Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Navigating through grief

I recently received an email from someone who had read my blog, asking for advice on navigating their way through grief. I suggested some key things that I've written about before, and there were plenty of other things I could have said, which are mostly all written about here on my blog, but I may have forgotten to say what is perhaps (in retrospect) most important.

Unfortunately, navigating our way through grief, even when we've done it before, is never easy. There is never a Get Out of Jail Free card from grief, even if we know the process from previous experience, even if someone who has done it shows us the way, and so we still have to go through all the emotions, feel all the pain, before we can know that we will get through it and come out the other side.

Some of the best advice I was given at the outset was to "roll with the emotions." Initially, it's all we can do, and I think it helps to feel what we feel, and to give those feelings legitimacy, and to honour our pain, and what we have lost. It hurts, we're buffeted about and never know if we're going to drown or survive, and we hate it at the time, but what is really important, and what we don't recognise at the time, is that it is the start of healing. It is where we farewell our old hopes, and clear space to allow new hopes, new dreams, a new life to emerge.



Monday, 16 October 2017

Survival is not mandatory

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.


I never really thought I’d be quoting an engineer (other than my husband), statistician and management consultant here on my No Kidding blog, but when I saw Dr W E Deming’s quote, I thought it really fits here nicely.

People resist change, whether they’re in business or whether their life plan has been foiled by circumstances or health or finances. It's not unusual to hear the newly No Kidding say something along the lines that they will NEVER accept their No Kidding situation, and to resist any suggestion that they will be okay, that they will eventually be happy even without the children they wanted so much.

But although we might think we can't or won’t adapt and accept and embrace life without children, for most of us, this isn’t really optional. Survival, after all, if not mandatory, is at least an instinct.

The sooner we allow ourselves to make the choice to survive, to adapt, to change, we'll find that it is a lot more pleasant than fighting against that which is impossible, even though it takes us out of our comfort zone.  Choosing to survive and flourish is empowering, and who wouldn't want that?

Monday, 9 October 2017

Shedding desire

A quote from the article I mentioned last week has been repeated in a number of places in our community this last week or so, with many people agreeing that the “ desire to have a child never goes away.”

I’m now 14 years on from knowing definitively that I would never have a child (or I will be in 11 days), and I feel that passage of time; I’m now in my 50s, I’ve had a hysterectomy and I’m in menopause, and whilst I might have regrets that I didn’t have a child, given my age I wouldn’t want to have a child now, even if it were possible.

The problem with the desire to have a child is that in my case it is an unrequited longing which could only lead to disappointment and feelings of loss, inadequacy and pain. Frankly, I’ve had enough longing and disappointment and pain over this issue, and I will not allow anything in my life that is going to prolong this, or to make me feel lesser, simply because I wasn’t able to have children.

So I don’t, I can’t, I won't allow myself to feel the desire to have a child, as I don’t see that it could achieve anything except to make me feel bad, and why would I want that?

There’s a difference between having once wanted something when it was a very reasonable possibility, and still wanting it when you know there is no possibility of it ever happening. To those of you who still feel that desire, maybe it will help to know that as time passes, as acceptance grows, as our bodies change, it is easier to shed it. It is gradually replaced with acceptance, with our desires for more achievable goals, and by quests that will help us feel good, worthy, happy, and free.


Friday, 6 October 2017

What adds dimension to my life

Rather belatedly, I just read Infertility Honesty's post for World Childless Week, about the four words (the dreaded question "Do you have kids?") and the responses we get to our answer "no," that hurt. Amongst the many responses I'm sure you're all familiar with, including being given the cold shoulder, her most recent was “Children add dimension to your life.”  (Go read her take on it here.)

I find it hard to think why anyone would respond that way. But it got me thinking about the things that add dimension to my life:
  1. Empathy – The person speaking to Sarah and her husband clearly lacks empathy, but I find that it is a constant reminder that life isn’t about me, and that others have struggles too, and we should all be kind to each other. 
  2. Loss – With loss, of children, of a future, of hopes, my life took on an added dimension where I was mortal, where I was vulnerable, and where I knew that life would not deliver everything I needed, as it rarely does to anyone, no matter who or where you are. 
  3. Grief – The experience of grief and pain and sadness taught me to know myself better, to be mindful about what I have and to be in the moment, and to understand more what others might be going through when they endure loss or experience depression.
  4. Accidents and illness – I learn to appreciate what I have, and know how much worse it could be.
  5. Exercise – It gets me out of the house, makes me appreciate health when I don’t have it, and reminds me that I can push myself further than I sometimes think possible.
  6. Helping people – It breeds empathy, teaching me to put myself in other people's situations, reminding me not to concentrate on myself, and allowing me to feel good about myself at the same time.
  7. Writing – It makes me think about motivations, about the use of words and how they can help or hurt, and because it encourages me to be so much more observant.
  8. Photography – There is beauty in this world, and if we’re too busy, or to self-involved, we don’t get to stop and appreciate it, to smell the roses, or wonder at their colours and shapes.
  9. Blogging – I get to have more technical IT skills than most of my friends, I get to write (see #7) and to use some of my photographs, and I get to make friends from all over the world and learn from their experiences and lives, to love them and receive their love (or not).
  10. Cooking – Brings the world to my kitchen, and to those who eat from it, expanding my horizons further, giving me an outlet for nurturing, thinking about our food and our environment, our planet and our bodies.
  11. Curiosity and learning – There are some people who take little interest in the world around them, who are not interested in discovering new information, in having new doors opened to them, who don’t want to explore the world or the world of information, and the delights held therein.
  12. Being an aunt – Understanding better what my sisters and friends are going through, the sweet along with the bitter, and – whatever my level of involvement might be – playing a unique role in my nieces' and nephews' lives.
  13. Travel – So many dimensions are added here (I dealt with them in a series of posts on A Separate Life), from collecting anecdotes to be shared or simply remembered, to always increasing my sense of wonder at the world, to encouraging a better understanding of different cultures and people from all walks of life, to a curiosity into why things are the way they are, and to appreciating home when we get there, and looking at it with different eyes, along with many many more. 
  14. Living a No Kidding life – Having children might be a dimension to life that I will never have, but not having children, living our whole lives without children, also brings a different dimension to life.with all the gifts it brings, along with the challenges, just as having children brings gifts and challenges and a different dimension.
  15. Being on the receiving end of comments like “Children add dimension to life” – It might add a painful dimension, but it also adds a dimension of understanding; that people are narrow and insensitive and self-involved and frequently cruel (intentionally and unintentionally), and that they see first-hand their emotional limitations to understand others, or perhaps simply that they have been hurt recently, and their response to us will always say far more about what’s going on in their heads than how they actually feel about us. 

The list is endless really – every aspect of my life (from my family structure and my place in it, my height and skin colour and where I grew up and my talents and flaws and all my experiences, etc) and the infinite number of interactions between each of those aspects, makes me uniquely me. They all add dimension to my life, just as they do for all of us.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Childless articles and their comments

The last few weeks I feel as if I’ve been one step removed from a lot of things, and the last week – suffering from an end-of-winter lurgy – even my brain shut down. But this morning, it returned momentarily, and so I read an article in the Guardian, featuring Jody Day and other UK childless writers and bloggers, and another article written by a writer Bibi Lynch (though I found it on a NZ site), a childless-by-circumstance  woman who listed some ideas of what not to say to childless women.

