SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

I am grateful, but…

Oh, how badly I wanted a natural birth process. After relying on the medical world to conceive a child, of which I am beyond grateful, I wanted to feel ‘normal’ and that I could do it, my body could do what it was ‘supposed to.’

(Note: Our baby was conceived via IVF/ICSI after a very long journey)

Unfortunately, this was not to be, and after an induced 31 hour labour, which included three lots of gels, my waters being broken, an epidural and the syntocin drip, it ended in a caesarean section. It was the opposite of what I had hoped for, it was in a hospital, included most interventions known to man, and our beautiful baby girl ended up being cut out of me. I had told myself, and others, that I was prepared for whatever was to come our way, and that I was open to all processes, and I honestly did not realise how much I had my heart set on a natural birth, and how disappointed I was that this did not occur.

For three days following her birth I got on with it; feeding, not sleeping, nappies, feeding, healing and feeding, and in all fairness was too wrapped up in my love for our baby to really process my own thoughts and feelings for myself. It was not until I got home that it hit me. I spent the better part of the afternoon and evening crying, and grieving for the process I so desperately wanted, and dealt with the disappointment I had in myself.

I questioned why I couldn’t do it, told myself I was weak, and felt like I had let myself, my husband and everyone down. I felt as though I was inadequate.

We all feel this way at times.

Even with the work I do, I am not immune to self-doubt, to self-limiting beliefs and to just feeling really shitty about a situation. I work on these pieces for myself regularly, know how they play out, and I recognise triggers and stressors that inflame them. I am able to use the logical part of me to work this out and set myself back on the right track. This was not one of those times. With the hormones, lack of sleep (about 7 hours from Saturday morning until Thursday afternoon), huge change in my life, pain, pharmaceutical intake, focusing on our girl, and not being able to cuddle my fur-babies logic really did go flying out the window.

On the one hand I am just so incredibly grateful to have the most beautiful gift ever, but on the other hand I still felt ripped off with the whole conception to birth process. This in turn, made me angry at myself for not just being grateful. We thought this would never happen. I know the pain that we felt during that journey, and I still have friends struggling in this space. So why wasn’t I just happy beyond belief? I spend a lot of time with myself, and others focusing on gratitude and yet at this time I couldn’t practice it, and it was being overridden by my thinking of “it isn’t fair.”

The other struggle playing out in my head was why did I care so much about how she came into this world? Birth is birth. The fact that her head was positioned in a way that made it impossible for her to move through my pelvis does not say anything apart from simply that. Why then had I assigned feelings of inadequacy to this? Why did I feel as though I was weak? I spent 31 hours in labour, 8 of those hours with intense contractions, how is that weak?

At the end of the day, I made decisions based on our little girl’s and my own health. I put aside what I had wanted for a healthy delivery. I went through processes I was hoping not to have to experience to ensure our baby was safe. That is not weak. That is strength.

 

My take away messages from this experience of being so devastated and disappointed that Thursday afternoon are:

–          Lack of sleep and hormones can break even the strongest mind. If you are struggling with sleep, do something about it. If we are sick we go to the doctor, so if you are not sleeping go and see a naturopath, a dietician, a trainer, a counsellor or a doctor, depending on the root cause.

–          Stop letting society define my norms. We are told natural is best, and there is definitely judgement (even if it is just my own) placed on non-natural processes in regards to birth. Similar with how bottle-feeding mums feel with the “breast is best” mantra we are bombarded with. But my life, is mine, it is only experienced by me, and so I make the decisions that I live with. Simple.

–          I am allowed to feel this. I say this so often, which is probably why it shocked me that I was not walking my talk, nor did I recognise that I was shutting my feelings down. I am allowed to feel ‘ripped off’ and disappointed and that it wasn’t fair. By trying to shut those feelings out, they were just laying dormant, and as to be expected they all came exploding out at once. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. It doesn’t mean wallow around and keep yourself in a particular emotion for a period of time, rather feel it, then deal with it. We choose our emotions. So choose it, feel it, reflect/learn/grow/deal with it, then move forward.

–          I am grateful. Just because I was also feeling other emotions, does not mean I was not also (and am) extremely grateful. It doesn’t need to be the case of one or the other, I can feel more than one emotion at once. Situations are often complex and bring about a vast range of emotions, and one does not make the other less than; feeling disappointed does not make me less grateful for this miracle.

