I received a text message from my old uni flatmate this morning.
“Sad news. Call me. x”
I thought – this is it. She’s gone into a hospice. Our other uni flatmate M, and her best friend – has had lung cancer. (Did you know lung cancer is the #1 killer cancer? And yet it’s unfairly stigmatised because sufferers are thought to have brought it on themselves.)
The thing is – M never smoked. She was a clean living freak. Not in the yoga way, but in the hale and hearty British gal way – she cycled everywhere, and only ever drank in moderation, and ate healthily. I remember back when we were at uni – she and I were both cycling devotees. She would be on her grown up bike and I’d be on my BMX, which was useless for the city’s hills – and we lived at the top of a hill – but I was proud then, and trying to convey something with my quirky persona. M was always M. And whereas I gave up the ridiculous BMX biking (I couldn’t do any stunts; it was literally for show), she carried on cycling into her forties. (We made it to our fortieths, M.)
Back when she was first diagnosed, M went to the doctor with a persistent cough she couldn’t shake off. Not one of us would have ever foreseen that it could be The Big C. They told her it was terminal. Imagine! A wife and mother of two young children, ages 5 and 2. How? Why? Cancer is so bloody unfair. I mean, even if you smoked forty a day you don’t deserve cancer – but a mother in her prime – a mother with two little children who need her – how can that happen?
Back then, she rallied. She set up a funding page because she wanted to feel she could do something, anything to provide for her family when she’d gone. She always was a provider. A nurturer. She underwent chemo, and she took a cocktail of drugs. Because her lung cancer wasn’t just lung cancer, but a rare form of lung cancer and They didn’t know exactly what it would do – only that it would kill her eventually.
But kill her it didn’t. Her page racked up the funds and she announced that she’d be donating it to lung cancer charities. Because she didn’t feel right taking it. Take it, we urged. Even if you’re fighting cancer and not dead from it – you deserve to have a buffer. You should give up work, have some fun. And yet she didn’t, because M was proud of her work, because she didn’t want to sit around at home feeling sorry for herself. We all wanted to go and visit her but she didn’t want that because it would be like saying there was a reason for saying goodbye, and she didn’t want to say goodbye.
We spoke on the phone. I didn’t know what to say when I found out, and I blethered on too much via SMS probably, and she said why don’t we have a chat on the phone. So we did. It was way back, pre-B, and we talked about everything, and it was probably over two hours or something whilst we poured our hearts out. She told me all about her husband (who I’d met once when he was her boyfriend – but they live a while away in a different country) and her two kids, and how she felt when she first found out about the cancer (suicidal – why don’t they tell people in a better way?) and how the cancer had responded to the drugs and somehow, miraculously, the cancer they’d said was terminal in a few months receded. In turn I poured out my heart about infertility and loss and she urged me to keep on trying and sympathised with me about the unfairness of it all. (The unfairness of which pales in comparison with a healthy young person struck down in their prime. I even knew that then.)
In the last three years she led an almost normal life, sandwiched around bouts of chemo. They holidayed. The kids got older, and she saw their milestones – the little one graduating from kindergarten, refusing to wear the gown and sulking; riding bikes… the school plays… The children making a video to raise money for lung cancer – heartbreaking; her daughter looking just like I remember M, earnest and passionate. Just a few weeks ago she went on a painting retreat and just like everything else she excelled at it and made a wonderful painting. She looked the picture of health. It was hard to believe she had lung cancer. And yet.
It only receded. Borrowed time. We’re all on borrowed time, in our own ways, but somehow – unjustly – some of us have borrowed less than others.
I called back our friend this morning, after I’d finished feeding B, and she broke it to me, her voice breaking:
“She passed away last night.”
I knew this day was coming. I knew she had terminal lung cancer. But if anyone was giving the middle finger to cancer, it was M. She was feisty and jolly and wouldn’t bloody give up. She still cycled everywhere, and was still going to work until last week when she had to be admitted to hospital, and finally a hospice. The end was quick, apparently, and she didn’t want everyone knowing, didn’t want them traipsing in to say goodbye. She left this life as she lived it – fighting, hoping. Hoping to see her darling children grow up. Fighting to stay with the love of her life.
Hold your loved ones a little closer today. Tell someone you love that you love them. And raise a glass (or a mug of strong British tea) to M, our brave, funny, wonderful friend who’s gone too soon.
To M. Mother. Wife. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Crazy cycling lady. Fighter. Horse lover. Artist. Whisky connoisseur. Red clothing wearer. All these things, and too many others. A lifetime of things. Too short a lifetime, but an amazing, full one. With love.
* * *
If you are able, please donate here to help fund lung cancer research, in honour of a wonderful woman who’s gone too soon. https://www.roycastle.org/donate
(Title apologies to Alan Sillitoe)
Readers, I’ve been feeling morose lately. I’m not quite sure why. I’m fairly sure it’s hormonal and maybe to do with those crazy chemicals rushing around my body, or work being a bit full on and then easing off, or breastfeeding slowing down a bit… or something.
In one way I’m my usual deliriously happy self. B is an absolute joy. I can’t believe I still have him, and get to be his mama, and all that stuff. I mean it’s like a little injection of happiness to every single day.
It’s not that I’m particularly unhappy with life. It’s just that now and again I feel a bit morose and this week happens to be it. Maybe it’s that the weekend went too fast, because we went to see both sets of grandparents and didn’t really get much downtime with just our little family.
Maybe it’s the work thing. Work’s going really well. I feel lucky to have landed a boss who I get on really well with and I mainly enjoy the work. But the gigantic bid I was working on hasn’t transpired yet and my boss wants me to go back to a day job (a decent job I can’t complain about – I’ve just been very full on with the bid for months and months and it takes up a lot of energy, so it feels a bit of an anticlimax to be tailing off that…)
I definitely think social media has something to do with it. I recently took a break from a big adoption group I’m very involved in. It’s something I keep meaning to write about but never seem to have the emotional energy. I’ve mentioned before that I kind of ebb and flow with it. Which makes me sound ambivalent but really it’s not that – it’s about self care and realising you can’t be on high emotional alert all the time.
The big adoption story in the news is something that those not in adoptionland probably aren’t aware of, but something that has been weighing heavily on my mind. And very upsetting to many transracial adoptees.
A couple of white adoptive mothers drove a car off a cliff, killing their six black adopted children. It transpired they had been somewhat evasive of CPS and concerns had been raised in multiple states. And one of the mothers had already been convicted of hurting one of the little girls who’d been beaten black and blue over the edge of a bathtub. Who does that to a child?
Moreover, one of the children was Devonte Hart, whose picture went viral when he was pictured crying and hugging a policeman. Anyone who knows anything about racial justice would notice the peculiarity of a black boy hugging a white policeman for the cameras – egged on by his white adoptive parents.
The more facts that come out about this story, the more hurt and triggers are piled up. As transracial adoptees we know that the narrative is heavily skewed in favour of white adoptive parents. And so much of the time that is manifested in benefit of the doubt and excuse making. It is upsetting because of the sheer amount of loss these young adoptees had. And to end their lives at the hands of those who called themselves their parents; the people who were meant to love them.
And the fact that there are many injustices still being perpetuated against adoptees, such as access to basic medical records and original birth certificates.
I guess you could say over time I’ve become awoken to these injustices. Part of me wishes I’d just stayed blissfully ignorant.
So – self care and social media. I’ve tried to take breaks but I find that it can be somewhat addictive. If I’m trying to stay away, I tend to hang out more in the Disney groups because how horrible can people be when it comes to Disney?! (It turns out you still do get mean people in all groups… sad!)
