Thursday, 24 May 2018

Gifts of Infertility Series #25 – A Reminder of What is Important

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

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

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

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

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

*  This is the final in this series. Well, unless another Gift of Infertility sneaks up on me!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Don't feel guilty - be happy!

I thought I'd look back on some previous posts today, and went back to my first calendar year of blogging on No Kidding (I've blogged elsewhere for years longer), and the things I talked about that May 2011.

The month started with some thoughts (amongst others) about some of the things I would be doing if I'd had children, if my ectopic babies had not been ectopic. These were wistful thoughts that had sneaked up on me, things I hadn't realised I was missing out on, although in writing about them I was able to focus on the things I loved, rather than the fact I wasn't doing them with children.

But then I moved onto happier thoughts, and wrote about all the things I was missing out on because I don't have children, but it was a happy list, things I am pleased I have missed out on.

Finally, I wrote a post celebrating all the things I can do precisely because I have children. It still stands, and might be worth looking at if you're feeling a bit down. I called it Yee hah, the things I'm doing because I don't have kids!

Seven years later my message is the same; it's okay to embrace our lifestyles, to feel happy about the advantages, and to cast off any guilt that might be lurking.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Debrief on The Day that is Not For Us

I thought I’d report back on my Day that is Not For Us plans, as when my husband and I were ushered to our table in the little French restaurant on Saturday evening for his offical (if a day early) birthday dinner, standing next to the table was a man holding a very young child! He had to move for me to take my seat, and then sat down at the table that was next to us, and I immediately said to my husband, “the best laid plans … !”

Then the mother started speaking loudly to the third person at the table about how special mothers are, and continued doing this for the next 20 minutes. I looked at my husband, and we both had to laugh – but don’t worry, I’d done my fair share of eye-rolling prior to this. They left not long after the child gave a deafening screech in my ear, and to be fair to him, the father did apologise to us for disturbing our evening.

The following day we had a lazy, rainy day Sunday morning, picked up lunch to take to the in-laws, and then retreated home for a happy evening with some of my husband’s (and my) favourite Thai food for his birthday dinner, and binge watching a series we had recorded.

Next year I’m not going to plan at all!

Finally, I was congratulating myself about avoiding too many M Day messages … until I woke this (Monday) morning and looked at Fbk, and after seeing several self-congratulatory messages from friends (ranging from Malaysia to the US), I shut down social media for the rest of the day, kicking myself for forgetting that sometimes, being a way ahead of the rest of the world is a curse!

Monday, 7 May 2018

The Day that is Not For Us

Yes, it's that day soon, the Day that is Not For Us, the day that strikes dread into the heart of many of the No Kidding, the day that reminds us without mercy that we didn't become the mothers we had wanted to be, the day that has a little sting, whether we've been No Kidding after infertility for months, or for 15 years!

 Last year, we were in Iceland and delightfully buffered from the day and all it brings, but this year I am unable to escape, and so I am currently trying to figure out how to maintain a level of control over the day and how it affects me. It is actually my husband's birthday this Sunday, and we've decided to go out for dinner the night before, to avoid the happy families in the restaurants, but this means we have no excuse but to spend time with his mother! The truth is that, of her four children (and their spouses), we are the only ones who will be with her on the day, and we want to do that for her.

However, I want to keep some of the day for my husband, too, so I'm trying to think of a way we can do both – do justice to his mother, but give him some special time too.

But I also want – yes, I want a lot! – to carve out some of the day for me too, because I'm not going to pretend that I don't feel ignored and isolated by society on this day, and forgotten by friends and family - that would dishonour my journey, and our losses. As I said recently to Infertile Phoenix, I think that the world wants us to assimilate and join in with the day, whereas doing our own thing, honouring our own lives (because nobody else will), is a legitimate a way to spend the day (or in my case, part of the day). It is in fact, one of the great freedoms of living a No Kidding life.

For the record, some previous M Day posts:


Monday, 30 April 2018

Better than bearable

In ALI blogging circles, it’s not unusual to read the comment, "I can't bear to live without children," which, when you think about it, is a huge statement to make, devaluing as such everything else that might be good about our lives.

It makes me question why some people might feel so definitively that their lives (and therefore our lives?) would not be worth living without children, though I know there are some obvious first answers:
  • Is it because, during infertility, we invest so much of our time, our money, and our emotional capital into having children, that it seems impossible to even begin to think that this might have been anything other than 100% necessary?
  • It it because society’s pronatal emphasis on being a parent, and the daily proporaganda that we are exposed to as a result, leaves us questioning the validity of any other life for ourselves?
  • Is it shame or fear of failure; simply by living a No Kidding life we admit to the world that we couldn’t achieve something that so many achieve so easily?
I think that, here in ALI-land, we only ever question statements like this when we know that we have no choice but to bear it, when we realise that we may have to live No Kidding lives, to find our way on a path without children.

But it makes me sad that during the infertility battle these blanket statements aren’t questioned then  either, as I think it would make life a lot easier when we step through the door and onto that No Kidding path.

Because the truth is, our No Kidding lives are so, so much more than simply bearable, filled with joy and opportunity, and endless positives.