28 December, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: The healing power of time

When I was fresh into grieving, beginning my new no-kids-ever-after life, being around children was a reminder of what we had lost, what we would never have, and so often the pain pierced us completely through.

Since then, twelve years have passed, and I now take great joy in my relationships with children, though sadly those are few and far between. We recently stayed with Charlie, and then a week later, had Charlie and her mum visit us. It was a joy, as our relationship took some new steps, and I think I’ve realised why. I’ve reached a stage where I no longer see (I learned not to let myself) Charlie, or any children really, as my possible child, and therefore I’m not reminded constantly of what I have lost. Maybe too, with Charlie, I see the struggles my sister has, and feel a slight degree of relief that I don’t have to deal with those, or the even worse struggles we all know are coming.

Time does change things for us, and stops (for the most part) the hurt - a fact I would have found hard to believe 12 years ago, 10 years ago, maybe even eight years ago. Now though, I am able to find real joy in being an important aunty to a beloved niece.

24 December, 2015

Childless at Christmas

It is late afternoon on a sunny Christmas Eve, my meringues (not the best I've made, but adequate) are cooling on the rack, and the last batch of mini mince pies (having eaten/given away most of the first batch) is ready to go in the oven. So I'm able to take some time, and think of my blogging friends and readers.

This season is not always easy for those of us without children. I've had two pregnancy losses on successive Christmases, and the next year was the first Christmas after learning, only two months earlier, that we would never have children. That first Christmas, we had a very quiet Christmas with my parents and in-laws, but no siblings and no children. The year after, we escaped to Europe, and so it didn't feel like Christmas, even though we celebrated with my BIL, SIL and niece and nephew. It was an excellent thing to do, because by the next year, two years on, the pain had receded a little, and I could handle a big family Christmas. The fact my father had died that year meant that I was more concerned about my mother being alone, than I was about myself.

These days, I love the big family Christmases. We alternate between my family and my husband's family. Some years we go south and celebrate  Christmas with my sister and her grown-up daughters, and even my cheeky great-nephew (who loves to call me "Great Aunty <Mali>"), and sometimes my other sister and her husband and my niece, Charlie. I love that. Other years we stay here at home, sometimes just with my in-laws and perhaps my husband's childless aunt and uncle, sometimes with one or more of his brothers and their families as well. I love that too, as we don't get to see them very often. This year, it will be quiet, and when I have thought about that, I've been a bit melancholy.

But when I think about it, I'm more melancholy about other things that are happening (or not happening) in my life and family, than I am about not having children at Christmas. Most years it doesn't bother me much any more. But I admit, I do have to make that qualifier, I can't say it never bothers me. It does. For example, I feel sad that I don't have a child who loves my Christmas tree decorations as much as I do. But then, I might have had a child who didn't care! Or who had completely different taste. I visited a friend this morning, dropping off a card and some of my mince pies. She's also childless, and also loves travelling. I looked at her tree, and told her that, after mine, I love her tree the best. We looked at some of her new decorations, some bought on recent travels, all with significance to her and her partner. And it made both of us happy.

This afternoon, as I cooked in the kitchen, I listened to our national radio (as I do almost every afternoon). They were having a Christmas Eve round-up of the year with all the panel guests from the year, and one man noted that this was the first year all his children were living overseas. He had no idea when or if they would ever return to New Zealand to live. My in-laws only have us, and the childless aunt and uncle rely on nieces and nephews. It reminded me that those of us without children are not the only ones who might feel lonely at Christmas. I listened to a carol being sung, that insisted on everyone showing "good cheer." And I felt angry, that this is seen to be compulsory, when so many might not feel this way. (Ironic, given that my Christmas card this year exhorts us all to "Be Merry.")

By Saturday, in just over 24 hours (for me), it will all be over for another year. As I wrote some time ago, on Mel's annual Christmas Survival list, it is really just one day. It doesn't have any power over us. We can enjoy it or not, and move on. That's what I intend to do.

Now though, as I've taken the final mince pies out of the oven, and as I sip a glass of cool white chardonnay, I can contemplate instead the next week or two we have of catching up with friends (first, at the beach, and then, in a vineyard), relaxing and reading books (I have two books to complete to meet my Goodreads challenge for this year), maybe some picnics, and hopefully some nice summer weather. My spirit rises.

Rather than insisting that we all feel "good cheer," instead my wish for you all, for us all, is that we find peace in our hearts, love with partners, friends or family, and renewed hope for the future.

21 December, 2015

#Microblog Mondays: The healing powers of kindness

Kindness played a big role in my healing. I was fortunate to experience kindness from online friends, in an open, loving, generous way that I'd never really experienced before. It was like receiving multiple warm, enveloping hugs full of love, just when I needed them. I think in our daily lives we are often more reserved (this is certainly the case with my family and friends), where we hope that our kindness is evident in our actions, rather than more openly in words or hugs.

