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.