Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Dear me

This letter was written as a response to a challenge that one of my Y13 (18 year olds) throw at me last week. It is always clearer to see things looking backwards; this is simply the advice I would offer to my 18 year old self if I could. Sadly I still have to write one to share with my pupils...

Dear nh (aged 17 (nearly 18))

I need to tell you some things; you won’t believe me, but that’s ok eventually you’ll understand.

Those friends you are so keen to see, they don’t matter. They are mostly fair weather friends, they now reside in the pages of the internet. In a few years when life gets a little harder, it won’t be them who’ve got your back covered. It’s the people you would never imagine who will stand with you. The new friends you make, treasure them, because they are worthwhile sticking with. The old friends that are still there, who’ve known you forever will forgive you more than anyone deserves.

Those lies they tell you – that your school years are the best in your life. You are right, they are lies, I would not go back to that time for anything. But don’t be in such a hurry to grow up, everything that you are doing now, learning and experiencing they shape you for what happens next. When you get to your early 20’s enjoy because they are the best times!

Don’t worry so much in the summer if you don’t get the grades in your A levels that you want. Your second choice isn’t what you want, but after a couple of years you’ll find you are on the university course for you. You’ll learn such a lot about the world around you and you’ll find your niche in the world. I love my job (at least 80% of the time) of the time, not many people can say that.

Enjoy yourself – but not so much that you start hurting other people. Remember your parents are entitled to worry about you – it’s in their job description. Talk to them, share your hopes and dreams. It’s only as you get older that you realise that they are also getting older. You watch them change before your eyes and you may regret the things that were never said and things that were said in too much anger.

Give up worrying about your relationship with your sister. You can’t heal it, you are too different and only one person is trying. Be open to her, but you will eventually live your own lives. It doesn’t matter – it’s the way it has to be sometimes.

That male friend of yours, the one who is friends with that bloke you think you love, talk to him, listen to him. He will become your best friend, your rock and your world. That other bloke – so much rubbish, so much water under the bridge, he’ll always be a part of your life but only at the edges. The good one is the one that you’ve never looked at, seriously cling onto him.

The angst over life; so not worth it. Problems will come in the future that you have never dreamt of. Eventually life will throw you a curve ball. Something that you cannot imagine, but that causes too much pain and suffering both to you and your loved ones. I won’t tell you know because it will seem irrelevant and you will not understand. But you will get through it; because you are a stronger person than you can ever imagine.

Love you (aged 31 (nearly 32))

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Holding on to the dream, until the pain of trying hurts more than the pain of letting go

Beautiful words that they are, they didn't come from me - one of my friends found them someone else on the web and sent them to me. I loved them so much and they explain so much that I had to put them here.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Spare room...

We have our niece (nearly 6) staying with us this week - which is fine because I love her to bits and what are teacher aunties for, if not looking after nieces during school holidays. But I was sorting out our spare bedroom today ready for her, when it hit me; this darling girl, who I adore, should not be sleeping in our spare bedroom but sharing her cousin's bedroom. In a different life, her cousin would have been born 5 or so years ago, and would be less than a year younger than her.

They would be up there now, whispering and giggling, supposedly going to sleep on bunk beds. They would be getting excited about all the things that they would be doing this week. They would be swapping secrets and teddy bears; they would be happy together. I know this because this is what I did with my cousins when I was younger.

Instead of this, she's upstairs asleep (the tooth fairy has already visited) in our spare bedroom. Sleeping in solitary splendor having read her book and had lots of cuddles. We have lots plans but tonight I regret that she hasn't got a cousin to share it with. She's excited and tomorrow I will be too; but for tonight I will dream of what might have been.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Not happy but content

I took Pepper for a walk this morning and felt content... not happy I still need to heal more for that, but content in that I could cope with this. I did realise that I haven't cried for 5 days, which is fantastic, although I did nearly break down when talking to the lady at the hairdressers. I missed an appointment last week and had to apologise, she said she'd forgive me if I had good news for her - I had to admit to not having any...

Brought a Wii this afternoon - it's my pressie to myself. All I want now is a Wii Fit and I can pretend to be exercising. I should just get myself to the gym!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Write it on your heart

Write it on your heart
that every day is the best day in the year.
He is rich who owns the day, and no one owns the day
who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety.