–          I am strong. I went through a five year fertility roller coaster, faced my needle fear head on by being an IVF/ICSI warrior, grew a human life in me for nine months, laboured for 31 hours, was cut in half with a caesarean section, and then met the needs of a new born, including feeding round the clock. How did I ever question my strength? If I ever go back into that space of self-doubt I will be sure to come back and read this section!

–          Self-care is key. Even in times of stress and change (and a severe lack of sleep) it is important to take some time for yourself. Reading in the bath for 20minutes (timed between feeds of course), putting a record on and just soaking up the music, spending 15 minutes journaling and writing in a gratitude diary are all things I have done in the last week since being home. Next week I will add in some mindful walking in the fresh air. If I had not spent this time for myself, unwinding, focusing on my needs and digging into this emotional turmoil I had experienced I would still be feeling discontent, disappointment, pain, and the imbalance of my emotions. In order to take care of others, I first need to take care of me (between feeds haha).

–          Vulnerability is important. Trying to hold it in, presenting myself as ‘strong’ does not do anything for me, or anyone else. Sharing my feelings and inner thoughts with my husband helped me to start to reflect and refocus my head space. Sharing this with friends made me feel better through the connection and common ground that the few also shared. That connection, the realising you are not alone and the community it creates is important. Finally, sharing it here is amplifying that last piece, and hopefully it may help one other person realise they are not alone, or give someone the connection to reach out, or maybe it gives a reader an idea of something they can do.

 

We all experience time of emotional upheaval, stress, immense change that mess with our equilibrium, our wants, dreams and emotions. This is normal. This is what makes us human.

Feel it. Reflect on it. Learn from it. Deal with it.

I am also sure that this will be brought back to my attention at different stages of this new phase in my life, and I will be better prepared to experience it all.

 

Mel H x

 

Note: I apologise for grammatical and spelling errors, and a lack of real cohesive flow with this blog. I am playing the “I have a two week old baby” card here ok!

THOUGHTS

Survivor’s guilt…

After a 5 year journey to conceive a child, including being told that we would not be able to have our own biological child, our miracle occurred. I am currently 37 weeks pregnant with a little girl, through the IVF/ICS process. It seems however, that even when infertility becomes a thing of your past and you now have a fertility story, it never really leaves you.

With every day, as my belly has grown, with every kick as our girl develops, and every milestone we reach to ensure this has been a viable pregnancy I am torn between screaming from the roof tops and sitting with this feeling of guilt.

This guilt exists from being a fertility success story.

A lot of time and energy gets put into trying to conceive, there are countless tears, and heartbreaks. Your world really does evolve around it. Eventually a new normal is formed, you create a (sometimes new) support network, your perspective is altered and consequently this becomes an identifier. All of this becomes a badge of pain you wear, that others in the same ‘club’ resonate with. Nobody else understands the struggle, and how utterly earth shattering it is unless you have walked in those shoes, and so what happens when you move to the other side? Who do you identify with when you have conceived? Which group do you belong to now? You really do feel as though you have betrayed your fellow infertility warriors.

A lot of these questions have been swirling in my head over the last few months, along with not wanting to inflict any pain on others. When so many people (1 in 4) struggle with fertility in some way, shape or form, how did we get so lucky? I still have friends battling through this painful journey and on top of feeling guilt that I am no longer on that side of the ledger, I do not want to compound their pain by exposing them to more pregnancy news, posts, photos or milestones. I feel as though I am walking such a fine line sometimes, with wanting to celebrate and be present in every second of this pregnancy and wanting to just keep it within the privacy of our own home.

In a lot of ways, it is similar to survivor’s guilt. Survivor’s guilt is the self-guilt one suffers when they survive a tragedy, while others do not. With it comes a lot of questioning around ‘why did I survive?’ ‘do I deserve to survive?’ Along with a very real need to prove that you either did or didn’t deserve to survive, depending on one’s frame of mind. I don’t want to seem like I am being over dramatic, as it has not been my life on the line, but I am sure you understand where I am coming from with this comparison.

Working through this, and the questions it has raised here are my current thoughts:

          I will always be a part of the infertility community. I lived that struggle. I understand what it is like.

