An album about coming to terms with childlessness – Seamonster, by Chiara Berardelli

Seamonster is a new album by the Scottish singer/songwriter Chiara Berardelli. In it, she chronicles her own journey through grieving her childlessness, the support and solace she found in the Gateway Women online community, and her Plan B life that gradually took (and is taking) shape in place of the family she always expected to have.

As she says on the notes for the album here:

The songs on this album have been inspired by the loss of a dream, my dream of one day becoming a mother. It’s an invisible loss, hard to put into words, even harder to talk about over dinner. The grief I experienced stretched its’ tentacles into all of my relationships and every aspect of day to day life. Gateway Women is a support group founded by Jody Day for women coping with involuntary childlessness. It was a lifeline to me. I would like to dedicate this album to all the gateway women and men who tread the rocky path to ‘Somewhere New’.

Here a few of the topics we cover in the interview, which I really recommend listening to as we discuss a LOT about being childless by circumstance, grief, friendships, relationships and more… Do also scroll down to watch a couple of videos from Seamonster. It’s a gorgeous album and I highly recommend it.

00:41 Chiara talks about how she came to be childless by circumstance – a combination of a marriage that she changed her mind about at 31, a significant relationship breakdown in her mid 30s and being mostly single from 35-44 apart from a few months ‘here and there’ and ‘a heck of a lot of internet dating’. About how she felt she was through her longing to have children around the age of 42 and was completely taken by surprise by the grief that surfaced (hence the title track Seamonster which you can listen to here) when at 44 she found herself in a relationship with a man with young children. About how hard it was that ‘he wanted me to be OK, and I couldn’t be OK’.

06:00 Chiara and I talk about the reality of grieving childlessness – about how it’s about much more than simply cognitively ‘knowing’ that you’re not going to be a mother, but about actually going through the grief process so that we understand it at a body and soul level too. About how grief is not logical because it’s an EMOTION. And how without grieving, we can’t get to the other side of childlessness and to whatever is next for us in life. And how important it is to have support as we move through the swamplands of grief or we can get stuck ‘in grief’ rather than being able to grieve and move forward.

08:12 Chiara talks about her situation as a circumstantially childless woman (as she didn’t have a partner) and having ‘never actually tried to have children’ as one that meant that she felt she ‘didn’t have the right to grieve’ and that her situation ‘wasn’t real; it didn’t exist’. Jody talks about how the fact that 80% of those women who don’t have children are childless by circumstance is one of the hidden stories of our generation. Chiara talks about what a hard time she gave herself about her choices, and although how she never regretted calling off her wedding aged 31, when she knew she wasn’t going to be having children herself, she kept going over and over that decision (especially as he went on to have children). We talk about the painful ‘What ifs’ and how they are a natural (and excruciating) part of the grief process.

10:50 Chiara talks about finding the Gateway Women private online community and how it helped her come through her grief over childlessness and out the other side. That she’s been in a good place for a year although there are still subtle layers of healing unfolding. These days, things bother her less than they used to, her responses to people and events are changing and she now finds it easier to be around her family members and nephews and nieces.

14:06 We discuss about how those of us childless women who’ve come through the worst of our grief and whose Plan B includes being open (and even public, as Chiara and I both are) about our stories is creating a presence for childless women in the world. And how important this could be for the next generation of childless women who hopefully won’t feel so alone in their experience as we did. About how important it is that our stories are normalised and that as well as wanting people to understand how painful it can be not to have children, we also get it out there that it’s also possible to recover from it.

17:44 Jody talks about her favourite tracks: Sanctuary (listen here) and Deep Space Hibernation (listen here or watch video below). Sanctuary explores how important being part of the Gateway Women online community was to Chiara when she was deep in her grief. And how the lyrics “I had lives, carved on my heart” is something that all who long for a child who will never be will understand.

