What infertility taught me

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It’s slowly creeping towards the 9 month mark of the surgery that unveiled my endometriosis. As it’s pissing down, and I always gain clarity in the rain, I got to thinking – if I had have fallen pregnant when I wanted to I’d have a child by now. While the last 9 months haven’t changed the way I feel about pregnancy and children it did gift me with a few things. One of them being resilience..resilience with a veneer of acceptance. 9 months ago if any one mentioned anything about pregnancy..fertility..adoption..even sex..I wasn’t buying what they were selling. Fast forward to right now and my health is no better..in fact it’s significantly worse. I’m currently prepping for my second surgery where I’ll officially lose my second tube. My Dr held off removing the second so I had some time to process and recharge and I thank him endlessly for that. But in the last 9 months I’ve been lovingly pushed into learning a few home truths that I wouldn’t have learnt otherwise.

These are a few things infertility forced me to do..

1. Get to know Brad

I know it sounds a bit ludicrous that I would need any more time to become familiar with my partner but I can confidently say that our lives without the child we thought we might have forced us to genuinely give a shit about each other. Not just going through the motions and performing the simple pleasantries and routines we used to. We have been made to talk more, listen openly and love more tenderly than we did before. When we first discussed children it would have been the essence of who we were as a couple and now we’re working on a child being the cherry on top of something already great. Now we have a friendship – he is one of my truest, closest friends. It’s nice feeling this way about each other after all this time.

2. Prioritise happiness 

When I was trying to have a baby a year ago I was very lost-in myself and in life. In every sense of the word. This time has given me the ability to be a little selfish. To think “what do I need to do to make me happy” and then go after exactly that with open arms. Now that I’m about to begin postgraduate studies where my world will revolve around children I needed the last 9 months to come to terms with the reality that I may work with children but have none of my own. I’m also about 4 and half months away from getting married which felt too far out of reach this time last year.

3. Get a little stronger 

I was recovering in bed feeling particularly sorry for myself and I wondered if I would ever be ‘okay’ again. Would I ever hold a newborn without feeling sad? Would I be able to be around pregnant women? Would I sink into a depression every time someone told me they were having a baby? Pain kicked my ass and forced me to be far stronger than the person crying in bed 9 months ago. I will always feel cheated by the fact that infertility takes away some of the power you have over your own body – you still ultimately control what happens to you..you just have fewer options and a shorter leash. As more and more women around me have their babies I thank the last 9 months for the strength I’ve been gifted. I had to quickly learn that my life is not theirs nor is my pain theirs. I now feel I have enough gumption to be the support they would like me to be and I don’t fall apart from exhaustion doing it. I think it largely comes back to having a good home team..the cherry on top scenario.

4. Think logically 

Last week my doctor sat me down and told me after my next surgery I have a six month window of success with IVF before my endo causes my odds to plummet. I should have had my second surgery in March but I opted out – I wasn’t ready. Last week in my exhausted state after a terrible few months of pain I said “f*ck it” – let’s do it now. Because of this rigid window of success my Dr asked if we could start looking into IVF in August and for the first time I genuinely thought no deal Andrew- I just want to get married. Doing his job he asked me to sleep on it and discuss it with Brad. Knowing Brad met me thinking I would pop out kids like a PEZ dispenser I was honestly nervous to talk it over with him. Would we be on either side of the fence wanting different things? Because that would be the end of that. Like I’ve said before..it’s so easy to forget how lucky we are that we’ve found our person but this was just one of those moments I was gently reminded…and as for the outcome we’re still getting married. The logical epiphany I’m talking about came from thinking “do I desperately need a child right now?” “Am I confident and stable enough to say a child would be a cherry on top tomorrow?”. When I realized the answer to these questions was no and that what I was truly mourning was the fact that I felt out of control with my own body I made peace with my decision to wait.I felt then and still feel that I no longer get the freedom to decide when I have kids and it’s now on a medical time line. In not being ready to go through IVF I knowingly took the risk that I’m missing my window for ever having kids and perhaps the only reason I’m comfortable with the decision was that it was ours and no one elses.

5. Punish myself less 

I can say, with quite a lot of shame and embarrassment, that I’ve never truly been in love with my life. I get itchy feet and I’m always looking for a way out of things I don’t want to do. I think that will always be me. I’m a bit flimsy  and wayward and dreamy. I hate shackles and I loathe routine – which are the same thing in my eyes. But in the last 9 months I realized I need to love myself and my life a lot more. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have to feel everything is perfect, Rome wasn’t built in a day apparently, but I simply mean I need to find joy in every day. This could be having a meal with a friend, falling in love with a new band, putting on clean pjs, listening to a really good album or cooking something delicious. I very easily fell into the trap of feeling doom and gloom because I couldn’t get what I want. As well as falling into the trap of hating myself because of it. What a waste of time that was. What becomes quite poignant as we grow older is that our time here isn’t promised. Nothing is. The world owes us nothing. And realizing that, I was sick of wasting my time disliking myself and my life.

