27 June, 2022

Losses and last resorts

When I was undergoing investigations and treatment for one of my ectopic pregnancies (I cannot recall which), at the entrance to the hospital car park, one or two anti-abortionists waved signs and shouted at cars and visitors to the hospital. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable, they are dangerous, and can and do lead to maternal death. At the time, I was given a standard ectopic pregnancy medication, methotrexate, to end the pregnancy. Even the Catholic Church acknowledges that ectopics require treatment, and are never viable. But every time I entered the hospital, I wondered what vitriol would be hurled my way if they knew what treatment I was given. But they didn't make me feel guilty. I felt guilty enough that my body had not worked properly, and that I had no choice. That the baby I had been ready to welcome would never in fact make it. No, I felt nothing but anger towards these protestors who were deliberately hurting women (and men) like me who had no choice. And to take it further, they were hurting women (and men) who felt that they had no choice, for whatever reason, and so had to exercise choice.

Enduring pregnancy losses, and infertility, and living a life without children, has only made me feel even stronger about this. Just as I say that many of us walking the No Kidding paths had no choice in the matter, even as others mistakenly tell us we chose to live childfree, it is the same for women seeking abortions. So much about abortion is that the women making the decision have no choice - so many women have missed the opportunity to have any other choices because of financial situations, abusive relationships, failing contraception, illness (physical or mental), poor education, ignorance, foetal abnormalities, etc etc. It's a last resort. A last resort that shouldn't be taken away.

Up until recently, abortion in New Zealand was part of the criminal code. Abortions were available, and funded, but women still had to get the approval of two doctors before it was possible. This wasn't difficult, if you had the means, but I'm sure that for poor, rural women, it was. Not to mention the indignity that women who knew what they needed or wanted, and knew all the alternatives, still had to ask two doctors to acknowledge that they had made the right decision. This situation has now changed, doctor sign off is not required up to 20 weeks, and abortion has been decriminalised. All parties now say they would not change the situation. I cannot imagine how furious I would be if that changed. 

So I feel for my US friends and family and readers. As I've also said on A Separate Life here, I want to let you know that we are all thinking of you. As my Prime Minister said, "it is a loss for women everywhere."

20 June, 2022

Some New Year reflections

This week is Matariki, the Maori New Year. I've written about it here on A Separate Life. The celebration includes reflection on three main issues:

  1. Remembrance
  2. Gratitude, and
  3. the Future

All three seemed very appropriate for us here at No Kidding in NZ. Remembrance means we think about those we have lost, but think about them with love. That was the theme of my post last week, and is something I'm comfortable doing, without making it too painful. It means thinking about our ancestors, where we came from, how far we've come. And it means reconnecting with home and whanau (family and friends).

Gratitude means thinking about the present, and celebrating what we have. Again, that's the focus of my No Kidding blog, and No Kidding life. I can't imagine what my life might have been like, because it is pointless, and dishonours what I have now. Celebrating the present means appreciating the big things - my life, my health, my husband, the country where I live, the freedom of my life without children, the personal growth and change as a result. And it means appreciating the little things, like spontaneity, travelling outside school holidays (although as a new empty-nester pointed out to me in the weekend, that comes to all parents in the end!), late nights and later mornings in bed, a community of like-minded people/friends all over the world, people who understand my situation and provide support when I need it, and so much more. Gratitude means remembering that I have all this good in my life. Including you.

Finally, the Future means recognising that I have a future, one that is good. It means planning for the future, and it is suggested that we write down our wishes for the next year. I've only just begun reflecting about the coming year, but just as I like the idea of doing this on 1 January, I also like the idea of doing this now, half-way through the calendar year, in the depths of winter. So I hope that it will be a process over the next few weeks. But right now, I can say that my wishes for the next year include: 

  • improvements in health (I have an arm issue that I've had all year that I need to deal with)
  • some serious travel planning if not active travel yet
  • a tidier house and some serious home maintenance
  • Wills rewritten
  • continued reflection on this blog and in other writings, and
  • some new skills.

I might be able to be more specific in a few weeks. But in the meantime, the reflection is useful. And I think that when we don't have children, our plans and wishes can be a little more proactive, deliberate. We're not always at the mercy of the needs and wants of dependents, and reflection and planning can be one of the gifts of our No Kidding lives. What are your plans for the future?

Manawatia a Matariki / Happy Matariki!



 


13 June, 2022

Is grief forever?

Is grief the last act of love? This was the subject of an interview, quoted by Mel in her post here.

Whilst I don’t think that grief IS love, I definitely agree that grief is a result of love, and an expression of the love we felt and the loss of that love. In the context of our No Kidding situations, we have loved either the babies we wanted (conceived, birthed, or not) or the role of mother (for me it was definitely the babies I had loved, I was still coming to terms with the idea of being a mother), or the future we had planned. We had already invested love into this. And when we didn’t have it, we grieved.

