Welcome

We always thought we would have kids. We started trying when we believed we were ready. A month went by, then two months, six months, a year. Nothing happened.

Something was wrong, but nobody could tell us what - and they still can't to this day. We tried IVF three times but our results were not good. We were devastated.

Eighteen months after our last IVF cycle, we knew we would not be having our own children. And, somehow, we have moved to a life that is much different to the one we thought we'd have.

This blog is about what we do now we know we won't be having children - the thoughts, dreams, realities, sorrows, and joys that have become our new life path.

I hope you will enjoy what I will be sharing, and I hope that if you are at the point where life without children is a reality for you, that you might find some hope and inspiration here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tattooed memories…

Photo by Gina Minton Kearns
I’ve been planning for a long time to get a tattoo on my shoulder blade for my children. It is based on this beautiful photograph by Gina Minton Kearns. The tattoo will be based on a close up of these children’s hands. I’ve often dreamt about my children holding each other’s hands and looking after each other, so this picture is a perfect representation of them.




Skyla on Odi's day bed...
This past week my cousin Alicia, her partner, Pike, and their two year old daughter, Skyla, were over from Laos visiting family. It was the first time we had met either Pike or Skyla, and they both won us over very, very quickly. Pike is such a lovely man, and Skyla is a real character – as you can see from these photos of her.


Skyla and me



There was a family gathering on Wednesday night which Kirby and I couldn’t go to, but we were lucky enough to have Alicia, Pike, and Skyla stay with us on Tuesday night – so we got them all to ourselves!


Pike, Skyla, Alicia and the kangaroo
Alicia, Skyla, Pike, and the pelican
The next day I got to take Alicia, Pike, and Skyla to Cleland Wildlife Park so that Pike and Skyla could see their first kangaroo. Skyla has no fear of animals at all and was fascinated by everything she saw. Alicia, Pike, and Skyla got a photo of them holding a koala, and we fed birds in the wetlands in the park, and went face to face with emus.

Hugo doesn’t have any cousins here in Australia and so we like to get him involved with the children on my side of the family – we tell him that they are not really his cousins, but that we can say they are anyway. Hugo came over on Tuesday night to meet Alicia, Pike, and Skyla, and the two kids got along really well. It’s true that Skyla bopped him on the head with a toy car when he wouldn’t let her put her car on the cat’s scratching ramp, but overall they played together and laughed together and danced together all evening.

Skyla and Hugo
When it was time for Hugo to go home Skyla and Hugo gave each other a big cuddle. Kirby headed down the hall to the front door, and you’ll never guess what happened next.

Hugo and Skyla followed him, hand in hand, chatting about something that only they understood. 

It was an incredible, magical moment. It was not only adorably cute, but it was the photo above, my tattoo, come to life. I was really touched and it is a picture I have stored in my memory bank so that I can take it out and cherish it for the rest of my days.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Empty arms and sweet cats…

The other day I was on Facebook and checking out the activities and latest photos of my friends.

It suddenly struck me that most of the photos I was looking at were of my school friends with their children.

There was one photo in particular where my friend was pulling a face in a photo with her son and daughter (they were also pulling faces). It was a gorgeous snapshot of an ordinary, but special, family moment.

My arms suddenly felt very empty.

It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but sometimes my arms ache to hold our children. I feel like there is a heaviness in my arms where they should be, and I almost feel that if I held my arms out long enough they would come into being and smile up at me.

I could almost believe it if it weren’t for the heaviness that is in my heart because they are not here with us.

That night I went to bed and had a bit of a cry. Our cat, Minerva, was curled up on the pillow next to me as always, and then our black cat, Frankie, jumped up on the bed with a chirrup and stared at me. She then nestled her body and head into the crook of my arm and put her paw over my stomach (as much as she could anyway). I’ve never heard her purr so loudly!
Frankie

Minerva
My animals always amaze me by how they can pick up when I am upset and will sit with me and do what they can in their own ways to comfort me. It’s especially touching when I am missing my children.

I should add, though, that later on when I had stopped crying Frankie bit me because I wasn’t patting her in quite the right way! That’s my girl!

You won't believe this, but the song The Lovecats” by “The Cure” just came on!! Great song! 

Monday, November 11, 2013

You don’t know unless you have kids…

I get quite frustrated and upset when people say or write this statement followed by whatever it is that they think people who don’t have kids don’t know.

Okay – it’s true that because I don’t have children I can’t possibly know exactly what it is like to parent a child 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I know that. But I’m not totally ignorant about children either.

These kinds of all or nothing statements completely disregard the knowledge I do have about children and the feelings I have for the children, and other people, in my life.

There are many things people who don’t have children supposedly don’t know.  I want to mention a few of them:

Kids are gross and dirty. Trust me – I know. While changing my three week old niece’s diaper she did an almighty, runny, smelly poo and then stuck her foot in it. It’s not the only time I’ve changed pooey or wet diapers, or cleaned up snot, or wiped up vomit (sometimes all three substances end up on me…) And, oh my goodness, the smell of poo when children are teething! Nothing else quite like it…

Kids take their time. When you’ve sat with a child for an hour trying to get them to take a few more mouthfuls of their dinner, it’s not that far of a leap to realise this is a regular occurrence.

Kids need you. On many occasions when I’ve looked after children there have been times when whatever I was doing was put aside to hold a crying child, a child having a tantrum, a child who wants a cuddle, a child who is tired, or a child that really needs me to play with them right now.

