Sunday, February 14, 2016

Life after secondary infertility

I can't believe it has been three years since I last posted! I guess I have truly carried on with my life and let go of what was a painful and long chapter on many levels. It was something I needed to do (let go) to find my new life - the one waiting for me after secondary infertility.

Since I last posted I completed my training as an early childhood teacher. I am now in my third year of teaching - currently working at a local Kindergarten. It is a challenging job but one that I really enjoy. Without a doubt, working with children under five has helped me greatly in my healing.

Most of my energy over the last three years has gone into study and then launching my new teaching career. I picked teaching - in particular in early childhood - as I felt it ticked many of the boxes in regards to what I need in a job to feel challenged, inspired and fulfilled. I also thought it would be a good match for my creative side.

Now I'm not such a newbie on the teaching-block, I am now making time for my creative pursuits. 2016 is the year to really get my writing and art off the ground again and I've already entered one short story competition, am going to enter a poetry competition next week and several other writing competitions lined up. It's exciting! I haven't gotten into a routine with my art, but I will start making time for that too before the month is out.

Since I last posted three years ago we have shifted house. We moved just over two months ago into what is perhaps the house we'll stay in for many years. It was good to leave our last place as we had a few issues with our last neighbours who were actively committing crimes in the community. Our daughter also changed schools last year so we were ready to move closer to where she now goes to school. My husband and I also both work close to her school. But also the last house was bought in the hope that it would be seen as a house to potentially adopt a child. Somehow the third bedroom never lost what was the ghost of the second-child that never came to us - biologically or by adoption.

In our new home there are no ghosts. It is just the three of us. Ironically enough, we have a house that is almost twice as big as the last one. There would be room for two other children. But that's not our focus or even want anymore. Our daughter is now almost eleven years old - a true tween in search of independence and space. We bought this spacious house so we'd all have room to grow into as she enters her teens and beyond.

My Dad and my two half-siblings aged thirteen and eleven moved to our town a little over a year ago. For that first year we were quite involved in their lives as they settled in and found their feet. They are making their own connections now and we are needed less. For a time nurturing their needs helped the maternal longings I had.

One of the members of the local infertility support group I ran for around two years contacted me recently to say she and a friend were starting up another one. I had been thinking of all those women too at the time. Wondering how they are all doing as most likely they will all be on the other side of infertility too - how ever their journey ended.

I wanted to say something about premature menopause as it is because of this that secondary infertility happened for me. It wasn't an easy time. In fact, quite easily one of the worst times in my life! What made it hard was it went for years - four years to be precise. Although my whole journey with SIF was five and half years in total. My focus in that four years of going through premature menopause was secondary infertility - "fighting it", hoping to find answers and solutions, and praying for a way to add to our family. It was a time where my world was split wide open and it took me a long time to put the pieces together again as they didn't fit in the same way.

But now things have clicked into place. It is now five years since I officially finished going through menopause. I was forty-two when it was all over - when I'd had twelve months of no menstrual bleeding. I'll be forty-eight this year and many of peers haven't been through menopause - women older than myself are just starting to get symptoms. But I longer begrude my journey. I had heard about a new life emerging after going through "the change" - a supposed time of increased creativity and enlightenment. I can testify that for me this is all true.

In fact it is amazing to reflect and to think about how unhappy I was for so long and to be here now, in a place that is the stark opposite. I'm not sure I've ever had so much peace and contentment in my life. A lot of it is because on the other side of my SIF and premature menopause journey I developed a very strong relationship with the God of my understanding. SIF and premature menopause was a time when my faith was tested in a way it has never been tested before. I wasn't sure I trusted God anymore and that only added to my unhappiness. Coupled with this was my focus on things I couldn't have - a fertile body or a second child. Continually focusing on what I couldn't have only made me feel more ingratitude and pain - it was a catch twenty-two and I couldn't get out of it. Until I reached the end of the road for us in regards to adding to our family - that was when I could finally move on.

