• The Fit Midwife

My Uterus.... My Rules!

I was inspired to write this post by two of my lovely friends back home. They created an instagram platform to discuss their struggles with infertility and mental health. They are two amazing women with similar struggles to countless women out there. I have written something quite similar before but this topic seems to rear its ugly head more and more these days. But also my the more recent situation in America concerning women's reproductive rights.

This situation in America is just upsetting me so much and it has me thinking about women and their reproductive status and rights. I cannot believe we are regressing so much in the world to be honest.

As you can probably guess I am massively pro-choice. Pro choice isn't pro abortion, there is a lot of misinformation out there. Pro choice is still pro life, just giving individual women in individual circumstances, and back stories that the world knows NOTHING about, the right to decide what is best for them, their family, their life and their future.

My personal opinion aside, I believe all women should have the fundamental human right to choose what happens to their body (especially in rape cases). I cannot believe an administration of men is trying to police women’s uterus’.

I bet the Pankhurst’s thought we would be well past this part in our feminist journey by now. But alas… here we are.

Now I know I mainly write about pregnancy and fitness, so you may wonder why I am talking about fertility. That part is usually solved when women reach me right? But what I never do is to presume to know about a couples journey to conceive.

But at 33 years old (and as a midwife) I am plagued by random strangers with questions regarding my own fertility choices……

“When will you have children?”, “Don’t you like kids?” and best of all “Tick Tock, time is running out you know” are all phrases I hear thrown in my direction constantly these days. And it is absolute bullsh*t. The next person that says ’Tick Tock Nikki” to me is just counting down to me unleashing all my feminist range to be honest! Or to a slap over the head… depends on my caffeine intake that day to be honest.

But really now, at what point did it become ok to ask about another person’s fertility? Or their very personal life choices? Do I ask about your loan repayment amounts or your debts? Do I ask why you decided to divorce your husband after he slept with your best friend? Nope. So please don’t ask me about my fertility.

What struck me most about Brave Faces (the page set up by my friends Lyndsey and Tash) is that it highlighted first hand that one of the most detrimental factors to women coping with fertility challenges is the constant inappropriate questioning and judgement regarding their fertility/family status. And actually I think this is applicable to women in general.

Our fertility status and reproductive choices in this area seem to completely define us in general society. And people feel so concerned with our business. Now generally speaking I don’t believe men should have any input when it comes to the reproductive rights of women (I mean unless you are the US Congress of course :/ …… idiots). But if you are wanting a family I strongly suggest involving the male in question, whatever the dynamic.

But also I think it is important to remember that just because you have a uterus does not mean you are the ruling authority on every uterus out there. I get much more annoyed when women ask me these questions over when men do. How are we meant to be on a level playing field if a large majority of women out there believe that we have only made it when we have had a child? Fighting against my own gender… great!

So I guess we have a lot of different circumstances in which women feel like they are questioned about fertility unnecessarily. I have a friend, who at 30 had 5 kids. And she gets asked if she meant to have them all….. Like oooops she fell, 5 times, on her husband and then accidentally kept having babies, silly woman. Each and every baby was planned. And so what if they weren’t. We still have no right to judge or pass comment either way. I personally think 5 kids would do me in and subsequently think she is an absolute warrior who is raising the best tiny humans!

I come from a pretty small part of Cumbria, it is a town in which growing up people would buy a house, get married and have a baby… not always in that order. But that’s just what people do. That was my perception of it. anyway. And I guess had a few things been slightly different or I had made different choices I would have been one of these people too. Some of these women are my best friends, amazing, strong, intelligent and successful women in all things they do. They have a life I would sometimes give a limb to have. But I have to admit at one point in my life, the prospect of this life path made me shiver. I didn’t want to settle a stones throw from my Mum’s house. I didn’t want to work where I had known everyone from a young age. I didn’t want to deliver babies of women whose partners I had once dated (although this has happened in Manchester too…. very awkward).

