29 November, 2021

A confession

I've read a lot (though not all) of the books written by fellow bloggers about their infertility journey, or about being childless. Each one is different, in terms of their history, diagnosis or circumstance, approach to family building, and discussion about living a No Kidding life. I've even written one myself, but it sits in my back up drive, and has been there for quite a few years. I need to make a decision about what to do with it. I do think it fills a gap in the literature, but I'm unsure about it for other reasons. Or reason.

You see, I haven't done anything about it before this because I am, inherently, shy. It's a very personal and honest account of how I felt at the time. And that's the thing. So many of us, me included, didn't open up to our friends and family about how we felt. We covered it up, as we cover up so many things. My business colleagues didn't know how I felt, or even that I was going through it at all (with one or two exceptions). My family didn't really know how I felt. One or two friends knew, but not in much detail. I didn't bottle things up though, and I wasn't without support. I had online outlets and friends there, and because we had met each other in grief, grief and support was our shared language. We understood each other, we allowed each other to vent. But in real life? That was another matter. 

And so baring my soul in a book would be difficult. It would be something my friends and acquaintances here might want to read. I'm not sure I'm ready for that, even though I've contributed to articles here and internationally, and write this blog. Because basically, most friends and relatives aren't interested enough to follow me online. And that's fine with me. But a book might be different. And I don't want it (my No Kidding state), and/or my emotions around it, to define me. Especially now, when so much of it is in the past. It might be why I don't talk about it very often on social media, though in person I'll raise it much more often now (when relevant) than when I was going through it.

Yet, I think baring my soul is necessary too. Because if we don't talk honestly, both about how hard it is, how wonderful it can be when we come out the other end, and most importantly, how we got there, then we are not helping those who come after us. And we don't help others understand. This may be why we are so easily dismissed and ignored. Because we don't talk about the hard stuff. In the same way that my friends and family don't generally talk about their hard stuff either. When we do open up, others become uncomfortable. And their discomfort means that we swallow ours, and let them continue to live in ignorance and judgement. Which they may well be doing with us too, about their secret shame or sadness or disappointments. If only we could all be more open with each other, and feel safe in doing so. 

Once again, writing has let me figure out what I'm thinking. And now I know it is time for me to dig out those files, and read what I've written, and maybe even do something with it. And stop kidding around.

22 November, 2021

Major Life Events

In my 2020 Healing Project post talking about the importance of Experience in our lives, I promised to come back with a list of Major Life Events, that are specific to me, both pre-infertility and post-infertility. Rather belatedly, today is the day!

I have wanted to do this ever since I read a blogger feel sad that, after the birth of her last child, she would have no more major life events to eagerly anticipate. Rather, the life events she had to look forward to were now ones of loss – children leaving home, deaths etc. I could have pointed out that the children leaving home can both be a loss and a wonderful beginning (I’ve seen friends experience this, rapidly turning their children’s bedrooms into their offices, begin to travel, etc), that there may be weddings, new homes, , maybe grandchildren, retirement, travel etc in her future. But I understood her feelings at the time were full of the loss with the ending of her family-building efforts, even as I resented the implication that the only major life events that are eagerly anticipated are around young people – marriage, and giving birth, for example.

In the No Kidding community too, others have also talked about milestones, including Loribeth here, and she links to other discussions on the issue. She listed celebrations she did and did not get to have, and suggested a menopause parade, which I would be love!

So I wondered, what were/are my major life events?

NZers don’t have a big graduation ceremony when we leave high school, though we have an end-of-year  prize-giving (at which I would probably have spoken) except that I was off in Thailand on my AFS year. That was a major life event, perhaps one of my most major, in that it was my first time overseas, and really changed my life in many ways. (Though I also think my life may have been similar without it, given my interests).

I threw my own 20th birthday party, which was more significant for us than a 21st at the time.

Graduation from university was not a big deal. I attended my BA graduation, and my parents and sister were there, but none of my friends were really there or at the graduation ball, so it was all a bit of a wash-out. Except that we saw a shooting star on the way home! I didn’t even attend a graduation for my Masters degree, as I was living in a different city at the time. I got my degree certificate in the mail.

Rather than graduation, moving city, starting work and my first official pay packet was more of a major event for me.

I had a wedding, but it was different than the one I might have thrown even five years later, with even different friends and attendees. And so many years later, I can confidently say that the wedding was pretty much irrelevant, given all the living we have done together in our marriage. (It’s a good thing we – and my parents – didn’t spend a fortune on it!)

 My overseas trips have almost all been major life events. I can name most of my trips by year. Or I identify years by where we went, and what happened around them. The timing of some smaller or repeat trips are blurry – Bintan/Singapore, miscellaneous Aussie trips, Fiji – but name a big trip and I can instantly tell you which year. And I remember my husband’s birthday with a zero in South Africa more than I remember our 25th Wedding Anniversary trip a few months earlier to Sydney.

My one and only diplomatic posting to Thailand was a major life event, for both me and my husband. It lasted three years, and was a highlight for us both, which I guess does make it pretty major!

