Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A timetable of calamities and blessings.

It's been a bit of a roller coaster!

1998 My then boyfriend (now husband) and I immigrated from South Africa to Australia. Immigration by the way, is not for the faint hearted.

2001 We got married.

2004 Our beautiful first born son arrived.

2005 Dear Husband got diagnosed with prostate cancer, at the absurdly young age of 40. My article The Day I Got the Willies was widely published.

2006 As a result of his surgery, we were unable to conceive a much wanted second baby without IVF assistance. We commenced the first of ten (yes, ten!) assisted conception cycles. I spent years pining for another baby.

2008 We became pregnant on our tenth cycle. We are still pinching ourselves.

Late 2008 I went into labour at 23weeks and was told that our beautiful son would not survive his premature birth. Unquestionably the worst night of my life. The gods intervened though, and I managed to stay pregnant until 34 weeks. However I was on hospital bed rest for three months due to complications and constant premature labour. Yes, I was in labour for three months.

2009 Our little miracle man was born six weeks premature, but thriving. Joy to the world.

2010 We moved from Sydney to Perth. Like immigrating all over again.

2011 I consolidated various early attempts at running into a reasonably consistent program. I entered and completed several races, culminating in my first half marathon in 2013.

2014 We moved from Perth back to Sydney. Because stability is not something we appear to do.

During all of this I calculate we have moved six times in fifteen years, including two immigrations. We've weathered (I think) four retrenchments, eight surgeries between all of us, two healthy children, one cancer diagnosis, one wedding, ten IVFs, six houses and countless bouts of helpless laughter. When they said for better or for worse, in sickness and in health they weren't joking! Every calamity though, has turned out to be a blessing but boy, I wouldn't mind a quiet life from now on.

(Links and updates to follow.)

Sunday, 11 May 2014

My run run for gun gun

Hi from the world's most erratic blogger.

I know I've been quiet, but in the last three months a lot has been happening. My family and I moved from Perth to Sydney, I uprooted my kids and got them settled in a new school, we rented a house and I have been job hunting. Its been an unsettled but weirdly happy time, but its clear I've been out of my routine both with writing and with running.

Until yesterday...

When I took part in Sydney's glorious Mother's Day Classic 8km fun run. I've actually done this event once before, around four years ago I think. Its a lovely not-too-undulating course with gorgeous views of Sydney's many spectacles. The threatened rain never eventuated and the harbour sparkled in her jewelled godliness and I had joy bubbling in my throat and eyes for most of the run. There is just something about a sparkling morning and an open road ...

The run was more than just another race though. I ran with one of my dearest friends who has been on her own running journey, conquering first 5km and then yesterday's 8. She did brilliantly and we both had the privilege of running with our children on Mothers' Day. More about that in a minute.

My friend, I'll call her Sarah, lost her mum about eighteen months ago. Sarah's mum Marianne was a bit of a fairy godmother in my family, acting as an honorary granny for my children at Grandparents Day (since their own grandparents live overseas) and moving in to my house to help my husband when I spent a protracted three months in hospital during a very difficult pregnancy. Marianne was diagnosed with melanoma which had metastasised in her brain, and she passed away around four months after diagnosis. She was an unspeakably selfless, twinkling and thoughtful lady and her passing has left a gaping hole in our lives.

The new's of Marianne's diagnosis hit me hard, and I have written about it before. I was once again shaken from my cushioned platform of complacency and reminded that a healthy body is at best temporary, and is always a phenomenal blessing. I really wanted to give myself a period in time when I knew I had tested and enjoyed a strong, healthy and happy body so that when I no longer have one, I will at least have the blessing of remembering that I once did, and that I used it well. Marianne's nickname was 'gun-gun,' a result of a grandchild who couldn't quite pronounce 'granny' and the name stuck. My 'run-run for gun-gun' was a tribute to everyone's cancer journeys, but Marianne's in particular. She is one of the reasons I took up running and in so doing she has given me one of the biggest joys of my life.

The added blessing was that my ten year old son wanted to run with me, and completed the 8km course in a staggering 47 minutes. I am constantly amazed by his capacity to surprise me, and reminded that I can never predict where this motherhood thing is going to take me.

After several months of being distracted, displaced, out of routine and inactive, it was a glorious return to activity and the added bonus was that I ran a PB of 50 minutes, averaging just over 6 minutes per km. Today I am smiling like a hamburger.

I spent the morning planning a few more running goals which include another half-marathon in around July. And if that goes well, I might even see if I can go further ... a marathon maybe? Do I have it in me? Time will tell. And I am going to enjoy every step of the journey!

