This week I have another treat for you, we’re heading to New Zealand and sharing Mali’s story. I feel an enormous amount of connection with her in that I too thought it was important to have children when I was ready, and not before. Our paths are different, and the outcomes that there is an awful lot of good in my life, and I am very grateful and our loves of travel and writing are also similar.
I’m really interested in the different paths that our writers have taken, and for Mali the keys were about having someone to talk to, writing, self-compassion and helping others.
I love her wisdom that feeling happy with your life does not mean that you didn’t want children enough, or that you didn’t grieve enough.
And be honest with yourself for a moment, is that an excuse that you use to stop yourself? Mali says that she made the choice to be happy. You can too. Maybe not now. But one day.
1. Where are you on your journey now?
It has been over 11 years now since I learned I would never have children, and the grieving and adjustment work is done! I’m living a happy life with my husband, able to embrace the life I have now without children. It took some time, but I think that it is human nature to adjust to whatever life we have, and to see the good in that. There is an awful lot of good in my life, and I am very grateful.
2. What’s your story?
The short version is that my husband and I waited till I was in my mid-30s to start to try to have children. I had a busy international career, but it wasn’t just about the career. I thought it was important to have children when I was ready, and not before. I wanted to be a mother that was fully present for her children, not resentful of her stolen youth. I also wanted to feel the maternal urge, and it ambled up to me in my mid-30s. By the time I first conceived, I was in its full grip. Whether it was simply biology (hormones and that ticking clock), my own natural wishes at the right time, or peer pressure, I don’t know and will never know. But I know I had a deep and genuine desire to be a mother.
Of course, as is obvious now, it is not that easy. The short version of my story is that two ectopic pregnancies and two failed IVFs later, I knew I would never have children. I got the news on my 41st birthday. I’ve had better birthdays.
3. What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
Several things were critical to healing, for me at least.
I was fortunate to find a very supportive group of women on an ectopic pregnancy website based out of the UK. On a messageboard, writing and thinking about our experiences and emotions, we supported each other through (often) multiple ectopic pregnancies and losses, and our efforts to conceive after that. Some of us went on to live lives without children, and it was good to have companionship and understanding as we came to terms with that. Having someone to talk to – whether it is in real life or online – really helped me feel less alone.
Writing and thinking
Writing helped me a lot too. The process of talking to and supporting other women (who were in turn supporting me) online meant that I tried to be able to accurately express my feelings, hopes and fears. It meant that as I was writing to them, I was thinking through my situation, trying to make sense of what had happened and why I felt the way I did. It was I guess a form of therapy. I was lucky to be talking to some very wise women, empathetic and insightful, and their thoughts challenged me and broadened my perspective, and crucially, taught me self-compassion. This self-compassion, something I’d never really indulged in before, actually helped me accept my situation, stop blaming myself, and opened me to consider the radical idea that my life could be good after all.
At the same time, I was helping those who were coming behind me, also suffering ectopic pregnancies and dealing with fertility issues. Helping them in turn helped me enormously. I managed to process how I felt in a way that also spoke to others. I felt that it honoured my experience, my losses, and my life without children, to pass on what I had learned. When I no longer felt I had a place at the messageboard, blogging seemed a logical place for me to continue to process my emotions and thoughts about infertility and loss, and hopefully to continue to reach others too. So I started blogging at No Kidding in NZ in 2010, when I was already well through the process of coming to terms with not having children.
4. What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
Sleeping in! Okay, so that was my automatic response, but there are in fact many positives in not having children. Choice is probably the biggest one, and something we might forget we actually have, given that many of us didn’t choose not to have children. Choice comes from having the time and flexibility to live our lives in the way we want to (other issues notwithstanding of course). Time is a huge part of that; time to be myself, to help others, to devote to my marriage and my relationships and my aging mother, to travel, to exercise, to learn new things, to write, to keep a thoughtful, open and, I hope, generous mind.
Over the last few months I have been writing an occasional series of posts about the Gifts of Infertility. These go beyond just the issue of not having children, but talk about the process of healing. I’m planning about 25 of these posts, so as you can see, I think there are a lot of gifts we don’t realise we have.
5. What has not having children made possible for you?
The process of not having children – the loss, the infertility and IVF, and the aftermath – has given me friends all over the world, many not-yet-met, but some I’ve been privileged to meet already. Their presence in my life has enriched it enormously.
