Monday, 24 July 2017

I'm not kidding: A reminder

I called this blog No Kidding in NZ, not only because I wanted a title that made it clear that I don’t have children, but also because I wanted a title that would keep me honest, and remind me every time I write that I can’t believe the myths, the negative voices, or those who just don’t get it.
  • I don't kid myself that there’s a reason why I couldn't have children, that I deserved this, or that was unworthy.
  • I don't kid myself that there is only one lifestyle in which we can be happy.
  • I don't kid myself that the only way to contribute to this world is through parenting or provision of DNA
  • I don't kid myself that there isn't some pain in this lifestyle, but I acknowledge there is also freedom and joy
  • I don't kid myself that I’ll be cared for in my old age, or that it isn't harder to make and keep friends when you don't have children, but it means I can treasure what I have now, and at the same time make plans for the future
  • I don’t kid myself that my life is better or worse than if I had become a parent; it is just my life.
It’s a reminder I need from time to time, and I’m sure I could add to this list (if I had more than eight sentences), so please feel free to add your own reminders (to yourself, or to me) in the comments.



Monday, 17 July 2017

Losing my Microblogging Mojo

I have a number of posts brewing but none of them will be brief, so I have to confess that I have (temporarily, I am sure) lost my Microblogging mojo. So somewhat predictably, I’m resorting to a list of miscellaneous thoughts, which I am a little surprised to find are falling into the “ouch” category. Maybe it’s just time, and maybe this post balances out my more positive post on A Separate Life.

Our political parties in New Zealand are gearing up to election mode, and I am already starting to feel isolated, as the focus is on “family, family, family.”

Yet I feel guilty about that too, as I hate the reality of children growing up in poverty, and agree that this is an important issue.

One of my elderly in-laws has been ill recently, and so – unlike any of the other siblings – we are feeling the full brunt of the responsibility that is on our shoulders. Of course it has raised issues, and we are talking to each other about how we will manage such situations when we are old, and hoping that we will recognise we should make changes in our lives before we actually need to.

For the first time in a long time, the other day I found myself on the receiving end of a terse comment that had the unwritten subtext, “you’re not a mother, so be careful what you say.”

Friday, 14 July 2017

Negative Thinking in Infertility and Childlessness

Last year, I was reading an article and at the end saw a selected list* of cognitive disorders. I was immediately struck by the similarities of these disorders with the thoughts and behaviour of those going through infertility, and those who are grieving post-infertility. I’ve always found that recognising what I am doing and thinking is the first step to acceptance and change, so I thought it might be helpful to list these negative ways of thinking, along with examples of how our thoughts work against us, particularly for the infertile and involuntarily childless people (in the early years at least).

Mind reading: You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts.
“They think we didn’t try hard enough.”
“They don’t think I’m a real woman/man because I can’t have children.”
“They think our lives aren’t valuable because we are not parents.”
“We’re not real adults.”

The infertile or the childless will often mind-read. We think people assume the worst about our situation and judge us, thinking that we didn’t try hard enough, or that we were somehow defective and shouldn’t be parents.  Unfortunately we probably all have examples of people actually saying variations of these thoughts directly to us, or see them in the media, proving that that is what they were thinking. This leads to us imagining the worst about what people might say to us. I know I have.
Fortune-telling: You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. 
“I’ll be lonely and unhappy in my old age if I don’t have children.”
“Or my husband/wife will leave me and find someone who can have children.”

During infertility in particular, these fears are very real. And whilst there are many positive reasons for wanting children, I believe that as infertility becomes more and more real to us, fear drives us just as much as the desired outcome.
Catastrophising: You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it.
“I couldn’t bear it if I couldn’t have children.”
“My life will have no purpose without children.”

Unfortunately, our friends, family and wider society do everything they can to reinforce our catastrophising, so we have to look a little harder to find examples where our worst case scenarios don't end as a catastrophe. Fortunately, there are a growing number of No Kidding bloggers who are here to prove that our lives are not catastrophes!
Labelling: You assign global negative traits to yourself and others.
“I’m not worthy.”
“Childless people deserved not to have children.”
“All mothers look down on me.”
"I must have done something wrong to deserve this."
“I’m a terrible person because I can’t be happy for my friend who just announced her pregnancy.”
"Childless people are selfish."

Society so loves labels, that it is easy to buy into this. When we are feeling vulnerable, we also don't really question these assumptions. But we need to!
Discounting positives: You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial.
“She’s just pitying me, and doesn’t really care.”
“I’m not strong, look at how often I cry.”
"I'm not brave enough to end this journey without a child."