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in.
Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

This new day is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on the yesterdays.

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Things you should know....

I've stolen it - okay? But it is super and I love it! It expresses which I think and feel..

Fundamentally, this is a grief process.
The first thing that is tantamount to understanding the broken heart of an infertile couple is realizing that infertility is a loss and a death that needs to be grieved. It is often the loss of a lifelong dream. It is the loss of what could have been and for couples who choose not to pursue other methods, it is the loss of legacy of children, grandchildren and many many memories. In Christian couples especially, it can also be the death of what the grievers thought was either their or every married Christian's purpose in Christendom. The church has been silent for too long on infertility and is both ill equipped and insufficiently motivated to minister to people who struggle with it. We place such a large emphasis on children and families in the American church and there is such an unspoken way things are done-you find a nice guy or gal, court, marry, have kids and live happily ever after. Sometimes an infertile couple can almost feel "lost" and alone in this big world that seems to overlook us (though we acknowledge it is inadvertently so).

Because this is a grieving process, there is no way to rush through, around or over it. Your patience and grace will be of unending value to the couple grieving. And just like every other grief process, it will cycle. There are stages of acceptance, anger, devastation, sadness, hope, loneliness, despair and ambivalence. There is no "getting over it" and it is a gut wrenching, emotionally consuming process that everyone goes through differently.

With that background, here are a few well-intentioned quips that are meant to be helpful, but are often times very painful. We all know in our heads that these are well intentioned, sincere, and borne out of a desire to help, but depending on where we are in our grief cycle, our hurt hearts can overrule our heads and we can lash out or bury that bur and carry it for a long time.

Not so helpful words of advice

Have you considered adoption? Without question, this is the most common thing said to us. I would wager a guess that any infertile couple you would encounter is aware of the existence of adoption without it being suggested. Some couples may get there, but the decision is a very personal, difficult one, and is not answered out of a desire to "replace" or "substitute" a biological child. There are a couple issues at play.

I have lost my dream of ever giving birth to a precious angel with my husband's eyes and my grandma's smile, and no child conceived of another will ever mend that ache. That particular part of my heart will never be full. Just as you would never say to a grieving spouse "Why don't you just marry someone else?" the proposition to an infertile couple that they "just" adopt, is rarely helpful.

Unfortunately however, the world often portrays it that way. Many couples only turn to adoption after their biological road has ended and this is unfortunate but at the end of the day, I think most stable Americans should at least consider adoption because there are far more children in need of homes than there are parents willing to love them. I completely agree that not every couple is called to adopt, but that question should not be contingent on biological reproductive ability anyway. The bottom line is that the question could easily be asked of you (the fertile), "Why don't you adopt?" and the question would be equally awkward, biology aside. The decision to adopt a child hinges on so much more than biological capacity or lack thereof.

Relax. It will happen when it happens. This is probably one of the most nonsensical approaches I've heard and unfortunately, it's the second most common thing we hear. While it is true that stress may be a factor in some infertility cases, and it's true that stress can compound any other problem, a large number of infertile couples suffer from true medical malfunctions that require treatment. Relaxing won't cure cancer or the flu, and it won't cure infertility.

Additionally, infertility often presents interpersonal challenges between the spouses and with their friends and family. They're probably doing their very best to navigate the emotional waters as best they can while still keeping their relationship in tact. This journey is stressful, painful, and tiring. Telling them to "relax" is as futile as telling a two year old to sit still, or a grieving spouse to stop missing his beloved.

Lastly, telling a couple to relax implies that their infertility to that point has been their fault and if they would just keep their emotions in check and settle down, everything would be fine. Infertility is not earned or deserved though sometimes I confess that if I had a "reason" for having this cross to bear, it might make it a little easier.

My friend was infertile for years and now she has 5 children! God is good! This is a very touchy area and I encourage you to tread lightly. It is true that God is the great Physician and that He can heal any malady. It's also true that for a lot of people, He does heal them. It is also true though that in a lot of cases, He doesn't heal them, and He is still good.

