Time wears

I feel like infertility is a unique situation in a lot of ways. Medically there are no other procedures, that I know of, where you can spend so much money and end up with nothing. It’s something that a lot of people can’t relate to, and it’s hard to talk about. Even when you have a close network of family or friends that know, it doesn’t protect you from the vast majority, or make it any easier to tell them about it. But so far the thing that I’m find the hardest, is the time.

I was speaking to my aunt a while ago, and she was saying that we were lucky to have gotten to this stage so quickly. We were investigated a year after beginning to try and had answers a year and a half after starting this journey to try and conceive. I can understand why she feels this way. She and my uncle experienced unexplained fertility when they were trying to conceive their first child, and were told repeatedly to just keep trying and not worry about it because they were so young. It took them four years to conceive my cousin. They then had two more children naturally.

At the same time, this was 25 years ago, and I think our understanding of infertility has come a long way since then. Most people are told they should see their GP after 1 year of trying, and I think even younger people are more willing to insist than be told just to keep trying.

But the thing that I find hardest about this, is that for me, it’s not just the time we’ve been trying. I started trying to convince my husband that we should try for children approximately two years before we officially started trying. I was worried. I knew I had PCOS (Polycistic Ovarian Syndrome) and that it could make things harder for us. I also knew because of my aunty that even healthy people with no obvious problems could have trouble conceiving. I didn’t want to wait until we were ready and then not be able to conceive. Getting pregnant early felt like much less of a risk to me.

Unfortunately, he didn’t agree. He had seen how easily his parents had conceived and couldn’t really comprehend it not happening the same. It’s almost ironic that he has a low sperm count and 3% morphology and that’s why we need to go straight to IVF. I don’t blame him for worrying about what he saw as the more likely situation. Really I’m lucky to have such a responsible man who wants to do what’s best for us. Most of the time when I think of all this I just wish I had pushed harder, that I had trusted my instincts more and at least got us tested. Mostly I’m disappointed in myself.

Because it’s not just the time trying to conceive that wears me down now. It’s all that lost time when I wanted to but wasn’t. Even then I felt the cold heartbreaking disappointment when my period came, because it was a reminder that we weren’t even trying for what I already wanted so badly.

I think infertility is so unique because it is grief. It’s the type of grief that people can’t really understand because each month you’re not mourning something that actually existed. You’re mourning something that hasn’t happened. You feel the loss of your hopes and dreams, you wonder if you’ll ever get to experience a pregnancy, a child, a family. You silently curse the people that got pregnant easily, or naturally, because it’s so unfair that you have to experience this. And for me, I think of all this time that we wasted worrying about contraception, all this time not knowing, all this time I wish we had been preparing instead of bothering with all the things that don’t even matter to me now.

I’m sure that when we finally get there, and we have our baby, none of this will matter anymore. But right now, that baby feels so far away, so impossible to reach…

all I have is time. Wearing me down.

Why I can’t bring myself to hope

I recently had a friend ask me, “don’t you think you’ll get pregnant?” after my rather lack-lustre response to her determination that I would get pregnant in the next year at least.

I know she means well, and I appreciate her confidence, it’s probably hard to understand my less than optimistic view of my future motherhood. And in answer to the question, I don’t know. I want to think I’ll get pregnant eventually. But I have to face the cold reality of IVF and the uncertainty inherent in it.

When each cycle has a 30% chance of success, and after 3 cycles some claim that your chances begin to decrease; along with the different statistics around getting pregnant and actually having a live healthy baby making it hard to know whether even 30% is a correct figure; I can’t help but try to protect myself from the trauma hope can cause.

I’m trying to be realistic when I look at the amount of weight I need to lose and the time it’s going to take for me to do that. Not to mention the pressure of that weight being the only thing (besides money) that’s standing between us and beginning out first cycle. Then, after I make it through the hopes and pitfalls of a weight-loss journey, I get to look forward to a demanding medical intervention with absolutely no guarantee of success and a hefty financial cost.

Now, I try to avoid the “why me’s”, they don’t help me and are too easily interpreted as whining, and I’ve got a lot of fantastic things in my life. My point here, is that I have a hard road ahead, and I don’t want to kid myself that it’s going to be easy.

If I go into IVF able to be realistic and know that there’s more chance of it not working than working I can be completely overjoyed if it works and everything would be great. But if I go into IVF blindly optimistic that everything’s magically going to work out because other people have a feeling, I’m not going to be able to avoid the crushing disappointment if it fails. Maybe that’s not sunshine and roses enough for some people, but they don’t have to live through the actual experience. They probably didn’t have to experience a year and a half of monthly disappointment hoping that this month we’d finally be pregnant and the overwhelming fear that maybe we couldn’t either.