Positives so often seem to be a betrayal of our grief or our emotional distress, and so we discount them. A positive feeling even induces guilt, as if we don’t deserve to feel happy or grateful. Whereas they don't negate what we've been through, and they can show us how strong we've been to endure these stressful and disappointing experiences.
Negative filtering: You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives.
“My life isn’t worth anything if I’m not a mother.”
“I’m not a real woman/man if I’m not a mother/father.”
“Children give your life purpose.”
“I have nothing positive in my life without children.”
“I will never accept my childlessness, because acceptance makes it okay.”

This is extremely common during infertility. Our infertility becomes our identity, and it can be hard to see what else is good in our lives. Likewise when we first learn we will be forever without children.
Dichotomous thinking: You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms.
“My life is over if I can’t have children.”
“I will never be happy.”
“If I can’t have children, I will forever be miserable.”
"This has to work."
This is very common when trying to conceive and during infertility treatments (or even when pursuing adoption). Our eyes are on the goal, and it is all or nothing. We surround ourselves (in the virtual world at least) with people who are cheering us on, and any suggestion that the goal is not the only option can be seen as a betrayal.

What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers.
"What if my partner dies? I’ll be alone and sad and terrified."
"What if I can't get pregnant? I'll never be happy again."
"What if I can never accept this? I'll be miserable for the rest of my life."
I think this is a variation of some of these other categories - negative filtering and catastrophising, in particular. The answers aren't satisfactory because they don't match with any of our preconceived notions that are driving us, or have driven us, for so long, and with such intense emotions.
 Emotional reasoning: You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality.
“I feel like a failure because I’m infertile. Only a child will make me feel better.”

Even though there is ample evidence that people without children live positive, fulfilled lives, this isn't supported by the emotions we feel during infertility (or in early No Kidding mode), when they push us to extraordinary lengths (emotional, physical and financial) in pursuit of our goals. We then indulge in emotional reasoning to justify our actions and thinking (in exactly the way that parents might justify their choices when they are finding things hard).
Inability to disconfirm: You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted.
“But, but, but!!!” cries the infertile person, “my case is different. I can’t bear the thought of not having children.”
“You might be able to accept a No Kidding life, but I can never accept it.” (Also unspoken, “you obviously didn’t want them as much as I did.”)
“But, but, but!” cries the newly grieving childless person. “YOU don’t know how I feel! My case is different. There’s a REASON that I’m different from you, that I feel this so strongly.”
Providing evidence often doesn't help someone at this stage, because every fibre of their being is rejecting the premise that they will survive infertility, and that their lives can still be good without children. Their first instinct is to disagree, to refute. We see this in political debate too!


I wonder if any of this sounds familiar? It certainly did to me! Recognising that I was doing do this was the first step to changing the way I thought. The benefit of time is that we gradually learn over the years how to dismiss these negative thoughts, or in some cases, to at least balance them out. I certainly have, and whilst I was prompted to really do this by my infertility and No Kidding status, I’ve found it a valuable lesson throughout my life. So if you haven’t seen it, I’ll finish on a more positive note by reposting this graphic.




*   from Robert L. Leahy, Stephen J. F. Holland, and Lata K. McGinn’s Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders (2012)



Monday, 10 July 2017

Acceptance and reblogging

I was searching for an old No Kidding post the other day, and though I couldn’t find it (or I’d actually never written it anywhere other than in my head, perhaps), I did find another old post that had an aside that spoke to me again. It gave me an idea. I think I’m going to go through my blog here, from the very beginning, and reblog, or update, some posts. Maybe too I’ll develop a picture of the journey I’ve been on, and I’m interested to see if that matches the picture in my head of the healing process.

Back to the thought that caught my eye a few days ago. I’d started thinking and talking at the time about the positives of this No Kidding life, and the gifts that my infertility and childless/free status had given me. I’d also seen a lot of talk about acceptance, what it was, and why it was hard. It’s so very common for those new to the No Kidding life to fight against acceptance, because they don’t really have a feel for what it actually is. But once we realise that our lives are not over and that we can begin to embrace them, then acceptance comes.




