Losing a sense of oneself

I met with someone the other day, who is still firmly in the trenches of infertility and, talking about her experiences, forced me to go back to a place that I don’t often go back to these days, because it’s still too painful.

Talking about all the things that we women go through when trying for a baby and I am not even talking about the physical rigours, but rather the emotional ones, made me think:  Can we really remain the same person we were at the beginning of the journey, when eventually we make it out the other side, all emotionally fucked and 15kgs heavier? The answer is easy….HELL NO WE CAN’T!

Now, although I quite like the person I am today, it has led me to wonder what kind of a person I would be without my infertility journey.

  1. Would I be less cynical? I am sure that I would be  and more naive about the horrors that are out there in this life. It is the one time in life when ignorance really would be bliss.
  2. Would I be slimmer? I was always slim growing up. Then I went to the UK and ate all the pies but, I was still at least 20kg less when I met my husband, than what I am today. Be it the drugs we pump into ourselves, or the comfort food we turn to when we are faced with yet another failed cycle, myself and some of my IF friends, look like we ate the people we were prior to IF!!
  3. Would I be happier with myself? Slimmer automatically equals happier with yourself so, ja, you do the math!
  4. Would I be as in love with my husband? I loved him madly before IF but, what we went through really cemented our relationship. I see friends going through horrible divorces, for some of the most arbitrary reasons and I know that that will never happen to D and I. Our bond deepened over the loss of Eloise and, once you get past something like that, nothing will tear you apart.
  5. Would I be as empathetic to others? I have always had a soft spot for animals and rescue case humans but, again, I think I have much more patience and willingness to help than I did before. Perhaps I could call it, being less selfish.

Apart from the cynicism and being a fatso, I guess I have changed for the better. Would I like to be a skinny and more positive chick? Of course yes but, then I would also lose all that I have gained too: My empathy, my loyalty, my need to give back and to help make others’ journeys not quite as tough (through IFAASA ) and, most importantly, my deep bond with my wonderful Hubby.

I guess that is why I have a good group of infertile friends. We each recognise a bit of ourselves in each other. The slightly broken and forever changed part.

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Was I born to you?

5 little words that broke my heart…

When A came home, I thought in my naivety that we would have at least 5-6 years before the understanding of adoption sunk in with him and the questions would begin.

I was wrong.

I severely underestimated the brain power our little boy has. Twice over the past 2 weeks, someone has spoken about his adoption in front of him. One was my niece, who has obviously been spending some time processing it herself and, when he was playing with his other cousin a few feet away, stated in her clear and loud 7 year old voice “Are you going to tell A he is adopted?” A paid no attention but, would have heard it at a sub conscious level. I answered that of course we were going to tell him and changed the subject.

Then, on Saturday we had a braai at our place and the boyfriend of a friend of ours asked innocently “where did he get those big eyes from”. I doubt he was meaning to be answered as literally as his GF did, when she said “oh, he’s adopted”!! A was again, just a few feet away.

So, I have kind of been expecting questions to come up but, again our little boy amazed us with his intellect. 2 nights ago, when his Daddy was bathing him and I was catching up on my guilty pleasure tv, he randomly asked the question “was I born to you?” I could almost hear D’s heart stop and his mind think “shit, why me, why now?” before he answered “no my Boy, you were born to a Tummy Mummy who brought you to us.” A thought for a fraction of a second and then replied “oh, do they do that?” D answered that yes they do do that and then the conversation returned to cars/snakes/dinosaurs. All through the short exchange, I sat paralysed by shock on the sofa, how did 2 mentions of adoption in his presence become “was I born to you?”

Fast forward to this morning, on our drive to school, before we are even out our complex and before I am actually fully awake, the question returned in a slightly different disguise. “Mommy, I wasn’t born to you, was I?” Dammit, I knew I should have had that 3rd cup of coffee!! “No my Boy, you were born to a Tummy Mummy” “What’s a Tummy Mummy?” “A Tummy Mummy is a very special kind of Mommy who grows babies in her tummy for Mommies who can’t.” Silence for a full minute. “Mommy, did you born Eloise?” Wow. “Yes my Boy.” Excited now he says “yay Mommy, so you are a Tummy Mummy too!!”

Bloody hell, 4 years old and so profound….I guess it has something to do with all those books we have read to him over the years, that deal with adoption in a soft way with bears adopting foxes etc, but how amazing what sinks in to his little sponge of a brain and that he translates it to “was I born to you?”

My boy, even though I wanted a little more time with you thinking I am your one and only Mommy, I couldn’t be more proud.

4 years since the most important call of my life…

Right this moment, 4 years ago, my cell phone rang. I was at home, having been signed off from work due to the loss of our precious Eloise, on the 22nd November, just 3 weeks previously. It was our Social Worker on the phone.

