Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Last Post

My dear friends, after four years and apparently 281 posts, I have decided to stop blogging.

This blog and the little community of which I have been a part, have been very important to me. They have enabled me to reflect deeply on my life and I have shared joys and struggles with some fine people whose friendship I will always cherish. I could name you, but I think you know who you are.

Actually, I would like to go on, but my life is taking a different turn and most of what preoccupies me now cannot be reflected here.

I will miss blogging, but mostly I will miss you.

Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for sharing your lives with me. Thank you for all the positive suggestions and comments you made, and thank you most of all for the support and love I felt from you.

My love and blessings to you


Sunday, May 30, 2010


I expected to plunge into grief after the failure of our last IVF, but actually I just sat around feeling kind of numb.

I was feeling oppressed by a general sense of reproductive disaster, for myself and my friends. Our dead embryos and crap eggs, John and Sapphira's beautiful baby daughter, then the news that young Mary has deteriorated further since she left our house, and has been having several epileptic-style fits per day. At the age of two and a half, she has been diagnosed as having the development of an 18 month old and a suspected autism spectrum disorder.

I was exhausted and sad and broke and sorry for myself and my friends and our children, but I had expected to hurtle into depression, and I didn't. I paused for a while, waited to feel worse, steeled myself for it, but it didn't really happen. I just stayed numb.

Suddenly a job offer came through that I had pretty much given up on. A promotion of sorts, in the form of a little bit of extra pay and quite a lot more responsibility. I must be a rather shallow person, because actually this cheered me up quite a lot.

The truth is that I am secretly more competitive than I generally reveal to other people. I have been quietly mourning for a long time the effect of motherhood and fertility treatment on my career, and I was surprised by the surge of genuine enthusiasm and ambition I felt.

It's been tricky. It's meant I had to go back to work full time and that has been a big adjustment for all of us in the last few weeks. The Little Dude, after years of being so relaxed about my work hours that he barely looked up to wave goodbye on work mornings, was clingy and crying some mornings at first, which was awful.

But on the whole, the new job has been a good thing. It's given me something positive to think about, something to work towards, something that is challenging but is NOT about fertility, children with heartbreaking disabilities, dead babies, mental illness or any of the other depresssing themes of 2010 so far.

I need that. I desperately need that.

As a result, I am actually kind of confused by my own feelings. So much sadness followed by one small cause for satisfaction and pride and I basically feel... discombobulated.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

IVF6: Dark and Repulsive

Well, that sucks.

I didn't have a good feeling when I woke up from pick-up. When I asked what I got, the nurse looked at the sheet and then said the surgeon would need to tell me. When he did, he said they only got the one egg. One of the follicles was empty and the other located in a place that it would have been too dangerous to get to.

But I had a wierd feeling no one was quite looking at me.

Now I know why. Normally, you have to wait a whole day for a fertilisation report. The clinic rang two hours after I got home to say the egg was "unfertilisable".

I rang the embryologist this morning. She said that as soon as she saw it, she could see it was "dark and repulsive" and just not right. When they stripped it back to see what was wrong, it just disintegrated.

I guess I'm lucky it disintegrated, rather than creating a repulsive embryo that might have become a repulsive-looking kid with repulsive things wrong with it.

Yes, I know I'm wrong to dwell on the use of that word. That embryologist is a woman I like very much who has no gift for tact.

But hey, I'm feeling a little dark and repulsive myself.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

IVF 6: Living Life Forwards

Actually, I can't believe I am doing this again.

As you all know, I grieved. I took my experiences so much to heart that I couldn't seem to get over it. Too many losses, one after another - not to mention the unwelcome news that apparently I am getting old.

I waited and waited for an intuitive feeling about whether I should be doing this or not, and it never came. With days to go, even after signing the papers, I still didn't know what I should do.

I've grieved so hard in the past few months that, in some ways, it should have marked the end. The worst is hopefully over and I should be getting on with my life. I'm frightened of plunging myself even further into that kind of grief.

My optimism is not high. I've decided that this IVF cycle will have to be the last one. Aside from anything else, once this one is done, I will be officially broke. Whatever the outcome, I will have to accept it.

But I never want to feel that I didn't do the absolute best I could do.

So I am gritting my teeth and doing this one. A couple of days ago, I refused a high profile job so I would be free to give this cycle the best chance possible.

I lay down for the ultrasound yesterday after a dream the night before that all my eggs had shrivelled. But to my surprise and pleasure, I have two pretty good sized eggs and one other possible, and hormone levels good enough for the clinic to schedule the pickup.

It's entirely possible that I will emerge from this decision with only debt to show for it and a horrible feeling of having made a terrible mistake in plunging myself back into this sucky existence. But at least I will have tried.

