How do I know if I want kids or not?

OK, so you might be wondering why I’m asking this question.

You might be thinking: haven’t we been through this already? Haven’t we covered this topic from all angles and in all forms of media since this blog launched back in 2011? And actually, isn’t it far too late for me to be asking this question, now I’m 48, rapidly approaching 49?

The answer to all the above is Yes.

I’ve written reams on this topic over the years, in the media (links at the end of this blog) and in my book, but it all kicked off here with a blog post called The Baby Gap, which I wrote two weeks after my 40th birthday.

Yes, back when I was 40, single, and could still have kids, at least as far as I knew.

So why are we back here?

Firstly, because I imagine we might always come back here. This topic may always be there. Perhaps there’ll never be a definitive end to the wondering, an absolute acceptance, a moment of arrival.

For me, it isn’t black and white.

There are only shades of grey.

But we’re back here today in particular because my journey to non-motherhood has been featured in a podcast, called To Baby or Not to Baby, and listening to my own words, to my own story played back to me, has stirred up the feelings again.

Regrets?

Should I have done things differently in relation to motherhood? Should we, my husband of five months and I, have done things differently? Do I have regrets? Does he have regrets? Should we have regrets? Will I always ask these questions?

I’m pleased my story appears on the podcast – under the title the Ambivalent Non-Mum – because I believe ambivalence about motherhood deserves more exploration and airtime, although my journey couldn’t be more different to the podcast’s delightful host Naomi Kent Hodson.

Naomi has just turned 36, is happily married and is in a position to choose, together with her husband who does want kids, whether to try for babies or not.

That was never my experience. And it hasn’t been the experience of many of my friends or coaching clients. I was 43 by the time I had done sufficient “work on myself” and healing to be able to change long-standing dysfunctional relationship patterns and commit to my partner, now husband.

Once I’d committed, I fell in love. But I was approaching my mid-40s by then and our relationship was still in its fledgling stages. It needed cherishing and nurturing. Our love deserved time and space to grow. Plus I was ambivalent about motherhood – a fact I discovered after lots of soul-searching and therapy and which has a lot to do with my own upbringing – while my partner, by then turning 50, was sure he didn’t want children.

Then, just after my 46th birthday, he surprised me with a marriage proposal in the French Alps. I cried (with happiness) and said Yes. I was 48 when we married this June.

Love came late

Finally, a solid relationship with myself after years of self-neglect and disconnection.

Finally, the ability to love another person on a deep level.

Finally, a stable, committed and healthy relationship with a kind, warm-hearted, supportive and gorgeous man.

And finally, a growing awareness (from witnessing other parents) of the gifts of having children, after decades of seeing only the negatives.

But it all came late.

If my husband and I had married when I was 35 and he was 40, where would we be now? Would we have children? Would I have got over my ambivalence and persuaded him to let go of his resistance? Would those children have brought us closer together? Would they have prised us apart? Would we have decided to remain as a family of two?

We will never know.

Naomi and her husband have a choice, assuming fertility is on their side, which must be an incredible place to be as a couple, even with indecision and ambivalence.

If, like me, you no longer have the choice and are grieving its loss, I hear you and I empathise. Be kind to yourself. Allow yourself to feel your feelings so that the grief can move through you rather than get stuck.

If you do have the choice but are unsure about motherhood, can I suggest that you look deep inside yourself and try to uncover your own truth? Don’t allow your upbringing, your parents’ struggles, opinions, or messages, your baggage or your wounds to block you from going after the desires of your heart.

By the same token, don’t allow societal pressures or a feeling that your life is wrong unless you make a certain choice guide you down a path that may not be for you.

And most importantly, don’t get too stressed. Don’t allow the pressures and the not-knowing of the baby gap years to drive you insane, to overshadow your life or to sabotage what could be beautiful, fulfilling relationships.

Fertility MOT

Hearing my words on the podcast takes me right back to the anxiety of my baby gap years.

I can picture clearly the seminar I went to for single women at a Harley Street fertility clinic – the Powerpoint presentation that explained, with scary statistics, how a woman’s fertility dropped off a cliff; the ins and outs of shopping for a sperm donor online; the frontier science of egg freezing; and the miracles of IVF (if you could afford to pay for it).

I remember feeling distinctly lukewarm about the prospect of any medical intervention, but I signed up to the fertility MOT anyway, because it was on special offer if you paid that day.

I could justify it on two counts: I was a journalist who was researching a book about the baby gap years and I was a single, 40-something woman who could hear her biological clock ticking and wanted to know where she stood, perhaps to make the dating process a bit easier (I’d been dating with baby goggles on for a while).

With the benefit of hindsight, I also see that I felt deeply empty, lonely and lost in my life and was looking for something, a baby perhaps, a purpose, to fill the hole.

I remember chatting with the other women who were waiting to pay for their fertility MOTs, and how quickly we bonded, because of our circumstances, different in many ways, but with some key similarities: single, no children, running out of time and starting to panic.

I remember racing down Harley Street one wintry morning, my woolly scarf slapping me in the face, trying to find the heavy door of the fertility clinic, late for my appointment, which I’d already postponed once due to work deadlines. I remember the nurse’s look of disapproval when I said I’d forgotten to fill in my forms in advance (I hadn’t even opened them).

I remember feeling terribly alone as a lay on a bed in the clinic while a consultant wiped jelly on my belly and then prodded and poked my insides in order to count the follicles on my ovaries. There was nobody standing by my side; nobody holding my hand.

Shock and grief

I remember the moment the consultant showed me my test results (anti-mullerian hormone, or AMH, and follicle count), saying they were ‘average for a woman my age’ and therefore pretty poor. I remember the tears that took me by surprise and the way the consultant slid the box of tissues towards me across her large oak desk.

Amid the shock and grief (what do you mean I’m mediocre? I’ve always been a straight A student), I remember thinking, you’ve been here before, haven’t you, Ms Consultant, sat across from a weeping 40-something, single woman who’s just been given a painful reality check that has shaken her out of her reverie and smashed the myth that her fit, healthy and toned outsides would naturally translate to stellar fertility on the inside?

