Monday, 23 July 2018

Nanette, Childlessness, and the Importance of Perspective

The world is talking about Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette Netflix special about her life as a comedian, a lesbian, a “not-normal.” It’s powerful and moving, at times funny, but at times deadly serious, and she made me think, and I hope many others.

As a childless woman, I know I am also a not-normal, although to a lesser extent, as I only stand out when asked the question, “do you have children?” So my No Kidding status helps me, just a little, understand what it means to look at the world from the outside, and most importantly, teaches me that not everyone views the world with the same perspective; though sadly I know there are many, many people who just don’t get it, and don't make any effort to understand.

For example, my MIL can never understand that it was okay that her daughters-in-law might have different tastes in art or clothing, and my BIL casually dismissed the often callous ways people with children treat or discard their childless friends, without even bothering to try to see something from our perspective. As Infertile Phoenix pointed out in an excellent post, her sister has never understood it either.

I hope though, that the more often people like Hannah Gadsby speak out about the way they are treated, then more and more people will start considering their family and friends and fellow humans as individuals, with different experiences and perspectives, and begin to show some sensitivity, some empathy.

Gadsby ends on hope though, saying, "there is nothing stronger than a broken woman who has rebuilt herself," and looking around this community, I have to say, I agree.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Honesty

I am always happy when a new blogger arrives* in our group  because they always say things that make me think, or that describe my own experiences in a slightly different way.

Léa at Des Meandres aux Etoiles has written some lovely posts so far, although I’ve only read a couple as I am attempting to read them in her original French, though Google Translate or DeepL do a good job of translating her posts into English; Léa, like so many Europeans, responds to English comments in perfect English herself.

Léa made a comment that spoke to the heart of my understanding of how to move on, and that is one of the reasons I called this blog No Kidding, when she said,
“ … gathering the energy to keep moving forward in life means to not lie to yourself.”
Making the decision to end the process is a moment of brutal honesty; an honest assessment in the medical (or practical, eg with adoption) likelihood of success if we continue, honest assessments of our own ability (mental, physical, financial, etc) to continue the process of trying to build a family, and honesty in accepting that this will not be our lives. But it also means honesty in accepting that our future lives will be fine, that we will be able to bear life without children, and eventually, the honest acceptance that our lives without children will be good, happy, fulfilled.

She also said that 
“becoming aware of my experience has given me the effect of deliverance.”
I absolutely adore this, because she acknowledges that all this honesty delivers freedom, a release from the burden of trying and failing, a liberation to move forward and live, and love, her life. Brava, Léa, I look forward to (hesitatingly in my schoolgirl French) reading your posts.


* though I am sad for them that they have found themselves here

Monday, 9 July 2018

Miscellaneous No Kidding Thoughts

1. Another shout-out to Mel, who has hosted her 600th Roundup by inviting her readers to highlight particular posts (their own, or those of others) they have loved, and it is a celebration of infertility and No Kidding blogging. I encourage you to go over and read some of the posts* that are being featured. I wish my memory was better, because I have read so many posts from so many of you that have made me punch my fist and say "yes!"

2. I had a major eye-rolling even late last week when I was watching a news show talking about the Thai boys trapped in the cave, and someone commented that it was "the worst thing imaginable, being trapped in a cave in the dark with water rising."

"I'll tell you something worse - it's being the parent worrying about your kid trapped in a cave," said another guy.

As a parent, he was relating only to the grief and fears of the parents, whereas I (like the actual parents of the boys, I suspect) was worrying about the the boys and their young coach, thinking about what they were feeling, what it must have been like to spend ten days in utter darkness, the fear and hope, the hunger, the desperation.

3. My husband and I put the cat amongst the pigeons last week when we decided to give all his other siblings six month notice that we would not be spending Christmas with their parents (we have done so for the last three years in a row), and it was up to them to decide if they wanted their parents to be alone, and if not, who would be the ones to visit. They have hidden behind having Christmas with their children (or allowing their children to spend time with cousins) for years, implying that, because we don't have children, Christmas is less important to us, and also hinting - quite strongly - that the idea of enforcing their children to celebrate with us and/or the in-laws was just too cruel** to the kids. So this year we got in early, saying I want to visit MY family this year for a change, and we're sitting back and watching the fireworks!


