30 December, 2017

Being a childless aunt

I’m enjoying having our twin nieces and their parents in town for the first time in over eight years (see my post Scattered Families on A Separate Life). I’ve bemoaned the fact (many times!) that we have no siblings living in this town, and my husband has no siblings in this country. It makes it harder as we have sole responsibility for caring for his parents, we won’t have the companionship of siblings here when we age so will be faced with decisions (friends vs family – perhaps another post to come), and we lose out on relationships with nieces and nephews too.

I was keen to spend as much time with them as I can. And then got thinking the other day about the depth of feeling I have around spending time with and getting to know the girls during the all-to-brief time they’re here in New Zealand. Mostly, in the past, I’ve put this down to the fact that they live so far away. After all, missing them and wanting to see them is a perfectly normal emotion. It’s not just on my side either. I know they feel the loss of not having any relationships with their father’s side of the family. Aside from us and their grandparents, the girls have never met any of them, including their cousins, and I find that really sad.

Then I stepped back, and thought about it some more. Do I feel this way because I don't have children? Or because I don’t have the luxury of having many other children in my life? If I had children myself, would I feel this real need to get to know them, and for them to know me?

I know that I would always want to get to know them, to +an extent. But I doubt that the need would be the same. If I were a parent, my primary relationships with children would be as a mother. But my primary relationships – actually, my only relationships – with children are instead as an aunt through my nieces and nephews, and through a few children of my friends. (Though as friends’ children grow, their parents’ friends see them much less. With nieces and nephews, that relationship always exists.)

And so I feel the loss. I’m not so much mourning the loss of my own children, because I’ve come to terms with that. But I do feel the loss of the relationships with nieces and nephews. They’re my only connection with the next generation, and I value that, when I can get it. They’re the only people who will remember me when I’m gone. I’m not sure that worries me too much – being forgotten, I mean. But it is nice to know that there will be some people after I’m gone who might have valued having me in their lives.

Still, I can’t do much about it. And I know to try to fill that void by pressuring myself or the girls (or other nieces and nephews) to intensify our relationships wouldn’t work for any of us. The best is to take it naturally, and enjoy it when it happens. Which is what I’ve been doing over the last few weeks.

29 December, 2017

It was worth it

On Christmas Day, my husband’s childless/free aunt and uncle arrived at our house first. Almost as soon they arrived in the door, Uncle H noted that he had seen my photograph in the paper a few weeks ago, and complimented me on the article.

“It’s true, there is a stigma,” he said, in his thick Austrian accent. “Even if it is mostly unspoken, you know it is there.”

I agreed, adding that it's not always unspoken!

And now I wonder, how many times in his life has he been able to talk to someone about this? Knowing that the answer is inevitably "not very often, if at all"  has made all those nerves I suffered over the article and photo and video worthwhile.

25 December, 2017

Only one day

It is Christmas Eve here in NZ, and I am wrapping my final gifts, the dessert is in the oven, my husband is vacuuming the house, and before  I start another list of chores, I'm taking a break and feeling thoughtful, writing my Microblog Monday in advance.

On Monday, my house will be full of family - in-laws, but family nonetheless. I know I am lucky. The one person I know who won't be with family or friends tomorrow has declined an invitation to join us. Ironically, she is a mother, with four children and many grand-children. She says, though, that she will be okay on her own, and in truth, I know she won't be.

It does make me sad, though, to know there will be many lonely people tomorrow, and that's the part I dislike about these institutionalised family celebrations such as Christmas. So I spare a thought for anyone out there who is feeling alone, send my love, and remind them that it is only one day.

18 December, 2017

If we did photocards ...

I read Jess's thoughtful post (link here) about what to put on her photocard this year, and she got me thinking about what I would put on a photocard in the this-was-my-year style, if it were the practice in NZ.

I'd have some photos of the native birds that visit our trees; the regular tui, the rare but increasing less rare, and sometimes amorous, kaka (a native parrot), and the kereru (wood pigeon) pair who pay annual visits.

I'd include a photo from one of our visits up north to see my niece, probably one from when we took her for her riding lesson the weekend her parents absconded to Auckland and left us in charge.

Of course, I would include some of our travel photos, as our trip to Iceland, Scandinavia and the Baltic was undoubtedly the highlight of our year. You can find photos from this on my Instagram feed @travellingmali, but I'd probably include the only semi-decent photo of the two of us  (you'll note I'm abandoning all efforts to remain anonymous and invisible here) of the entire year, taken in Iceland, as well as a selection from the other countries, including perhaps the loo with a view (see the fjord from the pedestal!) in Norway.


And of course, it wouldn't be me if there wasn't a photo of some wine or cocktail (this one was the best I've tasted in years, thanks to some premium rum - apparently) being consumed somewhere.

Time with friends and family is important too, and although a feature of our year has been the dependence of my PILs, I don't think it would be kind to document that in a card, so I'd use photos from fun occasions, including our croquet game over the hill just a few weeks ago, or the return visit of some overseas siblings-in-law in August, when we partook of the offerings available in the Wellington on a Plate festival.

Finally, this was the photo I chose (from last year's seasonal baking) for the 2017 card I made and sent to a few selected, generally non-blogging non-Fb people, and to mark the season, I am pretty sure I would include that on my photocard too.

11 December, 2017

The surprising irrelevance of choice

When I was interviewed for the article that was published last week, the reporter and I had a conversation about labels, and I shared my view that I dislike both the childLESS and childFREE arguments, as I wrote here. Six years on, the No Kidding community adds the qualifiers “by choice” or “not by choice” much more frequently. So I got thinking about it again, concluding that - if I had to give myself a label - I am now childfree not by choice.

What I realised, though, and was even surprised by, was something much bigger, and that was how the use of this description now feels academic to me in 2017. I completely understand why others might want to use these terms, and I have done so when it felt right too, but now, when I have spent more time alive knowing without doubt that I would never have children than I did planning or hoping or grieving, the state of being without children is now my norm, regardless of how I got here.

Many years on now from my losses, the idea of choice (or not) no longer (or very rarely) enters in to how I feel about my life. I am a woman without children, and sometimes that's good and sometimes that's not so good, but most times it is irrelevant whether I chose to live this way or not; it is simply my reality, my life. I am pleased to say that the passing of time has therefore delivered a freedom from that pain that I could never have imagined back in those early days and years.

04 December, 2017

Our tribe isn't quite so invisible these days

The article came out on Saturday, both online and in the Saturday newspaper’s magazine, with photos and, gulp, a video of me speaking in the online version. So far I’ve avoided looking at the comments, and suspect that is the reason why I feel so surprisingly relaxed about it.

I loved the cover of the magazine, the words they chose (Childless Threat Taboo Freedom Failure Selfish Feminist Invisible Shame Barren Isolation Judgement) and the question asked. Why are women without children still stigmatised by society?

The title of the article too, was The Invisible Tribe, although with articles like these, and with the publicity many of the No Kidding bloggers and websites (Jody Day’s Gateway Women was specifically mentioned in the article) are getting (it helps to have a No Kidding Prime Minister here), I hope we are becoming more visible. And most importantly, more accepted.

