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 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Wild & Precious Life

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – From the poem ‘The Summer Day,’ by Mary Oliver

This beautiful Mary Oliver quote gets a lot of airtime on the Insta poetry meme circuit. And it should, it’s a big, brilliant, beautiful quandary summed up into 15 little words. 

But it overwhelms me. 

I’ve had many lives, so far, and I’m still not sure what I did with any of them. 

The Single Life – Filled with long nights, and restless days. A life brimming with self doubt and insecurity, but also a freedom that could not be ignored. Anything possible at any moment, although many moments wasted – or rather, spent – in youthful ennui. 

The Early Menopause Life –This one involved A LOT more reading. I learned about all the weirdness that happens inside of a young body when it decides that it’s time to shut down the whole baby-making apparatus. I tried hormone replacements, and experienced insane side effects. I tried no hormones and worried myself to death that I maybe I should be on hormones. This life involved a lot of body examination, and really coming to terms with all the quirks. Not for the faint of heart. 

And finally, The Living-With-It Life – And what is there to say, really? That’s just what you do. Live with it. I watch my friends and family tick the time away by crushing life’s milestones. 

Married: CHECK! 

House: CHECK! 

Babies: CHEK! 

First steps, first birthdays. 

School and summer vacations. 

Every moment of the year, season, future, accounted for. Although, I know that their lives are unpredictable, there is a  framework for them – the familied, the parentals. It’s a frame that doesn’t fit around my amorphous childless/free life. 

There’s no roadmap for un-married, childless/free women. Just a long stretch of highway. 

I’ve wasted a lot of energy fretting over my poor usage of all the free time. Afraid that I’m letting the moments slip away, unnoticed. Lots of TV watched. So much social media scrolled. Long, aimless walks. Naps. (A lot of naps.)

But at the end of all of it, there is a relentless freedom. One that pulls me toward my passions, and creates space for my loved ones. I can be counted on to be present. Because where else am I gonna be? 

So what do I want to do with my ONE wild and precious life? I dunno.

There’s another quote from that beautiful poem that resonates so much deeper for me:

“I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

 

IMG_0246

Xx

Kadi 

Illustration by: Lizzie – www.lizzyartworkshop.com

 

I am woman hear me ROAR

Femininity, I can’t say the word let alone spell it, the m’s n’s get me in a muddle and so often I avoid using the word altogether. My dyslexia makes it hard to say and to spell but there are other reasons I have in the past not felt an affinity to the word.

I have felt removed, detached like it was not a word that described anything I could recognise or feel.

I rejected the word because I felt like it rejected me.

Me my femininity and I have not always seen eye-to-eye.

In fact we have been devoid of each other a lack of connection, a split and inherent misunderstanding of the role that we played in each other’s life.

As a child I was not into girly things, yes I liked Beatrix Potter, but I mainly liked climbing trees, being outside and riding my bike.

Fast forward to this very day not much has changed, aside from the fact my body has shifted through teens to adult hood and now I am in my late 30’s with a body that feels like its bears a few scars as markers of the years gone by.

I feel like I have never conformed to the archetypal female. I chopped my hair short after years of it being really long and dressed in men’s clothes; I struggled to be comfortable in my own skin. I bought sports bras that fitted so tight reducing the size of my breasts; I worked out so much to shift any curves.  I focused on growing muscle so I would look lean and be strong.

I calorie counted until I was so skinny and I thought I would be happy but I was miserable, I couldn’t get my body to fit what I wanted or who I felt like I was in my head.

Then enter Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a return of Alopecia who brought along its friend Vitiligo and Fibromyalgia.

My body internally and externally was stripping back of all I knew. My body stopped being able to move, I was consumed by overwhelming fatigue, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t eat without my body having reactions to food.

I couldn’t think, a low fog engulfing every space in my brain, my hair started to fall out in patches and my Vitiligo graced me with its presence on my face for the world to see.

Days and months became a sea of tests, sleeping, hurting, thinking and the regeneration of all that is feminine within me.

The shifting point was the day I decided to shave my head, the day I decided I wasn’t going to let my hair fall out, I would celebrate it and join it on its journey.  That was liberating, I was stripped back, my face was there for all to see, the tiredness, the Vitiligo, the puffiness, but I didn’t care because it was me.

