The Guilt Factor

Each morning, Monday to Friday, for the last 10 minutes of my commute to work just before I walk into the office building, I try and FaceTime the boys for a chat, especially on mornings where they are asleep when I’m leaving the house and I haven’t seen them yet. Alex usually blows me kisses and babbles very important things at me. Rian, more often than not doesn’t want to talk. This morning though, when I was having chats with Alex, in the background he said: ‘ I don’t want to talk to Mama on the phone, I want to talk to her here!’.

For a moment I considered turning around and going straight back home again, giving him a hug and telling him I’ll never leave him. But I can’t, because I have to go to work – and I want to go to work too – and at the end of the day, the bills need to get paid. So I felt the usual pang of guilt that I usually feel a few times a day, except a bit worse than usual because he had said that, and finished my gurgley chat with Alex and headed towards my desk, feeling pretty crap about myself as a mother.

If I had the freedom to choose, I don’t think I would choose to be a full time stay at home mother, I just know it wouldn’t be for me. Part time would be my ideal option, because at same time, I want to be with them all the time too. It’s that very tricky, ever elusive, perfect balance.

Guilt is something I became familiar with very early on, in fact, since the start of my first pregnancy. We are IVF parents, very very lucky ones at that, our treatment worked. So it was a bit of a surprise to me that I didn’t particularly enjoy being pregnant – extremely grateful yes, of course, but pregnancy for me was months of nausea, vomiting, swollen feet, extreme heartburn… ok my hair got a bit thicker and softer and my skin looked nice and almost glowy (possibly from the hot flushes!) for a while but even that catches up with you after the baby is born and your hair falls out and you’re left with these mad sticky outy bits all over your head while it grows back to normal again…!! Aaand breathe…! So no, if I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy being pregnant for the most part. Appreciative, yes, and lots of it I did love and cherish – the feeling of Bump moving around or kicking, but not really any of the rest of it.

Anyway back to the point… so I didn’t enjoy pregnancy, it was tough. I felt guilty about that because of our IVF and I thought of all the women who would swap places with me in a heartbeat because I used to be that woman too. And of course the moment they’re born you’re guilty all the time, am I doing this right, did I do that wrong?

When I went back to work after Rian’s maternity leave, the guilt was immense. How could I leave him every day, why was I working for a major chunk of my wages to pay someone else to see all of his ‘firsts’? And it only got worse, after I had Alex I thought I would be prepared for how it would feel to go back to work, but in fact it was worse again because what I wasn’t prepared for was Rian being old enough now to ask me, after a year of being home, ‘Mama, where are you going? Why won’t you stay here with me?’

It was very hard. I questioned myself a lot at the return to work last year. Why am I doing this?? Oh yes, then I remembered, I just don’t have the choice.

So why do we do this to ourselves? Is there a way to come to terms with this guilt or are we just destined to never be happy whatever the situation is – whether we give up work and stay at home, or if we choose not to stay at home?

I thought a lot last year about whether I wanted to give up work, assuming we could afford it and I could stay at home. It would be tight, but I think if we cut back enough we could probably get by on one wage. And is it even fair to assume that it would be me who stays home, what if their Dad wanted to stay home? I admit that thought didn’t even occur to me at the start. But even if I did stay home, I think the guilt would still find me anyway, and make me think about other things – can we afford to save for their college fund? Can we afford to give them all the things we want to?

And the other thought is – really the main reason I don’t want to give up my job – what will I do when they’re older and not as dependent on me? What if I want to go back to work then, when they’re off to school, and I have a five or six year gap on my CV – it’s hard enough going back after maternity leave,  your confidence is shaken a lot, or at least mine was. So a big gap, for me, would be very intimidating. So is it selfish of me to not want to be in that situation, to not want to sacrifice my career? Does that mean I’m a bad mother? And the guilt factor starts again.

Being a working mother, it sneaks up on you on a regular basis. When a work commitment clashes with an event at their creche or playschool, and we’re faced with missing it. Guilt. At Rian’s playschool Sport’s Day back in June, I took the day off work. Within the first ten minutes, three other mothers had mentioned to me that they hadn’t realised that our childminder, who they see every day dropping off and collecting Rian, wasn’t in fact his mother. Ouch.