Finally, although the article was pitched to me to be about being childless at Christmas, I think that it grew from that, and in fact turned into something much broader and rather good, but didn't deal with the difficulties childless women/men/couples might face at Christmas. In my interview, I told the reporter that I had decided to ignore all the “Christmas is about children” hoopla, and that I had, over the years, reclaimed Christmas to be mine, but unfortunately, this encouragement to women without children that Christmas can indeed be for them didn’t make the final edit. So I’ve noted that again, and have linked to a more detailed, seven-year-old (to the day) Christmas/holiday post here, to remind us all to think about how we can make the holidays work for us.

30 November, 2017

Defining myself

I've been thinking a bit lately about how weird it is that my name will soon once again be used to represent the opinions of women without children. Yet being a woman without children is only a small part of my life. Sure, I write about it because it is an area I have some expertise - both of my own feelings but the feelings of many other women who have either been through loss or have been unable to have children at all. It helps people, and I feel useful. After all, what a waste to have all that knowledge that could help someone, or could help others understand people in their lives without children, and not use it!

But I don't define myself as a woman who doesn't have children. After all, simply the language we have to use to describe that situation - a woman without children - relates back to the thing we don't have, and implies either loss or lack. For many of us, at some stage of our journey, there is loss and lack. But for most of us, in time and as we learn to embrace our lives without children, to reclaim our lives, we are happy, busy, and content. Normal!

So I prefer to define myself in many other ways. I am a family member and friend and neighbour, a carer, a traveller, a writer, a counsellor, a feminist, a when-I-can-be-bothered cook, a very amateur but enthusiastic photographer, and so many other things. In fact, about five years ago I wrote a post listing 100 things I am, rather than focusing on what I am not. It's worth reminding myself of that again. And reminding anyone else who visits that we are all so much more.

27 November, 2017

Feeling nervous

On Saturday, a newspaper article is due to come out that will talk about how women without children feel about this time of year, in the lead up to Christmas, and yes, I’m probably going to be in it. It is good that they intend to acknowledge that there is an overwhelming focus on children at this time of year, and that advertisements always show parents and children, never single women or men, or couples without children.

But I am nervous, because this will be in the newspaper of our city, New Zealand’s capital and my home for the last 30 plus years. People I have worked with will open the newspaper and – perhaps – recognise me, and read whatever the reporter chose to quote from me, judging or pitying or mocking or empathising. I’d feel so much happier if I had control of the words that will go in the article, but sadly, that’s not how journalism works!

Still, I have to breathe deeply, and embrace the vulnerability, reminding myself that the people I care about already know who I am and how I feel (largely). I have to hope that someone will read it and feel a little better, knowing they are not alone. And I have to hope that it will cause some people to think just a little more about those women and men around them who don’t have children, and try to make this time of year a bit easier for them.

20 November, 2017

Seven years on

In November seven years ago last week, I began No Kidding in NZ, and that November, I wrote a post about another November, a much more difficult November seven years earlier. In my first month of blogging, I was able to celebrate the healing power of time, and this is something that has become somewhat of a theme here on No Kidding.

I began writing here for two reasons. The first was to find my tribe. I'm confident I've done that - though of my blogger friends, I've only managed to meet Klara so far, but think I'll be able to add someone else to that list later in the summer. I'm very grateful for you all, for the support I get, and the insights you give me of your own experiences.

The second was to pass on what I'd learned over the previous years, both from my own experiences, and from those of the many many women I worked with going through infertility or loss.

Seven years on, I still get enormous fulfillment when I know my words have been able to help, and I can only hope that I will stay relevant for those who visit, looking for their own tribe.

18 November, 2017

Misconceptions about the No Kidding

Infertile Phoenix highlighted a case when an advice columnist got it wrong when she was asked about a childless couple’s friendships with people who have children. In her post, she included the response that she felt should have been given to the woman who had written in about her childless friends. Go read her post first. I began a comment on Infertile Phoenix’s blog, but then decided to turn it into a post here, because I found I had quite a lot to rant about say.

The Ask Amy response compared being childless with losing parents. This analogy with losing parents is quite frankly ridiculous. The difference is huge. I’ve experienced both losses.

One loss is effectively the loss of a past, and the other is the loss of a future. One is entirely expected (although the timing may not be so expected), the other is something no-one really expects. One is accepted and normal in society, the other is not – instead it is hidden or ignored, and judged. One has, if we are lucky, happy memories of relationships and full lives. The other holds only never-to-be-met possibilities.

I have lost both my parents, and I am able to remember them both, the lives they had and my life with them too. It is expected that we lose parents. Sure, some of us lose them when we are younger, and some of us care for our elderly parents when we are also getting old. But the thing is, it is entirely natural, and expected, and THE NORM to lose your parents. Yes, I miss them when I think of them. But my day-to-day life has changed little. The loss of the children I never had, however, affects the rest of my life.

As mature adults, we have separated ourselves from our parents to an extent, living our own lives. Sure, if we’re lucky, we can love them and care for them and enjoty their company. But they’re not our primary familial unit, and our relationships with our parents – whether we have them or not – largely don’t affect our friendships. It makes no difference to me whether my friends have parents still in their lives or not. It’s an issue where I can provide support, and love, and they can provide it in turn. But it doesn’t change the way we interact.

This is not the case when people have children. Their children are their main focus – sometimes (often?) even the relationships with a significant other are pushed into the background. It not only affects the time that a parent with children has to spend with friends, but what they think about and talk about with their friends. Many parents are no longer outward-looking, but are focused entirely on their immediate family – them, their partners if they have them, and their children. The childless friend (or couple) may also feel very isolated from their friends who are new parents, because they can’t share in the experiences their friends are going through. When you can’t share in the parental conversations or other activities with your friends who are now parents, then any interaction with them can be very isolating. When parents choose to socialise only with other parents, it can feel like a painful rejection. Many have said that they feel left behind. On top of this, the friend without children is reminded that they didn’t get the future they planned every time they see their friends. They might be happy for their friends. But even if they are, it doesn’t mean they don’t feel some regret.

This level of pain, rejection, and social isolation simply does not occur when we lose our parents. Perhaps a more relevant analogy (though I agree, far from perfect) might be amongst friends who enjoyed the same career, one they were passionate about, and had planned on pursuing for the rest of their lives. Their careers, or their future careers, defined them. But unexpectedly, one of them can’t do so. Maybe they lost their job, or were physically unable to continue with it, despite intellectually and emotionally being capable of doing so, and despite still desperately wanting to do so. They didn’t get a choice, and they have had to pursue the only other option available to them. They were forced into it when their first choice wasn’t possible. But every time they sit down with their friends, all their friends talk about is their career. Their friends can’t meet them or pursue activities they both enjoy because they have to work, and for the most part, they are loving it. Young people they meet talk about when they will follow this career, just assuming it will happen. And the person who didn’t have a choice is sitting there, isolated by the conversation that ignores their reality. They are judged by others who don’t know their circumstances, or even by their friends who thought that they had a choice.

