Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Nine years of No Kidding in NZ

I don't usually write an annual post marking the anniversary of starting this blog, but this year it feels right. It has been nine years today since I started. I'd been writing elsewhere, though for much of that time it had been in a more formal and advisory capacity, but the focus was very much on those who were still trying, rather than those of us who were well into our No Kidding lives. Hence, No Kidding in NZ.

It has been a fascinating time for me. I'd already learned so much about myself, because I had already been through the process of (in this order) loss, then infertility, learning I would never have children, and last, but never least, learning to adjust to the rest of my life without children. I've learned a lot about myself, and a lot about others. I've made friends, and know of one person I've upset (a parenting after infertility blogger). I've considered issues I may never have addressed without the blog, and it's made me a better person. And I thank you for that.

Best of all, I've seen people come to this blog raw and grieving, crying out for help, and sometimes angry at the world, who have not only survived, but thrived. Who have gone through the infertility waiting room door I wrote about here, and who have walked the separate way I wrote about here and here, and found the joy and the beauty of that path. They know they're not alone, and they are or know they will soon be okay. Like us all.

I know by now, after nine years of only writing about infertility and life without children here, that there is little I can say that is new. Maybe I never said anything new! But as a comment from a few years ago just reminded me, it is important to keep talking about these issues, both from my perspective now, and way back when it was new and raw. I plan to keep doing this, and to keep looking at issues and thinking about them from a No Kidding point of view.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, whatever happens in the next year, I definitely want to get to my ten year blogging anniversary.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Thinking about "our stuff" again

Last week, Mel wrote about a book by a bookseller in Scotland. I'll summarise her post here, but it's worth going to read it in detail here.

Early in the book, the bookseller talked about going to the estate of a No Kidding couple to clear their books so he could resell them in his shop. He clearly found it sad to see the house of the couple who had no children, to know the books were going, and that there was no-one (his assumption) who would treasure the photos on the wall. He felt that the woman’s book collection was "as close as anything she left to some kind of genetic inheritance."

Mel had a hard time with this, and wrote: "Dismantling any person’s book collection is about releasing their character, and hopefully all of us are more than just our book collections."

I read both the quotes from the book (you really have to read Mel's post), and Mel's commentary, and felt slightly uncomfortable too.

Firstly, I reacted to the bookseller's feeling of sadness about taking the book collection of the couple without children. I was grateful that he acknowledged the loss in their lives, whilst at the same time irked that he seemed to think there was an innate sadness in lives without children, without knowing if they had chosen not to have children, or had had that situation forced upon them. It's confusing when we want understanding, but don't want judgement and pity! I appreciated too that he didn't dismiss their lives as unimportant, because there weren't children left behind to grieve, but saw them as real people, with characters and interests reflected in their books.

Then I reacted to Mel's comment that dismantling any person's book collection is the same, whether or not they have children. I will admit that I bristled a little, because it sounded to me a little bit like the "all lives matter" reaction. It seemed to deny the genuine empathy this bookseller seemed to feel for the couple without children, and it seemed to deny the realities of disposing of the possessions of those without children, compared to those with children. Because the truth is, not having children affects every aspect of our lives, and even our deaths, in a way that it does not affect parents. Our possessions are precious only to us, our history is important only to us, our joys are important only to us. We end with us. I end with me. Parents don't usually have to feel that.

So I couldn't comment on the post - except for a note that my book collection is largely digital or borrowed these days - because I had thoughts swirling about, agreeing and at the same time disagreeing with both the author, and with Mel. I've been a bit melancholy the last few days (for reasons which I may divulge soon), and I am sure that influenced how I felt.

I guess it made me sad that there will be no-one who will know which are my favourite books when I go, no-one who will want the pictures on my wall, or even necessarily be curious about those pictures on my way, no-one to pass on the things I love. So in a moment of pure indulgence, I felt sorry for myself, and for a while, I let myself feel sorry for myself.

I shook it off. I've thought about these issues when I've felt stronger, and written about them too (here, for example).  I know that I am more (as Mel pointed out) than my book collection, more than just my possessions. I've already written about my legacy being more than whether or not I have children. I have accepted that my possessions serve me and my husband, and only me and my husband, and I am happy if they work for us, and give us pleasure, because that's all any of us can ever control.

