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?
For a long time I felt really isolated, detached and lost, like I was walking a path which was really lonely, and when I looked around I couldn’t see anybody. It felt like there was a heavy mist settling on the ground, making the path undetectable.
It’s about sharing these experiences, emotions around living with the fact that I am infertile. It’s really important to me to share that it doesn’t have to be negative, it can be really empowering.
I want to share my story so that other women can see – when they look around on their path of not having children that they’re not alone; there are other women out there with shared experiences.
For me, the nub of Anotherhood is about sharing our stories and finding a common ground and not feeling isolated anymore but feeling connected.
Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you found out you couldn’t have children?
This question feels complicated. I can remember it very clearly. I was at Art College, and I was 19 at the time. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, he had clubbed fingernails, which I can see clearly to this day, and he said that I wouldn’t be able to have children. A lot of words came out his mouth but all I heard was “you won’t be able to have children”
The reason I say it’s complicated is because it feels like it is in two parts. Five to six years ago is when I really started to understand what it means to be infertile.
Can I ask you a question outside of this group of questions? Do you feel comfortable sharing what your infertility is? Medically why you can’t have children?
This is also it feels complicated. When I was first told, it was due to heavy scarring and damage to my uterus following an infection, that would prevent me from having kids. In my early 20’s I was diagnosed with PCOS and told my FSH and LH were sitting at levels which indicated clearly that I was infertile. I am now in my late 30’s and my hormones have done nothing in regards to changing. So, put simply, the hormones you need to get pregnant just aren’t there.
What has been your experience in sharing your journey with infertility with those who are important to you?
It has been mixed. Parents, Mum, Dad and Step Mum, have always known but I don’t think they have wanted to believe it until recently. It was only a year ago that I shared with my Mother in Law that I can’t have kids. Her response was the best I could of ever wished for
She said, “That path, is not meant for you, you’re meant for something else.”
And they were the most loving and accepting words I have heard in response to not being able to have children.
In terms of relationships, and partners, my boyfriend that I had when I found out at 19 knew, but we were very young, it wasn’t really in our heads. We were just enjoying life.
I had a long-term relationship in my early to mid 20’s, and when we split up he said one of the reasons was because I couldn’t have kids.
Then there was always the conversation I had in my head that when I met somebody, when would I tell them? And would that be the end. So I’ve always been very forward in sharing with any potential partner that I can’t have kids. I did that with my husband very early on in our relationship.
It can really alter the path of a relationship. If it is the make or break moment, obviously that person is not the right one, but at that time it can break you. It feels like being rejected for something that’s completely out of your control.
I wonder has infertility impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?
I would say, yes it has. I wish I could say no it hasn’t, but it really has. I look at the ages of the friends I hang out with, and a lot of them are late 20’s, pre-having kids or 20 years older and have either not had children, or their children have left home.
I have close friends who have young children, and I do feel like the relationships have shifted. That’s no one’s fault whatsoever it’s just that we don’t share a common language anymore.
Our common ground of going out and socializing is gone, our common ground of living for adventures, or chasing our career dreams have gone. It’s now about their experiences and them sharing stories of what’s happening in their children’s lives. It’s lovely to hear, but it’s a life I will not have. I’m still in the social and dream chasing mind-set and that’s the one that I have, and I don’t have the choice to go over to the other conversation. I can feel quite isolated in conversations when surrounded by friends who have had kids.
So yes I would say it has impacted relationships with friends, but I want to say really clearly that it’s no one’s fault, our paths now look very different.
When you are surrounded by friends with kids, how do you participate? What do you find your dynamic to be within that group?
I just listen to their stories and I try and acknowledge how challenging and rewarding the role of being a parent can be.
“That sounds really hard that your child is doing that,” or “That sounds amazing that your experiencing that with your children.” I really try to invest my time into listening to their stories hoping that they feel heard and supported.
Do you feel heard in those conversations?
This is really hard to say, but no I don’t. Their lives and minds seem so full and it feels like what is happening for me in my life, well, they just don’t have the room to hold that information.
Do you feel your infertility has impacted the relationship you have with your body?
Yes I really do. My body looks like a female’s, but when your body does not do what a so-called females body is supposed to do – that’s really hard and I have wondered in the past what’s the point of my body.
The PCOS, causes a huge amount of hair growth in places I don’t want, like my face. Due to it being hormonal, treatments can work for a short while, but the hair does return. That’s a constant daily reminder for me, and it can take away feeling attractive and feeling feminine.
But now I think my body is amazing and astounds me by its strength and ability to restore and rebuild itself. My body might not do what society wants, or what it’s naturally predisposed to do, but it does what it’s supposed to do for me and I’ve gotten to the point where I can really embrace that.
What has been the most challenging part of your experience of being infertile?
The unspoken grief that comes with being infertile. Grieving for not being able to have children, for the family I will never have, grieving for friendships and for the choice to have children being taken out of my hands.
But the hardest part has been the journey I have been on. Learning to understand and celebrate myself, realising that it’s not my fault, I haven’t done anything wrong and I’m not being punished for anything. That this is me.
The connecting to self is a on-going process but I can now celebrate that this is my path. I am unsure of what is going to happen, but now I am comfortable with it, and excited by what adventures it holds.
As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects of being infertile
Yes! What I have just said has been the most challenging, has actually been the best experience. Through my reflective practice of connecting to self, I have met some wonderful women that I will be forever thankful for. Women that have just walked into my life at the right time, women that have brought a light and an understanding to the world, women whom I can be my true self with.
It’s been absolutely amazing to feel the strength, courage and power of the feminine and realise that you can walk your own path, and your not alone.
Meeting Kadi, that was weird and wonderful, how we just found each other and had an instant connection. Now we have this beautiful friendship, and I do not have the words to express how thankful I am for Kadi coming into my life.
Meeting all these women brings a belonging a purpose and highlights that this is empowering, not disempowering.
If you could change one thing about how being infertile is viewed, what would you wish to change?
I would like it to be normalised so it’s not such a taboo, so it becomes normal, an open conversation. Not something that is swept under the carpet, ignored or buried, leaving people to feel afraid ashamed or alone. I wish for it to be acknowledged and more widely understood. I would like to start a conversation about infertility or living without children and the conversation to grow, for the lives of those women to be celebrated and for them to celebrate their lives and their unique femininity.
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?
Being in nature and being creative is my escapism and my connection back to self. Putting my headphones on, tuning into music and picking up a pencil and letting it take its own journey across the page is like getting lost in another world. Being in nature and being creative is my from of mediation, my mind wanders, I create images, narratives come into my mind, it awakens my inner child and I sit and give myself permission to play. Take time to stop, press pause and find something that fills your heart with joy and makes your inner child dance around with glee.