31 December, 2016

2016: Looking back on the blog

Life - and let’s face it, death – got in the way of blogging a bit this year. I’m very aware that my plan to get in guest posters from my ectopic days foundered almost from the outset, but I fully intend to get that going again this year. I’m also aware that my “Gifts of Infertility” series has languished for over a year now, but there are still a couple more I want to write. I don’t have any urge to shut down the blog, or to stop thinking or writing about living a no kidding life, but everything slowed this year, including commenting, and I’m neither pleased nor proud of that.

So rather than set specific resolutions requiring improved performance next year, which is just asking for failure, I thought I’d share some of my favourite posts I wrote this year.

There were a few short posts, just reminding us to look for joy, and to trust in ourselves.

I wrote a series about the idea that “you can achieve anything you put your mind to it.” These were some of my best posts, and were an important part of the message I wanted to give this year, especially the message at the very end of the series - that we too have privilege.

This is of course a nod to Mel who used to run the Crème de la Crème, where we would list our favourite post of the year, and always provided inspiring reading. So even though it doesn’t happen officially now, I hope that you too will list your favourite posts from your own blogs, on your blogs. 

Happy New Year!

27 December, 2016

A grateful Microblog Monday

As I noted on A Separate Life, yesterday I completely forgot about Microblog Monday, and so I sit here at my computer feeling a degree of urgency, and yet with a blank screen in front of me, and a blank mind behind my glasses!

Yet it occurs to me that there are things to be grateful for, and that’s very true.

  • I’m grateful that our Christmas Day passed peacefully, doing the right thing for my in-laws
  • I’m grateful that I didn’t have to cook, and so I wasn’t stressed or harried
  • I’m grateful that the weather was fine, and that we could see people at the beach, swimming and paddle-boarding, enjoying their Christmas Day in Wellington; it made me smile
  • I’m grateful that at the lunch, I met an inspiring woman of 93 who is still active in the community (she’s always been a local figure), spending her day helping people and visiting friends, with a unique ability to find something special in each person she met
  • I’m grateful that – even though this Christmas Day I was the youngest there (!! I know !!)  - I no longer feel trepidation about gatherings with lots of children, although the doting parents, depending on whether their demeanour is smug or harried, are sometimes another issue.
  • I’m grateful that a New Year is just around the corner, and we don’t know what that will hold, but for sure there will be some good things and some bad, but that’s okay, that’s just life.

22 December, 2016

My 2016 annual holiday post

Every year, I like to post about the holiday season that is practically on top of us already. I'm not sure I have anything new to say this year, so I thought I'd link to some of my previous posts.

Six years ago, I wrote my first post about Christmas (or another holiday) without children, and talked about my practice of reclaiming Christmas. I wrote,
But understanding the grief that we won't ever celebrate Christmas with our own children doesn't mean that Christmas has to be lost to us.  If it was important to you before children, it can be important to you afterwards.  It might not be what you always wanted, but let's face it, what in life is exactly as we had envisaged it, or just how we always wanted?  And so I stamp my feet a little, and say "Christmas is NOT just for children.  It's for all of us, to make our own."
I still feel that way, but would simply perhaps add, "if we wish." Because there's nothing wrong with not wanting to celebrate anything at this time of year, or choosing to celebrate life with friends or partners or even simply with yourself.

In 2011, I was staying at my mother's house in the south, and we were spending a quiet Christmas morning, and I was at peace, and hoping all you were at peace too.

In 2012, I remembered Decembers in the past that had been exceedingly painful, and delighted that the pohutukawa trees that previously always brought back memories of that time now brought me joy in their blooms.

In 2013, I wrote three posts inspired by the season. In the first, I caught myself when I felt a little jealous of a friend, and reminded myself that someone else's happiness does not affect my own. In the second, I talked about including childless relatives. And in the third, I reminded myself and us all that we are not alone.

In 2014, I wrote about my ideal holiday if money were no object, and what we actually to do in the real world.

Last year, I was relaxed on Christmas Eve, feeling a little melancholy, but about other things rather than about being childless and alone on Christmas.

This year I feel much the same - a bit (though not badly) melancholy. It's the first Christmas without my mother, and I feel sad about her last few years. Neither my husband nor I have any confirmed work for next year, so I feel uncertainty and a small degree of fear. I can't look back on 2016 with any satisfaction, other than simply (so far) surviving it. I feel a bit lonely too, as none of the overseas relatives are returning home this Christmas, the sons having rushed home when FIL had two heart attacks in April. Of course, I have just been at a celebration in the south with my family, so I can't complain about not seeing my sisters or nieces or great-nephew. Still, friends also tend to leave town at Christmas, going places with family or staying in the country or at the beach - anywhere where the weather is better - and so here there'll be just be us and some elderly relatives. And have I mentioned that this year I don't even get to control the Christmas menu? I have hardly even had any Christmas shopping to do, and although I sometimes find it stressful, I also find it very satisfying, and enjoy being able to buy gifts for people in my life.

