Welcome to Without Issue.
If you have found this blog I’m guessing you may have been struggling with fertility issues and are now facing some very big questions about you and about your life. The prospect of never being able to create the family you desperately want can feel like a tortuous, never ending tunnel heading off into your future. But here’s the thing I want to tell you, before I even get blogging proper:
It can be okay. In fact it can be more than okay; life can be good, fulfilling and creative.
I know it might not feel like that at the moment.
From Despair to Healing
What prompted me to write this blog? A few months ago I found an old half-completed journal. The last entry was written 17 years ago, at the time when my husband and my fertility treatment ended and our chances of conceiving with or without IVF were virtually nil. This is what I wrote:
The question I keep asking myself is ‘how long am I allowed to grieve?’ As I become older how much can I expect the world to recognize that even an old woman can still feel the pain of childlessness. I look in the mirror and I just don’t know who I see any more. What will it be like when I’m 40? I dread being a 50-year-old childless woman expected to dote on other people’s babies. If only I could know how it will be not being a mother. If only I could know I will be okay.
Well, I am here – where I ‘dreaded’ being. I am that 50-something woman, living without the children I dreamed of having with my husband. When I re-discovered that journal entry I felt something for that younger woman I’d never felt before: compassion. I wanted to reach in to the pages, take her hand and say, ‘Look, this is my life now…and it is going to be okay.’
I won’t pretend that getting from ‘back then’ to ‘here’ was a gentle skate across a picturesque lake. In fact (at the risk of stretching the lake metaphor!) there were days when I was skating, days when I was falling through the cracks in the ice, weeks when I felt immersed in freezing water and months when I felt as though I would never see the other side of the lake. But I have emerged still wearing my battered, ice-weary skates. And I feel changed but intact, aware of my vulnerabilities and strong.
The ‘personal disaster opportunity’
Being a woman without children constituted (and just to be clear, still constitutes) for me a personal disaster. But what strikes me now is that learning to live without children meant I was offered an important opportunity: to ask myself, what exactly am I about and what do I need for my future? After a lifetime of receiving that subliminal message of ‘womanhood=motherhood’, take away the ‘motherhood’ and what was I left with – who was I left with? (In saying this I’m not ignoring the painful questions a man also faces about manhood and fatherhood). After the grief, the anger, the railing against Mother Nature and the universe, I seemed to come to a point where I was left with no other route but inwards towards myself.
So this is the blog about hope. It is about re-discovering and re-engaging with your creative self.
It is a blog that my 35-year-old self wished she could have read and I hope it will help you feel less alone with your questions and uncertainties. I don’t promise to give you answers or to give you a route through your grief.
Only you have the power to do that.
What I can do is share with you, in what might be a dark moment, day or week, the things I have experienced and learned in this last decade and a half. At the same time, my plan is to offer you ways to be creative, to express yourself as you go through your own experiences en-route to your own healing.
As a writer, mainly of poetry, some of what I will be sharing will be literary or writing based. Every month I’ll offer suggestions for creative writing exercises and other creative pursuits linked with various themes to help you discover, explore and express.
There will also be art, photography and music that have touched me over the years and which have helped me, and continue to help me, because they move or inspire me or reflect my experience of loss and grief, hope and healing.
So, here it is…Without Issue: not a self-help; not a ‘how-to’; not a ‘model’ for grief and recovery. It will be, I hope, just one of the array of tools you might discover and use to get you across that lake!
I’m passing my trusty skates on to you!