Jody Day Interview
Jody Day is both a thought leader and a change maker and an advocate for women’s choice and respect through her own personal challenges of being childless NOT by choice. Jody is the founder of Gateway Women, the global friendship and support network for childless women, and the author of ‘Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children’ (Bluebird/PanMacmillan). A thought leader on female involuntary childlessness, she’s a founding & former board member at AWOC (Ageing Without Children), a former Cambridge Judge Business School Fellow in Social Innovation, a TEDx speaker and a trainee psychotherapist. Jody takes great pleasure in helping childless women get their groove back and find their tribe via the Gateway Women workshops, online communities and social meetups across the world. www.gateway-women.com
As a women without children myself and yet still working with mothers and babies everyday, this interview was particularly poignant for me. The highlight of our chat was her statement that not having children (whether it is by choice or circumstance) is a deeply maternal decision. I love this.
Jody: My story of childlessness begins in my own childhood which was pretty rocky and bumpy, my Mom had me as an unplanned pregnancy in her later teenage years, and my parents slip up before I was born. So you know I came into this world, it was a bit of a shock for everyone involved, my Mom then married when I was 3 years old, to a man that she was pretty much forced into marrying to give me a respectable home. So she was married young into an unhappy marriage with a young child, and I grew up in that situation really not seeing family and not her as not that great. It’s a generational thing as well, I was born in 1964, as I was growing up through the 70’s, the opportunities that were starting to happen for women, the women’s liberation movement, first wave feminism were really kind of waking things up, my mom was young and she very much gave me the impression that there was a world out there for me that hadn’t been out there for her, and she wanted to me to take advantage of that, so I had these dual messages of growing up that children sort of ruin your life. The message that I picked up, that was also picked up at school as a teenager, getting pregnant, young ruins your life, the message they kind of gave us was very much it will be the end of everything if you get pregnant. So I wasn’t focused at all at having a family as a young woman so much so that when I got pregnant at 20, I chose to have an abortion because I was absolutely terrified of becoming a mother, terrified of repeating my own childhood, terrified of my life being finished and over, it was just getting started I had only been living in London for a year, I was an intern at a fashion PR agency, it was the work I wanted to do. It was all starting to fall into place for me, so I didn’t regret the abortion, it was tough, I had it on the National Health service and I had to wait 3 months for the abortion so that was really tough emotionally, knowing all that time during the early pregnancy that I wouldn’t be going ahead with it. That relationship didn’t survive, even that my boyfriend at the time was lovely and would have had the baby with me. Then I went on to meet a man that would later on become my husband, and quite early on in our relationship I said to him I don’t think I want to have children, and he was like ok, you know this huge conversation, and then we got married and I was 26, now looking back on it I was so young, I felt really old and grown up and at 29 I kind of changed my mind, children were no longer this idea that just this kind of abstract concept they had become our children, the product of our combined DNA, of our love, of our life, then I thought, ya so I kind of said I do want to have children and he was like ok, these are conversations that could destroy relationships and in both cases for me, it was like no big deal but I couldn’t get pregnant. I was completely, unshakeably convinced that I would, so I actually didn’t seek any help for a few years, it was 3 years before I had an operation, laparoscopy, where they put a camera through your tummy button to have a look around, because I was concerned that there was some damage from the abortion, the very avuncular surgeon who performed the operation, when I came around said first class uterus, finest property I’ve seen all week, you lovely young people just go away and have lots of sex, that was the total advice that I got. Looking back at it now you know even when I went for the follow up with the gynaecologist, because it was kind of really shocking I was 33, and been trying to conceive for 4 years, all of my hormone profiles and examinations were fine and so were my husbands, there was a moment there for education that was missed. Which was I knew nothing about the aging quality of eggs, I knew nothing about fertilised being a really key date in a woman’s fertility, or we were told to do, I wasn’t even suggested that we have further investigations or consider IVF, nothing. It was just like everything is fine go away and carry on. So we did and nothing happened and I then entered a period of what I call baby mania, doing everything I possibly could to get pregnant, visiting every alternative therapist, nutritionist, acupuncturist, giving up this, taking that, starting exercise, leaving the job because it was next to a polluted road, having sex at the right times, peeing on every colour stick, I insisted that my husband and I