Monday, 3 July 2017

The Handmaid's Tale

Mel and Loribeth* have both written about The Handmaid’s Tale, and over the weekend I did too, on A Separate LifeThey can’t do that, can they?  I was surprised by the level of rage and distress I felt over both the book (which I hadn’t read before) and especially the TV series, at the same time being delighted that it had been written/made so brilliantly. Initially, when I knew it was based around a story of fertility/infertility, I was a little put off. But afterwards, analysing my thoughts about it, I realised that my reactions were and are not influenced by the infertility angle, although admittedly I felt a few twinges about some of the nuances of the monthly-waiting, the questions being asked, the blame of not conceiving, the feelings of the infertile Wives, and my tribe of the unseen and rarely spoken of “Non-Women,” who are mentioned in the book but I am not sure they’re mentioned in the series.

Ultimately though, I have concluded that my strong reaction to The Handmaid’s Tale is all about feminism, and women’s status in society being reduced to their bodies. I think too this is why I continue to write, to defend the position of women without children, to talk about our legitimate but frequently invisible place in society, simply because we haven't produced children. Feminism is perhaps why I feel these injustices and ignorance so strongly, as along with the very personal context I have with infertility and life without children, I also view them in a much broader social context. Feminism is, after all, just about equality and justice, and surely that's what we all want?


*    If I've missed your post on The Handmaid's Tale, I apologise, and ask you to leave a link in the comments, as I'd love to read it.


 

Monday, 26 June 2017

My existence is not offensive

I’ve spent my life being considerate, polite, deferential, and was diplomatic long before I ever became a diplomat. It was ingrained into me, my gender, my culture and my family, to put others before myself, to be more restrained, to avoid confrontation, not to be pushy or loud, not to speak out, to mediate and to negotiate.

Some of these characteristics are essential in decent society, and can be beneficial in our business and social lives, but they can hold us back too, resulting in us being pushed around, interrupted, or ignored. I have to say that it really took until my 40s before I felt the liberation of a growing self-confidence, and I know I am not alone amongst women in this.
I think that’s why I am so sad (and yes, why I’m talking about this again) to continue to see – in blogs and comments, including comments here – how reticent* many people are about defending their reality as life without children, that they are worried that they will seem rude. But our existence is not offensive, our No Kidding lives are not discourteous to any others, and therefore having increased visibility as people without children – talking about the fact we have no children, whether in a casual one-line comment, or in response to others, whether correcting assumptions, or by refusing to justify our lives or respond to invasive questions – is not impolite either.

By suppressing our feelings and by brushing aside even small, unintentional slights, I worry that we’re reinforcing our invisibility, we’re giving the rest of society permission to ignore our reality or to feel superior, and essentially we’re contributing to a less diverse, more narrowly-focused society, and that doesn't help anyone.

Like anything, it’s all about timing, about tone of voice, about context, and with good and fair intentions; we simply don’t have kids, and it is not bad manners to acknowledge this.


* I am not talking about the early days, when we are grieving and, out of necessity, trying desperately to protect ourselves.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Those dreaded Days

As mentioned last month, I was in Iceland for Mother’s Day, and never saw any advertising or any mention of it (I think that I’d have figured out what it was, despite the language barrier), which was a refreshing change. Besides, I had rather more to worry about that day, because there was a close and rather violent encounter between some Icelandic rocks and sand and my face. (I’m fine now, though I did have some technicolour cuts and bruises and black eyes for about a week.)

There was, of course, the usual onslaught on social media, as there is today for Father’s Day, where the curse of social media is that people seem to place importance on being seen to recognise their parents or partners. I will admit that I was a bit fed up that my normal feeds this morning were clogged up with northern hemisphere people cheerfully wishing their fathers or husbands a good day, and even resented* those people who tagged on wishes for “those who find today hard,” and wondered why, if they acknowledge that today is hard for some people, do they post about it at all?

I guess I’m just thankful that my husband isn’t very active on Fb, so won’t even know that it is F-Day elsewhere in the world. Besides, as we don’t celebrate Father’s Day here (or in Australia either, I think) until the beginning of September, we’ll both have to go through it all again in a few months.

The world is both too small on days like this, but – as I’m still suffering a bit from jet-lag – not small enough!

* Though after a nice coffee and muffin at the local cafe, I was feeling much better!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Some No Kidding post-travel gratitude

I'm grateful today that I have no children, for reasons which may become obvious.
  • We have just returned from an amazing trip we couldn't have done with children.
  • I don't have to deal with my own jet lag at the same time as dealing with children with their own jet lag.
  • I could fall asleep on our dining table last night whilst waiting for my husband to get home with the Chinese food for dinner.
  • I can have an afternoon nap without guilt.
  • I don't have to cook tonight if I am not up to it.
  • It may take some days to adjust, so I won't stress if I'm wide awake in the middle of the night.

