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.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Waiting and waiting...

This life hasn’t given Kirby and me children of our own. At first this was an enormous gaping hole that was too much to bare, but over time we have both found dreams to follow that, while they don’t make up for not having children, do give us a sense of self and a sense of purpose in our lives.

One of my dreams is to be a published author. I want to make a living writing science fiction. I don’t want to write some great literary masterpiece, but I do want to entertain people, and make them think (at least a little bit).

I’ve started writing a novel just recently – well, I actually started it about three years ago, but it’s only recently that I’ve been taking my writing seriously. I’m really enjoying it. I’m getting to know the characters and they are starting to give me ideas about what could happen in the story (some great, and some I wonder what on earth these characters are thinking!), and the story is evolving.

This isn’t the first bigger piece of writing that I have attempted. From July to December last year I wrote a book called “When You Can’t Have Kids”. It covers many of the insights I write about on this blog (in more depth) and talks about a great many more as well – such as how realising you are not going to have children can make you question your marriage, reworking the house so that “that” room is no longer the hoped for child’s room, and creating a life different from the one you imagined.

I sent part of the manuscript of the book to a publisher at the start of the New Year. The deal was that if you sent it in on a Friday they would guarantee to read it and if they wanted to see more they would contact you, but if you didn’t hear anything within three weeks you could assume they weren’t interested – no further correspondence entered into.

I didn’t hear from them.

So, I sent it off to another publisher. With this one I will have to wait for three months, and then if you don’t hear anything you can assume they are not interested – no further correspondence entered into.

It’s fun! Not really, but that is the nature of the publishing world. Publishers tend not give any feedback on manuscripts. It is hard, because when your manuscript isn’t accepted you have no idea why.

So – I’m about half way through the three month wait now, and I must say I’m getting a little bit antsy. I keep wavering in my mind between they will love it to I will hear nothing.

One thing that does bother me while I wait is that books are being published about people who experience infertility. That in itself is not the problem, but it is frustrating when the books are written by celebrities who share their story about how they couldn’t conceive a child, but then had one round of IVF and had a baby. It is great that they had a baby – I am happy for them – but one round of IVF is very different to going through three and then realising you will never have a child.

It sometimes feels as though their stories are more important because they are famous – then again I guess having a big name as an author will sell a book or two.

I just hope that somewhere out there is a publisher who is willing to take a chance on an everyday person’s story, and a story where IVF just didn’t work.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Kicking butt...

Then again – since the last entry – I’ve realised that sometimes I do need to be a bit harder on myself. There are times to hold my emotions and thoughts like little, fractious children, and times when they need some boundaries and a reality check.

On the weekend we went to a picnic to celebrate the first birthday of our friends’ little boy. It was held in the Botanic Gardens in Adelaide and, despite the weather people telling us it would rain, the sun shone through the entire afternoon. Our friends organised a wonderful afternoon tea with cupcakes, dips, savoury biscuits, and fairy bread. There were carrots and healthy food, but it was a party – and I tended toward the fairy bread...

As more people arrived the number of children grew exponentially, including a few children that were about the same age as our child would have been (even one sweet little girl who had was born on the same day as our child would have been due – she had a dinosaur birthday party – how cool is that!).

I wanted to get into it all – to play with the kids – but I felt fragile and uncertain. It came to a point where my eyes became disobedient and the tears started. I caught Kirby’s eye and said I was going for a quick walk. He was straight onto it that something was wrong.

We found a little secluded seat and sat while I cried a bit. I felt guilty and told him not to make a fuss and not to tell anyone where I was or that I was crying. It wasn’t about me that day – it was about the beautiful little boy whose party it was.

I asked Kirby if he could get some money from my purse and go and get a coffee – to give me time to calm down. He walked back to the party, but returned fairly quickly without coffee to say that they were opening presents and did I want to come back to the party. I was still upset, and I didn’t want anybody to see, so I said no. I told him he should go back – particularly as he was chief photographer for the day.

I sat there for a few more moments feeling miserable. We had bought a gorgeous little book about animals, with different materials for each animal that could be petted, and Batman pyjamas (I’m Batman…shhh! (Big Bang Theory reference…couldn’t help myself…)), and I wanted to be there to see our friends’ little boy open the present – to see his reaction and those of his parents.

My higher self – or whatever it is – suddenly piped in and said “Snap out of it!” It was very firm and I was a little shocked, but I did, in fact, snap out of it. My eyes were still red, so I was thankful for sunglasses, but I went back to the party in time to see our present opened and the fascination our friends’ little boy had for of his new little book. It was heart-warming and I’m so glad I didn’t miss it.

