29 December, 2020

Another year gone

We had a good Christmas trip "up north" to see my sister, and joined by my other sister. It was lovely to see my niece open her presents on Christmas morning (and were astounded when she was actually speechless with her one big present). But of course it was a little bittersweet for obvious reasons, but also for her because she is essentially an only child, and feels it intensely. (Her half-sister is in her 30s, and she never knew her half-brother, and she adores being around other kids.) So her aunts bestow love on her, and thanks to technology she was chatting to friends throughout the day. She endured walks in gardens with her parents and aunts and uncle and Jeff the dog, she went surfing (but the waves were disappointing), and was pulled away from her presents to go out on her dad's boat with us all. My husband and I went exploring one day, and she eagerly joined us for sushi and shopping - the perfect combination as far as she is concerned!

For me, there was a memorable moment. The day or so after Christmas, I was sitting at the dining table with my two sisters. I'd mentioned that it was lovely to see bloggers I knew enjoy the photo of my niece (Charlie - the subject of "What Charlie taught me" blogs over on A Separate Life) on Fbk, when they had read about her for years. And somehow the topic of not having children come up. I mentioned some of the comments that friends and bloggers and I have received over the years. One sister said cautiously, "I hope I haven't said anything like that" and I was able to reassure her that she hadn't. Perhaps because she has largely avoided the topic, but she has, I know, been sensitive of it. She's had a friend go through IVF and also come out the other side with no kids, and knows how her friend felt over the years. We talked about it in a matter-of-fact way, and it was just nice. Nice to know that my situation was recognised by them both, to feel seen. Nice to be able to talk about the occasional reality of my life. Nice to be able to move on to the next topic without feeling we needed to out of awkwardness. Nice to know that they saw it was a part of me, but not all of me.

And now we're home. Christmas is over for another year. 2020 has felt surreal at times. As with any year, I've felt my No Kidding status acutely at times, but have also been very grateful for the benefits of that life too, including my relationships with you all. I'm hoping 2021 is a lot better for everyone next year. And send you my heartfelt love and best wishes.

21 December, 2020

The season and traditions

I put up my Christmas tree last week. The decorations always make me happy - the ones I bought on my travels, or that friends gave me, and even the ones I bought to mark my ectopic losses (at Christmastime 19 and 18 years ago respectively), although they are always bittersweet. As Tingting said here so beautifully, I do not feel that Christmas (or any celebration if you don't celebrate Christmas) is not for us, simply because we don't have children or grandchildren. It was hard for a year or two, especially with the memories of my losses so fresh in my mind, but after that I decided to reclaim the season.

One of my traditions is to always make some mini mince* pies - the recipe calls them baby mince pies, but for obvious reasons I refuse to call them that. I always make them. I enjoy them if Christmas is quiet, I give them away to friends sometimes, and this year I'm taking them to visit my sister. So that was my day today - making the pastry, the pies, juggling chilling the pastry, thawing the pastry (because I chilled it too long! lol), filling the pies, chilling the pies, egg-washing the pies, and finally baking the pies! It's a "Mali" Christmas tradition, and I'm fond of it. It helps me to know that Christmas is for me too.

Unfortunately, my husband hasn't always been able to do it. This year he sounds quite morose, and he has commented a couple of times that Christmas is not for us. As well as letting him know I have heard him, I have also commented each time that personally I refuse to believe that, and point out the fun we can have together. Of course, it is his first Christmas without either of his parents, and that may be playing on his mind too. I reminded him too that last year I didn't look forward to Christmas at all - it felt like an anti-climax (and it was). But by Boxing Day - the day after Christmas - it was all behind us, and at least here in New Zealand we could begin our summer holidays. That's the thing. Whether you dread Christmas or another religious or cultural day, like any of the Days that Shall Not Be Named, they don't last forever, and sooner than we realise, we can forget them and move on.

Wishing you all the very best over the next week. 

Sending love/Arohanui from New Zealand to you all.

Another "Mali" tradition
- a Christmas Meringue Tree

* fruit mince, which is minced dried fruit (sultanas, raisins, currants, dates, and apricots) with a few other ingredients including a good slug of brandy!

14 December, 2020

Resilience not failure

Some months ago, I heard an interview discussing failure and resilience. I forgot who it involved, but I think it was about Linda Graham, and her book Resilience. She talked about dealing with disappointments and failure, about bouncing back, and a number of things I thought were relevant for those of us who haven’t had children.

