Kat’s Story

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.

Lousie Interview

As I sat down to interview Louise I could see mountains and a big blue sky behind her in the the background. I was excited to meeting Louise and the experience of chatting to her was great.

We spoke for a long time, about Louise living in Cyprus,  her being a teacher, adventures and of course her beautiful dogs.

We touched on so much, from assumptions made due to being a teacher  without children, the impacts on her own understanding of self and how doing a course has made her come to understand that happiness comes from within, and Louise shares her story of being a carrier of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and how this has impacted the choices she has made in her life.

I hope you enjoy reading this interview as ,much as I enjoyed hanging out with Louise.

 

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?

I think it’s because I always felt quite lost, and because I’ve never really been sure if I’m childless or child free. I feel like it puts me in a category where sometimes I can really relate to people who are child free, and sometimes I can really relate to people who are child less as well.

I am not really child free, I have had my own struggles so it’s not a complete choice. I feel like the choice was sort of taken away from me.

I was thinking there must be other people out there that must be a bit of both, but you never know where those people are and I don’t really tend to opportunity to connect with them.

I did a life-coaching course, and it changed my life and I started to think about the reasons I feel the guilt and the shame over not having children.

I decided I was going to start a Facebook group for teachers without children, and it kind of exploded overnight which I didn’t expect, and that made me think, maybe there’s a real place for us right now, maybe there’s a lot of people struggling.

That’s why I wanted to share my story to maybe inspire, people who are like “oh I’m not really sure where I fit in.”

 

Can you share with us what was happening for you when you realised you wouldn’t have children?

So I think in a way I always knew because my brother had Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and I knew that when I was six and a half.

I was quite a perceptive child, I wasn’t buying my Mum was crying all the time because she had a headache.

I listened to things I shouldn’t of, I was probably too intelligent for my own good when I was young.

I knew my younger brother was going to die, I always knew.

At the same time I found out that my Mum was having my youngest brother, so it was quite a difficult time for me.

When I was eight my Aunty was having a baby and I remember her having to go through a lot of testing to see if it was going to be a boy.

Because obviously my Mum had a son with Duchene so my auntie could also be a carrier of Duchene. This was in the late 80s so testing wasn’t so they knew if she was a potential carrier but it was more that testing wasn’t definite then.

I remember thinking, if there’s a chance my Auntie’s a carrier of this, I probably have this.

I think because of that it just never occurred to me that I could have children I just grew up thinking well I can’t have kids anyway.

Even before I had a test I had just assumed I was a carrier.

There were just things clues, like I was bad at sport, I remember thinking I definitely have this.

So, when I got the test results I remember, opening the envelope and just scanning for where it says whether I was a carrier.

It was positive I am a carrier.  I remember just crumpling it up in a ball and then going straight out, I didn’t even let myself process what had happened.

I was so angry because even though I didn’t think I wanted kids, the fact that that choice was taken away from me was hard.

I know me as a person and if I was ever going to have a kid, it was just going to happen to just like, oh okay cool. It was never going to be right we are having baby, I am just not that kind of person.

So the fact that it was kind of taken away made me really really angry for quite a while.

Suddenly I decided around the age of 26, that I did want to talk to the genetic counsellors just to see what my options were if I ever did change my mind.

So I’d gone to a doctor, and he said that, I couldn’t be a carrier, and I was like, what? and he said “no you can’t be it doesn’t work that way.” I was shocked and said “it does this is how the genetics of it works. You’re either female carrier or not, or a male with it or not. I was told him “I had the test and I’m a carrier”.

I caught myself and was like why am I explaining genetics with a doctor, it made me pretty angry. He basically said I couldn’t be a carrier and wanted me to have another test. He wrote a really confusing letter to the genetics team saying I need to be tested for this.

The genetics team rang me and said, “We have no idea what this letter means”. So I had to explain all over again, “Look, I’m a carrier, but I have to go through the process all over again because this doctor wouldn’t listen to me.”

Then I stared to wonder if the doctor was maybe right maybe it was a mistake, and then you get this sort of false hope of maybe I’m not a carrier. Then you get heartbroken all over again because of course, I am still a carrier. It was no mistake my doctor just didn’t understand it and didn’t listen to me, so now I have two printouts confirming I am a carrier.

I think for me, that was it really; I was never going to be having IVF.

I was in an emotionally abusive marriage with a man who didn’t want kids anyway.

Sometimes I get a bit upset, especially when you know you’re at school you see the little ones and they’re so cute you think it would be really nice. It bothers me from time to time.  At the same time a lot of what I want to do doesn’t involve children. I love to travel and when covid is gone it will be really nice to think I could go places and do things again.

I just don’t think I’m ever going to feel settled enough to want to stay in one place. So I do think the way my life is that the things I like to do, like, I like to work out, I like my dogs. I like to move about. I like my freedom.

So, at the same time I’m kind of okay with how I am.

 

So how long have you been in Cyprus?

Last May, so about 15 months  We came on holiday here and liked it and said,  “Hey, let’s move to Cyprus.” So we just did. Not having children I was able to just say, Okay, all right, then why not, lets see what happens. There is so much freedom there’s nothing to lose in a way, so you can just give it a go.

 

You mentioned earlier the Facebook group you have set up, can you say more about it?

It’s really interesting; my whole group was about how in education systems there is such a difference in the way you’re treated if you’re someone who doesn’t have children.

When I started the group I had been looking for a group for a while but nothing seemed to fit, so I set one up.

I was really surprised how many other people felt the isolation, the double standards, and the pressure put on you.

And the assumptions put on you because you don’t have children.

I thought, you know, it’s hard enough for somebody like me who hasn’t even gone down the IVF route but for somebody who has done IVF three times maybe, or who has had miscarriages or who’s really struggling and still wants children, it’s so much worse.

The Facebook group is  for both childfree and childless teachers.

 

You talk about assumptions what kind of assumptions do you think there are because you don’t have children and you’re in education?

That’s really hard because there are different levels really. You have always got the people asking you, “when are you having children?” or “why you don’t have children?”. Or it’s being assumed you’re not a good teacher because you’re not a parent, and that’s quite a common assumption. Conversations with other teachers always lead back to their own families and you can feel quite isolated that you can’t relate to their home life.

Then there is the assumption that you have more free time, than people who have to go home and look after children. That you can do more work or you can stay late, or you can do this club.

I don’t think that’s fair because you don’t know what someone’s got going on at home, you don’t know who they’re caring for their situation.

Its forgotten that people make the choice to have children and have this career, it was a choice they made.

It can be an assumption that you are a selfish person, or you must not like children.

So yeah in education it is hard especially as your surround by children all day. Its like a constant reminder, it’s not so easy, but you know you do it because you love the kids and they are like your little kids, they are like your little class family.

I worry about the kids I teach they become your priority and they’re the ones you’re thinking about, “did I do this right for so”, and “is so going to be okay”, “was I too hard on him today?” or, “I really need to get him to think about his writing better”. So you become, I think quite parental in that way quite maternal in looking after them.

 

What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?

My mom is like you could just get pregnant and see what happens and maybe it will be ok.

It’s just not something I was willing to do to myself I just think the emotional trauma you give yourself from something like that if the baby has Duchenne. I am pro choice but that doesn’t make an abortion easy to go through. I just didn’t think it was worth the risk.

I go through phases where I have been quite upset.

My partner now, I think he would like me to try, but I think I’m past that.

“Why don’t you just try?” gets quite frustrating, because, I am okay I don’t feel like I need a baby or a child to complete my life.

I am also not really predictable; I think my family have just come to accept that now. If say things like I am moving to Cyprus, they’re like, okay, because they just know that’s what I am like.  I have done it a lot, I moved to New Zealand, and I had never been there before. It is so different from them and their lives. I’m scared of everything don’t get me wrong, I’m terrified of everything but I just do it anyway. Life is too short, so I just do it scared.  My Mum spends a lot of time saying “just come back, you can stay with us, you can get a job and then buy a house. I say, “it’s really not me though, is it?” Why would I do that? She just doesn’t understand why. In Cyprus you don’t earn a lot of money; you struggle to get through. And she says, “why would you want to do that?” I reply, “because of the beaches, the sun and I live in the mountains!”  With Covid I was worried about work and she said, ”just come home”, so I said “So I can come and stay with you with my dogs.” She’s said, “you can’t bring the dogs.” “Okay, why can’t I bring the dogs?”She said “I am not having three dogs in my house.”  This is interesting because if my brother said, “Can I can stay at your house with my kids?” What would you say to that? Because that would be okay, but because they’re dogs, that’s not okay. She said, “You have to learn to be responsible at some point. You should get them rehomed.” “How is rehoming my dogs responsible?” And then I sort of tried to say “Look if these were children” She said “but their not” “But, you know I can’t have children so this is what I have instead.  So why is it different? If this is all I can have? Why? Why is it different? Because it wouldn’t be if I had three kids, you wouldn’t say to me, the two that you adopted, send those back.” I’m not saying animals and children are the same, I’m saying it’s a different choice but why is my choice less valid? So when she says now about coming back, I just say you know I can’t its not an option. So I just shut it down, because I just think, well, I’d rather stay here and struggle on with my dogs.

 

I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?

To be honest, friends, I’ve got that have children have been really positive. And they haven’t left me because I don’t have children and they do. I mean your relationships do change with people because they assume you can’t relate to what they’re talking about. I think I would have got closer with certain people, or made more friends, if I had children. I think I have fewer friends but more of an online life in a community of women without children.  I’ve made relationships with people of different ages, I’ve got friends who are older because their kids have grown up or I’ve got friends that are younger, because they’re not at that stage in life yet.   

 

Do you think it’s harder to establish new friendships?