Probably like most of us, I am not always kind, although I don't think I'm necessarily unkind either. But I find that when I am kind, my whole demeanour softens, it is easier to understand others and why they do and say the things they do, and it is much easier to forgive. My heart eases, a tense body relaxes, and I find it easier to smile. Kindness - it works both ways.

14 December, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Out of place

A holiday, however short, is a time away from home, where the problems of life, however large or small might be, don't follow us, and although we know they're still there, we also know we can't do anything about them when we are away. So we try to forget about them, relax, let our shoulders and feel burdens lift, and focus on the present. When we don't have children, travelling can be a blissful escape, helping us forget that we are a little different.

However, we've just spent a week in one of New Zealand's most popular summer holiday regions, a peninsula lined with beautiful beaches and bays, lush bush (forests), and clear waters. Tiny communities see their population swell tenfold over the Christmas/New Year break, as kiwis flock to the beaches, to the camping grounds and baches, but we had strategically planned our visit to occur before the school year had ended.

As we often do, my husband and I debated (hypothetically) the merits of investing in a bach or holiday home, whether we'd choose one right on the beach, or high on a cliff with spectacular views of the bays and islands. As usual, we came to the conclusion that with kids, it would be a blissful paradise, with long, easy, happy summer days as the children swam or explored or played beach or backyard cricket with all the other kids in the area. But without children - or even lots of nieces and nephews - we realised we would be out of place here, too.

A nice place to enjoy an ice-cream, with or without children.

07 December, 2015

MicroblogMondays: Appreciating nature

When I was going through hard times, appreciating nature helped lift my spirits. Now I'm in one of New Zealand's most beautiful regions, surrounded by nature's beauty. We're in an apartment on the side of an extinct (it better be) volcano, with a view of the Pacific, dotted with islands, framed by tree ferns, surrounded by beautiful flowers. My husband and I have escaped here, in search of beauty and relaxation and peace - peace you can't always find at home, even when it is only ever the two of us.

After a couple of days playing with my niece and enjoying the company of her parents, we have fled to this small seaside town. In a few weeks, the town's population will have swelled from 1200 to 12,000, but right now it is relatively quiet. So we plan on a peaceful time taking some walks, taking some photographs, and reading a few books, when we're not exploring further afield. Next week, normal transmission should resume, but for now, I'm chilling out on the deck, appreciating nature and breathing deeply ... with a nice glass of sauvignon blanc.

04 December, 2015

Dropping in to say hi

Apart from #MicroblogMondays - I don't want to end my run of a #MM post on both my spaces all year - I haven't been doing much around the blogs this last week or two. I literally have 24 hours at home, after a very stressful 11 days or so, and I'm leaving again tomorrow morning, so rather than try and catch up with some blogs and posts and not others, I thought a generic note here would be best.

All I can say about the last week or so is that it has made me determined to plan for my old age, and make moves in advance of actually needing them, to ensure that there will be people around me to help when life gets difficult. I have also been thankful that I've been able to spend two weeks focusing on my mother, and helping my sister, rather than worrying about getting home to children. I say that without a twinge or feeling of guilt. (And I've just realised that this time 14 years ago I was pregnant for the first time.)

Next week we're going to have a much more pleasant time, and personally, I think it is well-deserved!

30 November, 2015

Microblog Mondays: Gratitude

Even though we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in New Zealand, online it is almost impossible to miss, as my US friends travel, cook turkeys and share recipes and enthusiasm for pumpkin lattes (whatever they are), or talk about things and people in their lives for which they are thankful. Those of us who are very early in the journey towards a happy life without the children they had hoped for, often struggle to be thankful for anything, but those of us who are many years into this life know how much gratitude can help us in this journey, and it is something I’ve tried to bring into my everyday life. 

So this month,  a blogger and social media friend participated in a month of daily gratitudes, and commented one day that she was “grateful that her hard work paid off,” (referring to a particular achievement). I wonder if she knows how much I appreciated her simple phrasing, her acknowledgement – one that we all know so well – that sometimes, hard work doesn’t pay off? My readers know this, having been through infertility and loss, and my mother knows this, as she sits in a hospital waiting for a place in a care home due to her declining health and memory, and my sister knows this, also sitting in a hospital in another part of the country, with her child who faces health battles every day. None of us are immune from the reality that you can't in fact achieve anything you want, and that hard work doesn't always pay off, and that sometimes accepting this is the hardest and bravest thng you can do.

So even though Thanksgiving has passed, I’m thankful for friends and those who see past stereotypes, who understand the power of words and who use them thoughtfully. And since I have a sentence remaining, I am thankful too for those who care for those in need, whether paid or unpaid, and all those who show kindnesses and consideration to friends and family going through a hard time. 

23 November, 2015

Nurture yourself

I see so many women being so considerate of others that they allow themselves and their feelings be completely trampled on. This is particularly an issue for the community of women going through infertility, or in the first phases of living a no kidding life, when our self-confidence is often at an all-time low.
I was taught to always consider others, to be polite to them, and for years I have (and still do if I am honest) worried that I might be inadvertently offending them. But what I was actually doing, in many ways, was telling myself, over and over again, that I wasn't worth considering, that I was worthless.