I will never know if I have made the right decision. Kierkegaard said, "Life can only be understood backwards, but it has to be lived forwards". So here I am, living life forwards. Trying to create the life I want for myself, my family, and this child I have in my heart and mind.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Grief and Rage: Susanna

At the end of January, I received a message on my answering machine. The new baby daughter of our dear friends, John and Sapphira, was dead.

Some of you may remember John and Sapphira. I lived with John as part of an intentional community for three years. He worked for years with young men with mental health and drug problems and now supports families struggling with parenthood. He is not only my friend, but my chosen brother. He married Sapphira, who works with people with profound mental and physical disabilities. They are not saints, but they are the best people I know. They are also the Little Dude's godparents, the ones I chose as part of making the first move back towards God.

John and Sapphira stayed with us in early December. Sapphira was very heavily pregnant. Because I wasn't, it was kind of painful at first to see her. I have been struggling emotionally ever since the failure of our IVF cycles. Much more so than I did while I was still trying. But I somehow managed to make myself remember that Sapphira was the only pregnant friend I had with the guts to call me during those failing cycles. After the first few minutes, I realized I realized that I could be jealous of her, but also very glad to see her. I could be sad for myself, but I could be happy for them. And I was.

Those were very happy days. We sat on the verandah and chatted while the kids played in the pool and the Little Dude and their two daughters played endless games of chasey. We laughed and had fun. We exclaimed over the beautiful pictures of Sapphira belly dancing on the beach, her huge belly extending over her skirts and her brightly coloured veils flapping in the breeze. She was beautiful and sexy and utterly maternal. They were okay with my grief over my poor dead embryos. I could be my honest, real self with them, messed up though I was. When the tears ran down my face during a friend's baby's baptismal service, John put his hand on my arm and kept it there. Sapphira emailed to a friend of ours that our fertility issues were heartbreaking to hear about, let alone live it. But that we were doing well in a shitty situation and about as well as anyone could be expected to do.

It's painful to think of now because, while we were all being happy, their little baby girl Susanna, the baby in Sapphira's belly, was actually dying. Her umbilical cord had somehow become restricted and she swallowed meconium for several weeks. Her entire life was three days in the ICU, hooked up to tubes. John and Sapphira didn't even get to hold her until all hope was lost and she died in their arms. The diagnosis was meconium aspiration syndrome.

The funeral was the most moving I ever attended. Sapphira gave the eulogy herself. As she said, she was not going to be able to do much parenting for young Susanna, and this was something she could do for her. If Sapphira had been any more courageous, I couldn't have borne it. Actually, I hardly did bear it. I stared with disbelief at the coffin. I wailed through the funeral like it was my baby. I stood by the graveside, trembling with rage. I could hardly understand why John and Sapphira didn't throw themselves in after her. It just seemed impossible that their baby could die.

Actually, I was kind of out of control. Friends of ours basically had to look after me, which they said they were glad to do since they were unable to do much for John and Sapphira. That evening, John and Sapphira and I and other friends went out for beers and semi-hysteria. I apologised for my whole Mediterranean-style display and John laughed about how I nearly put Sapphira off her eulogy. I told them a funny story about a mutual friend and John laughed so hard he almost wet himself.

But our laughter was so close to tears. Our grief was beyond words.

During her eulogy, Sapphira said something to her daughter that I could fully understand:

I told you that if you lived, we would turn our world upside down to care for you and give you the best life we could. And I told you that if you needed to go to God, we would find a way to be OK. I believe that you did talk to God about it, you made a decision, and then you left us. You called my bluff and you left us, and now I want to take it all back and tell you you have to stay with us because this sorrow is too big, and I can barely breathe. My love for you is too big to be left with nowhere to go, with no baby to hold, with no-one to breastfeed, and with no hope of seeing you grow...I do believe you are with God. But God and I are not on speaking terms at this point, and I doubt things will improve between God and I for some time.

The rest of the funeral had a remarkable number of positive references to God. There was honest, anguished prayer. There were blessings. There were hymns.

But I looked at the tiny coffin and all I could think was, "Fuck you, God. We want our children back".

Friday, January 22, 2010

An Act of God?

It got worse. The visit was not good. When I say it was not good, I mean that the visit by Pat, Mary and the new baby was a disaster for our family.

In particular, as opposed to the gift from God talked about in our extremely well-meaning and vaguely fortifying Godparents blessing service, young Mary was more like an Act of God. As in a cyclone, a bushfire, an earthquake, a lightening strike. Something that is not exactly anyobody's fault, was not fully predicted, and yet has to be respected and acknowledged as an utterly destructive force.

