infertility struggles

What 15+ years of infertility has taught me

Ahh it’s been a long long road, this infertile business. I’ve met many people along the way, had fun times, challenging times as well, but I honestly wouldn’t change any of it. Married for over 15 years and I’m certain I’ve changed considerably as a person over that time. A girl can hope! I mean gosh how depressing would that be if I was the same person all these years later right?! The core of me is the same but over time I’ve had new branches growing with leaves sprouting from them. I’m a terrible gardener but I like the imagery so stay with me. In the Spring, the natural world comes alive again and experiences regrowth. This beautiful dynamic encapsulates the never ending possibility to shed our old skin and grow into better versions of ourselves.

There are many things I’ve learnt during our infertility struggles, but the ones that stood out for me are:

Trust – to trust myself and what my body was trying to tell me. In the early days, I felt something was wrong despite being told by a doctor I was still young and that it was normal 2 years in that I hadn’t yet become pregnant and not to worry. Thankfully, I listened to my inner voice and went to a Reproductive Specialist anyway who found there was an issue after all. Trusting myself when I finally felt I was done with the treatments, even though I didn’t know what my next steps would be. And most importantly, surrendering and trusting that God not only knew what was best for me, but out of everyone and everything in this universe, He wanted the best for me and would guide me towards a brighter future.

PATIENCE, plenty of it – with the inane crazy comments from well meaning people I seemed to constantly come into contact with, patience while undergoing multiple cycles of IVF and all.the.waiting; for the next appointment, the next lab results, the next jab and so on. And then there was the dreadful 2 week wait otherwise known as the “2ww” in the infertility community – trying to stay calm/sane while waiting to know if our lives would be forever changed after that phone call from the clinic. Patience with life, while hoping and praying for our desired outcome of a healthy baby. Patience with each period, telling myself that next time spotting would mean something different.

Compassion – for myself and others. Along the way, I’ve come to realize we all want the best in our lives and that it’s hard when our life doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would. Everyone reacts differently to life’s disappointments, and hurtful things that are said and done usually come from a place of pain. This ties in with the patience, as it’s taught me to empathize more with others and see through behavior that could be difficult to understand otherwise. I’m by no means a saint, and this has been an ongoing difficult but important lesson for me. I’m also not one for sharing my emotions and fears with others, it takes a lot for me to show vulnerability. I’ve learnt that it’s ok to let the walls down sometimes with those who deserve it, those who will honor and protect your confidences, and that I can encourage others to do the same with me. To beat myself up less when I feel I’ve made a mistake, and to instead come from a more loving place in my self-talk.

Loving yourself
Reminders for love and compassion found in interesting places

Flexibility – Thankfully, I have always been a “go with the flow” kind of person. However, at the start of our fertility journey I never imagined just how different my life would be from the one I had envisioned. After doing everything from our end, including taking vitamins, eating better (oh how I despise the taste of Brazil nuts) and exercising, fertility treatments in different countries, cupping, acupuncture and prayers, I finally came to the realization that our life may never include biological children of our own. This was not in our hands. So instead of continuing to hold fast to this notion of my life, I chose to slowly let go and see possibilities of a different future. Although it was a long and at times heart-wrenching journey, I am so grateful I could let go of what was to make way for what could be. Without this, I truly believe I would have become bitter and miserable and missed out on all the wonderful moments that followed.

My worth – in most cultures, the idea of motherhood is a sacred one. A little girl is expected to grow up, get married and have children. When one child comes, there is an automatic expectation that the next one will follow. I remember when we were first married and people would ask “Do you have children?” When I replied no, their automatic next question would then be “So how long have you been married for?” as if trying to do the math. I would let them know we were newlyweds and a look of understanding would come across their faces as they reassured me children were in my husband and I’s future. The longer we had been married for, those looks would turn increasingly pitying with some people even asking whether I liked children! All of this to say that this experience has reinforced the value in just being myself, and that that is good enough, regardless of what society believes. I do not believe I was created to be a baby making machine, an employee, a home owner etc. I was created first and foremost as an individual with value by the Most Merciful. The nouns after that are just a plus.

