What I leave out.

I love telling my story. It took me a while to get here, but nowadays every time I open up about my experience navigating infertility, I can feel my load lighten. 

Upon starting Anotherhood, Laura and I quickly realized that we’d be called on to tell our stories time and time again, at varying lengths, and with alternating focus. I created a sort of shorthand, a bullet point version of events that hit the main themes, but didn’t necessarily belabor the details. 

Recently, we were invited to do a lovely podcast and we were excited by the opportunity. Once the podcast aired, I went back and listened to our interview, and was hit by a wild realization… I wasn’t telling the truth. 

All along, a key element of my story has been that all of my closest friends were getting married and pregnant as I was healing from heartbreak, and receiving my diagnosis. But that’s just simply not true. 

It wasn’t ALL of them.

I realized that I was omitting one of the most important people in my world. A dear friend, with whom I’ve shared life’s ups and downs for 20+ years, and who most certainly was not getting married and pregnant at that time. Her open heart and ears were on the receiving end of many post-babyshower meltdown phone calls. Like me, she was in the process designing her life, which at the time did not include a long term partner or a child. We spent hours riffing about our careers, and processing ideas of love and friendship with each other. Usually on her couch with a plate full of takeout and the finale of some long binged show. She was an anchor for me then and continues to be now, but somehow I’ve completely left her out of the narrative. I wouldn’t have made it through depth of my grief without her.

It got me thinking, do I only prioritize the hard parts? Is there room in my story for the good times?

I know that the experience of infertility sucks. It’s hard on the body, mind and spirit, and takes a real toll on the personal life. There is so much to process and push through, but there are also the little freedoms and moments of connection that are unique to this experience. 

I know that the grief is inherent, and seemingly unknowable to those who haven’t been through it. But I wonder if I’ve been mining for pain points to make my story seem more relatable. The truth is that this journey has been hard, but it hasn’t been all hard. It’s been filled with friendship, and grace, and freedom, and opportunity. 

I’m just beginning to figure out what the story becomes when I factor in the positive stuff. So far, it feels better to tell. And even more than that, it feels better to hear.

Getting to know grief.

It only seems fitting today on the eve of Samhain to share my favourite picture book with you all. ‘Death Duck and the Tulip’ by Wolf Erlbruch. The picture book explores death, and introduces us to the notion that death is with us all. 

The reason I love this book is it does not rescue us from the notion of death, it does not try to paint a pretty picture, it allows the readers emotions to be evoked and for us to think about our own existence and experiences of loss.  (I even based my thesis on it.)

I am a woman that is passionate about making space for the more challenging subjects in life to be explored, given a platform that feels safe and that people can hear and witness the truth of what loss means and not be disillusioned by what is deemed as the right response by society. 

Being a woman without children carries a great deal of loss and I do feel a death of a life I will never have resonate through me.  

My early to mid 30’s I spent almost paralysed by a feeling I did not understand, overwrought with an emotion that seemed unfathomable. Why was I feeling so lost, why was I feeling like I was getting left behind, why was I feeling the light had gone and all I could see what darkness, no path, no direction, just wall to wall inky blackness that reached immeasurable depths. It ran through me, through my heart, my soul, my energy and my very being. 

Death was following me but I had no idea.  

May 2017 I turned around and I saw death and she invited herself in. 

(Now just to get this straight, I was not dying, but there was a real felt sense of loss I was experiencing, just it was not known or being named.)

In that May I was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, overnight I went from being a very fit and active woman, doing the career I had dreamed of, and just about to launch a illustration business, to a woman who could not walk, stand light, have the energy to hold my head up or commune with anyone for more than a few minutes before being dragged into a state of brain fog and cognitive numbness.  I could no longer write, let alone draw, I was a ghost of who I used to be, my body had given out I became invisible to the world, obsolete, I was no longer a functioning part of the society. 

This was the time that death walked in, and I finally acknowledge her. 

I grieved for the life I had had, I grieved for the life I would never have. 

I could no longer shove down or suppress the feelings that lay deep within about being a woman who cannot have children. 

It was time to have a relationship with death, it was time to acknowledge her existence, it was time to make peace and let her join me in my life. 