I remember the consultant’s strong encouragement to move quickly along the solo IVF route, which immediately put me off because I respond badly to any form of hard-sell. And I remember my subsequent meeting with the clinic’s resident counsellor, included in the MOT, in which I knew, instinctively, at some deep cellular level, that this path wasn’t for me.

I remember chatting to another rather attractive male consultant across the road in another clinic, who gave me hope because he didn’t think my results were quite so bad. I remember thinking I bet you’re happily married with a few kids and how come I didn’t meet a solid, reliable family man like you in my 30s? (Hang on a minute, I did, but I walked away).

I remember the other fertility seminars I attended and the interviews I did with single women who’d taken creative routes to motherhood (donor sperm, donor eggs) because they were absolutely certain that they wanted a child above all else – a feeling I had never shared.

I remember visiting an egg freezing clinic in Barcelona as part of my research for the book, getting lost and arriving late, sweaty and flustered. I remember being told definitively that freezing my 40-something eggs would be a waste of my hard-earned cash, although I’d always find a clinic that would freeze them for me.

Summer lovin’

And I remember meeting my now husband and shelving the crazy-making baby dilemma, swapping it for a few months of delicious summer loving, only to ask him again at the end of that period whether he was up for parenthood. I remember feeling crushed as he answered sincerely and lovingly, but in the negative as before, and I remember ending the relationship but spending the night dripping tears onto his bare chest in bed, not wanting to leave.

Fast forward a few years and I remember coming back to him, after trying and failing to find another man I wanted to be with, knowing for certain that I wanted a life partner above all else, and feeling, when I lay next to him on the sofa, that I could stay in his arms forever.

WeddingstationI remember our amazing wedding this June and how all those doubts that had plagued me for years – is he the right guy? Am I making the right choice? What if there’s someone else? – had miraculously disappeared, replaced by a wonderful certainty that has, I have to say, changed my life.

But inevitably, returning to this topic stirs up all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what could have beens’ in relation to having children and feeds into a terrible tendency I have, which goes right back to my earliest years and my deepest wounds: the tendency to assume that my life is wrong while yours and everyone else’s is right.

So as ever, my challenge today and every day, and this was the conclusion of my book, is to want what I have, to love what I have, to be grateful for what I have, and to reduce the time, energy and effort I spend wondering about what could have been or longing for something that I haven’t got.

Honouring my creativity

One more thing, and if you’re still reading by this point, hats off to you!

Listening to the podcast brought a painful reminder of how I can abandon my dreams and my creative projects. The Baby Gap was the working title of a book I began writing in my early 40s, based on my own experience and all those interviews I did with fertility experts, childless and childfree women, and determined would-be mums – a book that received offers from 5 agents, got me an interview on Newsnight, but was turned down by 14 publishers, albeit in the nicest of terms.

In truth, it wasn’t actually a book. It was a very well-written synopsis and two chapters, which I thought, naively and rather arrogantly, was enough. Back then, I wanted success to fall out of the sky, in the form of a book deal, a hefty advance, and my book in the window of notable booksellers, without me actually having to put in the hours and write the thousands of words. I had a certain sense of entitlement. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t handle the publishers’ rejections well. My agent disappeared and I lost my way.

A few years later, now in love and more interested in the reasons why I’d taken so long to form a healthy relationship than in the baby dilemma, I wrote and published How to Fall in Love, of which I’m incredibly proud. But I still have 40,000 words or so of that first baby gap book and the podcast reminded me of all the work I did do – the research, the interviews, the endless rewriting of the synopsis – and makes me feel sad that I abandoned the project before completion and went off in search of something shiny and new. But I still have my 40,000 words and I’m in the process of reviving that book in a different form, a novel perhaps, and who knows, maybe a podcast.

And I commit to you that I will honour my creative dreams and see this project, and all my other creative projects, to fruition.

Thank you, as ever, for reading my words. x

Further reading

If you’d like to read more on this topic, here are other blogs and articles I’ve written:

The Baby Gap

The Baby Conundrum

Dating with Baby Goggles – a post that became a Daily Mail article

Ambivalence about Motherhood – a post that followed my Woman’s Hour interview on the same topic

Am I childless or childfree?

My Guardian piece: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children

And you can listen to my episode of the podcast, To Baby or Not to Baby, here.

***Upcoming Events***

If you’re looking for someone to love and to form a family with (with or without children) my How to Fall in Love course is a wonderful way to lay the foundations for a healthy and loving relationship.

My next How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations small group course starts on January 13th, and Part II of the course, Date with Courage, Clarity & Confidence begins the same day, for women who are ready to date. Get in touch for a free discovery call to find out if either course is right for you (katherine@katherinebaldwin.com)

I have retreats in Dorset, Spain and Turkey in 2020. Click here for details.

And my one-to-one coaching schedule is filling up for 2020. If you’d like to explore coaching with me, get in touch for a free call.

If you’d like to read the first chapter of my book, How to Fall in Love, you can download the first chapter for free at www.katherinebaldwin.com

Thanks again x

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The bittersweet road of recovery

womanroadbook

Whenever I get well again after being ill, I realise just how unwell I’ve been.

You’d think I’d be used to this by now, but it surprises me every time.

When I’m ill, I don’t actually believe I’m ill, not properly anyway. I dismiss my sickness as a bad case of lethargy. And then suddenly, I recover and I’m filled with energy.

Ah, I get it, I say to myself as I bound around the room and get on with all those tasks I’ve been putting off. I really was ill!

The same goes for other forms of sickness, like being emotionally unwell.

As I become more emotionally healthy, I realise just how unhealthy I’ve been in the past.

This is a tough process.

Unlike the new lease of life we get when we bounce back from a cold, it’s hard to look back over our lives and see just how unwell we’ve been – in terms of our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with others, our romantic life, work, food, alcohol, or whatever it is.

There’s grief, a sense of loss. There’s regret.

