Crossing The Bridge

I recently attended The Bridge Retreat hosted by Donna Lancaster and Gabi Krueger. At some point earlier in the year, and after hearing others talk about retreats, I had the urge to attend one myself. Apart from anything else this year has been a revealing one, one that has added another layer to the difficulties that I’ve been experiencing over the past 6+ years. From unsuccessfully trying to start a family with my husband, the breakdown of my marriage to constantly being called a bully at work which then lead me to having an identify crisis in 2018. During these times I was grateful for the good stuff in my life as these were the things that I could cling on to, like my connection and work for Gateway Women, that gave me so my joy and kept my grounded however I still found myself feeling more and more misunderstood. I was getting lost in other people’s opinions of me and found myself wondering, “who am I?” I’d hear the attributes that others would attach to ‘someone being a nice person’, ones that they didn’t necessarily attach to me (especially as a female manager or even a black female manager) and I found myself having to cling on to the truth, for myself, that I am a nice person no matter what others said knowing that I was just a different version of myself depending on the person I was around or the situation I was in – which I guess lead me to feel misunderstood, lost and confused.

On Christmas Eve I turn 50 and felt like this was the time for me to get back in touch with me. Pre Covid I had planned to be on my own on a beach somewhere exotic, that then changed to signing up for the residential Bridge Retreat in December, yep after looking into it and talking to Gabi, I felt that The Bridge would be what I was looking for. It was what I needed to get back to me and reconcile these feelings that I was battling with. Covid again changed those plans and the residential retreat moved on-line and instead of December I did it this month.

So November the 20th to 22nd became my 6 days of healing.

I entered into therapy 3 years ago at the breakdown of my marriage, which helped me to process a lot of my anger and grief I had at the time. Being on The Bridge I realised that all the work I had done over the years was through my head. I could already see how much I feel my way through situations and how empathic I’ve become however as much as I was feeling through my body I was processing through my head, from the neck up as Donna would say. I was disconnected. The Bridge helped me to reconcile my head with my body, to listen to my body and to process through my body – body shaking is such a wonderful tool.

The retreat gave me a place to switch off from my life, to stop and to hear. It gave me a place to be seen, heard and accepted. I had the honour of being witnessed and had the honour of being a witnessing others. I went on The Bridge feeling confused, misunderstood and unaccepted. I crossed the Bridge realising that I already know who I am I was just too afraid to be her because of other people’s opinions. For the first time I held my wounded child and gave her the love that she’d been longing for all this time. For the first time I could truly accept and love me. The Bridge gives us the opportunity to see and face the deficiencies that hold us back and in Donna’s words “The Bridge loves people into their healing” and “gives us our life force back”. I can’t say what tomorrow will being, what turning 50 or even what 2021 will bring for me but what I do know is that, thanks to Donna and Gabi, The Bridge has given me the gift of wanting to live the best version of me.

It’s official I am ‘Still Hot’!

This morning I woke up to the following tweet on Twitter…

A few months ago I received an email from journalist Vicky Allan; Jessica Hepburn (Fertility Fest and author of 12 Miles) recommended that she contact me. In her email Vicky said that she “was blown away by my writing, especially my recent post Imitation of Life.” OMG a journalist was ‘blown away by my blogs’ – insert crazy, I’m so excited dancing – ok I am actually doing the crazy, I’m so excited dance right now!!!

Vicky wanted to reflect a wide range of women’s experiences of the perimenopause and menopause and felt that my story was/ is an important story to be heard. I’m still doing the excited dance!!!

So Vicky interviewed me back in August and today shared the cover of the book titled ‘Still Hot!’

I’m pinching myself to know that my story will sit alongside the stories of such amazing high profile women. To think that 6 years ago, at the start of my childless journey, I wouldn’t talk to anyone about what I was going through let alone allow anyone into my inner sanctum. What a journey!!!

