Lessons from a loser: 4 lessons I learnt from divorce

Man, I honestly don’t even know where to begin. I’ve got so much to talk about, but I also feel so fiercely protective of my life now. This ‘journey’ I have been on has taught me so much, but it’s also heightened my already Everest-level cynicisms about life, love, luck and loss.

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For any newbies to this half-abandoned archive of my PMS emotions, the story is pretty simple: my high-school sweetheart husband and I tried unsuccessfully for 8 years to make a family, attempting au naturel, IVF, and adoption. This deeply affected our marriage and my health, and culminated in said high school sweetheart lying, cheating scumbag having an affair with an 18 year old strumpet (who I had idiotically welcomed into my house and treated like a daughter). I was in hospital with deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism when I found this out, and subsequently, our 15 year long relationship came to an abrupt and fiery end.

I’ve now been divorced for over a year, and, while I grew up with divorced parents (and therefore thought I knew a thing or two about it), it turns out that there has been some pret-ty major lessons along the way. Some have been surprising refreshing, while others have felt like great and incomparable injustices.

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  1. Divorce time is D I V O R C E time

So you just heard your not-so-close friends Kim K and Kanye are getting a divorce?* Guess what – this most likely means that they are getting a divorce. The truth is, unless you are besties or family with a couple, by the time you find out about relationship problems it is probably unsalvageable. While miracles can and do happen, generally people take that D word super seriously. Marriage is a huge investment and a massive commitment, not many people throw it away lightly (*cough* Kim K *cough*).

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I can’t tell you the amount of people who contacted me once the news broke to plead/beg/pray/demand the restoration of my marriage. Not only was this highly hurtful and insulting as I had absolutely no way of restoring something my ex didn’t want, I obviously had tried with my heart and soul to ‘fix’ things before the horrible reality hit home – it was over and there was nothing I could do about it. By the time divorce news was out in the open, I was well into the long road of acceptance and recovery.

  1. Nobody cares

This was one of those refreshing realisations. When my marriage failed, I felt absolutely and utterly humiliated. I felt as though I had very publically declared to the world that I would stick by this guy until death, and yet, here I was, very, very publically failing at that. I felt disgraced – like my life had been a lie, and I now had to face the world with egg on my face. I felt like people were judging the kind of woman I was, the kind of wife I was, even the kind of human I was to ‘allow’ this to happen.

Thankfully my experience has been different from my diabolically low presumptions. People (well, the ones that matter at least) don’t actually give a damn D word about divorce. They care heaps and heaps about what is going on personally for you, but they, by-and-large, don’t view divorce in judgmental terms.

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  1. You lose, lose, lose, lose

This has been undoubtedly the hardest lesson. No matter whose fault it was, no matter who ended it – everybody loses.

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Of course I was always well aware that divorce would cost me my husband, my house, my lifestyle and half of all my things, but I never realised how much more you actually do lose. On top of the deep connection you have to your spouse and any material assets you have accumulated together, there are plenty of other unavoidable losses, for example:

a. Your legacy

One of the loveliest things about being in a partnership is the witness you bear to each other’s lives. Someone observes your successes and failures, they watch you grow and change, and can remind you of your achievements and goals. They can look back with you, knowing how hard you’ve worked to get where you are. This might not be relevant to everyone, but for me my ex-husband was there when I graduated high school, when I first went overseas, when I first moved out of home, when I graduated uni, when I underwent IVF, when I bought my first house, etc. I find it incredibly strange to enter a world where the people I date haven’t witnessed any of this journey.

b. Your future plans

Leading on from the previous thought, you also lose every notion you had of your future. Even though life (obviously) doesn’t go according to plan, people generally have an idea of what they are working towards. At the very least, I thought I knew where I would be living and who I would be married to. I now have a completely blank canvas, which is in some ways nice, but there is also a grief involved with closing the door on things long hoped and strived for.

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c. Friends

Yep, this one really sucks. In my experience this has been a gradual and prolonged loss. Many of my friends were really there for me when the shit hit the fan, but then slowly withered away as time went on. My understanding is that something like this is just very difficult for people to know how to navigate.

The ex and I spent most of our time with other couples, so to begin with there’s always that awks problem of feeling the need to ‘choose a side’. Then, there’s the relationship dynamics – two couples having dinner, going to the park, watching movies, etc. works really well. A couple with their distraught, single friend bitching and moaning on the couch isn’t an ideal Saturday night for anyone. The invitations dry up very quickly. And finally, some ‘friends’ simply can’t deal with the changes you go through during this hellish process. Thankfully, there are some absolute gemstones who have carried me and loved me throughout it all.