Still, sometimes, it all creeps up on us, on me. Sometimes there is an emptiness that seeps through the armour I've learned to wear against the outer world, against the losses that I've faced, and against the danger of my own thoughts and fears. It hits us when our defences are down, and reminds us of what we've lost. That's okay, too. We all need to be allowed to feel what we feel. As long as we can clear our heads, reapply logic, and regain our confidence. Our value and legacy does not depend on whether or not we have children, or on our possessions and who might want them. I know that. But it is an important reminder.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Needing to belong

Listening to an interview today, I heard a young Maori man talk about his desire to go somewhere where being Maori was normal, the standard state of being.

Whilst different, this need to belong, the yearning to be amongst people who are the same, made me think of childless women. Whilst we might have accepted we'll never be part of the wider "norm" of women who are mothers or who expect to be mothers, we do still yearn for a place where we feel normal, where No Kidding women are the standard, or at least we are not seen as different. Sometimes we can achieve that in work gatherings – I don't really recall being asked if I had children at any time in the 11 years I was on a Board of Directors (although I faced other sexist issues over my time on the Board), and I also remember going on a course when, for two wonderful days, the issue of anyone having children was completely irrelevant and ignored by all attendees. The fact that I still remember the relief and freedom that two-day course offered me ten years ago is a testament to how rare these times can be, and to how unrelenting the pressure to be "normal" can be. (Though it also reminds me that I feel this pressure so much less, if at all, these days.)

I am lucky too, in that I have some friends without children. In fact, a week or so ago a group of women – all mutual friends of a friend – went out for dinner and a community theatre performance, and it was only afterwards that I realised that only one of us had children. We had a great time. Yes, my friend showed videos of her new nephew, and I felt forced to ooh and aah over him for her sake (she is also involuntarily No Kidding). But once that was over, we all relaxed, had fun, and best of all, felt normal, and that we belonged.

I hope that you all manage to have the occasional evening like this, when you can shed your childlessness, and just be.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

When pain heightens awareness

At the end of The Girl Who Smiled Beads, Clementine Wamariya said something else that I meant to include in my last post, but forgot. That's okay, because having its own post means I can comment on this idea a bit more.

She said (and I will paraphrase a little, because she struggled getting the words out),
"use your ears, not only to hear what others are saying to hurt you,
but to hear ALL the sounds around."
She recognised that it is so easy, especially when we are in pain, to only hear what hurts us. And this is normal. Suddenly, after a loss or when we find ourselves in a situation we never imagined or wanted, there are slights all around. Part of this is because we have a new awareness of how this world is focused on the majority, and ignores, neglects and insults the minority. Part of it, however, is that we are only capable of focusing on what accentuates the pain we are already in. After all, pain has a way of blocking off everything else around us, insisting we focus on it, and it alone.

But when we have healed a little, have become able to put the pain away for seconds, or minutes, or days (or weeks or months), it is good to start to hear "all the sounds around." Hear the reasons behind the hurtful comments, and the hurt – whilst very different from ours – that often prompts them. Understanding helps reduce the sting of those comments. Hear our own prejudices in addition to that of others against us, and ask if they are fair. And to those who have come out of infertility with children, I'd ask them to continue to hear the voices that included their own voices, just a short time ago.

We all share so much, even when our situations are so different. The experiences of those in pain are often very similar. Let's use our heightened awareness to hear the commonalities in our experience, rather than the differences.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Learning resilience from The Girl Who Smiled Beads

I've just come back from a walk, when I not only enjoyed the mild temperatures of spring, the calm weather (windy walks are the norm in this city), and the last remnants of blossoms, but listened to the end of an extraordinary audiobook. It is the story of a refugee from Rwanda, and is extraordinary not for the fact of her journey, which - as she points out - is sadly common amongst fellow Rwandans, and innocent refugees all over the world, but for her voice, and her honesty, her pain, and her wish to be seen and understood.

The Girl Who Smiled Beads has another narrator, but there is an epilogue in which the author, Clemantine Wamariya, speaks directly to the reader, and we finally hear her own voice. Her words are important, and relevant for all of us. I found some of them particularly appropriate to those of us who have walked the No Kidding path, and was delighted to hear that she reflected my wishes for this blog. She stressed the importance of remembering who you are, of speaking the truth, and of not reverting to programmed views and stereotypes. She said,

"My wish for you is to remember you. ... To use your eyes to truly see. ...

To use your mouth to speak, where each word invites you to be you. ...
And if you've made peace ... remember the joy. ..."

She finishes with great advice.

"Taste delicious meals!"

This reminder to be honest, to be yourself, to speak your truth, and finally to allow yourself to feel joy, is incredibly relevant to those of us who have struggled through infertility, and is a recipe for healing, and for living, regardless of our outcomes.

I highly recommend this book.