Kids are too honest – meaning they may say things that hurt feelings. I’ve been told that I didn’t need that extra biscuit by one of my nieces. I ate it anyway - it was chocolate...

Kids break stuff and hurt themselves. Yep – we’ve lost ornaments and dishes to the hands of children, and the kids we love have taken tumbles and falls while we were looking after them. That’s why we have children’s paracetamol, Disney character band aids, sunscreen and insect repellent for children, cough medicine for children, and a dust pan and broom at the ready, in our own home.

As a parent you would put your life before theirs – you would plead that your life be taken in place of theirs. You would put yourself in danger to make them safe. I would do anything to make our nieces and nephews safe, even risking my own life – and I would do that for our friends’ children too.  I don’t have to be a parent to have that level of protective instinct and love.

Speaking of love – one of my least favourite sayings is “You don’t know what real love is until you’ve had children.” Seriously? So my love for Kirby, my love for my family and friends is not real? I actually find this offensive. I love my nieces and nephews with a love that is so tremendous that I sometimes feel like I must be shining with a boundless happiness. That is real love as far as I’m concerned. And, let’s face it; there are parents who don’t love their children. Parenthood isn’t a guaranteed path to knowing what real love is.

Nobody can know what it is like to live anybody else’s life. I get it that I don’t know what being a twenty four hour, seven day a week parent is like – but I do have knowledge and feelings and fears about the children in my life. These are real and I will not let them be disregarded. My experiences and feelings are mine. I feel deeply, I care deeply, I love deeply, and I know stuff.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Life passes by...

Twenty one years ago, almost to the minute, I was studying for my final high school exams which were being held the following day. My parents were both at work and I had books, pens and papers scattered over the dining room table.

Suddenly the roller door to the garage went up. I looked outside to see Mum and Dad in the car – Mum’s face was white and Dad’s expression was grim. Something was wrong.

Mum and Dad came inside and told me to sit down. I didn’t want to because I knew when I did I would hear words I didn’t want to hear. I had no idea what, and I didn’t want to know.

I sat down and Dad said “Ben was killed in a motorcycle accident last night.”

I remember feeling like I had been punched in the chest, I couldn’t breathe, and there was no sound from my mouth – no scream, no cry, nothing.

Ben and me
 Ben was (is) my older cousin. We actually didn’t know he was my cousin until after he died – Mum and Ben’s Mum found that we had a common recent ancestor about four years later. Even so, I had always felt that he was like a cousin to me.

Ben was only twenty one when he died.

Ben has been gone now for the same number of years that he was on the Earth. I wonder what he could have and would have done by now if he had lived. And, it’s made me reflect on what I’ve done in the past twenty one years, and who I am now.

I have done many things – got three degrees including a Masters, owned my own apartment, worked at different jobs, fought my way through different health conditions – even if it is to the point of living with them rather than getting rid of them. I’ve found my soul mate and got married. Obviously, with Kirby, I’ve gone through trying to have children and the hope, fear and grief that accompany that journey.

This is all important stuff, and I’m not dismissing any of it as every single thing I’ve done has brought me here and helped to make me the person I am.

The only thing I wonder about now is – if this is me, is this the me I want to be? Without a doubt I want to be married to Kirby, I love my friends, my pets, my family – but who am I really in all of this? What do I want to do with this life?

I think I’m going through the kind of crisis that most people go through when they are around my age – the kind of crisis that leads one to wonder, “Is this it?” A few months ago one of my precious friends said to me “this isn’t what I signed up for.” I can relate with this right at the moment. Life is good, don’t get me wrong, but I want to do something more – I want to be something more.

The only problem is that I don’t really know what something is.

I’ve always thought that since we can’t have children I would do something else – something that matters – with my life. In the past few years I’ve thought about it, talked about it, made some steps towards it – but then I seem to get a bit scared and run back to hide behind a rock or disappear behind a grove of trees.

My brother, Paul, me and Ben
Well – enough already. I need to get some gumption and start doing. I need to stop thinking and start acting. I need to stop worrying about whether I’m on the right path, what people will think, and anything else that is holding me back.


I need to do this for Ben and I need to do it for our kids.

Monday, October 28, 2013

I'm going to be a Grandma...

Did that get your attention?

About eight years ago Kirby and I bought four tiny little fish home to put in our pond – we named them Katherine (grey fish), Humphrey (multi coloured), Ginger (orange and white) and Fred (pure orange). They were gorgeous, friendly and actually came when they were called – I’m not sure what the neighbours thought hearing me say “fish, fish” in a high pitched voice!



A year later my parents-in-law moved house and brought down a gorgeous black fish to join our fish and he settled in nicely. We named him Laurence. Yes there was a theme back then – Katherine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire, and now Laurence Olivier.

I was feeding the fish, just over a year after Laurence came to live with us, and I thought I saw some tiny little creatures flitting from one pond plant to another. At first I thought they were mosquito larvae, but I watched them closely and realised they were baby fish! This was the first generation of babies.

We now had a gorgeous grey fellow who we named Dylan and a pretty orange fish we called Ursula. This time we had the theme of writers and poets to name the fish – Dylan Thomas and Ursula Le Guin.

In the following years we have had four more generations of babies. Sadly some of them didn’t make it past the first year or two and the first five fish we had have also passed away.

When we moved house I was not going to leave my fish behind. We took a new pond to my parents’ house and set it up and then took the fish down there. When we were all settled in our new house we brought the pond and the fish home and they are very happy here.