When I finally realised this - it is easier to recognise in others than ourselves, I think - it wasn't a selfish, arrogant, "I'm so wonderful" thought.  I simply realised that, in the interests of fairness, I was just as worthy of my consideration as anyone else.  I didn't build myself up in a self-important way.  But it gave me some contentment, some freedom from self-criticism (that so often feels never-ending), and it allowed me to feel compassion for myself, to like myself, and to accept my flaws without never-ending judgement.  

21 November, 2015

Ectopic Pregnancies, including with IVF

Jess mentioned in a previous post that she couldn't understand why she had had an ectopic with IVF. As many of you know, I worked for six years with the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust (and spent many more years on their site informally), answering questions like hers almost daily. I gave her some information in a long comment on her blog, but thought I would edit it a little and reproduce it here, with some additional information. I know this isn't relevant for those of us who are no longer trying to have children, but others might find their way here, and find it useful. Or it might answer questions for some of you who did have ectopics, or know someone who has had one. So I hope none of my readers mind me talking about pregnancies and loss, here where we usually focus on life after we've said good-bye to all this.

Ectopic Pregnancy

Any sexually active woman of childbearing age is at risk of an ectopic pregnancy. 1-3% of all pregnancies are ectopic (ie, not in the uterus), and 95-97% of ectopic pregnancies are in the fallopian tubes.

However, ectopic pregnancies are more likely if you have had:
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease - a past infection of the fallopian tubes (for example, chlamydia).
  • Endometriosis - a condition which could cause damage to the tubes
  • Abdominal surgery - any previous pelvic or abdominal operation, such as caesarean section, appendectomy or previous ectopic pregnancy.
  • An operation on the tubes - such as sterilisation
  • A contraceptive coil (IUD) fitted - the coil prevents a pregnancy in the uterus but is less effective in preventing a pregnancy in the tube.
  • Are on the ‘mini-pill’ (progesterone-only pill) or have recently come off it – progesterone only contraception alters motility of the tube
  • Use of the morning after pill with the pregnancy in question
  • Fertility treatment (IVF)
  • A previous ectopic pregnancy, and
  • If you smoke

As you can see, IVF is considered to be a risk factor. In fact, ectopic pregnancy rates through IVF are higher than in the general population. This is often because women who need to seek IVF treatment have an underlying, undiagnosed condition (that has contributed to infertility) that may heighten their risk of ectopic pregnancy. Figures are hard to get however, and of course, clinics are well-motivated to report these differently. A few years ago, we tended to use conservative statistics, stating the risk of ectopic with an IVF pregnancy to be at least 4-6%, or at least twice if not three times the rate in the general populace. But the statistics used in the UK show that the rate of ectopic pregnancy with IVF is around 10%.

When an embryo is transferred into our uterus, it doesn't implant immediately (if, of course, it is going to implant at all), which is why I am always doubly annoyed when the media uses "implants" instead of "transfers." It can float around for a day or two before implantation, and this means it can move from the transfer site. It can therefore travel up into the fallopian tube, and implant there, causing an ectopic pregnancy. Or it can implant at the entrance of the fallopian tube, causing a cornual or interstitial ectopic pregnancy.

Still, 90% of women who have ectopics go on to conceive again successfully (ie, in the right place). 50% of women who have ectopics have none of the risk factors, and will never know what caused their ectopics. So women who are looking for an answer, like me, struggle to find one.
Conditions that can lead to tubal or interstitial (at the connection of the tube to the uterus) ectopic pregnancies with IVF (or otherwise) can include:
  • tubes that are blocked or semi-blocked (so if an egg floated up, it might not get back to the uterus),
  • balding of the cilia (these little hairs that waft the egg down to uterus can gradually disappear, and so can't do their job), and
  • the fallopian tube contractions that help push the egg downwards can, on occasion, reverse. (I was told this by my own specialist, when he was trying to figure out why I had two (one, tubal, one, interstitial, neither IVF) ectopics. I don’t have any data, and he said that they could monitor me for hours, and not see one of these reverse contractions, so I cannot 100% stand behind this last point.
  • Jess was told her cilia were pointing or directing the wrong way. I've never heard of this, and wonder how they knew, as the cilia are so tiny infertility tests can't see them. Perhaps they conducted investigations on her removed tube, or it could simply be a case of a doctor surmising, hoping to give an answer to a patient who is hungry for them.
Many of these conditions are almost impossible to diagnose. Hopefully, further research will provide further information.

For more information on ectopic pregnancies, go to The Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website
Previous posts where I talk about my own experience of ectopic pregnancies can be found here, and here.

19 November, 2015

The Fraud Syndrome

Every so often, after I’ve been posting about how I have managed to get through grief and loss, and especially after I get kind and generous comments, I start feeling like a fraud. (I’ve talked about this here and in other places, I know.) 