I think that there really needs to be a better online space to make friends in your area without kids. I don’t really know what the solution is. It’s great because you can zoom with people. You know, I’ve got friends all over the world that haven’t got kids, which is great, and they’re really supportive. But when you just want to go and have a coffee with them, have an actual face-to-face conversation, having them in the same vicinity to say, “hey, should we go and do this together?” You haven’t got that. So that’s what’s hard about it.   

 

Do you feel not being able to have children and being a carrier of Duchenne has impacted the relationship you have with your body?

Because of the Duchenne I’ve always been quite critical of my body anyway.  Because I am a carrier, I am supposed to have bi annual heart checks because it is a muscle wasting condition and they don’t know enough about the impact on carriers.  They want to study me a little bit and my heart and things to see what my progress is like and to see if I do start having symptoms.   I have very big calves and have always found exercise really hard.  I trained as a personal trainer, but a lot of that was because I wanted to understand my body more. But what’s interesting is because of the Duchenne quite often somebody will tell you to do something and you think you’re doing it, but that’s not what you were doing at all.   I don’t know if it is because I’m not having children, but I’ve always had body Dysmorphia I was always very conscious of my body not being good enough. I was anorexic as a teenager and I don’t know if it’s anything to do with not having children but the thought of having a baby just makes me want to hold my stomach, I don’t like the thought of it.  I worry about not having the perfect body because I don’t have kids, I don’t have that excuse, my body should be perfect.   There is that pressure because you have time to be in the gym every day; you should have the perfect figure.  It has taken me a long time: I try to do intuitive eating now because of it. My weight has fluctuated and people will comment. I think all women get comments on their weight anyway, but I do feel pressure because I haven’t had kids.     

 

What has been the most challenging part of your experience?

I think society and your own family are the worst. When my brother had his son, my Mum actually said to me “But it should have been you.”

And you just think “You of all people know the situation I’m in, and why I don’t have children, so why do you think, to keep continually reminding me is somehow helpful?”

When people ask you, there is that shaming feeling when you have to say no.

But the one that gets me more than any is that you won’t feel real love, you will never understand real love.

I think maybe for you, you needed a child to feel real love we’re all different.

I feel real love towards my dogs that’s an unconditional.

I think about the kids in my class and how sometimes I’ll wake up at 3am and worry about them.

I think, you can’t tell me that I don’t know, real love.

Sometimes you get told you’re selfish, I don’t think it’s selfish to not have a child. It’s about understanding that actually for me that isn’t going to work so surely it’s more selfish to have a child.

I used to find boundary setting so hard, saying no to people, especially at work, you know, they know I don’t have any children at home. Also in relationships I think I have really struggled.  I have experienced bad relationships because of having no boundaries. I thought I wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t have children. I use to think at least this person will accept me even though I am not able to have children. So I better do whatever they want me to do.  I didn’t really realise that’s not how it works.  But having the feeling Oh, well, you know, at least I found a man that’s is okay with this and it will be ok as long as he stays with me. Then realising what was I thinking? Am I not worth as much as anybody else?   I do believe that you are who you are because of your experiences.

 

So can we touch on the positives? What are some of the positives that you found not having kids?

 

I think there are so many things and I don’t want to take them for granted. Just being able to get up and go wherever I want, whenever I want, and go for a swim in the sea, or, you know, binge watch Netflix, or, I can spend more time doing the things I want to do. Starting new hobbies and learning languages and doing all their courses I want to do.  I did a self confidence course because I realised my self worth was really low and I think a lot of things that bothered me about not having children were because I felt judged by society and I felt guilty and I felt this shame because I didn’t have children.

So I did this course in self confidence, I think something within me just snapped because it made me realise that I was going to be happy, whether I had kids or not.

Once I realised that it was all about me and I could change it, move forward, I was able to find my own happiness I was all right.

I’m not a victim of my own choices. I’ve chosen this route, I have chosen this path, so I’ll own it, and that sort of changed my life and then I started life coaching.

I was thinking about helping teachers who were stressed, then it occurred to me one day “Why don’t I help, groups of like minded women without children.”

I thought a lot of women may feel like they don’t know what their purpose is without children, so maybe my purpose is to show these other women that they can get through that and it can be happy, because if I can do it anyone can.

I definitely spent a good 10 years of my life, not really knowing what I was doing or why or what I was going to do. Even what my purpose was whether I was a real human.

I used to see it as people walking on a glass ceiling above me. I couldn’t get to them, because everybody was worth more than I was. So, I didn’t want anyone to feel that way. So I just thought maybe my purpose is to help other people get through that time. So, it’s my new mission in life.

It also just gives you the time explore who you are as a person which is nice.

 

If you can change one thing about how not having children is viewed what would you change?

When people who are trying to help, they don’t help things by saying  “like oh you’re really lucky”, Oh, your really lucky to not have kids in this lockdown.”

But you don’t know how hard it is for the people who would desperately love to be in your situation.

We are all looking at each other and thinking about how nice it would be to be in everybody’s lives.

 

Anotherhood is about connecting women with shared experiences. So I wonder, can you share anything that you found that’s helped you embrace your life without children?

I think what helped me was the realisation I was only going to find happiness through me. I was only going to get happiness from within.  When my brother died that was huge, it was really awful. This is the 12th year, it was just this week actually that we lost him and this is the first year I didn’t spend the day feeling sad. I remember thinking, oh my god, I don’t want to forget him, but still it’s a corner turned. I remember that changing my life massively because it made me really think about how lucky I was I’m only here because I’m female. If I was male, I’d have been dead, what over 10 years ago.  That opportunity to be alive is amazing, it really changed my life and made me think about all the things I wanted to do and to do for him and experience for him because he never got to. It was a tragedy, but I really think because of that I’ve really embraced life and not being scared of things and done things I probably wouldn’t have done otherwise because I don’t take my life for granted.   I think a lot of people take life for granted and my brother just made me realise how special it is and how you want to live every day, for the moment and just to appreciate everything you get.   I try and do gratitude every day and think about how lucky I am to be here. I always feel like he’s here with me, living through me and seeing all the things I see, and I try and make it a bit exciting for him.  I have done a lot of travel adventures for myself and that’s really helped me because I’ve met so many nice people that way. I’ve done things that I never thought I would be brave enough to do.I climbed Kilimanjaro with some of the kids from work, and it was amazing. I think just doing things like that, getting up and going to China to do a charity walk by myself without knowing anybody. I can look back on it and see I grew in confidence over those days. It made me realise that it didn’t matter where I went; it was okay to do things on my own, being alone wasn’t bad. I was always going to meet people and it made me realise that I am the kind of person that can get on with more or less anybody.  I’m always going to be okay. So that was helpful.  And my dogs, they have really helped me as well, I love my dogs.

 

Louise Facebook group is called Childfree Teachers

If you would like to find out more about Duchenne muscular dystrophy just click here.

Jess Interview

 

Speaking with Jess was great, we connected on so many levels and her story is truly moving, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as Jess and I enjoyed speaking  with each other.

Jess is a baker, a lover of the great outdoors living in British Columbia, Canada. Jess shares her and her husbands journey of infertility, how having the choice taken away has led them to make the choice to not pursue IVF for their own emotional wellbeing and no longer wanting to live a life in limbo.

 

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?

During my time with infertility, I’ve noticed that there is a lack of representation for women that do not, or cannot, pursue fertility treatments, whether it’s for financial, personal or medical reasons. Infertility already can cause you to feel very alone in the world, and finding a connection with someone else that’s going through a similar situation, can help you feel less alone. One day I just had a moment of clarity and decided that I needed to put my story out there. That maybe by me sharing my story, it could help others and also break down the stigma of both infertility and being childless.

 

Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?

My husband and I are deciding to be childless due to our combined infertility. Whether this makes us “childless-by-choice” or childless-not-by-choice”, we are not really sure. It is a really recent decision for us; it’s only in the last two months that we’ve decided okay, we’re done. We want to live again and we are done being in this terrible broken limbo.

We have been dealing with infertility for almost four years and for the first three and a half years of that it was male factor infertility. It’s really challenging, as there’s little support for male infertility, and that has been compounded by the fact that we have never been given a proper diagnosis for his infertility. We couldn’t find anybody to connect with that was in the same boat.

We had gone back and forth about whether we wanted to pursue IVF, as it was our only option for conceiving a child together. We’ve been dealing with family and personal illnesses, and I changed jobs, so there’s never been a “right” time to pause and start fertility treatment. We finally decided, after a second consult at the end of last year, that “Okay, we’ll try IVF”. But before we could start IVF, I became ill and had to have surgery, where they discovered that my fallopian tubes were damaged and they had to be removed.

We did talk to the clinic again to update them and found out some of my hormone results that came back were showing that my reserve was not where it should be for my age group so it’s kind of like, “Okay, well if we’re going to do this we should do this now”, but then the pandemic hit, and the clinics were closed.

The clinics here did reopen after a couple months, but in the time they were closed we decided that it wasn’t for us.

 

What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?

To be honest, I haven’t talked to a lot of people in my life about it yet. I’ve talked about it a bit with my mom and sister and they are sad, but supportive. They’ve watched me struggle the past four years and have been by my side so they know it’s not a quick decision either. My Dad passed away when I was younger so I’ve never been able to share this part of me with him. I feel like he would have been supportive if he were still here.

I don’t really share too much with most people in my life about our infertility anymore, aside from my family and maybe a couple really close friends. We have always been careful who we talk to about our infertility, as a way of protecting ourselves, so I think it will take us time to share our new journey of being childfree. We both know not everyone will understand it, but we are content with knowing that it’s what’s best for us, and us alone.

 

You have been through a huge amount in the last year.

It’s been a lot.

It feels like such a long shot and we kept asking ourselves, “Do we want to go through more emotional, mental and physical pain?” We have already gone through so much. It has made our relationship stronger, but it’s kind of broken and stunted who we are as individuals at the same time. We’re tired.

