We always thought we would have kids. We started trying when we believed we were ready. A month went by, then two months, six months, a year. Nothing happened.

Something was wrong, but nobody could tell us what - and they still can't to this day. We tried IVF three times but our results were not good. We were devastated.

Eighteen months after our last IVF cycle, we knew we would not be having our own children. And, somehow, we have moved to a life that is much different to the one we thought we'd have.

This blog is about what we do now we know we won't be having children - the thoughts, dreams, realities, sorrows, and joys that have become our new life path.

I hope you will enjoy what I will be sharing, and I hope that if you are at the point where life without children is a reality for you, that you might find some hope and inspiration here.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cleland and children...

There is a wonderful place in South Australia, in the Adelaide Hills, called Cleland Wildlife Park. Whenever we go there, or anywhere where there are animals to be truthful, my inner child comes out to play. I love animals and quite often ask random strangers if I can pat their dog.

A few weeks ago Kirby and I took the daughter of our friends, Jess, and one of her friends from school, Georgina, to Cleland. It was for Jess’ birthday, which was actually in June, but the year was so unexpectedly busy for all of us that we were only able to find a day to go recently.

I love spending time with the children of our friends and family. The children are all different ages – from six months old to thirteen years old. The stages they go through, the interests they develop, the characteristics they have, are all so fascinating.

It is true that we would have loved to watch our own children change, develop and grow over the years. I often think about what they would be doing now and one of them, the child that would have come from our first cycle of IVF, would have been starting school next year. I can never forget our children and I wouldn’t want to. As the years pass I will think about them and how they would have been turning thirteen, eighteen, forty, and sixty. I will wonder what they might have done with their lives and what they would have been interested in. I will always wonder about them and keep them in my heart.

We are so fortunate, especially because we can’t have our own kids, to have so many children in our lives – children that we love so very much.

Jess and Georgina absolutely amazed me with their imaginative play in the car on the way to Cleland, with their tender attention to the different animals at the park, with their humour, with their sense of adventure, and with the knowledge they have about wildlife and the environment.

Both girls are nine years old, but they quite capably told the koala keeper, when they were getting a photo with a koala, what koalas eat and how they only eat certain eucalyptus trees, and how koalas use their noses to know which leaves they should eat. The koala keeper looked at us and said “Well I guess my job is done!” I think she was pleased with how much the girls knew.

I don’t know what our children would have been like or what they would have been interested in, but I suspect they may have loved animals if they took after me even a little bit. Whoever they would have been, I would have been delighted if they had the loving, interested, compassionate, and funny characteristics that both Jess and Georgina have.

I would have been absolutely delighted.

I love you Jess and Georgina.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A tune up...

I’m not sure what people in other countries call a car service, but here in Australia we often refer to it as a tune up. A tune up can apply to people too.

Earlier this year I was down hearted about many aspects of my life, and these feelings carried through over the following months. Minerva had died, my trip to Thailand was over, and new health issues had arisen. In October it was ten years since Kirby and I met and where we are now, with no children, is not what we expected when we first met. My self-talk told me I was not good enough – I don’t have a nine to five job, I couldn’t have children, I have stupid health issues that require numerous appointments with doctors and specialists, I couldn’t even keep our house clean and tidy as I thought it should always be, and Kirby could have done so much better than me.

I was a failure, failure, failure.

In Australia we have a great program where if your mental health is not good you can go to a general practitioner and get a referral to a psychologist or counsellor for six free sessions in a year – with the option of six more if needed.

I didn’t want to go to a psychologist – I just wanted to feel better and I thought that I should already know how to do that. But, I started seeing a psychologist in July, if anything to get Kirby off my back about going.

It seems I had fallen into the trap of thinking that I could reach a place where my life was sorted out once and for all. That I would reach a place where the hurts of the past would fade forever, and where I would accept my limitations or, even better, I would overcome them to live life exactly as I wanted to.

I know that there is no such place. Life is a series of peaks and troughs and it always will be. I know this, but I forgot. And my psychologist helped me to remember what I already knew. She helped me to realise that I had grief to work through still, and that grief is not a set process with a defined end. I may be ninety years old and still grieve for the children we never had and the life I didn’t lead for various reasons. This was my tune up.

After the first session I told Kirby I wasn’t going back as I didn’t like it and I didn’t think the psychologist would be any help. Deep down, though, I knew I didn’t want to go back because my psychologist was challenging me, and I didn’t want to be challenged. I didn’t want to think about certain things and I didn’t want to admit I didn’t have it all together.

My psychologist recognised that I tried to be strong and positive all of the time – even to the point of excusing the behaviour of people who had hurt me. Even when I talked about issues that bothered me I was set on convincing my psychologist that I was strong and could deal with it. The truth is that I am not always strong – I was putting up a front.

The most important thing I learnt is that the life I thought I wanted, in terms of a nine to five job, a big social life with lots of parties and lots of people, and a perfectly clean house, wasn’t the life I actually wanted.  I like my work at home, I like being with one friend or a small group of friends, and I love my pets so I will never have a spotless house. I’ve been working through my anxiety, particularly around house work.  I consciously left the dishes unwashed overnight and, lo and behold, the world didn’t fall apart!

I can sit with anxiety much more easily now and I can be honest with my family and friends when I’m not okay – I don’t feel the need to put up that front.

What has this all got to do with not having children?

Not having children is a major life crisis. It brings up so many fears, feelings, and uncertainties about what life is going to be like. You’re not going to be a parent. What does that mean for other areas of your life? What are you going to do?

There will be grief.

There will be times, long into the future, where you doubt yourself and whether you are good enough.

There will be times when you think all the pain and grief should be done with already.

There will be times you need to talk to someone and get some direction.

And, everyone needs a tune up every now and then.

