Bruno, Opposites and Trees


Bruno is a little dog, and I instantly adored him, when we came across him in the park. We must have made a good impression, as we were invited to Bruno’s 1st Birthday celebrations. His mum had contacted the local council, and we were greeted by an extraordinary set-up.

The dogs all received a toy from the lucky dip basket, as well as a big ‘doggy bag‘ to take home. It was a morning of revelry, finishing with a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, during which a plucky pooch clandestinely took off with Bruno’s birthday cake! In a year such as this, the question of whether to have a party for your pet or not is moot. Why wouldn’t you? The dogs had great fun, and we left with our cheek’s hurting from all the smiling. Any chance you have to snatch up some joy, take it, especially now.

I had an experience the other day, which shall stay with me always. I came across a lady (I would estimate in her 50’s), sitting by herself. As I stopped to smile, she complemented me on what I was wearing. “Look at you; so beautifully put-together. I wish I could do that.” I knew what she meant. I have been her, at various times in my life. She couldn’t smile, nor could her eyes contain the anguish within. She longed for the days when she could conceal what was now evident. We chatted and she told me she was depressed. Financially insecure, this was not what she’d thought her 50’s would be. “How do you keep going?” she asked, almost pleadingly. “Depression is a hard foe, and you have to be cunning. You know how it tells you nobody cares? You know how the first impulse is to isolate; to stay inside?” She nodded. “You have to do the opposite of what it’s demanding. Get out into the sunshine, and listen to the kookaburras. Admire the trees in the neighbourhood. Talk to someone, even if it’s a stranger, each and every day. Drink water, and don’t skip meals. Whatever your first impulse is, (I know from experience with anxiety, that it’s usually caffeine and solitude), do the exact opposite. What brought you outside today?” I asked. She sighed, “I needed to know that I wasn’t alone in this world. I needed all the things that you spoke about. I needed the trees and fresh air, a friendly face and birdsong.” “Promise me that you’ll do this each day?” I asked. “It’s a little thing, and won’t fix everything up; though I wish with all my heart that it could. It’s a start, though… A start in the right direction.” She nodded, and we looked in each other’s eyes. Hers were emblazoned with sapphires, and diamonds. Her shoulders straightened, and she looked different, stronger. Never underestimate the effect you can have on someone, even a stranger. Do the opposite of what you feel compelled to do when depressed or anxious. When anxious, I sit still and reflect, rather than race around, drinking caffeine and achieving nothing.

 

One of my best friends is in ICU on the other side of Sydney. Her daughter and mine are also the best of friends. We have been through IVF, pregnancy, motherhood and sickness together. We always finish our ludicrous chats with ‘love you.‘ She has been unwell for some time, but all the same, when you are dealing with a powerhouse of her stature, you believe them to be invincible. I am waiting to hear how her surgery went. She managed to text me from ICU last night, and I promised to take her to Haigh’s chocolate shop when she’s recovered. We went back and forth for a bit, before I signed off ‘love you.’ I feel impotent and powerless, as I wait. I then recalled what I’d suggested to the lovely stranger last week, which was to do the opposite of what I feel. Leaving home, I am going to walk to the river, stopping to hug trees. Then I shall listen for the kookaburras, surveying the paddocks and farms. I will await the phone call, whilst ensconced in beauty. My friend, with a keen eye for the humorous and glorious, would approve. Cockatoos screeching and swooping, kookaburras laughing and a lush verdant valley would amuse her. I imagine she is with me, as we both await the call, just like in our IVF days…

Naked Bike Ride Sydney, Parrots and Friends


As a result of a recent slip and fall, I have had to take more pain medication for my spine.   Come Friday, I was hunched over my toilet, continually throwing up (this medication can interfere with the nausea centre of the brain). As a result, I missed seeing my daughter sing at her Highschool’s talent quest. It was the end to a stellar week, which saw us being notified that our darling little home was being sold. We are hoping with all our hearts that an investor buys it, and we are able to stay. Saturday was spent eating dry toast and apple to settle my stomach, and resting in bed. That evening, my girl and I watched a very silly movie, and laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

We had arranged to meet friends on Sunday in the city, and there was no way that I was going to cancel. We all did IVF together, ending up with daughters. We hadn’t seen each other for the longest time, life getting in the way. It were as though no time had passed, as we hugged and caught up. IVF had taken a lot out of us, but it had also given us an inner resilience. Boy, have we needed it!