Recently, our childcare situation  changed, and I was forced again to consider all of these points. I really struggle to come to some sense of peace with the fact that I’m gone all day from them. Today was their first day in a creche – Alex in particular has never been minded outside his own home until today – and I wasn’t there to drop them off. Guilty. They’re fine of course – the staff are amazing and sent me little updates and photos of them happily playing away, but my guilty mind goes into overdrive and I wonder what will they think of these decisions I’m making now when they’re all grown up? Will they think I’m selfish? Will they resent the fact that I ‘chose’ to leave them with someone other than me while I ‘chose’ not to give up my career? Ultimately, I suppose I’m thinking – how will they judge me? Am I ruining their childhood?!

I don’t know how to make the guilt go away, but I have decided to make some rules for myself.

  • I am not a bad mother. I am doing my best, along with everyone else. Yes, I go to work for myself because I enjoy it, but also of course so that I can give them everything I possibly can not just now but later in life too. I’m doing my best, and I have to tell myself that my best IS good enough.
  • Don’t focus on the negatives – instead I will focus on the times I am there. Their little faces when they see me coming through the door each evening, and the fun we can have all weekend. It makes me more grateful and appreciative of those times.
  • Most importantly of all: I make it my mission that they know they are loved. I know they know. And once they know that, I know I’m not failing completely.

Whatever way I look at it, mother guilt is here to stay, no matter what type of mother you are. There’s no point in questioning why we beat ourselves up over it, but in the end all I can suggest is that we get off our own backs, get off our own cases, and make the most of whatever situation we’re in. Guilt is not a choice, but how we deal with it certainly is.

Advertisements

This Too Shall Pass

I remember during one particularly tough phase of Rian’s first few months when he had colic, someone said to me ‘This too shall pass’ – and of course it does. I see it quite often in parenting groups; someone will ask for advice on dealing with some tricky new hurdle and usually all we can say is, hang in there, it’s just a phase, this too shall pass!

But do we ever stop to remember that the good things too shall pass? The little stages we love, their little quirks, the new thing they’ve discovered they can do…they change so fast because life is busy passing and we’re constantly just trying to catch up with ourselves. All of the little things they do that may seem inconsequential at the time, you might not even notice them. But I’ve only been a parent now for two years and already I want it to slow down. I want to remember all the little things about them that make me cry with laughter, or cry with frustration.  The things that make my heart want to jump out of my chest with pride and love. All of it.

Recently I was asked by a friend of mine to help put into words a way to describe his new venture in photography – a documentary style ‘day in the life’. While doing it, it made me focus on my own life with my two boys. And it made me realise I seem to be in a constant state of waiting for things to pass. Waiting for Rian’s colic to pass, waiting for his tantrum to calm, waiting for Alex to settle for the night so I might get a few hours sleep myself. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t enjoy all this – of course I do. But I realised that I hardly ever stop to actually look around me, to appreciate fully and more often just what it is we have been given. Especially since there was a time when we thought we’d never have any of this at all when we were told we’d need IVF. It’s always thinking of what job needs to get done next, what dinner needs to be cooked, what day the next round of vaccinations need to be given, the next time one is due a feed and one is due a dinner.

So I decided to stop and look, and started writing. When they’re all grown up, what will I want to remember?

How things feel. The softness of Alex’s little baby cheek, like a soft downy feather. The little grip of his whole hand clutching my thumb. Those little razorblade fingernails that seem to grow at a rate of knots and terrify me in trying to get them cut! The feel of Rian’s little arms wrapped around my neck giving me a ‘huggy’,  the drool that falls on my chest when he falls asleep cuddled into me. His little curls against my face when we snuggle in under the blanket to read a book, and the sticky little hands that chase me hysterically when they’re covered in the residue of his favourite snack of grapes and yoghurt.

 

 

How things sound. The gentle little sucky noise of Alex’s soother as he drifts off for a snooze. The sound of Rian singing at 6am about Gruffalos and trains and having adventures with Woody and Buzz. ‘To finnty…and bond!’ ‘There’s a sake in a b-oot!’ The sound Rian makes when I know he’s working up to a tantrum, and the swift noise I make in an effort to distract him from getting there! The sound of his little feet hopping out of bed when he’s supposed to be asleep and pattering across the hall. And best of all, the sound of Alex’s gurgly little giggles and warbly chats, and the beautiful sound of Rian’s belly laugh, so hard that tears run down his red little cheeks.

