Otherhood

Monica Clark and I held a Zoom call titled ‘Race and Reproduction’. It was a prelude to Monica’s participation at the Race and Reproduction – breaking taboos event at the National Theatre in London on the 14th Nov 2018 where we invited black women to share their experiences around childlessness. We wanted to look at what childlessness means for black women as well as exploring the meaning of ‘Otherhood’ because as you know it can be difficult for childless women to see a future without children. Our first call was filled with a lovely, lively group of women who are childfree by choice, childless by circumstance and the still hopeful, which presented a really nice mix of experiences.

I must say for a culture were we are not supposed to talk about our business outside of the family we all had a lot to say and it was interesting to hear the different voices around this shared experience of not having children. The untold story of making the choice not to have children is one that I am not to familiar with and one that has an important place in this conversation with comments such as “I feel less of a Christian because I didn’t want children”, ” our families want us to have children more than we do”, “it’s a taboo to admit that you don’t want children” being part of this experience. I have really came to appreciate how complex the decision around choosing not to have a child can be especially when a women goes through the process of trying to conceive because that is what is expected of her (through family pressures). Hearing the voice of the ‘still hopeful’ has also allowed me to feel the reality of women who are trying to remain positive whilst silently grieving the disappointment of their bodies letting them down on a regular basis with the muffled voices of “it’s because you are with a white man” resonating in their heads, adding to the pain that they are failing to conceive.

It really goes to show how not talking, not sharing our pain, not being honest with our feelings can lead to another level of pain and suffering that we could avoid by taking the chance to be open with others. But it’s not just about us being open its also about us being heard without judgment, with care and compassion that will allow us to feel safe enough to reveal our experiences. Listening without judgment without the feeling of being felt sorry for is something that we all long for.

 

Infertility is often considered a “female, white, middle-class problem” whereas actually it doesn’t discriminate.

 

Stories

Last week I saw the play Stories at the National Theatre with Monica Douglas-Clark.

Stories

The bio for the play reads…

How do you have a baby when you’re 39 and single? Anna is ready for children. The only problem: she’s recently been dumped. Determined to start a family of her own, Anna sets off on an eye-opening, hilarious and heart-warming journey to have a baby and write her own story.’

Stories

The play sees Anna navigating her way through the grief of losing her partner and trying to figure out what to do next as the awareness of heading into her 40s with unsuccessful  natural conception and IVF under her belt which was cleverly scripted and funny at times.  So many layers were explored, some of which I could identify with especially the re-visitation of ex’s (lol I’m sure that I dated a few of those characters portrayed in this play) and the research into using donor sperm with the uncertainty of taking this option.

Pursuing motherhood at all cost is not a path that I can fully identify with especially as I made the choice not to pursue assisted conception, so I was intrigued with the many questions the play brought up for me. Some scenes left me wondering about the desperation of (a women’s need or desire) to belong and to fit in with regards to friends, social groups and status and also about the desperation to create a life which lead me to wonder who thinks or speaks for the unborn child??? As much as I support that we all have a choice that we are allowed to exercise, I did wonder if a child has the right ‘not’ to be born, which was subtly raised. I also wondered who’s right was more important, the right to have a child (but who said we are entitled to this???) or the right not to be born under these circumstances???

Weather it is the disappointment after disappointment of seeing your period, every month, the fact that you cannot make sense of why ‘this man’ does not want children with you or you are struggling to conceive there is one common element to all of this…. we have all struggled and we all have the right to be happy.