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

The only child and the 'if only' child

*** This article was written about five or six years ago and has been published in a few magazines under various titles ***

I previously underwent a total of ten (yes, count 'em, ten!) assisted and IVF cycles in an attempt to conceive a brother or sister for my son. I am publishing this as a way of reaching out to those brave women who share my journey.

So first of all there are the strangers who comment on the size of my family within moments of meeting me. There was the waitress who blithely asked me when I was having another baby while she took my order. There’s the ex-landlord who I bumped into at the shopping centre, and who asked lots of questions about my husband, about our new house and when we moved in, and never once asked about me. (Clearly he could not even remember my name.) But despite any friendly courtesies, by way of farewell, told me it was high time that my son (almost 4 at the time) had a brother or sister and I must produce one immediately. But the person who takes the cake is the complete stranger who was nursing her baby in the food court. My son adores babies and wandered up to her, and shyly enquired whether he could hold the baby’s hand. The mother, within a mere five seconds of meeting me, told me “its time to get busy!” I could cheerfully have shot them all in the head.

What is it that gives people the right to tell me that one child is not enough? And why is it that I feel so compelled to mutilate them when they do? If I am brutally honest with myself I’d say it is probably because my biological clock is in complete agreement with them, even when my reproductive system so patently is not.

I do not have to be reminded that my life is rich with blessings, perhaps the most perfect of which is my almost-four year old son. I know that, and I thank my guardian angels every night for him, and for everything that he gives me. But I am deeply upset that I haven’t been able to have another child, something I crave at the very deepest of levels. It sounds so self-pitying to call myself a victim, but there are days when I seem to be a helpless and flailing casualty of my biological clock which whose drive is as relentless as it is powerful. At times I feel like I’m swimming in a sea of (artificial and self-injected) hormones and am trapped by the current. I am flailing, desperate and exhausted.

I hear messages daily that I must be positive, keep my chin up, count my blessings. I am and I do. But I can’t help but think that these well meaning words are spoken by people both in my life and in the media who have never experienced the sheer grief of infertility. Of being reduced to tears by inane soap commercials and Christmas carols, of wanting to stab pregnant strangers with a screwdriver and simultaneously devour the entire contents of my fridge. Even as I write this I can feel the cringes these words will evoke, and that’s probably why I so seldom speak them out loud. My husband will think I am depressed, and he will criticize me. My girlfriends won’t know what to say, and will look away. If I am lucky I will get a tentative hug or a pat on the back, before they scurry away on a transparent errand and gasp for air when they leave the room.

I actually feel sorry for my friends, I think it must be quite tough for them since they quite clearly wish me the best, and want to be supportive. But they don’t have the words, or the strength to keep up with me. ‘Is she on another cycle? Oh god, I forgot to even ask how the last one went. I want to know how she is doing but I don’t want to upset her. I wish I could do something for her, but I don’t know what. I just don’t know what to say.’ I understand their dilemma, but curiously I resent it too. As mothers of dozens of children, or effortlessly pregnant, they inhabit another universe and I feel so left behind, so hurt and so abandoned. Today for the first time, as I write this down, I am giving voice to thoughts and feelings that I haven’t been able to say to anyone before because I know they won’t understand me, and almost certainly won’t know what to say.

The thing is I am permanently sad. Not depressed, I really don’t think so. Just sad. Sorry for myself, isolated by what I perceive as my unique lot in life, and frustrated as hell by the permanent purgatory of yet another IVF cycle. I am scurrying on a hamster-wheel of futile appointments, calendars, injections, blood tests, egg collections, inseminations, transfers, waiting rooms and tests only to be told “don’t worry, there’s always a next time.” It’s been more than three years and I am beginning to long for a finish line. I don’t want there to be a next time. I want to stop this stupid and insane rollercoaster and make the decision to give up IVF. Eventually, I hope, my heart will catch up with my head and I will be okay. But I have another two god-forsaken frozen embryos to transfer before then, and who knows how many more months of anguish, self-obsession and disappointment to endure in the imprudent hope that I might, might, might get lucky.