You can pre-order you copy from Amazon – yes click on the word Amazon

World Childless Week 2020

As I think about World Childless Week starting tomorrow, Monday 14 September, it has dawned on me how far I have come since the start of my childless journey when I was told that I had unexplained infertility back in October 2014. The world of grief that I was then propelled into was, at times, indescribable to the point where I did not know how I would survive. I was so silenced by shame and confused that I could possible be grieving, it felt un-allowed and impossible that this could be true. But with the help of Jody Day’s plan B mentorship programme I came out on the other side knowing that there was the possibility that I could have a fulfilling life without children.

During the programme I decided that my plan B would be to ‘find my voice’ and let me tell you, that seemed so far fetched at the time. Me and my crazy ideas!!! But since then I haven’t stopped talking about how my childless status has impacted my life. That experience helped me to own my story and gave birth to my first book (child); Dreaming of a Life Unlived: Intimate stories and portraits women without children.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable and owing my story has lead to some of the most amazing opportunities, from my interview with Jenni Murray on BBC radio 4s Women’s Hour and other numerous radio interviews, my public speaking opportunities – taking part in Fertility Fest being one of my most memorable

as well as my contributions to books such as Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day and Motherhood Missed by Lois Tonkin.

Oh and not forgetting being a trained facilitator of the Gateway Women’s’ Reignite Weekend workshops. What a journey!!! And to think before 2014 I found it hard to share anything so personal about myself with pretty much anyone – my inner critic was always there whispering the words “they will not like you if they knew what you’ve done”. I’m glad she’s been replaced with a new cheerleader, one that shouts, “I AM WORTH and I AM ENOUGH

During this journey I have come across so many women, especially black and Asian women who have been silenced by the cultural parameters that tells us not to bring shame on the family, not to talk about our problems outside of our home. Women who were grateful that they found someone who they could talk to who looked like them, someone would understand. I’ve been to honour to be in a position to listen and support them on their own childless journeys.

So as one of 23 World Childless Week Champions from around the world, I am proud to announce not only the start of World Childless Week tomorrow but I will be presenting my childless circle interviews with Meriel Whale for Diversity day on Tuesday 16th. The interviews will be live at 7.30pm.

#worldchildlessweek

Leave the ‘Race Thing’ aside for now

I listened to one of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table talks’ (Black America In Crisis) that motivated me to write this blog.

I guess the conversation put words to some of the angry feelings that have surfaced recently, actually probably more like over that past xx years.  It was the realisation that we (as black and brown individuals) need to get to a place where ‘we are not afraid to speak our truth’ that really tugged on my heartstrings. I’ve had a very difficult ride over that past 5+ years some of which involved experiences of microaggression; yes that stuff that white people do not want to hear about and the stuff that we are pushed to ‘prove’. I’ve heard comments such as “you may as well drop it because it’s too hard to prove”, “leave the racism stuff to one side for now and just focus on xxx”, “we value diversity” and that’s when I wasn’t afraid to point out the racism that I was experiencing.

After reading a post on Twitter referencing a blog posted on nurses.co.uk where the author said “I could not prove that the reason [that I was experiencing what I was experiencing] was due to the colour of my skin, but with every bone, I knew that was the sole and only reason” I realised that this was one of the reasons (and possible the reason) why I remain angry after hearing a result that should have had me rejoicing. “…We are taught to compartmentalize, store it away and move on, because these are the people that we have to continue to work with and maintain good professional conduct with. We have a fear of being scrutinized or being labeled as a troublemaker*…” These words hold so much truth in our daily experiences, these words are why we sit in silence and ‘leave the race thing aside’ because we are too afraid of how we will be seen, judged or treated if we don’t.

When there is “no justice, there is no peace“**

The Imitation of Life…

As well as being involved in a number of conversations post George Floyd, the latest being on The Full Stop podcast with Michael Huges, Sarah Lawrence and Berenice Smith (watch out for the recording) I have also been reflecting on my experiences as a black woman. As much as I have been encouraging ‘white people’ todo the anti-racism work for themselves and also to learn our history I have also felt that it’s just as important for me (as a black person) to know my history too.

