A few weeks ago my husband and I woke up with a jolt at 4.30am to the harsh beeping of our phone alarms. We stumbled around and quickly threw on some clothes before we headed outside into the still, silent morning. We were staying for the weekend in a cosy stone cottage, in one of the well known wine regions in our state. We were on our way to a sunrise hot air balloon ride. As we drove in the darkness to the meeting point, I kept thinking how lucky I was to be having this experience; a thoughtful, romantic present for my 30th birthday and the perfect version of an ‘adventure’ for someone like myself, not too fond of adrenaline sports. As you would guess, the appeal of a hot air balloon ride is the opportunity to take in breathtaking views and to see another perspective of the countryside around you. What I wasn’t expecting from the morning was the experience of also turning in and seeing myself, and my own experiences, from a different view.
Leading up to our weekend away I hadn’t given much thought to the balloon ride itself, instead daydreaming about the buffet breakfast that was included as part of the package. I was surprised by how exciting the lead up to the ride was: driving to a random shopping centre car park where the pilots released a helium balloon with a small LED light attached to see which way the wind would blow us; being amazed by the size of the balloon itself as it seemed to take ages for the folds of fabric to fill with air; and feeling the heat radiating from the gas burners on our heads and faces as our pilot prepared for takeoff. As we slowly drifted higher and higher, the familiar sights below us (a bitumen road, rows upon rows of vines, and clusters of sheep and other animals) took on a different form. Suddenly the harsh interruption of the highway through the green countryside looked like a gentle, bending river. The animals we spotted from above seemed to move at a slower pace; kangaroos and rabbits hopped gracefully between the vines. The patchwork valley before us seemed so still and calm and deliberate despite the changing colours of sunrise and the seasons.
Reflecting on the experience after we had come back down to earth, and I had devoured my weight in buffet pastries and bacon, I realised that for the first time in ages I had spent the better part of a day simply enjoying the natural beauty around me and not thinking about the weight of infertility. I feel as if I have become so fixated on what I don’t have right now, and what I am going through at this point in my life, that I need to remind myself of what I do have and what we all have – the ability to appreciate our blessings and the present moment. I should be and am grateful for so many things in my life right now. A loving family, supportive friends, a challenging but rewarding job, a cosy home of my own, and the love of a really good man. Also the means and opportunity to seek medical assistance to help us step closer to parenthood. What feels like an agonisingly long wait ‘in transit’ will one day become a stitch in the patchwork of our life. An important one, one that I won’t easily forget, but a stitch joining one part of our journey to the next.
I often think about the title of one of my favourite podcasts, The Longest Shortest Time (hosted by Hillary Frank and dubbed “the parenting show for everyone”). It makes me wonder if perhaps this time in my life, maybe a little like the demanding moments in early parenthood, will be “the longest shortest time”. While it certainly feels stressful and unending, it won’t last forever. Like any hopeless romantic, I play certain songs on repeat and overanalyse the lyrics. This sentiment, that all things pass, seems echoed to me in the beautiful lyrics of Husky’s song Saint Joan:
‘I woke up thinking that I might be dying
But I was only in the belly of a whale
And I recall I saw the red sun rising
As he spat me out and the wind it caught my sail’.
I finally feel like I might be catching some wind in my sail, gaining momentum, and looking forward with hope and positivity. While my balloon ride was a once in a lifetime experience, I know I can take away a new view to help me to put things in perspective. As work gets busy again, as we get deeper into our IVF journey, I can remember the image of the calm valley. A reminder to myself to slow down, be present, be grateful, and be patient, as all things will pass.