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d. Family

This one tears me in half. I come from a very small family – it’s really just my mum and I who live in the same state. So every year, for fifteen years, we joined together with my ex’s family to celebrate Christmases, Easters, birthdays, graduations, weddings blah blah blah.

And now there is nowhere to go.

For fifteen years I had a large, loud Italian support structure around me. For fifteen years I had in-laws and siblings and grandparents and cousins and aunties, and now they are largely inaccessible to me. Sure, I’m still loved and cared about deeply by them, but I can’t exactly show up at a family BBQ comfortably. This is a loss that seems enormously unfair, and I would be lying if I said I don’t spend a lot of time creepily watching families at the park wishing I had what they’re having.

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e. Innocence

By innocence I mean trust and optimism and faith and hope – God help any of my potential suitors. Being cheated on, and lied to, in such an extreme way, over such a prolonged period of time, has all but destroyed my trust and faith in the opposite sex. I am filled with anxiety and dread that it might happen to me again. And, it’s simply not something I feel that I could survive a second time. If the man in my life so much as goes into the bathroom with his phone, my stomach starts doing backflips – men are now presumed guilty until they prove and prove and prove themselves innocent. This is clearly not a good launchpad for healthy and successful relationships, but it is unfortunately a reality for me now which will take bucket loads of counselling and good fortune to correct.

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  1. You are stronger than you realise.

Obvs I would never recommend divorce to anyone, unless of course you have a penchant for being dragged arse-first through personal annihilation and then pushed unwillingly back into the same body to restart life all pessimistic, fearful, scared, empty and alone… but, having somehow made it out the other side, I can confirm that what doesn’t kill you does indeed make you stronger.

Last year I was in a place where I was sick, I was going through a divorce with 8 years of infertility pain under my belt, I had no job, I had no house and then my car decided to die as well. I had zero hope for the future. But somehow, piece by piece, the jigsaw of my life began to come together again. I just had to push through that most awful part. Life isn’t all sunshine and French bulldog puppies now, but it’s a life I have pushed hard for, and I’m thankful for that.

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Phew… that ended up being a lot longer than I expected! As I said, I’ve got heaps and heaps to share and this one has been bubbling away in my mind for ages. I wish that I could have made my first post back a little more upbeat and positive, but the nature of this blog is to say things as they are, and, believe it or not, divorce is pretty shitty. So, sorry for my absence and sorry for the downer deluge but I still love this site, and all the incredible support and stories I receive on here.

x

*As far as I know Kim K and Kanye are doing juuuust fine.

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Like Dust, I’ll Rise

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My favourite poet, Maya Angelou x

 

Firstly I really need to thank everyone for their kind messages following my last post. Every day I feel like I’m getting stronger and it’s because of all of you. I’m trying to keep telling myself that my life isn’t falling apart, but instead it’s falling into place. God, I hope that that’s right, or else all the struggle and fight was really for nothing.

Secondly, for those of you playing at home, you might remember that I said we were asked to be a part of Insight’s discussion on domestic adoption but I missed the filming because I was stuck being a dweeb in hospital. Well, at the time I found that ridiculously unfair, like all my advocating for adoption had met a dead end. But now, in the ever-marvellous world of hindsight, I can quite clearly see that that was for the best. I mean I already feel humiliated enough without all of Australia witnessing it. Anyway, the point is the program airs tonight at 8.30pm on SBS ONE and it is bound to be a very interesting look into all the different perspectives at play in the adoption debate. So tune in you beauties.

As for my health, as many of you have messaged and asked me, I am feeling a lot better and *hopefully* my clots are disintegrating as I write. I still have to get a zillion blood tests and I take a bottle of Warfarin a night (not literally – relax) but I do feel a lot stronger – physically, mentally and hungrily. Also I’m caring for my mum full time, who has managed to snap her Achilles’ Tendon during this whirlwind of bad luck, so that’s kept my mind fairly focused on routine things like eating and administering drugs and injections, rather than plotting the demise of infidels.

Source: Giphy.com

Source: Giphy.com

Thank you for keeping me strong and honest. x

For the Ladies

So you know those things you often hear about and ignore? Like mobile phones give you cancer, or tampons give you toxic shock syndrome, or using comic sans means you’re emotionally unstable… or the Pill gives you blood clots? Well, it turns out the Pill does in fact give you blood clots. And by “you”, I mean “me”. And don’t even get me started on Comic Sans.

