August Gratitude

August has slipped away and we are finally into spring! Before I can celebrate the joyous arrival of that lovely season, though, I want to talk about what I was grateful for in the final month of winter.

I’m sorry it has taken me so long to do this.  I ended August on a bad note, with a solid two weeks of pain that eventually got so horrific I was forced to take a week off.  It’s always super depressing that happens, because you start questioning the effectiveness of your treatment and eventually spiral down into deciding that nothing will fix you and you are doomed to be eaten alive by your own uterus.  It’s hard to be grateful in those circumstances and it has made this list a little harder to complete.

Nevertheless, grateful I am and grateful I will continue to be.  Here’s what about.

1) Having a warm home

I used to volunteer in a men’s homeless shelter overnight in winter. You’d sleep on the ground in the church hall we were given for it, inside a sleeping bag. Even with my cosy sleeping bag, it was chilly. Of course, I only had to do that one or two nights a month. For the men that utilised the shelter, they had to sleep in those conditions or worse every night.

Burning Firewoods
Image description: a wood fire burning in a brick fireplace.  

Australia can get cold at night. Really cold. Dying of exposure is a possibility. Each winter I am grateful for four walls and a roof, a warm bed and fluffy pyjamas.  I am glad that my pets are also safe and warm around me.

2) Wonderful work friends

As I noted in July, our team grew again, and I’m delighted that our new additions are, like my existing colleagues, smart, capable, hard-working, kind, hilarious women that I can have a good laugh with even whilst we are working under heavy pressure to produce good stuff. With or without these ladies, my work would be interesting, but they make it delightful. People really do make a workplace.

3) New suit

It’s red. It’s fabulous. It was on sale. Enough said.

Image result for review australia aries jacket
Image description: a blonde white woman wears a black dress with flowers printed on it and a dark red blazer with a waterfall front.  This is the jacket from my new suit.  Image and jacket from Review Australia.  

4) Blue skies

You know those windless winter days where the air is still crisp and cold but the sun is beautifully warm and the sky is a perfect rich blue without a cloud in sight? Australia does those days well. I love them, and the end of August gave me plenty of them.

5) Gorgeous sunsets

The sunsets really started to get pretty in August. They’d be gold at the horizon, fading up through pink, into violet, through all the shades of blue. The city skyline and the hills around were silhouettes perfectly against it. It was all just super pretty.

6) Two straight weeks of work

Sure, I ended August with a horrific flare-up and the two weeks leading up to them involved a fair amount of pain, but I managed them at work and I achieved good stuff.

7) Age of Empires

Image result for age of empires
Image description: computer graphics showing some short wooden towers and walls on either side of a path.  There are trees and cliffs to their right.  Further to the right is a stone house and a stone tower, looking over the coast line.  In the very blue sea is a dock and three little ships.  The text across the picture reads, “Age of Empires II: HD Edition.”  

 

I got my first copy of AoE in a box of Nutrigrain. It was great. My sister and I soon acquired Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. We were thrilled when Age of Empires III came out. It’s fun, it’s pretty, you get to fight the French. I went on a bit of a binge during August and enjoyed not only the game, but the nostalgia too.  There are many different nations to play as and against, each with their own distinct characteristics and style.  Also exciting: apparently there is going to be an Age of Empires 4 released next year.

8) B12 spray

Image description: a white spray bottle with a blue label that reads: B12 Liquid.  

I take a LOT of vitamins. Between the IBS and the endo and the various deficiencies, I have to swallow a lot of tablets. Not only is a sublingual spray a more efficient way of absorbing B12 (particularly important for vegans), it’s relatively tasty and it is one less pill to have to force down your throat.  It’s actually a big relief for me to find a way to take this important supplement without having to fight nausea to do it.  I use this bad boy: https://www.discountepharmacy.com.au/bioceuticals-b12-spray/

9) Tofu

Maybe it sounds like a silly thing to be grateful for, but I really am.  It’s such a versatile and delicious food.  It’s really quick to cook and it doesn’t cause me digestive issues.  It’s very nutritious, with plenty of protein and surprising amount of iron for a such a pale, flabby-looking food (I always associate iron with dark colours like kale or spinach).  I particularly like it as a scramble (crumbled into a frying pan with oil and whatever herbs, spices and vegetables I fancy) or fried in a coating of salt, pepper and flour.  Yum.

10) My parents

Once again, my parents helped me out during my week of sickness.  My mum came out twice, brought me some groceries and did some of my laundry, and my dad came out once, drank my tea and then had to leave because he’s allergic to my cat.  Having help with the chores went you can’t stand is just the biggest weight off your mind – not only does a cleaner space make my mental health better, it relieves the pressure on me and on my husband, who of course otherwise has to pick up the slack when I’m sick.  Even just having company makes a big difference – being home sick is a lonely, isolating experience.  You feel a bit unloved and a bit useless.  Company helps relieve that.

 

What were you grateful for in August?  Anything amazing happen?  Did you have to struggle to find the silver lining in the clouds?  Let me know in the comments.

Talking to Children About Your Endo

TW: childbirth, breastfeeding

I need to preface this by saying that I’m not a mother.  What I write hear is based on listening to what mothers say, on having worked in childcare for more than five years, and from having been a child at some point.  I would really welcome comments from mothers in the comments, particularly those who have had to have this exact conversation.