I thought she was phoning to check on me and to follow up on the mail I had sent her, detailing what had happened. She was but, after discussing how we were and how sorry she was, she uttered the words: There Is A Baby….and, once again, our lives changed forever.

You can read back on my blog to read about that call and what happened in the days just following it.

Today, however, I just want to put down in writing, how grateful I am to be sitting here with my 4 year old son. We are wrapping Christmas presents and I am telling him about the day that I received the most important phone call of my life. He doesnt really understand, of course, but he  is a clever boy and he understands that it is an important day.

Today I am counting my blessings.

 

Our boy is 4 tomorrow and 4 years ago we had no idea he existed.

How happy and sad that heading makes me.

Happy for my gorgeous boy to at last be 4, as he has been dying to be for the past few months and so very sad that, 4 years ago, we had no idea he existed.

There was no excitedly prepping a nursery, nor was there the packing of a hospital bag, the charging of a camera or the timing of contractions. However, I guess that there wasn’t most of that for his Birthmom either. Today I feel sad for both of us. Tomorrow I will be happy for both of us because, tomorrow, the boy that she made and that I get to grow and nourish, both physically and mentally, celebrates his special day.

But, for now, today, I am sad. As I write, he is at his Granny’s house, baking his birthday cake, with his cousins. Today school broke up and they are all super excited and happy. I know every inch of him so well and every day I revel in his cheeky, bright and questioning nature. I know where he is 24 hours a day, what he likes to eat/play with/watch on tv, how could I have missed those first few days of his life? His first breath, his first cry. It just really messes with my head that I missed such a big part of his life…the 9 months before he entered this world and then the 10 days after that.

I know how lucky I am that he came home to us at 10 days old, as that doesnt happen anymore in South Africa but I still mourn the time I missed.

This is the first year that these feelings have come to the fore and I acknowledge that every year, from now on, they probably will too. It is part of the adoption process and the emotions that go along with it. I am fiercely protective of my boy, even to the point of walking away from friendships, if I feel that he has been dissed/rejected in any way. I described it to a friend the other day as my mama bear instinct. I won’t be able to protect him from feeling feelings of rejection when he can understand about his adoption, but my God, I will protect his feelings while I still can, with every fibre of my being.

Today, more than ever, I wish I could make contact with his Birthmom, to compare notes about our boy and find out what I missed. I know that she has missed out on so very much more than I have, does she think of it like that? I suppose that she would drive herself mad if she did. I will, however, take some time out of tomorrow, as I always do, to silently thank her for what she gave us and the world. There is no doubt in my mind that very many people’s lives would be that much more dreary without him in it. Ours, my parents, our friends, his teachers and his friends, just to name a few. How could you not smile when you look at this face:

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Busy busy busy!

Our boy is the busiest bee around! On the go from morning to night, except during his 2hr nap. He doesnt even sit down to eat, preferring to eat on the go!

Comparing him to his cousin, who is very careful and happy to sit in front of the tv, our little whirlwind is leaps and bounds ahead of L physically and mentally! However, he doesnt have a “danger sensor” at all! He will quite happily run headlong into any body of water, climb out his cot, up onto a table etc…he gives his Mommy grey hairs, that is for sure!!

The upside of this, is that he is a brilliant sleeper…except for this past weekend. We went away with friends, to their holiday home on a dam. The house has been made kid friendly, as her children first started going there when they were babies. The garden is fenced off, as it is in front of the dam, so we thought all would be fine. We were wrong! The first evening there, he was running around the garden and he spotted a mongoose. Now, he loves our dogs and missed them terribly while we were away and, in his little boy mind, the mongoose was a dog! So, he took off at a run, after the mongoose shouting “Goga, Gogaaaaa” (his name for dogs)! The mongoose escaped through the fence but that didn’t deter him one little bit, he just climbed over the fence and carried on running! We have never moved so fast in our lives as he raced down the pier as fast as his little legs would carry him! Neither of my friends little girls had ever tried climbing the fence….guess little boys are different (although I doubt L would climb over either!).

Anyway, back to the sleeping… at the house my friend had her 2 girls there, now 8 and 6 and 2 other friends bought their kids, a girl of 6 and a boy of 11. Well, A was in his element! He loves older boys especially and so Matt was his hero! Therefore 5am became his new wake up time and no naps were taken in the day…he suffered from complete FOMO (Fear of missing out). He did sleep for 3 hours yesterday afternoon to catch up though!

All through the weekend, I was in prime position to witness many sibling arguments, between the 2 sets of siblings and, it occurred to me that, that is another bonus to having 1 child…no fighting! So, long may these weekends away continue, so A can get his fill of having ‘siblings’ and Mommy can remember, once again, why 1 child is the way to go… without even taking into account all the nasty IF treatments and losses along the way!

