World Childless Week

Thanks to Stephanie Phillips for starting the first World Childless Week which runs from 11-17 September and aims to raise awareness of the many millions of people around the world who are childless-not-by-choice.

When Stephanie realised that she was not going to be able to have children, she gradually started to link up with others in similar situations through an online group and gradually realised that the peer support she received was making a huge difference to how she felt about her life.

She realised that there was no focus for people who were childless in the Fertility Awareness Weeks in the UK and USA, and needed something that didn’t focus on happy endings after fertility problems but on life without children. That’s why she decided to start World Childless Week. Her aim may have been to help a few people know that they are not alone, but it has done far more than that already and has really helped to raise awareness over the last few days. You can find her website at http://www.worldchildlessweek.com

You may have already seen quite a bit about the week on social media, but I hope that Stephanie’s brilliant awareness-raising idea continues to be a huge success and starts to increase understanding and empathy for those who are childless-not-by-choice. Thank you Stephanie!

Other sources of support for those who are childless-not-by-choice include Jody Day’s Gateway Women and Kelly Da Silva’s the Dovecot

Final call for male participants – involuntary childlessness research

Some of you may remember that we have been supporting a researcher, Megumi Fieldsend, in her search for participants for her work on involuntary childlessness. Megumi is now putting out a final call for men who might be willing to help her study on  “life without children – lived experience of a man who wanted to be a dad”. She is aiming to carry out her final interviews by the end of July so if you know someone who might be a potential participant, could you ask him if he would be interested in taking part in Megumi’s research project?

There are set criteria for participation, and if you have any questions about the study or want to check about the criteria, please do get in touch with Megumi who will be happy to answer any questions. You can contact her by calling 0778 026 3685 or by emailing her at
megfieldsend@gmail.com

Discussion group on moving on after unsuccessful fertility treatment

If you have had unsuccessful fertility treatment and are in the process of moving on after this, you might be interested in a discussion group being organised by Louise Hesselvik who is training to be a Clinical Psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire.

Louise is researching how women who have had fertility treatment are able to move on when treatment has not been successful. If you have tried fertility treatment in the past but have decided to stop treatment, and if you do not have any biological children, Louise would be very interested to speak with about participating in this group.

She will be holding a small focus group to present my research so far, and to get your thoughts and perspective on this at Conway Hall, London on February 2nd at 6:45pm- 8:15pm. By participating in this study you will contribute to a better understanding of the factors which help women coping with unsuccessful fertility treatments and those who are involuntarily childless. Her aim is to use this research to help to guide health professional in how best to support women in this situation.

If you might be interested in participating, you can email Louise at l.hesselvik@herts.ac.uk and she can give you more details and answer any questions.

Could you be an inspiration?

You may have come across Lesley Pyne, who offers support to women who are childless. Lesley writes a blog and publishes stories of women who have not been able to have children but who now lead a fulfilling life. She is hoping to publish a book based on the stories in 2017, and so is looking for more women who have inspiring stories to tell. Many of them use their real names, but you can choose to remain anonymous and Lesley is happy to link to blogs and websites.

I know people – especially women – sometimes find it hard to see themselves as “inspiring”, but if you have a story to tell about living without children and learning to come to terms with this, then why not get in touch with Lesley? She can send you a list of the questions she would like to ask, and will need submissions by the end of February. You can get in touch with her if you would like to know more at info@lesleypyne.co.uk

On childlessness

If you haven’t already read this article by Bibi Lynch in The Guardian, you should do. It’s a powerful piece about the reality of being childless in a world where motherhood is given a status you aren’t even aware of unless you aren’t or can’t be a mother. So much of what Bibi Lynch says will resonate with anyone who has experienced fertility problems as well as those who are living with childlessness.

She talks about the way people react when she says she doesn’t have children, about the assumption that only parents can care about children or are kind and loving people – and the idea of hardworking families as if anyone who does not have a family could not possibly be hardworking.