Mum groups can be one of the worst. I think I’ve mentioned before that I have felt really at odds since I went back to work and most of the mums I knew didn’t. It’s a lonely path to tread.
Mum groups online are kind of vicious. Even the ones that are meant to be non-judgemental and supportive. They have reams of nice supportive comments and then you’ll get the odd mean one, and depending on the day I find that can get me down (even though I don’t tend to post on them very often – I only try and comment supportively now and again). But anything based around an ideology, like motherhood is… well, it can be taxing.
Breastfed vs formula fed
Gentle parenting vs Cry It Out
Working mums vs SAHMs vs part time working mums
Only children vs sibling groups
It’s like everything mum related is shrouded in judgement. And maybe you join online groups looking for likeminded people because there aren’t that many in real life, but then they end up making you feel all heckled and I just wonder sometimes if it’s worth it.
Real life is another story. I do have some working mum friends because we have met other working mums through nursery (daycare). And it’s nice to see them because it makes me feel a bit less of an odd one out for working. The sad thing is, I think the SAHMs think I’m somehow competing with them or something when really I would have preferred not to go back to work! It kind of blows my mind I’ve been back for almost a year when if I’d had maternity leave like most people in the UK do, I would only just have gone back.
My NCT (antenatal) group makes me wonder as well. Out of seven mums in the only one to have gone back to work full time, and I feel like a completely odd one out. And I wonder if there’s any point in keeping on that friendship / contact when I usually end up feeling pretty negative about it.
An example (feel free to skip as I’m just venting here):
Before Christmas they wanted to have a meet up, and so I offered to book somewhere for a Christmas dinner, and we’d get the babies all dressed up and so on. They all agreed. Then when we had agreed a date, I got the details of the local pub and because it was Christmas they wanted us to pre-order, and give a deposit. Out of six other couples who had agreed, only two sent through the deposit and the other four just didn’t say anything. Nothing (on a whatsapp group). In the end I cancelled it. They didn’t even apologise. Just ignored it. In the end, the three couples who had agreed to meet had a meet up, plus one other couple. The others didn’t bother.
So now it’s April and they decided we should meet up. One of the girls (SAHM who quit her job after the baby was born and has got super involved in all the local baby stuff) decided to organise it. And found various non child friendly places. Bear in mind this involves seven kids. I found a place with a kids play area and high chairs and instead she decided we would go to a pub and the kids would just sit on our laps or whatever, and we would go for Sunday roast at the only time they have available… 11:30.
Then she says we all have to pre order and pay a deposit. Sound familiar? And of course everyone replies and says yes sure. That’s fine.
Just writing this out makes me feel super petty and ridiculous. I mean I shouldn’t even care. But I said it to T and he said he could understand why I’d feel upset. I mean the same people literally didn’t bother replying to me over the Christmas thing that they asked me to organise, and yet they’re falling over themselves to say yes to this arrangement of eating a roast on a Sunday morning. So strange.
I think maybe I’m just overly emotional lately because I don’t know what. (Hormones? Periods? I have to say I’m not happy about the Return of the Blob. It’s extremely unedifying.)
Also I had a health check at work because someone didn’t show up and the Health Champion guy really wanted someone to do it, so I did it. And I got weighed for the first time in forever and realised that I’m overweight and by way more than I want to be – 10kg minimum, and I suppose that sent me down a slight rabbit hole I had been avoiding. I finally dropped the habit of daily weighing when I was pregnant (after a slightly unhelpful obsession since my teens) and so getting back to that has mainly annoyed and upset me.
And I do wonder how much of it’s to do with breastfeeding. I have long thought it has an effect on mood. B is still nursing but less often now. Usually morning and night and I have one pumping session in between. So I’m sure that affects me. I know that pumping always made me kind of depressed and now he’s able to go longer between feeds even at the weekends, perhaps that’s depressing my mood a bit. (Don’t get me wrong. We still have fun. It’s impossible not to smile when you see a one year old’s joy on a swing.) Maybe I just need to ground myself more and try and rationalise it when I feel a bit low.
In the run of bad news, a close friend found out her husband of many years had cheated on her for the second time. I met up with her for a girly day and I just felt so sad for her. Two of my friends are battling cancer. One terminal. The world just seems kind of shitty some days.
Finally I guess I’m just feeling a bit run down and missing something. Maybe that’s it. Hay fever season is coming upon us and I feel a bit worse for wear. And I think often when you’ve been working hard and you suddenly ease up, that’s when it hits you. I feel kind of sad sometimes that I have to work and so I don’t get to see as much of my family as I’d like. I have such a wonderful time at the weekend that it maybe hits me hard when I have to go back to work on a Monday.
I don’t know what I’m hoping to accomplish with this post. I suppose catharsis.
I think what I mean to say is that I could have everything I ever wanted – and I do – but I still have down days sometimes, and today is one of them.
But right now I’m lying in bed – our superking sized giant mattress – and next to me is my little snorting baby-who’s-now-a-toddler, and further down the bed is my big boy Dog who’s turning five tomorrow, and on the other side is my partner T, my best friend, who I too often take for granted. And we are in my absolute dream apartment. I love it, with its little terrace, and summer is coming so we can spend more time outside and it’ll be lovely.
Today I have the blues but tomorrow is one step closer to the weekend…
I get it. I get it more than you can imagine. Whenever I used to read another infertility blog, I’d mentally compare it to our journey and my own infertility (because the “fault” is mine – I’m the infertile one) and figure if ours had gone on longer or been easier or harder. And usually ours compared unfavourably, and I’d wonder if it was just too late for anything to try and fix it, and I’d get angry at anyone and everyone because we had to deal with this and others did not.
I used to get so angry at people who had babies without trying. At people who’d run the gamut of insensitive comments. (“At least you know you can get pregnant” after a miscarriage that was the culmination of 10+ years of infertility and IVF… “Why don’t you just adopt?” to two adoptees who just wanted to have someone biologically related to them in their lives…) Even at my own sibling who easily had two children – one born during the holiday we went on to get over our loss.
I was angry and jealous and honestly not the nicest person to be around for a while, so after our loss the previous year I took a step back from socialising and focused more on work, and self care. And I blogged a lot. And got amazing support from this community of bloggers. And made some real life friends.
When we finally got pregnant last year that was the culmination of a great deal of treatment including multiple operations, IVF cycles, immune therapy and at least four different hospitals and countless doctors.
It was not an easy ride.
But we are lucky because out of all that came baby B. And the pain of infertility recedes, but it doesn’t mean I’m not conscious of it. As I posted the other day, I’m grateful every single day that I have the chance to be a mother. I don’t take it for granted.
After all that I am full of joy for this chance. And I’m grateful. And I feel empathy for anyone else still going down this path because I know what it feels like. It’s been over 10 years and up to 15/16 years depending on how you count it. (Not-not trying or actually trying.)
What I didn’t do during those days of anger was wander up to people who had kids and express my anger to them. I might have felt it privately but I knew deep down that my anger at them was irrational and misplaced. Someone else being fertile is not the cause of my own infertility.
Likewise I didn’t do the equivalent of that in the blogging world. Your own blog is for venting, and you can do what you want on it. But I didn’t seek out blogs where people had kids and make snarky comments. Because it is literally not their fault. When infertility bloggers got pregnant and had kids, it gave me hope. If it became too triggering, I unfollowed. But most of the time I carried on following them because I was happy for them that it worked out, and I wanted to share in that happiness.
