What I Learned at Fertility Fest 2019
A kaleidoscope of ideas, stories, music, humour, sadness, loss, optimism, possibility, connection and love, that was the ‘More to Life than Children’ day at Fertility Fest this year. A whole day dedicated to hearing men’s voices, women’s voices and the passionate words of people dedicated to making the world a kinder, fairer and more loving place in the face of dreams that didn’t come true and hearts that were broken, through poetry, through song, through humour and through heartfelt words and conversations.
And here is some of what I learned:
· It can be hard to even imagine a positive future when you are in the midst of grief. What you may need at this point is for that to be fully felt, acknowledged and heard before you can step into the future that is waiting for you.
· For childless men, fertility can be perceived as being equivalent to virility and sharing and talking can seem like a weakness. Merely saying, ‘it’s good to talk’ doesn’t work for everyone, we might know how we feel but don’t want to or be unable to express it, or even be unsure of how or what we are feeling. We can give men a voice but not all will be able to use it, some simply can’t talk or don’t believe they can. For some people, talking is not an option.
· Childless couples can get out of sync with each other, one can be passing through their grief and longing just as the other one is beginning.
· There are cultural issues in childlessness, and the voices of Black and Minority Ethnic people need to be heard and seen within the dialogue and the additional barriers acknowledged.
· Childlessness is not just for straight cisgender people in couples, it can affect everyone regardless of their gender identity, sexuality and relationship status.
· You can try as hard as you can, you can push yourself to the limit, you can try to be nice, good and do whatever people demand of you, and childlessness can still strike.
· For some people, choosing not to have a child is a responsible act in a context of climate change and threats to the environment.
· Adversity and struggle can lead to powerful healing and for some people, can even be the making of us.
· Telling our stories can be powerful and healing, and not just for ourselves. We all have a story to tell, and somebody, somewhere may learn from it, be inspired by it, see themselves in it and need to hear it.
But the most important thing I learned is that amazing networks of childless people are growing across the world, that wonderful voices are being heard and meaningful stories are being told, and that that there are many people who will walk alongside you as you find your way to the future that is waiting for you.
We don’t have to walk alone.
Thanks to Jessica Hepburn, to Chiara Berardelli, Jody Day, Megumi Fieldsend, Victoria Firth, Yvonne John, Bibi Lynch, Blythe Pepino, Anthony Ryb, Rod Silvers, Sheridan Voysey, Heather Whiffin and Benjamin Zephaniah.