So I want to say to any women going through infertility, secondary infertility and/or premature menopause - This to shall pass! You will come out on the other side - stronger, wiser and with more serenity and contentment than you every thought possible. At least this was my journey. I believe if the hard parts are faced and endured and the grief is worked through then eventually the acceptance and joy will follow. I know that doesn't seem possible now when you're in it. But it can happen. I have never felt more at peace with my life than I do today. It is not perfect! I still have dysfunction in my family of origin and frequently deal with hurt and triggers. But I have learnt through this enormous time of loss and grief in my life how to just be - to just be with what is, as opposed to what isn't. My journey with SIF and premature menopause showed me how imperfect life is, with heartbreaks and disappointment and losses - and how things don't always go as planned. But the flipside is,when the letting go happens and acceptance moves in, life is seen as it is and the imperfect is embraced.

Also, just because one dream isn't granted in life it doesn't mean others won't be. That's exactly where I'm at now. After just living a life -after-SIF for the last three plus years, I am now in a place of not just resurrecting but also following dreams. The dreams that were overshadowed by my desire for another child.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A New Start

It's been around three months since I last updated my blog. I guess for me, my secondary infertility journey is over. Close to six years of hoping to add to our family ended in the earlier part of last year. The months that followed were very much about accepting the outcome, putting it in perspective, healing and moving on.

I finished the first draft for the non-fiction book I am writing about my experience of secondary infertility. I thought I would carry on, churning out a few more drafts before getting to the final edit. But as it turns out, I actually need to detach from the whole secondary infertility deal for now. In time I will come back and write the next draft. But it's almost as though I need a life outside of secondary infertility for a time before I can do that. Secondary infertility needs to be in the past tense for me well and truly before I can put it entirely to bed.  I do believe another level of closure will come for me in time once I've finished my book.

Even though there is some peace and acceptance around how we have ended up, the reality of our family of three status is still a painful one for me at times - especially over the Christmas period. In New Zealand, where we live, we have long Summer school holidays that last six weeks in duration. It is during these times that my only child becomes the lonely child I so hoped she wouldn't become. This is of course complicated by her diagnosis of autism which means social contact with others can be difficult.

The two main families we spend time with have been away/catching up with their own families for the first half of the school holidays this Summer. So even though we had a great week away around Christmas itself, catching up with extended family and the ten cousins our daughter has in the North Island; it was all a bit of an anti-climax for her to come back home and to spend so much time without any other children around.

It pains me always to see other siblings at the beach frockling in the sand together. Even when siblings fight, at least they have each other to fight with!

I've tried to rectify the loneliness and isolation my daughter is feeling these Summer holidays by organising playdates, putting her in a two week intensive swimming programme and enrolling in her in a couple of afternoons in a holiday programme in the last couple of weeks of the school holidays. It all feels a little contrived.

This wasn't the way I imagined Summer school holidays would go as a family.

But having said all that, I've made some steps in my life that are about moving on from the whole painful chapter of secondary infertility. Next week I will be starting a graduate Diploma in Teaching (Early Childhood). It's an online qualification, full-time and one year in duration. It is through a University and I have a three week on-campus block course to complete next month as well as two seven week full-time student-teacher practicums at an early childhood centre and a kindergarten.

My BA (Hons) completed twenty years ago was a double major in psychology and education so I'm very much looking forward to university study again. I'm also looking forward to gaining something at the end of the year! After almost six years of putting so much time and energy into building our family without success, I'm looking forward to a new focus in which I will finally see a tangible result for all my efforts.

For a time I wondered if it would be too close to the bone, becoming a kindergarten teacher (which is where I want to go with it). But I feel this is where God wants me to go and I have healed enough to be able to raise above any triggers professionally. Later down the track I may retrain as an early intervention teacher - you need to have worked at least two years as an early childhood teacher to do this.

So the future, finally, looks bright. Yet so different to how I thought it might be...

At the end of last year I also started up two small at-home businesses. One is an art-based business - art for kids rooms, (cartoon) family portraits and cartoons on canvass. The other is a cv and letter writing service. I am running both on a very small scale, but it is both challenging and rewarding running my own businesses.

For almost three years I have run an infertility support network in the city I live in. I have stepped down from the role for the year and left it open for someone to take my place or for the network to run itself. I really feel I need some space from infertility in every possible way at this point. I also have let go of other community committments for the year as full-time study is my main focus. I will reassess my community activity at the end of this year.