Now this may sound strange and like it was easy, but this was not, the path has been full of many ups and down and cavernous holes that I have clattered into and hit the bottom with a almighty thud. Having to gain the gusto and the energy to pull myself out again. 

Pregnancy announcements rendered me flat on the ground, at times surrounded in a pool of my own tears. Times away with friends, watching them with their children, hearing them share stories with each other about their children a invisible bond they had and all the time I grieved as I felt I faded into the background. 

All the time death was holding my hand. 

I know this sounds macabre, but in facing the grief I was experiencing, I was no longer hiding, the emotions, they were free to rise and fall within me. 

I was feeling, I was alive and although death was with me, I was no longer rendered numb by my unknown grieving, it was out there, it was breathing the air, it was being given light and being seen and felt in all its heartfelt sadness and the joyfulness of me letting it go. 

Death Duck and the Tulip is a wonderful example of speaking and sharing with the world what can be seen as the harshness of life, but what lays nestled deep and secure in the narrative is a beautiful relationship, one that is born, of understanding, one of being seen, being witnessed and feeling validated in life through the presence of death. 

For all the grief we feel, which there are many complex layers; I hold close to my heart that it has brought me to this present moment. On this path I met Kadi, we created Anotherhood and through Anotherhood I feel I have found my voice once again, connected with so many amazing woman and found what lights up my soul. 

Being true to me and letting my voice be heard and myself be seen for the woman I am that is driven by the worth of life, the preciousness of life an that we are all valid, we all have a place and we deserve every single moment, inch, molecule of time that we exist on this planet. 

We are gifted this life, but as I like to say life was gifted us. 

Laura x

Untether your boat.

About a year ago I stepped into a room, there were chairs all in a circle and I was handed a candle, a candle that I was to light as I took my seat in the space. 

I was taken on a guided mediation, the images were live, real, like I could almost touch them, I felt my imagination weave a narrative presenting different versions of self. One at my present age, one of the 15-year-old girl and one of a figure I now hold dear to my heart, my elder part of self. 

I often visualise this older part of self, I have a clear distinct picture of what she feels like in my minds eye, and I often thin about creating illustrations of her, but yet somehow the time is not quite right. 

Now why I am saying all of this…

Last night I stated a therapeutic writing course, part of the session was to write a note to your self and to start the note with a term of endearment. 

Below feels so poignant and true, and my elder self yet again presented herself. 

We all have ways, which ground us, bring us back into self, and writing is one for me. 

Last night as I wrote the words flowed, and the pages crinkled under the sound of the pen pressing hard, desperate to make their mark, made the words heard, make my inner thoughts alive and present on the lines in front of me. 

This is what I wrote: 

Hey Hun, 

Remove the blocks, untether your boat, let the helm glide over the water, let nature guide you – in its rawest form, you were birthed, gifted this body, gifted this life, this presence. Your body is just that, a true reflection of all that you have overcome and are yet to experience. 

That tall, weathered tattooed woman you hold so dear in your mind-set is you, you’re starting to understand, to walk her path to become her, for you are her. 

Trust her, be guided by her, she will lead you into the depths of nature, into the depths of your psyche – to learn all that is you and to discover more. You are on your own pilgrimage- one you need to honour and take time to embrace. 

You are her and she is you. 

Words tethered together appeared to encapsulate my exact feelings, where I am right now in my life. Reflecting all that I have overcome and all that I am to become. The life I lead, the path I tread I have said many a time that it is unique to me. It has been full of many twists and turns, ups and downs, but in the last few years I have found ways to tap to my story, to find my voice and not be quietened by the hushed tones of others. The comparisons have faded away, leaving me understanding that my life is valuable, my life as a woman without children is valuable, my thoughts, feelings and ways of being are valued, and all that I have experienced to date brings me to this point right now right here, in the creaky old beautiful wooden chair, the Scottish sunshine shining through the window and nature beckoning me into her beauty. 

As I sign off I want to acknowledge that life is still not without its raw parts, buy finding ways to support myself has aided the process of becoming gradually more comfortable in my own skin. 

Laura 

What I would have said to my younger self.

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. 

Normalisation.  

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.”