I also had the time to volunteer for an ectopic pregnancy charity for six years, a daily commitment I almost certainly wouldn’t have been able to make if I had had children. I found volunteering to be very fulfilling, teaching me as much as I was able to teach others.
Likewise, in 2013 my husband lost his job due to restructuring, and we decided to take travel for five months. It was glorious, and definitely wouldn’t have happened if we’d had children. For one, we probably wouldn’t have felt able to take the financial risk.
6. Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
Employment! I quit my directorship work to travel overseas with my husband a year or so ago. I’m looking for work now, but would really like to find a variety of work rather than one position (unless it is the perfect position of course). A few years ago I was on the board of directors of a company, a self-employed consultant, and a volunteer for the ectopic charity. That mix made me very happy, and I’d love to find a combination of activities that uses all my interests and skills and knowledge. I have a few writing projects underway, and I hope to finish them soon too. I often joke with a niece that I’m in my 50s and still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. Maybe I do, and the only thing is that it isn’t a traditional full-time job working for someone else. Anyway, sorting this out is my task for 2015!
7. How are you different now (who are you now)?
I’m so much more in touch with myself now, my emotions, my talents and yes, even my flaws. I suspect age has something to do with that! But I also think that my infertility and loss has tempered me, forged me into who I am today; someone who is wiser, kinder, more compassionate, more realistic, and yet more optimistic too, someone who is contented, happy. Someone I like.
8. What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
It gets better. It really does. I promise.
Feeling happy is not a betrayal, either of your losses, or of your and your partner’s dreams. Feeling happy with your life does not mean that you didn’t want children enough, or that you didn’t grieve enough. I felt strongly that I needed to be happy, to live well, to honour my losses, my pain. I still do. And so I guess I made the choice to be happy. You can too. Maybe not now. But one day.
9. What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
Travel. I’ve always wanted to travel, ever since I was six and was given a book about children travelling overseas. I started travelling when I was 17 as an exchange student to Thailand, and I haven’t really stopped. My early career was as a diplomat, and then I moved into international marketing. Now, I travel for pleasure, though that has been curtailed recently given our employment situation. I love the feeling of going to a new country, of learning a new language (another passion), of finding something unexpected and joyful, of feeling at home somewhere completely exotic. I love too the ability to travel outside of peak times – avoiding the crowds on their school holidays is a real advantage of not having children.
Writing too though has been a discovery and a joy as part of this journey. I loved writing as a child, but when university and work intervened, I found I was essentially writing for a living. I was always comfortable with that, but writing for work took me away from writing what I wanted to say. Loss and infertility and messageboards and blogging have brought me back to this, back to myself, and I find it gives me great pleasure.
Finally though, I’ve learned to find joy in just being observant, grateful, and mindful. A warm sunny day, or a dramatic sea in a storm, cooking for friends, a nice glass of wine, a good book, a joke, recently a good yoga pose – the list is endless.
10. What’s your 6 word memoir?
Can I have two?
Grief healed, and I met myself.
When life gives lemons, make limoncello.
Connect with Mali
At the beginning of 2015, I am a blogger, a writer, and a traveller, and after a break, I’m hoping to re-establish my career as an international marketing consultant. I write about life after infertility at No Kidding in NZ, the good and the bad, remembering what was lost, and celebrating what I have. I blog more generally about every day living at A Separate Life. In 2013, I travelled in Europe and the Middle East for five months, and blogged about those specific travels on Lemons to Limoncello. I also try to find time to write, read, cook, learn languages, exercise, and travel the world with my husband.
Do you think your story could inspire others?
I started these stories so that women who are struggling can be inspired. The purpose is:
• To show that it’s possible to have a positive life,
• To explain what’s positive about being childless and
• To explore what helped healing & how to make it happen.
So if you think your story could help other women this is how it works.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6. I’ll post your story in your real name or any other that you chose to give me. If you have a website or blog I’d be happy to link to it so I’ll need the details and a short bio.
So if you think you could inspire others please contact me.
Over to you
If Mali’s story touched something in you please add your comment below (you can use any name you want to).
There is an amazing healing power in telling your story. And if it seems far too daunting just now, I’d love to help you. You can book a complimentary session via my online diary and we can spend 20 to 30 minutes to get clarity on how we can work together to create a life you love. the hard sell is not my style, and even if you decide not to go ahead I know you’ll learn something from our conversation.