LABELED: Adopted!!

It is a big worry of mine that A will go through his life with a big label on his forehead that states ADOPTED! It is never going to be a secret in our household, never something to be ashamed about, but I have to come to terms with the fact that I cant control other people’s actions.

I am enrolling him into a pre school, to start in January, when he is 2 years old. It is a teeny place, run from a ladies’ home and he will initially be going for 3 days a week to get him into the swing of things before I send him to a more school-like place in 2016. I have just received the enrollment paperwork and the questions on the forms have made me spitting mad.

Is your child Own/Adopted
Has your child lost a parent, brother or sister to death? (How the hell to I answer that one?)
Birth: Normal/Caesarean/Forceps
Was Labour Long/Average/Quick?
Complications during/after birth?
Was baby Premature/Normal/Late?
Apgar rating?

And it goes on and on about milestones etc.

I mean WTF? It states above the questions that “the following information is necessary to get to know and understand your child”! What happened to asking questions and spending time with a child and getting to know them that way? The way I see it is that the teachers nowadays are lazy and want to pre empt any problems which may arise. Fair enough but, don’t they see how they are going to attach the label to the child that isn’t necessarily the correct label for that child? Just because of the way that child was brought into this world/came to live with his family/put his mom through a 24 hour labour. Seriously now, this is ridiculous!

I understand that these days this is the norm for schools, I cannot quite understand the need for it to be at a playgroup type school for 2 year olds, when A doesnt yet understand what it means to be adopted, but I expect it for “big school”. However, I am not going to be accepting of it there either, I will certainly be sitting down with the teachers and explaining in no uncertain terms that they will not be labeling my child just because of his circumstances, they will take the time to get to know our happy and bright and loved little boy, first.

What worries me most is that he wont even get into the school that we have chosen, because he will pre labeled as a problem child and they wont even allow him in…guess I had better get his name down at a few other schools. *sigh*

When are you going to have another child?

When did we, as humans, become so flippen judgmental?

Over the 6 years that we tried to conceive for, we were constantly judged on why we didn’t have kids yet, people did not hesitate to ask us personal questions regarding this fact, from literally the day we got married. When we came out of the closet regarding our infertility, the questions from those nearest and dearest to us stopped, strangers however, thought nothing about asking us when we were going to have kids.

Now that we have A, the questions have started about when we are going to be having a 2nd child. Even those who know all that we have been through, think nothing of asking us whether we are going to adopt again, or go through another cycle of IVF. Why cant people just leave us be?

Just yesterday, I faced the question in 3 different formats: Firstly at our Nanny and Toddlers group, the teacher said that we should “make another one” as A loves babies and other kids so much. Then some kids who came over to play, asked me if A had a brother. When I said no, he is our “only” child (still hard to say that, as he does have a sister, even if she is an Angel), they said “shame, he must be so lonely”. Thirdly, we had builders round to our house, as we are starting renovations and they asked us where we would be putting the bedroom for our next child.

For goodness sake, that was the last straw….we are not the only people in this world to have only 1 child. Some people cant afford more than 1, some don’t want more than 1…for us, we cannot have more than 1. We will not put ourselves through what we went through during those 6 years, for love nor money. Why is it anyone else’s business??

Can those people not just stop and think for a second, why it is OK to ask such a question? I already feel guilty that he will be an only child, but I know he will be fine. He has plenty of friends and cousins around to keep him happy, he wont miss out. Of course I feel bad for him BUT it is our choice, not anyone else’s and, even if we didn’t have the reasons that we do, it is still OUR decision to make and no one elses.

Stop judging others and the world would be such a nicer place to live in.

Do you learn to love your adopted Grandchild?

This is a question my mother mentioned to me recently, that she has heard on a regular basis, since A came home.

Wow! Can you believe people are so ignorant?

Now, don’t think that I have forgotten that I had the very real worry, that my parents would not be able to love my child, as much as their biological grandchildren. It was a very real fear of mine. I am happy to report, however, that it was COMPLETELY unfounded. A has found his way into their hearts, as if he was born to me, rather than born to be with me.

However, I guess I should have expected comments like that from the general public, as adopted children seem to be defined by that label, for their entire lives. 

Having a drink at a work function the other week, a guy cane up to me and blurted out “my wife is adopted”. I am not sure what he expected me to say…maybe, “great!’or “lucky her” or “thanks for sharing”, all I managed, however, was “Oh”!! I am pretty sure that his wife, who I have never met, would not be too chuffed to be talked about in that way…she is a wife and a mother and yet, all she is defined as, is an adoptee!