Those feelings – or the prospect of feeling that way – can be so unpleasant that we might even be tempted to remain unwell, because we don’t want to feel the pain and regret of all those wasted years.

Something similar can happen with love and intimacy.

If we’ve been single for many years or haven’t enjoyed healthy physical and emotional intimacy for a long time, it can be bittersweet to experience love, affection and intimacy because we realise what we’ve been missing. And that hurts.

We enjoy our newfound connection, yes. We’re grateful for it. But we can also feel grief, loss and regret for the past, for what could have been, for what we’ve missed.

Why have I gone so long without experiencing touch? Why have I spent so many years closed off from love?

I often wonder wistfully how it would have been to have met and fallen in love with my now husband 20 years ago. Of course, it never would have happened. Not only was I living in Mexico and he in England, but I was engaged in all manner of crazy and addictive behaviours that most likely would have put him off, while I would have found him dull because he was too kind and not dangerous enough.

But that reality doesn’t stop me from feeling regretful that we haven’t had those extra years together.

I know I’m going to feel the same way when I finally finish the book I’m writing, which is morphing from a memoir into a semi-autobiographical novel, and then get it published by a lovely publisher who does a wonderful job with the cover and edits it beautifully (she says confidently/hopefully!). And then when I write my next novel and when I publish a book of poems (yes, I’ve been writing poems recently).

I’m going to feel such joy, because I’ll have finally given myself to a craft that I’ve been dancing around since I was a little girl. I’ll have finally trusted in my imagination, creativity and ability, rather than loitering on the fringes of creative writing, being a news journalist, a features writer or the author of self-help books (as an aside, I am so proud of and grateful for my first book!).

But I’m also going to feel such regret, because I’ll be 50 (if I take my writing seriously from today) by the time I publish my novel, or perhaps even 51 or, if I procrastinate some more, 52.

Gosh, 50.

My apologies to all my over-50 readers but that suddenly feels such a massive milestone, and quite a scary prospect. So it will have taken me nearly three decades, since I left university, to make my way back to the creative writing I’ve probably been longing to do since I was a child.

And that’s sad.

Perhaps my anxiety and fear about feeling such a huge sense of grief and loss about the wasted years actually stops me from writing, puts obstacles in my way in the form of endless distractions. Perhaps I’m too scared to go there. To arrive. To have a book published by a wonderful publisher and to tour the literary festivals of the world.

What a dream, and I’m smiling now as I write. What a treat. To be able to tour with my book, share my words, sit on stages with other wonderful writers.

Perhaps the thought that it is but a dream – an unattainable dream – stops me from writing too.

Because it would be so painful to try so hard and then to fail.

And, of course, it would be so scary to succeed – to taste success, which, for me, couldn’t exist without regret, grief and loss and which will no doubt be accompanied by fear of subsequent failure.

But are any of the above reasons not to try? Should we all give up on writing, on finding love or on healing our hearts because we’re going to encounter pain and regret on the way to our dreams?

Absolutely not.

Yes, it’s scary, and I can feel my heart flutter as I write this. Yes, it’s going to hurt.

Yes, it’ll be bitter.

But it will also be so sweet.

And so worth it.

So let’s not waste any more of our precious time, dancing around the deepest passions of our heart, or sitting on the sidelines of romance. Let’s get into the arena, as Theodore Roosevelt said and Brené Brown quoted so eloquently in her TED Talk:

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.

And with that, I will wrap up this blog, give it a quick read and then press publish, because in the last months, since my previous post in August, I have drafted so many blogs that I haven’t finished or shared.

Thank you, as always, for reading.

And if you’d like to send some encouragement to help me to write my novel, why not post a comment, saying that you’d like to read it.

As you’ve just heard, I need all the help I can get!

 

**** Upcoming Events & Free Resources ****

FREE webinar. Let your intuition lead you to love. Wednesday, Nov 6, 2019, 7-8 pm UK time. Click to join live or register to receive the recording.

Next How to Fall in Love small group 5-week course starts Monday Nov 11, 2019. Use the code Gratitudegift at checkout for £40 off. Click here to preview the course for free.

FREE Chapter 1 of my book, How to Fall in Love. Sign up on my website and download the first chapter: www.katherinebaldwin.com

Join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Listen to my interview on BBC Radio Solent on How to fall in love.

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Facing our deepest fears

firewalk

I began writing this post back in May, when the feelings I describe in it were close to the surface, so close that they spilled out onto the page, or the computer screen, at great speed. But I then got waylaid, distracted by a hugely significant event and all the emotions it stirred (you can read about my wedding day here).

But the theme of this blog hasn’t gone away. In fact, it’s returned, over and over again. It’s showed up in my thoughts and it’s found its way into my conversations with others.

So it’s time to finish what I started and to share it with you …

***

I have come to believe that in order to truly live and truly love, we have to face our deepest fears.

We have to walk towards those fears, walk into the flames, risk being burnt, risk being hurt (again).

We have to risk our traumas being triggered and our buttons being pressed, even though we’re scared, even though the wounded child inside us tells us we won’t survive.

Only then will we realise that we can survive the things that scare us the most. Only by facing our fears will we heal, grow stronger and become more resilient.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for everything. It would be unwise to walk into the fire before we’re ready, because if we step out too soon we might get so badly burnt that we’ll never venture out again.

That would be a terrible shame.

We need to spend time sewing together the pieces of our fire-resistant cloak first. We need to build our solid foundations. We need to look inside, process our feelings, heal our hurts as much as we can, before we are ready to face the flames.

But it’s possible to spend too long in this introspection stage and end up with analysis-paralysis.

There was a time when I thought I’d have to spend years sitting on the top of a mountain in Tibet with my legs crossed and my palms turned upwards in order to heal all my wounds, find my inner peace and become whole. Only then could I return to living, I thought.

But for me, that would be avoiding life.

Instead, once I’ve done my groundwork, once I’ve laid my foundations, it’s time to take this show on the road. It’s time to face my deepest fears and get the evidence that I can survive.