After that I thoroughly enjoyed the party – not that I didn’t before, but I did feel out of place. I was able to interact with the children for whom they are and smile and play and talk to other people with happiness and contentment.

I don’t know if anybody noticed my disappearance and realised why I took some time out, but I think some of my friends did. I am so thankful for them. They didn’t make a fuss, they didn’t ask if I was okay, and that was exactly what I needed at that point in time. I didn’t want be the centre – I wanted to get on with enjoying the party. But, at the same time I know they love me and understand and that I always have their support. I am a very, very lucky woman to have these people in my life. And I am very, very lucky to have a husband that loves me and is my rock. And I am very, very lucky to have so many gorgeous children to love and cherish. 

And I am very, very lucky to have a higher self to kick my butt when I need it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

My insights...

So what were my insights from last week?

I’ve done some more reading on Yoga, in particular, this week, and the premises of Yoga are very similar to those of Buddhism. Enlightenment is the goal – but this isn’t some airy fairy transcendental experience. You don’t go off flying into the air or suddenly have the wisdom of the entire world at your disposal. It is much more subtle than that, but it’s also something I have most definitely not achieved…not yet at least!

Part of trying to achieve enlightenment is to cultivate a kind of detachment. I misunderstood this for many years in that I thought detachment meant being devoid of any feelings or even caring for the things around and within us. You just let everything happen and feel nothing towards anything in particular. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Now, I’m the first to admit that my understandings of Yoga, Buddhism and Hinduism are far from complete – I have a lot to learn – but this is my understanding at this point in time.

Experiences and emotions happen – both good and bad. The trick is to try and let them happen without feeling attached to them – meaning that you recognise that you are feeling sorrow, but realise it is not who you are; you lose your job, but you realise this is also not who you are. There is something deeper – the real “you” or “me” – that is centred and can gently watch thoughts and emotions as they move through our minds and hearts.

This, as I understand it, means that we can experience a deeper sense of self and we can more easily experience happiness because we choose not to latch onto negative emotions. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel negative emotions – it is kind of like sadness turns up and instead of your mind going on “Oh no, here’s sadness again! What have I done wrong? I shouldn’t be feeling sad! This is terrible! I’d better try and fight it and get rid it!”, your mind simply recognises “I feel sad”.

So, how does this relate to last week? I tried to control my negative emotions, I put too much emphasis on trying not to feel these negative emotions that it was almost like the call of the wild to them, and I gave them power. Once I realised that I just needed to observe and be compassionate toward them they lost that power. They moved quickly on and I had space to realise the happiness and love that is in my life right now.

It also put me in a place where I could think about our child with love. I could picture them surrounded by my love and I realised that they are there – they are just not physically with me this time around. I also had the realisation that nothing would make up for the fact that we couldn’t have our child – and I needed to let that go. I needed to remove the expectation that the life I have created will provide full compensation for not having our child.

I feel freer now. I feel like I can enjoy the different parts of my life because of what they are. I enjoy conservation volunteering because I want to do it. I enjoy my pets because I love them – they don’t need to fill a void – they shouldn’t have the responsibility of filling a void. I spend time with my nephews and nieces because I love them – not because they are replacements for our own child – I love them for who they are and how they are in our life.

I certainly haven’t got anything sorted out for good – I’m not enlightened yet! I know there will be times when I will have experiences similar to those of last week – but perhaps next time I will be quicker to realise what is happening and to remember how to be with it, instead of trying to fight it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Two days later...

I’ve just reread my blog entry from two days ago. I really was in a bad place and it was very difficult at the time to see how I was going to get myself up and going again. It was almost as if I didn’t want to be happy – how could I be happy when our child was missing from our lives? How could I care about anything else? It all seemed so superficial. Everything I was doing was worthless if I couldn’t have my baby.

Yesterday I had a bit of an insight. I was still feeling angry – at myself mostly – for not being able to have a child and for feeling so down and pathetic and not having the stamina to get up and see what I do have. I resented where I was and I resented myself for being there. I thought I was wallowing a bit, but I couldn’t seem to shake it. Then, clear as a bell, the words popped into my head “If you can’t be compassionate to yourself, how can you expect to be compassionate to other people?”

It was a wakeup call. I didn’t need to fight the feelings I was having, I just needed to give them a bit of space without becoming attached to them. Trying to fight them was only giving them fuel to burn on. Letting them be, watching them, and feeling compassion for them, as well as for myself, took away the power they were having over me. I watched my feelings – my sorrow, grief, anger – like they were children who were tired and fractious. I opened up to them and let them know it was okay. I imagined myself and my feelings as small children who didn’t need to be yelled at – they needed to be comforted and reassured.

That is when my mind cleared.