Ultimately isn’t that what we want to happen in the infertility blogging world? We want those people who want children to be able to have children, either through medical intervention (as we had) or adoption. Or we want them to be able to come to terms with not having children.
It doesn’t really make sense to hope that all infertility bloggers continue to live in misery and longing and never manage to have a child or come to terms with a child free life… It would be perverse to hope for that, because we’d be hoping for that for ourselves, too.
So when someone from the infertility community comes on my blog specifically to bitch about parents, in the context of everything we went through to become parents, and how recently it happened for us, and knowing our background of being adopted and the loss that entails, I can have empathy for that person but I can also be kind of p*ssed off.
I have never felt “smug” about being a mother. I literally never thought this day would come, and I went through a lot to get here, and I’m thankful every day. Being grateful is not the same as being smug. And I don’t post stuff about parenting to upset infertile people, or for any other agenda. I talk about my life because my blog is about my life and my experiences.
I understand that to some in the trenches of infertility that talking about parenting following infertility may be triggering. I know that some infertility bloggers have stopped blogging after having children through birth or adoption. I know others who have started new blogs.
For me, my blog was named Zero to Zygote for a reason. I hoped one day where there was no child there would be a child. In my first post I talked about my dream of being able to tell my child the story of how he came to be. It was always meant to be a story of hope, and that journey included venting of infertility anger, processing of adoption loss, working through the grief of pregnancy loss, as well as everyday experiences and thoughts.
So I’m asking you, infertility bloggers, if all this triggers you, please do not take out your infertility anger on me on my blog. The space for that is your own blog, or a support group. You’ll never be able to chase down every person that has a child to comment on their blog or tell you how angry you are that they have one and you don’t. And it will just make you feel worse. Just unfollow me and save yourself the trouble of thinking negative thoughts.
And your anger is misplaced. I wouldn’t wish our experiences on anyone. It was not easy and it was not enjoyable and it almost broke me. I hope you resolve yours more quickly than we did (whether by having a child or being happy not to have one; I understand that having a baby is not the be all and end all, even if it sometimes feels like that). I hope that everything works out.
Of all the anger I had about infertility, the ones I hoped for the most and where my anger dissipated were for the others in similar positions to ours. But maybe you are still deep in the trenches right now and you can only feel your own grief and loss, and I get that. You’re entitled to feel that way. Life is unfair sometimes. Take it from someone who’s been there for many years: unfollow your triggers. And if that includes me, unfollow me.
I wish you all the best.
I’ve been a bit ranty and hormonal lately, and luckily (*sarcasm) for me, it’s because it’s my Time of the Month rather than because everyone in the world is being annoying. (Actually, I think it might be both.)
Oh yeah, I’m expecting my period next week. It was gonna be my baby, but y’know, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage and that’s just nature’s way of telling you that baby wouldn’t have survived / had defects. I’m just going to have to try again, and it’s probably because I have a stressful job / didn’t try hard enough / didn’t lose weight / God decided it wasn’t my time to be a mother / maybe we should “just adopt” / I need to go on holiday and relax…
You know what? I hate being like this. Angry/sad. Sangry? It sounds corny but I have done a lot of work on myself lately, as the self help books call it. Several years ago, I came out of a very long term relationship with the guy I had naively assumed would be the father of my children. Infertility, and possibly the aftermath of adoption and never really resolving the grief of various things and my overwhelming insecurities really didn’t help. We both hurt each other and we still haven’t fixed it, but we are trying. (I want to draw a line, especially a financial line, but that’s proving difficult even though it’s getting to half a decade stage. Agh.) I think we both had huge reserves of grief that being together couldn’t find a way to fix.
I went a bit crazy with grief actually. After that, I spent time with some people who in hindsight did nothing for me (other than offering excitement and escapism, which I guess are valid things, for finite timescales). I dated unsuitable men. (Clue: He’s never going to leave.) I allowed myself to be seduced by a feeling I’d never had before: want. My want; their wants; feeling wanted. I grew up a bit. I learned how to be the aggressor, the dominant one, the wanter, instead of my long-held role as submissive, the pleaser, the subjugator of my self and desires. Including the desire to feel loved, cherished and attractive, and the desire to have children.
A child. One child.
A single child would be enough. I knew I didn’t have much time. (I also know I didn’t “waste” time. If I’d been working normally, which I wasn’t, judging by the ops, I would have had a baby with my ex.) When I met T, I had already learned the hard way what my wants were. How I behaved in a couple and the level of participation I wanted to have in a relationship. (100%, not too much to ask, eh?) I told him about how I was seeking commitment and a family. And he was adopted, like me, as a baby, so in some ways we had a common understanding. That desire for stability and a family. The desire to know someone biologically related or to look like your parents or your child. (Never underestimate that. I know if it ever happens to me, I think my mind will be blown.)
Do you understand kin? “Blood is thicker than water.” That’s what my mum used to say, thinking she was telling us that family mattered more. She never really thought that we didn’t share blood. That I’m no more related to my family than my friends. Than my dog! My dog is adopted too!
Kin is made of blood and marriage. Kith and kin. We are blood and water. Both give life. We need both, but they are not the same. I am not my family’s blood and I am not T’s blood. The only way I will ever meet a person who is my blood relative is if I track down my family overseas in a country whose language I don’t speak, family whose names I don’t know, who have been redacted from my history. Or if I give birth to my first known blood relative.
My last blood relative I never met (unless you count passing him/her painfully, clots of almost-baby, the blood of dreams denied). Each month my endometriosis and fibroid(s) and barren uterus conspire to remind me that I’m female, so I must suffer, and I’m infertile, so why not let me suffer some more? I don’t know how the religious infertiles do it. It must seem like a God with a pretty bad sense of humour who gives neglectful parents and paedophiles and murderers babies, and keeps perfectly nice people childless. As for purposely giving you suffering to “benefit” you somehow, or make you stronger, I know from experience that suffering does not automatically make you stronger or a nice person. I was probably more inclined to charitable thoughts and deeds and entry to a mystical cloud-home when I didn’t have a decade of infertility and loss under my belt.
And yet I have hope. I feel thankful (not grateful adoptee; grateful human) to have enough. I read on one infertility blog “God never gives us more than he thinks we can handle”. Well I’m telling you, God, up there divvying out the baby bingo cards for kicks (wtf?) – I can’t handle much more of this s***. I have a life to live, and I’m sure as damned not going to live in a state of loss and grief and want. You know what? Enough is enough.
I don’t know when enough will come, and I’m not really in the giving up hope mood right now because I’m stupidly dreamy at times and I believe in the magic of Disney and the happiness that comes from things that other people think are stupid.
Like friends coming through for you in unexpected ways. (When I was mugged and my kindle was stolen, they bought me a new, better one.)
Like a partner who loves me even when I’m fat and grumpy (“You’re always grumpy!” is his answer when I do my daily check on whether he still loves me, even though…), who dreams up silly ideas to celebrate Christmas, who taught me how to believe in magic and Disney again.
Like family who are bloody cray cray and yet madly in love with each and every one of us, who want the best for each other even if they can’t really figure out what that is or relate to each other’s struggles. Not consolation family, not “real family”, just family. I’m happy I have one even if they drive me crazy. I could have had none. I’m privileged enough even to complain about them. My parents are both still here.
So in this time of waiting, I try and channel my energy, grief and anger into action. Here’s what I’ve been doing. There’s no guarantee it would work for anyone else, and I don’t even thinking it’s “working”, but it is keeping me busy. This plan is what I call The Long Haul.