6.Maintain my garden

Now I don’t mean gardening in the literal sense. And I’m not talking about pubes either you sickos.I mean nurturing the right relationships and pruning the not so great ones. Over time I have learnt to put on my big girl pants and water the right flowers. These are the ones that AREN’T conditional and let you be exactly what you need to be and as you do the 180 degree turn you were always going to do they are there patiently waiting once you do. If your circle decreases in size and people distance themselves because your paths have become too dissimilar and unfamiliar it might just be necessary pruning of the garden. The good ones will stick around- but you need to remember to water them. They can’t be friends with a pathetic, wilted, ‘feel sorry for me’ flower all the time. If through pain you think you’ve lost your ability to empathize and listen then your garden will unfortunately become a little bare. Now I put my hand up to say I was this flower..I probably needed to be. A time where I wasn’t on my A game a lot of the time and rather than being a good friend I would have preferred to be alone. But staying like this is shitty in the game of maintaining your relationships…even the strong ones. So ultimately I’ve learnt in order to keep the good ones sometimes you just need to get up, dust yourself off and try a little harder. This also goes for your significant others- the truly wonderful friendships/relationships are ones that allow you to be organically you while they are organically them. A friend going through the highest high of their life while you’re going through the lowest low needs to be recognized and celebrated…just as you need to be recognized and squeezed a little tighter.

7. Understand I can’t keep everyone onside 

It is not news to every one that some things that unexpectedly pop up in life change you so profoundly that you never quite return to your original self completely intact. This is true of pain and I admit that pain did change me and caused me to rearrange. Some people that were once in my circle perhaps get tired of hearing me talk about what is upsetting and why. Perhaps some people see another blog pop up..roll their eyes and think “again..really?”. And what I’ve learnt is that it’s actually okay. Maybe these are the relationships that act as fillers in that garden I was pissing on about and they are about ready to expire. Not every relationship stays intact through change . Time has taught me not to be gloomy 24/7 over what I cannot change- because we don’t have time for it but also not to censor myself to make everyone else a little more comfy. There’s just no way. So be the glorious uncensored you and let the chips fall where they may.

After all of this I admit I haven’t perfected the art of living bigger. I still struggle. Like all humans I crave the closeness and connection that comes with being a part of something which as a 24 year old infertile woman is sometimes hard to feel. But what time has also shown me is that if you open your eyes everyone is going through something that is changing them. Shaping them. Causing them to wonder how everyone else is functioning when they feel stuck in their grief or in their haze. So I suppose we all need to be kinder to each other and listen more closely. The road blocks connect us as humans- whatever shape they take.

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The good, the bad and the ugly. 

My writing has always been my therapeutic outlet…my vice. I’ve been pouring heart and soul on paper (or blog as of late) for as long as I can remember. I would write in my Winnie the Pooh journal completely beside myself, tears streaming down my 10 year old face. Each time I truly believed whatever drama I was facing in that moment was worthy of documentation. Then I would destroy the evidence because my mum liked to snoop (here’s looking at you mum). So this is deeply ingrained in my being and I still find it better than therapy. I’ve decided to share a little bit about what makes me tick and what makes me Bronte. Proceed at own risk..