have sex every single day for a month, cause then there was no way we could miss it, it sounds like fun but anyone whose been through trying to get pregnant knows that after while it becomes quite sad that you know that you trying to conceive and its not working and I didn’t get pregnant and by the time we arrived at the point it was really time to start thinking about IVF, the marriage was in a really bad state, my then husband who I’m no longer married, had developed his workalism then tipped into alcoholism and then into heavy drunk use as well, and things were such a mess and I remember he said to me, I was lying in the bath and he was cleaning his teeth, and he said I think we should do IVF, and I just had this moment, this sinking moment in my soul and thought I can’t bring a baby into this. It was shocking and very sad and it was also for me actually a deeply maternal decision because I grew up in chaos and I didn’t want my children to grow up in chaos and possibly not that surprisingly the marriage unravelled from that point onwards, so I left the marriage and I was back into the brave new world of internet dating at the age of 38, I was out there so fast because of this baby mania, I’ve got to meet someone else and do IVF, no idea that the chance of it working was so small, no idea that actually I was already at the beginning of pre-menopause, I didn’t know that, I didn’t know anything (7:50 inaudible), I just didn’t know and I had 2 relationships post-divorce, neither of them were right to bring children into, one guy didn’t want children, the other guy did but actually I was quite lucky I wasn’t able to get pregnant naturally because he was a raging narcissist, very controlling and cohesive it was hugely difficult to get out of that relationship and when I did I was 44 and a half, it was done. Even with my ignorance about fertility, I knew that if I met someone now I would need to know them for a year before we consider IVF I would be 45, its done, that would be the end of my journey. That was the end of my journey towards motherhood and the beginning of my journey towards coming to terms with my childless life
Karen: I think what you saying about it being a deeply maternal decision is such a valid point and its actually a beautiful way of putting it, cause sometimes when people its only when you don’t have children that you start seeing the difference in woman who are childless by choice and woman who are childless not by choice, all of the different sub categories of not having children, but its always a deeply maternal decision regardless of what category we fall in to.
Jody: Yes and for childfree woman to, I often hear childfree woman are selfish and things like that and that’s often said for childless woman as well, and its something I’ve thought about and discussed with my childfree friends over the years and when I thought about it, let’s just think about the alternative here is someone who is absolutely convinced that motherhood is not for them, surely its much more selfish to have children if that’s how you feel about it, because we all know what that looks like, for Millennia woman haven’t had the choice there have been very many reluctant mothers and many of us have even been brought up by them
Karen: Exactly, exactly that just highlights the points so well. What are the statistics at the moment for woman without children, because I know that’s what you do?
Jody: It varies from country to country for my (10:15) born in the 60’s we reached 1 in 5 over the age of 45 don’t have children. That’s the first time it was so high since the generation born around 1900, which really shows, that generation had that massive loss of life in the first World War, so many young men followed by the Great Depression of 1930’s meant a lot of couples couldn’t marry and have children, it took the biggest fall with the loss of life we’ve ever had and the biggest global depression to create these numbers before you begin to really understand what a huge social moment this is, now the generation or the co-hawk coming up behind me is born in the 1970’s so we don’t have all the data yet because they haven’t all got to the point where they’ve turned 45. Early information for those born around 1971 in the UK is looking around 1 in 6 but I think its going to go much higher, if my inbox is anything to go by I think it will be certainly 1 in 5 maybe 1 in 4, I think for the millennium generation coming up behind that I think its going to be really high
Karen: I know that statistics for woman having their first child is changing its now much older than what it used to be, having their first children
Jody: I can’t remember the exact data but its something like, this data is coming out of the US, the millennia generation, the amount of them turning 30, woman turning 30 without having had their first child has gone up from 12% to almost 50% in a generation. Now obviously many of those young woman will have children in their 30’s but a lot of them will probably age out the process as so many of us did, because they will start trying in their mid 30’s, maybe they won’t find a partner, maybe they will choose to remain childfree. I think with the generation coming up behind us with the huge economic pressures on them it’s so hard to set up a home. Earn a good enough living to bring up children now because of the cost of living, plus the sort of this sense of social and economic fragility and environmental fragility in the world. I think there thoughts about becoming a parent are going to be very different.
