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Letting Go of Society’s Expectations and Changing the Narrative

“Life isn’t going to look like I wanted it to. I’m not able to have the child that I wanted, but who knows what’s next? And it’s clear I can’t go on like I am. Maybe it’s time to find new possibilities.” – Sarah Jane Smith Lyons

Sarah Jane Smith Lyons is a seasoned yoga teacher in a small island community. Fueled by her passion for yoga, she’s logged thousands of hours of teacher training and gained invaluable experience through her workshops. She taught her students how to use lessons from yoga to create self awareness, strength and empowerment in their daily lives.
When Sarah Jane developed fibroids it caused her to have multiple miscarriages. Her condition led her to become childless, not by choice. She has taken her painful journey with her health as well as a life she didn’t plan for and turned it into a different, but fulfilling life with new passions.

Led by her self-awareness and innate compassion, she assists women who are also childless not by choice to identify and harness their inner strength as they come to terms with childlessness.

Discussed in this episode:

  • Dealing with society’s expectations of how all women should be mothers and how to handle the dreaded question, “So, how many children do you have?”
  • How mental programming and societal expectations can be like muscle memory that needs to be observed and questioned.
  • Recognizing and reframing self-criticism as a habit that no longer serves a purpose.
  • The identity shift that happens when you’re no longer being defined by your productivity, earning power, and success.
  • Embracing personal choices and having the courage to start over, without apologizing for pursuing a different path.

Guest Spotlight: Sarah Jane Smith Lyons

Podcast guest Sarah Jane Smith Lyons standing outside smiling

Sarah Jane Smith Lyons is an embodiment teacher and mindset coach who helps fellow childless not by choice women integrate grief, amplify agency and embody possibility.

Using the foundations of embodiment, self-compassion and community she helps women uncover the confidence, spark and clarity that was buried on the way to becoming childless.

She has over 1000 hours of formal Yoga teacher training and over 4000 hours of experience leading classes, workshops, and retreats.

She is a Health and Life Coach through the Health Coach Institute and has had the honour of supporting amazing women in opening up to possibility and reclaiming their lives. Sarah Jane offers 1:1, group coaching, and courses online and in-person.

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NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Sarah Jane Smith Lyonsc
Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week's show. I'm Andrea Hanson. When we're out in the wild, maybe at a party or a gathering of people that we don't know. There is one question that most women without children dread. So do you have children? . I'm sure. It's not asked with malice. It's just one of those annoying societal assumptions that all women have kids. And for those that do have kids, it's not a dreaded question at all. It's even a welcome chance to start talking about your family. But if you don't have kids, Or if you have lost a child, this question can be really, really painful.
I've talked a little bit about this on the podcast. We don't have kids. But by choice, my MS has a little bit to do with that, but it was not the entire reason. But for other people, The reason they don't have children. Is because of their chronic illness. Today's guest sarah Jane Smith Lyons. Is a longtime yoga teacher and health and life coach. Who's sharing her personal story of wanting more than anything to have children and not being able to, because of her chronic illness. She calls it being childless, not by choice. In this week's episode, we do talk about her journey with miscarriages and grief.
Sarah Jane has this amazing energy that you'll feel right away when listening to this episode. And along with her story, she shares hope and tools that you can use if you're grieving or if you're living a life that's childless, not by choice. And at the end, we talk about ways to answer that looming question of if we have children. And
she gives us ways that help us not feel derailed by that question that help us stay in integrity and not say something. Rude. Which sometimes I do. And to just help us feel good. When the conversation takes that turn.
. So please enjoy this week's episode. And visit Andrea Hanson, for more on Sarah Jane Smith Lyons resources. We talk about in the show and transcripts from today's episode.
And you can find that link in the episode description.
[00:02:13] Andrea: Welcome to the Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea Hansen, author, motivational speaker, and master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told I would never reach my goals, but I did. And I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view, and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds to inspire you to achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw, uncensored, and judgment free.
Listener discretion is advised.
I'm here today with Sarah Jane Smith Lyons. She is an embodiment teacher and mindset coach who helps fellow childless not by choice women integrate grief, amplify agency, and embody possibility. Using the foundations of embodiment, self compassion, and community, she helps women uncover the confidence, spark, and clarity that was buried on the way to becoming childless.
