21 June, 2021

A Musical Interlude: Finding the Words

One of the things I remember most about going through grief was not having the words to explain myself, or even to ask for help, and others around me not having the words to be able to help. In the interim, I remember how well touch helped – simple, uncomplicated touches on my arm or shoulder, or hugs. How touch said what words couldn’t; “I care” or “I’m listening” or simply “I’m here.”

It often makes me think of this song, a well known song from a New Zealand musical icon of the last 40+ years or so. His songs Loyal, Welcome Home, and Slice of Heaven are unofficial anthems, and played at the right times, can bring stiff-upper-lip Kiwis to tears. Dave Dobbyn became Sir Dave earlier this year. He deserved it!

But this song is darker, but perhaps more meaningful. It seems to express those times of grief, or stress, or depression, when we can't express ourselves, or say what we want to - or should - say. Know that if you feel this way, you’re not alone. Many of us have been there. But it gets easier. And in the meantime, we're here.

Language by Dave Dobbyn

My hands are tied
Oh I could be a victim
When my tongue won't move 
You have tied with your heartstrings

When I needed you most 
I couldn't find the language
When I needed you more 
I couldn't say a word

My hands truly tied 
Yeah I know I'm a prisoner 
When my tongue wouldn't move 
You have tied with your heartstrings again

And when I needed you most 
I couldn't find the language 
When I needed you more 
I couldn't say a word

When I needed you most 
I couldn't find the language 
When I needed you more 
I couldn't say a word

One day a heap on the ground 
Next day I'm so proud 
Today I don't know, I don't know
Hey

Your hands are cold 
That's why I try to contain you 
Now my words are cursed 
Ember from the ashes

One day a heap on the ground 
Next day I'm so proud 
Today, I haven't got a clue 
Feels like a river of tears

Today I'm gonna dry these eyes 
No
When I needed you more 
Couldn't say a word

Couldn't say a word



 

14 June, 2021

Rising from the ashes

Infertile Phoenix has written a fabulous post about life, choices, and attitudes. Go read it! She commented that she’s living her life, not someone else’s, living up to her blogger name Phoenix. It got me thinking about my own life, and about others’ lives too.

I’ve had someone tell me that I could have abandoned my parents-in-law, moved anywhere I liked, and that it was pretty much my own fault that I felt “stuck” looking after them for so long. Strictly speaking they are correct. However, who can do that? What sort of person would I be if I had made that choice? They were my husband’s parents, and all his other siblings lived overseas. We’re not heartless. We couldn’t leave them alone. We felt the responsibility, and we made their final years better. We adapted around them (and the final years of my mother’s life), lived and worked here, and travelled intermittently. And now they’re gone, and we can do whatever it is we want.

It got me thinking about parents who have adult children, yet still don’t live their own lives. Yes, I understand that their children are an important part of their lives, and grandchildren when they come along. But I remember being astounded when I met a former mentor/colleague some years ago. I’d either just gone on our five-month Lemons to Limoncello trip to Italy and other countries, or was about to leave. I was telling her about it, and she sighed. “I’d really love to do that,” she said, “but I have two grandsons.” She’d been retired for a while, and had recently scaled back on some Board memberships. Three or four months away in Italy was eminently possible for her, both in terms of time and finances, and wouldn’t be a big hole in her relationship with her grandchildren. This was a woman who had been a feminist role model for me and my peers, who “took no prisoners” at work, and had always seemed fearless. But she was trapped by her self-imposed restrictions.

I know other parents who also live their lives around their children and grandchildren, unable to conceive of a life of doing things they want to do, living where they want to live, etc. (Yes, I understand that they WANT to live near and be with their children. Yet they then express regret or jealousy of others who are doing things they’d like to do.) Some of them are very happy and fulfilled. Others are not, because they expect to play an important part in the lives of their kids and grandkids, don’t build the support networks they need, or mentally adjust, and so they feel real grief when those expectations are not met. (See my post from almost 10 years ago discussing this.) And finally, there are others who live a really balanced life, doing their own thing, seeing the world or following hobbies or their own professions, and yet they enjoy their kids and grandkids, and are available for support.

I guess that brings me back to those of us without children. There are those of us who never really rise from the ashes. They live their lives in fear, staying close to what they know, often yearning always for what they wanted but didn’t get, fearful of the unknown future. I feel so sad about that. 

There are those, like Phoenix, who embrace change – even though they may be terrified at the time – in a quest to live their own lives. They embrace the opportunities gifted to them by their No Kidding lives. And maybe some of us go back and forth between embracing the life we have and fearing the future, or live with both options at the same time. I know I do, though I try to keep the fear quotient as low as possible! Maybe that’s the best option. Fear or, perhaps more accurately, caution teaches me to prepare for the future. Freedom allows me to enjoy that future.

Thanks, Phoenix, for reminding me of that!

 

 

 

07 June, 2021

Leaving our mark on the world

Only a couple of weeks after I visited my elder sister in the South Island, I had to get on a flight and head south again, this time for a funeral. It's been quite the month for family losses - a cousin's husband, my aunt, and now my father’s youngest sibling has just died. I’ve missed a number of family funerals because I live here in another island, but this was one I did not want to miss. Even though 1-in-100 year floods did their best to mess up everyone’s plans.