          It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

          I am a success story which can hopefully inspire hope to others who are still in their own struggle to have a child – in whatever way that may be.

          I deserve to, and intend to, enjoy every single step of this miracle.

          This does not mean I have to talk about or post every little thing, particularly those things I know caused me pain. I can still have empathy in what I say, post and do.

So, as I move further down my journey, I use all this learning as further stepping stones for this path.

I am an IVF warrior AND a soon to be mother.

Mel H x

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Truth Sovereignty…

Following on from my last blog on self-worth, I thought I would focus in on owning our stories, our truth. In the self-worth piece, I discussed how an important part of valuing yourself included the parts of us we found less desirable, it was about owning all of who we are. The same goes for our story.

Truth: The body of real things, events and facts.

Sovereignty: Supreme power or authority.

We all have a past. This includes the mistakes we have made and those truths that we are not proud of. I know from experience, as well as working with clients, that a common way of ‘dealing’ with these areas we are not proud of is:

–          Avoidance; pretending it did not occur, never addressing this area of your life,    ignoring it

–          Numbing; using an external stimuli (alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, work, eating, exercise, internet) to avoid dealing with the internal pain/guilt/shame

–          Oversharing as a third person; regularly sharing this story, but it is very distant, as if you are telling it about someone else, very matter of fact, void of feeling.

By not addressing the pain or a piece of our truth we are actually giving it power over us. It becomes THE thing that we put extra effort in to avoid or prove wrong, it becomes THE thing that we think defines who we are, it becomes THE thing that we think will be the make or break for us. The only way to take the power from the past, is to own it. Take the power back. Establish your truth sovereignty.

I have recently exercised my truth sovereignty over a personal story of mine. I admit I have done the avoidance, I have done the blame, I have tried to numb it and I have done the oversharing too. I literally tried everything I could so I would not have to actually deal with it and own it. But I decided (with the help of two beautiful wahine toa – Kat & Binny so much aroha to you xx) to lean into the discomfort and really own it. In order to do this, I had to real lean into the hurt, I had to practice some mindfulness to keep the anxiety at bay in sharing such a hard story, I journaled A LOT, and it was mostly centred around acceptance and kindness to myself. It wasn’t easy, but as well as empowering me, it actually gave me the final piece of healing I needed in this space, and brought me my greatest value of peace.

This does not mean we have to tell everyone, I do not think this, or practice this at all. It means you own it, you take responsibility for it, you learn from it, you don’t let it define you and you share it with those who you chose to do so with. It is not easy sharing our darkest corners or deepest scars, people can react negatively, they can judge us, they can choose to leave our life. This only serves to reinforce our own shame and internal negative self-talk and internal reasons for previously avoiding, numbing or oversharing. So be selective with who you share your truth with, exercise your sovereignty here too.

I will say this though, if people choose to react in these ways, this is for them to own. Their reactions are theirs. You can’t control other people’s emotions, reactions, opinions or perceptions, so let it go. I know this is easier said than done but reinforce this messaging to yourself regularly. I also believe that if someone doesn’t love me, all of me, then it is for the best that they aren’t in my world anyway. I have too many amazing people I walk this journey with to waste any time on those who are not in my life to simply love. I think Marilyn said it best:

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little bit insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best”

Marilyn Monroe

This goes both ways too. Remember this when someone shares their truth with you. Walk in their shoes and recognise the pain they have dealt with to be in a place to be able to share this with you. Reflect on how you would want to be treated at this time:

–          Listen without judgement. We do not have to like or agree with choices others have made, just as they wont with our own, but we do not need to judge them for it.

–          Be empathetic, not sympathetic. I have written a whole blog on this topic (so have a read of that one “Feel with me, not for me”) so I won’t go into this one here.

–          Offer them the space to share. Listen. I mean really listen. Not for the sake of talking! And be present – put the phone away, don’t look at your watch etc.

 

When we own all that we are, and all the chapters in our story, then we can be truly authentic. We can accept and speak our truth, we have the power over it. We have truth sovereignty.