I hope to catch up with all my missed blog reading over the next week or so, and to do some blogging myself, but first priority is that afternoon nap.






Monday, 5 June 2017

We are now enough

This post is inspired by the following quote, written by Nora, in a guest post on Lisa’s Life Without Baby:
Somebody related the question of motherhood to a form of immortality, and said it is viable through creating children or something else of lasting value, like art.
Continuing the family line is a common reason for having children, and the feeling that our line ends with us is often a source of grief and loss for those of us without children. I’ve felt it, though I have to admit that (mostly) I don’t feel it any more. The need to compensate for this, ie, through the creation of art or something else of lasting value, is not uncommon, and goes hand in hand with the search for the Next Big Thing. If we can’t be parents, we figure that we have to do something else in our lives that has a similar impact – for a while.

Ultimately, though, I’ve realised how much of this quest for immortality is also all about ego, the selfish (but all too common) desire to have your particular DNA carried into the future, or to see your name at the top of a family tree. And this immortality only lasts for one or two generations, but rarely much beyond this. The truth is that what matters is now, and right now, we are enough, we are all enough, no matter what we create.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Taking back control conversationally

I’ve been thinking about ways of dealing with the inability of (some) parents to talk about anything other than their children, and would love you to share any ideas or success stories of your own. I am tired though of always being the thoughtful ones, the ones who do all the emotional work in having conversations with parents, because we’re worried about being rude if we actually try to point out – either bluntly or through hints as below – how unfairly (and frankly, rudely) we are treated when we answer, “no” to that inevitable question.

There is of course the possibility of making a pre-emptive strike, responding, “before I answer, I want to check you’re not going to walk away if I say that I don’t have children,” and then tell them a funny story about this actually happening – if they actually walk away after that, then they truly have a problem!

Another pre-emptive response (similar to the one above, or perhaps the next step in the conversation) is to diplomatically ask them about how they feel about those parents who lose all their conversational abilities and interest in others when they have children. I personally know many mothers who roll their eyes at always being asked about their kids, rather than their work or travel or what movies they’ve seen recently or the weather or current events, etc, and would respond very positively to this.

As soon as possible, ask them questions about their lives (other than their children), showing you’re interested in them rather than just their status as parents, whether it’s house renovations or what grows (or doesn’t) in their garden, what sports they follow, where they grew up, etc. People love talking about themselves, and should respond positively to you, perhaps not even noticing they’re not talking about their kids for once.

If they’ve opened the conversation asking about children, then it's easy to ask about their kids, demonstrating in the nicest possible way that it is perfectly possible to have a pleasant conversation about children without actually having children. 


Monday, 22 May 2017

Healing and my Personality

I was thinking the other day about how our individual personalities affect how we heal after infertility, how they can both help and hinder us in the process, and came up with this preliminary list of my own helpful and unhelpful personality traits:
  • I don’t like failing.
  • I don’t like the feeling that I’m missing out.
  • I worry too much about what other people think.
  • I hadn’t spent my whole life wanting only to be a mother.
  • I never thought “things happen for a reason.”
  • I have always had strong feminist tendencies, and so have never defined women by their biology.
  • I was older, so was already learning to accept that I am the one who chooses what matters to me.
  • I am pragmatic, and so didn‘t (always) fall for society’s messages I was hearing.
I’d love to see your lists too - here in the comments, or on your blogs linked back here.



Monday, 15 May 2017

Happy being a stereotype

People often assume that the No Kidding amongst us can (and want to) travel the world, and that this  makes up for not having children. I’m sorry, but I know my existence just perpetuates this stereotype, and I apologise to those of you who resent being typecast. The fact that I think I would have travelled almost as much if we had had children seems to be irrelevant to the perpetuation of this stereotype; so too, is the fact that many of my most-travelled friends are parents.

This stereotype raises its ugly head less often for me these days, as - over the last ten years or so - I see my eldest sister and a number of friends also becoming free to travel wherever and whenever they are choose, as their children grow up and leave home. Our situation, where we were one of the few couples we knew who were free to travel unconstrained by the school year, is no longer unique.

Still,I remember a discussion last year with a former mentor of mine, who was envious of our three months in Italy in 2013 (and two months either side of it), noting that as she was now a grandparent, she couldn’t be away that long from the grandchildren. I realised this was very much her choice though, as I compared her with another friend who summers in France for six months with her French beau, and then returns in the NZ summer to see her children and grandchildren.