Strolling along, we came across a very sweet man, who was walking his three dogs and his Eclectus parrot. The girls were invited to hold him, much to their delight!

This gorgeous boy is named Apollo, and you can follow him and his family on Instagram.

Light exuded from Apollo’s dad; he was one of those people of whom you leave lighter and much happier.

We had Italian ice-cream for brunch, then indulged in a gorgeous Earl Grey and rose donut, baked fresh. A long walk was in order afterward, and we found an eatery, where I ordered a zucchini flower and plate of Brussels sprouts, pan-fried in balsamic vinegar. Surprisingly, my friends asked that the surplus be put in a container for me to take home,  and were more than a little reluctant to finish them off!

The girls paddled in the harbour, and as we reclined at a nearby park, we were surprised to have the Naked Bike Ride, Sydney, stream past! A helpful fellow at the front, announced to the gawkers that they were indeed nude riders, as if we couldn’t figure it out for ourselves! I admired their chutzpah, and the whimsy of it all. Such a random event to come across! It certainly made everyone smile!

At the end of the day, I was tired and sore, but no more than I would have been had I stayed home. In fact, I would have been worse off. I wouldn’t have seen my lifelong friends, watched my daughter have fun, met a very kind man with his canine and bird family, eaten glorious food and seen the naked bike ride. I wouldn’t have been embraced by my glorious city. I love that I can go into the city depleted, and come back retrieved.

The Nest


I had been given very little hope of ever having a child with IVF (after three attempts). Despondent, I went for a walk in a local park. I was standing under a tree, brushing away my tears, when an empty bird’s nest fell at my feet. I took it as an omen, and cradled the precious gift. I still have it- behind glass in my cabinet-eleven years later.Just the other day, I was walking with my daughter, and the nest pictured above landed at my feet! I marvelled at the time and effort that went into building it; a perfect home and  refuge. Of course, it came home with me, and my little bird was just as enchanted as I, coming close to inspect the handiwork. Nests and eggshells from newborn chicks are items I tend to find regularly. What are yours?

Real Women


Sooo, I saw the above headline regarding Serena Williams last Sunday. I was so astonished that I doubted what I had just read. I had to read the quote a few times. I winced as though I had just been kicked in the gut. Surely, the media have grown up and are past such archaic statements? Apparently not! I am quite sure Ms Williams would recoil in horror if she saw her words twisted to make a point as to what constitutes being a real woman. I felt for women struggling with infertility when I saw the headline. I was one of those women. I look back on those years as the most achingly painful and lonely of my life. Opinions such as that above seared my soul, and made me doubt my worth on more than one occasion. When I came to the point of IVF being an absolute necessity, it was in some ways a relief. By then I had come to know myself. By then I knew that being a complete and functioning woman had nothing to do with fertility. It had to do with my biology, and the fact that I coped with constant agony courtesy of endometriosis. I was a woman because I had survived the un-survivable. I was a woman because I supported my sisters, both younger and older, providing counsel and comfort. I was a woman because I sought to rise to the status of survivor, and steer my destiny without interference. It would have been unfair to expect that a baby might gift me the label of woman. If anything, having a baby takes your autonomy for a time, and you need to grip on to retain your identity. Thousands of women read that headline, and winced last Sunday. Know that you are already a woman, and having a pregnancy neither heightens nor completes that status. It is time the media steered toward inclusivity and created less blanket statements which end in exclusion.

I met my daughter’s Embryologist!


Softly spoken, her voice redolent with kindness. An English lady whom I only saw in scrubs and cap, highlighting her beautiful skin and soft eyes. We had three frozen sperm and one follicle, that is all. It was my last chance. I woke from egg pickup with ‘2’ written on my hand. There was a chance this follicle may contain nothing; two was beyond all expectation! This lady watched them grow and divide, and I held my breath. One divided too rapidly, and perished within days. The other burst into a blastocyst; which was terrific news! This lady wished me luck during the embryo transfer, and gave me the dish my embryo had grown in.

