Childless ‘Not by Choice?’ ~ We Are Worthy!

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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

#WeAreWorthy #IAmWorthy”

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

For more information about my work…

Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

FREE Private Facebook Community Page: The Dovecote Community

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The Emotional Struggle of Infertility & Childlessness

Today I am dedicating my blog to National Infertility Awareness Week and to the launch of Justine Brooks Froelker’s latest book The Mother of Second Chances, based on her blog Ever Upward releasing on April 17th. For five weeks 25 amazing women will share their stories of infertility and loss as part of this incredible blog tour, because together we can shatter the stigma.

Yesterday Susan shared her story and tomorrow we will hear from Lisa at Life Without Baby. We would love for you to participate by sharing these posts far and wide. We’d especially love to see your own broken silence by sharing your own infertility story using the hastags: #NIAW, #infertility and #EverUpward.

“When our dream has cost us so much, emotionally, socially, spiritually, physically and financially; imagining a happy and fulfilled life without children can feel impossible.”

From a young age, we gather all sorts of messages and expectations from parents, media, peers and society which assume someday we will become parents. For many people, including me, they saw parenthood as an essential part of their identity in the future. For others, being a parent is their primary goal and it’s sad that those who choose to remain child free are subjected to inappropriate assumptions and affected by the pressure from society’s views on their decision to procreate.

Our script or ‘internal dialogue’ that starts to develop inside our head, from about the age of 5, is based on all these external messages and beliefs. Gathered from our parents, family, friends and the world around us; it’s no wonder that when things don’t work out the way we imagined, life starts to get a bit tricky and our emotional health suffers.

For the 1 in 8 people who struggle daily with infertility, undergoing fertility treatment can feel all-consuming and affect every aspect of our lives. With all the personal and social pressure to ‘have it all’, it is perhaps unsurprising to hear that infertility has negative psychological impacts on many facing the daily challenges of infertility. Anxiety and depression are common amongst those facing fertility issues with feelings of; sadness, frustration, hopelessness, inadequacy, guilt, shame and suicide being felt in many cases. In fact, there are studies which now suggest that, as a group, women with fertility problems are just as depressed and anxious as women suffering with cancer. Having fertility issues and knowing you are going to remain childless can indeed, at times, feel terminal.

“The disappointment of failed fertility treatment was one of the hardest things I had to deal with, the media only tend to show us the miracle baby stories so I thought it would work first time….I was wrong”

As well as external expectations from society as a whole, we often also fail to recognize the grief caused by infertility. Those struggling to conceive therefore tend to hide their sorrow, which only increases feelings of shame and isolation. The loss of ‘our dream’ and ‘the life we had always imagined’ can be impossible for others to understand. Acknowledging and honouring our feelings is the first step in our recovery.

Moving from a place of utter devastation, at the realisation that I was never going be a Mother, to a life of purpose, fulfilment and joy didn’t happen overnight. Having spent the best part of a decade trying to conceive and start a family, suffered two miscarriages and 11 failed assisted conception cycles, I got to the point where I wondered if it would ever be possible to experience any ‘joy’ and ‘happiness’ again.  I couldn’t imagine being able to look forward to anything in my life, I felt sad, empty and depressed. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore and felt that infertility had taken over my life and identity.

It seemed that the years spent undergoing assisted conception (Clomid, IUI & IVF) had taken its toll, emotionally, spiritually and physically, and all of my hope had finally disappeared. What did I have to look forward to? Every aspect of my life had been affected by the process, from my career, to holding back on moving house and booking holidays just in case treatment worked. It was hard to get my head around even starting to think about an alternative life. The treatment had taken up so many years of my life and moving on from the dream of becoming a mother felt impossible.

Moving forward…

Given everything I had been though, realising that these feelings were ‘normal’ and that I wasn’t going mad was a huge relief.  After wallowing for a while, doing lots of self-discovery work and getting appropriate support, I felt a strong desire to turn my painful situation into something positive. Knowing that there were so many other people out there in the same circumstance inspired me to create my own Childless Support Organisation: The Dovecote.

With much stigma a taboo around being childless, I wanted to reach out, connect and support others who had found they were childless by circumstance too. Realising there was a light in this darkness was absolutely life changing. A shift in focus enabled me to begin to start looking outwardly, focus on what I could control and see the opportunities I could never had imagined. Coming out about my infertility and involuntary childlessness was possibly one of the scariest but most liberating things I have ever done. Sharing my story and being vulnerable has proved to be one of my greatest achievements. I’m now able to speak, write and work with others to make a positive difference to the lives of those dealing with involuntary childlessness. I have learnt that I can mother in different ways and that whilst I don’t have children of my own I’m still no less of a women.

We all have our own unique gifts, sometimes these gifts can come from our most painful experiences. Using this experience in a positive way has turned my pain into my passion and I’m a much stronger person for it.

