25 March, 2019

Important words: It is okay to grieve

I was hoping to write about something else this week, but last night I saw a video of our Prime Minister at a school in Christchurch last week, after the horrific mosque shootings. She spoke some very important words, words that are too often ignored in our society, and words which we all need to hear, to understand, to believe.

She told the students (I'm paraphrasing slightly):
It is okay to grieve. It is okay to feel sad. And it is okay to ask for help, even if you weren't directly affected.
On No Kidding and the other very important no kidding childless and infertile blogs and communities around the web, we tell each other these words regularly. Too often our society doesn't allow us to grieve - especially when our losses are invisible - and so we have to remind each other that it is okay to grieve, and to ask for help. But to see these words on national television? To hear them from the leader of a country? That's important. That's a step forward for us all. No, it isn't specifically for the childless community. It's for everyone. And that's perhaps an even more important message, and one that will benefit us too.

It's a reminder too to all of us, that loss reminds us of loss. That grief for one thing brings up grief for another. That's normal. But just by saying something is normal, I'm not saying it doesn't matter. It does. Grieving is important. Acknowledging our feelings is important. And as time passes, we are able to feel that grief, acknowledge the fact it is visiting again, and then allow it to leave too.

Sending love to all of you who might be feeling grief or sadness or fear at the moment. It will pass. You're not alone. And you always have a place here.

18 March, 2019


I don't have a lot to say this week. I've said enough over on A Separate Life, because I knew I couldn't, shouldn't, keep silent. So this Monday, I'll just refer you to that piece.

This week in New Zealand, the question of whether we have children or not seems to be irrelevant. We have all come together. And we've come together with the support of most of the world. And I'm very grateful for that.

Sending love and strength.
Kia Kaha.

12 March, 2019

A state of grace

I read a post from a member of the ALI community who now has children. She was reflecting on her reactions to a pregnancy announcement. As is probably inevitable after infertility, a pregnancy announcement is never really just a pregnancy announcement. We all know too much now to simply let it go. So she thought about the ages of the couple and whether that had made it easier for them or not, and then hoped that they hadn't had fertility issues. It was only after going through all the different permutations of how they might have got pregnant that she realised she did not feel jealous about the pregnancy

"Well, of course," some of you might be saying. But I know that not all parents after infertility are able to feel this way. Those who used surrogates, or donor eggs and/or sperm, or those who adopted all have their own issues around pregnancy announcements. But even those who seem to get pregnant more frequently can find such news tough. I remember a woman on the charity website where I volunteered ten years ago who, despite some pregnancy losses and a PCOS diagnosis, still managed to have a child a year, and at last count (to my knowledge) had eight children. She had declared that even with all those children, she still felt jealous when she saw a pregnant woman, as she always assumed they had an easier time of it than she did. Perspective was not her strong point !

It is harder, I think, for the No Kidding to find that they don't feel any jealousy or little twinges when we hear pregnancy (or birth) announcements. After all, we're not grieving just the lack of pregnancy announcements or births, but that entire life with a child that we had once hoped for. So I think jealousy is perfectly normal, or if not jealousy, simply a twinge of pain hearing of other's success can hurt a lot, reminding us of what we have lost, of what we weren't able to achieve.

But, as the years pass, and as we pass through menopause and enter different phases of our lives, this happens less and less often. I believe we can reach the same calm, relaxed, accepting state that Isabelle has found. Gradually I have grown able to simply shrug if the newly pregnant person/couple is not close to me. Or I can be genuinely happy for others, regardless of their fertility journey to get there. And perhaps most important, I can do that largely without pain now. The whole process seems separate from me now. So I embrace that. Sure, sometimes there might be a twinge. But I think that grows to become the exception rather than the norm. I know it will pass. And I like being able to join in on celebrations, or simply being able to move on after hearing the news without it affecting me. I am grateful for that. I am grateful for this very welcome state of grace.

04 March, 2019

Issues from all sides

In recent times, I've read two posts from No Kidding bloggers taking opposite positions on an issue that comes up from time to time. Are our pets our children? I'm not going to enter this debate, but it is an example that, as there are more No Kidding women writing and speaking out, there will be a wider range of opinions about what life is like for those of us who are living No Kidding lives without children. And perhaps we should be a wee bit careful when we try to speak for our group. We're not all the same.

I know that it is very easy for us to take offence at words or behaviour that feel unkind or pointed. After all, it is kind of funny that I'm writing this post when only a week ago I wrote about some comments that I felt were meant to hurt me. It is, of course, particularly easy to be hurt and offended when we are still hurting ourselves, when we are vulnerable, when every nerve in our body (and brain) is sensitised, when we have that distorted view that half the world is pregnant or has a baby, and that the rest of the world is against us. Whilst I won't criticise anyone for feeling this way at such a difficult time, it is good too to gently put an alternative point of view, or offer reasons why someone might have said something or acted in a particular way, without denying the person the legitimate reaction to something that hurts.

Gradually, though, as we heal most of us become better able to distinguish between genuine, if  misguided, attempts to be kind, and those comments or behaviour designed to put us in our place, criticise our situations or decisions, and make us feel lesser. Or to recognise comments or actions that were thoughtless but innocent, and shrug or laugh at the ignorance behind them.

In the two posts I'm thinking about, offence was taken for opposite reactions. One person commented that nobody would ever say "your pets are your children" if they had been through what we have been through. Yet another blogger, who was also childless not by choice, did indeed feel that their dog was their child, and was upset that family members weren't treating the dog accordingly. Interestingly, both posts felt that these comments and behaviour were an example of discrimination against their No Kidding status, and were an example of being ignored and dismissed.

However, I personally know people who do not share our No Kidding status but who refer to their pets as children, and would be only too happy to refer to my pets as mine. Who always included our cats (when they were alive) on our Christmas cards, and their pets as well as their children. Their reactions weren't a case of being condescending towards a childless couple, but rather of acknowledging the importance of pets in their and our family. Likewise, I know No Kidding people who would not treat a dog as a child, or make concessions for a dog's behaviour in the way they might for a child, and mean no offence. It's not necessarily an issue where the lines are drawn based on your childless or parent status.

So thinking about these posts reminded me to question motivations (my own and others) before taking offence. Now that I'm comfortable in my No Kidding life, it is easier to do this. I'll feel pain when it is warranted, but understanding someone's motivations means I can take offence with a grain of salt, and not feel the pain so acutely, if at all. I find too I can dismiss some assumptions, forgive some, and laugh at others. Or I can choose to genuinely try and educate. Importantly, I can laugh at myself too, if I am at risk of taking myself too seriously. I think it's a valuable skill, that helps me live my life. And I probably need to employ it more often!