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


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.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Knowing better ...

I have to admit that I have had this post largely written for over a year, but for reasons that will become obvious, I’ve been a little scared to post it. Bent Not Broken’s post about being ambushed by a work colleague with a scan video has finally prompted me to hit the big orange button, Publish.

These days, in my happily ever after No Kidding life, I don’t have many triggers. I can watch birth scenes on TV (I’ve always been curious about the act and process of giving birth), and breastfeeding (even though that was a particular loss I felt) with little or no discomfort. But scan pictures can still throw me off kilter. My only scans have been to diagnose (or attempt to diagnose) my ectopic pregnancies, to see the seemingly endless (at the time) problems in resolving my second ectopic pregnancy, to show that IVF wasn’t working for me, and to diagnose my fibroids that lead to my hysterectomy. None of these resulted in good news, or happy memories. So I flinch whenever I see one.

I of course admit I have been scarred by my history. I’ve recounted before my story of emailing good friends offshore to tell them of my second ectopic. They didn't know about my first either, but I updated them at the same time – I was responding to their Christmas/New Year message (how joyous). I received an almost immediate response. It said, "sorry to hear that, but hey, we're pregnant, and attached is our scan photo!" Needless to say, I deleted the email, and never opened the attached photo. This couple had struggled themselves with infertility, requiring IVF/ICSI to conceive, so I could understand their excitement. But as we know, infertility doesn’t necessarily breed sensitivity either.

It’s the same in the ALI blogosphere. Now, before I offend anyone, I’m the first one to support those who are pregnant or parenting after infertility in writing about their realities. Once it is clear they are pregnant or parenting, I don’t believe they should have to put disclaimers, or particularly censor their words. If they’re finding pregnancy or parenting hard, then they should feel free to say so. If they are joyously happy, then they can say that too. We have the choice of reading their posts – usually you can see the direction a post is heading, and choose whether to continue – or not. Self-protection for us is relatively easy.

Pictures, however, are different from text, or spoken words in a podcast, and research shows they are far more likely to elicit negative emotions. And the issue is wider than just scan photos, but these are most commonly posted. If there is a lead-in to a post that suggests I might not want to scroll down to a visual image, or simply refers to coming images, or is hinted at in the post title, or has a photo one click away, then I very much appreciate the warning. I can then choose not to click , or simply to look away, or even just mentally brace myself. But if a photo (scan photo, for example, or birth/baby photo, or breastfeeding photo, or photo of a positive pregnancy test - or whatever might be a trigger) is the first thing we see when we open a post or see a Fb update, then there is no option but to see it. In a split second, unlike with text, we have seen the full image, and will experience all the emotions that surround that. Likewise, in real life if we are asked if we’d like to see baby photos or scan photos or video, or whatever, we can see what’s coming, mostly, and choose to avoid it. But where people want it to be a surprise (like BNB’s colleague), we have no choice, no ability to protect ourselves, and we’re hit when we’re least expecting it.

Now, I do understand that a finally pregnant IVFer might be thrilled to have a good news pregnancy test/scan/birth/breastfeeding experience at last, and may want to share that with their readers. It’s become a rite of passage that some people have desperately wanted to experience. I think many of us can relate to that.

But I have to ask, is a photo of an ultrasound scan (for example) – especially on what, until the scan photo is posted, used to be an infertility blog - really necessary?

I don’t really understand why people want to share their scan photos anyway – especially if we already know they’re pregnant. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have shared mine. After all, they don’t impart any extra knowledge – unlike birth photos, where you can see the baby, learn if they have red hair (like my adorable niece), or if they’ve got long limbs (like my sister), or dimples, and start to get to know the new little human. Scan photos though, all look exactly the same (with the exception of scans for multiples), so sharing them online with others seems unnecessary. Wait. I acknowledge that they are of course completely necessary and important for the parents-to-be, but probably only the parents-to-be  or okay, maybe the grandparents-to-be too. But for the rest of us, they’re pretty irrelevant, perhaps even incomprehensible. After all, it’s not as if we require proof of their claim that they’re pregnant! We can still be happy for them or to offer our congratulations.
I know that someone who hasn't experienced infertility might not really understand that sharing such images (or the way they share them) can be painful, and I can choose to educate them (or not), depending on who they are and the relationship I have with them. It is much easier to do that these days.

But that’s the thing I don’t understand here in the ALI blogging community. People who are pregnant after infertility know, for example, that scan photos can be painful. They know how it feels to be side-swiped by suddenly coming across an unexpected photo. Or even if it doesn’t affect them, they know that it can and does affect others. We all wish we didn’t know that, that there was no reason to know that. But surely a cost – and I would argue, a benefit – to infertility is that it can bring greater awareness and compassion into our lives, especially when we consider how our actions will affect others.

