Unusual for me. These days I am usually fairly even tempered.

This whole fertility thing makes no sense to me. I was talking to a close friend this afternoon, both of us in tears, questioning how some people just fall pregnant and others don’t. She has a few friends struggling with conception as do I. Good people who would make exceptional parents. And every day we are confronted with kids with parents who are absolutely clueless when it comes to parenting.

We just shook our heads. It makes no sense.

None.

I am grateful for everything that I have in my life. I know that I am loved and respected. I know that I have a great life. I don’t question or minimise any of that. But as I said to Jane today, not trying earlier will always be a regret. Spending my fertile years raising and supporting other people’s children will always be a regret. I took my fertility for granted. We always think there will be enough time until we struggle and it doesn’t happen easily, or at all.

And whilst people say that fostering and adoption is a possibility, the processes with the potential of more failure are too hard to initiate. Yes, you won’t know unless you try BUT that leap of faith was expelled through IVF for me. And so I shouldn’t whinge, I know. But I’m not, I really am just acknowledging a hurt heart … just for today.

And not just mine. The hurt hearts that belong to so many women I know. Today I honour their journeys, hoping and praying that soon they will hold their babies tightly in their arms.

I will never be again, who I was when you met me …

I was blessed to be having a catch up date with one of my longest serving friends this afternoon. With the loss of my work life balance I am really quite lucky to still have people in my life who want to catch up with me. Our conversation, I guess inevitably, turned to failed IVF cycles. I don’t often talk about it, write about it frequently, but not talk about it much at all, not enough really.

And I had a bit of an epiphany. I’ve been playing with this thought thread for a while but today I gave it oxygen. I said, “With every failed cycle a part of me has died, and I will never be the same person I was before I started on my ‘infertility’ path” (words to that effect and not as a whole sentence – the sentence is for your benefit). My friend recalled something that another friend of hers has said (after many more failed cycles than my five, and some of those in a very short period of time – respect); people expect that the laughing person she was will be back and they ask when.

The answer is never.

Infertility changes you in the core of who you are.

I survived a dysfunctional and abusive childhood, that has left its scars, but I was still free inside. Part of me will forever be shackled now, and I am okay with that because I am resilient and I am still very happy. I am fully aware of how blessed my life is. But this infertility, it has changed me inside. A part of me is wounded beyond repair and beyond time, and I think that that is mostly because I have constant reminders of my failure around me all of the time.

I get my period each month. I ovulate every month (a healthy four days this past month; irony). Months when I thought I would be watching a growing belly (well, I have still been watching a growing belly but for all of the wrong reasons and today I am feeling this morning’s gym session lol). My friends still have kids that they talk about. My sisters have children that I love and spend time with. My friends fall pregnant. Other women, anonymous to me, fall pregnant. There are ads with babies for baby supplies or just to sell products. I teach. Yep. More children. I never have a chance to shut off from my barren-ness (I often think of Goneril and how she used to be my favourite; was it a sign – jokes). It surrounds me, sometimes suffocatingly so. It is only when infertility exists in your life that you realise how often babies and children are mentioned in the every day world.

As a result, I am not very social anymore. I struggle badly in social situations. As an introvert I always have but it is significantly worse now. I used to make myself socialise. I don’t anymore. And I think this is for a multitude of reasons; not every reason attached to my infertility.

Part of it is that no-one wants to talk about it. I understand that no-one knows what to say, especially if this has not been part of their life experience (and I wish it on no-one). No-one ever really asks me how I am. Like really how I am. Actually, except one.

I said months ago I would offer pointers on how to support your friend, family member, etc. I never did give the pointers. This is a big one though, probably the most important, better done face to face.

“How are you? … Really?”

And then listen to the answer. If there are tears, touch the person gently. If they have nothing to say – probe, push, make them talk but be prepared to be sworn at. If they are important to you, keep trying. And it doesn’t matter how long it’s been.

No-one asks me about my miscarriage. That child would be about four months old now. It was an early miscarriage but for a little while it was going to be my child. No-one asks me what my plans are now. Am I over it? Have I stopped? Am I considering fostering and/or adoption and/or theft. It’s like it hasn’t happened – none of it. But I am changed forever. And I know, even if no-one asks or talks about it, in my core, I know and I remember. It’s not something most people feel safe to talk about.

And as much as you may not know how to react or what to say, I also don’t want to burden anyone with my stuff. Yes, it is difficult to know what to say, what to do, twenty seconds of courage though and you say, “I have no idea what to say or what to do. Are you okay? Can we talk about what’s happened?” and you could be making a huge difference to that person and securing your friendship with them.

Infertility is different to someone dying (two completely different things) in the sense that there is no acknowledgement of the loss. We discussed today, in light of not knowing what to say, how when people pass away we are expected to just move on in time and no-one talks about it (maybe we need to though) and so she thought this might be similar to that.

Maybe we just don’t talk enough in our society about the things that really do matter.  Maybe we should be talking more, blogging and face booking and texting less.

At any rate, I live with my infertility daily. I am still happy, blessed and free. I am not a victim. But I am changed … and that change is permanent. I am not who I was. I will never be that person again. Sometimes I wish I could be …

Then I would be able to attend social events like weddings, engagements, baby showers, housewarmings, birthday parties, christmas celebrations, without getting sick either before or after, without the tears and loneliness that invariably ensue. Without feeling that I always wear my “tina” mask, in part, to get through. Because I am concerned that I can’t be me wholly or because if  I am me wholly, and it’s a negative or emotional moment, other people’s fun will be compromised.

Because we don’t talk deeply often enough.

Because we don’t ask how we really are.

Because there is no acknowledgement of early miscarriage or infertility in our society.

Because we live in fear of being found out.

🙂

PS. I am really okay. I do not want or desire everyone in my life who cares about me to now knock on my door. This blog is for other people and helping those people; the future people.

 

A Year Down

I was reminded this afternoon that this time last year I was lying in my own blood as I miscarried. Not that I knew that at the time. At the time I just knew that I had arrived home from Bali in the morning, relaxed and happy, dashed off to have a pregnancy test, and home to prepare for my return to work the next day.

But that didn’t happen. I was convinced I had fallen pregnant this time. Had not stocked up on sanitary things, was in no way prepared for the amount of blood, the consistency of it, nor the constancy of it. Or the loneliness and fear that came with it. Still not sure I have come to terms with it. Not sure I ever will.

Because that day changed me.

In the year since I have buried myself in work and have really ceased to exist outside of that persona. My work situation made that easier, necessary really. It has been a huge year building a creative and performing arts faculty as well as coordinating our literacy program, and all of the other little bits and pieces that I do.

And I am not sure where I am or who I am anymore.

I love christmas, but I do not have my own family to make it wonderful for. I am the addition to other people’s families. Reminding me that I do not have my own to celebrate with; the perpetual loner.

And it will be the second anniversary, a few days before Christmas, of the passing of one of my friends. And there still isn’t a day that goes by where she isn’t in my thoughts.

Man I sound so negative. Usually I am happy. I am blessed with my life. Not just token words. But this time of year sucks. Even though I still maintain that there needs to be a channel dedicated, all year round, to Christmas movies; so much hope and promise. I think it would change the world.

Maybe I need to advocate that.

Christmas hope and cheer every day.

Not a bad thing.