24 December, 2018

Love and best wishes from Mali

It is Christmas Eve, and I am in the south with my sisters and their families, including two nieces (the youngest and the oldest with her own child who is the age my second ectopic baby would be).

I'm enjoying family, remembering those who are gone - this is our first Christmas together without our parents - and inevitably those who were never here. Tomorrow will be alternately chaotic and relaxed, and sooner than we know it the day will be over. This is why my main message about this time of year is that it passes. It is only one day, and after all we have been through to get here, we can get through that.

This is my wish for you. That at this time of year you are able to relax and breathe, knowing that you can survive it, and get back to your normal, whatever that is, very soon. That, in my view, is a gift.

17 December, 2018

My Tree

A number of the ornaments on my tree have real No Kidding meaning to me:

I have a silver angel that I bought after my second ectopic, and although it’s not my favourite ornament, but it always reminds me of my loss.

The carved wooden dolphin ornament sent by an ectopic friend from Canada, and although we’ve lost touch now, I always think of her and our losses.

I have a pohutukawa fairy, which I love because I love pohutukawa, but also at this time of year, I remember those blossoms in the trees through the hospital windows as I waited for ectopic #1 to be treated (17 years ago), and then later for ectopic #2 (16 years ago) to be diagnosed and treated.

The stockings I have in my Christmas decoration box, which I bought for my children and cousins to use, even before we began to try to conceive. I gave away some of them when I knew I would never have children, but there’s always a little twinge when I see the ones that are left.

The tree itself, because putting it up makes me think of Christmassy things, and Christmassy things for me are inextricably linked to my two pregnancies and subsequent losses at this season.

But my tree is also inextricably linked with the very best parts of my No Kidding life* too, and in loving my tree I have reclaimed Christmas, which is in itself a real gift.

* Click here to see why

10 December, 2018

Memories, growth, and gratitude

17 years ago this week, I was learning all about ectopic pregnancies, about what it was to lose a pregnancy, about grief, about hospitals and Drs and nurses, and about dealing with emotions that I'd not had to face before - in fact, about emotions that I had never even imagined I would feel. A year later, at this time I was enjoying a happier experience of the first weeks of a pregnancy, but by the end of the month, those hopes too were dashed. My memories of these times are of overwhelming emotion. Another year later I was in shock, trying to realise that it was all over, and that I would never have children.

What I didn't expect though is that 15 years later I would be able to write about this without emotion, that I would think of my lost babies with love and not with sadness, and that I would have sympathy for the person I was then, and pride for how she recovered. I had no idea that I would have helped hundreds of women in a volunteering capacity, that I would have made friends all over the world as a result of my No Kidding, childless life, and that I would have created a small book that people were actually prepared to buy* with their hard-earned money!

It could be so easy to sit back and bemoan my fate all the time, as sadly I see some people doing in a social media group I have joined, but that would make me (and everyone around me) miserable, and would achieve nothing. Life moves on, we grow, we learn, and we heal, and I am very grateful for that.

* Thank you to those who have bought it - I hope it doesn't disappoint.

03 December, 2018

The Book: No Kidding in Brief - Selected Quotes from the Blog

I’ve gone and done it, and produced a little book of memes! Unfortunately I couldn’t produce a flipbook (not many self-publishing apps offer this option) in the time frame. Likewise, I could have done a calendar, but as I won’t be here to organise postage and delivery pre-Christmas/New Year, it wasn’t really an option until next year.

What I have done is produce a small book, with full pages of the photographs and quotes, lists etc that I have used on the blog, with one or two new ones. I thought a full page per photo might be nice, in case someone wants to take one and frame it. You can get it in different formats, but I designed it to be a small, softcover book, trying to keep the costs down, though not very successfully (for the record, I’m only covering costs). I haven't even seen the hard copy myself, as shipping to NZ will take about three weeks!

Blurb was by far the easiest option for me, in the short time frame, and I’m thrilled their site was so easy to use. You can see a preview of a few selected pages below, and you can click here to buy it, or here for the e-book.
Note: Edited to include a link to the e-book.

26 November, 2018

No Kidding Monday Miscellaneous

Oh dear, sometimes simple ideas are so hard to execute. I’m  working on the little book of my memes as suggested a couple of weeks ago, though it turns out that production, postage, and then potential tax complications (to be avoided as I’m only going to cover costs) mean it’s not going to be as easy as I’d hoped, but I am persevering and, if all goes well, hope to have something for you next week!

I found inspiration in one of my own notes, though, particularly the quote that said, “She who is brave is free.” I realise that in my personal life, I’ve lost sight of that in the last year or so. After all, we have all been brave when we have had to say good-bye to hopes and dreams, and move on to something else. It’s important for me to remember that I am, and can be brave, and that the rewards are worth it.