None of the clinics we have attended really speak about mental health; it’s on their websites that they offer counselling, but we weren’t asked once about our mental or emotional state.

The focus seemed to be on whether I was physically ready in order to start IVF treatment, but not how I was emotionally.

 

I wonder do you feel this comes down to society’s view of what it is to be a woman?  To be a woman or to be a proper family you need to have kids? So the focus is on the end goal that is to produce a child without the regard to emotional wellbeing?

I think it really does. I’ve struggled a lot with it, especially in the online and social media community. I’ve never quite felt like I fitted into it. It’s very “IVF warrior, you’re a warrior, let’s defeat infertility, lets beat this”. But if you don’t “beat infertility” then does that make you a failure? Because I admit, both my husband and I have felt like failures at times, especially for having our limitations in what we will put our bodies and minds through.

But I don’t mean to take away from their pain of getting there, you know, the amount of pain and trauma that they go through to get that success. It’s just that I have felt like an outsider because there’s nobody talking about what if it doesn’t work out for you. There is nobody talking about the financial aspect, and when I see people doing three to four or five rounds of IVF, I wonder how are they paying for all of this.

Why can’t we talk about that side of it?

 

That’s why you contacted Anotherhood because you wanted to highlight the financial cost alone, and the impact this has. So can you share with us some of the costs involved?

So where we live in Canada, a round of IVF with ISCI is $10,000 Canadian dollars, and depending on your age, the medications are between $5000 to $9000. That doesn’t include the additional cost of lost time of work, and travel costs. The province we live in doesn’t cover anything for fertility medicine either. We have universal health care across the whole country, but each province has it’s own parameters for what is covered under that umbrella of care. You can pay for private medical care, but often that only covers a small portion of your medications, and not the actual IVF treatment.

In the province of Ontario, they do cover IVF. I believe it’s one round, but it’s kind of a lottery, so when your time comes up is when you do it. I think in the province of Quebec they have some tax breaks for it.

We live on Vancouver Island, which has only one fertility clinic, located about an hour and a half drive away. That clinic was recently bought by a larger clinic from the mainland and has undergone “restructuring”, which means all egg retrievals and embryo transfers have to be done at their larger location on the mainland. Most fertility clinics in our province are located on the mainland, a two-hour ferry ride away for us. So no matter which clinic you decide to do treatment at, you’ve got the cost and time of travel. That may seem like nothing to some people, but when you have to have daily monitoring done during an IVF cycle, the financial burden and stress of that can really add up. It’s just so prohibitive for people.

The financial part is something that bothered my husband and I from the beginning. It was like well okay, we could do it, but it would mean borrowing and depleting a lot of our savings. I think there’s a lot of anger, from both of us, that why do we have to pay so much money for something that’s not guaranteed to help us have a baby.

I think a lot of people have the assumption that IVF works; it doesn’t work a lot of the time in reality. Depending on your age and reasons for infertility, there’s only a 20 to 40% success rate of having a baby. For us, we were always left with this unsettled feeling about the fact that we would be paying so much for something that’s not guaranteed, and that’s not even touching on the physical or emotional part of it.

I don’t even know if gambling is the right word to use, but it kind of feels like you are gambling a little bit.

I think gambling is a good word for it, it feels like we’re playing a terrible lottery.

I have had some family and friends say to me “Yeah but you know when you think about it in a lifetime what’s the money really?” or “You know, it could work though.”

I’m not somebody that likes when people are falsely positive. It really shuts me down whenever people say, “Oh, I’m thinking positively, I just know this is going to happen for you, I know you’ll have a kid.” It takes away your permission to actually feel like this might not work, and it doesn’t allow you to explore the difficult feelings. It invalidates you. I understand it often comes from a place of care, that people want good things to happen for you, but I think it likely comes from a place of discomfort that person is having.

 

What’s it been like with friends and those that are close to you?

I feel as though I’ve both gained and lost friendships while going through infertility.

I have depression and one of my coping mechanisms is withdrawal. I tend to pull back from people; it’s my brain telling me I am a burden. I know that I’m not, but it’s the depression telling me I am a burden, so I pull away from people to “protect” them from my pain. My family knows this about me, so they have been really patient with me, and they understand that I will reach out when I can.

We have had a lot of support though. I had a friend say to me after my surgery that she understood I was feeling sad and angry, and to go ahead and feel that. She told me to let myself be pissed off and not apologise for feeling that way. It really struck a chord with me, made me realise I had been holding so much in.

 

I wonder as a group of women who can’t have children do you think we then hold so much more emotion to ourselves?

Yes, I really feel that. I find it’s a lot to process and I am still trying to grapple with it all in my head. It sometimes feels like we can’t be legitimately tired or stressed because we don’t have children to take care of. That it’s suggested that our feelings are somehow not always valid because we have less “responsibilities”.

My husband was talking about it yesterday and said he feels relief finally with deciding to not pursue having children anymore. The loss and stress of us both having infertility has really impacted his mental and physical health, and he says he just finally feels relief for the first time; he is excited to not be stuck anymore.

 

And what about you, how do you feel?

It’s up and down, but I am feeling some relief finally. There are times in the day where I’m quite sad about it, or I see a pregnant woman or people playing with their kids, and it cuts like a knife. Stuff like that still really gets me but I do feel relief to not be stuck anymore. I’m excited to start a new life together with him. I used to say that I was wanting to “start a family”, but I’ve now realized I’ve had that family all along. My husband and I are already a family, and having a baby is not something that we need to have to validate that.

 

Do you think the clinics having to shut because of the pandemic allowed you more space to reflect on what you both wanted?

I think it really has, because we felt this pressure to make a decision to try IVF, but we weren’t ready, we were not 100% by any means. With the clinics being closed for a while, it took all the pressure off of us that we had been feeling. It gave us the time and space to sit with each other and really discuss what we wanted.

 

Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?

Yes! Going through infertility has definitely changed how I feel about my body. Because of having multiple health issues and several surgeries over the past couple years, I have lost some faith in my body’s abilities. After losing both my tubes, I started telling myself that I was broken, that because I couldn’t create a baby, I was no longer whole. But I realized that I was just telling myself an antiquated story. My infertility doesn’t mean I’m less of a person. I didn’t grow up dreaming to be a mother, but it was something that I always thought would happen, that I assumed would easily happen. Now that it’s not my reality, I’ve had to re evaluate how to indentify myself in this new space.

 

What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?

I definitely worry that maybe I’ll regret not trying IVF down the road.

I wonder what makes you think that? Is there anything that comes to mind?

I don’t know, I think it’s because other people have said that. I think other people believe I will regret not trying. Isn’t it better if you have tried and failed then not tried at all? I tried to convince myself that, Okay, yeah, I would feel worse if I didn’t. But the risk of it failing and the devastating impact that could have because of my mental health and depression, it’s just not worth it to me anymore.  We have had a lot of those famous words, “why don’t you just adopt” and it just kills me every time I hear that.  I did have a friend who said that a few months ago, so I told them what it feels like when you say that to me. It feels like you’re invalidating my infertility. By saying that, you’re ignoring the grief and the pain that I’m experiencing and saying well here’s just an easy solution for your infertility. 

 

How did that friend respond to you being so honest with them?

We talked about it for quite a long time and they said “wow, I never thought about it in those terms, and now I understand that.” Now no matter what we say they listen rather than giving any kind of advice.   My husband and I have looked at adoption and we have revisited it again over the last couple of months. We agreed the adoption process was not for us, partly because the adoption process is long and also not guaranteed. We have already been in this limbo, stuck and not healing, and I don’t want to continue in that vein. I feel like going down the route of applying for adoption would be keeping me in the state of not healing.  And so I just wanted to make a decision to just be like okay, this is what I want to do. This is what I want my life to be, and my husband said he thought about it and he realised that’s what he wants to.

 

As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?

It’s made me realise that I can have a simpler life. That I don’t need to be busy all the time and I can choose to sit on the deck with my cat and a cup of coffee and just do nothing and be in the moment. I no longer have the dreaded FOMO.  Infertility has given me the strength to speak what’s actually on my mind. I’ve often kept quiet and not voiced my opinion, or not asserted myself, in fear that I’d offend others. Not sure if it’s the right word, but infertility has given me permission to be more honest, with both myself, and others.

 

I wonder because you both have infertility has that made you closer?

It has. I think we are closer than ever actually. When I became infertile, I realised that I had never actually grieved him having infertility in the first place. I had just shoved those feelings down. It opened it up, and it was ugly. It felt like I was back in the beginning.   There was a disconnect for a bit between us. I was consumed by it and it’s all I talked about for weeks, whereas he said he needed some space to not talk about it. We agreed to give each other space for a bit, and with that space I was able to see how much he was hurting.  For the first few years after his diagnosis he blamed himself; there were a lot of self-deprecating jokes. I have always said to him that “It’s not your fault but I understand that you feel like it’s your fault. I understand you feel guilty. You’re allowed to feel guilty. Those are your feelings and they are valid feelings, but just know that I don’t have them towards you.” And that was something we’ve always said to each other, we’re allowed to have the feelings that we have, but just know, that we’re not projecting them, or placing blame, onto each other.

 

If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change? 

I wish that people wouldn’t assume your reasons for not having children, and that it isn’t everyone’s go-to question to learn something about you when you meet them for the first time. Can we please just stop asking this question? Ask me what my favourite restaurant is, or what I’m currently binging on Netflix. I wish we could break the stigma that being childfree means you’re either selfish or somehow broken and barren.

 

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 with infertility, it’s really easy to focus on all the things I am missing out on by not being a mother. So to start embracing this new reality for me, I’ve starting focusing on all the things that I CAN do. Going for a spontaneous hike with my husband, binge reading a book, and getting take out and having a picnic at the beach. Infertility has helped me with figuring out who I am and what I want, and it’s helped me realize that I need to finally prioritize what is important to me.  