However, it's not all doom and gloom. I'm going to do some Christmas baking soon, and will give that as gifts. My Christmas tree is up, and looks great. I'll arrange to catch up with the friend who is going to be remaining in town, and perhaps we'll do some overnight visits to other friends. I think I'll do a meal of our favourite things, just for my husband and I, on Christmas Eve, to make up for not choosing the menu on Christmas Day. And I have had a wonderful offer of accommodation somewhere exotic for Christmas 2017, so I can start thinking about if we can afford that, or at least do it cheaply. Enjoying and making the most of what I have - this is what I mean about reclaiming Christmas.

Besides, by this time next week it will be a distant memory, and I can focus on going on summer walks and picnics and playing with my camera outside, and having some friends over for barbecues, and fixing our house, and enjoying the summer, and maybe planning a road trip to visit my sister up north, and planning an international trip in May, and maybe getting a project finished that has been on hold all year, and maybe kicking off a small business that I don't expect will ever make much money, as long as it will make enough to make a few things tax deductible, and thinking about the New Year always makes me feel a little enthusiastic about the unknown opportunities that might come to us, allowing me to wipe the slate clean.

It seems that I did have some things to say after all.

20 December, 2016

Roll on Boxing Day

My key survival tip for the holidays is that actually (for me at least), it is just one day. After that, life takes over again, and even if we're travelling the focus on family and children shrinks quickly back to normal levels, which we can deal with. It is just one day. We can cope with a lot for just one day.

A few months ago, when we had my niece Charlie staying, we went to the movies. Moana, the new Disney movie, was advertised, and Charlie informed us that she really, really, really (!) wanted to see it. (In general, New Zealand and Pacific kids are very excited about this, because it represents a Pacific culture they can relate to.) I wondered aloud when it was going to start.

"Boxing Day!" she declared confidently. Then she looked at me. "I have no idea when that is!"

Roll on Boxing Day.

Infertility in the news

It was refreshing, yet saddening, to see the front page of my newspaper this morning talking about infertility. As we are the capital city of New Zealand, politics usually dominates, so I was surprised to see fertility issues highlighted on the front page, dwarfing the article next to it on the latest Cabinet reshuffle. Specifically, the article mentioned that there is now a shortage in funding for fertility treatments, as a result of dramatically increased demand just over the last couple of years, and the resulting long waiting lists for even an initial assessment. I’m not sure why the demand has increased so much (by about 25% in some centres) in such a short time, and they didn’t delve into it, which I thought was poor journalism, but then it wasn’t a feature article in a magazine.

Typically, and annoyingly, they included an example of a couple which had a natural pregnancy whilst waiting for IVF, but the paper did get criticised for this in the online comments.

What was heartening though, was the open discussion both in the article and in the comments of how stressful and difficult infertility can be, how expensive IVF is, how IVF isn’t the only fertility treatment, how we can’t “just adopt” here in New Zealand, and how easily the fertile dismiss this as unimportant, at the same time as they laud the crucial role of being parents in society. There were usual comments about “this isn’t life-threatening so why are we funding it” or “just adopt” or “if you can’t conceive naturally then you shouldn’t be allowed to under IVF because it perpetrates defective genes,” but the responses to these pointed out the issues and inaccuracies with these arguments clearly and succinctly.

In general it seemed to be a reasonably civilised conversation about the issue, which highlighted fertility as an issue that affects a lot of people and can be very distressing, and that, I guess, is all we can ever ask for.

12 December, 2016

Beware comparison

This time fifteen years ago, I was going through my first pregnancy loss, finding pain in every mother/child/grandchild relationship I saw. Fifteen years later, I’ve just spent the weekend with my sisters and nieces, one of whom was heavily pregnant. I’m very pleased for her – she had thought it wasn’t going to happen, and so is not taking it for granted.

I love my nieces, and I’m very proud of the women they have become, and I am now very accustomed to seeing my sister as a doting grandmother - though she’s less doting as he grows into a cheeky teenager! Initially that was hard, as it was a reminder of what I wouldn’t have. But I am now secure knowing that my relationships with my nieces, and with my great-nephew, fill different needs and a different niche, and are all important in their own right.   

There’s no point in comparing my relationships with them with my sister’s role in their lives. Comparison is after all the thief of joy - and there is so much joy in being an aunt, and a great aunt, and in accepting those roles.

