29 April, 2019

Rebuilding relationships

I recently read a post from another blogger that reminded me again that there are always two perspectives. A relatively new mother after infertility had got together with two friends. She had to leave early, but later realised that she hadn’t been asked about her kids and her life (or not as much as she wanted) by her two friends. She felt abandoned, ignored, and was personally offended.

I am sure we can all point to times when we felt that we had been abandoned and ignored offended because we didn’t have children. However, what the aforementioned blogger made me realise was that we are not the only ones who might feel like that. They may have withdrawn from us because they were busy, or because it was easier to associate with others who had children and shared so much, or even because they didn't want to hurt us by having their children around us. Misunderstandings, though, still lead to hurt. It may not all be one-sided, and it may not be equally shared. We may withdraw to protect ourselves, feeling alone and abandoned, and that in turn can hurt the person we need protection from. But they won't necessarily understand that.Then they are hurt too. Being able to step back - perhaps after time has passed, or if an olive branch has been extended - and think about how the change in friendship affected us both can really help us with forgiveness. Forgiveness for their actions, and for our own.

This then can provide an opening for conversation, for healing wounds, and for rebuilding friendships. Or maybe, at the very least, it can just make us more content with the relationship as it has evolved. We can learn to appreciate each other anew, ignoring the hurts of the past. That's what I'm trying to do now. It's not easy, as I am finding. You probably know that too. But I hope it will bring us both some pleasure, and some peace.

22 April, 2019

I'll never say never ...

There’s a phrase that is used, after loss, or grief, or infertility, that causes me to cringe. I’ve noted before that others use it to silence us, and ease their feelings of awkwardness. Yes, it is “getting over it.” But many of us continue to use it, using the instances where grief returns, or we feel isolated or hurt by comments years afterwards, to justify saying that they will “never get over it.” Personally, although I understand it (and I'm not criticising anyone who chooses to use it), I am not comfortable saying it and will, I promise, avoid it at all costs.

In the throes of loss or in the depths of infertility, or when facing that ultimatum that our quest for children is over, our feelings are intense, and getting over it seems impossible. I’ve seen many men and women object to the idea that they will “get over it,” because it seems as if that minimises their grief, and the extent of their loss. They feel, in the moment, they will never get over it.

But likewise, I imagine how it must seem to them in that moment, to hear someone else – five years or twenty years on – agree that “you will never get over it.” By saying this, I worry that we are telling those people, already in almost unbearable grief, that they will feel these intense emotions for the rest of their life, that they will feel this loss forever. What they thought was their worst nightmare will be, we are telling them, their worst nightmare. I don’t want to do that, because not only does it add to their grief, it is just not true.We adjust, we heal, we blossom. We don't live in a nightmare.

So ultimately I don’t think that it is helpful to say we never get over it. It needs to be qualified. What do we mean? That at times, it will hurt even many years later? Isn’t that different to saying we’ll never get over it? It may not feel that way to you. But for me it is. We’ll never go back to where we were before this all began, but that’s different to never getting over it.

So, given that I called my blog No Kidding, I feel a responsibility to be honest! Part of that honesty is admitting that pain over our losses – at some level, and often when we least expect it – makes itself known to us time and again. I’m not denying that, by any means. And I know that this is what most people mean when they say “I will never get over it.”

But I also feel a responsibility to be honest about the fact that we get better. We heal. We still have the scars, still feel the after effects of an injury, but still be healed. We can be changed forever, but still be healed. In healing, we accept these changes. In healing, we retake our place in the world. In healing, we refind joy.

So for me, it is simply this balance that I am confident comes to all of us in the end, if and when we are ready. The balance between the past and the future, between pain and joy..

I think balance is admitting that we have changed, and that our changed circumstances will affect us every day until we die. It is admitting and recognising the pain when it visits, neither ignoring nor exaggerating it.

But balance also ensures that we are able to accept our new circumstances, and not be ruled by grief. It is in finding joy, choosing not to dwell in sadness, turning towards optimism and happiness,. It is celebrating when the pain leaves us as well, celebrating all the gifts of our life. It means embracing happiness, and sadness, and knowing it all passes, and knowing that we will be okay.

So you’ll never hear me say that I will never get over it.

18 April, 2019

Freedom from compulsory holidays*

I am sitting at my computer listening to the radio, where you'll find me most afternoons. They talked about the traffic building, as people try to escape the cities for Easter. It is particularly busy this year, because Easter is in the middle of the school holidays, and there is also a public holiday (ANZAC Day) next Thursday, which means that people can get ten days holiday but only need to take three days off work. (Easter is Friday-Monday off here, with some companies/institutions taking Tuesday off as well. What is the case in your country?)

Anyway, back to the news report of the crush on the motorways heading to seaside baches*^ or other holiday destinations. A feeling of peace came over me. We don't work in education, and we have no children, so we have never been tied to taking time off during the school holidays or public holidays. It's always given me a sense of freedom. This weekend, as autumn takes a tighter hold, we get to relax, hunker down, drink some good wine at home and eat hot cross buns (though not together - sacre bleu!), binge watch some TV, and start to get organised for our own trip next month. We get to choose the timing of our holidays, and we specifically** avoid crowded times. We get cheaper airfares, or smoother road trips. Destinations are pleasantly calm when we visit them. We take real pleasure in this. I mean, why not enjoy the gifts of infertility? It's not as if we have a choice! So we make the most of it. I hope you can do this too.

* I'm using holidays in the UK/NZ sense of the word, meaning vacations.
*^ A "bach" in New Zealand is a small holiday home.
** Well, except when we spent a month in Rome in July. I wouldn't recommend doing that!

