On Friday 15th August 2014, a documentary presented by the BBC presented by award-winning journalist Sangita Myska was aired on BBC Radio 4.
Called A Family Without A Child it featured the candid and rarely-aired stories of four women: Sangita herself, ‘coming out’ about her and her husband’s infertility issues; myself, reliving some of the darkest moments in my journey through the heartbreak of childlessness; Jessica Hepburn on her hardcore experiences in the world of IVF and author Paula Coston on the reality of being a single, childless woman of 59 and once again experiencing loss as friends become grandparents.
Although all four of us are at different ages and stages, it is the themes of loss, alienation and of a deep down resourcefulness and resilience that comes through. The triumphs of rebuilding an identity after the heartbreak of childlessness are invisible to most of the world. There are no graduation ceremonies or children’s weddings to mark this initiation – but there really should be.
The stories you will hear in this short (too short!) radio documentary are unlike anything you may have heard before. They are raw, beautiful and honest. I felt complete undone after giving my interview, and similarly after listening. I am no longer grieving the family I never had – I am, thank goddess, through that vale of tears and onto the next chapter of my life. But to hear myself describe it brought it all back with painful bodily, emotional recall.
I can only imagine how it would have changed things for me, ten years ago, to have heard this documentary.
To have known that others understood my pain. To know that there were women out there who would let me discuss my anguish over my childless future without trying to belittle my situation or shut me down with yet another ‘miracle baby story’ or suggestion of ‘just’ adopting (and how ‘easy’ it was). It would have made so much difference to me, coming out of denial about my childlessness to know that it would indeed be possible, one day, to emerge the other side of this existential death: the death of myself as a mother, and all that would have sprung from that. The loss of so many friends, so much hope and a sense of identity as a woman. And then, in the future, as Paula so eloquently speaks, of grandchildren too.
The voices of childless women, even though we are 1:5 women born in the 1960s and perhaps as many as 1:4 born in the 1970s are, as yet, mostly unheard. Yet now, thanks to Sangita Myska and her producer at the BBC Adele Armstrong, at least 28 minutes of our voices have been liberated. Thank you.
Jody Day is the Founder of Gateway Women and the author of #1 Amazon best-seller ‘Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children’ (Published Autumn 2013). She set up the Gateway Women friendship and support network in 2011 to support, inspire and empower childless by circumstance women (like herself) as they develop meaningful and fulfilling lives without children. Jody runs private sessions, workshops and retreats for women coming to terms with the fact that motherhood didn’t happen for them as well as private meetup groups in the UK & Ireland, USA, Australia, NZ and Canada as well as thriving private online community. She speaks regularly in public, in the media and online about issues and prejudices facing childless women in our society today and is becoming known as ‘the voice of the childless generation’.