06 December, 2016

It's December again

December is here. As much as I like December for the warming temperatures, the prospect of several weeks break with (for this self/un-employed person) no obligation even to seek work because the rest of New Zealand is out on their summer holiday, and the joys of summer, it always brings memories.

Along with the inevitable reminders of my parents, December, for me, will always be my pregnancy loss month. Looking back at previous writings, I can confirm that now I simply remember it as a fact of life, and something that doesn't upset me now. However, a particular incident a week or so ago reminded me how easy it is to feel very lonely as a No Kidding couple. I felt extraneous to much of the world, and this brought a real feeling of helplessness, and worthlessness. Fortunately that faded quickly, and I'm now looking forward to the bright side of this particular situation (there is one).

So although it was a painful reminder of my vulnerability, it was also a reminder of my hard-won strength and resilience.

30 November, 2016

Six years on ...

November has marked my six year blogoversary here at No Kidding in NZ. I’ve been blogging longer than that – tomorrow, I hit my ten year anniversary of blogging so will probably highlight that over at A Separate Life.

I know that I’ve been quieter this year, but I do still have some juicy topics I want to address, and over the summer, I intend getting back into writing more often and more thoughtfully than I have done recently.

Living a No Kidding life can be wonderful, but can also continue to have its challenges. I’ve just been on a holiday through the most beautiful parts of our country, and felt blissfully childfree. But then something happened in the weekend that made me suddenly feel very alone and very childless and pathetic. That has passed now, and I’ve seen it for what it was – a long overdue upset that was inevitable, given everything that has happened this year.

Since I started, I’ve published 457 posts. I was hoping to get to 500, but the lost mojo this year just didn’t allow me to get there.

I’ve been privileged to get to know so many of you, both through comments here and through your own blogs. I’ve had email conversations (agreements and disagreements) and have sought and when requested, given advice. I’ve been interviewed in a national magazine, featured on Huffington Post, received some really lovely comments and emails, and – just to keep my feet on the ground – have written posts that have just received crickets!

As a result of my blog, I’ve travelled to a new country (the beautiful Slovenia) to meet a fellow blogger (the lovely Klara and her husband), and count that as a highlight of my blogging career. I hope that meeting will just be the beginning of meetings with bloggers and readers in new or exotic lands, or maybe even here in New Zealand if you want to come and visit.

My life has been enriched by relationships with friends I’ve made here, though we've never met in person. And I thank you all.

Thank you!

Some admin: My blog roll

Several months ago, a glitch in Blogger removed all our blogrolls or link lists. I've only just got around to reinstating my list, and I had to do it by referring to my feedly lists. (You can find it under the Blog Archive list on my sidebar.)

It is a list of No Kidding bloggers only, not a list of my favourite blogs (though many of my favourite blogs are on this list too), so if you're not a No Kidding blogger, know that I still love reading you, and will get around to commenting again one day. I might eventually get around to adding another list of infertility bloggers, but don't hold your breath!

Anyway, the point of this post is that I know I've probably missed some No Kidding blogs, especially as my feedly list isn't comprehensive, so please don't be offended if you're not listed there at all. Give me a yell here in the comments, or send me an email at malinzblog at yahoo dot co dot nz, if you'd like your blog to be added to the list of Other No Kidding Bloggers. Equally, of course, let me know if you'd prefer not to be listed.

28 November, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Coming home

We got home safely, taking a necessary detour up through the centre of the South Island, rather than along the beautiful coast road that has been destroyed in the earthquake, where the seabed has been lifted by two metres, and where lives and livelihoods have been destroyed. I felt guilty that I enjoyed the drive so much, over a mountain pass that I have only travelled once (I think) before and I had forgotten how beautiful it was, through lush green farmland, rocky hills, and dense native forest, with some obvious earthquake damage to roads and bridges on the way, though thankfully still navigable.

Getting home too was no problem, finding only that a few magazines had slid off a wonky pile, a book fell off my desk, and a pot had wobbled over. I am very thankful, as I didn't know how our house on stilts would fare in such a prolonged shake, and I know how lucky we have been so far, living only a few kilometres away from the city where buildings are being demolished as a result of earthquake damage.

Finally, a note to say that travelling in New Zealand in November was blissful for the No Kidding amongst us, as we encountered very few families with children (school isn't out yet, either for Kiwis or our tourists until December). We were able to relax and enjoy our trip, without reminders of our own situation or that of others, and without worrying about what others might be thinking of us.

The only time I was reminded that I didn't have children was an hour or so out of Wellington, on the deck of the ferry going through the Marlborough Sounds, when we got chatting to an American man who explained that he and his wife bring all their nieces and nephews to New Zealand as a college graduation present. They have visited here about five times (and the day before the election said that they were seriously considering moving here), and yes, you guessed it, they do this for their nieces and nephews because they don't have any children.