The most important topic was that of failure. It's not a word* I like, for a lot of reasons. But for those of us who are childless not by choice, failure is – to be blunt – how we got here. Or should I say, that is too often what we think and fear when we enter our No Kidding lives. It is common – dare I suggest, universal? – to feel as if we have failed, whether we have not been able to conceive or carry to term, have not been able to adopt, have not found the person we want to have children with, or who wants to have children with us. We berate ourselves – should we have done more, done it earlier, done it differently? We aren’t kind to ourselves. We aren’t always rational. We are often distraught in our failure. I think that is why we so often feel shame. The shame of failure. I know I did. 

And that’s because we personalise it. It failed – the medical technology, or the adoption process, or broader society failed. It doesn’t mean that I am a failure. It might be my body that technology couldn't help, but I personally am NOT a failure. And neither are you. Realisation that it was the process that din't work, not us, comes sooner to some than others. It helps us recognise that there is no shame involved. It helps us understand the situation we find ourselves in, rather than fear it. It helps us accept that so much of life is really just luck. It is random. There’s no blame involved. That’s critical to me. My favourite quote, as so many of you know, is that of Gertrude Stein, saying “there is no answer, there never was an answer, that is the answer.” It was a huge help to me, and enabled me to grieve without blame, and without shame.

That acceptance of the situation we are in allows us to stop turning inwardly on ourselves. We can then start showing self-compassion, and start thinking about the future –about how we can navigate the future in our new No Kidding lives.

The interviewee pointed out that when don’t personalise failure, we leave ourselves free to try again, or to try something new. That is so important. That freedom to turn our efforts and hope to something new – to our No Kidding lives without children – opens us up to successful lives, lives where we can be happy, kind, and generous. Lives where we can look outwardly. Lives we can embrace fully. And that is what resilience looks like to me. As I've written before, I often think that we are real success stories. And we should be proud of that.

* See my post The F Word


07 December, 2020

Monday Miscellaneous (Again!)

 Well, here I am, Monday afternoon again, and I don't have a prepared post ready. In fact, it's Monday evening and time to start preparing dinner, and I don't have a post ready! But fortunately others have been posting beautifully, so I thought I'd give a shout out to some of our fellow No Kidding bloggers recently. 

Infertile Phoenix has written a wonderful post about being able to use her wisdom to help friends who are parents. It's a blog of friendship, of contentedness, and most of all, of growth and wisdom. I think it will give great comfort and hope to those who are still trying to figure out how they can resume living in a world populated by parents, and do it comfortably. I think it will be especially helpful to those who don't quite believe - yet - that it is even possible.

Infertility Honesty had a great post last week about what I call (and have written about) the "Next Big Thing." She says what I have always said (in different words) - that surviving and living and loving life is in fact our next big thing, and is nothing to be sneezed at. This is such a perennial issue for people coming into acceptance of living a no kidding life. We all wonder "what's next?" So many of us feel an obligation to do something big, or something that is meaningful to us, or that justifies our place in the world. When really, just being here justifies our place in the world. There's no obligation to do more. But surviving well, surviving and growing, surviving and lifting the pressure from ourselves, is maybe the best reward we can give ourselves.

And finally, Loribeth has written a lovely tribute to the most motherly character on Downton Abbey, who just happens to be childless. A mainstream TV show with a childless character who plays an important role in the lives of others is always a joy to behold. If you haven't read it already, go find out who it is! 

There are so many others posting too, and such good posts, that I couldn't name you all. I read these ones most recently, but I love all my fellow No Kidding bloggers.

04 December, 2020

No Kidding in Auckland

This is a heads-up notice for any of my readers who may be based in Auckland. Gateway Women are hosting a face-to-face get-together - the only one in the world at the moment! - in Auckland this Saturday afternoon at 1.45 pm, and subsequently on the first Saturday of the month. Details are on the Gateway Women website here. (It will only open if you are a member and signed in - otherwise it will prompt you to join.) 

The timing of this get-together is great. Gearing up to the holiday season is not always an easy time of it for those of us who are childless not by choice. I always find this time of year a little difficult anyway - today would have been my father's birthday, and it is also the 19th anniversary of my first ectopic pregnancy. So the appearance of the pohutukawa and warmer weather and the sound of Christmas carols always brings back mixed memories.

I wish I could attend, and I'm sorry for the short notice, but hope that some of you can get together, make some new friends, share some wisdom, or just not feel so alone.

30 November, 2020

Being grateful for No Kidding friends

I had a lovely boozy dinner on Saturday with good friends of ours, who also don't have kids. Instead, we occasionally talk about our nieces and nephews and great-nephews and great-nieces, as we are talking about all sorts of other things. But it is a nice relaxed way to have a conversation. We talk about what to do with all our stuff, and who will clean it up when we go. (She is teaching her niece and great-niece which of her possessions are valuable or historic, and how to tell.) We joked about both needing to stop hoarding, but refusing to stop getting ourselves the occasional treat. Because, as she pointed out, we still need to live and enjoy our lives.

