Like learning to ride a bike

Have you ever tried to teach someone to ride a bike? I hadn’t really until today.

We got our three year old a bike with stabilisers for giving up his dummy and so we now start the process of learning how to do it. He happily asks to have the bike out from the garage, puts on the helmet, climbs on the bike and then he just sits on with his feet on the pedals going nowhere fast, or at all to be honest!!

I tried to help. It wasn’t pretty. It was the end of a long day with the kids and my patience was low, maybe bike riding should not be a post 6pm activity! Anyway he would put his feet on the pedal and push one foot down and start to move which sounds and looks promising. He would then take his foot off the pedal that he next needed to push to keep moving. He would lose the flow and he would have to start again.

It did not matter how many times I would tell him that he needed to keep his feet on the pedal, he would still keep taking that foot off and that lead to me getting more and more frustrated with him, losing my patience, raising my voice slightly, all the usual ugly moments you wish you could go back and change.

After a little while of attempting this and repeating the phrase you need to keep your foot on the pedal to no avail, my lovely husband came outside and I exclaimed “I just need to go inside for a few moments!”

As I sat down exacerbated by really quite a short exchange I just felt God say “that’s what you do”. And as I thought about it I realised it is in so many situations. I request to do something, get all kitted out for it, get lined up to start, take a small motion towards it and then I take my foot off the pedal and God’s somewhere in the background shouting “STOP TAKING YOUR FOOT OFF THE FLIPPING PEDAL” – to be fair He probably isn’t shouting that but in my head that’s what I think he is shouting.

It’s so easy to lose momentum. Something gets hard. Something is boring. Something is frustrating, The weather changes. You get injured. People distract you. Life gets in the way. Another ‘thing’ needs our attention and it seems more important. Priorities get confused.

The thing is that I am sure that there are things in everyone’s life where we keep coming back to that very same issue, and keep making a start and then taking our feet off the pedal without even really meaning to sometimes. If you keep going round in the circle to the same situation chances are you keep starting and then stopping.

I can think of a few things where I do this but weight loss is the most obvious. It’s easily been 10 years of starting and stopping. Getting distracted, giving up, life causing issues, children. I’ve all the excuses in the world and many of them are justified but for me weight is an issue. It’s something that need to be dealt with. It’s a physical, emotional and spiritual area of my life which needs me discipline, attention and effort. I need to keep my foot on the pedal.
I’m doing better with this. I’ve got further than ever before but my mojo has disappeared a little. My discipline is lacking. My focus fuzz. My attraction to chocolate stronger. I need to spend time getting back that self control and discipline so that God doesn’t have to keep shouting to me about my feet on the pedals! I can’t do it alone but I’m so blessed to have friends and family who have my back and maybe I need to start by asking for help!

Keep your feet on the pedals because you never know just what you might achieve if you stop pulling it off at the most important moment. Just imagine the progress and then maybe gaffa tape your feet onto the pedal which I will confess was what I was tempted to do with the three year old!

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Post infertility – reflecting on the journey

This was written around October 2014 when Zac was almost 1 year old and i thought I’d post it here to share. It covers some of our infertility journey and Zac’s initial craziness!

I’m packing a box of the things I want to keep for Zac, a special box of his first baby grows, his “Welcome to the world” cards and Dedication cards too. As I think about what I want to put in it I’m to the box, I’m overwhelmed by the journey that has come before this day. 

Five years is a fairly large portion of your life when you’re only 27. Five years is an even larger portion of the eight years we’ve been married, but that’s how long this part of the journey took! 

In November 2009, we thought it would be nice to have a baby, thought it was a good next step after 3 years of marriage, felt it was the right thing to do. Now, when I was growing up, if you asked me what I want to be when I grew up, I’d always say “I want to be a mum”. After we were married, I would say ‘IF we can have children….’ but I’m pretty sure I never really meant the “if” even though I was aware it doesn’t always happen! So really, I’d been kinda ready to be a mum for a long time! 

Things didn’t go to plan and we spent the next 3 years and 3 months dealing with infertility. Dealing with heartbreak, shaken faith, grieving what could have been, dealing with the comments of acquaintances, friends and family, watching others have babies easily, watching others have second babies easily, losing hope, battling fears, asking “why us?”, feeling like a failure as a woman/ a wife/ a person in society, running from family events, watching from the sidelines, answering stupid questions, listening to some awful advice, crying in dedication services and about baby showers and all the other things that go with experiencing infertility. It affects your day to day life (not helped when you work with children!) and even your sleep and dreams. 