I rebelled against it from a pretty early age. I did not want that suburban life. I still don’t. My dislike of the life was actually a little bit of judgement. I think that judgement came from a bit of jealousy. I had never wanted that. But I also didn’t know what it was I did want. 10 years and a midwifery career later and I absolutely respect women who make the choice to have what they want in life without apology! And more so, I aspire to be that person too!

I also know many women who have decided that they do not want children. This one just floors people. Other women especially. They cannot quite understand that these ladies may have other goals in life rather than populating the planet. These women are in different careers. Single and in relationships. Have insanely different backgrounds. Some with peaceful upbringings, some not so much. So what is it that made them decide not to have children?? WHO CARES? I don’t know. I don’t ask. It’s their choice and I would never ask another woman to justify a highly personal choice like that to me or anyone else. And it isn’t just women making these decisions and being judged for it. My male friends get just as much flack for making a decision to remain childless. Although they reach a certain age and instead of becoming a childless spinster they are seen as bachelors living that single life :/

There is a demographic of women who suffer silently. Women who chose to terminate their pregnancy for whatever reason. These women did not make an easy choice one morning. They didn't wake up and decide "oh you know what, I think I will have an abortion today".

These women often have to fight for this right. We don't talk about this. Even as women. Amongst friends. We are still plagued with stigma and shame for doing something that is so crucial to our maintaining our mental and physical health. Maybe this is because we have feel like we would have to justify our choice to others. And that is something we do not wish to do. Because it is hard and it hurts. And we would be judged massively.

Lastly, there is the demographic of women and men who, more than anything else in the world, want to have a baby but cannot. For a variety of reasons. Infertility one one or both sides, mental health issues, or something as seemingly simple as they just haven’t found a partner yet despite their best efforts.

These are the ones who go home and cry when they are questioned about their fertility. If someone asks me why I haven’t had a baby yet… well I tell them usually one of two things, “I haven’t found a male I can tolerate long enough yet to reproduce with” or “I don’t want one yet”. My amazing friend Lucy’s comeback is “how’s your sex life?” which gains an awkward response because apparently that is too personal. But for some people, they go home and cry because they are trying everything humanly possible to conceive and it still isn’t happening.

As I mentioned, my two good friends started a vlog about this subject. I asked for a few words from them, to help us all understand what it is like to be questioned about your fertility:

“As someone in their early thirties, in a long term relationship, and having now being married for two years, the question on everyone’s lips seems to be when are we having kids/ do we want kids/are we trying for kids to the more general statements with people exclaiming “It’ll be your turn next!”.

As a couple who is desperate to start a family, and having being active in trying for the last 4 years, these questions are a reminder that we haven’t been able to conceive, which has resulted in negative thoughts of failure, which has slowly, over time worn me down, and severely affected my mental health.

Fertility is incredibly personal, however I think people are simply curious, just like people are interested in a persons job or relationship status. I used to ask people, and now being in a position where I’m struggling with fertility, I simply think it’s ignorance. Just like marriage, or pursuing a career, having kids is a choice, and I may have to accept that my wanting to have kids is a choice I can’t have.

People often ask so freely and flippantly, however I’d urge caution, as you just don’t know how your comments can impact on someone. I’ve previously shut people down, and have let them know that we’ve been trying to conceive for four years, which certainly halts the conversation, but then equally, I question, why I share this personal information with strangers simply to save my heartache”.

Reading that really makes you think doesn’t it. Maybe we will all think a bit more carefully before carelessly asking the women in our lives about their reproductive status. And I think we need to value every other woman’s decision. Whatever that may be. Whether it aligns with our beliefs or not. Because if we are fighting and judging each other instead of understanding and supporting then we leave the door open for monstrous decisions affecting our health and fertility … but most of all our basic human rights.

I am really thinking about every single woman in the affected American states right now whose lives are now in danger from such a ridiculous bill. And about all the women still fighting this ongoing battle in NI. We should not be fighting this fight anymore. We should not be questioning any woman’s right to do what she wants with her body or challenging her reproductive status. We should be done with this shit by now!

Let’s all be better women. It seems that if we leave the 'powers that be' to it we will find that there are not enough good people on our side!

Nikki xx

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