By Kathleen Guthrie Woods
As you may already be aware, from reading other bloggers’ posts, I had the privilege of joining six other amazing women in Vancouver recently for the first-ever gathering of the Global Sisterhood. (Lisa, Pamela, Cathy, and Sarah, Part I and Part II, have all shared their experiences on their sites, if you’d like to read more.) It was flattering and humbling to be included in this group, and it took me a while to process my experiences with them and my takeaway.
First, I have to share something funny. Upon arriving on Granville Island, I was greeted by signs—and posters, banners, balloons—announcing (wait for it) “Vancouver International Children’s Festival!” I cannot make this stuff up. The first-ever summit of The Global Sisterhood of women who are childfree-not-by-choice and we shared the weekend with hordes of parents and so-adorable-I-could-eat-them-up children. As I laughed out loud at the absurdity, I had to acknowledge how far I’ve come in my healing journey. I mean, really, of all the islands, in all the world….
Second, it was more than a little scary to head into this group knowing I was, yet again, an outsider. Yes, I am childfree-not-by-choice, but I’m also the only one who is childfree for reasons other than medical infertility. Would they relate to me? Would they hear me? Would they dismiss me? Would I be able to freely share my story and not be judged? Sounds familiar, doesn’t it. So what a relief, really, to quickly discover how open, accepting, loving, compassionate, funny, candid, supportive, strong, and courageous they all are. Each has faced her own demons and has chosen to publicly share her journey in an effort to help others around the world. That just blows my mind. Although our stories differ in the details, our intentions of transforming our private pain into encouragement for others are much the same. I came to think of them as my “warrior sisters.”
I was particularly struck by the courage of two women. One is “S”, who read about our planned gathering and asked if she could stop by. S is not a blogger. She is not someone who has bared her soul and her pain to a global audience. But she stepped out of her comfort zone to meet with us, to share a bit of her story, and to, I hope, take away some hope and inspiration. When we met for the first time, tears flowed—of recognition, of compassion, of relief. Even though I didn’t know her story, I knew what it took for her to show up. Early in my journey, I opted to stay home and suffer in solitude; I wasn’t nearly as brave as she was. So, brava, S!
Then there was “A”, the woman who planted the seed for our gathering and saw it to full bloom. She also is not a blogger, instead she describes herself as a “lurker,” someone who reads the various posts, takes what feeds her, occasionally comments. I feel she represents so many of our readers, and she reminds me that what we offer on Life Without Baby reaches women all over the world who may never reveal themselves. And that’s okay. In fact, I think it’s fantastic. I hope, if you are a lurker in any way, that you continue to find inspiration and support through the posts, comments, forums, and stories that are shared.
Now, I’d like to introduce you to one more brave woman. You know her well. You know her story, her journey, her fears and her doubts, her broken dreams, and her hopes for a happy future. And you know what it has taken for her to search for and find this site, to be open to the messages she might glean from the posts and comments, to uncover her vulnerable heart in hopes of one day healing. Take a look in the mirror: She’s you. Yes, you. Brava, my warrior sister.
Today, no matter where you are on your path of making peace with being childfree, I hope you give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come. You’re showing up and participating. You’re opening yourself up to learning and growing and surviving and some day thriving. That’s a very courageous thing to do, and I’m so glad you’re here on this journey with me.
Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.