A nice little tip here for those who haven’t experienced infertility – don’t ask a married couple, of child bearing age, why they haven’t had kids, or even if they’d like them!! Chances are they either aren’t interested in having them, in which case they owe you no explanation, OR they can’t have them and desperately want them and you are sticking a sharp knife into a painful hole in their hearts! Asking when they are going to provide grandchildren or nieces and nephews is also probably not going to go down all that well, although they probably won’t say anything to you. Advice such as “just stop trying so hard” is also unwelcome, as are stories of your best friend’s cousin’s daughter’s dog walking buddy who was trying for 6 months but now has twins.

Infertility is such a taboo subject. This is partially because it’s such a personal thing and some people would genuinely rather not share, and partially because people feel uncomfortable talking about it. It’s a subject that involves sex and we all know you shouldn’t talk about sex. Unless of course it’s in a book, in a film, on an advert, in songs, in a magazine, workplace banter, or down the pub as a crude joke. No, no, sex in terms of serious, procreation, married couple sex is not a topic of normal conversation. 

But talk about we did! Well, more “I” than “we”! 

I initially told my closest friends, we told our church small group after a year, our families around the same time, and after about 2 years, if you’d asked about my personal life I would have told you without really thinking anything of it. Infertility was a part of my (our) life and if you wanted to know how I was, you’d hear the shitty bit of my life too! 

With a lot of people, telling them was the best thing I ever did. They understood a bit more about my reactions, prayed for us and with us, supported us, loved us, encouraged us and loved us. With others, they were just as insensitive and hurtful but the support gained by telling more often than not out-weighed the option to bottle up, especially as they’d have said the hurtful things anyway! We had a lot of support from people, but some people went out of their way to make us feel loved. I can’t imagine what I would have done without my friends Carol, Ali and Ellie and without the love of my sister in law, Kirsty! They were there, they listened, they encouraged, they prayed, they wiped tears and they cared. Ali even lent me her child for days out!

We were blessed and unfortunate in equal measures to not have to go through too much medical intervention. We had initial tests but due to my weight we couldn’t go any further. My weight wasn’t a problem with fertility for us but the NHS hoops to jump through include weight!  Now the logical answer to this problem would have been to lose weight. Logical – yes; realistic for me – no! I am a comfort eater, about 3 weeks a month I could eat well and lose weight. But then there was the one week a month, possibly even 2 or 3 days where the heartbreak was all too much. Feeling like a failure month after month is a hard burden to carry and a much easier one to eat through! Another tip for those parents of young children, especially girls. If your child is sad, don’t give them food to cheer them up, or just after they’ve been upset – it teaches them to look to food for comfort. (Pretty sure that’s not what happened with me, but I see it happening and fear for the outcome!) 

Anyway, during those years I never understood how having a baby could feel like the right thing to happen but that it didn’t happen. I had many arguments about it with God and it definitely shook my faith and trust in Him. While this was going on we also had encouragement. This came through things like books (I HIGHLY recommend both Hannah’s Hope and Baby Hunger), songs, quotes and prophecies (where people heard from God about our lives and shared it with us). The biggest one of these was back in October 2011 when our friends Gav and Ali felt that God was highlighting the date 5th November when they prayed for us. There were also prophecies we never heard at the time but have done since such as our friend Stephanie telling our friend Anna to give us a children’s craft that said “God gave Sarah a baby” on it and our friend Charlotte feeling that February 2013 was important. There’s so many bible verses and encouragements and quotes I could list here but it would be crazy long on top of an already crazy long story! (If you want to hear more of them get in touch!) 

In February 2013 we made the decision to use the money we had been saving to pay for baby items (pushchairs, cots etc) to pay for private medical investigations in March 2013 – after all, what was the point in the money sitting there when we didn’t have a baby to buy things for? We never had to use those savings, as on 22nd February 2013, we found out I was pregnant. I cried, Ross read the pregnancy test leaflet several times and then we went to work. So many times I had taken pregnancy tests and watched them be as white as snow (negative). The deep joy and disbelief of the red line appearing on that test that morning will never leave me. 