The kind of event that leaves you surveying the smoking ruins of your family life, your physical and emotional health, your deepest beliefs, and your sense of self. And yet you emerge, feeling traumatised, somewhat bitter, but mostly glad that you are still alive.

I could talk about the constant screaming, or the trail of destruction, or the endless psychodrama. I could talk about the realization that a little two year old girl, however destructive, cannot be the problem - it has to be the wierd chemistry between the little girl and her mentally ill mother than is at the centre of it. I could talk about the fear that began to grip me for the future of this little baby boy and my increasing fears for this family, constantly choked back by politeness and pity.

More close to home, I could talk about the exhaustion of me and my own family by a bottomless well of need. I could talk about the day my Little Dude kicked me when he realized I had done this to his life. I could talk about my Big Dude's pale face and talk of mere "survival" as the aim. I could talk about the day I realized I had done everything that a human being can realistically do for three and a half weeks with no moment of genuine rest and still it would never be enough. That I had made myself ill and I wasn't getting any better.

I could talk about the day I realized that the idea that you can save people from themselves is utterly foolish - fools go where angels fear to tread. I could talk about the moment I realized I had invited this invading army into my home. The moment I realized I might succeed at the attempt to truly help my friend and godchildren, but only at the heavy expense of what I held most dear. I could talk about the day I felt my heart pounding in panic at what I had brought into the heart of my family and the sudden realization of the vulnerability of the people I most love, to whom I owe my first love, first loyalty and first protection. My heart pounded and pounded and it wouldn't stop.

But I won't talk about any of that. I will mention only that, in an attempt to relax late at night, I watched a TV program on Johnny Cash's Folsom Prison album and his attempts to save prisoners from a combination of their harsh and brutal past, their terrible deeds, and the failures of their society. Cash's daughter said, in the midst of all that hagiogaphy about how great and compassionate Johnny Cash was, something about how her father's belief that he could save people was a kind of hubris. The reality was that he was a musical genius, a wonderful man, but also a deeply flawed man.

I am not any kind of genius. I am a well-intended but rather flawed person who thought she could lend a friend $50 to help her out, and suddenly found she was up for $10,000. As the Act of God definition suggests, a certain kind of folly has been committed.

Hubris is my middle name and all I want is my life back.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009: Need to Vent

A very quick update and venting session in the few minutes I have to myself.

Pat and the kids have arrived here. After what happened last time, gritting my teeth and with many misgivings, I invited Pat to come again after this second birth. Pat is in much better psychological condition than before, following a good home birth in a birthing pool which went smoothly, and the new baby is a sleepy and easy delight, despite apparently needing to be breastfed for about 16 hours of each day (poor Pat).

Unfortunately, my young two year old goddaughter, who I will call Mary, appears to be a little hellion, having screaming, screeching tantrums on a regular basis - initially it seemed to be every 45 minutes or so but she seems to be mellowing to a two-hour cycle, now. It's been very difficult to relax.

Never have I been prouder of my generous, even-tempered and friendly Little Dude who plays with her beautifully. Every so often, when the playing turns to teasing and harrassment of him, he withdraws to his room for a while and plays quietly by himself, but he has been incredibly patient and sweet with her - rather better than me, in fact. In all honesty, young Mary is not an easy child to warm to. I normally like two year olds very much, even naughty and intense ones, but even making many allowances for the difficult family situation, the disruption of the flight here, and her natural jealousy of a new baby, this one is very hard work.

I am doing my very best to be helpful and encouraging rather than make things worse. But the constant racket and disruption in addition to all the childcare and domestic support needed is making me grumpy and irritable.

Attachment parenting, in my humble opinion, is all very well when its slings and breastfeeding for babies and a close, warm relationship with children. But Pat's version of it seems to involve remarkably few behaviour limits for a two year old and none of the semi-regular routines that I think work well for young children. Also no regular bedtime. As a result, this lttle girl is intermittently sweet and funny and brave, but also frequently overtired, overstimulated, and certainly not well slept. She spends a lot of time rampaging around, red-eyed and in a state of virtual hysteria. The resulting behaviour problems are very bad, but also are very, very predictable.

I am feeling quite worn out and the Big Dude is, too. The Big Dude has the mutinous air of a man who is being pushed too far, and I am all too aware that I got us into this one.

I truly feared that Christmas would be a disaster, but miraculously, young Mary fell asleep for a while and, as a result, there was quite a lot of relaxing, playing, eating and listening to the gentle rain fall. There were peaceful moments where all was well.

As we are flat out here with very little time to ourselves, I may not write again for a while. But I wish you all a very happy Christmas and New Year.