Brigid May 

@Fruitlessfigtree

“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.” 

Anne Brock 

@livinginthemidst 

http://www.annebrock.com


“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.” 

Jess Milligan

“Dear Aimee, you don’t know it yet but you’ll find meaning in your adventures, your freedoms and your solitude. Keep exploring!”

Aimee Ruiz 

“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.

Emily Osborn 

@shedoesnthavekids

What would you tell your younger self? 

If you would like to let us know email us at Anotherhood.info@gmail.com and we will feature all the answers in a blog on our website. 

I feel like a FRAUD

Sat in the studio trying to focus, a feeling of unease is in my stomach rising through me, down my arms into my hands, which are shaking.

I am working hard on not trying to write the narrative of the upcoming phone call before it has even begun. I have all my facts and figures laid out next to me and I have captured as much information as possible.

I feel like I am going into to plead a case, to be prepared when the conversation invariably sway’s off course to discuss the aspects of my infertility. I need to be strong and grounded to purvey my truth.

Every word I say has to count.

 

The phone rings and its the doctor, right deep breathe here we go…….

 

So lets give a little background here.

In April I started using the menstrual cup, this highlighted to me how much blood I was loosing. I knew I was going through super tampons and a pad every hour, but this didn’t really equate to anything for me, its just what my monthly cycle did, its normal right?

So as I recorded the amounts and I was shocked, and yes shocked is the right word, and I was perplexed as to how this was not having more of an impact on my body.

It kind of shook me a bit, and I decided I needed to record several months and gain the courage to speak to a doctor, as something can’t be right.

So here are numbers for blood loss per monthly cycle.

(“Most women will lose less than 16 teaspoons of blood (80ml) during their period, with the average being around 6 to 8 teaspoons.” NHS Health Website )

April 205ml

May 163ml

June 132 ml

July 178ml

August 153ml

 

Stepping back into Monday, back in the studio, the phone rings and the consult begins.

My heart is beating, how can I say my point with strength, power, calmness, and clarity.

The usual; “how can I help you? “Echoes through the receiver, and I start by saying I wish to discuss my monthly cycle and the heaviness of the flow, and the concerns I have surrounding it. I outline the bloods loss, the crippling pain, the flu like symptoms, the soreness of my breast’s, bleeding mid cycle and the fatigue that follows each cycle.

I am ready poised waiting for all the suggestions coming my way. (I have been here before), and like clockwork the doctor reels of all the hormonal treatments and then the NSAIDS and clotting medication available.

Hurdle number one, deep breathe as I explain why I cannot do hormonal treatment and how medication contains lactose, which I am allergic to and causes a immune system response, heightening my CFS symptoms, meaning I can not entertain everyday normal function of life.

I feel disheartened already; I can hear where this conversation is going to go and every fibre in my being wants to stop, hang up and runaway from this call.  The doctor is doing their job, but it doesn’t make it any less painful to sit through.

Sat in my studio, my place of sanctuary, all of sudden the walls are getting closers, my heart is beating so fast and the tears are rising, my voice trembles and I apologise for getting emotional as I say “menopause in my family is around the age of 60, I don’t think I can keep going like this, I have had had my periods since I was 11.”

Discussion moves onto surgical procedures, I feel for a moment I have been heard, until it comes crashing down, shattering through me, making me feel hollow and empty, and like a complete FRAUD.

The words “these procedures are for women who have had children and you will not be considered until you have had children.”

Hello merry go round my old friend, you incite nausea, you leave me spinning and unaware of who I am, what is my truth and you leave me unsteady for days.

 

“ I can’t have kids”, trickles out of my mouth and flows down the phone.

 

It’s met with  “Why?”

 

Breathe in and big sigh out, here we go…

“I was told when I was 19 I have significant scarring on my fallopian tubes which means it will be very unlikely I can have kids, coupled with the diagnose of PCOS in my early 20’s and all my hormonal profiling’s clearly showing I can not conceive. My husband and I have decided that we do not wish to explore medical interventions, we are not going to have children as it is not meant for us.”

I can feel myself shaking, trying to contain years of emotions, all tethered to the journey of knowing I can’t have kids and how this has shaped my life.