Yes, I read the comments, and yes, I knew what to expect, but whilst there were some very sympathetic and understanding comments from childless, childfree and parents alike, some still surprised me with their insenstivitiy (perhaps deliberate) and their vitriol, so if you’re not feeling up to it, don’t read them (though I am pleased to say that the comments on the NZ site were marginally kinder than those in the Guardian comments section).

The negative/unhelpful comments could be largely separated into two categories: the “suck it up” category, and the “just adopt” category.

The “suck it up” category are, I feel, those people who don’t have much empathy, who don’t recognise their own privilege, who don’t feel that people should talk about their challenges, only their victories, and who make no effort to understand those challenges or to put themselves in anyone else’s situation. I roll my eyes at them, and feel a certain degree of superiority, knowing that they lack something basic that should be, but isn’t, a core of their humanity.

The “just adopt” category are, perhaps, those people who have never learned how to react to other people’s grief, are uncomfortable with it, and who think that by proffering solutions such as adoption that it will help us, and that if we don’t take up their brilliant ideas (as if we hadn’t thought of them), we shouldn’t complain. I wonder how many of their own friends they’ve previously offended when, for their own comfort, they blindly shut down the hurting and grieving, and I feel for them too, because they don't know how to respond, and don't realise that a simple "I'm sorry" is enough.

Finally, I need to finish with a shout out to both Jody Day and Bibi Lynch, being prepared to put their own opinions and lives out there, knowing in advance what kind of reaction they might receive. Brava, ladies!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Being an aunt

Being an aunt when you're living a No Kidding life can be beautiful and special and bittersweet. Being an aunt of a child with serious health issues makes it even more complicated. I watch my sister deal with the health issues every morning and evening when important and time-consuming routines that are a chore to her nine-year-old are necessary, and I watch her deal with the issues at every meal, hearing every cough, and probably every time she looks at her daughter, and feel nothing but respect for her daily battles. I take on these tasks gladly when I become the care-giver, as I was this weekend when we drove seven or so hours north to relieve my sister and brother-in-law so they could attend a conference (related to my niece's condition).

And in between the care-giving, we made a cushion together, had dinner at our niece's favourite restaurant complete with neon mocktails, played badminton on the lawn, chased a young heifer that had got loose from next door, watched her play basketball on Friday night and go on her riding lesson the next morning, saw her practice her gymnastics routine, and all the other things you do with an active nine-year-old. Then we curled up with the cat, and watched Moana together.

When we left this morning - too soon, but necessary, because we have elderly relatives at this end of the island who need care-giving too - it was with sadness that we won't see her again for a while. But there are also complicated and confused emotions, knowing that I wouldn't wish my sister's concerns on anyone, and feeling relief that I am not the one primarily bearing that burden, but also knowing that there is great joy in her role as well as great fear and sadness, and that I would have willingly born these myself, if I had had the chance.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Miscellaneous Monday Musings

1.  I recently saw the issue of guilt come up (as it does regularly) in a blog, and recognised that fear of enjoying something new, or of finding that we appreciate part of our lives without children. This is such a common emotion, and so I just wanted to say again that enjoying any aspect of our lives that results from the fact that we don’t have children, or just feeling happy, does not mean that we think our lives are better than having children (though that thought is fine too), it just means we’re simply making the most of our life now.

2.  When our infertility doesn’t resolve with a child, suddenly we feel more vulnerable, our lives suddenly more reliant on one or two people in our lives who are important, and I think it’s not uncommon to fear the loss of our partners. I travelled internationally for work for many years before our losses and infertility, but was shocked at the strength of my emotions the first time I travelled without my husband after our infertility journey ended. I think it was normal to feel this too, but I’m pleased to say that I think it is also normal to recognise that the years pass, emotions calm, and now I feel much less vulnerable, or perhaps more accurately, I’m more comfortable with my vulnerability.

3.  Finally, I wanted to note that recently someone in my life implied that the things I was interested in were not important to other people – though I know that they meant parents. After a little twinge, I began to laugh, because I could immediately think of several parents who I know feel exactly the same as I do, and so I knew in my heart that the person making the comment was wrong, or they were just trying to cover up their own disappointments. So once again, confronting those negative comments and rejecting their very premise, helped me get over what could otherwise have been a very hurtful encounter. 


Friday, 15 September 2017

Gifts of Infertility Series - #24 – Self-Discovery

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post on this series, not because I’ve struggled to find a topic to write about, but because I wanted to make the most of the last two items in this series, and before now didn't quite feel I could commit to this.

The 24th in my list of the Gifts of Infertility is really a summation of many of the other items. It is one of the biggest gifts of the heartbreak that came from infertility and loss. It is self-discovery, and hasn’t just helped me deal with infertility, but has spread into all aspects of my life.

Self-discovery and personal growth often come out of difficult times. Sure, there are plenty of people who go through difficult times and come out of it just as selfish as they were before, just as some people come out feeling much more afraid, less trusting, and more self-focused than they were before this. But after a long time, I certainly recognise the benefits of the personal growth that resulted from of those difficult years.

Self-discovery does not mean that we have all the answers. I think that self-discovery means that we are more open to the realities of who we are, and can face up to both our talents and our flaws.

I have a lot of flaws. I think I’m aware of most of them, as I admit them to myself even if I won’t always admit them to others – just in case they haven’t noticed (yes, I live in hope). What I’ve learned though is that it doesn’t help me if I berate myself over them. I’ve learned to try to change them if I can, to face them – as I faced my shyness when I left on a student exchange when I was 17 – as issues that need to be dealt with or lived with, rather than to judge myself because of these issues.

Self-discovery came to me when I allowed myself to grieve. It came to me when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to really feel emotions, rather than tamp them down. It came to me when I needed to think about what made me happy, after spending a long time of being very sad. It came to me when I needed to look at what I had, because looking at what I didn’t have wasn’t doing me any good. It came to me when I showed self-compassion, and so could face my flaws without terrible guilt and self-hatred and shame. It came to me when I was as kind to myself as I would be to friends and family, when I stopped beating myself up.

Self-discovery came to me when I saw what worked, and was honest about what didn’t. It came to me when I dropped the judgement, and tried to be productive instead. It came to me when I learned more about others, and that helped me learn more about myself. Self-discovery came to me through hard work and tears. It came to me through love and compassion. It came to me from inside myself, and from learning from other wise women who were walking alongside me and helping me.

Self-discovery is a continuing journey, applicable in all aspects of my life. It is a journey that can still bring disappointment in myself, and could easily be halted by shame. But if I don’t allow the shame to take hold again, if I can commit to the honesty required to get past it, self-discovery can also deliver satisfaction and joy and confidence and growth. The best thing about it is that it can banish a lot of fear, and that results in self-imposed burdens tumble from my shoulders. That freedom has allowed me to embrace the future, whatever it might bring. Self-discovery truly is one of the ongoing gifts of infertility.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Talking about Grief

Lisa on Life Without Baby recently talked about talking grief on her blog, and she made some good points – you should go check it out – and asked some good questions too, unwittingly giving me my blog topic (thanks Lisa) for today.