Here on No Kidding, I’ve tried to live up to the name of my blog. I have been brutally honest about my feelings about living without children, and the issues around it. But I do worry a little that, in my efforts to show that we have a good life after infertility, it might give the impression that my life is perfect, and that I’ve solved all the problems of living a No Kidding life. 

Of course, life is not that easy. So, because I don't want to be exposed as a fraud, I have to confess, all is not well in Mali-land. (Though of course, when is it ever?) So I thought I should be honest about that too. (To an extent, anyway. Perhaps my blog should be called “No Kidding Within Reason?”)

These are some (most?) of the issues bothering me:
  • I need to be more proactive in certain parts of my life (though that’s nothing new).
  • I’ve neglected friendships – or one in particular perhaps – that has been damaged for some years.
  • I’ve allowed my more natural shyness to influence parts of my life, though oddly, I am able to completely ignore it in other parts of my life.
  • I complain a lot (too much?) about my in-laws.
  • The house isn’t as clean as I would like.
  • My office is messy – really messy (though better than it was a week or so ago).
  • And I have several projects on the go, when I really need to finish one! (Though I am finally getting very close to finishing one of these, so I’m thrilled about that! More will be revealed in due course.)
These aren’t major issues, any of them, but I can say I’ve observed a gradual deterioration in my approach. I think there’s a reason though. Stress levels are reasonably high, for several other reasons.
  • This year I’ve been looking for a job. I’ve been applying for positions, attended several interviews, and have got really close to getting jobs, but just not close enough. Inevitably, I have been thinking about what I would really like to do. (Yes, I’m still trying to decide what I’d like to be when I grow up!) My husband was without work last year too, so I’ve been fretting about retirement savings, worrying about what sort of a lifestyle we’ll be able to live when we’re old. (And of course, that becomes a little more pointed when there are no children to take up any slack, in the way that I could for my mother.) I feel as if I’m running out of time. It’s a bit of a flashback to trying to conceive, when I knew I was running out of time there too.
  • My mother’s conditions are deteriorating, and decisions will need to be made sooner rather than later. But they're not solely up to us. Anyway, I’m leaving in a few days to help her post-op, and at this stage, can’t book a return ticket.
  • We have a major maintenance issue with our driveway, and we have just received the quotes for the work to repair it. We knew it would cost us a fortune, but the quotes have come in about twice what we expected. We have no choice but to deal with it.
  • My weight is an issue, and it can suffer when I’m under stress, so I’m a bit worried about that. I might talk about this some more in the future, if I can pluck up courage.
The one thing that isn’t really a huge issue in my life at the moment (even with the retirement savings issue) is the fact we couldn't have children. I'm not kidding about that.

16 November, 2015

Healing with art

I occasionally talk about mindfulness, and how noticing the small things in life helped pull me out of grief, gave fleeting pleasure, and reassured me that I would feel joy again.  This renewed attention to detail - to a beautiful sight, or the warmth of the sun on my back, or the thrill of seeing a tui in my tree - made me want to reproduce what I was seeing or the things that carried fond memories, and so I took up painting. I had never been artistic, though I enjoy and appreciate the visual arts, architecture, interior design, and photography, so was keen to see what I could do.

It turned out that I really enjoyed it, not so much for what I managed to produce (which was far from skilful!), but the way I could totally focus on it, how quickly time would pass, and how my mind would quiet, and troubles temporarily disappear. Having read some of the research on adult colouring books, meditation, and mindfulness, I can see why it helped me at the time.

Recently, I've found myself experimenting with colouring (read my #Microblog Mondays post over on A Separate Life to learn how, and to see an example). It's easier and less pressured than painting, as all I have to do is colour between the lines, yet it has the same beneficial results. Five years ago I would never have believed I'd be suggesting this, but if you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed, or just needs something calming in your day, you should give it a try.

12 November, 2015

Past Novembers: An Anniversary Post

Although I started writing about my infertility and loss over 13 years ago, and spent many years working daily with women who had suffered loss, I realised recently that it has been just over five years since I found my not-so-silent sorority in this community, first at Pamela’s blog, then Loribeth's and beyond. A month or so later, I started blogging here. My first post was exactly five years ago today, and explained why I have mixed feelings about November.

My first post didn’t receive any comments (not unexpectedly!), but by my fourth post, Kathryn, Lisa and Loribeth had turned up. 370 posts later, Kathryn may still read, but she doesn’t blog any longer. Lisa is busy with her site Life Without Baby and getting the message out to those of us without children and the wider society and media. And of course, dear Loribeth still blogs and comments wisely, an important and much treasured member of the community I’ve been proud to join.

Do I still have mixed feelings in November? Well, at the moment I am feeling a little melancholy, but that’s a result of a couple of other issues, not my No Kidding status. I’d probably be feeling a lot better too, if we could get more than one sunny, spring-like day at a time! Spring in Wellington is always unpredictable – let’s face it, summer, autumn and winter are also unpredictable – and today we’ve had hail, rain, warm sun, more hail, and now, more warm sun.The warm sun lets me hope that summer is, in fact, just around the corner.

