29 August, 2022

A Wealth of Community Wisdom

Recently, I found myself reading some old posts, and the very wise comments from my very wise readers. I found comments from readers in the midst of their pain, fighting against my message of hope and positivity, and smiled, knowing that they get it now, and are shining their own light for those who follow. I found comments from parents both during and after their infertility, from non-IF/ALI readers, and from those who have been through loss and childlessness. The variety in perspective, and the self-knowledge, curiousity, and understanding in the comments heartened me. They should all be celebrated, I thought. They/you deserve it!

So today, I thought I'd focus on some of the comments just on my 2020 Healing Project. They are wise. They explain things differently to my posts, maybe bring up something I hadn't thought of, maybe disagree with me and make good points. They are all inspiring, and I wanted to share them with you:

1       Show Up
“Showing up is halfway there, for sure. I try to remember this and when I heed it, I proceed. When I don't, I stay stuck.”

2       Feel
“there's no healing without feeling”
“It took me awhile to get that "what we resist persists" -- especially when it comes to feelings. It does take a good deal of courage to go there and feel them, doesn't it?”

3       Delight
“Yes, yes to joy!”
“It was hard. I felt guilty, but I loved how you put it - that joy helps the sadness pass.”
“... you've reminded me to be OK with joy.”

4       Surrender
“... love that you made this discernment between surrender and acceptance. I didn't realize that sometimes I aim first for acceptance, which doesn't go very well. I see that surrender is an important step that shouldn't be skipped.”
“Surrendering the effort to try and control that which is not within my power to control. To be very clear about what I can influence and what is outside my sphere. That these are not giving up or not caring but simply accommodating the real, even if not welcome.”
“I'm learning that if I can't get to gratitude, then go for acceptance, now I see that surrender is the first step.”
“The reminder that surrender is not a weakness, it's the way to a new beginning.”
“At some point you have to change the way you look at the thing.”

5       Love
“I love this idea, to give comfort, forgiveness, love and compassion to ourselves. I feel like it's the upper limit to what we can give others, so it is worthwhile to work on.”
“it's often so much easier to give compassion and kindness to others than to yourself. Being kind to myself is something I have to actively practice, as my inner voice is that 7th grade mean girl. But I love the idea of imagining the hurt child and comforting her.”

6       Forgive
“Those what-ifs and navel-gazing moments are killer.”
“I'm also of the school of thought that there’s no point in self-recriminations or in feeling guilty, or constantly blaming. It's futile and will suck the joy out of life”
“Another way I find helpful to deal with guilt or self-blame is "You are not a slave." It is not right for another person to force us to use our bodies or time to fulfill their desires or needs. And by the same token, it's not right for us to do that to ourselves, either, although that might seem less obvious. I am not a slave to my desires, nor should I ruin my body or mind forcing it to do something. It can be hard to find a way to articulate this concept when we value individuality and personal choice to so highly. But like all ways of looking at the world it has its limitations.”

7       Honour
“I would not have thought of honor and guilt as opposing forces, but you make me see how they are.”

8       Write
“processing something with words helps me clarify, release, and heal. Doing in on my blog also helps me feel not so alone.”
“Even just writing down stuff to get it out of your head, listmaking, is such a great way to alleviate anxiety.”
“writing to connect with others was a game-changer.”
“the lesson in kindness, too...using writing to discover good things nestled in with the bad that you might otherwise not see as clearly.”
“writing, for me, definitely helps, no matter what the forum!”

9       Appreciate
“I notice I always find whatever I set out to look for. So I might as well look for things to be grateful for ...”
“I started small and started cultivating gratitude one little moment at a time. Over the years, it added up to a lot of gratitude and a perspective shift. I do not deny all that I've lost, but I am also grateful for all that I've gained.”
“It helps so much to know that you can actually appreciate your life for what it is, not what it's missing -- because in the very beginning that seems impossible.”

10   Balance
“the (im)balance changes as we move through the stages of grief and readjustment. And that no one can balance for us. ... so important to know that perspective and balance do eventually come.”
“I remember the horrid imbalance in those last years and feeling like I could control the uncontrollable if I just tried harder (nope), and then the bizarre sweet relief of resolution I didn't think possible.”
“It doesn't happen overnight... but over time, some sense of it does return.”