How things smell. The gorgeous new baby smell that still just about lingers from Alex. The milky drooly smell that comes from him after a feed. I could breathe that in all day. The lovely smell from Rian’s baby shampoo, and the smell of his bubble bath that he loves splashing around in. That unmistakable whiff that you knew was inevitable when he wolfed in all that fruit for lunch… ok ok maybe this isn’t something I’ll miss too much of when it’s over! And yet somehow, yes, I think I will because it’s part and parcel of who they are now, and I know it won’t always be this way.

One of Rian’s favourite things in life at the moment is Toy Story, and in particular, the third one. At the end of the movie Andy is heading off to college and is getting ready to leave. His mother walks into his empty room, all packed up, and gets emotional. She hugs him and says, ‘I just wish I could be with you always.’

And that’s my wish too, so much! It’s hard now to imagine them both old enough to be going to college, and I’m sure in some ways I’ll be only too delighted to get two smelly teenagers out of my hair, but obviously the day will come when they’ll be old enough to not need me anymore. Well, I hope they’ll always need me in some ways! Hopefully if I do this job right, they’ll want to keep me in their lives just as much as I’ll want them in mine.

 

 

I want to be able to look back, and still feel all those things, and the things still yet to come. To remember how things are, how they were, and how they will be. To be ever thankful that we were given the chance we thought we’d never have, to be their parents, and cherish them always, because as I’ve realised to be true, This Too Shall Pass.

 

*Huge thank you to Johannes for the amazing, and much treasured photographs of our little family; a day in our life.

 

To Grow A Human

I have a confession to make. If you’ve seen earlier blog posts you’ll know that earlier this year I wrote a piece about IVF which basically ended up with me being on the radio chatting to Ray D’arcy about our experience with fertility treatment. Well, I must confess that at the time of that interview, I had already just done a transfer, and although I didn’t quite know it yet, I was already pregnant! Yes, I’m growing a human.

In late February I went back on the fertility medication to prepare for our third frozen embryo transfer, our second attempt at a brother or sister for Rian. This process isn’t as intrusive as the process for a full round of IVF – these embryos were frozen after that original round in 2013 when we were extremely lucky to be able to freeze 7 high quality embryos. Rian was the first transfer, we had one late last year which failed, so this was transfer number three.

With that in mind I’m very familiar with the process and know the routine. You take oestrogen tablets 3 times a day along with progesterone pills twice a day. Nice little cocktail of hormones going on there, plenty of fun for everyone. After about 2 weeks of that you go the clinic where they give you an ultrasound to check the lining of your womb – it needs to be thick in preparation for the replacement of the embryo. If it’s too thin, the embryo won’t be able to implant and start growing. Once everything is doing what it should, they give you a time for the transfer and in you go.

It’s a relatively quick process. They select what looks to be the strongest embryo and thaw it out, a couple of hours before it’s due to be transferred. You’re brought into the theatre room. They scan your wrist band and ask you to state your name and date of birth a few times while two other people call out ID codes and confirm ID codes again to make sure you’re getting your own embryo, cos that could be awkward. Then they show you little embryo on the screen, you give him a little wave and hope you’ll see him again in 9 months time.

The embryo is then placed in a tiny tube, sort of like the inside tube of a biro, except thinner. It’s about the size of a poppyseed. Using an ultrasound so the doctor can see where he/she is putting it, the tube is inserted and they release it close to the lining of your womb. It is within some sort of liquid so that when they release it they can see, otherwise it would be too small for the ultrasound to pick up.

And job done.

They give you a pregnancy test and a date for testing, and release you into the hell that is the two week waiting time before you can find out whether it has worked. You continue to take the hormone cocktails which greatly add to your emotions during the two weeks of waiting torture, and not in a good way.

Over the next two weeks you torture yourself with – Yay it has worked! / Christ it hasn’t worked. It’s mental torture. After a wait about as long as an Ice Age, test day finally arrives, and it’s quite hard to do the test due to the shaking of your hands from nerves and the knot of dread in your stomach. After a couple of minutes of extra intense torture….two pink lines appeared. Embryo was still in there. Baby number two is on its way!

We absolutely know and appreciate how lucky we are to be expecting our second baby especially when the odds of treatment aren’t as high as you would want them to be. But this doesn’t mean that it’s not still hard. I touched on this in older posts that I wrote while pregnant with Rian – how I thought that getting pregnant would be the hard bit, but actually for me, being pregnant is not much of a picnic. In fact even saying the word picnic makes me think of certain foods that makes me want to heave!

