30 May, 2016

Deleting unwelcome comments

One of the hazards of blogging on No Kidding lives and infertility is that the very words that attract readers (“childless” or “infertility,” for example) will occasionally attract those who have something to sell or who just want to stir up trouble. There are the miracle cures, the ovulation predictors, or the surrogate clinics from India, to name just a few, along with the occasional aggressive member of the “just adopt” brigade. None of these are appropriate on this blog, which is all about moving on to the next phase after infertility, living without children, not looking for solutions on how to have them.

So I have no compunction about deleting such comments. This is my blog and there is no freedom of speech here, as I strongly believe that it is my right and responsibility to determine which comments get to stay, and which should go. I don’t delete comments that might disagree with me but are a legitimate part of the discussion, because I welcome these, especially if they give me pause for thought. But I don’t want to expose readers to vitriol or off-topic but hurtful comments, or completely misdirected promotions of “fertility cures,” and I feel no guilt whatsoever deleting these comments.

Do you delete comments?

27 May, 2016

No Kidding Bloggers

The world of No Kidding bloggers and readers is varied, as it should be. We are united by the fact that, however it happened, we had once wanted to be parents, but now we are not and never will be. We all have different journeys, and we are all at different stages of these journeys. All of these phases are valid and necessary to give a full picture of the reality of living life without children. Some of us are childless, some are childfree, some don't care for either label! Just look at my blogroll (which needs updating).

There are those of us who are many years into our No Kidding lives. We’ve been through that raw pain, the denial that we will ever feel better, that this will ever be okay. Some of us have blogged this stage of our lives, and some of us have come to blogging later, after we’ve dealt with the majority of emotions either privately, or through other avenues.

We have come to an acceptance of our lives that enables us to be happy. This is what we focus on, because we want others who are coming behind us to have hope that their lives will be happy. We don’t ignore the pain and hardship of those first years, and of the residual pain, the ouch moments or unexpected sadness that might still linger. That would be dishonest. We recognise what we’ve been through, acknowledge how hard it is, and talk about what helped us. I particularly like to talk about what helped me heal. I think I would have found it useful.

But we don’t focus on the pain and grief, because to do so would be to deny the healing that occurs, the way life and pain and grief changes, as we change in ourselves. To only talk about the negative aspects of having no children would also be dishonest, and goes against everything this blog stands for. Because the reality for most of us is that life is happy, content, satisfying.

At the other end of the spectrum are the bloggers and readers who are still fighting the idea of acceptance, still going through the pain of adjustment. That’s only right, too. Their journey is just beginning, and it is painful and hard and lonely, even when there are others going through it too. I know that. I remember not wanting to hear that I would heal, that one day I would be okay, because I didn’t feel that my situation was okay. Accepting that felt to me as if it was a dismissal, a denial even, of my struggles and pain at the time. But it isn't. It felt like a heresy. But it isn't. This is a difficult stage to be blogging, one filled with ups and downs, with doubts and fears, and with the occasional recognition of progress. But I hope that those who blog this feel comfort in the connections, and that they feel heard.
Then there are the bloggers who make me smile. They‘re the ones who are adapting and changing, who are observing their progress, and note that they are healing, whilst still recognising the difficulties and hurt. They are learning to let go of the pain when they can, and embrace the future. We celebrate their advances, and provide hugs when it still hurts. These bloggers are the real-time evidence of what we old-timers declare is true. That life can and will be good. That happiness is possible, and eventually, becomes natural and – mostly - effortless. Easier.*

The key is that we are all trying to tell our truths. We are all trying to either find others who feel the same way, to find connections and understandings, to see what might be ahead of us, and – when we are ready and able - to give hope to those who are facing their own No Kidding lives. In my case, the message is here, when you are ready to hear it.

*I’m going to blog further on this next week..

23 May, 2016

Knowing ourselves

I was going to write another in my series of blog posts I won’t be writing, but when I looked at some of the prompts that I won’t use, I decided against listing them here. None of us here need to see a list of ways for a mother to brag about what a great mother they are, how much their kids love them, and how adorable and precocious their children are.