  • I’m a serious empath. I feel everything so intensely…songs..movies..adverts. I cry multiple times a day. I’m crying right now over a father son team on the amazing race. No joke..ask Brad (he thinks it’s hilarious)
  • I love my name. So much so I asked for a Carrie Bradshaw inspired Bronte necklace for my 17th birthday and I wear it every day. I want to junk punch anyone who says it’s a ‘boys name’..whatever that means.
  • I’ve struggled with my mental health all my life. I’m also not ashamed of it. I think there needs to be a dialogue about it..it’s absolutely vital.
  • I have a serious social media addiction. I often miss things because I’m obsessing over something insignificant on face book. I care what people think. I aim to change this.
  • I have regular panic attacks that completely rip my guts out.
  • I share a lot about myself but am not trusting of people. I fear some have bad intentions for knowing my business. I sometimes regret sharing my blogs in fear that people are just curious..and also glad they’re not me.
  • I’ve always wanted to travel to Austria and Amsterdam. I don’t know where life will take me but even if I’m decrepit standing on the Amsterdam canals I’m cool with that. I’m quite sure my Austrian obsession stemmed from my love of The Sound of Music. Captain Von Trapp…am I right ladies?
  • While my baby sister is the love of my life and gets a lot of airtime I actually have three sisters. My father had two other children following me. I was contacted by my sister on Facebook a few years ago and we have spoken since then but never met. She’s now pregnant with her first baby.
  • I started trying to get pregnant when I was 21 years old. I was very young and I was in no way ready mentally. I was told by the doctors I’d had an early miscarriage but don’t consider this a pregnancy. I did at the time and it upset me but it forced me to start looking into my reproductive health which I don’t regret.
  • I believe everything does happen for a reason. Even the absolutely gut punching stuff. There’s a lesson in every shitty roadblock.
  • I quit midwifery after falling out of love with it. After my first year I held off for another six months and don’t regret those six but being present for two infant deaths in my last week of placement sealed the deal for me. I took it as a strong sign. Sometimes I think about it but will never go back. I think it all happened for a reason.
  • I am very honest but completely non confrontational. I don’t like confrontation and avoid it when I can. But sometimes I can get so incredibly upset I override this fear and say some pretty cut throat things I always regret.
  • Sometimes I’m nervous about getting married. Not about marrying Brad but the immensity of marriage in general. I worry sometimes about committing to something so significant because I’m a pessimist. If something can go wrong I believe it will. I’ve started planning and I am excited because there’s no one else I could imagine my life with. Lucky him.
  • I’m a phase girl. I’ll be convinced I need to do something then get itchy feet soon after. Refer to my uni and professional career.
  • I’ve had more jobs than I can count. I don’t put half of them on my resume.
  • I rarely finish a book. I love reading and the way it can transport you to different worlds but I struggle to get into the rhythm of reading.
  • I really love Jack Nicholson. I think it’s because he reminds me of my Pa and also perhaps because he’s a quality actor. But more so the Pa thing.
  • I have zero interest in sports. Zilch. When I met Brad he asked “what sports do you play”…when I explained that I don’t play sport he said “well what do you do”. He’s adapted.
  • I love food. I eat much more than Brad but don’t enjoy simple foods. It took me until my 23rd year whilst living in Pirie to appreciate schnitzels. I fell in love with Brad’s love for food until he ate eel once and I thought “this dude goes harder than me”.
  • I gravitate towards movies involving pregnancy. If I know a character gets pregnant in the movie I’m sold.
  • If I like a movie I watch it back to back on repeat until I’m tired of it.
  • I’m happiest when there’s a scented candle burning in the house. I absolutely love getting them as gifts but then get anxious when they’re running out so I stop using them at a certain point.
  • I have a pretty large back tattoo. It still means the world to me because I got it my first year living on my own. If it’s exposed on my wedding day so be it.  
  • I am completely put off by superficial people. If you choose to only share your highlight reel with me you do you hunny but I call bullshit and I’ll struggle to connect with you. All of my friends are real and raw and I love that about them.
  • I love to write. I’m proud of my writing and have always loved it but will never pursue it.
  • I love being home. I’m a homebody 100%. I do love going out to wine and dine and to see friends and family but don’t like sleeping any where else. I brave it for my family though.
  • I can’t watch people kiss. Even a peck on the lips. Weddings..movies. I look away every time. There’s something about being in on other people’s intimate moment that makes me very uncomfortable.
  • Infertility has put a dampener on my sex life and my sexuality. I don’t feel sexual at all..in actual fact I don’t like being touched or being intimate. I don’t know if this is normal or if it’s a phase but I can’t look at sex as a positive thing anymore. I feel completely broken about it. I know it’s a big part of a relationship so I’m working on it.
  • I told Brad I would try one round of IVF. If it fails my mum has offered to be our surrogate. I have always thought the most incredible thing about having children is pregnancy and I don’t want to lose this. But I’m hoping a Marie Claire or Today Tonight feature may bring in the money.
  • I think my eldest brother knows me best. He knows my anxiety triggers and knows my complex thought process. I guess it’s the 19 years of being under each other’s toes. Not many people have seen me completely unedited. IMG_4963
  • I still have lip sync battles with myself in front of the mirror when I’m home alone. Except I’m in poxy pjs with sagging tits and there’s no LL Cool J or Chrissy Teigen cheering me on.
  • I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. Zero. I just finished a degree but I’m not devoted to or passionate about the field. It simply served as a reminder that I could achieve something again.
  • If I have to have a hard hitting conversation with someone..or maybe even a job interview..I practice the dialogue. I don’t consciously go over it out loud but I catch myself running through what I plan to say…mostly in the shower.
  • I’m not an animal person. I give a shit about their rights and don’t want to see them harmed but I don’t like inside pets or being up close and personal with animals. I think my mixed mutt (Maltese Dachshund) Alfie is the cutest dog out there but can’t connect to him in the way brad does.
  • I drink a strange amount of black tea but every single one has milk and two sugars. And I wonder why I have cellulite on my ass. Aside from this I drink Coke Zero like its water but I’m fearful that it’s causing cancer or some other toxic shit.
  • I have a germ phobia. My family get sick of me asking them to wash their hands all the time. I avoid handling raw chicken at all costs.
  • I don’t remember a lot of 2013. I was in a very dark place and abused prescription medication. I remember not caring about much. At one point I woke up in the hospital thanks to two of my girlfriends (we can laugh about this now..we have morbid humour). After this I had a social worker who would call me daily, saying she would come to my house if I didn’t answer my phone. I was such an asshole to her. I thought go help someone with real problems. Delusional I know.
  • I’m terrified of the ocean and of whales. Sometimes I’ll enjoy the beach but only in the shallows.
  • I wanted a nose job since I was 10 years old and remember every nose related insult from every fuckstick. I finally got my nose done in 2011. Prior to this I struggled to eat or shop in public. I felt significantly more attractive after my surgery.
  • I’m currently unemployed and it’s the worst feeling in the world. You work your ass off at school and Uni to be rejected from entry level jobs daily. It’s getting to me big time. But the lesson I’ve taken from this is that you’re never “above” a job. I used to think I was too qualified for certain positions but I’ve since had a slice of humble pie.
  • Brad is my complete opposite. I’m feisty and emotional he’s placid and reserved. I don’t actually know how we work but we do. IMG_5312
  • I moved home to the city after a year and a half in the country because I had terrible depression. I sought advice from a local counsellor and my local GP who both agreed I was in the wrong place. I wanted so badly for it to work. I loved my partner and his family and I even liked my job but I also felt very isolated. I couldn’t go to the shops or even go out for tea without feeling sick with anxiety. I had a nasty self harming habit and when my family saw what I was doing to my body they told me they didn’t support me staying. I was terrified I was sacrificing my relationship but Brad came with me.
  • I swear way too much. My child’s first word will be fuck and I’ll act so shocked and appalled but I’ll know I asked for it.
  • Music is a big thing for me. A song has the ability to pull me out of my funk and also has to ability to validate my funk. I think music does this for most people but I’m seriously moved my music. It has a strong hold on me. Me sharing a song I’ve found or a song I love with people is like saying “hey read my diary while I watch you for reactions” so if people don’t like it I feel personally attached to that.
  • I gain so much clarity in the rain. I feel more at peace and more creative when it rains. If I could have 364 days of wintery rain and 1 day of sunshine I would be happy. Perhaps I should be thinking about London.