While we were getting the fish out of the pond at my Mum and Dad’s we discovered two more babies that we didn’t know were there.

So, now in our pond we have Dylan, Ursula, Sydney, George, Flynn, Harriett, Holly, Maisie, Scarlett, Harry, Milly, Mika and Charlie (there’s no logical theme to naming them anymore...except Holly is named after Holly Shiftwell from Cars 2). They are all as friendly as the fish before them were – I guess they learnt that I was okay and was the bearer of food from the generations before them.

A few weeks back I was sitting by the pond watching the fish and I noticed that George was looking particularly chubby, as were some of the others. They were carrying eggs!

The other day their chubbiness had diminished and all the fish were chasing each other around the pond…safe to say I can expect more babies in the next few weeks…yay! They will be born in about 7-10 days, but I won’t be able to see them for some time after that because they are so small.

I’m really excited and I am already thinking about names, and wondering who they will look like – for example, Dylan has to be Katherine’s descendant, and there is a distinct look of Humphrey in Holly.

Hmm…now that I think about it…I’m not going to be a Grandma…I’m going to be a Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Grandma! I feel old now…

I’ll let you know when the babies appear!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

For the next two weeks…

I will be on a break from writing entries for “When You Can’t Have Kids” for the next two weeks due to some editing work I am doing that will be taking up most of my time for a little bit. When you see the photo below of me that shows what I’m like after editing for about eight hours I'm sure you will forgive me…

Yep - I generally feel a little tired...

See you soon!!

Tired me...


Monday, October 14, 2013

About last week…

I wanted to talk briefly about last week’s post “What kind of mother…”.

Sometimes in my posts, like last week, I can sound incredibly harsh on myself and sometimes I wonder whether I should share such dark emotions and self-judgment on “When You Can’t Have Kids.” I don’t want people to think I am a negative person or that these types of thoughts and emotions are a significant part of my life.

So, why do I talk about the darker side of me?

I decided when I started “When You Can’t Have Kids” that I would be very honest with you all as to the experiences I have. This includes the good times, but it must also include the not so good. It must include those experiences that hurt, are frustrating and are hard to admit to. Like everyone, I’d rather people think I have it all together, that I am happy all the time and that I have brilliant self-esteem. But, I don’t.

I am mostly a happy and positive person and I love my imperfect life, but sometimes that dark little voice that says “You are terrible, you are not good enough” pops up in my mind and heart.

I want this blog to help people who are in a similar situation to me. It’s true that no two people have exactly the same experiences, but I am sure that everyone has times where those dark emotions call by for a while. If I share mine, then I hope it will help other people to realise that these emotions are normal – they are nothing to be ashamed of. We are all human and that means we have low times. Let me say that again – we ALL have low times.

Happy me in Port Germein, South Australia,
with Conservation Volunteers Australia
I do – and I want you to remember that when you do, I am here thinking of you, understanding as much as I can without being you, and sending you a great, big universal hug.


Lastly, I want to thank Milly and Robin Mary for their comments on last week’s post – your support for me means the world. And it makes me realise that while I want to be there for others, others are there for me too – and that touches my heart more than you know. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What kind of mother...

This morning my emotions feel like they are debris on the ocean. I am in a secluded bay and I don’t know what is going to roll in with the waves. I feel okay, I feel angry, I feel upset, I feel pathetic, I feel okay again, I feel ashamed – and then another emotion floats in with the waves.

I wasn’t planning to write about what I will write about this week, because I didn’t know about it until this morning. I had no idea. Well, that’s not true – I must have known at some stage, but somehow it slipped away and I lost it. And now I’m wondering what kind of mother I really would have been.

Last week I found my journal that I began when we first started IVF. I read the words of the first entry and I wished I could go back and give that naïve girl who thought everything was going to work out a hug of strength for the years to come.

I read a few of the other entries and then I looked at the dates. The first entry was dated the 10th July 2008 – the beginning of our first cycle of IVF, which ended up being cancelled.

July, 2008 – so what? Well, our next round of IVF, where an embryo was created didn’t stay, was in January 2009. This was the baby that I wrote about a few entries ago – the baby that would have been five this year. Except they wouldn’t have been five this year. They would have only been four this year – they wouldn’t have been going to school yet. I’ve completely screwed up the dates and the ages my children would have been.

What kind of mother does that? I can’t have children and I can’t even get the dates of what would have been their births right. I feel sick to the stomach when I think about it. I feel so angry at myself.

I don’t even know what to write in here right now. Except to say to my children – I am so, so very sorry.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

What I wish for her…

There is a precious little eight year old girl in our lives who is the daughter of our friends. Her name is Jess. She is so bright, caring, and funny, and she has a keen interest in the world and everything in it.

Just recently Jess told me about the cans and bottles she was collecting from her home to take to recycling, and she asked me to guess what she would be using the money from the cans and bottles for. Before I could make a guess she said “I’m giving it to a tiger sanctuary, or was it lions? One of those.” She amazes me.

A few months ago I took Jess up to Monarto Zoo. It is an amazing place where all sorts of animals have large areas in which to roam in an environment as close to their natural habitats as possible. The zoo has cheetahs, African painted dogs, chimpanzees, meerkats, and many more animals. We met up with my parents and my nieces, and some friends of ours and their children at Monarto.

As we drove up the road leading to Monarto, Jess asked what the grass was which covered an open area alongside the road. I told her that it was native grass that goes grey when it doesn’t get enough water, but when it rains it will come all green again. Jess said excitedly, “I’ve never seen grey grass before!”