 

Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?

I listened to quite a few podcast episodes by Blair with Fab Fertility and Ali with Infertile AF while I was recovering from surgery. I found them really helpful at the time to hear about others experiences with infertility. I did find though that the majority of the stories ended with having a baby, and when I started to realize that my story wasn’t going to end with a baby, I started wondering where the women were like me. There was one story that really struck a chord with me though, and that was Katy’s story, from Chasing Creation. Her journey to living life childfree gave me hope that I could live beyond my infertility.

 

Kate’s Story

Hi! My name is Kate and I am from New York.  This is the first time I am speaking publicly about my childless life and the impact it has had as I begin to discover how to move forward with this “new normal”.  

My experience is not very straightforward and I guess that’s part of the reason why I am having so much trouble adapting and accepting my current state of affairs. Let’s think about it: most young girls grow up thinking, believing, and feeling determined that they will fall in love, get married, and have babies; all by a certain age, of course. Society sculpts and molds our young, innocent, and vulnerable minds from the early stages of childhood to understand that little girls are supposed to grow up to become mothers.  In addition, I was raised in an Irish Catholic family where my mother is one of seven siblings and most of my aunts and uncles have two or more children.

Holiday gatherings were always beautifully crowded and loud, to say the least. I have an older sister but due to complications my mother experienced after giving birth to me, she was unable to have more children although she certainly wishes she was able to.  As one can guess, I ingrained it into my own mind that I was supposed to have a lot of children just like my Grandparents did and the way my mother had hoped she would.

When reflecting on my childhood, I cannot help but laugh at the games I would play where I would perform the role of a mother.   I had the infamous stroller and baby doll that had to go absolutely anywhere and everywhere with us.  I recall shoving a pillow inside my shirt and grabbing the small of my back as I waddled around the house pretending to be pregnant. I had my favorite stuffed animal who had to be fed, changed, and tucked in for naps on a daily basis. Society must have been very proud of that younger version of me because I was already demonstrating that I understood who girls “should” become when they get older.  I never thought my future self would experience society considering me as someone who was “less-than”.

Rewind to twenty years ago. I remember sitting at my mother’s dining room table as our family gathered together for dinner.  Stories that revealed the highs and lows of our day were shared, and smiles along with laughter were exchanged as silverware clinked against our plates. My sister began to tell us about a conversation she had with her Religion teacher in school that day.  It had to do with the sanctity of marriage, conception, and the importance of procreation.  Further details of the conversation are now a blur to me but, the unsettling feeling that consumed every inch of my body, is not. I remember feeling as though I was melting into the chair; almost as if my body was going to fold into itself. I recall a sinking feeling particularly in my stomach that I knew was my intuition trying to make its way to the surface. 

I abruptly interjected the conversation, raised my head to look my mother in her eyes, and asked, “Did you ever have trouble conceiving?”  What a ridiculous and private question for a 14 year old to be asking her mother! Especially at the dining room table! But how interesting that I subconsciously changed the topic of conversation into a biological issue. Somehow, my adolescent brain already knew without really knowing that motherhood was not going to happen for me.

During my twenties I achieved many milestones.  I graduated college with an honorable GPA, I received a Dual Masters Degree in English Language Arts and Special Education, and I landed a full-time teaching job.  Everything seemed to be going according to plan until I was halfway through my first year as a High School Special Education teacher. 

Nobody could ever prepare you for what being a teacher really entails but, what I was least prepared for was how the job would affect my personal life.  I distinctly remember feeling and expressing to others that I did not understand how women could be teachers and mothers at the same time.  From the exhaustion, to interacting with 100+ teenagers and adults a day, to having to stay late because there aren’t enough hours in the work day to get things done, to bringing home lesson plans and endless amounts of paper that needed to get graded, all while trying to not only maintain a social life but also a healthy and loving relationship, convinced me that there was no room for anything else – especially motherhood. Sure, I could find another career so that I could have more time and space for a child but, I wasn’t feeling a strong pull to do so.

I went about my life with this mentality for about six years and I was oddly okay with it.  I am in a long term relationship with a man who is also a teacher and who I shared my first kiss with back when we were kids. We were both on the same page about living a child-free life by choice and rejoiced at the thought of traveling during summers off, sleeping in on weekends, maintaining our exercise routines, volunteering more time to the soup kitchen I am involved with, and not coming home to a child after we have both been surrounded by them all day.  We live in the beautiful neighborhood we grew up in, own the beautiful co-op where we reside, and have the relationship that both of us have always dreamed of. I have everything I could hope for, don’t I?  Well, I thought so until a shift in reality knocked me down and made me question my life’s purpose.

It began when I noticed my cycle was no longer consistent.  Within a year, I had only menstruated six times. In addition, I was suddenly waking up every morning covered in ice cold sweat.  In the event those weren’t enough warning signs, shortly after my sister had announced her pregnancy, she revealed her struggle to get pregnant and how intervention was the only option for her.  Before I knew it, I was suddenly questioning my childfree lifestyle and felt this sudden urge to get myself to the doctor. There are stories about people who do a complete 360 with their lives and I certainly qualified as one of them as my mentality about being childfree was vastly interrupted. 

Before I knew it, I was embarking on a journey that I was not mentally or emotionally prepared for.  Everything happened so fast that it felt as though I was sprinting from the OBGYN office, to the specialists, to the hospital for sonograms and to the fertility clinic.  Who would have thought that this process could be deemed an olympic sport? After six months of researching, leaving work early for appointments, sitting in doctors offices, undergoing invasive exams, and providing so much blood that I wondered if I had any left, I was exhausted.  I mean, completely emotionally and physically exhausted.  Some days I had absolutely nothing to give.  Some days were a struggle to get out of bed.

I would come to learn that my hormone levels looked like those of a much older menopausal woman and that I had very few follicles in each ovary.  The chances of me conceiving naturally were very slim and IVF, sooner rather than later, was highly recommended.  It was made very clear to me that if I wait even so much as a year to begin this process, the conversation and options would be extremely different upon my next appointment.  This news shook me to my core and literally left me feeling empty.  After many sleepless nights, weepy mornings, and battling constant anxiety, I knew I had to make a choice.  I also knew that no matter the choice I made, things were going to be challenging not only for myself, but for my partner who communicated with me that his mindset had not changed. 

Talk about a fork in the road! I was suddenly questioning everything: Do I need to exit out of this amazing relationship? Is there a way to convince him that we should have kids?  Should something so huge have the word “convinced” attached to it? Do I actually even want kids? What if one of us changes our mind? Should I freeze the few eggs that I do have just incase? Will I be a disappointment to my family? Will not having another grandchild crush my mom? Should I do IVF and pursue motherhood, even if that means doing it on my own? How the hell am I going to combat society as a childfree woman? Should we avoid marriage so we can hopefully dodge the inevitable “how long until you have children” question? What will I do with all my spare time? I do have waves of maternal instincts so will I be missing out by not having a kid? Can I handle IVF and postpartum? What if I do all of this and IVF fails? What if my intuition all those years ago was right and now I am trying to open a door that is meant to stay closed?

Well, after weeks of endless researching, conversations, self-reflection and journaling,  I realized that I do not have the stamina, the sufferance, the poise, or the finances to journey through IVF.  The thought of pumping my body with hormones both orally and via injections infuriated me because they would be a constant reminder of my shortcomings. The thought of exposing myself to yet another invasive exam became more than I could tolerate. 

The realization that my baby would have to be conceived in tubes made everything feel so sterile; so lacking love.  The day I realized I would not be able to endure IVF was still the day that part of my being slipped away.  While I thought I would feel relief about my decision, I actually became overwhelmed by wondering what I would contribute to society, what my greater good would be, how I would continue to deal with the endless comments and questions about having and/or not having children, and how I would manage my anger with the insulting suggestions that I could “just adopt.” Some days I go about life as I normally would but other days, I find myself grieving all over again — so disappointed in myself and feeling betrayed that my body just can’t do what it’s supposed to do; whether I want it to or not.

 I continue to question my life’s purpose and my value as a woman.  I find myself in a constant tug of war between wondering if I am childree or childless because either way, one or both of them are part of my identity now.  Some days I find myself on the fence about motherhood and then get mad over putting myself in what feels like a yo-yo effect.  Even though I have made my decision about IVF, I still find myself feeling very angry and hurt about my biological factors.  Since this revelation began, I have had a very difficult time whenever one of my friends reveals that she’s pregnant and I am resentful about having to attend baby showers.  I am finding myself in this gray area where although I am happy for these women, I am jealous that my body cannot do what theirs does.  I am sad that I will not have my time to shine like they do.  It is going to take some time to understand and process these feelings as well as what my life will look like as a childless woman.  Not too long ago I tuned into a webinar and one of the speakers said, “I have been childless my whole life.  The circumstances may have changed, but my lifestyle hasn’t, so I will be kind to myself and allow the grief to come and go as it will, but I will also continue to do what I’ve been doing.” And perhaps, that’s the best advice for me to go on right now.

Thanks to Kate for sharing her story in her own words. 

If you would like to send us your story of living without children please email us at anotherhood.info@gmail.com 

Brigid Interview

About

Brigid is a Montessori preschool teacher who lives with her husband and two dogs. Brigid loves photography, running, kickboxing, and feels a real affinity with strong kickass women. Brigid shares her story of infertility and how this has impacted her life and made it one that she feels truly happy with.

 

Anotherhood is about turning up the volume of the voices of women who do not have children. Why do you want to share your story?