Hope is a dangerous feeling for me. Disappointments have abound in the last couple of years and sometimes just the time involved in this journey is enough to weather down my resilience and leave me in tears. I’m finding it hard to even imagine myself pregnant anymore, even though I want it right down to the core of my being. So maybe I don’t want to react to well-meaning hope with feigned enthusiasm.

But I’m willing to take the chance on IVF, so maybe that’s hope enough.

It’s not the shirt, it’s the assumption

Well, I’m actually going to do something kind of current for a change. I’ve been reading some comments about this shirt, and whether it’s racist or not, and thought I might share my two-bobs.

When I first saw it I suppose I started with the most obvious. For the question of racist or not – not really. The shirt in and of itself could be worn by any race and be directed at any race. However, I believe the assumption behind the shirt is very racist. It’s directed at a very specific part of the population – the ‘unAustralian’ haters.

I’d like to add at this point that I hate John Howard’s whole ‘unAustralian’ thing. It’s diabolical in the way it pits people against each other. It makes such huge assumptions about what it means to be Australian – most will picture things like a BBQ, beer, maybe church, probably sport and the beach, and, you guessed it – white people. It’s a pervasive myth, the blonde, athletic, tanned, young, white Aussie, going about his carefree day. But the fact is, it’s just not true. At least half the population are either 1st generation Aussies or weren’t even born here. Let that sink in for a second. HALF.

We’re a culture of many religions, many languages, many cultures and many colours. This type of t-shirt is predominantly aimed at white Australians with some version of – ‘nerr they made that place halal the whole countries going to shit, their taking over’ blah blah blah. These people, tend, ironically, to be the ones who take Australia and what it offers them for granted the most. They complain about a shop that sells halal meat, but neglect to take similar advice and simply go somewhere that doesn’t. In terms of business’ it’s simple, if they don’t get enough people buying halal meat it won’t be profitable to sell it and they’ll stop. For it to be becoming more common doesn’t show that ‘they’re taking over’ it shows that selling that type of meat is more profitable for the business than not selling it. But people complain and whinge and act like the way the meat is killed/prepared is so important, even though they don’t even know how it’s killed/prepared when it doesn’t say halal.

Or arguments over ‘losing Christmas and Easter’ will pop up. Because of course it’s impossible for people to individually celebrate Christmas here if they choose to, what with a public holiday, freedom of speech, and private areas where you can do pretty much whatever you want. Never-mind that the many other religions in our country don’t get any public holidays or specific spaces within which to celebrate their beliefs. We ‘Australians’ must be so hard done by, we’ve just got no Judeo-Christian moments left… As well, of course, as this also implying that white Australians all have Judeo-Christian faith, discounting the many atheists in our communities.

Because of this the shirt has an implied direction, and it assumes that it’s targets are immigrants or refugees, people who ‘have a choice’ about whether to live here, and should ‘go back home’ if they don’t like it. This therefore creates a strong ‘us’ ‘them’ mentality among those who choose to adopt this type of slogan. We assume that to be good enough to live in this country you need to be ‘one of us’ and as I’ve discussed, the ‘us’ that they’re referring to, is white Australian-ism. Which on it’s own fails to recognize the way that we took over this land from the Aborigines and forced them to adopt Anglo-Saxon beliefs and behaviours. But we can disregard that information because we are already in ‘us’ ‘them’ mode, and therefore anything that is not white Australian is foreign and not to be trusted or empathized with.

This is the real problem with the shirt. It allows for a series of assumptions in the minds of many people already partial to racism, and encourages it to bubble to the surface, instead of engendering a country of people with tolerance and compassion for others.

Personally, I would feel more comfortable leaving this country I know and love than being the kind of dick that thinks a shirt like this is okay.

Beginning down the IVF road

It’s like waking up in a different world you never knew.

Like most people, I grew up believing that if I was ready to get pregnant, that if I wanted to get pregnant, somehow it would happen. I suppose we generally believe that it is our right to have children if and when we decide to. But something horrible happened to us a few months ago. The bubble burst, and we found out that to have children we’ll have to go through IVF.

My heart dropped when we were told. I couldn’t believe that life could be so unfair.

I’ve wanted to have kids for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t a little girl that dreamt of a big white wedding, I never had a strong inclination towards a particular career path. But I always wanted a family. A loving man and a bunch of little ones running around our feet. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve the first part, I would not trade my husband for anything, and maybe I should be grateful just to have that. Many may not experience the kind of loving, supportive relationship that we have. Yet my life feels wildly incomplete.

