Anotherhood is about turning up the volume of the voices of women who do not have children, can you tell us why you wish to share your story with Anotherhood?
I want to share my story because I want to hear stories like mine. There isn’t enough out there about what it’s really like to live childfree. All of my closest friends are mothers, and I just don’t know many people who’s stories resemble my own. It wasn’t until I met Laura that I really felt like I was part of bigger conversation.
I want other childfree women to feel comfortable sharing their stories, and know that Anotherhood is a safe place, where we get it.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you found out that you would not be able to have children?
I was 32 years old, and just coming out of a relationship. I was making a career transition, and living alone. I had taken a pretty heavy pay cut, and felt a little like my life was taking a step back. Having children was not at all on my radar.
After the breakup I went off birth control, and my cycle just never returned. I saw a slew of doctors, but by the time I got the definitive diagnosis, I was considered officially menopausal. By then I was 33 years old.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey with infertility with those who are important to you?
The word that immediately comes to mind is: Incomplete.
There are a lot of layers. Medical factors, social implications, grief, and the search for community. When you talk to someone who hasn’t gone through it, you can really only tackle one layer at a time.
I tend to focus on the social or the medical aspect. The grief is too much to share with someone who may not get it.
Some people think it’s about pregnancy, as though getting pregnant is the biggest issue. At that point I can’t go any further, because there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be infertile.
I wonder has infertility impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I in terms of the relationship with my partner, it has made the milestones a little harder to define. Removing traditional expectations of a family has opened up a world of opportunity that can feel overwhelming. The only milestones in our lives are the ones we intentionally put there.
My friendships have naturally shifted as well. My parent friends and I do our best to show up for each other. But our day to day experiences are so vastly different, it can feel like we’re speaking different languages.
Do you feel that this experience has impacted the relationship you have with your body?
Absolutely. Initially didn’t feel any different in my body, which was hard to get my head around. But I started to learn about the impact that a hormone imbalance can have on someone so young. I tried going the holistic route, and balancing it with acupuncture, lifestyle and diet. But ultimate for me, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) made the most sense. I know that’s not the case for everybody. And there’s obviously arguments for both sides.
I’ve really had to tune into what makes sense for my body. It might change again, and that’s ok.
My joke is that my body thinks I’m one of the Golden Girls. I naturally move at a slower rhythm. I have different sleep needs, and nutritional needs. I have osteoporosis in my hips due to the hormone imbalance. I have to respect that and know that I have the body of a 39 year old on the outside, but on the inside that’s not exactly the story.
Everyone has a body they have to figure out, and this is mine.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of being infertile?
For me it’s been the loss of choice.
I was absolutely not moving toward having kids when I found out that it was off the table. It wasn’t even in the stratosphere of my life at the time. But I anticipated that someday I would be able to make the decision of whether or not to have kids. I was excited about making that choice. I never thought it would be taken from me.
Accessing a community has been very hard. When Laura and I connected 2 years ago, it had been 6 years since I found out that I was infertile. She’s the first person that I’ve really been able to open up to about the nuances of living childfree, not by choice. We don’t hold anything back, and it feels great.
I wonder, can you share any positive aspects of being infertile?
Yes! The absolute freedom has been such a gift. I’m truly free to do whatever I want to do. Other than the fact that I have to report to a job – which I have willfully chosen and worked very hard towards – my time is my own.
I see my friends who are parents that don’t have that. I never take for granted the fact that I do.
If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?
Actually, I think the perception of all that freedom can get misconstrued. People, often parents, tend to project onto me all of the things that they would like to do with so much free time. There is a lot of pressure on women who don’t have children have big fancy careers, and to be world travelers who live big lives. And that’s just not everybody.
It’s as though you have to either be a mom, or you have to be Samantha from Sex and the City. There’s no room for just a regular life without kids.
Anotherhood is about connecting women with shared experiences, I wonder can you share anything that you have found that has helped you to embrace your life, your body, and your infertility?
I found Laura! Our friendship has really helped me embrace all of it. Being able to talk about it is just so helpful.
I love hearing other childfree women’s stories – whether they involve fertility or not. Knowing that there are so many ways to live this life, and that there are so many paths to follow has been so helpful.
I have found so much joy in diving deeper into my own interests of feminism, and activism and political engagement. Being out in nature and taking time to focus on figuring out what makes me happy has, well, made me happy!
But the thing that I have found that helps the most has been this friendship.