It’s been a really long process to figure out that I’m not alone. I was raised in a child-centric family; I’m one of five kids. I thought it would be easy for me to get pregnant. I thought, “Of course I’m going to be very fertile. All of my sisters have children.” And so when I couldn’t, a frustration came that wasn’t from not being able to have a baby and that want of, “I really want to have a baby that is mine.” It was coming from, “I’m not in this club that I thought I was going to be in.” The club of motherhood.

I looked at women and infertility, and the women that were sharing their stories, and it was women that were trying to have a baby, and I also didn’t want to be in that club.

Then I looked at the childfree women, and I thought, “Well, I share the most opinions with you, but I don’t get to be in your club because it wasn’t my choice.” And so I felt like I didn’t have a place to exist, where people legitimately understood exactly what it felt like to be happy in my childfree life, but to also grieve that it wasn’t my choice.

The more I tried to talk about it with my family or some friends, the more I felt misunderstood because it’s not something talked about very often.

I had gotten rid of social media a couple years ago because I didn’t feel like it was good for my mental health to see all of my friends constantly either with their new babies or their trips or all of these things that felt very competitive. But in the last month or two, I decided I was going to get an Instagram only for this purpose, of sharing my journey about my infertility and it has made a world of difference. I feel incredibly lucky, like I found my club. I feel heard. I have so many women I don’t know who just say like, “Yeah, I know what that feels like”, or, “Thank you for saying that.”

It is the first time that I’ve felt like it’s okay, it’s not weird, to be really happy without kids but to also be really frustrated that I can’t get pregnant, even if I don’t want to get pregnant, necessarily.

I invited my sisters and my friends to see my Instagram so they can see how I’m feeling and say, “I know you don’t always get it, but maybe this will help you understand.”

People don’t believe that you are happy with your life and that’s the hardest part. I get really angry at the way society is making me not like myself.  There are so many people who do not believe that a woman who is infertile, who can’t have kids and it wasn’t her choice, could ever possibly be happy. I think they feel you are lying to yourself. You must, deep down, hold this well of sadness. It made me so angry and bitter because now I want to prove how happy I am to you.

But I’m also ignoring this, this part of me that sometimes gets to feel bummed out. The other week, I was crying to my sister when I was upset about an aspect of being infertile, and she figured if I was crying, I must be upset because I can’t have kids. I don’t feel sometimes I can ever show this side of my emotions, because I have to have such a brave front, to show that infertile women aren’t just sad, barren witches in the woods. I am a happy, barren witch in the woods! But not everyone will believe me and I feel like, how do I live in a grey area when I constantly want to prove myself to people?

You speak to the conflict, of being happy but also grieving. And that’s really hard to explain.

I don’t actually understand why I feel sad because I know I don’t want a kid. Often for me it’s how relationships then shift, or how somebody has related to me. I always talk about it in terms of feeling a divide. Sometimes that divide lessens over time with people you know, loved ones. My family didn’t really understand where I was coming from with my approach to infertility because they just assumed, you know, you should be trying all of the things.

I’ve had a loved one say, “I would be devastated if you couldn’t have kids.” I wanted to burn that to the ground because that pity made me so angry, that they couldn’t see how fulfilling my life is despite the fact that I didn’t live up to what they felt the purpose of life is.

If you feel that divide, it makes you really sad and frustrated and so then people assume, “Oh, it’s because you can’t have kids.” Because if you had kids that divide wouldn’t exist. But I want the ability to live in a childfree life of not my own choosing and not feel that divide.  I want to be accepted for how happy I am, and my life to be valued in the same way as your happiness, not lesser than your happiness.

Also, to witness the strength and the power that I have because I have dealt with something that maybe is not the happiest thing. I have accepted it and I am enjoying my life, and I am stronger and I am powerful and I’m just as much a woman as you are.

It’s so interesting to hear about your Instagram and in growing it you feel heard you find your community you found your tribe. And it feels like you’re more held than you have been because of that.

Yes, I think it was probably one of the healthiest things I have done, especially right before quarantine and isolation. I think the Universe was kind of helping me out. Not to say the Universe is focused purely on my issues right now! But the three months preceding the stay-at-home order, I developed all these really healthy habits for someone that’s going to have to stay at home for months on end.

I had no concept that this was going to be in my life, but I started all of these solitary hobbies that I can do from home and I got this Instagram purely to work on this mental health aspect.  It’s been so nice and it’s given me something to focus on and pour myself into especially when I don’t have work to pour myself into.

You’ve covered a little bit about this already but can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realise you would not be having kids?

When we first tried to have kids, I was really excited and was very much planning it to the T. “I will get pregnant in this window, so I can have a baby during the summer. I wouldn’t have to stop teaching; I wouldn’t have to take any time off work.” I very much wanted to assert my individualism and keep that as a mother.

Within about six months, it was insanity producing, “Why the hell isn’t this happening for me?” Now all of my plans are gone and now I’m just trying to get pregnant just to prove that I can get pregnant. I would cry to myself at night because I felt so frustrated, it felt like I just want to be able to control this one aspect of my body and my life that I’ve always thought I was supposed to be able to control.

The longer we tried, the deeper I got into that sorrow. My husband would show up every single day and be like, “I don’t mind that we don’t have kids, I don’t think you’re broken, I think you’re lovely and wonderful, I don’t think this is just your problem to solve. There are two people trying to make a child and two people not doing it together.”

I was exhausted with being mad at myself all the time or disappointed in myself.  I finally confessed to my husband, “I don’t think I really want to try anymore,” and he said, “I don’t want to try either. This is not fun.” It’s not fun to schedule anything. We call it Schrodinger’s pregnancy, that two week period where you don’t know if you’re pregnant or not. That’s the worst two-week period ever and it just filled our house with this low hum of discontent.

We talked about going to the doctor and getting checked. We had already acknowledged we didn’t want to do any medical assisted pregnancy, because I didn’t want to hate my body any more than I already did. If we paid a bunch of money and did all the shots, all the hormones, and I still failed, that would have deteriorated my mental health.

We went and we got all the tests, mainly to make sure that it wasn’t a huge tumour inside, or something that needed to be addressed. We got the tests done and everything came back normal for both of us. It was unexplained infertility, and when the doctor said, “I can recommend you to a specialist.” I said, “No, I really don’t want to. I would rather go home and eat fish and drink wine.”

My husband and I talked about it and I said, “I think that ultimately, I’m, I’m okay without kids as long as you are okay. I don’t want to be making this decision for the both of us.” And he said, “I’m kind of relieved to not have kids.” It turned into a conversation about a lot of things that we were looking forward to about having children, but there were probably more things that we were anticipating with a little bit of dread. We started talking more about all of the ways that we realised we didn’t want to have kids, and my main thing was I had never dreamed about kids when I was little, but I dreamed about dogs, all the time.

When we first got married, I told my husband my dream was to have a hatchback car that I open the back and my dog jumps in, and then I open it when we get to the park and my dog jumps out. I dreamt about that since I was about 12; that was my goal in life. I never dreamed about packing my kids up for a camping trip or anything like that, it was only me and a dog somewhere doing something I wanted to do. And once I realised that’s what I’ve been longing for and that’s what I have, it was so much easier after that.

 

You’ve touched a little bit on that already, but what has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?

 My family, that’s been the biggest journey for me.  I am friends with a lot of childfree people, and maybe that was just naturally who I gravitated towards. It was hard because I felt very accepted by my friends. And the friends that did have children, I was very vocal about like, “Hey, I don’t want you to fall off the face of the earth, you’re so important to me.” I’ve had some friends that fell by the wayside because they had a baby and all contact went to zero and I think okay, I guess that friendship is ok to expire.

But my family, it was the biggest struggle for me. My mom is such a mother hen, and she got her sense of happiness and purpose by watching us grow up. Of course she would want that for us, because that’s her universal view of how things go. And my dad is probably the same way but a little bit quieter about it. So when I couldn’t have kids, and I was struggling with it, it was all about, “Don’t worry, keep having hope.” All my sisters were like, “You’ll get there. Just relax.” … Which is the worst thing to say to anyone who’s struggling to get pregnant.

Now we have kind of gotten to this place where I can set boundaries really well. I can say, “I’m not interested in going to the Easter egg hunt for all the kids. That doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.” Now I’m able to set those boundaries for my own mental health, and my family is starting to really respect those boundaries.  I feel like they’re doing the work too.

 

Do you feel not having children has impacted the way you view your body?

F**k yeah!

Before I started trying to get pregnant, I was overweight in the sense of where I wanted to be. I kept thinking to myself once I have a baby, I will lose all the weight after I have the baby.  I thought I’ll start doing these active hobbies once I have the baby. My life starts after I have this baby.

Then I didn’t have that baby, the baby didn’t come along, and suddenly, I’m really mad at my body for not being able to do things that it was supposed to be able to do. At the end of the day, there would be these moments where I was overwhelmed and upset. I would always try to take my hands and just put them on either side over my ovaries, or where I assumed my ovaries were, and just try to pour some self love into them and be like, “I don’t hate you. I don’t want you to think that I hate you because you’re really cool. I don’t know what purpose you currently serve, because, you know, it apparently isn’t what society’s purpose for you is, but you’re really cool, even if you’re not doing anything.”

Then last year, I decided to do every single creative hobby I’ve ever been interested in, to find what stuck. I felt like I was very much nourishing my mind, but I was still ignoring my body. I was keeping it at arm’s length like a friendship where I was like, “Girl, you’re cool. We’re fine. There’s no anger towards you anymore, but like, we don’t need to be close.”

Then within the last year I decided to start doing physical hobbies to figure out how I like to move my body. I got into running. When I run my brain starts tuning into my body.  On a run I can think, “This sucks and I want it to be over,” but I will push through it, or “This feels awesome and I am an amazing machine,” and then I look down at my legs and I’m like, “You’re incredible.”