Sarah Jane, welcome.
[00:03:27] Sarah Jane: Thank you. Nice to be here.
[00:03:29] Andrea: Thank you so much for coming on. I know coming on podcasts can be fun, but it's also a little bit of an exercise in being vulnerable and open. And I really appreciate you coming and sharing your story with everybody.
[00:03:44] Sarah Jane: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the opportunity.
So let's
[00:03:48] Andrea: start with what are you doing right now and get a little bit of kind of your background that led you to this.
[00:03:55] Sarah Jane: Yeah. So I'm self employed and it's kind of multifaceted. I'm a longtime yoga teacher and I live on a small island and so I have a, my own, uh, yoga studio, which is in the downstairs of my house.
So I teach yoga classes to general populations in person, but I also work online with fellow women who are childless, not by choice in a couple of different ways. One is through one on one coaching, and then the other is through group coaching programs.
[00:04:31] Andrea: So what led you to Yoga, because I'm reading your bio and you've had thousands of hours of teacher training and running workshops and I know you have a great online yoga practice where you have all of these videos that people can get to on your website.
What made you get into this in the very beginning?
[00:04:52] Sarah Jane: So that reaches way back. I remember taking my first yoga class at the local YMCA when I was living in Victoria, British Columbia, and I think I was probably 18 or 19. Yoga was something that I'd heard about here that it's, that it's good for you. So I was like, well, okay, give it a try.
And I fell in love with the idea of a moving meditation. So I'm doing something physical with my body, but it's not just about the physicality of it. It's a practice that allows the space to notice what's going on inside. So it's a self awareness practice. So when you're doing the different shapes, you can notice, oh, How does it feel in my body or how am I breathing when I'm in this different position and also give space to notice the thoughts and the feelings that come up.
And so that struck me right off the bat that first, you know, six week session in the YMCA basement. And then I, Didn't do yoga for a long time. Lots of things happened in my life and then I was drawn back to it when I was living in a different town and this was a hot yoga practice and I'd also heard that, you know, hot yoga.
Okay. Interesting. I went the first time and really disliked it. I was like, but it's so hot. It's uncomfortable. What's all sweaty. Everyone's sweaty. Why would I want to be in this? Place with all of this sweat.
[00:06:24] Andrea: Yeah. It is very intimate with people that you've never met before. All of a sudden you're in like this very sticky, sweaty situation.
[00:06:32] Sarah Jane: Totally. Yeah. But I had bought a like a one week come as many times as you can pass and I was living on a strict budget so I was like, well, I'm not just gonna go once cause I . I bought this pass so I'm gonna go back. And so I went. Three or even four times, I think that week. And by the fourth time I was like, okay, I get it.
The heat added that sort of extra layer of awareness because it had to be really aware of like, do I need a drink right now? Do I need to stop? What am I really feeling in my body? So I found it. It added to my self awareness practice and I dove really deep into, into that practice and. decided that after a few years that I wanted to teach this, I wanted to learn more.
And really the only way, for better or for worse, to learn more without a lot of self study, which is great, I was doing that, is to do a teacher training. I didn't know if I wanted to actually be a teacher when I first did the training, but throughout the training, I just got more and more inspired by the practice because the more that I practiced, the more that I saw the benefits and the value.
For my inner landscape, you know, my inner life, it helped really ground me and give me some tools to deal with my anxiety, starting with the breath, sort of when, because when, especially in a hot yoga practice for me, sometimes I can, my anxiety is elevated because it's uncomfortable. It's hot. There's like this, I can get a little bit overwhelmed.
And so it was a great kind of low stakes. Place to practice using breath, using awareness to help down regulate my nervous system, to calm myself down, to ease my anxiety. It was also a great place to practice something that I wasn't very good at, but not very good at the physical postures, but it's also again, kind of low stakes, right?
Like we practice it. If you sort of come out of a pose cause you can't hold it for too long or you go a little off. balance. It's not, not really a big deal, right? You can get back into it. You can try it again next time. So I really fell into this, this version of practice that allowed me to, to build confidence.
And so when I found that I was like, well, this, this is what I want to teach. And so I happened to be in the right place at the right time and a new studio opened in my town that I was living in. And I had the opportunity, which many yoga teachers don't get to have a full time contract. So I was teaching 15 plus classes a week for five years.