 

“But you have a regular cycle, you will be fertile”

 

In this moment I am wondering how do I make myself heard, how do I prove I can’t have kids. I know I can’t, numerous doctors and specialist have been involved in this process over the years and have said yes I can one minute only to retract it the next.

Repetitive false hope, so eventually I just started to hear a low hum and decide that the medical system is just not for me.

Instead I just said “ I have been with my husband for 13 years and over the years we have only practiced safe sex some of the time, we should of been pregnant, and we actively tried for over a year.

(This may seem crazy that we tried, but I was always of the thinking if it was meant to be it would happen. And even here I am justifying my decisions.)

I follow it up clearly with we have decided that there is life beyond infertility and that is our life and the one we have chosen.

Feeling quite proud, I  am sat quite tall in in my chair, feeling empowered, knowing this is my truth, knowing this is my life story, this is the path I want.

There is a short silence, and then the words come back “Are you sure you don’t want a family, you have a regular cycle you will be able to have a baby, has your husband been tested?”

My back bends, I feel small and insignificant, almost stupid.  Do I know my body? Maybe this doctor is right? Maybe I can have a baby? is this what I want?

I catch myself quickly, as I hear the false hope rise up, I stop it before it balloons out of control.

I know my truth I know my story, I am 38, I have known for 19 years, I can not have children, I am not lying, but why do I feel like I am, why to I feel like a FRAUD.

I felt lost for words, I fell silent, and the consult turned to focus on the mirena coil and it being the best option for me to help stem the heavy bleeding.

(I had the mirena in my early 20’s and it was removed due to the adverse side effects I experienced due to the progesterone going into my system.  But that’s whole different story)

I heard my voice ask if they could tell me more, I was going through the motions, I was beaten, I had lost my case, I had come away feeling like I was wrong, like it wasn’t me that been through the tests, and procedures, to be told over and over again you can not have kids.

In the space of 5 minutes I felt shaken to my core, I felt angry I didn’t get the referral, that I had agreed to get a prescription for a medication I am allergic too.

I felt like a complete and utter FRAUD, like a woman making up some elaborate story of being infertile.

Sat here right now, I feel ashamed at the lack persistence, where was my inner warrior, a little child took her place.

In this present moment I am sat sipping peppermint tea, the window open, the air flowing in, I feel connected back to self, giving permission to have patience and compassion towards myself.  I know this is not an easy path to tread. It’s full of misnomers, misguidance, misinformation and the feeling of having to prove my truth.

 

I will make another appointment, and share how I felt and ask how we move forward.

 

This is not about blaming anyone, especially the doctor that I spoke to.  They were doing a great job on the facts that they had immediately in front of them, and they are unknowingly swayed by society’s view of the role of a women.

This is a piece about how we can feel we know our truth but how that can be easily swayed by so many outside influences that others are subjected to and then projected onto us.

Unless you are walking the lesser-known path, how are you to know what it feels like?

It is my truth of hurt and pain over the years; the being told I could, to being told I cant, on a repetitive cycle. How these experiences shape the ones I have to date and the work that goes into making space for myself to journey through them all over again and to regain a sense of self before being able to take the next step forward.

 

Anotherhood is about being seen and heard, sharing the true stories of us as a community and together raising the volume on our voices, so experiences change and society’s perspective shifts and to be a woman without children becomes normalised.

 

Thanks for reading

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship

Its international friendship day, and it would strange for us not to mark this, as without it Anotherhood would not exist.

If you have read through our website, you will know that Kadi and I met through an email from a mutual contact.  We were both looking for someone to talk to about being infertile, and feeling like we had no-one who truly got it in our lives.

All of a sudden we had each other and someone who got it, someone we didn’t have to explain ourselves, we had someone who got the sub text and someone who we really valued in a part of our every day life.

What seems crazy to us is that we are so far apart, one massive ocean divides us, Los Angels to Scotland. It did not stop us forming a friendship of immeasurable depth.

After many emails, WhatsApp chats and video calls we knew we had to create Anotherhood, a place for women without children.  We wanted to celebrate our lives, your lives and how we are valued and play a important role in this world. We wanted to add more voices to the conversation and to share more stories, to help eliminate the feelings of isolation that can be felt through being a women without children whether through biology, circumstance or choice.