So that being said and on the back of me finishing ‘Ain’t I A Women’ by Bell Hooks, I thought that I’d take some time out to watch the film Imitation of Life. For those of you who are not familiar with the film, part of it is centered around a black housekeeper who faces the rejection of her own fair-skinned daughter, Sarah Jane, who abandons her (cultural) heritage for a chance to be accepted as white with the belief that she would get further in life (and have better chances than her mother did) if she were white.

Thinking back to my earlier years, I do not recall not wanting to be black – I guess I had more (although still pretty limited) opportunities than the originally written 1939 character Sarah Jane had – but I do remember favoring my friends long blonde hair, that they could toss over their shoulders, over my tough, wiry, stay-put hair (I now have a more loving relationship with my hair). I remember secretly playing at home placing one of my mum’s crocheted doily’s (it was the closest thing I had to a wig) over my head pretending that it was my hair, hair that I could then toss and flick over my shoulders. I remember that in my mind, white was better, white girls where slim and beautiful and nothing like how I looked with my big behind and tick (think) thighs – I really hated my thighs.

My earliest memory was of me in a pushchair. My dad had taken me to a market, I’m not sure if my mum was with us, and dad wanted to buy me a doll. He got to the required stall and pointed at the one he so desired me to have. As the lady took it down my dad proudly handed it to me and I screamed – it was not the doll I wanted, it was black and I wanted the pretty white one.

No I do not remember not wanting to be black but I had definite messages of what was good, successful and beautiful and that wasn’t represented in me. The messages I received growing up and into adulthood;

  • “Can you have less plaits in your hair next time”
  • “Have you considered being a shop assistant”
  • “You are not good enough to sit A levels”
  • “How did you get into Bristol Polytechnic? That course (HND in Biomedical Science) sounds too good for you”
  • “Is English your first language?”
  • “Do you have to wear your hair like that?”
  • “You are so mouthy”
  • “Black people don’t do that”
  • “Have you ever been to prison?”
  • “I nearly had to ask you to smile so that I could see you (in the dark)”
  • “I knew that you’d be a good dancer”

and this was what was said to my face let alone the unspoken messages fulfilling the stereotypes within the systems I existed in.

No I do not remember not wanting to be black but I remember the struggles to be heard, to be accepted. The longing to be see as the same and not as other.  I remember feeling tired of having to constantly prove myself – that I wasn’t like the ones they saw in the news. I remember not knowing who I was…

Sadly these memories were born out of my experiences from both white and black people and reflecting on the books I’ve read, the conversations I’ve had, the podcasts I’ve listened to I see the (painful) history/ the trauma that we have been shaped from, that we all still bear the scars of. The history that is, unless faced, destined to recycle itself. To Quote Bell Hooks; “More often than not we bear our pain in silence, patiently waiting for change to come. But neither passive acceptance not stoic endurance lead to change. Change occurs only when there is action, movement, revolution”.

The books I have read…

The books from my ever growing reading list…

I can’t breathe…

There has been a lot of media courage over the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd but watching the news on Wednesday 3 June, reporting on the protests in Hyde Park and Brixton was the first time I felt the tears rise up from my chest. Witnessing the outpouring of anger, bringing so many together brought up emotions that I found hard to contain.  Undoubtedly the words “I can’t breathe” will live on in our memories for years to come…

I sit here as a black (childless) woman with so much fear for my brothers, my nephews and my friend’s sons knowing that our battles are not just on the streets but are within the systems we exist in, with not only those who are in positions of authority but with all white people we are in contact with. Yes the ones who do not want to hear our words, do not want to validate our experiences, who do not want to accept that racism exits – mainly because they do not want to see (or even acknowledge) their own basis that play out on a daily basis.

