2016 Survey

This survey is something that I found on the delightful Jolie‘s blog (someone I feel lucky to know!) but it was originally something she found on Sundry’s blog.  I thought it’d be a good one to sum up the year and a nice way to finish the year before we leap into fertility treatments.

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1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?

I sold a house and negotiated a redundancy. But the biggest leap for me this past year was going public with our infertility. Putting my name and face to my writing for The Spinoff Parents was both challenging and empowering. And the amount of positive, grateful feedback I have had has made it all worthwhile.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

My resolutions were threefold – my health, music, and travel. I was very passionate about yoga and eating better for a while but it kinda fell apart with all the stress. Music just didn’t happen, other than the occasional writing session. However, we did get our travel in! We ticked places off of our list and covered all of our “must do”s, leaving “nice to do” places until we go back for visits.

This year I want to have less expectations and just try and do my best to look after my body while we go through treatment/set our life up here. I want to find a job that I enjoy, with people I like, even if that means waiting for the right thing rather than rushing into something for the money. I want to set up my new house with love and care and intention, and live a more organised life. Small changes are what we’re aiming for.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

The better question would be did anyone close to me not give birth.  Well I guess my sister didn’t!

4. Did anyone close to you die?

We lost my Uncle Peter, and sadly I couldn’t be home to farewell him. Otherwise, the world lost a lot of great names. Leonard Cohen I felt deeply, and losing Carrie Fisher/Debbie Reynolds was tough at the end – Singin’ in the Rain is a lifelong favourite and Carrie’s writing inspired me. The world is better for having them all in it for their time on earth.

5. What countries did you visit?

Germany, France, and Greece! And then of course the USA on our way home to New Zealand.

6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?

Well I’ll ignore the obvious answer, but the best thing about this year will be the time we get to spend with my family. After so many years of missing the big stuff (and the small), we will try and make the most of it. And as I said above, I’d really like a job where I don’t hate almost every minute.

7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

Our 1st anniversary – April 11th, my birthday in Paris on April 26th, looking out from Oia in Santorini on May 19th, December 7th when we left our wee house, and December 14th when we left Scotland.

It’s going to sound really trivial and privileged (and I am always reminded of how lucky we are), but we were blessed to receive our house payment from the sale while we were still in New York on December 16th and it’s something I’ll remember for a long time. It was a really mind-blowing feeling to have money in our pockets. After so many years of taking trips and watching every penny (to the point of having a very tight budget set against every part of each day), it was strange and overwhelming to be in that city and just breathe. Capitalism is bad and all that, but it was a very strange, very liberating feeling. We lost a lot to the collapse of the pound, but have money for a rainy day so after a few treats for ourselves and family, the rest was put away of course! We’ve got to live on it and hopefully update the new house this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Writing more and being read by a wider audience felt like a wonderful achievement. Overcoming the stress that came from work/the move feels like an achievement – I think the key word for 2016 was definitely stress. I was in mental agony 35 hours a week for a long time and it felt like a huge weight was lifted when I finally left that job. I loved some of the people but it was taking such a toll on me to be there.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Getting further into debt instead of climbing out of it. Gaining even more weight/being more unhealthy than ever before. But as I’ve said, stress had a huge part of that, and now I’m debt free and working to live a healthier life again.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2016 after other investigations into Crohn’s and chronic fatigue. After living with intense fatigue and a long list of other problems (seriously, google hypothyroid symptoms, your thyroid affects a lot), it was a relief to move forward. Since being medicated things have improved somewhat, but as we move into fertility treatment I imagine some treatments may change. The only injury was dropping a champagne bottle on my foot a week before we moved house! I don’t recommend it.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Probably the MacBook I’m typing on right now. I haven’t had my own computer in several years so it’s pretty exciting. And I’ve never bought myself something this new/fancy before. Otherwise my monogrammed Fossil handbag I bought on Fifth avenue is pretty special to me.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

Not that I’m terribly political but Hillary Clinton was all class. She handled the waste of space that is DT with grace and I was proud to support her. Otherwise the support I received from close and distant friends regarding our diagnosis was a wonderful and humbling thing at the end of this year.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Well. Farage and his cronies, the UK Tories around the Brexit campaign, and then the orange moron himself, Mr President Elect. No more really needs to be said.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Getting ready to move/paying for services to move/binged on food and clothes to make us cheery in a difficult time.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

It’s awful, but leaving work/selling our house and losing that stress. I got really excited to be unemployed. Now I am, it’s so good but weird. I can’t think of much else I got very excited about. Tough year!