To continue on, the letter-writer in the article says that the woman in the childless couple behaves oddly when  she meets children. She "starts out acting excited to interact with a child, then progresses to saying she doesn’t know how to interact with the child because she doesn’t have any, and then she says being with children makes her sad."

I can understand all those emotions, and think it's perfectly reasonable. The prospect of interacting with a child is fun, and exciting. But the reality is that I can feel very self-conscious interacting with children when there are other adults or the child's parents around. I never had a lot to do with younger children when I was growing up, and as an adult, I lived in different cities and countries from my nieces and nephews. I also have never had those years of on-the-job training, dealing with my own children or their friends. I hear all the comments of the watching parents/adults in our heads. There’s the pity - “It’s so sad, she would have made such a good mother.” Or the judgement – “it’s a good thing she doesn’t have children, she doesn’t know how to talk to/play with/discipline them.” Or the mockery or laughter behind our backs  – “look at her, she thought the child would like that! It’s obvious she doesn’t have children!” It may be that none of these occur, but it’s very hard to silence the voices in our heads that make us self-conscious about our situation.

Ask Amy’s comment that “If this couple wanted to, they could easily find fulfilling ways to have children in their lives …” frustrates me. We wanted to be parents. Relationships with other people’s children is never the same. Besides, it’s not always so easy. Some parents jealously guard their relationship as the only meaningful relationship their children will have with adults. I’ve seen some people behave that way. But I’ve also been fortunate that I’ve had some lovely times with nieces (and hopefully many more).

It’s the principle that annoys me though. I shouldn’t feel I have to have “meaningful” relationships with children, simply because I didn’t have any myself. I know lots of parents who don’t have fulfilling relationships with any children other than their own. So why should we feel obliged? Is it because they feel we need to prove that we like children after all?

Sigh. Apologies for the rant!

13 November, 2017

Still learning

I was reminded of this quote on social media this morning.

I love learning new languages, ideas, and about new places and new people. I also love learning about myself. I wish I could learn how to permanently lose weight, how to get inexhaustible energy, and how to not care what other people think, amongst others. I'm working on all of these, and have been for a long time, with more success in some areas than others.

Not having children as a result of infertility and loss has been a learning process too.  I've learnt about my body, and myself, and I've written multiple posts about that (here, here, here, and here - to name just a few), and I still have a long way to go, but I'm now actually enjoying the ride.

06 November, 2017

Two aunt-related things that made me smile

When looking after my niece recently, my husband and I headed to the big indoor sports stadium to watch her play her last game of basketball for the year. As we both love sport and were very good at different sports when we were children, we have felt that we missed out sharing that with children, but I was pleased that I wasn't wistful at all when I was there; in fact, I found it totally lovely to see hundreds of children and their parents and siblings and supporters in this huge stadium involved in such a healthy activity on a Friday night.

A woman sat next to us, and when she asked if we had a grandchild playing, I cringed a little, thinking that my sister probably gets this a bit too (and her older husband definitely does). I had to laugh, though, because I am the age I am, and I have friends my age who are grandparents too. Still, perhaps one of the advantages of not being a grandparent is not feeling quite as old as the word "grandparents" would make us feel.

On another matter, my sister mentioned to me that she and her husband had recently talked to Charlie about their guardianship arrangements, saying that, amongst other options, they could choose my husband and I.

She thought about it, and said, happily, and with satisfaction at solving a problem,
"Mali and Uncle Mali, please. Oh, and that would be really good, too, because they couldn't have kids."


30 October, 2017

Knowing what is important

When people say that they “know what is important,” I know that they always mean family and to them family clearly means children, and what they really mean is that if you don’t have any, then you don't have anything truly important. I know that that’s what they mean, because it was recently said to me.

In a conversation about old age, I mentioned my hope that we can continue to travel, and so the follow-up statement to their “knowing what is important” pearl of wisdom – from a parent who had just admitted that she didn’t particularly enjoy travel – was very pointedly directed at me. 
“But it’s not something that is important; no-one old ever says that they regret not travelling more.” 
 “Well, obviously, if I had to stop now, I would say that,” I responded, somewhat self-consciously because she’d just said pointedly that my life was indeed meaningless if I thought travelling was important.

What I didn’t say is that I know several people who would agree with me, and one 90+ year old (with whom this particular self-righteous parent was actually staying at the time) who repeatedly, and very sadly, says those exact words to me, wishing she'd seen the things that my husband and I see, and that she had had the adventures we have, and she has never once consoled herself (to me) with the fact that she has children (and grandchildren), perhaps because she hardly ever sees them (except one).

I get so tired of the judgement that people without children have nothing, when in reality we all have different things that are important to us, whether it is enjoying nature, doting on children/grandchildren/nieces/friends or pets, gardening or writing or travel or our work. Whilst sometimes these things are enjoyed with family and friends, and sometimes they might fill the place left without family or friends, whatever it is that fills our lives and brings us joy is undeniably important to us.

Note: I have a full post, the last of my Gifts of Infertility series, planned to expand on this particular topic, but decided to throw this anecdote in now.

26 October, 2017

No Kidding women leading New Zealand

Today we have a new Prime Minister. She is one of us, a No Kidding woman. When she was first elected as leader of her party, there was a scandal that she was asked almost immediately whether she intended having children (she's in her late 30s). Fortunately most of the conversation was about the fact that men are never asked that question, so why should reporters ask her, rather than over the issue of whether a woman could have children whilst leading the country. (Though the comment sections on websites were full of speculation about this, of course.)

As our new Prime Minister, she's commented that a personal focus of hers will be to reduce child poverty. She has been involved in this portfolio in opposition, and has said it is very important to her, and so I have no reason to suspect that she is doing this to counter the fact that she is not a parent. Her focus very nicely makes the point that you don't have to be a parent to care.

She's our third female Prime Minister, and our second who lives a No Kidding life. We've had a male Prime Minister for the last nine years, and an administration that was dominated by middle-aged white men. Before that, Helen Clark led the government for nine years, and I had become used to feeling more included in society and government, even when the focus was often on family. I have hope that once again I - and women like me - can stop feeling quite so invisible.

24 October, 2017

Navigating through grief

I recently received an email from someone who had read my blog, asking for advice on navigating their way through grief. I suggested some key things that I've written about before, and there were plenty of other things I could have said, which are mostly all written about here on my blog, but I may have forgotten to say what is perhaps (in retrospect) most important.

Unfortunately, navigating our way through grief, even when we've done it before, is never easy. There is never a Get Out of Jail Free card from grief, even if we know the process from previous experience, even if someone who has done it shows us the way, and so we still have to go through all the emotions, feel all the pain, before we can know that we will get through it and come out the other side.

Some of the best advice I was given at the outset was to "roll with the emotions." Initially, it's all we can do, and I think it helps to feel what we feel, and to give those feelings legitimacy, and to honour our pain, and what we have lost. It hurts, we're buffeted about and never know if we're going to drown or survive, and we hate it at the time, but what is really important, and what we don't recognise at the time, is that it is the start of healing. It is where we farewell our old hopes, and clear space to allow new hopes, new dreams, a new life to emerge.