So here we are today, 7 months down the road, and we have shared 21 stories, with many to more to come, all from that one e-mail back in 2017!

One topic we often circle back around to, is one of friendship, but not ours, but the ones we have surrounding us. We were delighted to be invited to take part in a webinar with  Katy Sepi from Chasing Creation focusing on the theme of friendship.

We cover many aspects on here, to our friendship, friendships with pals who have children and how to make new connections and friends that share your passions and you can go on adventures with.

Check it out here. 

We are truly grateful that we met, that the universe did its thing.  We can not wait to meet again. Top on our list of things to do are: go surfing, to go mountain biking and just sit, hang out and chat away to our hearts content.

 

Screen Shot 2020-07-30 at 09.13.10

 

 

 

 

 

Curves, Edges and Contours.

Curves, edges, contours, smooth, straight, hard, rough, lumps, bumps in all their womanly glory.

Not one body is the same, not one female body is set to live the same life as another.

Each of us in unique, unique in our skin tone, our shape, our contours, the way our shoulders sit, the way our spines run down to the small of our backs and spread out to our hips. Our legs, the foundation of what holds us to the ground, stretching down, some may be short, some may be long, but they are our grounding force. Our feet, the connectors to the earth, back to nature and back to where we were made, within nature and as women we are nature.

Nature has gifted us a body a soul and a mind.

Our bodies are to be celebrated for their uniqueness. Not perceived as lacking, or less than because they do not conform to what society says a woman’s body should do.

As you stand today, breath in deep, take a good look at your body, it may not conform to society’s view, but its strong, its holds you, it contains your soul which is the essence of you. Your body and you are to be celebrated as it adds to the rich diversity of life, and life offers beauty in all forms, we just have to learn to notice it more.

As I typed this first section, the words just tumbled out, ready to be seen, to be read, but to say I am always confident in my body would be a lie.

My relationship with my body is not straight forward, but it is one I am constantly working with.

From being a overweight teenager, to bearing the tiger striped stretch marks to show this stage in my life, to the eating disorder I developed in my teens, to the one that resurfaced in my mid thirties, to the complexities around not feeling female enough because I can’t have children, and then rejecting the female identity in the way I presented myself to the world.

To a diagnosis of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, where my body gave out beneath me, to many varied autoimmune conditions, that mark me visibly on my skin to my hair and internally hidden from sight.

For all of the above, I now look at my body and understand it, I know it, and I marvel at its strength, and its ability to rebuild itself, to transform and to adapt.

I am a strong woman, who is unique in my make up and I am just as much a valid member of society as the next.

And to be honest, what would the world be like if we were all the same.

 

To accompany this piece there was no other artist more suited than the work of Linn Fritz. Linn has done a series of art work named Girls. Linn’s work is shapes, contours and smooth edges, culminating in strong dynamic drawings that capture the eye and evoke a sense of space and freedom. With bright colours that pop of the page, each figure is full of life a vitality,

I hope I can stride forward with the feeling of empowerment that her illustrations depict.

image-asset-2

Linn Fritz 

island  independent illustrator, designer and animator living in London.

Linn is a co-founder of Panimation , a multi-platform community for women, non-binary and trans animators and motion designers.

 

 

The comfort of childhood.

Laura and I recently had a funny convo about the stuffed toys we had as kids.

As Laura is a Art Psychotherapist we delved right into the theories behind why we are both still attached to our beloved stuffed toys.

Laura’s was a teddy called Sampson and mine was a Koala Bear. The big reveal was that we both definitely still have those stuffies.

I keep mine tucked away, out of sight from the other adults who occupy my living quarters. But I know my koala is there, just in case.

On several long, and lonely nights after my diagnosis, my koala bear climbed out of his tote bag in my closet, and crawled into bed with me. I held him so tightly, as though he was the only part of me that was still whole.

The idea of letting go – of a dream, of a life – felt so big, and the only way I could do it was to hold on to the vulnerable bits inside of me. To really care for the tender parts that no one else could see. And slowly, I began to release.