 How has your grief changed over time? It no longer dominates my day, my thoughts, my feelings, as it might have in the early years, and now, even when it occasionally still pops up and I honour my losses by giving it time, it no longer has the power to destroy the day for me.

How has your loss changed you? It has changed me in many ways, and they are largely summed up in my Gifts of Infertility series, but there are negatives too. I’m stronger, but I’m more fragile too in ways; I know I am vulnerable, and I feel that more intensely, but that helps me appreciate what and who I have in my life more intensely too

In what ways has your grief crept out, even when you’ve tried to keep it under wraps? It creeps out much less these days, whereas in the past it manifested in strong emotion, tears or a suddenly shaky voice , or presented itself in unexpected anger (not always expressed) at what others would think were innocuous statements or actions.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Cats aren't kids

It was Father’s Day here in New Zealand yesterday, and fortunately there had been little build-up to bother me or my husband (or so I thought). 

We got together with my father-in-law on Saturday night, because I had wisely advised our visiting relatives that it would be impossible for us to go out and get a table at any “quiet” café for Sunday lunch (a prospect I have avoided for 17 years and counting), and suggested that a dinner together would be much better received by the FIL (as I know it would).

So we made a fuss of this rather frail elderly man, which we were going to do anyway as his eldest grandchildren was leaving the next day, and then the other son and the rest of his family were leaving the day after, and he feels their departure overseas deeply every time they leave. I was fine with doing that, but the brother-in-law kept trying to insert the fact that he was a father into the proceedings. I interjected once or twice, pointing out that it was up to his family to celebrate Father’s Day for him the next day, and that Saturday night and the dinner we were enjoying was all about his Dad.

I was surprised however, when my husband spoke up, pointing out that they should all feel sorry for him, because he doesn’t get a Father’s Day ever, missing out completely. There was a brief, stunned silence, then everyone decided to toast him, and my niece cheerfully said that he needed to get some cats again, because then he’d be able to celebrate Father’s Day. It was nicely meant, rather than being blatantly insensitive, and we all laughed (but felt the difference) when my husband said,

“but they can’t buy me presents.”

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

You cannot change what you refuse to confront

This speaks to me, as I bemoan my messy office (whilst editing photographs or writing blog posts), my desire to lose weight (but my love of food and wine), my lack of income (but my procrastination about launching a new business), etc.

But it is relevant in the infertility context too, as we know that when we are trying to conceive, it is easy to single-mindedly pursue our goals, refusing to confront the prospect that we may never conceive or carry to term successfully, whilst desperately wanting the pain and frustration of infertility to end. Confronting that pain is the first step to changing the pain, and walking through that neglected door in the Infertility Waiting Room that I’ve written about before.

Once we are through the door, and living a No Kidding life, it can be easy to feel we’re going through the motions of life, without realising that we first need to confront ourselves, and our thoughts and beliefs that can so easily keep us feeling miserable, or thrust us back into grief. Confronting those negative thoughts about our lives, and the way others might perceive us, can help us reprogramme our brains, change the way we think, and live more contented and compassionate (to ourselves and others) lives.

It’s a constant lesson for me, one that well over a decade later I am still learning. At first, it was important to confront the thoughts about my worth, whether I deserved my fate or not, but now, I find myself confronting my feelings about how others react to me, deciding whether I can educate, be compassionate to what might motivate others to act or be insensitive, or to forgive and let it go. The compassion and forgiveness come more easily, as does the willingness to speak up and educate, to be matter-of-fact but kind, and most importantly, I try not to criticise or blame, but of course, this is all still a work in progress, because, well, that’s life.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Bittersweet past and present

Family gatherings are always bittersweet. One of my husband’s brothers and family have been back in NZ as their expat stints overseas have ended, though they are only here for a month (as covered by his end of contract provisions) because they are going to reside in the land of my sister-in-law, which is of course more tax-advantageous than staying here to help out with the elderly in-laws. Another brother and family decided to visit for several days to coincide, so three of the four brothers and their families are in the country at the same time, which happens only every 3 years or so. So it is chaotic and complicated and great fun.

One of the complications of course is being the couple who does all the care of the now very frail and vulnerable elderly in-laws and doesn’t have the luxury of choosing where to live based on tax advantages, and of course, there’s the complication of being the couple without children, the ones who didn’t provide the grandchildren. While they’ve been here we’ve celebrated the 18th birthday of the nephew who was born around the time we were trying, and the 16-year-old niece who was three months old at the Christmas when I was still having treatment for my first ectopic pregnancy, and the 13-year-old who was gestating when his mother said blithely to me, “if I miscarry, I don’t care because I can always get pregnant again.”

There are memories everywhere, but the kids aren’t aware of these things, and so it has been nice seeing them again, and chatting with them about books and history and their interests, though we’ve sadly had very little time with them, as time with their grandparents has had to be their priority. I was sad to know that I can’t see my Australian niece play netball, especially when she plays the very same positions that I did, and it was lovely to hear my own piano being played by my nephew, though of course there was pain that I will never hear it played by my own child. After so many years, it’s been a little surprising for some of the memories and emotions to come flooding back, and a little surprising to feel those painful twinges over the things I don’t get to do with my children (and see their parents dismiss the activities so casually), but at least now I know without doubt that I will recover quickly and regain my usual equilibrium in no time at all.


Monday, 14 August 2017

Making progress, or not?

One of my very early posts (in fact, it was my fourth post here) talked about the common statement, "as a mother ..." and bemoaned the fact that normal human compassion is so often qualified to that of a mother or more generally, a parent. I'm pleased to say though that recently I heard someone say (one of the presenters on the afternoon show of our national radio) "as a human being." I think he might have even started to say, "as a father," but stopped himself, and used the more inclusive term. I was gratified, and amazed - maybe times are changing?

A post a few weeks later raised the idea of media training for all of us, so that we could learn how to dodge intrusive questions, just as politicians do. Unfortunately, even politicians struggle with this, as we found when just a week or two ago a young (37) woman was appointed leader* of one of the two major political parties here. Seven hours later, she was asked (by the same presenter mentioned above, but in his television role) the first question about having children (she has said in the past she would like to), much to the discomfort of the female journalist sitting next to him, and we indulged in joint eye-rolling at the question, crushing my hopes for continued progress for women. However, the resulting public furore about this (and subsequent discussions in the media) made me more hopeful that society is changing, and that it is no longer acceptable to always see women as walking wombs first.


*Both parties have previously had female leaders and Prime Minister


 

Monday, 7 August 2017

500

Blogger tells me that this is my 500th blog on No Kidding in NZ, and so I thought it might be timely to look back on what I was writing every 100 posts, even though most of the time I was completely unaware that they were milestone posts. Even though I started this blog some years after coming to terms with my No Kidding life, there’s still been a journey in the way I think and express myself on this subject.

My 100th post was a post of celebration, both of the joys of a simple morning in Wellington, and the realisation that despite several possible fertility-related triggers, I was completely unaffected by them – though not so unaffected by the high-pitched screams of a fellow café client.

My 200th post talked about an article about the fertility industry and some of their unrealistic promises (false advertising?), their financial interest in continuing to push treatments, and the damage done by their (and others) inability to acknowledge that a significant proportion of fertility patients won’t get pregnant or carry a healthy child to term.