Reading back on these I feel like I’ve just provided a slightly more adult and significantly more morbid version of the old classic 20 question surveys on Facebook. You know the ones? Sporting deeply critical questions like first kiss? What colour top are you wearing? Regardless, all these points of dysfunction are what make me who I am. Since learning how truly unpredictable life can be I’ve chosen to share all parts..not just the highlights. And overtime I hope it becomes less taboo to talk about shitty mental health. Let’s open up a dialogue about feeling like life is giving us a raw serve and act as a big old safety net for each other xx.

IVF. I Vote F*ck this.

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Yesterday I woke up with an immediate obsession over the day’s tasks occupying my mind. You would think after finally completing a degree, which held a top spot on my bucket list, I would allow myself the space to relax and just be. Unfortunately with my chaotic and worrying mind the come down from the pure ecstasy of finishing hit about 24 hours after handing in my final report. As completely ridiculous and exhausting this is, I found all the things I had swept under the rug in my last few months/weeks of uni started to creep out and demand brain space. First and foremost, I thought about all the companies I had to call and all the explanations I had to concoct in regards to the high rise tower of bills I had neglected to pay on time. As I psyched myself up to make my final call to my health insurance company I thought please have mercy on me and my tendency to  make hasty decisions; moving from well paid jobs to study degrees I’m unsure of.

I was greeted by a warm voice; I could tell she was young. Maybe a little older than me…30 I decided. I quickly gushed with verbal diarrhea with some long winded sob story about having surgery and shifting between work positions and studying blah blah blah. Bottom line I couldn’t afford my health insurance (which I thought was crazy overpriced anyway). She was lovely though..quickly coming up with solutions so I wouldn’t jump ship and leave. As we started talking she asked me if I would like to keep my obstetrics cover..I told her I would need to cover IVF. Very quickly, the conversation took a turn from regimented and professional to speaking with an old friend. But strangely, this friend I had never met, started speaking about fertility and IVF like she knew her sh*t. At first I thought maybe it was her job to know the basics of the procedure as she began to walk me through what was involved but I soon realized she was coming from a personal space. She asked me why I needed IVF and I told her about my endo and about the surgery (and the follow up surgery in March I needed to be covered for). She explained that it helps to do acupuncture at the same time and that the daily hormone injections are self administered (or administered by a partner). I had immediate visions of Brad feeling faint as he spiked me the first time and the things I would scream at him when I realized it hurt like hell. Granted, this fact alone scared the shit out of me.

She then said “Nothing will prepare you for the phone call from the doctor saying your cycle didn’t work…that you’re not pregnant. It will be the hardest thing you overcome in your life”. For the first time since my surgery I panicked. I felt my chest tighten and the cogs in my mind spin in overtime. I hadn’t bargained for failed IVF….IVF yes….unsuccessful IVF..certainly not. It was then the reality of it all gut punched me like it was brand new. She told me things I had heard my doctors say a multitude of times like “it will only take one round with you” and “you’re young, you’ll be fine”. So when she started regurgitating these exact lines as her doctors regurgitated them to her I felt my heart sink; like I had just entered a complex game as a beginner and I would never win. Despite this, this stranger knew exactly how I felt and guessed at every reaction and emotion and stage of grief I had already been through. She also said “and nothing will prepare you when your best friends and family members tell you they’re pregnant and you have to stand up and support them when you feel broken”. Now my stranger friend had me welling up over the phone. Without knowing, she had invited me into a sisterhood I never thought I would be a part of. Not in my wildest dreams.

After surgery I had my month of mourning where I isolated myself and didn’t think of anything but my situation but since this I had “moved on”. I jumped back into study to quickly salvage it and pursued new work to move right away from where I was before surgery. But this woman, the adviser at my health insurance company, a complete stranger, called bullshit on the whole thing. She knew I hadn’t moved on. I wont. I attempt an adjusted version of the truth to my loved ones…a new story told each time I see them and a new philosophy spewed out to each one. Some have heard I don’t want kids at all..some have heard I’m just being selfish for now and enjoying my life. Some still know I’m shattered. I can’t lie…I change everyday. I see kids in the shops now and I find myself laughing with them and enjoying them and quickly pulling myself back in and moving on which is something I’ve never done before. When Brad uses the term “when we have kids” I bitterly correct him “if” and he gets frustrated at my negativity every time. It’s a hard gig trying to convince my soul I don’t love these mini humans as much as I know I do deep down. But I suppose that pain changes you…this we know. And in my pain I have protected my heart by fencing up the chamber that loves kids so very much. Sometimes I will open the gate to let my feelings surface but I am a pretty bitter gatekeeper and I shut it down pretty quickly.

What I loved about this phone conversation with my stranger friend, my IVF sister, is that I felt safe in my pain. I felt safe in saying “fuck this sucks” and didn’t feel completely entitled and selfish saying “this isn’t fair”. She assured me it wasn’t. She knew it wasn’t. After 2 failed IVF rounds and thousands of dollars later she got her little miracle, which she assured me was after she let go a bit and unwrapped herself from the cotton wool bind she had kept herself in while she was trying. She seemed to know every trick in the book and I felt a sense of divine intervention for having reached her. Think of all the people who work in these insurance companies…waiting for callers just like me. Maybe IVF is just more common than I realize. This I secretly hope. Being on the cusp of 24 I don’t know many people that have gone through IVF. Everyone I know and love have either had their children, are pregnant or not even considering children yet. And, perhaps selfishly, I feel alone. It’s like other pain in some way, like losing a loved one. You walk around with your heart bound by your own grief and you wonder why every one else is moving on with their life and how they can do it. It’s hard not to feel isolated when they do, however illogical this is. It’s hard for the people on the other side of a grieving loved one too. What do you say? Are you saying enough…or enough of the right thing? Is silence the key or a barrage of support? I’m not the only woman that’s ever been served this hand…I’m not the first and I won’t be the last but nothing spares you from the human response of your own disappointment when you know you can’t have kids in the way some do. Despite this, one thing I know is that it’s not something you’d wish on another couple. The tests, the scans, the bad news..you don’t want that for them. So if you had to choose between being on the receiving end of pregnancy announcements or sitting with someone you love in hospital as they lose a part of themselves you will choose sharing and delighting in their pregnancy every time; regardless of how hard it feels.