So, to turn to an American November tradition, I will end this five-year anniversary post by saying how thankful I am that I have met so many of you here, or on your own or other blogs, how much your thoughtful comments and posts mean to me, and how happy I am that so many people are still part of our no kidding community.

09 November, 2015

Reclaiming friendships

When we can’t have children, and our friends can and do, our friendships face a precarious balancing act, needing sensitivity to a new mother’s single-minded focus on her children as well as sensitivity to the pain of a potential mother who has lost the future she’d hoped for. Even with the best of intentions, one or both partners in the friendship may slip and fall, and the friendship suffers damage.

As difficult as it can be when our friends are having children and we’re not, when we can feel cast aside and ignored, this time passes before we know it. Children don’t stay young forever, and our old friends eventually realise that their lives are actually not much different from ours.

A friend made that point to me - not to ignore what she has and I don’t, but to point out that the years of active parenting are relatively short, and that for the bulk of our relationship (ie the next 30 years or so) we will both be living no kidding lives at the same time. Her children have now left home, and we can and do get together pretty much whenever we like, as the only things that get in the way now are work commitments, and caring for elderly parents.

Whilst we can hold onto those friendships that sustained us in our times of need, it is also possible to reclaim those old friendships - if they aren’t irretrievably damaged by harsh words and hurt feelings on either side - too. As we rekindle these relationships, I like to think that  they will be more sensitive, kinder and wiser, and a part of our lives for many more years to come.

Note:      Klara, who is reclaiming a friendship as her friend's children grow, inspired this post.
Note 2:   The lavender photo is from a weekend staying at my above-mentioned friend's house.

02 November, 2015

Valuing ourselves

The main points of my previous post was that a) there are many ways of determining value, and b) I wish that society wouldn’t make judgements based on traditional views of success (including parenting). Value, like beauty, takes many forms.

Self-value came up a lot in the comments, and because the commenters are thoughtful, this wasn't a  “shame the victim” response, but rather a hope that by recognising our value, we learn tools to survive a judgemental world. Valuing yourself first is a good point to make - hence this new post - as initially much of the pain and shame I felt (and that I see from others) embarking on a no kidding lifestyle, came from how I felt I fit (or not) into my families and communities, and how those communities – or even the world in general – saw me. However, it can be brutal to suddenly feel on the edges of society, ignored in politics, shamed as a failure, and this onslaught of negative messages batters any self-confidence or self-value we had left after going through infertility.

One of the most healing things we can do is learn to value ourselves for who we are, rather than what we are or are not. That isn’t easy to do when you feel a failure, when you are grieving, when you are struggling with figuring out who we are, and what value we have to the world, and I only have compassion for those who haven’t managed to come to terms with this yet.

But as we heal and grow, as we learn gratitude for what we have, redefine success, and as our compassion for ourselves and others grows, it gets easier. We can again stand tall, confident in the fact that we do have value to the world, if in a different way than we - or society - may have expected.

30 October, 2015

A valued life

I’ve been thinking about value a lot lately. In marketing, and especially in marketing services (though not just services), value is an important concept. What has value to one person doesn’t have value to another. Understanding what constitutes value is important in being able to appeal to a particular client, and to understand what aspects of our services we need to promote. I love teaching value to my marketing training clients, because so many have never thought of themselves or their skills that way. Sometimes it can be a shock for them to learn that who they are doesn’t have intrinsic value to the client. Rather, it is what they do for that client that has value. Though of course, who they are contributes to that.

I think that this is the same in real life, and especially life after infertility. Our perspectives determine what we define as success, and what we define as value. I look at some people I know. They’re worked hard all their lives, risen in the corporate world, but have they actually done anything of value?

Single-minded pursuit of success can be an incredibly selfish thing, and can leave a lot of bodies in a person’s wake. Though not always. Still, maybe their corporation has an important product, or maybe by climbing the corporate ladder they’ve been able to mentor others, or provide their families and others with financial support. The value to me isn’t that they’ve become <insert title here>, but what they’ve done as they’ve reached those heady heights. I admire Bill Gates, not for establishing a hugely successful company and becoming a billionaire, but for what he is doing now, his approach towards eliminating malaria and other diseases, his humanity in action.

I watched Survivor the other night. (Confession: I drafted this months ago!) I thought about Jeff whatshisname. He’s spent 20 years of his life overseeing egotistical people fighting for money, and selling that to the world. Some would say he’s successful. He's certainly rich. But would I want to spend my life that way? Has he provided value to the world doing that? You could argue he has provided entertainment for millions. But if he hadn’t, someone else would have filled the void. Maybe, by being a calm and sensible voice, he has role modelled appropriate behaviour. Maybe he’s used his wealth to make the world a better place. Or maybe not. My point is that his prominence and wealth don't on their own make him valuable. I guess it comes down to how we define success.