At 300 posts, I briefly talked about the frustrating habit of parents saying that they couldn’t imagine their lives without their children, but not making any effort to understand what our lives without our children are like.

My 400th post complained about being sent inappropriate advertising, and then concluding at the end that rather than being irritated by it, I just had to laugh at their ignorance.

So whilst I can still be (and perhaps always will be) annoyed at those who get it wrong and make no effort to do better, I am in a better position to consider solutions or to suggest what they could do (for example, parents, medical professionals or fertility providers or businesses) to try to understand our lives, putting their own in a more honest context, just as we must try to do in return. I think that’s what understanding and honesty is all about – maybe that’s what my journey here is all about.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Confirmation bias and childlessness

I’ve been thinking about confirmation bias a bit over the last year. Increased access to technology and the internet means that, even more than previously, we are all able to surround ourselves with like-minded views, to read the information we agree with, not that which challenges us. It’s one of the reasons I still get a newspaper delivered. I like the fact that when I read the paper with breakfast, I read articles that I wouldn’t have clicked on if I was on the newspaper’s website, if I even got to the website (Besides, I like the puzzles.) I grew up in the age where we only had one, then two television channels in New Zealand. If we wanted to relax in front of a screen, we had to watch what was on. I learned a lot of new things I wouldn’t have otherwise, if I’d been able to change channels. Even my student exchange was a case of finding joy and discovery and a career path in something I’m not sure I would have chosen. My choices were simple – a US exchange, or an International exchange (which included the US as the last resort). I chose the International option, as I imagined myself on ski slopes in Switzerland, and ended up in Bangkok, Thailand. Students these days get to choose their desired destination, and many predictably go for the countries they know most about. I think this can be a big mistake.

I have to say though that I’m not making an argument against having too much choice, but rather making an argument for being open to other possibilities. We think we know what we need to know, and what we want to know, but we should always remain open, and explore new avenues. Obviously, as a person without children, I want others to be open to what my life is, and to accept it as a legitimate reality, and even as a realistic option.

Many of us have written about how hard it is for those going through infertility to be able to read our blogs. We probably remember this from our own journeys. Those who are trying to conceive find that conception (and carrying to term) becomes the main focus of their lives. They need support, and so read those who are at the same stage, those who are also full of hope, denying any alternative options, determined to reach their goal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Support is important, feeling you’re not alone is helpful, and feeling hope is a good thing. All this is healthy.

But refusing to go beyond that – especially if you’re in this for a long period of time – is less healthy and less helpful, because it also plays to your fears. We all know that our fears pull us down, tell us we’re worthless, and lie to us, but when we’re in the midst of fear, we don’t always see that. Staying within the actively-trying-to-conceive community convinces you that the holy grail of having a child is the answer to happiness, to everything you ever wanted in your life, and can close your mind to any alternatives. Or it can convince you that the alternatives – No Kidding for example – are your worst nightmares. Unfortunately, wider society just emphasises and further confirms those views, amplifies the fears and uncertainty, and paints the No Kidding life as a failure, as the worst case scenario, as a grey life full of sadness. Whereas we here all know that that is simply not the case.

Obviously, though, confirmation bias works both ways. I know that many of us, when we are newly entering the No Kidding community knowing it is for the rest of our lives, read only No Kidding blogs, for the same reasons – for self-protection, knowing we won’t see scan or newborn photos or pregnancy announcements, or hear all the statements that that cut us to the core and diminish us and our experiences. So, it is natural that many of us, especially in these early days, might read only No Kidding blogs for the support, to feel that we’re not alone, and to feel hope that we will be okay. If we only read No Kidding blogs, there is a safety in community that we can’t find elsewhere.

But it can mean that we become focused on our grief, unable to recognise the difficulties and hardships in other journeys, including those who got the holy grail. Long-term, there is a danger that a focus only on the No Kidding experience might stop us developing a wider perspective that could help us heal.

So could our own confirmation bias lead us to perpetuate our feelings of victimisation, and lead to the demonisation of those who are parents?

There is a real risk of this. And I do see it at times, though as I say, usually in the early days of accepting there will never be children. But I’m coming to the conclusion that we – the No Kidding – are perhaps less susceptible to the effects of confirmation bias than those in this community who are pregnant and parenting. We live in this world too, and unless we hide away and only ever communicate with others who don’t have children (which is impossible), we have no choice but to interact with others who have had different outcomes, with different views, and with different challenges.

We know (how could we not?) that the world has different opinions and lifestyles to our own, and once wanted to be part of those communities ourselves. We have friends and family who live differently from us. We are bombarded daily with the message that the way we live is different from, perhaps lesser than, the norm. Whereas so often, confirmation bias reinforces the superiority of a view or a lifestyle to the exclusion of other minorities, in our case, we might use it just to remind ourselves and each other that we are equal, and legitimate, members of wider society and this community.

In our case, is it actually a bias at all? I’m not so sure, and as I have written this post, I’ve found my ideas change. I started this post to make the comment that we must be sure we don't succumb to confirmation bias, become bitter, further isolate ourselves, anger others by not attempting to understand their situations, and make our own position in society harder than it already is. But as I have been writing, I’ve realised that – long-term, at least – there is little chance of that. 

When we do get together as a No Kidding community, we’re looking for and providing support that we don’t get elsewhere in society. Support in context is not a bias. But still, it's worth thinking about from time to time, and just checking that we're being fair and unbiased to both those with and without children. After all, that's really the only way to ever be fair to ourselves.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Why empty nest syndrome does not equal childlessness

In conversation and on social media, empty nesters (those whose children have grown and left home) have sometimes assumed that their lives are the same as those of us who never had children. On a day-to-day level, this may largely be true, given that we have no dependents at home (unless of course we are caring for elderly relatives) and can have offices or TV rooms in our spare rooms, for example. But in truth the grief is different; the empty nester’s loss is for the past and what they had, not for the future and what they will never have.

  • The (adult) children are still there – out in the world, living their lives (as they are supposed to be doing), (hopefully) making the empty nester proud of their independence and their achievements, keeping regular contact (mostly) with their parents, visiting on birthdays or special holidays or celebrating milestones together, or popping around to say hi if they live nearby.
  • If an empty nester is ill or old, their child is almost certainly thinking of them, checking they are okay, and likewise, the empty nester still feels needed, in the case that their adult child may need practical or emotional help or advice.
  • The empty nester has not had to endure the social isolation and judgement of not having children.

Assuming being an empty nester is the same as my life is shallow; it ignores the reality of my life, the way we are treated by society, and diminishes what we have lost.


Monday, 24 July 2017

I'm not kidding: A reminder

I called this blog No Kidding in NZ, not only because I wanted a title that made it clear that I don’t have children, but also because I wanted a title that would keep me honest, and remind me every time I write that I can’t believe the myths, the negative voices, or those who just don’t get it.
  • I don't kid myself that there’s a reason why I couldn't have children, that I deserved this, or that was unworthy.
  • I don't kid myself that there is only one lifestyle in which we can be happy.
  • I don't kid myself that the only way to contribute to this world is through parenting or provision of DNA
  • I don't kid myself that there isn't some pain in this lifestyle, but I acknowledge there is also freedom and joy
  • I don't kid myself that I’ll be cared for in my old age, or that it isn't harder to make and keep friends when you don't have children, but it means I can treasure what I have now, and at the same time make plans for the future
  • I don’t kid myself that my life is better or worse than if I had become a parent; it is just my life.
It’s a reminder I need from time to time, and I’m sure I could add to this list (if I had more than eight sentences), so please feel free to add your own reminders (to yourself, or to me) in the comments.



