29 February, 2012

Will you be my friend?

No, this is not a post about Facebook. 

One of the main topics of conversation on fertility blogs, or pregnancy loss/trying to conceive message boards/websites, is the issue of friendships; how they change, how we deal with friends who have children, how they deal with us.  It’s a difficult topic, and I’ve read countless blogs and forum posts about friendships that change.  The pain, anguish, anger and hurt in these posts are almost palpable. 

I’ve also been considering a post about one of my own friendships that has irreversibly changed over the last ten years.  But I’m a bit nervous, fearful that my friend might find her way here, and that I might ruin what we stil have.  It’s also too painful, still too raw, even though I’ve been mourning the loss of this close friendship for several years now.  I go through phases I guess, and recently I’ve been feeling it again.

So I know there is still much more to say than what I’m about to say here.  But I want to keep it brief.  (As you can see, three paragraphs in, I’m failing dismally.  Brevity is not my strong suit!)

One of the friendship issues that I see women face is how they cope when they are the only one in their circle of friends who doesn’t have children.  I don’t know how they cope with that, as it is not something I have had to face. Yes, I know how lucky I am.

Nicole posted about this in “Who will be our friends wheneveryone has kids?”  Even back when I was in my 20s, I was determinedly NOT trying to conceive, fiercely resisting the expectations that, as a woman, my first job would be to procreate.  I never said never, but quite definitely said “not now, not yet.”  I was going to do it when it was right for me.  Not when people thought I should.  And so I found it hard to think of our other friends having kids, when it was so far from my own immediate thoughts at the time.

By the time I was 30, only a few of my friends had children.  And it really didn’t affect my life.  One of my oldest friends had children but really didn’t change her (outward) lifestyle much at all.  We got to know the children well - G spent his first birthday at our apartment in Bangkok - but we never felt that we could only ever talk about the children.  Our relationship continued with little change.  And there was never any judgement about our choice (at the time) not to have children, or any pressure to do so.  (Well, with the exception of obnoxious brothers-in-law).

I made new friends, friends without children, and friends with children.  But again, these parents were people who had wider interests, who were intelligent, curious, and had more to talk about than their children.  They all adored being parents, being mothers, but they never pressured me, and when I did try to conceive, and had losses, they supported me, and some of the parents were the people I was able to talk to most openly. 

This wasn’t the case with everyone in my life though.   Some friendships/relationships did change.  But most didn’t.  And even if they did, they tended to be staggered.  Not everyone in my life got pregnant at the same time.  They very thoughtfully spread their child-bearing over about 20 years.  So I never felt completely isolated at any one time.

Now of course I am in my 40s (not for much longer – argh!), and in a different phase of life.  I don’t expect any of my current friends or immediate family (or in-law family) to have any more children.  (Although the youngest child in our life will only be 4 this year).  But any new children in my life now will be in another generation – the children of nieces and nephews, or the children of children of friends.  Yes, my friends and sisters and siblings-in-law will most likely be grand-parents.  That has started already.  I don’t expect it will be too painful, simply because these are the same people who were sensitive when they were parents.  I don’t expect them to change their personalities and become painful, insensitive grand-parents.

So I’m pleased to report that this is a time when I am reclaiming my friendships.  Children grow up, parents discover babysitters, and even if they did withdraw from your life for a time, most of my friends/family have returned with a vengeance.  And that’s something to look forward to.  My sister-in-law and I are even planning the day that my niece can be the “designated driver” on a trip to the wineries of the Barossa or Margaret River Valley!  She’d better hurry up and get her drivers’ licence.

28 February, 2012

It's on the tip of my tongue ...

I've been reading some interesting blogs lately, and commenting - though not consistently.  A number of times I have started to write a comment, but stopped, thinking to myself "that would be a good topic for a blog post."  Then I've moved on to the next think I was doing, confident I would remember what it was I was going to say.  But here I am ...

Ready to write. 
Time allotted. 
Computer at ready.
Water bottle full.  

... and ...

Mind blank. 

I can't remember what I was going to write about.  I can't remember any of the posts - at least three I am sure - that piqued my interest, that got me thinking.  I'm going to have to go back and search what I've read, and what I've written in response. 

And you can guarantee that by the time I will have done that, I'll have run out of time to write the post.  I am not be stupid.  But I'm definitely forgetful.  I'm hoping it is temporary.

23 February, 2012

I'm infertile, not stupid

I once had a close friend tell me how to take a pregnancy test.  This is a woman who had no problems getting pregnant, had two children easily, and probably only took two pregnancy tests in her life!  She did this after I’d been trying for years, and lost my first pregnancy, and was busy charting my cycle, taking my temperature, etc, and far more in tune with my body than she was or ever had been with hers.  She had obviously never considered what these struggles of mine meant, what I went through every month, that I might anxiously take pregnancy tests, hoping I'm pregnant, worried about another ectopic pregnancy. 

Assuming the infertile know nothing about the conception process, or indeed pregnancy, is so wrong.  I would never have lectured my friend on healthy and unhealthy foods.  She's had a life-long issue with weight, and belonged to Weight Watchers many times.  She knows exactly which foods she should and shouldn't eat.  And she knows how to step on a scale.  Just like I knew exactly what to do to get pregnant - and how to pee on a stick.  