I can’t be positive about this any longer, and I simply don’t want to. Lord knows a positive attitude has not brought me any success in the IVF stakes thus far. I have jumped through every hoop in the book. I have sworn off alcohol, I have exercised, I have swallowed folate and vitamins and cQ10, and guzzled red clover tea. I have even given up my beloved coffee. I’ve consulted naturopaths and herbalists and spent a small fortune on twice-weekly acupuncture appointments. But more than that, I have spent weeks and months and years planning babysitters and appointments and counting days in a cycle and picking out names and racing to the obstetrician’s and lovingly fingering baby outfits and wondering and dreaming and hoping and holding my breath. I have come to loathe putting tampons in my shopping trolley because each tiny blue box reminds me of another forthcoming period that I really don’t want. I seem to have made so many sacrifices, and not one, not one has paid off to date. Bloody hell, this is so unfair. And lord help me, but I have had enough.

IVF is a bitch, and hope even more so.

I realized the other day I am probably entering my mid-life crisis. I am 36 years old, half way to 72 and probably entitled. My whole life has always been aimed at something, I guess I have always just assumed that this would be the mother of at least two children. So much of school and university and my early career was partly invested in finding a husband, and when I found him, finding a way for us to be together. Our wedding day was blissful, imbued with sweet joy and family and friends and an extravagance of love. We promised to love one another ‘in good times and bad, sickness and health’ and in time those promises truly tested. DH was diagnosed with cancer but fought his way through it with a bravery and purity that took my breath away. His surgery is the reason we cannot conceive naturally and we have both had to cope with this new and shocking status. Every day, every purchase, every decision we have ever made on every single thing we have done since our son was conceived was based on the assumption that there would be another baby to share our lives with. Every outfit that that our son has ever worn has been carefully packed into storage in the hope of a baby brother, expensive strollers were justified on the grounds that they would serve a second use. I began working part-time because I wanted the flexibility to attend my children’s school concerts and play dates and be there for all the critical infant developments. But my son will start school in a year and I will have all this spare time on my hands. And if there is not going to be a second baby, then what the hell am I going to do with my life?

It’s the most profoundly unsettling question I have ever asked myself, and I truly have no idea what the answer is.

For now I will find the endurance, from somewhere, to complete another two frozen embryo cycles. Partly because I want to, partly because I can feel hope raising her treacherous head again and partly because I owe it to my husband and my son to try. But I can’t wait for the day that this is over. I can’t wait to close the door on this hideous process, and walk away from it all.

I probably won’t get the baby I crave, but I want the freedom to grieve properly and to say goodbye to him or her and to find the space to consider my new life as the mother of one beautiful boy. I will find ways to relish the financial benefits, the time and the resources that this will give me. One day I will find ways to invest in other children, and charities, and I will travel the world. I will read books and drink wine (yes!) and wear expensive shoes and I will dedicate myself to being a loving wife and a fabulous mother and a true friend, and I will make a wonderful life for myself I am sure. But not today. Today I will just breathe in and out and try to make sense of the pressure in my chest and the fur in my head and remember where I put the car keys and try to have dinner ready on time.

And when friends ask me how I am doing, I will say I am fine. Because I am, or at least, I will be.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Today's inspiration to get me going again:

Source: Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/molloneymum/running/

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Healthy Habits Week

A great local charity, Cancer Support WA are currently holding a Healthy Habits Week starting on 23 November. Its been a bit of a siren call out of my no-blog-writing, couch-loving, chip guzzling stupour to get back on the wagon again. Healthy Habits Week has challenged me to look at my four unhealthiest habits from the areas of Stress, Nutrition, Activity and Purpose, and do something about them. Stress, nutrition, activity and purpose. That stands for SNAP, get it? It didn't take me long to identify what is holding me back, after all self-criticism is probably one of my most honed abilities. Or is that a bad habit too?

As for stress, well, the truth is I have always wanted to meditate regularly and I rarely do. So for Healthy Habits Week I am going to commit to a short meditation session every day, for one week. I have borrowed a guided meditation CD and I will listen to it and follow it daily. I eagerly await the self knowledge, peace and awakenings it will bring. I want to float amongst the stars like Elizabeth Gilbert or at least not yell at my children quite as much as I do. I want just a notch more calm in my day. It seems like a small effort to make for a big reward, and I don't know why I don't do it more often.

When it comes to nutrition I have a thousand bad habits. Luckily I only have to address one! My worst habit, I think, is my consumption of sugar. That sweet, sweet poison that calls me daily to heights of temporary bliss before plunging me rapidly to my former grumpy, despairing state. My waistline and my teeth could both benefit from removing sugar from my life. But the quiet truth is, I am not sure I can do it. I have a few books on sugar free living, a recipe book too I think. The intelligent part of me knows that sugar is a drug and I should renounce it, but like any addiction, I know this one will fight back. I am going to give it a go though. No sugar, starting 23 November for one week. Perth, be warned. That snarling vicious frizzy haired vixen on the street corner, unable to locate her keys or cope with her children or remember her passwords? That will be me. Keep a wide berth.