Monday, 17 July 2017

Losing my Microblogging Mojo

I have a number of posts brewing but none of them will be brief, so I have to confess that I have (temporarily, I am sure) lost my Microblogging mojo. So somewhat predictably, I’m resorting to a list of miscellaneous thoughts, which I am a little surprised to find are falling into the “ouch” category. Maybe it’s just time, and maybe this post balances out my more positive post on A Separate Life.

Our political parties in New Zealand are gearing up to election mode, and I am already starting to feel isolated, as the focus is on “family, family, family.”

Yet I feel guilty about that too, as I hate the reality of children growing up in poverty, and agree that this is an important issue.

One of my elderly in-laws has been ill recently, and so – unlike any of the other siblings – we are feeling the full brunt of the responsibility that is on our shoulders. Of course it has raised issues, and we are talking to each other about how we will manage such situations when we are old, and hoping that we will recognise we should make changes in our lives before we actually need to.

For the first time in a long time, the other day I found myself on the receiving end of a terse comment that had the unwritten subtext, “you’re not a mother, so be careful what you say.”

Friday, 14 July 2017

Negative Thinking in Infertility and Childlessness

Last year, I was reading an article and at the end saw a selected list* of cognitive disorders. I was immediately struck by the similarities of these disorders with the thoughts and behaviour of those going through infertility, and those who are grieving post-infertility. I’ve always found that recognising what I am doing and thinking is the first step to acceptance and change, so I thought it might be helpful to list these negative ways of thinking, along with examples of how our thoughts work against us, particularly for the infertile and involuntarily childless people (in the early years at least).

Mind reading: You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.
“They think we didn’t try hard enough.”
“They don’t think I’m a real woman/man because I can’t have children.”
“They think our lives aren’t valuable because we are not parents.”
“We’re not real adults.”

The infertile or the childless will often mind-read. We think people assume the worst about our situation and judge us, thinking that we didn’t try hard enough, or that we were somehow defective and shouldn’t be parents.  Unfortunately we probably all have examples of people actually saying variations of these thoughts directly to us, or see them in the media, proving that that is what they were thinking. This leads to us imagining the worst about what people might say to us. I know I have.
Fortune-telling: You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. 
“I’ll be lonely and unhappy in my old age if I don’t have children.”
“Or my husband/wife will leave me and find someone who can have children.”

During infertility in particular, these fears are very real. And whilst there are many positive reasons for wanting children, I believe that as infertility becomes more and more real to us, fear drives us just as much as the desired outcome.
Catastrophising: You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it.
“I couldn’t bear it if I couldn’t have children.”
“My life will have no purpose without children.”

Unfortunately, our friends, family and wider society do everything they can to reinforce our catastrophising, so we have to look a little harder to find examples where our worst case scenarios don't end as a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are a growing number of No Kidding bloggers who are here to prove that our lives are not catastrophes!
Labelling: You assign global negative traits to yourself and others.
“I’m not worthy.”
“Childless people deserved not to have children.”
“All mothers look down on me.”
"I must have done something wrong to deserve this."
“I’m a terrible person because I can’t be happy for my friend who just announced her pregnancy.”
"Childless people are selfish."

Society so loves labels, that it is easy to buy into this. When we are feeling vulnerable, we also don't really question these assumptions. But we need to!
Discounting positives: You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial.
“She’s just pitying me, and doesn’t really care.”
“I’m not strong, look at how often I cry.”
"I'm not brave enough to end this journey without a child."

Positives so often seem to be a betrayal of our grief or our emotional distress, and so we discount them. A positive feeling even induces guilt, as if we don’t deserve to feel happy or grateful. Whereas they don't negate what we've been through, and they can show us how strong we've been to endure these stressful and disappointing experiences.
Negative filtering: You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives.
“My life isn’t worth anything if I’m not a mother.”
“I’m not a real woman/man if I’m not a mother/father.”
“Children give your life purpose.”
“I have nothing positive in my life without children.”
“I will never accept my childlessness, because acceptance makes it okay.”

This is extremely common during infertility. Our infertility becomes our identity, and it can be hard to see what else is good in our lives. Likewise when we first learn we will be forever without children.
Dichotomous thinking: You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms.
“My life is over if I can’t have children.”
“I will never be happy.”
“If I can’t have children, I will forever be miserable.”
"This has to work."
This is very common when trying to conceive and during infertility treatments (or even when pursuing adoption). Our eyes are on the goal, and it is all or nothing. We surround ourselves (in the virtual world at least) with people who are cheering us on, and any suggestion that the goal is not the only option can be seen as a betrayal.

What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers.
"What if my partner dies? I’ll be alone and sad and terrified."
"What if I can't get pregnant? I'll never be happy again."
"What if I can never accept this? I'll be miserable for the rest of my life."
I think this is a variation of some of these other categories - negative filtering and catastrophising, in particular. The answers aren't satisfactory because they don't match with any of our preconceived notions that are driving us, or have driven us, for so long, and with such intense emotions.
 Emotional reasoning: You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality.
“I feel like a failure because I’m infertile. Only a child will make me feel better.”

Even though there is ample evidence that people without children live positive, fulfilled lives, this isn't supported by the emotions we feel during infertility (or in early No Kidding mode), when they push us to extraordinary lengths (emotional, physical and financial) in pursuit of our goals. We then indulge in emotional reasoning to justify our actions and thinking (in exactly the way that parents might justify their choices when they are finding things hard).
Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted.
“But, but, but!!!” cries the infertile person, “my case is different. I can’t bear the thought of not having children.”
“You might be able to accept a No Kidding life, but I can never accept it.” (Also unspoken, “you obviously didn’t want them as much as I did.”)
“But, but, but!” cries the newly grieving childless person. “YOU don’t know how I feel! My case is different. There’s a REASON that I’m different from you, that I feel this so strongly.”
Providing evidence often doesn't help someone at this stage, because every fibre of their being is rejecting the premise that they will survive infertility, and that their lives can still be good without children. Their first instinct is to disagree, to refute. We see this in political debate too!


I wonder if any of this sounds familiar? It certainly did to me! Recognising that I was doing do this was the first step to changing the way I thought. The benefit of time is that we gradually learn over the years how to dismiss these negative thoughts, or in some cases, to at least balance them out. I certainly have, and whilst I was prompted to really do this by my infertility and No Kidding status, I’ve found it a valuable lesson throughout my life. So if you haven’t seen it, I’ll finish on a more positive note by reposting this graphic.




*   from Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn’s Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders (2012)



Monday, 10 July 2017

Acceptance and reblogging

I was searching for an old No Kidding post the other day, and though I couldn’t find it (or I’d actually never written it anywhere other than in my head, perhaps), I did find another old post that had an aside that spoke to me again. It gave me an idea. I think I’m going to go through my blog here, from the very beginning, and reblog, or update, some posts. Maybe too I’ll develop a picture of the journey I’ve been on, and I’m interested to see if that matches the picture in my head of the healing process.

