Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Moving Through


I have been wanting to write this last blog post for quite a while. But I guess the time wasn’t right….until now. Maybe I felt scared about saying goodbye to the blog, like I was tempting fate by admitting publicly that I don’t need it anymore. It’s true. I know I don’t need it anymore – not this particular blog, which I started for the purpose of sharing my infertility story and the continued struggles I experience beyond having conceived and birthed our beautiful little miracle baby, now two and a half years old. The blog was my cry for help. It served as a public platform for me to purge myself of some of the guilt and shame which was holding me prisoner and forming a barricade around my heart.

However, I slowly learned that this platform could never provide me with the opportunity to truly heal. I received so many beautiful comments and words of support that helped me feel validated. But the emptiness, fear and pain still lingered on. It took me some time to realise that I needed to stop seeking validation and confirmation from others that I deserved to express my pain. I needed to say this to myself!

On the day I signed up to do Sheryl Paul’s online ‘Open Your Heart’ programme, I cried – just as I had done the day I published my first blog post and the day I went to see my GP to ask for help. These tears came from a soft, vulnerable place inside me and although I may have looked like a quivering wreck, I actually felt a profound sense of freedom and a surge of gratitude towards myself for having had the courage to take another giant step forward.

Sheryl Paul’s programme has been transformational. She has taught me how to breathe into the discomfort and accept whatever arises with compassion and curiosity. In simple words, I am learning how to go easy on myself, to become my own friend and slowly but surely say goodbye to that long-standing shadow of my true self who used to chastise and berate me day after day until I felt like an empty shell, a soulless passenger being driven recklessly along the edge of a cliff face.

Before I started this healing process, I did what most of us do in our western culture – I set myself goals! I wanted to be healed, eradicated of fear, anger and all those negative emotions and to be euphorically ‘at one’ with myself and the world. It’s taking me quite some time to slowly dissolve these expectations and in actual fact, to embrace groundlessness as an opportunity to really listen to myself, because until we offer ourselves that helping hand with no strings attached, no ultimatums, deadlines or ‘what ifs’, we will always feel pressure. And when there’s pressure, there is no space to learn or to grow.

I’ve discovered that healing isn’t about ‘getting over it”, but rather allowing yourself to move through it and embracing whatever feeling happens to come along in the moment….

Last weekend, I felt a mounting sense of stress as I tried to run about making everything perfect for our little girl’s first new ‘big bed’. As I flitted around from shop to shop, searching for the perfect new duvet cover and matching sheets, I lost composure and felt myself almost tip over the edge…..until I was able to just stop for a moment to breathe and simply recognise that I was hurting. I was hurting because it is a bittersweet moment saying goodbye to your baby’s cot, packing it away to go up the loft, not knowing if it will ever be needed again.

On another day last week, I heard the news that a friend was expecting her second child and I felt a sharp stab in my gut as I fought back a tear. Almost simultaneously, an unwanted jealous thought fired through my brain, creating a downward spiralling cascade of negative emotion. It’s still hard being reminded of my inability to achieve what a lot of other women seem to find so easy.

The very act of writing and publishing this last blog post has stirred up my emotions in such a confusing way that I don't exactly understand. I guess it's that I am partly sad to let go...which I know sounds crazy, but it's just that letting go means moving forward and moving through your pain and that can be scary.

These are just a few examples to illustrate the fact that I do, of course, still have my ‘off’ moments/days or weeks. But I have realised that as long as I recognise my pain without any judgement, the jealousy, stress, anger, irritation – whatever form of protection has clamped its grip around me, almost magically subsides and in its place, I am able to enjoy gratitude…pure, untainted gratitude that is no longer overshadowed by the weight of shame.  It was torturous walking around for so long with such a closed heart. I denied myself permission to feel joy, just as I denied myself permission to feel the full extent of my pain. The two go hand in hand.

When I started the Open Your Heart course, I imagined that it would involve a lot of intense work and at the end of the five weeks, whether or not I’d be ‘cured’, that would be that – back to the ‘normal’ routine. But I have since realised that this self-healing path is really quite addictive once you get sucked in! J Yes, it is hard work, both emotionally and physically (in the sense of making time for it). But as soon as I twigged that it was a vehicle towards reconnecting with myself and with the people I most love in this world, I knew I would always be fully committed to it. As Brene Brown says, “we are wired for connection.” I would never have offered myself this helping hand a few months ago if it was all just for me. Daniel Siegel says in his wonderful book, “Mindsight” (which I highly recommend to everyone!):

“Some people are concerned that [Mindsight] is just another way to become more self-absorbed – a form of navel-gazing, of becoming preoccupied with reflection instead of living fully……While it is true that being self-obsessed decreases happiness, mindsight actually frees you to become less self-absorbed, not more. When we are not taken over by our thoughts and feelings, we can become clearer in our own internal world as well as more receptive to the inner world of another.”



