Monday, March 25, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: A disclaimer??!

Over the weekend, someone on a childless/free forum I follow shared a first-person essay about coming to terms with childlessness  that they'd found on MSN.com. It was originally published on Red.

"How I accepted my 'childless' life" by Lorna Gibb traces Gibb's journey from infertility to acceptance. I thought it was a great article overall, covering some all-too-familiar territory and insights.

However, I was somewhat taken aback by a disclaimer printed in boldface type below the headline & photo, before the actual text of the article began:
Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.
All I could think was "Seriously??!!"  As I commented, "They felt it necessary to put a disclaimer on an article about accepting childlessness and to say that it doesn't represent their views??!"

Another commenter responded, "As if childlessness is such a controversial 'point of view'. I hope it's a standard disclaimer and not just for this topic..."

I went over to MSN.com & clicked on a few of the other articles in the Lifestyles section there, ones on topics that I thought some might find controversial in some way, about breastfeeding, veganism, etc. I checked out some other first-person essays in the same section ("My ex-boyfriend helps me raise my child").  I could not find a similar disclaimer on any of them (let alone right up front in bold type!).  (And the disclaimer is not present in the source article on Red, suggesting it was added by MSN.com.)

Maybe I'm being overly thin-skinned.  Maybe I'm missing something here. But... 

In some ways I find this hilarious. In others, infuriating.

Thoughts?

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Saturday, March 23, 2019

"The Right Way to Follow Your Passion"

I don't know why (and I apologize in advance to any of you who may feel differently)(how very Canadian of me, lol), but whenever anyone starts blathering on about "finding your passion" and how we (especially when "we" = a corporation) are "passionate about [whatever],"  I habitually find myself rolling my eyes. Maybe because it was something I heard far too often and was compelled to include as a buzzword in far too many documents during my career as a corporate communicator (especially in later years). And of course, part of my resistance no doubt stems from the fact that I "followed my passion" to start a family -- and wound up a complete & utter (and still childless) wreck.  I've come a long way since then, of course, but it's not a time in my life that I'd care to relive anytime soon.

Now, "passion" has its place -- I will admit to being "passionate" myself about certain things (even if I might resist using that particular term, lol). I might even say I am "passionate" about connecting with other childless/free women and sharing what I've learned about this life, and learning more from you in return. :)

Perhaps it's the stoic Scandinavian in me ;)  or the practical Capricorn influence. But I worry that far too many people (and young people in particular) equate "passion" with "career." (Isn't that what we always hear? -- "do what you love and the money will follow"?)  They bounce from one academic program to the next and from job to job in search of that elusive spark of "passion" that will make their life perfect. Or they do find a way to turn their passion into profits, but eventually, the daily grind drains the joy from something they once loved.

I recently shared a meme I found about how the pressure to "find your passion" is messing a lot of people up. (I was also reminded of a story I found once (& shared here), which carried one of my all-time favourite headlines:  "Follow Your Bliss, Right Off the Cliff.") So my interest was piqued when I found this article in the New York Times a few days ago, which addresses some of these topics:  "The Right Way to Follow Your Passion."

I was especially interested in the author's thoughts about when "passion" becomes obsession, and the difference between "harmonious passion" and "obsessive passion."  Does any of this sound familiar??:
Research shows that obsessive passion is associated with burnout, anxiety, depression and unethical conduct. One reason for this is that people who are obsessively passionate tie their self-worth to outcomes that are often outside their control. Being passionate about — or, perhaps better put, a slave to — the achievement of an external result that you cannot control creates a volatile and fragile sense of self. The consequences are often disastrous.
I also appreciated this point, near the end:
Embrace acute failure for chronic gains. If you take the long view and focus on a lifetime of progress instead of point-in-time results, then failure shifts from being something terrible to a source of rich information and an opportunity to grow.
Not everything in this article applies to infertility ;) but there is plenty of food for thought. I'd love to hear yours!

I usually recommend caution when reading the comments ;)  but some of them are instructive too.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

So why aren't there more of us? (part 2)

There was an interesting recent conversation on social media (mostly Twitter but also Instagram), between Katy at Chasing Creation, Erik & Melissa at the podcast LiveChildfree, and others, on the question of why so few people openly embrace a non-parent identity, especially those who initially wanted children.

It started when Erik & Melissa posted a new podcast episode pondering this topic, and asked the same question on Instagram (also on IG here).