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Eleven months later, I brought my miracle back to meet her, and she held my child in her arms. Years passed, and the scientist moved far away. We became reacquainted on social media. She sent a message that she would be staying nearby this Christmas, and another IVF mum and I planned to meet her with our girls. When I walked in and saw her, I squeeled with joy. My daughter was overwhelmed, meeting the lady whose picture is on our fridge; who carefully watched her as a little embryo. We hugged and looked at each other in wonder. Such a long road from where we started to having a ten year old child! I showed her the dish, and she noted the ‘2’ on the plastic. We had a moment of silence and I appreciated that the women present understood the heartache behind the second number. We talked ‘IVF speak,’ and I laughed that nobody else would understand our conversation!

Our girls both love science, and this lady set up a microscope the other miracle had been gifted for Christmas. We saw extraordinary images of cross-sections of hair, blood and many other wonders. Life-when broken down into tiny segments- really is the most amazing thing! Our girls had to battle for life, and their strength is displayed in their lives today, and shall carry them into their future. We swam in the pool on this hot summer day, the girls playing together as though they are soul sisters. I know that they are. Hours passed as we hurridly relayed what we have been up to; what the girls dreams are for their wild and precious lives.

The odds were mightily against this other mum and I, but this lady helped to see us through, changing our lives forever. How can you begin to thank her for the precious gift she handed us? Humble and kind, I pray that 2017 blesses this lady beyond her wildest imaginings. I hope the same for you all. x

Gnomes and Destiny


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When I was nineteen, I started a business, selling my art and poetry, as well as crystals and curiosities at markets and on consignment. I was extremely busy during this ten-year period, particularly when I reflect on all the surgery I had at the same time! I lived in a grungy, funky part of Sydney, and would often walk down the street to hang out at the all-night bookstore and grab some fabulous Indian food. I was into ceramics, and had my Greenware fired in the kiln of a nearby business, before painting them. I only managed to hang onto two of my pieces from this time. Before I left the area, I retrieved them from the shop where they had recently been placed…

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I haven’t paid them much mind in the intervening years, only to gift them a smile as I passed them in my living room. I have pared back my commitments since Christmas, and have made time to clean and reflect, de-clutter and organize my home. I stopped yesterday and studied my little friends, reflecting on a time when I had created and painted, written and pottered. I recalled the nights spent painstakingly painting them; the joy I felt when what I had created was bought. I looked closer, and noted that they hadn’t been cleaned for a while. Getting a wipe, I lovingly set to work. I turned them over, and there on the base was my daughter’s name, a daughter I wouldn’t have for another decade. I don’t know why I had thought to send them off with the following: Painted with love by E.Rose.

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A chill went through me. When I had finally fallen pregnant with IVF, I had another name altogether picked out for this baby, if it was a girl. In my eighth month, I dreamed of her, and she said that her name was E. Rose. (full name obscured to protect privacy). I changed her name accordingly. I had no recollection of ever signing my work with her name years before. How many hundreds of times had I done so? I called to her and told her the story and she was as delighted as I. “You knew me even then! You loved and wanted me before I was here!” I certainly did. Slowing down and having time to notice my little gnomes gave me a great gift. My daughter was intrinsically entwined in my younger years, letting herself be known, even on an unconscious level. When you say “I can’t do this anymore,” and allow yourself to slow, it’s amazing what you notice. Gnomes may even hold a breath-taking, thrilling message, just for you.