Mel H x

SELF HELP, THOUGHTS

Slow and steady wins the race…

I have always been one to do things a million miles an hour. I have always been a sprinter, I get stuck into things as soon as they present, I put all my energy into it and I want it done now. As a child I would rush home telling my mum that I needed to get an assignment started now, and we should have been at the library yesterday. After questioning me, mum would soon discover I had just got the assignment today, not weeks ago as my agitated state suggested. Moving into the work force I applied the same attitude and behaviours. I eventually had a boss who pulled me aside to tell me not to respond to emails or get things done for people so quickly as it set up an expectation and would mean more people would come to me in the first instance. This would increase my workload and leave me less time for the project work.

This conversation led me to stop and reflect on why I ran myself ragged to get tasks completed as quickly as I could. After digging deep internally I realised that this behaviour was driven by a deep-rooted fear, the fear of being viewed as incompetent. I was constantly trying to show people that I was competent and one of the ways to prove this was by completing things before it was expected, and being able to carry such a high workload.

Once I realised this, I was able to address it; challenging my thinking and changing my behaviour.

Thinking:

–          I journaled a lot. I wrote down my thoughts and evidence that refuted the idea that I wasn’t competent. I recorded people’s responses, and wrote about assumptions and perceptions which helped me see that.

–          I read books around self-limiting beliefs, fears, rushing women and similar topics. This lead to a lot more journaling.

–          I used positive affirmations: I am competent. My competence is not hinged on others’ perceptions. My time is valuable.

 

Behaviour:

–          Plan in advance. By having my deadlines in my calendar and inputting checkpoints for my work I know where I need to be for everything. This helps me see how much time I actually have to do other pieces that present themselves.

–          Stick to my calendar. To allow for deeper critical thought, and to comply with my slower pace I keep to the checkpoints I have put into my calendar, rather than trying to get it all done in one sitting.

–          Not ‘squeezing’ people in. I don’t want to be rushing my catch ups with loved ones, nor do I want them to feel as though they are just another meeting. Rushing people is not who I am, so I have stopped doing it.

–          Knowing my priorities. I know, I say this in like every single piece of writing I do, but this is how important it is! For example, I know that exercise is a non-negotiable for me, I don’t put it in the “if I have time” category, it is scheduled, it is a priority. Knowing this means that rather than continuing to work on a project for hours on end at full speed, I know the tasks I need to move on to as they are priorities.

–          Breathe. An action we do so regularly at the unconscious level, yet it is such a powerful an important tool to use for peace, mindfulness, and in this instance taking a step back. When I feel that energy overload kick into my system, the adrenaline starts surging (oh yeah I am a self-labelled geek and I love it!) with a deadline or a new project I just stop and take some deep belly breaths. My mind clears and I am able to reflect back on my priorities before rushing off at a million miles an hour.

 

Having this “I must get it done quicker than humanly possible” mentality has had its benefits, but it also created a highly stressed individual who was always working to tick things off a list, struggled to stay focused on one task at a time, failed to enjoy the process and had moved critical thinking and peace down the list of priorities. As I already mentioned it was also driven by an insecurity, which was kept alive by this out of control behaviour.

This is something I have actively worked at for the last few years; just allowing myself to spend time on tasks, spend time on my own pieces and reducing my stress levels that were created by rushing around all the time. This is not to say that I don’t fall back into old habits every now and then, nor do intentionally choose to “go all in” on very specific pieces of work – though this is after careful consideration and for a range of reasons.

If you could relate to this need to get things done, the fear of being seen as incompetent or running at a high stress state regularly I encourage you to work deeper into this space. Try some of the things that I did, do some of your own research or reach out to me!

Mel H x

THOUGHTS

Don’t be a bystander, be a stand up human!

One of the intentions I set for 2018, was to call out racism, sexism, homophobia and the likes. I have been in uncomfortable situations where people are saying, writing or posting commentary that is dangerous to our society and I have not said anything. I am sure many of us have thought at one time or another “it’s not worth it,” “they are set in their ways,” “there is no point,” or something similar, only to reflect later and wish you had said something.

Here’s the thing I realised, when I was saying “it’s not worth it” what I was actually saying was its not worth it for ME at this point in time. I didn’t want to feel uncomfortable, or have negative feelings directed towards me. I was not focusing on the cause, those who were marginalised or the bigger societal picture. I also checked myself on my “there’s no point” thinking. How do we even know someone will reject our opinions until we express them? It may be the seed that gets planted, or it may be the last piece they need to have a paradigm shift. I am also conscious of the other bystanders. We never know who else could be listening or reading something which could influence their thinking or provide them support in a space where they are feeling the hate, judgement and oppression.