So that's how I accumulated so many hours of teaching.
[00:09:39] Andrea: I was like, I don't think I have 5, 000 hours of practice in anything. Even brushing my teeth. I'm not even sure.
[00:09:50] Sarah Jane: Yeah. Yeah. So my first teacher training was 500 hours. And then I've done subsequent trainings after that. So that's getting the thousand hours plus.
And then I've been teaching for my full time job for 12 years.
[00:10:07] Andrea: So what is your favorite thing about teaching yoga to your clients?
[00:10:12] Sarah Jane: Seeing the transformation from, I don't think I can do that. To over time practicing it, revisiting it again and again, the confidence that comes out that folks can do it, or they make an adjustment within themselves and with their bodies to achieve the functional objective.
So, The idea is the pose is we're not looking for perfect replications of things that we might see on magazines or on the internet. We're looking to understand what's the point of doing the thing that we're doing and working with it enough and being curious enough to figure out how does my body. Meet the functional objective.
So the purpose of doing what we're doing.
[00:11:01] Andrea: Oh, interesting. Can you go into that a little bit more? Like, what is the purpose of doing yoga?
[00:11:06] Sarah Jane: Well, there's many different purposes, depending on your intention and what you're looking for. So speaking, most people, when they think about yoga, they think of just the poses, just the asana.
[00:11:18] Andrea: They think of Instagram with all of those
[00:11:19] Sarah Jane: people. Right. Yeah. With something like leg behind your head or like fancy outfit or whatever.
[00:11:25] Andrea: Yeah, on the cliff at sunset with the sun shining through like the exact right spot.
[00:11:33] Sarah Jane: Right. Yeah. No, no. I'm so glad.
So initially, so say a functional objective of a forward fold. So that's when you're standing up and you hinge at your. Hips to move forward. So the functional objective of that is to stretch the back line of your body. So that could be felt in your calves, it could be felt in your hamstrings, it could be felt in your lower back, all the way your upper back to your neck.
So, some folks do that with straight legs. Because that's how their body works other folks There's limitations with the tightness of the backs of the legs that then pulls down the pelvis So it's they can achieve the functional objective. So stretching the back line of the body with bent legs You're working with yourself to figure out how you can best achieve this, whatever the functional objective of each shape is.
But then as you put that together, that you can take that practice outside of each posture and outside of the yoga studio by Having that same idea of like, what's the functional objective of the thing that I'm doing, like in my life, in your relationships. And how can me and my makeup and my ideas and my personality and my considerations, how can I meet that?
So it's really a practice of self awareness. Discernment, boundaries, curiosity, and compassion.
[00:13:15] Andrea: I love that. I love the idea of taking it outside into just our real life and saying, what is the functional objective here? I think that's something that is not asked. Enough, I think we tend to ask, how can I make myself into what I want this to be, which is like you said, kind of the equivalent of like, how can I do this forward bend and make my leg straight when maybe that doesn't work for me.
And so it's a great way to reframe like, okay, let's throw away what we think we need to do. Let's throw away what we think the perfect outcome is here. What is the objective? What is the functional objective here? And how can we get there? I think that's brilliant.
[00:13:54] Sarah Jane: So I love seeing people come in and try out different things, work out, be curious to see how they can meet the functional objective of the different shapes of the overarching intention of the class.
So I always have a teaching from yoga philosophy or an idea from yoga philosophy that is the overarching intention. And so it's sort of layers of functional objective all the way down from the overarching intention to the individual. Shape. And so it's, how can you embody that, the intention? So currently in the, and I teach in series, six week series.
So we practice the same thing for six weeks. So you can really get into it and revisit things and learn as you go along, as opposed to just drop ins where the class is different all the time. I've did that for years, but I find the learning is really. Not that learning needs to be fast, but like slow as in can take years and years and years as opposed to a year.
So right now the intention, the overarching intention of the series is working with a yoga sutra. So that's a teaching, a yoga teaching that is in the Sanskrit language. It's sthira sukha mukha. Asanam, and it means steady yet comfortable posture. So you can apply that into the physical postures of yoga, but it's also has another sort of translation of finding effort in ease and finding a little bit of ease in effort.
