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.