Megan Ming Francis mentioned in her Tedx talk that the question ‘how do we solve this problem’ is the wrong question to ask. Megan states that we need to understand the root cause; we need to ask what are the underlying issues? I find myself being frustrated during conversations that focus on the trigger (the rate at which BAME people are dying because of Covid being one of them), conversations that do not get the to root of the matter. Those of you who follow me know that I have mentioned the genetic memory that we (both black and white descendants) carry from slavery in my talks so none of the issues that have been raised recently should be a surprise; yes we should be angry that it is happening, but why are we still surprised??? There are so many examples/ statistics showing that black people are being disproportionately treated and/or affected. The British singer Jamelia spoke of this in a recent post (I saw on FB) which starts with “Dear White people” where she talks about ways to help dismantle racism in our systems – I have quoted her speech here for those of you who are not able to access it on FB….

“Call it out

  • in our Education System
  • in the Curriculum (it needs to be decolonised)
  • in Healthcare where black people are 4x more likely to be detained under the mental health act, are 4x more likely to contract and die form Covid and are 5x more like to die in pregnancy and childbirth
  • in the Judicial System where black boys are 8x more likely to be stopped and searched, 4x more likely to have force used against them, 26% more likely to be remanded into custody and given harsher sentences than their white counterparts
  • in your place of work where black people experience microaggression upon microaggression on a daily basis…”

and to add to this black people are more almost 2x as likely to enter a formal disciplinary process than their white counterpart.

I listened to Nova Reid’s podcast [Nothing can be changed until it is faced: James Baldwin, Activism and why white women need to rise up] where Nova mentions the incident in Central Park involving Amy Cooper. I was taken aback when Nova mentioned that white women telling lies, crying, shouting that she is being treated unfairly/ aggressively (by a black person) is racism stemming from slavery days where this was the only way a white woman could exert her power (as white women had none (but more than black people) had in those days).

We need to understand the root cause!

I was asked (by some white friends) how I felt about the recent news reports. I replied that as disgusted as I was to witness what happened to George Floyd I was not surprised. There are endless stories of black men being treated with such excessive force and black people being treated differently from their white colleagues. What I also mentioned to my friends was that I experience this treatment on a daily basis. I may not have someone physically retraining me or kneeling on my neck but I am constantly being vocally retrained, constantly being shown that I am less than, that I am wrong, I have experienced white women crying, lying (about something I’ve said), calling me a bully (white men have done this to me too) because they have not liked me, as their [black] manager, challenging their inappropriate behaviour.

We need to understand the root cause!

My fear with these conversations is that the focus is always on fixing the here and now; how do we stop more BAME people from dying of Covid for example but as Megan Ming Francis mentions “fixes that don’t address the root cause are not really fixes…. the problem is not just the few bad apples its that the whole tree is infected”

 “Our past history can light a way out of the present darkness… Not only white people need to be held to account but we all need to held to account – we need to know our history”. We need to understand the root cause!!!

To learn more from Nova Reid at Nova Reid.com

To hear more from singer and TV presenter Jamelia at Sky News

My hysterectomy Journey

dealing with grief

Well today, Tuesday 2nd June is day 14 post my hysterectomy… I sometimes feel like I should be whispering that “I had a hysterectomy” when I hear that I had ‘major abnormal surgery’.

It has been such a long journey to get here and now that I am here I expected to feel different to what I am actually feeling. On reflection I’m not really sure what I expected to feel; I did think that I’d be really sad, I was worried that others would take this sadness as me thinking that I had made a mistake or regretting having the operation. I was worried that my tears would be misunderstood. I was convinced that I’d be saddened by the finality of no longer being able to have a child – not that my 49 year old eggs and uterus were up to the job anyway – but you get where I’m coming from.

What I actually felt was ‘crap’, no sadness just crap!!!