A few weeks ago Jess’s Mum and I were talking about her upcoming fortieth birthday and her plans to have a costume party where people come as what they want to be when they grow up. Jess joined in the conversation and said she would like to own an animal sanctuary. I said to her, why not? She is smart, she loves animals and other people do it, so why not her? I can see Jess doing something in conservation or in helping out humanity – something that will be really special.

On this past Saturday we had a BBQ at our home and Jess was there. We were talking about her Mum’s party again and I asked Jess what she wanted to come as, and she said a princess.

I must admit it floored me a little. I thought she was going to say a zoo keeper or veterinarian or something similar. It struck me as unlike her. But, then I remembered what childhood is really about.

Childhood is about exploring different things – interests, places, friends, identities. Children try on different selves, really, and see which ones fit and which ones don’t, and this is very important. There are so many paths for children, and one of the most common for little girls is an interest in fairies and princesses. It is quite normal.

The biggest hurdle, though, is for the child not to lose themselves in the process of exploring the options before them.

I truly believe that Jess’s heart and soul are in the realm of caring for the world – the environment, animals, people. Her face shines from the light that resides in her heart when she talks about these kinds of things.

So, what is my wish for her?

That she tries on different ways of being in the world. That she takes enough risks to find herself, with the sense to stay safe in her journey.

And, mostly, that she comes home to her true self when adulthood arrives.

I wish this for all of the children in our lives.


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Discipline...

There is a woman called Jo Frost who is known as the “Supernanny”. She has television shows where she assists parents in learning how to communicate and guide (or discipline) their children.

I really like the methods she presents. She advocates giving choices to children, using time out as a way to respond to unwanted behaviour, and explaining to children why they were put in time out and the impact their behaviour had on other people, and asking them to apologise. It’s amazing how well this works. Many of the children in the families Jo works with go from destructive and rude behaviour (even to the point of hitting or swearing at their parents/caregivers) to happy children who love their lives. They are not necessarily perfect, but their parents can communicate with them, whereas before they were at their wits end.

Kirby and I always planned to use Jo’s methods with our kids, and we do.

     
Mr Innocence
We use them with our cat, Felix. Well – a version of them anyway. Our cat, Felix, can be so kind and loving and give his feline sisters, Minerva and Frankie, kisses. But sometimes he turns into evil psycho cat and stalks his sisters, jumps on them, and goads them into battle. The girls hate it. He is a lot bigger than they are and easily pins them down. The girls meow and hiss and we know Felix is up to no good.

Well, we knew that until recently. I was watching Frankie one day, without her knowing I was there, and Felix walked past her. She hissed and meowed and carried on like he had attacked her. But, he hadn’t. Before I would have disciplined him, but I now knew he wasn’t always to blame.

I’ve realised the tell-tale sign of whether Felix has actually attacked his sisters is whether his tale is all fluffy. If it is – he’s been naughty.

That’s when I step in – and Felix runs and tries to hide, because he knows what’s coming next. Generally it is a game of corner the Felix until I can catch him. Without a word, I pick him up and carry him towards the bathroom.

He puts out his front paws to try and latch on to every door frame that we pass in a vain attempt to stop me taking him to the bathroom, but that doesn’t really work. He’s bigger than Min and Frankie, but I’m bigger than him!

I put him in the bathroom, put on the fan, close the door, and leave him in there for a few minutes. He hates it. I hear his pitiful meows, and I must admit it is quite funny.

After his “time out” has passed I open the door a fraction and ask him to apologise. He has to meow and then he is allowed out again. He has generally calmed down and is a little bit sorry for himself.

He never, ever attacks the girls again – at least not until the next day…

Who would have thought that Jo Frost’s methods of disciplining children would work for a cat as well?

Monday, September 16, 2013

First day at school…

This is how I always pictured it would go…

The first day of school is coming up fast and we are all nervous – Kirby, me, and our little boy, Jacob (I never pictured myself having girls…). We go to the school a few weeks before term starts to meet the teachers, share our nerves with other parents, and let Jacob play with his new classmates.

We listen to everything we would need to do to get Jacob ready for his big day – what he would need for his uniform, what books and stationery he would need, and what school hours would be. It is a lot to take in, but the school has given us a list with a welcome letter, so we will remember everything.

I like Jacob’s teacher.  She kind of looks like my first teacher at school, Miss Jorgensen, and I absolutely adored her.

The information session ends and we convince Jacob to come home with us, even though he would much rather stay and play with his new friends.

A few weeks pass and school is only a few days away. I bought book recently about children going to school and we read this to Jacob every night at bedtime for at least a week. He thinks school looks like fun and can’t wait to go. I, on the other hand, think the years since his birth have gone far too quickly and I would like just another few years with my “baby”.

The night before school, Jacob and I set out his clothes and make sure everything he is supposed to have is packed into his school bag. I can’t get him to stop talking about the next day – I think he would even be able to talk about school underwater. He reminds me on a few occasions that he is a big boy now – especially when I try to help him with his pyjamas. He can do the buttons on his own, thank you very much.

Jacob is up the next morning before the birds have even opened their eyes. He wakes us by jumping up and down on our bed. I could use more sleep, but really I’m happy that Jacob is looking forward to school so much.

We organise breakfast – a bit of a special breakfast with crumpets for Jacob’s first day at school. Kirby and I get dressed and then oversee Jacob putting on his shirt, shorts, socks, and, almost, his shoes. He needs a little help tying the laces, but he is getting there.