 * and thank you to those who featured my posts, two of my personal favourites - Infertility's Waiting Room, and The Real Success Stories.

** despite one of the children telling me she didn't want to spend Christmas with all her cousins and aunts and uncles

Monday, 2 July 2018

A Thank You to Mel

Last week, Mel at Stirrup Queens reached a landmark, writing her 600th Friday Roundup, where she highlights posts from around the ALI (Adoption Loss Infertility) blogging community, and invites us to do the same in the comments. This is an amazing achievement, and has taken real commitment to read multiple blogs every week, and to then consistently post a Roundup of posts every Friday for the last eleven years (missing only one on average per year).

I know that many of you don’t read Mel’s blog, but I have noticed that increasingly the posts she is highlighting are from the No Kidding community, and increasingly, the posts highlighted in the comments are from our community too. In doing this, she helpfully brings our perspectives to the wider infertility blogging community, legitimises our choices and our lives, and also reminds us where we came from. And for that, I thank her.

Likewise, her Microblog Mondays project, has kept me blogging and writing about our No Kidding lives consistently, and succinctly, for some years now. I’m pretty sure I’d still be writing here, but probably not as regularly, especially as I keep this for No Kidding thoughts only, writing more generally on A Separate Life about my everyday life, and this year blogging daily on TakeTwo x365. So I am thankful for that too, as this space, and my interactions with you are all, are important to me.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Monday Miscellaneous

A reminder that Lesley Pyne launched her book for sale last week, so check out my review of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness here, in case you missed it.

There were two babies born last week in my life: one, a third great-nephew, to a niece who had struggled to conceive, and the second, the Prime Miniature as she has been dubbed, to our Prime Minister, who also struggled to conceive. I am pleased to report that I was delighted to hear the news for both these young women, and didn't have any twinges or Ouch! moments.

I was talking retirement with someone the other day, and was surprised that I did have a real Ouch! moment comparing my need to make preparations for myself, and her ability to rely on her children who live in the same city, and perhaps her inability to understand my situation.

On my daily blog x365 Take Two, June's theme has been a month of getting things off our chest, or Whining, and I've written about No Kidding issues* already. I thought I'd continue the theme here, because I wanted to have a whine about parents who really don't stop to think about what they might say or how they might say something. I want to whine too at those who blindly assume that all infertile people - especially those who might be in the midst of trying to conceive - don't understand the realities of parenting. It drives me mad that I have to point out (on my behalf or, more recently, on behalf of others') that just because we don’t have children, it doesn’t mean we:
  • don’t understand them
  • think that every moment of parenthood is full of joy
  • don’t realise that children have melt-downs
  • don’t understand that it is hard
  • might not have some good ideas to share
  • are stupid!


  * You can read them here, and here.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Kiwi baby mania - or not?

Warning: Pregnancy mentioned. (Not mine! lol)


Yesterday was the due date of Jacinda, our 37-year-old Prime Minister. She will be only the second* female head of government ever to give birth in office.The country is about to go baby mad – or are they? Maybe we’re more concerned about the man** she’s had to leave in charge as Acting Prime Minister whilst she is on maternity leave.

I have been very thankful that her pregnancy has not dominated news, as she herself has clamped down on hype and hyperbole around the pregnancy and impending birth. Thankfully, she has not been a smug pregnant woman, and has always carried herself with dignity and awareness. So I haven't been at all bothered by her news, and in fact, have been happy for her and her partner, ever since she announced that they had realised they would probably need "help" to conceive. I do however have no doubt that her pregnancy news has been triggering to many infertile and No Kidding women in New Zealand, and I feel for them in the inevitable onslaught - because there will be one.


