You know, social media has caused quite a few wobbles for me. But it has also connected me with some of the most amazing women. And one of those women is SK Reid, founder of the Perinatal Loss & Involuntary Childlessness Alliance (of which I am a proud ambassador) and author of “A Year of Medical Thinking.” SK Reid shared her CNBC Story back in June 2019. (You can read it here.) Today, she is graciously sharing her story of finding joy despite…
Usually when fellow survivors share their story, they answer the following questions:
- Why had you lost your joy? What struggle and/or difficulty were (or are) you struggling with?
- How did you find (or are you finding) joy despite this struggle?
- What would you like to say to others who are going through the same struggle that you have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming)?
Being an author, SK chose to answer these questions in blog format, creatively and eloquently, allowing emotion to spill from her words. Her story caused my heart to ache… I shed some tears. But I also smiled a little. I think it is the perfect story to share as the holiday season gets into full swing. Because SK Reid… Well, she is a true survivor…
SENSITIVE POST WITH POSSIBLE TRIGGERS: SK Reid uses honest, raw language as she discusses suicide, loss, grief, trauma, cancer, illness, IVF, adoption, surrogacy, and more… Please, do not read if you are feeling vulnerable today.
by SK Reid
I have had to fight really hard for Joy.
Like, really hard. I have scraped myself up out of the gutter so many times now, I have actually lost count. Climbing out of the gutter of despair began many years ago, perhaps before my first husband took his life. His sudden death took seven years from me. Seven long years before I felt as though I could breathe again.
Yet surfacing after that experience wasn’t the end of my Looking for Joy. Joy didn’t then miraculously show up in my life as I thought it ought. Rather, that momentary surfacing to catch my breath was simply a brief pause in what was more an initiation into the darkest depths of trauma and grief. This is where I learnt that terrible things really do happen. That sometimes one’s worst nightmares really do come true.
More losses followed. The struggle to start a family. Then losing my precious, precious IVF baby. Then the diagnosis of hormone receptor positive breast cancer which meant no more IVF. The cancer meant no adoption either (Australian rules). Or fostering. Not for at least five years. And then potentially another seven years and many thousands of dollars with no guarantee of adoptive approval.
I was spent. It was too much. I had to let go my long held and cherished dream of becoming a mother. Barely a week after finishing treatment, Dad was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of melanoma. This was more than too much shock for my family to fathom. He died barely one year after diagnosis.
Somehow, I got into paramedicine, to study to become a paramedic. I cannot lie to you: this was one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken voluntarily. That and IVF. A career in Emergency services was my plan B after motherhood didn’t happen.
But around this time, we thought about our last possible chance at parenthood one last time. Where the cancer took away adoption, fostering and IVF, there was one final option available: gestational surrogacy. We made the difficult decision to go back into the hellish ride of hope. You hope for the best, but you have to prepare for the worst at the same time. Because it’s your mental health at stake. However, allowing hope back into my heart I also knew was a big, big risk to my mental health. I knew this would be a huge gamble.
Tragically, this ended in more trauma and heartache, with our little one born at 24 weeks.
I can’t lie. This killed me. When I already felt I’d been killed before.
I know each and every one of you reading this knows exactly what depression and heartache feels like. So, I know I don’t need to describe this to you.
And I’m really wanting to get to the bit about Finding Joy.
But before I do, there is more heartache to follow. After graduating as a paramedic in 2017, instead of beginning my new career, I became seriously ill. As a result of becoming sick, I missed the cut-off for getting into the job. This has been, quite frankly, one round of heartbreak too many. More grief.
A Flicker of Hope-filled Light
My health is still not great. I still struggle and I developed a form of PTSD around it all – including death anxiety.
I appreciate how bleak this all sounds.
But this is where I can share with you that this is the crack where a flicker of light has gotten in.
When everything is taken away – and I appreciate this is a relative perspective because we all carry a cross of some description – this is when we are forced into finding a new connection to peace. To simplicity. To calm. This is when, if we invite her, Joy will find us. I had no choice. I could either find joy in my every day or drown in the tsunami of grief. It really was a pretty simple choice in the end.
I chose Joy.
Joy can be found in the simplest of things. The way the light tracks across the hills through a winter’s day, the miracle of birdsong greeting the dawn, the crackle of an open fire, a glass of wine after a hard day’s work, the sound of a friend’s voice on the other end of the phone, the snuggle of your four legged baby. This is Joy. This is Finding Joy. Does it mean bad things won’t happen? No. Does it mean our pain goes away or that we will never miss our babies? No. But it means that we can still find peace and joy in the simplest and tiniest of moments. These are the moments of our beautiful and precious lives.
The inscription on my late husband’s plaque reads: The Greatest of Journeys is the Adventure we call Life. And it is true. This adventure is our greatest journey. It is the good with the bad. The happy with the sad. The melancholy with the joy. We owe it to ourselves to invite Joy into our hearts. Finding Joy won’t fix everything. But it gives us a beautiful reason to live, love and cherish our time on earth.
I would like to finish with this short excerpt from my second book, A Year of Medical Thinking (2014), that charts my year of baby loss and cancer. I hope you find it something of a comfort and that you are inspired to find ways to invite joy into your lives.
So this is how it is going to be. Triggers. Emotions. Ups. Downs. A juggling act. This is how it is at the other side of treatment, of rebuilding a life put on hold. This is how it will be edging my way back into everyday life, back into normality. There is no escape from that which causes me sorrow. The key to dealing with this will be in my response. In this I have some choice.
And herein lies the character-building part of this journey. As they say, that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Thank you, SK, for sharing your heart with us. You are an inspiration. And I am so grateful to call you friend.
Want to connect with SK Reid?
- Check out the Perinatal Loss & Involuntary Childlessness Alliance website here…
- Follow PLICA on Instagram @pl.ic.alliance
If anything SK Reid wrote resonates with you, please tell her about it in the comments.
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Featured Photo: Created by me, using Canva