29 July, 2021

Questions, again

 I completely lost my blogging mojo this week, and missed my usual Monday post. I'm not sure why, but I'm going to blame my current obsessions:

a) watching the Olympics, 

b) binge-watching a TV series, and

c) not getting enough sleep - see a) and b) above.

But I can't go by this week without a post at all, and Jess as inspired me here, talking about how she has lost the need to justify her decisions. I've long advocated for not telling people why you don't have children if you don't feel that you want to share that with them. Well, if only I followed my own advice!

On the weekend I was out with some people I've met recently - my husband has known the guy for years, and they've started inviting us to do things together (pub quizes, and a get-together on Saturday night). So, we got a version of THE question. They knew we did not have children, and they knew we are long past the age when we might try. Thank goodness! What they didn't know was why.

So, at the table, in front of the other guests (one of whom I first met that evening), out of the context of any conversation, I was asked, point blank, why I didn't have children? It makes me laugh a little, because she phrased it this way:

"So, do you not have children because you couldn't have them, or didn't want them, or you never wanted them?"

I must have sighed, though I think I was just wondering, "what version of my truth do I want to share with this person who is not a personal friend of mine?" As I hesitated, she added, quite stridently,

"or is it too personal to talk about and you don't want to say?"

Like she was giving me much of a choice!  (Once again, I wished I had had the politicians' media training that would teach me how not to answer any questions I'm asked!)

I sighed again, and shrugged. "It didn't work out," I said. 

"Oh!" she said. "Like X and Y."  (X and Y are mutual friends/acquaintances.)

"Yes," I said. I could have left it at that. But I was torn. I didn't want to seem ashamed of it, because I am not. But I resent being forced to give information that I wouldn't normally have chosen to give. Not until I'd got to know her better. Still, I also like people knowing that fertility isn't easy, and that every pregnancy doesn't end in a baby, so I simply added that I had had two ectopic pregnancies. If she knows what they are, then fine, and if she doesn't, then she can educate herself. Though I don't think that is going to happen. I didn't add anything else. I don't think it is her business (yet) to know about IVF, adoption, or any other decisions we had to make along the way.

In glorious hindsight, as I write this, I wish I'd just said that it doesn't really matter whether I wanted children or not, because the outcome is the same. I might store that away, and use it next time. I like it as a response much better than being forced to say "it's personal" or "I'd rather not say." Isn't it always the way that we only think of responses (the ones we wished we'd given) hours or days later? lol

The conversation ended only after she started saying that we got to do a lot of things because we don't have children. To be fair, she might have been trying to show some empathy, trying to understand what our lives are like, but it didn't feel like that. It felt as if she needed me to tell her that our life was still good, as if she wanted to pop us in that stereotype of carefree No Kidding lives, allowing her then to not think about our lives at all. I didn't go into much detail. Like Jess, I didn't feel the need. 

Ultimately, these questions and the way they are asked, how they are phrased, and the tone of voice that delivers them, say so much more about the person asking them than they do about me. So I'm hoping in writing this that maybe someone will read it and not ask the questions in this way. Or that it might help someone think of their own preferred responses to these questions. That would make it worthwhile.

19 July, 2021

Appreciating our childless community

I’ve been thinking about community a lot recently, and I have either one huge post or a series brewing. But not today – I had intended writing the first in a series, but woke with a headache and ended up sleeping much of the afternoon. So this will be brief, and I apologise.

Groups in the infertility or No Kidding communities are popping up all over the place. When I first went through pregnancy losses and began navigating my life without children in the early 2000s, there were no bloggers in this area that I was aware. Pamela, often credited as the first such blogger, came later. For support, I relied on messageboards at the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust website. Loribeth, I know, also got support from messageboards. It was wonderful for me, but in the end didn’t meet my needs, as it was focused on the losses, their recovery, and those who were getting pregnant again, not those of us who had had to walk away. So whilst I recovered from loss in the embrace of an online community, I learnt to be childless largely on my own.

These days, support is found more easily. For those of us who have no children, there is a wide community of bloggers covering different niches (choice, circumstance, in different languages, etc), new books coming out all the time, podcasts proliferating, support groups on Fbk and Instagram, and probably many more sites. Support is available at our finger tips, and we are all more accustomed to establishing relationships through our phones or laptops. If we look, we can find it, and hopefully find a spot where we felt heard, understood, and can move together into the future. And that is wonderful.

Which brings me to World Childless Week. It’s coming up again. I’m hoping to participate more actively this year. Check out the topics and activities here, and plan your own reading or writing as part of the week. Check out too the World Childless Week Ambassadors. We have so many wonderful people in our community, and Steph at WCW does a great job of recognising them, and thanking them for what they do. She’s also calling for nominations for a People’s Champion, and you can do this here. I particularly like that it is not a popularity contest, but one which focuses on how they have helped, as noted here: 

The People’s Champion will NOT gain the title because they receive the most nominations, they will receive it because of what you make us feel when you nominate them. It could be a blogger, a group admin, a public figure, a life coach or an individual who wrote 5 lines that changed your day or your entire thought process. All we ask is that they too are childless not by choice.”

Loribeth has already done a great job publicising World Childless Week here on her blog. Rather than repeat it, I’m going to refer you to her post too. We have a great community available to us, where we can think, share our ideas, get inspiration, or simply know that we are understood. Along with our blogs and chat groups and podcasts and social media posts, World Childless Week is one place where we can all come together and do this. And that’s why it gets easy. Because we are not alone.

12 July, 2021

Making the transition to our No Kidding lives

Over the years, in my huge document of No Kidding writing both published and unpublished, I have collected quotes that speak to me, and make me think about how we approach our lives without children, when once we might have hoped for something else.

A famous economist (whether or not you agree with his theories), John Maynard Keynes, points out that

"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones."

Being open to the future, rather than clinging to the hopes of the past, is really what sets us up for a happy No Kidding rest of our lives. I can vouch for that. And I feel vindicated in this, as Charles Darwin reminds me that -  

“It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent,
but the one most responsive to change.”

We’re survivors. And we should be proud of that.


05 July, 2021

The road to Ithaka

I’ve posted today about the loss of an online friend on A Separate Life. Over the last few days I’ve been looking through his comments on my old blogs, and this one spoke to me. I’d posted back in 2008 about the directions my life had taken that I hadn’t expected, including my quest for motherhood, here. At the time, I was almost five years into my No Kidding life, but as you can see, didn’t talk that much about it. It was another couple of years before I began writing here, where I could be much more open. However, the theme of my post was very much along the lines of what turned into No Kidding in NZ.

Deloney got it. He and his partner didn’t have children. I don’t know (he never said) if it was by choice, or not by choice. It was never something he touched on. But regardless, his philosophy of life was similar to my own. And his comment to my post was the following poem, which sums up my feelings about our No Kidding lives. The first verse could sound like a version of “wishful thinking” but to me is the warning of getting stuck in the sorrows of the moment, and dread of the future, rather than opening up to what might be. It helps me to read it, not just because of the beauty of the language, but also because Ithaca, for me, is not the motherhood I had once intended, but a final nonspecific destination that is taking me on a beautiful journey. I hope you like it too.

 Thanks, D.

                  by Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope your road is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
angry Poseidon -don't be afraid of them:
you'll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians, Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won't encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbours you're seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind-
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you're destined for.
But don't hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you're old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you've gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn't have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you'll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.