She knows I blog about our No Kidding lifestyle but is busy with a high-powered job, and probably has never read this. It's not her style. She's openly without kids, but not so openly Not By Choice. Both my friend and her partner are great examples of people with a full, busy life without kids. They have family (several generations) nearby, and lots of friends, they mentor young people at work, have hobbies, are active and outgoing, and have an interest in the world. We're lucky to have them in our lives. 

In fact, I often think of a quote of hers when others talk about "having children is the purpose of life." "Rubbish!" she scoffed when I quoted a mutual friend who said this to me as I was between pregnancy losses. 

"There is no purpose in life other than to enjoy the lives we have." 

Believe it or not, when she first said this to me probably 18-19 years ago, I was a little shocked. I hadn't heard anyone else say anything like that before. But gradually the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with her. And every time I remember her quote, I appreciate the lesson. She's right. And I'm glad I get to enjoy life with her in it!


23 November, 2020

Monday Miscellaneous

1. As flagged a few weeks ago, I’ve now passed my 10 year anniversary of blogging here.

2. After a few weeks away from home, I had an urge to do some baking on the weekend. I tried a new recipe of chocolate chocolate chip cookies, which are delicious, though a bit cakey. However, my main problem is that the quantity was much bigger than I expected, and I was, as always, once again reminded that I don’t have a big family to eat what I want to bake. My mother baked once a week – biscuits and cakes – and we ate them every day for morning and afternoon teas (cakes only appeared at afternoon tea) and at night with a cup of tea. It was probably an awful chore for her, but I would have liked just a touch of freedom to have tried a few more things that I would know at least one other person in my house might have liked!

3. Loribeth has written (here and here) about Lena Dunham’s piece about her acceptance (probably) of a No Kidding journey. I would have missed it otherwise, so thanks Loribeth. There are a couple of lines in Dunham’s article that were notable. The first was intensely familiar. “So why, if I craved it so much, would I be denied?” I remembered feeling that way, before I realised that there was no reason, that the world is random, and that there was no judgement.

4. She finished her piece with a second comment I loved:

“The irony is that knowing I cannot have a child—my ability to accept that and move on—may be the only reason I deserve to be anyone’s parent at all. I think I finally have something to teach somebody.”

This resonates with me a lot. Knowing what I know now, having gone through loss and grief and grown so much as a result, I’d have been a much better mother. Shrug. Oh well. It’s one of the reasons why I blog here.

5. Finally, I have to add that I’ve been struggling lately. Struggling to blog, and struggling to keep up with the rest of this No Kidding blogging community (let alone my other ALI blogger friends). I just don’t seem to have the time. There’s been so much other stuff to read this last year (gee, I wonder why?) that my blog reading and general book reading has suffered badly. Add to that the fact that I’ve found a new hobby, which I will blog about at some stage either here or at A Separate Life, we’re busy cleaning up father-in-law’s house and estate and preparing for sale, and more recently, that we’ve finally been able to travel (domestically). I hope to get to pay more attention to the No Kidding community soon. In the meantime, I’m grateful if you’ve stuck with me.


16 November, 2020

A No Kidding Holiday*

 Well, we had such a lovely time away on our trip, I missed posting last Monday! I wasn't organised enough to have pre-scheduled posts already written, so I just let it slide. Although I feel kinda naughty saying that, it also felt good to let the Monday drift by!

I often assess my trips here, noting if there were any instances that made me feel childLESS rather than childFREE. I am wondering if that is healthy, even while I bristle slightly at a conversation at my sister's place. A friend of hers had visited, and she (the friend) made one of those all-sweeping comments about having or dealing with children "as we all do." I bristled, but I bit my tongue. I wasn't really part of the conversation, and I was in my sister's house, so I restrained myself. You should be proud of me, because I didn't even roll my eyes. (That took considerable self-discipline!) It just wasn't the time or the place.

I wish I didn't have to consider the time or place to point out the inherent bias in these comments. I wish people just thought a little more before uttering these asides. After all, she's been a long-term friend of my sister, and certainly will know my history, or at the very least, the fact we don't have children, and that it was not our choice. It felt (vaguely, and perhaps just in my imagination) ever so slightly deliberate. It wasn't necessary to the sentence. And there was a hesitation before she said it, speaking almost defensively. Standing the ground of the parented, perhaps? Or wanting to be sensitive, but realising she'd already started the sentence? I don't know. It doesn't really matter. But it is funny how tiny little things can stay with us.