11   Dare
“It IS daring to go against the norm the way we have. And while we're not the first ones to do so, I think we're the first generation of women giving voice to this particular experience, writing and talking about it and what our lives are like, both the good and the bad. It's not always easy being a trailblazer, and I know we make a lot of people who aren't in our situation uncomfortable when we speak our truth. (Too bad! lol)”

12   Accept
“Acceptance is a powerful concept. My younger self really appreciates your examples of what acceptance does NOT mean.”
“I accept the ups and downs that I feel as I live my life after infertility without children.”
“… how you've defined acceptance. It does NOT mean that we like what's happened... only that we're shifting focus.”

13   Connect
“…The shame of suffering alone and the balm of finding a tribe who understands. And online interactions do give you space and time to process complex emotions.

Connection is a huge factor in healing. In living, really, as we are getting super creative in finding new ways to connect even amid the quarantine.”
“. I often felt "seen" most by you guys, most of whom have never seen me in the flesh! This connection is such an important part of healing. It's such an isolating experience. The connections of this community help break those walls down.”
“don't know how I would have survived the past 22 years without my online friends -- first through an pregnancy loss email list, then infertility & then childless/free message boards and blogs. I've only met a handful of them but I've felt more "seen" & supported by people like you, Mali, than many of my friends & relatives. I too expect to be in touch with many of my online friends for years to come. :)”

14   Enquire
“You've really touched on something important here, that we can't always believe what we think, and a closer look can often help identify faulty assumptions and ultimately help us find contentment.

This is one of those posts that I want to carry with me throughout my day, my week. I want to be more Inquiring with my negative thoughts about myself and others.”
“it helps break down the nasty little voice that tells hurtful lies. And that question, "what makes them behave like that?" is such a great one for empathy. I use it a lot in special education, for parents as equally as for the kids. There's a quote that says "kids (people) most in need of love and understanding ask for it in the most unlovable ways."”

 15   Admit
“t was so hard to admit that feeling of relief to be done with the process of trying to add to our family, and to admit that I love our family of two because sometimes it feels like a betrayal to how much I wanted children, in those emotional ouch days. Admitting I'd hit my enough was the doorway I had to blow through the get to a life that is better than I'd expected it could be without the dream we fought for. That contradictory feeling things is the hardest for me.”

 16   Experience
“I finally realized that I am responsible for my own happiness, with or without the one big thing that I wanted to achieve! It was quite an epiphany. I now try to live my daily life in a way that I don't have to wait for something to change in the future. That meant adding small elements that would contribute to my wellbeing …”
“I remember when I "just began to experience my life as it was," which ended up being a big life event for me.”

17   Speak
“Your point about degree of openness is important. Similar with the filters people have who are listening of our stories. It's something I've really struggled with as they often blindly apply their truths. My hope is that this recent pandemic will make people more open when listening, but the filter is always there, meaning that impact has to come through understanding that filter. That said, I think speaking is important as normalizing the conversation is long overdue.”
“It's more than not being afraid about talking about my own experiences and my own reality (which is all very much shaped by living life without children after infertility). My voice has grown from that topic to a stronger, more generalized groundedness... If that even makes sense.”
“Everyone needs an outlet of some kind, for sure!”

18   Remember
“the recognition of how the story we tell ourselves changes over time, as emotions settle.”
“There's power with triggering this memory of pain and grief, but what people fail to see it that in the process of doing so, they don't allow themselves to grow from it, creating something beautiful and wonderful from the ashes. Remember is so important. It sets the foundation for so much good that can come. But part of that means allowing for healing and growth out of the pain and tragic, harnessing that memory to do so.”
“I'm a firm believer in the importance of remembering & memory-keeping, for all the reasons you've given here and more. People marvel at my memory, but it's not infallible (especially as I get older!), and so I'm grateful for the writing I've done & the photos I've taken that help me remember both the good & the not-so-good in my life.”

19   Liberate
“Too many are stuck in conforming as there is a feeling of safety with being part of the crowd, and yet it also can be limiting. Breaking free is scary, but I have found so much benefit from doing so, which started with infertility and continues in all other aspects of my life.”
“And as for updating our definition of success? I find I have had to do this in an ongoing way in terms of what it means to be successful …”
“ … I'm at the point where I can be grateful for the things childlessness brings to my life. And feel free!”