Oh, I like that. So, which is really a. Applicable outside of the yoga studio, right? So interacting with it, with your life, with yourself, with your relationships, with this balance of effort and ease. And we're not looking for total balance because that doesn't work, right? Like some things require a lot of effort, but how can you bring in that sense of ease, but then when you have full ease, maybe there's a little bit of effort that can help with focus and concentration and to be more intentional.
[00:16:10] Andrea: And I think when you have effort from that foundation of ease, of what I say in my practice when I'm working with clients, if you have focus and effort from a place of allowing , what you get from that effort is so much just stronger and better and more sustainable than if you try to effort from that place of resistance. You could be doing the exact same thing, but you're going to have two very different outcomes depending on where that effort is coming from.
[00:16:42] Sarah Jane: Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of the same as motivating with criticism versus motivating with compassion. Yes,
[00:16:50] Andrea: You know, I've never got super into the yoga. I, I've had like entries into it, but I will never forget when I was, I was pretty young. I was really new into my diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and I was just trying things. I'm like, okay, I've got to figure out exactly what you were saying.
It wasn't the why, but it was the same kind of thing. I was like, okay, I've heard this is good. I need to find things that are good. I was a little bit high strung, should we say. And I was like, I got to bring it down a notch. Let's try the yoga. And what the yoga teacher said, and it's so funny because it's probably just one of the many things that she said during classes and whatnot, but it really has stayed with me decades later.
And she just, we were doing, I don't know, like tree pose or something that was on one foot. And she just said, find your balance. Your balance is going to be different. Every single day. And that, for me, that was everything. Hearing that from somebody who was so knowledgeable of these things of yoga and your balance and everything and coming from the standpoint of having this new diagnosis, trying to figure out figure out my body being so scared that all of a sudden anything can happen in MS,
and in those first years I was so scared and I was being really, I don't know if it was critical, but just very, like I just had an eye on my body. I was. always watching, like, is this normal? Is this what's happening?
Is this new? Is this different? Was it different than a couple of days ago? And I was exhausting myself. And so to be in this yoga class and have somebody say, like, look, your balance is different today than it will be tomorrow than it was yesterday. And it's 100% normal. And it was like this beautiful permission.
for me to just relax and it was just, it was just amazing. And like I said, it's stuck with me forever. It's such an important lesson to just have that. And I think what she was saying is it's in that ease, right? It's looking at your posture. It's looking at your balance and just having that ease and allowing that it's just going to be different.
And then it's going to be okay. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. So beautiful. So let's talk about your health journey a little bit because you've had this beautiful yoga practice that you've been building and in about 2018, you were dealing with fibroids, you'd had quite a long battle with fibroids in your body and in fact it was, you had one that was getting so large that it was impeding on other organs, is that right?
[00:19:30] Sarah Jane: Yeah. Yeah. So I'd had, uh, fibroids for a long time. I'd had a myomectomy, so a fibroid removal surgery 10 years prior to that in 2008 and just as fibroids do, they grew back and I had been Since the myomectomy in 2008, I had met my husband and we were trying to have a baby and I had multiple pregnancy losses and then a long period of unexplained infertility where I sought advice of, of specialists and had all the tests and all the poking and the prodding and they were like, well, We don't know.
So just keep going, it'll happen one day, which you can probably tell by the tone of my voice. So I didn't feel that that was really helpful or, or such great advice because it didn't. And they had recommended I have a second myomectomy probably in about 2016, but they also said that, you know, there's already scar tissue there and this Second surgery will also create more scar tissue.
So every time you have a surgery like that, it, I remember this so clearly, he used the words that the uterus will become an inhospitable place for a baby.
[00:20:57] Andrea: Oh, wow. What were you thinking when they said that? What went through your head?
[00:21:02] Sarah Jane: It already feels like it is because of the multiple pregnancy losses and then not being able to become pregnant.
So I was scared that it was going to become even The likelihood was going to be less, so I decided not to have my amectomy at that time. But then it became increasingly clear by just the sensations in my lower abdomen, I felt very full and lots of Pressure, my periods were so heavy. I remember having to take changes of pants with me everywhere.
I went sitting in the car on towels because sitting for a while and then standing up was a big event. I was so worried that I'd be in places, regular places in, in everyday life where you sit down and then standing up and like worried about, Oh, have I. Have I bled on the chair daily life was full of anxiety, but also every cycle that went by that I wasn't pregnant also increased the anxiety, increased the stress, increased the grief of not being able to have a baby.