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I can already hear some people asking why the hell I was on the Pill anyway, perhaps solving our “infertility” mystery. The reason is actually quite boring and maybe a little TMI: After years of failing to conceive, I went on the Pill to manage Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. I have only been on it for the past 1 – 2 years.

Anyway, I’m trying to go into a bit of detail so that other ladies can be a little more clued up than I was/ am. Of course I had heard some rumblings about the risk of blood clots and the Pill lately (for example here and here) but I naturally didn’t think it would happen to me, and I wasn’t even on Diane or Yasmin (I was taking Estelle <– such a strange sentence to write). But as far as I can tell – and I’m certainly no expert – your risk of blood clots is three times higher on any oral-contraceptive Pill.

I’m really not trying to scare anyone, but the statistics are pre-tty frightening. I guess I was lucky in that I had recently taken a plane trip to Bali, so Deep Vein Thrombosis did come to my mind after my leg had been cramping for a few days. But it is only a five-hour flight, so I felt kind of ridiculous turning up at Emergency in the middle of the night. Anyway, thank God I did. After blood tests and ultrasounds the clots in my leg were discovered.

After that news sunk in, I remembered how I had felt short of breath and lethargic over the past few weeks, which I had just put down to stress. I requested a lung scan, which, after some persistent pleading, the Doctors finally agreed to do.

My Walter White moment

My Walter White moment

The scan showed that I have clots in both my lungs. After staying hospital for a few days, I am now enjoying house arrest ‘Hospital in the Home’. This means that a nurse visits me twice a day to give me blood tests and injections, and I take a hella lot of Warfarin. Unfortunately I only have one “good-arm-that’s-not-so-good” so I look a lot like a heroin addict these days.

Anyway – if I can just bitch and moan for one second – it’s the timing of this that has really gotten to me. You see, I had this great surprise for everyone: Mr. Lady Breaks and I were asked to be part of a discussion on local adoption on SBS’s Insight program. The filming was today. It’s just so frustrating, but I am glad that the discussion is finally being had in a public forum. Also, while I’m whining, this means I can never take the Pill again… which is fine apart from the fact it will make it rather impossible to do IVF again. So there you go.

Ok, pity party over. I’m not advocating for women to burn their monthly blister packs, but just please make sure you’re informed about the Pill you’re taking, and, if you’re worried, go and get your INR level tested by your Doctor. In the meantime I’ll get back to thinning my blood and watching Girls for ten hours each day.

Stay safe xoxo

Eww, I know, but I couldn't help myself!

Eww, I know, but I couldn’t help myself! (Source: http://giphy.com/gifs/rZ3mpHV9qLaxi)

Spare room of shattered dreams

A few years ago, after we were fed up with getting nowhere on the Ethiopian waiting-but-not-really-waiting list, we decided to try and pursue local adoption.

We chose local adoption over Permanent Care because for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was important for us to legally be parents rather than “guardians” to our child. It also meant something to us that our child would have been relinquished by his/ her parents rather than removed. Finally we also could see ourselves spending periods of time overseas due to work commitments and didn’t know how this would fit in with access visits and DHS regulations.

Now, in hindsight, I can’t be sure if this was the right decision to make – after all, as we heard last week, Permanent Care can definitely be a beautiful and healing option for all involved. In fact, had we pursued Permanent Care we probably would have a family by now, but we weren’t to know that back then. As with every stage along this journey you just have to keep knocking on doors until one finally opens. Unfortunately so far we have just had a lot slammed in our faces.

So anyway, I digress. A few years ago we decided to pursue local adoption. Actually we first went to an information session about it back in 2008 but then decided to knock on the intercountry and IVF doors until our knuckles bled. After attending an information and training session you write a life story that covers the most personal and deepest aspects of your life – from your childhood, to your finances, to your relationship and fertility, and even your sex life. We spent ages trying to make our Life Story stand out from the crowd of crappy word documents. We sent it in to DHS in July 2011 along with references from family and friends.

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

A blurred up sample of some of our Life Story xo

Then we waited.

A year went by and then we received a phone call saying that they would like to begin our assessment. We were overjoyed and hopeful and nervous for the first time in years! We scrubbed our house from top-to-bottom and prepared for the first interview. We were interviewed twice as a couple and once individually. It was nerve-wracking and exciting and deeply intrusive but we didn’t care. Something was finally happening and we felt closer than ever before.