With this clarity I’ve realised why I was feeling so disconnected – why I have been so unhappy and why I have been thinking that my life is worthless. I was expecting too much.  Before I went on the trip with Conservation Volunteers I knew that when I got back it would be close to the time when our baby would have been turning four, but I had the expectation that because I would have been on the trip with Conservation Volunteers I wouldn’t feel the sorrow and anger like I had in past years. I figured that because I had built a life where I felt valued and content I would not feel sad this year. I would feel nostalgic, but content with my life as it is.

When I got home from the trip I was stunned when strong feelings of anger and sadness started showing themselves, and I tried to fight them off by pretending everything was okay and that I was happy, happy, happy. As I’ve already said – fighting these kinds of feelings doesn’t work, at least not for me. It only makes them stronger and leads to them being so huge that I have no idea what to do with them.

I’ve recently been reading about Yoga (as a spiritual practice), Buddhism and Hinduism. I’ve started meditating and at first I struggled with it as every time I meditated my mind threw thoughts and emotions up left, right and centre. I thought that was wrong and that in order to achieve peace I should either be completely calm and centred, or at least have an empty mind. I expected that my trip with Conservation Volunteers would contribute to my ability to meditate and be at peace.

It didn’t and I’ve started to think that my understanding of peace and being centred has been misconstrued.

I’m going to leave it here for this entry as I realise I’ve written quite a lot already (and I want you all to memorise it word for word! Just kidding…) Next time I will talk more about my understanding of emotions, peace, being centred and all that jazz and how it relates to thinking about our baby turning four.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Times like these...

I’m not going to sugar coat today’s blog entry. It has been a very tough day and I don’t see the point in pretending otherwise – I want people to know that days like these do happen.

Early this afternoon I found myself in huddled in our back hallway unable to move. I was crying so hard that I almost threw up. I wanted to punch a hole in the wall. I wanted to inflict some injury on myself that would represent the pain I was feeling inside. I told myself over and over again that I was useless, stupid and pathetic, and that nothing I would ever do in this world would amount to anything.

It took me quite a while to stop crying, to recognise the feelings I was having and to acknowledge them enough to give them some space to play out, and then to be able to get up off the floor.

It’s strange how after this kind of day happens I can see how my mood, my thoughts and my actions of the past few days were building up to it – they are kind of like clouds that move together to become a storm. And like a storm, it eventually dissipates leaving me exhausted, but somehow clearer.

Today’s storm began at the end of last week. I went on a three night trip with Conservation Volunteers Australia to the lower part of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. We helped the local school children clean up their plant nursery area, got rid of weeds in a coastal reserve, and put tree guards up on some little trees to prevent rabbits from eating them. It was great. I had been looking forward to it very much.

When I got home I thought that I would suddenly have a different view of my life. I had done something out of my comfort zone, something that mattered, and something that would give me a sense of identity.

I was shocked when the sense of achievement and the sense of self that I expected to have weren’t there when I got home. If anything I felt completely disconnected from my life, my writing, my home, and even my family and friends to an extent.

As I tend to do, I put on a brave face trying to convince myself that everything was just fine, and I almost convinced myself it was until today.

Just before I crumbled in the hallway I was sitting at the dining room table with my head in my hands and repeating over and over “I want my baby”.  You see, our baby from our second round of IVF would have been turning four around the 8th of April this year. If they were here we would have been organising their fourth birthday party – friends, family, games, dress ups, cupcakes.

I can almost see them blowing out their candles and I can almost feel their little hand in mine.

But they’re not here. I can’t give them a birthday party. I can’t hug them and kiss them and tuck them into bed, with an overwhelming awe that such a child came from Kirby and me.

It hurts. It hurts a lot sometimes. And it isn’t fair. And I feel like a failure because I couldn’t bring our baby into this world.

Feeling like I am a failure because I cannot have a baby is not nice, but even worse is when that sense of failure leaks over into the rest of my life. I am a failure at something that is supposed to be so natural and this expands to encapsulate myself as a wife, a friend, a writer, and now as a conservation volunteer. It all gets so big that I am scared and I have to hide away in the back hall for a while.

I don’t know if times like these are ever going to leave me alone forever. I doubt it. Actually, I doubt that any of us will go through life without experiencing self-doubt and fear.  It seems to be a condition of being human.

I do hope, though, that somehow I can find a way to face those feelings of failure and fear without being so overwhelmed by them. I don’t know how yet. All I can do for the moment is ride them out until they are done wreaking havoc, pick myself up and get moving, and get my life back on some kind of track.

This isn’t a happy blog entry. I was going to write about how all of this has meaning and how I grow through experiences like this, but, quite frankly, I’m too tired to think about that right now. So, all I will say is “I want my baby” and “it just isn’t fair.”