16. What songs will always remind you of 2016?

24K Magic, Can’t Stop the Feeling!, Xanadu, Vanessa Carlton’s OperatorSaint Claude by Christine and the Queens.

17. Did you make any new friendships?

I definitely got a lot closer to my online infertility group, and made a few new buds on Twitter.

18. Did you go on vacation?

Yes! Berlin in January, Paris in April, and Crete in May. All of this was squeezed in early in the year before we surrendered our passports so my husband could get his visa to live here in New Zealand.

19. What do you wish you had done (more and less) of?

More yoga/meditation to try and relieve the stress. More prayer even (I’m a terrible believer). Less eating McDonald’s, but hey. It helped at the time.

20. How did you spend the holidays?

With my family! All in one place. It was amazing.

21. What new food did you discover?

Not much, but this was definitely a year we had a lot of risotto. I always approve of risotto.

22. What was your favourite TV program?

Old favourites mainly – The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, It’s Always Sunny. We also rewatched the first 4 seasons of The Wire.

23. What was one of your favourite experiences of the year?

Driving around Scotland, especially my visits to Glencoe. And of course, Paris and New York. I love those cities. It was a dream to be in New York again after such a long time, especially with my love.

24. What was the best book you read?

Oh man you know what? I doubt I read a single new book. Shame. I read parts of books, and re-read a few old favourites. Couldn’t name any of them, I just picked things up occasionally.

25. What was your greatest musical or artist discovery?

Christine and the Queens, Broods, Chvrches, Joy Williams (though I’d loved The Civil Wars).

26. What did you want and get?

My house sold/out of my job/across to NZ in one piece.

27. What did you want and not get?

Pregnant.

28. What was your favourite film of this year?

My favourites have to be Spotlight, Deadpool, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Ghostbusters, Hunt For the Wilderpeople, and Arrival. Also really enjoyed The Girl on the Train, Captain America, Hardcore Henry, and Eddie the Eagle.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

We were in Paris! We spent the morning travelling to the airport early because of worker strikes. We’d already celebrated the night before with a strange Japanese dinner (where the staff only spoke French or Chinese) so the day itself wasn’t so important. I turned 32.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I hate to harp on, but infertility was the worst part of 2016 for us, so any success there would have been incredible/a better diagnosis. It’s crazy that we have to pay so much money to do something that everyone else does naturally, so we always hold out a tiny bit of hope that we get there without help, despite the crappy odds.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?

Basics/simple. Bright prints, classic cuts. Very safe!

32. What kept you sane?

Dave. TV. My internet buddies. Writing. Shutting off my brain with video games.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

For me it’s always double-D, David Duchovny. That’s not changed in 20 years. Seeing him live in 2016 did nothing to dissuade that. I’m a dork, I know.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

The US election, maybe. But yeah. Now I’m in NZ I’m worrying less about that day to day.

35. Who did you miss?

My large crazy family and my close friends at home – it has been amazing seeing them all.

36. Who was the best new person you met?

All the new babies this year.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.

To slow down and don’t act so much on impulse. To put my health first. To not take any friends for granted.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Wind blows, covers every single track
If I wanted to, I couldn’t go back
Oh, I just keep stumbling
Oh, and it’s a sinned kiss facing unforgiving winds
Feel the cold, it’s creeping in, oh
And I just keep stumbling on

Oh, carry my body ‘cross the frozen ground
While the moon burns

I got miles and miles to go before I sleep
Before I can feel anything, before I’m free
I got miles and miles and miles…

– Joy Williams, Before I Sleep

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New year thoughts

Well here we are. 2017. The new year.