I’m only just coming to terms with what this means for me, and for us. The information about IVF seems to vary widely and often conflicts. Most information and conversations are geared towards women much older than me, in their 30’s and 40’s. So when I read about decreasing chances after 30, it still doesn’t really tell me what my chances are as an almost 26 year old. It also means that I read a lot about Medicare and people saying that those using IVF don’t deserve access to rebates because they “shouldn’t have left it so late”. I don’t really agree with that argument even for those who are older. But it bares stark contrast to my experience. We’re trying to have kids early, and I wanted to try four years before this, exactly because I was afraid of being left in this situation. Instead we’ll more likely be labelled as some irresponsible young parents because we will struggle to afford a child after the costs of IVF. The irony being that if we could conceive naturally we would have a comfortable little nest egg with which to pay for those costs. It’s a no-win situation. We’ll either have money to afford IVF and little left, or we’ll have money for raising children and no hope of having them.

There’s a part of me; when it reads about the chances, and the people that can’t succeed with IVF anyway; that wonders if we would be better off just not having kids. Hoping for a miracle, rather than going through the physical, emotional and financial hardships of IVF. But I don’t think I could make that choice now. I want to be a mother so badly, it’s too soon for me to give up hope that I can be. Maybe one day I’ll have to make that decision. And it will be the hardest decision I will ever have to make in my life.

To my newly pregnant friend

To my newly pregnant friend,

 

I don’t know what you’re thinking. But I wanted to clear some things up. I’m really glad that you were able to get pregnant so easily. It makes you one of the lucky ones, and that’s a great thing. I’m sure you must be worried about whether I’m really happy for you, or just saying it. Let me assure you that I mean it. I do not wish that you weren’t pregnant. I do not wish that I was pregnant instead of you. I really hope that you have a healthy pregnancy and baby and can be happy.

I hope that you can understand that my feelings of upset are simply because my situation is very painful right now. I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 18 months, and we’ve just found out that for us to conceive naturally would pretty much be a miracle. So we have to do IVF, and we’ll have to do IVF for any children we have. And we can’t even start IVF until I lose weight, something I have struggled with since adolescence. I can’t even begin to describe to you what a torment the last 18 months has been for me. The heady mixture of hope and disappointment, of analyzing every ache, or ‘difference’ and never really knowing if it’s real or just the strength of your desire to be pregnant that’s causing it. Each month the weight of not having a baby yet grows heavier, and I feel a physical ache in my chest. I am very grateful that you will never know this pain.

So, when I found out that you were pregnant I wasn’t upset because you were in such a good situation. I was upset because it reminded me how much pain I’ve been feeling. Pain that I would be in whether you were pregnant or not. I’m just finding it harder to pretend I’m okay when what I want so badly feels so out of reach for me.

I’ve no doubt this could be a tricky 8 months for our friendship. I don’t want to ruin what is a very happy time for you just because my life is the opposite right now. I want to be there for you as much as I can. All I’d like to ask is that you can be there for me too, because I’m struggling to cope. I hope that you can understand that sometimes I just might not be able to talk about babies. Sometimes I might need a break from even thinking about them. I’m sorry that I can’t be as excited for you as a friend should be. It’s not really fair on you. It’s not something I can really help either, and I feel horrible for that. I’m used to pushing away my issues for the sake of my friends. But in this, I’m afraid I have to be a little bit selfish. I need to make sure that I’m okay, because I feel so close to falling apart.

It’s difficult when we are on such different journeys at the moment. But I’m still your friend. And I hope you’ll stay mine.

You’d be so beautiful if…

 

If I had a dollar for every time someone made a negative comment about the way I look I think I would be rich by now.

I’m sure that’s pretty standard for most women out there, and probably a lot of men as well.

 

“You’d be so pretty if you just lost a little weight” complete strangers would say with that look of innocence like they haven’t just told you you’re worthless the way you are. If only your body conformed to the average idea of beauty.

And unfortunately, well-trained avoid-er of conflict that I am, I don’t disagree. Sometimes even internally I don’t disagree. There’s a sickening sense of ‘routine’ to these occurrences. A feeling that these sorts of put-downs and judgements are just to be expected.

 

But what I want to talk about here, is an even more worrying trend that I’ve been noticing in my life, and maybe there are others who will recognize this in their own lives.

I’ll start with a few quotes:

 

  1. We just need something to smooth out those lumps
  2. You should probably start wearing make-up (to job interviews)
  3. Me “I got my dress adjusted” Response “Did you eat too much cake?”

 

I could probably go on, but I think these will illustrate my point well enough.

Of those comments, the first and third, were said to me by my mother; the second by my husband.