At first I feel that I’m not entitled to not enjoy it, that I should automatically love every second of it purely because of the route we have to take to even get pregnant. But I have to be honest – I don’t really enjoy the being pregnant bit, unfortunately I’m one of those women that has all the crappy stuff that goes with pregnancy. On Rian I was nauseous all day long at the start, but this time around, on a good day I might get sick once, on a bad day it was 3 or 4 times a day. Throughout this you still must function as normal – get on trains and public transport, do your day to day work, manage a toddler. It’s not easy! Yes I am grateful, so much so I can’t even put it into words, but that doesn’t make me automatically enjoy it.

I’m just at the 4 month mark now, and finally the sickness is starting to ease at last! I’m starting to feel a bit normal again, a bit like myself again. I’m starting to get excited now, hopefully soon I’ll start feeling movement – I think I was 18 weeks when I first felt the little pops from Rian fluttering around! To think there’s a whole person forming inside me… will it be another boy? Will he look like Rian? Will they have similar personalities? So many exciting things to wonder about!

To grow a human is so amazing, to have the chance to do it is amazing. But my God, women are pretty amazing too! Roll on the next few months of watching Bump grow and become stronger as my newest little human.

 

 

Oops I Did It Again

I know. Yes, I know. I said to myself.. I’ll definitely keep this blog going. And I didn’t.  But God loves a trier (tryer? Neither of them look right) so I’ll try again to keep this going!

So, recap. It’s 2015 and my last post was over a year ago when we found out that our IVF worked. I fully intended to blog about pregnancy and I nearly did too!

I thought that getting pregnant was the hard part. Well in fairness to me it was quite the challenge! But I mean that I thought now that I was finally pregnant that the hardest bit was over. 

Em, no.

I had earthy woman type visions of yoga with a bump and breathing and glowy complexions and casually strolling around shops oohing and aahing over cute baby things. Well ok the last bit came true but replace casually with awkwardly and strolling with waddling, and it’s more accurate. 

The thing was that it took me ages to settle into it or to even trust it! This was a shock in a way. I had thought once I saw those two lines my days of worry and stress would be a thing of the past. And they were in one sense, but I think because it took us so long to get to that point my brain was still on standby to expect bad news. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy, but just wary-happy! 

Then the nausea kicked in. Ok so loads of women get morning sickness, I sympathised with plenty of them before..oh you poor thing etc etc but I never really thought too much about it. IT IS HORRIFIC. Think of your worst hangover ever. Then multiply it by 100. It’s a bit like that. You know when you know you’re going to throw up, and that bit right before you do..the worst bit…it was that feeling TWENTY FOUR HOURS A DAY. The thing about a hangover is that it goes away and you can lie on various things until it passes. Not with ‘Morning’ sickness. Oh no. With morning sickness you still have to function day to day and sit on trains that rock from side to side with people who wear strong perfumes and aftershaves, and work all day with people who eat disgusting things like bananas and ham sandwiches. And for the record, whoever named it morning sickness hadn’t a fucking clue what he was talking about. 

The thing was, I felt like I was doing it wrong. I had pictured me as the picture of happiness. Finally pregnant. Look what we went through to get here! So shut your whingy mouth and suck it up. This is what you fought for so your complaints are hereby null and void. Not only that but I felt I had no right to complain. So I tried not to.  I was going to blog about my happy pregnancy but I thought I’ll wait til this bit passes when I can function again. 

17 weeks later and my days consisted of getting through work and commute somehow then  finally getting home and lying down through the nausea. I literally couldn’t function anything other than the absolute necessary. How. The. Fuck do women do this more than once?! Then the guilt would kick in and I’d give out out to myself for even thinking it, I mean I was annoyed with myself. How lucky we were to be where we were! And I knew we were. 

Please don’t get me wrong, I was so grateful the whole time. It was just that I felt I had no right to be finding the pregnancy hard because of the IVF, but the truth is that it is damn hard. Women really do rule the world!

Thankfully after the nausea went things did get easier and I began to enjoy it more. Our first scan…seeing that little blob with the heartbeat flickering away, I will never forget. Never. There were tears.  I kept thinking…you are growing a human! There’s a person in there! There’s a foot in your belly! It’s nothing short of amazing. 

The day I first felt movement…like little fluttery bubbles popping in my belly. I was on the train to work and it was a lovely sunny morning and I sat there holding my belly with a big grin. I must have looked like some sort of deranged Santa. 

The first kick! Weeeeeiiiird. A person just kicked me from inside me. Oh god there’s a person in there. And I’ve to get it out…..! Eek. 