It was a lovely funeral, even though I now feel quite weepy about it. Not, I think, because he had died. As much as it can be, his death was a good one after a long life, and he was surrounded by his family at the last. Each passing, and each funeral, I guess raises issues for me. "Who will be with me at the last?" I always wonder when I write those words. But then I think, does it matter that much? If I’m conscious and aware, yes maybe. But if not, I’m not sure. It's not the end that worries me. It's the time leading up to that. But that's a topic for another day.

The funeral however, turned out to be lovely, because we caught up with many of our cousins. For those of you who live close to family, this may not be unusual. It wasn’t unusual for my sister, who is still in the same province where we all grew up. But it was unusual for me – with some of them, I’d barely said hello since I left school. We just never really connected again; when I was down in the South Island, my focus was on my parents and sister and her family. It still is. My eldest niece moved back to the town where she grew up about 7-8 years ago, and it has been an absolute delight having more to do with her and her family whenever I’m in town.

But a few years ago I reconnected with some of the cousins I had been closer to during our childhood at a reunion, and this was another opportunity to reconnect with some others. And that was really special. Our lives have all gone in completely different directions, and I think for a long time we were quite happy with that lack of contact. But we still have that shared childhood connection, and it is a bond (however tenuous) that will remain forever. We’re getting older now, and it is as if the bond is getting stronger again. It provided me with a bit of comfort to know that.

I guess I’m writing about this here because we often worry about our old age, our deaths, and who will mourn us. It seems weird to say this, but I know my cousins will mourn me, as I will mourn them. Even if what they’re really mourning is the end of those happy days of our shared childhood. That will be enough for me, I think. It's yet another reminder that we have already touched so many lives, and will continue to do so, just by our pure presence here. We don't have to have children to leave our mark on this world, on current and future generations, recognised, or silent but meaningful.

Anyway, that all feels quite morbid, but it's not meant to be. After all, I hope we all have decades yet to leave our legacies. Besides, there are still things to do and places to go and bloggers to meet!

31 May, 2021

Life meanderings

 As some of you will know from my other blog (A Separate Life), I have been travelling this last month.I hinted at it a few weeks ago in this post about reclaiming the country when the children are back at school (and their parents at work), when I said "we reclaim the shops and restaurants and roads and ferries and tourist spots, and secluded outdoor areas. Next week it's all for us! I can't wait." Perhaps you thought there was more than the usual enthusiasm for having cafes and malls and cinemas free of children? There was.

Like many people, we discovered, we waited until school holidays were over before we drove onto the ferry (conveniently berthed about five minutes from our house) and set sail for the South Island. (Or so we thought - there was a delay and the usual 3 1/2 hour trip took 6 hours!) We've spent the last 3 1/2 weeks traversing the South Island, going to places we'd been before, but never really explored. Doing some new things. Reliving childhood memories. Seeing family. Eating too much. Drinking a bit much, though we were remarkably restrained, I thought! Taking a LOT of photos. I've put just a few on Instagram (I'm travellingmali there), and I'm planning to blog about the trip in more detail either on A Separate Life or a new space.

The trip was blissfully child-free. Sure, there were children some places, and some of them were amusing, cute, or both. They enhanced our trip. But the places we went weren't flooded with them, and that made it very relaxing. I know I'm privileged to be able to travel for this long at a time of my choosing. I know not all of you can do it. So I'll stop there.

I had the inevitable "are you having a nice Mother's Day?" question at a hotel reception. It was funny, because even when she said it, she didn't look as if she wanted to. "I'm not a mother," I responded. "So ... no." She immediately apologised profusely. It made me wonder if she'd been told to ask the question of women of a certain age (what that might be, over 18?), and had - for whatever reason, objected to that. I felt for her. Her apology was very much for the question, whereas I also received (somewhere, I can't remember where) an "I'm sorry" when I said that I did not have children, which was wholly pitying. Kind, perhaps, but judgemental too. Tone of voice and context is so important.

Anyway, it's kind of nice to be home. The holiday was a good break between clearing up FIL's house and estate, and the rest of my life. I feel a little like I did when I was coming out of the grief of the permanent no-kids diagnosis. What shall I do with the rest of my life? What is the next big thing? And then I remember. Life is the next big thing. And I need to live it. We don't have the responsibilities we have had the last decade, so things can change, if we want them to. That's what I'm figuring out now. But there's no rush. 



24 May, 2021

Repost: A Reminder of What's Important

 Three years ago, I finally wrote the last post of my Gifts of Infertility series, on a Reminder of What's Important, having started it almost a year earlier.

"Most people, when asked about what is important, will say, “family.” The ones who say that are usually the ones who have family, and if the question reminds them to hang on to their family members, and to tell them how important they are, then I guess that’s a good thing. But I actually think a lot of people give that response as an easy way out of what can be a difficult issue, and a way that doesn't require further thought. As we all have observed, a focus on family can be a selfish one – ignoring all others who might need or want or deserve your attention. And a focus on family is meaningless if you had family and lost it (physically, geographically, emotionally etc), or never had it in the first place.

Ultimately, I think life is both broader and narrower than that. We are all individuals. We need to like ourselves, or change the things we don’t like, to be able to live within ourselves happily. We need to be aware – of ourselves and our actions, and of what is important to us. That way, we can begin to reach outside ourselves to find honest and valuable connections, relationships, a wider family.