Yet despite that, some still choose to post scan photos, arguing that they have wanted to be able to do this for so long, they should be able to. That’s a fair enough argument. I agree, it isn’t fair that some women and couples can, without guilt or thought, spread their happy news this way, and that it is harder for the infertile. But, knowing what we know, do we really want to be those women? Can we, after experiencing so much, really be those carefree people? We all know former infertiles who seem to suffer from infertility amnesia, treating current infertiles and those of us without children in ways that would have appalled them even weeks/months earlier, when they were going through infertility themselves. I find it hard to believe that they truly forget, that there is never a wee pang of guilt as they join the insensitive parent/pregnant person club. It's a choice. And it isn't as if that is the only choice, either. There is a thoughtful parent/pregnant person club, and - although it is unfortunately smaller - you don’t have to have experienced infertility to be a member.

So what I find hard to accept is that some of our fellow bloggers then consciously choose their own wishes over the pain of the people they know will be reading their posts. It’s not done through ignorance, but rather is a decision not to care.

Does this mean I hold those who’ve been through infertility to a higher standard? Yes, it does. And I guess that's why I'm writing this here. Because I like to think that when we know better, we do better.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Accepting it's not going to happen

I’ve been trying to write a Microblog Mondays post for about an hour now. I’ve been reading a lot of the draft topics I have in my No Kidding Blog document, I’ve added to and edited a longer post that is almost ready to go (prompted by a recent blog I read elsewhere), I’ve read some articles, and I’ve started drafting and discarding several posts.

There’s only so much I can say in an eight sentence post. (Yes, I have stuck diligently to the original suggestion that these posts should be no longer than eight sentences.) I don’t want to briefly address a topic that deserves more attention, and I don’t want to repeat myself, as I know I probably do too much anyway.

So today, as inspiration has failed me, I need to accept – as I have had to do in the past –that sometimes, it is just not going to happen. That recognition is once again liberating, and allows me to feel happy at the good day, and at the other task I’ve been focused on lately, and that is planning travel activities somewhere exotic.

Instead, I need to go outside and enjoy this (rare) lovely day, appreciate that I’m not busy doing a school run or dashing from work to school to after-school activities to a chaotic home, and breathe deeply. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

Coping with children in our lives

Saying “it gets better” may at times feel meaningless to a grieving childless person, because it is so vague, not specifying how, or when, it will happen. So I’m going to try to articulate something that I realised today, after reading two different blog posts about spending time with children.

When we’re infertile, and going through the initial grief of childlessness, every child and every pregnant belly we see are reminders of the children we wanted, the children we have lost, the children we will never have, and the parents we will never be. They feel so close, such an intimately painful part of us that has been wrenched away, that having them around us is at times unbearable. We’re acutely aware they are not our children, the children we wanted, but yet … in ways … all children are the children we wanted, our children. 

As we heal, I think we manage to put a distance between ourselves and our wounded hearts, and other people’s children, recognising that there’s a difference between the children we wanted to have, and the children who are there in front of us. That separation in my heart and my mind certainly got easier over time, as children who were babies at the time we were pregnant (or trying to get pregnant) grew and developed their own unique personalities and bodies that didn’t and couldn’t have come from us, even in our imaginations.

These children are not the precious, unformed beings we had hoped to have and had already loved with all our hearts, but I now see that this is a good thing, as it gives me a freedom to love and appreciate these children for who they are, untainted by my ideas of who I wanted them to be, and without the awful yearning for them as my children.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Banishing intrusive thoughts

Life Without Baby recently had a lovely post and thread about getting to the stage of acceptance where we can appreciate and enjoy our lives without children, but I ached for one of the commenters, who said, “ … but I would give it all up for just one.”

I could feel her pain, and her unwillingness to freely admit, without qualification, that life without children has many advantages. It’s that feeling we have, so many of us (all of us?) that if we admit that we enjoy life (or at least many aspects of our life) without children, maybe what we’re really saying is that we didn’t want children enough or worse, that we didn’t deserve children enough. It’s as if we feel we are admitting something that is a betrayal, that is heretic, almost sinful; something that is certainly anathema to the prevailing belief elsewhere in the ALI blogging community, and in wider society, that parenthood is everything.

I will admit, from time to time I still experience a flicker of guilt, of a “what if this means I didn’t want them enough?” thought that appears to torment me. But now I am soon able to despatch that thought, knowing that the thought is in itself a betrayal, heresy to my staunch belief that we can truly enjoy our lives without children, even though at one stage we genuinely and deeply wanted to have them.

This way of thinking is a betrayal of of the decisions I made and the decisions and situation that were forced on us, of the pain I’ve been through to get where I am, and of the babies we lost on the way, and mostly it is a betrayal of me, my life now, and my life with my husband, my family and my friends.