I think that was the beginning of me bringing my body a little bit closer and wanting to have a good relationship with her. I don’t want us to just kind of coexist with each other. I want us to be completely intertwined. If my body wasn’t going to produce someone else to focus on, then I wanted to focus on myself.

Then I took up boxing. Actually, kickboxing, because I didn’t want to limit myself to just punches, I wanted to kick things as well. I found that I’m not a yogi. I don’t enjoy meditating. I enjoy taking my energy and punching something and feeling powerful and running. I guess, you know, essentially I was working on my fight or flight reaction and owning them. I love my body now. Always, in the back of my head, I have known it’s important to love your body, but this is the first time in my life where I’m like, “No girl, damn, you’re rocking it.” I have endurance, and I have muscles, and even when I sit on the couch and drink wine and eat candy, I know that’s important too. I still take my hands and put them over my ovaries and send self-love and be like, “You’re really kicking ass. I like you. I like hanging out with you, even if you didn’t do what everyone else thought you should do.”

Can you share with us what you think’s been your challenging part of not being able to have children.

My ego. It was holding me to wanting a certain path in my life. I wanted control over how people saw me; I wanted control over exactly what I got to do with my life. I wanted all of these things to fall in line with my wants and desires. As soon as I realised this was never going to happen, I was able to start to try and deconstruct my ego and figure out what made her tick, why she was reacting so strongly. That’s what started my healing process. Wanting to be part of a club; it’s all about being accepted on an ego level. Who cares if I’m in a club! I could be a loner and I could be completely happy, but I do have an ego that wants to be accepted. Finding the healthy ways of acceptance versus the unhealthy ways of acceptance is my constant challenge.

What are the positives for you?

The positives for me are that I figured out what I want to be and what path I’m on. I think when you grow up, assuming you’re going to have kids and assuming parenthood is going to be a major part of your life, you kind of get into that mentality of, well, when I have kids, all my focus will shift on to my children and that’s the way it’s supposed to be and that’s my purpose in life.  When that purpose was taken away from me it gave me the opportunity to think about how I was limiting my life by thinking that kids were my life’s purpose. I wondered; what actually is my purpose in life?

It has made me realise I don’t like feeling beholden to anyone.  I feel like I can do something at the drop of a hat. If I want to go do something for me, I can and I feel like I have figured out my life purpose, in that I’m just trying to leave things a little bit better than I found them.

If I had had kids, maybe I would be focused on them always, and I wouldn’t get to constantly evaluate my spirituality or my mental state or what I want to leave as my legacy. Even if that legacy is that I planted some flowers, and that’s a little bit nicer than it used to be.

 

If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed what would you change?

The pity.  It’s the one thing that still enrages me is the pity. I think I personally hate feeling pity. I remember as a child, whenever I felt pity towards someone, I hated the feeling inside of me. I didn’t want to pity anyone, but it was this overwhelming emotion that I couldn’t figure out how to stop and to explore.

Why I hate pity so much has been interesting because it is essentially saying, “Thank God, I am not you.” I see your life and I’m so glad I’m not you because your life is so crummy.

I don’t like it when people pity me or think I’m sad because I think I’m so awesome! I want you to see that… and then I get back into the issue of ego and why do I need them to validate my awesomeness?

 

Anotherhood is about connecting women with shared experiences. I wonder, can you share anything that you think has really helped you on your journey.

My husband. Having this one person who tells you that you’re not broken. You can say it as much as you want to yourself, but having one person validate all of the things you think about yourself has been so powerful. Whether it’s your mother, your siblings, a friend, or even just your dog, to have one person/animal to be like, “I also think you’re dope, and I love you just the way you are”

Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?

Books: The Childless Revolution; Madelyn Cain

            The Baby Matrix; Laura Carrol

To find out more about Brigid you can follow her on Instagram @thefruitlessfigtree

Maythe Interview

Maythe is studying for her PhD in Edinburgh and is rarely seen without her best friend Frank her dog by her side. Maythe shares her story about deciding not to have children and how a diagnosis aligned with this decision.

 

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?

The number one reason is probably that I just never wanted children. I never had that drive to be a mother. The women around me growing up including my Mom and all my Aunts, they were working professionals.

No one in my family ever pressured me to have children, which I’m really grateful for.

That’s one reason and obviously, in this economy, who can afford to.

I am chasing an academic path, which, you know, unfortunately, one of the biggest sacrifices that I have to make is a stable family life.  Which is not to say that I don’t feel like I have a family but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a child and provide them with everything that they need, and also, chase my own dreams.  In a way it makes me feel kind of selfish, but also I don’t want to end up having to resent my own child.
You touch there a little bit on your academic path could share with Anotherhood what it is?  

Academia sucks. It’s the worst, really.

That’s not what I expected you to come out with.  

[Both laughing]

It’s just like this grand dream, you know, producing and sharing knowledge, but these days, more and more I am thinking, ‘at what cost?’

I think academia is probably the only industry where you have worked in that field for over 10 years and you’re still considered a junior. I think that’s just so absurd.

People are bouncing from contract to contract, especially in in the States, a lot of my academic friends are like, “oh yeah I got another four month contract, and after that who knows what.” 

There is no way for them to have a settled life. They can’t even get a dog, not to mention a child.

That’s what sucks about academia, and the academic job market is just horrendous.  There are so many PhDs being done, but not enough jobs to actually turn all those PhDs into academics.

There are a bunch of people who have PhDs and who are qualified, but nowhere for them to actually do what they’ve been trained to do, which is such a shame.

It’s such a waste of talent.

 

Can you share with us what your PhD is about?

Yeah it’s about dogs.

They say study what you love, so I study dog-human relationships in Edinburgh. Specifically, I am looking at two streams of knowledge: I am looking at the ecologies and the economies of, the dog human relationships. For ecologies stream, I am looking at the daily habits and processes at work that go into maintaining this kind of relationship. In terms of economies, I’m looking at both monetary and financial economies because dogs cost money, and also, moral and ethical economies of how we exchange feelings and actions with one another.

 

We spoke recently about the role of a dog for somebody that is infertile and we got into a big discussion, I wonder what were your thoughts on that after we chatted?

It definitely got me thinking more about my existing participants and how a lot of them actually turned out to be childless women who have dogs.

I am thinking, ‘is this a trend, and if so, why?’

I think going back to why I don’t have children or why a lot of other people might not have children, especially in prime childbearing age, which is late 20s to late 30s.

Most of the time, it’s just that people just don’t feel like they can handle it in terms of money in terms of jobs. Even for people who are double income families, children are just way too expensive for a lot of the jobs that people have.

When I think about my parents and how they had two kids — obviously back then things were more affordable and they were both doctors’ in secure jobs — they didn’t have to worry about money. But thinking about people who work in service and hospitality, like, oh my god how do you afford a child. If you do, it’s such a precarious monetary position.

 

You spoke about chasing your academic dream, and how some of your friends couldn’t even have time for a dog

But I wonder whether if some women have got high profile careers and dreams that they are chasing, and so therefore children don’t feature because they want to chase their dreams for themselves.

I think so, what if I have a child and I ended up resenting the child, because it becomes an obstacle or a hindrance to my goals. I think that’s just such a toxic situation to be in.

I’m not saying human needs are superior, or more important than dogs but they are definitely lower maintenance than human children. I don’t think Frank will ever become such a big obstacle in my career that I’m going to end up resenting him, if anything, he is the inspiration behind my PhD project. So if anything, he is a huge help.

 

Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?

I think I decided when I was nine years old that I would never be a Mom. I just never ever had that drive; I’ve never felt that kind of affinity toward children.

I have never found children cute and in a lot of ways, growing up, I felt like there was something broken about me because all of my friends would be “kids, they’re so cute, like, I can’t wait to be a mom, I really want to have kids.”

I thought ‘I never want that for me, is there something with wrong me?’

Then it became more of a final thing when I was 18.

My periods started just getting really awful, I used to bleed two weeks in a month every month. And it was so heavy, I was anaemic because of my periods, which is just not normal. I was talking to my mom, and she said “that’s definitely not normal. Let’s go see a gynaecologist.” That’s when I found out that I have PCOS.

They basically looked at me and said, “you’re going to have trouble conceiving if you ever want to have children.”

Well, for me that was great because I didn’t want to have kids.

It almost felt like a relief for me when I got the diagnosis, because it felt more of a legitimate excuse not to have children than ‘I just don’t want kids’.

A lot of people just don’t take it seriously when I say that I don’t want kids.  A lot of people seem to say, “oh, just wait until you get older” or, “you’ll change your mind”, all of that.

I am like, “Who the f**k are you, like, you don’t know me, I’ve been saying this since I was nine years old, f**k you.”

Getting the diagnosis was like, oh great, now no one can really dispute how I want to live my life because I have this like medical label that I can flash around in case anyone objects to my desires.

 

You mentioned you thought you were broken because you didn’t want children and all your friends did, what was that like?

I thought I should want to, but just felt different because that was never something I wanted. Obviously desires and hopes and dreams are also socially and culturally contingent and yeah, I just never felt like I was comfortably within the norms of what was expected of me as a woman.

 

What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you? 

My partner is very anti wanting children, which is great, I am very lucky in that regard.

Some or most of my exes and I broke up over the children issue, actually.

I had an ex who hundred percent wanted children, he had that dream of the white picket fence house with two kids and this and that and I was just like, “no, no to all of that.” 

I don’t want to live like, in the suburbs. I don’t want to raise children. I think also when I have had male partners, the worry was that all the responsibilities of child bearing and rearing would fall on me.

It feels like the world is just made in a way that makes women way more responsible, something as simple, as having a changing station in women’s bathrooms, but not men’s.

I have my work, I’m tired, I’m busy, I have to eat, I have to do all of this on top of having a child to look after?  No, I’m not doing that.