That awkward look from people on the bus. Is she fat or pregnant?  (Both!) Better not risk it. 

That awkward avoidance from people on the bus. Pretend you didn’t see her mahoosive bump and you can avoid standing up. This was interesting. For ages I didn’t mind cos I didn’t feel I needed a seat. Towards the end though I would have paid someone for a seat. I only ever got offered them by women. Women rule. 

Last day of work. Glee! No more trains and buses! Pregna-commuting is damn hard. I finished work 2 weeks before my due date of October 28. My days consisted of lie ins and movie watching and waddling and using bump as a handy built in tray for my iPad. Sometimes it would fall off when bump decided he didn’t want to be a tray and wanted to have a silent disco and a foot shape produded out of my belly. Me and bump had good times. But I kind of wanted my body back. It’s like you rent yourself out for 9 months and you lose control of a lot of things. Like putting on socks. And other bodily things. 

2am November 2nd. Something feels weird. It’ll prob be grand. 6am Nov 2nd. Nope, something definitely feels weird. Get thee to thy hospital!

November 3rd 2014 – after a very long and tiring and let’s face it, quite ouchy sort of time, ending in an emergency section (I’ll spare you the details), at 22.22 our precious bump transformed into our amazing miracle son Rian, and a whole new venture began!  

I’m a Mam.

Love is. 

  

And the Results are IN

They call it the Two Week Wait. It’s a LIE. It’s a Two Month Wait. Or, Two Decade Wait. Or.. well you get the picture. Time slows down, actually slows down. Forget about those days at work where it seems to be 3pm on a Friday for about a year, that’s nothing in comparison. It was a mentally tough time, no question about it.

Eventually though,the time did pass and test day arrived. They say you should do the test first thing in the mornings. I spent the night beforehand lying awake convinced that it would be negative. I’m not just saying that either, I was so absolutely sure. So I lay there thinking, listing out positives in my head of things I can do again like console myself with loads of wine, and…. well that was all I came up with. Eventually I fell into a sort of half sleep while hubby blissfully snored beside me as if it was any other normal sort of night! That fella could sleep on a washing line through a nuclear explosion though in fairness to him.

I woke up at about half 7 and thought right, lets get this over with. I was shaking with nerves. It was a fiddly sort of test involving a turkey baster type of thing which required the ‘sample’ to be put on a section of the test. I did it. The whole strip turned pink. Seeing as I knew what it would say, I handed it to himself who at this stage was sitting up in bed, excited as a child on Christmas morning. I went into the bathroom to avoid seeing the negative evidence, and 30 seconds later I heard ‘Jen? This yoke has 2 lines on it, what does that mean?’

It couldn’t be.

‘Sorry, what? Are you sure? That can’t be right.’ I rushed back in to see if he was seeing things. Sure enough, there was one line plus another slightly faded line. Surely not?? After a few minutes the line got darker and darker. I checked the little packet it came in. It had a picture of the test with two lines with a big fat tick mark. It was positive.

I stared at it for ages. The test was positive. That meant….we are PREGNANT. I’m pregnant. This is really happening! It took a long time for that to sink in. My first instinct was to go and get another test and do it again, just to be sure. I mean, this is something that we have been trying to achieve for 4 years now, without success at any point. Four years of failure trains you to expect the worst, but against all the odds, there it was, in bright pink evidence. Two big fat positive lines!

It hit me then and I started to cry. I felt like we had won the lottery, like I had just climbed a mountain. Dramatic yes, but this was what it felt like! Over the moon doesn’t begin to describe it, it was one of the best moments of my life.

The other overwhelming feeling I had was gratitude, towards whoever or whatever made this happen, to the family and friends who prayed and hoped for this result with us, to the staff at the clinic who were fantastic (and one girl in particular who was nothing short of amazing). We are so grateful for all the support we received.

The next step is a visit back to the clinic in a few weeks for a scan to check for a heartbeat. So another nervous wait, but oh my God what an exciting time this is.

I made a nervous venture onto a pregnancy website yesterday. I’m considered 4 weeks pregnant, (which I don’t fully understand but they said they time it from the day of your last bleed. I’m not gonna argue!) It says that embryo is the size of a poppy seed. We have a poppy seed! We are still cautious about it now, it’s very early days still and we’re not out of the woods yet by a long way, but we are most definitely officially Pregnant and there is nobody happier than us in the world right now! Hopefully little Embryo will stick around, to us he’s the most wanted Embryo that ever was.