On the bright side though, we had a lovely trip which would simply not have been possible at this time of the year with children, even children in their mid-late teens, as our ectopic babies would be by now. There would be exams, and end-of-year functions, and summer sport. But we took advantage of the clearer roads and destinations between October school holidays and the summer holidays which start in mid-December. It was bliss. I'm not kidding.

* Holiday = vacation

02 November, 2020

Hitting the Road

This week we (my husband and I) are doing something fabulous, simply because we don’t have children. We waited till last Tuesday, as Monday was a public holiday, Labour Day, the last one before Christmas, and a time when a lot of people like to travel, because it is also a time when spring has generally arrived in most locations, and temperatures in some locations get positively summery. Not to mention that it was the first long weekend since Auckland went into a brief lockdown in August, and people were keen to travel. So Labour Weekend is always a busy time on the roads, and best to be avoided. But on Tuesday, when everyone was back to work and back at school and university exams are in full force, we set off on a road trip, one we had been planning to do for the last year, but life and death and COVID intervened.

My favourite road trip in New Zealand is around the South Island. I wrote about it here. But this one is exploring roads less travelled by us at least, as we have headed in the opposite direction. And although the north is much more populous than the south, we're taking advantage of the absence of both international tourists, and domestic tourists who will spread out and take over the roads in late December until early February. Especially this year, when no-one is making those overseas trips!

We would not be doing this if we had children, as they would still be school age. Though many of my friends are now also free and easy (well, except for the fact they’re still lucky enough to still be earning salaries) as their children have left home, reminding me and all of you that this isolation doesn’t last forever. Having children who have left home is not the same as having no children at all. But it does make socialising with friends easier, and it does mean that their day-to-day worlds no longer revolve around their children in the same way. It does get easier. And in the meantime, we hit the road!

26 October, 2020

No Kidding: Coming Out as Childless

Back in World Childless Week, I reposted about Being Worthy. Since then, Sue posted about feeling worthy and talked about the issue of coming out as childless. Recently, Loribeth has written two posts about coming out  (here and here) too.

In Sue’s post, she said, “Don’t those who matter already know, and as for the rest, it’s none of their business?"

I loved this. It is exactly how I feel. I don’t hide the fact that I don’t have children. But what I do hide, a little, are the emotions around it. Well, except here! But then, I generally hide emotions around a lot of things. They’re mine, they’re personal, and I don’t want to share them! So I don’t talk about personal issues or opinions very openly. Correction. I discuss these things with people I trust, or people I think will try to understand. I’ve said frequently that I tell my story only when I choose to do so. That goes for any personal issue, not just childlessness. And childlessness and infertility is awfully personal. It involves our bodies, our reproductive systems and sex lives, our personalities and character, and – perhaps most importantly – grief. These are very personal issues, intimate issues, that some people feel comfortable sharing, and others don’t. Each of us is different. And as I've written before, coming out takes a toll.

I’m kind of in the middle about sharing. I don't hide my childlessness, and I don’t deliberately hide my feelings about it. However, I do agree that it is important to talk about the issue if we’re ever going to see people change their behaviour towards and their judgement about those of us who don’t have children. But I don’t go out to proselytise either. (There are others who do this brilliantly through blogs and groups and websites, and I thank them for their voices and their courage.) My blog here has two purposes. The first is for me to make sense of my situation, and figure out what I think and what is important to me. The second and most important purpose is to try and help those who have been through similar things or those who want to learn about what it is like to go through these things. My focus here is the No Kidding, not the rest of the world.

There is, however, no doubt though that I am “out.” I've been interviewed in a national magazine and newspapers. These were opportunities for me to spread the word. I was nervous, because doing this meant I put my pain and my otherness out on public display, and it meant that I didn’t have a chance to respond or deal with judgements that might have come up as such. It was very scary. I probably prefer the individual interactions I have with people to help them understand, or just – hopefully – make them think, just for a moment, about the No Kidding who walk amongst them.

If I want to say something to an individual or a group, I do speak up. I’ll casually mention in conversation that I don’t have children if it is relevant and then just move on. If someone has made a glaring judgement about people without children, or deliberately overlooked my situation because it isn’t the norm, I’ll point it out. As I have said, I’m not going to be dismissed or ignored! If I am asked about it, I choose how I want to respond – it ranges from saying simply "no, I don't have children" to willingly sharing more deeply, depending on the context and the person asking. I hold strongly to that right to choose how or if I respond. It gives me the power, and the confidence, in a situation where I might otherwise feel vulnerable.

