Monday, 13 March 2017

Three Steps to Banish Negative Thoughts

I found this list of suggestions in a draft email I wrote a long time ago to someone who was in a lot of pain, and now I can’t honestly remember if I sent this to them or if I decided they weren’t ready to hear it. I suspect though, that we all need these reminders from time to time:
  1. Every time you recognise a negative thought, first, consciously recognise that you're thinking it. Don’t let yourself reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict these negative thoughts.

  2. Next, challenge the thought, by saying one or all of the following:

  3. "well, I know that's rubbish"
    "Mali or <insert favourite blogger here> says that is rubbish"
    (and don't let yourself think "but I know better" because you don't)
    "the world doesn't work that way"
    "biology doesn't work that way."

    Or challenge it in a more detailed way:
    "that can't be true because there are people who murder/torture/neglect their children,
    and they are no more worthy than me."

  4.  Finally, simply say, "I can't think that way, I am a good person, I deserve better."  Because I know you deserve better, even if right now, you don't.



Monday, 6 March 2017

Being alone - or not - in our old age

This morning, I heard someone say that their only daughter had moved to Australia, and that if they did not do so too (which, for financial reasons, was a complicated decision), they would “be alone” for the rest of their life.

This person felt that not having their only child near them was a great tragedy, and that having to make this decision was a terrible injustice. Their perspective was clear – that their life was not worth living unless they were close to their child.

Needless to say, when I heard this I rolled my eyes a little, thinking not only of all of us who won’t have our own children near us when we are elderly, but of my great-uncle and great-aunt, whose children all lived overseas or in another island and had to rely on a paid housekeeper and my parents to help when they were aging, or of my in-laws, who – if something happened to my husband and I – would also be without children in New Zealand (despite having four of them, the nearest is more than an eight hour flight away), and of all the other people who are without family in their day-to-day lives.

I felt a little sympathy too, because it seemed that this person (I suspect it was a woman) had never prepared themselves for their retirement other than intending to rely on their child, and so felt alone and obviously a little angry and afraid.

That’s the advantage that I think we, the No Kidding, have over those who have focused their whole lives on their children. Instead of sitting back and looking at our old age with doom and gloom, we can consciously choose to make preparations, both practical and emotional. We can make friends (hopefully of all ages), and ensure we are in an environment that is suitable for our old age before we are too old to make the change (unlike my in-laws who live in a house with treacherous stairs – as I learned to my chagrin last year – and a garden that is too large for them to cope with, and on a hill they cannot now walk up and down to get to the convenient shops nearby).

But most importantly, we can prepare mentally for our old age, knowing that we won’t be relying on a child for our happiness, that we won’t take it as a personal betrayal or failing if we don’t have family around us in our later years, and that we will be better prepared to look elsewhere for support and companionship, appreciating those who are there – in whatever context – in our declining years. 



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Triggers

I think one of the reasons why I was so hesitant for so long to publish Sunday’s post was the vexed and debated issue of triggers; the question of whether recognition of triggers panders to an over-sensitive community, or if ignoring triggers is insensitive and a gross display of privilege.

So, here in No Kidding land, it is worth questioning whether the idea of avoiding the things that hurt us (scan photos, baby showers etc) is healthy, and will it, in the end, hurt us further by isolating us from the wider, largely parented, society.

In the beginning, when we first confront the permanency of our No Kidding lives (or begin to confront this whilst still actively trying to become parents), many things will hurt us, whether they are thoughtless comments or pictures on a blog or on Facebook, or more largely, the feeling of isolation from mainstream society. Self-preservation and self-protection is necessary at this stage, and displays of sensitivity from others is much appreciated.

Longer term, we are better able to cope with triggers, to recover from the pain they create, and to let it pass. It is also much easier to avoid taking these personally, to consider the point of view of the person who has raised the trigger, and maybe as a result, to be better equipped to communicate with them about their words or actions. (I think at this stage we are also better equipped to avoid being insensitive to others too; this was my point from yesterday, that when we know better we do better.)

We all know we can’t make the world conform to our desires, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak up and try to change it for the better.




Sunday, 26 February 2017

Knowing better ...

I have to admit that I have had this post largely written for over a year, but for reasons that will become obvious, I’ve been a little scared to post it. Bent Not Broken’s post about being ambushed by a work colleague with a scan video has finally prompted me to hit the big orange button, Publish.

These days, in my happily ever after No Kidding life, I don’t have many triggers. I can watch birth scenes on TV (I’ve always been curious about the act and process of giving birth), and breastfeeding (even though that was a particular loss I felt) with little or no discomfort. But scan pictures can still throw me off kilter. My only scans have been to diagnose (or attempt to diagnose) my ectopic pregnancies, to see the seemingly endless (at the time) problems in resolving my second ectopic pregnancy, to show that IVF wasn’t working for me, and to diagnose my fibroids that lead to my hysterectomy. None of these resulted in good news, or happy memories. So I flinch whenever I see one.

I of course admit I have been scarred by my history. I’ve recounted before my story of emailing good friends offshore to tell them of my second ectopic. They didn't know about my first either, but I updated them at the same time – I was responding to their Christmas/New Year message (how joyous). I received an almost immediate response. It said, "sorry to hear that, but hey, we're pregnant, and attached is our scan photo!" Needless to say, I deleted the email, and never opened the attached photo. This couple had struggled themselves with infertility, requiring IVF/ICSI to conceive, so I could understand their excitement. But as we know, infertility doesn’t necessarily breed sensitivity either.