Now logically this would be the end of a story about infertility, but the journey we’ve been on only seems to be coming to a bit of close as our little bear is about to turn one! 

Pregnancy was hard. I had a few bleeds, I had few times where I couldn’t feel the baby moving, one time when even the hospital struggled to get the baby to move. I spent the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (as most mums to be do) fearing my baby wouldn’t make it, maybe I’d imagined it, maybe something would be wrong. Actually I think I spent 41 weeks thinking maybe I’d made it up, maybe I’d wake up from this dream at some point! It was only when I went into labour on November 5th (see prophecy above!!) that I realised this was really happening. 

My labour was hard, a total of 37 hours! He was back to back and face first and after 17 hours at 5cm Zac was delivered by emergency csection. He was HUGE, amazing but huge – 10lb8oz of lovely squidginess! I was unwell after he was born and just as I was reaching being well enough to go home little bear got jaundice and was put on a sun bed. I was so frustrated that I was stuck in the hospital and not at home with my husband and baby living the newborn dream! 

Day 5 of Zac’s life and we got to go home! It was such a surreal experience. I remember almost panicking that this little baby was depending on us and we couldn’t just send him back – what had I been thinking!?!

Zac had lost 10% of his body weight in 5 days – 1lb – but it was within the allowed amount. We were bombarded with midwives for 2 weeks seeing 8 different women in that time, each giving different advice, wanting me to do different things and prodding and poking me. After 2 weeks the health visitor instructed the midwives to hand us over to them. I cried with joy that I would be dealing with one person who would be consistent! Zac didn’t gain weight for weeks. He fed and fed, baffled medical professionals, didn’t have any allergies, and no tongue tie to prevent him from feeding. Adding in expressed or forumla bottles didn’t make any difference, he just wouldn’t grow. He was content, healthy and developing perfectly in every other area apart from his weight.

We headed to America for 3 weeks when he was 6 weeks old. Two days before we left he gained 2oz, and so a referral to the hospital was put on hold! For 3 weeks we had fun, we rested, we explored, we ate and we spent time with Kirsty and Seth who looked after us and loved us! It was the best thing we could have done after the stress of the 4 years before! We escaped everyday life and enjoyed just being a family of three and with spending time with loved ones! 

When we returned, despite having fed for 1 hour every 3 hours every day, Zac had not gained weight and a referral was made to the hospital. He was still a content and well developing baby. The hospital could see no problems with him and Zac started to gain tiny amounts of weight each week. At 16 weeks old Zac hit birth weight again. I sobbed! Another visit to the hospital confirmed our baby was probably fine and as we weaned him at 5 months old he suddenly gained weight. I’m fact, in 9 weeks, Zac gained a crazy 7lb! 

While all this was going on, the same people who had supported us through our infertility were there beside us supporting us and loving us. But in the background of all of this we had people telling me to stop breast feeing, contrary to doctors’ advice, and comparing our son to other children around us! To be built up by some but pulled down by others was heart breaking! Your words have the power to build up or break down and you choose how you use them – do it wisely! Finally in May, I could start enjoying my 6 month old without weekly weigh ins and the stress of his weight! 

The past 6 months have had their ups and downs. Dedicating our little boy at church was such a special emotional day with so many friends and family coming to join us to celebrate him . The next day, I returned to work 3 days a week for 13 weeks. I desperately missed my little boy, felt I’d been robbed of 6 months of my maternity leave with all the stress, and was sure that leaving was the right thing to do so it was hard to go back to leave! I was blessed by working with some people who kept me going, and by friends and family who took time out of their lives to look after Zac on those days! Leaving work was a sad but exciting day. Starting a new job nannying for Ali’s two lovely children and taking Zac with me has been a joy and seeing how God has worked his timings to be perfect – faith affirming! 

Zac continues to grow well (he’s gone from being born on the 99.6th centile, dropping to below the 0.4th centile back up to the 98th centile!) He is developing in his abilities and strengths, and his character and facial expressions bring us joy. We thank God for him daily, sometimes several times a day! We cherish the moments we have with him and are in awe of this child of God we are responsible for!