A year of change; a year of possibilities and hope.

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We’re in New Zealand now and it still feels surreal. It still feels like one of our usual visits, when we spend 3-4 weeks living in this house and then get on very long flights “home” again. I still catch myself calling Scotland home when I refer to it. I’ll need to change that.

This is home now.

In other developments, we are seeing the new RE/specialist at the end of the month, and we’ll also need to get a GP soon (we’re hoping to get into my old family practice). We’re not sure how quickly things will move forward, but it’s good to have a plan. If I’ve learned anything over the last year it’s that nothing in infertility happens in a hurry.

I’m hoping this will be our year. If nothing else progresses but we end up moving towards parenthood, then it’ll be a good one.

No resolutions this year. Just small changes and everything crossed.

Hope and twee

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It feels so long ago, but when we started this process, we had so many grand dreams and ideas.  It’s easy to get caught up in the joy of making a family and the excitement that it could happen at any time – bam! You’ll be pregnant and you’ll be counting down to bringing home a baby. What a life change. It’s really big and very exciting.

Last year I subscribed to a few accounts on Instagram/Twitter, picked up my parenting reading (because I have always been a parenting nerd), and of course, got the pregnancy apps. Oh the apps!

And what I’ve always done, and continued to do, was a lot of blog reading. I still do it now, but my reading has switched to infertility/IVF blogs. But back in those early days of trying, the blog posts I loved the most were the cheesiest ones.

I got excited by bump posts. Symptoms listed, things bought for baby, photos of nurseries. Pictures, maternity clothes…

I know, I know.  It’s considered cheesy, overdone, just so twee. But I got swept up in their excitement.  I got excited for them, because it meant that I was getting a bit excited for me too.

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I planned a baby book. I am a planner, so I wanted something very specific as a momento to give my child when they were older. When I couldn’t find anything (affordable) with the prompts I wanted, I made my own. I ruled pages into designs, sketched out ideas, wrote notes. I made something that I could write in and feel excited to use.

Of course, now it’s in a drawer.

But I still want the twee. I want to someday do the posts detailing and chronicling our journey. People may roll their eyes, but it’s a privilege often taken for granted by the fertile to be a bit silly in your excitement around your growing belly.

I’m often scared to do anything and possibly even think that I’ll get to do it, but I want to still have that excitement. I am pre-emptively excited about sharing our excitement.

At least today I am.

That’s the trouble with infertility. Some days it is just too crushing – you can’t read about anyone else’s joy, you hide from the world, you mute everything you can.  You spend a lot of time in your infertility groups discussing how to hide painful things/subjects on social media – we need to cushion yourselves.

On tough days you instead read the realistic stories and try and lift up your friends who are hurting when their cycles keep failing. Other days? You want the hope. You go in search of IVF success stories. Of smiling babies. Of excited mothers-to-be.

You want the twee.

(Mamas, I’m excited for you).

New pathways and mixed feelings

I’ve tried to write this post a few times. It’s never quite come out as it feels in my head.

The trouble is, I don’t really know how I feel.

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In 3 weeks’ time, we get on (a few) planes and leave Scotland. We don’t know when we’ll be back, and we don’t know what will happen. Everything is open to us.

There are many positives to returning to New Zealand. Obviously family is hugely important to us, and all of mine (and some of his) are there.  We’ll be staying with my parents for a few months, and enjoying the summer weather and (lots) of down time.

We’ll be starting afresh, with no debt, and no obligations. We’ll be able to shake off the stress and pain that 2016 has brought to us. We’ll be unemployed and happy about it.

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But it’s bittersweet. We started this life on an uneven keel – I was the new girl coming into a country that was so similar yet so different.  He had his friends, a familiar climate, accents and words that made sense, and everything that comes with British popular culture.

I had him.

(It was enough).

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The goal was 2 years. But 2 years in, we weren’t done. We were just getting started. We finally found jobs that suited us, we were earning better money, we had a nicer home, we were really getting settled.

