2017/2018 – Looking back and looking forward – by Simone

This blog post has taken me the longest to write and it feels completely ineloquent and unprofound. Normally at the beginning of a year I am fired up, able to reflect on the year that has past, and also look forward to the year ahead with some good goals that I actively aim to achieve.

I also always ensure that I spend some time on the 1 January thinking and writing, putting my thoughts and goals down on paper. And somehow this year, I am finding that quite hard to do. Almost like I just can’t find the energy to be mindful about 2018. And maybe because I feel like I didn’t achieve a lot of what I set out to achieve in 2017. Or at least one thing particular, which my 2017 has been focused around, which has remained glaringly absent.

So let’s think about the year that was and where I felt I have managed to learn and grow from what I set out at the beginning of last year:

  • The biggest one for 2017 is how we have managed to reach out to others and help them with their grief, either through our blog, TV, radio, talks and just general connecting. That has been a big one for me and one in which I have been able to gain a huge amount of fulfillment. If I can try and ease this journey for people in some tiny way then I do feel like our children’s loss is not completely in vain. I have also met some amazing people through this interaction, who I feel incredibly lucky to be able to share our lives with. It’s been an interesting learning curve for me too. Reaching out to people who have experienced loss, but not pushing myself on them. Letting them know that I am there for them if they want to reach out to me. Some choose to, and some choose not to, and that’s okay. As we know, everyone deals with grief differently. But I am always so grateful when people do take the hand that I am holding out to them and allow me to help them in the littlest way.
  • I think that James and I are even stronger than we were. We continue to learn more about each other with every passing year and continue to be more grateful for each other. It hasn’t been a year without its challenges, that’s for sure, but in those challenges we learn how to communicate better, how to pull together, rather than pull apart and how to continue to be a team, while allowing each of us the space and time we need to be who we are.
  • I feel like I am better equipped as a mom to be able to help Murray unlock his full potential and also to help him in areas that he finds challenging. The combination of play therapy and OT has made a big difference to him and us and he really is the light of our lives! We would be completely lost without him.
  • I have continued to work on myself through therapy as well as coaching through work, and this, while completely exhausting, is also hugely rewarding and helpful. I try to carve out time for myself and while that is a constant struggle for me, I think I am getting better at it.
  • While I haven’t been able to do as much hardcore exercise as I would like to do, and have not been able to come near to running any races as my lymphedema leg is just too heavy and uncomfortable, my cancer count is the lowest it has even been and I have been clear of cancer for 6.5 years

A journey which we undertook in 2017, somewhat “unexpectedly”, was our journey with infertility. My biggest wish/goal for 2017 was to have a baby, and to be honest it didn’t occur to me that I wouldn’t at least be pregnant at the end of 2017, if not already have had a baby. Despite all the scientific/medical reasons which showed that I shouldn’t be able to have children, probably as a result of my cancer treatment, with my first 3 pregnancies I had no problem at all falling pregnant, and I hoped that it would be the same this time around.

And then hope was taken and smashed into 1000 pieces! In short, I have had 9 general anesthetics and procedures/operations this year and being diagnosed with a super rare issue with my uterus which they have managed to fix surgically. I have had one artificial insemination round, one assisted conception round, 3 full IVF cycles – all of which have failed. No matter what medication I am given, and how much of it (I am being given the maximum possible dose of everything) we are getting a very limited response compared to the “normal” person. This really is a complete rollercoaster and I can now fully understand why people say IVF makes them feel like they are going crazy, that it consumes everything and that it destroys marriages. It is really unbelievably stressful and impacts who you are (not to mention the huge huge financial strain that it is). I remain grateful however for the amazing team of doctors that have been supporting me through this journey. I really feel like they are on this journey with me, and only want the best for us. And also so want to help us make a baby.

We are however actively making the choice to continue down this road. We are desperate for another baby and are willing to exhaust almost all options available to us. I have no idea how many IVF rounds will make us decide enough is enough (probably when we financially just can’t do it anymore) but it we are not there yet. And so we will continue along this road, until our luck hopefully turns.

It’s also been a very lonely year for me. I have felt very much on my own a lot of this year, and I have battled with that. And I think a lot of that is my “fault”. I don’t think that I have been a very easy person to be a friend to. I still battle socially, especially in bigger situations where there are people I don’t know, and between the death of 2 children and all the IVF stuff, it’s been a minefield for everyone to try and navigate their way through. I also haven’t had a lot of time, patience and energy to dedicate to my friendships, and I know that I must very often seem incredibly self-involved. I know that I still forget things often, and I guess often seem detached. And I know that I am not the person that I used to be, to my friends or family. I don’t think I ever will be. And that’s been hard for me to get my head around, and I am sure for my friends and family too. And so I guess it becomes a bit of a vicious cycle and a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way. Many of our friends have naturally made new friends through their broadening social circles, and we have generally chosen not to for all the reasons above – time, energy, too much history to have to hide from or explain etc etc. And so our circle gets smaller and smaller and I often feel more and more lonely. I guess I am stuck in a place that I can’t really get myself out of – I am surviving not thriving – whereas, quite rightly, most other people have moved on and are thriving – leaving us behind.

There is no doubt that 2017 was an easier year than the 2 before those when I lost both of our darling children – but it doesn’t feel like I was able to thrive at all, it felt like I was still totally in survival mode with the massive added complexities of our fertility journey adding huge stress and strain.

So how do I look forward to 2018? I guess that is where I am battling, because to be honest my mind feels pretty consumed with having a baby to the exclusion of so much else. I think that is also the reason that I have delayed writing this post. I wanted to know whether our last IVF round had been successful or not so that I knew whether we were starting the year off on the front or back foot. But unfortunately it wasn’t successful. So for 2018, I would like:

  • To have a healthy pregnancy with a glorious little baby and to try not to let this fertility journey completely consume and define me
  • To be able to find the grace and courage to accept it should another child not be what is meant for us and to be grateful for the enormous blessings we do already have
  • To continue to work on the softer skills required in doing my job at Tantalum well. I have so enjoyed the development of this side of things in 2017 and want to continue growth in this area. We also have big ambitions and targets that I know are achievable and to do everything possible to make this happen
  • To continue to enjoy every moment with my darling Murray, to help him to thrive day to day, not stressing the small stuff
  • To continue to work on my marriage to my darling husband, and to ensure that I don’t use him as a punching bag, especially when I am “hormonally high”
  • To try to move from survive to thrive this year, in as far as it is impossible, knowing that the “old” me will never return, but that that doesn’t mean that the “new” me is any less important and valued. And in doing so to be a better friend, daughter and sister.

So here is to 2018 – may we all thrive!

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