Gratefulness – I know this buzzword has been thrown around a lot but I really believe being grateful is the essence of a content life. I know this because one minute I’d be crying myself to sleep over our childless state, the next I would be savoring a delicious cup of hot chocolate with a friend and laughing over past shenanigans. As humans, we tend to look at what we don’t have and ignore the countless things we have been blessed with. There were times in the depth of despair where I couldn’t see the light. I now understand that everything in life is temporary, and that thoughts and feelings are fleeting. Each time we choose (and yes it is a conscious choice) to acknowledge the small and larger joys in life, the more we are naturally attracted towards finding more things to be grateful for. Today, I am grateful for my family and friends who have supported me through tough times, for my silly sense of humor and my relaxing diffuser spreading lavender joy throughout my home.

For me, success wasn’t a baby at the end of the road. It was learning that I always had everything I ever needed within me. I plan on carrying these lessons into the next chapters of my life and continuing to look forward to the beautiful spring time after a dark cold winter.

infertility struggles
Captivating cherry blossoms in the spring
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Gluten-free Breakfast Series – Part 3: “Banish the Famish” Frittata

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It’s that time again! Another exciting recipe for what I believe is the most under-rated meal of the day.

Looking back at my previous recipes in the breakfast series, I realized they were very similar and a bit heavy on the carbohydrates (even though oats are a low glycemic carb meaning they are great for maintaining your glucose levels, leaving you feeling full for longer). So to shake things up I thought why not scramble some eggs into the mix 🙂 A lovely fluffy frittata to be exact. In case you’re wondering, a frittata is basically an enhanced omelette. Feel free to get creative by adding any type of vegetables, meats or cheese to yours. Not only is a frittata great in the morning, but at any time of day which makes it oh so convenient for our busy lives.

Now a frittata solo is just fine, but sometimes a girl just needs a bit more to sink her teeth into. Since discovering I had a gluten intolerance, finding substitutes for bread has been a work in progress. Thankfully, there have been more than a few suitable options to turn to. A recent favorite veggie of mine has been the humble sweet potato. A starchy root vegetable, I feel it’s so versatile and high on the health factor too. And with very little effort it tastes great which helps. So I thought “frittata and sweet potatoes what could go wrong?” Apparently nothing, they are a match made in culinary heaven. On other occasions, I’ll make a simple kale salad which also pairs well with the dish.

Spinach & Feta Frittata (serves 2-4 people)

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 2 tsp roasted coriander powder
  • 2 tsp paprika powder
  • salt, to taste
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup frozen spinach (thawed)
  • 1-2 green chillies, chopped
  • feta cheese
  • 3 tbsp almond milk (optional)

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Heat the butter in the frying pan over medium heat. Then add the onions and cook until caramelized. Add the diced tomatoes and leave for a further few minutes until softened. In the meantime, in a medium mixing bowl add the eggs, spices, spinach, chillies and feta cheese. Beat lightly till mostly combined. At this point you can mix in the almond milk if you wish. Now pour the egg mixture into the hot pan and lower the temperature of the hob. After approximately 5 min, put the *pan into the oven and leave for up to 30min. When the eggs have risen your frittata is ready. Remove and cool on the hob.

* Please make sure that your pan is oven-safe and always wear heat-resistant gloves when handling hot pans

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Side of Sweet Potato

  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, cut into cubes
  • 2 tsp marjoram
  • olive oil
  • a little water

Set oven to 180 C (350 F). Mix all the above in a roasting pan and cook in the oven for approximately 40min. Check whether the potatoes are cooked through with a fork. If it goes in easily, they are ready. Remove and enjoy together with the frittata.

And khalaas, it really is that easy. I enjoy my frittata with a refreshing lemon & mint infused water, or if I’m feeling particularly hungry I’ll make a very berry smoothie. Enjoy!

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Hargeisa, Home, Heart

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I have many homes; Hargeisa, Somaliland happens to be one of them. I was born elsewhere, never lived in Somalia or Somaliland, and yet it is in my blood. You can’t get much deeper than that. My first visit back in 2009 was a slight shock to the system which was to be expected. This time around constituted my third visit in 8 years, and I was feeling like a real ‘lander. Stepping off the plane, I felt a sense of familiarity as well as a refreshing gust of cool inviting wind.

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A visit to Hargeisa, in my humble opinion, wouldn’t be complete without heading to Summertime Cafe and ordering a cup of their famous shah loos ley (tea with nuts, in this case, roasted peanuts). Their outdoor courtyard is a relaxed place to catch up with family and friends. The layout has changed from my last visit. There is now a flatscreen tv to catch the latest football match and a brand new shiny ATM cubicle. The quintessential hang out spot. Oh, and did I mention you can also get married here?