The school is only just down the road and we walk there in the sunshine, meeting other kids and their parents on the way. Jacob recognises one of the other boys – Fahad – that he met at the introduction session at the school. They became instant friends at the session, as only children seem capable of, and I could see them being friends for a very long time. Especially given their favourite football teams are the same – Port Adelaide!

Fahad’s parents walk with us into the school grounds and we walk toward the classroom. The teacher is ready to welcome the children and Jacob and Fahad are so enthralled with each other and the classroom that they only give us parents a brief backwards wave as they head in the door.

It’s then that the tears well up a little – my baby is a school kid now. Fahad’s Mum is crying a bit too, and I find a tissue in my bag to give to her. She smiles – and we share that moment in every mother’s (and father’s) life when our babies move into a wider world.

I’m glad Kirby was able to take the day off – I think I will need some TLC (tender loving care) today.

#

I know that the first day of school doesn’t normally go so well as this, but I figure if my son is never going to have one in reality – then the one I dream up for him is going to be close to perfect.

Our baby – this little one in the photo – would have been five years old this week.

I love you, my baby – my angel


Monday, September 9, 2013

Cars and corrections...

Hugo and Felix our cat - who also adores Hugo!
Last week I got "corrected"
by my nephew, Hugo, and I had to share this with you.

Regular readers of my blog will know that he is only just three years old, but he is so bright and so very comical.

I had picked Hugo up from child care and brought him back to our place for the evening. I asked him what he wanted to do and he said “Watch “Cars” and play cars.” Cars are pretty much the most awesome thing in Hugo’s world and I think we’ve watched the movie “Cars” together at least 345,212 times (okay – that’s an exaggeration). He’d had a big day at child care so we put on the movie and relaxed together until Kirby came home and we could have dinner.

There is a scene in the “Cars” movie which is very funny – actually there are many scenes that are funny – but this is one I particularly like. There is a scene where two of the characters (animated cars Mater and Lightening McQueen) are tractor tipping in a field (the equivalent of cow tipping!). Mater had warned McQueen to beware of Frank. McQueen had no idea who or what Frank was, until a roar and big beams of light came from behind a hill. Frank is a thresher who looks after the tractors and he was none too happy at Mater and McQueen tipping them over.

McQueen and Mater took off through the field to get to the fence before Frank could catch them.
All enthused, I yelled “Run, Lightening, run!”

Hugo threw me a look of surprise. Then he said “Aunty Kate, McQueen is a car – he has wheels, he can’t run, he has to drive really fast.”

I was definitely corrected! But, the way Hugo said it was more of the tone that he wanted me to understand, and not that he thought I was silly. Although I admit I felt a bit silly!

I love that kid so much. He is kind, intelligent, and basically a good soul. I will always love him no matter what, but he is one of those children that I know I will like when he is an adult regardless of whether he was related to me or not.

When I look at Hugo, I wonder what our children would have been like and what they would have been interested in. I’m sure cars would have been high on their list if they were anything like their Dad, and they would have loved animals and nature if they were anything like me. I wish we could have given Hugo cousins here in Australia – he does have cousins, but they live in another country.


When I see Hugo I could be sad at the reminder that Kirby and I have no children – but I don’t. I just see a little boy who I adore, and I couldn’t imagine life without him.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Kirby got chocolates...

And I ate half of them!

Last Sunday was Father’s Day here in Australia. It is a day that does remind Kirby and I that we don’t have our own children – there are no children (human at least) that give him a card and a present and make breakfast in bed for him.

Before Hugo was born Father’s Day was about us kids (Kirby, Zoe and me) celebrating our two Dads. We were the children – the next generation. When Hugo came along Father’s Day changed. We had a gorgeous little boy who celebrated his Papa (his Dad) and his Pop (Kirby and Zoe’s Dad). Our little nephew is of the next generation – the generation to which Kirby and my children would have belonged, and it became a little difficult to face Father’s Day.

Three Father’s Days on and it’s not nearly so emotionally difficult, and here’s why:

Father’s Day 2013

When I woke up after a little bit of a sleep in, Kirby was relaxing in the lounge watching a car race that he had taped the week before. He was the picture of relaxation in his pyjamas with Felix, one of our cats, sitting on his lap. Felix barely opened his eyes to look at me and in his state of bliss at being on Kirby’s lap I’m not sure he even registered that I was standing there!

I went and made a yummy breakfast of fruit muffins and coffee and brought it into the lounge. Frankie and Minerva (our other cats) came in and tried to convince us that they needed muffins for breakfast too! It didn’t happen…

After we had eaten I went and got an envelope and gave it to Kirby. This is what was written in the card:

Dear Daddy,

We meant to go and get you a present, but Ari and Odi chased the cats,
 the cats chased the fish, and the fish hid. So nobody went to the shops.
Okay – lame excuse, but we are animals! So go and buy a move or some music.

Lots of love,

Minerva, Frankie, Felix, Ari, Odi, Ursula, Dylan, Calypso, George, Sydney,
Harriet, Holly and the seven fish yet to be named.

Yep – our fur and scale kids had given a card to their Daddy. Although, because they are slackers and wouldn’t go to the shop, I had to organise the card. Kirby was delighted with his card and put it up on the wall unit.

The next few hours were spent changing cat litter, doing dishes, vacuuming and mopping the floor and setting the table for our guests. Kirby tried to use the card the kids gave him to get out of house work, as it said he should relax and take it easy. Nice try, but wasn’t going to happen!

