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.