Before I go on, let’s be clear that there’s nothing nonsense about us. We make perfect sense. Our fears are born out of our experiences, or the way we interpreted certain experiences, many of which happened to us when we were young, when we lacked the resources and the processing tools to handle them.

So if we experienced rejection or abandonment in the past, it’s natural that we’re going to be terrified of feeling that pain again, and we’re going to do whatever we can to avoid it.

If we’ve been hurt or wounded in the past, we’re going to be scared of being hurt and wounded again, and we’re going to do whatever we can to prevent that from happening.

If we’ve experienced negative criticism or judgement in the past, especially when we were small and especially from the people we loved or depended upon, we’re going to do whatever we can to avoid being criticised and judged, because we remember how much it hurt.

If we’ve felt like an outsider before, separate and alone, like we didn’t belong in a group or a crowd, we’re going to do whatever we can never to feel that way again. We’re going to try to fit in, to belong, even if that means contorting ourselves, squashing ourselves into an odd shape.

The problem is that when we put all our energy, effort and time into avoiding pain, hurt, rejection, abandonment, judgement, criticism, or into fitting in, we avoid living. 

We hide away – from life, from relationships, from intimacy, from being seen, from sharing our true selves and our creativity with the world. We don’t take risks. We shut our hearts away. We shut our work and our creativity away.

By doing so, we think we’re keeping ourselves safe from hurt, safe from pain. But over time, we discover that denying ourselves the opportunity to love, to experience intimacy or to be seen for who we are is just as painful, or even more painful than the pain we’ve been trying to avoid.

We reach a tipping point – when the pain we feel because we’re avoiding life becomes greater than the pain we feel at the prospect of facing life. 

At that moment, we realise that in order to truly live, we must face our deepest fears. We must walk towards them. Walk into the flames. Walk into the fire. We might get a little bruised, a little charred perhaps, but we’ll emerge intact on the other side, pat ourselves down and realise we’re OK.

Better still, we’ll realise we’ve grown stronger.  

And then those fears won’t scare us anymore. We’ll have smashed through our biggest obstacles to a satisfying life.

Let me explain how this has worked for me.

One of my deepest fears has always been to love, to love deeply, to love wholeheartedly, to be vulnerable, to offer up my heart.

Why? Because ever since I was a little girl, I equated love with pain, hurt, loss and grief.

WeddingMeUsLovelyBut I walked into the fire. I committed myself to a man. I opened my heart to him. It took years, of to-ing and fro-ing, of moving towards him and then pulling back, but I got there in the end. I married him in June.

I faced my fear of loving and I survived. In fact, I thrived. I flourished. I came alive with love. And importantly, I healed my deepest wounds. I laid my trauma triggers on the line, offered up my buttons to be pressed, and by doing so, they had lost their hold over me.

Many of us are scared to love in case we lose again or get hurt again but sooner or later, we get to a point where the pain of not loving is greater than the pain we’re trying to avoid.

Falling in love is one example of how I’ve faced my deepest fears but this post was actually sparked by a different experience from earlier this year.

Before I describe that experience, let’s state the obvious (or at least what’s obvious to me).

I have a deep desire to be universally liked and loved. I am a people-pleaser (or a slowly recovering people-pleaser). I try to please you because if I don’t, you might be angry with me and your anger terrifies me. In fact, I think I’ll die if you’re angry with me (because I experienced anger when I was a little girl and it felt life-threatening).

I particularly want to please you with my work, because traditionally I’ve derived a huge amount of self-esteem and self-worth from my work. I especially felt valued for my work and my achievements as a child. I’m also a hard worker. I pride myself on delivering excellent work. So I want you to approve of my work, because that means you approve of me.

And finally, I want to belong. I want to feel part of. I don’t like feeling on the outside. I especially don’t like feeling that the rest of the group doesn’t like me. That’s scary.

All this is changing, of course, as I continue to grow and heal, but old habits die hard. My fears of not being liked or loved, of being judged negatively for my work and of feeling like I don’t belong still linger.

Earlier this year, I faced all those fears at the same time.

I was running a retreat and in one of the sessions, a few participants expressed displeasure with or opposition to my work. This isn’t a usual experience. I’ve run lots of retreats and received incredible feedback, but this retreat was different, a different model and a different clientele.

As a few people expressed displeasure with my work, my mind leaped to worst-case scenario: nobody likes my work, everyone thinks I’m rubbish, nobody in this room likes me, I’m under attack and I’m all alone in a group, on the outside.

This combination was my worst nightmare – a concoction of my deepest fears.

For a second, I froze. I then thought about running, about fleeing, about darting to the door. Next, I thought about throwing in the towel, dissolving into tears, giving up, saying I couldn’t carry on, confessing that I was a fraud, a fake and I’d been found out.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and responded to the perceived threat in a grown-up way. I had a quick, silent word with my terrified inner child, reassured her that she wasn’t going to die, and I got back into my functional adult. I continued with the session. I did my job, to the best of my ability.

Afterwards, in private, I had my meltdown. I shared my feelings with others who understood. I got the support I needed. I processed my childhood pain and the traumas that had been triggered. I re-parented myself. I used all my tools. I got myself back onto solid ground. (All of which is healthy behaviour, in my opinion. Vulnerability is strength. Feeling is healing.)

And, after a good night’s sleep, I emerged stronger.

I returned to the group the following day and I did what I do best – I spoke my truth. I was honest, open and vulnerable. I spoke about the fact that the day before, I had sat in that room and faced my deepest fears, experienced my worst nightmare, felt my buttons being pushed big time and felt the pain of my wounds opening up.

But I’d survived. I’d walked through the flames and I’d come out the other side. And I’d emerged stronger, empowered, emboldened, wiser and more courageous.

By facing my fears, they had become right-sized. They’d lost their power over me.

And, I told my participants, that’s the very same process some of you will need to go through in order to achieve your dreams, in order to form healthy, loving, intimate relationships, in order to be authentically you, or in order to put your creativity out into the world.