These stories are meant to encourage and give hope and sometimes they do. I would just caution that sometimes all they do is make the sufferer grieve more, because it's a painful reminder that God can heal and to this point, has chosen not to. That can be a very hard reality to accept, especially if He has chosen to hide His reason why or His alternate plan.

I have no advice or way for you to determine where your loved one is at (other than to ask her) but I would just encourage you to tread carefully here. Barren women (and men), I would also encourage you that if this is a particular area of struggle for you, be honest with your friends and family and ask them to refrain from sharing their "miracle" stories at this time.

There will come a day when we can again dream of miracles, it just might not be today.

"Let Go and Let God." or "Give it to God. Trust Him." This is also a double edged sword. On the one hand every Christian, every day, in every situation needs to deny himself and surrender to God. And universally it is true that there are some circumstances that are harder for us to surrender than others. We acknowledge that with our heads, and know that the person offering this words sincerely understands the daily struggle to "let go" in their own journey. On the other hand, it can come across as flippant, and again as placing the blame on the couple. "If you just trusted God more, you could have a child." The reality of it is that the couple could be 100% successful in trusting God with this area of their life and His answer may still be "No" or "Not right now."

Though perhaps once I get to that point of 100% acceptance and trust (I long for that day), perhaps such a thing wouldn't be so upsetting. Who knows...

I understand. I experienced... I think this can be said of any uncomfortable situation. When we don't know what to say, we often try to fill the void with our own experiences in an attempt to empathize. At the end of the day, the reality is that this just can't be understood by someone who hasn't been there. The grief and pain are so acute. And I imagine that any one else who has personally suffered some other life trauma would say the same thing about people who haven't experienced their kind of pain. The best thing you can say is "I can't imagine what you're going through but know I love you and I want to support you." Any attempts to compare your situation to theirs can be very frustrating and hurtful for the griever. Please understand, I'm sure your loved one loves you and wants to support you in your own place in life in whatever your trial may be, but not in the context of it being comparable or similar to this particular element of their own.

This may sound like a crabby, demanding list of dos and don'ts. I certainly hope it doesn't sound like that. This is borne out of a sincere desire to better equip those who have expressed interest in learning how to better support their friends and family members currently experiencing infertility. It is the last desire of any couple I know to make their loved ones feel like they have to walk on egg shells so it is my hope that I haven't created that expectation.

Please also know that if you are a dear loved one of mine (or anyone else's) who has ever said any of these things, please do not fret. This is not designed to blame, condemn or judge anyone or question the sincerity of anyone who has been well intended in anything they have said. This is designed only to give you some alternate suggestions to consider the next time an opportunity to encourage someone comes along.

One of the very best things you can do for your loved ones is just walk and be with them during this time. Hug them, love them, cry with them, hold them, pray with and for them. Don't try to "fix" or advise them. There will be a time for that, and at that time they will seek out advice and counsel, but the knowledge that they have your unconditional love will be invaluable.

We hate the random meltdowns at pregnancy announcements and baby showers as much as you do. We hate the struggles with jealousy and anger and resentment, too. And we pray fiercely that this will eventually be calmed in our hearts. But the knowledge that you love us through it all will be of more comfort than anything else you could say or do.

We also know that we don't want you to be able to understand this grief first hand. I don't know of any infertile couple who would wish this cross on anyone else. So in that regard, we are glad when our loved ones can't or don't understand because they have been spared this pain. But that doesn't always make the loneliness that accompanies this journey any more bearable. Know that we love and appreciate you, and we appreciate your grace and patience as we do our best to show you that when our hearts are trying to get the better of us.

