Monday, 18 March 2019

Speechless

I don't have a lot to say this week. I've said enough over on A Separate Life, because I knew I couldn't, shouldn't, keep silent. So this Monday, I'll just refer you to that piece.

This week in New Zealand, the question of whether we have children or not seems to be irrelevant. We have all come together. And we've come together with the support of most of the world. And I'm very grateful for that.

Sending love and strength.
Arohanui
Kia Kaha.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

A state of grace

I read a post from a member of the ALI community who now has children. She was reflecting on her reactions to a pregnancy announcement. As is probably inevitable after infertility, a pregnancy announcement is never really just a pregnancy announcement. We all know too much now to simply let it go. So she thought about the ages of the couple and whether that had made it easier for them or not, and then hoped that they hadn't had fertility issues. It was only after going through all the different permutations of how they might have got pregnant that she realised she did not feel jealous about the pregnancy

"Well, of course," some of you might be saying. But I know that not all parents after infertility are able to feel this way. Those who used surrogates, or donor eggs and/or sperm, or those who adopted all have their own issues around pregnancy announcements. But even those who seem to get pregnant more frequently can find such news tough. I remember a woman on the charity website where I volunteered ten years ago who, despite some pregnancy losses and a PCOS diagnosis, still managed to have a child a year, and at last count (to my knowledge) had eight children. She had declared that even with all those children, she still felt jealous when she saw a pregnant woman, as she always assumed they had an easier time of it than she did. Perspective was not her strong point !

It is harder, I think, for the No Kidding to find that they don't feel any jealousy or little twinges when we hear pregnancy (or birth) announcements. After all, we're not grieving just the lack of pregnancy announcements or births, but that entire life with a child that we had once hoped for. So I think jealousy is perfectly normal, or if not jealousy, simply a twinge of pain hearing of other's success can hurt a lot, reminding us of what we have lost, of what we weren't able to achieve.

But, as the years pass, and as we pass through menopause and enter different phases of our lives, this happens less and less often. I believe we can reach the same calm, relaxed, accepting state that Isabelle has found. Gradually I have grown able to simply shrug if the newly pregnant person/couple is not close to me. Or I can be genuinely happy for others, regardless of their fertility journey to get there. And perhaps most important, I can do that largely without pain now. The whole process seems separate from me now. So I embrace that. Sure, sometimes there might be a twinge. But I think that grows to become the exception rather than the norm. I know it will pass. And I like being able to join in on celebrations, or simply being able to move on after hearing the news without it affecting me. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for this very welcome state of grace.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Issues from all sides

In recent times, I've read two posts from No Kidding bloggers taking opposite positions on an issue that comes up from time to time. Are our pets our children? I'm not going to enter this debate, but it is an example that, as there are more No Kidding women writing and speaking out, there will be a wider range of opinions about what life is like for those of us who are living No Kidding lives without children. And perhaps we should be a wee bit careful when we try to speak for our group. We're not all the same.

I know that it is very easy for us to take offence at words or behaviour that feel unkind or pointed. After all, it is kind of funny that I'm writing this post when only a week ago I wrote about some comments that I felt were meant to hurt me. It is, of course, particularly easy to be hurt and offended when we are still hurting ourselves, when we are vulnerable, when every nerve in our body (and brain) is sensitised, when we have that distorted view that half the world is pregnant or has a baby, and that the rest of the world is against us. Whilst I won't criticise anyone for feeling this way at such a difficult time, it is good too to gently put an alternative point of view, or offer reasons why someone might have said something or acted in a particular way, without denying the person the legitimate reaction to something that hurts.

Gradually, though, as we heal most of us become better able to distinguish between genuine, if  misguided, attempts to be kind, and those comments or behaviour designed to put us in our place, criticise our situations or decisions, and make us feel lesser. Or to recognise comments or actions that were thoughtless but innocent, and shrug or laugh at the ignorance behind them.

In the two posts I'm thinking about, offence was taken for opposite reactions. One person commented that nobody would ever say "your pets are your children" if they had been through what we have been through. Yet another blogger, who was also childless not by choice, did indeed feel that their dog was their child, and was upset that family members weren't treating the dog accordingly. Interestingly, both posts felt that these comments and behaviour were an example of discrimination against their No Kidding status, and were an example of being ignored and dismissed.

However, I personally know people who do not share our No Kidding status but who refer to their pets as children, and would be only too happy to refer to my pets as mine. Who always included our cats (when they were alive) on our Christmas cards, and their pets as well as their children. Their reactions weren't a case of being condescending towards a childless couple, but rather of acknowledging the importance of pets in their and our family. Likewise, I know No Kidding people who would not treat a dog as a child, or make concessions for a dog's behaviour in the way they might for a child, and mean no offence. It's not necessarily an issue where the lines are drawn based on your childless or parent status.

