16 September, 2020

Ageing without Children: A Summary

The World Childless Week theme for today is Ageing without Children. More specifically, it is about planning for old age. I'm looking forward to watching/listening to the webinar here too.

I've written quite a bit about planning for old age. I'm working on another post for my Separate Life blog too, because I find people with children forget to plan too. They just have fewer repercussions for not planning.

Due to elderly in-law issues today, I'm not writing anything new here right now, except for this summary of the basic tenets of my thinking about this issue. I've added links to my previous writing on the topic.

Ageing without Children Photo Text:

  1. Find joy in my old age
  2. Make decisions before it is too late
  3. Wishful thinking is not a plan
  4. Build a community
  5. Maintain kindness and a positive attitude

Links to most of my previous posts on Ageing without Children:

Ageing without Children

Ageing without Children: The Plan

Ageing without Children (#3)

Who will Advocate for the Childless?

Ageing without Children: Kindness and Attitude


Recipes as a Legacy 

Building a community 

Being alone - or not - in our old age

End of life wishes

14 September, 2020

My Story: Repost and an Update

"I didn't always want children.  I know that’s not a typical confession to hear from someone who has dealt with infertility, but I married young, and resisted and resented the almost immediate pressure I felt to have children.  I was in a new exciting world where women had a choice, and I was insulted by the inference that my biology would decide my place in the world, not my own thoughts, decisions, and talents.  My husband was a little more traditional, but he also knew who he had married, and knew I could only have children when I was ready.  So I spent many years brushing off the unwanted questions about when we were going to have children, building up the persona of the career woman who wasn’t interested in having children.  

It wasn't just about the career though.  I thought it was important to have children when I was ready, and not before.  I wanted to be a mother that was fully present for her children, not resentful of her stolen youth.  I also wanted to feel the maternal urge, and so I waited.  At times I wasn’t sure if it was going to arrive, but it ambled up to me in my mid-30s.  By the time I first conceived, I was in its full grip.  Whether it was simply biology (hormones and that ticking clock), my own natural wishes at the right time, or peer pressure, I don’t know and will never know.  But I know I genuinely wanted to be a mother. 

Of course, as is obvious now, it is not that easy.  A long story short is that two ectopic pregnancies and two failed IVFs later, I knew I would never have children.  I got the news on my 41st birthday.  I've had better birthdays.

Coming to terms with the news was not easy.  In retrospect, the persona I’d built up in the early years of my marriage – that I didn’t want children – protected me as I dealt with the realisation that I would never be a mother.  But still, it was hard.  At first, the truth of my situation hit more and more deeply.  Each time I thought “when I have a baby” or “my children will ...” the pain hit anew.  I wouldn't be having a baby.  My children would never ...  And this got worse before it got better, like punching a bruise that is already tender.

But it did get better.  Gradually I realised that punching the bruise was pointless, and so my brain trained itself not to think about the babies I didn't have, would never have.  My brain stopped me thinking of myself as a mother.  This took time.  But the good minutes, then hours, then days, then weeks, came more frequently.  At times I fought against it, feeling guilty that – on the good days - I was not grieving enough.  I wondered, if I didn't continue to grieve and mourn the life I thought I would have, then maybe that meant I didn't really ever want it, or if it meant I was upset simply because I didn't get what I thought I wanted.  So I wondered if my pain was fake, wondering if I didn't really have permission to feel pain, if it meant I in fact deserved what had happened.  Of course, now I look back and know my grief and pain was legitimate.  But still, the process of recovery itself made me feel guilty. 

But healing is a gradual process, and so gradually I realised that this endless sadness would not serve me well.  Back in the early days, immediately after my ectopic losses, I had felt the power of joy, even with something as simple as a joke on a sit-com, or the warmth of the sun on my back, a favourite song, or sitting looking out at the sea and a blue sky.  Grasping joy as it came, even when it was fleeting, was what healed me.

I realised too that feeling happy was not a betrayal, either of my lost babies, or of mine and my husband’s dreams.  Feeling happy with my life did not mean I didn't want children enough, or that I didn't grieve enough.  In fact, I felt strongly that I needed to be happy, to live well, in order to honour my losses, my pain.  I still do.  And so I guess I made the choice to be happy. 

I didn't come to this insight overnight.  It took time.  I read books written by those who had gone before me, and – on an internet forum I frequented and that had saved my soul in my darkest days of loss – I in turn shared my experiences with those who came after me.  Helping them, responding to their raw grief, even whilst I was still healing myself, showed me how far I had come, and gave me insight into my own healing.  Learning to find happiness, and value, out of what I had been through seemed to make sense of my loss.  And so, over several years, I was able to let go of the guilt. 