 

At first, I told myself ‘well its not like I am being racist/sexist’ to try and make this realisation easier to take, to make myself feel better, to feel more comfortable in my silence. And although that technically may be true, I am perpetuating it. I am not doing anything to challenge or change those thoughts, and in some cases social norms. I am letting people who say, write, and post about these things think I agree with it, think that it is ok.

It is not ok. I am not ok with that. This is not who I am.

This realisation was quite confronting. I thought I was someone who had strong social values, and a strong sense of social justice, who had fairness and equity in her DNA, yet my behaviour was not supporting this.

So, back to my 2018 intention of calling this out, and no longer being a silent partner in the fight for equity. I have unfollowed people on social media as a show of ‘voting with my feet’ of sorts. I have commented on posts that contain dangerous narratives, even if I am the lone voice and comments are made in other places that are negative towards me. I have told people I disagree with what they are saying, or simply questioned their statements. And it feels good.

Sure, people may in turn unfollow me, say negative comments or have ill thoughts about me. This says nothing about me, it says something about them. I am confident in my views. Sure, I have more to learn in these spaces, and I can still respect differences of opinion, however, I am confident that racism and sexism are never ok. And, as I said above, maybe I have given someone else the support or release, or voice they needed at that time.

The other part of this 2018 intention for myself, is about being ok with expressing myself from an emotional space or viewpoint. I do my research, I am connected with some pretty amazing people in both the feminist and racial equity spaces and engage with them regularly, my background is one rooted in education, and I feel like a good argument has sound evidence. However, this thinking, coupled with the societal push I feel for only having a perspective based in cold hard facts has meant I have dismissed my own anecdotal pieces, my own experiences and my own emotions. These topics are emotional. I am allowed to be emotional, and I will not try to hide this or pretend it is not part of my calling out. I believe there is so much research in these spaces, but let us not forget an individuals voice or story. I want, and feel some people need to see and hear the emotion that is attached to these areas.

I am already connecting with some amazing people, making new connections and being exposed to new opportunities through the calling out, challenging, deconstructing, questioning and not accepting of these attitudes and social norms.

So, there it is, one of my intentions for 2018. I will no longer stand by and be a silent witness to the ‘isms’, I am standing up.

In what areas, and how do you stand up?

Mel H x

 

For your reading and viewing pleasure…

www.thespinoff.co.nz

www.everydayfeminism.com

www.facebook.com/littlebrowngirlstories/

www.raedawn-martin.squarespace.com

https://www.ted.com/search?q=racism

https://www.ted.com/search?q=feminism

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQbei5JGiT8

http://www.inequality.org.nz/understand/

https://www.hrc.co.nz/your-rights/race-relations-and-diversity/

https://courageousconversation.com/about/

 

 

 

 

THOUGHTS

Being authentic matters to everyone…

I recently was in a situation with a group of friends, where via a group chat they were discussing a group catch up. Without going into too much detail, it turned into a discussion around the catch up becoming one where all the children would come too, rather than just a girls brunch. It went on about how cute it is when the kids are together, and a lot of other kid talk. As each message came in to my inbox, I got more and more upset (we have fertility issues and are unable to conceive naturally), I even shed a few tears. It is that constant reminder of what we are unable to have, and how it impacts all facets of our lives, like wanting to avoid hanging out with my own friends! I wrote out a few responses, and then deleted them. I felt that any response I gave was either not going to be my authentic self, or I was going to hurt my friends’ feelings by being honest, and vulnerable.

I sat on this for six days, and I really did stew over it. I was weighing up if it was worth saying something, what was the point when it was only going to hurt people’s feelings, and this was something I just had to get accustomed to, and basically just harden up. I also did not want to say anything, which would lead my friends to feel awkward, or created an elephant in the room with all future interactions. However, after writing my thoughts and feelings out it became clear to me that I had to say something:

          How did I expect this situation to change in the future when my friends had no idea it was upsetting to me? If they were unaware of my reaction to this conversation it was highly likely that similar conversations would occur in the future, which was not good for anyone.