My friend dropped off at the entrance to the hospital and left me to make my way to the pre-op unit. On arrival the nurse took my temperature and gave me a mask which I wore until I was in theatre being prepped for surgery. It all felt very cold and lonely, no one there to hold my hand, no one to reassure me that it will be ok or that I’ll see them when I wake up. Nope it was just me and my (at times) crazy thoughts.

The ward was just as cold, no visitors allowed with the few patients being looked after by the nurses who really didn’t have much to do. I spent my time sleeping, reading and barely touching my food – hospital food isn’t great at the best of times let alone trying to eat it when you don’t have an appetite. I was discharged after 2 nights and walked down to the entrance of the maternity wing (the irony of it all) so that I could be picked up by my parents who drove me to their house to convalesce. 3 days later my appetite recovered, much to my mum’s delight – she does worry.

I guess the hardest part of this for me (so far) was constantly feeling exhausted, dizzy and sore. My stomach felt so sore. For someone who is very active it was hard to feel so weak and physically in pain. I guess the most profound part of this for me was the disconnect that I felt with my stomach/ where I was cut. As part of my preparation work pre hysterectomy I wrote a letter to say goodbye to my womb. I remember feeling angry that my womb had let me down but now I was faced with not wanting to touch my stomach, I’m not even sure why but it was only at day 6 post surgery that I was able to bring myself to touch my scar. That night as I lay in the dark I allowed myself to explore my stomach;

  • I ran my fingers along my scar,
  • I felt the lump that I image is scar tissue,
  • I felt the hollow dip that was once filled by my womb,
  • I feel the numbness of my stomach and the tingling sensation left as my fingers ran across my skin.

So I am now at day 14 and feeling stronger although still sore. I have to keep reminding myself to take things slowly which is hard because I feel like I’m ok but as soon as I move my body reminds me that it’s still recovering and will be for some time to come. This has definitely been the longest period of stillness for me, which I am finding hard especially as I want to help my parents or get out and exercise but I am reminding myself this is a time of repair. For now I am going to use this time to be still and look inwards; this is now my time to explore a side of me that rarely gets to be seen.

The Unseen Grief

Covid-19 has definitely taken on a life of it’s own. Such a powerful, unseen force that has turned our lives upside down. This unprecedented, unplanned, unwelcomed virus brought destruction – changing our lives in a way that we could not have expected or predicted. But does that mean we have to let it control our lives, our beings or the essence of who we are? Yes there will be a new normal, an unknown that brings with it its own sense of uncertainty but we can stop and look at the here and now.

There are on-line posts where childless women are reflecting on their status and what this lockdown have brought – the quietness of their homes, weather it’s, the lack of children or the lack of a partner (as well as the lack of a child), for me it’s the place where I’ve felt my most unsettled. I couldn’t quite decide how I felt about what this virus brought into my life, all I could see were the things that were supposed to make my life better come to a sudden halt; my hysterectomy, my divorce, things at work that “will not be going ahead right now” – these things in my life, the things that would make a change when they ended were all, suddenly, put on hold with no ending in sight. I lost control of the future that I had been dreaming of and all at once I felt empty – sound familiar?

I also lost a part of my present, I lost a friend. No they didn’t die (my heart does go out to all those who have lost someone during this time) but their presence was suddenly removed from my life and that presence is one that I will miss. It’s like the un-written rules that we’ve lived by were changed without our consent, without us being able to agree or even negotiate what this change would look like. Human touch; a handshake, a hug, 1 on 1 interactions replaced with Zoom calls and unspoken needs urging me to give up even more of the little time that I have for myself.  It felt like I was losing my privacy with the insistence to connect on a weekly basis when prior to lockdown we barely spoke at all with the exception of WhatsApp, text messages and/or email. It felt like I’d lost the ability to live my life how I wanted to live it, it felt like if I said “No” that there was something wrong with me. It’s funny, I actually thought that I’d have time on my hands to catch up on my to-do list, to do the stuff I’d been meaning to do for ages but was not finding the time to dedicate to it. Post lockdown I felt like I had less time for me than I had before.