Back to the thought that caught my eye a few days ago. I’d started thinking and talking at the time about the positives of this No Kidding life, and the gifts that my infertility and childless/free status had given me. I’d also seen a lot of talk about acceptance, what it was, and why it was hard. It’s so very common for those new to the No Kidding life to fight against acceptance, because they don’t really have a feel for what it actually is. But once we realise that our lives are not over and that we can begin to embrace them, then acceptance comes.




Monday, 3 July 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

Mel and Loribeth* have both written about The Handmaid’s Tale, and over the weekend I did too, on A Separate LifeThey can’t do that, can they?  I was surprised by the level of rage and distress I felt over both the book (which I hadn’t read before) and especially the TV series, at the same time being delighted that it had been written/made so brilliantly. Initially, when I knew it was based around a story of fertility/infertility, I was a little put off. But afterwards, analysing my thoughts about it, I realised that my reactions were and are not influenced by the infertility angle, although admittedly I felt a few twinges about some of the nuances of the monthly-waiting, the questions being asked, the blame of not conceiving, the feelings of the infertile Wives, and my tribe of the unseen and rarely spoken of “Non-Women,” who are mentioned in the book but I am not sure they’re mentioned in the series.

Ultimately though, I have concluded that my strong reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale is all about feminism, and women’s status in society being reduced to their bodies. I think too this is why I continue to write, to defend the position of women without children, to talk about our legitimate but frequently invisible place in society, simply because we haven't produced children. Feminism is perhaps why I feel these injustices and ignorance so strongly, as along with the very personal context I have with infertility and life without children, I also view them in a much broader social context. Feminism is, after all, just about equality and justice, and surely that's what we all want?


*    If I've missed your post on The Handmaid's Tale, I apologise, and ask you to leave a link in the comments, as I'd love to read it.


 

Monday, 26 June 2017

My existence is not offensive

I’ve spent my life being considerate, polite, deferential, and was diplomatic long before I ever became a diplomat. It was ingrained into me, my gender, my culture and my family, to put others before myself, to be more restrained, to avoid confrontation, not to be pushy or loud, not to speak out, to mediate and to negotiate.

Some of these characteristics are essential in decent society, and can be beneficial in our business and social lives, but they can hold us back too, resulting in us being pushed around, interrupted, or ignored. I have to say that it really took until my 40s before I felt the liberation of a growing self-confidence, and I know I am not alone amongst women in this.
I think that’s why I am so sad (and yes, why I’m talking about this again) to continue to see – in blogs and comments, including comments here – how reticent* many people are about defending their reality as life without children, that they are worried that they will seem rude. But our existence is not offensive, our No Kidding lives are not discourteous to any others, and therefore having increased visibility as people without children – talking about the fact we have no children, whether in a casual one-line comment, or in response to others, whether correcting assumptions, or by refusing to justify our lives or respond to invasive questions – is not impolite either.

By suppressing our feelings and by brushing aside even small, unintentional slights, I worry that we’re reinforcing our invisibility, we’re giving the rest of society permission to ignore our reality or to feel superior, and essentially we’re contributing to a less diverse, more narrowly-focused society, and that doesn't help anyone.

Like anything, it’s all about timing, about tone of voice, about context, and with good and fair intentions; we simply don’t have kids, and it is not bad manners to acknowledge this.


* I am not talking about the early days, when we are grieving and, out of necessity, trying desperately to protect ourselves.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Those dreaded Days

As mentioned last month, I was in Iceland for Mother’s Day, and never saw any advertising or any mention of it (I think that I’d have figured out what it was, despite the language barrier), which was a refreshing change. Besides, I had rather more to worry about that day, because there was a close and rather violent encounter between some Icelandic rocks and sand and my face. (I’m fine now, though I did have some technicolour cuts and bruises and black eyes for about a week.)

There was, of course, the usual onslaught on social media, as there is today for Father’s Day, where the curse of social media is that people seem to place importance on being seen to recognise their parents or partners. I will admit that I was a bit fed up that my normal feeds this morning were clogged up with northern hemisphere people cheerfully wishing their fathers or husbands a good day, and even resented* those people who tagged on wishes for “those who find today hard,” and wondered why, if they acknowledge that today is hard for some people, do they post about it at all?

I guess I’m just thankful that my husband isn’t very active on Fb, so won’t even know that it is F-Day elsewhere in the world. Besides, as we don’t celebrate Father’s Day here (or in Australia either, I think) until the beginning of September, we’ll both have to go through it all again in a few months.

The world is both too small on days like this, but – as I’m still suffering a bit from jet-lag – not small enough!

* Though after a nice coffee and muffin at the local cafe, I was feeling much better!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Some No Kidding post-travel gratitude

I'm grateful today that I have no children, for reasons which may become obvious.
  • We have just returned from an amazing trip we couldn't have done with children.
  • I don't have to deal with my own jet lag at the same time as dealing with children with their own jet lag.
  • I could fall asleep on our dining table last night whilst waiting for my husband to get home with the Chinese food for dinner.
  • I can have an afternoon nap without guilt.
  • I don't have to cook tonight if I am not up to it.
  • It may take some days to adjust, so I won't stress if I'm wide awake in the middle of the night.

I hope to catch up with all my missed blog reading over the next week or so, and to do some blogging myself, but first priority is that afternoon nap.






Monday, 5 June 2017

We are now enough

This post is inspired by the following quote, written by Nora, in a guest post on Lisa’s Life Without Baby:
Somebody related the question of motherhood to a form of immortality, and said it is viable through creating children or something else of lasting value, like art.
Continuing the family line is a common reason for having children, and the feeling that our line ends with us is often a source of grief and loss for those of us without children. I’ve felt it, though I have to admit that (mostly) I don’t feel it any more. The need to compensate for this, ie, through the creation of art or something else of lasting value, is not uncommon, and goes hand in hand with the search for the Next Big Thing. If we can’t be parents, we figure that we have to do something else in our lives that has a similar impact – for a while.

Ultimately, though, I’ve realised how much of this quest for immortality is also all about ego, the selfish (but all too common) desire to have your particular DNA carried into the future, or to see your name at the top of a family tree. And this immortality only lasts for one or two generations, but rarely much beyond this. The truth is that what matters is now, and right now, we are enough, we are all enough, no matter what we create.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Taking back control conversationally

I’ve been thinking about ways of dealing with the inability of (some) parents to talk about anything other than their children, and would love you to share any ideas or success stories of your own. I am tired though of always being the thoughtful ones, the ones who do all the emotional work in having conversations with parents, because we’re worried about being rude if we actually try to point out – either bluntly or through hints as below – how unfairly (and frankly, rudely) we are treated when we answer, “no” to that inevitable question.

There is of course the possibility of making a pre-emptive strike, responding, “before I answer, I want to check you’re not going to walk away if I say that I don’t have children,” and then tell them a funny story about this actually happening – if they actually walk away after that, then they truly have a problem!