So thinking about these posts reminded me to question motivations (my own and others) before taking offence. Now that I'm comfortable in my No Kidding life, it is easier to do this. I'll feel pain when it is warranted, but understanding someone's motivations means I can take offence with a grain of salt, and not feel the pain so acutely, if at all. I find too I can dismiss some assumptions, forgive some, and laugh at others. Or I can choose to genuinely try and educate. Importantly, I can laugh at myself too, if I am at risk of taking myself too seriously. I think it's a valuable skill, that helps me live my life. And I probably need to employ it more often!

Monday, 25 February 2019

Perpetuating the stereotype

Right now, I’m working on one of the stereotypes of the No Kidding. You know the one, that because we have (ahem) “nothing else in our lives” (apologies) we just travel the world. The words in quotation marks are so obviously wrong, when I look at my life and the lives of all the women I know who are in this No Kidding community, but they are so often behind the subtle digs of others.

I recently was on the wrong end of a subtle dig from someone in my life. She’s said openly and pointedly to me before that when old and dying, no-one wishes that they had travelled more. (I haven’t had a chance to point out that our FIL has openly said, now that he is unable to travel, that he wished he had done so much more in the thirty years since he retired.) This time, she noted that the only photos that matter are the photos of family and social get-togethers. This was after I had praised her for being good at her photos of people. Maybe I was being over sensitive, but it felt as if she was getting a subtle dig in at my nature (not high on her list of important things) and travel photography.

Comments like this have made me think about travelling and question why I like it, and what the point is of exploring the world. And I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes me out of myself, which is something this person could usefully try once in a while! Okay, that might not have been nice, but sometimes …

Anyway, my photos remind me, and others, of the beauty in this world, of our impact on others, on how lucky we really are, and of how important it is to be grateful for what we have, and where we live. I have no reason to be ashamed of that. In fact, I’m very proud of it.

So back to my first point. I’ve written before why I love travelling. Yes, my husband and I are that stereotype of the childless couple who travels. But here’s the thing. I would have travelled if I had had children too. It’s one of the sadnesses of my life, that I haven’t been able to share my joy in new places and new things with my children. I would have loved to share my love of Thailand with children, to have spoken Thai to them and introduced them to the country, the food (especially), and some of the culture and philosophy of sanuk (similar to joie de vivre) and sabai (calm and gratitude when everything is good). I don’t travel just because I am childless. I travel despite being childless.

So I try to share my love of travel indirectly with others. A friend went on safari with her boys after I had raved about it to them, and after they had questioned me and asked to see my photos, and at the age that I thought they would love it. They did. I think about families and their kids, and what the children would love or not love about particular locations. I would dearly love to travel with some of these families to see the look in my nieces’ and nephews’ eyes as they see something new for the first time. But they travel with their friends, or with people who have children who can play with their children. Not the boring old childless couple.

And so we travel alone. There's no alternative. Which is fine. I’m lucky though. Tremendously lucky. I have a husband who enjoys travelling, and is as enthusiastic about it as I am. (Though we do have different travel preferences!)

So this afternoon I have been furiously planning our next trip. There’s a lot to do. I need to make some bookings. I'll let you know when I have.

Monday, 18 February 2019

When talking helps

One of the gifts of infertility, as I have written, has been awareness and knowledge of what people go through when they grieve. I had a conversation about this with a niece over the weekend. The sister of the one who got married (I wrote about that at A Separate Life here) split suddenly from her husband last year. Shortly afterwards, her sister announced her engagement. So, although she didn't show it at the wedding, and although she was the life of the party at the dance that night, the last months haven't been easy for her.  We sat and chatted about this, and about what has helped her (and the unhelpful comments that haven't helped her) at the relaxed post-wedding day barbecue. There were, of course, so many similarities with infertility and No Kidding childlessness.

And the thing is, she is suffering from this too. She is at the age when fertility starts to plummet. She suffers from PCOS. In the last year or so she's been working with a nutritionist, managing to improve many of her symptoms, and she's even started a small Facebook group talking about her PCOS journey. So we had a lot in common, and I opened up about my No Kidding childlessness, which we haven't really touched on much before. (Usually we joke together about the trials and tribulations of being the middle child.)

During our chat, sitting next to us and undoubtedly within earshot, was her nephew (my great (!) nephew) who also had mixed emotions surrounding the wedding. The day before he'd seen his mother marry another man, and at that, he grieved the loss of his father anew. So, as my niece and I chatted about mindfulness and unhelpful comments and grief, I was conscious that he was there too, and perhaps, as he played around on the computer, also listening to our conversation. I hoped our open discussion helped. All I know is that when we left shortly afterwards, I got the hug of the century from my usually-reticent (in his teenage years) great-nephew!

Grief. It affects so many of us. An openness about our own grief undoubtedly helps others. It was a good reminder to me, and our interaction makes me as happy, in a different way, as the wedding did the day before.