Karen: Before we go onto all the other questions, can you tell me how Gateway Woman came about, and what the process was. What is Gateway Woman and who is it for?
Jody: Ok so Gateway Woman is for woman who are childless not by choice, I sometimes say childless by circumstance but that is slowly starting to mean woman who are childless for any other reason other than infertility and choice where for me circumstance includes fertility, so I say childless not by choice, cause that kind of encompasses it all. It started as a blog 7 years ago, 7 years ago this month, I wrote my very first blog, and I wrote that blog because nobody would let me talk about it. You know whenever I tried to discuss how I felt about my childlessness to friends or family they would close me down with a selection of what I came to call miracle baby stories. I’m younger looking than my age, I always have been, you’ve still got loads of time, and why don’t you have a baby on your own, I’m kind of 46 when I’m having these conversations, I’m not a spring chicken at this point. Oh I met this woman, she met this guy at the bus stop, she’s in remission and he’s on remand, they’ve got twins, whatever extraordinary story it would be, and the other ones were things like closing me down by saying actually kids aren’t all they cracked up to be, you dodged a bullet
Jody: Why don’t you have mine, you’re so lucky you get to sleep in and travel and do all this, you know you so lucky not to have children. The sub text of that is why don’t you appreciate it more and cheer up
Karen: I think the best one is when they say why don’t you just adopt
Jody: It’s extremely difficult to adopt, even if you are ready for that and set up for that. I was single, self-employed, broke, not living in a house that I owned, I wouldn’t have made it through the first hurdle, people don’t realize actually the bar is set pretty high and also from now many of the woman I’ve supported through Gateway Woman I know how many people get turned down for adoption, how many people for years have been in the matching process just give up, its tough
Karen: It is
Jody: It’s a tough process as a couple let alone as a single woman
Karen: It’s not necessarily the solution, certainly not the solution that you looking for at your highest point of your grief or when as you say you just trying to share, it’s also about processing those emotions and processing your identity and your place in society
Jody: Those conversations ae really why I set up Gateway Woman to have because you can’t have them out there in the pro natalist world, it’s hard to have those conversations. So I wrote that first blog and I thought if one woman reads this and gets it that will be great. And actually quite a lot of woman read it, I got my first PR the day after my first blog was published, and you know woman from all over the world started writing and commenting on the blogs, and saying how can you know the exact words in my head, I thought I was the only person feeling these things and also something which I didn’t realize was so special about it, was I used my real name, I had my photograph on there, I did not hide. For some reason I didn’t feel some of the level of shame around my childlessness that some woman do, I think perhaps because I’ve been through so much healing in the 12 step programs, where I’d been through a program called Alanon which is for friends and family for addicts and alcoholics for a couple of years which really saved my sanity after my marriage broke down, and helped me understand the mechanics of loving someone with a substance abuse problem, and also my own part in that, the co-dependency that built up. So I had a couple of years of sitting in a room and talking about things you not meant to talk about so I think that really helped me to be very comfortable with breaking taboos. I broke a huge taboo by being open about childlessness
Karen: What was the most difficult aspect of not having children for you to come to terms with?
Jody: Gosh there are so many, my feeling of which was the most difficult varied at different points in my journey, I think at first it was the sense of grief of not having a biological child, never being a mother, never giving birth, um and then I kind of moved on to absolute fear and terror about growing old without children, about having no legacy in this world, about no one ever visiting my grave, about never having really mattered. Another huge aspect for me how it impacted my friendship groups and my status as a woman, my friendship groups just falling apart because of me not being part of the normal crowd, I was the only one who didn’t have children. I have 2 friends that are childfree by choice, one of whom I’m close to and one of whom is slightly on the periphery of my life if you know what I mean but I didn’t know anyone else who wanted to be a mom and it hadn’t worked out, I knew people who had fertility problems and had treatment and it worked, people who adopted, people who had last minute babies, people who had babies on their own, the whole thing but I didn’t know anyone who was coming to terms with childlessness and the loneliness with that, the intense loneliness of that part of my experience because I was also single, I was single, childless it felt like I was friendless and I felt like a zero as a human being and a zero as a woman, it was a dark night of such 19:42
Karen: How did you honour that grief and loss, cause I feel that its such an important aspect of coming to terms with not having children is really honouring the grief, it is something that is not always possible, there’s not a lot of opportunities for honouring that grief and loss. So you have to create them yourself, its like miscarriage there’s no opportunities offered for honouring the grief of losing a child, it’s the same thing, you can have another one you still young, but more so when its not having children at all. So how did you first of all realise that you had to honour it and what did you do to honour it?