Before the final safety inspection on our house Mr. Lady Breaks went around affixing safety locks to every cupboard and corner in our house. He put together the Boori cot my mum had bought us during our IVF days. We called together some family and neighbours to lay some soil in the backyard of our newly built house. We wanted to show: WE ARE READY. WE WERE BORN READY.

After this our lovely social worker wrote up her report on us and recommended us for adoption. We sat with her before a panel of DHS staff who grilled us on everything from our intentions to our religion. A few hours later we received the call to say we had been officially approved for local adoption! It was September 2012.

Our social worker said that our chances were quite good. After all we were young, probably one of the youngest couples waiting, and our file stood out. It could actually happen before the end of the year even. I was so distracted. I couldn’t focus on the thesis I was supposed to be writing, or on my work. My heart leapt at every phone call.

Unfortunately our social worker moved on from her role and we were handballed to someone else whom we didn’t know at all. We didn’t feel like she “got” us, and we certainly aren’t a priority. I think I have received about two touch-base phone calls over the past year. Not to demonise her at all – these social workers have so much to balance and so little time that facilitating adoptions often gets the last priority. Making sure that kids are safe is of course always going to come first.

So here we are… We were removed from the intercountry list when we were approved for local adoption, and I guess now I’m just waiting for this door to slam shut like all the others. Mid-way through next year we will have to get reassessed because our approval is only valid for two years.

Last weekend Mr. Lady Breaks dismantled the cot and hid all of our baby items away in a cupboard. Even though we could in theory get a phone call any day, reality begs to differ, and it’s too painful to have a shattered dream set up in your spare room.

Instead, Mr. Lady Breaks is setting up an art space for me – a place where I can start dream again. Thank you Mr. Lady Breaks, I couldn’t have walked this without you.

xo

Electing to Love

I guess in many ways, Mr. Lady Breaks and I were lucky. Long before we found out we were infertile, we discussed our desire to adopt. We always said that we would like to have one or two “of our own” and then we would pursue adoption. Of course at the time we were completely ignorant of how difficult achieving either of those dreams would be for us.

But that just the thing, it was two dreams. Biological was separate and distinct from adopted. Not worse, or better, but not the same.  If we get this, we will do that.

Discovering that we were infertile started to break down this division in our hearts and minds. I remember sobbing one day thinking about the fact I would never see my husband’s eyes in a child, never see his curly mop bouncing away on a toddler. Never feel the gravity of a tiny foot pressing against my stomach, or feel the warm pressure of a newborn held tightly against my chest.

And this knowledge does still overwhelm me sometimes, but gradually I came to understand that experiencing these things does not make a child “your own.” Indeed, there are many biological parents that, for one reason or another, don’t experience some or any of those things (take fathers, for instance).

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No, parenting is about making daily choices to love and nurture. Choosing to envelop someone completely into your care. Biology doesn’t determine whether you do this or not – of course there are plenty of biological parents who have sadly chosen not to. And, obviously, there are plenty of non-biological step/ foster/ adoptive parents who have chosen to do this. So, all in all, I have to conclude that being blood-related really doesn’t determine whether you’re a real family or not.

Just as I chose a non-blood-related husband “of my own” to love, fight, eat and create a family with, I can also choose to love and create a family with a child who needs one.

Last week I met a man who put this concept so beautifully and eloquently to me that I just have to share it. He said: “Adoption is an act of election, an act of belonging. It’s about choosing to love and care for someone, committing to protect and nourish them, just as you would a husband or wife.”

By electing to love, I am choosing to remove the invisible barrier between biological and adopted, just as the sweet poem for adoptees by Fleur Conkling Heylinger shows:

Not flesh of my flesh,

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute,

You didn’t grow under my heart,

But in it.

x

 

How long does it take to adopt?

Last year I stumbled across a blog about an American family’s road to adoption. I can’t for the life of me remember their blog details but I took down some notes at the time to compare their journey to my own.

On their site they had a timeline that spanned just over a year (!). In June 2010 they felt they would like to pursue adoption, so they made a phone call and begun their assessment. By November 2011 they had their court date in Addis Ababa where the adoption of two Ethiopian children was finalised.

We also have a timeline for an Ethiopian adoption. It goes like this:

December 2007

After struggling with infertility for almost two years, Mr. Lady Breaks and I thought it was time to start pursuing adoption. The requirements at the time were that you had to have been married for over two years (check!) and over 25 years old. Well, we were only 22 and 23 years old but we knew the adoption process would take a few years and we would definitely be over 25 by the time the adoption was finalised.