And then around the beginning of 2018, I had a doctor's appointment and he was feeling my abdomen and he's like, you know, this is getting. it's too, your abdomen is too big. The pressure in there, the, it feels like these fibroids are really, really large. And so he recommended that I go see a specialist again, and I did, and she recommended A hysterectomy.
She didn't think that was possible to remove the fibroids without the hysterectomy because it wa it was actually one giant fibroid, which ended up being about seven or eight pounds on the cervix, all in the cervix. So it wa wasn't able to remove that without removing the cervix. And so that was, that was the recommendation.
[00:23:08] Andrea: And so at this point, you said you were already feeling like you had kind of lost hope that having a child was going to happen. Was this kind of the finality of that or what was going through your
[00:23:21] Sarah Jane: head? Yeah, it definitely felt final. It was so mixed as human experiences. always are. It was immense sadness, but also there was a little sort of like, tinkling of relief.
Like I'd so long been trying and like, and keeping up this endless hope and allowing myself to grieve a little bit, but keeping the grief At bay because I didn't really feel like, well, how, how can I keep hope? How can I hold hope and grief at the same time without, and still want to keep going? So it was a lot of pushing those deeper feelings of grief aside.
And so with the finality of the hysterectomy, there was that level of relief of like, Oh, well, maybe, maybe I can finally grieve. Maybe it's going to be okay. Life isn't going to look like I wanted it to. I'm not able to have the child that I wanted, but who knows what's, what's next? And it's clear, like there's, I can't go on like I am.
I need to have this surgery, and it is final in that way. So I went ahead and had it done.
[00:24:43] Andrea: And how long after that surgery was it until you were Able to look forward and start saying what you just said with the, you know what, maybe it's going to be okay. Maybe there's, maybe there's something else or there's going to be beautiful possibilities I can't even think of.
I know that didn't happen immediately.
[00:25:04] Sarah Jane: No, it did not. And it still comes in waves. The finality of childlessness and the grief of childlessness isn't a one time event because as we Age and as we go along in our lives, the absence of the Children that we wanted come along with us. We see folks around us having Children and all the different milestones and the things that people go through and they might even get to be grandparents.
So it's sort of. I don't want to paint the picture, the unrealistic picture that I decided it was going to be okay, and then, phew, I'm, I'm done with it. So to answer your original question, I'd say it probably, after having the surgery, I took the most time off I could. I was like, this is the only time. I think that I'm going to be like having the permission.
I don't know why I felt like I needed permission to just fully delve into this physical recovery. Like I was never going to have maternity leave. I was never going to have any of that stuff. So I'm going to take this time. So I took an extra long time for the recovery because it wasn't just the physical recovery.
It was a mental and emotional recovery as well. Of course. Which my doctors never spoke about, like that was sort of like I kind of came to that not through the advice of medical professionals, but just through thinking about what I needed on a more sort of holistic level. So I know I still haven't answered your question, but I'm getting to it.
[00:26:40] Andrea: No, I mean, take your time. I mean, it's, it's whatever's true for you, right? It doesn't, this is not, we're not like on the six o'clock news.
[00:26:52] Sarah Jane: So I'd say it was probably a year, a year and a half after that I was That I had found a somewhat relationship with grief where I was able to be with it. It wasn't so acute, you know, it wasn't sort of taking me down every day. I noticed my My reactions and my responses to, and my triggers around different things involving pregnancy and children and babies were starting to soften a bit.
They were like still there. So I found that there was, there was the spaciousness to start to sort of pop my head up and be like, okay, well, I have this experience. I have this grief, but what else? might there be out there?
[00:27:43] Andrea: What were the first things that you started to notice when you asked yourself that question?
[00:27:47] Sarah Jane: Yeah, just how much I could do things differently or the opportunities like to do things differently when I don't have. children when I'm not necessarily on that same schedule of like the school year or even the school day or so it started out with small freedoms that I felt okay well if because I'm self employed I can't and I'm not sort of tied to somebody else's schedule I can schedule my work how I want to and I can maybe work a bit less than I might otherwise have, if I have children, because my financial commitments are a bit less.
So it was just started out with those small everyday freedoms. And then I was starting to make some bigger plans and then COVID. hit. So those bigger plans were brought back into the small every day. But that's where I really see the value. I had this idea at first, okay, well, I, I can't have children. So I've got to somehow my things I do in my life have to be big to quote unquote, make up for it to sort of like have this big.