They reminded me of a lot of the Mother’s Day posts I saw (translation: was unable to avoid) on Fb, where, instead of tributes to their own mothers, I saw mothers post self-congratulatory photos of cards from their children declaring how much they loved their mother, photos of flowers their adult children had sent, and photos of breakfasts or other meals their children had prepared for them.

I wondered if the mothers felt the need to do this, to brag to the world how well loved they are, because on a day-to-day basis they feel taken for granted and struggle to keep their heads above water? If so, I have sympathy for them, and hope that they find a way to feel better about themselves, a way to define themselves, without endless self-promotion that is focused on their relationships with others.

When we first enter into the rest of our lives without children, it is easy to define ourselves as people without children, and that is a relationship focused on the negative. Eventually though, I think we're able to move to a place where we can define ourselves as simply ... well ... ourselves. That - being realistic and accepting, recognising both our flaws and our good points, not kidding ourselves - brings a welcome feeling of quiet satisfaction and freedom.

20 May, 2016

Finally, acknowledgement for No Kidding women

I'm feeling a bit nervous. Recently, I was interviewed by a major women's magazine here in New Zealand. The writer had found my blog here, and I guess she thought what I had said was interesting, and wanted to interview me for an article she was writing about women without children. I was initially a bit hesitant, especially when I learned that her focus was going to be on women who were childfree by choice. But she was aware of the numbers of women who don't have children, and wanted to see what our lives were like. This wasn't going to be one of those nasty, attack articles about the selfish and frivolous lives of the childfree. So I bit the bullet, and gave her my name, and - it turned out - some quotes for the article.

The magazine arrived in the mail earlier this week. I read the article tentatively. She had written the article as originally envisaged, and I was accurately quoted, making at least one or two points I wanted to make. But there, in a magazine anyone in New Zealand might pick up, this month or for years to come in doctors' waiting rooms or fish and chip shops or Chinese takeaways, is my name, the name of this blog, and some of my history. I have generally kept this blog private. I guess that's blown now, as this magazine is the most widely read magazine in New Zealand (according to its own publicity).

Two things grated a little with me. The first was referring to my ectopic pregnancies as miscarriages. As someone who spent years volunteering for an ectopic pregnancy organisation, ignoring the difference just feeds the ignorance of the population, and this ignorance can, in fact, be very dangerous, even lethal. Still, I guess it was incidental to the topic of the article, so I can live with it.

The second jarring note was seeing my age in black and white. I don't feel that old, and seeing it in print was - laughably, I guess, considering it is no surprise to me -  quite shocking!

I don't have a link to the article yet. I am told that it will become available once the magazine is off the shelves in about a month, and will make it public here. For any kiwis reading this, the magazine is the Australian Women's Weekly (NZ edition). Feel free to read it!I actually think that No Kidding women sit confidently and comfortably next to the inevitable gushing about little Prince George and Princess Charlotte and their mother (who, of course, features on the cover) that is the main fodder of a women's magazine.

The whole point of this post though, is how pleased I am that a major women's magazine has focused on the sheer number of women who don't have children, and highlighted some features of our lives, that others might not have considered. Finally.

16 May, 2016

Choosing not to "suck it up"

I had a conversation recently, that gave me pause for thought. The person I was talking to had commented that they made friends largely with other parents from the same school, and I decided to interrupt, to put a different slant on this, pointing out that we had indeed been dropped by parents who made friends with other parents from their children's schools.

“Well,” said the other person, “that’s just what happens.”

There was no remorse, no real awareness that that must have been painful for us, but there was no judgement either, just an acknowledgement that this is the way the world works when everyone is just trying to get by.

This is, of course, is true, and for a moment, it made me wonder if I had protested unduly, if I was finding offence where there was none, and where there was none intended?