- Finding stuff out. The first time we did IVF, I put my trust in the doctors and the protocol. It worked, and then it didn’t. Losing my first pregnancy was traumatic to say the least. Just when I think I’ve forgotten it, along comes something to remind me. I’m not willing to go through that again with the same levels of trust and ignorance. So I researched – on blogs, through blogfriends, Google, books, etc. And I know what happened last time round so at least I can understand what to expect. I blogged my first IVF cycle so I can look back and see how I felt and what I took last time.
- Allowing myself to be triggered sometimes. It sounds weird to say this, but the British way is not to “wallow”, and largely I haven’t. I’ve gotten on with life, and I’m pretty much back to my old childless self. We have had a lot of fun – we enjoyed two trips to Disney last year, and had a fun Christmas. I really don’t think about it (infertility, loss, adoption) very often. But I do allow myself space to explore those feelings, mainly on here. Seeing messages of support and responses to things I’ve written from people who understand has been a life changer for me. If there’s anything this “journey” has shown me, it’s that I’m not alone. It sucks that so many people are hurting, for many reasons. Knowing I’m not alone, or some kind of freak in the fertile / not adopted / white / male world is a comfort.
- Making appointments. It made me feel like I was doing something. We had a second opinion at a private clinic (who suggested we go ahead with the NHS cycle) and a more detailed scan. I also have an appointment with a doctor who specialises in reproductive immunology next week. I think I just want to know that I’ve exhausted every avenue and there are no more reasons to check.
- Losing weight. I’ve been on a vague diet since January 4 (the first Monday of 2016!). So far at my lowest I am down 2.6kg, which is not too bad. (I go up and down during the week… Usually on a low by Friday or Saturday and then up again after the weekend!) It is a way of feeling I am doing something and also feeling a bit better about myself. I found IVF really made me feel terrible about my body, with the weight gain from the meds and the comfort eating after the miscarriage. I have put on a huge amount of weight over the past few years, although I was probably underweight previously. My aim is to lose 10-15kg this year. I think it can be done! Unless of course I get pregnant, in which case I’ll at least have a consolation of getting fat.
- Saving money. T and I are seriously on austerity measures. We realised we have to save for a deposit if we ever want a chance to buy our own place. (Complications with my ex who is financially dependent – we are hoping this will be resolved soon after many years!) We sat down and worked out a budget and savings plan. It’s a bit tough but it feels good in a way to have a plan and a way out of our rental accommodation.
- Taking a FB break. I could do a whole blog post on this! Maybe tomorrow. This is a very big deal for me, but because of this week (due date) I feel like it’s self preservation. This does mean that I can’t vent as much on there or idly browse silly videos or pictures of food, but at least it limits the triggering baby exposure.
- Being open to opportunities. Weirdly I went for two interviews lately! I’ve been working really hard at work. Some days I feel like I’m getting somewhere, and others are a kick in the teeth. I’m working on it. I don’t want my whole life to be about infertility. Who knows what might happen?
- Spending time with my family. My crazy family this past weekend, but I mean my family – Us. Me and T and Dog. We think of ourselves as a family. (Well, Dog possibly thinks of me as a food source, but I’ll take it.) I do sort of take it for granted that I have these two amazing
peoplehuman and dog in my life, who live with me and love me. So yeah, the loss sucks and there are some pretty tough feelings this week, but it’s not long till the weekend and the future.
So… Tell me what you’ve been doing to make your life more fun!
(I can’t bring myself to swear online but this was too good an article to ignore!)
What if you’re not quite black and you’re not quite white? What are you and does it matter?
“I don’t remember the first time someone told me I was White. But I definitely remember the last. It was the summer of my junior year in college and I was a new student orientation leader. My university was diverse but mostly segregated, and this staff was about half White and half Black – plus […]”
I don’t like to rant, and I may end up deleting this. But it’s been brewing for a while now and today it came to a head when my mother called me to check how I was after the op I had yesterday.
The op was to remove the fibroid they found in my uterus during the miscarriage, the end of my one and only pregnancy following our first round of IVF.
But first, let me tell you about my brother.
I’ve referred to him on here before as Real First Born, or RFB. In many cases we refer to him as the golden child or similar. RFB has a charmed existence and it’s taken me every bone in my body growing up with him in my family not to resent him and not to blame him for the easy life he’s had. (Because, adoptees and infertiles: I truly believe that it’s not the fault of fortunate people that they are more fortunate.)
Backtrack. If you’ve read my blog a bit, you’ll know I was adopted. I’m generally fine with it, but there are complexities around feeling secure in your place in the world and in your family, and around wanting a biological child – the only person in your life who would be biologically related to you, who would look a little like you, a little like their other parent.
RFB was the miracle child. He was born when my parents had given up hope. They’d adopted two children; they thought they were happy with this. He’s the spitting image of my dad. He’s named after my maternal grandfather, the one my mother could never impress (and who didn’t live to see any of his grandchildren, just as well as he sounded like a nasty piece of work). Our youngest sibling is also an unexpected but has had a harder life, being gay.
RFB, on the other hand, is the archetypal English man. Wholesome, sports playing, well educated (but not that clever! As we Brits like our middle class men to be!). RFB was never bullied (apart from by his older siblings, probably). He was always the apple of my mother’s eye, her miracle boy – who could blame her? He breezed through school, playing on all the teams, being exceedingly popular and generating friends and smiles wherever he went. He is a nice guy. He’s nice because he has never known suffering in his life. It is easy to be nice when you only see nice things. I envied him growing up, and I was resentful. It’s taken me a lot to try and get over that, and not to blame him for his easy life. Mostly I’m fine and we get on well. But occasionally he doesn’t think. (My mum says “He’s a man!” as an excuse, and blames it all on his wife.)
He married his childhood sweetheart. They never dated anyone else. They had their first child with no problems, and then they decided to have another one a few years later, and of course got pregnant just fine. They’ve just moved to a huge new house – trading up. She’s even given up work just because they can. (We would struggle on a single salary… even though we earn more, they don’t have an ex to support!) Even down to the fact that they have the “perfect” one boy followed by one girl. Without even trying they just get everything anyone wants. Really, they would make you sick even without anything else!
I keep telling myself that nice things happen to nice people. But then I think: Am I not nice? Seriously, all the crap I’ve been through… Am I not nice because of it? Or do bad things happen because I’m not nice? I think mean thoughts sometimes. And I think maybe I’m just feeling sorry for myself today.
Anyway, back to history. For their last (first, previous) child, they decided to announce that he would be christened on a certain day. This day fell right in the middle of a skiing holiday I’d booked six months before. It was one week holiday and it came at a very bad time in my life, when I’d just separated from my husband and I really hadn’t been away at all. It was my first holiday with friends and they were so supportive of me. And they couldn’t rearrange the christening at all apparently (a month in advance rather than six months in advance). My holiday was all paid for and I was very short of money so it would mean no other holidays that year.
My brother wanted me to cancel or postpone my holiday. I looked into going late and missing three days (half the holiday!) to attend the christening. Bearing in mind I was one of FIVE siblings between them. I mean, I wasn’t really necessary to arrangements. I worked out that to delay and get separate flights and transfers would cost around £600. In the end I just couldn’t afford it and I went on holiday and took part in the christening by Skype. Yes, churches can do Skype!
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My brother sent me a message saying “We are going to get Little Miss christened on your birthday weekend. Hope you don’t mind.”
What. The. ????