Another pre-emptive response (similar to the one above, or perhaps the next step in the conversation) is to diplomatically ask them about how they feel about those parents who lose all their conversational abilities and interest in others when they have children. I personally know many mothers who roll their eyes at always being asked about their kids, rather than their work or travel or what movies they’ve seen recently or the weather or current events, etc, and would respond very positively to this.

As soon as possible, ask them questions about their lives (other than their children), showing you’re interested in them rather than just their status as parents, whether it’s house renovations or what grows (or doesn’t) in their garden, what sports they follow, where they grew up, etc. People love talking about themselves, and should respond positively to you, perhaps not even noticing they’re not talking about their kids for once.

If they’ve opened the conversation asking about children, then it's easy to ask about their kids, demonstrating in the nicest possible way that it is perfectly possible to have a pleasant conversation about children without actually having children. 


Monday, 22 May 2017

Healing and my Personality

I was thinking the other day about how our individual personalities affect how we heal after infertility, how they can both help and hinder us in the process, and came up with this preliminary list of my own helpful and unhelpful personality traits:
  • I don’t like failing.
  • I don’t like the feeling that I’m missing out.
  • I worry too much about what other people think.
  • I hadn’t spent my whole life wanting only to be a mother.
  • I never thought “things happen for a reason.”
  • I have always had strong feminist tendencies, and so have never defined women by their biology.
  • I was older, so was already learning to accept that I am the one who chooses what matters to me.
  • I am pragmatic, and so didn‘t (always) fall for society’s messages I was hearing.
I’d love to see your lists too - here in the comments, or on your blogs linked back here.



Monday, 15 May 2017

Happy being a stereotype

People often assume that the No Kidding amongst us can (and want to) travel the world, and that this  makes up for not having children. I’m sorry, but I know my existence just perpetuates this stereotype, and I apologise to those of you who resent being typecast. The fact that I think I would have travelled almost as much if we had had children seems to be irrelevant to the perpetuation of this stereotype; so too, is the fact that many of my most-travelled friends are parents.

This stereotype raises its ugly head less often for me these days, as - over the last ten years or so - I see my eldest sister and a number of friends also becoming free to travel wherever and whenever they are choose, as their children grow up and leave home. Our situation, where we were one of the few couples we knew who were free to travel unconstrained by the school year, is no longer unique.

Still,I remember a discussion last year with a former mentor of mine, who was envious of our three months in Italy in 2013 (and two months either side of it), noting that as she was now a grandparent, she couldn’t be away that long from the grandchildren. I realised this was very much her choice though, as I compared her with another friend who summers in France for six months with her French beau, and then returns in the NZ summer to see her children and grandchildren.

So maybe in the end this has little to do with stereotypes, and now is really all about choice. As this post is published, we will be a week into our northern adventure holiday, and I will feel okay that I am continuing this stereotype as the carefree couple without children - because that’s exactly what I plan on being for the next few weeks.



Monday, 8 May 2017

Refusing to give up my power

One of the advantages of being away at this time of year is that I will miss Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day somewhere else however hasn’t bothered me too much – I took great delight, for example, watching all the families out for lunch in Soweto, South Africa, on Mother’s Day in 2009 - and I’m pretty sure that it won’t bother me in Iceland either, as I generally find there is a real freedom being away from your own society and community and language.

Feeling separate from the rest of our communities can be an ongoing, underlying source of pain, one to which we become accustomed, but as the years go on, we don’t necessarily recognise this until we suddenly notice its absence (for example, when travelling). And of course, one of the difficulties of our ongoing No Kidding life is that we can never quite predict when those nasty “ouch” moments might appear. Doing something that makes us happy – for example, going for a walk or cooking a special meal at home with your partner or friends – can help alleviate the impact of this day, and so can planning in advance, which is why I've posted this a week early. It is an invented holiday, and within a few days it is forgotten, and I refuse to give it too much power over me.

That first day back at work though – all those discussions/competitions between parents around the water cooler about how they spent their day – can be painful, and it is fine to protect yourself and make yourself scarce during these conversations, or (perhaps useful in a one-on-one situation) use a standard response of mine that I hope makes them think, which is along the lines of “I am not the person you should be telling this to”  or "why would you be telling this to me, of all people?"

But I’d love to hear your own suggestions of how to deal with this in the comments.


Monday, 1 May 2017

My internal bad guys

Last year, Mel wrote a post about our internal bad guys, the voices in our heads that stop us living our lives, tell us stories that aren’t true, and steal our efforts at happiness.

I think everyone has these bad guys – I remember an “ah ha” moment when I was in my late 20s/early 30s when I saw a businesswoman on a documentary talk about imposter syndrome. I believe that it is much more prevalent amongst women ... or perhaps we just talk about it more?

I do think though that infertility emboldens these internal bad guys, when they say some terrible things to us, and additionally, in those early months/years of a No Kidding Life, they can really go over the top. Sadly, they learn their best material from stereotypes in books, on television and movies, by listening to politicians and radio announcers, or even from our friends and family, and then they know just when to throw these statements back at us, usually at our weakest, most vulnerable moments.

I’ve managed to stand up to the ringleader, What If Wanda, and as I told her in no uncertain terms to STFU shut her mouth, her followers Fearful Freddie, Sensitive Sally and Behaving Bessie quietened as well. Even though What If Wanda and her crew turn up again from time to time, they are actually easy to stand up to in the end, because all I have to do is ask, “are they speaking the truth?”

Now, if only I could get rid of Procrastinating Polly as easily!


Monday, 24 April 2017

A great example of knowing better and doing better

I’ve written a bit lately about how I feel some IF (and post-IF) bloggers react to some of our blogs; when we write about strong women, they see it as elevating No Kidding women above those who are still trying, and when we ask for a bit of sensitivity – asking people who know better to do better – we’re accused of trying to live in a bubble.

So I wanted to point out that not all IF and post-IF bloggers are like this, even though I know I am stating the obvious because many of those wonderful women read my blog and are very thoughtful in their own blogs, having learnt and grown from their own experiences, as have we all.

I was recently delighted however, to see a comment from a blogger (a mother, and currently pregnant) called mamajo23, who wrote a comment (on Different Shores’ blog) about whether having a child is the holy grail and delivers automatic happiness, as we all seem to assume when we are desperately trying to conceive. Her comment was interesting:
“I can now say first hand that a child(ren) do not make life happy … but rather the incessant pressure from society to procreate finally subsides.”
This comment alone would have sparked a blog post from me, but as I have more to say today and only eight sentences to say it in, I’ll simply point out that you don’t have to have a child to notice that this pressure abates as you enter your mid-40s and beyond, and along with the wisdom and confidence that comes with these years anyway, there is a real feeling of a burden lifting.

I then visited her blog, finding that she has recently been thinking about some of the issues I’ve dealt with here in recent times, in particular triggers (through pregnancy announcements) and the idea of “giving up.”

I found it totally heart-warming to read these posts from her perspective (knowing of course that when I write I could be accused of being over-sensitive or bitter), as she and her equally sensitive readers and commenters reinforce the importance of us all considering other people’s situations, and of trying to be kind in our everyday and blogging lives.

Thank you, Mamajo23, for knowing better, and doing better.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Asking to be heard is not a threat

Someone said to me last year that some No Kidding bloggers were trying to elevate the No Kidding above others in the infertility community, putting down those who were trying to conceive or those who had resolved their infertility with children.