I think I am doing well, actually. Because my daughter isn't happy right now; it makes me feel angry and resentful a bit towards God. I never wanted her to feel lonely. But I guess we just have to learn as a family how to make it okay. It is for this reason - that we are a family of three - that I arranged a trip to the North Island to spend time with family for a week. I will just to continue to make more of an effort for us to have time with extended family who live elsewhere.

I have thought about closing this blog. But perhaps I'll keep it here for a while longer. Perhaps my journey may be of use to those who follow.

At this point I can say that I do feel as though secondary infertility was something that happened in the past. Like I say, I may feel a bit triggered about it right now because it is the Summer school holidays, and my daughter is lonely - but the actual journey - that does feel like it has ended.

That is about the only hope I can give to those who follow - that the peace and acceptance comes - not entirely without pain, but the healing does happen once the letting go begins.

As I sit in the office that I have tidied today in preparation for study next week, the irony is not lost on me that this is the very room that was meant for our second child. It just wasn't meant to be - how many times God has particularly screamed that message at me, I've lost count!!

I do know that although I felt alone for a large part of my journey that I am certainly not alone in the world when it comes to facing unexpected loss. More than ever, I can empathise with most around any big losses in life. I understand what it means to live with loss in the long-term and how long it takes to heal and how we can only ever heal in our own time and way.

I think once a major loss in life is accepted, life changes once again. But how it changes is so individual and a chapter that can only be written by those walking it. Which is exactly where I am now.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I'll Never Forget

It has been a strange place to be - post my whole secondary-infertility journey. At the end of this month it will be six months since our adoption file expired. So I've had six months to get my head around it all - the outcome I didn't want; how things ended up.

I know I've let go in some respects - in leaps and bounds compared to where I was once with all this. But in other ways it feels as though I've made no or little progress.

I had my Dad and two half siblings stay for four nights recently. My half-siblings are ten and eight years old- so close in age to my daughter who is over seven and a half now. They all got on really well. Well, my daughter got on well with the other kids - they fought amongst themselves - as siblings do.

I always take on a mothering role when my half-siblings stay. It is certainly a lot more work caring for three children - more dishes, more food to prepare and more managing to do. But in so many ways it was easy dealing with kids en masse. As a Mum Of One of a child with autism; I am often the entertainment hub. And that is hard - adults are never going to be quite as good company as another child. With my half-siblings here  my daughter had entertainment on tap - she played barbies and imaginative games with my half-sister and XBOX with my half-brother and had plenty of bouncing on the trampoline with them both. She had a lovely time.

When they left on Monday morning both my daughter and I felt extremely flat. In fact it has taken us almost all week to resume to the usual mother-daughter dynamic that exists all week as my husband works twelve hours shifts and we don't see him much during the week.

I know my daughter feels lonely as an only child. I hate that. I do my best to have her friends round, to organise playdates and do things, go places etc. But nothing can replace the company and love of a sibling. It is that simple.

Once again my pain and grief around failing to add to our family is up there.

I have been feeling completely lost lately. It seems I am at crossroads in my life with the next job/career. I feel so confused and frustrated - there is no clarity at this time as to where I should go next. I've applied for three jobs over the last month. No bites yet.

I'm not sure if I should be pursuing my creative dreams as nothing is really going on there. I've entered some short story competitions and have submitted some freelance article proposals - and I've had virtually no response. I feel completely deluded about my dreams and aspirations. And just a tad annoyed that God hasn't allowed these dreams to happen - yet (as the case may be) - after such a long time of waiting for another child. I desperately want to move on from that era and to find some success and happiness somewhere else - surely I deserve that!

I am leaning on my Higher Power but he is answering my prayers slowly - once again! After five and a half years of waiting to add to our family, I am peeved that the next thing  - the what-was-meant-to-happen-instead-of-motherhood hasn't happened yet! And I'm telling you this - when it happens, it better be bloody good after all this waiting!!