16 October, 2017

Survival is not mandatory

It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.

I never really thought I’d be quoting an engineer (other than my husband), statistician and management consultant here on my No Kidding blog, but when I saw Dr W E Deming’s quote, I thought it really fits here nicely.

People resist change, whether they’re in business or whether their life plan has been foiled by circumstances or health or finances. It's not unusual to hear the newly No Kidding say something along the lines that they will NEVER accept their No Kidding situation, and to resist any suggestion that they will be okay, that they will eventually be happy even without the children they wanted so much.

But although we might think we can't or won’t adapt and accept and embrace life without children, for most of us, this isn’t really optional. Survival, after all, if not mandatory, is at least an instinct.

The sooner we allow ourselves to make the choice to survive, to adapt, to change, we'll find that it is a lot more pleasant than fighting against that which is impossible, even though it takes us out of our comfort zone.  Choosing to survive and flourish is empowering, and who wouldn't want that?

09 October, 2017

Shedding desire

A quote from the article I mentioned last week has been repeated in a number of places in our community this last week or so, with many people agreeing that the “ desire to have a child never goes away.”

I’m now 14 years on from knowing definitively that I would never have a child (or I will be in 11 days), and I feel that passage of time; I’m now in my 50s, I’ve had a hysterectomy and I’m in menopause, and whilst I might have regrets that I didn’t have a child, given my age I wouldn’t want to have a child now, even if it were possible.

The problem with the desire to have a child is that in my case it is an unrequited longing which could only lead to disappointment and feelings of loss, inadequacy and pain. Frankly, I’ve had enough longing and disappointment and pain over this issue, and I will not allow anything in my life that is going to prolong this, or to make me feel lesser, simply because I wasn’t able to have children.

So I don’t, I can’t, I won't allow myself to feel the desire to have a child, as I don’t see that it could achieve anything except to make me feel bad, and why would I want that?

There’s a difference between having once wanted something when it was a very reasonable possibility, and still wanting it when you know there is no possibility of it ever happening. To those of you who still feel that desire, maybe it will help to know that as time passes, as acceptance grows, as our bodies change, it is easier to shed it. It is gradually replaced with acceptance, with our desires for more achievable goals, and by quests that will help us feel good, worthy, happy, and free.

06 October, 2017

What adds dimension to my life

Rather belatedly, I just read Infertility Honesty's post for World Childless Week, about the four words (the dreaded question "Do you have kids?") and the responses we get to our answer "no," that hurt. Amongst the many responses I'm sure you're all familiar with, including being given the cold shoulder, her most recent was “Children add dimension to your life.”  (Go read her take on it here.)

I find it hard to think why anyone would respond that way. But it got me thinking about the things that add dimension to my life:
  1. Empathy – The person speaking to Sarah and her husband clearly lacks empathy, but I find that it is a constant reminder that life isn’t about me, and that others have struggles too, and we should all be kind to each other. 
  2. Loss – With loss, of children, of a future, of hopes, my life took on an added dimension where I was mortal, where I was vulnerable, and where I knew that life would not deliver everything I needed, as it rarely does to anyone, no matter who or where you are. 
  3. Grief – The experience of grief and pain and sadness taught me to know myself better, to be mindful about what I have and to be in the moment, and to understand more what others might be going through when they endure loss or experience depression.
  4. Accidents and illness – I learn to appreciate what I have, and know how much worse it could be.
  5. Exercise – It gets me out of the house, makes me appreciate health when I don’t have it, and reminds me that I can push myself further than I sometimes think possible.
  6. Helping people – It breeds empathy, teaching me to put myself in other people's situations, reminding me not to concentrate on myself, and allowing me to feel good about myself at the same time.
  7. Writing – It makes me think about motivations, about the use of words and how they can help or hurt, and because it encourages me to be so much more observant.
  8. Photography – There is beauty in this world, and if we’re too busy, or to self-involved, we don’t get to stop and appreciate it, to smell the roses, or wonder at their colours and shapes.
  9. Blogging – I get to have more technical IT skills than most of my friends, I get to write (see #7) and to use some of my photographs, and I get to make friends from all over the world and learn from their experiences and lives, to love them and receive their love (or not).
  10. Cooking – Brings the world to my kitchen, and to those who eat from it, expanding my horizons further, giving me an outlet for nurturing, thinking about our food and our environment, our planet and our bodies.
  11. Curiosity and learning – There are some people who take little interest in the world around them, who are not interested in discovering new information, in having new doors opened to them, who don’t want to explore the world or the world of information, and the delights held therein.
  12. Being an aunt – Understanding better what my sisters and friends are going through, the sweet along with the bitter, and – whatever my level of involvement might be – playing a unique role in my nieces' and nephews' lives.
  13. Travel – So many dimensions are added here (I dealt with them in a series of posts on A Separate Life), from collecting anecdotes to be shared or simply remembered, to always increasing my sense of wonder at the world, to encouraging a better understanding of different cultures and people from all walks of life, to a curiosity into why things are the way they are, and to appreciating home when we get there, and looking at it with different eyes, along with many many more. 
  14. Living a No Kidding life – Having children might be a dimension to life that I will never have, but not having children, living our whole lives without children, also brings a different dimension to life.with all the gifts it brings, along with the challenges, just as having children brings gifts and challenges and a different dimension.
  15. Being on the receiving end of comments like “Children add dimension to life” – It might add a painful dimension, but it also adds a dimension of understanding; that people are narrow and insensitive and self-involved and frequently cruel (intentionally and unintentionally), and that they see first-hand their emotional limitations to understand others, or perhaps simply that they have been hurt recently, and their response to us will always say far more about what’s going on in their heads than how they actually feel about us. 

The list is endless really – every aspect of my life (from my family structure and my place in it, my height and skin colour and where I grew up and my talents and flaws and all my experiences, etc) and the infinite number of interactions between each of those aspects, makes me uniquely me. They all add dimension to my life, just as they do for all of us.

03 October, 2017

Childless articles and their comments

The last few weeks I feel as if I’ve been one step removed from a lot of things, and the last week – suffering from an end-of-winter lurgy – even my brain shut down. But this morning, it returned momentarily, and so I read an article in the Guardian, featuring Jody Day and other UK childless writers and bloggers, and another article written by a writer Bibi Lynch (though I found it on a NZ site), a childless-by-circumstance  woman who listed some ideas of what not to say to childless women.

Yes, I read the comments, and yes, I knew what to expect, but whilst there were some very sympathetic and understanding comments from childless, childfree and parents alike, some still surprised me with their insenstivitiy (perhaps deliberate) and their vitriol, so if you’re not feeling up to it, don’t read them (though I am pleased to say that the comments on the NZ site were marginally kinder than those in the Guardian comments section).

The negative/unhelpful comments could be largely separated into two categories: the “suck it up” category, and the “just adopt” category.