Let’s consider this. He’s well aware that I’ve lost a baby and I am meant to be pregnant right now. I would be sporting a nice big bump and foregoing wine and generally being a smug pregnant person. Instead I’ve just had an operation to remove a fibroid that was taking up residence in my womb, that likely prevented my pregnancy from progressing. Bear in mind that Little Miss has not even been born yet. She’s due in a few weeks. She will be teeny tiny by the time my birthday rolls around. In the Christian faith, there isn’t any major imperative to get a child christened within a certain time. Some wait till they’re one or something. There’s no particular religious reason.
Oh and there are FIFTY-ONE other weekends in the year when they could have Little Miss christened.
Why the rush? Apparently it’s because SIL wants Little Miss to wear her christening dress and wants it to fit. I am sure that given she hasn’t even been born yet would mean they aren’t sure what size she’ll be on my birthday weekend, and I don’t see why she would be significantly different in size the weekend before or after.
So let’s think about this:
He knows it’s my birthday.
He knows that we lost our baby and would have been pregnant now.
He knows that the last christening fell during my one holiday booked six months in advance.
He “hopes [I] don’t mind”.
Maybe I’m overreacting. (FWIW, my sibling #2 was absolutely incandescent on my behalf. I haven’t discussed with #4.)
Another bit of history: birthdays are a big deal for me. I’ve had quite a few of them. Maybe it’s an adopted person’s thing. Maybe it’s a me thing. I think being one of four it was our special day. I think having been adopted it was my belonging day. I just know I always found them important. And one of the things with my ex… He never used to celebrate them with me. I used to have these huge parties and he wouldn’t attend. We would do something different, just us. In a decade of birthdays he attended one of my parties (my 30th). It used to make me feel like **** that my partner / husband didn’t want to come to social occasions with me, and even worse on birthdays. So I’d make up for it by having extravagant bashes and telling myself it would be okay.
After we split up, I decided I wasn’t going to give up things that were important to me. I was going to celebrate life and not feel guilty for doing so. I was going to be happy and social rather than scared and isolated. I was going to say what I wanted in relationships and not compromise on important things like: a guy who wants to be seen with you in public, a guy who isn’t afraid to say he loves you every single day, a guy who kisses you on the lips and tells you you’re gorgeous (even when you’re not)…
I found my guy. He does all those things and more. And he was adopted so he knows about some things that we can’t even say. He knows that birthdays are important. On my first one together, he did a special birthday trip to… Disneyland Paris. It was a surprise, and he organised everything from the champagne breakfast to the Disney hotel and telling me all the best rides to go on. After a long time of feeling sad, being happy again. Our birthdays are only a few days apart so we go every year. He loves Christmas just like I do, and we know that we have to go and celebrate our birthdays before Christmas celebrations kick off.
So that’s my feelings on birthdays. And christening. For this one, if I go… I’ll have to spend my birthday dreading the baby talk. I’ll have to be reminded that my baby is dead. If I do anything on my birthday evening, I will have to finish it at a decent hour because I’m going to have to get up super early the next morning to trek across London (an hour and a half) and dress up and go to church for a christening. I’m not religious and I don’t like christenings at the best of times… They are just a reminder to the childless of their barren state. As well as being boring, if you’re me. (I’ve had a lot of experience of church, enough for a lifetime… I admire how people seem to get something out of it, but other than visiting them on holiday to light a candle for granny, I tend to avoid them.)
So back to the call with my mum. She was asking how I’m feeling. I’m feeling fine. Oh and op update (opdate!): the bloody fibroid was larger than any of the scans said. They’d said it was 15mm, then 10mm, then 5mm. I asked if it was changing but apparently you can’t tell on scans. When they got in there it was 25mm! The bugger!
My mum then suggested that they were going to stay in a hotel the night before the christening near my brother, and asked if I wanted to come and stay too and do something for my birthday.
I mean, really. How would I like to travel across London and spend my birthday doing something with my parents away from home and Dog?
I said that it was unlikely. She asked if maybe T would want to come too but he has a ready made excuse and has no intention of attending – it’s his sister’s birthday.
So basically I have a choice.
1) Forego my birthday this year. Suck it up and go to the christening. Leave as early as possible as it will probably be horrendous. Think baby shower x 100. In church. Not to mention they won’t even ask me to make the cake so it will be some monstrosity!
2) Don’t go to the christening. Cause family rift. (My mum said I didn’t have to go but she thought I was overreacting. Also had forgotten until I reminded her that the last one was scheduled during my ski holiday.)
3) Have some understated birthday, like a dinner or something, and try and enjoy it. Finish early and get up early the next day (yuck) and go to the christening.
I’m guessing I will do that. I’m feeling pretty p’d off about it but maybe that’s just a post operative haze.
Sometimes this infertility stuff sucks.
(Or: Going with the Flo)
And here it is.
I don’t know how I thought I would feel when I got my period – the first period after my very first pregnancy and my very first miscarriage. (I refuse even after all this time to call it “Aunt Flo(w)” as I don’t believe in calling such a ****ing horrendous thing by the name of some benevolent female relation – so sue me!) It felt like it was coming yesterday, and it happened overnight. I feel sort of resigned. Sort of morose.
I’ve just looked up the dates. I started this journey back in April. I was so optimistic then! My Day 1 on the IVF journey was April 15, and my last period ended on April 25. My (IVF) pregnancy was confirmed at the beginning of July and lost a few short weeks later. It’s now August 13, almost four months since we started on our IVF journey and around 15 years since I first could have considered having a child. A lot has happened in that time and the time before. I finally joined the blogging community. I finally put a name to that loss – infertility; not just not-being-a-parent – and we suffered a new loss, of our much wanted baby.
How do I feel?
In some ways I feel mildly depressed. I don’t think I have anything like full on clinical depression, so I definitely wouldn’t want to overplay it. I think I have a right to feel disappointed, grieving and angry at times. It’s a natural reaction. For me it’s more of a low level background noise, with the loss always there in the back of my mind, whereas my days are generally a net happy result. I have my amazing partner T and I have my superdog and I have a job which I don’t love, but which pays the bills in the way that I don’t have to worry about it too much. I’m in a way better place than I was a few years ago, in my Other Life.
It’s probably the hormones and the nasty shock of my body having to get used to a period after a brief hiatus of not having them for a while. I have horrific periods, but I’m happy to report that whilst they bear no resemblance to my friends’ stories of periods (I seem to lose a lot of blood, and I’ve had operations for endometriosis, and I have a fibroid, and I’ve been given drugs to make them lighter and less painful with no discernable effect), they are nothing like a miscarriage. And for that I’m grateful, because I don’t know how I’d cope if it happened again. But we will try, of course.
I think I feel emotionally tired because we have to put our hope on hold for a while. Whilst I know there’s no real reason why we’d ever get pregnant naturally, because it’s been 15 years and I had no sniff of a pregnancy until IVF, I always had this hope in the back of my mind that it could happen naturally. Because it happened for my parents after 15 years, miraculously. Because I’m now with someone who actually wants to make a baby. But they found a fibroid during the confirmation scans for my miscarriage, and it’s right smack bang in the middle of my uterus, so really it needs to get sorted out before we can start again.
The appointment with the gynaecologist isn’t until October, which seems so long away when this was identified in July. I know it’s not life threatening so I should expect a wait, but it’s hard to be optimistic when I know I won’t get an operation to remove the fibroid until October at the earliest (and probably later once I get on an op waiting list). And after that I’ll have to heal, and we will have to wait until our turn comes round for IVF cycle #2 which could be at least six months, and our hospital (where the fertility clinic is) has completely shut down comms, so I have no idea what to expect. It’s disappointing.
Just the waiting.