Allowing myself to like myself, and to understand my flaws, has also given me space to think about what is important. As a result, I’ve solidified a lot of thoughts and feelings about life, about how I want to live, and who I want to be. I’ve learned that I value character – in myself, in my husband, my friends and family – over almost anything else. Success, focus, drive, are all nice, but if they come without character, then I don’t really admire the outcomes. Honesty that educates, or is kind, is so much better than honesty that serves no purpose. Humour is fine, but if it isn’t kind, or thoughtful, or enlightening, then it isn’t very funny. Beliefs are important, but if they come without understanding that others might believe differently, then they are shallow and self-serving. Caring out of duty or blood relationships is good – it is caring, after all - but caring out of compassion for another human says something about our true character, and delivers so much more. One-way relationships are ultimately selfish, and unrewarding, whereas equal, shared relationships – whether as life partners or simply next-door neighbours – are true connections. And it is in making these connections – in a way that honours who I am, and what I have both lost and found on this journey – that we find support, and love, and how we cement our place in and of the world.

There is much more I could say about my philosophy of life, but I think this blog, perhaps more than anything in my life, speaks the truth of who I am. This year, it will be 15 years since I learned I’d never have children. A lot has changed since then. My 25 Gifts of Infertility posts* talk about how I’ve changed, and what I value. I’m proud of that.

Finally, I think that, whilst I might have figured some of this out by my 50s anyway, my childlessness was a catalyst to thinking more deeply, as I tried to figure out how I felt about my life post-infertility, and how I was going to live the rest of my life, figuring out who I am, and what I value in my life. And that has been the most wonderful gift of all."

 And I should be back next week, posting again as usual. See you then!

17 May, 2021

Reposting and Revisiting: Friendship 101

Seven years ago, I wrote about Friendship. It has been a topic that affects all of us as we go through infertility or loss or childlessness. It often has lasting effects, and can be very painful. It's worth revisiting, I think, and I have to say that for me at least, it has stood the test of time.
"This is a post I have been contemplating for a long time.  I’ve covered some bits before.  But I always come back to it.   And as I begin to write it, I suspect it might turn into two or maybe even  three posts.  So bear with me.

Friends and family are a perennial issue in the IF community.  Friendships and insensitivities and hurt is raised over and over again.  Everyone has a story.  And that's why I want to talk about this again.  Infertility plays havoc with our perceptions of our friendships.  We get frustrated when we don’t get the support we need and want.  We worry that our situations – dealing with IF, loss, adoption, or the fact we don’t have families – means that we aren’t giving our own friends and family the support* that we would normally expect to give.  If things had been different.

When we are hurting most acutely, we feel the lack of support most acutely.  We are raw with pain and shame and despair, and so any misstep by friends or family is a stabbing pain.  We can’t believe their insensitivity, or we feel unloved and uncared for and forgotten.  Or worse, we feel worthless, that our loved ones think we are undeserving of comfort, or that our pain is denied, dismissed, unnecessary.  We are often 100% consumed with our infertility, and so our friendships come under extraordinary pressure to adapt to this change.  What was good about our friendship can get lost under the shifting tectonic pressures of infertility and grief. It is tough.  It is tough for us.  It is tough for our friends to know what to say, how to deal with us.  Too often, as I am sure I have written before, their inability to know what to say turns into silence, and for us, that is often worse than not saying anything at all.

And as a result, our hurt and our pain, and our friends or family members inability to know what to do to help us (or their inability to understand that we were going through pain at all), leads us to reach out, but sometimes in the wrong way.  We’re hurt and angry and upset, and we don’t yet have the perspective that would help us understand.  And some friendships crumble, some in complete destruction, others are permanently damaged. 

I had a friendship that changed during my infertility.  She was there for me at the beginning.  She hugged me when I cried with my first ectopic, visited me in hospital during my second, and brought me books to keep me entertained.  But she brought her toddlers to the hospital, and the books were full of miscarriages or statements by characters that their lives hadn’t been worth living before they had children.  This, at a time when I was in hospital for a lost pregnancy, and was suspected of a cancer that would mean my quests to conceive would be over there and then.  She didn’t think, and to be fair was horrified when I pointed this out at a later date, when I was actually able to laugh at her misfires.  These lapses I could forgive, because I knew her heart was in the right place. 

But over the next years, we drifted apart.  I got tired of being the one who always contacted her.  I felt that I was the childless one with the unlimited time, and that my wish to spend time with her was seen as a burden.  Maybe, maybe not.  But anyway, when I didn't do the contacting, we weren't in contact.  I felt hurt that I wasn't included in her life with her children.  I learned years later she was going through a difficult time too, but one which she couldn't really articulate, and in fact, consciously or unconsciously fought against articulating because that would make it real.  And in our joint pain, we were simply unable to help each other.  I regret that, but I know that I couldn’t have done anything differently.  I don't blame either of us.  We are still friends, but no longer besties.  I do however find that the hurt and rejection I felt then returns easily when I am feeling down.  So the wounds haven’t entirely healed, but I am glad we are still friends.

What did this teach me?  Well, it reminded me that friendships change.  Throughout our lives, if we are fortunate, we have friends.  Sometimes, the friendships are enduring, moving with us through our different life stages and milestones.  Sometimes our friends come to us at particular times, bringing to our lives whatever it is we need of them (and vice versa), and then move on, for whatever reason.  Sometimes we leave our friends on good terms, simply because geography or life experiences are different and separate us.  Sometimes, we leave our friends – or they leave us, in more negative circumstances, leaving us or them or both of us hurt, in pain, confused, angry, let down, disappointed.

But even if separations are less than amicable, with time and distance it is possible for me to step back, and examine my role in the ending of that friendship.  Not to blame, but to learn.  I want to learn from each friendship. 