Writing this blog was a pivotal chapter in my story, a conscious departure from the emotional suppression to which I was subjecting myself for so long. I began my journey by first of all jotting down the story of our five year long struggle to conceive our little girl. I remember that being the first truly catharctic exercise I allowed myself to conduct. The blog came shortly after that and it lead me to where I am now…. I just wanted to thank you so much for supporting me by simply reading what I had to say. I hope that it has also been helpful to other people out there who are suffering from infertility, past or present, in whatever form. I am going to leave you with a beautiful blog post written by Sheryl Paul, called “The Holy Day of Mothers Day”:


This is an excerpt from it. Please click here to read the entire post.

“The cultural definition says that Mother’s Day is to celebrate literal mothers, meaning someone who has children. And it seems our culture even wants to squeeze this definition into the tightest possible corset: a mother is someone who has given birth to biological children or raised a baby from birth. So it doesn’t allow room to celebrate step-children, foster children, adult children that someone has chosen to mother later in life. It doesn’t allow room for all manifestations of mother, both literal and metaphorical.

For we are all mothers. We mother friends, siblings, animals, creative projects and the Earth. We mother others and we mother ourselves. And the divine feminine lives in all of us, both male and female. It’s the slow, creative, receptive energy that pulses like a great wild cat through the invisible veins of our lives. She needs us and we need her, now more than ever…”




Monday, 30 December 2013

Happy New Year

It's been a long time since writing and I've missed it. Apart from being caught up in the usual Christmas madness, I've actually been doing a lot of reading and research about different therapies to help me move forward in a very pro-active way. After my last entry late November, we went home to Ireland to visit my folks. It was the first time I had seen my family since having published the blog and so it was really lovely to see them all. We have a lot going on at home just now however, so going back is never easy these days. It's always a strange mix of emotions and this time round, it was no different. Life gets more and more complicated as you get older. Things happen.....and when our 'baggage' weighs each of us down, it is hard to both share and to empathetically admit other people's difficulties into your own inner world. It hurts so much seeing your loved ones suffer in any way and at the same time their pain seems to amplify your own. So how do you deal with it? How do you nurture that person-to-person connection .... but not to the detriment of your own mental health! 

My first big step forward was signing myself up to a local Cognitive Behavioural Treatment course. Throughout the six sessions, I've not only learned about practical methods to apply to daily life in combating negative thought patterns. But more importantly, I've enjoyed the comfort of being in a room surrounded by other like-minded anxiety suffers and listening to the reassuring words of qualified psychologists as they put labels, theories and explanations to all our worries and behaviours, therefore 'normalising' them and instilling in us a feeling of self-belief and being in control. 

Upon the recommendation of our group leaders, I downloaded a phone app on Mindfulness (essentially a guided meditation resource) where I happened to stumble upon two video clips entitled 'How to Change Your Brain' and 'Integrating the two Hemispheres of our Brains'. Seconds into the first clip, I was hooked,  both by the fascinating content and also by the calm and carefully considered delivery of the speaker - Dan Siegel, who I later discovered to be a Harvard-trained clinical professor of psychiatry, co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Centre at UCLA and founder and director of the Mindsight Institute. "Mindsight",  he explains "is a kind of focused attention that allows us to see the inner workings of our own minds. It helps us to be aware of our mental processes without being swept away by them, enables us to get ourselves off the autopilot of ingrained behaviours and habitual responses, and moves us beyond the reactive emotional loops we all have a tendency to get trapped in. It lets us 'name and tame' the emotions we are experiencing, rather than being overwhelmed by them. The focusing skills that are part of mindsight make it possible to see what is inside, to accept it, and in the accepting to let it go, and finally, to transform it". 