In the same way, we can look at other people who are parents. When we are so often feeling less than, simply because we haven’t brought another being into the world, or raised another being when their parents couldn’t, I find it can be useful to think about life this way. I’m not trying to diminish the role of parents, simply put it in perspective. Now, some people will assume that if you’re a parent, by creating another person you are contributing enormously to the world. Others would say that it’s not simply a numbers game, positive or negative. But is being a parent inherently valuable? It depends on a huge range of factors.

Whilst I try not to judge, I think to an extent it is inevitable. We respect some people, and not others. That's human nature, even if we're trying not to be judgemental. In doing this, though, I wish our societies assigned value based on how much better a person will leave the world. On who they’ve helped. On whether they have been selfish, or not. On whether they’ve been kind. On their values. Not just on whether they have been a parent. Or not.

26 October, 2015


I've realised over time that much of what I write about here is resilience - learning what it is, how to develop it, how to use it now I recognise what helps and what doesn't. Jjiraffe at Too Many Fish to Fry has written a lovely post about resilience here, and I urge you to go and check it out.

As I was reading her post and the comments, my first reaction* was that I didn't realise I was developing resilience, as both through my ectopics, and when dealing with the loss of any possibility of having children, I felt alone, lost, and weak - anything but resilient. I had no idea what to do, how to grieve, or how to behave, so I was flying blind. But as I look back, I realise that some of the things that came naturally to me were examples of resilience. Other things I had to learn, over time and through trial and error. Ultimately, I think the most important lesson is that resilience doesn't mean not experiencing pain, avoiding our emotions or situations, or not being able to feel what we feel. Instead, I believe that it means working through them and looking to a positive future.


*  Other thoughts on resilience may follow.


21 October, 2015

Still not kidding

Twelve years ago yesterday (or today if you’re in the US), my efforts to become a parent came to a screeching halt. I’ve written about that before here. I didn’t think about it until late yesterday afternoon, and when I did, it was just to mark the moment.

It made me think though. Twelve years on from that day, almost thirteen and fourteen years respectively from my ectopic pregnancies, and years before that since we started trying to get pregnant, I am writing and thinking about life without children. I almost wrote “still writing and thinking” but by use of the word “still” it implies that thinking about our lives without children is something that has or should have an end date. I don’t believe that is true. I have friends who weren’t able to have children, and who never went down the forum or blogging routes. We rarely talk about our lives without children. We simply talk about life. But just because we don’t talk about it, just because they don’t write about it (as far as I am aware) or advocate for people without children, I can’t say that they don’t think about their lives. Just because I write in public – even if under an easily broken pseudonym – it doesn’t mean that my thoughts about our lives are any deeper or more detailed or different.

The truth is though that, here at least, I have actively identified as a woman without children. I don’t do that through pain (any more) or bitterness. I like to think I do it for advocacy, to join my voice with that of others, to help other women without children to feel less alone. Maybe too we help friends and family to understand what their loved ones are going through. Maybe my experience might help others to believe they’ll be okay, and maybe it will help them to move through the grief, up into the sun. I write openly and as honestly as I can. I try not to kid myself, or you, that life is anything but the way it is. I try to keep this a no kidding zone.

Ultimately though, I would like to be able to help those who don’t give a passing thought to us to stop, think, and understand what life is like for the 1 in 5 women who will not be mothers. I’m working towards that. That’s why, 12 years later, I am still writing and talking and thinking about leading a no kidding life.

19 October, 2015

Unworthiness - let it go

When I saw this quote, I realised that it explains so much of the pain of those of us who can't have children - especially in the early days. If we believe that we are unworthy,  then it is easier to think that others also see us this way.  Holding onto our unworthiness just invites pain and judgement in, yet it is hard to let go, to be kind to ourselves, to stop judging.

Once we stop believing in our unworthiness, it doesn't matter what others think about us. We know, deep in our hearts, that worth or lack of worth has nothing to do with whether or not we could have children, whether or not we are parents. Realising this, believing it, lifts a burden and liberates us - from our own judgement, and from that of others.

12 October, 2015

Cheating on #MicroblogMondays

Some #MicroblogMondays, I am at a complete loss about what to post. I might just have written a long post only a few days earlier. I might have had a brainwave in the weekend about what to write about, and then promptly forgotten it. I might have too much to say, and feel limited by eight sentences. Or, like today, I might simply feel devoid of inspiration, having had a late night, an early morning, and spent much of the afternoon arranging a long weekend away with my husband.

So I thought, " ... maybe, reblogging would be an idea." It's cheating, yes, but still it might be helpful if I pull out an old post, along with all the wise or funny comments. (It's helping me, at least!)

So if you’re in the mood to reread one of my old posts, go read this one, way back in December 2010, in my second month of IF blogging:

08 October, 2015

The childless woman's guide to surviving school holidays

 Late September/early October sees school holidays come around again here in New Zealand. In my No Kidding life, this can creep up on me. Suddenly, I'm assailed by people and noise. Though I can tolerate people and children and noise, if I don't have to, I prefer to avoid them. After all, I am accustomed to a much more peaceful environment! Besides, even though the sight of children does not upset me these days, being surrounded by boisterous families can make me feel isolated, and I prefer to flee home or to a favourite, safe environment. I am fully aware that frazzled parents can't do this, and face many more challenges to surviving school holidays. Still, this isn't a blog that addresses their issues - it addresses mine. So here are my tips to surviving school holidays relatively stress free.

