Thursday, 30 July 2015

Not feeling left behind

I see so many people – those still “in the trenches” and those newly exploring the rest of their No Kidding lives – who feel left behind. This is my third post on this issue (links to previous posts below), and it won’t be my last, but each time I’m probably not saying anything new.

It’s important to note that this feeling doesn’t last, and that we are not in fact left behind. It’s important to say this, not only for those who – in their No Kidding lives - might be feeling this way, or for those who are still enduring infertility and see friends and even other IVFers have children before them – but also for those who have “crossed over” to parenting. Because we know (we read their blogs, between the lines or sometimes explicitly) that sometimes they look at us as if we are left behind, left “on the other side,” and are cases to be pitied. Perhaps simply because they can’t imagine being in our shoes, they can’t imagine that we don’t feel left behind – they just can’t imagine the alternative.

I think we should note this applies throughout our lives, for all of us, and isn’t just related to infertility. As I wrote here, I think it is natural to feel left behind sometimes in our lives. I’ve also noticed, for example, that friends/colleagues of mine think that, just because I’m no longer a diplomat, and for 12 years haven’t worked in full-time employment, I haven’t been left behind. Just as I have to look at them, and remind myself that just because I have been working in different companies, learning new things, learning independence and governance as well as management, that they’re not left behind. Just because they’ve stayed in the same organisation, it would be unfair to assume that they haven’t changed since I left. That’s the key, isn’t it? We’re not in suspended animation. Being childless before infertility is different to being childless after it. Just because someone takes a different route than us, it doesn’t mean they’re left behind. They’re not. We’re not.

I truly don’t feel left behind. I’ve written before about walking a different road. I feel that deeply. But in walking that different road, I know I have had to overcome difficulties that are different from those on the parenthood path. They may not be as obvious as those of a parent, dealing with work and sick children, etc etc. But I might not have sleepless nights because of a child waking me, but I might have (had) many consecutive sleepless nights because of grief and fear of my childless future. Just like a parent who sleeps well once their children sleep through the night, I too sleep well now. I might not have financial concerns about offering certain advantages to my children, but I have financial concerns about my old age, knowing there is no one to fall back on. I might not have the problem that I never get any time to myself, but I might feel that the house is too quiet at times. I might not feel the pressure of competition with other mothers – “am I a good parent?” “Is my child as clever/pretty/athletic/musical/artistic/scientific as the others?” etc – but I might feel the judgement of all those collective mothers for not being one of them.

So we’re walking different paths, encountering different obstacles and overcoming them. And you know, in some respects, I feel way ahead of some of my parent friends/family and acquaintances. I feel ahead because I’ve had the time to be able to come to terms with a lot of my issues, to grow emotionally, to grow in awareness, and compassion.

Mentally, emotionally, in terms of strength and resilience, I have had to develop reserves I didn’t know I had. I have had to face my flaws as well as my abilities, to embrace them and accept them. Yes, parents have to do this. Parents of children with illnesses or special needs have to do this even more so. Doing this is what moves us all, moves any of us, forward. I know I still have lots of work to do. I guess if I felt I was a complete, enlightened person, well … I’d be Buddha! I’m not. But I certainly don’t feel lesser, and I don’t feel left behind.

I look at the other No Kidding bloggers I follow, and I see what they have been through, and I see the people they are now. I see the hard work they’ve done coming to terms with their situation, and I want to praise them enormously. I see the kindness and wisdom they display to others, and I know they’re not left behind. I hope they/you don’t feel that way. Mostly, I don’t think so.

And if you’re struggling right now, know that I don’t see you that way - even if that’s exactly how you feel. It won’t last. You won’t feel like this forever.

Monday, 27 July 2015

#MicroblogMondays: The logic of it all

With an arts (history/political science) degree, a background in music and languages, and the fact I married an engineer from a family of engineers, and then worked with a company filled with hundreds of them, I have for decades felt stereotyped as a flaky, illogical, subjective right-brainer. Despite the fact that I was always very good at maths (and sciences till I dropped them to study the more interesting - in my mind at the time - arts subjects), and that I am quite analytical in terms of problem-solving, even whilst being empathic and intuitive, I never really thought about how important facts, reasoning and logic are to me.

But in recent years, I’ve realised how much logic helps me understand the world; if I believe X, then Y must follow. This was very important in my healing. I couldn’t continue to tell myself that I must have been judged unworthy and deserved this, when all the evidence in front of me was that this is not how the universe works. I couldn’t tell myself that I wouldn’t have been a good parent, when all evidence in front of me said that I would have been no worse than any of my family or friends (let alone the truly bad parents of the world), and so on.

So when you hear your own brain’s negative messages and assumptions, and know they are causing you pain, try applying some logic. In my experience, it shuts those messages down more than anything else, and ironically, frees your mind to be creative and happy.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Gifts of Infertility Series - #22 - Letting Go

Letting go of the dream, the plan, the idea of having children, is tough. In saying good-bye to that future we’ll never have, there are a lot of things we need to farewell. Acceptance of our new lives requires us to let go of the old dreams and assumptions, some of which I've carried with me my entire life. But I discovered I can't truly move forward if they still have power over me - if they still influence the way I feel about myself or others, if they still make me feel sad, or guilty.