So I’ve had breakups because of that, which sucks but also I think it’s such an unbridgeable thing in compatibility: you either want children or you don’t. There’s no in-between.

But my parents, they’ve always been really supportive of whatever I wanted to do.

They’ve always been way more supportive of me about not having kids and choosing to pursue a career instead.

I think it’s mainly because my parents probably never wanted kids either and they wanted to pursue their careers, but they were kind of pressured into getting married and pressured into having children, by society, by their parents. They were like, “let’s not do this our kids.”

I have a lot of friends who dread holiday situations because their families are always asking “are you seeing anyone, are you planning a family”. My parents never ask me that, they do not care, they’re supportive whatever I do, as long as it’s safe and responsible.

They say “Who are we to tell you what to do with your life. You’re an adult, you can make decisions for yourself, and we trust you” which I really appreciate.

 

I wonder has it impacted relationships with those around you, in the past and to this present day?

I think most of my friends are quite supportive. I guess it’s also because most of my friends and I are queer. What it means to be family when you’re queer is just kind of different.

Having kids or not having kids, it’s seen as more of a choice. I think in the older generation in the queer community it can be quite different, because they can still be striving toward fitting in to the normalcy of the hetero family structure.

A lot of younger queer people are saying, “this is our chosen family and I’m happy with that.

Leaving a biological progeny behind as your legacy… it’s just never been a thing for me. I think it’s such a selfish way of looking at parenthood because its means you’re looking at your child as your legacy instead of its own entity. What kind of pressure would that put on the child to live up to something? I don’t think that’s right.

 

 

Do you feel your decision to not have children has impacted the way you view your body?

I have like a big phobia of pregnancy, not even giving birth or babies – it’s pregnancy.

I know some people are like “oh you have that pregnancy glow, you look amazing”. But I think of it like a parasitic relationship. It just freaks me out so much. It’s literally leeching off of your body.

I have never had a great relationship with my body, I don’t think a lot of women do; unfortunately, there is still a lot of social pressure to look a certain way.

I was never like a Barbie doll. And I don’t think I ever felt like my body was designed for being able to be pregnant.

My mom had pregnancy-related complications, her thyroid stopped working, she lost some of her hair and her temperature regulation doesn’t work well, so she has to take a bunch of meds every day until she dies.

 

Do you think is there been any real challenges for you in not having children?

So far in my life no, but I’m also just 27, maybe the challenges are just waiting for me.  I think when I turn 30; people will be like, “are you not thinking about having children because you know, they say the clock is ticking”. I’m sure with age, the questions will come… but so far, no. Not having children has benefited me a lot in terms of moving countries, doing school stuff, and having a dog (Frank).

 

That leads me on to the next question,  what’s the positives then for you in not having children? You have spoken about your career, being able to do your PhD being able to move from Canada to Scotland, being able to move freely as much as you want. I wonder does freedom really feed into it for you?

100%, when I think about having a child the scariest thing is how much it’s going to hinder my freedom. That’s why I worry about resenting my own child, because I really value being able to do what I want to do.

I think it’s also an immigrant mind-set: my parents sacrificed so much for me to be able to study, be able to like live freely. I can do these things more so than they have ever been able to. I just can’t imagine giving that up because I know what’s been lost for that.

 

Can I ask where are your parents originally from then?

Yeah, they’re from South Korea.

 

I wonder did they move from South Korea to Canada then?

We decided to immigrate when I was 11.  My mom and my sister and I moved to Canada while my dad stayed in Korea to work and send money, and so our family was separated for a long, long time.

Then my sister went back to Korea to go to an international school and get an American education in Korea. When I turned, 18, and I went off to university my mom went back to Korea so all my family is actually in Korea now.

 

Can I ask the question, what’s the culture like in Korea then around having families? Is it different to Canada and the UK?

My mom told me this recently and I think it’s so bizarre. Because South Korea has one of the lowest birth rates, the government is basically incentivising people to have more kids, resulting in people having kids because there’s a monetary incentive. I think there’s housing being built for new families with kids, they can get them cheaper than market price. My mom is saying that because there is an advantage to having kids you get treated like you’re doing service for your country.

There are all kinds of programmes to help, but for me it seems strange.

Birth rate and women’s education are correlated, more educated women don’t want to have kids because they know what’s in store for them. I think they wonder ‘why should I let my education go to waste, why would I give up on everything that I studied for and worked for years’, just to pursue something that I was never really all that passionate about.

 

If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?

I wish I could change other people’s reactions to my not having children.

I think it’d be nice if not having children is accepted as just a normal option.  It’s just one of the options, rather than an anomaly or something weird. Sometimes I think some people think, ‘oh, you’re a crazy feminist’, as if feminism is all about having children or not. I don’t even think about it as a feminist rebellion. I don’t think my decision not to have kids is as a feminist act there’s nothing deeper involved aside from I just don’t want kids.

I just wish I didn’t have to justify it as much.

 

Anotherhood is all about connecting with our shared experiences, I wonder can you share anything that has really helped you to embrace your life without children?

Something that helps me in my life without children:

I mean Frank, obviously, he’s great, I love him, and he’s so much more interesting than a baby. Frank definitely helps me realise that this is the kind of life that I want to live.

He is such a character, he has a personality he has his like inner lives and thoughts. He communicates his feelings in weird ways and he has little quirks.

He really taught me — this is so cheesy — but he really taught me what unconditional love means. I used to always think that unconditional love was so stupid and that everything should be conditional. But not anymore. I love Frank whether he’s being good or naughty. Like, I could be mad at him for a moment for doing something really stupid like drinking from a dirty puddle (which he loves doing. I think he think it’s like flavoured water), but that doesn’t mean I stop loving him. There’s no condition under which I don’t love Frank.

 

Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?

I just started getting into podcasts, listening to everything here and there.  There is this one that I really like it’s called ‘Binge Mode’. It’s a deep dive into different series: they have Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. They do it chapter-by-chapter, movie-by-movie, and they’re just analysing everything and it’s so fun to listen to.

I like listening to feel good positive podcasts, but I also have so many books that I love.

They are mostly all academic books but there is this semi academic book it’s its called ‘Being Mortal.’

It is about living and dying well, it’s written by a physician and it basically explores how medicine has evolved to think about death as something to cure and delay, rather than something to work well toward.

 

Thank you for letting me chat to you so good just to hear more about you. 

Yeah, it’s good. It was fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadie Interview

Welcome to Anotherhood Sadie, can you share a little about yourself?

I will be 42 next month and two years ago I was living a kind of quiet happy life. Then, in 2018, we went to Bali and whilst we were there,  and this sounds a bit of a cliché,  but I had this spiritual awakening experience.

I realised I have time; I’m financially stable; I have energy and resources but what am I doing with them? I had to go on this self-discovery journey I guess to find some purpose…. that sounds very Eat, Pray, Love doesn’t it!

Once I started questioning who I was, this path just naturally appeared to me, it wasn’t this big deal, it was just a gentle unfolding of, if I am not going to be a mother then who am I?

I found my way to coaching and trained as a life coach and then launched my business ‘This Curious Life Coaching’; Curious coaching for childfree women dreaming of a bolder life just at the end of 2019.

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 about making connections, I don’t know many childfree women in real life, and all the people I grew up with and went to school with have all got children.

There isn’t badge that’s says ‘I haven’t got kids’ so you can easily identify who we are. It’s not a badge we wear as childfree women – it’s often the reverse and something we don’t talk about directly.

I always think there is a default or an assumption that if you are a woman you must be a mother. It’s not talked about in a way that makes it easy to find people who don’t fit in that usual box.  So, I thought by sharing my story it’s shinning the light that we are out there.

There are, women who are childfree quietly getting on with their lives – It’s not just for people who are on the edge of society or it shouldn’t be viewed as being out on the edge of society. It’s normal and it’s not only for people who can’t have children, there are people who choose not to, or it can’t by circumstance, and they are happy with it, or have made their peace with it.

There are lots of different paths through it, I just felt sharing my story was a way of being another light, and saying this is quite normal – this is an option, it’s a choice.

I think that’s empowering for women to hear that it can be a choice. 

If you strip away the expectations it becomes expansive, it’s not limiting, all these other options open up for you.

The more women that are sharing their story and putting their hand up and adding their voice to it, it makes it more normal.

 

Can you share with us what was happening in your life when you realised you would not be having children?

I can’t pinpoint the exact moment that the decision happened, it was more of a gradual acceptance. I have been catching up with the Big Bang Theory recently and there is a episode where one of the couples announces to their friends they are having baby and Sheldon’s character goes “ohh noo!” like he is gutted and of course this is not expected by anyone there. Sheldon voices it out loud because he’s not really tied by social norms and I thought that’s how I have felt so many times when friends announced that they are having children.

It’s always my internal reaction, but from the outside I was always like, “that’s great news, congratulations, I am so happy for you”. I never really connected in the same way, or the way I assume other people do, of someday wanting to be a mother.

I always, felt the driver for me was an external one of expectation and assumption but it just wasn’t something I wanted for myself. I think I always had awareness that maybe that wasn’t my path but it took a long time to be able to voice it because it is seen as so against the grain.

My husband and I were together for about 9 years before we got married and it (being childfree) was just something that got slowly woven through our relationship and then at some point we were just like we don’t really want kids do we? When we had the discussion, I remember feeling relived that he felt the same way.  I guess I can’t pinpoint it to a precise time as it’s never been something I have been driven to want to do – it’s always just been there.

 

It feels like to begin with you were disconnected from who you were as a person and the expectations you felt. It wasn’t until you could realise those expectations were nothing to do with you, you could focus on what was inside you.

Exactly that, it was like playing a part that was expected of me, but was not the true me. Every holiday we would come back and people would ask, “do you have ring, have you got engaged yet?”  And that just seems to be a normal pressure to put on people.