18 November, 2016

I'm okay

 It was pointed out to me that, after hearing about the 7.8 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand on Monday, readers might be worried about me. I probably accentuated that by not particiating in Microblog Monday for the first time in ages.

So for the record, I'm fine, and thanks to those who emailed and asked. I can't say that about my house though. Not because there's a problem, but because I simply don't know. Wellington, where I live, has been affected by the earthquake, but I'm not actually there at the moment! As with the last earthquake, we left town beforehand, and we were in fact in the resort town of Queenstown in the South Island when the earthquake hit, and felt nothing. The neighbours have reported thwt all looks okay from th outside, but we don't know what damage there might be inside. We have some furniture attached to the wall as recommended for earthquake preparedness, but certainly not all of it. Our house is on stilts, so shakes a lot when there is an earthquake, as it is designed to do.

Our drive home - to the top of the North Island and then across in the ferry - will be affected though. We love driving up the Kaikoura Coast on the east, through tunnels and along the coast with rocks and seal colonies for miles, but that has been destroyed by cracks and major slips and lifts in the road, and won't be navigable for many months (I would expect). So we will be heading home through the middle of the island, over mountain passes, with an extra few hours on our drive. Minor disruptions to travel plans are nothing in the scheme of things. 

I'll probably blog about our trip later, here and on A Separate Life, but at the moment I'm just grateful for life, and family and friends (all of you included).

07 November, 2016

Appreciating "ouch" moments

Those ghastly "ouch!" moments and meltdowns that we all know so well can, sometimes years later, still occasionally sneak up on us, shaking our confidence and damaging our hopes for continued healing and recovery.

The good news of course is that these meltdowns and painful moments decrease in frequency as we heal, through our own efforts, or through time, or usually a combination of both. So that can make it even more disappointing and upsetting when we get hit unexpectedly. We aren’t expecting it, we are no longer constantly bracing ourselves against the pain, and so we suddenly have to deal with shock and a feeling of failure on top of the usual hurt and loss that hit us in an "ouch" moment.

But even when these come, there is a bright side. I think that the very fact an ouch moment or even a full meltdown can be so unexpected means that by and large we’re doing really well, and have made a lot of progress.

In the midst of an upsetting interlude, though, it is easy to feel that we’ve made no progress at all. But when the storm abates, and the clouds disperse and you can see more clearly again, I hope that you take time to recognise how far you’ve come, and remember to give yourselves a pat on the back. I do.

31 October, 2016

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Microblog Monday

1.   I think my blogging mojo – in fact, my general mojo for life – might be returning. I’m starting to feel it, though there’s no real evidence yet!

2.   My niece stayed with us for the weekend, and we had fun together, watching her favourite Youtube videos (she enjoyed introducing her favourite host to us), baking, going to the museum, cycling around the harbour, and going to a movie.

3.   We went for sushi (her favourite lunch) after the movie Storks, and as we chatted about it, my husband surprised me by saying, “if only storks really did deliver babies, then we could have had one.” There’s my warning – beware the ouch moments if you’re going to watch the movie.

4.   I heard a comedienne talking on the radio this morning, talking about a miscarriage, and saying, “no-one talks about miscarriage, but when I mention ours, all these people who have experienced them come out of the woodwork, so we should talk about them more.”

5.   Different Shores recently wrote an excellent post about the limbo of infertility and the need to take back her life, and it reminded me of the years when I had to travel internationally for business when I felt that my life was on hold - I couldn’t plan for events or outings with friends or family much in advance, in case I had to be away - and how that ran for several years, then overlapped for several more years with infertility and loss (absences don’t help when you’re trying to conceive!), and then eventually the limbo of infertility took over.  Just before my final IVF, I remember thinking about what life might be like afterwards if we didn’t get pregnant, thinking that I might finally get my life back and be able to plan and look forward again, and (for a short time) I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and freedom. Whilst I wasn't able to get out of limbo during infertility, it helped to remember how good that relief felt for that very short time, and to know that there was something good waiting for me at the end.

25 October, 2016

No regrets. Boom boom!

Last week, when I made a quip in my Microblog Mondays post, I finished the sentence with “boom boom!” and then asked if anyone got the reference. It probably wasn’t entirely fair, because I suspect only Commonwealth (and maybe only UK, Aus and NZ) countries might have seen the old series with Basil Brush. I used to watch it as a child, and had pretty much forgotten about him until that “boom boom!” just appeared out of nowhere.

Would I have loved to teach children to finish their jokes with a “boom boom” exclamation? Of course, but you know, I’m not overly sad about it. To be honest, it kind of tickled me that a little bit of my childhood popped up unexpectedly.