So maybe in the end this has little to do with stereotypes, and now is really all about choice. As this post is published, we will be a week into our northern adventure holiday, and I will feel okay that I am continuing this stereotype as the carefree couple without children - because that’s exactly what I plan on being for the next few weeks.



Monday, 8 May 2017

Refusing to give up my power

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.


Monday, 1 May 2017

My internal bad guys

Last year, Mel wrote a post about our internal bad guys, the voices in our heads that stop us living our lives, tell us stories that aren’t true, and steal our efforts at happiness.

I think everyone has these bad guys – I remember an “ah ha” moment when I was in my late 20s/early 30s when I saw a businesswoman on a documentary talk about imposter syndrome. I believe that it is much more prevalent amongst women ... or perhaps we just talk about it more?

I do think though that infertility emboldens these internal bad guys, when they say some terrible things to us, and additionally, in those early months/years of a No Kidding Life, they can really go over the top. Sadly, they learn their best material from stereotypes in books, on television and movies, by listening to politicians and radio announcers, or even from our friends and family, and then they know just when to throw these statements back at us, usually at our weakest, most vulnerable moments.

I’ve managed to stand up to the ringleader, What If Wanda, and as I told her in no uncertain terms to STFU shut her mouth, her followers Fearful Freddie, Sensitive Sally and Behaving Bessie quietened as well. Even though What If Wanda and her crew turn up again from time to time, they are actually easy to stand up to in the end, because all I have to do is ask, “are they speaking the truth?”

Now, if only I could get rid of Procrastinating Polly as easily!


Monday, 24 April 2017

A great example of knowing better and doing better

I’ve written a bit lately about how I feel some IF (and post-IF) bloggers react to some of our blogs; when we write about strong women, they see it as elevating No Kidding women above those who are still trying, and when we ask for a bit of sensitivity – asking people who know better to do better – we’re accused of trying to live in a bubble.

So I wanted to point out that not all IF and post-IF bloggers are like this, even though I know I am stating the obvious because many of those wonderful women read my blog and are very thoughtful in their own blogs, having learnt and grown from their own experiences, as have we all.

I was recently delighted however, to see a comment from a blogger (a mother, and currently pregnant) called mamajo23, who wrote a comment (on Different Shores’ blog) about whether having a child is the holy grail and delivers automatic happiness, as we all seem to assume when we are desperately trying to conceive. Her comment was interesting:
“I can now say first hand that a child(ren) do not make life happy … but rather the incessant pressure from society to procreate finally subsides.”
This comment alone would have sparked a blog post from me, but as I have more to say today and only eight sentences to say it in, I’ll simply point out that you don’t have to have a child to notice that this pressure abates as you enter your mid-40s and beyond, and along with the wisdom and confidence that comes with these years anyway, there is a real feeling of a burden lifting.

I then visited her blog, finding that she has recently been thinking about some of the issues I’ve dealt with here in recent times, in particular triggers (through pregnancy announcements) and the idea of “giving up.”

I found it totally heart-warming to read these posts from her perspective (knowing of course that when I write I could be accused of being over-sensitive or bitter), as she and her equally sensitive readers and commenters reinforce the importance of us all considering other people’s situations, and of trying to be kind in our everyday and blogging lives.

Thank you, Mamajo23, for knowing better, and doing better.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Asking to be heard is not a threat

Someone said to me last year that some No Kidding bloggers were trying to elevate the No Kidding above others in the infertility community, putting down those who were trying to conceive or those who had resolved their infertility with children.

I was very surprised at this, and obviously disagreed, as what I see is that we are all talking honestly about our No Kidding situations, about how we got here, what we learned on the way about the fertility industry, or how parents or pregnant women relate to us (for example), and in doing so, we are seeking equality, seeking recognition and legitimisation.

It struck me that this comment was the classic example of a privileged group feeling threatened by a minority that is beginning to speak out. It was no different to men saying that they are being downtrodden, as women reach up to them, to members of the white majority that see equality of minorities as being a threat to them, or to those who see gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage. All any of these groups want is equality – of opportunity, of respect. In the process of any of these movements, I like to think that we learn more about our societies and communities and ourselves.

This is the aim, as I see it, of No Kidding bloggers, who just want to be recognised, to be included in our community and wider society, and most importantly, to be heard.

No more, but definitely no less.