The “suck it up” category are, I feel, those people who don’t have much empathy, who don’t recognise their own privilege, who don’t feel that people should talk about their challenges, only their victories, and who make no effort to understand those challenges or to put themselves in anyone else’s situation. I roll my eyes at them, and feel a certain degree of superiority, knowing that they lack something basic that should be, but isn’t, a core of their humanity.

The “just adopt” category are, perhaps, those people who have never learned how to react to other people’s grief, are uncomfortable with it, and who think that by proffering solutions such as adoption that it will help us, and that if we don’t take up their brilliant ideas (as if we hadn’t thought of them), we shouldn’t complain. I wonder how many of their own friends they’ve previously offended when, for their own comfort, they blindly shut down the hurting and grieving, and I feel for them too, because they don't know how to respond, and don't realise that a simple "I'm sorry" is enough.

Finally, I need to finish with a shout out to both Jody Day and Bibi Lynch, being prepared to put their own opinions and lives out there, knowing in advance what kind of reaction they might receive. Brava, ladies!

25 September, 2017

Being an aunt

Being an aunt when you're living a No Kidding life can be beautiful and special and bittersweet. Being an aunt of a child with serious health issues makes it even more complicated. I watch my sister deal with the health issues every morning and evening when important and time-consuming routines that are a chore to her nine-year-old are necessary, and I watch her deal with the issues at every meal, hearing every cough, and probably every time she looks at her daughter, and feel nothing but respect for her daily battles. I take on these tasks gladly when I become the care-giver, as I was this weekend when we drove seven or so hours north to relieve my sister and brother-in-law so they could attend a conference (related to my niece's condition).

And in between the care-giving, we made a cushion together, had dinner at our niece's favourite restaurant complete with neon mocktails, played badminton on the lawn, chased a young heifer that had got loose from next door, watched her play basketball on Friday night and go on her riding lesson the next morning, saw her practice her gymnastics routine, and all the other things you do with an active nine-year-old. Then we curled up with the cat, and watched Moana together.

When we left this morning - too soon, but necessary, because we have elderly relatives at this end of the island who need care-giving too - it was with sadness that we won't see her again for a while. But there are also complicated and confused emotions, knowing that I wouldn't wish my sister's concerns on anyone, and feeling relief that I am not the one primarily bearing that burden, but also knowing that there is great joy in her role as well as great fear and sadness, and that I would have willingly born these myself, if I had had the chance.

18 September, 2017

Miscellaneous Monday Musings

1.  I recently saw the issue of guilt come up (as it does regularly) in a blog, and recognised that fear of enjoying something new, or of finding that we appreciate part of our lives without children. This is such a common emotion, and so I just wanted to say again that enjoying any aspect of our lives that results from the fact that we don’t have children, or just feeling happy, does not mean that we think our lives are better than having children (though that thought is fine too), it just means we’re simply making the most of our life now.

2.  When our infertility doesn’t resolve with a child, suddenly we feel more vulnerable, our lives suddenly more reliant on one or two people in our lives who are important, and I think it’s not uncommon to fear the loss of our partners. I travelled internationally for work for many years before our losses and infertility, but was shocked at the strength of my emotions the first time I travelled without my husband after our infertility journey ended. I think it was normal to feel this too, but I’m pleased to say that I think it is also normal to recognise that the years pass, emotions calm, and now I feel much less vulnerable, or perhaps more accurately, I’m more comfortable with my vulnerability.

3.  Finally, I wanted to note that recently someone in my life implied that the things I was interested in were not important to other people – though I know that they meant parents. After a little twinge, I began to laugh, because I could immediately think of several parents who I know feel exactly the same as I do, and so I knew in my heart that the person making the comment was wrong, or they were just trying to cover up their own disappointments. So once again, confronting those negative comments and rejecting their very premise, helped me get over what could otherwise have been a very hurtful encounter. 

15 September, 2017

Gifts of Infertility Series - #24 – Self-Discovery

It’s been a long time since I wrote a post on this series, not because I’ve struggled to find a topic to write about, but because I wanted to make the most of the last two items in this series, and before now didn't quite feel I could commit to this.

The 24th in my list of the Gifts of Infertility is really a summation of many of the other items. It is one of the biggest gifts of the heartbreak that came from infertility and loss. It is self-discovery, and hasn’t just helped me deal with infertility, but has spread into all aspects of my life.

Self-discovery and personal growth often come out of difficult times. Sure, there are plenty of people who go through difficult times and come out of it just as selfish as they were before, just as some people come out feeling much more afraid, less trusting, and more self-focused than they were before this. But after a long time, I certainly recognise the benefits of the personal growth that resulted from of those difficult years.

Self-discovery does not mean that we have all the answers. I think that self-discovery means that we are more open to the realities of who we are, and can face up to both our talents and our flaws.

I have a lot of flaws. I think I’m aware of most of them, as I admit them to myself even if I won’t always admit them to others – just in case they haven’t noticed (yes, I live in hope). What I’ve learned though is that it doesn’t help me if I berate myself over them. I’ve learned to try to change them if I can, to face them – as I faced my shyness when I left on a student exchange when I was 17 – as issues that need to be dealt with or lived with, rather than to judge myself because of these issues.

Self-discovery came to me when I allowed myself to grieve. It came to me when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to really feel emotions, rather than tamp them down. It came to me when I needed to think about what made me happy, after spending a long time of being very sad. It came to me when I needed to look at what I had, because looking at what I didn’t have wasn’t doing me any good. It came to me when I showed self-compassion, and so could face my flaws without terrible guilt and self-hatred and shame. It came to me when I was as kind to myself as I would be to friends and family, when I stopped beating myself up.

Self-discovery came to me when I saw what worked, and was honest about what didn’t. It came to me when I dropped the judgement, and tried to be productive instead. It came to me when I learned more about others, and that helped me learn more about myself. Self-discovery came to me through hard work and tears. It came to me through love and compassion. It came to me from inside myself, and from learning from other wise women who were walking alongside me and helping me.

Self-discovery is a continuing journey, applicable in all aspects of my life. It is a journey that can still bring disappointment in myself, and could easily be halted by shame. But if I don’t allow the shame to take hold again, if I can commit to the honesty required to get past it, self-discovery can also deliver satisfaction and joy and confidence and growth. The best thing about it is that it can banish a lot of fear, and that results in self-imposed burdens tumble from my shoulders. That freedom has allowed me to embrace the future, whatever it might bring. Self-discovery truly is one of the ongoing gifts of infertility.

12 September, 2017

Talking about Grief

Lisa on Life Without Baby recently talked about talking grief on her blog, and she made some good points – you should go check it out – and asked some good questions too, unwittingly giving me my blog topic (thanks Lisa) for today.

 How has your grief changed over time? It no longer dominates my day, my thoughts, my feelings, as it might have in the early years, and now, even when it occasionally still pops up and I honour my losses by giving it time, it no longer has the power to destroy the day for me.

