Being in a club usually entails entry requirements. Whether that’s shared experience, qualifications, or a membership fee.
Being a pregnancy reflexologist and massage therapist but not having had a baby of my own means I am in the “mum club” but yet so not part of it. And yet being in that position also brings its own benefits. It is a privilege being involved in each woman’s journey. It also means that everything is about supporting them, listening without judgement rather than my own personal experience clouding the issue, whether intentionally or not.
“Do you have children?” – a question I often hear when we’ve spent the last hour talking about how they are feeling, what their pregnancy has been like, their birth concerns etc. “Well, no”. And there are times when I can see their face change as they think “but how can you know?” And my answer? “Well, you don’t need to be ill to be a good doctor”.
It’s not as if I grew up thinking that I never wanted children. I love children. I have three nieces I absolutely adore and fell head over heels in love with them the minute I first set eyes on them. And I’m a really great aunt, even if I do say so myself. I just didn’t meet the right man, wasn’t in a position to go it alone and I’m now 41 and I know that it just wasn’t meant to be. I was meant to do other things in life – like being an ace aunt! – and helping others is my baby and my passion.
I’ll be completely honest, I don’t truly know what it’s like. I’ve never been pregnant, never given birth and never brought up a child. The majority of my friends have. And being involved in their family as they’ve grown up has been a joy. It’s added another dimension to my life – the childcare, the watching them grow, the nappy changing, the listening, the tears (from both parents and children!), the counselling, the countless bedtimes and bedtime stories, teething, the sicknesses, the family birthday parties and Christmasses, the school trips, the sleepovers, the long conversations about in-laws (of which there have been many!), birth experiences, struggles with parenthood, loss of identity. We’ve been through the lot. While I’ve watched, listened, tried to support (you’d have to ask them how successfully I’ve managed that!) and empathised. That little word. Empathy. Trying to put yourself in their shoes rather than your own experiences shaping your responses and feelings.
I’m the only person who helps out in hosting a crèche who doesn’t have a child. I go to the mums’ nights and spend most of the evening talking about schools, finding a good childminder, the battles of getting little ones to go to sleep at night. And can’t contribute my own experiences. But I probably know a good childminder, have some tips to help little ones go to sleep and have heard interesting stuff about schools that can be useful to share. Yes, there are rare occasions when it hurts a bit to know that my experiences aren’t theirs, theirs aren’t mine and being in a group of mums when you’re not one can feel a little lonely. But then I am also very aware that the hardest thing to do in a group of your peers is to be honest about how you really feel. And that probably goes for every mum in that group too!
You don’t have to have your own children to love. We only have to look at people who adopt, who are aunts, uncles, godparents, foster parents, childminders. It can take a village to raise a child so please don’t write off or exclude those who haven’t had children biologically.
We still have a lot to give, and in fact can bring more to the table at times. Because we still have a lot of knowledge, expertise and objectivity. (And if you are one of the amazing mums I’ve worked with, you will know that there’s nothing I like better then baby cuddles or playtime with little ones!)
Am I trying to live vicariously through the work I do, and my involvement in the lives of families? Absolutely not! This is a bonus and not a need! I talk to so many different women about their experiences and they know they can trust me, especially because I never ever judge.
If life had worked out differently, it is likely that I would be sitting reading this trying to imagine what life would have been if I HADN’T have had children. I have a foot in both worlds. (I have an image of legs in stirrups as I write this – sorry!) And for the most part, that’s a pretty good place to be.
A Guest Blog from Nicki Read
Nicky is 41 and lives in Cheltenham. She is the founder of both the award-winning Camomile Rooms therapy centre and Nurture 4 Life fertility, pregnancy and postnatal support service. Nicky is a daughter, friend, besotted aunt, lover of gin and Strictly and when not at work doing what she loves can be found at one of Cheltenham’s many festivals, usually having a gin with friends!