 

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Infertility, autoimmune disorders, loss and grief create who I am today, it has gifted me the understanding of what it is to be feminine.

It is not having long hair, to have perfect skin an unrealistic body and it certainly is not being a Mother.

What makes me feminine? The way I feel, the way I think, and the way I allow myself to be guided by my intuition.

My strength and determination, my ability to sit and feel the challenging emotions, to let them rise and fall, to acknowledge them and celebrate them in all their glory.

To stand tall, to own my Alopecia, my Vitiligo, my CFS, my PCOS and my Infertility. Together they have a created a cocktail of experiences, layered, complex and churned together in my body, but that body is me.

CFS was a pause, a time to stop a time of reflection, and a time to tune into my body, my soul and feel what I really wanted.

I delved into my creativeness, swam in my thoughts and ideas, had wild imaginings and let my soul dance and sing.

I let my body dance the dance of the feminine. I let my soul sing a haunting melody of what has brought me to where I am today.

I reconnected with my inner child and now together we play and delight in our womanly abundance.  I feel a strength within, I feel it rise and grow as I acknowledge it, listen to it and know that I am all-feminine.

I am me, I am strong, I am feminine, I am a wild woman, with fire in her belly and strength in her soul.

I am female hear me Roar!

 

Illustration by Rachel Sego

Rachel is the deisgner of Anotherhoods logo, check out her work on her website Rachel Sego Illustration or insat @rachelsegoillustration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How We Met

I met Laura five years after my diagnosis. At least that’s how I began to measure
time after my whole world flipped upside down. Everything in relation to the date of
diagnosis.

I was in a relationship that ended one year prior to diagnosis; my two closest
friends had babies one year after diagnosis; I was mid career change and broke as a
joke at the time of diagnosis. Five years later, I met Laura.

First I was diagnosed as pre-menopausal, and then a year after that, just plain old
menopausal. It takes one year of missed periods to fall into the latter category, and
by the time I was diagnosed I was well beyond the expiration date.

I didn’t have visions of a white picket fence in my future, so concerns of surrogacy
and IVF (using someone else’s eggs) didn’t make much sense. Other than my
missing periods, my health was fine. I didn’t feel any different, but I knew that the
absence of such an integral part of my reproductive health could cause problems
down the line.

I dabbled with acupuncture, but it got pricey so I stopped. I tried synthetic
hormones, but they did terrible things to my mood, so I stopped. None of the
specialists were able to conclude the cause of this catastrophic hormonal event. So
instead of asking more questions, I just stopped.

Eventually, I tuned it out completely. I attended friends’ weddings, and baby-
showers. The world kept turning, and I stopped searching.

Most of my closest friends knew about my “situation,” but frankly, there wasn’t
much to say. I couldn’t have children, and they had precious toddlers demanding
their attention at every waking moment. Our once parallel lives began to intersect
less and less.

I knew several women who had chosen not to have children, though their joie de
vivre didn’t quite fit the vision I had for my life either. What was my vision for my
life? I couldn’t see it anymore.

Five years after diagnosis, I received an invitation to the lavish baby shower of a
satellite friend. The wife of a friend of a friend. I’m still not even sure how I made the
invite list. I was getting ready to paint “Congratulations!” across my face and start
pounding mimosas, when I saw an add for a women’s health conference being held
in Downtown Los Angeles on the same day.

“Cycles + Sex: We educate people about their bodies. And highlight
the interconnectedness of our sexual, hormonal, reproductive and menstrual
health.”

Interconnectedness? That had not even crossed my mind. I had been avoiding
the deeper aspects of my reproductive health, and focusing on the social
implications of being a thirty-something woman without kids. Although the Cycles
+ Sex flyer was a paid add on my social media, it stuck with me. Two days before
the conference I made the conscious decision to tune back in. I cancelled my
RSVP to the baby shower, and committed to attending the conference.

The event was lovely; keynote speakers, panel discussions, and information
sessions about issues relating to women’s health. Topics of sexuality and desire,
menstrual health and justice, fertility health and support were sprinkled
throughout the small warehouse space where the event was being held. Also,
there were lattes and lots of free snacks!

I felt a buzz run through me, but once again, I wasn’t hearing my story being
represented by the people on stage. “If I were up there, this is what I would
say…” echoed in my brain. I wanted to start a conversation about being infertile
and NOT trying to have kids; About being single in your 30’s and not being a
parent, and not sure where you land on the whole parent thing at all.

