The World Childless Week blog
Michael Hughes from Married and Childless explains why he’s our World Childless Week Champion in Australia.
“I met this hard working dedicated group through the opportunities that social media provides. Facebook Skype, and Zoom connected me to this group of wonderfully talented and dedicated people who are all committed to the vision that Stephanie has created. For me that means being childless should no longer be a taboo subject.” Find out why Vicky is a World Childless Week Champion
Need a quick reference for what's going on with World Childless Week 2018 to share or refer to? Then look no further! We've got a shiny planner that shows each day…
Whilst I have been quiet over the last few months with regards to blogs I have been talking and sorting all things World Childless Week. I have been working alongside Berenice Smith of Hello Lovely updating and improving the website. I only said to Berenice yesterday that the website started out like a single forget me not flower still in bud, and is slowly blossoming into a full flower head with multiple flowers, and showing its full glory.
It’s one month away, have you got yours yet?! Come and join the amazing WCW community.
So, there I was trying to book a blogger for a job, when in a moment of glorious serendipity I was redirected to Steph's wonderful website. For those who don't know Steph, she is a bold, brave and frankly fabulous human who set up World Childless Week which supports those that don't have children, not by choice. The support is there all year long and this generosity of spirit inspired me to want to do my bit too.
I don’t know my biological father and there has never been a man in my life that I’ve seen as a father figure. Ogie, my granddad, is the only role model I have but sadly he passed away when I was still a teenager.
With Father’s Day approaching I look at my husband and wonder how he feels. The adverts for gifts are appearing thick and fast and even on social media I get a notification of “Father’s Day Tex Mex Buffet”. He’s never expressed sadness on this day but with advertising everywhere you turn it’s something that he can’t avoid. I’ve made the resolution to ask him about his feelings. Is he not bothered or does he mask any emotions? I need to know.
I’ve been conflicted about writing this piece. I’ve been wanting to write it for ages, at the same time avoiding it at every turn. I realise it’s the self-analysis I perform as part of my writing process I’m avoiding. As much as I like to think that I have accepted being childless, I know deep down there is a pain waiting for its chance to rise up. Do I address it, or beat it back with a big stick hoping it will go away.
It is that time of year when strategies deployed at Christmas, New Year and sundry other ‘national family centred event days’ are taken down from the loft, dusted off and made ready: Father’s Day to my mind, has followed the marketization of Mother’s Day.
Undoubtedly, next Monday’s news reports will give estimations of how many millions of pounds were spent on Father’s Day and how much more was spent on Mother's Day. It would appear that in order to acknowledge biological or social fatherhood a card, a present, and a meal specially priced (and specially defrosted and reheated) is now mandatory. Wherever you go displays inviting you to acknowledge your father or the father of your children abound.
My dad passed away ten years ago. When he was alive, for the majority of his life he was cared for by my mum after he had a motorbike accident. Before the accident, we were never a family for commercial celebrations and he wasn't the sort whom the cards wanted to pay homage to anyway. He had four sons and I'm the eldest. Two of us are childlessness. Nevertheless, I've enjoyed being part of the lives of my now grown-up nieces and nephews, turning up on my motorbike to see them, and meantime working hard so I could travel the world and buy a house.
I think a lot about ally-ship (is that a word?!) Ally-ship particularly, but not only, in terms of how those of us without children can be effective allies. It’s true that the lives of the happily childfree can be very different to the lives of folk early in the process of coming to terms with not being able to have a child, or never having been in the circumstances to have had them (and perhaps not yet having found their ‘plan B’ in the words of Gateway Women founder Jodie Day). It’s also true – I’ve seen it happen many times – that a lot can be gleaned and learned between the childless and childfree.
The last few weeks have flown by in organised and unorganised chaos. After the excitement of Fertility Fest I desperately wanted to get online and reach out to everyone who I’d met but I couldn’t. Hubby had a week off work so the days were spent on little trips out, the odd pub meal and generally enjoying a few days of rest and relaxation. As much as I loved spending time with him I was biting the bullet to get back on the computer when he returned to work on the Monday.
I have the opportunity to present some facts about what it is like to be a childless woman on a maternity ward to a local health authority.
Wherever you live around the world
Whatever your experiences
They all matter and could make a difference
Make our NHS hospital wards and waiting rooms across the UK infertile friendly. There are 3.5m people affected by infertility in the UK. Yet their experience of our hospitals & surgeries only add to their grief and pain. Women who have suffered miscarriage, hysterectomies, gynae operations etc are placed in maternity wards/waiting rooms surrounded by pregnant women & babies.
Yesterday I attended Fertility Fest in London and participated in The Unborn Child. Tessa Broad read aloud the first chapter of her book Dear You: A Letter to my Unborn Children and Tina Reid talked about and then showed us her collection of Photos I’ll Never Take. Their words and images were deeply thought provoking.