Then Katy asked, on Twitter,
@LiveChildfree mentioned on a podcast I recently listened to that they were surprised at how many people reach out to them but are only sharing privately. Do you guys have thoughts on this?
This is a subject that those of us who have been around this community for a while have pondered in the past.  I knew I had written something on this topic here before ;)  so I dug through my blog archives & found it  :)  -- "So why aren't there more of us?"  (from January 2012)

The stats show that we are NOT an insignificant part of the population. In January 2014, Jody Day at Gateway Women reassured us: "You’re Not the Odd One Out." [emphasis mine]
Although when you look around you in the street, amongst your friends and family or in the media you may sometimes feel like the only woman who isn’t a mother, the surprising fact is that 1:5 UK and US women born in the 1960s reached 45 without having had children. And, as the first of those born in the 1970s turn 45 in 2015, we’ll begin to see if the statistic rises to 1:4 as it already is in Italy, Switzerland and Finland. My hunch is it will, but the data’s a few years off yet.
The last time the rate of childlessness was this high in the population was for women born around 1900. Research has shown that this was due to two factors: the large number of women who remained unmarried due to the loss of so many men in the First World War, and the effect of the Great Depression of the 1930s on both fertility and finances. Rather shockingly these were known as the ‘surplus women’. 
The fact that it took the most devastating war this world has seen in terms of loss of life, coupled with the Great Depression, to suppress birth rates to this same extent before shows that we are indeed living through a period of massive social change. It really isn’t ‘just us’.
Despite these large and growing numbers, however, the percentage of childless/free women (and men!) who are openly embracing a childless/free identity, online & elsewhere, is still, curiously, very small.

Why?

While I think most of the points I made in my original post are still valid (please read them over there!), there are a couple more thoughts that have come to me that I wanted to throw out.

We still live in a hugely pronatalist society that is only just beginning to become dimly aware of us as a large and growing group with legitimate concerns, needs and interests apart from those of parents. The glorification of pregnancy and parenthood, the assumption of parenthood as "the norm," is something many of us without children are only too aware of -- but when you're a parent, it's something you tend to take for granted and don't question. Creating awareness, changing the culture, changing firmly entrenched, long-held attitudes toward childless/free people (let alone policies and practices that affect them) is a lonnnnngggggg sllllllooooowwww and often painful process (as activists from visible minority groups, LGBTQ communities, and the feminist movement at large will tell us...!).

And it's not just parents who have a blind spot on these matters. Many people without children, even if they're struggling with painful feelings, are only dimly aware that they're part of a large and growing group, and that they have a right to be sad -- and, yes, even angry sometimes! -- about the way their lives and concerns are minimized and ignored by others around them. It's not surprising. After all, when you're going through infertility treatment, the focus is on getting a child. Nobody wants to talk about the possibility that this isn't going to work. You hear very little -- from the clinic, from other infertiles, from your family & friends, from the culture around you -- that suggests a life without children could be an acceptable (even positive) outcome. (There's no money in that for the clinic, of course...!)

Over time, there HAS definitely been progress in changing the culture and encouraging the childless/free to speak up -- and there will continue to be more. When I think about the resources that were available to me back in 2001, when we closed the door on infertility treatment, versus what's out there right now, there is just no question that things have improved.  Maybe not enough! ;)  -- but there HAS been SOME progress.

I believe our numbers will continue to grow, and attitudes will continue to change. One reason why I believe this:  On LiveChildfree's IG post, Sistergoldenhair924 made an interesting observation:
When we were growing up people like us were just kind of pitied and no one talked about it! Now, women and couples openly tell the world that they are infertile and use social media as a tool for support and advice, as well as education. So I think a result of that is that women have become more comfortable being open about ending their quest for a baby since we have been sharing everything else. 
I think she is absolutely right.  I do think we are STILL pitied and not talked about/ignored, lol.  But I think she's nailed it here, about how social media is making it easier (a) for CNBCers (and childfree-by-choice-ers, for that matter) to find & support each other & (b) to speak out more openly about these subjects to others outside of ALI circles, if they choose to do so.

For some of us (like me), this is (still) difficult to do.  I'm not as worried as I used to be about family members and friends stumbling onto this blog (as one did a few years ago)... but I'm not gonna hand out the address either, lol.  I think it's partly a generational thing. I am 58;  I've noticed that some of the younger emerging CNBC bloggers & social media activists are in their 30s & early 40s -- i.e., I AM OLD ENOUGH (or almost old enough) TO BE THEIR MOTHER (eeeekkkkkk).  I was 35 when I got my first personal computer & went online for the first time. I was 37 when my daughter was stillborn, 40 when we stopped treatment, 46 when I started blogging, 48 when I joined Facebook, and 55 when I got my first smartphone and joined Instagram & Twitter.