My Mum and Dad arrived first, bearing caramel slice and a potato bake. Then Kirby’s folks, Zoe and Hugo turned up with sunshine salad (look up the recipe with jelly and pineapple in it – yum!) and a cake. We sat around the table and grazed on the dips and biscuits Zoe had brought.  Hugo was determined to play cars straight away, and feed the fish, but we told him we would do so after lunch.

Then it was present time. We gave my Dad his card and present first and then Kirby and Zoe’s Dad was given his. Both Dads loved their presents and their cards. Hugo’s Papa is currently overseas so Hugo didn’t get to give him his present on Sunday.

Next, Hugo brought over a present for Kirby. A lovely carton of chocolates! The card that accompanied it had a photo of Hugo with his toy elephant, tiger and zebra on it. Inside the card read:

Uncle Kirby’s Day

Dear Uncle Kirby

Best wishes for Uncle Kirby day.
 I love you and your cars.

Hugo

Hugo's photo on Uncle Kirby's card
After the present giving we organised a BBQ lunch and thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the day with our families and with our darling nephew, Hugo.

You see – on the first Father’s Day after Hugo was born, my mother-in-law organised a present from Hugo to Kirby and named Father’s Day as Uncle Kirby’s Day as well. It was a true gift from her. It makes Kirby feel special (and me on Mother’s Day, or Aunty Kate’s Day, too!). We are celebrated by Hugo as very important and much loved people in his life.

Father’s Day has become easier with each passing year, but more importantly, it has become a day for Kirby to be celebrated. His fur and scale kids celebrate him as their Daddy and Hugo celebrates him as his Uncle Kirby.

How could you not enjoy a day like that?

Especially given there were chocolates! 

*

Our fur kids...the fish refused to be photographed...

Felix

Minerva


Frankie (Francesca)


Ari

Odi

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

This is MY life...

One of the hardest things about not having kids is sharing your plans and dreams with those who do have kids. We’ve had to rethink our lives and create new dreams that don’t include having our own children. Our dreams include travel, me being a writer, Kirby developing computer games, doing volunteer work and pursuing other adventures. Many of these ambitions would be very difficult, if not impossible, if we had children.

A year or two ago we were out to dinner with a few friends (all who have children) and the conversation was mainly about children. Kirby and I had recently decided that we would like to go to Alaska to see the glaciers. I was very excited and wanted to share this with my friends and did so. It is a long term dream, but one we are steadily working towards. The response from the group was to say how they couldn’t do that because they had kids, and then the conversation turned straight back to being about their children.

I love hearing about the children our friends and family have, but it is not our life. The life Kirby and I have is different to what we thought it was going to be and we have worked hard through our grief at not having children and have worked hard to develop lives that have meaning, goals and happiness.

I want to share our anticipation about our plans with our friends and family, but sometimes it feels as though because we don’t have children our news and our plans are not interesting enough. Sometimes I want to share what’s going on in my life – and sometimes listening ears are not there, or they are there only for people who have similar lives to them  – in that they have children.

Don’t get me wrong – most of our family and friends are very keen to hear about our plans and excitement at those plans and we are very, very lucky.

Perhaps I’m just in a down mood today – you know – when you see the negative rather than the positive.

One of our babies would have been five in a few weeks. I can’t talk about him or her and their first day at school and their attempts at calisthenics or swimming or whatever else they would have been interested in. I can talk about all the children in our lives who I love so much. But, sometimes I feel very lonely in this life – so very different to most of those around us.

Next time I will be more positive – I promise…

Monday, August 19, 2013

Creativity...

The biggest creative act I thought I was going to do in this life of mine was to have a child. Whoops! I guess that didn’t go quite as planned!

For a few years after we realised we weren’t going to have children I felt torn away from my creativity – I thought I was completely empty of a creative life because I couldn’t have a child. It took a while for me to realise that I can be creative in so many other ways. My garden is one of them.

When we bought our house, our front garden looked like this…
Our house when we bought it
 It had an ornamental olive tree, daisies, a formal square of bricks, stones and bark (with no weed prevention measures at all), and some daisy type bushes which like to reseed themselves around the place.
This was not a good garden for our area for many reasons, some of which are:

  • It is hard to maintain – we are continually have to weed, remove the plants that reseed (especially if they end up the neighbours’ yards).
  • Watering is a nightmare – we live in southern Australia and water is by no means abundant. The plants are not indigenous or even native to our area and so require watering.
  • The plants are bad for the environment – this especially goes for the olive tree. We live near a wetland and across from a small waterway that feeds the wetland. Water hens are everywhere and like to come across to our yard and get the olives. This is dangerous for them as they have to cross a road and could get run over, and they also they take the olives back to the waterways where it is very easy for the seeds to travel with the water to other locations and grow. Olive trees grow very easily around here.

The wetlands
The waterway across the road






A water hen
So, I (we) decided to change our yard completely. Gone are the olive tree and the daisies. Out came the formal square of bricks, and the stones are in a pile of sorts in one part of the garden.


Knobby Club Rush
Ruby Salt Bush
Our plan is for a fake creek bed to run from one part of the yard to another, three fake water holes along the driveway, to paper under the bark to help stop weeds, get fresh bark, and plant only plants that are indigenous to our area – knobby club rush, ruby salt bush, a bottle washer, pig face, wattle, creeping boobialla and maybe even a nodding chocolate lily. I’ve already dug the creek and water holes and Felix and Frankie (two of our cats) love running up and down the creek  - it is a whole new adventure for them (they are easily entertained!)