So.... perhaps you can see why my attention was captured. Just two days later, I had the book in my hands, entitled 'Mindsight - Transform Your Brain with the New Science of Kindness' by Daniel Siegel. I read it cover to cover within five days, gripped by its every page like I was reading some sort of suspense novel. I found it incredibly reassuring, inspirational and refreshingly in-depth in its content. I am unashamedly a new devotee.... I've suffered from anxiety on and off and in varying degrees pretty much all my life. It manifests itself in the form of OCDs, sometimes debilitating hypochondria and intrusive thoughts. All three have been an almost constant feature of my life since becoming infertile. But for the first time in years, I am managing to NOT run away. And it feels good.... really good. I urge anyone with any level of anxiety to treat themselves to a copy of this golden piece of literature. Just one read has helped me beyond all measures. But I know it will be my lifelong literary companion from here on in. 

Another incredibly empowering website I happened to come across very recently is one called 'Conscious Transitions - Counseling Through Life's Challenges'.  It has been created by therapist Sheryl Paul who has devoted her career to steering people through difficult transitions in life. Whilst her two main points of focus are 'Getting Married' and 'Becoming a Mother',  she has broadened her practice to include other major transitions such as getting a divorce and dealing with drug addiction.
Here is an excerpt from her website which may spark your interest:
"Many of my clients suffer from the hell-realm of intrusive or unwanted thoughts. Thoughts like, “What if I’m a paedophile?” or “What if I’m a mass murderer?” or “What if I have a terminal disease?” or “What if I don’t love my partner enough (or at all)?” or "What if I hurt my baby?"  parade through their brains day and night without reprieve creating a state of perpetual misery. The irony about people who are prone to intrusive thoughts such as these is that they’re among the most gentle, loving, sensitive, kind, creative, and thoughtful people you’ll ever meet. The thought is so far from reality that it’s almost laughable, except that it’s not funny at all because my clients believe the lie which, of course, creates massive amount of anxiety. Or maybe it’s not ironic at all......Perhaps it’s precisely because of this high level of sensitivity and empathy that their mind has gravitated toward an alarming thought as a way to try to avoid the intensity of feeling with which they respond to life....Once you take hold of the seductive thought-vine, you’re on your way down the black hole of anxiety. The further you go down the hole, the darker it gets and the harder it becomes to find your way back out to the light of day"....But "once you start to pay attention to your feelings and trust that you can handle your emotional experiences, the intrusive thoughts begin to diminish. Again, the thoughts are a distraction, a first-layer attention-getter designed to force you to turn inside and attend to your inner world. Thus, when you’re perseverating on an anxious thought, the question to ask yourself is, “What am I trying to control, avoid, or fill up?” or “What is this thought trying to protect me from feeling?” and see if you can connect to the softness of the human heart, knowing that what you find when you bring your loving attention to the quiet places is always, always, a pearl."

We spent Christmas with my husband's parents at their home - just the five of us (and the dog). As we all know, Christmas can be fraught, stressful and full of unfulfilled expectations. We can approach it with wholehearted festive jollity or with fear and trepidation. This year, I approached it with a sense of calm. Thanks to everything I have read, learned and written in the past weeks, I was able to escape from my noisy mind and truly relish some really beautiful moments.....
On Christmas night, we all sat around the table together to the usual turkey feast. Having cleared our plates and wine glasses, we broke into an impromptu 'sing-along' of 'Away in a Manger', gazing lovingly at our little girl as she looked back at us bemusedly from her high chair. I know it sounds like something out of a cheesy family movie, but I can't tell you how perfect it felt at the time. My mother-in-law actually burst into tears at the end of the second verse, saying nothing more than, "It's just lovely..." I guess we all just felt a wave of immense, open-hearted gratitude to finally be there - together, sharing a very special Christmas with our precious miracle.

Losing my fertility was the hugest shock of my life. I know I'll always have to work at allowing myself to be happy and to trust that feeling again. But at least I now know that even if I'm not feeling "good", "happy" or even "fine" every minute of every day, it is there - real, solid and always within my grasp.

On that note, I want to wish you all a very happy new year and very best wishes for the months ahead.....