          It was not ok for me to feel this upset in a casual conversation with some of my closest friends, and I did not want to lose these friendships because I was avoiding any contact that led me to be so upset.

          These are girls who actually love me and although I know they would hate to feel they had upset me, I know they would rather know for future reference, and so they could understand my feelings and consequent behaviours.

          It was not ok for my friends to not have the truth from me. To not have the authentic, vulnerable me. To not be honest with them.

I sent them all an email, outlining my feelings around the situation. I highlighted that it was not about hurting anyone, and I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for the conversation, but this is how I was feeling. I suggested that in future I am happy to be left out of these conversations (which people probably feel like they can’t do). The responses I got back were amazing, of course they were, these are my girls! I love them, and they love me.

The whole situation highlighted to me how important being authentic really is. By being authentic I have created stronger connections with loved ones, I have saved myself future heartache, and allowed my friends to understand me and my situation further.

It can be scary at times to open ourselves up like this, because the fear of rejection when it is our true self can hurt. However, by being authentic we are being true to ourselves and those that love us will recognise this and love us all the more. Most importantly, you can walk with peace in your heart and your head held high as you know you have spoken your truth.

Mel H x

THOUGHTS

Good v Bad…

Lately I have found myself reflecting a lot on the social constructs of labelling things as good or bad. It really frustrates me that we have to give things a label, and in particular in the following two areas:

–          Food. This one is really common, so much so that I hear it in everyday conversation, that we have good and bad food. Yes, some foods cause negative effects in us, however this is often with over consumption, it is our behaviour that needs to be addressed, the food itself is not bad. Chocolate is not bad. It is chocolate.

–          Emotions. Although we don’t verbalise this as directly as we do with food, we live in a world that tells us that certain emotions are good (happy, excited, joy, gratitude, hope, love, pride, amusement) while others are bad (anger, frustration, anxious, sad, guilt, fear). As with food though, these are neither good or bad, they just are.

These emotions that society has constructed as ‘good’ can also cause negative effects; love can cause someone to stay in an abusive relationship (I know it is not this simple, but you see what I am saying here), pride can stop someone from taking an incredible opportunity and excitement can cause people to lose control and be physically ill. On the flip side fear can prevent us from being in an unsafe position, being anxious can lead to us putting more effort into something, and frustration might mean someone creates something new and amazing.

My frustration with putting labels on these things is because of the consequences it can lead to for people. It can perpetuate issues with food; avoiding certain foods, cutting them out completely, creating a focus on it, rather than simply eating a balanced diet that is nourishing. I see this regularly with people labelling a food as bad, and therefore constantly telling themselves not to eat it. All this does is puts this into your head, you visualise it and create the craving for it.

With emotions, the consequences are wide ranging. We have been taught that we need to get rid of the ‘bad’ emotions, not have them or avoid them. This leads to people not learning how to deal with their emotions, to lean into that discomfort, grow and learn about themselves.

–          It leads to people suppressing anger and frustration, consequently reaching a critical point where one explodes.

–          Fear is never conquered if one does not lean into it, and so phobias and the avoidance of amazing opportunities can occur.

–          By hushing someone who is crying (think about what you do with a child, when you are with a friend in public), or trying to make a joke, what we are really saying is this emotion is not ok, we don’t like it, it shouldn’t be shown. What consequences will this have? What are we saying to people about expressing emotion? What are we telling others about sadness?

In looking at the rates of depression, anxiety and suicide the labelling of emotions is a concern. I am not diminishing the physiology of mental illness whatsoever, nor am I saying that it is simply the labelling of the emotion that leads to these consequences, it is all a very complex area. But, one has to wonder what role labelling certain emotions as bad has had. By labelling it as bad, have we enforced the suppression and avoidance of emotions, have we not allowed people to feel, not taught others how to live with feelings, deal with, learn and move on from them?

We all need to be careful with how we are labelling things, how this effects both our own perceptions, behaviours and beliefs, and those of others. Let us just leave things as they are; food is food, an emotion is an emotion. I guess this is my main point, why do we need to label these things, rather than just letting be? Let us all have a range of both these areas in our lives; feel all emotions, and eat a range of food!

Mel H x