We are all in the infertility community used to it. So many stories of waiting, and hoping, and some of them have happy endings and some don’t. And meanwhile, other people’s happinesses are hard to bear. By which I mean: other people’s fertility, the representation of everything I/we don’t have.
Today: another bump post of a pretty much ex-friend looking more glamorous with a 28 week bump than I do even without a bump. I’m dumpy, 15kg over my old weight, confidence hugely knocked. The one thing I used to have over Them was that I could turn men’s heads (for in my experience, there’s nothing more appealing to sleazy men in the city than an emotionally screwed up borderline eating disorder). Why do I even care? I don’t know… I don’t need other men’s approval. It’s just I’m realising that I can’t even be a vixen if I can’t be a mother. (I told you I was feeling sorry for myself.)
And elsewhere on social media: a post been going round for a while about tattoos of semi-colons; they’re meant to represent that a story isn’t finished, which people have used to represent all sorts of persistence through loss (such as fighting depression). As opposed to a full stop (“period” in US) which represents the end of something.
And I guess that’s what my period is.
It’s the end of our chapter, of our first IVF, of my first pregnancy, of my baby so lovingly if medically conceived, of our first loss.
But not the end of our story…
T kisses me and tells me he loves me every day. If he could, he would take my broken heart and hold it in his hands and squish it whole again. He’s a good man. I’ll always be happy for having him, and for enabling me to have Dog (who I’d probably never have adopted on my own), for our little family with its ghost baby who we may or may never meet.
I really am okay.
My blog is cathartic so you get the best and worst of me… and periods bring out the worst, so don’t be alarmed. If you met me today in real life I would smile. I’d be fun. You’d think, she’s fine. I was hugely flattered the other day when a couple of girls from work asked me to join them for a drink. (I hadn’t been out with them before… The nature of my work means it takes ages to get to the going out friends stage as we rarely work with the same people.) We drank bubbly and chatted, and I realised that I was okay. The thought of going into the dating game (as they were) makes my stomach turn. I’m happy to have found my prince-who-isn’t-a-prince. If my worst problem is not my health, or having enough money to live without putting myself in danger – I’m better off than the majority of people in the world.
And so I persist. We keep calm and we carry on. It’s the only way. And tomorrow (or in approximately 5 days) I will feel much better.
One of my favourite sayings is Suck it up, buttercup.
I don’t know why, but I find it comical. I can just imagine some drawling John Malkovich type saying
Life ain’t no fairy tale, princess.
And in the context of what’s been going on in my life recently, it’s sort of comforting in a morose British way to think – that’s life. Sh*t happens. It isn’t personal.
Miscarriages happen. Infertility happens. And life, princess, ain’t no fairy tale.
Or is it?
The thing is… with our impending trip to the Magic Kingdom penciled in for just a few months away, we’ve been kind of more interested than usual in all things Disney in our household. In the course of planning our trip we have been focusing on what we really really want to do. For instance, we’ve managed to secure a coveted reservation at the Be Our Guest restaurant (for breakfast)… which just so happens to relate to my favourite Disney movie of all time.
Beauty and the Beast. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to add it to your list. It’s definitely the best Disney film ever, because I say so. And it turns out that T hasn’t watched it! (We’ve added it to our Prime list on Amazon.)
The basic premise of the storyline is as follows:
Belle (Beauty in French, natch) is a bookish, but also extremely beautiful poor girl who lives with her father (who she loves) in rural France and is dealing with intermittent s-xual harrassment from the neighbourhood jock, Gascon. Gascon thinks he’s the bees knees. If you watch the film, he is pretty much as handsome as a cartoon prince can be and has a hilarious song about how great he is, to prove it. But he has a bit of a rubbish personality. (Ladies… We all know the type.)
The Beast is actually a prince who got a nasty spell cast on him by an evil enchantress, because he was once not very nice to her. We all make mistakes. Understandably, he’s in a bit of a mood about being a Beast (something between a lion and a human… actually quite attractive if you like hirsute men) and so he just roams around his castle in a bad mood.
One day, Belle’s dad accidentally ends up being detained in the Beast’s castle. Belle offers to switch places with her adored father so he can get back to the village, as the Beast is being beastly about it. She doesn’t really enjoy it at first, but gets to make friends with the Beast’s servants who’ve all been transformed into household objects. They sing the best song in all animation called Be Our Guest. (“Try the grey stuff; it’s delicious! Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes!”) They all have comedy French accents which somehow elevates the song to another level. Not to mention the synchronised swimming-in-soup cutlery.
Anyway, the Beast is no match for Belle as it turns out she gives as good as she gets and tarts up really well. That’s what having an anthropomorphic style supervisor wardrobe will do for you. Standard Disney princess fare but she gets a yellow dress and she’s not blonde therefore she’s quirky, because she reads books and stuff, and she’s quite a feisty thing and doesn’t let him boss her around. It’s quite feminist really.
The Beast tries to be grumpy but he’s just not very good at it, because he really fancies her. (He’s not all bad; he just made a mistake when he was young and cocky. We can forgive him because he’s really nice. And he’s got a castle.) Also there’s a hilarious moment when he’s getting primped for dinner. It’s hard to primp a Beast.
They basically have the hots for each other, even though he’s meant to be really unattractive because Beast. (This is rubbish; he’s a lot nicer looking than most of my colleagues.) The thing is, they flirt like mad and anyway beggars can’t be choosers when you’ve been stuck in self-imposed exile for years and years. Plus, what girl can refuse a
man beast with such a massive… library?
They have a moment – whilst Mrs Potts the teapot (aka Angela Lansbury) sings Tale As Old As Time (aka Beauty and the Beast), which generally makes shivers run down my spine even though they are cartoon characters and it was originally sung by Celine Dion. Belle realises she really quite fancies the Beast, and the Beast is a sucker for Belle’s yellow-hued charms and big eyes. This part has the most awe inspiring animation (for the time) when the “camera” pans back and up through the chandelier in the ballroom. In 1991 this was pretty mind-blowing. (Fun fact: It was one of the first uses of CGI in a Disney cartoon. And the song won an Oscar!)
Then there’s a bit of upset what with Gascon being a bit of a knob, and the villagers being a bit crazy, but it all works out in the end. I’m not going to ruin it for you… You have to watch it.
The point being… That whole thing about fairy tales is that they are supposed to have a happy ending. The reason that we are meant to “get real” and accept that life isn’t a fairy tale is that we have to believe that life isn’t all about getting a happy ending. But what if not all fairy tales have happy endings? And what if life is like a fairy tale?
If you look back through the original (non Disney) fairy tales, they didn’t all have happy endings, and they had some fairly alarming middle bits too. As a bookish child (like Belle, without the beauty) I had two massive tomes of fairy tales – Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. And let me tell you, they weren’t that nice. They were pretty scary. So, quite frankly, I’d have been worried as a child if you’d told me life was like a fairy tale…
Off the top of my head:
The Little Mermaid (Hans Christian Andersen) – Mermaid loves prince. Mermaid makes immense sacrifices and undergoes a lot of pain (tongue cut out, feeling of daggers to turn tail into legs) to be with prince. Prince a bit stupid. Marries someone else. Mermaid dejected. To go back to being a mermaid, must murder prince. Decides against it. Dies. (In this version she doesn’t have any anthropomorphic fishy pals or a sea shell bikini.)
The Little Match Girl (Hans Christian Andersen) – Match girl is cold. Doesn’t sell any matches. Lights last matches and has visions of happy times (that she hasn’t actually experienced). Dies. (For some reason Disney hasn’t decided to make a cartoon version of this.)