Jody: I had no idea it was grief at first, I mean the first couple of years which was really before I started the blog, I didn’t realise that what I was experiencing was grief. I was seeing doctors, I was seeing therapists, and nobody picked up that the reason I was struggling so much was my childlessness. Its extraordinary to me that it was not identified, it was not named, it was not held. I was in my first or second year of my training to become a psychotherapist and we did this training on bereavement, and we doing this training and I’m thinking this is all very familiar, and I went home that evening from the first day of the training and mapped the Kubler-Ross model that we had been learning around grief and loss against my experience, I realised oh my God I’m grieving. It was I’ve got goose bumps now cause it was a moment that changed my life, cause finally I had a name for what I was experiencing and for the first time I had a little bit of hope, number 1 I knew this meant I wasn’t going made, I was worried that I was kind of losing my mind because I was trying everything to feel better and nothing was working. Number 2 I don’t know how this happens but I know that grief ends, I know that people grieve and then they come out the other side, so I’m not always going to feel like this I don’t know how and somehow I’m going to get through this, it was my first bit of hope but I’m going to get through this. I wasn’t going to feel this bad for the rest of my life, I became a bit of a grief junky, I just read everything I could, I was looking for resources and I was not finding anything relating to childlessness at all, so I started writing about it on my blog, and woman from all over the world, a lot of them find out that they were grieving through my work. When you say what did I do to honour that loss, writing about it then bringing woman together, it wasn’t long, I started the blog in April and gave my first talk about grief in June, so it’s all happening around the same time, and at that talk, woman were saying to me you seem to understand what’s happening in a way that no one else is talking about or writing about, can you do something about it, what me? I just felt like a complete basket case at the time in my life, I did I had anything to offer was absurd, but once again my experience in the 12 step groups, I know the power of peer to peer healing, I don’t need to be sorted, what if I create an experiment, bring some childless woman together, create a safe and confident space, create a structure for what we going to talk about and let’s see what happens, and that’s what the very first Gateway Woman groups were about, it was a 10 week group 10 Saturday mornings we went through many of the stats later made it into my book, it was completely transformational. So for me honouring my grief was also about creating a sacred space for woman to honour their grief together and I didn’t understand it at the time but I now understand that grief is a social emotion and we need others who get it, in order for it to be processed and move through and heal us
Karen: I’m a firm believer that we have a life path to follow, and that sometimes means accepting things that we didn’t think we wanted or that we didn’t have planned. If you had the opportunity to turn back the clock and change anything what if anything would you do differently?
Jody: I think I would have done things differently when my marriage ended, I think had I known about fertility, I wish I’d known at 37, 38 my time was up, cause it was for me. You know those first few years post-divorce would have been very different, they would have been about me and me finding myself again rather than throwing myself head long into unsuitable relationships, desperate to have a child. I would have loved to have understood more about my fertility actually right from school onwards. That would have made a big difference to my life and my choices. I would have done fertility differently
Karen: And yet somehow its lead you on this path that you’ve ended up helping so many thousands of woman around the world, and really highlighting the issue that surrounds our children. In many ways I’m quite fortunate in my role as a midwife as it gives me the opportunity to nurture and mother mothers, but I know that I hold a very valuable role and space, I never really belong with them, I do acknowledge that. Can you speak a little more about belonging and how you manage it in your life now?