Kelly Da Silva: Founder of The Dovecote.org

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Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

FREE Private Facebook Community Page: The Dovecote Community

Facing up to Childlessness – A straight forward process?

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This year one of the key focus areas for Fertility Network UK’s ‘National Fertility Awareness Week’ is: Facing up to Childlessness – A straight forward process?

Realising that you are never going to be a mother or father is utterly heart-breaking. For many, where childlessness has not been a choice, the prospect of facing life without children is all-consuming & devastating. From wondering what to do with your life now, dealing with social exclusion to healing the deep sadness which lies within your soul, childlessness is anything but a straight forward process.

Facing up to childlessness is a complex, unique and a deeply individual process. There is no ‘just getting over it’ like we have a common cold or sore throat. For some, even the thought of having to deal with the prospect of a future without children is too painful. They choose to keep themselves busy with work, engaging in a various social activities and other distractions so they are too tired to even think about what childlessness may mean for them in the future.

Recognising these painful feelings and experiences as ‘grief’ is vital. Whilst we don’t appear to have lost anything in a physical sense, many people facing involuntary childlessness suffer a deep sense of ‘loss and grief’ that is invisible to most people around us. There was no funeral for the loss of the babies they’d always imagined or lost as a result of miscarriage. So realising that you are not going to have the family you’ve always hoped and dreamed of can feel very isolating, many feel like they quite fit into society.

 “Since I was a child I played with dolls and was the Mummy…you can’t ‘just face up’ to a dream you have had since childhood, one that is supposed to be normal, you go through grief, loneliness, emptiness.” (Nita, 61)

 As with any other significant loss, those dealing with childlessness go through many stages of grief. It’s a process which has to be taken one step at a time, one day at a time…

For some, learning to adjust their sails on a daily basis when dealing with this adversity is the only way forward. They change their lifestyle, making the most of the ‘freedom’ their friends with children would love to have. But in all honestly they’d swap all these things in a heartbeat for the chance to have their very own family.

Childlessness isn’t something that just goes away, there are many triggers. From dealing with family, work colleague’s pregnancy announcements, baby on board stickers, family parties, Facebook photos of children at Halloween events, quiet Christmas day mornings and silent tea times….. life often feels like it is moving on without us. We learn to live with it and accept it in the best way we can. Some feel it’s possible to find peace and acceptance with their situation or circumstances whilst others say they never will and the ache and longing is permanent. The deep sadness is consuming and trying to make sense of the lonely, empty feelings can be challenging.

Channelling energy into an alternative passion, hobby, voluntary activities, exercise, crafts, sport, good cause, pets or concentrating on your work are ways of gaining a new focus. After spending years trying for a baby or thinking it might happen one day we forget to do the things that make us happy and give us purpose. Looking at the different areas of our lives and being able to filling them with other passions can make the loss easier to live with.

“I look back at my younger years, yes I would have spent less time crying & more time enjoying each other. I am tired of being Bitter and am making the rest of my life Better, children or not.” (Nita, 61)

 So facing up to childlessness is far from straightforward, there are complexities across so many levels and aspects of our lives.  For me, the psychological loss of ‘a life I thought I was going to have’ was the most significant ‘invisible loss’ associated with coming to terms with involuntary childlessness. We have to find a way to channel our love in our heart, move forward each day and accept that where grief is concerned, our journey is unique, there are no rules.

 

Kelly Da Silva

Founder of The Dovecote. Org

For Fertility Network UK @FertilityNetworkUK #NFAWUK #HiddenFaces

 

 

 

Google Hangout ~ with Kelly Da Silva

HangoutThis is an opportunity to Hangout with ‘Kelly Da Silva’ (Founder of The Dovecote.org) to explore how EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can help with the difficult emotions surrounding Involuntary Childlessness

This is an open event ~ you will need a Google+ account to watch the hangout.

https://plus.google.com/events/ccm7rh8lmrb162atsukv8ea3p4g?authkey=CJmI8pmyupHjiwE

Christmas, Childlessness & EFT

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 The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many people. For those dealing with involuntary childlessness, the relentless advertising in shops, online and in the media, can bring up a range of difficult emotions. The sense of loss and grief can be heightened, as it’s this time of year when many people are starting shopping for their children’s gifts and planning magical events. The emotions triggered at this time of year can be especially challenging for those also suffering with S.A.D, low mood and anxiety.

Luckily, the EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) can help deal with and heal issues related to this Christmas period.

So what is EFT?

EFT is a gentle meridian based therapy which, just like acupuncture, works on the meridian energy system in the body. Unlike acupuncture, there are no needles required. EFT therefore works by gently tapping on the various acupuncture points on the face, body and hands whilst focussing on the issue causing the discomfort or negative emotions. Gary Craig, the Founder of EFT states that “the cause of all negative emotion is a disruption in the body’s energy system”. This combination of tapping and saying relevant statements, therefore works to permanently release it from both the body and mind.