How has your loss changed you? It has changed me in many ways, and they are largely summed up in my Gifts of Infertility series, but there are negatives too. I’m stronger, but I’m more fragile too in ways; I know I am vulnerable, and I feel that more intensely, but that helps me appreciate what and who I have in my life more intensely too

In what ways has your grief crept out, even when you’ve tried to keep it under wraps? It creeps out much less these days, whereas in the past it manifested in strong emotion, tears or a suddenly shaky voice , or presented itself in unexpected anger (not always expressed) at what others would think were innocuous statements or actions.

04 September, 2017

Cats aren't kids

It was Father’s Day here in New Zealand yesterday, and fortunately there had been little build-up to bother me or my husband (or so I thought). 

We got together with my father-in-law on Saturday night, because I had wisely advised our visiting relatives that it would be impossible for us to go out and get a table at any “quiet” café for Sunday lunch (a prospect I have avoided for 17 years and counting), and suggested that a dinner together would be much better received by the FIL (as I know it would).

So we made a fuss of this rather frail elderly man, which we were going to do anyway as his eldest grandchildren was leaving the next day, and then the other son and the rest of his family were leaving the day after, and he feels their departure overseas deeply every time they leave. I was fine with doing that, but the brother-in-law kept trying to insert the fact that he was a father into the proceedings. I interjected once or twice, pointing out that it was up to his family to celebrate Father’s Day for him the next day, and that Saturday night and the dinner we were enjoying was all about his Dad.

I was surprised however, when my husband spoke up, pointing out that they should all feel sorry for him, because he doesn’t get a Father’s Day ever, missing out completely. There was a brief, stunned silence, then everyone decided to toast him, and my niece cheerfully said that he needed to get some cats again, because then he’d be able to celebrate Father’s Day. It was nicely meant, rather than being blatantly insensitive, and we all laughed (but felt the difference) when my husband said,

“but they can’t buy me presents.”

29 August, 2017

You cannot change what you refuse to confront

This speaks to me, as I bemoan my messy office (whilst editing photographs or writing blog posts), my desire to lose weight (but my love of food and wine), my lack of income (but my procrastination about launching a new business), etc.

But it is relevant in the infertility context too, as we know that when we are trying to conceive, it is easy to single-mindedly pursue our goals, refusing to confront the prospect that we may never conceive or carry to term successfully, whilst desperately wanting the pain and frustration of infertility to end. Confronting that pain is the first step to changing the pain, and walking through that neglected door in the Infertility Waiting Room that I’ve written about before.

Once we are through the door, and living a No Kidding life, it can be easy to feel we’re going through the motions of life, without realising that we first need to confront ourselves, and our thoughts and beliefs that can so easily keep us feeling miserable, or thrust us back into grief. Confronting those negative thoughts about our lives, and the way others might perceive us, can help us reprogramme our brains, change the way we think, and live more contented and compassionate (to ourselves and others) lives.

It’s a constant lesson for me, one that well over a decade later I am still learning. At first, it was important to confront the thoughts about my worth, whether I deserved my fate or not, but now, I find myself confronting my feelings about how others react to me, deciding whether I can educate, be compassionate to what might motivate others to act or be insensitive, or to forgive and let it go. The compassion and forgiveness come more easily, as does the willingness to speak up and educate, to be matter-of-fact but kind, and most importantly, I try not to criticise or blame, but of course, this is all still a work in progress, because, well, that’s life.

22 August, 2017

Bittersweet past and present

Family gatherings are always bittersweet. One of my husband’s brothers and family have been back in NZ as their expat stints overseas have ended, though they are only here for a month (as covered by his end of contract provisions) because they are going to reside in the land of my sister-in-law, which is of course more tax-advantageous than staying here to help out with the elderly in-laws. Another brother and family decided to visit for several days to coincide, so three of the four brothers and their families are in the country at the same time, which happens only every 3 years or so. So it is chaotic and complicated and great fun.

One of the complications of course is being the couple who does all the care of the now very frail and vulnerable elderly in-laws and doesn’t have the luxury of choosing where to live based on tax advantages, and of course, there’s the complication of being the couple without children, the ones who didn’t provide the grandchildren. While they’ve been here we’ve celebrated the 18th birthday of the nephew who was born around the time we were trying, and the 16-year-old niece who was three months old at the Christmas when I was still having treatment for my first ectopic pregnancy, and the 13-year-old who was gestating when his mother said blithely to me, “if I miscarry, I don’t care because I can always get pregnant again.”

There are memories everywhere, but the kids aren’t aware of these things, and so it has been nice seeing them again, and chatting with them about books and history and their interests, though we’ve sadly had very little time with them, as time with their grandparents has had to be their priority. I was sad to know that I can’t see my Australian niece play netball, especially when she plays the very same positions that I did, and it was lovely to hear my own piano being played by my nephew, though of course there was pain that I will never hear it played by my own child. After so many years, it’s been a little surprising for some of the memories and emotions to come flooding back, and a little surprising to feel those painful twinges over the things I don’t get to do with my children (and see their parents dismiss the activities so casually), but at least now I know without doubt that I will recover quickly and regain my usual equilibrium in no time at all.

14 August, 2017

Making progress, or not?

One of my very early posts (in fact, it was my fourth post here) talked about the common statement, "as a mother ..." and bemoaned the fact that normal human compassion is so often qualified to that of a mother or more generally, a parent. I'm pleased to say though that recently I heard someone say (one of the presenters on the afternoon show of our national radio) "as a human being." I think he might have even started to say, "as a father," but stopped himself, and used the more inclusive term. I was gratified, and amazed - maybe times are changing?

A post a few weeks later raised the idea of media training for all of us, so that we could learn how to dodge intrusive questions, just as politicians do. Unfortunately, even politicians struggle with this, as we found when just a week or two ago a young (37) woman was appointed leader* of one of the two major political parties here. Seven hours later, she was asked (by the same presenter mentioned above, but in his television role) the first question about having children (she has said in the past she would like to), much to the discomfort of the female journalist sitting next to him, and we indulged in joint eye-rolling at the question, crushing my hopes for continued progress for women. However, the resulting public furore about this (and subsequent discussions in the media) made me more hopeful that society is changing, and that it is no longer acceptable to always see women as walking wombs first.

*Both parties have previously had female leaders and Prime Minister


07 August, 2017


Blogger tells me that this is my 500th blog on No Kidding in NZ, and so I thought it might be timely to look back on what I was writing every 100 posts, even though most of the time I was completely unaware that they were milestone posts. Even though I started this blog some years after coming to terms with my No Kidding life, there’s still been a journey in the way I think and express myself on this subject.

My 100th post was a post of celebration, both of the joys of a simple morning in Wellington, and the realisation that despite several possible fertility-related triggers, I was completely unaffected by them – though not so unaffected by the high-pitched screams of a fellow café client.

My 200th post talked about an article about the fertility industry and some of their unrealistic promises (false advertising?), their financial interest in continuing to push treatments, and the damage done by their (and others) inability to acknowledge that a significant proportion of fertility patients won’t get pregnant or carry a healthy child to term.