Hansel and Gretel (Brothers Grimm) – Siblings have wicked stepmother and father who won’t leave her. Stepmother drops them in woods. They stumble across strange house. Turns out it’s made out of gingerbread and candy. Eat bits of house. Get captured by witch who wants to eat them and prepares oven to cook them. Fortunately she’s blind and they escape. Wicked stepmother has mysteriously died. They all live “happily ever after”, despite the fact that their father effectively abandoned them. (I want Disney to make a version of this just so we can go and eat the house.)
Rumpelstiltskin (Brothers Grimm) – Silly miller promises king that daughter can spin straw into gold. Turns out she can’t and the king’s going to chop off her head if she doesn’t do it. Eponymous dwarf turns up and sorts it for her in exchange for necklace, then ring, then a promise of firstborn. Silly girl agrees. Marries king. Has firstborn. Angry dwarf comes to claim baby but is fobbed off by gamble of her guessing his name in three days. She leaves the palace (and presumably baby) and tracks him to village, where she hears him singing a little ditty that happens to mention his name. On third day after feigning ignorance she “guesses” his name correctly, and he gets so cross he tears himself in two. And she lives “happily ever after” with her baby and her husband the king who previously threatened to chop off her head if she didn’t spin straw into gold. Lovely. (I’m thinking this won’t translate well to a cartoon.)
I guess my point here is… Fairy tales aren’t that great. And life isn’t great all the time.
Maybe fairy tales are a bit like real life. I mean, aside from the chopping off heads and limbs and so on… we end up with some fairly scary situations in real life. And the most unexpected things happen.
On the one hand we have wicked stepmother, murderous witch, the threat of personal injury, evil dwarf baby snatcher.
On the other hand we have infertility, illness, IVF, miscarriage, loss.
In both we have evil and we have good. And we have to believe that there is enough good for it to triumph over the evil. Despite pain. Despite loss. There are dwarves whose names we unexpectedly guess. There are witches who happen to be blind and easy to trick out of cooking us. There are… umm, actually, there aren’t any mermaids or match girls, but we do all die in the end. We just have to make the in between bits as enjoyable as possible.
My fairy tale
A baby was born in a foreign land. There was nobody to look after the baby until a nice young couple from a strange land came and took the baby and raised her as their own daughter. They gave her everything: food, shelter, love. Some fairly idiosyncratic family traditions and a questionable haircut. And three little siblings who were sometimes a pain in the ass but still happened to be the best siblings ever. They traveled the world and showed her many things. She was given many gifts, some of which were really horrible matching outfits that she was not very grateful for. Which was mean. She should have pretended to like them. She wasn’t very good at disguising disappointment. She still isn’t. Point is, her family are hilarious, loving and crazy and they’re hers.
She grew up over quite a few years and aside from a few annoying bits at school, she had a nice life. She had as many books as she ever was able to read, especially once the Kindle was invented, and as much family as she ever could have hoped for, what with originally having been given away.
She met her handsome prince who turned out not to be a prince but worked in IT. After many years her dreams came true and they were married. They had a lovely life in a nice village and three or four holidays a year. But something was missing. A baby, amongst other things. A happier life she thought in the back of her mind that she could maybe have. She wasn’t sure. So she packed up her knapsack and went on her travels.
She went to a big city and found a tiny box to call her own. She didn’t need a lot of room to hold the empty space inside of her. She went out a lot and made a lot of new memories. And some she couldn’t remember because she was drunk. She met a lot of princes who turned out not to be princes after all, but narcissistic toads who worked in Finance. For a while she survived mainly on wine and cigarettes, which gives you good cheekbones but a sad heart. She became a little hamster on a wheel, going through the motions.
One day when she least expected it, she met an astronaut. He had a kind smile and bad hair. (Apparently space travel is bad for hair.) He took her hand and he never let it go. He kissed her on the lips all the time and told her she was beautiful. (Even when she got really fat.) He always did that. He had a superpower which was spreading joy. He would drop little missiles of fun wherever he went and everyone ended up happy. They got an enchanted puppy whose magical licks could heal any hurt. Eventually her sad broken heart healed bigger than before.
What they wanted most of all was a baby to call their own, because they had both been babies from First Families. They just wanted to have their own First Family. So they tried and they tried, but nothing happened. Their baby was hiding from them. Everyone else in the kingdom had a baby, or more than one baby. There really were a lot of babies and they kept looking for their baby, but they couldn’t find him. One day a doctor came and helped them and they had a little baby for a while, but he died. They were still happy, but with a new little sadness to carry around with them. Most people do. Their pup’s magical licks helped.
And so they wait. Their story isn’t over yet; not by a long shot. There are still ogres and witches and demons to fight. They are still looking for their baby. The little bugger is still hiding. And yet… in the meantime they are happy. Sometimes she thinks of the baby they lost (always, in the back of her mind, he giggles). And she wonders. She wonders if she will ever meet him (or her). And in the meantime, he spreads joy. They make plans to visit the Magic Kingdom, and other adventures. She takes the majority of the magic licks and she heals (and magic pup gets fat on treats and love). He still kisses her on the lips and tells her she is beautiful. She still wants to be with him forever.
And they live happily ever after.
(Not The End.)
(Or: It’s easy to be mean from behind a keyboard)
Yesterday I wrote a post about Jennifer Aniston which was meant to be a lighthearted way of making a serious point.
That point was around the well known experience (in the infertility community) of it being assumed that you don’t want kids, and the fact that this assumption is often incorrect and can be really upsetting.
In the post I made some not altogether serious points about Jennifer’s exes, in the context of not understanding why the Daily Mail had to publish a list of Jennifer’s exes the day after she got married. One of the points I made was that Brad Pitt wasn’t the loss that he was made out to be, seeing as he cheated on her, and that it must have been horrible for Jennifer to have to see Brad so publicly with Angelina and all the kids, especially if she suffered with infertility. Another point was a lighthearted point about how I don’t see why she would be feeling unhappy (as the media often paints her) about not ending up with any of her other exes, and that in public with her husband she seems to be really happy.
It turns out that this post was a bit much for one user, who decided that I had made too many assumptions about Jennifer’s exes in my post, thereby apparently negating any point I was trying to make about infertility.
I didn’t initially take it seriously and explained in my response that the assumptions I’d made were around Jennifer not wanting to be in a relationship where she was cheated on, as she ultimately was with Brad Pitt, or not ending up in a long term relationship, with John Mayer.
I then got this message:
I guess that I didn’t really expect a personal attack based on something so flippant as mentioning a celebrity’s exes. Apparently this upset this user so much that she saw fit to say that I “always think [I’m] right” and “blog for personal attention” and “don’t wanna (sic) hear [her] opinions”.
Actually, I am interested in other people’s opinions and in discussions previously I have disagreed respectfully with other users on my blog and theirs, and vice versa. I think the difference is that there are ways of disagreeing which don’t involve personal attacks, and that in these discussions we were always open to listening to and understanding other people’s views without ever insulting them personally.
For example, a while back we had quite a long discussion about parental rights in the workplace in different countries where nobody resorted to personal attacks, even though we were coming at it from different angles regarding how parents and non parents are viewed in society. I found others’ views on that post to be enlightening and interesting, to find out how the treatment of parents differs in different countries. The discussion never got heated and it never got personal.
Although I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help feeling that this person was trying to get personally insulting for some reason. I’ve been online a long time and I’ve come across all sorts of trolling and flaming before, and people who feel a sort of bravery by sitting behind a computer screen and get their kicks through insulting others. I should be able to deal with it by now, but it still feels personal in some way, even though I know it’s not, because that person doesn’t know me.
