The phrase came to me during one of my studio days. I had wandered off down a rabbit hole of thinking of phrases and words that defined or things that I felt I was fighting against or I was trying to break away from.
The list is immense and they really were an outpour of emotion and to some extent anger in the way that I had been pushed to be something.
'I am not my mother', 'Don't give me your shit', 'You bring out the worst in me', 'I am a woman', 'I am more than my infertility', 'Infertile and a woman', 'Invisible and insignificant', 'Unsettled and thinking'...
'My barren womb does not define me' ... is something that has stuck to me, a badge, a definition in itself, even through proclaiming it is not a definition. When I say it I don't want pity, I want the conversation to be around how the expectation is that all women have a full serviceable and fertile womb in order for them to populate the planet and fulfill their duty and purpose. My womb is not working and never has. I suppose as I approach the menopause, I am thinking about that more and more. There has been the constant monthly reminder for 33 years so far that is the purpose of a women and when the purpose is not fulfilled then it massively affects who you are. The percentage of couples, single people etc who are childless not by choice is around 20%, which is not an odd occurrence it is a fifth, so we are really not talking about a small minority...yet the shame is there and the reluctance to talk about it is as great as ever.
'My barren womb does not define me', for me, is about declaring that I don't fit in and because I don't fit into the conventional norm then I shouldn't feel ostracised by other women for having a barren womb. I don't want to be referred to as Hannah, she couldn't have children so she adopted, Turlington. I don't want the shits to say, they have 2 children but they are not theirs, they adopted them, in that voice that implies that they are talking quietly but really they are really loud and obvious. I have had that, I have heard that...all of which further compounds those feelings of shame. That sense that oozes from others that you have settled for second best and that you should have tried harder to get pregnant, maybe you weren't doing it right, have you tried...?, go on holiday, have some wine and relax, ...heard them all. Heard them so many times it is like a dreary wet night in a village hall playing bingo with dabber pen...Number 10 not pregnant again.
For a long time I have not mentioned that we adopted our children, it was a need to know basis and then only if I knew them or thought they might become a friend...not many times as actually it is incredibly isolating being a barren woman...not national childbirth trust classes to go to, you don't need anything from them and you couldn't possibly know how to love a child unless you have given birth to them.
I am not ashamed to say that I have lied and not just one but multiple times about pregnancy, weening, the list is endless and embarrassing...I feel ashamed but I was driven to do it by the shame I felt by having a womb that was not working and unable to be pregnant. I had children and I thought it would be a shoe in to children's play groups, tumble tots, messy play...I would finally belong somewhere. But I was wrong...I was so fucking wrong it was unbelievable, I felt more disconnected than ever. The children we had adopted were meant to heal us, make us or me feel normal, feel like a women but I felt like a freak.
I had been searching for my identity and I genuinely thought that by becoming a mother would give me that identity and give me that sense of belonging that I desperately craved but did it fuck... and it really got to me.