And one of the things I’ve learned is to appreciate what each friendship gave me at the time.  And that’s wonderful.  Just because a friend can’t support me through some of my issues (the occasional pangs of no kids, for example) doesn’t mean that the friendship is worthless.  It’s not.  As I've written before, if we always enjoyed talking about travel, then we can still do that.  If we felt solidarity in discussions of food and exercise and weight loss, we can still do that.  If we had talked about work, or books, or politics, then we can still do that. My friend and I still have much of what brought us together in the first place.  And that’s a good thing.  Recognising it is even better.

I’ve realised it simply isn’t realistic of me to expect everyone I know to be experts in fertility and grief and what it means to live without children. It doesn’t mean I won’t try to educate them, to make them more aware and more sensitive, if the opportunity presents itself.  Some friendships grow as a result.  But if they don’t, I find that I am able to take their lack of understanding or occasional insensitively less personally than I might have otherwise.  Recovering from hurt is quicker and easier.  Reducing expectations increases satisfaction.  That's Marketing 101.  Perhaps we should also call it Friendship 101 too?  

To appreciate my friendships for what they were, and for what they are now, not for what they lack, is how I want to live my life.  It’s not always easy, but it is rewarding when I manage to do it.  Reminders – perhaps by reading about struggles others are going through, or simply by writing this blog – are good for me.  They teach me gratitude for what I have.  And make me feel loved and appreciated."

 And I have to end that I am so extremely thankful for my internet friendships, the friends I zoom with, have met in real life after first meeting in messageboards or blogs, or hope to meet one day when we can all travel again. Thanks to you all!

10 May, 2021

Revisiting That Day, and refusing to give up my power

It's that time of year again, the Day-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named,  so I thought I'd post something from May 2017 that still applies.

This year, we have no in-laws to worry about. We can just focus on each other, and plan the day. That's going to be nice, I think. But there's often still a little sting. So I'm sending hugs and good wishes to you all. Including the Brits who have already had their day, and through blogs and social media have to go through it all again. As those of us in NZ and Australia will have to do once the US social media posts appear on our Monday!

"One of the advantages of being away at this time of year is that I will miss Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day somewhere else however hasn’t bothered me too much – I took great delight, for example, watching all the families out for lunch in Soweto, South Africa, on Mother’s Day in 2009 - and I’m pretty sure that it won’t bother me in Iceland either, as I generally find there is a real freedom being away from your own society and community and language.

Feeling separate from the rest of our communities can be an ongoing, underlying source of pain, one to which we become accustomed, but as the years go on, we don’t necessarily recognise this until we suddenly notice its absence (for example, when travelling). And of course, one of the difficulties of our ongoing No Kidding life is that we can never quite predict when those nasty “ouch” moments might appear. Doing something that makes us happy – for example, going for a walk or cooking a special meal at home with your partner or friends – can help alleviate the impact of this day, and so can planning in advance, which is why I've posted this a week early. It is an invented holiday, and within a few days it is forgotten, and I refuse to give it too much power over me.

That first day back at work though – all those discussions/competitions between parents around the water cooler about how they spent their day – can be painful, and it is fine to protect yourself and make yourself scarce during these conversations, or (perhaps useful in a one-on-one situation) use a standard response of mine that I hope makes them think, which is along the lines of “I am not the person you should be telling this to”  or "why would you be telling this to me, of all people?"

But I’d love to hear your own suggestions of how to deal with this in the comments."

 Follow this link if you want to go over and see the original comments too.

 

03 May, 2021

Yeehah, the No Kidding life: a repost

This month I'm taking a break from active blogging, unless something really needs to be said! So I thought it would be an idea to revisit some posts written in May in previous years, and add anything that time has suggested to me.

Here's one from May ten years ago about the things I was doing (and loving) because I don't have kids. 

"Let’s face it.  We often feel guilty because gradually, we find that we enjoy our life without kids.  We might question ourselves – “how much can we really have wanted children if we are happy in our lives without them?”  And, we might feel that enjoying the good parts of being childless/childfree means that we don’t deserve to feel bad when we notice what we’re missing.  But perhaps that’s because we beat ourselves up as often – no, more often – than anyone else.  But this is the life I have, and I think we’re allowed to embrace it.  I for one think I should celebrate the good things in my life, the things I can do now that I wouldn’t be able to do if I had children. 

So pop a cork, (or screw a top)  pour a glass, and gloat with me.  These are the things I love doing, because I don’t have kids:

Blogging.  I love blogging.  I doubt I’d have time, I doubt I’d be in the mental space where I can sit, think quietly, contemplate issues.  Not to mention have the time to read others’ blogs.  Which leads me to ...

Writing.  I have a few projects on the go.  I enjoy writing, but I need the time and mental space to do it.  And of course, for every writer, it is important that we do enough ...

Reading.  I’d probably read.  I can’t imagine not reading.  But would I, could I, do as much as I wanted?

Volunteering.  Again, I might have time, as plenty of people with children manage to volunteer.  But I’m not sure I’m one of those with the energy to focus in all those different directions.  I know I wouldn’t have AS much time to do what I do. 

Eating out.  My husband and I love eating out.  We don’t like “family” restaurants – they hardly deserve the label “restaurant.”  We like all sorts of food, and wine too of course.  We eat out spontaneously.  Last night, we went out because Monday night is half price champagne night at a good bistro.  We decided at about 4 pm.

Movies.  We go to the movies regularly, trying to compromise between his choices and my choices.  We go on the weekend, after work, if we’re bored.  We decide usually about an hour or two before we go.  No babysitters required thanks!