So now I’m at a cross roads. A place I didn’t think I would be in and a place not many people around me understand. F*ck, I don’t understand it. I don’t know what the hell to do. My doctors tell me I’m at war with time. Wait too long and the damage will be too extensive I won’t be able to carry my kids. Then we enter the realm of surrogacy of which my mum and I sometimes joke about (thanks but no thanks mum). We just considered the media coverage and possible cash benefit…but I think the whole “grandma births grandchild” is a bit 5 minutes ago…it’s been done. At the moment I have two options. Freeze my eggs and attempt IVF later or try IVF in the next year or two. The only hesitation with the logical step of freezing my eggs is that my endo being as aggressive and unforgiving as it is I can lose the healthy surface area in my uterus very quickly which will make implantation (the baby sticking to the wall of the womb) very hard. I really am at war with time. The longer I wait, the slimmer the chances get. And this my over the phone friend knew as well. She didn’t give me poorly considered advice or project her values. She just knew. She knew if I ever want to be a mum I need to think seriously about IVF..and soon. It’s all overwhelming and terrifying to be honest. I don’t know if my heart will ever be in it. I have this sickening feeling that I’ll feel some level of resentment for my baby thinking it wasn’t meant to be here; that maybe I forced it or I medically intervened when I should have accepted. But one thing I will take from my conversation with this fertility whisperer is that when you hold your baby for the first time the daily jabs in the ass and the failed tests melt away like ice. It just disappears. It’s all valid in the end. And slowly, overtime, you learn to accept how many doctors get a look at your lady biz. 

When one door closes…

I’ve been reflecting on whether it was appropriate to write about this subject and then publish it; letting every one in on our private moment. I came to the conclusion that every one sheds their pain in their own way and it’s all human and it’s all valid. I shed my pain by sharing it and by shining a light into the dark corners of it and exposing it. Then I can heal and I can keep moving..and so here we are.

12007032_486647638175463_968322739_nThursday the 10th I prepped for a routine laparoscopy which is quite simply  a diagnostic procedure for detecting hidden nasties in the uterus.Nothing too concerning or physically demanding. This was pitched at the end of a very long and draining journey of painful periods and infertility- which quite evidently took over my life looking at my other blog posts. So I went into this surgery after finally hitting the medical team jackpot and having someone acknowledge that heavy, painful periods and infertility in an otherwise healthy 23 year old woman wasn’t ‘normal’. I was nervous…as is expected with any procedure involving surgical masks and needles..but I also didn’t fear worst case scenario. Like I said, aside from the fact that I couldn’t run two laps of a netball court I am an otherwise healthy woman. I shed what little negativity and doubt I did have during my two hour pre surgery wait..I even managed to distract myself for long enough to have a sneaky cry over Ellen. My anesthetist soon guided me into the operating theatre; a kind faced man who referred to me as ‘Beautiful Bronte’ and had a questionable taste in music. I say this because as I nervously climbed onto the operating table the highly acclaimed ‘Watch me (whip/nae nae)’  began playing over the sound system. He asked if I could in fact ‘nae nae’ and I lied and said I could not (of course I can). He eased my visible anxieties by stating that once I  was medicated I would most definitely be able to. The logic in my mind was that no life changing surgery can begin quite like this. The atmosphere in the room told me I would wake up just as I had fallen asleep.

I was scheduled to go home that night knowing I  would most definitely be fully functional by Monday. I was even confident enough to organize a time to meet my university lecturer. Unfortunately though, what I’ve learnt in time is that the defining moments in your life don’t creep up with warning. They do hit you on an unsuspecting Thursday in the middle of the week. I honestly don’t remember how he said it. It was one of those read about moments where you hear a word or a phrase and you leave your body. As my doctor pulled up a chair next to my bed he told me that Stage 4 endometriosis had ripped through my 23 year old body damaging my bladder, bowel, rectum, underneath my ovaries and …here’s the real kicker…had taken both my Fallopian tubes. I wept and wept..and to be honest I haven’t stopped weeping. It explained so much but left me so clueless in the same gut punching moment. He began showing me images on an ipad of my insides which were distorted and angry. I didn’t know what I was looking at but I just knew I so desperately wanted for it not to be real. “Oh shit… wrong room..sorry”. The rest of the day just happened. It happened around me and without me knowing. I don’t know what I did or said…what words I messaged close friends or empty acceptance I gave my doctors. I just don’t know. None of it felt real. Not when I saw Brad for the first time or when we cried together…or when my 11 year old brother climbed into my hospital bed with me and just cuddled in close to me as I cried. The moment I had to claim it as mine was when I came home today. I saw the same bed I have always slept in..the same furniture in the house I lived in when I was me. I realized this wasn’t going away. I couldn’t get rid of this baggage and start again even though my heart desperately ached for it.

