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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A quick update on my book...

I have been working on a book called “When You Can’t Have Kids” for the last four years and I’m pleased to say that it almost ready to be published!

I have decided not to go with a traditional publisher as they are not really interested in stories like mine. They prefer books about IVF by celebrities and/or people who have ended up having a child after doing IVF. I can understand this – they have to know that they are going to make a profit!

I expect it to be available in Kindle e-book or hard copy from Amazon from mid-April, but I will let you all know when it is all done and ready to go.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Nothing good comes from giving up...

There is a fantastic website called Mama Mia, which has articles on many different issues – societal, health, fashion, relationships, etc.

One of the stories in the past week was on a celebrity who has had a baby after 20 rounds of IVF and at the age of 49. I wrote about this in a blog entry last year. She and her husband were interviewed after the birth of their child and one of the comments was “nothing good comes from giving up.”

When I read this I was deeply upset and angry at this comment. I wrote the following on Facebook to share my distress with my friends and family:

“Sorry - feeling hurt right now. I'm glad that Mary Coustas has had a healthy baby after 20 rounds of IVF, but her saying that "nothing good comes from giving up" is a bit of a kick in the guts to those like me and Kirby who have had no success in having children - even with IVF. I guess it's different if you have endless money...but we don't have a spare $70000 to spend on trying and trying again...and, yes, we still have lots of good in our lives, even though we "gave up". We have each other, we have our nephews and nieces, we have our fur-kids...we have lives that are different to what we thought we would have, but we still feel blessed. But we still hurt sometimes, and we do have the endless wound of "what if", and statements like this feel like someone is sticking a needle into that wound and jabbing it around. Okay - rant over!”

My distress has diminished greatly, and I have been amazed at how my comment has been received.

Many of my friends and family have shown their support through liking my Facebook post, commenting that it is not fair that we can’t have children, and even sending hugs over the internet if they are live far away from me. I realize just how blessed I am that I can speak my mind, from a place of pain, and receive comfort and love from my friends and family.

I also posted this comment on Mama Mia, and many of the responses to my comment, as well as many (though not all) of the comments by other people, have made me realize that I am not alone. Sometimes I feel like my thoughts are nasty – that I am terrible for thinking what I do, and that I am even more horrible for writing down my thoughts and making them public.

But, I’ve realized this week that what I write, what I have written above, speaks to many people who are struggling with the same thoughts and feelings.

Sometimes it seems like such a lonely journey in which I feel like a villain for what I think and how I feel, but I have realized I am far from alone. And I’ve realized that I am not a villain. I am just human.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My nephew says the darnedest things...

Hugo and his Frosty (Cars 2) mug
Kirby and I were both out (separately doing life's mundane chores) when Kirby's Mum and Dad sent a text to say that they were almost at our house. Kirby got home just as they, along with Hugo, arrived. Later, 

Hugo asked me where "Uncle Kirby" had been. I said he had been at the shops and got a haircut. Hugo's response was "Oh, so he was out and about then."

Next, Hugo was patting Minerva (she's my 15 year old cat) and she was moving away from him. I said to Hugo that perhaps he'd better leave her be. He wanted to know why - so I told him she was old and sometimes she didn't want to be petted. Hugo's response was "So she's having a day off today?" 

My three year old nephew is a treasure!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Other people's news...

My Mum rang me yesterday for a chat. We talked about my nieces, Hannah and Ella, and my nephew, Hugo. I’m getting a sewing machine for my birthday and Mum and I talked about having some sewing days – I think Mum is still in shock that I want to learn sewing!

Near the end of the telephone call Mum told me she had some news. She hesitated and I started to feel nervous that it was going to be bad news. Mum told me it was hard to tell me the news. I became even more worried then and I said to Mum to just tell me and I braced myself.

Mum asked “Guess who’s having twins?” My immediate answer was one of my Aunties, which made Mum laugh. This Aunty is in her sixties…

After suggesting a few other names I finally hit on the right couple. I think I then did a little dance of excitement.

Mum admitted that, while she is thrilled, she does find it difficult to hear about other people’s pregnancies when she knows Kirby and I can’t have children, and that she finds it hard to tell us this kind of news because it might hurt Kirby and me.

We talked for a bit longer and I reassured her that I was happy and excited for the couple concerned. I admitted that I would probably go through a few minutes of “it’s not fair – why them and why not us?”, but that this would pass pretty quickly. I think Mum was relieved to hear this, but I know she, and Dad as well, will have similar feelings and I hope they take the time to sit with them for a while, without guilt. This is not easy to do.

It surprises me just how far I have come in the last few years. The feelings of sadness and anger that other people can have children and we can’t has mellowed so much. It used to be overwhelming and prevented me from fully enjoying the news and then the arrival of a child (or children).  I don’t know whether it’s because so many people in our circle of family and friends have had children in the last few years and I’ve been forced to deal with it, or whether it’s time that has soothed the wound – maybe it’s both. Whatever the reason, I am happy that I can deal with the news that family or friends are expecting a baby (or babies!).