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Return from Absence

It's been a strange couple of weeks. I find it difficult actually seeing people in the flesh having poured out my heart and soul in writing. I am aware that what I write might seem starkly contrasting to how I appear because I have become so good at playing things down. Even when I choose or others choose to mention the blog or how I'm feeling generally, often the words lose their impact and sincerity because my very tone conveys that habitual message of "I'm fine, don't worry. It's all good." It's often only afterwards in the security of my own company that I even realise the extent to which I have been performing.
Why do I do this? Well, for a start, who wants to admit their vulnerabilities? And as soon as people appear at all worried or concerned, I always back off feeling awkward and embarrassed. It's no-one's fault. Both responses are natural I think. I remember back in "the thick of it", just days after losing my second fallopian tube, being on the phone to my dad and talking so incredibly stoically about everything. He remarked on how strong I was and although at the time, I didn't consciously realise how deeply traumatised I was, I did have a sense that I was putting on a bit of a show. After all, I knew it's what he wanted to hear and I was protecting him.
My mum wasn't fooled though. She let me play out my little show for 8 months until I finally felt ready to break down (after the 1st IVF failure), at which point she reassured me with the words, "Zoe, I was waiting for this." What a relief it was to let myself be true to my feelings and to know that my mother was not surprised, nor worried - but in fact relieved that I finally had the courage to be honest. As the months wore on and on and my husband and I became further embroiled in the devastation of infertility treatment, I felt myself losing connection with everyone - even my own mother!
Just 2 days after our 3rd IVF cycle failed, we were on a very badly mistimed 'holiday' with my parents in Co. Kerry. This was undoubtedly the worst point within our ectopic/IVF journey. I can't even remember greeting our parents at the cottage that we'd rented for the week. Nobody or nothing seemed to matter to me any more. I was so deeply submerged in darkness, I was totally unable to escape the panic that was mounting inside me at an exponential rate. I felt almost certain that this juncture was the end of the road for us as a couple - how could we survive any more agony together? I was shot through and tormented by guilt, anger, shame, fear and most of all, self-hate. I felt that our relationship was under the shadow of a huge tidal wave simply because I feared for our future - a future without children, a future without a family and most importantly, a future in which I denied myself the most basic human right - to be loved.
I continued to obsessively scrutinise our relationship. Every tiff or disagreement, every opportunity I stole to avoid sex or even a kiss, became fodder for my inner demons. I was suffering from some sort of masochistic need to microscopically analyse the depth of devotion I had for my husband, even though I knew I loved him from the bottom of my heart. I was still able to talk to him about the black thoughts that troubled me and I still continued to feel comfort and relief knowing that he simply understood me. But I also felt an increased need to be understood by the world around us too.. Yet everything about our journey through infertility was so painfully private, given that sex, love and sexual identity were at the core of it all. And so, I felt trapped and unable to confide anything to anyone but my husband. Throughout the 'holiday' in Kerry, I felt totally panicked if he left my side for even a second because it felt like he was the only one who knew the depth of my suffering. My parents were doing their very best to be let in, but out of fear, I shunned them and sadly watched as they remained as strangers on the periphery.
I remember saying to my mum, almost apologetically, that it was just too painful to talk about it....but that one day, hopefully, I might be able to open up. Little did I know that despite my inability to confide, my mum was intuitively aware of everything all along. But like we said to each other recently, the words had to come from me....in my own time. I guess what I'm trying to get across in this post is how bloody hard it is to talk about infertility. It's so true what a friend recently said to me, that "few people realise how hard it is to say or write down raw feelings". But that once you speak out about them "they somehow lose their power over you."
Infertility is a bit like a tornado sweeping through your life and your marriage. And it takes a long time to feel safe enough to let go of each other's clenched grasp, having missed the eye of the storm by a hair's breadth. It will also take a long time to pick up the pieces and build our life back together again.. During the course of our ectopic pregnancies and IVF treatments, I became estranged and in fact totally cut off from so many people. I had to give up my job and along with it, a host of other social activities that made up a significant portion of my life. And now I am doing my best to re-connect again. It's very difficult, having been partially or even fully absent from everyone's life (and vice versa) for so long. But although infertility will always exist in our life, I finally feel safe and secure enough to say the words that were once too painful to even think. I'm slowly but surely gaining control again.
So please....try not to feel concerned or uneasy if/when I do 'break down' either in person or through my blog. It's just my way of rekindling lost relationships and therefore allowing myself to feel like I truly belong again.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Let Me Feel the Way I Do....

