Do 1 Thing that Scares You

They say you should do one thing every day that scares you. So I did! Well I didn’t scare myself every day but still, you get the idea.

If you’ve been following the blog at all you’ll have seen that recently some of my articles have been shared on The Journal  and on HerFamily.ie . It has been so exciting for me to be asked to write those posts and have them featured on such widely read platforms and I have loved every minute of it.

But the most surprising thing to come out of having written a piece about my experience of IVF for The Journal, was the reaction to it. I received emails from people thanking me for speaking out about it, and I was contacted by The Ray D’arcy show on RTE Radio 1 to come into the studio to discuss the topic, and also by Midlands 103 to do the same.

So, rattled with nerves, off I ventured to the RTE studios to speak with Ray. Once the nerves settled down, it was so much fun! It was fascinating to see behind the scenes, one or two familiar faces, how it all works, and how many people it takes to make it all run smoothly.

I sat nervously outside the studio with the other guests for the show that day, and then all of a sudden it was time to go on air and I was ushered into the studio, introduced to Ray, and it was down to business.

They told me in advance that I would be on air for about 20 minutes, and I thought,  Oh God how am I going to keep talking for that long? But the time just flew by. Once I managed to forget that I was essentially talking to hundreds of thousands of people, I was fine. It felt like I was just chatting to a friend about it all, Ray was so lovely and made me feel really comfortable about discussing such a personal thing.

RayDarcypage

That’s me!

The reaction to my interview was amazing. I received messages and emails from people all over the country and even further, thanking me for speaking so openly about the topic. Women sent me messages telling me of their own stories and the struggles they’re facing, some told me of their success stories and some told me of how they’re wondering how they’ll ever manage to overcome it and get through it. It was heartbreaking but also full of hope. I was so glad I spoke up.

The following morning I was invited to speak with Midlands 103. As the interview came to an end I was asked, Do you regret being so open about your experience?

Not a bit. I was a bit scared of it at the start, speaking about something so personal and so challenging to both of us, I did question if it’s something I needed the world to know about. The blog was started as a form of self help, a way for me to deal with what we were going through, and it was only after Rian was born that I began to really get into the blog and the posts were leaning more towards parenting and my adoration of him more so about the fertility, although it’s a topic that will always be very important to me. So when I was approached to write for The Journal about it, I wondered, do I need people to know this level of my life? Of OUR lives?

But I am so glad I did. To read the messages from people telling me that hearing my story has given them hope, and helped them speak up about their own experience to their families and friends… I don’t care if I sound cheesy or if I sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet, but I’m proud of myself. And I’m proud of everyone else who has found the courage to face it in whatever way they choose to deal with it.

I hope that the benefits of all this continues to help other couples and that we can get to a point where fertility and infertility are not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about and if you want to talk about it, you can.

You can listen back to the interviews I’ve done here for Ray Darcy (Wednesday 9 March ‘The Scenic Route – An IVF Story) and here for Midlands 103.

 

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Circumstance vs Choice

* This post was also featured on HerFamily.ie!*

We’ve often heard someone say something along the lines of how boring life would be if everyone was the same – and it’s true. I’ve never really been the sort of person who is afraid or shy about voicing their opinion. When I was younger of course it used to matter to me a lot more about what people thought of me, or what they thought of what I did or didn’t do. But I think around the time I left my 20s I just stopped caring about it, and the freedom that brings is great.However it is still human nature to judge people…it’s just what we do whether we admit it or even know it. I like to think I can keep an open mind and not generalise people or make assumptions about them but of course I do to some degree despite my best intentions. But I’ve never come across such open judgement like the type I’ve experienced since entering baby world – and what’s worse is that it’s women judging women. Mother vs Mother.

 

When I was pregnant and still blissfully ignorant of what was ahead of me, I had all sorts of grand plans about the type of mother I would be. For example, I would certainly be breastfeeding – this was top of my list (even if at first the only reason was because it is said to help you lose a load of weight!), but it was important to me that I would breastfeed because I personally believe that’s what is best. I did my own research and reading on it and this was my personal decision. I would install sleeping and eating routines as early as possible, I would do all these brilliant and perfect parenting things to ensure I was doing my best.