Jody: Oh goodness we might need a whole other topic for that one
Karen: It’s a big one isn’t it?
Jody: I think its possibly once we through the you can’t separate out from the grief but its something which continues, even though I’m no longer grieving, the issue of belonging is still a big one and its one I support so many woman with, I think for me I felt I didn’t belong in the community of mothers, I felt I didn’t belong in the community of woman anymore. Probably at the depths of my grief I felt I didn’t belong to the human race anymore, I felt like I was a reject. I remember there’s a place in South Western France where I visited a lot, where I wrote my book and wrote my 2nd edition of my book, there’s a walk I take up in the mountains on my own, cause it’s the same walk every time, when I’m there different seasons, I see the seasons changing and I used to find it incredibly painful because I had this sense of my connection with nature which had always been profoundly healing to me as a child and a young woman had also gone, so I felt even nature had rejected me, I was not part of this cycle of birth and death, I didn’t even belong to nature anymore. Then as my healing progressed one day I realised for me although I wasn’t part of the human cycle of procreation that my line stopped which is a huge issue to deal with in the sense that millions of years of genetic feat of survival stop here, it’s a massive one to get your head around. Although I was part of that story I was part of the bigger story, you know the bigger cycles of life and death, and when I die my body will return to the earth, and will turn back into base elements and will become mulch and turn back into flowers and life will come again, I have kind of connected to a much larger sense of life and death than this small circle that I had felt so ejected from, that was a big part for me of beginning to feel that I belonged on the earth again, which was really necessary cause that’s how much I felt I didn’t belong and then gradually I found my tribe through other childless woman, I set up Gateway woman meet ups and online communities, I’ve met childless woman from all around the world I have some wonderful childless friends in my life now which supplemented those few friends that I did manage to hang onto from my original friendship groups, I feel part of the tribe of woman but I feel and I always have done a little bit of an outsider, perhaps wanting to be a mom for me, it was my last attempt to join the ranks of the normal people. I’ve had an unusual life I don’t know I’ve always been slightly different to other woman my age, whether that’s taller than them or interested in them in education, I’ve always seemed to be slightly I hate to say it because it sounds boastful but ahead of the curve. The thing about being ahead of the curve is you a little bit outside the norm, so I started to connect with other leaders and thinkers in this world of kind of supporting childless woman, I have an amazing group on Facebook which is just for the woman around the world that do this kind of work like yourself, and I thought I have a tribe, its not the tribe I thought I wanted but its full of kickass awesome woman that have found a way to make peace with their childlessness in a world that does not accept our value as woman in the same way as it does as mothers, its taken work, I won’t deny it, first of all I had to feel I belonged to myself again and gradually my life became richer in belonging. One more point I just remembered about that, as I started to accept that I would definitely never be a mother and I would never belong to society and the culture and the land in that way, once I let that go completely I began to realise my life had lots of belonging in it, it was belonging that I wasn’t interested in before so I was ignoring it, there are lots of young people in my life through my ex-husband who is one of six siblings, and they all known me since the day they were born they really cared for me, I have friends and colleagues, my pets, I realised actually I was very much loved and very much part of groups, I was seen as being part of groups but I wasn’t feeling it, I felt so alone, I actually had to learn how to allow the belonging that was being offered in my life, in as well.
