Today, I am dedicating my blog to the first ever ‘World Childless Week’ which started on Monday 11th September. Created by Stephanie Phillips, to highlight the experiences of those dealing with Involuntary Childlessness, each day has a theme. Today it is: ‘We Are Worthy’. I share my thoughts, experience and journey on this topic below:
To follow the events of this week or keep up to date with this campaign please follow @ChildlessWeek on Twitter or @WorldChildlessWeek on Facebook. #WeAreWorthy #WorldChildlessWeek
How does these statements make you feel? What do you think when you read them? Do you believe it? Does it feel uncomfortable? Do you feel any sensations anywhere in your body?
As a childless ‘not by choice’ women, the feeling of ‘worthiness’ or ‘being worthy’ is something that I have had to battle with and work through over the past decade or so. My fertility or rather infertility journey lasted nearly 10 years and included: 2 miscarriages, 6 unsuccessful clomid cycles, 3 IUI and 4 IVF cycles. As the process took its toll, emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually, finally deciding ‘enough was enough’ was heart-wrenching but absolutely necessary. Letting go of my dream of becoming a mum was not an easy decision but the grief, loss and sadness that followed took me on an unexpected journey of self- discovery.
As humans, we all want to connect and belong. One of the most common connections in our society is having children. I am frequently asked, when meeting someone new, “do you have children?” and the response after saying gently “unfortunately not” or “No, I don’t” ranges from a sympathetic ‘pity face’ to really unhelpful comments such as, “well, why don’t you JUST adopt”. These automatic reactions to either feel sorry for someone experiencing involuntary childlessness or rush to find a solution to ‘fix’ the problem is one that we have to deal with on a daily basis. Speaking with those people that I support, both on my online community and in my work, dealing with people’s reactions and often thoughtless comments is one of the greatest challenges facing them. They don’t feel that they belong in society as their friends get married, have children they can often be left feeling stuck and like the world is moving on without them.
At the end of my journey, I felt completely unworthy, a failure, less of a women, not good enough and like I didn’t ‘fit in’ to society’s mould of what I thought it meant to be a women. As I tried to make sense of what I had done to deserve all the pain and suffering I had endured, I realised that the thoughts in my head about what I thought I ‘should be’, were not coming from me at all. These were, in fact, stories that I had collected from being a young girl, from family, school, friends and our society as a whole; about what we ‘should be’ and what it means to be a women. Because I wasn’t a mother, I made that mean that I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t deserve, I was a failure and unworthy. But that isn’t true.
Following a significant amount of self-discovery work it dawned on me that not only was I feeling unworthy but felt incredibly ashamed of my situation. I felt like shame was at the root of all that I was experiencing and it has been affecting every aspect of my life. My loss and grief was invisible to those around me, as I hadn’t lost anything physical. It was difficult to find people that really understood how I was feeling. I felt alone and isolated in a family-orientated world.
But what did I really have to be ashamed of? It wasn’t my fault that my body wasn’t baby-friendly?
I was worried about what people would think about me. Again, I realised that these thoughts, were just that, ‘thoughts’. I was choosing to focus on what I couldn’t control so instead I started to change the things I said to myself and developed my self-compassion. Building a toolkit of strategies (training in, including Emotional Freedom Technique & Neuro-linguistic Programming) helped me to work through my grief, shame, limiting beliefs and that feeling of not being good enough. I decided that I was no longer going to be ashamed of my situation.
Following on from this work, I set up The Dovecote: Childless Support Organisation. Daring greatly, I launched my organisation and started speaking out about my childlessness. I felt very vulnerable, sharing my personal story and journey with the world but I soon realised it was a great strength. I was overwhelmed by the number of other people in my situation and the response I gained from other people when they realised that they weren’t alone either. The organisation has gone from strength to strength and I now support and work with many childless people all over the world, helping them through their healing journeys and discover their passion and purpose.
Feeling worthy has to start with loving ourselves, loving ‘what is’ and finding acceptance with our circumstance. We deserve to live a life which is happy and fulfilling, that certainly can be achieved, but it takes time. Just because we don’t have children, doesn’t mean we’re not part of society. Finding our passion through our pain, exploring who we are and what we love it a great place to start.
Be vulnerable. Be brave, Be authentic. People will love the real you. You are worthy.
Kelly Da Silva: Founder of The Dovecote.org
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