Plan B. But then I decided that I didn't really like that kind of thinking. Like I, I don't need to do big things in my life to prove my, my worth to myself or anybody else. If I want to do big things, then. Um, then I can, but it goes back to that idea of what's the functional objective. Am I doing this, like thinking I have to have this big plan B because I have to prove to others that, well, I'm, I'm spending my time wisely.
I'm doing this like big thing that's really good for the, for the world because I didn't have children.
[00:29:46] Andrea: Yeah. And I feel like other people have functional objectives. of what they think it's like for us, right? Especially as women, you know, you talked about the triggers and softening around them. And it just made me think I, so I don't have kids.
It's by choice, but I don't have them. And, and there's. A lot of people who don't have children, and even if it's by choice, there's thousands of reasons why, right? It's not just one decision. And so even if you have it by choice, there are still those triggers. Because, like I said, sometimes it feels like society has a functional objective for us as women.
Well, it does. Right? Yeah, it's like , you're going to have babies. And if you don't have babies, you have to prove yourself in like you said, in like this big way. I mean, I mean, still to this day, and it was worse, obviously, when I was younger, especially when I was in like my 20s.
And I was living in the south but it's still a little bit of Transcribed like an awkward, weird moment when I'm meeting people. Like if I'm at a networking event and I'm meeting someone for the first time and inevitably the question is, so do you have kids?
And I don't have kids. And, and again, it's like, it's by choice. I have my own reason. I had to reconcile with that reason, but it still is just like, there's that weird, awkward, like, nope, there it is.
[00:31:10] Sarah Jane: Dead air. Nobody knows what to say. It's really interesting because it's like. I would hope that somebody who does have children, that that's not the most interesting thing about them.
[00:31:22] Andrea: Yes, exactly. Sometimes you can see them like calculating in their head of like, Welp, I don't have anything in common with them.
[00:31:29] Sarah Jane: Right? No, I'm sure you have so many things that you could talk about. But yeah, folks are uncomfortable. with other people not having children, whether it be by choice or not by choice, by circumstance, any way that you get there.
It's like an instant conversation killer.
[00:31:49] Andrea: It really is. I don't know. I mean, and I have yet to find something that it's funny. It's like, I have yet to find something that really breaks the ice. Like usually I'll just be like, nope, but I have a dog or something. But even then, even then though, it's like I get mad at myself because I'm like, why am I putting the burden on me to smooth over the awkward corner that this conversation just went into because someone is assuming
I have kids.
[00:32:16] Sarah Jane: Yeah, why do you have to make it okay for them?
[00:32:19] Andrea: Yeah, and it's not to say everyone's like this. Usually this is something with like an acquaintance or a stranger. So like I have friends that have kids and I have friends with the people that you're close to. It's not an issue, but We're meeting people all the time.
We're in these situations all the time and it can just be so like, sometimes you're just kind of grabbing your drink and turning around and
[00:32:41] Sarah Jane: yeah,
[00:32:43] Andrea: so what, what do you say, like, how do you feel in situations like that? What are, what do you help like when you're talking with your clients, like what do you, what do you tell them?
[00:32:53] Sarah Jane: This is something that we practice as sort of an actual exercise that we do and there's multi levels to it because. Not every situation, the same answer wouldn't work in each situation. And I approach it from the, the point of your answer is empowering for you. So as opposed to the answer, that's going to make it okay for the other person.
And so your answer is going to be different if it's, you know, as you just said, at a networking event. at a family event, maybe a family member or, you know, a distant relative or something hasn't seen you in a while. And they're sort of like, even just asking, not just do you have kids, but, you know, people ask all kinds of intrusive questions about, you know.
[00:33:42] Andrea: yeah. Or they say things like, don't worry, it'll happen. And when it's like, you haven't even said anything besides like, no, I don't have kids.
[00:33:49] Sarah Jane: Yeah. Or like, what's taking you so long and the things like this. So, I actually work with my clients to, because many people can bring up four or five scenarios where this has happened and it's been different and what they felt like saying or wanted to say or did say was different in each scenario.