I still have a lot of healing to do. Some days I wonder if I'll ever be over it all. It stings so much to see siblings together at the moment. Facebook isn't an easy place to go to right now. I read a headline to do with a story about a woman who had survived a natural disaster. Her words were something like "You move forwards and upwards. But you never forget." That is certainly how I feel about secondary infertility.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A New Life

I know I am making progress as far as letting go of secondary infertility goes - that chapter in my life (or should I say novel!), that went on for over five long years.

The period of time when the end has been reached - a conclusion finally given (even if it wasn't the one you were hoping for), is a strange one. Life isn't simple. A new something doesn't just appear over night, or even weeks or months later.

At the same time, it isn't until the letting go happens that A New Life can be born.

I seem to be in the process of allowing this to happen.

It is now five months on since our journey finished. I've not worked for three months out of that five months. I actually resigned from my job as soon as our adoption file expired. It was as though I just needed to give myself the time and space I needed to put my whole SIF experience in perspective.

I believe I am getting there. Thinking and talking about my SIF journey will always be painful, I would think. But I can see, when I talk or think about it now, that I have and am still in the process of moving on.

I talked to someone else the other day who is going through secondary infertility. I was asked to call her by Fertility New Zealand, who I am connected to because I started up an infertility support group here.

She is early in her journey (though it probably doesn't feel like it to her). But sharing my story I hope helped her - even though I didn't get the fairy-tale ending. I was able to tell her that over time I had healed - and am still healing. That I was having morning tea with three other Mums next week who all have second children. These are scenarios I have avoided and not encouraged for years. It was actually me who initiated this morning tea.

There are still many ouch moments. Like seeing siblings with matching hair styles for school and Mums outside the classroom at the end of the day (while waiting to pick up their kids) talking about their children's relationships with one another. I heard of both a newborn's arrival this week and a pregnancy. Yet I didn't feel quite as stung as I have in the past. I am trying hard to let God in and to heal from it all.

It has been very timely to have the last three months off - as in not working. I basically have the whole of the school week off while my daughter is at school. It is the first time since she was born that I've had so much time to myself!

It is a big treat - a luxury really. But a necessity on a spiritual and emotional level as it is an opportunity to just be and to make peace with the way life panned out. I think for so long I dreaded being at home on my own while my daughter was at school as I couldn't accept there wasn't a second child at home to care for.

But I've been (mostly) gentle with myself over these last three months. I've used the time to read, write, join a local Tai Chi group, go to a writers group, try new recipes, declutter, go to a sports physiotherapist and practise exercises for my arm, to start getting fit again, to see friends for coffee, to enter short story and poetry competitions and to write my book - I've even applied for the odd job here and there. But I've tried not to clutter my week and so I've had time to just be, which I believe, has allowed me to heal - to find peace and contentment being at home on my own while my daughter is at school. Often she needs a rest from school and was sick for two weeks. It has been great to be here for her and to not have to juggle work with her needs.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing. There has been some pressure (mainly from myself), to figure out what I'm meant to be doing with my life if it's not motherhood for the second time. There are a few ways I could go next - I most certainly seem to be at crossroads. A year's study could give me a Masters Degree, a teaching qualification or a post-grad qualification in journalism or social work or I could do a writing course for a year - so many choices!

It has been like an identity crisis going through secondary infertility as I have been affected deeply in mind, body and soul. My self-esteem as a woman has dropped because of my failure to conceive. Forgiving myself is still a work in progress. I feel lost in life in some ways but just have to trust that now is a time of healing - a time to regroup, reevaluate and rest (as written in my journal this morning).

I just have to trust that the next thing will come along in God's time and that sorting myself out is perhaps the priority at this stage.  In the meantime I continue to write and will get published again in Gods' time with that. I plan to resurrect my art again today (!) as it's been a year and a half since I last painted. I have a table booked at a Plunket Baby Bonanza in November. I've put it out there in regards to freelance writing and graphic design work as well as teacher aiding so it will be interesting to see which way my Higher Power wants me to go next.

Today I am also going to order some hard copies of family photos. We hardly have any printed out (but thousands on the computer!). I want to create albums for us all of my daughter growing up/family life. I want to celebrate being a family of three.