20   Celebrate
“I find myself applying it to all sorts of other things I'm seeking healing for.”
“Liberate, then Celebrate!
I particularly love your idea of celebrating the following things: the tiny and often painful steps that I took toward healing, my survival and resilience, my relationship with myself, and the other women who write and share their experiences so that we all feel more understood and less alone.”
“I agree, celebrating is so important. Resilience, hope, new life, milestones, joys, and the wonderful network of women.”
“it is important to celebrate and give ourselves credit for what we survived and how we make progress”
“We absolutely have reasons to celebrate!”


Note: I’ve referenced the comments to each of the Healing Project topics, and provided links. You can read the posts again, and check out who made the wise comments!


22 August, 2022

Looking forward to World Childless Week 2022

Just a note to remind everyone that World Childless Week 2022 is coming up next month, and the final date for submissions is 28 August. Last year I wrote some pieces at the very last minute, so this year I thought it was worth reminding you a little earlier, in case you want to submit a relevant piece of writing or art. 

I'm not sure whether I'll write anything new this year. Over the last eleven years of blogging, I've covered most of these topics, sometimes frequently, perhaps even ad nauseum! Last year (here), I linked to previous writings, and this year, rather than repeat myself, I'm simply going to list the topics and add any of my posts that I've written in the last year. I hope one or both might inspire you.

World Childless Week 2022 Topic:

Our Stories - As I said last year, this whole blog is my No Kidding story. Last year I wrote a piece - My Story Grows with Me -  when I said "It is not all of my story, but it will always be part of it." I'm not sure there's much more to say.

Childlessness and Single - Not something I have experienced myself, but I look forward to a lively discussion for a group that has been forgotten too often.

A Letter to my Younger Self - This is the piece that might inspire me to write something new. This whole blog, again, is really what I wished I had known twenty years ago when I was going through infertility and loss, and beginning to face the possibility of a future without children. But I think I'm curious to know what I wish I could have told myself back then. Succintly! lol

Childlessness in the Workplace - Again, this isn't really something I've talked about or addressed, as I left full-time work (and became self-employed) in the midst of my family-building efforts. I've never really been disadvantaged because I didn't have children, as I was working in male-dominated industries. I've faced discrimination because I was a woman, and because I wasn't a subject specialist (engineer, or education), but not really because I didn't have children. At least, that is the way I've chosen to look at it. I will be fascinated to see other people's contributions. And maybe I should write about my own experience as well.

It's all in God's Plan - This topic is about religious comments that might affect you. But also, I think it is also about the non-religious version of this, which is "It wasn't meant to be." That statement has always bugged me. (Living in NZ, I've never heard "It's all in God's Plan" directly.) I've written about it elsewhere, but watch this space, because I might cover it again too!

We are Worthy – Like last year, I'm also not sure I have anything new to add on this topic, other than noting that it is always worth remembering that we do not have to have children to be worthy members of society. We are always worthy!

Moving Forwards – Once again, I'll note that this topic is the theme for this entire blog, and its lifespan of almost 12 years now.The piece I wrote last year for Our Stories, which was chosen as a submission for the Moving Forwards topic. I think all our stories become that. There are only two choices for our No Kidding stories. We move forwards, or we stay stuck. And moving forwards, whilst it might be hard and painful at times, is ultimately so much more satisfying.

I look forward to seeing any pieces you might write on these topics. And if you are inspired, as I am now, maybe consider donating here (this is a link to WCW's page) to help Stephanie fund this free event, so she can do continue to bring inspiration to our community in the future.


15 August, 2022

Sending some love

Bamberlamb posted today/yesterday (depending where in the world you are) giving an update on her life. She's having a rough time. It's hard when we can't help because we're so far away. But we can all go over and give her some support! She mentioned the difference of getting cancer treatment when you don't have family/children to be at appointments/chemo sessions with you. This is an example of some of the things that parents don't think about when they say, "we know what it is like not to have children." 