On the bright side, I think that we all work through this stage eventually – or I sincerely hope so – and even though the negative thoughts may come, I know now that we can choose to listen to them and let them linger, or shoo them off with a confident, and knowing, flourish.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Shedding resentment

Last week, I wrote that those of us who don’t have children will sometimes feel resentment towards those who do have children, when we might have been on the receiving end of condescension or insensitive comments, or have had to tolerate those parents or expectant parents who are condescending or insensitive or smug and self-congratulatory, or when we feel judged as failures or weak.

It reminds me that some time ago, I heard that carrying resentments is not only mentally unhealthy, keeping you in that hurt space and not allowing you to move on, but also quite literally holds you down. It turns out that resentment is an actual physical burden – in a test, high jumpers couldn’t jump as high when asked to think about resentments.

When I think back to those early years of pain and hurt and at times anger and resentment, I can well imagine that I wasn’t capable of leaping as high, and that physically as well as emotionally I was carrying a heavy burden.

As time goes by, it is easier to let these things go, to refuse to let them keep me down, to understand they’re more about other people’s issues than they are about us, or to speak up and defend ourselves, or to point out that their comments are hypocritical or insensitive or unfair. I’m much better at this now than I was in the early days and years of coming to terms with living a No Kidding life, and looking back, that progress really has felt as if I’ve been shedding a load.

I know that I feel much more relaxed and freer as a result of letting my hurt and resentments go. Lighter, even.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Quoting Mali

Recently, off-blog, I answered some questions about living a No Kidding life, and these were some of my favourite comments. They're my favourites because they are so personal to me, and their truths were so hard-won.
  • Give yourself permission not to answer questions - it is empowering.

  • A happy life is not only possible, but inevitable.

  • The real choice is between living childless or childfree.

  • We are the real success stories.

  • Our own thoughts and fears are worse than anything anyone will say to us.

  • Life – that’s what’s next.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Writing about those with different outcomes

Mid-last year, I was asked to address the issue of how No Kidding bloggers talk about others who are going through infertility or who are now expectant mothers or parents. (That should explain my last post, the one I wrote here last year, and this post - and apologies in advance, for any repetition.) Accusations were made – at some No Kidding bloggers, though not all of us, and not all the time. So I agreed to write about this from my perspective.

First, it is important to recognise what all No Kidding bloggers have in common. We are all writing with the knowledge that we will never have children (and that once we wanted them). This is an inherently different perspective from those who were infertile and are now parents, or those who are pregnant and full of hope and expectation and fear, or those who are still trying and hoping. It means we might have different views on the experience of infertility, views that might be unwelcome to those who are going through infertility now, or who have come out of it with the prize they wanted.

The underlying assumptions to our lives are now different not just to the bulk of society, but also to those of our previous fellow infertiles. This is a very different dimension to our lives. We experience something they do not, feel different pain and different joy. Stating this is not competitive, comparative, divisive, or playing Pain Olympics. It is a plain and simple fact. We have a different starting point.

Secondly, when we live without children, we can (and do) experience a real sense of isolation. We are rarely (if ever) recognised as a legitimate group in society, but are easily ignored, invisible beside the over-powering norm of those who have or expect to have children. It happens in wider society, and in the infertility blogging community. So the normal, natural and strong desire to look for tribes and for connection is accentuated. Our blogs help us find that.

When No Kidding bloggers write about expectant parents and parents, we do so in a number of ways:
  1. We might write focusing on our personal experiences with the pregnant and parents, articulating our feelings, trying to understand ourselves, our emotions, our motivations, our relationships.
  2. Or we might write in a genuine attempt to understand the motivations of pregnant people or parents, rather than simply to be offended by their presence, or their words or actions, their ignorance or casual insensitivity.
  3. Or we might write about systemic biases and issues, whether societal or commercial, recognising what was and is hard for us, and wanting to improve the situation for those who follow behind.
No Kidding bloggers write too with a number of emotions:
  1. We write with gratitude, when parents are thoughtful, when they try to understand our experiences and decisions, when they respect our emotions, understand our sensitivities, and either embrace us in their lives, or respectfully keep their distance when that’s what we want and need.
  2. We write, perhaps, with envy, frustrated that they don’t appreciate what they have and take it for granted, and/or when they fail to recognise our losses.
  3. We might write too with hurt and resentment, when they have been condescending or insensitive or smug and self-congratulatory, or when they are clearly judging us as weak, as failures, as those who opted out when the going got tough, without making an effort to understand.
  4. We write with hurt and fear and loneliness, when their words or actions have made us feel marginalised, vulnerable, isolated, forgotten, and dismissed.
  5. We might be angry too, when they have laughed at us, demeaned us, and made us feel irrelevant.
I have felt all these emotions when reading blogs or interacting in real life, and I am certainly not alone.