Wrong! When I made the phone call to book in for the session I was aggressively told that I wasn’t allowed to attend. She said that I “should not even be considering adoption at my age” and to wait until I am “at least 30” to attend a session.

22nd June 2009

We attended our first information session and expressed our interest in pursuing an Ethiopian adoption.  I chose not to reveal that I was only 24.

At the time Ethiopia was the only African country that Australians could adopt from so despite our experience and knowledge of Kenyan culture, Ethiopia was the only real option for us.

It feels so stupid to look back on now, but at the time my best friend was pregnant with her first. I remember dreaming with her about how her unborn child should be around 4 by the time we adopted, and our child would be likely to be a toddler as well. We couldn’t wait!

Needless to say, her baby turned 4 a few months ago.

5th August 2009

Placed at number 254 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ form. This is not the waiting list – it is the waiting list to get on the waiting list.

19th October 2009

At number 224 on the ‘Confirmation of Expression of Interest’ list.

17th January 2010

Down to number 222.

1st March 2010

Number 214.

10th March 2010

Number 211.

Around this time a form was sent out saying that realistically only special needs children and older children would be able to be adopted. We had to fill out a form detailing all the various disabilities, deformities and diseases we would adopt. After this the list decreased dramatically.

9th July 2010

Number 61.

3rd December 2010

Number 54.

7th January 2011

Number 51.

10th November 2011

Number 28. Once we reach the top we will be able to start the Education sessions and actually get on The Waiting List.

28th June 2012

Ethiopia program closes.

So, after five years we weren’t at the place the American family was when they first enquired. This is why National Adoption Awareness Week is so important.

x

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Not Your Normal Family

I am SO incredibly excited today to share something special with you: It’s the very first Guest Post on Lady Breaks!

I am so inspired by this amazing woman and her family it’s not funny. Linda and Cam Bailey are about the funniest, warmest, giving and down-to-earth couples I know. Their personal struggle with infertility has only increased their capacity to love and love and love! It’s just amazing! I am honoured to be able to share Linda’s story with you today.

Thank you Linda, Cam and the rest of the family x

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“You look way too young to be a grandmother!”

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While I know this comment is meant to be a compliment – and as I am only 35 years of age, it is also very true – I can’t help but be reminded that people have a fixed idea of what family should look like.

A couple of children, two middle aged parents and a few grey haired grandparents thrown in; that’s what all families look like, right? Well, our “family” begs to differ.

Just last week I realised that my husband, Cameron, and I started trying to conceive nine years ago. We have not been successful in having children naturally but that does not mean our house is empty.

Seven years ago Joy joined our family. She was 13, in foster care and in need of a home to live.

Linda, Joy and Cam

Linda, Joy and Cam

My husband and I have always had the philosophy that we don’t open our home to foster children, we open up our family. Joy didn’t have a positive sense of what family really was and I think only now, as we help her raise her own child, does she understand what a healthy family means.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re by no means perfect! We just have a desire to help those in need. Sometimes we get it right and other times we just need to try again.

Joy became very independent when she turned 18, so we decided to extend our family a little further. Twelve months ago, two brothers – four and five years of age – joined us. These two boys have turned our lives upside down! They are so full of energy, laughter, cheekiness and questions. Every day brings new challenges but also new opportunities, as we help these young boys grow to the potential they were created for.

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Just when we thought we were at capacity, our family changed again. At the beginning of the year, Joy discovered she was pregnant, and with the father of the baby taking flight, we found ourselves as the support people for our daughter.

Her gorgeous son entered the world (and our family) one month ago and has brought forth more love than we thought possible.

I can confidently say, as a barren couple, our family is full! And my advice to everyone is to embrace your family, no matter what it looks like.

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While Cameron and I were childless we enjoyed taking holidays, throwing ourselves into our local church and providing cheap board for some young adult friends. As the kids have come along we’ve dedicated ourselves to be their advocate and to give them all the love and support a child should have. And now we’re grandparents we’ve enjoyed supporting our daughter while delighting in having a newborn in our house for the very first time.

None of this takes away the sting of being infertile, or the challenges that foster care brings, but I refuse to waste my life waiting for my “own” child when there are thousands on our doorstep needing the love and affection we have to give.

Linda Bailey.

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What a beautiful, amazing family! I’m so blessed to know them.

If you would like to hear more from Linda, she regularly writes about her life, faith and God on her own blog, Daily Devotional.

xo