Everywhere I looked in the capital I witnessed progress of some kind. This is no small feat for an autonomous country like Somaliland which isn’t even recognized by the international community. Improvements have come by the sweat, sheer determination, and belief in God of a people who have faced countless hardships and overcome many odds and yet remain resilient and proud. These are my people. Of course, even more could be accomplished with the banishment of that green herb otherwise known as kaat. The government could also be doing more for its citizens, including installing paved roads, street lamps and establishing a proper water supply network. But I understand, progress takes time. Cookies weren’t baked in a day.

One area near the main shopping district known as Baadlaha now has traffic lights which impressed me. What didn’t impress me was hearing how to some they are there to serve no other purpose than as decor. So much so that traffic police have given up, and now don’t bat an eyelid if an unyielding vehicle happens to pass through a red light.

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 I have heard that plastic bags have now been outlawed, replaced with bags made from biodegradable material. This is wonderful news, considering how plastic bags used to be referred to as the flowers of the city.  I’m not a political person by nature but I believe that governments have a responsibility to the people they govern, just as we as a community have a responsibility towards our fellow citizens within our communities. As a collective we are better.

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Inevitably, I find my appetite increases almost instantly when I’m in the city. Whereas the norm is for me to eat a few spoonfuls of rice, when I’m in Hargeisa if someone were to put that on a plate and hand it to me they would catch some serious side-eye. Ohhh the eggs, the camel milk, goat liver, bananas, lemons, passion fruit, hab hab (watermelon), everything tastes so so fresh. The original organic. 

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One afternoon, we went for lunch at the lovely hotel/restaurant Lake Assal, so named by the Djiboutian owner after a saline lake in Djibouti which happens to be the world’s largest salt reserve. I happily drank maraq (soup) and ate plates of bisteak, chicken, and rice. Being gluten-free is not really a problem in Somaliland. It is normally very clear what has gluten in it, and what doesn’t. I heard from my dining companions that the rest of the food was equally delicious. Portion sizes in restaurants and cafes are generous as you can see:

Somalifood

On this particular trip we made it all the way to Laas Geel, a culturally and historically significant site of magnificent cave paintings. We set off from Hargeisa around noon with the sound of the adhaan (call to prayer) sending us on our way.

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As we drove through villages, it made sense why we needed to trade in our saloon for a more rugged land cruiser. Following the GPS, tree after tree, rock after rock, herd of goats after herd of goats, we got closer to our destination (or so we thought). Along the way, we passed a man outside his home and another time two young herders and asked if we were close to Laas Geel. Their answers were unanimously “no! you’ve gone too far. You need to drive back all the way to the main road to Berbera. From there, you’ll find a road to your left that will take you to the town of Laas Geel.” And each time, we continued onwards, not heeding the words of the villagers but instead heading towards the enticing promise of 2.2 miles from Google Maps.

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By this time, with no rock formations in sight and our bellies telling us it was time for lunch, we decided to stop and have our qatho (lunch) in the middle of the Somali countryside known as the mee. As we began unpacking the food from the back of the 4×4, a lady called out to us “are you alright, did something happen to your car?”.  We turned around and assured her everything was fine and that we were just stopping to rest. Satisfied that we were ok, she called out to another lady “have you seen the goat?” As they spoke, their voices carrying across the terrain, we were joined by an elderly man and 2 small boys. They all sat on some rocks across from us, looking curiously at what we were doing.

We made up a plate of food and as we took it to them one of the ladies exclaimed “We’ve already had our lunch, we live here. You all eat!” After much insisting, they finally took the food. The pride she had is one echoed in the hearts of many Somalis. With very little material wealth herself, there is no doubt that had we needed anything she and the others would not have thought twice about offering us whatever they had, even if it meant compromising their own comfort. Once we finished our meal, we felt re-energized and ready to be on our way once again. We said our salaams to our new friends and headed off, this time in the right direction. We made it to Laas Geel with about 30 minutes before sunset, and wow! was it worth the hassle and the long climb up. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

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For more information regarding Laas Geel, you can go to this article on Ancient Origins.

I’m not sure when I’ll be back next but I hope in the near future I get to see more advancements and positive changes God willing. And maybe a gluten free cafe? 🙂

The elections will be held on November 13th of this year. With each new administration, the hope is that a true leader will emerge with the wisdom and courage to take the country where it and the people deserve to be**

**This post was written before the 2017 elections. As of today, the new president of the Republic of Somaliland is Muse Bihi Abdi.

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