Of course, they think they know what it is like not to have children. They were childless too, in their 20s and 30s, so of course they know what it's like! Right? Wrong! Being young means (often) having fun, making mistakes, starting out, beginning careers, finding out what you're good at, how you want to live. Yes, you might not have children then, but it's not like most people then have even tried. It can be an exciting time. After all, your whole life is ahead of you. The possibilities seem endless.

Being childless post infertility is not like that. One of the major possibilities of our lives has been closed off. A huge part of the human experience - parenting our own children - has been closed off to us. We have come across one of the permanent "nevers" we have to deal with as we age. We have endured pain and loss. We have to negotiate a future we had not planned, and that we largely don't have any idea what it will bring. We may not have any role models. And we have to go through it all with our family and friends who - mostly - don't understand what we are going through. That's on a day-to-day level. It is so very different when we are going through some of life's most difficult challenges without children.

So my heart goes out to Bamberlamb, and Loribeth who is going through surgery today, and anyone who is reading this who is going through a hard time. It may not feel like it, but we're with you right now. Sending you all our love and courage and strength.


08 August, 2022

Winning in a childless life

Before I came upstairs to write this, I watched a NZ cyclist win gold in the Commonwealth Games road race. It was his fourth of the competition! The race was relentless. There was little time to relax, as the various teams (especially the English) launched attack and counter-attack. He had to pedal furiously to keep up, never give up for 160 kms, and still maintain the strength for a final burst for the win. 

Before that, I watched our netball team play England for the bronze medal. I used to play netball, and I was pretty good if I do say so myself, but rarely watch it as an adult. I find it very frustrating. I want to be out there playing, even though my knees are shot, I'm too old (of course) and a little too short (I'm tall but average tall, not netball tall!). I remember though the joy of leaping in the air and stealing a ball (I played defence positions), and it's hard not to be able to do that anymore. So I watched the defence players with interest, marvelling that most of their attempts are missed as the even taller shoots throw the ball through the hoop over and over again (around 60 times in this game). They fail over and over again. Yet they never give up, because the thrill of thwarting the opposition, maybe one time out of ten or twenty, is worth it, and the reason they play the game.

A day or two ago, I watched the high jump. I used to high jump too, though I never had the spring to be able to reach the heights these jumpers do. I am always awed at their abilities to soar above their heads, and know that they have missed those heights in training and in competition so many more times than we know. I see medal winners miss a height twice, then pull it together and clear it, moving on to the next level. It is the sport. I remember one night at our athletics club. My younger sister was practising something else with a coach, and I had to hang around till she was finished. So I went to the high jump, where there were real pads to land in (see this post on A Separate Life) and practised over and over again. I put it to a height that I knew I could jump, yet had never jumped before. I failed again and again. A very cute senior jumper came over and helped me. I tried not to swoon. And I made the height. Yet it wasn't in competition. It only meant something to me.

All of these athletes made me realise that they focus on their achievements, not their failures or their difficulties. They accept them. They deal with injuries, and give themselves recovery time when it is necessary. They listen to their bodies, and their minds. 

It reminded me of their courage and the pain and hard work behind their glory. It made me think of my childless life. Rather than giving up, I get to look for the joys of this life. I may be knocked back again and again, with all the "as a mother" comments, and "for our children and grandchildren" political statements, and the bias and the condescension and the worry of our daily lives. But I get to celebrate loving my niece, and not being jealous of my sister. I get to be proud of myself when I'm not bothered by babies or children or parents, or when I stand up for myself to parents who never think about those of us without children. And I get to take advantage of the wonderful benefits of this life. The hard parts don't beat me. And I know, from our interactions, that they don't beat you either. I know that we all get up and move forward, even when it hurts, when we're exhausted. We're survivors. Better than that, we make the most of this life. We're resilient. And that means we're all winners! I hope you know that. And celebrate it!

02 August, 2022

The Fraud Syndrome (Part 2)

I frequently have a nagging feeling of discomfort about my blog. I pride myself that it lives up to its No Kidding name, in both senses of the word. But I feel torn between the two aims I have for this blog.

The first is the desire to show that we can, and almost certainly will, have a happy and peaceful life when we don’t get that “take-home baby” after infertility. I talk about how we can get there, what helped me, the gifts I’ve gained through this struggle, and the advantages of getting where I am today.