Since having written my last few posts, I've been feeling very vulnerable and at times panicked to the point where I have felt physical pain in my chest. I have broken down three times in the last 72 hours into an uncontrollable fit of teary convulsions - the first time with my husband and two very close friends of ours, the second whilst on the phone to my mum the following day and the third while reading through the draft of this post just yesterday afternoon. Why? What could I possibly have unearthed in the past few days to provoke such a violent explosion of emotion?
For the first time since it occurred, I have dissected and analysed my emotional response to all the events leading up to the surgical removal of my second fallopian tube - and a little bit beyond. My mind hones in my unconscious body laid on the operating table, limp and helpless as the surgeon slices into my belly, severs my second and last tube from the womb and hands it passively to her assistant to be 'disposed of'. Her face is calm and collected, poised in a blank expression of indifference whilst she makes a few banale comments to her colleagues - perhaps in relation to the procedure, perhaps not. Did she conclude with 100% certainty that there was no way of rescuing part of the tube? Did she not even query the benefits of a biopsy in order to investigate the exact cause of the ectopic? Did she not think about how that might ultimately help us in our struggle to conceive through IVF which was tragically now our only option?......or did she go through the technical motions of the procedure without thinking and without feeling?

A woman's fertility is sacred. It is the embodiment of creation and a life-giving force inside us. And yet, I can't help feeling that she just didn't care. She didn't even notice that a part of me died on the operating table that day. And for that reason, I feel violated. I've always been hesitant about using that word because it is a word so often used in the context of rape and abuse. But if you look up the dictionary definition, you will find the following - 
Violate: to treat something sacred with irreverence and disrespect.
It's taken a lot of courage for me to write this post (with a view to publishing it). I've always been scared to admit how I felt about the doctors that treated me during that time and especially the surgeon who performed the final operation. I am only too aware that a lot of people will react with rationale and logic at the forefront of their minds and perhaps an urge to defend them with the comment, "They were just doing their job." As I clutched my husband in tears last Saturday night, I could sense that even he was going there in his head, but before he could think about uttering the words, I interjected with an explosion of repetitive cries to "please....please.....just let me hate her!"

I am not normally an angry person and so, for me, admission of such intense rage is very difficult indeed, but I believe my unconscious effort to keep it locked away for so long has been debilitating beyond all measure. And now, I guess I'm imploring you, as my readers, to let me feel this way too, to be compassionate towards me in my need to be angry and to recognise it not as a failure, but as a sign that I am finally grieving what I lost on that day back in October 2008....because only then can I even think about "moving on" and "letting it go".
Upon searching the internet for literature on grief experienced by women following the removal of both tubes, I was quite disheartened to find that there was nothing really out there. I did however find a website called Hystersisters about women who have had to suffer a hysterectomy. And it seems that, amongst these women, the big burning question is, "Does it ever go away?" This has been the most difficult thing I've had to face since becoming infertile - that sense of emotional agoraphobia and a fear of the infinite.

I'm going to conclude this post with the response to this question which I read on the Hystersisters website. It's a lovely message that simultaneously provides hope and acceptance of your right to feel the way you do:

"Almost all negative occurrences in our lives are tolerable, as long as they're temporary. Will you ever feel like the same person you were before? No-one can answer that question with certainty. But for many women, it does transpire that with the passage of time, the "strange and unusual feelings and unsettling emotions do fade.
But what if they don't? Just as the world is constantly evolving, so are our lives. Perhaps if the feelings do not some day truly go away, they will change. And because human beings by nature are adaptable creatures, you will likely adjust to the phases involved in the transition. To put it another way, you will slowly get accustomed to the new and different way that you feel. It's prevalence and steadiness will make it grow ordinary.
You will come to terms with what you have been dealt and adapt accordingly. As one woman put it, "I think the best thing we can all do for ourselves is to ride that wave of change and passage."

Friday, 8 November 2013

"Doing It" Again....