As for activity, well that one is easy. I love to run and I will cover at least 25km in the course of the week. In fact, I relish the discipline that this will enforce because it seems that without a goal, I am far too good at making excuses. Without a goal I don't train and my health and my waistline really suffer!

Finally my purpose. Another tough one. Oprah tells me its the thing I do where I feel most myself. Thing is, Ms Winfrey, I don't fully know where that place is yet. But I have a few ideas. I love to create, to craft, play with my kids and to make gifts for people. The home-made variety. And I love to write. I have a goal of publishing a book about Thomas Melvill and making a gift of this to my father. So for one week, I will pursue that purpose a little more. I will write something every day, even if its just an update on this blog. And I will love doing it. In fact, I can't wait.

What are your unhealthiest habits and what are you doing about them? Sign up for Healthy Habits Week and, if you like, you can sponsor me or raise your own funds towards a fantastic charity. I will let you know how it goes!

Saturday, 28 September 2013

The happiest day of my life.

Its been just over a month now since I ran my first half marathon. (And since I last updated this blog. Yes, sorry about that.) I've had just enough time to let it all sink in and I think I can say, with some confidence, it probably constitutes the happiest day of my life.

This probably seems like an odd thing to day. I mean, we are talking about a race after all. A long, sweaty, uncomfortable, painful race involving a lot of sweaty, uncomfortable, painful training. When talking about the 'happiest day' its usually a wedding that people are espousing, and mine was no different. It was a phenomenal day full of beautiful places and things, wonderful people and very sincere vows. It was a deliriously happy day. But there were a few moments, there always are, of compromise and politics. Not enough to sully the day, but enough to evoke the occasional sigh when you look back at it.

And as for the other euphemistic happy event, the birth of my two children. Those were overwhelmingly happy too. Two perfect, healthy, much wanted little people who have given me far, far more than I deserve. But the births themselves were f&*#ing sore and the second one in particular coloured by much anguish over his massively complicated pregnancy and prematurity.

But last month's run? It was perfect. It was possibly the only event I can think of in my life that was done my way, on my terms, because I wanted to do it. When I look back on it, there is not a single stain on the memory. I had the blessing of friends and family who were on hand to advise and to help. My husband ran with me but at my pace. He supported my training unconditionally, and took brilliant care of the kids while I was out. Once or twice he even surmised my route and arranged to be at my finish spot just to congratulate me and hand me a drink. Each time the thoughtfulness and sheer surprise of this touched me more than a hundred bouquets of roses.

And when the race day dawned and I had only me to think about. In a household where morning routines are usually dominated by packing lunchboxes, finding errant shoes, yelling at unresponsive children and racing the clock before the school bell it was purely blissful to wake up, pull on my own kit, sip my own coffee, casually stretch and then head out the door. The children were at a sleepover so the unfamiliar peace of the house was peculiar but lovely.

And from the starters gun, to the tentative wobbly first kilometres on an untested leg, to the panoramic vistas of King's Park, to the metronome of Broadway's finest crooning and sashaying me on through the headphones of my ipod, to the growing confidence ballooning up through my body, to the encouragement from the other runners and the joy of the finish line, it was just a perfect day.

But the main reason I loved it so much was because I proved to myself that I could do it. For years I had believed the whisperings in my head that I was too slow, too fat, too busy, too frizzy, too unsuitable to be anything else. But having set the goal, having found the support and the motivation to achieve it, I finally did. And to be honest, that is why it was such a happy day. The sirens who loll so artfully on the rocks of apathy and sing that blissful, inviting song about stopping, turning around and opening another packet of biscuits were for once, perfectly silent. And the medal that now hangs beside my bed is my quiet nod to the goddess within me, one who has banished the doubts, at least for a little while.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

My first half marathon

I can't believe it, I did it! I didn't die. I didn't stop running, not even for a moment, and yes, I finished. I finished! I am a half marathon runner and I barely recognise myself.

But to go back a little to the beginning, or at least, to the night before. For the first night EVER in nine and a half years, both our children went to a sleepover at a friend's house, and hubby and I found ourselves alone and childless. It was a very strange experience. The plan was to enjoy a carb-ish dinner (tuna macaroni bake) and an early night's sleep. I've been battling ITB for five weeks so before bed I did my stretches and a final, painful session on the foam roller. Or should I say, pool noodle. No wait, foam roller sounds so much more like I know what I'm doing. I took two nurofen (they have anti-inflammatory properties) and we headed to bed.