* after Benazir Bhutto in 1990 
** her coalition partner, and not someone I have ever supported

Friday, 15 June 2018

Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness: A review

As I mentioned in a blog earlier this week, Lesley Pyne has written a book called Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness. I’ve talked about Lesley on this blog before – I noted that she was a therapist who works with childless women, when I flagged a feature of me on her blog. What I failed to mention too was that she is one of us.

I personally love the title of her book. It shares my philosophy that there can be, and there usually is joy when we embrace our No Kidding lives. And it bodes well for what is inside.

In the Forward to the book, Jody Day of Gateway Women writes an inspiring message. Her message reflects the message of the book too, and again, of this blog. And that message is that you are not alone. You are not alone coming to the realisation that maybe you won’t get the children you wanted. You are not alone going through the grief and realisation that this is your life, and you are not alone when you come through the most difficult years, and look to the rest of your life without children. We are all there, as Jody says, “your childless sisters.” And this is exactly what I love about our No Kidding blogging community.

Lesley introduces her book by reinforcing her primary message. To be brief, and not nearly as eloquent as either Jody or Lesley, it is that she is okay, other women are okay, and you can be too.

When writing the book, Lesley interviewed 19 women from all over the world. I am one of them – the only New Zealander (although there is an English woman who now lives in NZ apparently who contributed, someone I’d love to meet) in the group. Lesley looks for and brings out the commonalities of our experiences, and talks about what helped her and what helped us. The point is of course that we are all different, and so different things helped us all. But there are always some commonalities in the steps we go through.

As Lesley is a therapist, her book is focused on helping people through the process. There is, therefore, plenty of homework and lots of thought-provoking exercises. There’s no prescriptive process, though, and the only requirement is that you are prepared to think honestly. And maybe write this down.

I haven’t done the homework exercises, but I have made a note of some of them, and once her book is out may blog some of my own results of these exercises.

Lesley talks about her own experiences with infertility and childlessness. She came from a family where emotion was not encouraged. I completely recognised her experiences there in my own upbringing, remembering falling off my bike, badly winding myself, and being told not to cry. My husband came from the same sort of background. Stoic, stiff upper lip families, where feelings were foreigners. As a result of this, Lesley says that she thought she didn’t need to grieve. After all, she thought, “doesn’t time heal?” I had to laugh at this. It’s such a logical thought – that if you hold it in enough, and time heals, that eventually you’ll be able to emerge recovered from grief. But we all know – now – that it doesn’t work like that. Fortunately, Lesley had some friends who pointed out that “grief was not an enemy, but a friend.” I love this. It totally reflects my own feelings – and is a belief I follow in my own life, and that has subsequently helped me through the deaths of both my parents. I didn’t know it before infertility though.

Another quote in this section that I love is her conclusion that “Expressing your feelings is a sign of strength.” I’ve written about this myself, both in terms of No Kidding women being success stories, and in terms of the different ways women and men process emotions. Feelings are really hard. Facing them, feeling them, and expressing them is courageous. When we can do this, we should stand proud and strong.

Lesley points out some of the things that helped her most strongly. Facing her grief and her feelings was of course the primary issue, but she has moves on to the issues of mindfulness, and of reconnecting with your body. Mindfulness really helped me personally, and I’ve more recently discovered the power of yoga and simple breathing to calm me and reduce stress. Others I know connected with their bodies differently. It’s an important step, I think, because I’ve seen many women come out of infertility hating their bodies. So I’m glad that Lesley talked about these topics too.

I wanted to cheer when I saw the chapter on Letting Go to Let In. Because this is something we often talk about in the No Kidding community. It is the opposite of giving up, and it is letting go of the grief, not because it didn’t matter that we have experienced loss, but because our futures matter more.

Love and self-acceptance, gratitude and reclaiming joy are, appropriately, all given their own chapters in the book, leading to a conclusion full of hope that you can get there, and a feeling of victory that so many of us, including Lesley, have indeed found our own Joy Beyond Childlessness.