Younger people have grown up immersed in this stuff. They are used to sharing their lives openly on social media and have little/no hesitation about doing so when it comes to infertility too. (Certainly less of it than my peers & I did, and perhaps still do.)  And while I have difficulty sharing my story (outside of the adoption/loss/infertility community), I am glad others don't. :)  I think it's a good thing overall. :)

I also think that, even in this age of social media & greater sharing of our personal lives, some people are (still) simply unaware of what's available out there -- or even just that there IS support available online. In the comments on my original 2012 post, Jamie commented:
To be honest, it surprises me when I come across someone who ~isn't~ a blog reader. I have a co-worker friend who had been going through the IF journey and asked me if I had ever heard of a HCG "trigger" shot. I was like, "Seriously? Do you just not have internet access at home?" 
Shocking as it seems in this day and age but I wonder if there aren't women out there who don't know where to go for support. Because, you know, it's a topic that is still taboo to talk about. Along with IF, loss, etc.
I had a similar experience(s)/reaction during the 10 years we led our pregnancy loss support group.  Many (not all, but a good number) of our clients were also dealing with infertility issues, and I was shocked at how ill-informed some (not all, certainly, but definitely some) of them were on these matters. Granted, this was 10-20 years ago, and the online world has evolved significantly since then -- but there was still good information & support out there for those who chose to look for it and ask questions. My own approach, whenever I'm dealing with an issue that's affecting my life in a major way, is to research the hell out of it.  ;)  I sometimes forget that not everybody is like me and does this. :)

What are your thoughts? If you've written a post about this, now or in the past, I would love to read it -- please share a link here!   

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

"Where'd You Go, Bernadette" by Maria Semple

As I mentioned in this post yesterday, I had started "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn as my next read... but even though it was well researched & written, I was having a hard time getting beyond the first couple of chapters. I figured perhaps I was a little fatigued by current events (do you blame me, right??) and perhaps something lighter was called for.  

So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it a couple of years ago, when it first came out in paperback, but it's been languishing in the TBR (to-be-read) pile.  I moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette) was being released on March 22nd.  

As it turns out, the movie release date has been pushed back to August. Oh well. I had already started the book... and it was hard to put down. I breezed through it in two days flat and finished it tonight. It was laugh-out-loud funny in parts (and kleenex-worthy in others), & a good alternative to the heavier stuff in "Russian Roulette" (not to mention what's on the news every night...!).  

The story is narrated by 15-year-old Bee, whose mother, Bernadette, a celebrated architect-turned-stay-at-home-mom (and an increasingly reclusive one at that) has vanished from their Seattle home two days before Christmas, just before a planned family trip to Antarctica.  Through a series of emails, notes & letters, FBI reports, receipts, magazine articles and other documents, Bee reconstructs her mother's story -- and sets out to learn what happened to her.  

Some people might not like the way the story unfolds, going back & forth between documents, exposing multiple points of view beyond Bee's framing narration, and taking the story back into the past. Personally, I loved it. :)  

ALI note & POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT:  It never ceases to amaze me just often pregnancy loss (&/or infertility) turn up in the books I read. (I shouldn't be, considering how commonplace these things really are.)  Bernadette had multiple miscarriages before Bee -- and Bee was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. (No wonder the woman went a little bonkers...!) I always hear that HLHS described as a "rare" heart condition -- and yet there were quite a few bereaved parents who came to our pregnancy loss support group after losing babies this way.  Of course, we always heard about the babies who didn't survive, so it was nice to read about one who did, even though she was a fictional character. :)  

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. (It might have been slightly higher but I've docked it a few points because of Bernadette's negative digs at Canadians. ;)  )(Although she does recant somewhat near the end.)  It will be interesting to see just how the story will translate to the screen, and I will look forward to seeing the movie later this summer! 

This was book #7 that I have read in 2019 to date, bringing me to 29% of my 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books.  I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)