It hadn’t been planned but I had demonstrated the process that had been critical to my own journey to love and to becoming my authentic self.

Just like strengthening our muscles in the gym by bearing weight, our inner muscles grow stronger as we put them to the test. We grow in resilience as we face our worst fears and come out the other side.

Yes, it’s frightening, but it’s not so frightening that we won’t survive.

It’s also exhilarating, incredibly healing and freeing. It frees us up to move forwards with our lives, without the fears that have been weighing us down.

So what are your worst fears? What’s your worst nightmare? Are your fears holding you back from loving and living, from feeling fully fulfilled or achieving your true potential?

And are you ready to walk towards the fire?

Comment below or drop me an email at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. I’d love to hear from you x

***

Upcoming events

Spectrum1My next retreat happens in sunny, southern Turkey this October 7-14. The Love Retreat is for you if you want to grow in self-love, self-esteem, self-awareness, self-acceptance and body-acceptance. It’s for you if you want to reset, renew, heal and grow. Please take a look at this link and then email katherine@katherinebaldwin.com if it’s of interest. Think sun, sea, turtles, yoga, meditation, healing and personal growth in amazing company!

My next online five-week How to Fall in Love course with group coaching starts September 2. Ten spaces. Click here for details. Or you can take my How to Fall in Love course now at your own pace. Click here for the self-paced course.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon.

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Just married!

TelegraphWedding3

Our wedding day.

What a day.

What a spectacular, phenomenal day.

What a momentous, miraculous milestone on my journey back to myself, on my journey to love, on my journey to the heart.

A journey that began almost two decades ago when I finally found the courage to slow down, to stop running away from my pain, to step inside and to explore my inner world.

A journey that I’ve traced on this blog, which I began as I turned 40 – back then, a single woman, somewhat lost and bemused (how on earth did I end up here, at this age and stage, with an impressive CV but no partner and no children?) – and which I write today, as a newly-wed, aged 48.

TelegraphWedding1It took so much to get here – so much time, so much effort, so much energy, so much bravery and so much help.

Thank you to all of you who’ve supported me along the way, from my blog and book readers to my friends, to my fellows, to my family, to my coaching clients and retreat attendees, and to my therapist!

Of course, the journey doesn’t end here. I have arrived at marriage, thanks to my unwavering commitment to knowing and understanding myself and to healing my past wounds.

But I still have a long way to go. I am still me, with all my struggles, fears, worries and tears.

Some of those struggles, fears, worries and tears surfaced on my wedding morning. I guess I could have predicted that my emotions would be running high that day. That’s the case for most brides but for me, there seemed to be so many layers of emotion.

I’d waited so long. I was 48. I’d worked so hard to get here. My life had turned out beautifully in so many ways, but it wasn’t the life I’d planned and it wasn’t the traditional life.

I thought I’d get married younger. I’d simply imagined I’d have children (without really understanding my ambivalence around motherhood). I’d imagined my parents would be there, watching on proudly, supporting me.

My dear dad passed away years ago and my dear mum couldn’t make my wedding in the end, because of her own deteriorating physical and emotional health.

Even as I write that now, one month on from my wedding day, tears spring to my eyes.

My mum wasn’t there.

So I guess it’s not surprising that her absence floored me for a while on my wedding morning.

Throw in stress and time pressure due to indecision, procrastination and perfectionism, my own misjudgement of the number of people I needed in my room on my wedding morning (it was chaos!), and the sudden, shocking discovery of a pulled thread right in the centre of my eye-wateringly expensive and absolutely gorgeous wedding dress and you have a recipe, right there, for emotional overload.

So I cried.

Or rather I fanned my face like crazy to stop the tears from rolling down my immaculately made-up face.

And for a moment there, just for a brief moment, I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think I could get into that dress and make it outside. I didn’t think I could get married.

It was too much.

There was too much emotion.

I was overwhelmed.

My mum wasn’t there (and it wasn’t just the fact that my mum was absent – it was all the feelings of loss that her absence stirred, all the past losses and the losses to come).

I’d been short-tempered with my fabulous friends, about which I felt ashamed.

There was a pull in my dress!

The wedding march was playing outside and I was nowhere near ready.

I don’t think I can do it. I can’t do it.

And then I did it. I leant on my friends. I summoned all my strength. I put the tears away in a box. And I stepped into my wedding dress.

I’m a bride. I’m a bride!

And then this bride stepped outside, into the glorious June sunshine, under wide blue skies, on a farm deep in the Dorset countryside and suddenly, everything changed.

The stress, grief and overwhelm dissolved, whisked away by the warm breeze and replaced by excitement, glee and love.

I’m getting married. 

And then I saw my husband-to-be, stood at the bottom of the steps of the pergola, dancing to our upbeat Latin wedding march, even though he usually hates to dance in public or to be the centre of attention, and everything was right, with me, with us, with my life, with the world.

Perfect, in fact.

From that moment on, it was phenomenal, so phenomenal that I don’t even know where to start.

So I won’t.

I’ll just say that we sang and danced our hearts out. We laughed and talked. We reunited with old friends and we reminisced. We sang karaoke!

And I’ll share some photos below (courtesy of Camilla Arnhold Photography) so that you can see for yourself – the love, the joy, the fun, the miracles.

I have so much more to say about my wedding, about being married, about the fear that kicked in a few days into my honeymoon (what on earth have I done, committing myself to this man for the rest of my life?), about the emotional comedown and exhaustion afterwards, but I’ll leave it there for now, to be continued another day.

Importantly, though, before I go, I want to encourage you to open your heart, to open your heart, to open your heart (yes, I meant to type that three times).

To open your heart to love, to life, to intimacy, to relationship, to creativity, to success, to abundance.

Yes, I know you’re scared. Of course you are. I was scared too. Terrified to open my tender heart to someone, terrified to love, terrified to choose one person in case I got it wrong.

But I did it, and you can too. You can open your heart to whatever you need and want to open it too.