I prefer to appreciate memories of my own childhood for what they are, or for things I do now, rather than live in regret for what might have been. Life goes on, and it’s up to me to enjoy it.

17 October, 2016

Taking a No Kidding break

I’ve been a bit AWOL the last couple of weeks, from blogs and blogging, and I apologise to my readers - I have a number of longer posts I’m still working on and cogitating over, but they’re not there yet - and to those bloggers I normally read - I will try to catch up on my comments, though it might take a while.

Since I started blogging in 2006 (coming up on my ten years in a month or so), I’ve taken a break from blogging every single year, when I’ve taken a trip or holiday. (Note: I also took blogging breaks when I travelled to care for my mother, and although that used to be fun, it became increasingly stressful and emotional the last year or two leading up to her death this year, so I don’t think that these counted as a blogging break). This year, a particularly stressful and emotional year that’s not over yet but has already been (probably) the second worst year of my life, I haven’t had any breaks (apart from my ankle/knee, boom boom!*), so when some other things required my attention, I didn’t feel guilty (okay, maybe a little, hence this post) about turning away from blogging or commenting for a few weeks.

In some ways the freedom from the self-imposed pressure to blog – other than Microblog Mondays, of course  -  has been a refreshing mental break. I stepped away from thinking of myself as a woman without children for the purpose of blogging, even in last week's rant about the the status of women in general. Sometimes, I think I need a break from being No Kidding Mali, and instead just need to be me.

Although I know that's not a bad thing, I think I'll be ready to resume normal programming again soon.

(*   Tell me in the comments if you get the reference)

10 October, 2016

A disappointed woman

I regularly feel as if my head will explode as I observe how women are still being treated and judged, and today - after watching the latest Bridgett Jones’ movie with a friend this morning, seeing the predictable and "happy" ending where she has no job, but has the man and the baby so obviously, what more could/should a woman want? - feel motivated to write something that I've written before, and no doubt will write again.

I am fed up that leaders of nations and those who aspire to be leaders of nations can only see women as sexual beings, or in the context of their relationships with men (as wives, daughters or mothers), rather than as real, conscious, responsible, intelligent, contributing and equal human beings

I am furious that so many men only feel personally offended by poor treatment or attitudes towards women if they think that their “wives and daughters” might be treated badly, but didn’t feel any concerns or were not motivated to do anything about it previously when their wives and daughters or all the other women around the world were and are still denied the right to make decisions about education, or family building, or their own bodies.

I am overwhelmed with frustration at the fact that women are still criticised for sounding strident or aggressive when a man will be called strong, that their ideas, thoughts, and voices are dismissed until a man comes up with the same idea, that their diplomacy or tact is seen as a weakness, and that these are all injustices that I have endured, and that I have seen my female family and friends endure.

I want all girls and young women (including but not only my nieces and daughters of my friends) to grow up and inhabit a world in which they are seen as individuals, not as extensions of men as wives and daughters and sisters and mothers, and not as women whose value is determined by their size and shape, their looks, or their behaviour that has to conform to a different standard than that of the men around them.

I want all girls and young women (including but not only my nieces and daughters of my friends), to have outstanding role models of both genders who are respected and fairly treated and free of judgement and harassment and stereotypes, and to grow up knowing that they are free to choose their own paths in the world, in their everyday lives, and private lives.

And I want all boys and young men (including but not only my nephews and sons of my friends) to see women as individuals in their own right, to respect and treat them fairly, never to judge and harass and impose their will or ignore their voices, to be confident enough in their own skin to never put a woman or girl down because of their gender, to see their friends and colleagues and family and community members who are women as equal as their friends and colleagues and family and community members who happen to be men.

Thirty years ago, I was a new graduate, a young feminist, who was full of hope that all this would and must become a thing of the past, and now I am a jaded, tired and disappointed woman, but still, and always, a feminist.

Cross-posting this on A Separate Life

04 October, 2016

Sympathy and grief

There is a lovely article in the New York Times about the art of condolence, or how to express sympathy, with some great advice, covering lessons I’ve learned from reading beautiful condolence notes from others, and through my own experiences, both good and bad.

I love that it says there is no time limit on sympathy, as I think we all know how easily the bereaved are forgotten. When my father died 11 years ago, and I got back to Wellington after the funeral, two friends arranged to take me out to lunch one weekend — that meant a lot to me.

I love too the “Get Real” advice, as sometimes “it sucks” is about the only thing that can be said.

These are lessons to remember when we look at others too. The “No Comparisons” advice is a good one, and one we all particularly need to remember in the infertility world, beset as we are with the Pain Olympics competitions (“I tried for many more years than you” or “my losses were worse than yours”), the accusations (“you chose not to have children, so what are you complaining about?”), and sometimes the inability to put your own shock and hurt, fears, or even jealousies aside. 