Infertility – in the trenches

I thought I’d share an email we sent to family 3 years into trying for a baby. Miraculously just 1 week later we found out we were expecting our little bear. I share this to hopefully encourage others and to share the resources we shared with family.

Hello all

Apologies for the mass email; we wanted to update you with where we’re at in our attempts to start a (or more accurately, to grow our) family, and an email was the easiest way to get everyone up to speed. Obviously, this is not something we wanted to include in the Christmas letter!

We’ve now been trying to conceive without success for over 3 years, and in that time we’ve really valued your prayers and your support. We understand that it’s impossible to know how to support us fully without you having been through the same situation, and we find this with our close friends as well.

Since we started trying, we have been to the doctors twice about the issue: first to have some initial tests, which showed no obvious issues, and the second time they said they wouldn’t be able to treat due to Sarah’s weight. We’ve since spoken to friends who are medical professionals who have assured us that this is a formality (bureaucracy) and not a medical reason. Sarah has obviously been trying to lose weight, and at times has done quite well, but infertility is an emotional roller coaster which doesn’t help the process of weight loss, and so she hasn’t been as successful as she would have liked. She has recently started trying to stick to Slimming World more seriously and with more fervour, and she always appreciates your support in helping her to eat well (Slimming World isn’t always obvious in what ‘eating well’ means as it’s different in different circumstances, so please ask if we’re eating with you and you’re not sure – she/we won’t be offended!)

Since the end of last year we have been thinking about going private for further tests, and have decided to pursue that this year. We still need a referral from the GP for this but the weight loss requirements are less when you go private. Sarah still has a few more pounds to lose before this bar is met, but it is much more achievable, given the circumstances. Obviously there are costs involved in this which start off quite piecemeal, so we will see how it goes and whether it’s something God wants us to pursue all the way. Thankfully, we have been saving for when we have a baby, and after praying, talking with friends, and discussing it between us, we feel this is an appropriate use of the money. (There’s certainly no point in storing up the money without the baby!) Although our savings aren’t much, it’s enough to get started. We have faith that if this is God’s path, he will provide the money when we need it.

We’re grateful that we’re able to talk about this openly with you and that you are all understanding and considerate people. We want to let you know that we do find life hard because of all of the above, and sometimes it can be particularly bad around special occasions where the absence of a child in our family is all-the-more obvious to us, or when we have recently had another negative result. Consequently, sometimes we may withdraw from situations or conversations, or even decline invitations to events that might rub salt in an open wound. We appreciate your sensitivity in these situations. Also, there are some topics of conversation that could provoke an emotional response internally (which may or may not become external!). We don’t expect you to know what these are, as sometimes we don’t even know what they are ourselves, but this is just to give an explanation in advance if we come across as short, withdrawn, or just a bit ‘off’!

All that said, we honestly don’t mind talking about our infertility journey, and if you ever think of questions, we’re more than happy to answer them. It’s rare that you would upset us by bringing it up, as chances are, it’s already on our minds.

We could carry on giving advice on how to support us, but there’s a website that has it pretty well pegged, by the author of a book called ‘Hannah’s Hope’ that we’ve read. (If you’d like to read it to gain a greater insight in to what we’re going through, we can lend it to you, or it’s available on the Kindle at a reasonable price.) 

http://www.hannah.org/?i=5455&mid=7

Look for the section titled ‘HOW TO ENCOURAGE YOUR INFERTILE OR BEREAVED FRIENDS’ roughly two thirds of the way down. There’s a little bit to read; we’d be very grateful if you were able to spare a few minutes to read it all, as it really is very good advice.

There’s also a video linked from that page: (can be watched without audio)

http://www.tearsandhope.com/emptyarms_video.html

It’s a smidgen cheesy but conveys pretty much where we’re at, although the suggestions for support don’t go into as much useful detail as the hannah.org website.

We’ve seen God do a lot in us in the last 3 years, and we still have hope in Him for what the future holds. We’ve had words, pictures, and Bible verses from God through friends and strangers, so despite wobbles in our faith at times, we still know that God has us in his hands, and that he has his best for us in store.

Anyway, sorry this has been so long; thank you for reading this far (if you skipped to the end, shame on you! ;-D), and thank you for your thoughts, prayers and love, both in the past and the future.

Love

R&S x