Do so knowing that you’re not alone. Do so knowing that I walk by your side. Do so knowing that I’m still scared. Still scared of all the challenges that remain. Still scared of deeper intimacy. Still scared to speak my truth. Still scared to ask for my needs to be met. Still scared to rise and soar and reach my true potential as a writer, speaker and coach. Still scared to run a business that requires people to trust in me and to invest in me.

I’m still scared. I still feel shame. I still carry pain.

That’s life, isn’t it? That’s how it goes.

No risk, no reward.

So let’s risk.

And let’s reap the rewards.

****

If you’d like to practise opening your heart on a wonderful Love Retreat in Turkey this October 7-14, please take a look at this link and then email katherine@katherinebaldwin.com. I have a small number of places I can offer at a £50 discount if booked by Aug 5th so please get in touch soon if you’d like to join us. It’s going to be spectacular! Sun, sea, turtles, yoga, meditation, healing, growth and an abundance of heart-opening exercises.

My next online five-week How to Fall in Love course with group coaching starts September 2. Ten spaces. Click here for details. Or you can take my How to Fall in Love course now at your own pace. Click here for the self-paced course.

My book, How to Fall in Love – A Journey to the Heart, is available on Amazon.

****

Enjoy some of my wedding highlights:

 

Posted in Childless, Happiness, Love, Perfectionism, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Ambivalence and commitment

seaThis morning, I sat outside the beach hut, looked out at the vast expanse of sea before me and cried.

I cried because I’d just had a massive adrenaline come-down after writing a deeply personal article on ambivalence about motherhood for the Guardian: I feel grief and relief that I’ve never had children.

Although I’ve been doing this journalism thing for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been sharing my personal journey in the press for the last decade, it still terrifies me, especially when I only have 800 words to tell a hugely complex, nuanced story of fluctuating emotions that I struggle to make sense of myself, never mind communicate to anyone else.

I’m a vulnerable and sensitive soul with a skin that’s only just thickening after years of being paper thin. And while I crave to share my story and adore the jigsaw puzzle of writing, this level of visibility, with all its potential for criticism and judgement, is incredibly scary.

I also cried because writing that article and reading the 730 comments, plus the bundle of Facebook comments and emails I received afterwards – overwhelmingly positive, I’m thankful to say, empathetic, touching, affirming – has stirred my feelings around this topic of ambivalence and childlessness again.

At the beach today, I shed some tears for those beautiful children I will never have, that I’ll never see grow, mature, get married and have kids.

I cried joyful tears too for this wonderful life of mine, for the delicious cold of the sea water as I plunged beneath the surface, for the tingling in my body, for the brain freeze that helps to calm my ever-present anxiety, for the fact that I get to do this – swim in the sea, live near the beach, do whatever I like with my mornings, sit in the sun, hear the waves and soak up the peace.

I cried for the way sea swimming always makes me want to write. I cried for the joy of writing, for my passion for writing and for the huge possibilities ahead of me as I work through and finish my second book.

The wonderful feedback I received on yesterday’s article, and on some of my earlier blogs on this topic – Am I childless or childfree?; Ambivalence about motherhood; and the more general Ambivalence – confirms to me that I am a writer, that my writing touches people and that I deserve to give it time and space.

Thank you to those of you who have written to me, recently or in the past, with beautiful words about my beautiful words.

I cried because I’m getting married in two months and things are not how I expected them to be, especially now that my partner has been made redundant. Marrying an out-of-work 50-something was not part of my plan. Marrying at 48 wasn’t part of my plan either. But it’s our plan – a delightful, magical and challenging plan. And I love him and I’m committed to this journey we are both on, to walking side-by-side, through the rough and the smooth.

And I cried for my past, for my background, for my childhood that brought me to this wonderful, complex, nuanced, ambivalent place.

I guess this is where I’m meant to be.

Writing the Guardian piece and reading the comments also got me thinking about ambivalence on a broader level and about commitment. I wrote in my book that ambivalence runs through me like the candy swirl in a stick of Blackpool rock (here’s a link to Blackpool rock for my non-British readers). I explain why that is in some of my earlier blogs and in my book, so I won’t go into it here.

But I would like to reach out to any single people or people who are struggling in relationships because of ambivalence. And I would like to raise awareness about how damaging ambivalence can be, how it can sabotage our chances of happiness, how it can show up disguised as something else.

Ambivalence kept me single for years.

Every time I got close to a happy and healthy relationship, my ambivalence reared its ugly head, pointing out all manner of reasons why this man wasn’t right for me, finding fault with him, thinking the grass must be greener over there. I did this to my partner a number of times, leaving him to search for someone else, before returning to our relationship and committing to it.

But my ambivalence remains powerful. This weekend, it got my attention. Just two months off my wedding, it went into overdrive, finding fault with my husband-to-be. My fault-finding was driven by my fear, driven by my anxiety. As a life-long commitment-phobe, it’s not surprising that I’m incredibly anxious as I step into a life-long commitment.

I have since apologised to the beautiful, patient soul that is my partner.

If you are in the wrong relationship, if you are with someone who isn’t right for you, who can’t love you, commit to you or who won’t grow with you, then the chances are the grass is greener over there – that there is someone more suitable for you.

But if, like me, you struggle with ambivalence and indecision in other areas of your life, it is likely to be amplified when it comes to romantic relationships. And the closer you get to your dreams, to your chance of happiness, to real intimacy, to commitment, the more vocal that ambivalent voice will be.

So before you run off or wreck what you have, ask yourself if you’re afraid.

You may have to dig deep. Sometimes our fear is buried under all manner of excuses and seemingly valid reasons to walk away from a relationship. Sometimes we’re not even aware that we’re afraid.

But ask the question.

Am I scared?

Is it my fear or my instinct that’s telling me to run away?

I have a section on this ‘fear versus instinct’ question in my book. And I’ll be discussing it later this week on my Facebook page (see below). It’s a topic I’m hugely passionate about because of my own story and because I hear other people’s pain as they try and work things out.

Is it your fear or is it your instinct?