There’s another article that’s circulated in social media the last few years about the circles of grief, and this is also one that I’m sure we’ve all experienced at some stage, whether as the grieving or the perpetrator.

We all might know these things in theory, but they might not come to us when we need them most, and so I at least appreciate getting these regular reminders.

27 September, 2016

Trying to be inclusive

I’ve been thinking why the No Kidding amongst us sometimes feel so isolated from much of the rest of the ALI blogging community. It’s not just the fact that we have had a different outcome to the one that most of the community is focused on. I think too it’s the fact that we often have the benefit of time and distance.

We can, I think, objectively look at the issues around the fertility industry, because it doesn’t feel disloyal to us to assess, and perhaps criticise, an industry that might have created our family. We can, I think, objectively look at the issues around the fertility industry, because many/most of us we once had a vested interest in it, but no longer do. We understand what it is like to desperately want treatments to work (or to be available to us), yet we do have the benefit of experience and hindsight.

We also have the benefit of either facing/moving through/completing the process of coming to terms with life without children, that I think gives us a wider more view of society, one that many (certainly not all, including many of my lovely parent/pregnant readers) of those focused on becoming or being parents are simply unable to have (due to circumstances, perspective, and sheer time and focus).

What I think we do have to guard against is entering into an us vs them situation, though I do think that this becomes easier with time.

19 September, 2016

The pressure to find a substitute

Many people like to offer solutions to someone who expresses sadness. So when we might mention that we didn't choose not to have children, we get the standard suggestions, one of which is to work or volunteer with children - as if that is a suitable substitute. It will, at least, they think, keep us satisfied and most importantly, quiet!

Although I love interacting with my nieces and nephews on a one-to-one basis, being with children doesn't come naturally to me. My mother also was never very interested in other people's children, and by saying to me, "oh, it's different when they're your own," I think she gave me the confidence that I would have been a  loving parent, despite the fact that I was never very comfortable with many young children.

That gives me the freedom now to say that just because I wanted to be a parent, it doesn't translate that I'd be any good at volunteering with or working with children. Just as, on the other hand, there are also wonderful, talented, inspiring teachers/coaches/nurses who work daily with children, but who are perfectly happy not to have their own.

How do you feel when people say that we should volunteer or work with children?

12 September, 2016

When silence is the best policy

I’m still recovering from this virus, and though I thought I might be feeling better, the fact that I fell asleep on the couch when I was keen to watch the final of the US Open today, being woken only be the cheers announcing the winner, means I’m still not right. So I don’t have any great ideas about writing, or life without kids, right now.

Rather, I’ve been thinking about when not to write something. I was taught that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all, so there are times on this blog (or in my virtual or real life) that I choose to keep quiet, even if I think that I have a wider knowledge and experience than someone who may disagree with me.

I remember clearly how I felt back when it was all new and raw (and I’d documented this at the time in case I might forget), and my writing today calls on how I felt at the time - my intense emotions and rationalisations, the overwhelming desire that coloured my thoughts and decisions and life, my need to protect myself and my husband, and my anger that someone might suggest I wasn’t thinking clearly. But today I also have the advantage of time, of hindsight, of understanding what was hurting me or many others across the world, of understanding what would help, of recognising what was and is logic and what was and is emotion, of sensitivity and hurt and sadness.

Sometimes, people aren’t ready to hear what they don’t know, and knowing better doesn’t mean pointing that out, but holding off. After all, I remind myself,  I’m not in this to win arguments or be proven right, but hopefully to help someone who needs it on a day when they feel that the world is against them.

06 September, 2016

Trying to stay grateful is hard sometimes

I told myself earlier today that I could skip Microblog Monday this week, but I find that I can't do that. It will be too hard to go to sleep without writing something, so here I am, writing about nothing, and setting where it goes.

Both my husband and I have been hit with a nasty virus within about 36 hours, so we haven't even been able to look after each other. As always, I imagine how much harder this would be if we had children. But I think that I'm still allowed to feel miserable! The cumulative effect of this year - my mother's deterioration then death, my accident, my father-in-law's heart attacks, the slow and painful recuperation, and the results of my MRI last week (you never want to hear a Dr. say "it's not good news I'm afraid"), and now this virus - have me feeling pretty sorry for myself. I am trying to be grateful for what I have. Yes, it could be worse. But some years just suck, and I'm giving myself permission to acknowledge that.

29 August, 2016

Memories ... still there ...

