Last year in the lead up to the first ever World Childless Week I remember Stephanie mentioned there was one day generating the least amount of written contributions. Volunteers were struggling with the “We Are Worthy” theme. It came as no great surprise to me.
I can’t share how others feel about living this childless (not by choice) existence. Some folks are adapting, even thriving. We each have our own story. I can however, confide in how I am struggling to find my own self-worth. Next week marks the three-year anniversary of miscarrying our much wanted and planned baby. It still haunts me today. It wasn’t my last loss but was a defining moment. This day started a grieving process that I fear will never leave me. These anniversaries sneak up on us and we brace ourselves as they pass us by.
Little did I realise how much my world was about to change. All I had ever desired was a family of my own. I was never driven by wealth or a career. It was a simple, quiet life for me. School friends have told me how they find life funny. Never in a million years did they imagine they would have children and I would end up with none. They were convinced it would have been the other way around… After all, I have always been the broody one and they don’t even like kids! The irony is not lost on me, but the lack of empathy repeatedly astounds me.
Childlessness is rarely discussed publicly. We are perceived in the media by stories of IVF miracles and easy adoptions. Our CNBC community needs a PR reality check for the modern day. There are many invasive questions and comments, all too often from strangers because there is no etiquette based around this sensitive topic, not to mention a clear lack common decency. Regardless of how we respond to these people, we frequently find ourselves excluded or deemed unworthy of having an opinion for the simple fact we don’t have children!
Last week a friend of mine cancelled our plans because her baby was teething, another child was potty training and they were far too hot to go out in a heatwave. Fair enough, I understood and was happy to postpone. Perhaps she forgot I was on Facebook when a stream of photos appeared of them at a zoo with her mommy pals. I felt pretty despondent. My husband and I used to go on these fun trips with them and never made a fuss when every outing was centred around entertaining their children. The day she found out we had stopped trying to have a baby her attitude changed, as though we were contagious and no longer fitted in her world. These days I only hear from her when she wants to gripe over how hard motherhood is. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Not in my life or the lives of friends I made within the childless community. They received similar treatment from friends and family. It is sad how people are labelled and valued. Personal identity is heavily associated with procreating. This often contributes to low self-esteem in those who feel outcast and judged. It is all too easy to shut down and let these changes consume you.
I am ashamed to say I recently came close to ending my life. I genuinely felt I had nothing left to contribute. Infertility wasn’t my sole reason, but it has left me feeling without purpose and somewhat broken as a woman. I no longer feel feminine or useful. I am in a much better head space than I was at the time. It’s safe to say I never had a plan B, I still don’t. I know many of us hit a crisis point in our lives and I thought I was doing well. Anxiety, however, has a mind of its own. It leaves you feeling worthless. Thankfully I had a moment of clarity and realised not only were my actions no guarantee to bring peace, but it would unquestionably hurt the one person I considered my rock. Someone I love. I feel sick with guilt when I think about the aftermath that could have been! The following day I read an online post from a lady in that same position as me. The further I read on the more my heart hurt for her. I wasn’t brave enough to add a comment in my fragile state but read through the supportive replies she received. It was encouraging to see how people still care for each other. I don’t ever wish to see any person suffer in that way, so why am I so hard on myself? That niggling inner voice of doubt still needs to accept that grief is not linear. Sometimes you do take two steps forward, then one step back and that’s ok. You are worthy of finding out what is yet to come, no matter how hopeless it feels at the time.
I wanted to share a very honest account of what this day means to me. You may read inspiring stories about strong, empowering celebrities who are breaking the stigma of childlessness. You may read about childless entrepreneurs, environmentalists and generous volunteers who are giving back to their community. There is a growing collective of amazing men and women all over the globe paving the way to raise awareness and support for the CNBC community. Every single person deserves a mention and a round of applause for the progress they make. It takes real guts in this world.
I however, wanted to reach out to those of you really struggling today. The ones who feel invisible and undeserving. I see you! I see the bravery it takes to get out of bed each morning and function. When you feel ‘less than’, it’s hard to believe that you are worthwhile, but take it from me, you are stronger than you know. When you are ready to take the next step, reach out. There will always be confidential support groups, filled with kind and understanding people, ready to listen and provide comfort at a time you need it. You are worthy!