Whilst sometimes we might write defensively, filled with emotion, there are other times we are able to be thoughtful, and objective. Importantly, I think that sometimes writing on our blogs - amongst people who understand - can be an outlet so that in real life, or in correspondence or on someone else’s blog, we can continue to exercise restraint, and be polite and decent and respectful!

But when we are writing with emotion, when we react to actions and words, spoken or written, that have hurt us deeply, cut us to the quick, we can be less than kind towards those who instigated these hurt feelings. We might make gross generalisations, or attempt to use humour to ease the hurt we’re feeling, or defensively adopt a hurt, or angry, or mocking tone. Likewise, simply by being honest about our own experiences we can inadvertently hurt someone who feels as if they are being targeted by our words. Because it is easy to take offence. And so a cycle of hurt continues.

Whilst I’m not condoning it – either the hurtful words or tone, or the ultra-sensitivity that can exist in any sector of the infertility community (including ours) -I do understand it, and  I don’t think that it should be entirely unexpected. It certainly happens in all sections of the wider infertility community that is, after all, full of hurt people. The truth is that we’ve probably all experienced both ends of these emotions.

Personally though, I don’t believe that anyone* intends to hurt others. Rather, it is an inadvertent result of expressing emotions and seeking connection, perhaps in an attempt to communicate to others how words and actions can hurt, or in an effort to understand and explain the environment in which we find ourselves.

Fortunately, though, we heal and grow, and we evolve and mature as writers and thinkers. Emotions ease, and we can step back more objectively. We might still unconsciously hurt others, but I don't think it's possible to avoid this entirely. I will certainly defend the right of bloggers here to talk about what hurts them, to express their emotions, and to recognise the particular pain and strength and benefits of the No Kidding community. I don't think that supporting a minority, asking for equality for a group that feels ignored and dismissed, takes away anything from the majority.

But I also like to think that we all (regardless of where we sit in the community) heal and grow as readers as well as writers. It is much easier for me now to feel compassion for someone who has hurt me, to begin to understand their motives and their pain, and to accept that it is about them, and where they are in their journey, not about me. I see other bloggers who are parents after infertility, who are able to agree with much that is said in our community too, once they have some distance.

I do think though that we need to understand that a post can feel divisive and competitive, or reflective and inspiring, depending on where we sit in the process. I recognise that. It all comes down to motivation and delivery, and its worth - from time to time - stepping back and thinking about our own motivations for and delivery of our posts. As long as we display tact and good manners and empathy, are being honest about our emotions, are exploring them with a genuine wish to understand, and are not being deliberately unkind, then I think that we can all continue to blog with pride.

* at least in the blogosphere, I can’t and won’t speak to what happens in Twitter

Monday, 16 January 2017

Reflecting on our days “in the infertility trenches”

When writing here, I sometimes reflect on what it was like when I was trying to conceive and carry a child, and I frequently (as I am sure, other No Kidding bloggers do this too) recognise myself in those who are still trying to conceive or resolve their infertility. This recognition, this hindsight - knowing now what I wished I had known then – causes me to reflect, to think about what would have helped, and to be – at times – brutally honest about my emotions and thoughts at the time.

I don’t believe that, in reflecting on and analysing our own feelings and experiences, there is any actual or intended judgement of the actively infertile, but I do understand that our thoughts and discussions (in blog posts and comment threads) can at times feel judgemental to those who are still stressed and emotional, still vulnerable and fearful, who feel perhaps that their choices are under attack, even though many or most of us made those same choices, and trod the same path.

Yet I firmly believe that we make these comments as a recognition of ourselves, of what we didn’t and indeed couldn’t understand at the time, and from the benefit of knowledge and experience and hindsight and time. I think that we look at these issues in an effort to understand not only ourselves, but often also the commercial and societal environments in which we are living, and in an effort to improve the environment or to ease the process for those who come after us.

Saying, for example, that it is possible to be scared or stuck on the treadmill or immersed in grief (as examples of words I have used) is not an insult, although it can be and has been taken as such, just as recognising societal pressures or problems in the fertility industry is a systemic discussion and indictment of structural and societal issues, not of the patients who, of necessity, use the industry’s services.

My intention at least is that when I think of those still on their infertility journey, I do so with love and empathy, having been there myself, knowing how hard it can be, understanding the pain they are going through right now, the pressure, the doubts, the fear, and that I write with the hope that their paths might be eased as a result of our discussions, our reflections, and our sometimes unwelcome honesty.

But I wonder, how successful do you think I am, and perhaps the No Kidding blogging community is as a whole, in remembering where we have been?