Monday, 18 June 2018

Kiwi baby mania - or not?

Warning: Pregnancy mentioned. (Not mine! lol)


Yesterday was the due date of Jacinda, our 37-year-old Prime Minister. She will be only the second* female head of government ever to give birth in office.The country is about to go baby mad – or are they? Maybe we’re more concerned about the man** she’s had to leave in charge as Acting Prime Minister whilst she is on maternity leave.

I have been very thankful that her pregnancy has not dominated news, as she herself has clamped down on hype and hyperbole around the pregnancy and impending birth. Thankfully, she has not been a smug pregnant woman, and has always carried herself with dignity and awareness. So I haven't been at all bothered by her news, and in fact, have been happy for her and her partner, ever since she announced that they had realised they would probably need "help" to conceive. I do however have no doubt that her pregnancy news has been triggering to many infertile and No Kidding women in New Zealand, and I feel for them in the inevitable onslaught - because there will be one.


* after Benazir Bhutto in 1990 
** her coalition partner, and not someone I have ever supported

Friday, 15 June 2018

Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: A review

As I mentioned in a blog earlier this week, Lesley Pyne has written a book called Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. I’ve talked about Lesley on this blog before – I noted that she was a therapist who works with childless women, when I flagged a feature of me on her blog. What I failed to mention too was that she is one of us.

I personally love the title of her book. It shares my philosophy that there can be, and there usually is joy when we embrace our No Kidding lives. And it bodes well for what is inside.

In the Forward to the book, Jody Day of Gateway Women writes an inspiring message. Her message reflects the message of the book too, and again, of this blog. And that message is that you are not alone. You are not alone coming to the realisation that maybe you won’t get the children you wanted. You are not alone going through the grief and realisation that this is your life, and you are not alone when you come through the most difficult years, and look to the rest of your life without children. We are all there, as Jody says, “your childless sisters.” And this is exactly what I love about our No Kidding blogging community.

Lesley introduces her book by reinforcing her primary message. To be brief, and not nearly as eloquent as either Jody or Lesley, it is that she is okay, other women are okay, and you can be too.

When writing the book, Lesley interviewed 19 women from all over the world. I am one of them – the only New Zealander (although there is an English woman who now lives in NZ apparently who contributed, someone I’d love to meet) in the group. Lesley looks for and brings out the commonalities of our experiences, and talks about what helped her and what helped us. The point is of course that we are all different, and so different things helped us all. But there are always some commonalities in the steps we go through.

As Lesley is a therapist, her book is focused on helping people through the process. There is, therefore, plenty of homework and lots of thought-provoking exercises. There’s no prescriptive process, though, and the only requirement is that you are prepared to think honestly. And maybe write this down.

I haven’t done the homework exercises, but I have made a note of some of them, and once her book is out may blog some of my own results of these exercises.

Lesley talks about her own experiences with infertility and childlessness. She came from a family where emotion was not encouraged. I completely recognised her experiences there in my own upbringing, remembering falling off my bike, badly winding myself, and being told not to cry. My husband came from the same sort of background. Stoic, stiff upper lip families, where feelings were foreigners. As a result of this, Lesley says that she thought she didn’t need to grieve. After all, she thought, “doesn’t time heal?” I had to laugh at this. It’s such a logical thought – that if you hold it in enough, and time heals, that eventually you’ll be able to emerge recovered from grief. But we all know – now – that it doesn’t work like that. Fortunately, Lesley had some friends who pointed out that “grief was not an enemy, but a friend.” I love this. It totally reflects my own feelings – and is a belief I follow in my own life, and that has subsequently helped me through the deaths of both my parents. I didn’t know it before infertility though.

Another quote in this section that I love is her conclusion that “Expressing your feelings is a sign of strength.” I’ve written about this myself, both in terms of No Kidding women being success stories, and in terms of the different ways women and men process emotions. Feelings are really hard. Facing them, feeling them, and expressing them is courageous. When we can do this, we should stand proud and strong.

Lesley points out some of the things that helped her most strongly. Facing her grief and her feelings was of course the primary issue, but she has moves on to the issues of mindfulness, and of reconnecting with your body. Mindfulness really helped me personally, and I’ve more recently discovered the power of yoga and simple breathing to calm me and reduce stress. Others I know connected with their bodies differently. It’s an important step, I think, because I’ve seen many women come out of infertility hating their bodies. So I’m glad that Lesley talked about these topics too.

I wanted to cheer when I saw the chapter on Letting Go to Let In. Because this is something we often talk about in the No Kidding community. It is the opposite of giving up, and it is letting go of the grief, not because it didn’t matter that we have experienced loss, but because our futures matter more.

Love and self-acceptance, gratitude and reclaiming joy are, appropriately, all given their own chapters in the book, leading to a conclusion full of hope that you can get there, and a feeling of victory that so many of us, including Lesley, have indeed found our own Joy Beyond Childlessness.

Lesley’s book is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK for pre-order, formally out on Monday 18 June, as both an ebook and a paperback.

Monday, 11 June 2018

No fast forward button to healing

During my years of infertility, I only ever saw a counsellor once – via my IVF clinic, and after my second ectopic, as it was resolving. I remember thinking she could give me some coping mechanisms that would help me cope with this. To my disgust, she didn’t. I figured out why though - there are no easy answers to grief.