I decided that it might be time to put comments on moderation, and then I received this:
This blog is part of a group of blogs that focuses on infertility and our experience of childlessness. As such we are a group of women and men who are experiencing one of the most isolating of conditions, the inability to be parents in a world where the default position is “parent”. We are struggling to find meaning in our loss. We are coming to terms with the long wait and convoluted journey we have to parenthood, the idea that we will never be parents in the conventional way and have no guarantee of success. And for some, the idea that we need to find a place in the world where we aren’t able to be parents.
To be told that makes us “bitter, the eternal victim or seeking constant gratification […] through ego boosting feedback”… Well on the one hand, it’s a mean thing to say – in the way that it’s written, in a way that’s obviously intended to be hurtful.
But on the other hand, yes.
Yes we are bitter.
We’re bitter that we have struggled so hard to try and have children, have dealt with many years of infertility whilst everyone else has babies effortlessly, and have had these kind of assumptions made about us not wanting children, when it’s the thing we want most of all.
We are victims, because we’ve struggled with many years of painful conditions, invasive treatments and mean people who’ve said things that hurt us, inadvertently or intentionally.
And we do seek “ego boosting feedback”, if that’s what you call support, advice, shared experience, acceptance, and a safe place to vent. The ladies and gentlemen I’ve met on here have changed my life and made me feel like I’m not alone. Infertility, if you’re unfortunate enough to suffer from it, is one of the most isolating experiences you can imagine. And miscarriage, the loss of a child that nobody talks about or acknowledges, is an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Other ladies are dealing with the unimaginable pain of recurrent pregnancy loss and still birth. We consider this a safe place to talk about our pain and losses.
So, cookietime78, or however the latest “anonymous” troll wants to be known (it’s quite easy to find out your name and location, you know):
I’m sorry that you are “not confident enough to blog yet” as if you were, you’d see that the majority of people on here are not like you. They are supportive of other people’s struggles. They help them feel less alone on their journey by sharing their own stories. They pick people up when they’re feeling down. They hurt for others’ sadnesses and they take joy in their happinesses. I’ve never met any of them in real life but I consider them friends.
A personal blog is just that: a personal experience. There is no need to interact with it if you disagree with it. Its readership is a self selected group of people with similar interests. There is very little to be gained by insulting the person writing it (and in this case, all people writing about infertility) other than to try and make the writer momentarily feel bad.
And here’s the thing.
My baby died. My baby, conceived through invasive and difficult IVF treatment after 15 years of waiting died before he was born. I never even got to see the outline of his little body before the flicker of his heartbeat on the ultrasound screen went out. I have a long wait and an operation before we can even think about trying again.
So whatever you think you’re trying to achieve by making me feel bad, it’s a pinprick compared to what I’ve already felt. What I’m already feeling.
I blog to make myself feel better. I blog for support. I blog to acknowledge, somewhere, my dead baby that I can’t acknowledge in public because nobody talks about miscarriage. If that makes me bitter and a victim, then there’s nothing I can do to change it. Believe me, if there was anything I could do to raise my baby from the dead, I’d have done it already.
If you wanted me to feel bad, you’ve succeeded. Well done. But I have enough going on in my life without engaging with keyboard warriors like you who have nothing positive to add to the discussion. My blog has been a haven, a place of support, and a meeting of friends. If you don’t want to be my friend then there are hundreds of thousands of alternative blogs you can visit. You don’t need to spend any more time on mine.
I’m not going to let you keep posting personal insults on my blog, because it’s my blog, and my blog is supposed to be my area of the internet, and I choose to make it a place where people aren’t negative to each other. I want to feel trustful of my readership, so I’m taking comment moderation off. In future, abuse gets deleted and I’ll spend a lot less time worrying about it.
Update: I’ve updated this post to include the iPhone app as well! ☺️
After my little rant-ette earlier today, I decided that I was sick to death of the targeted advertising on Facebook. I get that Amazon will give me choices based on stuff I’ve bought before, and I can edit those choices if I wish – the thing that was really getting my goat was the targeted advertising on Facebook. I mean, it’s a social network and not a shop (though obviously they’ve monetised it all lately so let’s not kid ourselves). I shouldn’t be bombarded with pictures of baby products when I don’t have a baby! (Friends are a different matter, but I tend to unfollow friends who post excessive pictures of their babies.)
Turns out that you can adjust the targeted advertising on Facebook. And I’ve been through and done it, so I thought I’d write up a little How To guide for all of you who are sick of being advertised to about baby stuff when you don’t have a baby.
First of all, the easiest way to change your ad preferences is to go to one of the sponsored posts. You have to do this on the desktop version of Facebook as far as I can see. (I use the mobile version generally, but I’m willing to make an exception to make the blasted baby ads go away.)
1) Click on the down arrow on the top right of any advert.
This shows you the following menu. You can get rid of all ads from that company by clicking “Hide all adverts from this seller” and you can also say you don’t want to see posts like that. This means that whatever algorithm they’ve used to work out that you might like this seller, they’ll adjust the calculation. For example in the below ad, they’ve probably decided I am interested in snacks!
The one you really want to click on is the third line down – Why am I seeing this?
2) This takes you to the menu of preferences where you can edit the keywords they are using to decide which ads you see.
The keywords that infertile people probably don’t want targeted advertising for are under the category called Family and Relationships, so click on that to expand the list.
You can see all the things they think you’re interested in, on a list right here. It’s pretty nuts to see what they think you are interested in, based on your Facebook activity. For example, apparently it seems like I’m interested in breastfeeding. I clicked on the little “i” information sign to understand more… which didn’t lead to any more understanding at all! I am really not interested in breastfeeding at this point in time.
3) Edit your preferences by clicking on a cross the right hand side of each keyword. This removes the keyword from the list of things you’re supposedly “interested in”.
There is a cross on the right hand side of each word and if you click on it then it will remove it from the list and draw a line through it. (The cross changes to a word saying Undo, once you have clicked on it. So you can toggle your preferences if you want, eg if you then have a baby and do want to see these ads.)
4) I thought this bit was pretty sad. I deleted almost everything under this category, apart from Love.
Annoyingly, as soon as I logged onto the app I got another bloody Beaming Baby ad! They must really think I want to see this! Luckily it’s easy to get rid of on the app.
This is super quick. Just click on the arrow in the top right corner of the ad, and select why you don’t want to see it any more. As far as I can tell this gets rid of ads and ads like it in the same way as doing it on the browser does.
Voila! No more baby adverts!
Anyway, I hope this post helps anyone who has gone through the pain of feeling hurt about targeted advertising. I am a bit of a social media addict… I should really stop as a lot of the time it makes me feel worse about things (though a lot of the time it makes me feel better, and connects me) so I do make efforts to ensure that my feed is filtered appropriately for me.
For example I choose not to see people who post lots of baby guff in my newsfeed, because I know that makes me feel bad. I don’t hide all mothers – otherwise I wouldn’t have any friends! I just hide the ones who post too much baby stuff for me personally right now. I think it is okay… I edit my preferences rather than expecting them to change the way they share stuff – I change rather than expecting them to change. We all need to self-preserve for our own sanity. (If anyone needs tips on how to edit friends lists without defriending people then let me know. It’s quite easy but you have to take the time to edit them – but it’s a one off process.)
Guys, gals… I know this is sad, and maybe I’m a little too strident about stuff like this right now. But I think we have tech for a reason which is to make our lives easier, not harder. So if there are small things we can do to make the loss hurt less, we shouldn’t feel bad about doing them. I hope this helps one or two of you!