In order to reach acceptance of my new life, I’ve had to let go of:
              Attachment to material possessions
              An on-going genetic line
              A legacy
              Social standing

I’ve written about all of these things before, as you can see if you follow the links.

My conclusion is that attachment to all of these things is rooted in ego. Letting go of ego wasn’t easy. It required some introspection, and a whole lot of acceptance. I had to accept that I had failed in my quest to have children, that my body had failed me and my husband, that I would never be the most important person in the world to someone (other than my husband), that future generations would find me on a family tree coincidentally rather than deliberately, that my status in the world was downgraded as a non-parent. Ultimately, I had to accept that the universe hadn’t given me what I wanted. This isn't easy. And it doesn't happen quickly. The letting go process takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and can at times be very painful.  

Acceptance. I’ve written about it before – many times! Letting go of all of these ideas meant that I could let go of the hurt that attachment to each of these ideas had caused me. Realising that I had no choice, and that my life wasn’t going to be enhanced by refusing to acknowledge what I couldn’t change, allowed me to accept and let go. In doing so, I had to let go of my ego. I had to find other ways to value myself. It was enlightening, and liberating, lifting huge burdens I didn't know were weighing me down. And it was and is helpful and healing in all aspects of my life.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Little joys: Learning to be happy

Instead of focusing on hundreds of little griefs, experienced after loss or at the end of our infertility journey, reminded over and over again what we’ve lost, I want to concentrate on the hundreds of little joys we experience, recognise them, and appreciate them, as they teach us how to be happy.

So here are some of my little joys so far today:

  • Discovering I didn’t have my makeup bag at the gym, and then finding that it had been handed in late last week when I’d left it in the changing room, meaning that I could use it to diminish my ruddy red cheeks, and go to have …
  • A good coffee in the Boat CafĂ©, gently rocked by the waves, as the sun shone on the yachts in the marina next door, and being thankful for …
  • Wellington’s harbour, in all its various moods – this morning it sparkled a cool silver under the winter sun, at times dazzling me as I worked out at the gym.
  • Realising my book is so good, I don’t want to stop reading it to write this – and knowing it will be there waiting, when I’m done.
  • Being cosy and warm inside my house as the southerly wind howls outside, and hail pounds the skylight above me as I type this.
  • The satisfaction of knowing some chores have been completed (and I can go back to my book).

What were your little joys today?

Friday, 17 July 2015

Looking back, moving forward

I write a lot about what helped me to heal. I worry that it sounds easy. It wasn’t. I feel I’ve written a lot too about how hard it was. But I try not to focus on that in this blog. After all, there are plenty of people going dealing with the end of the infertility journey, and the beginning of their no kidding journey, who are going through this now, and writing more immediately about their struggles. I’ve made this blog about living and loving life with no kids after infertility, my thoughts about that, and how I got here. How I got here is what interests me, primarily because it might help others get here too.

Hindsight – with the benefit of time - is a wonderful thing. Now, in 2015, I can look back on the last 12-15 years, and see how far I’ve come, see the progress I was making at different stages of loss and healing, see the decisions I made that were the right ones to take, and the things I did that might have held me back. I see now what I didn’t want to see then, what was hard for me, and where I fell. I see when I was in denial. I see when my own thinking caused me immeasurable pain.

I see too when I had hope, when I lost hope, and when it changed and became hope for something new, for a better, if different, life. I see when my thinking changed, working for me instead of against me. I see my strength. I see my compassion and kindness. I see my growth. I see my self-confidence. I see my resilience, and I see my vulnerability. I see all this now.

But I know that at the time, I felt I was fumbling through my grief, and new life. I felt ill equipped to deal with this. I didn’t have any professional help. I didn’t have advice from anyone who had gone before me. So I didn’t always understand my thoughts or behaviour as I was going through it. I didn’t know what was helping me, and what wasn’t. Certainly not at first. But as I found my community, and received their help and support, I learnt more, and began to help others. It all sounds very altruistic. But it’s very hard (for me at least) to see someone going through pain and grief, knowing how awful it feels to experience that, without wanting to help them, without trying to ease their pain. In doing that, in responding to their losses and grief a few months or a year or two (and later much more) behind mine, I began to recognise what had helped me. I began to conceptualise and articulate what had helped me. I began to understand my own process. I regularly had light bulb moments; so much became clear to me.

I found writing to be very beneficial. It still is, here at No Kidding. Let me clarify that. I find writing with a purpose – either to help others, or for the blog – personally enlightening. (I kept a diary, but that didn't do a lot for me). In writing with a purpose, I am continually learning more - about myself, this community, and people and society in general. I have to turn a feeling into words and – something that is important to me – logic. My Gifts of Infertility series, for example, has required a lot of thought. Writing this series made me realise I still have more to understand, more to verbalise. I continue posting because I continue to be sparked by others’ comments or posts, by ideas they might have or by feelings they’re experiencing but don’t understand. I often start with no idea what I want to say, but just a feeling that there is something to be said. 

Looking back, I learn lessons from the past. Those lessons help me live my life, as well as preparing me better for the future. And so I continue to write.