Those of us who have been through infertility know enormous amounts about the conception process, and many of us know all about the early weeks of pregnancy, and many more of us (whether we’ve got there or not, whether we’ve experienced it or not) know a lot more about being pregnant (and sadly what can go wrong) than women who have been pregnant themselves.  I know that – for various reasons – I do.  

On a brighter note, I helped a friend/workmate – not infertile, but getting worried after six months of trying – to get pregnant by informing her she needed to have sex before ovulation not after.  I take credit for creating her sons.

Have you ever been treated as if you’re stupid just because you're infertile?

16 February, 2012

Bad Parenting II

(Don't forget to read the preceding post, Bad Parenting)

I know.  Sounds like a terrible movie doesn’t it?  Bad Parenting II, straight to DVD!

But after writing my previous post, I wanted to add some things, as I think I missed some of the point of Lisa’s feelings about bad parenting, and the extreme emotion she still feels from time to time.  I used to feel that anger; anger about terrible parents, and confusion about why they should get to have children and I don’t?

Every time I would hear of a child taken into care, or worse, a child hospitalised or killed through terrible parenting (sadly all too frequent an occurrence), not just ignorant or negligent but often cruel parenting, and my heart would just about explode from the emotion.  So often I would think “I’ll take that child” – knowing that I would be a better parent than the ones inflicted on the child by birth, knowing that I could (as much as anyone) keep that child safer than they were with their biological parents.  And that horrible question “Why?  What did I do to deserve this?” would rear its ugly head again.

But I don’t feel that now.  I believe in the randomness of the world.  This doesn’t mean I agree with it.  It’s just the way the world works.  It isn’t fair.  And let’s face it, in the grand scheme of things, being a girl born in New Zealand in the latter part of the 20th century to parents with open and curious minds is about as lucky as you can get.  I’ve had my fair share of good luck from the universe. 

And so when I see this randomness at work I don’t feel as angry, as aggrieved, as I used to.  Yes, I feel sad that a child has to suffer.  Yes, I feel angry that a child has to suffer.  Yes, I abhor the behaviour of so many selfish or simply stupid parents who ruin/destroy/end the lives of their children.  And even on a lesser scale, yes, I get frustrated at idiot parents raising a generation of adults who feel entitled, who can’t spell and think grammar is the old lady who buys them sweets, who think etiquette and manners are old-fashioned, and that being famous is the most important thing in the world.  (OMG I sound old!) 

But I don’t feel that strong emotion anymore, the need to scream against the utter injustice of it all, that feeling that I was being judged and found wanting and that that was the reason why I don’t have children.  No, in fact, seeing idiot parents just confirms to me that in fact the opposite was true.  I wasn’t judged and found wanting, anymore than they were judged and found worthy.  It doesn’t work like that.  Everything happens for a reason?  Don’t ever tell me that!  The world is random and unfair.  I’ve learned to live with that.

Apologies - I know this is repetitive, and I've said some of it before.  But I felt like saying it again, so I did!

Bad parenting

Lisa on Life Without Baby got me thinking, as she ranted about “bad parents” and their out-of-control offspring. 

I understand her feelings.  From time to time I will also rant wildly about what I perceive to be bad parenting.  I’m trying to be balanced adding the “what-I-perceive-to-be” qualifier, though I don’t actually think I need it – and I’m confident that in most cases most people would agree with me.

I think part of this is that fear that, as women without children, we’re not allowed to have a view on how others should parent.  I’ve posted about this in the past.  But I think we are allowed to have a view.  I rant at the radio/TV/internet/newspaper about other things I have views on, whether or not I have direct experience on which to base my views, so I don’t see why I can’t rant about parenthood.

Also, I have a dear friend who gives me permission.  She has two children, and now a grandchild with another on the way (and argh she’s younger than me!), so in some ways when she validates my views, I feel I have permission to express them.  And, let’s face it, no-one can judge me on my ability or inability to parent by the behaviour of my non-existent offspring.  So perhaps it is easier for me to judge.  I used to feel guilty about that.  Now I don’t.  In fact, I feel quite free to comment (though only to like-minded people - I'm still polite), or at least to think, or to rant in the safety of my own home!

I’m going to give you all the chance to feel free to rant, to judge, to comment on bad parenting.  As you know, I’ve just spent a week in Thailand.  One night I turned up at the pool at my sister’s hotel for happy hour.  (Sex on the Beach there was great!)  My sister and her two friends were talking about the shock of the afternoon!  A small boy had stood at the side of the pool, and peed into it.  His mother watched him, and shrugged.  All the guests were rendered speechless, and so nothing was said.  They were aghast at this terrible parenting (a toilet was conveniently placed just a few metres away, as were many plants in pots that could have done in the last resort!).  They (all of them parents) felt free to judge.  So did I.  After all, you don’t need to have had children to know that that behaviour is wrong.  And those who have had children certainly don’t think it is right.

07 February, 2012

Baking in the sun

Just a quick note. I've blogged in A Separate Life about why I'm not posting this week. I'm feeling good so far, but wondering if seeing my sister watch her daughter get married on Friday will bring unexpected emotions. Not that I'm tempting fate - more an intellectual curiosity. And in the meantime, I'm enjoying being back in Thailand. Now, for another frozen mango daiquiri ...