The tapping points:

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Getting started:

Before you start, rate the level of discomfort (of your feelings or the issues) out of 0-10. 10 being the highest imaginable and 0 being completely calm and relaxed.

The statements below can be used or amended in any way to suit your own feelings. These have been designed as generic statements so feel free to change any words which don’t relate fully to your situation. Once you start tapping, you may notice other thoughts come up. These can be used to add to your tapping script. The more ‘specific’ you can be about your thoughts and feelings, the better.

Repeating the statements below, use your first two fingers to gently tap each acupressure point between 5 to 7 times.

Tapping Statements:

(*Fill in the gap with statements that resonate with you)

“Even though I feel *_____________________, there is always a possibility of change and I deeply love and accept myself”.

  • I always struggle at this time of year.
  • I dread Christmas every year.
  • Christmas makes me feel sad and reminds me what is missing in my life.
  • Christmas is really stressful for me.
  • Christmas makes me feel sad that I will never have my own children.
  • I wish I didn’t have to engage in the Christmas activities.
  • I feel guilty that I don’t feel excited by Christmas.
  • I just feel like I’m getting through the Christmas period.
  • The worse thing about Christmas is _____________.
  • I don’t have my own family and children.
  • I feel like I am missing out on one of the most wonderful seasons.
  • I feel anxious about having to spend Christmas with my family and their children
  • I feel sad that I don’t get to go and watch my children in a school play.
  • I feel sad that I will never experience the excitement on my children’s faces on Christmas morning.
  • I wish I could feel excited and look forward to Christmas instead of dreading it.
  • I wish I had children of my own to buy for.
  • I used to love Christmas before I found out I couldn’t have children.
  • I feel sad that I lost my baby and I should be buying gifts.
  • I feel like I miss out because I don’t have children of my own.
  • Christmas is a lonely time for me.
  • I feel really lonely at Christmas
  • I wish I could go to sleep and it all be over.
  • I really miss __________.

Once you have competed a few rounds of tapping, rate the level of discomfort again. Repeat the EFT tapping process until you start to feel better and get a low number of 2 or 3.

Would you like more support?

Whilst this script is a great tool, EFT can have fantastic results when working with an EFT practitioner too.

If you would like more specific support in dealing with these feelings or any issues associated with dealing with childlessness, loss, grief, fears, emotional issues or phobias, please contact me for a FREE consultation over the phone or via Skype.

Kelly Da Silva

EFT/NLP Practitioner and Founder of The Dovecote.org

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Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

Community Page: The Dovecote Community

The ‘Invisible Loss’ of Involuntary Childlessness

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Whilst we don’t appear to have lost anything in a physical sense, many people facing involuntary childlessness suffer a deep sense of ‘loss and grief’ that is invisible to most people around us. Realising that you are not going to have the family you’ve always hoped and dreamed of can feel very isolating. For me, in particular, the grief was overwhelming and intense.

Facing the reality of not being able to have children is heart-breaking, whether trying to conceive a child naturally, using methods of assisted conception (IVF) or arriving at childlessness by another means.

What people don’t see – Invisible losses

The loss associated with involuntary childlessness sits more deeply than simply not being a Mother or Father, since we also lose the:

  • chance and hope of ever having our own biological family
  • celebrations of key milestones with our babies; the first day of school, passing their driving test or getting married
  • chance to see our children play alongside our nieces and nephews
  • experience of sharing holidays & our knowledge
  • opportunity to experience being grandparents (although I appreciate this is not a given)

When does grief strike?

For me, realising that I wasn’t going to be a Mother didn’t just hit me one day. Due to the nature of my fertility investigations and treatment, the reality of our situation was more of a ‘gradual process’. With each failed cycle and loss, I began to recognise that our chances of becoming parents were fading in front of our eyes. With our last IVF cycle treatment failing, all hope was lost. Deciding to stop treatment after 8 years of trying for a baby was extremely difficult and very painful. It is hard to put into words the emotional and physical torment your body, mind and spirit goes through with each failed IVF cycle, allowing yourself the permission to grieve ‘your way’ is essential.

It took time and plenty of ‘grief-work’ for the cloud to lift, but steadily, I began to feel that I could experience joy, hope and happiness again.

Dealing with the grief

  1. Recognising and owning our feelings of hopelessness, anger, disbelief, and bitterness is essential in the first stage of the grieving process. Know that it is ‘OK’ to have a bad day, week, month …! Once we are able to do this, it is the beginning of the healing process.
  2.  Realising that grief is good and tears are a sign that healing is taking place. Communicate with people you trust, a counsellor or on online community support groups – with people who understand what you’re going through.
  3. Give yourself time to do what you need to do. Whether that is taking time out to be in nature, staying in bed or continuing to go to work if it offers you a distraction.
  4. Be kind to yourself: If you’ve had fertility treatment, your body will need time to recover. It’s easy to feel negative towards our bodies for somehow failing us, but nurturing ourselves and our inner child is important.
  5. EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) helped deal with the all-consuming sadness I felt. By releasing any energy blockages associated with the treatment, infertility and loss I began to feel more accepting of the situation.