And letting go of that guilt opened up the world to me.  I was able to take joy in the aspects of my life that wouldn't be possible if I had children. I was able to read, and believe, research that promised that those of us without children would be able to have a happy life, and a happier old age.  I realised that I may not have got what I wanted, but that’s not always a bad thing.  I learned the secret of happiness is not to have what you want, but to want what you have.

I am happy.  I have a good life.  No, a great life!  I’m currently still basking in the memories of six weeks in Turkey and Europe – I couldn't have done that with kids. I'm so much more in touch with myself now, my emotions, my talents and yes, even my flaws. Maybe especially my flaws. I suspect age has something to do with that.  But I also think that my infertility and loss has tempered me, forged me into who I am today, someone who is wiser, kinder, more compassionate, more realistic, and yet more optimistic too; someone who is contented, happy.  Someone I like."

That was my story nine years ago almost exactly. Fbk keeps reminding me that this time in 2011, I was staying in a cave hotel in Cappadoccia/Kapadokya. It was a fabulous trip, with a lot of firsts - four new countries, ballooning, a cruise. We were gloriously childfree on that trip, and since then I've been fortunate to take a few more wonderful trips, both internationally and in New Zealand, that I wouldn't have taken with children. Life has indeed been good.

Looking back at when I was first learning to accept I would live my life without children, I had this fantasy that I would buy a bright red convertible, the opposite of the big child-ferrying buses some of my friends drove, just because I could. But work and travel and reality took over. Plus a number of factors, including a) I like to be anonymous, b) I live in a city that is not known for its large number of "top-down" days, and c) I have a family history of skin cancer and like to limit my sun exposure, meant that I was never really going to get a convertible! Actually, I'm fine with that, because the idea of the red convertible symbolised the freedom that I felt at the time, the travelling I was able to do, the choices I was able to make.

But life doesn't always allow us to make the most of that freedom. Life changes. It intervenes in plans and dreams - lost jobs and a tough job market and major house maintenance expenses, a hysterectomy and broken ankle and trigeminal neuralgia, care of elderly relatives and the death of my mother and my mother-in-law, and this week, probably my father-in-law. Even a pandemic! None of these troubles are unique to me, or - mostly - to my childless situation. They're just life. Sure, life without kids has its issues. But I'm aware of those. After so many years, I'm used to them. I don't like them all, but I'm used to them. They're part of me, and make me who I am. They've taught me so much about myself. They've taught me that I'll get through the tough parts of life, and they've taught me to appreciate life's joys. A lot of people never learn that.

If this is an honest update, I have to say that I'm probably less contented and happy than I was seven years ago. As I've mentioned, life hasn't always been easy the last nine years. And this year is 2020! So all things considered, I'm doing fine. After all, the whole world is struggling. But being childless? I'm not struggling with that. It's part of me - the good and the bad. And you know? That's okay too. 


World Childless Week

Today World Childless Week begins. You can find more about it here, including the events being held around it. For weeks I've been planning to write posts on the daily themes for this year, because I'm always looking for new topics to write about. They are:

Monday 14th - Our Stories
Tuesday 15th - Diversity
Wednesday 16th - Ageing without Children
Thursday 17th - Men Matter Too
Friday 18th - Comments that Hurt
Saturday 19th - We are Worthy
Sunday 20th - Moving Forwards

However, as the Childless Week dawned this morning, I acknowledge that the truth is that I've already written about many of these topics, many times. They're all important topics. Topics that are real, that are ongoing issues for us all living our No Kidding lives.

When I started writing this this morning, I was planning a few days away with my husband, something we've been meaning to do for almost a year, but caring for my father-in-law and then COVID-19 means it has been put off on a regular basis. We're now able to move around the country, and we were looking forward to a short road trip to a sunny wine region. So I was planning just reposting on these topics. However, since then, we've had to cancel our plans, so I might have more time to write something new.  Today (in a separate post) I have updated My Story.

I applaud Stephanie Phillips, Founder of World Childless Week, for bringing the issues and joys of our minority to the world. And I applaud everyone who is writing this week, or speaking out on social media or via interviews, podcasts or videos, or who are joining the webinars. There's going to be a lot to read and absorb, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm sure you'll all find someone's words at #worldchildlessweek that you can relate to, that provide comfort or inspiration, or simply help you feel less alone. Because you're not alone. We're all here with you.