The first was while looking for a top for me to wear to a job interview (I’ve been to a lot lately, so it is a theme). The second was after I had got some make-up (which I never otherwise wear) for my wedding, and had gone through the first test. And the third was in reference to my wedding dress, after several months of ‘don’t eat too much cake or you won’t fit your dress’ comments. I’m not even a fan of cake…

Now it would be so easy to start defending these comments. That they were meant well, or that it’s about facing the ‘reality’ of the world that we live in. I know particularly for my husband that he was concerning himself with the way that people perceive not wearing make-up rather than trying to say that he thought I needed it. But how often do we do this, how often do we push aside what those who should be on our side have said to us with these sorts of excuses. I know I often tell myself, well I am overweight, so maybe they have a point. Even though it hurts.

Unlike, necessarily, the comments of a random stranger they hurt deeply. And, especially in the case of my mum, they’re persistent. I’ve been hearing comments about my weight and my looks from my mum my entire life. I don’t remember her ever telling me that I am beautiful. I can survive the pain of any stranger while I’m still dealing with the pain of that.

The major problem, is that it’s much harder to talk about these kinds of criticism. I know that I have seen many examples of people going on Facebook or sharing stories among friends of strangers that have said horrible things to them, regarding weight, or looks. And it’s easy to share these and shame the cruelty of the perpetrators. But it’s not that easy when it’s people close to you. I think about telling anyone that my mum said those things to me and I shudder, because it makes her sound horrible. And I don’t want people to think my mum’s horrible. She’s still my mum. Or what if I told someone about what my husband said, and they asked, ‘why are you with such a jerk?’ and I go, he’s not a jerk, he made a mistake, everyone does. But if we can’t talk about these types of occurrences, then we can’t address them. We can’t receive support; and soon the comments become part of our internalized self talk.

 

I guess, in writing this, and sharing some of my experiences, I hope that if anyone ever sees it maybe it can start a dialogue. A dialogue about the beauty criticism that feeds into our everyday lives and the hidden harm of receiving these regular messages from those who are supposed to be our close friends, family, lovers and supporters. Because before long we hear these criticisms and begin to think… well if my mum/husband/brother/best friend etc. thinks that I’m not good enough the way I am, I’m probably not.

 

Sending love to all those who have ever felt this way. You are beautiful just as you are.

The Gender Wars

I recently read these two articles. The first was written by a man about things men don’t know about women. The second is a rebuttal of the first post, written by a woman and an avid feminist.

http://www.theage.com.au/comment/the-10-things-women-wont-tell-you-20140116-30wkp.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-01-21/ford-the-treachery-of-hairy-women/5208716?pfm=ms#comments

Now I’m sure that just about anyone could have a field day pulling apart these articles for whatever their personal agenda may be. Unfortunately, I find this black and white, stereotype slandering to be both tedious and unhelpful.

How long is it going to be before people actually realize that gender doesn’t really matter that much?

Men and women both cheat, members of both genders can be cruel and manipulative. Just as men and women can both be gentle, loving and generous.

What is more important? Really. What genitals a person has, or the actions they take and behaviors they exhibit?

It seems to me, that in these gender wars between feminists and anti-feminists, everybody is essentially losing.

Feminists started out with an admirable goal: equality. And that’s something that I believe in wholeheartedly. Between men and women, between different racial groups, between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Every single person on this planet has the right to equal opportunities, to love and respect, and to voice their opinion without threat of violence. But equality doesn’t mean that every one is the same. We’re not all the same. Men and women are different. But so too are women different from other women and men different from other men. Each individual has a different life experience, different goals and dreams and fears.

It seems to me that it’s about time we started treating individuals as individuals.

Instead, I find that everywhere I look I’m finding generalization and stereotypes, fueling anger and retribution in the form of MORE generalizations and stereotypes. As seen in these articles and the responses to them.

“Oh, but I know a woman who had an abusive husband… so feminists must be right”

“Butt, I saw a husband being abused by his wife… so anti-feminists must be right”

I mean WAKE UP. I’ve seen both of those things, I’ve known women who have cheated on their partners, I’ve known men who have cheated on theirs. I also see men all the time who are loving and kind and would never in a million years raise their hand against a woman. And I’ve known women who are strong and independent and don’t need a man to feel fulfilled in life. I know women who can’t wait to start families, I know women who are petrified of the thought, value work more than family, or simply don’t feel the need to have children at all. I know men who work hard, men that don’t, men that would love to raise their children at home.

This is part of the human condition. We are all different.

These gender wars pull us apart and make us see each other in stereotypes and generalizations. Do you live that way?

I hope not.

I try not to. Sometimes it’s a struggle. To see through the bullshit that gets thrown at us all the time. From the media, from friends, from family. From ourselves.

Maybe we should start enacting some of the values we try to teach our kids. Be kind. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. We’re all unique. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated.