My children are my world. Ben and I often, independently state that we have no idea what we did before kids, but actually I remember quite well. I remember sleeping in until 2pm (WHAT!), going for late night snack runs together without kids to worry about and making as much noise as we wanted at all hours of the night and day. Yet, as awesome and I mean bloody awesome, as all that sounds to me, my kids are so much better.
I often think to myself how lucky I am to have been blessed with my two precious babies, and how close Ben and I came to accepting that we would never have children.
The last time I ever used any form of contraception was the morning of my wedding day. This wasn’t really a plan of any sort, Ben and I had had some brief discussions about it but, to us, it didn’t really require in depth planning as it just felt like the right thing at the right time. I always knew I wanted children at some point and I believe Ben felt the same. We also both tended to agree that there wasn’t necessarily ever a ‘right’ time and it would happen when it happened. Naively, neither of us had ever really thought about what would happen, if it didn’t just happen.
A few years passed and nothing really came of it. We weren’t worried, or to be honest probably even really noticed. Until all of a sudden, I did notice. I am not sure why it suddenly occurred to me like it did, maybe something triggered it? All I know is, I was convinced there was something wrong with me. I must be infertile. I stewed on it and stressed about it, probably chewing Ben’s ear off with my concerns more than I would admit to, until finally I went and saw my GP, expressed my concerns and was sent for all the fun (not) tests to investigate. Never did it occur to me that I might not be the problem. I completely forgot that it took two to tango, and therefore the problem could lie with either of us. It was only when all my tests came back perfectly fine that my GP asked if my husband was going to have some investigatory tests. I think Ben was in a completely different frame of mind than I had been, and he was pretty confident everything would be fine. Well… apparently not.
When the results came in, it wasn’t great news. The GP informed us that there were definitely issues apparent (to which I think both Ben and I responded in complete disbelief with, “Who? Us?”) Our GP then referred us to a fertility specialist for another opinion and that second opinion certainly did a good job of ripping to shreds any hope we had held on to of the initial results being inaccurate. We were told, in layman’s terms, that we had around a 0.7% chance of every conceiving naturally and we would most likely have to rely on IVF if we wanted natural children in the future.
I can’t say that either of us was horrifically devastated, because we hadn’t come to this point from ever, one hundred per cent, committing to the decision to try for a baby. It was a fluke that I had noticed we hadn’t happened to conceive and decided to investigate. However, we were pretty heartbroken nonetheless and proceeded to discuss our options in depth over the next ten days. Coffee table laden with a mass of pamphlets provided to us by the specialist and Google at the ready, we dissected the news before slowly absorbing it. We came to the conclusion that, with impending parenthood not looking likely in the near future, we would instead use this time to travel and explore the world a bit. In a period of ten days we had gone from receiving this upsetting blow of an infertility diagnosis to concocting the perfect travel plan filled with dream destinations and experiences.
Then I took a pregnancy test…
DING! DING! DING! Baby on board!
(Check out our reactions here and here.)
To say we were shocked is an under statement. Excitement quickly won out and concerns about our fertility status understandably disappeared.
Fast forward about eighteen months later, and we had an absolutely gorgeous nine month old baby boy (Read his birth story here). We had recently relocated to Queensland and the discussion of trying for a sibling for Jack came up. Both Ben and I had siblings and we both came from sibling groups that were aged closely together. We agreed this was something we would like for our children as well and decided to start down the path of trying for another baby. It was at this time that the opinion of the fertility specialist we had visited in New South Wales came in to the forefront of my mind and after some discussion, we decided to book an appointment with a Brisbane specialist to see where we stood. Why not? We had the facilities close at hand and I think we had both formed the opinion that the initial specialist was an old honky who saw a young couple wanting a baby and then the dollar signs for IVF. Very cynical of us really, but much easier for us to believe over the possibility that we had fertility issues. Especially now that we had already, naturally conceived our gorgeous boy!
Anyway, we attended the appointment and discussed our concerns with the specialist. We happily walked away with pathology forms and a list of tests to be completed. A few weeks went by before we eagerly returned for the results. I think we were pretty confident that we were going to hear a positive result, and that any residual fears we had regarding the possibility of infertility would be instantly allayed. I was fully expecting this specialist to be critical of our previous specialist and to confirm my belief; that we had been mislead.
Yet again, things did not go the way I had expected. Not long after Ben and I had sat down in the appointment and I had latched a hungry Jack on to nurse, the Dr looked up from his notes, stared me dead in the eye and casually asked me if Ben was really Jack’s biological father, as the results he had in front of him indicated that that was basically an impossibility. After seeing Ben and I both go gape-mouthed in shock, he quickly assured us that he was being jovial (but to this day, I am not one hundred percent convinced). However, the facts remained that his tests did indeed confirm that we were facing significant fertility issues and Jack was immediately dubbed a ‘miracle’ baby. The rest of the appointment was used discussing helpful dietary changes, and options for fertility assistance. We left feeling deflated but hopeful.
Months and months went by where Ben implemented dietary changes and we even tried some low strength fertility medications, along with continuing to try naturally, but to not avail. We scrapped it all and just shrugged the whole thing off for awhile, theorizing that it might just happen if we forgot about it, such as was with Jack. Nothing eventuated. As Jack grew older and the potential, sibling age gap grew larger, we became more invested in getting on with things. Ben and I kept coming back to the idea of IVF in our discussions, so, after some pretty rough ups and downs in our personal life, we finally decided to take the option of IVF assistance more seriously and booked an initial consultation appointment. Repeat tests were order for us both and the results confirmed our position. It amazed me how fast things went from that point on, and before we knew it we were due to start our first round of IVF the following fortnight.
Then I took a pregnancy test…
DING! DING! DING! Baby on board!
Fast forward another 12-ish months, and I am sitting here typing this as both my beautiful children sleep peacefully in their beds. Our first, amazing little miracle Jackson and now our precious, second miracle Annabel.
Sometimes I sit and think on it and I wonder, are they such medical marvels? You hear so many times about couples resorting to fertility treatment and falling naturally afterwards when they least expected it. Are we too quick to jump on the ‘infertile’ or ‘fertility challenged’ bandwagon. Does all the science and knowledge that we profess to have on the human body, fertility and all things baby making related actually put us in a worse position when it comes to these things. How, is it possible that Ben and I naturally conceived two amazing little humans when we have been told by numerous specialists, numerous times, after numerous tests, that it was impossible to do so?
And moreover, how many couples have been told the same thing when there was the potential there for them to do the same thing? I guess we will never know.
The one thing I do believe helped was some dietary changes (or rather, dietary additions) that Ben made, and while there was technically no improvement that could be identified in his tests, we did conceive both the kids within a mere few months while he was following these changes. So, let’s call it the ‘The Magical Henry Fertility Secret!’
Ben was taking some vitamins as well as adding some specific foods in to his diet (occasionally in cereal, but most commonly I made up little Ziploc snack baggies for him to munch throughout the day). The rough guide is below.
-Vitamin B12 (1000mcg)
-Vitamin E (500 IU)
-Fish Oil (1000mg)
-Vitamin C (3000mcg)
-Pumpkin seeds (zinc and omega-3 fatty acids)
-Goji berries (antioxidants)
-Dried blueberries (anti-inflammatory antioxidants including quercetin and resveratrol)
-90% Dark chocolate (amino acid L-arginine)
-Dried cranberries (antioxidants)
-Walnuts (alpha-linolenic acid)
-Including fresh pomegranates and pomegranate juice into his diet (antioxidants)
-Including Salmon into his diet a few times a week (omega-3 fatty acids)
Now, I can’t definitively say if this made any difference whatsoever. Maybe one ingredient helped and the rest were useless… who knows. I like to think so, but I guess that is yet another thing that we will probably never know. I do know that it can’t hurt, so if you DO find yourself in a similar situation to ours, why not try it? Let me know how you go!
Still pretty messed up, but perhaps not quite as bad as I had assumed.
Lately, my reality has been facing and admitting to a lot of things I would have preferred to keep in the deep, dark closet where I have become accustomed to keeping them. I have had to readjust my thinking and accept that it is not only in the best interest of myself, but most importantly my family, for me to finally unpack this baggage and have a good 'ol dig through. Translation: It is time to seriously deal with my shit.
So, in the spirit of shit dealing, I have been seeing a psychologist and after only a handful of appointments to date… mind. blown. I haven't really touched on this side of things before on here, so it may seem a little like I am jumping right in... and in a way, I guess I am. Trust me though, these are NOT new issues. This is something I have been dealing with, actually... scratch that... something I have NOT been dealing with for a very, very long time.
So, to jump in to the thick of it… I had horrific, and I mean horrific PND after the birth of my first child, Jackson. I became reclusive, obsessive, paranoid, I struggled with suicidal and homicidal thoughts and self-harming. All of this was compounded by the unwavering importance I put on keeping my struggle and the truth of what was going on a secret.
My life, my son, my husband, my body and my marriage all suffered immensely and largely unnecessarily, due to my inability to find the help that I needed. And it was not that I didn’t try. I asked my husband for help. I asked a lot of other family members for help. Apparently nobody knew how to help me, and I certainly wasn’t in the best place to help myself. Somehow I clawed my way back from that place. Maybe not completely, but enough to get by.
When Annabel was born, everything started going downhill in a similar way that it had with Jackson's birth. I knew I couldn't do that again. I knew I couldn't survive that again, so this time I asked for help. Hell, I begged, pleaded and demanded help. I saw a GP who I was blatantly truthful with (something new and different for me) and she immediately referred me to a great psychologist.
One of the discoveries that have been made in my sessions so far, that has been so enlightening and mind blowing to me, is that I am apparently a text book sufferer of an anxiety disorder called OCD. Now, I am ashamed to admit that I thought this just referred to people who washed their hands a lot. Apparently not.
My OCD centres on intrusive thoughts. Extremely intrusive, graphic and unpleasant thoughts. Thoughts that grip me in terror and completely fuck with my mind. Now, apparently around four out of every five people experience intrusive thoughts and it only really becomes an issue when people do not know how to process them effectively and they focus on and even obsess over them. Like I do.
The harder I try to erase the thoughts or prevent them from happening, the harder
and faster they seem to come. The more I try to identify triggers and avoid them, the more obsessed I become. The truth is, it is not even possible to avoid triggers. It probably isn’t too much of a stretch to wrap your head around being affected by stories and images of abused, hurt or sad children… but what if I told you that my dog Barney, a seemingly innocuous black Lab, has triggered thoughts in my head that have reduced me to a hysterical mess. That when organising how to collect a family member from the airport, the mere mention of me travelling in a car separate to my children filled my head with visions of them crashing, watching their mangled bodies burn as I scream and helplessly watch. I can hear it. I can see it. I can even smell it. The pain, anguish and terror is all real. I am sorry for the vivid image, but welcome to my life. This is my every day.
Do you want to know the real kicker though? When I sat down with my GP and finally told the truth, there was a large part of me convinced that I had some serious mental problem and that just having these thoughts clearly meant that I was capable of doing some pretty horrific things, to myself… to those I loved. I was not only convinced that I was going to either need to be strongly drugged or maybe even hospitalised… I also felt there was a strong likelihood that my kids would be taken away. I mean, I clearly wasn’t a good Mum and maybe the best I could do for them was to allow someone, saner than myself, to determine if I was even fit to mother them. When none of this happened, when instead I was almost instantly diagnosed with OCD, I felt elated. I felt relieved, grateful and very hopeful that it could be treated and managed. I also felt furious. So fucking furious, and you know what, I call bullshit. Bullshit. Bullshit that this isn’t talked about. Bullshit that I looked for help when I was suffering after my first child and I didn’t get it. Bullshit that I wasn’t ‘suicidal enough’ at the time to warrant psychiatric help. Bullshit that members of my own family failed me and just turned a blind eye me when they didn’t know what to do to help. Bullshit that this isn’t something that people have heard enough of and bullshit that I suffered in silence because I was so afraid of the stigma and the consequences of having a mental health issue. This is NOT OK. It is not OK for Mums out there to be suffering like I have been, thinking that they are freaks, that they are inherently bad and that their kids will be taken away. It is not OK for Mums to be too scared to ask for help because there is not enough information about these kinds of problems. They are not uncommon problems, so why aren’t we being honest about this?!
I have turned a page in my own life. I am all about honestly and being real with my struggles. I challenge anyone who happens to read this, to do the same. Instead of distancing ourselves from one another through pretence and putting significant importance on appearing fine, instead how about we unite through being open and honest about the shit stuff, the hard stuff and the ugly stuff? Doesn’t that just make more sense?
My kids are my life and I don’t want them to be raised in an environment where they feel the need to be afraid of their own feelings or thoughts. I want my kids to know that they can be real. They can think and feel without being worried about judgement and stigma. So that is what I am fighting for. Care to join me?
I know how lucky I am. My beautiful babies. My amazing life.
⚬You don't see the toddler who was, just minutes ago, having a melt down at my feet because Mummy couldn't come play with him until she finished feeding the baby.
⚬You don't see the fact that I have no clothes on under my robe, because while I did manage to sneak a shower this morning, there just hasn't been a chance since to actually get dressed.
⚬You don't see the baby that is clustering, feeding every fifty or so minutes and absolutely CAN NOT under ANY circumstances be put down.
⚬You don't see my lounge covered in Vegemite toast triangles and crumbs. The remnants of the toddler's breakfast, eaten in front of the TV this morning.
⚬You don't see the fact that I am getting by on Allens snakes and Powerade, because PND kills my appetite dead.
⚬You don't see the dried patches of breast milk all over the quilt because all this bloody clustering is making me leak like a tap, even while I sleep.
⚬You don't see the tears I cry because I have one, tiny child stuck to me the majority of the time, while I desperately miss my other child and being able to devote more of my time to him.
⚬You don't see the load of washing on it's 3rd cycle of being rewashed because I STILL haven't managed to hang it out to dry.
⚬You don't see the husband that over analyzes everything I say and do because he is trying to preempt me spiraling downwards again.
⚬You don't see the exhaustion, the frustration, the tantrums, the stitches, the pain, the mess... you don't see the reality.
Fact: Being a Mum is hard and raw.
I am sitting here, bouncing on my exercise ball with bra off, hair up and belly out. This morning I had a stretch and sweep and have been advised to stay as upright as possible for the next 48hrs to help Bubs ‘press down’. Oh boy, she is pressing down.
Anyhoo, I am bored as batshit. Usually when this happens is when I start thinking…
Lately (understandably) my thoughts have been pretty consumed with the thought of birth and labour, but leading on from that I have been thinking a lot about what now…? What will life be like with two children. Will we be OK? Will THEY be OK? I know that every person has their strengths and weaknesses, as well as baggage and history that they carry into parenthood with them.
I worry about mine.
Sometimes I worry that I am too broken to be able to adequately ensure my children do not become the same. That too much has happened to me personally, for me to be able to give my children the room to grow and the freedom they need to be able to fully develop in to their own people.
I worry about people hurting them. Even family members. My head becomes almost frantic with strategies and rules to implement that will prevent this. While I have been moulded by my own life experiences to believe that nobody can truly ever be trusted, I do not want my children to feel this way. I identify that it is not healthy and that while people will undoubtedly come in to their lives and cause pain, you need to be open to the good as well. I just don’t know how to tell them that when I feel so differently.
I worry about the day they will question the scars and cuts on my thigh. I have discussed this with Ben and he tells me to think of it as a strength instead of a weakness. A dark journey that I have taken and am therefore better prepared to hold my children’s hands through the same if need be. What if my children do end up facing something similar? Will that be due to some type of fault that I have passed on through my genetic make-up or simply due to me being their mother and being in their lives?
I worry about my depression and my ability to recognise when what I am truly feeling and thinking as opposed to what the darkness wants me to think and feel. My heart breaks knowing that they will see me at my absolute lowest at times. That I cry and yell and cannot for the LIFE of me, calm down or see reason. I worry that I will have passed this predisposition to my beautiful, innocent babies.
Mostly, I am happy to say, I am able to keep these thoughts fairly under thumb and can rationalise myself through them by acknowledging that all I can do is my best. Maybe that won’t be good enough. I hope it is good enough. That is all I can do. Take every day at a time, every hurt, risk, pain, challenge and journey one step at a time. My children will always know I love them, they will always know that I would tear ANYONE apart to protect them, lie in court for them, kill for them and that there is nothing that they could every do to change any of that. I will always believe my children and they will always have my faith and trust, unwaveringly.
I have never been a big ‘people’ person. I often find it hard to assimilate in to group situations and I do not possess an iota of character strength that leans towards socialising or even relating well to most people. I am a bit of a black sheep and a bit of a loner, and while this has it’s downsides to be sure, I am mostly quite content and comfortable in my own little world.
With that in mind, something that has been hugely irritating me of late is all the people (family, friends… basic acquaintances) that have begun to creep out of the woodwork as the baby’s due date gets closer.
Every. Single. Day for the last week, I have received messages to the effect of:
“Still no baby??????? Gotta be close now?”
“How are you going with all this hot weather? Hopefully it will get the baby out.”
“I can't wait to see your little princess. Any movement below?”
“I've been thinking of you and pray bub decides to arrive earlier than planned!”
And a personal, straight to the point, favourite that seems to keep popping up: “Think Bub is coming soon?”
Don’t get me wrong, I do get it. To a degree anyway. I get that it is exciting, that a new baby brings people together and everyone loves to hear about new babies being born. I just tend to think that spending the last month of my pregnancy (when I am already cranky, tired and sore 100% of the time) being asked if I have birthed yet is a massive PAIN IN THE ASS that I really do not need as I sitting around waiting for the massive PAIN IN THE VAG that is heading my way!
Firstly, just to clear things up a little. No. I do not know when she will make her grand entrance. Who every knows this? Did I miss out on a pamphlet or something? If I had waited a little longer, would the Clearblue Digital pregnancy test that I took, almost nine months ago, have told me when she was going to pop out as well? Now THAT would be handy.
Secondly, do you think that we are going to have the baby and not tell anyone for weeks? To be honest, it is absolutely our perogative if that IS what we choose to do. Ben and I have joked about responding with "Oh yeah! Thanks for the reminder! She was born last week. Ooops. Forgot to let you know."
I think what grates me just that little bit more is that while this is our first daughter, this isn’t our first baby. She is not the first grandchild/great-grandchild/niece/nephew etc like Jackson was.
Ben and I were extremely aware and understanding of this when he was born. There were people who were phoned and notified of Jackson’s birth before I had even birthed the PLACENTA! Well, not this time buddy.
This time, Ben and I plan to notify people as soon as the baby is born. By as soon as, I mean as soon as WE are ready to. This is a special time for my family. Jackson, Ben and myself.
The rest of you will find out in good time. Until then please, kindly, get off my back.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it absurd that at this present time nothing makes my vagina happier than a small, Lightening McQueen ice pack that is intended for toddler's bumps and bruises.
Sure, I could understand it if a child had recently used my vag as her passageway into the world... as will inevitabely happen before too long. But, as aforementioned child is still stubbornly cooking away inside, I am seriously pissed off that I already need to chill my bits.
Full disclosure: I did have some initial concerns that icing my tunnel may, in fact, deter said child from deciding to make her entry in to the world. Would she feel the cold on her head and try and dig back up, deeper inside? For someone who is so desperate for baby's hasty exit, this was a serious concern. However, after a lot of consideration I have come to the conclusion that as it is so freaking hot here at the moment, I actually feel like I am doing her a favor at the same time as taking care of my own discomfit. Any Australian kid will confirm that there is nothing worse that sliding down a slippery dip that has been baking in the heat. I will leave that up to your imagination. I actually feel like I am offering a much more pleasant alternative for my child.
Ice, ice baby!
...and while I am now thinking I may have been a victim to my raging pregnancy induced (and let's face it, usual female) hormones and overreacted... I am still too cranky and proud to admit it just yet. So he remains kicked out. I am fairly confident that he is, in fact, parked just around the corner waiting for the inevitable text message stating that he is safe to return. Well, he can wait.
As far as our arguments go, this was probably on the higher end of the richter scale. What was it about. Nothing and everything. He hasn't mown the lawn in forever, it is hot and I am tired... Blah blah.
Marriage is hard. Relationships are hard. The longer you are in a relationship the more you come to expect from the other person, while at the same time, probably appreciating them a little less. It is hard not to slip in to the trap of taking your partner for granted. I know that I often do. I also know that I often feel very much taken advantage of. I think that the best two people can do is to try and keep the channels of communication as open as possible and remember that even if you don't agree with the way your partner is feeling or even understand why exactly they are feeling that way, it does not make their feelings any less valid.
I guess I will send that text now.