We went to Rhyme Time at the library yesterday. I immediately laid eyes on a mother who I'd seen a couple of months ago with a huge bump and a little boy of three scampering at her feet. The bump was gone and in its place was a tiny newborn lying on a blanket by her side while she sang songs with her first born. I stared - I couldn't help myself. It was almost like I felt invisible and as if watching a TV screen, I was entranced by the scene before me. The baby got passed to other mummies who wanted desperately to enjoy a moment re-living those early days. I didn't feel anger nor jealousy as I gazed across, only sadness and a heavy sense of isolation from this fertile 'club' of mothers, most of whom seemed to have a small baby and toddler in tow. I tried to imagine how I'd feel if I'd had to hold the infant - Would I cry? Would I feel bitterness in my heart? Or would I simply pretend to myself that I didn't care? I didn't know. I almost wanted to know so as to address the pain. But I just sat on the periphery and watched.
As soon as we left the library, my mood dipped. I would never feel at ease with mums in that situation, not unless they knew.....not unless I offered to share my story. But sometimes you don't want pity, nor to be the party pooper amongst the group. So you have to keep quiet and remain a stranger or simply opt out altogether.
As my thoughts poured out, I started to feel angry again. And it took me a while to realise that I wasn't feeling angry towards anyone, but rather towards IVF itself! Lots of people have been asking me if/when we will be "doing it" again....IVF, that is! And as I reply with my vague, learnt-off answer, "Oh we're not sure...hopefully within the next year or so", I can't help but feel like I'm putting on a phoney air of ambivalence to cover up an underlying seething resentment towards this God-like 'power-to-be' that is paradoxically our hell and our salvation.
IVF brought us our little girl.... But I hated it. I think people expect us to eulogise about the wonders of modern infertility medicine. But unless they've been there, they've no real idea of the anguish you have to endure as penance for that long-wished-for dream at the end of the road. Yes, it's worth it...of course! Ask any woman who yearns for a child, for she would gladly walk barefoot over hot burning coals to be blessed with the gift of motherhood. But isn't it enough that we've endured the pain than we should have to be thankful for it as well? Shouldn't we be allowed to love and cherish our long-wished-for dream and still deeply loathe the very thing that facilitated her creation?
It's a strange and difficult place to be right now - on the cusp of another venture into that dark underworld. On the one hand, I do feel tremendous love for the workforce...for the amazing doctors, nurses and embryologists who helped us with their expertise and (in a lot of cases) compassionate understanding of the stress we were under. But on the other hand, I hate feeling indebted to them and to everything of which that 'world' comprises. It's this feeling that I should owe gratitude towards something which tore me apart, mind, body and soul, that further compounds my sense of failure and humiliation.
So, in response to the question...."Yes, we will do it again". But I do not know exactly when. And it is finances and a want for quality of life with our little girl that will dictate the amount of times we subject ourselves again to the distress of treatment. When we return to the clinic with arms outstretched imploringly we are certainly not returning into the arms of an old friend. We will go back submissively out of love for our child and for us, as a family....But not without fear, trepidation and regret in our hearts that there is no other way.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Why am I Still so Angry? (Part 2)

Back on 21st October 2008, as the result of one simple operation, I became sterile. The violent suddenness of this event traumatised me so deeply that, no sooner had I come round from the anaesthetic, I immediately became fixated on the fear of terminal illness, then followed by months and years of relentless angst and horrendous plunges into deep and inescapable heartbreak.
Maybe you think I should be thankful to the doctors for rescuing me from a potentially life-threatening situation?...that I should be reconciled in the fact that their better judgement guided them towards the best decision given the circumstances? And maybe I would feel that way too if they had assumed a manner less flippant and devoid of human empathy. As it happened, their total lack of emotional awareness left me feeling even more empty and defiled. These sentiments have never left me. And in fact they've got increasingly stronger as I've become further engulfed in the silence of my secret pain…..so secret that I have been hiding it from even myself and continuously ‘playing it down’ through guilt towards those “worse off” or the shame of indulging in narcissism.
I do remember one doctor – just one, who clearly recognised the severity of what had happened. He met with us just before Christmas 2008 as part of a follow-up procedure and to discuss the plan ahead. And before launching into any medical spiel, he verbalised with genuine sincerity his deep regrets for our loss……But it was too late. I was hurling myself forward in order to find a way out and so I resented the fact that he was “trying to bring me down by forcing me to think of the past” (my words immediately after the consultation). In retrospect, I can see that he was so lovely. And yet I was just too scared and angry to listen.


I wanted to forget, thinking that the appearance of a baby would erase all memory of that day. But he was right to be concerned! And rather than enabling me to forget what happened, the arrival of our baby girl has helped me recognise what i needed to do all along..... to remember that frightening day and all the events leading up it. 

I can never forgive the doctors for minimising the gravity of their actions, whereby IVF would be my only choice to conceive ever again. Doctors have a duty of care to their patients and that should include emotional as well as physical wellbeing. But on that day and in the days approaching my second salpingectomy, not only were they (for the most part) ignorant of the fear that consumed me, but they were shockingly neglectful in their bedside manner that portrayed a disrespectful mix of apathy and shallow frivolity towards something that would change my life forever.