It was described in the article as the last act of loving someone. “You get to … translate this last act of love for the rest of your life,” said Ocean Vuong, the interview subject. Whilst it is beautifully expressed (click over to see it), I don’t fully agree with it. Because if it is the last act of loving someone, then in means that grief is eternal. And it does not have to be endless. (To be fair, the person is three years into grieving, and so maybe cannot see this yet.) The loss doesn’t have to be felt forever.

More importantly, we can continue to love someone without actively grieving them. I don’t think I grieve for my parents anymore. I mourned them, and I am sad for different aspects of their deaths. But I no longer actively grieve. Instead, I remember with love. Sure, I may feel sadness occasionally thinking about them or wishing I could tell them something. But it doesn’t feel like grief anymore. Continued grief would be pointless - I can’t change anything, I can’t continue to pine. So the best thing I can do is remember the good times, remember what they taught me, and remember the love.

We can love someone, and show that love by honouring them in our actions, when we have already moved through grief. It’s how I feel about my lost babies, my lost motherhood, and my lost future too. I remember them with love. I remember the love I felt towards those tiny flickers of life, the love I felt towards their and our future. I was filled with love for them, and although that led to grief at their loss, now I remember and focus on the love. It sustains and nurtures me. 

I remember and honour the loss of my babies by living well. I honour them by appreciating what I have, rather than focusing on what I have lost. I honour them by becoming a better person, and by giving my love to others. I honour them by writing this blog, and through it their loss means something. I honour them by (I hope) helping others who come after me. I honour them far better this way than by continuing to grief. Honouring them is a better way of loving them.

I honour my losses, and my pain, the grief I once felt. I do that because of love. Love outlasts grief.


 

07 June, 2022

Time passing

Phew! What with visitors one week, then recovery from visitors, some other social engagements, and no sleep through the French Open in the last week, it's taken me a while to get back to normal. I was going to write something along the lines that taking my time to do this is much easier when I don't have children to worry about. But of course, neither do most of my friends who are my age now too. I just spent the evening yesterday with some friends, all of whom have children, two with grandchildren, and none with any commitments due to children, simply because we're all in our 50s or above and the children are grown (or as close to grown that it barely counts). This is something we forget when we're in the midst of our infertility anguish, because it so often coincides with the family building of our friends, when they can be so busy and focused on their kids. Kids grow up and leave home (usually), and parents become free again.

Recently, elsewhere, the question was posed about what is good about being in our 50s. I commented that, along with the freedom that comes with increased confidence, self-knowledge, and the reduction of career angst, the reclamation of friendships with our parented friends when their kids grow up and become independent can be one of the best things about getting older. Yes, our relationships with those once-departed parent friends them may have changed, especially if we felt rejected or neglected when they made their social lives with other parents. But it doesn't mean that we need to lose the best parts of our friendships - the common interests, or the laughter. We might not be as close as we were, but we can still be part of each others' lives.

I wrote a post about this back in 2015, and find now that it is even more true as time passes. My readers' comments there were interesting, some struggling, and some hopeful. To prove that not all parents ignore their No Kidding friends, two parents noted that the friends they valued the most were the ones who saw them as a whole person, not just as a parent. And another reader wrote that she found she was reclaiming her friends, and that it was "really lovely." Her final comment provided motivation for me to write this post:"I wish that I had read this post five years ago when it felt like all my friends had set sail to the island of children leaving me crying on the shore."

So I write this to offer hope. It really does get easier.



31 May, 2022

Finding common ground

We’ve had visitors the last week, our first from overseas for over two years. It has been really lovely – family members with whom we laugh a lot, and are very relaxed. We’ve known each other since our first years at university, and have a lot of history. They, more than anyone else in the family, know my story (though not as much as you all know! Lol).

We talked and talked and talked. Their kids are grown now, but at one stage we were named their guardians (should anything happen), and they know we love them. I reflected (to myself) that it was nice to be included in discussions about the kids. At one stage I was talking with one of them, and my views were taken into account as legitimately as if I had had kids. (In fact, the words were “if you had kids this age, what would you want/think/do?”) The fact that I noticed this might show that it is rare. Or perhaps I am just a bit more aware of it these days. Anyway, it was a very natural conversation, and very much appreciated.

One of the two of them was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, and their prognosis is uncertain. We wondered at times if we would see them (I’m now using gender neutral pronouns for their privacy) again, and they wondered the same, and they wondered if they’d ever get back to New Zealand. The night before they left, the two of us got talking. They said that cancer had helped them appreciate the little things that might otherwise have passed them by, or that might not have happened at all. I mentioned that, although it is not the same, I’ve found many “gifts” from infertility, pregnancy loss, and not having children, and that I appreciate the different perspective and compassion and attitudes I now have or want to cultivate. They agreed, though didn't like the description as "gifts" instead calling them “blessings.” (We have very different spiritual lives.) The effect was the same, though.

We both appreciated that there can be silver linings to even some of the worst diagnoses and situations. All we can do is live the lives we have, as long as we are have them. To do anything else is a waste. And our lives are short.