Kadi

 

Sampson was gifted to me as a baby, he is a rigid fully jointed bear, not a real one for cuddling, but I did tell him all my secrets and swear he would move around the room when I was asleep. Fast-forward to now, Sampson sits proud with my school tie around his neck right bang centre on the spare bed.

Although as grown women it may feel odd to understand the need to cuddle an object from our childhood, it leads back to our first steps in self regulation, to creating a character within these stuffed toys that would always be reliable, dependable and hold our deeper most inner wishes thoughts and dreams.  They have sat by our sides through the hard times, they do not judge, they are just there, our constant in an ever changing world.

In those vulnerable moments, I will pull Sampson by my side and somehow through some mere stuffing, fur, eyes and a lot of stitching, it can make those vulnerable moments feel less lonely.

Laura

wall-art-gabriella-barouch

Our toys are transitional objects. A theory developed by paediatrician and psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott.  We project feelings onto them and they act as our first understanding of ‘not me objects’. They start to help us regulate our emotions outwith the needs of our mothers. The objects serve more than just emotional support but lead to play, known as the ‘intermediate space’ a development of a healthy mind.

 

Linus form the famous comic Peanuts, starring Snoopy carries round his blanket, known as a ‘security blanket; this is his transitional object.

linus

 

At times we all need to find a time that reminds us of joy, freedom and comfort. Often this does involve grabbing something significant from your past, this could be a photo, a blanket or indeed a beloved stuffed toy.

It is a part of our human nature and natural as grown women to seek comfort and be whisked back to a different time in ever changing and shifting world.

 

To read more there is a great article here: Still have your childhood teddy?

When it came to choosing the art work we decided upon the wonderful work of Garbiella Barouch her work carried us of into another place, like dreaming as if we were children. The work encapsulates a world of wonderment and beauty. Please go and check out her work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Art speaks a thousand words.

Right now it seems so hard to know what to write, there seems so many larger things happening in the world than a life without children.

Kadi’s and my conversations have focused on the pandemic, black lives mater and what we can do as individuals and as Anotherhood to support, help and and continue to grow and develop our roles in our lifetime.

 

We have discussed our next move, what we should post, what’s right, what isn’t and what we have seen that feels right to us.

Then we realised it comes back to something that unites us all, our female intuition, that innate natural source of energy from within.

The one that guides us, and if we tune in, leads the way in its own time, without rushing, but by taking time to reflect, learn and digest what we see, hear and feel.

 

We are in this for the long haul, Anotherhood is about equality, all voices are valid, and we want to share as many as we can.  Representing different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences, through our words and through the artwork we share.

We are keen to develop a creative section on our site, one that shows women’s artwork, that’s beautiful, reflective and emotive.  Kadi and I both work in the creative industries and so creativity forms part of our every day lives.

Artwork can speak a thousand words when words are not available, and it can bring peace, it can raise questions, and it can answer questions.  It can hold and contain something, which we are unable to express.

Art provides an intimate relationship, between viewer and the piece; no one reaction will be the same, and art is like a human, individual and unique.

To start this off we are going to share a piece of work by Abstract painter Alma Thomas.

 

Alma Thomas

 

Alma Thomas stated

“Through colour, I have sought to concentrate on beauty and happiness, rather than on man’s inhumanity to man.” 

Alma Thomas created bright colourful abstract work that invites you to drift off, find letting your eyes wander through the pattern and your thoughts to stop and be lost with the beauty of her mark making.

We invite you to sit, take a moment and let your mind wander as you take in the quiet natural rhythm within her work.

 

almathomas_homepage

 

Alma Woodsey Thomas (September 22, 1891 – February 24, 1978) was an African-American Expressionist painter and art educator best known for her colourful abstract paintings. She lived and worked primarily in Washington, D.C. and The Washington Post described her as a force in the Washington Colour School.  The Wall Street Journal described her in 2016 as a previously “underappreciated artist” who is more recently recognized for her “exuberant” works, noteworthy for their pattern, rhythm and colour. Thomas remains an influence to young and old as she was a cornerstone for the Fine Arts at Howard University, started a successful art career later in her life, and took major strides during times of segregation as an African-American female artist. Thomas believed that creativity should be independent of gender or race, creating works with a focus on accidental beauty and the abstraction of colour.