A week or so ago I had an MRI on my knee, to address the ongoing pain I have had since the accident when I broke my ankle, at a private facility where I have been a number of times; I’ve had two other MRIs there over the years, I now have my mammograms there, and it is also the centre where I had both my HSGs. The first was clear, and as happens quite frequently (anecdotally at least), I conceived only days afterwards. That pregnancy was my second ectopic pregnancy that required a number of interventions over a period of months, and afterwards I needed another HSG that showed both my tubes were now blocked. The blocked tubes meant that my fertility efforts (having already exhausted IVF and other options) were now definitively over. It was scheduled for my birthday, and I’d naively gone to the appointment (as I’ve gone to all appointments at this facility) alone.

Almost 13 years later, comfortable with my life without children, I still choose to sit on the opposite side of the waiting room as I did back in 2003, I still look at the corridor I walked down (and back) for those HSGs, and I still remember standing at the reception paying for the procedure afterwards, holding it together. Getting into the car to leave, even when everything has gone well, still reminds me of getting into the car that day, when I wasn’t so good at holding it together. It doesn’t hurt as much now, but I will always remember.

26 August, 2016

Review of Inconceivable: A documentary

I cringed a little, when I saw that TVNZ was going to run a documentary series following eight couples going through infertility over a period of two years. It was, inevitably, titled Inconceivable, and “follows the highs and lows of ordinary Kiwis trying to conceive.”

I recorded it, but due to my misgivings, waited a few weeks before watching. The other night it felt right, and I ended up watching the first four episodes, finally falling into bed around 1 am.

Other than at the beginning, there is no commentary. The voice-over is purely informative – eg ,couple D are going in for their 2nd egg collection today, etc. This is the (edited, obviously) story of the couples in their own words, and the words of their medical professionals.

The introduction of just a few sentences notes that nearly 1 in 4 couples will face difficulties when trying to conceive. It mentions that this is a journey that now often ends in failure, and has no guarantee of success. It notes that with each couple, their constant companion is hope.

The eight couples are a mix of ages, gender preferences, ethnic groups and diagnoses, although they are all couples. Seven are trying for their first child together (though some have children with previous partners), whilst the eighth are trying to conceive their third, having had successful IVF cycles for the first two. There is male factor infertility, unexplained infertility, genetic conditions causing repeated miscarriage, and a same-sex couple. There are a variety of treatments – IUI, IVF, ICSI, and donor egg IVF.

The medical experts – both doctors, nurses, and lab technicians – on the programme explain very clearly and simply the medical issues, the processes that the couples go through, and the chances for success. One doctor notes the myriad things that need to go right before they can get a take-home baby. We get to see them going through all the procedures – their first injections, egg collection, sperm extraction for ICSI, egg transfer, IUI, work done in the lab, blood tests, laparoscopies, HSGs, ultrasounds, and dildocam. They show the embryo photos that each couple receives.

There is no doubt of the emotional stress each couple goes through. There are no holds barred. A couple is shown being told that their pregnancy had failed at 8 weeks, we see the stress of the 2ww or of having a cycle cancelled, we wait with them to receive the phone calls from the clinic, and we see them receiving the news that they are pregnant or not. One husband describes egg collection as “brutal.” Another couple says, “'The further you get into it the more you have to lose.” A woman looks at her husband after a failed cycle, and says, “I’m sorry.” After yet another negative, they say in frustration, “there's no control. It doesn't matter what you do.” One woman says, "I'm not sure how you're not supposed to be stressed!" Anotherwoman says, “you feel broken" and another couple talks about losing sight of their relationship by focusing on treatment. Two of the woman talk about the real problems of stress eating. One woman said that she’d been married for 18 years, but had never bought anything for a baby, because the prospect that it would never be used was too heartbreaking. One or two of the couples take breaks in the process, trying to reduce their stress levels.

They show a counsellor talking to the couple who have miscarried, and one of the most experienced and well-known specialists in the country talks to another couple about the different emotional experiences of men and women.

The financial costs are not emphasised, but not ignored either. The requirements for public funding are talked about when relevant. We hear that one couple has had to save for six years after their first IVF cycle to have another chance, a chance which the doctor then gives them as about 40%. We see another woman desperately losing weight to qualify for public funding, and another talks about using up all their savings. The lesbian couple had to find a private donor because it was financially more affordable than working through a clinic (and besides, there were no donors available through the clinic), until they could qualify for public funding.

There is humour. One guy laughs that in his first examination with the doctor, knowing that he had a zero sperm count, the doctor said to him, “I’m going to cop a feel.” Another couple giggled about the fact that the mother-in-law asked when her son-in-law was going in to make his “donation.” “Every man’s dream,” he said wryly. Another woman laughs (sort of) about clomiphene (clomid), explaining to the camera that it is “the drug that turns you into a monster.” The lesbian woman said that, having announced to friends that yet another IUI had failed, someone said to her, “never mind, it will happen when you least expect it to.” The couples laugh, showing how brave they are when you can see that tears are so very close too.