It’s okay.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Socially introverted...

I think I’m an introvert. Actually, I know I’m an introvert.

Even as a child I preferred my own company, or the company of one or two friends, rather than being with large groups of kids. My Mum was worried about me until a psychologist told her that this was just my personality.

Still, in this modern era the attitude is that we must all be extroverted, be out there in the happening world, and show how confident we are – all the time. We should be comfortable in large groups of people, be able to do the small talk with people we don’t know, be fine with dressing up in whatever is considered appropriate for the occasion regardless of how uncomfortable we feel, and keep up the appearance of having it all together.

Since we knew we couldn’t have children, and particularly since I’ve started working from home, I’ve become quite distanced from the expectation that I will be extraverted, and the pressure to be, or at least act like, someone I am not. I don’t see a lot of people really, whereas pre-2012 I worked in various office settings with a large number of colleagues.

Being on my own, working at home, and being an introvert suits me very well. It is my personality, but I’ve also realised that it keeps me away from certain reminders about how my life is so different from what I thought it would be.

This realisation came to light over the weekend. Kirby’s work held an end of year dinner for employees and their partners on Friday night. I got dressed up in my green wrap around skirt with a purple leaf embroidered on it, a purple top, black tights, and blue flat shoes. I put on my home-made make-up and let my hair dry naturally. I felt good before we left home. I was dressed in what I wanted to wear. I was who I was and I was comfortable with that. Although I admit I was nervous as I had only met a few of Kirby’s colleagues before, and there would be over seventy people at the dinner.

So, we got to the restaurant which overlooks the River Torrens in Adelaide. I met a few people and they were nice and welcoming, and we chatted as we were served hors d'oeuvre and drinks out on the balcony. Then we were ushered into the restaurant and we chose where we would sit for dinner. I followed the people I had been talking to and sat down with my back to the window, which meant I could see all of the people in the room. I regretted my choice of seat.

While there were people of all ages at the dinner, many of them were in their twenties or very early thirties, and among this group there were about five women who were obviously pregnant or had recently had children. And most of them were dressed up in cocktail type outfits, with heels, and with make-up and hair perfectly done.

My feelings changed from being fine, to being confused, to being sad, to wanting to leave, and back again.

Then the left side of my face started spasming and there was a slight dribbling from the corner of my mouth. I’m not sure anyone noticed, but to me it felt like my face was jumping up and down so much that people on the other side of the room must have seen it.

Then I looked at the menu and there were no vegetarian options (although in the end there were, but I had to ask specifically).

I felt so out of place and awkward.

I was sad that I was once where they were, where I dressed up like they did, was looking forward to having a family and to having a career. I once went into a workplace, and got involved in the politics, and enjoyed the feeling of comradery that existed (at least in most of my workplaces). I spent time with large groups of people with champagne glass in hand.

I was confused, as I sat at the table, as to where that confident, modern, and social young woman went.

And I didn’t want to hear the women and their partners being congratulated on being pregnant or on recently having a child. It was a reminder of what I would never have.

Over the weekend I was irritable and I cried a few times. I had not achieved anything in my life – at least that’s what my thoughts kept telling me. I could not compare to these amazing women who had a career and were preparing to have children as well. I couldn’t even keep up with simple household tasks. I have had one health issue after another, and now have the prospect of brain surgery next year which, although not extremely invasive, has some pretty significant risks.

Who did I think I was to even consider that I was anybody? What made me think I could have even a snippet of what I hoped for?

Then last night, after I talked to my beloved Kirby (he truly is the best man), I realised that I was wondering about the “me” from all those years ago who wasn’t actually, truly, me.

I don’t like dressing up all fancy with heels and perfect hair and make-up. I never have. I’m not the life of a party, I’m not an extrovert, and I don’t want to be. I don’t want a career where I am required to be in an office during certain hours, let alone a career which is fast paced and where I aim for promotion after promotion.

I like being in tracksuit pants, I like working with my cats and dogs nearby, I like to be able to go out to my fishpond in the middle of the day, and it is handy to be able to put a load of washing on when I have a break mid-morning.

I like my solitude.

My thoughts of not having achieved anything and not being able to keep up with basic household tasks were rubbish. I have achieved many things in my life, and our house, while not show home spotless, is fine. Sometimes things get a bit messy, but so what?

Not having children and having health conditions, which include clinical depression, epilepsy, burning feet at night, and now Hemi-facial Spasms, are real. These things are part of my life. And these things have changed the path my life has taken.

If we had had children I would likely have continued in the field of work I was in and not moved to writing and editing. If I hadn’t had health issues I would probably have done the same, but because my health issues mean I cannot always work nine to five I have had to find other ways to be employed and working for myself from home works well.

When I am on my own at home, pottering around, editing, and writing, I am happy. I enjoy life and I feel good. Then there are times when I go out and mix with people who are living the life I thought I would have and my confidence diminishes and I wonder why I am not like them. Why don’t I have a traditional career, and why, most significantly, can’t I have children?

It’s easy to not think about all of this when I am at home, or when I am spending time with just a few people, but in situations like Kirby’s work dinner it is impossible not to put those thoughts aside.

What I need to do is remind myself that I don’t, and never will, have children. That is the way it is, it’s not fair, and there is no explanation as to why it is so. I also need to remind myself that my life, how I have it now, suits me. It reflects who I am, and have been since I was a little child, and therefore why do I feel the need to try and be like other people?

The other thing I also need to remember is that people generally like me as I am. Well, not all people like me, but that is okay.

My twenties and thirties are gone. My forties are here and life is for living. My life is for me. And reminders of our much wanted children, the person I tried to be in previous years, and the level of health I wish I had, will still arise, but they don’t have to diminish the satisfying life I have now.