A email dropped into our inbox from Kat, I was delighted when I read that she lived in Edinburgh and then my eyes, heart and soul lit up as I read the rest of her email.
Kat and I hung out on zoom for over 2 hours just chatting away getting to know each other and share out stories with each other. Kat decided she would like to use the interview questions as prompts and write up her story this way.
I was so excited and buzzing after our conversation, Kat is inspiring and is true force of wonderful nature that I feel lucky to have met and look forward to seeing in person.
I hope you enjoy reading Kat’s words as much as I have; her story is powerful and emotive.
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?
It’s been 4 years since I made the decision about my path and back then it was too soon to openly talk about it – but as they, say, time heals, and I feel more comfortable now being open about my situation. There’s still a certain stigma around women who don’t have children, and there can be many judgements and questions about it. I want to help to normalise the reality that some women, for whatever reason, take another path, and that it’s ok.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m 44, and live in Edinburgh with my husband and my mischievous cat Charles. Originally from Croatia, I left my country at the age of 37 to move to Scotland…for love! That can sound very romantic, but it’s had its challenges too. I’m a full time Yoga teacher, a singer and now-retired dance teacher. Teaching dance was my big passion until I discovered Yoga. Back in Croatia I had my own dance studio which I managed for 15 years. Starting again from scratch in another country has been tough, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You are from Croatia; can I ask what is it like in your culture to be a woman without children?
Croatia is a country with very traditional values, particularly around gender roles and expectations. Since I moved away I have seen a very slow change towards more liberal attitudes but it will probably take decades to see a proper change in the attitudes towards women in general. Women without children are often branded as either “poor things” or “selfish” depending on whether they are childless or child-free by choice. Some of my friends in Croatia are single mothers now and also judged negatively by society too. Unfortunately, such stigma is deeply rooted in eastern european culture.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?
I’ve often said I would like to erase the year 2016; it was very difficult. I had two miscarriages in six months; after the second I decided to try to get to the root of the “problem” as both my husband and I are healthy people and there was no obvious issue. I did numerous tests and saw different specialists between Croatia and the UK – they couldn’t find anything conclusive and more or less said just to ‘relax and try again” which I found pretty frustrating. I finally demanded an MRI, which showed that I have a subseptate uterus – this means it is genetically ‘heart-shaped’ and small. The UK specialist recommended I have surgery, which carries risks with it, and the Croatian specialist advised not to have surgery but simply to keep trying until the egg finds the best spot to grow, risking further miscarriages in the meantime. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, but felt some relief that I had discovered the root of the issue. After around six months of processing the information, I decided, at the age of 40, not to put my body and my soul through any further risks.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?
The support I have had from my friends, my husband and my family has been crucial in embracing my decision. My family in Croatia is kind of non-traditional; my mum was very active in the local community, she’s a poet, writer and teacher, and I was brought up in a very creative environment. My parents always encouraged me to do what works for me without pressuring me into fitting in with the standard expected female roles, so they have been very accepting and supportive. And my friends in the UK are like family to me. I’ve found wonderful people in my life who echo the values my parents espoused; they are fully supportive of my choices, and I feel really understood by them. They have helped me to create a fulfilling and rewarding life that is filled with love and meaning, despite not having children.
I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I feel lucky that it hasn’t really. I am surrounded by very understanding and open minded people. I don’t judge people by their life-choices, and I expect the same from others… and I mostly receive that. On the rare occasion that someone might look pitiful or disproving that I’m in my mid-forties and don’t have children, or ask me inappropriate questions about it, I see it as a reflection of a lack of knowledge or understanding. We need to increase awareness and understanding in society as a whole, and I’m grateful to Anotherhood for creating a platform through which this can happen.
Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?
It hasn’t for me personally, but I have talked with some women who have felt that their bodies are failing them somehow, and I have found this very sad. Our bodies, minds and souls and the lives we live through them are unique and amazing, and to think that we are “faulty” because we cannot create humans is reducing us to a kind of primal level where we are only deemed to have value and worth if we can procreate. We are so much more than this.
You have said that yoga is a big part of your life: has it helped you to be more in tune with your body needs in regards to your infertility and has this impacted on you emotionally?
Oh absolutely. Yoga can teach you to create a very kind and loving relationship with your mind and body. Of course, it’s a life-long journey as there’s also fear, judgement, ego, self-doubt, expectations and frustrations that arise throughout our lives. But the practice of yoga is a regular reminder for me that being in tune with my body and having a kind relationship with it helps me to deal with all of the challenging situations about the past, present and the future.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?
Dealing with the miscarriages and the loss of the hope carried for those pregnancies and at the same time as my dad having a serious car accident in Croatia and his life being in danger. It felt like too much to deal with simultaneously, and I was given a strong lesson in having to accept the uncertainties of life. Some things can shake you to your core.
As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?
I’ve surrounded myself with such amazing women in my life, whether they have children or not; that sisterhood has been an incredible form of support. I’ve also realised that my decision will bring me the opportunities and space to devote to other meaningful things in life that can bring me just as much joy and fulfilment as having children.
If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?
There’s still a certain stigma about it and I would like to see it shift. There’s a pervading sense that having a life without children is an incomplete life. It is simply a different life.
Some women have also been puzzled by the fact that I, among other styles, teach Pregnancy and Postnatal Yoga but do not have children of my own. At first I was a bit frustrated by the assumption that specialising in a field related to motherhood should require the physical experiencing of having carried a child to term. Why don’t people carry the same assumptions about male gynaecologists who do not have their own female genitalia? Can a heart surgeon only be a good heart surgeon if they have had their own heart operated on? Can a psychotherapist only support a trauma if they have had a direct experience of the same trauma? This is where I see the pervasiveness of the stigma that as women we are incomplete if we don’t have children, and that we are somehow in the wrong field if we are working with anything related to pregnancy, birth and/or mothering. I actually feel that because I don’t have my own experience of my own birth and mothering, I don’t carry bias about what others’ experiences might be.
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 without children?
I think people often assume that the ultimate meaning in life is to have children. However, I believe that we are always in a process of creating our lives and making them meaningful and rewarding, whether we have children or not. I create meaning in my life through Yoga, community and charity work. I dedicate some of my time to teaching yoga to cancer patients and survivors, both at the Maggie’s centre in Edinburgh and for Teenage Cancer Trust. I’ve also been involved in sharing yoga with women who are experiencing domestic violence, helping them to find empowerment and freedom. I was a founder of the Pay it Forward movement in Croatia, and am so happy that I found amazing people to do the same with in Scotland. With my fellow teachers and friends we’ve created a Pay it Forward Scotland project and we organise an annual Yoga and Cake Festival fundraiser, where we help local charities and create great support and connections at a grassroots level. It’s all about people helping people and this is my karma work…that’s why I cal my wee yoga community Karma Yoga Edinburgh. Selfless service to others is something I enjoy doing and it makes my life richer and more grounded.
Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey? Yoga teachers Elena Brower and Seane Corn are authentic and inspirational while being very down to earth, and they have helped me to honour my own individual journey. I’ve also enjoyed the book ‘Journey To The Heart’ by Melody Beattie, Joan Halifax’s writings, and Amanda Palmer’s ‘The Art of Asking’ as well as her music!
yOu can find out more about Kat on her website Karma Yoga Edinburgh.
I can highly recommend Kat’s easy like Sunday morning class, it was delightful, restoritve and eased me into a slow steady Sunday.