It wasn't a great night, to be honest. My leg hurt and my head raced, and hubby and I both slept fitfully and not much. Finally I drifted off at around 5.30am only to be roused at 6.30 and having to race through the morning preparations. I didn't meditate, which I had planned to do. I did however, eat breakfast (which is rare for me), gulped the indispensable coffee and sought some advice from hubby who is a far, far more experienced runner than I am. He was very consoling, reminding me that I had done the miles, and kindly omitting the obvious point that I hadn't run in five weeks. He assured me he was proud of me and that he would run at my side, at my pace, the whole way.

I knew that the key to a successful day would be entirely mental. I hadn't slept, I hadn't run in five weeks and I had an excruciatingly sore leg. But I also had an enormous store of inspiration and to make sure I didn't forget, I scribbled some notes on my arm. I wrote the names of all the generous believers who sponsored my precious Miracle Babies cause. And I wrote my new mantra "pain is temporary, pride lasts forever" which I read on a running blog a few nights ago. And then we headed out the door.

The trip to the starting line was easy enough, we caught the train and walked to the Perth Convention Centre. We dropped off our bag containing dry clothes for after the race and joined the throng in the waiting hall. We did our best to warm up and stretch, and keep the nerves at bay. I took another two nurofen tablets even though I know you're not supposed to. But I wanted to keep the ITB pain at bay for as long as possible, and desperate times call for desperate measures. Then it was time to go!

We actually had to walk almost a kilometre to the start line from the waiting hall, and during this time my garmin 210 went back to sleep which means I missed the 'start' and only really began recording my run a few hundred metres in to it. The first few kilometres were a bit of a blur, as I did everything I could to take the focus off my sore leg (which began complaining straight away) and find ways to distract myself. I looked at my arm. A lot. I dedicated each km or so to every friend who had sponsored me, and I thought a lot about who they were and how my life was richer for knowing them. And slowly as the kms slipped by, I realised I was enjoying myself. The pain in my leg was still there, but it wasn't getting any worse and this knowledge began to give me confidence. As we streamed through Kings Park I feasted on the boundless vistas over the river, across lakes and through trees. I revelled in the music that was pushing me along, and I marvelled at the smile that was constantly spreading across my (goofy and sweaty) face.

To be honest, I loved it. It felt a lot easier than the 12km run last year, across much of the same course. Perhaps I am fitter now? I just know there were times when I felt I was flying, that I was free. Of course, that elation gradually wore off as the course wore on and to be honest, the last 4 kms or so were really, really hard. Hubby began counting down the kilometres to go and we high fived as each one passed. But the hills by now were pure torture and I glared at drew strength from my arm constantly. I knew more than anything what I wanted from the day. And that was to run without stopping and to finish. So I chanted 'I did not stop, I did not stop' like the little train who was desperate and forced my cement-laden legs to the top. I tried not to pay attention to the walkers who were going at the same pace as me. I ignored the lady in the wheelchair who sailed passed. I was breathing like a steam train and finally, finally the finish line appeared like a mirage and Hubby and I approached it arm in arm. The feeling just defies description.

The instant I stopped running my legs swore viciously at me and vowed never to bend again. I had to walk down the slope like my legs were solid metal spokes but as soon as I was handed my medal I didn't care. I allowed myself the indulgence of a tearful moment and Hubby and I shared a triumphant kiss. Running at my pace must have been sheer torture for him but the fact that he was prepared to do so, and to be proud of me for my efforts, speaks volumes about him.

Our finish time was 2h27 I think. (Snails and turtles were faster.) But truly, I don't care. Once again I had garmin problems at the finish line, this time forgetting to hit the 'stop' button so I inadvertently added about 3 minutes and several hundred metres to the stats.

At the finish line we spent a bit of time looking for the other runners from the Miracle Babies team but sadly couldn't find them. And we didn't have a whole lot of time to spare since our kids were being babysat so we headed out to the buses and back to the train station, and then home.

I just want to say a heartfelt thank you to the extended team who got me to the start line and all the way home again. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Thank you to my dear friend down the road who babysat my kids. Thank you to my family and friends who believed in me. Thank you to my darling husband for all the reasons he already knows. And finally, a great big middle finger 'up yours' to all my doubters, most of whom lived in my head.