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

An important reminder

Yes, I missed another Microblog Monday last week, but I was visiting my niece and her parents (see What Charlie Taught Me) so I figure I have a good excuse.

A dear friend has just been told by her body, in the nastiest way, to take good care of herself. It's a good message, a reminder we all need from time to time, to slow down, smell the roses and breathe. Too often we do what we think we should be doing, rather than what's really important, and that applies to the No Kidding amongst us as much as busy parents, as we've all put on a brave face, or kept busy to the point of exhaustion to avoid having the time to think. Take care of yourselves, you're important!

Soon (but not soon enough!) we leave for our first big trip for almost four years, which is the longest break between (major, ie not Australia) destinations of our marriage. Go check out A Separate Life, where I'm going to run a small competition to guess where we're going. I know I've told one or two of you, in comments on your blogs, about at least one of my destinations, so feel free to email me (rather than enter the competition) and you'll get a postcard too.




Monday, 27 March 2017

The gift of acceptance

I've spent the last week feeling rather sorry for myself - though I figure I've got some reason for that - though I'm also very thankful for your good wishes! But I know that it could be much worse (though almost every time I think that, it actually is!), and I'm accepting that I might need to learn to live with an underlying level of pain.

It's that Pain Olympics thing, but when Pain Olympics work in our favour, not against us. I am able to see how good I have it, and how much worse it could be (and has been), rather than comparing myself only against those who are in robust health and never have any issues.

I am also not under the illusion that life is fair - infertility and pregnancy loss taught me that - and yes, sometimes further injustice can feel like a slap in the face.

But infertility and pregnancy loss has also taught me to accept that life is not fair, and I've emerged from that stronger. I don't take it personally any more, and I don't feel as if my self-worth is threatened, knowing that I am who I am, not what my body will do for me. I am thankful for that, for infertility's gift to me, making it easier to deal with life's blows, and making the joys in life even sweeter, the gratitude easier to find.








Friday, 24 March 2017

Checking in

I had reason this week to be grateful I didn't have to look after children as well as cope with a TGN attack.

I was grateful too for the tui in my trees last night, chirping and clicking and clacking madly.

I was also grateful for my husband cooking and looking after me.

These are small things, but being able to feel gratitude in the midst of any painful (emotional or physical) time helps.

Hopefully I'll be back and posting again soon.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Three Steps to Banish Negative Thoughts

I found this list of suggestions in a draft email I wrote a long time ago to someone who was in a lot of pain, and now I can’t honestly remember if I sent this to them or if I decided they weren’t ready to hear it. I suspect though, that we all need these reminders from time to time:
  1. Every time you recognise a negative thought, first, consciously recognise that you're thinking it. Don’t let yourself reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict these negative thoughts.

  2. Next, challenge the thought, by saying one or all of the following:

  3. "well, I know that's rubbish"
    "Mali or <insert favourite blogger here> says that is rubbish"
    (and don't let yourself think "but I know better" because you don't)
    "the world doesn't work that way"
    "biology doesn't work that way."

    Or challenge it in a more detailed way:
    "that can't be true because there are people who murder/torture/neglect their children,
    and they are no more worthy than me."

  4.  Finally, simply say, "I can't think that way, I am a good person, I deserve better."  Because I know you deserve better, even if right now, you don't.



Monday, 6 March 2017

Being alone - or not - in our old age

This morning, I heard someone say that their only daughter had moved to Australia, and that if they did not do so too (which, for financial reasons, was a complicated decision), they would “be alone” for the rest of their life.

This person felt that not having their only child near them was a great tragedy, and that having to make this decision was a terrible injustice. Their perspective was clear – that their life was not worth living unless they were close to their child.

Needless to say, when I heard this I rolled my eyes a little, thinking not only of all of us who won’t have our own children near us when we are elderly, but of my great-uncle and great-aunt, whose children all lived overseas or in another island and had to rely on a paid housekeeper and my parents to help when they were aging, or of my in-laws, who – if something happened to my husband and I – would also be without children in New Zealand (despite having four of them, the nearest is more than an eight hour flight away), and of all the other people who are without family in their day-to-day lives.

I felt a little sympathy too, because it seemed that this person (I suspect it was a woman) had never prepared themselves for their retirement other than intending to rely on their child, and so felt alone and obviously a little angry and afraid.