Babycakes (Also Known as Glitterball)


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I have an extraordinary daughter and she and I share an extraordinary bond. It hasn’t been an easy road, for either of us. It is a dreadful dichotomy, to want a child so desperately, and yet struggle when she arrives. I filled in the requisite questionare when I was pregnant and the alarm bells rang when the matron in the maternity ward saw it. Not only had I had major trauma in my life, but also a damaged body and little help. I couldn’t drive a car and was in a wheelchair in the later part of pregnancy. I felt more alarmed by my score because the matron was filled with histrionics. “How will you cope when you shall be mostly alone when she arrives? What will you do?” she trilled. Crap! How shall I cope and what shall I do? I began to ruminate on these frightening themes. It didn’t help that I had no experience with babies. I could barely recall being a child myself! More people doubted my abilities than believed in them.

I did IVF to have her, and that was an Odyssey in itself. I never thought beyond getting to the epu and then the dreaded tww. That was all my brain had space for. I felt so little, and vulnerable. I had to buy my pyjamas and dressing gown from the kidswear section as despite my enormous belly, I was petite and short. Very short. After my maternity visitation, I booked in for counselling after having been told that I was a prime candidate for perinatal and then postnatal depression. You know what was uncovered during these sessions? I had prepared myself for the pain that would unfurl on my damaged spine and kidneys… I had prepared myself for most matters. What I did have an issue with was boundaries. I had allowed people to run rampant in my life. I felt so fragile after IVF, and vulnerable now. I almost had her at 19 weeks, and it created major anxiety, even after the rupture sealed and labor stopped. I left hospital after several weeks, on high alert. As a result, my life and pregnancy became a free-for-all. All I wanted was peace and silence and I was getting little of either.

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When my rambunctious daughter arrived, I didn’t tell anyone save her godparents. I needed time with her alone. Oh yes, noses were out of joint, but at that stage, I was past caring. I didn’t want throngs of people touching her. I needed to get to know her! When the staff took her down the hall for her routine tests, she would roar until she was wheeled back in and then not a peep was heard. She always was a little firebrand who not only knew her own mind, but spoke it.

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At home by myself, it was tough. I could barely walk for months, and she had colic. She rarely slept and only stopped crying when in my arms. I was exhausted though enthralled. I tried every available product on the market to ease her suffering. Whenever the colic pain eased, I would search her face in desperation. I wanted her so much; did she not know? The other young mothers I knew all had routines set down for their newborn and they slept. I fell into postnatal depression, and sought appropriate help once again. It made all the difference. I stopped ruminating on my fears of being enough for this wondrous child.  By six months, she was a gurgling, happy little munchkin. I was making myself a coffee after settling her to sleep in her crib at the end of my bed. I heard a giggle, and turned around to see my 8 month old grinning at the door of the kitchen. I dropped my cup in fright. She had managed to climb out of her crib, landing on my bed, and then walked to the kitchen. Even as an embryo, she was in a hurry, doing what a 7 day old embie might within 48 hours. I came to know her personality, and she mine.

She hated being in her pram and I found out that she was extremely flexible in rather a  stressful manner. I was walking up the hill to a nature reserve, where my car was parked. I heard a strange clunk coming from underneath her pram though persisted with my voyage. To my horror, I found the wheels of the pram had run over my daughter! She had gotten free of the restraints and stood up in the pram! I ran to retrieve her and she was laughing, delighting in the game!

Then there was the memorable time in a play centre. We were attending a playgroup Christmas Party. Only one harangued girl was on the counter and the place was bedlam. I heard  my toddler call out, “hi mummy!” To my horror, she had climbed through the third level’s netting and lifted herself through a large hole in the roof. She was now standing on the flimsy net with nothing around her on the outside. Hurridly I crawled through the levels, and retrieved her by her feet. She thought it was terrific.

At four, I thought I had struck gold. I had discovered a meditation cd for children which carried her into the land of nod. Delighted, I put it on every evening. I pressed ‘play’ one night, and got the fright of my life. She had changed the meditation cd for rock music, and put it at full volume. She hid the calming cd and I haven’t seen it since.

I reflect on the tumultuous early days and am sad that I was so filled with fear. Heck, half of it wasn’t even mine! The colic ended, and whilst she was still a very wakeful baby, I let go of any notion that I could control it, and went with the flow. I slept when she did. If I had my time over, I would expunge any anxiety that I was too damaged to do the job of child-rearing properly. I would accept more help. I would try harder to stand out rather than fit in with what everyone else was doing. My daredevil insisted that I chill out, and I grew to understand her capabilities when it came to climbing and general mayhem. She has never fallen, and whilst I have anything to do with it, she never will.

 

People asking about your fertility…


This is a bone of contention for me. I was asked when I was going to have kids continually, for many years. It didn’t help that due to endometriosis, my abdomen swelled and at times I did appear pregnant. At the time I didn’t know that I would require IVF to have any chance of pregnancy, nor that it would be a decade-long odyssey. When people asked about my plans, I felt frozen to the spot. I was already worried about the possibility of infertility, and feeling as though I had to explain myself compounded my fears and pain. It didn’t end when I was undergoing cycles of IVF either. I was regularly asked if it had “worked.” It was akin to being re-traumatized. The pain of it all was overlooked as others made glib jokes. They also commented that I wouldn’t know what business, life nor love were until I had a child.

The queries didn’t end when I had my daughter. Soon after her birth, people started enquiring as to when I was having another. There was advice on not leaving her an only child. There were smirks and comments about how one child turns out. There was criticism and pressure all around me. I almost died trying to get myself prepared via surgery for further IVF. The trauma caused me to plunge into menopause prematurely. Still, the questions kept coming, as did the criticism of having an only child.

I can say with all honesty that as much as I love my child, I applaud that she is becoming an autonomous human being. As each day passes, she is a step further toward independence. I spend 24 hours a day with her, yet we aren’t joined at the hip. I have my interests and she has hers, and we make time for both. At every opportunity, she is off with her friends having fun. It would be co-dependant to expect her to fulfil me, to make me a whole person and to seal a gaping psyche. No child can do that. I had her out of love, with the understanding that she would leave one day. I am the same person I was before, only stronger and braver. I go out more and wont put up with toxic behaviour for her sake as well as my own. I didn’t have her to define me.

I have a friend who is expecting twins. She announced it to me the other day. I had noticed her swollen belly a while back, but didn’t comment. It wasn’t my business. If she was indeed pregnant she would tell me in her own time. She could have had a litany of maladies to explain her tummy, endometriosis included. She already has a few kids, and is tired of the insensitive jokes and commentary at the other end of the spectrum. You can imagine what she is subjected to. It is an extremely sensitive topic for many reasons, and a hugely personal one. If somebody questions you about when you are having kids, offer them no answer if you are uncomfortable. Smile wryly and move away. You already know what it is to nurture, love and toil.

 

Aftermath of IVF


 

 

 

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So many emotions swirl around when you discover you need IVF. You go in search of your tribe, uncovering a plethora of online support. I want to address what happens when-after a truckload of heartache- you fall pregnant. The IVF clinic were my family. I clung to them, and saw them most days. I knew all the staff’s names, and it was familiar and secure, this place of dreams. They celebrated along with me upon my positive pregnancy test. I had one follicle. It was a miracle. Upon discovering that my baby’s heart was beating soundly and I didn’t indeed have a chemical pregnancy, I was released. What the? I am not ready! I was sent off to find an obstetrician, to join the ranks of the fertile I had previously avoided and feared. I had been turfed out of my nest.

I found the same online. I was ever-aware that my friends were struggling, and pondered on breaking my news. Everyone was most joyful, but I knew I didnt have a place on the IVF boards anymore. Interestingly, being on the post-IVF boards was painful too. There were ladies falling pregnant again naturally, with their second and third children. I didnt feel like I belonged nor identified with the group gathered for the pregnancy classes at the local hospital either. They had all travelled extensively and then decided to fall pregnant. In my world, that wasn’t an option. I felt intimidated to be around couples who had timed their lives. When they complained about their pregnancies I felt indignant.

I didn’t belong anywhere in pregnancy. I lost contact with those still going through the process, just as those who had fallen pregnant whilst I was undergoing IVF were lost to me. It is such a painful journey, and whilst you rejoice in another’s success, it is a reminder of your grief. In my mother’s group post-birth, I didn’t feel as though I belonged either, especially when they went on to have other babies. I was in and out of hospital having surgery and tests, praying to have a second child. They were lost to me too.