 

Anotherhood is an organic process, that Kadi and I are developing it as we grow and learn from each other and the wonderful community of women we have found since first sharing Anotherhood and the ever shifting landscape of the world around us.   We see it as a collaborative process, with the women we interview and with what we post.

 

So we want to ask you, what do you feel you want to see more of on Anotherhood?

We want you all to be active participants, to feel that you have a voice in what we cover, write about or explore.

Let us know our thoughts or if you want to share your story send us a email Anotherhood.info@gmail.com or send is a message of Instagram or Facebook.

 

 

 

Guest blog: Bitter

by Brigid May

June 2020

 

Bitter

/ˈbidər/

adjective

adjective: bitter; comparative adjective: bitterer; superlative adjective: bitterest

  1. having a sharp, pungent taste or smell; not sweet.

“the raw berries have an intensely bitter flavour”

2.  (of people or their feelings or behaviour) angry, hurt, or resentful because of one’s bad experiences or a sense of unjust treatment.

3. (often used for emphasis) painful or unpleasant to accept or contemplate.

“today’s decision has come as a bitter blow”

4. (of wind, cold, or weather) intensely cold.

“a bitter wind blowing from the east”

 

My name is Brigid Maire. Brigid is an Irish name that means, “strength.” Maire is the Irish form of Mary, which means, “bitter.” I like to think I’m like a good black tea! Strong and bitter! But maybe that’s just how I like my tea…

I sometimes think I’ve been strongly bitter since I was a baby. My mom likes to fondly tell the story of when she was at the grocery store with me as a baby. A woman told my mother, “What a cute baby!” Without missing a beat, my mother says, I slowly turned my head and scowled at her. “Oh, it’s a mean baby,” she laughed.

I was the youngest of five girls, I was constantly bitter about some injustice. My sisters always had something I didn’t. Why did the oldest always get the front seat? That meant I wouldn’t get the front seat until it no longer mattered! I was required to go to every play, game, and graduation for my sisters. By the time I was in plays and games, they were off living their lives. Even when they were nice to me, I was bitter, thinking, “Why are you being nice to me?!”

Bitterness isn’t appreciated. Why would it be? Bitterness is “unpleasant.” It’s uncomfortable, unattractive, un-ladylike.

But bitterness is also a helpful tool. It teaches you to get angry instead of sad. When my college boyfriend broke up with me for another girl, I told him he “would regret the day” he let me go. I was bitter. How dare he!? My sister was shocked. “How are you so confident?” Because for some, if a guy broke up with them, they’d think, “What’s wrong with me?” But my bitterness told me to think, “What the hell is wrong with you!?”

Eventually, I came to terms with my bitterness. It was a part of my personality that for the most part I, and my family and friends, could ignore. If I got started on a rant, I’d eventually take a breath and apologize. People just came to know me for rolling my eyes and getting angry. It was never acknowledged to be an asset, but it didn’t stop people from loving me either.

 

I was raised to believe that having children was my life purpose. My parents told me that having children “teaches you true selflessness.” My dad said my mom was never more beautiful than “when she was pregnant.” As soon as the talk shifted from who we were marrying, it shifted right onto having children. How many you planned to have, when you planned to have them, what did you plan for the nursery, the names, the schools, etc.

So, I got married (to a wonderful man, by the way, who turns my bitterness into delicious cocktail bitters) and we planned our future. Three kids. Of course, three kids! Two is too few! One is just sad! Four is craziness. Three kids. I’d like all girls. I’ll accept a boy, but I’d really like all girls. We can only agree on girls’ names anyway. We should try at this month in this year so it can coincide with my summers at work and my workload in my graduate program. We’ll buy this house, but maybe we need to upgrade when we pop out all these kids we’re going to have.

My family would laugh! “Just because you planned that, you’re going to have all boys.” “You can’t plan when you get pregnant.” “What if it doesn’t go according to your plan?”

“What if it doesn’t go according to your plan?”

Their comments made me bitter. So, you guys get to plan your futures, and teach me to plan mine, but as soon as I voice my plans you laugh at them!?  I’ll show you!

