I’m getting back to basics to help both others–and myself.
I’m researching the intersection of mental health and childlessness. I’ve realized to have any hope of responding to the needs I’m hearing voiced, from IVF warriors who blog about failed infertility treatments to women who are moving from childless to childfree to filmmakers who have created documentaries about the male experience of childlessness, I need to get educated.
I seem to have touched a chord with the emphasis on childlessness/infertility and mental health. I want to create an open dialogue, a safe space where women–and men, too! — can share their stories and find resources.
And I want to help myself through my own grief journey.
So, I’m reading.
The basics–an education
I’m reading Jody Day’s invaluable resource, Living the Life Unexpected: How to Find Hope, Meaning and a Fulfilling Future Without Children. And I’m learning so much! You can find more resources at GatewayWomen, Jody Day’s worldwide friendship and support network for childless women.
In the second chapter, Day outlines the many ways that women find themselves without children, from medical infertility to the 80 percent of us childless women who experience childlessness by circumstance.
And childlessness is not uncommon, though the media certainly makes us feel like it:
Although when you look around you in the street, amongst your friends and family or in the media, you may sometimes feel like the only woman who isn’t a mother, the surprising fact is that, depending on your age and where you live in the world, between one in three and one in six women have reached their mid-forties without having had children, with perhaps even more coming up for those born in the seventies and eighties. ~ Jody Day, Living the Life Unexpected
In the U.S., almost 20 percent of women remained childless by the mid-2000s, but this number dropped to 15 percent by 2014 and remained there at 2018.
As of 2019, the U.S. birthrate was at its lowest for thirty-two years, which could be in part due to Millennials postponing (perhaps entirely) having children because of their fears around job security and an unstable geo-political and ecological future.
The fundamentals of my situation
In Chapter 1, Day lists “Fifty Ways Not to Be a Mother.” The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but I scanned it anxiously, wondering if I would find my own predicament on it. And, guess what?! Here it was:
9. Recovering from addiction, trauma of mental health issues too late or having a mental health issue that requires medication that cannot be taken during pregnancy, yet without which, we would be extremely ill.
~ Living the Life Unexpected
There is also this from the book:
39. Medical conditions, genetic inheritances or chronic illnesses that make becoming a parent difficult or unwise.
I’ll order the No. 9 with a helping of 39.
Hold the ketchup, please.
But, to be serious, to see my challenges given a name and place on this list, along with more generally recognized problems like “Infertility issues of our own” or “Infertility issues of our partner” was validating.
It is as if this intersection that I’m becoming aware of, the intersection of mental health and childlessness, truly exists.
Helping others by getting back to basics
It all starts with educating myself.
And in order to help other people, I need to be able to help myself.
Last night, I read through Day’s section on grief. So many great ideas!
I love Day’s idea of creating a small shrine in a significant place in our homes and filling it with candles, photos, and special objects to celebrate/commemorate our unborn children.
This is something I could do, I think. I like the idea of having a special place I could visit as long as I needed it, as long as the grief continued to rock me, until it flowed out of me, dynamic as love, because this is all really about love, unrequited love, as Day points out.
I will learn about grief and the grieving process. I learn how other childless women have successfully created Plan Bs.
I need to get back to basics.
And that is what PillBaby is about. Me, inviting you along on my healing process, a process that will be good journalism, but that will also be a personal quest.
I will get back to basics to help both others and myself.