Why am I Still so Angry? (Part 1)

When I try to target the source of my anger, I'm instantly taken back to the days leading up to my second salpingectomy (the operation to remove my 2nd fallopian tube). I had already had to have my first fallopian tube removed just 7 months prior. And so, I was thrown into panic when I realised I was pregnant again with another ectopic. Having been there before, I immediately recognised all the symptoms and had already diagnosed myself before any tests or scans were even carried out.
I presented my self-diagnosis to the doctors and nurses at the Early Pregnancy Unit, but of course, as before, I knew that a diagnosis could not be 100% substantiated until bloods were taken over several days in order to establish a pattern. And, as before, a scan could not be accepted as concrete proof of an unviable pregnancy until my hormone levels had reached a certain level, by which time the Methotrexate injection was unlikely to perform successfully. Methotrexate is a powerful drug that is used to try and dissolve the embryo so as to prevent the necessity of surgical intervention. However, if it is not administered in very early stages, it usually fails to work effectively. I felt utterly trapped and exasperated and given the fact that I never had a chance to savour a single moment of this pregnancy, I felt emotionally numb towards the little embryo that was burrowed inside me – somewhere! But who was I kidding? I was of course tormented by the prospect of having to endure another miscarriage.
We had no choice but to lay low and take the ride. Several days ensued of hormonal analysis and internal scans, ultimately leading me back within the confines of the Gynaecology Unit awaiting the results of another Methotrexate injection following the unsurprising discovery of an ectopic pregnancy in my right fallopian tube. The result of this Methotrexate was everything. If it had been successful, my hormone levels would have decreased or at the very least reached a plateau. But if, like last time, it had failed to work, my hormone levels would have increased, signifying that the pregnancy was still on going and the only choice would be surgery.
I remember in the course of this waiting period, one doctor in particular – a young, Australian bloke who went to great lengths drawing us diagrams to explain the surgical procedure he would perform (if required)…whereby only half or part of the tube would be removed. He seemed to take great pleasure in flaunting the skills required to carry out this tricky but entirely do-able piece of surgical craftsmanship. And then, he concluded by saying, that if all else fails, we would be wonderful candidates for IVF once my damaged tubes were out of the way. I was shocked and incensed by his ability to casually talk about assisted reproductive treatment as if we were discussing a handy short-cut through the park as opposed to the destruction of my natural fertility!
I felt sick with fear as we waited for the doctors to come and tell me my fate. Eventually, they arrived to inform us (to our utter surprise) that my hormone levels had indeed plateaued. I was safe. This time I’d thankfully managed to escape the knife and my fertility was preserved. We were immensely relieved. The whole experience had really taken its toll on us so we planned a little trip to Ireland to visit my family. My hormone levels continued to slowly decrease and so the doctors were happy to discharge me and our failing embryo.
While in Ireland, I started to experience quite severe, sharp pains in my right side. The pain was intermittent so I managed to just ignore it, reassuring myself that it was probably just the side-effects of the drug at work. Upon our return home though, we decided to get it checked out at the hospital, more as a precaution than as a genuine concern. Following another internal scan, we were told that in fact a large mass was present in my upper right fallopian tube and that emergency surgery would be the only option now. We were so shocked and confused. The Methotrexate had worked. How could this happen? How could the embryo continue to grow when the blood results reflected otherwise?

I didn't even have a day to compute the facts and the inevitable consequences of the impending operation. Before surgery, we were visited by the surgeon who told us that she would do her best to preserve at least part of the remaining tube. As I drifted into unconsciousness, these words provided me with my one last thread of hope that my fertility might be saved. I awoke alone in recovery, breathing through a mask, parched for water and morphined to the eyeballs. Within minutes, the surgeon appeared and proceeded to inform me in a somewhat robotic manner that my second fallopian tube had been fully removed and that, judging by the photographic images (which she thrust in front of my bleary eyes), my ovaries and uterus were in fine condition. That was it! There was no “I'm so sorry….We did everything we could….”, nor even the compassion of a gentle touch. Her words were brief and her delivery was brutal. For a few hours, I had the blissful fogginess of morphine to subdue the mental torture that was there, lurking and ready to descend upon me at any moment. But as the morphine wore off, the reality of what had just happened threw me into utter turmoil.