But I couldn’t show them. I couldn’t get pregnant. Ohhhh, and that made me…. Even bitterer.

 

WHY could I not get pregnant? Everyone else could get pregnant. My period was regular. I was a healthy weight. I had cut back on alcohol. I had even started taking daily prenatals that made me feel constantly nauseous, so then I’d think to myself “I’m pregnant,” but boy, was I not.

My sisters got pregnant, one after another. My dad once joked to me, “Here comes your sister who gave me grandchildren.” He didn’t know at the time it wasn’t going to happen for me. My family never considered it wouldn’t happen for me.

I tried for a year listening to people say, “Just relax,” “Just have a lot of sex,” “My friend used this ovulation app and was pregnant within a month, “You’re going on a fun trip? Oh, you’re definitely gonna get pregnant there.” But I didn’t get pregnant. I would cry bitter, bitter tears asking God, asking anyone, “WHY can’t I get pregnant?” It made me so fucking bitter.

 

And again, the good thing about bitterness, is it prefers anger to sadness. “Why can’t I get pregnant?” turned into, “Why is it so important that I get pregnant?” “What’s wrong with my body?” turned into, “My body is great! Why is there a pressure for me to make my body do something it’s not doing?”

I leaned very hard into my bitterness. I saw the Childfree community having drinks on their patios in the dappled sunlight and I wanted to join them. I didn’t want to join mothers with their children and the breastfeeding and the labor and the tired, hard nights that don’t look like one iota of fun. Yuck! I wanted to bask in the childfree sun with my amazing husband and our beautiful dogs.

I tried my luck in that club. Babies? Ew! Not for me! Granted… I tried really hard to have a baby, because I do feel pressure from my family to procreate, and I do think having a child would be fun for like 20% of the time, and I do wonder which features in my child would be from my husband and which from me, and I do enjoy working with preschoolers and the joy and frustration that comes from the beauty of childhood. But I also really like not being a parent and the choice wasn’t really up to me and I don’t want a child living in my home! *catching my breath* Please let me in your club!

 

Of course, they let me in their club. Just like mothers would let me in their club if I had asked. But the childfree by choice didn’t truly understand my grief and the mothers didn’t truly understand my happiness. And that made me… bitter.

So, I sat with it for a long time. I read all the philosophy books I could. I read books on a childfree life, on infertility, on the pressures of motherhood and the female identity. I constantly evaluated where my bitterness was stemming from, whether I was hurting people with my bitterness, or whether they needed a good dose of bitterness to be a little more sensitive. And I’m still working on this.

 

“What’s my point?” I ask as I near the end of another long rant…

I guess my point is: I’m bitter. I’m bitter about things from my childhood. I’m bitter about things from my teens. I’m definitely bitter about things from my adulthood. And while I identify with the first three definitions of bitterness, I don’t want to become the last. I don’t want to become “intensely cold.”

My friend who’s a new mom and I have been discussing infertility, motherhood, and the idolization of pregnancy. She expressed a viewpoint unique to motherhood that frustrated me, and I told her, “Ugh! I hate when people say that.” But that’s my infertility bitterness shutting someone up. Just because I’m bitter about parts of my experience doesn’t mean I get to invalidate someone else’s experience. I need to use my bitterness to light fires, not become hard and cold. I need to say, “That sounds like it sucks! And let’s light a fire and burn down all the reasons why that sucked,” instead of shutting her up. I want the world to see my bitterness as an asset, to speak up when they feel bitter too!

And I hope ultimately that people can see my bitterness, see the fires I’ve started, and say, “Wow. She must really hate how hard society is on women, on women’s bodies, on women’s purpose, that she is fighting to change it,” and not, “What a bitter barren bitch. Why doesn’t she just adopt?”

Although, they’re right. I am bitter, I am barren, and I’m definitely a bitch. And I’ll keep you warm with the fires I light.

 

 

To find out ore about Brigid’s story you can check out her interview with Anotherhood here, or checkout her Instagram.

If you would like to do a guest blog or find out. ore information then please send an

e-mail to Kadi and Laura anotherhood.info@gmail.com

Illustration created by Laura