Read it, share it and give it to your family and friends to read – it may help them not to make assumptions or unhelpful comments, and to appreciate just a bit of how it might feel to be involuntarily childless. You may also want to read Bibi’s previous article about childlessness.

Politics – warning!

I never post about politics on this blog, but last night when I heard on the news the comments that Andrea Leadsom was alleged to have made about Theresa May’s childlessness I was horrified. When Leadsom claimed later that she hadn’t said these things and that it was gutter journalism at its worst, I wondered if maybe she had been misquoted. When I listened to the audio of the interview, sadly I found the way in which she talked about being a mother as if it gave her some sort of superiority even more upsetting than the written words. It was particularly unkind coming so soon after Theresa May had expressed her sadness at the fact that she had never had children.

So, perhaps this is not really about politics but about compassion and about how every one of the 3.5 million people in this country currently trying to conceive feels about being told they don’t have a stake in the future. I have heard from so many friends this morning who were never able to have children and who have got long past the age of trying, but who are deeply wounded by these words and who find it hard to comprehend that anyone could think expressing such a sentiment was acceptable.

For anyone who has been pained by this, please don’t forget that most of the response to Andrea Leadsom’s words has been shock and sadness. For every person who feels it is OK to say things like this, there are many dozens who think it’s appalling and who are feeling nothing but empathy and compassion for you today. I want to send love and hugs to you all xxx

Great new book from Jody Day

51Abrnt3PzLI was fortunate to attend a book launch last week for Jody Day’s new book, Living the Life Unexpected. It’s an updated version of her first book, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is facing a future without children. Jody writes from her own personal experience and also includes the experiences of many others who are childless by circumstance. She has a lovely writing style and sets out a pathway towards what she describes as a meaningful and fulfilling future without children.

In just a few years, Jody has created a huge network of women who support one another. She runs workshops and retreats, and has given childless women a voice in the media. There is a stigma around childlessness and Jody addresses that head on – and shows that not having children doesn’t always have to be the worst option.

Gateway Women is for all women who are childless not by choice, however that came about – and if you you want to know more about Jody and the Gateway Women network, see her website here. 

Role models – thanks to Gateway Women

One of the depressing things about trying unsuccessfully to conceive is that there are often some rather outdated cliched ideas about what women who don’t have children are like – career-obsessed, selfish, hard – whilst mothers tend to be seen as good, kind, selfless, caring…

Of course, it’s nonsense; having children doesn’t define your personality or who you are, but the stereotypes can be hard to break and all the more difficult to deal with when you are feeling sensitive about childlessness.

Role Models

Jody Day, who runs the Gateway Women support network for women who are childless by circumstance, has come up with a fantastic pinboard of role models of women who don’t have children (she calls them NoMos) which deftly illustrates quite how untrue the cliches are. Jody says that NoMos are often invisible in popular culture and her pinboard aims to show that women without children have more sisters than they realised…

Could you help to develop a new online app?

The Cardiff Fertility Studies Group and Infertility Network UK are developing an online app to support people who have had fertility treatment but did not conceive. The aim of the app is to offer help and support after unsuccessful treatment, and so the views of those who have personal experience of this are essential to make sure it will meet people’s needs.

With this in mind, there will be a group-based workshop to discuss what is proposed and to gather comments and views from people who have experience of unsuccessful treatment. It will be held on a Saturday afternoon at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and will last about two and a half hours.  Travelling costs will be refunded.

If you want to know more about the workshop or think that you may be interested in participating, you can contact the main researcher on the project Sofia Gameiro by emailing GameiroS@cardiff.ac.uk.

A man’s point of view

Do listen to the interview here on BBC Radio 4 with the excellent Robin Hadley about living without children from a male perspective. We hear so much about what this is like for women, but Robin speaks very eloquently and honestly here about how it feels for him.

A word of warning that the section of the programme immediately before Robin is a mother talking about how much she didn’t enjoy having children – the section with Robin starts at about 7.20 into the programme.