07 September, 2020

Silver Linings

I’ve been blogging for a long time now. It’s part of my life. I’ve been blogging for 14 years now, and here at No Kidding in NZ, I will soon have my 10 year anniversary. When I began writing here, I had already been through infertility, and those early, painful years of adapting to my No Kidding life. I have readers here who are at a similar stage (and age), and I have readers who are more recently navigating their No Kidding lives without children. Sometimes, when I am writing, I have to balance the dangers of repeating myself with the dangers of assuming that others know what I have written before. This was at no time more obvious than my post a few days ago, and a comment that was left there. I didn’t want to make the post long-winded, and so I edited in and out and in and finally out again, a particular phrase acknowledging that my words might be painful to others. Perhaps I should have left it in, because a commenter clearly struggled with my suggestion that we can feel good about our lower environmental impact. I understand this. I’ve also heard this before, in much blunter language! I wrote about it here.

It is really hard to move from the idea of a life that we wanted, that we had hoped would bring us joy, to the life that we had actively not wanted. In those early days, weeks, months, and even years, after ending our journey, any suggestion that life will not be so bad can feel like a betrayal - a betrayal of our pain, a betrayal of the life we had wanted. Feeling any joy in our new No Kidding lives can also feel like a betrayal. I get that. I felt it. Even when I knew it wasn’t true.  And so, when those of us who are much further on make comments that there are advantages, or silver linings, to our lives without children, it can really hurt. Not in the same way, I think, as when people with children tell us how lucky we are to <fill in the blank> because we don’t have children. But it can hurt nonetheless, because it feels like we are diminishing or denying their pain, betraying our own history of pain.

If I have done this, I apologise. I don’t want to make anyone feel that I am not fully recognising their pain. I don’t. I’ve been through it. I remember it. I’ve written about it frequently. But I no longer feel it in the same way. And I write this blog, not to complain about the many things we have lost (although I feel free to do so when I’ve felt isolated, ignored, dismissed or forgotten), but to talk about my life and No Kidding lives as honestly as I can, the bad and the good, what helped me to heal, and hopefully, to a small extent, shining the way for those who follow.

When I talk about the good things about my life now, many of them are because I don’t have children. I wrote a whole series on the Gifts of Infertility pointing out the positive things that came from that, and came from my subsequent childlessness. I can feel much better about my environmental impact now than if I had children. That’s a fact. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t want children enough. It doesn’t mean that I’ve forgotten the pain I felt. It doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel sad yesterday when it was Father’s Day in NZ and Australia, and my husband’s brothers’ wives were sending photos of their celebrations for their husbands, without a word to my husband. Ouch. It doesn’t mean in any way that I deny the tremendous pain that I know many people are enduring, as they begin to navigate their way down that road less travelled or decide to walk through that forgotten door in the Infertility Waiting Room.

But denying ourselves experiences of joy, of gratitude, and of appreciation for our new lives is just as sad. We’ve already lost the life we thought we would have. Let’s not lose the life that we do have now, or the one that we can build when we have begun to heal. That would be tragic, such an unnecessary loss upon so many other losses. I would hate to see any of my readers do this.

But it takes time, to heal. It takes time to lose the feelings of guilt and betrayal. It takes time to say good-bye to our losses, and embrace our new lives. Many people struggle with the very idea that this might be possible. They might even get angry at the suggestion that they will heal. That’s completely normal. I get it. But when they give themselves time, when WE give ourselves time, it is also completely normal to move through the grief, to appreciate our new lives, and to see and cherish the silver linings.

A selection of my posts that address this from various angles:

Infertility’s Waiting Room

Gifts of Infertility and 2020 No Kidding Healing Project

Childlessness, pain and healing

Feeling left behind

A message to those who are hurting

The process of acceptance

It gets easier

You won’t always be sad




04 September, 2020

Childlessness and the environment

When I wrote my post Ten Ways the Childless Limit their Environmental Impact I forgot to list the biggest way our environmental impact is reduced. I was reminded of it by a comment on a social media group for those who are ageing without children, just after I had written my post. "Of course!" I said, embarrassed that I hadn't included it, although I kind of touched on it when I talked about housing.

Our environmental impact ends with us. We don't have children who go on to place stress on this already stressed planet, by doing all the things we all do (or did) - require food, clothing, housing, heating and/or cooling, transportation, technology, etc. We don't have children who have more children who go on to place stress on this planet. 

Feeling good? Good, you should.  This is one of the silver linings of infertility. And one of the best ways we can contribute to the future of other people's children.

Did I miss any other points?