After more than a decade of travelling the path of recovering from childlessness (what I call ‘creating your Plan B’) and having been alongside many of you for much of that time, one of the questions I get asked most often (other than “What can I do about my mother slash boss slash sister slash friend” is this:
“What if I never find my Plan B?”
It’s a big fear and I completely understand it. I remember when my own life was in meltdown after infertility, divorce, narcissistic abuse, long-term singleness, involuntary childlessness, loneliness, career collapse, insomnia and peri-menopause. And that’s the abbreviated list.
If someone had suggested to me at that time that what I needed was a ‘Plan B’ I think I might have looked mutely at them, pointed out the flotsam and jetsam of my life that I was perilously afloat upon and, to paraphrase the famous Irish response to asking directions: “Well, if I was you, I wouldn’t start from here.”
And that’s where I think so many self-help books and peppy online courses and visualization boards and what-have-you’s let us childless women down. Until you’ve experienced the life-wrecking devastation potential of childless grief, it’s hard to imagine how thoroughly it can take you apart.
Even if before, you were a reasonably well-functioning adult, capable of both holding down a job and keeping up with your dental appointments, grief can strip you naked of competency. I neither opened my post nor went to the dentist for a few years whilst dragging my (increasingly large, carbohydrate-fulled arse) through the days. By the time I could face adulting again, I’d created a mess it took almost a decade to straighten out. And that’s just speaking from an admin point of view…
“Maybe it’d just be easier to accept that my life’s a disaster, that I’m responsible for that and that my chance for good things to happen is just over.”
There’s some comfort in nihilism, I’ll grant you that. Because deep down what you’re saying to yourself is this: ‘If I set the bar so low that an ant would have to limbo-dance to get under it, life is never going to be able to sucker-punch me again.’ Whilst it sounds like a workable idea, in reality, as your grief starts to transform you, those pesky green-shoots of hope will start to perk up and have other ideas. This whole ‘Plan B’ thing (ie: the rest of your childless life) is going to happen, whether you accept it or not.
“I don’t have any idea what to do with the rest of my life; thinking about it is too terrifying. I just try not to. Netflix and wine is my Plan B.”
Terror about what’s next is normal. After all, you put all your eggs (excuse the pun) in one basket and just look where it got you?! When your last dream nearly killed you, surely it’s only common sense not to aim high again? Just scroll on… and on… But eventually, you’ll get bored of pressing the pause button on your life. You’ll start to wonder whether perhaps there just might be a way to shape your unchosen childless life into something… okayish. Maybe even a good life? I mean, nothing HUGE (other than maybe opening an orphanage in the Amazon or two) but you know. Something. (The ‘Mother Theresa Syndrome’ as I call it, is something most of us go through at some point. My orphanage was going to be in Laos…)
If any of these sound familiar to you – welcome! I’ve heard them all and hundreds of others besides! And at their core, what they all point to is a combination of some very hard stuff, a rather toxic mixture of two big hairy human emotions: grief and fear.
Grief is the psychological, emotional and physiological process that arises when we are forced to adapt (against our will) to an irrevocable loss. As we’re living in a culture which is allergic to grief and loss, preferring instead to believe that any ‘problem’ can be fixed if you throw enough time, effort, money, data, science, prayer, positive thinking, mood boards or affirmations at it, many of us (myself included) don’t even know that coming to terms with involuntary childlessness is a grieving process. It helped me hugely when I found that out because it meant I wasn’t going crazy, which seemed the only logical explanation!
Fear is the emotion that arises when our ego works out that we’re about to do something that will create change. Or, as it sees it, risk. Its job is to keep you safe and if that means keeping you miserable and stuck, so be it – you’re safe. It’s got a full-time job on its hands keeping you safe amongst all the unchosen changes/risks that you face every day, let alone anything else right now. You’re grieving and vulnerable, not on your top game and you want to try something new?! Is that really a good idea? NO! says the ego. So it sends you a dose of fear (and maybe a large side-order of shame too, another potent immobiliser) to get you to sit back down, pick up the remote and carry on as you were. Job done.
And this is why I created the Plan B Mentorship Programme. A year-long community-based programme that has been carefully designed (and proven) to help you to move forward with your life again by accepting that the place you start from is not you at your best. Not you as some dewy-eyed fresher full of beans and a pack of squeaky-new highlighter pens, but a life-weary survivor, more than a little cynical, frankly, that anything could possibly help.
I created it to share all that I’d learned as I recovered from the devastation of childlessness and rebuilt my faith in myself, and life, again. It’s the road map I built, step by shaky step, and it’s all laid out for YOU to follow. The Plan B Mentorship Programme has been running live in London for seven years and online for two and has helped hundreds of women and now, after a one year break, and by popular request, it’s back again. I’m so very proud to stay that there’s absolutely nothing else even remotely like it in the world of childlessness support and recovery. (Read some of the testimonials or hear it directly on the webinar – all three of the presenters have done the program themselves as part of their own healing).
The Gateway Women Plan B Mentorship Programme starts on Feb 1, 2020, for 1 year. You can do it live in London or Online in either UK/EU or North American timezones.
I have chosen and trained 3 amazing facilitators to lead each ‘Hive’ and will also be in the background supporting and supervising them as they guide and inspire you.
- The London Bee – live in London, UK and led by Lauren de Vere
- The Online Bee – led in UK/EU timezone by Karin Enfield de Vries
- The Online Bee – lead in North American timezones by Elizabeth Grambsch
And I can’t wait for you to meet them so came together to lead a free webinar for you on Saturday 23 November 2019.
In the webinar recording (above) we discuss “Finding YOUR Plan B” and you can watch it whether you’re interested in joining one of the Plan B programmes or not – it’s be packed full of advice from each of us about how we’ve each found our way to OUR Plan B (or Plans C, D, X, Y or Z!) and how even though that process is unique to each of us (just as our grief is) there are tools and techniques we can learn to support ourselves and each other as we do so. Do watch to meet and learn from these wonderful, wise, experienced and inspiring women who are giving so much of their time and hearts to help YOU find your Plan B in 2020.
Click here for more on the 2020 Plan B Programs and to read testimonials and find out more about your amazing and inspiring ‘Hive Leaders’.