I recognized their dreams and desires. Not the big moments but the small incidental moments in time that can cement a small but precious memory. They reminded me of my own “what ifs.” What would I have taught my children, what moments in time would we have cherished, what memories would I hold in my heart and what photos would fill the frames on my wall.
It has been heart breaking reading all the stories this week. There is so much pain and anger and I find all of it relatable too. I know it’s a personal journey that unfortunately all of us childless not by choice must go through.
I made the tough decision a few years ago to stop IVF treatment, Endometriosis and numerous other issues resulted in three failed IVF cycles. This among other things resulted in the breakdown of the marriage. So, I found myself single and over 40 with a whole set of challenges ahead.
Last week I was still struggling with what to post each day during the American NIAW. I wanted to represent those of us who would never achieve the dream of being a parent and show that World Childless Week was there to support people throughout the year.
I was aware that NIAW was using #flipthescript throughout the week which immediately made me think of flipping the script from a negative to a positive. The only problem was that although I had the spark of an idea, I had been struggling to put pen to paper.
“There are no prerequisites for worthiness.” –Dr. Brené Brown
Our wholeness is innate and our worthiness inherent. Yet, how are we able to truly value ourselves, under the weight of social prerequisites, which often fail to acknowledge, let alone embrace those of us living without children, not by choice?
When did I stop deciding I was worthy? I can’t think of a day or a time. What made me question my worth or had I never considered my own worth until I compared myself to someone else? These are questions that have suddenly come into my mind and each question seems to raise more questions.
Did I feel worthy at ten, twenty or thirty years old; was it a question that ever crossed my mind? Does my worth hinge on one single element of my life, my inability to have a child? Is that the one deciding factor that I allowed to consume me and devour my worth?
Meaningful Life Without Kids
Can life be meaningful and full of purpose without having children? This was a question I was recently asked.
Are children the major gift in life that makes us feel worthy and of value to the world we live in? I believe in children and children is our future. They are gifts that bless some people’s lives but not others. Life is abundant with gifts, motherhood is one of them.
Is having children one part that defines who we are because who we are is much bigger than the role of being a loving mother or father?
On Thursday during World Childless Week we shared out thoughts on comments that hurt. What we didn’t do was talk much about how we can respond to these comments. I think we find it hard to have a natural response because we are emotionally drawn in; be it anger, upset or disbelieve. Our reactions and responses are also swayed by the person saying the comment, the occasion and how confident we are to speak openly about our childlessness.
I am a childless woman.
I am a daughter, a wife, a sister, a cousin, a niece, an aunt, a friend, a godmother.
I am a writer, a reader, a mental health advocate, a Psychologist, a mentor.
I am a lover, a fighter, a spiritualist, a music fan, a good listener, a goth, a survivor.
And I am childless by circumstance, not by choice.
On Wednesday during World Childless Week 2017 I asked people to share letters addressed to the reason they were childless. All but one of the letters I received were full of pain, sadness and anger. That one letter surprised me because it thanked infertility. So today I am also going to #FlipTheScript and share my gratitude for my childlessness.
What did you do today? Did you do any of these things?
Checked in with a friend or relative online, face to face or by phone
Took a picture to share
Remembered to do something nice for yourself or someone else
When I decided to start World Childless Week my biggest fears were that no one would join in, that I would be a one man band that had created a failure. My fears were soon squashed as people volunteered to share their words and their stories.
Whilst some people were confident to publicly share their stories the majority were nervous to step out of their comfort zone and many chose to remain anonymous. The stories where people shared the reasons why they were childless were emotive. Black and white facts are hard to ignore when they are mixed with the emotional and physical pain that is attached to someone’s body, mind and heart.
The journey to accepting infertility is a journey that is either separate from or intertwined with new dreams. Some dream new dreams and some allow dreams to pass away and create a new reality apart from anything they envisioned.
On Monday during World Childless Week we showed that the childless are in every corner of the world. In the UK 1 IN 5 women remain childless at the age of 45 and that percentage is on the increase. A recent study showed that whilst 20% are childless by choice (childfree) the remaining 80% are childless not by choice. Our numbers are rising and yet we are still a largely unrecognised minority which leaves many of us thinking that we are alone.
Last year when I was planning World Childless Week I decided to set a theme for each day of the week. I wanted the week to show different aspects that effect the life of someone who is childless not by choice. I thought about what subjects were discussed frequently and how I personally felt about being childless.
I realised that lack of self worth was a subject I'd seen discussed and expressed on numerous occassions. Why do we doubt our worth? It was a question that I was not sure I could answer. It was a question that needed to be addressed. I decided that one day needed to focus on expressing and celebrating that "We Are Worthy".
After the success of World Childless Week 2017 I was faced with the question of how to move forwards. Not with myself but with World Childless Week. I wanted to create a website to enable those who were not on Facebook to have access to all of the articles, posters and blogs that everyone had so generously contributed, but what else should I do? Would it be enough to purely represent our community one week out of fifty two? Would it be enough to focus on seven days a year or was there a need to do more?