At 300 posts, I briefly talked about the frustrating habit of parents saying that they couldn’t imagine their lives without their children, but not making any effort to understand what our lives without our children are like.

My 400th post complained about being sent inappropriate advertising, and then concluding at the end that rather than being irritated by it, I just had to laugh at their ignorance.

So whilst I can still be (and perhaps always will be) annoyed at those who get it wrong and make no effort to do better, I am in a better position to consider solutions or to suggest what they could do (for example, parents, medical professionals or fertility providers or businesses) to try to understand our lives, putting their own in a more honest context, just as we must try to do in return. I think that’s what understanding and honesty is all about – maybe that’s what my journey here is all about.

05 August, 2017

Confirmation bias and childlessness

I’ve been thinking about confirmation bias a bit over the last year. Increased access to technology and the internet means that, even more than previously, we are all able to surround ourselves with like-minded views, to read the information we agree with, not that which challenges us. It’s one of the reasons I still get a newspaper delivered. I like the fact that when I read the paper with breakfast, I read articles that I wouldn’t have clicked on if I was on the newspaper’s website, if I even got to the website (Besides, I like the puzzles.) I grew up in the age where we only had one, then two television channels in New Zealand. If we wanted to relax in front of a screen, we had to watch what was on. I learned a lot of new things I wouldn’t have otherwise, if I’d been able to change channels. Even my student exchange was a case of finding joy and discovery and a career path in something I’m not sure I would have chosen. My choices were simple – a US exchange, or an International exchange (which included the US as the last resort). I chose the International option, as I imagined myself on ski slopes in Switzerland, and ended up in Bangkok, Thailand. Students these days get to choose their desired destination, and many predictably go for the countries they know most about. I think this can be a big mistake.

I have to say though that I’m not making an argument against having too much choice, but rather making an argument for being open to other possibilities. We think we know what we need to know, and what we want to know, but we should always remain open, and explore new avenues. Obviously, as a person without children, I want others to be open to what my life is, and to accept it as a legitimate reality, and even as a realistic option.

Many of us have written about how hard it is for those going through infertility to be able to read our blogs. We probably remember this from our own journeys. Those who are trying to conceive find that conception (and carrying to term) becomes the main focus of their lives. They need support, and so read those who are at the same stage, those who are also full of hope, denying any alternative options, determined to reach their goal. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Support is important, feeling you’re not alone is helpful, and feeling hope is a good thing. All this is healthy.

But refusing to go beyond that – especially if you’re in this for a long period of time – is less healthy and less helpful, because it also plays to your fears. We all know that our fears pull us down, tell us we’re worthless, and lie to us, but when we’re in the midst of fear, we don’t always see that. Staying within the actively-trying-to-conceive community convinces you that the holy grail of having a child is the answer to happiness, to everything you ever wanted in your life, and can close your mind to any alternatives. Or it can convince you that the alternatives – No Kidding for example – are your worst nightmares. Unfortunately, wider society just emphasises and further confirms those views, amplifies the fears and uncertainty, and paints the No Kidding life as a failure, as the worst case scenario, as a grey life full of sadness. Whereas we here all know that that is simply not the case.

Obviously, though, confirmation bias works both ways. I know that many of us, when we are newly entering the No Kidding community knowing it is for the rest of our lives, read only No Kidding blogs, for the same reasons – for self-protection, knowing we won’t see scan or newborn photos or pregnancy announcements, or hear all the statements that that cut us to the core and diminish us and our experiences. So, it is natural that many of us, especially in these early days, might read only No Kidding blogs for the support, to feel that we’re not alone, and to feel hope that we will be okay. If we only read No Kidding blogs, there is a safety in community that we can’t find elsewhere.

But it can mean that we become focused on our grief, unable to recognise the difficulties and hardships in other journeys, including those who got the holy grail. Long-term, there is a danger that a focus only on the No Kidding experience might stop us developing a wider perspective that could help us heal.

So could our own confirmation bias lead us to perpetuate our feelings of victimisation, and lead to the demonisation of those who are parents?

There is a real risk of this. And I do see it at times, though as I say, usually in the early days of accepting there will never be children. But I’m coming to the conclusion that we – the No Kidding – are perhaps less susceptible to the effects of confirmation bias than those in this community who are pregnant and parenting. We live in this world too, and unless we hide away and only ever communicate with others who don’t have children (which is impossible), we have no choice but to interact with others who have had different outcomes, with different views, and with different challenges.

We know (how could we not?) that the world has different opinions and lifestyles to our own, and once wanted to be part of those communities ourselves. We have friends and family who live differently from us. We are bombarded daily with the message that the way we live is different from, perhaps lesser than, the norm. Whereas so often, confirmation bias reinforces the superiority of a view or a lifestyle to the exclusion of other minorities, in our case, we might use it just to remind ourselves and each other that we are equal, and legitimate, members of wider society and this community.

In our case, is it actually a bias at all? I’m not so sure, and as I have written this post, I’ve found my ideas change. I started this post to make the comment that we must be sure we don't succumb to confirmation bias, become bitter, further isolate ourselves, anger others by not attempting to understand their situations, and make our own position in society harder than it already is. But as I have been writing, I’ve realised that – long-term, at least – there is little chance of that. 

When we do get together as a No Kidding community, we’re looking for and providing support that we don’t get elsewhere in society. Support in context is not a bias. But still, it's worth thinking about from time to time, and just checking that we're being fair and unbiased to both those with and without children. After all, that's really the only way to ever be fair to ourselves.

31 July, 2017

Why empty nest syndrome does not equal childlessness

In conversation and on social media, empty nesters (those whose children have grown and left home) have sometimes assumed that their lives are the same as those of us who never had children. On a day-to-day level, this may largely be true, given that we have no dependents at home (unless of course we are caring for elderly relatives) and can have offices or TV rooms in our spare rooms, for example. But in truth the grief is different; the empty nester’s loss is for the past and what they had, not for the future and what they will never have.

  • The (adult) children are still there – out in the world, living their lives (as they are supposed to be doing), (hopefully) making the empty nester proud of their independence and their achievements, keeping regular contact (mostly) with their parents, visiting on birthdays or special holidays or celebrating milestones together, or popping around to say hi if they live nearby.
  • If an empty nester is ill or old, their child is almost certainly thinking of them, checking they are okay, and likewise, the empty nester still feels needed, in the case that their adult child may need practical or emotional help or advice.
  • The empty nester has not had to endure the social isolation and judgement of not having children.

Assuming being an empty nester is the same as my life is shallow; it ignores the reality of my life, the way we are treated by society, and diminishes what we have lost.