How the next 5.5 years flew by, I’ll never quite understand. But I made my life here. I made friends, was promoted through roles at work, travelled Scotland widely. We visited everywhere on our Europe ‘must-do’ list (saving other places for another day). We got engaged. Had white Christmases. Flew home and planned a wedding. Flew home again to got married.

Started this crazy journey to have our own family.

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And New Zealand is where we hope to finish it.  We have an appointment set for late January to start the wheels in motion towards IVF/ICSI. We’re in the process of getting our medical notes from the UK so that we have everything we need to move forward.

So New Zealand has so much waiting for us. We’re so excited to do it. But it’s hard to leave.

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It’s hard to explain how my identity has changed over the last 7.66 years.

Somewhere along the way I stopped being just a Kiwi in a foreign place, but started to be Scottish.  Not just in the voice (though that has changed), but in my sense of self, my pop culture knowledge, my sense of humour, my likes and dislikes. I’ve done a lot of growing up since I was 25, and I feel a bit more like I belong here than there.

I obviously have deep historical ties to this country, and I’m incredibly proud of that heritage. I imagine to Kiwis this may all seem strange, but I really feel like I will have to adjust. I will have to learn.

So we’re on an even keel this time. I’ll be experiencing New Zealand (particularly Wellington) and its culture and way of doing things, through the eyes of a fresh immigrant. A confused, displaced woman who used to belong there.  A husband who only had 18 months. We’ll have to figure it out together. We’ll have to get into our house, get a car, get jobs, get our lives established.

It’s going to be a learning curve and despite it always being the plan, I have to admit that sometimes I wonder why we’re doing it. It feels strange to be pulled from our independent lives into living upstairs in my family home. But it’s the right choice for us. And we are excited.

But I can’t say I’m not torn.

Alba gu bràth.

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Writings

When I started this blog the purpose was to get my feelings out and hopefully show some others they are not alone.

Thankfully I’ve had my journey spread a bit further, and I’m hopefully helping people. I’ve been writing over at The Spinoff Parents.

I’ll be writing here as often as I can still, but if you want to read my two pieces published there, they are here:

Forever hopeful: My life in the parents-in-waiting club

The rollercoaster of trying to conceive: What it feels like to not be able to get pregnant

Tapes

I think it was the illustrious TV personality Dr Phil who first called them “tapes” (though I struggle to find anything online to corroborate this) and it’s become what I call them, too.

Tapes. It’s an outdated term for sure, as who listens to tapes anymore? But whenever my mind starts to repeat something negative to me, I try and tell myself to stop the tape.

My mind has not been kind to me lately.

 

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I get the same messages in a loop when I’m feeling down. Everything from “no one really likes you” and “you just annoy people” to “you’ll never be a mother” and “why bother eating healthy foods when you’re just gonna stay fat anyway?”

Most days I can tell these thoughts to fuck off. On good days I can roll my eyes at them and remind myself how much I like myself, how my friends don’t find me annoying (and if they do, then maybe I don’t need to stick by them – I mean, I know I have flaws, but I’m likeable) and how I can definitely become a mother somehow. And I’m not fat, I’m just on the chubby side and need to eat less sugar mainly because it makes me cranky, and start to actually listen to my body when it tells me how angry dairy makes it.

On bad days it’s hard to just get going on things. I get the bare minimum done and hope that I don’t run into too many pregnant women at the shops.

 

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Positivity goes a really long way.  It’s just that over the last 18 months, with work and life stresses, I’ve been less and less positive. And I’ve written before about feeling like a failure. My mind can be very cruel, and I think obviously a large part of it is that I’m constantly hit in the face by everyone else’s seemingly-hyperfertile reproductive systems.  It’s human nature that we are rapidly reproducing, and there are very little places you can go without seeing a baby or a bump.

For me it’s become all about taking deep breaths, telling myself it’ll pass and that I don’t need to listen to the negativity inside. And sometimes someone else has the tape player and can shut it off for you, just by reaching out to check in, or reminding you how much hope there still is.

Press stop if you can. Don’t let those tapes run. And on the worst days? Aim for pause.