Lesley’s book is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK for pre-order, formally out on Monday 18 June, as both an ebook and a paperback.

Monday, 11 June 2018

No fast forward button to healing

During my years of infertility, I only ever saw a counsellor once – via my IVF clinic, and after my second ectopic, as it was resolving. I remember thinking she could give me some coping mechanisms that would help me cope with this. To my disgust, she didn’t. I figured out why though - there are no easy answers to grief.

On the message board I visited, the lovely Sarahg (who guestposted here) told me there was no “Get out of Jail Free” card simply because I’d been through an ectopic before – and that’s the hard part of loss, and of beginning a No Kidding life. Just because we might get to the stage where we might hope that we might be okay in the long run (or believe people like me who keep reassuring others they will be okay), we can’t fast forward through the mourning period, the healing, the adjustments, and the two steps forward one step back dance that we all must go through, in our own way.

But doing it with help, gentle guidance, and loving encouragement, whether it is through blogging ourselves, reading other blogs, belonging to social media groups or support groups in real life, makes it a lot easier. That’s why I blog; and that’s also why, later this week, I will be reviewing Lesley Pyne’s new book, Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Gifts of Infertility (and Childlessness) - The Series

Later this year, it will be 15 years since I learned I’d never have children. I have learned a lot of lessons (see Friday’s post here as an example), and have discovered, and now written about, at least  25 Gifts of Infertility and Childlessness. I would never have thought, back in 2003, that I’d be able to come up with more than one or two gifts from my infertility and childlessness. I probably knew even then that “travel” and “sleeping in” were always going to be advantages of a no kidding life! But in the midst of grief and anger and denial, it was hard to admit that there would ever be any gifts to this life.
Obviously, given that I’ve found 25 different issues to write about (and finally finished the series), there are many gifts of this life, of this journey I’ve been going through. By recognising these gifts, I am not denying the pain we’ve been through, or what we’ve lost, and I’m certainly not denying the pain others might be going through today. I am merely being honest, looking back at what I’ve learned, what I value, and what I am grateful for now.


Friday, 1 June 2018

Saying "No"

Kathleen on Life without Baby wrote about just saying “no” to the infamous “do you have children?” question. She, and a lot of women I have seen, feel the urge to qualify this statement, to justify why they don’t have children, but sometimes they don't quite know why they do this. Some of her blog readers commented that they felt they needed to let people know it wasn’t by choice, and in doing so, felt they honoured their own journey and the loss of their children. Some felt that in doing this, they also modified (in their favour) the responses of the person who asked.

To use Kathleen’s phrase, it got me thinking. I’ve always just said “no,” and I’ve written about this a couple of times (here, and here). But why?

I said no when I was in my 20s, and was putting off any decisions about having children. I said “no” with gusto, because I was indignant that people automatically assumed I might have children just because I was married, and female, because I had no intention of having children in my 20s, and because I didn't feel I needed to justify this to anyone!

I said “no” in my 30s, as I became comfortable in my career but still struggled against sexism, as my international business travel made opportunities to conceive harder to find, as we started to realise we might never conceive, and as I suffered and healed from my first ectopic pregnancy. I said “no” without explanation because it was no-one’s business but my own, and – once we started trying to conceive – we in fact told no-one about it.

I said “no” because I wanted to be treated equally at work to the men (who could, I admit, freely say “yes” without any negative reactions and “no” with fewer negative reactions than for me). I said “no” because I didn’t want to be judged, one way or the other, or to deal with their judgement.

In saying “no,” I found that it can leave an ambiguity in the questioner’s mind – maybe I didn’t want them, or maybe I couldn’t have them. Either way, most people didn’t tend to ask the follow-up, “why not?” So saying “no” was a form of protection of sorts.