I wanted to talk about why I needed hormones if I’m not trying to get pregnant.
Are there alternative treatments to prevent osteoporosis? And what are you
supposed to do without your friends now that they have kids?!

I had questions, and I assumed I had some answers too. I approached several of
the speakers as they were milling around the booths in the marketplace near the
stage, but couldn’t find my “in.” The day was coming to a close and I was doing a
final lap around the merchant tables when one booth caught my eye. It was a
fertility clinic called PRELUDE, with a little card on the desk that read something
along the lines of, “We meet you where you are.” Interesting, I thought. Where
am I?

The woman (wo)manning the booth, Carly, saw me staring at the card with a
confounded look on my face, and asked if I needed help. I said, “Yes,” then
barfed up the most incoherent nonsensical rhetoric about being young, and
single, and infertile. She looked at me deeply as I stammered and said, “I get it.”
And I think that she did. She told me to keep in touch, and that she didn’t know
where this could go, but she knew tons of women also dying to have this
conversation. That sentiment alone was worth the price of admission, and all the
lattes.

I emailed her within the week, but didn’t hear back. I didn’t hear back the next
week, or the next, or the next. In fact, I forgot all about our interaction. And then
just before Christmas, I received an email from Carly at Prelude. It was short with
one other person was CC’d. She said she was sorry she wasn’t able to get back
to me sooner, and that my issue had to take the back burner for her, but she knew someone in Edinburgh, Scotland who was looking for a similar
conversation. That was Laura.

I let the email sit for a minute, unsure of what I had to say, or who this person
was. Laura emailed me directly within a day. The words she wrote may as well
have come from my brain.

This is what she said: “I am personally interested in the lack of support for women who
are childfree, either through choice, not ready yet, or medical reasons. The only groups
available over here that focus on being childfree, focus only on the ‘not through choice’,
so all group members are wishing to have a child. Focusing solely on this excludes a
community of women who have chosen not to have children, or women who know they
are unable due to medical reasons, and are at peace with this.”

Childfree. Support. Peace. Those words coursed through my veins.
She described living in a space where there are loads of resources for parents
and retired couples, but practically nothing for women in their 30’s who do not
have children, either by choice or circumstance. So we began to write. I had a
pen pal for the first time in 30 years! We shared long, complicated discussions of
topics I wouldn’t think to bring up with anyone else. We discussed the nuisance
between Childfree and Childless. We touched on the topic of femininity, and what
that means when you don’t have children. We scratched the surface of the
inevitable “You can always adopt,” argument that so many people like to dig in
on. (Don’t even get us started!)

We had never met, had never spoken, but had a common language and treasure chest of shared experience. It felt electric.

Now, almost 7 years after my diagnosis, I wake up most mornings and check my
WhatsApp app immediately. Nine times out of 10, there’s a message from Laura.
We video chat every few weeks. We’ve even met in person once!

I’ll listen to her messages on my way to work, and afterwards I’ll leave her one in
return. We talk about the normal things; partners, family, work, the basics. But
more than that we talk about the fundamental difference that binds us.
Grief. That which comes after being told that you’ll never have children. Or that
which settles once you realize your closest friendships – the ones that you’ve
shaped your life around – will never be the same. The grief of telling your
relatives, and partners, and future partners that this is it. This is all you get.

We talk about how the holidays are hard because there are so many questions from
so many people who just don’t understand – or maybe don’t even know. We
mourn the shifts in group dynamics to each other, because we know we can’t
bring them up with the group.

We share very graphic (maybe too graphic?) medical details, knowing that the
other will nod with empathy, and understand that decisions around reproductive
health go so much deeper than the biological.
We talk about our careers. We talk about our pets.

But also, and maybe more than all that stuff, we talk about the joy of feeling so
completely free. And sometimes we even feel a little guilty. . . 😉
I adore my friends. And I’m obsessed with all of their kids. We do our best to
make time and space for each other, although it isn’t always easy.

In my more self indulgent moments, I feel invisible to them, worried that their lives as parents are inherently more important than mine. But every morning when I see that little red tick next to the green WhatsApp app, I know that half way around the world, I
am seen.

Somewhere out there is a woman in rural Scotland who will leave me a
15 minute message that boils down to one sentiment: “I get it.”
And I think she does.