Finally, I was out today and heard Christmas music (argh! – it’s not even December yet), and so wanted to reassure many of you that one day you’ll look forward to this time of year again, knowing you can celebrate it the way you want to, or not at all, and the sky won’t fall in. There are lots of blogs offering support and advice about the coming holidays, including (here and here) which is specifically for No Kidding men and women, but I also recommend Mel’s annual piece with advice for coping at this time of year that many of us have offered over the years.

Don't forget!

19 November, 2018

My No Kidding / Childless Man

There’s an unfortunate comment often made to men – it was said to my husband – that they need to “prove you’re a man” by having children. This is my response.

My husband was more of a man than:
  • Those who leave all decisions to their wives, either too scared, or too lazy to get involved in active decision-making or parenting
  • Those who don't do their equal share of work at home
  • Those who belittle their partners 
  • Those who bully their wives and daughters 

  • Supported me when I was afraid 
  • Held me when I cried 
  • Never told me to “get over it” even though I’m sure he may have felt like saying it 
  • Hid his own pain, until he could see I was healing 
  • Never blamed me, not once 
  • Stood up, and took it 
  • Made me laugh 
  • Made me know I was loved

12 November, 2018

Infinite wisdom, and a potential gift

A lot of people think that those of us who never had children never lost anything, because we never had anything to lose. My best friend at the time said this to me. and I’ve heard the view elsewhere. But recently, on a silly TV show, the wise comment was made along the lines that losing the past was painful, but losing the future was infinite. It struck me immediately that this is precisely why it is so painful for so many of us.

You all know though that I try (try being the operative word here) to choose not to think of the future I lost, but to focus on the future I have.

Finally, someone a while ago commented on one of my (brief) posts that they wish they had it laminated, and it got me thinking. I’m thinking about producing a simple and short book, or perhaps a calendar, of some of the memes and sayings that have been well received here on the blog. If I can get it done in the next week or so, it would be available for Christmas or the New Year, if there would be any interest in that. If that is, I can work out the technology and the logistics!

06 November, 2018

Childlessness: bittersweet and also invisible

This is going to be a little self-indulgent boohoo post. I don't post these often, because I don't need to these days. But even though we have grieved and accepted our No Kidding lives, it doesn't mean we don't miss what we might have had from time to time.

I've probably noted before, but there are a couple of children in my family that always make me think. On my side, I have a great-nephew. His mother (my niece, she was my flower girl at my wedding) and I were pregnant (briefly in my case) at the same time. On my husband's side, a niece was born just a few months before my first ectopic. As I was still bleeding and having HCG measurements taken I had to watch my BIL doting on his daughter. This last week, BIL and his family have been in town, and I have had the pleasure of getting to know niece K, now 16, a little better. It's been a joy - especially to discover she is a bright and thoughtful young feminist, something I did not expect given the views of her parents! But it's also been bittersweet, obviously.

Last night was Guy Fawkes. My SILs and I were out on the town, as we are hardly ever together at the same time. So my husband went out to his childhood home, and got together for an evening with his three brothers (we can't remember the last time all four of them were together - decades, probably), and with the niece and nephews. DH decided to pick up some fireworks on the way, and apparently they all - young and old - had a great time letting them off last night. I'm glad DH had that bonding time with his brothers, niece and nephews. It sounded like fun. But I'm sad too that he doesn't get to do it every year, with his own children, or even every year or so with nieces and nephews.

Finally, on Saturday we had a family function to farewell MIL. Oldest BIL made the only speech, and he did it very well. But twice it was as if DH and I were invisible members of the family, simply because we didn't "grow up and have our own families." Yet we are the ones who have been here, reliably, and very supportively, for the last twenty or so years, for MIL and FIL. But it was as if we didn't exist. The Invisible No Kids. I felt it keenly. But on the bright side, DH said he didn't even notice. I wish I could be more like him!

05 November, 2018

Happy families?

Life has been pretty hectic here, and the last couple of weeks I've neglected both my No Kidding and A Separate Life blogs, even to the extent of missing Microblog Mondays, and so I apologise, and hope there are a few people who will stick around!

I did manage a quick post on my daily blog (under two months to go!) that is very relevant here. Last week we made the seven hour drive north to look after my niece for three days, when her parents were attending a conference on her health problems. As delightful as my niece is - and yes, she even admitted we spoil her! - her life is not at all easy. She complained, "I just want to be normal" - a complaint I am sure we can all relate to. Because of her cystic fibrosis, she can never be normal, and that also means that her parents' lives are far from easy as well.

I think that this is an important reminder. Not everyone is living the "happy families" dream.

23 October, 2018

Ageing without Children - Kindness and Attitude

(A continuing series)

Over recent weeks, I’ve had occasion to see life in hospital and in a hospital-level care rest home for the aged, and have been impressed by the care and kindness I have seen displayed at all times, both towards the elderly, and towards their families.

I’ve also seen considerable kindness shown to elderly in-laws (who don’t have children) by their nieces and nephews, especially as this elderly couple haven’t really planned for their old age, but despite that they are getting the assistance they need.

