When it came to write a piece for World Childless Week, Kadi and I really wanted to encapsulate something that is close to our hearts and what forms the backbone of Anotherhood.
Anotherhood is about sharing voices, turning up the volume of women without children and celebrating our lives.
We may not have children; but we are full of life, we are creative, strong, passionate wonderful wild women who are more than worthy of what we bring to this world.
In the process of normalisation we want to share with the younger generation that we are worthy. We wish to shed the cloak of invisibility, shift the taboo, and lift the stigma of being a woman without children. Ensuring the generation following in our footsteps can share openly about their lives, be seen, heard and validated in who they are and what they bring to this world.
Together we are powerful and strong and this piece brings our voices together. Kadi and I tell stories from our younger years and together with women from the Anotherhood community we share what we would of told our younger selves.
Sat on the floor in a large gym, my bottom pressing onto a hard surface, wriggling to try and get comfortable. Over 200 14-15 year olds surround me, the sound of crinkling paper echoes around the space as we clutch onto small plain white paper bags.
This was the talk. You know the one. A lady, nothing to do with the school, was brought in to talk to us about sexual and reproductive health and introduce us to contraception and sanitary products.
Unfortunately, it was 4 years too late for me, since my periods started when I was 11.
Within the plain white bags were, what could only be described as thick wads of cotton wool, resembling panty liners, that would have made you waddle across the playground like a goose with one leg shorter than the other. No condoms or tampons, as this meant a whole new discussion had to be handled.
But why am I recollecting the cold hard floor, and the voluminous space that surrounded us?
I do not have a picture perfect memory, but I do know that the elephant in the room was the cavernous space that should have been filled with information about fertility/infertility or the choice to have children, but it was not.
Granted, this was in the late 90’s, but if someone had touched on the concepts of infertility or a life without children I feel it may have made my life a bit easier.
Was the education system trying to protect me from what they perceived to be the cold truth, echoing the feeling of the gym floor?
Without the chance to ask questions, to enquire, to be curious, we were conditioned to not talk about it.
As a community of women without children we had unknowingly had a cloak of invisibility draped over us, it was not spoken about or even whispered in hush tones, just a cold dense silence.
I wish a woman could have stepped into that gym hall and explained from her own experience what it was like to be a woman without children. Sharing the positives and some of the challenges. It would have normalised and helped to lift the stigma attached to living without children.
Whilst at University doing a degree in Fine Art I found out I could not have children. I shared this somewhat strange and baffling news to a female tutor, and stated I wished to focus my next project around how I felt. The response still stings today.
“I think you should wait until you really understand it.”
I shut down; I did not utter a word about it. It became the underlying narrative that stayed with me throughout every relationship and life decision.
So what do I wish I could have told myself at the age of 15, as I sat on that cold hard gym floor?
“It’s not your fault.
Society’s views are not a one size fits all. Just because you cannot have kids does not make you any less of a woman, or any less desirable. You are free to make the choices that you want in regards to your body and your life. A life without children is rich and full. There are plenty of women out there who are ready to connect with you and create a community.
Above all, don’t believe someone when they say you are not good enough, because believe me, there are a lot of ups and down coming your way, but YOU are good enough.”
Written by Laura
It was the 90’s, and there was no higher purpose in life than proudly sporting a tiny-cropped vest over a skin-tight bodysuit, with high waist jeans. It was “the look.”
My cropped vest was exquisite. A tiny pale pink, satin number with old timey cloth covered buttons that ran the length of the front panel. The only problem was that it was absolutely, 100% WAY too small.
I had all the components of the outfit, but somehow, my overweight adolescent body didn’t complement the look as much as those of the models in Seventeen Magazine.
Hours were spent in front of the mirror, analysing every inch of flesh that spilled out of poorly fitted clothes. I was convinced that not only was I overweight, but that my body was simply built wrong. As though someone didn’t read the manual when they were assembling me.
I would spend years agonising over all of my intricate imperfections. Retreating from life, while crawling out of my skin. Not yet realising that these so-called flaws, were in fact the tiny details that made my body work just the way it should.
Perhaps if I’d been able to reassure a 15 year old me that I was not poorly assembled, I would have avoided another 10 years of that same conversation after my diagnosis of early menopause.
If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be that there is no such thing as a perfect body. There are only healthy and happy bodies, and they look different on everyone. I would tell both girls – me at 15 and at 30 – that my body was built so that my life could flourish.
My thighs were built big, and strong to propel me up mountains. My belly is soft, and spacious to accommodate so much deep laughter. And perhaps my infertility has given me the greatest gift of all: the freedom to explore all the amazing things this body can do.
Written by Kadi
“I would tell my younger self that at the end of the day, she’ll look back at the hard parts and the good parts with equal gratitude. Not because you “can’t have one without the other,” but because she wouldn’t be the person she becomes if she didn’t.”
“Soak it all up, Anne. Play with those dolls a little longer. Give children in your care an extra hug. Embrace what it looks like to love someone else’s child. That love you have to give is just as important and needed as a parent’s love. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
“I wish to tell my younger self that not having children doesn’t mean my time and worth is less than those with children. That I too have value. And that although the pain of infertility may break me, it will also give me the strength and self love that I need to build myself back up.”
“Dear Aimee, you don’t know it yet but you’ll find meaning in your adventures, your freedoms and your solitude. Keep exploring!”
“I would tell myself to go after my wildest dreams; that the final destination in life doesn’t have to be wife and mother. Dream bigger than you ever thought possible and go after that instead…and whatever happens in the kid department happens. You’re a good human who can do great things.”
What would you tell your younger self?
If you would like to let us know email us at Anotherhood.firstname.lastname@example.org and we will feature all the answers in a blog on our website.