On the message board I visited, the lovely Sarahg (who guestposted here) told me there was no “Get out of Jail Free” card simply because I’d been through an ectopic before – and that’s the hard part of loss, and of beginning a No Kidding life. Just because we might get to the stage where we might hope that we might be okay in the long run (or believe people like me who keep reassuring others they will be okay), we can’t fast forward through the mourning period, the healing, the adjustments, and the two steps forward one step back dance that we all must go through, in our own way.

But doing it with help, gentle guidance, and loving encouragement, whether it is through blogging ourselves, reading other blogs, belonging to social media groups or support groups in real life, makes it a lot easier. That’s why I blog; and that’s also why, later this week, I will be reviewing Lesley Pyne’s new book, Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Gifts of Infertility (and Childlessness) - The Series

Later this year, it will be 15 years since I learned I’d never have children. I have learned a lot of lessons (see Friday’s post here as an example), and have discovered, and now written about, at least  25 Gifts of Infertility and Childlessness. I would never have thought, back in 2003, that I’d be able to come up with more than one or two gifts from my infertility and childlessness. I probably knew even then that “travel” and “sleeping in” were always going to be advantages of a no kidding life! But in the midst of grief and anger and denial, it was hard to admit that there would ever be any gifts to this life.
Obviously, given that I’ve found 25 different issues to write about (and finally finished the series), there are many gifts of this life, of this journey I’ve been going through. By recognising these gifts, I am not denying the pain we’ve been through, or what we’ve lost, and I’m certainly not denying the pain others might be going through today. I am merely being honest, looking back at what I’ve learned, what I value, and what I am grateful for now.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Saying "No"

Kathleen on Life without Baby wrote about just saying “no” to the infamous “do you have children?” question. She, and a lot of women I have seen, feel the urge to qualify this statement, to justify why they don’t have children, but sometimes they don't quite know why they do this. Some of her blog readers commented that they felt they needed to let people know it wasn’t by choice, and in doing so, felt they honoured their own journey and the loss of their children. Some felt that in doing this, they also modified (in their favour) the responses of the person who asked.

To use Kathleen’s phrase, it got me thinking. I’ve always just said “no,” and I’ve written about this a couple of times (here, and here). But why?

I said no when I was in my 20s, and was putting off any decisions about having children. I said “no” with gusto, because I was indignant that people automatically assumed I might have children just because I was married, and female, because I had no intention of having children in my 20s, and because I didn't feel I needed to justify this to anyone!

I said “no” in my 30s, as I became comfortable in my career but still struggled against sexism, as my international business travel made opportunities to conceive harder to find, as we started to realise we might never conceive, and as I suffered and healed from my first ectopic pregnancy. I said “no” without explanation because it was no-one’s business but my own, and – once we started trying to conceive – we in fact told no-one about it.

I said “no” because I wanted to be treated equally at work to the men (who could, I admit, freely say “yes” without any negative reactions and “no” with fewer negative reactions than for me). I said “no” because I didn’t want to be judged, one way or the other, or to deal with their judgement.

In saying “no,” I found that it can leave an ambiguity in the questioner’s mind – maybe I didn’t want them, or maybe I couldn’t have them. Either way, most people didn’t tend to ask the follow-up, “why not?” So saying “no” was a form of protection of sorts.

I said “no” when I was 40, suffering and healing from my complicated second ectopic pregnancy, when visiting infertility clinics, scheduling and attempting IVF cycles, as I was on holiday after an unsuccessful IVF cycle and before my last attempt, and on a major wedding anniversary. I said “no” for all the same reasons I’d always said “no.” But I also said “no” hoping to avoid pity, condescencion and judgement, and any discussion on the matter, which raised an additional concern that I might break down in tears, and embarrass myself.

I said “no” when I was grieving losses, and grieving the first year or two of my childlessness, and No Kidding life, because I didn’t want to have to explain anything to anyone, for all the above reasons, but with a new and unwanted factor at my lowest time – that of shame.

I still say “no” now for most of the reasons mentioned above. I still feel indignant that people automatically assume I might have children when 20% of women my age do not, and that my worth as a woman is often judged by whether or not I am a mother. I still believe it is no-one’s business but my own, and I still bristle when asked because it is not the first question asked of men.

I no longer say “no” because I am afraid I will break down in tears, or that people will feel pity, or because I feel any shame. I do not. Which is why I say “no” with no explanation, because I do not feel I owe the world an explanation. Any details are my choice, and my choice alone. I am not obligated to answer questions.

I like the power a simple, polite, definite "no" gives me. I get to decide whether anyone deserves to know any details about why I do not have children. My story is deeply personal, my journey is personal, and only deserving people get to know it, or those who may need to know it for their own comfort, so they don’t feel alone. I can decide on a whim, in a split-second. I have no need or obligation to be consistent. It can be simply in the way someone phrases a question, in whether I see if they are open or not, judgemental or not.

The exception to the only-if-you-deserve-to hear-my-story is when I think someone needs to be enlightened (i.e. educated) and I’ve decided that hopefully they are capable of learning. In learning my story (briefly or in full), maybe they will not be so quick with questions or rude follow-ups in the future, when they are dealing with someone more vulnerable than I am.

But you know what? I even bristle when I answer “no” because what I really want to say is, “why do you want to know?”