Sleeping in on the weekends.  Not just sleeping in, but lying in, with my iPad and a cup of tea, reading books, checking emails and blogs or magazine sites or the news.  And if it’s raining out – I’ll be there all morning.  Bliss.

Enjoying our home.  Our house is not child-proofed.  And we don’t intend child-proofing it.

Drinking.  We can drink, and over-indulge, any time we want to.  (Age may stop us, but kids won't!)

And last but not least:

Travelling.  Travel is a great interest, and a very important part of our lives.  We know we wouldn’t be indulging if we had children.  In many ways, our frenetic travelling the last few years has been a consolation because we couldn’t have children.  We’ve always liked travelling, and now we’re not paying for private schools or school uniforms or doctor’s visits or sports subs, we’re investing in seeing the world.  We know that:
  • It would be a struggle to afford to travel with children.
  • It would definitely be a struggle to get on a plane and go anywhere with children, especially as New Zealand is so far from anywhere else.  I can cope with 12 hour flights to Asia, and although I grumble about longer flights to South Africa or the northern hemisphere, I do them without thinking.  I couldn’t do that with children.
  • I wouldn’t get to have trips away on my own (like this one) in the same way.
  • We wouldn’t be able to go to civilised Adults Only destinations like Bedarra.  Or consider the particular cruise we’re planning for later in the year.  Or go on safari – well, not till they were 12 or so.
  • Unlike a friend of mine, who manages to do much of the above, our parents are not young, and we couldn’t farm the kids out to them while we jetted off overseas.  Now though, we can just go."

I'm not sure I'd write the same post today. Ten years on, my kids would be 18 and 19, possibly living and studying away from home. Active. Independent. So I'd be possibly be doing all the things I listed anyway. Except perhaps for travel, as - even with kids moving into adulthood - my travel style might be different, focused more on their interests than our own, if I could even afford it, given redundancies, difficulty in finding work in our 50s etc. It's yet another reminder that those kids are at home for such a short time before they fly the coop.

26 April, 2021

What I want you to know

 ,,, about infertility and childlessness.

That's the hashtag for Resolve's National Infertility Awareness Week this year. I'm a little late, but better late than never, I think. This year, I posted on A Separate Life, as I feel my readers here know what I want you to know. Every week I blog about it. I've written blog projects on the issue, and made a small book, that let you know what I want you to know.

Summed up, it is that life is still good after infertility and childlessness. That you get through the loss and grief, and live a full, happy life. That our inability to have children (for whatever reason) is only a part of our lives, sometimes bigger than others, sometimes almost nonexistent. We are so much more than that. It gets better. I'm not kidding. That's what I want you to know.


Finally, this week is the second week of the April (end of first term) school holidays throughout New Zealand (and Australia). That time can be tough, with families out exploring the country and having a wonderful time. (Here's my survival guide to school holidays.) But next week ... Oh, next week we reclaim the shops and restaurants and roads and ferries and tourist spots, and secluded outdoor areas. Next week it's all for us! I can't wait.



19 April, 2021

Gratitude for the little things

I write a lot about how appreciating the little things enabled me to see that life was going to be okay, and to remember that there is joy even during the first throes of grief. The last few days I've been feeling a bit weepy, and I'm not sure why. It might be because the focus of our lives over the last few years is now over, as of Wednesday last week when the in-law's house officially left the family, and I don't know what to do with the relief. I don't know. I know it will pass. But it's a good time to remember the good things about life that are often so little. It helps with resilience, and sometimes I need that. I thought I'd share some of mine from the last day or so.

  • I baked bread for lunch, and that first crusty slice, slathered with avocado and topped with ripe tomato slices, had me groaning in ecstasy. A simple lunch, but it was soooo good.
  • I've been listening to the news today, with the first non-quarantine flights between Australia and New Zealand for a year arriving today, as our joint "travel bubble" opened today. So much joyful family reunification brought a tear (or two) to my eyes too.
  • The sun shining through the yellowing oak tree leaves this morning made the whole tree glow. Not a bad sight to see as I ate breakfast, I think?
  • A beautiful autumn walk along the foreshore last evening with my husband. I enjoyed the exercise, the sea was calm and blue, dozens of people (and dogs) were enjoying the beach, and the low light was just beautiful.
  • I wrote my #Microblog Monday post for A Separate Life yesterday, hitting Schedule 24 hours early. A very satisfying feeling. I should do it more often! lol
  • I learned a new knitting stitch last night, and I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment as it worked perfectly.
  • Reading some lovely heart-warming posts yesterday and today from fellow bloggers Klara, Jess, and Infertile Phoenix.

And now, for something unrelated but necessary:

Admin Notice: 

Blogger has advised that their email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021.

After July 2021, my feeds will still continue to work, but the automated emails to my subscribers will no longer be supported. Maybe try Feedly to keep up to date with my posts here. Or subscribe to Instagram (@nokiddinginnz)where I will try and flag new posts more regularly. 


 

12 April, 2021

Inaccurate Thinking and Self-compassion

 Some time ago I read six words that I thought were terribly sad. The words were:

“I still wish I had children.”

I found them terribly sad not for the obvious reason. Yes, it is undeniably sad that they wanted children, and were not able to have them for whatever reason. I have enormous compassion for them because of this. I share in that experience. But that’s not the reason why I felt sad for the blogger. I felt sad because, years later, they have been unable to let go.