Or is this why we need to speak up, even if only in individual conversations, one-on-one, to get people thinking that just because this is the way the world works, it doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean that others don’t suffer from it.

What many don’t realise though, is that it is not just the childless who are suffering. Parents miss out too – on variety in their lives, on people who could help them and their children (free babysitting, baking, or piano lessons, anyone?), who could provide different perspectives on life, bring different knowledge and skills, resulting in greater understanding and enriching everyone’s lives.

13 May, 2016

Angry at the world

A week or so after my mother died, I flew home. From the moment I got off the plane, I found myself getting angry. As I waited for my husband to collect me, I fumed at all the cars illegally parked in the pick-up area, with drivers absent, despite the signs around declaring that drivers must stay with their cars. I could easily have got into a confrontation with people, if they’d dared to come near me. If you knew me, you’d know how out of character this was.

I grew up in a family where anger wasn’t really seen as a legitimate emotion, certainly not for children. We were always taught to not only treat others like we would like them to treat us, but to treat them better, and put others first. My wants and needs frequently came second, or didn’t register at all. (This makes it sound as if I was harshly treated - I wasn’t at all, and had a happy childhood). Anger was considered to be selfish, and selfishness was just not acceptable. Add to that the fact that I’m the middle child, and naturally a mediator, and you can begin to understand me.

Anger was never an emotion I was familiar with, or comfortable with, expressing. If I felt it, it turned inwards. Angry tears are something I feared, especially at work, when I was in a male-dominated environment, and being a woman was hard enough. Standing up for myself is something I have gradually learned, but I know I need to do it only when I feel secure and confident, not angry.

When I went through my losses, failed IVFs, and learning to accept my No Kidding life, I never really felt anger. I kept it quashed, both consciously (the one time I remember it coming out) and perhaps unconsciously. Instead, over the the next years, dealt with the sadness, the guilt, the shame, the despair, and eventually the healing, without ever really dealing with anger. I realised that anger would be pointless. There was no one to be angry at, after all. So I didn’t feel that I had missed out on something.

But since my mother’s death, it has been coming out. We (my sisters and I) were angry at the way she was treated. Maybe that’s what set me off – a legitimate anger on behalf of my mother. Now, though, I know I'm feeling anger on my behalf, not hers. Have the floodgates opened? Maybe. To be honest, it has felt quite liberating, in some ways. Because I think for years I have wondered why I don’t feel free to display anger. Why not? Am I not allowed to feel anger? Is my anger somehow not as legitimate as others’? Is it a feminist issue, that women feel we have to hide our anger? In societal terms, and particularly in career terms, women are damned if we do – too passive – and we’re damned if we don’t – too aggressive. I’ve seen too many excellent women suffer career-wise because of this double standard. (Now that really makes me angry!) Why doesn’t our anger ever seem to count? Why is it okay for other people to express anger, but not me? Isn’t my anger as important as everyone else’s?

Don’t worry, I’m not turning into the Hulk. What I think is expressing anger is probably what other people view as normal self-defence! I’m still a relatively polite diplomat, after all. But I’m tired of being the soft touch, the always amenable <Mali>. I’m tired of feeling ignored, fitting my life around others. Part of that probably comes back to being without children, feeling ignored and isolated, judged and pitied. How many times have I heard someone in this community say that they felt terrible because they wanted to put their feelings first, ahead of a pregnant or new parent sibling? I think that being childless has accentuated this feeling that for some reason my life, my concerns, my issues, rarely feel legitimate or acknowledged. Or maybe everyone feels that way?

I’ve written so often here that my life, our no kidding lives, are just as important, just as valid. Anger is an emotion like any others, neither good not bad, and – as Cristy says – we should allow ourselves to feel it, to acknowledge it is there. When I realised I was angry, when I recognised the emotion, and connected to why I felt it, it began to dissipate. Showing anger, of course, is a different matter, and there are ways to express it healthily, and times and places when we should hold back. I think I’ve got a handle on that. After all, I’ve had years of practice!