Karen: Because it was so different to the belonging you had in mind, I totally get that
Jody: Yes yes
Karen: Wow, that really resonates with me because I have felt very similar on my journey and the not belonging has been a huge one for me and I really I know I went through a stage of also thinking, you feel worthless, you really do. What is the point if you can’t do that what is the point. It’s so difficult to explain so you have put it into words so beautifully, really explaining how many issues are unearthed when you unable to have a baby, to create life, to continue that life cycle. It is associated with absolutely every aspect of our life in an effort to comes to terms with it, we have to reframe every aspect of our life in order to do that and change everything, I think belonging is one of them but what you say is so relevant how you just have to realise you belong in so many others ways but you will never belong to mommy club, never be part of that. I mean I’m so closely associated with it and I’m part of it every single day but I will never belong and even in my work with mums, I see how my role changes, I’m so valued during the pregnancy and those first few weeks when I’m really helping them and then I see them step into motherhood and I see them become mothers and then it changes and the friendship, relationship, professional, personal in every way the balance shifts and it really used to throw me when I was younger and when I was still coming to terms with, but now I find it quite beautiful because there’s an element
Jody: It’s probably a really important part of their process to that that shift happens
Karen: Its beautiful, its beautiful watching it and its beautiful letting them go and saying right its like little birds there you go off you go, you on your own now I’ve done my bit. But it was difficult initially because I wanted to be able to say I remember this and remember that, I remember it with a 100 woman or a 1000 woman that I helped but I don’t have my own experience to impart in that story. Wow. Where do you think the change needs to occur in order for society to become more accepting or even understanding of the fact that 1, so many more woman are either choosing to be childless or are childless not by choice, as you say statistics are changing and its definitely becoming more, and I do think its more as you say by choice, even if its by choice they still going to face the same land mines, and the same issues
Jody: I mean its exactly they have a different internal experience to it, most of the time but not always childfree woman don’t experience a grieving process and also they don’t experience the shame that so many childless woman feel because this is an identity they’ve chosen and they proud of it. They come at it from a very different space most of the time, there stories are often a lot more complex as all of ours are than people realise. As you say they face the same social landmines. I don’t know where to start, the ideology that underpins the difficulties that woman have with the whole motherhood identity is called pronatalism and this is the conditioning that says the only fully adult way to be a member of society is to be a parent and all other forms of adulthood are lesser than that. It underpins everything that we talking about, its one of the things that makes coming to terms with childlessness so difficult, its one of the things that propels woman into motherhood perhaps without really understanding what they doing, whether it’s the right decision for them, where the whole myth of fantasy of how amazing motherhood is going to be, it kind of starts, this idea that this is the only way to be a real woman, now really we going to have to dismantle the ideology of pronatalism and this is a huge task and most people haven’t even heard the word. I mean when I say well I use words like ideology sometimes people go oh no here she goes, its like what is ideology, if you asked a fish how’s the water, the fish would say what’s water, that is ideology it’s the conditioning all around us that tells us how the world is and how things are and how things are meant to be. Pronatalism is part of that conditioning, it is a conditioning which is really really old fashioned and past its time, its had a massive boost in the last 25 years I think its very interesting I think we experiencing a moment of huge social backlash which is operating unconsciously to really to turn back its not going to work, to turn back the tide that’s happened with so much, rising equality for woman which has happened in our lifetimes, its ok you’ve got jobs, you can earn your own living, you can buy your own flats and drive your own cars and all these things, that even a generation ago it was really hard to do, woman couldn’t get a mortgage a generation ago in her own name and you’ve got all these things, you’ve got all this equality by suddenly making motherhood the ultimate achievement for woman it’s a way of pushing back against the idea of female equality, its really interesting cause when I was growing up in the 70’s motherhood did not have this exalted status, it was something woman did, it was private, it was a little bit embarrassing it was not cool. In the 1980’s in the early 1980’s when the Princess of Wales was pregnant she had this huge bellowing maternity smog and it was kind of quite private, she couldn’t hide the fact that she was heavily pregnant, people were quiet and respectful, and this is a private matter. You kind of fast forward a generation to when Beyoncé was pregnant a couple of years ago and those extraordinary pictures of her, she nearly broke the internet
Karen: The Kardashian that had a baby I think on live TV, or something equally bizarre
Jody: I’m glad I missed that
Karen: One of them did a live stream YouTube or something