 

But what I didn’t bank on was that once the baby arrived, I was given very little choice in most of these things. Almost everything I had planned, the opposite happened. I ended up having an emergency section, so that affected the skin to skin time that I had planned for after the birth. He ended up having to go up to the care unit the morning after he was born, and that affected our breastfeeding plans. He had colic, and that affected almost all our plans! At first I took it upon myself to feel guilty about all these things – most especially the breastfeeding. But the fact of the matter was that no matter how I tried to breastfeed, he had been put on a bottle with formula while he was in the care unit because of course they had to ensure he was getting what he needed, and my milk had not fully come in yet. He refused to latch on. So I expressed for the first 7 weeks or so, and he was combination fed during that time. But I found it too hard to sustain – the routine of expressing, feeding, sterilising, making up formula almost every hour coupled with the pure exhaustion of those first few weeks and the fact his colic was pretty bad meant that I eventually settled on just formula feeding him. Even writing this now to some extent I feel like I am explaining myself. Why is that? And who am I explaining myself to? Me? I felt like I was failing him.

 

I did feel guilty. Self-imposed guilt I feel it’s important to say – not one other person ever put me under any pressure to do anything a certain way. During those night time feeds while waiting for bottles to heat up or cool down or soothing the baby and rocking him to sleep I’d often take out my phone and have a look at some online groups on Facebook. I just wanted someone to tell me that it was ok to do things the way I had to do them so I could reassure myself that I was doing it all the right way. Some groups were for breastfeeding, some were general Mum type groups, there are some great groups out there for whatever section of parenting you are looking for information on. But some of them made me feel worse. The judgement coming from them was shocking! I had thought we were all on the same team, but it turns out that for some, we’re not. There are breastfeeders vs formula feeders. Co-sleepers vs Separate Room Sleepers. Soothe to Sleep vs Cry-It-Out. And I also should point out that it was the same amount of judgement going in both directions of each argument. One of the most contentious and judgey groups was one for sleep training. One poor mother obviously desperately exhausted had posted that she felt her only option was to let the baby cry for a while. She was vilified by some of the members – it’s nothing short of bullying. Once I saw the reaction she got I left a lot of the groups. Who needs that on top of everything else?

 

Somewhere in the midst of this self-imposed guilt I came across a piece online written by a new mother. She pointed out that some people do things by choice and some by circumstance. It struck a chord with me and I remember thinking – Nail.On.Head! Reading that made me realise that I should be proud of how I was coping because in fact they were not my decisions. They were not my choice – they were my circumstances.

 

Why do we feel it’s ok to make assumptions on how other mothers choose to do things? For that matter, why do we even assume that it’s their choice in the first place? Why did one woman look at me one day in a coffee shop while she was breastfeeding her child and I was making up a formula for mine – did I imagine that look of pity or disgust she just gave me? Perhaps the look was a result of my own paranoia born from my own guilt. Or perhaps it was real. Do I make that judgement of other women? I certainly hope not.

 

Despite the negative experience I found with many online groups, my biggest source of support was – and still is – a group which also started online. The November 2014 Babies group was founded when we all discovered we were due our babies at the same time, girls from all over the country found eachother online, and from there we eventually ended up with a group on WhatsApp where we still chat to eachother daily. And let me tell you – they are the best bunch of girls with the best support, friendship and laughs I could ever need to help me figure out how to be a mother. As a rule women need to remember that we are all on the same team: Team Mother, and we are all doing a fantastic job in our own ways based on the circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