Monday, March 18, 2019

#MicroblogMondays: Odds & ends


  • I know I've done a lot of "odds & ends" posts lately, but I seriously could not think of one specific thing I could build a #MM post around... so you get a brain dump. Again.  :p  ;)  
  • Today was the first day in a loooonnnngggg time that felt a bit like spring. The sky was blue and the temp, while a touch chilly, was a few degrees above 0C ( = 30sF), which felt positively balmy after the cold snaps we've had lately...! 
  • As I mentioned here, I started reading "Russian Roulette" by Michael Isikoff & David Corn at the end of February, thinking the release of the Mueller report was imminent and wanting to be up to speed on the subject (Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election).  
    • That was three weeks ago -- still no Mueller report (*sob!*) -- and frankly, I just could not get into it. It was well written and researched, but I was finding it hard to motivate myself to pick it up. Maybe I've just had quite enough of that particular topic at the moment.  ;)  
  • So I set that one aside for the time being, and picked up the next book in my pile: "Where'd You Go Bernadette" by Maria Semple.  I bought it when it first came out in paperback, and moved it up when I heard the movie version (with Cate Blanchett as Bernadette!) was being released this weekend. 
    • Alas -- I Googled tonight to see if it would be playing anywhere near me -- only to discover the release date has been pushed back to August. Boo, hiss.... 
    • Nevertheless, I've started reading the book & (one not-particularly-funny joke about Canadians aside) am quite enjoying it so far. Much lighter & easier going than "Russian Roulette," lol.
  • BIL, SIL, dh & I went to see "Apollo 11" this past weekend -- a documentary about the first moon landing, featuring some amazing newly found footage. Dh & BIL were enthralled. I really enjoyed it too. (SIL fell asleep... not quite her thing, lol.)  It was produced in part by CNN, which tells me it will likely show up there sooner or later, but I'm very glad I got to see it on the big screen. (I've heard that IMAX is the ideal way to see it, if you can!) 
  • Like many of you (most? all?? -- I hope...), I was horrified by the terrorist shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand, late last week, and the murder of 50 innocent people in a house of worship. And so very impressed by the way the country and its leaders are handling the situation. Of course I was thinking about Mali, as well as my penpal of 42 (!!) years, who lives in Auckland. Mali's post at her other blog, A Separate Life, is a must-read. 

You can find more of this week's #MicroblogMondays posts here

Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Just enjoy the trees"

A Facebook find :)
and something I think we as childless women feel especially pressured to do,
in lieu of having children to focus our energies on. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

(More)(childless/free living) Odds & ends

  • The private Gateway Women community recently moved to a new platform, as Google+, its home for the past few years, is shutting down on April 2nd. I always found Google+ a bit daunting, but I've been hanging out a bit at the new site, and I'm quite enjoying it!  :) 
    • The GW community is a safe, private space for childless-not-by-choice women.  Highlights include unlimited topics and special interest sub-groups, topic filters, events, a monthly "fireside chat'"with Jody just for members, live comunity chats, online courses, and more! 
    • You can access the community online, or via a specially designed app!  
    • To ensure it remains a safe space for all, new members are ID checked. 
    • The first month is free, after which there is a monthly or annual subscription fee. 
    • More than 260 GW members have already made the move to the new space.
    • Beyond the private community -- if you are childless not by choice, you simply MUST check out Gateway Women's public website, which is home to Jody's blog and a ton of excellent resources, including information about GW meetup groups and Reignite weekends, excerpts & purchase information for Jody's book ("Living the Life Unexpected"), links to videos, podcasts, media, recommended books, blogs and support organizations, and much more! 
  • I enjoyed listening to Jody talk about "rediscovering joy after infertility" on the Magnificent Midlife podcast recently. 
  • I think I found The Uterus Monologues blog through Jody/Gateway Women. Wonderful writing... A couple of sample posts:  "Hello from the other side" and Empty-nest syndrome. Sample passage:  
When babies don’t arrive as expected, what you start to feel keenly is a slow loosening of the usual social rituals, an absence of structure outside of the foregone conclusions of post-hospital visitors, christenings, first birthday parties and so on. Accordingly, you start to realise that there are things you had been counting on children to bring into your life – chaos, routine, celebration, warmth, visitors, play, noise, joy, meaning, belonging – and you may have no choice but to create them for yourself, in some shape or form. 
So perhaps that’s what the empty-nesting is about, that’s why it feels therapeutic – it’s the forging of a slightly different kind of family home, in recognition that you are already a family, right now. Instead of waiting for your real life to begin. Saving things for best, always.
  • Another new blog with some great writing, as pointed out by Jody: Chasing Creation.  I especially like her post, "Do you have kids?" and how she's detailed her thinking on what to respond, when & why. 
  • Brooke alerted me to a CNBCer I should check out. Tia has a blog at Forever, Orchard, but these days, she is mostly on Instagram, and devoting her energies to organizing an infertility summit in suburban Chicago on April 27. (Anyone planning to attend?)  
    • Personally, I can't imagine ever describing myself as "infertile AF" (infertile, yes, but "infertile AF"?)(And I don't think the "AF" here stands for "Aunt Flo," lol). I guess it's a generational thing (at 58, it occurs to me that I am old enough to be Tia's mother... GULP). Nevertheless, I wish them luck with the conference! & I will be following Tia on IG.
    • Tia authored this December 2017 article on IVF Babble, telling her story and explaining why she & her husband chose to walk away from infertility treatment, and the chance at parenthood. Excerpt: 
This is not the life I want to live anymore. 
After five incredibly taxing years, searching for the right combination of medication, lifestyle and luck, we are walking away from the path to become parents... 
I keep writing and sharing my story because, although IVF is typically the golden standard on the road to parenthood, it doesn’t always work out that way. And that’s okay.