Why I'm a World Childless Week Champion by Berenice Smith

I first met Steph via a tiny screen on the corner of my Mac screen. This sounds rather strange but when I reflect on this, we often meet via small photos don’t we? So many of our conversations are written on Facebook or via Zoom or Skype and so it was that an online conversation took place about World Childless Week last August.

Me and my beloved rescue dog Molly

Me and my beloved rescue dog Molly

I've since met Steph in person several times and if you were at St Pancras one wet March day this year, I'm sorry if we damaged your hearing with the screams of hilarity when we met. As is often the case with Steph, we were stood feet away from each other but still talking on our mobiles. As anyone who has 'Zoom' chatted with us, it's almost certain one of us will be on mute in error and the other doing a series of odd hand signals.  

I know that it takes determination to change minds. I have spent a year researching childlessness after recovering from failed IVF and recurrent miscarriages and studying for a Masters degree in graphic design and typography. This degree and my story lead to the creation of the social design website Walk In Our Shoes which shares real-life accounts using feet selfies to retain privacy. In reading about the reasons people remain private, I had to go through a lot of the comments sections of newspaper articles and forums and it's unpleasant. In running the Childless Hour Twitter chat, I did a lot of blocking but as often happens, good outstrips the bad, and both the website and the chat became a force for good. 

It's with certainty that I can tell you that Steph has determination and integrity to instigate change. I was impressed that she had an idea that she has been committed to for the past year with a single-minded focus.

I often read about imposter syndrome in my working and academic life and have seen several attempts to emulate the World Childless Week concept which is disappointing because there is space for originality. Through grit and patience, the World Childless Week team have drawn on instinct, focus and strong friendships. I'm truly amazed at this, never more so than when some of us met at Fertility Fest and realised that what we do matters. We know this because lots of incredible people in the audience told us so. The excitement of World Childless Week was palpable then, way back in May! From the conversations over the two days I was in London, I saw that World Childless Week will inspire, educate with honesty and originality. It also matters to me that my site, Walk In Our Shoes, is linked to a brand with integrity. 

I also liked the idea of it being called World Childless Week. Clarity absolutely matters. The name of the week is clear, precise and focuses on words the community understands and so does the media, which gives more opportunity to educate and grow. It’s a reflection of World Childless Week’s openness, why pretend to be anything else? This value is reflected in the design of the site too which I worked on as a professional designer. In this business relationship, Steph was keen to learn, a loyal customer and excellent payer as befits someone who has a natural aptitude with numbers!

I’m so pleased to be standing strong with fellow champions too. Jody Day’s Gateway Women community I credit with saving my sanity. I was so pleased to meet her for the first time at Fertility Fest and we’ve been online friends for many years. Robin Hadley’s work has inspired me with my own academic research and I have always appreciated his support on Twitter. I knew of Vicky Page in her work in the USA as a speaker and since meeting her via our online planning meetings, I’m amazed by her knowledge and experiences. Michael Hughes, I first met in a pub in Shepherd’s Bush. He came over from his home in Australia with his wife and planned his trip around Fertility Fest and they are both firm friends. He’s an amazing speaker and definitely someone I would love to see on stage talking at events. 

I love the inspiration, education and honestly that forms the routes of this campaign and I am thrilled to be a public supporter of World Childless Week as well as Champion. I look forward to seeing you on social media sharing the hashtag #worldchildlessweek.