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… about infertility and childlessness. This post is in recognition of the US organisation Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week. I’m a few days late, but better late than never! It seems appropriate to write this post here, on A Separate Life, than on my No Kidding in NZ blog, where I reach people who know these things already.

  • If I want you to know why we don’t have children, I’ll tell you. But it’s my business, and your privilege to know, so don’t pry. After all, I don’t ask if your children were the result of a boozy one-night stand, a contraceptive failure, an attempt to save a marriage, make-up sex, the result of years of trying, or a happy and lucky planned conception.
  • Infertility or pregnancy loss or childlessness is not a blameworthy situation. Don’t ask “who’s fault is it?”
  • A friend once said to me that I never had anything so I’d never lost it (when I was recovering from an ectopic pregnancy). She didn’t know how wrong she was. Whether childless people were ever pregnant or not, we have lost something huge – the future we wanted.
  • It was NOT “meant to be.” How would you feel if I told you your mother’s cancer was “meant to be,” or your child’s accident or disability, or your job loss, or car accident?
  • I AM a “real woman.” Motherhood is not the only female experience. Grief over pregnancy loss and infertility is a very real experience too.
  • Not having children lifelong is not the same as your single years in your 20s or 30s. Don’t presume you understand it.
  • Please don’t say “take my kids.” It is flippant and insulting. And we all know you don’t mean it.
  • Adoption isn’t the easy solution you think it is. Anywhere. In New Zealand, for example, it is incredibly rare, except for international adoptions, which come with their own complications and expenses. It is most likely that we know far more about adoption and its issues than you do, so asking “have you thought about adopting?” is insulting. If you mean, “why didn’t you adopt?” and you are genuinely interested, then ask that. But don’t be offended if we don’t want to answer. See my very first point above.
  • We like to hear about your children and be part of their lives. Please don’t exclude us. We could help you, and your kids, so much if you invited us in.
  • But also, learn to talk about topics other than your children! (And I really don’t want or need to hear about all your friends’ children!)
  • Talk to us about our lives. You might learn something. We might learn something about you too.
  • I learned a lot about myself, about grieving, and about society going through infertility and childlessness.
  • It is hard living in a society that is structured around families with children, that focuses on those families, and that seems to find it impossible to acknowledge those of us who don’t have children, or who might be estranged from their families, or who might have lost them. Look at electioneering, advertising around Christmas or Mother’s and Father’s Day, etc. Think about the people who are alone. Maybe reach out to them.
  • Old age can be scary for us, especially when we have cared for elderly parents, and have seen and understood the needs and fears of the elderly.
  • Sometimes I feel childless. Sometimes I feel childFREE. Both are okay.
  • Enjoying my life isn’t a rejection of yours. We each have to embrace the lives we have.
  • My life is full. And it is good.

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I have a lot of posts half-written now – or perhaps, less than half-written. But they’re not ready to go, and today I’ve been distracted with other chores, so I thought I’d share a photo or two from a very pleasant walk I took at the end of last week with my husband. When the wind drops in Wellington in spring, it is time to grab the opportunity and get out and walk. This year we’ve been trying to find new places to walk, because – perhaps due to the lockdown – I’m a bit sick of walking around my neighbourhood, frankly. For years we have been driving over a particular bridge at the beginning of a valley, and I’ve looked at the river and the walking paths along it and thought or said or both, “we really should walk up there one of these days.” But the decades passed, and we always drove on, needing to check in with the in-laws, and getting caught up there. Now that they’re gone, though, we felt free to park under the bridge, and take a walk.

It’s a simple path, made for dog-walkers and human walkers and cyclists, along a river. There’s nothing strenuous about it, but perhaps that’s the point. It is relaxing, we were surrounded by green, with trees with new spring leaves lining the river, and on the other side of the path, a couple of paddocks, a driving range nearest the bridge, and an expensive golf course next to the path. This was the adventureland of my husband when he was a child, before the driving range, and when the paddocks still had cows and sheep, and before the bypass was built on the other side of the river.

In the midst of some small rapids on the river was a fisherman, casting his line out into the calmer water. We tried to imagine what he was hoping to catch. “There aren’t any fish in that river!” my husband exclaimed. But the water was crystal clear, running down from the mountains without travelling through farmland or industry, and so it would make sense that there are a few. We were passed by the occasional cyclist, a jogger with a very tired dog, and we never caught up to the woman pushing the pram way up ahead of us. We eventually turned and walked back to the car. The exercise was good to have, but better than that, we had time to breathe some fresh clear air, enjoy the sun, and feel some peace.

Note: I did not play with the colours at all on these photos. It really was that green.

Can you see the fisherman?

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After days of wild stormy winds, yesterday was calm but cool. I ventured out for my first walk in a long time, tired of exercising inside with the blinds down to youtube videos. Coupled with other events, exercising inside had not been doing anything for my mood, and it was time to get out.

As I stepped out into the crisp air, I felt an immediate lift in my spirits. The sky was blue and finally the trees were relatively still. Everything sparkled, cleansed by nature’s storm. I headed off on one of my usual walking routes. The light had changed since my last walk – no longer the low, gorgeous light of winter. Now it was brighter, promising new things to come. It made me smile. Spring had definitely arrived.

I walked past my favourite stand of toi toi* that catches the light so beautifully in the early morning and late evening.

Alas, there was only one stem left, and a broken stem beside it showing how the wind had battered it. All the others had disappeared. I’m hoping it is resilient, though, and will be watching to see if it recovers. It wasn’t the only casualty of the wind. The neighbours’ gorgeous blossom tree next to our driveway was stripped of its blossom. But tiny green leaves were emerging, leaving a feeling of hope.

As I got to the park and playground, I could smell the freshly cut grass. Nothing smells more of spring or summer, does it? There were children playing on the playground, and kicking around balls on the sports field, enjoying the first beautiful day of their school holidays.

I continued my walk – past old folks venturing to the shops, quite a few other walkers and joggers, the occasional dog-walker, grandparents babysitting the grandchildren, and older kids out enjoying their two weeks of freedom.

The whole feeling was one of serenity, perhaps helped by the fact that we had no new community cases of COVID-19, and that it has now been two weeks since any new cases from the Auckland cluster’s outbreak. I took in a deep breath of pure, clean air, and smiled.

* or toe toe, or I may have mistaken pampas grass, an exotic weed, for our native toi toi.

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