I said “no” when I was 40, suffering and healing from my complicated second ectopic pregnancy, when visiting infertility clinics, scheduling and attempting IVF cycles, as I was on holiday after an unsuccessful IVF cycle and before my last attempt, and on a major wedding anniversary. I said “no” for all the same reasons I’d always said “no.” But I also said “no” hoping to avoid pity, condescencion and judgement, and any discussion on the matter, which raised an additional concern that I might break down in tears, and embarrass myself.

I said “no” when I was grieving losses, and grieving the first year or two of my childlessness, and No Kidding life, because I didn’t want to have to explain anything to anyone, for all the above reasons, but with a new and unwanted factor at my lowest time – that of shame.

I still say “no” now for most of the reasons mentioned above. I still feel indignant that people automatically assume I might have children when 20% of women my age do not, and that my worth as a woman is often judged by whether or not I am a mother. I still believe it is no-one’s business but my own, and I still bristle when asked because it is not the first question asked of men.

I no longer say “no” because I am afraid I will break down in tears, or that people will feel pity, or because I feel any shame. I do not. Which is why I say “no” with no explanation, because I do not feel I owe the world an explanation. Any details are my choice, and my choice alone. I am not obligated to answer questions.

I like the power a simple, polite, definite "no" gives me. I get to decide whether anyone deserves to know any details about why I do not have children. My story is deeply personal, my journey is personal, and only deserving people get to know it, or those who may need to know it for their own comfort, so they don’t feel alone. I can decide on a whim, in a split-second. I have no need or obligation to be consistent. It can be simply in the way someone phrases a question, in whether I see if they are open or not, judgemental or not.

The exception to the only-if-you-deserve-to hear-my-story is when I think someone needs to be enlightened (i.e. educated) and I’ve decided that hopefully they are capable of learning. In learning my story (briefly or in full), maybe they will not be so quick with questions or rude follow-ups in the future, when they are dealing with someone more vulnerable than I am.

But you know what? I even bristle when I answer “no” because what I really want to say is, “why do you want to know?”

Monday, 28 May 2018

The process of acceptance


  1. Acceptance is the key to healing after infertility, but it is not a simple process, taking time,  and most importantly, an openness to the possibility of finding acceptance.
  2. Acceptance does not mean that we are saying “it’s okay that this happened to me,” or that we don’t really mind that we didn’t have children.
  3. Acceptance is simply an understanding that what we wanted isn’t going to happen, and a farewell to our dreams.
  4. We accept that our lives can and will still be good, productive, fulfilling, and we turn and look to the future.
  5. We accept that grief, anger, and other emotions will still come, but so too will joy, happiness, and gratitude, even if we haven’t quite grasped them yet.
  6. We accept that we are valuable individuals, just as worthy of love and deserving of a good life as anyone else, and show ourselves true self-compassion.
  7. We accept that this is not our fault, and we banish the guilt that “maybe we didn’t want it enough/try hard enough,” by banishing the negative thinking involved in infertility and childlessness.
  8. We start looking for the good in our lives, and we embrace it when we find it, feeling joy, happiness, and gratitude free of guilt, because there really is no other option.

For more information: Click herefor a link to the 132 posts with the label “acceptance."
Note: This post was prompted by some questions I received, and some posts on other blogs.



Thursday, 24 May 2018

Gifts of Infertility Series #25 – A Reminder of What is Important

Most people, when asked about what is important, will say, “family.” The ones who say that are usually the ones who have family, and if the question reminds them to hang on to their family members, and to tell them how important they are, then I guess that’s a good thing. But I actually think a lot of people give that response as an easy way out of what can be a difficult issue, and a way that doesn't require further thought. As we all have observed, a focus on family can be a selfish one – ignoring all others who might need or want or deserve your attention. And a focus on family is meaningless if you had family and lost it (physically, geographically, emotionally etc), or never had it in the first place.

Ultimately, I think life is both broader and narrower than that. We are all individuals. We need to like ourselves, or change the things we don’t like, to be able to live within ourselves happily. We need to be aware – of ourselves and our actions, and of what is important to us. That way, we can begin to reach outside ourselves to find honest and valuable connections, relationships, a wider family.