But mostly, I have to say that it just isn't top of my mind to share (unnecessary) details of my story. It goes against my nature. But also, and most importantly, because being childless is really only a small part of who I am. At one stage of my life it felt like it was 100% of who I was. But no longer. It’s part of me, but only a small part now. I am not kidding.


From WCW 2018


19 October, 2020


This is my 700th post on No Kidding in NZ, and only a few weeks shy of my ten year anniversary here. I started blogging when I had already come to terms with my No Kidding situation. It had been seven years since the day all avenues were closed to me. Those seven years saw me grieve, saw me question myself and my value, and saw me grapple with a lot of issues about myself and my place in society. But they also saw me embrace my lifestyle without children, expand into new career ventures, develop new coping skills, and finally feel a contentment that I’d been looking for over many years.

I wasn’t grieving any longer. I felt acceptance and clarity. But I felt alone too, in my post-grieving No Kidding world, and wanted a community that would understand. And I felt I had been through a lot, and through my volunteer work on a pregnancy loss messageboard, knew that my experience could help others, and I didn’t want to keep those hard-won lessons to myself.

And here I am 700 posts later, and ten years later. The blog is part of me now. I’m sure some people wonder why I still blog on this topic. Do I still have things to say? Most weeks. Though I struggle from time to time! Do I still find comfort knowing that there are people who get it, who get me? Yes, definitely. Do I know that I still help people from time to time? Yes. Every so often there is a comment or email that makes it so very worthwhile. So am I sticking around? Yes, for a while at least! Thanks for sticking around with me.

12 October, 2020

Optimism vs Pessimism

I was going another direction for my Monday post this week, until I read Mel's post here, debating the merits of pessimism and hope. This week Mel, and another blogging friend, both lost dear pets, important and much-loved members of their family. I send them my love, as I know how painful it can be. But it is probably accentuated in current times, when those we have at home play such a big role in our well-being. Mel wonders whether being pessimistic before the end or being optimistic would have been better for her. And she compares that situation to the global pandemic.

It's a topic those of us who have been through infertility or have become childless not by choice through other circumstances know well. All those people who say, "don't give up hope" simply because they don't know how to deal with loss or sadness or situations that might be outside the norm.

Even though I don't particularly like the "don't give up hope" brigade, as I call them, I am still a great believer in hope. It's a simple issue for me. Being pessimistic often feels awful. We begin to grieve before something has happened, something that might never happen. Pessimism feels bad. It creates panic. It obscures joy. It destroys peace of mind. Pessimism about a future that may or may not occur steals our present, regardless of the outcome.

On the other hand, optimism is a good feeling. It makes our lives easier. We don't feel pain when we hope, we anticipate joy. It's not blind hope – or at least, it isn't for me, because I am always acutely aware of everything that can go wrong. I'm an optimist who is perhaps a pessimist at heart. It makes life easier.

Most importantly, hoping for something doesn't make it harder when it doesn't turn out well – not if you're well-informed and aware of all the risks. I was hopeful during IVF cycles, when having investigations for my ectopic pregnancies, and when going through a final fertility test (that ultimately ended my quest for a family). I knew that they might not turn out well, but feeling hopeful made the waiting easier. I do not believe I would have been less devastated if I had been pessimistic all along. Preparing myself for the worst case scenario would not have helped when the worst case scenario arrived in person at my doorstep. The end result would have been the same.

That’s not to say that I don’t think about worst case scenarios – I do. As I said above, I like to know all the possible outcomes. I like to be prepared. And I try to feel that I can accept whatever happens. We have an election on Saturday, and I’m thinking of all possible outcomes, though I’m hopeful I will get the result I want. Yesterday afternoon, NZ played Australia in rugby, the first international game for a year, thanks to COVID. I said to my husband I had a bad feeling about the result, and I could have been accused of being a pessimist. (Do what I say, not what I do!) But I still watched, hopeful, and cheered our team when they did good things. (I also looked out the window at the rain, and celebrated our decision not to buy expensive tickets to go to the game only a few kilometres away). The end result was a draw, showing that both relentless pessimism or relentless optimism was a bit pointless. It’s the same with COVID-19. I’m trying not to be ridiculously hopeful, and I have zero expectations that we will be able to travel safely next year. But I’m hoping we will be able to return to travel sometime in the next few years. And in the meantime, I am hopeful for something new and different – that I’ll improve my bread-making, that we’ll have a decent and active summer, and that I can explore my country instead.

It’s the same when we embark on our lives knowing we will never have children. It’s new. It’s not what we wanted. But we can still be hopeful. There’s no point in being pessimistic. We’ve lost the life we wanted. But there’s no point in letting pessimism steal the wonder and joy of the life that is waiting for us