On reflection I guess our world is grieving. We are grieving the loss of a life we once knew – we had hopes and dreams for this life; if we did A then B would happen. Ok I know it’s not that simple but the point is we were secure in a certain belief. Now that belief has been shaken and replaced with a ‘who knows what will happen next’? I’m pretty sure that we can all agree that there will be a new normal but what will that new normal look like? When will we get to that place, how will we even know when we are there?

I guess what I am trying to say here is that instead of rushing to find a different meaning to our existence, a new place of security or creating a new sense of security, maybe this is a time for us to stop and find some peace in the here and now. Maybe this is our time for reflection to review what really is important in our lives or even to simply clear out the things that do not serve a purpose anymore. Maybe it’s time to see what we need for ourselves. For me, until I allowed myself to stop getting swept up in what everyone around me needed I wasn’t able to put my needs first, I wasn’t able to feel the hurt or even deal with what had changed. When that friend left my life I kind of felt like this shouldn’t be happening at this time (people are dying at an accelerated rate for crying out loud we should be valuing the people in our lives shouldn’t we???). Again it was something that wasn’t allowed but the reality is, we were always allowed to make choices that suites us, the choice for me to be happy may mean that someone else is left feeling unhappy and at this time it seems like the wrong choice to make (because that person may be on their own and feeling lonely) but the one thing that Covid-19 has shown me is that life is to short not to look after ourselves and put us first. Life if too short for me to stop once in a while and ask myself what do I need now???

Grieving as a Black Woman

LTLU: ‘Living The Life Unexpected’ – Blog Tour

I remember the first time Jody and I had a conversation about this topic. Jody had asked me why black women were not connecting with her regarding being childless. At the time I couldn’t comprehend why this would be a ‘thing’, I mean what has colour or race got to do with my ability (or inability) to grieve the loss of motherhood??? Well over a year on I can say that I am no longer surprised at Jody’s experience.

Jody’s question was the start of my own awakening around this issue. In the new edition of her book, Living the Life Unexpected I am quoted as saying that ‘If we cannot trust white people to listen to us when we speak about our daily experiences involving cultural issues, how can we trust them with something as vulnerable as our childlessness?‘ I can so hear your “Uhhhhs” right now…. Well the more awakened I’ve became, the more I realise that being black has so many layers that impact on my (our) existence in the white communities we are trying (for the most part) to survive in. From the many conversations that I’ve had with other black women it is evident that we do not feel safe or protected in white spaces. We feel that we cannot fully be ourselves. We are seen as different (even though there is a denial (from white people) around this) and therefore are treated differently. We often face systemic racism and microagressions which leads to us to being stereotyped; ‘the angry black woman’ comes to mind, as well as hearing comments such as “I don’t see your colour” or “I’m not racist, I have black friends” – the list goes on and on and on….

In her book ‘White Spaces Missing Faces’ Catrice Jackson wrote, …”a large number of women of colour in predominately white spaces are surviving at best… WoC know it’s not safe to share her true experiences in white spaces and thus learns how to survive the environment while sacrificing her true value… black women, in particular, have been forced to minimise their existence, silence their voice, watch their tone all of it done for survival. Because of the stereotypes, discrimination and racism that black women face, many of them consciously and unconsciously sacrifice themselves to be accepted. They shift”. So much plays out in our work places, in these white spaces, albeit unconsciously, that there is a sense of us wanting to be our true selves without apology or explanation so is it a surprise that black women do not want to share their private selves in white spaces? Quite simply when we are discussing something sensitive we want to be in a place where we can feel safe to be fully vulnerable.