Public pressure and insensitivity is also discussed. The comment the lesbian woman received was particularly ridiculous, but they all feel under pressure. They get annoying comments and suggestions from siblings and parents. The Tongan man said he was mocked, and that his brothers have all offered their “help” to get his wife pregnant. He shrugged, saying they’re trying to be helpful, but you can see how those comments have hurt. Another woman was told that she and her husband needed God in their lives. One of the women notes that Facebook is “baby central,” and pregnancy announcements by friends, after trying for only after 2 months, are hard to take.

The couples talk about their conviction that they want to be parents. One couple says, "we feel it's meant to happen, we're meant to be parents," but then note that “a child would be the icing on the cake, not the be all and end all.”

The whole approach taken in the series is calm, honest, sensitive. My nervousness at the outset was that the documentary would be filled with myths, that it would try and hide the emotional, physical and financial stresses. Whilst it is very understated in manner, all these issues are addressed. One couple did get pregnant a month or so after finishing their clomiphene cycles, but the words “miracle” or “just relax” weren’t uttered.

In the end, after two years following these couples, there were conceptions through IVF, miscarriages and births, one using donor egg, and the others using their own eggs. Some couples are left facing life without children or accepting that their family is now complete, at least one or two pledge to continue, and there is a surprise adoption within a family (unsurprisingly, for NZers at least, it is in the Pacifica family). The balance achieved in such a small sample is remarkable.

As someone who has experienced this, and spent the last 15 years in a community of loss, and infertility, I found this deeply moving and, best of all, accurate. I’m hopeful that it will inform many people – young women and couples who may face infertility in the next few years, friends and family of those going through infertility, and the wider public – that infertility is common, it is stressful and expensive, and that there are no magic answers.

22 August, 2016

Thinking about blogging

When in doubt, on Microblog Mondays, I blog about blogging, so I'm going to report that I have been doing lots of thinking about blogging lately, about how much we should keep in mind the sensitivities or views of others who read our blogs, whether or not they are our target readers.

Beyond normal tact and good manners, should we write mainly for our target readers, or should we consider a wider readership when we write? And if we consider a wider readership, how wide should we go? Should we have to qualify our statements all the time, as some parenting after infertility bloggers feel they need to do, by warning of triggers or emphasising that they are grateful for their children, in an effort not to offend any readers who are not (yet or ever) doing so? Or should we own our blogs and our opinions and experiences, as other bloggers do, with talk about pregnancies and children and resulting photos of both, or with strong opinions about aspects of infertility? Where is the line between blogging about our lives or opinions, and becoming competitive or divisive, or is there a line at all?

These are questions I am considering at the moment, and some thoughts are developing, but I’m not quite there yet - so no posts yet, but now the Olympics are over, and my sleep patterns will return to normal, I promise you one or two that might spur some discussion. Though I can't promise any answers.

08 August, 2016

Making real human connections

I was browsing Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly again this morning over coffee, and found her simple statement that she had learned from her research that “nothing is as important as human connection.” I thought then of most people I know, and recognised that – excluding friendly but peripheral relationships we all have - family is at the core of their human connections. In fact, some, perhaps many, barely reach beyond family for their human connections.

Probably, I thought, that’s why there is such a focus on having children, being a family unit with a group of people they can focus on and rely on. After all, I think that many people do struggle to make human connections outside of family; connections where they feel that they belong, that they're heard, that they have a purpose.

Maybe that's why people both pity us, and fear being us, because they struggle to understand human connections outside of family, or to see those connections as real or meaningful?

Yet I wonder too, how many people actually have real, deep, meaningful and honest relationships, real connections where they are heard and feel heard and accepted and understood as they are, with their families - or even, outside their families?

This is one of the reasons why I like blogging – the quest to hear and be heard, to accept and be accepted, to understand and be understood, and to make true connections in a part of my life that few in my day-to-day life understand.

The end and the beginning

                                                                                                       - T.S Eliot

However our infertility journey ends - with a baby or without - it is also a beginning. What differs though, I think, is the transition phase. For those of us without children, our transition phase is one where it is easy to focus on the end, not the beginning. It is a time of mourning, of grief, of loss, when it is easy to focus on what we don't have, what we wanted and tried so hard to get. It is a time that is feared by those still going through infertility, a time that so many cannot see beyond, a time that so often can be mistaken as the final destination. 

But it is only a transition phase, and the mourning too comes to an end, allowing us to look ahead, to develop hope, to learn to appreciate the positives, to start anew. It's a beginning that is different to the one we had hoped for, but it is a beginning nonetheless, filled with promise and adventure and love and joy and new destinations. As hard as it is, we mustn't forget that.