Oh man, the injections and nasal sprays, pills and procedures, egg pickup and embryo transfers, the two week wait, who could I share this with? Only those who have been to this precipice to insanity could understand. Our bond is so strong that a woman I had never met in person called around upon hearing that I had endured more endometriosis surgery in the hopes of having a second child. She came armed with flowers, a meal and a huge hug for my daughter. There are another set of mothers out there, who have been through IVF and had to leave that world, though don’t fit in with mothers who conceived naturally. I am proud to be amongst their ranks. This journey isn’t for the faint-hearted.

#ProjectPositive,September 15th. The Biggest Thing I’ve Overcome.


The biggest thing I have overcome is…

I don’t have a personal favourite. Each time I overcame trauma, it was humbling,  surprising and wondrous!

Child abuse. Being told that you are a slut, being labelled as stupid and being hyper-vigilant. A pleasant occasion, with cordial conversation and laughter makes such a child tense up. You sadly know it is a harbinger, ringing in screaming and fighting. As a result, I grew up extremely aware of my surroundings. I can tell you who is standing in the next paddock after a quick sweep of an area. Sensitive to noise and environments. There were times I wanted to die. Times when I felt I would never recover, nor feel whole. I went back to each place of trauma, wrote about them, took pictures. I was in fact saying that I was here, and I survived. Throughout this period, I learnt  a lot about myself and why I respond the way I do to situations. Don’t like loud knocking at your door, nor talking on the phone? There is a reason for that and its  a perfectly normal response when given your history. Need time alone to process and unwind after a social function? Again, perfectly reasonable. When I started to understand why I am the way I am, with my little “things,” I began to heal.

Being told I was stupid. I lost so much time at school in primary and high school, due to being drugged or being  in hospital. I was told I was stupid and wouldn’t amount to anything in Year Seven. When you are told often enough, you tend to start believing it. They were wrong. A kid who isn’t clever couldn’t have survived the years that followed. I left school at fourteen, when I was put in the clinic, and was extremely nervous when I was signed up to Distance Education by my surgeon when I was fifteen years of age. I was in my rotor bed when the first pack of lessons arrived. To my astonishment, not only did I enjoy it, but I was also good at it. The teachers were encouraging, and I knew I had been lied to about my intelligence and ability to learn. I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to find out. Don’t believe them when they label you, please don’t absorb it!

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Eating disorders. I had no control over anything in my life. I couldn’t make sense of schoolwork, as I had lost so much time. Where to find a modicum of control? I would alternate between bulimia and anorexia. I thought if there was little left of me, I could disappear. It was harsh and brutal. Walking for hours with an empty belly. Swallowing vomiting tinctures designed for victims of poisoning. Being happy when getting my stomach pumped as I would lose a kilo or two. It was savage and hard. Learning to love and appreciate this body took years. It was hard to look at food in a normal manner again. This is why I don’t hop on scales now, and make myself eat regularly.

Endometriosis. This one brought me to my knees. After having survived such darkness, I wanted a baby with all my heart. It was the carrot I clung  to. Since age eleven, the pelvic pain had been agonizing. A proper diagnosis got left behind in the pressing need to stay alive. I was only officially diagnosed in my twenties. Hospitalized regularly, I was always placed in the maternity ward, a cruel and unusual way to be treated. The years of drug treatments and surgeries were tough. IVF was beyond hard. I went to ground, shutting off completely. That it eventually worked, was astounding to me. I had wanted more children, and nearly lost my life in the attempt. I grieved for quite some time, before finding peace.

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Surviving it all! I am still amazed by the dawn of each new day. Amazed that I am here to see it. To have survived is extraordinary. I have my medical notes, and at times, the prognosis was grim. Here I am, an intelligent woman in her thirties, who smiles more than she frowns. Who plans for the future, and has left the pain behind. There was no magic secret I uncovered. It had to do with giving myself a break, understanding myself on a deep level, and kindness. With self-love and kindness, the healing begins. You define who you are, not them. xxx