I met Emily at The Story Party where she told us how she put herself together after being raped. it turns out that she’s also childless and I’m pleased to share her story here.
What she said about reconnecting into her body resonated with me as it’s something I’ve read a number of times on these pages. I’m coming to believe that it’s an important part of the healing process.
I know exactly what she means when she says that she’s ‘recovering my mental health, and my sense of self ….. that the previous 4 years was more characterised by ignoring.’ I don’t know about you but the ignoring was familiar to me and I know from experience that it doesn’t work.
There’s a lot to learn from Emily’s story and especially when she says that I can’t do anything about those experiences, only my responses to them.’ So true.
Over to Emily,
Where are you on your journey now?
I’m approaching my 44th birthday this year, and in writing for this, I realise that I am finally resigned to not having children of my own. I still feel loss, but there’s an acceptance that it just wasn’t meant to be.
What’s your story?
When I was newly married at 24 I was finally diagnosed with polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS), which I’d most likely had since my periods started when I was 10. The consultant sat there and advised my husband and I that we should start trying for a family straight away because it might not happen. Except, because it could, and we were both young and at the start of our careers (at that time, enjoying our relationship unencumbered) I stayed on the pill for most of my thirties.
Approaching 30, we started thinking about children. For a while we were trying very hard for children. Of course, that does actually involve having lots of sex, so we probably weren’t trying that hard after all. I remember though being so green with envy at all the seemingly unending parade of women at work with their pregnant bellies. There was even a (short) period where I understood how a woman might get to the point where she could steal another’s baby for her own.
When we divorced I was 34 and as part of moving on from that, I made a conscious decision that I was going to choose not to want children. My reasoning was that I was 34, I had been married for ten years, so I needed to meet someone, fall in love, get married, and be with them for more than ten years before I was going to trust ‘forever’ which I needed to trust for children. Hence, the timing would be impossible, therefore better not to want.
And anyhow, a year later I was raped and my life took a very different turn, my focus being on survival and trying to recover my mental health.
The irony is that after my entire lifetime of periods, 24 years, of very irregular periods, sometimes only 3 or so a year, as soon as I divorced my husband, my periods became really regular, settling in to about 31-35 days. It would seem my body knew what I didn’t; he wasn’t the man for me.
About 3-4 years after the rape, I was still suffering from depression and from regular panic attacks. I hadn’t quite had my major breakdown yet, but I decided moving into 2012 that I was going to change the script inside my head, stop myself and my problems being my only focus, and have a baby. I was going to be 39 that year and I wanted a baby before I was 40 and ‘too late.’ The fact I wasn’t even seeing a man at the time wasn’t going to stop me. I bought myself a 3 for 2 deal on IUI and sperm donation.
They didn’t take. Probably not a surprise, since I did have my breakdown that same year, and ended up back in counselling for the PTSD, eventually being under the care of an actual psychiatrist for 18 months before being discharged. Although people do get pregnant in war zones, so I never really bought the stress reason.
Eventually, when I realised I had passed the age cut-off for my local council to fund IVF, I chose not to go into debt and fund it myself. And that feeling that maybe that means I didn’t want my child, my NoSling, enough is a guilt that I still feel a pull on today.
What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
I talk to my NoSling. NoS stands for ‘Nate or Scarlett’ which are the names I would have chosen for a boy or a girl. And so, NoSling is the term of endearment I created for them. I talk to my NoSling regularly and have done ever since I realised they weren’t ever coming home to me.
In terms of getting over not ever meeting NoSling, I think having other priorities to overcome was perhaps a silver lining of sorts. My focus over the past 4 years or so since IUI failed has been to recover my mental health, and my sense of self – to recover from the rape that the previous 4 years was more characterised by ignoring.
A key part, especially in the last two years, of that recovery has been reconnecting into my body – the body that has failed to do what its biological purpose of creating life, and the body that was raped. Conscious reconnection, learning how to become bodyful, listening to what it’s telling me – knowing that it has infinite wisdom, that it knew that my husband was not the man for me and withheld my periods for that purpose.
Learning how to forgive my body, having my body learn to forgive my mind for ignoring it, and in fact trying to ruin it in every way. It’s an ongoing journey but every time I do my moisturising rituals, or have a soapy bath, or dance like crazy into some music in the kitchen, I am grateful that I am learning to reconnect.
What are the positives (gifts) for you of not having children?
I can sleep in. I like sleeping in…
What has not having children made possible for you?
I’ve had time and money to invest in my own development. If I’d had my NoSling I probably wouldn’t have taken the risk of starting my first business, or of learning to become a coach, or have started my second business. And both my businesses have change-the-world missions and I imagine raising a child would’ve kept those ambitions a little more within reach.
Is there anything missing in your life? (and what do you plan to do about it?)
So very much. And also nothing at all. I guess, for me, life is just an ongoing journey to reconnect into myself, and into the world around me. I don’t imagine, or want to have ever, a life that has everything it needs. How boring would that be?!
How are you different now (who are you now)?
I don’t know how different I am because I don’t have children, as I don’t know how children would have changed me. I’m sure they would have, but I don’t know in what way. I do know that I am a very different person now than I was before I was raped. But I am also a very different person to the one who was married, and the one who chose to divorce. My 40s have created a different version again, and every year I grow and change. I know I always had the change the world ethos in me, but I imagine I’d be changing it differently without the experiences I’ve had. I can’t do anything about those experiences, only my responses to them. I don’t how I’m different. But I imagine I am.
What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
Make your own informed choices. That means empower yourself with knowledge. Ask questions. Learn about your body, learn about hormones, learn about how nutrition impacts hormones, impacts fertility. Learn. Be thirsty for knowledge, ask questions. Adopt the curiosity of a two year old child.
What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
Love. Birdsong. Water. Words. Art. Helping others. Having impact.
What’s your 6 word memoir?
Desperately hopeful, she reconnected to life.
More about Emily
Emily is a survivor, coach and NLP master practitioner using her skills to transform the lives of professional women ready to move forward from living a half-life to living a full and whole reconnected life and make that shift from surviving, coping, to thriving. She is a regular blogger for Metro, Psychologies Life Labs and Huffington Post, and uses every opportunity to write or speak up for survivors and break the silence associated with rape. You can read more here
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