As I always say to my coaching clients and on my courses and retreats, you have your answers.

You have your own answers.

You may have to dig deep to find them. You may need support in drawing them out.

But you have your answers, if you are willing to look inside.

 

***Upcoming Events***

grassgreenerIs the grass greener? Understanding Commitment in Relationships Free Facebook Live Webinar, Thursday May 2, 1 pm. Recording available afterwards. On my Facebook business page.

If you missed my How to Find Someone to Love webinar last week (which you might have done as I forgot to post it on my blog – sorry) you can watch the recording here.

I have an amazing 5-week course starting on May 6 – How to Fall in Love – Laying the Foundations. It’s a small group video course for a maximum of 10 women, including 1:1 coaching and 5 group coaching calls. It’s transformative. Watch free previews here.

Free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole.

Join me on a Love Retreat in Spain or Turkey.

Email me at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Posted in Childless, codependency, Dating, Happiness, Love, Recovery, Relationships, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Coming out of hiding

womanhiding

Are you in hiding?

Is the real you hidden behind a cloak of shame?

Are you keeping your true self under wraps out of fear or a sense of imposter syndrome?

Many of the women who come to me for coaching say they feel like they’re in hiding – hiding in their careers, in their relationships, in their lives, hiding their true selves.

It’s frustrating and exhausting to keep hiding. And it’s depressing.

I know because I’ve been there.

I was in hiding for years, but I’m gradually coming out as the real me. This blog, which I began eight years ago, was a major stepping stone on my ‘coming out’ journey and I’ll be forever grateful for my courage to start writing it, and for all of you who’ve read it and commented on it.

And my journey continues.

Today, I posted a blog on LinkedIn called Coming Out As Me and I’d like to share it here. It’s a long one!

****

It took me ages to change my LinkedIn profile to reflect my new career as a transformational coach, motivational speaker, writer and author of How to Fall in Love.

Why?

My ego got in the way, as did a cocktail of shame, fear, low self-esteem and my old friend, imposter syndrome.

Many of my LinkedIn connections knew me as a globetrotting journalist – a foreign correspondent for Bloomberg and Reuters and a political correspondent based in the UK Parliament (that would be an interesting place to be right now!).

And I figured I had your respect. They were cool jobs, with cool job titles and bags of kudos.

My ego liked the reaction I got when I told people that I flew around the world with prime ministers, went to drinks parties in Downing Street and press conferences in the White House, travelled in military planes in Afghanistan and Iraq and reported on earthquakes, tsunamis and terrorist attacks.

It still does, which is why I just wrote that.

I’d done good. The little girl from the single-parent family in Liverpool had made it, via Oxbridge, into the corridors of power and onto the front pages of newspapers.

But it didn’t fix how I felt inside.

Burnout and breakdown

I burnt out and broke down in that ‘Wow’ job. I over-worked and got over-stressed, because I was always compensating for not feeling good enough.

I also got to a point where I felt soul dead. I had changed. I wanted different things. I knew I was in the wrong job, but I felt trapped and clueless as to how to get out.

My career was my identity, the thing I’d worked so hard for. And it paid the substantial mortgage on my one-bedroom London flat.

Voluntary redundancy gave me my exit from Reuters but I had no idea what to do next. I meandered for a while, using my 20+ years of experience as a professional writer, journalist and communicator to help others to craft their messages and get PR. It made perfect sense.

Only I knew the real me was still itching to get out.

The courage to be me

And then, gradually, I found the courage to be me. I found the courage:

  • To write my truth, first on my blog, then in the media and then in my book – to write about burnout, breakdown, eating disorders, loneliness, dysfunctional relationships, grief, loss and a yearning for love
  • To coach people to love themselves, change their relationship patterns, stop self-sabotaging their happiness and to find love
  • To support people to find their passion, purpose and the courage to be true to themselves and follow their hearts, rather than stay stuck in a trap of their own making
  • To speak to corporates and women’s groups about how to achieve our potential while maintaining our mental, emotional and physical health and how to be real and vulnerable at work
  • To change my own relationship patterns and fall in love (getting married in June!)

And now my life and career make perfect sense. I can combine my writing and communication skills, my natural empathy and my life experience (including the heartache and pain) to help others.

I can especially help women who are stuck, like I was eight years ago: women who’ve been climbing a career ladder for years, achieving great things but feeling empty inside, wondering what on earth they’ve been striving for, wondering why they’re alone in their plush London flats or New York apartments, wondering why they haven’t found a partner yet and if they’ll ever have kids, wondering why they feel lost or depressed.

And it makes my skin tingle to think about the difference I can make.

It really does.

So if I’m so excited about my potential, why have I been so shy on LinkedIn?

I’ve always been too worried about what others think of me. I grew up without a secure base and developed low self-esteem. I have a craving to be universally liked, loved even. And I carry a lot of shame. It goes deep.

That’s why I don’t like shouting about what I do. That’s why I’ve designed my websites myself and not believed in myself enough to invest in my business. That’s why I develop amazing programmes like my new How to Fall in Love course and struggle to jump up and down about them (OK – so I just have – and it is amazing). That’s why I’ve failed, as yet, to get my book on booksellers’ websites in the U.S. That’s why I’m still prone to under-selling myself.

But I’m healing. I’m changing. I’m growing in courage every day. I’m here. I’m doing it. I’m not just thinking about it. I’m actually taking action. I’m finally getting over myself and doing what I can to get my work out into the world.

I’m finally coming out as me.

And I have nothing to be ashamed about, because I know I apply the same determination, commitment, professionalism and thoroughness to my second career as I did to my first. I am just as ambitious, conscientious and hard-working – but I’m ambitious for my own ongoing transformation and for yours.

How you can help

Why am I telling you all this?

Because I need your help.

You can help by cheering me on, by encouraging me to be true to myself.

You can help by asking me to speak to your business or team about the power of vulnerability or about how to achieve our potential while staying healthy and well.

You can share my coaching work or my writing with any women or men who are empty, lost or lonely, who are craving meaning or love, who want to break free but who feel stuck.