Jody: Wow ok, I need a moment to take that one in. This is the sense that motherhood and pregnancy has moved from something private to something very public, it says something about you as a woman, you have arrived as a woman, in a way that it didn’t in the 70’s when feminism was on the rise and certainly my mother’s friends when I was growing up didn’t spend all their time talking about children, if anything they were really pleased, there were grown up conversations and the children went to bed and the woman got to talk about something else, you know they finally got to talk about, there’s really a massive culture shift in terms of an over privileging of the public role and status of motherhood. I’m not running down the individual status of motherhood, how important motherhood is to families and children, its this very public fetishizing of motherhood that I find problematic and I think its problematic for mothers as well as childless woman because it gives it a sheen and a gloss that many woman when they become mothers realise that its smoke and mirrors because it’s a tough job
Karen: I can completely agree with that because that’s what I see with the moms I work with, the expectations are so high, the pressures are so high, because of the fetishisation of it, there’s this expectation that they have to be back to their birth weight within 6 weeks and looking glorious, looking great, out and about with the baby in the perfect bouncer, in the perfect stroller, in the perfect outfit, its very difficult and the pressures to be a good parent are so high and yet parenting and you know this sounds rich coming from me, but with my experience of helping parents it’s a journey, it’s a process, just like we had to process accepting that we would never be parents, those who become parents have a process towards becoming a parent. A baby is born and we become parents through trial and error and trying different things, but you know social media makes it look as if from the day your baby comes home this is how it is and this is the picture and this is what it looks like but nobody talks about what it feels like and it doesn’t always feel the same as it looks so it is very very difficult
Jody: I think another huge taboo that’s being broken at the moment is mothers talking those mothers who regret having children talking about it. It’s a massive taboo because its decided that it means you don’t love your children, its absolutely ridiculous because its no if I had known what motherhood was really going to be like I would have waited longer or I or I might have made different choices, its not saying I don’t love my children, its saying actually motherhood is really really hard and I was sold a lie. I really applaud those woman who are saying that and the fact that they have to do that anonymously I understand, I can imagine to read that’s what your mother said about you when you grow up is not going to help anyone
Karen: I think it just comes back to society having to change to accept all woman regardless of whether they have children, whether they haven’t got children, whether they’ve got children and realised wow that wasn’t quite for me. Just accepting and supporting everybody on their own journey
Jody: And I think for childless woman not by choice, part of my journey was really coming through the envy and the fantasy, I had to break through the fantasy of motherhood that I’d absorbed to really see the life of my friends with children and really kind of take the blinkers off and see that its hard, it’s a different journey to my life, its not better and its not worse its just different. I had to break through that fantasy in order to find my freedom and I think for mums it can be difficult for them to appreciate that the lives of their friends who are childless or childfree, aren’t always about 44:20 (inaudible), lie ins and holidays that actually the process the coming through the existential process of coming to terms with childlessness, dealing with aging alone, dealing with societies ideas about us on a daily basis is really challenging, we have not got a free ticket to some kind of amazing life and neither have they, there just different ways of being woman that equally value
Karen: I love that, I think that’s the whole point of it is that we all have our challenges, and as you say its not a free ticket to endless joy, one way or another each of our paths have got their own challenges and neither of them are better, and they can’t even really be compared because they are so completely different but there’s good and bad to both
So just before we end this off and go to as I call it some quick fire questions, I would love it if you could share a little bit more about Gateway Woman and possibly even the summit that you running at the moment
Jody: well I’m part of the We are worthy Summit, that is weareworthysummit.com, which is a week long of free programming run by Andrew and Nicky Fletcher and Bryan of the Childless not by choice magazine, which is also a really great magazine, its an online magazine, first in the world, we got amazing speakers from all over the world, woman and a couple of men to talking about many many different aspects of infertility and childlessness not by choice. I did a seminar last week and I’m doing another one this week, last week was on finding your plan B, this week is about coping with other people, dealing with the challenges that childlessness creates in your friendships and relationships and whenever you listening to this recording, the recordings of the webinars which I will be doing live, will be on the we are worthy summit website
Karen: Will they be available after the summit ends
Jody: Absolutely, they will be up there for good so you can go find them at any time
So some quick fire questions, short and sharp, one word answers wherever possible
Karen: Who is your inspiration and why?
Jody: it sounds really corny but it is Oprah, she’s just someone who’s turned per personal story into helping millions of others, she does it with such grace and energy I just really admire her
Karen: She’s right up there I totally get that
Do you feel like a leader or a follower?