Overall, for me, the psychological loss of ‘a life I thought I was going to have’ was the most significant ‘invisible loss’ associated with involuntary childlessness. There are no rules where grief is concerned, your journey is unique. Grief never goes away completely, but as time goes on, the pain lessens and you’re able to live with your situation.

Kelly Da Silva

EFT/NLP Practitioner and Founder of The Dovecote.org

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Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

FREE Private Facebook Community Page: The Dovecote Community

Dealing with Involuntary Childlessness Blog

Published: The ‘Invisible Loss’ of Involuntary Childlessness http://huff.to/1LKkLpN via @HuffPoLifestyle

“Dealing With Involuntary Childlessness”

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Being able to live a happy, fulfilling and purposeful life, when experiencing infertility can seem like an impossible task.

Whatever stage you are at in the fertility journey, becoming a mother or father becomes the centre of your world. Every waking moment you become aware of where you are in your cycle and those on the ‘IVF train’ have the long and often anxious 6 weeks journey of hope, excitement, joy and often disappointment. Unless you’ve been through it….you can’t understand just how difficult the IVF process is, physically, emotionally and the strain created on your close relationships.

We live in a world where society gives us a script of the way we’re ‘supposed’ to live our lives. For many, the ‘Fairy Tale’ is that we get married, have a baby and have another one…this is what is ‘expected’. I’ve been there myself, imagining my ‘perfect life’, my children all sat around the farmhouse kitchen table…living the dream! So when and for whatever reason, our perfect picture or dream is compromised it can set off a whole range of emotions that are very difficult to deal with. Depression and anxiety are often the things that are triggered inside us that we need to deal with.

Dealing with involuntary childlessness is ‘LOSS’ and you need time to ‘grieve’? It’s losing a “life you believed you were going to have”, a life that as little girls we are brought up to think that is what would happen for us. It wasn’t until I realised this that I understood the feelings that were being stirred up and began to realise that it was ‘perfectly normal’ to be feeling sad and vulnerable.

People arrive at ‘involuntary childlessness’ for a variety of reasons. Infertility, marrying a partner who doesn’t want children or leaving it too late, are only a few ways in which it manifests itself. For me, the 8 years struggle trying to conceive was a rollercoaster and there were many dark times.

Dealing with involuntary childlessness can be tough to begin with, but using a variety of tools and techniques it is more than possible to begin to feel joy and happiness again:

Here’s a few tips that helped me get though it:

1. SELF CARE 

Self-care is one of the most important things you can do to help ‘nurture and love your body’. Especially after IVF, reviewing your diet and exercise can be a great way to take back control and give your body what it needs. From taking a long hot bath, treating yourself to lovely food, taking a little walk or time to just be!

2. TIME 

It is a cliché that ‘time heals’, at the time it wasn’t what I wanted to hear but ‘taking one day at a time’ felt much more manageable. I felt that if I could initially just survive each day (whether at home or at work)….that was ENOUGH! Take each day as it comes and try not to beat yourself up.

3. EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT) 

Having EFT was the most significant thing I ever did with regards dealing with involuntary childlessness. By releasing the blockages within the body, it eliminated the source of the emotional intensity and discomfort. Being able to free the negative emotions, limiting beliefs and feelings of being a failure enabled me to be kinder to myself and release the blame.

4. LOOKING AT ALL AREAS OF YOUR LIFE 

Having a look at all the areas of your life and ‘identifying things that are not serving you’ is an extremely powerful tool. It is very easy to lose sight of your different roles so setting some time aside to review the level of satisfaction of your job, for example, will again enable you to create a new vision of how your life could be.

5. COMMUNICATION

‘Communication is the key’ to most issues in life. It is very easy to not want to talk about what we’ve been through and feel ashamed but I’ve found it really powerful to connect with people going through the same experience. Having someone who listens to our story, without judgement or giving advice is a priceless gift. We all need to have a ‘space held’ for us where we can express our deepest fears, feelings and anxieties.

Involuntary childlessness is a largely taboo subject but IT IS possible to live a happy, fulfilling and purposeful and AMAZING life without children.

Kelly Da Silva

EFT/NLP Practitioner and Founder of The Dovecote.org

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Facebook page: The Dovecote Facebook Page

Facebook Community Page: The Dovecote Community

Published: “Dealing With Involuntary Childlessness” http://huff.to/1LkLyst via @HuffPoLifestyle