Sure, I’ve probably thought those words in the past. And yes, there are times when I feel the sadness of not having children, which is maybe what the person meant. That they wish their lives had been different. That they meant to say, “I wish I had had children.” This could all be my misunderstanding of a simple statement. Because I think we all understand that sentiment. I certainly do. Accepting what has happened, and moving into the future, doesn’t mean that we didn’t want something different, or that we occasionally wish it had been otherwise.

But I thought it was worth writing about, because what if this blogger actually does sit in their home, in the present day, years later, wishing they had children? I know there are people who feel this ways. I had an online (and then in real life) friend who would talk about bursting into tears in her 60s because she had seen children or pregnant women at the doctor’s office. She had moved on, but only to an extent.

And if that is the way this person feels, then I feel enormous compassion for them. Personally, I cannot imagine saying the words, “I still wish I had children” any more. I haven’t really felt that for years. The sentiment seems pointless to me. I never had children when I was younger. I’m never going to have them now. It would be a fantasy to wish I had something that is impossible. Why would I do that? There are enough instances in the average day or week that remind me I don’t have children, and remind me what my life could have looked like if I had had them. I don’t need to fantasise. Yet obviously, some people still do it.

Of course, it may work for them. We all cope differently. They may have a moment or a minute or an hour wishing they had children, have a bit of a cry, and then move on with their life. Of course, if they feel better after that, then they have found a way to mourn and to live. It may work for them, but it wouldn’t work for me. If I did that, I would be only focusing on what was bad about my life without children, and I would be thinking about only the good things about having children. It would be negative thinking, not accurate thinking. It would be living in a fantasy world, rather than acknowledging the good things in my life today. Some of those good things are a result of not having children. But worst of all, if I felt that way and allowed myself to regularly feel that way, it would be extremely emotionally difficult, and incredibly unkind to myself. I can’t imagine letting myself feel that way, and then wrenching myself away from the fantasy back to real life. A form of self-torture!

Teaching myself NOT to wish that things were different was a major step in healing. It was the beginnings of acceptance, and was, in reality, the first step of that process. I remember opening a cupboard where I used to keep the folic acid. There were still some tablets left, and I thought, “maybe, just in case, I should keep them.” Then my logical brain kicked in. “That’s not going to happen,” I realised. I remember repeating it to myself to make sure I fully registered the meaning. It hurt. That first time it really hurt. But I picked up the folic acid bottle, and threw it away. And the next time a thought like that slipped through, it was a tiny bit easier. It is the same as denying those negative thoughts I’ve written about before. I learned to address them and then dismiss them, and I am so pleased I did.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, indulging in wishful thinking when all doors were now closed to me would be inaccurate thinking at best. At worst, it would be self-punishment and denial. I have not been perfect at learning not to do it. But gradually I was able to recognise it for what it was, and to turn away from it. This helped me enormously. It was an act of self-compassion. And it became habit. And it allowed me to look forward, to breathe, and to live in the present and think about my future, rather than staying in the past.

 


 

05 April, 2021

Privacy, shame, and childlessness

 Last week, Sue at Childless by Marriage, wrote a post asking if her readers needed to read her blog in secret. It took me back to my very first forays into the internet world looking at pregnancy loss and ectopic loss. I was lucky. I found a home at the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust messageboards relatively quickly. Well, let's say I found the site quickly. I lurked through my first ectopic, but read it avidly and got to know some people who are still friends almost 20 years later. Then about six months later, I started reading and posting on their Trying to Conceive boards. I learned all about cycle monitoring, ovulation tracking etc. It took me a long time to confess (because that's what it felt like) to my husband that I was doing this. 

By the time I had my second ectopic a year later, he knew that I was well into this online community, but he never had any urge (as far as I know) to see what I was reading or saying. He knew it helped me, and that was enough for him.

So I remember the feeling of wanting to hide what I was reading and what my thoughts were. Perhaps it was because I was trying to figure out what it was I was thinking and feeling before I discussed it with him, or anyone? Perhaps it was shame? Perhaps it was nervousness that he (or others) wouldn't understand, or would mock it? It took longer for me to open up about that to friends or family. A lot longer. Even now, I don't tell many people about this blog unless it is relevant to our conversation.

Of course, I know full well that anyone could search my real name and they'd find this blog. I bumped into a woman I worked with 34 years ago at the supermarket doing pre-Easter shopping. We had a lovely long chat and catch-up, and she noted that she had read something I'd written (directed to it by an article in a women's magazine where I had been quoted) and had liked it. I will admit, I write here as if I am still anonymous! The head-in-the-sand attitude helped when I first "came out" publicly. I was worried about people being mean, judgemental, mocking. But now, I just shrug. I am confident in what I write and who I am. But it has taken time.

And I can understand that anyone first dipping their toes into the No Kidding/childless world of writing here or elsewhere around the internet might want to stay anonymous, or lurk for a while, or always use a pseudonym. Because it takes us time to discover what we think, where we belong, and who we are. It takes time to figure that out and feel free to mention it to even those who are closest, let alone in more casual relationships or with more distant acquaintances. Protecting yourself, your privacy, and feeling safe as you're going through some major life adjustments is not wrong, and it's not shameful. It can give you the freedom to be who you are, as you figure that out. And that's pretty wonderful.

Time makes it a lot easier. Then one day, you'll find that privacy doesn't matter quite so much any more. You might feel your shoulders relax, hold your head higher, and puff out your chest, proud of who you are, and how far you've come.

