“Sister, the stars have no children” (Naomi Shihab Nye)
Today’s ‘Way’ is simply a book I found whilst researching for my masters. The subject of my masters was how we can use language to subvert those old, dominant and clichéd ways to describe the experience of the childless woman. These are the descriptions that wound us; they are the ones that become internalized in childhood (the childless woman at the end of the street that becomes the ‘witch’, the ‘barren’ women in the bible) and then become perpetuated by society as we grow up (there’s something suspicious about a childless woman, we are ‘cold’ or ‘selfish’ or ‘unfulfilled’.)
Here is a book of writing that takes us beyond these descriptions and epithets. In ‘Bearing Life: Women’s Writing on Childlessness’, the writing is often plain-speaking and hard-hitting – it deals with difficult subjects such as child loss, pregnancy loss and abortion. But it also marks, often in beautiful terms, the sense of ongoing loss that childlessness can bring. The editor, Rochelle Ratner, took the decision to mix writings by both the childless-by-choice and the childless-not-by-choice woman. I believe that the book is richer for allowing all these women’s experiences to co-exist amongst its pages.
I still take my creased, ink-stained and sticky note ridden copy off the shelf on good days and bad days alike and always find a new treasure. Who can resist a poem whose first line is, ‘Sister, the stars have no children’ (Naomi Shihab Nye in ‘Mother of Nothing’) or, ‘Nothing sings in our bodies/like breath in a flute’ (Linda Hogan in ‘Nothing’). So much of the writing in this book resonated with me. Some didn’t suit my taste and some I couldn’t bear to read all the way through…for now.