Jody: this is a really interesting question I had to think about it, I think I feel like both, I think that’s my way of being a leader is very collaborative, my thing is we rise together, I like to support as many woman as possible, I like to help them find their power to so I generally don’t tend to recognise myself as a leader, I kind of forget that I am
Karen: I would say you very definitely a leader, definitely and what is the best piece of advice that you’ve received?
Jody: I’ve hardly had any good advice in my life, so I was thinking about this, it was advice that was given to someone else that they told me about and I thought it was brilliant. It was right back at the beginning of my journey, I hadn’t yet woken up to the fact that I was going to be childless, it was a woman a few years older than me and she said that her therapist said to her we are all a little broken and that’s ok, and I never forgot that, I would love to say it was said to me but it came to me through someone else and it meant a lot
Karen: I like that, I like that I makes a lot of sense. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
Jody: I was the first person in my family to go to University, I went as a mature student at 28. I absolutely loved it I studied English Literature in the evenings whilst working as well in London. I graduated with a first class degree and the University prize in English and that was an amazing moment at my graduation to have my mother and grandmother there for my graduation and I guess I come from a long line of unfulfilled woman so it really felt like I broke the mould I’m very proud of that and very proud of my book.
Karen: And so you should be. Best movie?
Jody: Its been my favourite for a long time hasn’t been surpassed yet, its Blade runner the original one, I was really thinking about that before our call, and I thought why is that movie, I just thought about it, its about outsiders, it’s about a group of people who aren’t understood, it still is, it still really speaks to me, I love science fiction, people do not expect that of me, I’m a science fiction junkie I have been since I was a kid. I think I’m an idealist I love to think about ways the world could possibly be
Karen: I love that, I’m a great believer in that. Your favourite book?
Jody: Perhaps an unusual one, it’s the first spiritual book I read after my divorce and beginning to find myself again it’s by an American Buddhist Nun by Pema Chodron it’s called when things fall apart. It’s the most extraordinary funny, wise little book about what happens when the shit hits the fan
Karen: Its beautiful book
Jody: It is beautiful, I recommend it to everyone who’s struggling, coming to terms with something that you didn’t see coming that’s the book
Karen: She’s an amazing woman too, she really is. If you had a song for your life what would that song be?
Jody: You know I struggled with this and I wasn’t able to find a song for my life, but I have thought of a song that feels good for me at the moment, it’s You’re just too good to be true
Karen: Ah I love it
Jody: it’s the version with Lauren Hill and the Fugees and I’m with a wonderful new partner that I met a couple of years ago, after many years of being single and coming to terms with my childlessness and we living together, we madly in love and the line as you know I’m so glad I’m alive, its about waiting and love showing up, and that’s something that has been a delightful surprise for me. I was very happily married when I was younger and I thought that was it I had that experience, and I’m just delighted to say that at 54 I’m getting another go
Karen: Whoo hoo great, so there’s hope yet. And the last question your favourite quote?
Jody: its been my favourite quote since school, so this one is really important, it’s by an American poet called Robert Frost, I had this pinned up on my desk for many years “The best way out is through”, and now I work with grief, it’s the best way to deal with childlessness is to go through the grieving process and come out the other side
Karen: Absolutely, it’s been so great chatting to you, and hearing your insights and more about your story. I know I read your book but it was years ago, so it kind of brought some of the things back to me. Also for sharing all the ways that you are, really you are a leader, I hear what you saying about bringing people together but you need to be a leader in order to do that, and I just know how much you’ve done for woman around the world in creating ways for woman to get together to share, to chat, to recognise that grief and move beyond it and on behalf of all those woman thank you, cause it needs to be done and I can’t help but now that I know your story and hearing it directly from you and just the fact that it started with the blog post and that it was 7 years ago and how much has changed and how much you’ve done, I truly believe that it was very much part of your path to do that, everything has just come together to move you forward to create bigger and better things, and create a shift in society and the way we seen and embraced.
Jody: When I was a little girl I always wanted to leave the world in a better place than I found it, like I said I’m an idealist, I thought that was going to be by bringing up these amazing children cause of course they would have been amazing and that didn’t work out, but as you said it turned out my path has been to support individual woman and really hope create some social change around the stories that we tell about childlessness
Karen: Beautiful, thank you, thank you so much