The inspiration behind creating World Childless Week
To explain how I got to the point of deciding to start World Childless Week I need to explain a little about me and where my journey started. This will help you understand what inspired me to organise World Childless Week. So, without going into the nitty gritty details I found out at 39 and rapidly approaching 40 that my dream to be a mum was never going to happen. That instant of revelation sent a shard of ice through my heart that ripped all of my dreams apart. Everything that I thought I would be was shattered into a million pieces that scattered and blew away in every direction. I was broken and nothing could fill the void that had instantly appeared in my heart, the space that had been reserved for my children.
I could not comprehend what would happen next. I could not tell anyone how I felt. I could not share my innermost emotions with my husband. I had no one and nothing to hold onto. That is how I felt inside but that is not what I showed to the world: life had to carry on as normal. So, I started to bury my emotions and only let them out behind closed doors. Eventually those doors closed to my husband and in time I even closed the doors on myself. It was easier to bury those emotions and keep them under a layer of plasters with a heavy steel door and a sturdy padlock on top for safe measure.
There were times when the door tried to open up and I’d feel a slap of sadness across my face so I’d add another plaster and an extra padlock. This went on for years because this was my grief; no one would be interested and no one understood; how could people understand when they were all parents?
I had a revelation when I discovered a group on Facebook that described itself as a support group just for people who were childless not by choice. People who were like me! I joined the group and sat quietly in the background reading the posts. I didn’t want people to see me; I didn’t want people to know that I existed in my sad and pathetic world. I was childless and rejected by society so how could I trust that I would be accepted here?
Over just a few days of avidly reading every post and each subsequent comment I started to show how I felt by liking a comment here or there. This was amazing, this was a shock and this was wonderful. I understood what they were saying, I could relate to their emotions and I recognised their pain. I knew their hearts.
It wasn’t long before I dipped my toe into the conversations and suddenly I jumped right in. I found myself posting and having full conversations with complete strangers. I had found somewhere that I fitted in and this revelation was fantastic but in equal measurements it was also agonising. To share my thoughts and feelings I had to find the keys to all those padlocks and start to peel back and rip off those plasters. It hurt. It hurt so much that there were times I couldn’t stop crying whilst I typed furiously away. I was addicted to the support, it was my crutch and I was making friends. I’d never met these people face to face, I’d never heard their voices in my ears but I heard their voices in my heart. They knew me and I knew them. We all had different stories but we shared the same grief, a grief that was not recognised by society. I was not alone anymore.
No counsellor could have helped me more than those wonderful women and men. Over time I started to feel better about myself and I looked outside of my comfort zone to consider where I stood in the real world. I was starting to understand my place in society and it wasn’t in the gutter as a reject. It was as someone who deserved to stand shoulder to shoulder beside everyone else, including the mums. It was time to hold my head high and face the world with a new approach. Now, I’m not saying that was easy, I’m not saying that everyone welcomed the new me, but I was here and I was here to stay.
During those years I became aware of the National Fertility Awareness Week in the UK and the National Infertility Awareness Week in the USA. Whilst these shared multiple articles to support and raise awareness their focus was on helping people get past their infertility and become a parent through conception or adoption. Where were the articles for me about how to deal with never being a mum? They were few and far between because these weeks, like the mass media of films and books, seemed to focus on everyone getting their happy ending.
A few months ago, a bubble of an idea started to form. Why not create a week for the people like me, those who are childless not by choice, childless by circumstance, the non-mums? We exist, our numbers are on the rise and we deserve to be recognised. It took me years to find the support that helped me. If I could let just a handful of people know that they are not alone and perhaps help them find their way to a form of support that little bit quicker then surely it must be worth a try?
Perhaps a parent or two may even read one of the articles and see a glimpse of the world through our eyes. I don’t expect parents to understand the childless world in the same way that I don’t expect to fully understand being a parent. However, if this week helps to raise awareness, break down a little of the barriers that exists and perhaps a little empathy it would be a wonderful thing.
So, on the 30th July I decided to go for it and created the World Childless Week Facebook page. Now here we are just a few weeks later on the very first day of the very first World Childless Week.