I think I am doing pretty good, all in all. I only seem to be blogging about once a month at this stage. I guess life is becoming about more than my secondary infertility experience. There is light, love and hope in my life again. I just have to sometimes remind myself of that - I have to work hard to live in the present and to let go of my past.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Sad Little Story

Today I told my daughter
A Sad Little Story
Because it was something
She needed to know

She has been asking for a while
If she could have a little sister
And my answers so far
Haven't satisfied her so

I said I was pregnant once
But it wasn't for long
It was before she was two
And things went wrong

There was no easy way
To make it sound any better
Than A Sad Little Story
That I wish didn't matter

Her eyes misted over
When she realised what I'd said
That she had had a sister once
But that she was now dead

She asked if the baby
Had been given a name
If it was a boy or a girl
And where it now laid

I said it was too early to tell
What the baby was going to be
I'd a feeling it was a girl
But that was my dream

She said for Christmas
She wanted a little sister
That if she wished hard enough
It could be a dream for her

She's too young to understand
That I can't do it again
It was my last pregnancy
And some things you just can't mend

I've broken her heart
With my terrible news
She is only seven and too young
To hear there are dreams we can lose

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What Comes Next

Well it's been two a half months since our adoption file "expired" - or in other words, two and half months since our adding-to-our-family journey ended, as mutually agreed by my husband and myself.

The first few weeks after this milestone was reached were hard. A lot of "old" grief resurfaced and I felt pretty raw. Over time I've been able to accept my fate, once again (as this journey seems to be about acceptance in all it's guises) but this time at a much deeper level. I've been able to put my whole SIF/early menopause experience in perspective and to see it as one of life's lemons (one very big lemon!)

The thing is I've been dealt some other challenges - a daughter with autism and an arm that is still very much healing from being broken last November at the elbow. If anything, letting go of adding to our family has forced me to put the focus back on these two other big things in my life that I need to face. My main focus now is supporting my daughter (not that I wasn't before, but more of my energy is now available to support her) and to heal myself - I'm doing this through physiotherapy and slowly adding running and swimming to  my exercise programme.

But the big shift that has come about on an emotional level, which I perhaps didn't expect, is the reemergence of another dream and a stubborn determination to make it happen - to be a writer. It is a dream that has always been there - since childhood - but one that has got buried along the way in life with all sorts of distractions - study, men, travel, partying, socialising, sport, motherhood, demanding jobs, SIF...yet here I am in this new phase in my life that is evolving into something a lot less complicated. And life has to be simple for creativity to exist. It is so easy to drown out or forget creativity in a busy life or a life immersed in grief (which mine was, for way too long with SIF.)

I left my most recent demanding job just over two weeks ago. It was part-time but incredibly busy. Juggling that with a child with special needs and a husband who works twelve hour shifts was too much and I was feeling beyond stretched. It took me six months to actually "leave" my job. There were a few things I wanted to put in place before I left so I did that and then I resigned.

I have just spent the school holidays with my daughter and yesterday was the first day that I had to embrace my "new life" - the one where there isn't another child to worry about while she's at school and no job to suck all my energy away. I have even let go of the gym. Life as I knew it for a very long time has dramatically changed. I'm no longer in the inbetween - waiting and hoping for life to go as planned - no longer putting things on hold in the vain hopes a second child was coming our way.

So here I am. I feel as if I have "arrived" in a sense. It was devastating to let go of my second-child hopes. But I had to. My reward, it seems, is the opportunity to allow another dream the time and space to emerge. I have a feeling this is a dream that God may actually support. In fact, if it wasn't for the pain, loss and grief I went through with SIF; then I wouldn't be here, putting my time and energy into a dream that could have easily been cast aside while raising two children.

I feel in time this blog will come to a natural end. I will keep it going for a few more months. But really, I'm not sure I have a lot to share about SIF these days. Sure I still have my moments where I see a bump/baby/two siblings playing and pine for what might have been. It is without a doubt a life experience that I will never, ever forget because in many ways going through SIF has shaped who I am today. I certainly have more depth emotionally and way more compassion and understanding around loss as a result.