But in all this sadness came lessons. Some I’m still figuring out but there are some I cannot question. The first is the sobering reality that I fell through the gaps as a young 23 year old woman. I presented to a gynecologist at the end of 2013 with the same signs and symptoms I had presented at the visit before my surgery. I had a round of bloods taken and a transvaginal ultrasound WHICH DOES NOT DETECT ENDOMETRIOSIS. Let me be very clear on that. Being sent home with a clear ultrasound does not steer you out of the woods with this one sorry ladies. I don’t care if you’re 18 or 28…do not let your voice be silenced by doubt. You are the expert on your body..you and only you. Doctors can work through their list of diagnostic tools but do not let them become complacent and rest until they have exhausted their options. If my previous doctor had have taken my plea seriously two years ago I may still have all the right parts and Brad and I may be saving for a house or a holiday and not for treatment or IVF..although the thought is too raw and angers me too much to even comprehend. All I can take from this is that the person sitting on the other side of the desk at the receiving end of your worries and your fears is not the expert. If you don’t feel you’re being heard you need to track down the second, third, fourth opinion…don’t stop until you feel at ease…and even then..double check and check again.

The second lesson is how lucky we are when we find our ‘person’. I thi12016695_486647561508804_2112051576_nnk I wouldn’t be alone in saying it is easy to get swept up in the stress of bills and evening meals and rent..and although your person is just as much yours in this moment it is beautiful to rediscover them. Brad is my
person. From the moment he heard the news he lost just as much as I had…while not physically.. the image for how he saw his life was taken away with the wreckage and he was also forced to rebuild. While he rebuilds he is also rebuilding me. I lost parts of myself I will never quite recover..metaphorically, mentally, physically. All the while Brad is nursing my soul while his is hurting too. I very quickly regressed to functioning like a small toddler..unable to shower myself, use the toilet independently..eat or drink by myself. While I try and recover in the best way I know how..at my own pace..he does it all for me. He lifts me when I can’t carry myself and then he goes to work and puts on his armor while I have room to heal by myself. I knew I was lucky to have him as my person but pain has forced me to thank the skies for him again.

I am still blessed to have a uterus..to have ovaries (despite them being a bit tattered and torn) and I am certainly still blessed to have Brad on my team as my person. While the damage to my body is pretty nasty we can still try IVF and I can assure you that I will be pinned and poked and probed for as long as I need to be if it means we are still blessed. But this is all in the future..once the dust settles. For now we are just navigating as we go and trying to make sense of it all.

‘Enough-ness’

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 Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of ‘enough-ness’. This topic came begging when it became clear that I wouldn’t be having children anytime soon. At a youthful 23 some may laugh at the fact I would even question my ‘enough-ness’ based on the fact I couldn’t have a baby. As we grow from infant to toddler to school aged children we are conditioned in that short time to instinctively believe we have the power and the purpose to create. When I was four years old my mother was bailed up after kindy one day by a very concerned teacher who had witnessed me facilitate a vaginal birth in the ‘home corner’. I was four years old when my brother was born and I was unapologetically curious about all things babies and birth. Dating back to 1994 when it wasn’t considered excessive to tape your child doing mundane things all day long you can see me on my home videos as a three year old breast feeding my dolly in the bath..not batting an eyelid. So as a woman, albeit a young one, my doubts of my worthiness and my ‘enough-ness’ came with knowing that I wasn’t able to do the one thing I believed I should be able to do.

In meeting my partner, Brad, who loves children and comes from a loving family of five with cousins a plenty I saw us rich in love and shitty nappies and sleepless nights. Now the reality that we may never get that has dawned on me. Of course there’s technology and there’s adoption..there’s options right? I was well aware of my options when I was hiding numerous rounds of fertility treatment by getting bloods and vaginal ultrasounds done hastily in my lunchbreak. My options haven’t escaped me. But what has escaped me is the peace of mind in thinking it might be okay not to have it…at least right now. Brad is nearly 26 years old and I’ll be 24 this December. Brad has worked hard his whole life with integrity and nobility believing that it isn’t about what you do with your days or how you bring money to the table. That won’t define you. If you are surrounded by love and good health you are blessed. I had a lot to learn from that logic. When I met Brad I was an uptight bitch who thought money and success were the key components of life long happiness. Sadly even though Brad told me he would love me just as much if I decided to flip burgers for the rest of my life sometimes I still find myself regressing to that uptight bitch mentality. And the reason for this is that I’m really still trying to get to know myself. I thought by now I would be well acquainted with breastfeeding Bronte with some sort of corporate deadline and a genetically perfect child chilling in my earthy mumma sling. It’s not going to happen. Now I have to get to know and really nurture the Bronte that is. The one that will always be a bit off beat and lost and change her mind every day about where she wants to go and what she wants to do. I packed up shop and left a supportive job with a nice wage to work part time and live paycheck to paycheck so that I could discover the true essence of me…realizing that the earth mumma version wasn’t quite it. In saying this I’m at a check point in my life where I need to feel that I am enough if I never get to this place I once dreamed of. If I never have the beautiful pregnant belly and I never have a dark haired, blue eyed toddler on my hip I need to feel enough just as I am with all that I have in this moment.

Shying away from the baby topic this feeling of ‘enough-ness’ applies to every area of my life..and maybe yours. If you don’t land that perfect job if you weigh 10 kilos more than you want to..if you rent instead of buy…if you never get to see every corner of Europe…you have to feel enough. When I started my part time job and I had no idea what I wanted to do at uni..if I was to go back..I was asked by a colleague what I did apart from this job. I felt myself constructing this monologue about how I quit a great job and moved with my fiancé and don’t you worry I’m going back to uni…and bullshit…bullshit and more bullshit. Instead I said “nothing really”. At the cost of sounding like a lonely introvert I decided that was the most authentic answer to give. I had to believe in that moment that if this job was all I had and all I was ever going to have I would STILL be enough god dammit. It’s exhausting to constantly search for validation from others. You’re never going to get the answer you’re looking for because people are pre-occupied..people are vulnerable and insecure…people are trying to convince themselves of their enoughness so they really don’t have time to cement yours. You really just have to work on believing it for yourself..and that’s where I’m at currently.

