29 December, 2014

Late breeders ... or not at all

In a conversation with a cousin over Christmas, he commented that we’re a bunch of late breeders.* Whilst this was true of him, his brother and my sister, I decided that his comment completely ignored my reality, and added “though some of us weren’t able to at all.” He nodded, though to be honest he’s probably not aware of what I went through, as I haven’t seen him or his brother in about twenty years, and maybe he just thought we chose not to have children.

I realised how much infertility or loss has affected members of my extended family, as not only did my cousin lose his first son (stillborn) a number of years ago, but also his brother couldn’t come to my father’s funeral because, after years of infertility, an adoption had just fallen through. Fortunately his daughter, noticeably not his biological child, is now a happy member of our extended family. And my sister and her husband have a six-year-old daughter, born after her husband tragically lost his 21-year-old son.

On the other side of the family, I have a female cousin who has never married and has no children, and another female cousin who had a miscarriage about the same time I had my first ectopic pregnancy, and she never went on to have children either.

It struck me that our family seems filled with stories of infertility and loss, and made me wish that I saw them more often, when maybe I could be around people who really understand.

* His term, not mine.


22 December, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: When No Kids is No Issue

We’ve just had new friends come to stay for a few days. Five years ago on safari in Africa we’d come from opposite ends of the earth, shared a jeep (for about 6 hours a day) and chased wild dogs together, watched awed together as a pride of lions fought over a wildebeest kill only a few metres from us, enjoyed a surprised breakfast in the bush, and chatted at the bar over excellent South African wines. 

After only a couple of days they left, but our connection was such that we vowed to keep in touch; and we did.

They came to New Zealand this month to see family, but made the trek south to see us for a few days. Wellington put on its best and worst weather, so we drank welcome glasses of wine on the waterfront in uncharacteristic heat, toured the city the following day, and then when the rain set in we had a lazy morning, visited the museum, and went out for dinner. And we talked and talked and talked.

They don’t have kids, and neither do we; we don’t know why they don’t have kids, and they don’t know why we don’t. It was never an issue. And that was ... well ... freedom.


15 December, 2014

#MicroblogMondays: It's not all roses

I've been conscious that my blog the last few months has very much focused on what I've gained from my infertility/no kids status. With my Gifts of Infertility series (now at #18, and still with a number to go!), and all those inspirational quotes, I know I've risked driving everyone mad with these positive points of view.

I feel a bit of a cheat, because I've been writing these posts knowing that my life is not all roses. But show me the lifestyle that is. I don't have time now - I'm writing this when I should be frantically cleaning the house for visitors who arrive tomorrow - but I will write more in due course. I've struggled this December to get any enthusiasm for Christmas, and I look back on a 2014 that was, for a number of reasons, pretty tough.

The weather today though is good (check out my #MicroblogMondays post on A Separate Life), and I'm feeling a bit more positive. So I hope things are looking up.

And now I'm off to clean.

12 December, 2014

Gifts of Infertility Series - #18 - Reflection

I’ve always liked to think about things. Being alone with my thoughts has never really scared me, though as I say this I laugh to myself, because for some reason the last 24 hours have seen me go over events or actions that I thought I’d dealt with, where I’d learnt my lesson and, embarrassed and ashamed, would rather now forget. Rehashing at this stage is neither comfortable nor helpful. Mostly though, I am not afraid to be alone with my thoughts. I like to take time to reflect, and think about the present and what's next. I am a planner, so I often live in the future in my thoughts, sorting things out in advance, making plans, solving problems, being creative.

After my pregnancy losses and as I was first facing, then dealing with the aftermath of infertility, I began reflecting on myself. I’d done this before – we all do to a certain degree of course. I’d thought through marital issues and reflected on friendships and career aspirations. But when you are stripped raw with grief, it is easier I think to see yourself and others more clearly. I needed to do this, to be able to move forward in my life and relationships and to face the future.

I didn’t shy away from it though – I’m not sure I could have if I had wanted to. I’m sure I have quoted my husband before, when he said to me, “you don’t understand. I’m a man, and if we don’t want to think about something, then we don’t.” I was jealous of him at the time. If only I could do that! But I couldn't. So I was in many ways forced to face my relationships, the world, and myself. And to be honest, I found it both personally, and intellectually, satisfying. The world and people are a puzzle. Sometimes we can solve these puzzles, often we can’t. But it’s worth trying. (It is work that we have to do ourselves, but we don’t have to do it alone. I had lots of support and help along the way, as I’ve mentioned before.)

Reflection - thinking - is useful. That sounds so ridiculously obvious I am almost embarrassed to write it. But I see many people rush through life, filling their lives with activity and people and competition about who is the busiest or hardest working or with the best social life. Often it seems to me that they do everything possible to avoid confronting themselves, to avoid thinking and growing, and most sadly, to avoid being at peace with themselves. Maybe they are, and I’m being unreasonably judgemental. Maybe they’re just extroverts, and get their energy that way. All I know is that that wouldn’t work for me.