  1. Don’t travel. The planes, trains, ferries, roads, and airports will be clogged with families on holiday, accommodation will be harder to find, and prices will be higher.

  2. Stay in Wellington and drive to work. There’s no traffic  – the streets are clear in the morning, travel times are dramatically reduced – through a combination of parents not driving their children to school in the mornings, and the absence of parents as they take a week or more off work to get out of town with their kids.

  3. Go to the gym. Unless it has playgrounds or childcare facilities, it will be empty. Even the spinning class was cancelled this week due to lack of interest.

  4. Avoid the Malls and cinemas and museums (especially Te Papa), like the plague.

  5. If you must go to the movies, then go to Lighthouse cinemas, or the Penthouse, or another of the boutique, art house style theatres. Do not go to see a blockbuster in the middle of the day -  you will regret it! I'm sure you can wait two weeks to see it.

  6. Choose your coffee venues carefully. The CBD is usually a safe bet, but beware that in the holidays, there will be families and children in town. Think about the nature of the café and its surrounding environment. Miramar’s new Park Kitchen is sleek and modern, and was quiet late last week. The entire Khandallah Village was empty this morning – the usual yoga mums are all off ski-ing or in the Pacific, the nannies have the week off, and the café was peaceful. However, I doubt it was the same just down the road at the more child-friendly Ngaio café. Beach Babylon in Oriental Bay never has many children, and didn’t this week either, but I didn’t even attempt to go to the Tugboat Café, just a few hundred metres up the road, situated as it is next to a small sheltered beach and playground.

  7. Go get a massage or facial or both. Serenity guaranteed.

  8. Alcohol. Go out for a drink instead of a coffee or lunch, revelling in your freedom, and making the most of these lighter evenings.

  9. But if you have a visit from an out-of-town child, disregard all the advice above, and head to the zoos, malls, cinemas, Te Papa, and cafés with playgrounds, bake cupcakes and build forts inside or out, play “spot the tui,” and have your first ice-cream of the season. And enjoy!

  10. Don’t feel guilty that you can enjoy your peace and serenity, whether it’s the less stressful commute to town, or the quiet café, or the calm, quiet house after guests have gone. 

Please feel free to add your own tips in the comments!

05 October, 2015

The moment you realise you're grown up

I’ve heard a number of parents say that they really realised they were grown up when they had children; a statement which of course makes me cringe. The thing is, I can’t imagine waiting until I had children – unless I had had them when I was still a teenager – to realise I was grown up, and I am sure my friends with and without kids would agree with me. So the last time I heard/read this, it got me wondering, “when did I realise I was grown up?”
  • It might have been when I was lost in Bangkok when I was 17, and knew that I had no choice but to find my own way to my destination, and back to my house across the city.
  • Or was it a year later, after my second term at university, when I was able to pay all my own bills, and never again needed to rely on my parents financially?
  • Or was it several years later, when my mother had cancer, and for the first time I felt the switch of the care-giving relationship?
  • Or maybe it was a few more years on (still not yet 30), when I first represented my country at an official international meeting in Vietnam, sitting behind the New Zealand flag (and between Netherlands and Norway – my friends Ron and Knut – ensuring we always had fun at those talks), reading a statement I had written on behalf of my government.

I understand that having children means you are wholly responsible for another human being, and that awareness of this can be overwhelming, but surely for most people, it isn’t the first time they realise they are grown up?

28 September, 2015

#MicroblogMondays: Mothering

I'm currently away from home, mothering my mother who is vanishing as she stands right before me, unable to understand why I do the things I do only because they must be done to help her, confused at the additional struggles that would make life difficult for anyone, let alone someone who is slowly forgetting everything, including herself.

I talk a lot on this blog about finding joy in the small things, and we still laugh and enjoy a cup of tea and a citrus slice, or the snow on the mountains today, or the elephant seal pup on the beach on Saturday.

But it is not lost on me that this will be my only experience of mothering anyone, when things happen in reverse, and there is no great joy (and even the little joys are disappearing daily), and there is in its place only sadness. 

21 September, 2015

Infertility: why I'm glad I live in New Zealand

There are many reasons I'm glad I live in New Zealand - though today, the weather is not one of them! But these are the infertility/no kidding reasons why I'm glad I live here:
  1. IVF/assisted reproduction here is regulated, protecting both the child and the mother from unscrupulous operators.
  2. IVF is publicly funded for two cycles (provided you’re under 40 years of age, and transfer only one embryo), which isn’t as generous as Australia or Canada or many European countries, but is still much more generous than so many other countries in the world (including of course  US).
  3. New Zealand is not a religious country, so we don’t have quite the same emphasis on church and family that throws up a lot of situations causing pain for others.
  4. Our first female Prime Minister had children, but our second didn’t, and it really wasn’t much of an issue (unlike the misogyny and vitriol that rained down on No Kidding Julia Gillard in Australia), reflecting perhaps a society that is (relatively) open to difference.
  5. We have a social welfare system that, although it isn’t particularly well-funded, will still provide care for us in illness or our old age if we need it.
And last, but certainly not least,
  1. We don’t have baby showers.