Allowing myself to like myself, and to understand my flaws, has also given me space to think about what is important. As a result, I’ve solidified a lot of thoughts and feelings about life, about how I want to live, and who I want to be. I’ve learned that I value character – in myself, in my husband, my friends and family – over almost anything else. Success, focus, drive, are all nice, but if they come without character, then I don’t really admire the outcomes. Honesty that educates, or is kind, is so much better than honesty that serves no purpose. Humour is fine, but if it isn’t kind, or thoughtful, or enlightening, then it isn’t very funny. Beliefs are important, but if they come without understanding that others might believe differently, then they are shallow and self-serving. Caring out of duty or blood relationships is good – it is caring, after all - but caring out of compassion for another human says something about our true character, and delivers so much more. One-way relationships are ultimately selfish, and unrewarding, whereas equal, shared relationships – whether as life partners or simply next-door neighbours – are true connections. And it is in making these connections – in a way that honours who I am, and what I have both lost and found on this journey – that we find support, and love, and how we cement our place in and of the world.

There is much more I could say about my philosophy of life, but I think this blog, perhaps more than anything in my life, speaks the truth of who I am. This year, it will be 15 years since I learned I’d never have children. A lot has changed since then. My 25 Gifts of Infertility posts* talk about how I’ve changed, and what I value. I’m proud of that.

Finally, I think that, whilst I might have figured some of this out by my 50s anyway, my childlessness was a catalyst to thinking more deeply, as I tried to figure out how I felt about my life post-infertility, and how I was going to live the rest of my life, figuring out who I am, and what I value in my life. And that has been the most wonderful gift of all.


*  This is the final in this series. Well, unless another Gift of Infertility sneaks up on me!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Don't feel guilty - be happy!

I thought I'd look back on some previous posts today, and went back to my first calendar year of blogging on No Kidding (I've blogged elsewhere for years longer), and the things I talked about that May 2011.

The month started with some thoughts (amongst others) about some of the things I would be doing if I'd had children, if my ectopic babies had not been ectopic. These were wistful thoughts that had sneaked up on me, things I hadn't realised I was missing out on, although in writing about them I was able to focus on the things I loved, rather than the fact I wasn't doing them with children.

But then I moved onto happier thoughts, and wrote about all the things I was missing out on because I don't have children, but it was a happy list, things I am pleased I have missed out on.

Finally, I wrote a post celebrating all the things I can do precisely because I have children. It still stands, and might be worth looking at if you're feeling a bit down. I called it Yee hah, the things I'm doing because I don't have kids!

Seven years later my message is the same; it's okay to embrace our lifestyles, to feel happy about the advantages, and to cast off any guilt that might be lurking.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Debrief on The Day that is Not For Us


I thought I’d report back on my Day that is Not For Us plans, as when my husband and I were ushered to our table in the little French restaurant on Saturday evening for his offical (if a day early) birthday dinner, standing next to the table was a man holding a very young child! He had to move for me to take my seat, and then sat down at the table that was next to us, and I immediately said to my husband, “the best laid plans … !”

Then the mother started speaking loudly to the third person at the table about how special mothers are, and continued doing this for the next 20 minutes. I looked at my husband, and we both had to laugh – but don’t worry, I’d done my fair share of eye-rolling prior to this. They left not long after the child gave a deafening screech in my ear, and to be fair to him, the father did apologise to us for disturbing our evening.

The following day we had a lazy, rainy day Sunday morning, picked up lunch to take to the in-laws, and then retreated home for a happy evening with some of my husband’s (and my) favourite Thai food for his birthday dinner, and binge watching a series we had recorded.

Next year I’m not going to plan at all!


Finally, I was congratulating myself about avoiding too many M Day messages … until I woke this (Monday) morning and looked at Fbk, and after seeing several self-congratulatory messages from friends (ranging from Malaysia to the US), I shut down social media for the rest of the day, kicking myself for forgetting that sometimes, being a way ahead of the rest of the world is a curse!