It’s the same in the ALI blogosphere. Now, before I offend anyone, I’m the first one to support those who are pregnant or parenting after infertility in writing about their realities. Once it is clear they are pregnant or parenting, I don’t believe they should have to put disclaimers, or particularly censor their words. If they’re finding pregnancy or parenting hard, then they should feel free to say so. If they are joyously happy, then they can say that too. We have the choice of reading their posts – usually you can see the direction a post is heading, and choose whether to continue – or not. Self-protection for us is relatively easy.

Pictures, however, are different from text, or spoken words in a podcast, and research shows they are far more likely to elicit negative emotions. And the issue is wider than just scan photos, but these are most commonly posted. If there is a lead-in to a post that suggests I might not want to scroll down to a visual image, or simply refers to coming images, or is hinted at in the post title, or has a photo one click away, then I very much appreciate the warning. I can then choose not to click , or simply to look away, or even just mentally brace myself. But if a photo (scan photo, for example, or birth/baby photo, or breastfeeding photo, or photo of a positive pregnancy test - or whatever might be a trigger) is the first thing we see when we open a post or see a Fb update, then there is no option but to see it. In a split second, unlike with text, we have seen the full image, and will experience all the emotions that surround that. Likewise, in real life if we are asked if we’d like to see baby photos or scan photos or video, or whatever, we can see what’s coming, mostly, and choose to avoid it. But where people want it to be a surprise (like BNB’s colleague), we have no choice, no ability to protect ourselves, and we’re hit when we’re least expecting it.

Now, I do understand that a finally pregnant IVFer might be thrilled to have a good news pregnancy test/scan/birth/breastfeeding experience at last, and may want to share that with their readers. It’s become a rite of passage that some people have desperately wanted to experience. I think many of us can relate to that.

But I have to ask, is a photo of an ultrasound scan (for example) – especially on what, until the scan photo is posted, used to be an infertility blog - really necessary?

I don’t really understand why people want to share their scan photos anyway – especially if we already know they’re pregnant. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have shared mine. After all, they don’t impart any extra knowledge – unlike birth photos, where you can see the baby, learn if they have red hair (like my adorable niece), or if they’ve got long limbs (like my sister), or dimples, and start to get to know the new little human. Scan photos though, all look exactly the same (with the exception of scans for multiples), so sharing them online with others seems unnecessary. Wait. I acknowledge that they are of course completely necessary and important for the parents-to-be, but probably only the parents-to-be  or okay, maybe the grandparents-to-be too. But for the rest of us, they’re pretty irrelevant, perhaps even incomprehensible. After all, it’s not as if we require proof of their claim that they’re pregnant! We can still be happy for them or to offer our congratulations.
I know that someone who hasn't experienced infertility might not really understand that sharing such images (or the way they share them) can be painful, and I can choose to educate them (or not), depending on who they are and the relationship I have with them. It is much easier to do that these days.

But that’s the thing I don’t understand here in the ALI blogging community. People who are pregnant after infertility know, for example, that scan photos can be painful. They know how it feels to be side-swiped by suddenly coming across an unexpected photo. Or even if it doesn’t affect them, they know that it can and does affect others. We all wish we didn’t know that, that there was no reason to know that. But surely a cost – and I would argue, a benefit – to infertility is that it can bring greater awareness and compassion into our lives, especially when we consider how our actions will affect others.

Yet despite that, some still choose to post scan photos, arguing that they have wanted to be able to do this for so long, they should be able to. That’s a fair enough argument. I agree, it isn’t fair that some women and couples can, without guilt or thought, spread their happy news this way, and that it is harder for the infertile. But, knowing what we know, do we really want to be those women? Can we, after experiencing so much, really be those carefree people? We all know former infertiles who seem to suffer from infertility amnesia, treating current infertiles and those of us without children in ways that would have appalled them even weeks/months earlier, when they were going through infertility themselves. I find it hard to believe that they truly forget, that there is never a wee pang of guilt as they join the insensitive parent/pregnant person club. It's a choice. And it isn't as if that is the only choice, either. There is a thoughtful parent/pregnant person club, and - although it is unfortunately smaller - you don’t have to have experienced infertility to be a member.

So what I find hard to accept is that some of our fellow bloggers then consciously choose their own wishes over the pain of the people they know will be reading their posts. It’s not done through ignorance, but rather is a decision not to care.

Does this mean I hold those who’ve been through infertility to a higher standard? Yes, it does. And I guess that's why I'm writing this here. Because I like to think that when we know better, we do better.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Accepting it's not going to happen



I’ve been trying to write a Microblog Mondays post for about an hour now. I’ve been reading a lot of the draft topics I have in my No Kidding Blog document, I’ve added to and edited a longer post that is almost ready to go (prompted by a recent blog I read elsewhere), I’ve read some articles, and I’ve started drafting and discarding several posts.

There’s only so much I can say in an eight sentence post. (Yes, I have stuck diligently to the original suggestion that these posts should be no longer than eight sentences.) I don’t want to briefly address a topic that deserves more attention, and I don’t want to repeat myself, as I know I probably do too much anyway.

So today, as inspiration has failed me, I need to accept – as I have had to do in the past –that sometimes, it is just not going to happen. That recognition is once again liberating, and allows me to feel happy at the good day, and at the other task I’ve been focused on lately, and that is planning travel activities somewhere exotic.

Instead, I need to go outside and enjoy this (rare) lovely day, appreciate that I’m not busy doing a school run or dashing from work to school to after-school activities to a chaotic home, and breathe deeply.