I guess you could say I'm doing ok. I still apply self-preservation and don't plan to go frocklicking in the sun in fields of babies anytime soon! But I know somehow, that each time that I feel a pang when I hear others talk about their completed families, that I am slowly being healed. God does have His own plans for me. For a long time I was in the corridor waiting to see which door would open for me. Now I can finally walk through this amazing door God has in front of me right now that has the sun bursting underneath with so much promise and hope. I trust that this door/my new path will provide the abundance, joy and opportunities that will fulfill me - perhaps as much as or at least in a different way, to what mothering for the second time would have.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lessons Learnt

It must be about six weeks since our adoption file expired. The first month post-it all ending was hard - way more emotions came up then I expected. I felt very raw and defeated.

But I'm feeling better about things now. I'm a big believer in feeling your feelings and working through things - pain comes up for a reason, and if faced, better times are on the other side of trying times. Sometimes a shift in perspective is all that is required - and this is something that can only come with time.

I suppose I've emerged out of the SIF chapter in my life a much stronger person. I certainly have way more compassion than I ever had before - and I was an empathetic, compassionate person before all this.

Life and the lemon's it throws, either to myself and others no longer surprise me. It's not that I think life completely sucks. More like, I think life is actually pretty good. But tragedy is part of life and will affect each and every one of us in different ways, either personally or to those who we love.

With SIF behind me, I feel I am able to understand big loss and major grief in a way I never could before. I understand that some life events are near impossible to overcome or if they can be overcome, could take a very long time to heal from.

I understand about rebuilding a life when a dream has been lost. About starting again and finding a new direction.

I really, really get at a deep level, that life is not perfect.

Accepting life on life's terms, and being able to see the bigger picture is finally allowing me the perspective I've needed to put SIF behind me. It is something that happened to me. Not something that is happening to me now.

Sure, I will get triggered probably in some way for the rest of my life. Pregnancy, babies and siblings  - those are all bittersweet things that will always be part of my life as life is about child-birth and families, afterall. I don't think I will ever be cured or done and dusted completely with SIF.

But I will not dwell on it. I have a belief in God and God is helping me let go, to finally move on from a dream that wasn't meant to be. I do trust that a different life awaits. I have to trust that it will be a life that will be just as good as the one I hoped for.

I feel blessed today. I've come out of all this with a new gratitude and appreciation for what is, rather than what isn't. Life can change in an instance. Things don't always go as we hoped and planned. But it is possible to not only survive the impossible, it is possible, I believe, to thrive.

I have booked to do a novel writing course next Sunday. I am deadly serious that I will write my book about my own secondary infertility experience. I am not afraid to share my story and to be an advocate for those in society who often go through SIF in silence. I don't think it should be or that it needs to be that way.

Last weekend my seven year old daughter and I went to Sydney for a weekend. It was a whirlwind trip - fun to see family and the sights of Sydney. I know I will now make more of an effort to spend time with family outside of our city now that our daughter really is a confirmed only child.

We have had some challenging times with our daughter - her autism changes as she gets older and in many ways although it is easier to read, it is harder to manage. I do think any sibling our daughter may have had would have being greatly impacted by her autism.

At the same time, our daughter was asking recently about adoption and we had to explain it was all over - we had explained it before, but I guess she's still digesting it. We talked about fostering. Even she said "Maybe when I'm older." But I don't know - I'm really not sure about fostering for us. I guess we will leave things as they are for this year. I have another operation for my arm later this year (to remove the metal). It doesn't feel like the right time at all to be considering opening our home to foster children.

My replacement starts at work tomorrow and we will be training for three weeks together. I haven't yet found another job but have applied and enquired about a couple of jobs to do with community/social work. It is the first time in five and a half years I'll be looking for a job for me as a career move as opposed to a job to do "until the baby comes." There is some freedom in that.

So all in all, I would say I'm in a pretty good place. I had a big response to the poem I wrote "Don't Leave Me Alone" in my last post, two weeks ago. I put it on Facebook and got some interesting feedback - many valued the insight to SIF. I was hurting when I wrote it and it was incredibly healing both writing and sharing it. That is my hope for those that follow in my footsteps with SIF; that they don't feel they have to get through it alone - that those around them will reach out as much as they possibly can. Nobody can take away the pain of SIF but being supported, even in a small way helps.