Here’s to “Happening Back”

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Fuck it’s breast cancer. I’m going to die and I haven’t travelled or had children…I didn’t get married. So many things I didn’t do. My chest feels tight. I can’t breathe…I can’t get the air in my lungs. Brad please wake up. What if I don’t wake up tomorrow?  Shit.

 The illogical thought process that followed after I felt a sharp pain in my left breast as I lay next to a drooling, unsuspecting Brad. The next day I went to my doctor and booked a breast ultrasound because there was absolutely nothing irrational about it. My third one in two years. Like the previous two ultrasounds nothing sinister was detected. “You have absolutely no cancerous tissue…just like last year Bronte”. Why aren’t they taking me seriously? Is it my age? Why can’t they find what I know is there..I can feel it. Great..now I’m going to die because no one’s fucking listening to me. So the sonographer didn’t detect my breast cancer (which is completely inexistent thank God) but the fact I had anxiety didn’t escape him. I remember when I was about eleven years old I thought my chest was caving in and I couldn’t breathe. At night I would worry that I wouldn’t wake up if I closed my eyes; completely morbid thought for an eleven year old. After all the bloods and scans that were deemed unnecessary by medical professionals they came to the educated conclusion that there was nothing physically wrong with me and I was simply a “hypochondriac”. Despite this I still slept with four phone books under the top end of my bed because of my irrational eleven year old fears of caving lungs. It was then and still is because I have crippling bloody anxiety. The belief that things you know to be irrational in retrospect are very much real. Cancer, death, relationship breakdown, failure..it’s all real and it’s all imminent. Brad has now had to talk me down from the ledge in over a hundred panic attacks where my breathing, movements and thoughts are all erratic. Sometimes though, I’ve shut the iron gate separating my thoughts from Brad’s rational coaxing and nothing he says or does will bring me back down and so he sits and he waits for me to find my own way back and I eventually do.

 I was diagnosed (for want of a better word) with anxiety and depression in 2012. I was medicated, terrified and feeling weak as piss. I didn’t see the light of day for a good few weeks and cancelled any form of social interaction..except the mandatory  appointments I had with the employment consultant so my payments wouldn’t be cut. A few weeks prior I was studying dietetics at university which I thought presented a lot better than unemployment but felt no better. I felt lost either way. I started seeing a counsellor who asked me what my happiness would ideally look like..I said that happiness is dreaming and truly believing in the likelihood of that dream. I said that I want to be able to say “I’ll be going to Paris one day” and believe in the possibility of it. I said I wanted to have a balance of work, family and life so that I feel content and at peace. The only reason I remember my ramblings in a time where I couldn’t remember my bank pin is that the same counsellor I saw then is the counsellor that I see now. In our first session last week he asked if I recognized anything written on the piece of paper he handed me which listed this idea of happiness…about dreaming of Paris and perfect life balance. I said I didn’t and this was true. I didn’t. It was very childlike..this idea of believing in the possibility of your dreams and everything balancing in perfect harmony. It was the voice of someone that had a naivety that I didn’t. I was corrected..nope..It’s the voice of someone that dreams..that has fire and drive. The cynic in me couldn’t help but roll her eyes at this idea. Then he said something that shook me a little from my self loathing, self sympathizing funk. He asked me when I was going to get up and fight for my life. He said that life is happening around me and to me and I need to “happen back”. And so here I am..working on happening.

What I’ve learnt from being an anxiety ridden mess is that sometimes the goalposts will shift. When I was seventeen if you asked me where I dreamed of being in ten years I would have a big beautiful home, a successful career, husband and a child. The textbook idea of happiness. Now I’m not saying that the people living this life are fooling themselves and are not genuinely happy because I think I would manage quite nicely in that setting but that’s not quite the target I’ve set for my happiness now. My goalposts have shifted. For those with anxiety, depression and those without sometimes you have to stop and celebrate the tiny victories. We can get so caught up in running the race to the finish line to what/where we feel happiness might be that we sabotage our happiness on the way by discrediting those little moments of  growth along the way. It might be that you’ve finished studying and haven’t snagged that dream job yet or you’re saving for a weekend in Melbourne while your friend is in Spain. You might have started your family while others around you haven’t and you find you don’t have the time or money to do the things you used to do. You might have shitty anxiety or depression..you might have both. I know how it can ignite a self deprecating fire. But what about the fact you kicked arse and made it through that really shitful,  demanding course? Or the fact that you worked hard to get yourself to Melbourne or Sydney or Port Lincoln so that you could have a breather. Or the incredibly beautiful baby you made that adores you even when it’s red faced and screaming at 3am. What about the fact that even with anxiety and depression you’re still here fighting. We can shift the notch on the victory scale and celebrate the fact you got out of bed and paid your rent or the fact that when you realized you only had mouldy limp celery and a bottle of $6 wine in your fridge you had the money to go and buy tea even if it was a Big Mac. Your baby slept just enough so that you could watch Ellen or you took yourself to the doctor and said “I feel crap”.  You fucking rock.

