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.

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