The pressure on mothers is already immense, particularly with the increasing popularity of the internet as a way to give and receive advice, and, sadly, criticism and judgement.  Google “Mommy Wars” and you’ll get endless tales of women being criticised for doing literally anything with their child.  Mothers simply cannot win.  Imagine how much harder it is when you have a chronic illness.

Pregnancy is often touted as a cure to endometriosis.  It isn’t.  It can cause a temporary relief from pain as the body is flooded with hormones that shut down the endo growth, a state that often persists through breastfeeding.  However, far too many women report than their endo comes back as bad or worse after finishing breastfeeding.  Raising a child is, I’m told (and can readily believe) is a very difficult task, and often intensely physical.  Imagine doing that whilst dealing with chronic pain on a daily basis.

If you can’t sit through a movie, how can you sit through a school play?   If you can’t stand up long enough to cook for yourself, how can you cook for your children?  If you can’t stand, how can you carry your child around, or play active games with them?  When you already can’t sleep for pain, how do you drag yourself out of bed to deal with your crying baby?  For too many people, that struggle is a reality.  Unfortunately, a child will eventually figure out that most mothers aren’t like that.  Their friends’ parents run around with them on the weekend, but their parent needs to lie down all Saturday to recover from the week.  Their parent isn’t normal.  So, how do you talk to them about it?

Tell the truth

My advice?  Children are often more intelligent than we give them credit for and there is no point lying to them.  It’s difficult enough for childless me to maintain a facade of normality half the time, and I don’t have to do it around a small human who is attached and attuned to me.  It’s exhausting.  Parenting is difficult enough.  Yes, you will always do what you can to be as “normal” as possible for your child and give them the kind of parental interactions most children will have.  However, you will crack and you will need time to just be sick, so accept that and accept that your child will notice.  Be straight up and explain it to them.

Now, I’m not suggesting you give your 5-year-old a detailed description of exactly what the reproductive system looks like and how endometriosis affects it.  Obviously you’d make your explanation age-appropriate.  A two-year-old won’t need one.  A five-year-old might need to be told, “I have a disease called endometriosis, and sometimes that means I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do with you because I’ll need to lie down and recover.”  A thirteen-year-old, on the other hand, is probably old enough to get a more fulsome explanation about the uterus and what’s going on in there.  They’ll probably have questions.  In my view, it’s better to answer them so you know they aren’t getting some wacky information from their friends who will confidently tell them that you have massive tumours floating around in your pelvis, or something like that.

It’s also worth telling them to expect changes.  If you are starting new medication or having surgery, let them know that you may be incredibly tired for a week or two, will need recovery time post-op, or might have an unusually short temper for a while.

Tell them what you need

Children do tend to be selfish creatures.  Little ones won’t have fully developed the skill of empathy much, and that’s ok.  Consequently, though, they’ll want to know how this will effect them.  One cool thing about children, though, is they love tasks that make them feel important.  Older children, on the other hand, will feel empathy and will want to do what they can to help.  Either way, give them some age-appropriate tasks.

Five-year-olds probably can’t cook you dinner, but they can make sure that their toys are away so you don’t need to tidy up after them.  A teen might be able to take on dinner a couple of nights a week, though, and help out with other household chores such as stacking the dishwasher or folding the laundry.  Getting children involved with these tasks will take a big load off you and teach them valuable skills (and I say this from the perspective of a very spoilt child who had very few chores).

Tell them exactly how helpful this will be, and reward them with praise for helping you out.  Young children will be delighted to know that they are your special helper.  With multiple children, rotating chores will help prevent them becoming super bored and half-arsing the whole thing (for a little while, at least).  Children are also a fairly competitive bunch, so encouraging them to see who can be the best may be an effective tactic (although potentially teaches placing an unhealthy emphasis on coming first).  Monetary incentives or other treats are at your discretion.

Tell them how you can help

As I’ve said many times before, endometriosis effects every sufferer uniquely, and our capabilities all differ.  It can be helpful to tell your child the things they can rely on you to do.  For instance, will you be able to help with their homework if they come and sit on the couch with you so you can lean back?  Can you commit to the school run most of the time?  Can you do a batch lot of cooking on the weekend so all you need to do is defrost dinner for the night, so there’s always something for them to eat?  Whatever you can do, let them know.  It might change on a daily or weekly basis, and that’s fine.

Tell them it isn’t their fault

If you are on medications that affect your hormones and make you liable to tears or being cranky, tell them that it isn’t you and it isn’t them, it’s your medications.  They will probably need a whole bunch of reassurance about that if you start snapping over really minor things (obviously, do your utmost not to do that).  Parents being upset can have a massive impact on children.

One thing that they might not need to know too early on is if childbirth made the condition worse.  If you do tell them, let them know that they are worth every second of it and you don’t blame them or wish they hadn’t been born to spare you.  Remind them how beloved and precious they are, and that the fact that you can’t always play with them as much as you’d like is not relative to how much you love them.

 

Everyone will have their own approach, and what I have said here may not be how you choose to tell your child about your endo.  I’d love to hear about your alternatives in the comments below, and why you would or have chosen your way.