Being able to think, to reflect, helped me accept my life, my friendships, my past and future. Sometimes it gets in the way. It gets in the way of sleeping, of reading, and even, at times – though the intention is the opposite – of blogging. Still, I’d rather be reflective and thoughtful than blithely slip through the world without really understanding it, those around me, or myself. That, I think, would be the biggest loss of all.

10 December, 2014

Holiday season: If money were no object

December holidays are often dreaded by those of us who are going through infertility, or who are living without children. I know those who are without partners, or who have lost loved ones over the year, will find it hard too. I am thinking of a niece of mine, whose partner suddenly died several months ago. Christmas will be tough for her this year.

Over the years, in the face of the “the season is all about the kids/family” refrains, we try to find a way to celebrate this time that keeps it important or meaningful for us. I was about to write a post about this, then realised that my “own” routines aren’t very exciting. Then along comes an email with a blog prompt to “describe how you would celebrate the holidays if it was totally up to you and money was not a factor.” Now that’s my kind of challenge! Though I think I’ll through in my preferred Christmas Day here at home too.

When we stay home for Christmas/New Year, it is easier of course for me to make the season my own. I get to put up my tree, choose what food we have, the timing, etc. I guess it just means I have control, and that is perhaps what makes the day and the season better for me. Perhaps that’s what is so hard for many of us who have been through infertility. We lose control in such a major aspect of our lives, and then find ourselves thrust into child-centric celebrations by family members who don’t always understand (or want to understand) again without control. So perhaps, retaining a bit of control over the day or the season is important.

At home, I like to:
  1. sleep in, because we can!
  2. have a simple but special breakfast (just croissants, but we don’t do it other times of the year), and it means we can sit down to breakfast together, and have a moment to breathe and appreciate our lives
  3. make my yummy tiny mince pies
  4. admire my tree, and refrain from kitchy decorations all over the house
  5. choose what music we listen to (whilst I quite like Christmas carols, I don’t want to have to listen to them all day)
  6. cook what I want to eat (even when we have family in town, I get to control the menu, and that’s fine by me!) which is usually baked ham, but might be seafood, lots of salads, the last asparagus of the season, and will always involve berries, etc,
  7. take time to relax with some champagne and smoked salmon before the chaos of the big meal, preferably outside on a lovely sunny day
  8. eat adult food, and keep it simple but elegant
  9. send all the relatives away, and spend a quiet evening with my husband, basking in the peace, and
  10. maybe chocolate will be involved somehow too.

The days between Christmas and New Year would be spent sleeping and reading and entertaining friends on our deck and having barbecues on theirs, visiting the vineyards and drinking wine in another friend's olive grove, heading out for a picnic to enjoy the summer and relax under a tree with a good book, and maybe at some stage I might stick my toes in the sea. A simple New Zealand summer.

We alternate spending Christmas here in Wellington, where we live and where the in-laws live (and where the overseas relatives base themselves if they are returning for Christmas), and  - as we are doing this year - in the South Island with my mother, and my sister (who lives nearby) and her family and now two of the nieces have moved back to the region, and my other sister (and husband and Charlie) will be there too. It’ll be a nice family Christmas, but it’s not the same when I don’t get to have Christmas My Way. (I know, I sound like a control freak!) This year, because my mother’s ill, it won’t be a carefree relaxing time, even though it will be nice to make the time special for her. Maybe that’s why I am struggling to feel enthusiastic about what is usually a favourite time of the year. Or the fact that it is dismal and raining outside, not at all summery! Still, there are a few weeks yet for December to work its magic on me.

But every few years, we take off overseas. We first did this 19 years ago, renting a red Mustang convertible and driving around Oahu on Christmas Day, and then again when we were still coming to terms with our no kidding life and needed to escape, spending it in Europe in search of a White Christmas. Sometimes we stay with family, sometimes we do our own thing. If money were no object? Oh, the decisions the decisions! The European White Christmas idea didn't deliver snow, so maybe I’d head to North America – Quebec City is wonderfully romantic, and would probably have snow. We could stay in a hotel with thick stone walls and a roaring fire, and wander the streets all wrapped up. And head down to New York City for New Year. Via Toronto and Vermont, to visit some friends of course. Then I’d finish up with a week on a beach somewhere – Florida perhaps where there are more friends, but I keep forgetting that money is no object, so maybe I’d shout them a trip to the Caribbean. I’ve always wanted to go to the Caribbean.

If the Husband put his foot down and insisted that we avoid the snow, then we’d probably have to look in the southern hemisphere. We’ve spent a number of Christmases or New Years in southeast Asia – on a beach in Thailand or Malaysia – and that is always enjoyable. (Asian food, endless massages, sun, sea, and sand – aah bliss). But I keep forgetting that money is no object, so I’d probably return to my happy place, South Africa. Christmas out in the bush, at a luxury lodge with champagne and great South African wine and massages (and no kids) and mid-day naps, and early mornings and evenings communing with giraffes and zebras and lions and leopards and warthogs and hyenas and rhinos, and enjoying the big skies of Africa. That would be the ideal way to spend the holidays. (If money were truly no object, I might pick a few favourite people to come with us.)

How would you spend the holiday season if money were no object?