That’s the advantage that I think we, the No Kidding, have over those who have focused their whole lives on their children. Instead of sitting back and looking at our old age with doom and gloom, we can consciously choose to make preparations, both practical and emotional. We can make friends (hopefully of all ages), and ensure we are in an environment that is suitable for our old age before we are too old to make the change (unlike my in-laws who live in a house with treacherous stairs – as I learned to my chagrin last year – and a garden that is too large for them to cope with, and on a hill they cannot now walk up and down to get to the convenient shops nearby).

But most importantly, we can prepare mentally for our old age, knowing that we won’t be relying on a child for our happiness, that we won’t take it as a personal betrayal or failing if we don’t have family around us in our later years, and that we will be better prepared to look elsewhere for support and companionship, appreciating those who are there – in whatever context – in our declining years. 



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Triggers

I think one of the reasons why I was so hesitant for so long to publish Sunday’s post was the vexed and debated issue of triggers; the question of whether recognition of triggers panders to an over-sensitive community, or if ignoring triggers is insensitive and a gross display of privilege.

So, here in No Kidding land, it is worth questioning whether the idea of avoiding the things that hurt us (scan photos, baby showers etc) is healthy, and will it, in the end, hurt us further by isolating us from the wider, largely parented, society.

In the beginning, when we first confront the permanency of our No Kidding lives (or begin to confront this whilst still actively trying to become parents), many things will hurt us, whether they are thoughtless comments or pictures on a blog or on Facebook, or more largely, the feeling of isolation from mainstream society. Self-preservation and self-protection is necessary at this stage, and displays of sensitivity from others is much appreciated.

Longer term, we are better able to cope with triggers, to recover from the pain they create, and to let it pass. It is also much easier to avoid taking these personally, to consider the point of view of the person who has raised the trigger, and maybe as a result, to be better equipped to communicate with them about their words or actions. (I think at this stage we are also better equipped to avoid being insensitive to others too; this was my point from yesterday, that when we know better we do better.)

We all know we can’t make the world conform to our desires, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak up and try to change it for the better.




Sunday, 26 February 2017

Knowing better ...

I have to admit that I have had this post largely written for over a year, but for reasons that will become obvious, I’ve been a little scared to post it. Bent Not Broken’s post about being ambushed by a work colleague with a scan video has finally prompted me to hit the big orange button, Publish.

These days, in my happily ever after No Kidding life, I don’t have many triggers. I can watch birth scenes on TV (I’ve always been curious about the act and process of giving birth), and breastfeeding (even though that was a particular loss I felt) with little or no discomfort. But scan pictures can still throw me off kilter. My only scans have been to diagnose (or attempt to diagnose) my ectopic pregnancies, to see the seemingly endless (at the time) problems in resolving my second ectopic pregnancy, to show that IVF wasn’t working for me, and to diagnose my fibroids that lead to my hysterectomy. None of these resulted in good news, or happy memories. So I flinch whenever I see one.

I of course admit I have been scarred by my history. I’ve recounted before my story of emailing good friends offshore to tell them of my second ectopic. They didn't know about my first either, but I updated them at the same time – I was responding to their Christmas/New Year message (how joyous). I received an almost immediate response. It said, "sorry to hear that, but hey, we're pregnant, and attached is our scan photo!" Needless to say, I deleted the email, and never opened the attached photo. This couple had struggled themselves with infertility, requiring IVF/ICSI to conceive, so I could understand their excitement. But as we know, infertility doesn’t necessarily breed sensitivity either.

It’s the same in the ALI blogosphere. Now, before I offend anyone, I’m the first one to support those who are pregnant or parenting after infertility in writing about their realities. Once it is clear they are pregnant or parenting, I don’t believe they should have to put disclaimers, or particularly censor their words. If they’re finding pregnancy or parenting hard, then they should feel free to say so. If they are joyously happy, then they can say that too. We have the choice of reading their posts – usually you can see the direction a post is heading, and choose whether to continue – or not. Self-protection for us is relatively easy.

Pictures, however, are different from text, or spoken words in a podcast, and research shows they are far more likely to elicit negative emotions. And the issue is wider than just scan photos, but these are most commonly posted. If there is a lead-in to a post that suggests I might not want to scroll down to a visual image, or simply refers to coming images, or is hinted at in the post title, or has a photo one click away, then I very much appreciate the warning. I can then choose not to click , or simply to look away, or even just mentally brace myself. But if a photo (scan photo, for example, or birth/baby photo, or breastfeeding photo, or photo of a positive pregnancy test - or whatever might be a trigger) is the first thing we see when we open a post or see a Fb update, then there is no option but to see it. In a split second, unlike with text, we have seen the full image, and will experience all the emotions that surround that. Likewise, in real life if we are asked if we’d like to see baby photos or scan photos or video, or whatever, we can see what’s coming, mostly, and choose to avoid it. But where people want it to be a surprise (like BNB’s colleague), we have no choice, no ability to protect ourselves, and we’re hit when we’re least expecting it.