In the new edition of her book, Jody mentions that ‘For black British and American women, childlessness is often experienced in the context of a complex and traumatic legacy of slavery and disenfranchisement…. ‘ “But slavery ended a long time ago why are we still talking about it???” Yea whenever I bring up this topic with my friends this is one of the reactions that I receive. But without recognising our past and understanding the truth behind this we (both black and white people alike) will not be able to move forward and have the kind of conversations that are needed in order to fully heal our differences. But first we need to see the difference for what it is.

I came across Post traumatic slave syndrome after hearing about Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary’s talk on the subject. “Post traumatic slave syndrome is a condition that exists as a consequence of multigenerational oppression of Africans and their descendants resulting from centuries of chattel slavery, a form of slavery which was predicated on the belief that African Americans were inherently/genetically inferior to whites. This was then followed by institutionalised racism, which continues to perpetuate injury.” Let’s just take a moment here…. how can black people move on from this traumatic experience when we never had the space to process the hurt and mistrust (of white people) that was experienced during slavery? I mean we all found Gateway Women because we were looking for a others who could understand the pain to our childlessness. If you needed to be around women who understood what you were going through how do you think black people have healed from this traumatic past if that pain has never been acknowledged or witnessed by others? So can you understand that the experience therefore lives on in our genetic memory, which essentially means that we are still (somewhat) enslaved? I was brought up hearing statements such as “what will the neighbours think?”, “don’t bring shame on the family”, others were told “don’t talk about your problems outside of the home” – where do you think theses messages came from? Ohhh there’s that light bulb moment! Yep they got passed down from generation to generation – from slavery to our present day – they live in our genetic memory. I believe that if this experience lives on in my genetic memory then it lives on in yours (as a white person) too. Morvia Gorden mentions that “her belief is that black people have inherited internalised oppression from 400 years of slavery as we’ve been taught that white people are better than us. Even though no living white person is responsible for slavery, BAME people still bears the scars if it…” As a 40 something year old I can see how much my race has and continues’ to silence us, let alone how society silences us. The experiences we encounter are so subtle, they are very difficult to talk about and be heard or even accepted.

The Womens Health Mag and Oprah Mag surveyed more than 1,000 women and reported that Infertility affects at least 12 percent of all women up to the age of 44. Yet only about 8 percent of Black women between the ages of 25 and 44 seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15 percent of white women. Black women were more than twice as likely as white women to say that they wouldn’t feel comfortable talking about their fertility issues with friends, family, a partner, their doctor, or even a support group. The stereotype that Black women don’t have fertility issues is real where fertility in black women is rarely discussed or acknowledged as a problem. Breeding myths from slavery perpetuate the stereotype that black women do not have problems conceiving. Apparently black people ‘bred like rabbits’. If fertility is such a problem for black people then why is this not being addressed by the professionals who are meant to be there to help us???

The Guardian newspaper (June 2019) highlighted the topic of colourism when they wrote that dark skinned women are less likely to be married than lighter skinned women, dark skinned girls are three times more likely to be suspended from school than their light skinned peers and that lighter skinned black people are perceived to be more intelligent educated black people. Arline Geronimus (public health researcher and professor at the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Centre) wrote; “…what I’ve seen over the years of my research and lifetime is that the stressors that impact people of colour are chronic and repeated through their whole life course… and that increases a general health vulnerability which is what cultural weathering is.” Arline used the metaphor of ‘playing the game Jenga’. They pull out one piece at a time, and another piece and another piece, until you sort of collapse. You start losing pieces of your health and well-being, but you still try to go on as long as you can. Arline mentioned there’s a point where enough pieces have been pulled out of you, that you can no longer withstand, and you collapse. Tom Jacobs, a senior staff writer at Pacific Standard, wrote an article at the time when Serena Williams was penalised at the U.S. Open for allegedly cheating and then expressing anger over the accusation. There are reports (of Objectification) that show, at least under certain circumstances, that black women are more likely than whites to be both sexually objectified and perceived as less than fully human. These unconscious biases on the part of whites can, of course, guide their beliefs and behaviours. Another study demonstrated that “Black women were more strongly implicitly associated with animal and object concepts, which indicates their greater dehumanisation compared to white women”. More recently I came across the Honey Pot commercial (Target created ad spots for different black-owned brands as part of their celebrations for Black History Month). White people saw the ad as being divisive and exclusive. Go onto YouTube and search for ‘the science agenda to exterminate blacks’ you will see an array of videos on this topic, which are quite disturbing.