But I also feel strongly that we should all have permission to talk about what’s tough. Parents move on with their life, and find that their “happily ever after” involves struggles, exhaustion, financial worries, ill or difficult children, or a myriad of other related life stresses. I have long been an advocate of parents after infertility feeling free to talk about the difficulties of their lives, rather than feeling the pressure to pretend that everything is fine and to feel forever grateful. Those of us who couldn’t or don’t have children shouldn’t begrudge them the ability to complain, even when they may have been through so much to have their children. However, those of us without children should be able to do this too.

Healing and “coming to terms” doesn’t mean the feelings simply go away, or though they often do recede or even disappear. I believe that it means we understand them, learn to live with them, don’t fight them or regret them, don’t wish it was otherwise or rant and rave, but see the way the world could help us by being different. I would argue that although some people expect us to have lost those feelings entirely, that is not healing. Banishing feelings without understand them is not healing. Learning to live with them, or to overcome them, is true growth and understanding. Just as parents know they can love their children but not like aspects of parenting, or even aspects of their children’s behaviour, those of us without kids know that we can love our lives, but not like all the consequences of that. After all, life is a compromise, isn’t it? Why should we be any different?

But it is hard – when we see that most of our extended infertility online community are doing everything they can to avoid being in our situation – to be honest about the tough times. We heal, and we move on, and though we never forget, we laugh and love and are happy. I want those coming after us to see that, to feel it, to understand it, and be pleased for us. I want to reduce the fear of those who might follow in my path, as much as I want to help and encourage those who have only just started on this path.

But I don’t want to be a fraud, and I need to be honest about the tough times too. I first posted about this in 2015, when I talked about issues that were causing me stress in my life. That was seven years ago, and since then I’ve been through the deaths of the last three parents/parents-in-law, a huge bill for house maintenance, the inability to secure further work, and of course, a pandemic. Despite all that stress, I continue to talk here about the techniques I’ve used over the years, or still try to use now, to bring consciousness, joy, and peace into my life, to balance any stress or negativity.

Rationally and logically I might be at peace with my life, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have ouch moments, feel some of the emotions that we all feel from time to time, or worry about the future without children. It was especially hard when we were going through the years of elder care, knowing we have no-one to do these tasks for us – or not with the same degree of intimacy. It doesn’t mean that the isolation of those of us without kids doesn’t affect me, or that I don’t notice and feel the bias of society towards those with children and away from us. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel a twinge when my rights or interests are given a lower priority, when a thoughtless, excluding comment is made.

Along with that are the very personal moments of enduring loss. These can creep up on us, especially, as anniversaries come and go, as August (which would have brought the due dates of both my ectopic pregnancies), as December and the holiday season beckon, as we lose the generation above us. These anniversaries might lose their searing, breath-taking pain, but still they remind us of what we’ve lost. Sometimes I think the sadness they bring is perhaps more about the reminders, about remembering those tough times, and honouring what my husband and I (and all of you) went through, than it is about the loss itself. I’ve come to terms with the loss, I’m happy with my life, but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t occasional moments of sadness. And when they occur, I find it helpful to talk about them. I know that others reading this will understand, and there is comfort in knowing that others understand, who can provide support, even if I'd rather they didn't know from experience. There's comfort in not being alone. So, I hope that my honesty helps others who are struggling too, who might doubt their resilience, their strength, in facing the difficulties of their situation. Those who might worry that they're not coping as well as they think they should, and who could be reassured knowing that what they feel is normal, and that it will get better.

I think that everyone feels this from time to time, except perhaps for the extremely fortunate, or those who live in denial! It’s certainly not unique to those of us who don’t have children. It’s okay to feel sad, to feel pain, and to admit that. If I didn’t, I’d truly be a fraud. If I couldn’t admit it here, with others who understand, where could I do that? If I didn't admit that here, what damage might I do to our cause and quest for understanding, both within our community, and in wider society? 

Ultimately, therefore, I've concluded that I don’t think there’s any conflict between embracing our No Kidding lives, yet still admitting to occasional moments of sadness over what we’ve lost. I will fight the feelings of being a fraud, and stick to honesty. The hope I offer is that those moments of sadness don’t stay. They come, and they go, and we continue to live and love and enjoy life. I’m not kidding.