Now, I do understand that a finally pregnant IVFer might be thrilled to have a good news pregnancy test/scan/birth/breastfeeding experience at last, and may want to share that with their readers. It’s become a rite of passage that some people have desperately wanted to experience. I think many of us can relate to that.

But I have to ask, is a photo of an ultrasound scan (for example) – especially on what, until the scan photo is posted, used to be an infertility blog - really necessary?

I don’t really understand why people want to share their scan photos anyway – especially if we already know they’re pregnant. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have shared mine. After all, they don’t impart any extra knowledge – unlike birth photos, where you can see the baby, learn if they have red hair (like my adorable niece), or if they’ve got long limbs (like my sister), or dimples, and start to get to know the new little human. Scan photos though, all look exactly the same (with the exception of scans for multiples), so sharing them online with others seems unnecessary. Wait. I acknowledge that they are of course completely necessary and important for the parents-to-be, but probably only the parents-to-be  or okay, maybe the grandparents-to-be too. But for the rest of us, they’re pretty irrelevant, perhaps even incomprehensible. After all, it’s not as if we require proof of their claim that they’re pregnant! We can still be happy for them or to offer our congratulations.
I know that someone who hasn't experienced infertility might not really understand that sharing such images (or the way they share them) can be painful, and I can choose to educate them (or not), depending on who they are and the relationship I have with them. It is much easier to do that these days.

But that’s the thing I don’t understand here in the ALI blogging community. People who are pregnant after infertility know, for example, that scan photos can be painful. They know how it feels to be side-swiped by suddenly coming across an unexpected photo. Or even if it doesn’t affect them, they know that it can and does affect others. We all wish we didn’t know that, that there was no reason to know that. But surely a cost – and I would argue, a benefit – to infertility is that it can bring greater awareness and compassion into our lives, especially when we consider how our actions will affect others.

Yet despite that, some still choose to post scan photos, arguing that they have wanted to be able to do this for so long, they should be able to. That’s a fair enough argument. I agree, it isn’t fair that some women and couples can, without guilt or thought, spread their happy news this way, and that it is harder for the infertile. But, knowing what we know, do we really want to be those women? Can we, after experiencing so much, really be those carefree people? We all know former infertiles who seem to suffer from infertility amnesia, treating current infertiles and those of us without children in ways that would have appalled them even weeks/months earlier, when they were going through infertility themselves. I find it hard to believe that they truly forget, that there is never a wee pang of guilt as they join the insensitive parent/pregnant person club. It's a choice. And it isn't as if that is the only choice, either. There is a thoughtful parent/pregnant person club, and - although it is unfortunately smaller - you don’t have to have experienced infertility to be a member.

So what I find hard to accept is that some of our fellow bloggers then consciously choose their own wishes over the pain of the people they know will be reading their posts. It’s not done through ignorance, but rather is a decision not to care.

Does this mean I hold those who’ve been through infertility to a higher standard? Yes, it does. And I guess that's why I'm writing this here. Because I like to think that when we know better, we do better.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Accepting it's not going to happen



I’ve been trying to write a Microblog Mondays post for about an hour now. I’ve been reading a lot of the draft topics I have in my No Kidding Blog document, I’ve added to and edited a longer post that is almost ready to go (prompted by a recent blog I read elsewhere), I’ve read some articles, and I’ve started drafting and discarding several posts.

There’s only so much I can say in an eight sentence post. (Yes, I have stuck diligently to the original suggestion that these posts should be no longer than eight sentences.) I don’t want to briefly address a topic that deserves more attention, and I don’t want to repeat myself, as I know I probably do too much anyway.

So today, as inspiration has failed me, I need to accept – as I have had to do in the past –that sometimes, it is just not going to happen. That recognition is once again liberating, and allows me to feel happy at the good day, and at the other task I’ve been focused on lately, and that is planning travel activities somewhere exotic.

Instead, I need to go outside and enjoy this (rare) lovely day, appreciate that I’m not busy doing a school run or dashing from work to school to after-school activities to a chaotic home, and breathe deeply.