Lessons Learned

Almost 16 months in, and the lessons I’ve learned! Although, I wonder if it’s more what I already knew but just didn’t know that I knew?
Like that I can do lots of things with just one hand while the other hand holds the baby/ stops the baby flinging himself down the stairs/stops him jumping out of his high chair, and so on. I can cook whole dinners one-handed. Put on makeup, eat my lunch, make a cup of tea! Although getting to drink it is more where the challenge lies.
I always thought I was the sort of person who needs at least 8 hours of sleep a night. And I was! But of course like all new parents I went on a serious crash course of no sleep at all and now I am delighted when I get 5 hours. If I get to lie in til 7am on a Saturday it’s a result. Although I’m still crying on the inside over that one. And often on the outside too.
Another sort of trivial thing I’ve noticed since Rian was born is how the choice for girls & boys products varies so much. Things like baby clothes – there is usually twice the amount of space dedicated for girls compared to the boys section which will mainly consist of blue or grey things and that’s about it. One or two shops might have a decent selection but overall it’s pretty bad.

Turns out I’m also pretty funny. That time I scratched my nose and Rian almost fell off his chair laughing at me.. or the time I danced to a song on the radio and the poor kid could barely breathe he was laughing so hard.  But babies are fickle creatures, and if the following day I decide to treat him to a nose scratching classic he looks at me as if I have 10 heads and shoots me a look of pity, practically raising one eyebrow in the process.

But coming back to my first point, there’s a lot about myself that I didn’t know that I am discovering now. Good stuff, some not so great, but mostly good.

Rian had colic when he was born, (info here in case you’re not familiar). A result of it is hours and hours of crying, for weeks on end. It would start at about 4pm and last until maybe 1am. We tried everything you can try, and in the end, I don’t know if one of those things eventually worked or if he just grew out of it. But either way, it was a test of endurance. And we passed. We’d take it in shifts – an hour of crying for you, one for me. And crying is bad enough, but hours of crying on top of no sleep is honestly a form of torture. The poor little fella was obviously in pain and although you think you might go crazy, you don’t – it’s not his fault. But that doesn’t make it easy. Turns out, I have a lot of patience I never knew I had.

Instinct. Everyone has it of course, but learning to trust it is the thing. You know a lot more than you think you do. Those first few months are full of thoughts like ‘What the hell??’ And it’s scary! But then you remember this isn’t the first baby to appear out of nowhere, other people have figured out how to do this and so you can too. There’s lots of conflicting advice out there in loads of ways, and your own parents might have done things differently to how your health nurse is advising you to do it now, but at the end of the day, babies are the same as they’ve always been! But you know your baby better than anyone else whether its your own parent, or your GP, or health nurse giving you the advice, and you know what’s best for them so don’t doubt yourself. It’s amazing really when you have that moment of realising that in fact you DO know what you’re doing, and not only that, but you’re doing it well.

Guilt is a big feature in my life these days. Maybe that’s a direct contradiction of what I just wrote about instinct.. I suppose in a lot of ways it’s always going to be there. Especially when you do another thing you probably shouldn’t do and compare yourself to other mothers – I doubt that will ever change. But my main source of guilt is when I leave him every day to go to work. I’m among many of course who feel this way – the constant battle of wanting to go yet not wanting to go. You feel like you’re fighting a natural instinct to be there, and yet, if I could be there all day, would I choose it? It’s certainly the  hardest job I’ve ever done. But how can I compare it when it’s different now? It’s easier now at his age compared to when he was younger. Your life is sliced up into sections at the start revolving around naps and feeds. At least mine was. But now he’s older, the structure of his day is so much more flexible. The days at home are different now to what they were when I was still on maternity leave.

Or is that just because I’m appreciating it more now that I am at work 5 days a week? I leave the house at about 6.20 am. Some mornings I can hear him chatting to his teddy bears and it takes all my willpower to keep walking past his door so that I don’t miss the train to work. Even if I had the time, it would probably be worse to see him for 10 minutes and then have to leave him for the day. And then I remember that although I don’t hate my job, I need it. So although it feels like a choice to be at work, it’s not. And so you just get on with it, and make the best of the evenings and weekends, which, to be fair, are so much more fun now than they ever were before.

Although it’s a big learning curve, it’s the most fun I’ve ever had! He teaches us new things every day about all sorts of things and I can’t wait to discover the things yet to come.

*This post has also been published on HerFamily.ie