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 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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.