Writing my story has been probably the most empowering experience I have encountered. I remember being so scared of the prospect of everyone knowing the real me that I nearly ran away from it all. But I am so glad that meet the wonderful women that Gateway Women brought into my life. Without them I wouldn’t have got this far and on the 12th August they stood by my side and did me proud.
On the 12th August I had a party to celebrate Dreaming of a Life Unlived turning one. I can’t believe that it’s been a year since my baby arrived and what a journey it has been. There have been tears, laughter, pain, more tears, joy, more tears, laughter and even more tears and through it all I now stand strong before you all.
The event was hosted by radio presenter, Ibe Otah with entertainment provided by Patrick Anthony from Joyful Soundz (the Voice 2015) and spoken word artist Veronica E. I sat back and scanned the room filled with guests from Streatham, Putney, Ilford, Barking, Aylesbury, Birmingham (Marcia M. Spence) and Luton (to name but a few) and as I wiped away the tears I was amazed at how much people believed in me and who wanted to hear my story. It was overwhelming to realise how much love and support was in the room. I remember how scared I was at the start of my journey, I was so worried about what people would think of me, I was so scared of hearing the words “You didn’t deserve to be a mum” when people heard my story and knew about my past. There were times when this fear was so crippling that I nearly stepped off the train but I can now say that the fear and pain are now by strength as I embrace all of me with love and compassion. Being true to me has empowered me to speak out and sing my song.
I’d like to share a lovely message from Tina who attended the event, as her words sums up what the evening meant to her… “After an intro, live music, poetry, and food Yvonne took centre stage and talked about her journey and her book. She is such a good speaker. So eloquent, clearly emotionally intelligent and in tune with her own wellbeing, but always saying exactly the right thing to concisely bring the message to the audience, in a way that connects them to her, even if they have no experience of the challenges we live with. Yvonne was told that as a speaker people make up their mind in 20 seconds whether they want to listen to you. Yvonne staged her book being her baby, wrapped in a blanket yelling its head off as she brought him in! I did the trick, she had everyone’s attention. But I have to say Yvonne has such a presence that she naturally has the audience’s attention anyway. I said she had an obligation to continue her work because she is so good at what she does… Yvonne has made contact with me a few times and she knows I’m going through some tough life changing decisions right now. I was quite envious that Yvonne got the opportunity to be mentored by Jody but actually I’ve realised that I have a Yvonne instead, and I’m very grateful to her for this. I witnessed something that reassured me, that I wanted to share. There were women there who had been on the journey with Gateway Women for a couple of years, and they are much more accepting of their situation and appear to have more direction and understanding of what their Plan B is. I think some of them have had a good deal of contact with groups and some through writing the book with Yvonne, but it gave me strength seeing the place they have got to. It has made me think that for me, I do want to connect more with Gateway events…”
For those of who you could not make it you can click on the links to watch my talkand the Q&Asession (click on the words my talk and Q&A).
I supported Cathy Vivian who ran her first reignite weekend in Lutterworth on the weekend. The workshop was held in an renovated school house originally built in the late 18th Century at Cotesbach Educational Trust, Leicestershire, where the sun energised us as we spent 2 days working through the grief that childlessness has brought into our lives.
I was surprised at how certain issues still affect me much in the same way they did when I attended my first workshop in London back in December 2014. We started with writing words (and/ or phrases), on post-it notes, that are used to describe childless women – words such as ‘old hag’, ‘crazy cat lady’, ‘spinster’ – you get my drift. It was hard to look at all the various words that were then displayed on a window, reading them felt like a kick in the gut. This feeling was not as intense as it was the first time that I had participated in this exercise but it was painful all the same. Discussing the light and dark aspects of these archetypes really helped us to reflect on what these words meant to us as childless women and to also understand why society likes to shame us for the circumstance that we have no control over. It is not uncommon for women living without children to feel like they do not have a place in society especially amongst our family and friends, let alone how we feel in the work place, so having this space to be open and honest about our experiences and to work through our feelings is such an empowering experience.
Although some aspects of the workshop was hard for me as I have done a lot grief work on Jody’s Plan B mentorship programme, it was a great, humbling, privilege to assist with helping the women on the reignite workshop not only to feel comfortable about being there but to also work through the grief of their own stories, stories that now form part of my journey. Watching these women engage (a couple admitted to nearly dropping out) in the workshop, watching them bravely open up and share their thoughts and feelings, watching them slowly start to embrace the pain that their childlessness has left them with was such a gift for me because I got to be a part of this important start to their healing and I get to be a part of their journeys of finding who they are (and in some respects who they want to be) as childless women. What an honour, one that I could not have shared if I did embrace my own grief that started in October 2014. Not having children is truly the beginning!!!