24 July, 2017

I'm not kidding: A reminder

I called this blog No Kidding in NZ, not only because I wanted a title that made it clear that I don’t have children, but also because I wanted a title that would keep me honest, and remind me every time I write that I can’t believe the myths, the negative voices, or those who just don’t get it.
  • I don't kid myself that there’s a reason why I couldn't have children, that I deserved this, or that was unworthy.
  • I don't kid myself that there is only one lifestyle in which we can be happy.
  • I don't kid myself that the only way to contribute to this world is through parenting or provision of DNA
  • I don't kid myself that there isn't some pain in this lifestyle, but I acknowledge there is also freedom and joy
  • I don't kid myself that I’ll be cared for in my old age, or that it isn't harder to make and keep friends when you don't have children, but it means I can treasure what I have now, and at the same time make plans for the future
  • I don’t kid myself that my life is better or worse than if I had become a parent; it is just my life.
It’s a reminder I need from time to time, and I’m sure I could add to this list (if I had more than eight sentences), so please feel free to add your own reminders (to yourself, or to me) in the comments.

17 July, 2017

Losing my Microblogging Mojo

I have a number of posts brewing but none of them will be brief, so I have to confess that I have (temporarily, I am sure) lost my Microblogging mojo. So somewhat predictably, I’m resorting to a list of miscellaneous thoughts, which I am a little surprised to find are falling into the “ouch” category. Maybe it’s just time, and maybe this post balances out my more positive post on A Separate Life.

Our political parties in New Zealand are gearing up to election mode, and I am already starting to feel isolated, as the focus is on “family, family, family.”

Yet I feel guilty about that too, as I hate the reality of children growing up in poverty, and agree that this is an important issue.

One of my elderly in-laws has been ill recently, and so – unlike any of the other siblings – we are feeling the full brunt of the responsibility that is on our shoulders. Of course it has raised issues, and we are talking to each other about how we will manage such situations when we are old, and hoping that we will recognise we should make changes in our lives before we actually need to.

For the first time in a long time, the other day I found myself on the receiving end of a terse comment that had the unwritten subtext, “you’re not a mother, so be careful what you say.”

14 July, 2017

Negative Thinking in Infertility and Childlessness

Last year, I was reading an article and at the end saw a selected list* of cognitive disorders. I was immediately struck by the similarities of these disorders with the thoughts and behaviour of those going through infertility, and those who are grieving post-infertility. I’ve always found that recognising what I am doing and thinking is the first step to acceptance and change, so I thought it might be helpful to list these negative ways of thinking, along with examples of how our thoughts work against us, particularly for the infertile and involuntarily childless people (in the early years at least).

Mind reading: You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.
“They think we didn’t try hard enough.”
“They don’t think I’m a real woman/man because I can’t have children.”
“They think our lives aren’t valuable because we are not parents.”
“We’re not real adults.”

The infertile or the childless will often mind-read. We think people assume the worst about our situation and judge us, thinking that we didn’t try hard enough, or that we were somehow defective and shouldn’t be parents.  Unfortunately we probably all have examples of people actually saying variations of these thoughts directly to us, or see them in the media, proving that that is what they were thinking. This leads to us imagining the worst about what people might say to us. I know I have.
Fortune-telling: You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. 
“I’ll be lonely and unhappy in my old age if I don’t have children.”
“Or my husband/wife will leave me and find someone who can have children.”

During infertility in particular, these fears are very real. And whilst there are many positive reasons for wanting children, I believe that as infertility becomes more and more real to us, fear drives us just as much as the desired outcome.
Catastrophising: You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it.
“I couldn’t bear it if I couldn’t have children.”
“My life will have no purpose without children.”

Unfortunately, our friends, family and wider society do everything they can to reinforce our catastrophising, so we have to look a little harder to find examples where our worst case scenarios don't end as a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are a growing number of No Kidding bloggers who are here to prove that our lives are not catastrophes!
Labelling: You assign global negative traits to yourself and others.
“I’m not worthy.”
“Childless people deserved not to have children.”
“All mothers look down on me.”
"I must have done something wrong to deserve this."
“I’m a terrible person because I can’t be happy for my friend who just announced her pregnancy.”
"Childless people are selfish."

Society so loves labels, that it is easy to buy into this. When we are feeling vulnerable, we also don't really question these assumptions. But we need to!
Discounting positives: You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial.
“She’s just pitying me, and doesn’t really care.”
“I’m not strong, look at how often I cry.”
"I'm not brave enough to end this journey without a child."

Positives so often seem to be a betrayal of our grief or our emotional distress, and so we discount them. A positive feeling even induces guilt, as if we don’t deserve to feel happy or grateful. Whereas they don't negate what we've been through, and they can show us how strong we've been to endure these stressful and disappointing experiences.
Negative filtering: You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives.
“My life isn’t worth anything if I’m not a mother.”
“I’m not a real woman/man if I’m not a mother/father.”
“Children give your life purpose.”
“I have nothing positive in my life without children.”
“I will never accept my childlessness, because acceptance makes it okay.”

This is extremely common during infertility. Our infertility becomes our identity, and it can be hard to see what else is good in our lives. Likewise when we first learn we will be forever without children.
Dichotomous thinking: You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms.
“My life is over if I can’t have children.”
“I will never be happy.”
“If I can’t have children, I will forever be miserable.”
"This has to work."
This is very common when trying to conceive and during infertility treatments (or even when pursuing adoption). Our eyes are on the goal, and it is all or nothing. We surround ourselves (in the virtual world at least) with people who are cheering us on, and any suggestion that the goal is not the only option can be seen as a betrayal.

What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers.
"What if my partner dies? I’ll be alone and sad and terrified."
"What if I can't get pregnant? I'll never be happy again."
"What if I can never accept this? I'll be miserable for the rest of my life."
I think this is a variation of some of these other categories - negative filtering and catastrophising, in particular. The answers aren't satisfactory because they don't match with any of our preconceived notions that are driving us, or have driven us, for so long, and with such intense emotions.
 Emotional reasoning: You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality.
“I feel like a failure because I’m infertile. Only a child will make me feel better.”

Even though there is ample evidence that people without children live positive, fulfilled lives, this isn't supported by the emotions we feel during infertility (or in early No Kidding mode), when they push us to extraordinary lengths (emotional, physical and financial) in pursuit of our goals. We then indulge in emotional reasoning to justify our actions and thinking (in exactly the way that parents might justify their choices when they are finding things hard).
Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted.
“But, but, but!!!” cries the infertile person, “my case is different. I can’t bear the thought of not having children.”
“You might be able to accept a No Kidding life, but I can never accept it.” (Also unspoken, “you obviously didn’t want them as much as I did.”)
“But, but, but!” cries the newly grieving childless person. “YOU don’t know how I feel! My case is different. There’s a REASON that I’m different from you, that I feel this so strongly.”
Providing evidence often doesn't help someone at this stage, because every fibre of their being is rejecting the premise that they will survive infertility, and that their lives can still be good without children. Their first instinct is to disagree, to refute. We see this in political debate too!

I wonder if any of this sounds familiar? It certainly did to me! Recognising that I was doing do this was the first step to changing the way I thought. The benefit of time is that we gradually learn over the years how to dismiss these negative thoughts, or in some cases, to at least balance them out. I certainly have, and whilst I was prompted to really do this by my infertility and No Kidding status, I’ve found it a valuable lesson throughout my life. So if you haven’t seen it, I’ll finish on a more positive note by reposting this graphic.

*   from Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn’s Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders (2012)