You also often see it against peoples names when they are in the news. Steve Jobs, for example, when he died and his bio was being floated around cyber space, was described as adopted. I mean, he achieved so much in his life and yet, there it was…his label, ADOPTED!

I really hope that, during his lifetime, A will escape that label, but, I feel that I may be hoping for too much. Even so, we will ensure that he rises above his “label” and becomes all he can be, outside of it and in spite of it.

Nurture Vs Nature Part 1

I have labelled this part 1, as I am sure this topic will become  a constant on my blog, going forward.

For now I want to start as to why I love the fact that my boy carries no genetics from either myself or D. For a start, no one looks at him, searching for a sign of either of us and neither do we. He is his own person, he looks like himself and that is that. Sure, he carries similarities to his tummy mommy and donor and to his half siblings too but they are not in our lives and so I never find myself searching for them in him…he is himself, his own little person.

Secondly, his personality is his own too. He is nothing like my sisters kids BUT I like to think that that is down to our parenting and not solely his genetics. We are laid back parents and so he is a laid back and happy little boy who loves people, including strangers. His cousin however, who is 6 months older than him, hates anyone he doesnt know and that includes peeps he deems as not knowing well enough, such as myself and his grandparents! All this means that A is by far the favourite as far as his grandparents are concerned! We don’t get an iota of credit in the matter though, as it is assumed that he gets it from his genes! Sigh…I am sure if he was a terror, it would be down to us and nurture but, now he is adorable, it is all nature!! A no win situation for sure but, I know in my heart, we are doing something right and that is good enough for me!

In 2014…I am getting me back!!

Ok ok, I know I may be a month too late on getting my new years resolutions down, but I am firm believer in ‘better late than never’.

2013 was another crap year for me in many ways…apart from having our gorgeous boy of course. It was a year in which I let a few things go that I shouldn’t have. 

1) My weight. I was so full of grandois ideas after we lost E that I would never have a belly one could associate with a pregnant one again, as it was too painful. Then of course the wine and chocolate and wine and food and wine and cupcakes all put paid to that! 

2) Smoking. Since I was 17 I have been a social smoker, on and off. I stopped completely after D and I had been together a bit, but I started again when we returned to SA. In the UK smoking is hellish expensive and so frowned upon, no one really partakes in it…not so here! The wine flowed at the braais we went to and it went from standing chatting to the smokers, to joining them, in one rather seamless step!! When we were approaching our IVF cycle, I stopped but, after we lost E, I took it up again and this time there was nothing social about it!

3) My Marriage. We are one hell of a couple, if I do say so myself but, the past 2 years, have really put strain on us. It is partly our fault, as we really didn’t pursue grief counselling like we should have, when A arrived, so some feelings were swept under the carpet. A lot though, I feel may be my fault. I pushed D away, I went out at night, leaving him to babysit, coming home sometimes at all hours of the morning. I told myself it was to keep my friend company, who was also going through a tough time in her marriage but, if I am fully honest with myself, it was because I was running away. Not necessarily from D but from being a wife and a mother mostly. Because of the situation in which A came into our lives, I don’t think I fully realised how hard it would be to love a little being, that is not the little being that you had been dreaming about for the past 6 months, but rather someone elses little being, but is now suddenly yours to look after and love for the rest of your life. We didn’t have the grace of time healing all our wounds, before A came along, he arrived when we were at our rawest. Yes, he did heal some gaping ones himself, just by his presence but, some others took even longer to close over and so going out and drinking too much and smoking too much, was a nice escape (now I am not talking every night, rather a few times a month). It was a punishment too though because, generally due to the guilt, I would drag myself out of my pit to get up with A at 5:30am, even after only going to bed at 2am! He hadnt even known I was gone, so the guilt was more because I knew the reason I was doing what I was doing. Things got better towards the end of the year and then, when Mav died, I completely withdrew once again and have struggled with grief and feelings of inadequacy ever since.

So! How do I intend on fixing the above?

1) I have joined the Low Carb High Fat Crew and intend on losing 20kgs! I have started going to the gym much more often than I ever did…still not often enough but I am getting there!

2) I have stopped smoking! Well, I do puff on the odd persons ciggy but, I am on the road to stopping completely. One big motivator is our pooch Maverick, who died of cancer in December, when he did nothing at all to deserve it! So, I am doing it to try and save myself, before it is too late!

3) We are going to see a relationship therapist on Monday and I am going to start talking to D more and slowly dragging myself back into the real world. I will stop picking fights and trying to push D away because, one day I may succeed! I am also going to spend more quality time with A. I know I work and I also have a big new venture that I am involved in with others but, neither of those are more important than my boy. He will be my only living child and time goes by so damn fast, I am buggered if I am going to turn around in a few years and wish I had taken more time out to be with him.