We know that childlessness is not exclusive to race and it’s safe to say that we all agree that colour (or our culture) does not exempt us from pain – let’s face it we all feel and experience grief and loss. But the absence of being able to talk about my experiences as a black woman means that, as I mentioned at the start of my blog, I have to protect my vulnerable side especially if you are unable to show an understanding or acceptance of what I face on a daily basis. As I said if we cannot trust white people to listen to us when we speak about our daily experiences involving cultural issues, how can we trust them with something as vulnerable as our childlessness? Our experiences of race are often dismissed in our everyday interactions where it’s not readily accepted that our unique contextual experiences are intertwined with our daily-lived experiences as black women.

I love that Jody starts the new edition of Living the Life Unexpected with the words “This is a book about hope.” My hope is that we can recognise that everything starts and finishes with race.

My hope is that you can get past your white privilege and white fragility and hear that we need to talk about race, that it is ok to talk about race.

My hope is that my words will be accepted so that we can then start to have conversations where we are able to be openly uncomfortable to hear the truths that have been denied us for so many years.

I am so glad that Jody recognised a truth, from her experience that lead her to ask me why black women are not connecting with her. Jody was willing to not let her ‘privilege’ get in the way of, not only black voices being heard but also opening up a space for black women/ women of colour to reach out and know that they too can get the help and support that they so need. I wrote Dreaming of a Life Unlived to give women the hope that they could have a fulfilling life without children with the hope that other childless women would find their voices. Living the Life Unexpected gives me the hope that women of colour have a voice and a place where they can be heard and understood, where they can feel safe to be present too.

A brand new 2nd edition of Jody’s book, fully revised with fresh perspectives for a new decade, is coming out on 19th March 2020, and I have a free, personally dedicated and signed copy to give away. If you want your name to go into the draw, then comment on this post and I’ll pull out the winning name on Friday 13th March.

Don’t worry if you miss out, there are over 25 copies up for grabs across the rest of the blog tour between now and 20th March, or by signing up for Jody’s free webinar on ‘Coping with Mother’s Day‘ on 14th March for a chance to win.

If you’re in the UK, you can pre-order a copy of the book (paperback or ebook) here.

If you’re outside the UK you can buy it online via Amazon or The Book Depository (which offers free international delivery).

Jody Day’s Living the Life Unexpected Blog Tour

I am so proud to announce that Jody Day is having a ‘Living the Life Unexpected: World Blog tour to celebrate the release of the 2nd edition of her book Living the Life Unexpected, which I was fortunate to have the opportunity to also contribute to. The recent edition has not only helped me to work through my grief but it has reached and touched the hearts of so many other, not just childless women but the people in our lives that have found it difficult to understand the journey that we are on which is why I am so exited that Jody is releasing a new and updated version of her work.

The tour is from the 1-19th March 2020 comprising of a series of guest bloggers including yours truly… yes that’s me :). Visit the Gateway Women website for more details of how the tour will works.

And that’s not even the best part…. one of my lucky blog subscribers also gets a chance to win a free copy. All you have to do is to leave a comment (saying that you’d like to win today’s free copy) on my blog post on the 18th March. I will choose a winner at random and Jody will email you on 20th March with the good news. So mark the date in your diaries and look out for my post…

Now I know that you are all excited to read Jody’s 2nd edition you can pre-order a copy for despatch/collection on 19 March here’s the link for UK bookstores/online retailers