 




29 March, 2021

Hope and a childless future

Hope is complicated. It can be both destructive and life-affirming, sometimes at the same time. It has been a key feature of life for many of us this last year. It has also been prevalent for so many of us when going through infertility. Hope protected us from our greatest fears. Hope kept us going – not just through the next cycle, but it kept us being able to operate in the real world whilst going through something difficult. We're all familiar with hope, its presence, and its absence.

The NYT had an article a few months ago about the benefits of hope. It was written in relation to the pandemic, but everything it said reminded me of going through infertility. It said, 

“ … experts say that fantasizing, forward thinking and using one’s imagination are powerful tools for getting people through difficult times.”

It explains the vocal “never-give-up-hope brigade” who promote this philosophy both when they are still going through infertility, or when they have exited it with the result they wanted. But if only people felt able to hope for different things too.

 “They are fantasizing about what they’re missing right now,” said Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School. “These daydreams serve as a substitute, which gives them some of the pleasure the real experience would.”

I could relate to that. I remember imagining having the babies I was trying to conceive, the children they would become. I remember imagining the feeling of getting that positive pregnancy test, or the scan that said the baby is in the right place (that’s my ectopic history showing through), or the birth of a healthy baby. I remember the pleasure of all that. It made the stress of waiting, of dealing with negative results, so much easier. I do understand the desire and instinct to do this.

Imagining the future in this way is called prospecting, and in the article, a doctor was quoted saying, “The essence of resilience about the future is: How good a prospector are you?”

Well, I’m pretty good at this, I think! After all, I can imagine the future in which I win Lotto. And we all know, that’s not going to happen! So I think I would put it another way. Can you imagine a future that is different from the one you’re trying to get now? Do you imagine being happy in that future? Is this even encouraged in our societies, when we are told that “if we work hard, we can achieve anything?” (And we all know that’s not true either!)

For so many going through infertility, they can’t imagine the alternative, No Kidding childless life as anything but their worst case scenario. Some are lucky, and don’t have to imagine that. Yet for those of us who do, resilience requires us to be able to see some brightness in that future.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if clinics and doctors and teachers and society in general taught us to imagine all possible outcomes, and to see the joy that can be in both. (There’s that Accurate Thinking again.) Wouldn’t that make life easier? Wouldn’t that bring joy more quickly when one avenue is closed to us? Learning how to imagine a new life with excitement and joy. Learning to feel hope for something new. That’s our mantra here. If it were encouraged more broadly, maybe it wouldn’t take so long for it to come to us. Or for others to accept it for us.

 


 


23 March, 2021

Because I can

Tonight my husband and I are metres from a beach, looking across at a lighthouse, listening to the waves. No childcare issues. No eldercare issues. We are embracing our No Kidding lives.

15 March, 2021

Accurate thinking

 I was just listening to an interview on our national radio station. It was aimed at how to help anxious children (and parents) but there were many points that were equally relevant to us. My favourite point, though, was:

"Don't teach positive thinking. Teach accurate thinking."

Isn't that perfect? (And not only because it has given me a topic for today! lol)

I'm not overly negative or cynical (despite being told by a colleague once that I was "quite cynical for one so young" when I made a comment that he agreed with) but I'm also not someone with a glass-half-full attitude all the time either. I like to think I'm realistic. (Though once again, this comment is tempered by remembering friends of friends on Fbk who think that they are politically objective, then spew all sorts of hate. Sigh!) Perhaps all these qualifications about who I am or am not just back me up. I hope I'm realistic. I think I was realistic when I saw the infertility and loss statistics for and against my age and my history (first after one ectopic, then after a second) and the evidence we (me, my husband, and my fertility guy) were faced with during IVF cycles, and assessed these without emotion (or rather, with emotion put aside) to determine what if any our next steps might or might not be. It doesn't mean that I didn't have hope. But hope - and for a while, despair - were tempered by evidence, science, and brutal (from each of us at different times) honesty.

I think this is what we ask for when we ask that the "think positive never give up" brigade understand our positions. We don't want our positions dismissed, or the evidence to be ignored. We just want people to understand or at least, to accept our situations. 

In exactly the same way, it is not accurate to assume that a life without children will be never-ending gloom, loss, or sadness. Neither is it accurate to say it will be perfectly happy, and that everything we've all been through will be forgotten. Of course not! It is accurate to say that our lives can and most likely will be good, happy, with some wonderful experiences. Looking on the bright side, embracing the good things we have already, or have because we don't have children, is not blindly optimistic. It is simply realistic. Life is full of balances, trade-offs, pros and cons. The joy is there if we look for it. That's accurate. And I'm not kidding!



08 March, 2021

Shared experiences (again)

 I belong to a Fbk page for TN (Trigeminal Neuralgia) which is an invisible nerve pain condition. I don’t regularly read the posts there, because so many are in chronic and severe pain, and it can be both scary reading about it, wondering if that will happen to me, as well as it can make me feel like a fraud, because my pain has so far been reasonably well managed. Still, the other day I saw someone talking about raising the issue of the condition and of their pain with others. Many of them struggle to get any form of understanding or tolerance of their pain from friends or family members, and so suffer (literally) in silence. Someone said the following:

“I still think it is worth persistently and politely pulling people up, and explaining why, though.”