14 September, 2015

Searching ... searching ...

Calling all Blogger experts!

I find the Search feature on Blogger to be really inconsistent, especially compared to that of Wordpress, where I write A Separate Life and other blogs. For example, all posts in my Gifts of Infertility Series have been given the label Gifts of Infertility, but if I search for that series or label, I don’t get all the results I should. In fact, eight of the 23 posts in that series are missing in the search results – ranging between #1 and #18, so it’s not an issue of the order in which they were posted.

Another post I refer to and link to quite frequently, entitled Why?, never shows in the search results. I even searched for "Why?" with the post Why? up on the same page, and it was not included in the search results!

I can find everything easily behind the scenes in my lists of posts by searching for particular labels or words, so why doesn't it work on the front end of my blog?

Any suggestions for a solution, so that others can find my posts easily?

11 September, 2015

Gifts of Infertility Series - # 23 - Our Marriage

I’m slowly coming to the end of this Gifts of Infertility Series. The one big issue I haven’t yet touched on, the issue that I don’t write about often on this blog because it’s not just my story, is that of our marriage.

Going through infertility and loss was incredibly stressful. It was stressful for me, making me question who I was; it was stressful for my husband, unable to do anything to help (and whose hair went grey over the year of our first and second losses), and it was stressful on our marriage. We had both changed in this process, and we were both finding that life together wasn’t going to be what we had hoped.

We’d been together a long time by the time we faced infertility. We’d had our ups and downs, made many compromises, and were looking forward to having children together. When that didn’t happen, we could have taken it out on each other. But we turned towards each other; we mourned together.

We tried to comfort each other, and - knowing that words wouldn't help - we rediscovered the real value of touch. Not in a sensual way (though that was still there), but in an intimate, caring way. Simple hugs, or a touch as we passed, reminded each other we cared, that there was a place we could feel safe, with a person who would love us no matter what. We learned that even when words are too hard to get out, emotions too difficult to express, a touch can speak volumes.

We showed patience with each other, more than ever before, and learned to focus almost exclusively on the positive, on what we had together, on what we loved about each other, and on what made us smile, or laugh. We learned that life can hit you with sadness when you least expect it, so we should embrace happiness with joy and enthusiasm when we have it.

As I learned to take care of my own feelings, I became more acutely aware of my husband’s feelings. He didn’t react the same way as I did, but that was okay. I didn’t place any expectations on how he should behave. (Though some of this was instinctive, much of it came from the advice of a few wise women who had been through this before.) This was helpful, as I think the burden of his overwhelming sadness at the same time as my own might have been too much to bear. We shared with each other, but we also protected each other. My friends, and my online friends, gave me outlets to share my grief and sadness, without expecting him to be all things to me. Because he was grieving too, and as we all know, that is a lot. So he didn’t really start opening up about his feelings until he saw a definite improvement in my demeanour. He felt that he could do this when he felt I could cope with his grief. I think too he also learnt from me that opening up was okay, and that grieving was okay too.

Ultimately, I think our losses and difficult no kidding journey in those first years helped forge our relationship into something even stronger. We turned to others, but in doing so we didn’t turn away from each other. Yes, we were lucky. Not all couples are able to come through this with a deeper, stronger, kinder relationship. But you know, my observation is that most of us do. It's a lovely feeling too, knowing that we're together because we want to be, not because we feel we have to be.

When we travelled a couple of years ago for five months, some people sounded puzzled that we could go five months with each other as company, as the only people we talk to, as our social fun, and emotional support. They joked that they were surprised we hadn’t killed one another, which of course said much more about their relationships than about ours. Yet the truth is, we didn’t find it an effort at all. Once we got home, it was also another year before my husband started getting work more regularly, so we also had a lot of time together after the trip. I did say to some people, perhaps only 50% joking, “there is such a thing as too much togetherness.” But actually, we don’t really have issues being together 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Our relationship is probably the beneficiary of the “no kidding” factor in our lives. We both feel this way. We don’t have to be parents together, so we don’t have to have battles about different parenting philosophies and styles (and believe me, we would have had a few battles). We don’t have to crawl in bed exhausted from looking after children, wrestling with toddlers or teenagers, or juggling our annual leave so we can look after the children in school holidays. We don’t struggle to find time for ourselves as a couple. On the contrary, we need to be sure we find time for relationships with other people, and give each other some breathing space.

As a couple without children, we are able to just “be.” It doesn't mean we don’t have difficulties. But having been through some tough times, and having survived these, we are able to know each other in a different way than I suspect we would have if we were parents. For that, for our close relationship now, I am very grateful.