I’m the biggest offender for only paying credit to the major milestones but I’ll put my hand up and say that it’s knocked the wind right out of me. I remember I was sitting in a psychologists office about to undergo hypnotherapy or some other out of the box remedy. Before this she asked “When were you last happy?”..I thought for a moment and said it was when I watched the NYE fireworks on the Intercontinental balcony for my birthday. She then asked me if I felt happy when I last heard my favourite song on the radio or drove somewhere really beautiful…or ate my favourite thing for lunch. It was then that I was caught out for being an offender. Minimizing those small moments of joy in the day and searching so desperately for the big ones. I was asked to keep a diary of five small victories in my day but somewhere along the way I stopped looking for them. I still believed the big things were the only things that deserved merit but this did nothing for my drive or for my fire.  I don’t own a home but I thank God I can rent. I haven’t finished a course but I’m so thankful I have options. I didn’t eat salmon and quinoa for lunch but I ate. I’ll probably always have a panic attack in my car out the front of the chemist when I have to hand in my prescription for an antidepressant but what if I couldn’t get that far.

My original dream was to go to Paris and be filthy stinking rich (would still be nice) and it’s important to dream. I am not minimizing that. But sometimes the dream can change shape. My dream right now is happiness. It seems too broad a dream, “happiness”, and I don’t quite know what it looks like. For now I’ve taken away the limitations I set that constitutes what a dream should be or what happiness should be. It can be Paris but doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as living a life that’s rich in family and good friendships. Just as long as your dream enriches you more than it diminishes you. That’s the dream right now. So here’s to “Happening Back”.

My reproductive organs are piss poor and so is my mental health.

My three year old self..nothing but honest

My three year old self preferred raw honesty

My arse had hardly made contact with the chair next to my doctor’s desk when I suggested that he cut me open and check my organs; “Something is obviously wrong with me”. Instead of pencilling me in for his next theatre time he rested his chin on interlocked fingers and momentarily took himself “somewhere else”. It was obvious he was about to offload the shit I didn’t want to hear. In reality I knew it was coming. Lately in any doctors visit I take the form of Vada Sultenfuss in “My Girl” when she is absolutely convinced she has a chicken bone lodged in her windpipe and won’t back down despite thorough medical examination. Well, I am equally adamant about my internal uterine war. My doctor’s concern, however, was not for my physical ailments but for my emotional ones. “I think you need to be in a better place before we go on with this.” I really didn’t want to add him to the growing list of doctors telling me I need to support my mental health before considering the physical. I like to walk into a doctor’s office poised and dressed in my office attire so as to appear completely together. It’s one of those unfortunate traps you fall into when your journey to motherhood is meticulously studied. “I just think you might be resting on this baby to save you from everything else.” The words impacted like hot magma but I really couldn’t be bitter..I was very familiar with this conversation. I suppose doctors have a duty of care to look into every darkened, concealed crevice of a patients mental state when they waltz in talking about babies; but the spotlight wasn’t invited. He went on to say that he felt I was ignoring old chapters that keep tripping me over…yes my doctor is Yoda. “I think you need to close the old ones before you start this one or you’ll continue to stumble” and with that he wrote a referral for a counsellor and sent me on my way. As soon as I got in my car I called Brad with a “what the fuck was that” monologue; of which he is now very familiar.

When I was growing up with my Mum and two younger brothers we lived as gypsies. If it was broke..you packed up shop and you moved to another suburb/town/state. I liken this to the movie “Chocolat” except there was no Johnny Depp to fix our squeaky door and we shifted around Adelaide’s Northern suburbs not Burgundy, France. This crave for constant fluidity continues to influence the choices I make. To this day I often pack up before the fire starts rather than having to implement a hasty fire safety plan at the last minute. I continue to beat myself up about this now that I’m a twenty three year old woman with little idea of what I want to be “when I grow up”.  I’ve been working for six months and I’m already having to conceal itchy feet. I suppose this feeling of entrapment with everything I start is why my doctors worry so greatly for my future children. If I’m to be completely objective I see where the fear would stem from and I suppose I too would worry for my future children if no one dared asked those uncomfortable questions or have those hard hitting conversations.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that children benefit from stability and I would hope I’m not being selfish in my pursuit to have kids. I can identify a lot of areas in my life that need work. I am not completely set on a career path and we rent when we should buy.  I haven’t ticked the Swiss Alps off my bucket list and I haven’t bought a home. I have “lows”; some deeper than others. I know it would be selfish to pretend I don’t have broken parts. I certainly do…but hunny, I have lived. I say this with conviction.  I’ve got a bank full to the brim of moments that are broken, treasured, frightening, exciting and warming; both light and dark. But while I am a complete advocate for mental health support I am also not inviting of people shining a light on the complexities of these moments only to then translate this to my suitability as a parent. If I had to pass a checklist before getting the “all clear” for children I may never. Myself and every other woman/man with poor fertility are undergoing that metaphorical “test” people talk about when they say “people should have to take a test before becoming parents”..well, we are. It is both terrifying and humiliating to have to unpick old sores because of it’s capacity to impact you as a parent. Now I’m not saying that I will not undertake this counselling.. of course I will. I have a responsibility to myself, my future children and my partner to take good care of myself. What I AM saying is that these very “moments” will change you..in the way that pain changes you. When you write these chapters, no matter if they are closed or remain open for some time, they will change the way you think, the way you live, the way you carry yourself. There is weight to these moments and you wont come out unscathed. You may live a little quieter, smaller. You may be cynical and mistrusting..you may trust too deeply.

I would never try and minimize mental health and its significance but I would urge that people have a greater tolerance to the natural growth that comes with living. The growth that accompanies joy, pain, disappointment and triumph. I will always be different because of my collection of moments. I can’t wait to create new moments with Brad and the blended, mini version of ourselves…and as for the Swiss Alps..well if it was good enough for the Von Trapps it will be good enough for us.