I agreed wih them. And I guess that’s why I write this blog too. Because, like TN, not having children can be an ongoing source of pain for many members of our No Kidding community, and yet it is invisible, ignored, disenfranchised. When I casually mentioned TN once, a friend said to me (innocently), “but you don’t get that now, do you?” And I had to explain that every day I feel it, I’ve learned to live with it, and that I am lucky that medication has helped me so far. That’s not unlike those of us without children. Every day we live with it, we feel it because we know we don’t have children, our friends and family assume that we are fine now, and so we are ignored.

I guess it’s just another example that there are so many of us in society who feel marginalised, misunderstood, and in pain, for a myriad reasons. There are more people who might understand our situation than we realise. So maybe talking about it, both to spread the word to others and to get support from each other, is all we can do. Which I guess is what I try to do. Calmly (I hope) explaining our No Kidding lives when I can. Writing here and thinking. Walking alongside all of you, and feeling grateful for the fact that you are walking alongside me too.

 

01 March, 2021

Labels, judgement, and justification

Sue on Childless by Marriage wrote about being blamed for her situation, and how that makes her feel, as well as the differences in the labels of childfree and childless, and how she feels about that. It’s a good read – you can find it here. But I had some thoughts that belonged here rather than in her comments section. Because just as I wrote last week – that for much of our lives we havemore in common with parents than we realise – I think those of us who are No Kidding because of infertility have more in common with the childless by circumstance or childless by marriage and even the childfree than maybe any of us realise.

Firstly, I feel that those of us who suffered infertility often have to justify why we don't have children, just as the childless by marriage, though often with different questions, and for different reasons. "Why did you wait so long to try to have children?" they ask. "Was your condition age-related?" “What did you do wrong?” or even better, “what’s wrong with you?” or the insensitive “you’re not doing it right” or (the insensitive male) “I’d get you pregnant,” etc. The variations we’ve all heard are endless. And of course, the perennial "why didn’t you adopt?” The questions are intrusive, impolite, often unthinking. The situation is complicated. As well as infertility, many of us may share some of the same issues as those who identify as childless by marriage. After all, negotiating whether to venture into IVF or donor cycles, or whether to adopt, are variations on the question of whether or not to have children. The decisions are just taken at different stages in the process. Whatever and whenever decisions are made, we have one thing in common. Our reasons are personal.

However we have become childless/childfree, prying questions or throwaway remarks like this irritate me. As I’ve said before, and as I’ll say many times after this, I don’t feel that any of us (childfree, childless, or alone by <insert reason here>) owe anyone an explanation for why we don’t have children. And I’m quite happy not to answer people, divert them in some way, joke about it, or otherwise convey that it is none of their damn business! Politely, of course. In the main!

Time changes how we feel too. When I started this blog, I had in my About section that I sometimes felt childlLESS, and sometimes childFREE. But I removed that a while ago, because I don’t like the feeling of being defined as either of these labels, or both, and besides, I dislike the fact that any label like that invites judgement, in the same way that whatever answers I might give to why I don't have children can invite judgement.  As I wrote almost ten years ago in November 2011 in Childless, childfree … or what?,

“The problem is that the labels childLESS or childFREE automatically convey additional information about our history, and our feelings about our situation. And (as you may have guessed) I don’t always want to share that information. These labels make a point of telling people we either feel a loss and that we are living in sadness, or that we are delighted we don’t have children and celebrate it daily. Some people are very comfortable with those labels, and that’s fine for them. I can certainly understand that some people might choose to use the label childless because they don’t want to be grouped in with all the negative accusations that are (sadly) often directed at the childfree. At times I have felt that way too, particularly in those immediate years after we learned we would live without children.  In those years, I certainly felt child less. But, even then, that is not how I wanted to portray myself to the world. I abhorred the idea of pity, and I hated the prospect of successful parents looking down on me, having achieved something I couldn’t. My situation was private, and my feelings about it were private. And so the label childless felt too defensive, too negative, and I’ve never comfortably used it."

In 2011, when I first wrote about this, I was already eight years on from ending my quest to have children. Now, it has been 18 years. Today, in 2021, I mostly just feel like me. Not having children is part of who I am, but by no means wholly who I am. I use the label childless here on this blog because I know people use it to search to find our community, because it is how so many of us feel when we are in pain and are trying to figure out what the future holds, and because we lack any other word for those of us who never had children. It reflects who I was, rather than who I am now. I don’t like labels. It's not that black and white. I explained further, in a little rant, in 2011:

“The problem I have with both of these labels is that they allow others to make a judgement about our choices, and invite an emotional response (pity, superiority, horror, disbelief, etc). And that isn’t fair. After all, the words parent or mother don’t have any such connotations to them, do they? They don’t say “mother by choice” or “mother not by choice” or “parent by accident” or “mother by drunken binge on a Friday night in the back seat of the car of a guy she’d just met in the bar” or “parent by broken condom.” They don’t say “parent after ten years of trying to conceive and thousands of dollars of fertility treatments” or “mother who thought kids would save her marriage” or “ happy mother who always wanted kids and got everything she wanted” or “mother who thought she always wanted kids till she got them and now wishes she didn’t.” The words parent or mother are just factual statements.”

As I said then,

“Fact: I’m a woman, first and foremost.
Fact: I don’t have children.”

But there’s much more to me that that too. And just as I don’t defend my hair colour (though actually, sometimes I do have to defend my grey hair since I let it show through last year), where I live, my career choices, my fear of heights, my love of reading and walking and travel, etc I don’t feel I need to justify why I don't have children. And I don't feel the need to have a label on my No Kidding status. It’s nobody’s business, unless I choose to share. That is one thing I am happy to tell anyone who asks!