I had lines carved on my heart, words on my lips
No place to say them with arms
aching to hold a child on my hips.
And you, you, you gave me sanctuary, sanctuary….
You gave me sanctuary, sanctuary water was rising.
I was quiet, silenced by shame, out in the cold, nose to the glass
watching their lives story unfold.
And you, you knew, you gave me sanctuary, sanctuary
You gave me sanctuary, sanctuary water was rising.
I have found a place to rewrite the story with grace.
You gave me sanctuary, you gave me sanctuary
You gave me sanctuary, water was rising.

18:50 Chiara talks about what it was she found so helpful about the Gateway Women online community once she’d joined (even though she absolutely didn’t want to join, because who does!) About how powerful it was to read other women’s stories and to share her own; of being witnessed in a place of no judgement and complete understanding.  About how helpful it was to see women at different stages of the process, some further along than she was at the time and how that gave her hope that one day things would improve. We talk more about grief triggers, and how in its most acute phase, anything and everything can be a trigger – even tree blossom!

24:00 We discuss how eloquently Chiara talks about grief, regret, self-reproach, and the torturous ‘what ifs’ of grief on the track Somewhere New (listen here).

There was a time
When I would do most anything to change
The air I breathe
And every choice
Every left and right and sweet goodnight I whispered
Haunted me

And the moment when she began to see the way forward, as the chorus shows:

And the mist is clearing now
And I think I see the way
And it’s leading somewhere new, that’s OK

31:10 We speak about the impact of childlessness and grief on friendships and relationships, and about a verse from the track Another Planet (listen here) and about how hard it is for others to know what to say to us:

Please don’t look at me like I’m from another planet
I don’t choose to feel this way
I never said my pain was the worst
But it’s on my chest like a load of lead
Please don’t look at me like I’m from another planet
Don’t you think if I could fix it, I’d have done it…

32:45 We talk about how the album’s tracks follow the order of Chiara’s process of coming to terms with childlessness, and how the title track, Seamonster (listen here or watch video above) charts her dawning awareness of the permanence of her childlessness. About how nebulous that process was for her because she didn’t understand what ‘was wrong’ but found herself ‘upset and in tears a lot of the time’ because she’d buried her sadness deep down ‘as if at the bottom of the ocean, hence Seamonster, and as it surfaced it refused to be ignored’. Chiara talks of how naming it as grief was so important for her.

37:42 We discuss the track Deep Space Hibernation (listen here or watch video above) which was inspired by reading about the Rosetta Probe which was put to sleep for 2 years on its deep space mission and how Chiara related that to the deep numbness of grief. We speak about the taboo of sharing how low we can feel during grief, and how important it is for this to be normalised. And how hard it is to watch everyone else’s life just ‘carry on’ whilst our is stuck in a dark place:

It’s not that I want life to stop
It’s more that I’d like to get off

43:23 And finally we talk about Chiara’s plans for the future – her gig plans for the album and her forthcoming trip to New Zealand to visit her new partner. The opposite of the ‘The Boy Next Door’ as she later said in an email exchange with me. Plan B’s can be very surprising that’s for sure… I’m writing this from Ibiza, where I’m currently based with my new partner and dog!

This is an album which charts the highs and lows of recovery from childlessness. And about the power of both bearing testimony and having that testimony witnessed. Thank you Chiara for such a beautiful album and for the many childless women who will themselves feel witnessed when they listen to it.


Seamonster by Chiara Berardelli
Released: 2 March 2018
www.chiaraberardelli.com

Go to www.chiaraberardelli.com to listen to and download tracks,
order a physical CD and sign up for gig info
The album also available on Bandcamp, Amazon and iTunes (prices vary)

Chiara will be gigging in Glasgow (25 March) and Edinburgh (30 March) and at London (15 May) and touring with the album in the Autumn of 2018. All details on her website

To join the Gateway Women private online community, click here

1 Comment on An album about coming to terms with childlessness – Seamonster, by Chiara Berardelli

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. A whole day of arts programming around childlessness! Sat 27th April at the Barbican (London) – Gateway Women

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