I hosted a small dinner party for my 40th. But it was in the midst of infertility, so I would not call it a major life event. In fact, my 41st birthday, when I learned that my tubes were blocked after further IVF was ruled out by my fertility specialist, is more memorable, in both a negative, heart-breaking sense, and in hindsight, the beginning of a period of healing and revelation.

I left full-time work, and learned a new contentment with my life. I got clients, and travelled for work. I met online friends in real life in London and Slovenia, travelled with a diplomat friend, volunteered for a charity, and as a result attended a celebration at the House of Commons in London.

I celebrated my 50th birthday in South Africa, but it was really “just another” very special overseas trip. I was perhaps more impressed with being brave enough to go up in a balloon in Turkey a year earlier, or the first cruise we took in the Aegean and Adriatic on the same trip. Or the five months we travelled together the year after. The milestone of my birthday was the least important or memorable of those events. (Though the degustation menu of nine courses at an amazing restaurant – ranked Africa’s best around that time – was a memorable birthday dinner.)

I blogged, met amazing people, realised I was capable of writing things people wanted to read, was published and quoted in magazines and other websites. They're all major milestones for me.

Then we get into the negative “major life events.” Positive pregnancy tests that turned into ectopics, hospitalisations, the end of our fertility efforts, my father’s death, my husband’s loss of job, my mother’s death, and then the deaths of my parents-in-law. Earthquakes and a pandemic. None of these were eagerly anticipated. They all brought both negative feelings and events and changes into my life. But they taught me a lot too, and often had positive results. Ectopics brought me life-long international friends and brought me to blogging. A hysterectomy and menopause brought me the freedom of being an elderwoman (as Jody Day likes to say, which is so much better than the term crone). Infertility brought me so many gifts I wrote a 25 post series about them.

But there are still major milestones to anticipate. Resuming travel post-pandemic is one, and hopefully spending a lot more time in either Europe or North America, or both. Moving house (as will be inevitable as I age) is another. It could and should be exciting, rather than a loss. Qualifying for our government superannuation (pension) as we turn 65 (or is it 67 these days, I’m not 100% sure?). (Still years away, I point out!)

What these milestones and events – positive and negative, past and future – have all taught me, and what life has taught me more generally, is that major life events aren’t really that important. I’m so glad I’m not limited by judging my life on a few major life events around children I did or did not have. What happens in between so-called milestones or life events is real life; life that is wonderful and sad and happy and broad and amazing and scary but all so worth it. 

With or without children. I’m glad you’re with me here as I continue to navigate through the years.

15 November, 2021

Revisiting Novembers

November is an important date for this blog. My first post was on 12 November 2010, and talked about how November is both a time of promise, and a time of loss for me. It is spring in New Zealand, and our summer holiday season looms. It’s a time when the country collectively begins to relax at the end of a busy year and look forward to the summer and the future.

Back in the early 2000s, it was – for a while – a time of extra optimism for me too. But now I have hindsight, and I know those few weeks of hope were soon slammed in December with pregnancy losses and everything that came after that. I know too, that when it was clear that everything was over for me, November was the month that it really hit home, almost 18 years ago. I wrote about it here a few weeks after my first post, later in that November.

But that was also the month that I began to turn the corner, even though I didn’t realise it at the time, didn’t see that it would or even could happen, didn’t trust that life could and would still be good. So in many ways, November is about possibilities too.

It's helpful for me to remember that now, with everything else we are dealing with in the world. I hope we are all turning the corner for the better.

Note: If you're interested, I'm also revisiting Novembers today over on A Separate Life.

09 November, 2021

Family trees when childless

Today's post will be a true microblog. My brother-in-law stayed with us last night, passing through the city from a fishing trip with his brother. We enjoyed his line-caught fresh blue cod from the waters of Cook Strait where he spent the last week, a bottle (or two) of delicious wine, and lots of interesting conversation. 

In the course of conversation, we got into family backgrounds, and he told a fascinating story of an ancestor involving Napoleon Bonaparte amongst others. But his story finished with the surprise that it was the brother of his ancestor with the same first name, not the direct ancestor.

It reminded me of all the episodes of genealogy shows I have watched that focused on an interesting ancestor who was the cousin or brother or sister of the subject's direct ancestor. It was a good reminder again of how we don't have to have direct descendants to be interesting, to be remembered, or even thought about. Or - alternatively - that you don't have to be childless to be forgotten. In other words, I think that it all (largely) evens out in the end.

01 November, 2021

We are worthy

This year I joined a social media group for Childless and Childfree Women in Australia and New Zealand. I'm in a number of No Kidding groups, and of course read blogs from all over the world, and love the international connections and global sisterhood that we share. But it was nice to find one for people in my own region, filled with women who "speak the same language" even if we love to tease each other about our accents.

The atmosphere in the group is largely positive, cheerful, forward-looking, which I haven't always found in other groups, but it is very supportive too. There seems to be little to no conflict between the childless and childfree, which makes me happy, because we do have a lot in common. Every so often I see a post or a meme that I want to share with you here, or that I want to explore in more detail, so I'm going to do that. Today though, I'll start with one that is simple, and that I really liked:

"I'm not perfect.
I'm only human."

 I love that. It's a reminder to us all that we are worthy, no matter what. Remember that!