15 April, 2019

We are not alone

Last week a friend wrote a post that I could identify with, one hundred percent. I guarantee you could too. It wasn't about being childless. No, she has children, which I have been privileged to watch grow up on the blogosphere. She wrote about being divorced, and what it would be helpful for people to say and do, and what is NOT helpful.

Well, in some cases you just had to exchange a few words - replace "divorced" with "childless"/"divorce" with "infertility" and you'd be sitting there nodding. In particular, she talked about people asking her if she had considered marriage counselling. Replace "marriage counselling" with "adoption" and I could have written the entire paragraph. She ended by saying,
 "People getting divorced know about marriage counseling. Perhaps they have gone. Perhaps not. But it's no great secret that it exists."
She listed things that had obviously been said to her, things that were judgemental, or that assumed she hadn't thought things through. She had obviously been asked, "why?" This is such an invasion of privacy, and one that is familiar to many of us. "Why don't you have kids?" echoed in my ears. I've said once, I think, "if I wanted you to know I'd have told you." Or at least I've said it several times in my head!

She emphasised too the importance of listening, of staying in touch, and of not being scared to talk about logistics. This reminded me of many of us being dropped from invitations to children's birthday parties or school plays or baby showers, rather than being asked and given the chance to choose not to go.

And what S's post really reminded me was how similar our situations were. We are not alone in being on the wrong end of "those comments." So many people struggle to know how to provide support in a wide range of situations. So many people say the wrong things, are thoughtless or judgemental, and as a result, intentionally or not, cause us hurt. It reminded me that if we - the No Kidding - share this situation with the newly divorced, then we probably also share it with many other life situations too. That we all probably have more in common that we realise. And that our experiences can only teach us to be better friends, providing better support, for others, and hopefully, all of us, learn to spread love and understanding.

Note:  Edited to include the link above to her post, or just go here.

08 April, 2019

How infertility affects our world views

My writing today was inspired by Pamela's post on the 10th Anniversary of her book, Silent Sorority. It has also turned out to be an opportunity for me to think about some issues I've raised before, but relate them to my life today. It's why I love reading other women's blogs, because a few comments can inspire me to think further. And because writing posts can take me in directions I never expected - as in this post!

Pamela went back into the archives and looked at a discussion on Infertility Amnesia. She suggested three possible reasons for why some women who have children after infertility seem to suffer from a degree of infertility insensitivity.

I had one or two additional thoughts to - or perhaps expansions on - Pamela's three reasons (a variation on survivor’s guilt; denial; or ‘false sensitivity’) for infertility amnesia.

I know that some women think that we took the easy way out, and that in contrast they "hung in there" and endured additional hardships to achieve their children. Their pregnancies and subsequent children validated their efforts, and proved them "worthy." They then felt that they earned the right to fully join the "mothers" club, and participate in all the rites of passage of being pregnant and mothers (scan and bump photos, using photos of their children as their profile pics, etc). They defend their right to do this, regardless of the fact that they know from experience that in doing so, they will hurt some women who are either still waiting to be pregnant/have their baby, or some of those who, like us, will never do so. (I have covered this in a slightly different context before, here and here).

But rather than revisit their insensitivity (which I did in my draft just to get it off my chest), I instead want to think about the fact that despite going on the same journey, sometimes for many years, different outcomes can lead to such completely different outlooks. One group sees that effort, hard work and perseverance pays off, and they are validated by that. Another group sees simply that they were lucky, and remember that they could have easily not achieved their outcome. A third group, the No Kidding women, see the opposite. We see that hard work, effort and perseverance can often make no difference whatsoever to the end result.

It's a classic example of how our personal experiences shape our world view. But it is also an example of how we can, if we are not careful, use those personal experiences to justify our views. When, really, it would be more honest to continue to test our views against evidence, to question their premise, examine them with sensitivity and compassion from all sides, and be prepared to change them if we need. Rather than being defensive when challenged, we need to try to take into account different perspectives and experiences.

It has been timely for me to reread these posts and apply them to my life today, and my approach towards people in it. I guess it's another example of accepting and choosing to use the gifts of infertility - of empathy, and humility. A reminder too that, as a commenter on one of the earlier posts linked above pointed out, in the absence of it from others we need to practise self-compassion.

And that is not how I thought this post would end!

01 April, 2019

Recipes as legacy

A quick post today - the very reason Microblog Mondays is a thing - that grew from a comment I read elsewhere.

Someone noted (I've forgotten where) that they would like to pass down favourite or family recipes, but because they don't have children, they were grieving about that. It's a legitimate sadness, and one I've noted before too. But I have an idea, one I've been thinking about for quite a while. These days, it is really easy to put together recipe books online. And one day, I intend to put my favourite recipes - some family recipes, some my own - in a recipe book, maybe even take photos of the dishes for illustration, and then give it to my nieces and nephews - and anyone else who might want it. Or maybe I'll just download them all on a blog sometime. I have to be a bit more creative if I want to spread the things I love. But that way too, more people get to try them. So it's a positive both ways.

We don't even need to be particularly creative. I make a recipe regularly, that I always think of as "Aunty Kenzie's" recipe, because that's how it was explained when my MIL gave it to me. I never met Aunty Kenzie, and I don't even know if she was related, or a family friend. Aunty Kenzie may not have known me, but her simple recipe has given me much pleasure. Our recipes - and legacies - get passed on sometimes in ways we never expect, or perhaps even know about. But not knowing about it doesn't lessen the legacy that is left. And I for one take comfort in that.