And, most importantly, you can help by being true to yourself, by coming out as you, by telling your truth.

That’s the biggest gift.

Thanks for hearing me, for bearing witness to my transformation.

***Upcoming events***

How to Fall in Love Five-Week Course with Coaching, starts April 8 for 10 women.

How to Fall in Love Spain Retreat, May 11-18, Cortijo Romero, Andalucia.

Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life Find Love, Turkey Retreat with Yoga, Oct 7-14, Spectrum. Earlybird ends Feb 28.

To download Chapter One of my book, How to Fall in Love, go to: www.howtofallinlove.co.uk

Join my free Facebook Group, Being Real, Becoming Whole

Posted in Career change, Empowerment, Women, Work | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Lent of Love

lentofloveblog

Eight years ago, I sat on the loo at London’s Southbank Centre, glanced down at my thighs, shook my head from left to right, sighed out loud, and then made a decision.

No more, I said to myself. No more.

I’d just been attending an event highlighting the pervasiveness of eating disorders and self-harm amongst women and girls around the world and I was riled.

I was angry.

I’d had enough.

I was a few days off my 40th birthday and I realised, in that moment, that I’d spent most of my life – from my early teens until that very day – criticising myself, especially my body, my shape, my size and my appearance.

My thighs were one of my main targets. I disliked the way they touched at the top. I especially didn’t like looking at them on the loo, as sitting down made them spread out.

But I’d had it.

I was about to turn 40, for goodness sake.

This had to stop.

Was I really going to go through my 40s the same way I’d gone through my 30s, 20s, and teens – giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my body, ripping holes in myself and my looks?

I didn’t want to do it anymore. I didn’t want any more of my precious headspace to be taken up with these negative, self-harming thoughts.

Back then, in 2011, it was the eve of Lent and I decided that instead of giving up chocolate, sweets, bread or crisps, as I usually did (to try and slim down), I’d abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements.

I also decided to write about my efforts everyday on a blog I called, Just As I Am – An Experiment in Self-Acceptance. You can read my Day One post from 2011 here.

(That was my very first blog, which turned into this blog, which helped me write my book – so good things can come from moments of anger and frustration.)

And here we are again.

On Day One of Lent. 2019.

Eight years on.

And I can still slip back into some of those old behaviours and thought patterns, beating myself up, giving myself a hard time, finding fault in my appearance and everything I do.

Yes, I’ve come far.

I’ve come a very long way since the days when I self-harmed with food – bingeing and starving and constantly running – with alcohol and with dysfunctional relationships that left me feeling rubbish about myself.

But I still have negative thoughts.

Of course I do. I’m human. And I’m a woman.

That’s why I’m committing myself again to abstain from negative thinking about my body, my appearance and my achievements throughout this period of Lent (and hopefully beyond), and I’m inviting you to join me.

Why is this important?

Well, I hope that’s obvious. But I’ll spell it out just in case.

Every time we run ourselves down, berate ourselves, criticise ourselves, give ourselves a hard time, poke and prod at ourselves or tut at our bodies in the mirror, we send ourselves a message that we’re not good enough, that we’re faulty, that there’s something wrong with us, that we’re not valuable, that we’re not acceptable as we are.

And then that message, that belief, grows and grows and impacts our lives in so many ways. It affects our relationships, romantic and otherwise, our work lives, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, our hopes and our dreams.

Life is hard enough as it is without this constant stream of negative thinking.

Do you agree?

If so, will you join me on this Lent of Love journey?

The goal is to become more compassionate, more self-loving and more self-accepting by forming new habits around our thinking.

I accept it’s hard to stop the first thought, but what we can do is intentionally turn our minds to something else when the negative thoughts come. We can intentionally stop the flow of negativity and self-criticism.

Here’s an extract from my Day One post back in 2011 that explains more:

“So I am challenging myself – for this period of Lent – to give up those nasty thoughts about my shape, size, form, skin tone, complexion, hair etc etc etc – that go through my head numerous times a day. This isn’t going to be easy. As I realised this morning as I showered and got dressed, self criticism is deeply ingrained in my psyche.

But the best I can do is to challenge those thoughts – so every time I’m tempted to pinch at my waist, look critically at my legs or tut or groan when I look in the mirror, I’m going to try not to. And every time I look at another woman and am tempted to think I want her figure, hair, face etc, I’m going to celebrate her beauty and also celebrate mine. I’m going to smile and say ‘Thank you God (or Universe, Mother Nature, whatever concept works for you) for creating me just as I am’.”

Self-acceptance and body acceptance are especially important for me right now because I’m shopping for a wedding dress (eek!). I’m seeing myself in long mirrors, at 47, almost 48, and observing my body, my flesh and my skin.

Wouldn’t it be a shame if I spoiled this precious gift of getting married and buying a beautiful dress with negative, nasty thoughts about the way I look?

And wouldn’t it be a shame if you spoiled this day, or the next day, or the next with similar self-critical thoughts too?

Let’s give ourselves a chance. Let’s not put ourselves down.

I hope you can join me for this Lent of Love. I’ll post again here in due course but if you’d like more regular reminders, why not join my free Facebook group, Being Real, Becoming Whole, or follow me on social media, on Instagram, on Twitter, or via my Facebook page.

Thanks for joining me on this self-loving journey. I need all the support I can get!

x

***Upcoming Events***

New How to Fall in Love small group course, begins early April, for 10 women with group and one-to-one coaching. Email me at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com to express your interest.

How to Fall in Love retreat at Cortijo Romero in Andalucia, Spain, May 11-18. Contact Cortijo Romero to book your room.

The Love Retreat with Yoga, Dalyan, southern Turkey, Oct 7-14. Love yourself, love your body, love your life and find love. Earlybird offer ends on the final day of March. Email me to enquire or book at katherine@katherinebaldwin.com

Posted in Body Image, Eating disorders, Health, Love, Perfectionism, Positive thinking, Recovery, Self-Acceptance, Women | Leave a comment