Bottle Washer
Pig Face








        
   
Creeping Boobialla
Nodding Chocolate Lily
Gold Dust Wattle



















At the moment, this is what it looks like…a bit of a construction site! But it is all part of the journey.
I feel really good creating what I know will be a beautiful front yard. I may not be able to have children, but I realise I can put my creative energies into other things – including my garden.

The removed pavers...

The creek bed...

The creek bed again...

The three waterholes...

The three waterholes again...

I’ll put a photo up when it’s completed with baby plants, and then another photo when the plants have grown up a bit.

Photo Credits:

First three photos from Google Street View
"A Water Hen" from http://www.mdba.gov.au/what-we-do/education/students/fun-and-games/kids-memory-game
All plant photos from http://www.ala.org.au/
Last five photos from own photos

Monday, August 12, 2013

A realisation...

Last night, after writing the blog entry yesterday “The darker side of me…” I had a startling realisation which I wanted to share with you.

When Kirby and I did our second round of IVF (the first where fertilisation of my eggs was actually successful) only two of the eggs survived to become embryos (well, technically zygotes – but I hate that term). On the day of transfer the doctor said that due to my age they would only put one of the embryos into my womb, and freeze the other. I was under 35 years of age and they only transfer two embryos after 35.

I didn’t fall pregnant, and sadly the other embryo died the night after the transplant.

While this is very different to the decision Mary and George had to make, are there not some similarities?

The doctor didn’t want to transfer both embryos because of the potential complications with twins. I wasn’t happy about this, but neither Kirby nor I argued for the chance of life for both embryos. Perhaps the one that wasn’t transplanted might have survived? Did we not choose one embryo over another because of the potential risks of having twins, even though we knew there was a risk we would lose the embryo that was not transplanted?

While Mary and George’s decision was much later on and Mary was pregnant, we still were in the position where we made a choice between our two embryos, and this could well have led to the death of both. We trusted what the doctor said, and we lost both.

We could have potentially sought other opinions, although time was a factor, but we didn’t. We could have demanded that both embryos were implanted, but we didn’t.

We were devastated to lose both and I felt much guilt and sorrow afterward.


I cannot comprehend what Mary and George went through, but the similarities, small as they are, with regard to choices has increased my compassion for them even more.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The darker side of me...

I know that everyone has thoughts that come along that they would rarely admit to as they point to a darker side within them. Nobody wants to acknowledge that they have a side of them that thinks things that are horrible and sometimes mean, let alone admit to other people that these thoughts occur.

I have had such thoughts this week, and as I mentioned in my last blog entry I thought long and hard about whether I should write about them and share them with you all. I have decided that being honest and sharing them is good for two reasons – firstly, by writing about them and acknowledging them I believe I will take away their power, and, secondly, by sharing them perhaps some of you who have had similar experiences will realise you are not alone.

So, here’s what happened…

There was a show in Australia from the late 1980s to the early 1990s called “Acropolis Now”, which was a comedy based on Greek heritage. One of the actors, Mary Coustas, played Effie and she was hysterically funny.

Last Sunday night, on a current affairs television show, Mary and her husband, George, shared their story about their difficulties in having a child. I didn’t see the show, but I read about it a few days later and I was naturally moved. They had tried for 10 years to have a child, and Mary had recently had a book published “All I know: a memoir of love, loss and life.”

Mary fell pregnant in 2010, when she was in her mid-forties. A scan revealed she was having fraternal twins. It would have been such a joyous occasion. But, at the nine week scan a third heartbeat was found. There were triplets – two paternal and one fraternal. But, was it good news?

Mary and George’s doctor was not happy and explained the risks of having three babies, especially when two of them were paternal. There are risks of cerebral palsy, low birth rate, and complications for the mother in terms of gestational diabetes, among others.

After consulting with five different specialists, Mary and George decided to do a reduction, where the twins would be aborted by having a substance injected to stop their hearts. They would die and would most likely be reabsorbed into Mary’s body.

The reduction was undertaken, but a few days later a scan revealed that one of the twins was still alive. They did another reduction.

There is a risk to the remaining baby when a reduction occurs, and sadly the remaining baby, a girl Mary and George called Stevie, was still born at 22 weeks.

The good news is that Mary is now pregnant again with one baby, due at the end of this year, and everything seems to be going well.

 As I read the article and found out about the triplets, the reduction, the stillbirth of Stevie, the book and that Mary is now expecting again, I felt my rage growing stronger and stronger. I was fuming. I cried my eyes out in frustration and the unfairness of it all. What was it that bothered me?

Here is the dark part – my thoughts as they were then:

           Multiple pregnancies:
o   It’s not fair that they got a multiple pregnancy when I can’t even get pregnant with one baby.

Then the reductions:
o   How could they kill their own children?
o   How come they got pregnant with three children, only to throw two of them away? Why couldn’t I have had them?
o   How could they go through a second reduction? Why did the remaining twin have to die?

The book:
o   It’s not fair that just because she’s famous she got her book published. And it’s a bit raw waiting to announce her pregnancy until after her book was released. What about my book and my experiences?

Stevie:
o   Why did they get to hold Stevie when I never got to hold my children? I would give anything just to hold my children for just a little bit, instead of having only two black and white photos of embryos to remember them by.