I was very surprised at this, and obviously disagreed, as what I see is that we are all talking honestly about our No Kidding situations, about how we got here, what we learned on the way about the fertility industry, or how parents or pregnant women relate to us (for example), and in doing so, we are seeking equality, seeking recognition and legitimisation.

It struck me that this comment was the classic example of a privileged group feeling threatened by a minority that is beginning to speak out. It was no different to men saying that they are being downtrodden, as women reach up to them, to members of the white majority that see equality of minorities as being a threat to them, or to those who see gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage. All any of these groups want is equality – of opportunity, of respect. In the process of any of these movements, I like to think that we learn more about our societies and communities and ourselves.

This is the aim, as I see it, of No Kidding bloggers, who just want to be recognised, to be included in our community and wider society, and most importantly, to be heard.

No more, but definitely no less.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

An important reminder

Yes, I missed another Microblog Monday last week, but I was visiting my niece and her parents (see What Charlie Taught Me) so I figure I have a good excuse.

A dear friend has just been told by her body, in the nastiest way, to take good care of herself. It's a good message, a reminder we all need from time to time, to slow down, smell the roses and breathe. Too often we do what we think we should be doing, rather than what's really important, and that applies to the No Kidding amongst us as much as busy parents, as we've all put on a brave face, or kept busy to the point of exhaustion to avoid having the time to think. Take care of yourselves, you're important!

Soon (but not soon enough!) we leave for our first big trip for almost four years, which is the longest break between (major, ie not Australia) destinations of our marriage. Go check out A Separate Life, where I'm going to run a small competition to guess where we're going. I know I've told one or two of you, in comments on your blogs, about at least one of my destinations, so feel free to email me (rather than enter the competition) and you'll get a postcard too.




Monday, 27 March 2017

The gift of acceptance

I've spent the last week feeling rather sorry for myself - though I figure I've got some reason for that - though I'm also very thankful for your good wishes! But I know that it could be much worse (though almost every time I think that, it actually is!), and I'm accepting that I might need to learn to live with an underlying level of pain.

It's that Pain Olympics thing, but when Pain Olympics work in our favour, not against us. I am able to see how good I have it, and how much worse it could be (and has been), rather than comparing myself only against those who are in robust health and never have any issues.

I am also not under the illusion that life is fair - infertility and pregnancy loss taught me that - and yes, sometimes further injustice can feel like a slap in the face.

But infertility and pregnancy loss has also taught me to accept that life is not fair, and I've emerged from that stronger. I don't take it personally any more, and I don't feel as if my self-worth is threatened, knowing that I am who I am, not what my body will do for me. I am thankful for that, for infertility's gift to me, making it easier to deal with life's blows, and making the joys in life even sweeter, the gratitude easier to find.








Friday, 24 March 2017

Checking in

I had reason this week to be grateful I didn't have to look after children as well as cope with a TGN attack.

I was grateful too for the tui in my trees last night, chirping and clicking and clacking madly.

I was also grateful for my husband cooking and looking after me.

These are small things, but being able to feel gratitude in the midst of any painful (emotional or physical) time helps.

Hopefully I'll be back and posting again soon.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Three Steps to Banish Negative Thoughts

I found this list of suggestions in a draft email I wrote a long time ago to someone who was in a lot of pain, and now I can’t honestly remember if I sent this to them or if I decided they weren’t ready to hear it. I suspect though, that we all need these reminders from time to time:
  1. Every time you recognise a negative thought, first, consciously recognise that you're thinking it. Don’t let yourself reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict these negative thoughts.

  2. Next, challenge the thought, by saying one or all of the following:

  3. "well, I know that's rubbish"
    "Mali or <insert favourite blogger here> says that is rubbish"
    (and don't let yourself think "but I know better" because you don't)
    "the world doesn't work that way"
    "biology doesn't work that way."

    Or challenge it in a more detailed way:
    "that can't be true because there are people who murder/torture/neglect their children,
    and they are no more worthy than me."

  4.  Finally, simply say, "I can't think that way, I am a good person, I deserve better."  Because I know you deserve better, even if right now, you don't.



Monday, 6 March 2017

Being alone - or not - in our old age

This morning, I heard someone say that their only daughter had moved to Australia, and that if they did not do so too (which, for financial reasons, was a complicated decision), they would “be alone” for the rest of their life.

This person felt that not having their only child near them was a great tragedy, and that having to make this decision was a terrible injustice. Their perspective was clear – that their life was not worth living unless they were close to their child.

Needless to say, when I heard this I rolled my eyes a little, thinking not only of all of us who won’t have our own children near us when we are elderly, but of my great-uncle and great-aunt, whose children all lived overseas or in another island and had to rely on a paid housekeeper and my parents to help when they were aging, or of my in-laws, who – if something happened to my husband and I – would also be without children in New Zealand (despite having four of them, the nearest is more than an eight hour flight away), and of all the other people who are without family in their day-to-day lives.

I felt a little sympathy too, because it seemed that this person (I suspect it was a woman) had never prepared themselves for their retirement other than intending to rely on their child, and so felt alone and obviously a little angry and afraid.

That’s the advantage that I think we, the No Kidding, have over those who have focused their whole lives on their children. Instead of sitting back and looking at our old age with doom and gloom, we can consciously choose to make preparations, both practical and emotional. We can make friends (hopefully of all ages), and ensure we are in an environment that is suitable for our old age before we are too old to make the change (unlike my in-laws who live in a house with treacherous stairs – as I learned to my chagrin last year – and a garden that is too large for them to cope with, and on a hill they cannot now walk up and down to get to the convenient shops nearby).

But most importantly, we can prepare mentally for our old age, knowing that we won’t be relying on a child for our happiness, that we won’t take it as a personal betrayal or failing if we don’t have family around us in our later years, and that we will be better prepared to look elsewhere for support and companionship, appreciating those who are there – in whatever context – in our declining years. 



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Triggers

I think one of the reasons why I was so hesitant for so long to publish Sunday’s post was the vexed and debated issue of triggers; the question of whether recognition of triggers panders to an over-sensitive community, or if ignoring triggers is insensitive and a gross display of privilege.

So, here in No Kidding land, it is worth questioning whether the idea of avoiding the things that hurt us (scan photos, baby showers etc) is healthy, and will it, in the end, hurt us further by isolating us from the wider, largely parented, society.

In the beginning, when we first confront the permanency of our No Kidding lives (or begin to confront this whilst still actively trying to become parents), many things will hurt us, whether they are thoughtless comments or pictures on a blog or on Facebook, or more largely, the feeling of isolation from mainstream society. Self-preservation and self-protection is necessary at this stage, and displays of sensitivity from others is much appreciated.

Longer term, we are better able to cope with triggers, to recover from the pain they create, and to let it pass. It is also much easier to avoid taking these personally, to consider the point of view of the person who has raised the trigger, and maybe as a result, to be better equipped to communicate with them about their words or actions. (I think at this stage we are also better equipped to avoid being insensitive to others too; this was my point from yesterday, that when we know better we do better.)

We all know we can’t make the world conform to our desires, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak up and try to change it for the better.