Initially it’s the pressure of you’re supposed to get married, and then once we did get married the pressure to have kids came along.  At that point I was very clear I didn’t want children so it was easier to say, “no we are not having children.”

It was like stepping through a veil, leaving behind all this expectation, and now actually I have come not to peace with or my choice but I have solidified my choice as part of who I am.  Simple as that.

 

It feels like you have acknowledged the decision and in turn this has led you to accept more of yourself.

Yes exactly, and now I know that’s part of who I am – then came the question, “what do I do now? How to I step fully into this trues version of me” 

I had to shut down that internal voice that feared judgement and was saying “what will so and so think if you post that?”. We travel a lot and it’s often raised comments like “oh god, your off on holiday again?!”,  And now it was my time to let go of that judgement fear and own who my choices.  It’s like saying, yeah – I can travel a lot because that’s actually my life, that’s the choice I have made for myself – I have freedom because I am childfree.

It’s just owning that and saying this is who I am and part of that is letting it go of it being uncomfortable for other people, that’s their concern not mine.

 

What has been your experience in sharing your journey of not having children with those who are important to you?

I think I am quite lucky because it has been quiet positive….although my family really don’t talk about things in that way, so it’s not that its been positive or it’s been positively received we just don’t talk about it.  My brother has got 4 kids so I kind of feel my parents have their grandchildren to keep them busy and that lessens the pressure on me to have my own children too.

Friendship wise it’s kind of of been fine as well, although in saying that, last year I actively acknowledged that I had lost friendships through embracing my true self.

There were two girls I was friends with since school, and we were part of a friendship group of four and we went on holiday just before we turned 40. There was one breakfast and I noticed none one had spoken to me yet.  They had seven children between the three of them and they were talking about schools, and clubs etc – all children related things. I deliberately didn’t contribute because I couldn’t – I had nothing to add to that conversation, but I was also realising it was like this every time we met, it was the same situation where I was left feeling on the outside.

I would either have to make my way in and play along with being interested or try and divert the conversation to something I was interested in.  This time, I was thinking why do I put myself through this, I am not enjoying this experience anymore and it was a bit of a understanding that our friendship had shifted because their lives had gone on one path and I no longer had enough in common with them. No one had done anything wrong – it was just life and I no longer wanted to pretend anymore.

I think that it was less about me being childfree and more about that our lifestyles didn’t relate anymore, and I wasn’t willing to just go along with their side of it as it was excluding my view of the world. I couldn’t relate.

I think that has been the only “negative” to it, but’s it not really been negative; it’s just been the process that certain relationships had to go through as part of accepting myself and my choices and what that meant for how I continued to relate to the world around me.

 

Do you feel your decision has impacted the way you view your body?

I don’t think I have thought about it that way before. But last year I donated a kidney to my husband, he has kidney disease and his own kidneys were failing and it felt like a completely natural thing to do – to help improve his life and in turn improve life for both of us.

The process did give me a new appreciation for my body, that it was healthy enough to donate and then supported me through recovery quiet well. However, in some follow up checks they did find quite a large fibroid that I never knew I had, so then I had this interesting loop of thoughts – had we ever tried for children it could of impacted that journey, and how would I of felt about that?

For a little bit I felt maybe gave me an excuse, there is actually a physical reason why I can not have children rather that I just decided not to. But then I realised, that’s ridiculous – I don’t need an excuse simply to make my choice make more sense to other people.

I don’t think being childfree has really changed in a strong way how I see my body, but working through those thought loops when I found out about the fibroid made me think maybe there would have been a different journey with the same ending, but I will never know.

I think there is a societal perception difference in childfree and childless; you are seen in a different way if you can’t have children physically or if it’s a choice. There is a more stereotypical view that if you have chosen not to have children then you’re either a career driven woman only interested in climbing the corporate ladder, or you’re just a bit weird and want to have a house full of cats! It’s like those are the only two options.

I think through my own awareness journey I have got much more in tune with my own intuition and purpose.  And where the layers of expectation have been stripped away I am able to hear my own voice again, and not just hear it but feel it as well. When I make decisions or think about things, I can feel that in my gut, in my heart or in my throat, and I now know that’s what I need to pay attention to. I think its is a real untapped power source. You have this energy in you, that gives you your own compass, and helps you with decisions and knowing what’s right for you.

 

What has been the most challenging part of your experience of not having children?

There is a societal perception that you haven’t gone through a rite of passage if you don’t have children.  Once you have gone through motherhood then you are a woman and until you have done that your almost kind of still childlike, still infantile.  That’s one of the things I that I found with the friendship group I had, it was like they didn’t really see me as a grown up, as I did frivolous things, like go off on last minute weekends away.

I don’t have the same types of responsibly as them, so the assumption is you’re not really grown up because you haven’t got kids and had to make grown up, parenting decisions….And when you’re in your late 30’s that starts to get a bit weird and uncomfortable for people – it’s like a defiance of the norms and brings a tension between their choices and mine.

I think that has been quiet a challenge, and life generally for a woman is viewed in the context of motherhood. For example, adverts have the motherhood aspect wrapped up in them and it’s a general assumption that if you are a woman then you will probably be a mum – so we treat all women as mothers or potential mothers.

 

As well as the challenges you have experienced, I wonder can you share any positive aspects?

The freedom – to do things, all then thing! You can decide to go away for a weekend, or decide you want to invest into training for yourself, or start a business. The fact I have the money (not spent on childcare) and time as well as the energy available means I can focus on building my coaching business.

For a while, through my 30’s if people talked about having children and when was it going to be my “turn” I would flippantly brush it off and say, “I’m not going to have children, I am far too selfish, I like my life the way it is.

I now understand that was an automatic response to deflect the question away. It wasn’t coming from a place of selfishness at all – I recognise that now – but at the time it was the easiest thing to say. What is more true is to say I value the opportunity and the time to focus on myself so I can fulfil my purpose, because my purpose isn’t motherhood – its supporting other women on similar journeys so we can all feel more like our truest selves and not who others expect us to be.

 

If you could change one thing about how not having children is viewed, what would you wish to change?

It would be for it to be less of an ‘other’, or a weird choice.  I think its seen against the norm and that makes women not able to talk about it in the same way that motherhood is.

I would love for it to be talked about more as a valuable option, so that young women and girls don’t see it as a full gone conclusion that you meet someone, you get married you have kids. That does not have to be the only path. You have a myriad of other options available to you, and they all have equal value.

I think that if not being a mother was more normal it would take the pressure of women who also unable to have children as it would feel less of a failure, because its not. It’s not at all – a mum is one thing that you be, but if for whatever reason you are not then there is a world of other things you can be that will be an equally incredible reflection of you.

So, I would love for it to be more of a norm, and for there to be stories, movies, TV shows with that story arc, where women don’t get married and don’t have children. Because at the moment that would sound to many as the opposite of a happy ending and we need to rewrite those fairy tales so we are our own heroes.

 

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, and your decision not to have children?

Finding purpose for me was the big thing. What am I, who am I, who am I supposed to be, connecting with that purpose for myself. It’s been so fulfilling and life changing to have purpose.

For me it was coaching, which led me to me to know that I could walk my own path and make my own decisions shedding off the weight of others expectations and now I help other women do exactly the same thing.

I think finding a deep sense of purpose for yourself means you have got somewhere to put all the energy that you have, and all that creativity that’s within in us as women.

You become a channel for it – your purpose – and it gives you in a place in the world, whether it’s helping other people or sharing your own art, maybe its writing for joy or volunteering with a local shelter. Whatever it is, there is a place for each of us, and its just finding a way to connect to that, I think it’s so important.

 

Are there any podcast/ books that you have found have helped you on your journey?

 Podcasts

  • The one I listen to the most is a podcast called the Priestess Podcast; It’s an exploration of spiritual and holistic practices that support self-awareness and self-development.

 

  • The Imposters Club; which I recently started listening to is a great one if you ever feel like an imposter in your own life.

 

  • Rewilding for Women: This one is full of real “running with the wolves”, wild women energy – it’s great if you are interested in that deep discovery of the feminine. There is a Facebook group for that one as well. It’s a really powerful exploration of deep femininity and deep feminine energy. 

 

  • The Honest Uproar

 

  • The Quiet Ones – my Myers Brigg personality type is INFJ and this podcast is all about that – If you are an introvert who feels deeply then this is a great listen.

 

Books

  • Reclaiming Womanhood; I have dipped in and out of it as this on as it’s quite heavily academic, but there are lots of interviews with childfree and childless women and it’s a nice one to flick through and feel connections sometime, when your not feeling so connected as it reminds me that I’m not alone.

 

  • The Comparison Cure by Lucy Sheridan; Lucy is The Comparison Coach, and this book is a cumulation of all her knowledge to help you be “less them and more you”

 

Can you share a synapse of what you do as a life coach?

I called my business “This Curious Life Coaching’, because curiosity is one of my values. I think if you’re not curious about things you stop growing, you stop moving forward, you become stagnate. I also think that being Childfree is seen as a curious choice and we do live a curious life against “the norm”.

Being curious about yourself, what your possibilities are, what your potential is, what really drives you – that’s where we start to grow and move towards goals and dreams.

I focus on supporting childfree women because there are layers of expectation within society that we get wrapped up in – thoughts and roles that get projected onto us but do not come from within us – so we can lose a sense of self.

I want to help women strip away those layers; support them in finding their own real internal drivers; and then connecting them with a deep sense of purpose and passion.

My work is to help other women to reconnect with who they are and find their truest self.

I think if everyone felt that deep connection to self then the world would have such an incredible source of positive energy. Wouldn’t that be incredible?

Check out Sadie’s instagram account

 

Interview by Laura