I think maybe I’m going to come to terms with anger, make friends with it, and learn to understand it, in the same way I've done sadness and grief. Doing that can't be a bad thing.

09 May, 2016

#Microblog Mondays: Miscellaneous

  1. Mother's Day actually passed quite easily, probably because I didn't leave the house, and avoided Fb. Though in a way, not having to celebrate Mother's Day (other than the night before having dinner with my mother-in-law, where a visiting prodigal son was the focus, rather than the mother) has meant that I think I feel a freedom from it, and I felt surprised to realise that maybe the day doesn't really have any power over me any more.
  2. I was talking with my FIL, about a project he had been working on, and said I would help him finish it and get it printed in a book so we can give it to all his offspring and their families, when of course he qualified that he was indeed doing this for the grandchildren. I'm not sure why he felt the need to say it to me, of all people, so I acknowledged it, then commented, "it's funny how the childless ones are the only ones who bother to ensure the memories are there to pass on to the next generation, isn't it?" I'm tired of pretending that the fact I have no children is irrelevant, and that there's no cost to dealing with his focus on his grandchildren all the time, and to be honest, it felt good!
  3. An aside from a visiting BIL, when he saw the Mother's Day card I had made for my MIL, was that clearly I had "too much time on my hands" being able to do these creative, but thoughtful, things for my in-laws. The snide dig was there, undeniably - I'm childless, therefore I have nothing better to do with my time - and it found its mark, briefly, though ultimately, I just roll my eyes loudly at this Busy Olympics Parent vs Non-Parent petty competition.
  4. Best news of all, my cast is finally off, though walking will be tentative for a while! 

05 May, 2016

The bite of Mother's Day

Over a decade ago, I used to think about the children I would have, and then have to remind myself that they weren’t coming. These last few months, I have found myself thinking that I need to phone my mother, or worrying that she’ll be too hot, or too cold, or I've found myself feeling that there’s someone else I need to tell about my broken ankle and then figuring out that it would have been her. But of course, I need to remember that she is no longer here.

This year, Mother’s Day is going to have an added bite. I’ve often thought that Mother’s Day must be hard not just for those of us who can’t have children, or those who are going through infertility and are fearing that they won’t have children, but also for those who are adopted, or estranged from their mothers, or are resentful that they have to care for their mothers, or have never known a mother’s love, or for those who have recently lost their mothers. I've been well aware how hard Mother's Day can be for women who couldn't have children, although in recent years have felt the sting of this ease. In fact, this year I haven't been worried about it for that reason. No, this year I’ll find out how it feels, at the opposite end of the spectrum.

But I know, in so many ways, that I’m lucky that I had a good relationship with my mother. I am grateful for that. I’m lucky too that I’ve come to terms with my life, and accept that there are many reasons to be grateful for it, and the people in it, regardless of whether I’m a mother or not. This Mother’s Day, that will be enough.

02 May, 2016

Embracing joy

“The children don’t have to bring the joy.”
I read this sentence in a blogpost (extolling the virtures of motherhood – or in our case, the resolution of infertility – so be warned, and read at your own risk) recently. It’s my message, and I firmly believe it is true for me, and can be true for all of us. But my negative inner voices kept telling me that others who have children would deny it, tell me I’m kidding myself about the joys of no kidding, and would play the Joy Olympics by claiming that they have an extra dimension and therefore extra joy in sharing experiences with their children.

I don’t doubt that sharing wonderful experiences with your children brings another dimension to that experience that I don’t have. But maybe we have other, different dimensions and intensities too, coming with the knowledge that we don’t get to share these experiences with our children, and the awareness that we alone must soak up the joy and the memories.

Everyone experiences the world differently, and so - despite my negative inner voices - it doesn’t seem strange to me that these could be intensified and expanded simply because of our No Kidding status, in the same way that a parent might experience other different dimensions and emotions.

In other words, playing in the Joy Olympics is just as dangerous as playing in the Pain Olympics.