But in saying all of this, sometimes I do feel angry. This anger is not at the fact that other people are having children, but that we can’t have children as well. It isn’t fair. It will never be fair.

One of my favourite books is “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola-Est├ęs. She talks about rage left over from old injuries. She describes this kind of rage as being like shrapnel, which every now and then can twist and turn and hurt. That’s how my rage about not having children feels. I’m okay most of the time, but then the twisting happens (often with news such as friends or family expecting children).

Over time I have learnt how to bring healing to the injury time and again. I don’t fight it – instead I withdraw to think about and deal with the original wound, which was finding out we can’t have children. The rage starts to diminish when I look at it and be with it for a while, without trying to judge it or judge myself. I don’t feel guilty for these feelings of rage anymore. They are what they are and they are natural. Once they go again I can reengage in life again with peace and joy.

It takes work, but I can now be my own healer. 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Reality check...

In the past year I have been thinking about how I would like my life to be given I can’t have children. I realised that, due to not having children, I was in position where I could follow paths and dreams that would have been much harder to pursue if I did have children. I also recognised that there were some adventures that I would not have been able to have at all if I had little ones – at least not until they were young adults.

The life I want includes travel, writing, advocating for animal rights and the environment, being outdoors hiking or canoeing, and being as engaged in my life and its possibilities as much as I can be.

With this vision came the realisation that I would have to be fit and healthy to make this life a reality. And I was far from healthy at the beginning of last year.

I have put on weight in the last five years. Much of the weight was gained while I was doing IVF – the medications I had to inject myself with are known to cause weight gain, I didn’t exercise as regularly as I should have due to the unfounded fear that something would happen to the eggs or embryos if I did, and I ate sugary, fatty foods to try and make myself feel better. Eventually I ended up with high blood pressure, high bad cholesterol, and my muscles were weaker – my health was at risk.

Since we finished IVF I haven’t really had any excuse not to lose weight. I just haven’t. I’ve tried a couple of weight loss programs, but none of them were suitable to continue long term. Eventually I kind of gave away the whole weight loss thing and decided to just do what I wanted – that is until I realised what I wanted my life to be.

At the beginning of last year I decided to be serious about losing weight. I started exercising – doing weights, doing aerobic activity, and trying to get as much incidental activity into my days as I could. I wanted that weight gone. I was successful for a while – but not for long. I went to see an Ayurveda practitioner who gave me advice on diet and lifestyle, which I was determined to follow for long term health. They actually advised me not to do aerobic exercise and to not go out when it was cold. So I didn’t. The small progress I’d made in losing weight was soon gone, along with the desire to follow Ayurvedic principles*, and I was back to where I started.

At the end of last year I realised it wasn’t long until I would be going to Thailand and I definitely wanted to lose weight for that! I renewed my commitment to losing weight and I thought I was doing pretty well – I was slimming down. Or so I thought.

Last week I was interviewed for a local television show and when I saw myself on the television I was shocked. I actually didn’t recognise myself. In my mind’s eye I was truly slimming down, my arms were toning up, and I was achieving what I wanted to. But, I could clearly see now that I wasn’t. To be honest, I wasn’t really trying that hard with the exercising – it was always “next week I’ll increase my aerobic exercise”, “next week I’ll do a bike ride”, or, “next week I’ll go up a kilogram in lifting weights.” I’ve also been eating whatever I want, whenever I want. I haven’t taken the time to learn what I need by way of food – especially as I am a vegetarian.

There’s nothing wrong with being larger – there are many women who are both beautiful and healthy at a larger weight. I’m not one of them – well, not healthy anyway (Kirby thinks I’m beautiful!). For me it is about how my health could affect what I want to do with my life. I am not healthy at a larger weight, and I don’t like not being able to lift things and not feeling fit and able. I don’t like the idea of going to Thailand and not being able to do the forty kilometre (25 mile) bike ride around the Sukhothai Historical Park that I want to do. I don’t like the idea of not being able to go on a strenuous hike ever again.

So, what am I going to do about it? First I am going to change my mindset. I’m no longer losing weight – in fact I’m not going to focus on losing weight at all. My aim is to be fit and strong and healthy.

I’m going to learn about what I should be eating, and I’m going to commit to an exercise program of weights and aerobics, and I will be setting goals – by the time I go to Thailand I want to be lifting at least six kilogram (thirteen pound) weights (I’m up to four (nine pound) now), I will be able to ride forty kilometres (25 miles), and I will feel confident that I can follow my dreams and the different paths of my life.

I will not be weighing myself anymore – instead I will be measuring my waist. It seems that waist measurement is important in determining health – and I will have a waist of less than 80 centimetres (31.5 inches) by the time I go to Thailand.

My life has so many wonderful opportunities. And I’m not going to miss them because I don’t feel healthy and I don’t feel strong. My children aren’t here – and I owe it to them to live the best life I can.

* Ayurveda is still a well recognised and amazing health system - but it just didn't work for me.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thank you for 10000...