Pregnant again:
o   It’s not fair that they are pregnant again, when I can’t have a child and I have done nothing wrong.

So, I’m not always the understanding and compassionate person that I would rather the world think that I am.

These thoughts and questions and the associated feelings lasted into the next day. I was so ashamed to think that these were coming from me. How could I think so badly about someone I didn’t even know? I didn’t know their full story, and I know that they are not bad people – so where was all this coming from?

To be honest, I still don’t know where it all came from or why. I could say it was unacknowledged grief on my part, or that there’s a hidden rage within me at the unfairness that we can’t have a baby, or that I am frustrated that my experience seems to be less important than someone who is famous, or that…

I’m not sure it’s any of those reasons.  I can’t make excuses for what I thought or how I felt. It was all what it was. The scariest part for me was that I didn’t know how I was going to break out of those negative and shameful thoughts and feelings. I hated it and I detested myself. It was like another me had taken me over and it was dark and cruel.

In the last few days I’ve learnt something more about compassion – something that I never realised before. Compassion isn’t always a natural response. Sometimes we have to make a decision to be compassionate. And that is what I realised I had to do. I had to decide to be compassionate.

So, I have been practicing this. I can never know what it would have been like to be in the position that Mary and George were in when they considered the risks of having triplets and then making the decision to do the reduction. I don’t understand the decision because I’ve never had to make it. But I can try to understand what a terrible decision it must have been for them to make. Having to choose one of your children over another must be one of the most heart wrenching experiences anyone could go through. I am so sorry that this happened to them. After reading more about their tragic experience I found out that they consulted five different specialists – it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. It wasn’t easy. They are not bad people – if anything they are people who truly wanted to do the best they could for their children. Thinking about it now I want to cry and I want to wrap my arms around all of them – Mary, George and the triplets.

In thinking about it – all the other thoughts and questions were secondary to my upset at the reduction. These were side-issues. It seemed as though Mary and George were being rewarded after they had the reduction – at least that’s what it felt like to me initially – and I didn’t understand why they were being rewarded for such an act.

But, they aren’t really being rewarded. I’m sure that, except for being pregnant again, Mary and George would give everything back just to have Stevie turning three this year.

I think I will finish this entry now. It’s been a long one. I realise there may be negative criticism about me after this post and I am open to it, but please remember that I am only human and I am being honest where I could have chosen to keep all this to myself.

There is still a hole in my heart which sometimes is filled with negative thoughts and emotions, but I am trying to fill it with love and compassion. It is not easy – but I am trying.


And – I have decided to read Mary’s book. I think it will be helpful for me, even if Mary and George’s story is different to mine and Kirby’s. No doubt I will write about it in a future blog entry.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Totally besotted...

I met Ruby Grace (my second-cousin) last Friday, and I am completely in love.

She is a sweet little girl – so tiny and snuggly. Dale handed her to me as soon as I got there and I got to hold her for quite a while. It was wonderful. She started to fuss a little when she was getting tired and didn’t want to go to sleep. It was lovely to be able to settle her by moving her dummy slightly from side to side and gently patting her. Her eyes flickered while she slept and I wondered what she might be dreaming of.

Dale commented that I knew about babies and I said that I had had a lot of practice over the years – including with her fiancé, Josh! I was ten when he was born and I remember changing his nappies! Below is a photo of Josh and me when Josh was checking to see if my Cabbage Patch doll, Cleo, was really asleep – I have already told him that if Ruby is asleep he’d best not check by poking at her eyes.

It was the first time I met Josh’s fiancé, Dale, as well. We hit it off instantly – big hugs as soon as I walked in the door. We even share the habit of accidently putting on odd socks on a regular occasion! Dale and Josh are besotted by Ruby (understandably), but are so relaxed with her as well. That little girl has been born to two wonderful people.

I gave Ruby a gorgeous little romper suit from Eternal Creation, but it will be a while before I get to see her in it as it is size three to six months – but I reckon with her light auburn hair she will look so gorgeous in it! Check out Eternal Creation if you haven’t already – their clothes are beautiful and the company is doing such great work in India. http://www.eternalcreation.com/

I was only planning to stay for about an hour, but two and a half hours later I finally had to tear myself away. I offered to take Ruby with me, but Josh and Dale said no…hmmm…perhaps I should have just snuck her away? Just kidding…kind of…

As I was leaving I told Josh how proud I am of him. I really am so proud of Josh – he is a great Dad and no doubt will continue to be so.
Ruby and me
The romper suit for Ruby
My little cousin, Josh, and me.

***
I wanted to briefly mention the next blog entry I have planned. I will be writing it over the weekend or early next week. It will be about something that happened this week that I am not proud of. I have thought long and hard about writing about it, but this blog is meant to be about all the experiences and emotions I have now I can’t have children. That must include those experiences that are difficult to talk about because they have made me ashamed, because other people who can’t have children may well have similar experiences and I want them to know they are not alone.

Not having children brings about such a range of emotions and the darker ones can’t be ignored, especially by me in this blog as I want to be honest and I want to share things that might help other people to realize that the darker emotions are normal.

One of my favorite writers, Thomas Moore, says in his book “Care of the Soul”:

“The soul presents itself in a variety of colours, including all shades of gray, blue, and black. To care for the soul, we must observe the full range of all its colourings, and resist the temptation to approve only of white, red, and orange – the brilliant colors.” Moore, Thomas (1994) Care of the Soul, HarperCollins, New York

So, next time my entry will be a little bit darker.