It once again reminds me to plan for my old age, and to make decisions before I think they are necessary because when they are absolutely necessary, the decisions become overwhelming. Alternatively, I need to be confident in appointing someone who can make decisions on my behalf, because however much I might plan, at some stage, I may no longer be capable of making decisions.

Yes, I worry occasionally about what it will be like when I am old and vulnerable, and I think that is only natural, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it.

The difference is that I have no expectations that I can rely on children or nieces and nephews, and I hope that that will make a difference, both in terms of forethought, and in terms of my emotional state. I hope I don’t complain about my fate if I end up in a rest home, but rather will be appreciative that I am somewhere safe, surrounded by potential friends and kind people.

In fact, the one thing I am certain of is that I want to have a positive attitude towards the options for the end of my life, because the alternative – negativity and regret, the fighting against what is practical or even possible – is not a happy way to live.

17 October, 2018

Advice to help the grieving

I've been thinking about grief a lot lately, as I watch my husband's family come to terms with the loss of their mother, who died on Sunday. (Which explains why I missed Microblog Mondays here this week.)

Men in particular, I think, struggle with grief, are a little afraid of it, perhaps because they don't know how to express their emotions, as they've never been taught to do so. And I think they struggle with asking for or receiving advice too - especially from a younger - it's all relative! - woman. So I've had to choose my words very carefully, and be silent a lot! The thing about grief is that it is very personal. Though we all express it differently, and in our own time, there are so many similarities to our feelings too, regardless of the type of loss. I've seen that through my own losses, and the many people I worked with when I was volunteering, or have talked to here or off-blog too.

So, as I am not restricted to eight sentences today, I'm going to continue by thinking what advice I would have liked to have received when I was grieving - the loss of my fertility, the loss of our plans for children, the loss of our pregnancies. 
  1. You are not alone, and you are loved.
  2. It hurts, but it won't always hurt. One day, you'll think of your loss, and you'll feel only love, not pain.
  3. You will be okay. You will laugh again. Love again. Feel happy again. Please don't feel guilty about that. It does not diminish your loss, but it does help you live.
  4. Remember to be grateful for what you have had, and what you have now. The saying that "grief comes from love" is so very accurate.
  5. Grief teaches you love, compassion, self-love, and a sensitivity to others. These are precious gifts.
  6. Grief brings opportunities, but you have to let yourself grieve first before looking for them.
  7. You will get through this. Trust in this truth, even when you feel as if you won't, even when you can't see an end.

I realise now that I wrote a similar post a few years ago, Eight Things I Wish I had Known about Grief.

It gets better. No Kidding.

08 October, 2018

Find your No Kidding tribe

I'm really happy today to do some promotion on behalf of the wonderful Jody Day, of Gateway Women. She is coming to New Zealand, and even though she is coming for a holiday, she couldn't come all this way and NOT lead a workshop! She still has places left on her Auckland Reignite Weekend on 18/19 November; you can find more details and sign up here.

I can't imagine a better way to spend a weekend than linking with other women who share our journey, and who are also struggling to come to terms with their life without children.

But if you can't do that for whatever reason, you don't need to be or feel alone. I have, as you probably know, done a huge part of my healing after infertility and loss, and my subsequent experience of acceptance, online - here on this blog, and elsewhere - with some amazing women who are now lifelong friends.

Even now, almost 15 years later, I am still astounded every day by how reassuring, empowering and encouraging it can be when you find people who understand, especially women who won't judge, or criticise, or condescend.

Whether those people are in the the same street or suburb, or across the world, I know I am not alone, and I hope you know that too.

01 October, 2018

Hundreds of little griefs

My father-in-law is grieving at the moment, and is at that raw stage when there are hundreds of little realisations that certain things will not be happening in the future. 

It reminded me of those difficult times when we first know, for certain, that we will not be having children, when everything reminds us of that fact, whether it is seeing a half-empy bottle of folic acid on the shelf, or a mobile we’d bought in Thailand for a future child, or walking past the room that is a nursery. Each time we see those things, we think along the same lines as we always have, until we’re struck with the realisation that, “wait, that’s not going to happen” or “but I won’t need that now,” and we grieve anew.

For me, the hope I had managed to feel throughout my infertility kept me going until, at the end, there was a tough period when there was no hope. Things got harder, being hit with hundreds of little griefs, before they got easier, when I found hope again for something new. I am, however, aware that losing your partner of 60 years at the age of 89 means that finding hope for something new might not be realistic, and I can just hope that his hundreds of little griefs do not linger, and that his brain manages to reprogram itself to accepting the new reality.

So at this time, I am actually thankful for my experience of grief, first encountered through pregnancy loss, infertility and childlessness, when online friends taught me so much about grief, healing, and compassion and self-compassion. I’m thankful that it not only helped me help my mother during and after my father’s death, but that it is already helping me help my husband, in-laws, and nieces and nephews get through their grief too.