I wanted to let you all know that “When You Can’t Have Kids” has just reached 10000 hits. Thank you to all of you who read this blog. I hope that by sharing some of my thoughts, experiences, and feelings that “When You Can’t Have Kids” is helping you with your own journeys and that you feel that you are not on your own.

My thoughts and friendship are with all of you.  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Pain and me...

This post follows on from last week’s post about pain. As I realised that we wouldn’t be having children I grieved, and I felt pain like none I had felt before. I was angry. I was hurt. I thought life would never be good again.

Eventually, though, the pain became less and less and then my days started to be filled with hope and an interest in a different life to the one I thought I’d have – the one I thought Kirby and I would share. This took time.

But every now and then the pain returns with great power and depth. I feel like the wound is raw. I feel inconsolable. I am angry.

I used to try and deal with the pain by focussing on it so much that all I could see was despair.  I saw only what I didn’t have and I wanted that and nothing else. I felt so awful that I wanted to tear at my skin until it bled so that I would have something to show people that represented how much I was hurting. That’s the problem pain of the heart and soul over a broken arm or leg – nobody else can see it.

I thought that to get rid of the pain I had to face it head on and exterminate it. But, that didn’t work. Focussing on the pain just seemed to give it some kind of extra power that hurt me even more.

I’ve realised that, instead of focussing on the pain, I am better off giving it space and honouring it in a way. It’s almost seems that in saying to it “okay, you’re here, here’s a spot for you until you are ready to go” takes away its power. It doesn’t have to force its way into my life with me pushing as much as I can to keep it away. It sits, it ponders, and then it leaves.

In the past few years I’ve developed a list of things to do when I feel the pain again. These things may or may not work for you, but I thought I would share them here as some inspiration for you:

Slow down and take time

The first thing I do is slow down. I put aside as much as I can – housework, my job if possible (even if it’s only for ten minutes, and I admit I’m lucky that I work at home), and other responsibilities. I move through my thoughts and feelings and observe them without getting involved. I let them be.

Then I take my time. I go through what I have to do in a more focussed way than usual. I really concentrate on washing the dishes, or playing with my dogs, or changing the cat litter.

I make sure that whatever activity I am doing I am not using it to completely avoid the pain I am feeling. Rather, I do my activities fully aware that my pain is sitting in the corner waiting for me.

Getting out into nature

I love the natural world. I love water and the night time sky in particular, as both seem to give me a sense of peace and that somehow I am going to be okay – regardless of what happens. That being okay for me isn’t limited to this lifetime, but could be after life, in a next life, or whatever happens after I die.

When I feel that pain and anger, if it’s night time, I go and sit outside and look at the stars. I think about what might be out there, how far away some of those stars are, and how some of them  no longer exist and haven’t for a long, long time. I feel very comforted by that.

I may also go to the wetlands near our house and sit and watch the water and the birds all around. I listen to the birds call to each other, I feel the wind on my face, I may realise a few tears are trickling down my face.

My pain is there with me. It is sitting right there with me. It still wants me to give it my undivided attention, but I don’t. I let it be and let nature soothe it.

Remembering…

Sometimes I find it nice to meet my anger with joy over the children I might have had. I guess this sounds strange. What I mean is that I give my imagination an opportunity to think about those little souls and what they might have been like, what they might have been interested in, what types of mischief they would have gotten into. I think about their hair colour, their eyes, and I let myself feel their little hands in mine.

This meets the pain, for me, by saying to the pain “you’re here, sure, but I won’t let you take them from me.” I hold on to the happiness I have when I think about my children, and my anger finds it doesn’t have much room to stay anymore.

I also like to light a candle, or some incense, and focus on it in reflection about what could have been. Often I feel very wistful – a bit sad and a bit happy. Once again, my pain finds it doesn’t have a lot of room to stay.

Company or solitude…

When pain comes to visit I usually prefer some solitude first. I like to let things be for a while. I don’t want anyone to come in and try to fix it all for me. Nobody can do that anyway. People who love me want me to feel better, but I do need to give space to my pain and be with it in my own way for a while.

There are times, though, when I want company. I usually go and find Kirby and get a hug, but sometimes I will have a chat with a friend or family member. I tell them how I’m feeling, and that can really help.

When it gets real bad…

Pain can be persistent, and with my health conditions, such as depression and epilepsy, I need to be aware that sometimes feelings can cross over from being with me to being destructive. When I feel that this could happen I will seek professional help. I might talk to my doctor who treats me for depression, I might seek counselling. It really depends on what I feel I need at the time.

Self-esteem…

Just as a final word, I used to think I was a failure when I felt pain and anger, and even more so if I sought professional help to deal with those feelings. I thought that I was weak. Now I realise that this isn’t so. Feelings such as pain and anger are part of being human. They are part of me being human.

I don’t welcome them with open arms, but when feelings such as pain and anger arrive, I give them some space, I look after myself, and I watch them without engaging with them, and then I watch them go again. Before, when I used to fight these feelings head-on I always lost, but now, most of the time, they gracefully exit on their own and my life is fully my own again.