Monday, 21 January 2008

Things we wish our family/friends knew about infertility …

Read this document from RESOLVE and share it with others. Please keep in mind that this medical condition affects 1 in every 6 couples.Things we wish our family/friends knew about infertility …
  1. That it is probably the most devastating thing that we will ever experience.
  2. That it deeply affects our self-esteem.
  3. That it affects our relationships with everyone that we know.
  4. That it interferes with our day to day functioning.
  5. That the medications make us moody and emotional and cause us to gain weight.
  6. That it makes us feel violated.
  7. That it is very expensive to go through treatment and to adopt.
  8. That it is emotionally draining.
  9. That it changes our lives forever - We will never again be the same people that we once were.
  10. That people experiencing infertility have depression rates that are equal to those experiencing cancer.
  11. That it is a life-altering experience.
  12. That it makes us question everything we ever believed in.
  13. These are medical issues, not lifestyle issues. Talk to us as you would someone who has heart disease, diabetes, or any other medical condition. Be a sounding board for the tests, results, side effects, etc of the treatments. NEVER suggest relaxing or having sex more often, or adopting (ie: if you adopt, you will become pregnant).
  14. Realize that a pregnancy that results from infertility is not the same as others. Infertile couples may have a hard time easing up and enjoying their pregnancy. After being used to receiving disappointment, pregnancy is not yet the end of the road.
  15. Even though your intentions are good, you will probably say something that is offensive to us because this is such a sensitive subject.
  16. No matter how close the friendship, it will be hard to completely connect with fertile friends.
  17. There is always something there that others cannot understand, even when you do try so hard to empathize.
  18. Infertility affects all aspects of your life and the pain is inescapable. You are confronted with it at work, at the mall, walking down your street, on television, with family and friends when they don’t even know it. Kids are life’s common denominator. When you can’t participate in these conversations (and they are everywhere) you just don’t fit in anywhere.
  19. Baby showers are one of the most painful events that we can be asked to attend.
  20. In this day and age people need to be more cognitive that some people may want kids and are having trouble and some people may not want children for certain reasons. It is not up to family/friends to provide a running commentary on the issue. You never know the situation of the person you are talking to (some people are not open about their infertility treatments) so it’s better to err on the side of caution and not make a lot of pregnancy comments/questions.
  21. To remember that if I am acting mad at times, I am not mad at you, I am mad at my life.
  22. That I will talk about things that are happening with my treatment when I am ready and your probing and questions do not make me any readier to discuss “what I am going to do next.”
  23. It’s hard to know what I will be doing next. If there were a script, it would be easier to predict the future, but everyone is different.
  24. That unless you have done what I’ve done and been through what I have been through, you can’t possibly know how I feel and can’t possibly know what to tell me to do about the pain and frustration that infertility brings.
  25. That I will be okay again, but I don’t know when. So when I seem okay, just accept that as a good thing for the moment, and don’t press me, because I don’t know how long the feeling okay again thing will last.
  26. Going through infertility is like being on a roller coaster. There are constant ups and downs and surprising drops We never know what is around the next curve and work very hard to just stay fastened in our seats.
  27. Infertility is a journey that will take us to many places we never thought of or knew about and it will shape us into new people (some of our newness will be good and some will not be) and change how we look at and deal with everything in our lives. Once you’ve been on this journey you are never the same again.
  28. The thing that I wish people knew is that the sadness that accompanies infertility sometimes comes unexpectedly and at the most awkward moments. I wish I could plan my depression! But unfortunately, it just doesn’t work out like that. Of course, these moments come when I’m surrounded by other people– watching TV with a group and you see a commercial with a couple holding a baby– totally unrelated to parenting, pregnancy or whatever, but it’s just the image that is devastating. Or driving in a car and a song comes on the radio that talks about babies, parents: “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, “She’s Having My Baby”.
  29. For me (as I’m sure it is for a lot of people experiencing infertility) the greatest fear is that I will never have a child. Each failed treatment cycle, especially as your treatment gets more high-tech, makes this fear even larger. If we could just somehow know that we would have a child, a lot of the stress would be alleviated.
  30. I wish family and friends could understand why holidays, baby showers, and just hearing about or being around other people’s children and pregnant woman, can be so hard sometimes.
  31. That medical treatments are very painful, emotionally and physically That infertility is a degrading experience. We often feel like failures, like our bodies our not our own, like everyone in the world has touched us, and most especially that the most private part of our lives (our physical relationship with our spouse) has been completely invaded.
  32. That infertility treatment is very clinical and definitely is not “fun.” That treatment cycles move very slowly, so try to be patient. We are at the mercy of the medical world.
  33. That grief is a VERY important part of the healing process for us. Please let us be sad when we need to be. We have to mourn our losses.