So we do journaling exercises about like, write all the things that you could say, like including the funny things like, Oh yeah, my dog doesn't like kids. That's why I don't have them. Or like, I'm a vegetarian or, you know, like just like silly things. Yeah.
[00:34:21] Andrea: My cat's allergic to kids. I've seen that one.
[00:34:23] Sarah Jane: Yeah, exactly.
So including silly things, what you actually want to say, which might be like super rude and mean, and you would never say because you're not a super rude and mean person. And then things that would feel good to say for each of those different scenarios. And then from looking at it, picking different elements of things that you actually would say, writing them out, like it's a little script.
I'm practicing them out loud. So because oftentimes in those scenarios, even though, you know, say you're going to an networking event, you know, someone's probably going to ask you, do you have kids, but you're still probably kind of caught off guard, right? Like you're like, and don't really know what to say.
And it's that sort of like, And you think about it after, like you just said, Oh, I often feel mad at myself, right? That I couldn't just say something. So this, so doing this exercise and writing it out beforehand and deciding what would feel really good and empowering for me to say in a number of these different scenarios, practicing it takes away that, that feeling of like, uh, being put on the spot a little bit.
So you're more able to answer from an empowered place and say something that you, you feel good about. I mean, it's probably not going to come out perfectly and it's going to be maybe a bit of a different scenario than you imagined, but over time, you can kind of. cobbled together a few things that work.
So my go to these days, depending on the situation, so the most recent time that this happened to me is I recently joined a community choir and it's for women and the invitation was if people had little kids. to bring the kids to the choir. So there was lots of talk about the kids. Lots of the women were, you know, meeting each other for the first time.
And inevitably somebody asked me, Oh, do you have children? And I felt comfortable. And I said, no, I really wanted to, but it didn't happen. And I'd really like to talk about something else. Say books. What book are you reading?
[00:36:33] Andrea: Oh, wow. That's great. I love how it's like, no, and I want to change the
[00:36:39] Sarah Jane: conversation.
I'm in control of this. Yeah. Here's, here's the off ramp. Yeah. Like I am setting, I'm answering your question, which you don't have to do if you don't want to, but I want to answer the question in that moment. I set a boundary and then I provided. the next step. So to move, move things along. So it wasn't just that awkward.
And because that feels good for me, you don't have to provide the off ramp. As you say, it's not your responsibility to make other people feel okay. If you would just want to say your answer and then state your boundary and then let things go as they go. You get to decide.
[00:37:23] Andrea: Yeah, I think it's interesting because the conversation that changes as you get older, I think, and as you move through because you're both processing it more. Other people see you differently. Like when I was in my 20s, like I said, like I had, I mean, it can get pretty crazy. Like you said, of like, when's it going to happen? And are you going to do it?
And of course you want it. And don't be silly. You just don't know. It's all of that. And it's not so much like that now, but I still sometimes feel. Like when I answer the question and if I'm honest about it, depending on again who I'm talking to, like it still almost feels like, no, I didn't, I didn't want a life like yours.
Like, right? No, we chose not to have kids because we, we did. Not that I don't, I mean, I love kids. It's not that I, I love my niece and nephew. I love all of that, but we just chose not to for our own reasons. And. Yeah. And sometimes it's like to just be honest and be like, no, we chose not to have kids. It's kind of like you just talk to me for 20 minutes about how you're running ragged because of school, whatever is going on.
And now I'm telling you like, yeah, I opted out of that. And again, it makes me feel like, like I have to do work. It's not my responsibility for how the person feels. Based on what my answer is,
[00:38:38] Sarah Jane: absolutely. Yeah. Cause folks take things on, they feel confronted by your, so it's like they think that you're making some kind of value judgment against them and their choices, but that's not the case.
You're not saying anything about them. You're talking about yourself and there's room. There's room for all experiences and all choices.
[00:39:00] Andrea: Yeah. And honestly, it's sometimes, and like you said, like this is nuanced, but sometimes the value choice is already put on us. It just happens to not be our values when it's asking the value choice of women should have kids.
And if you don't have kids, it's weird, right? Like that choice is already put. into our lap to answer the question. And so you're right. Sometimes it can feel confrontational. Sometimes it feels good to confront that and maybe change the story a little bit. And sometimes you're just tired. Yeah. Sometimes you're just tired and you want to talk about your heeler and that's it.
[00:39:36] Sarah Jane: Or, you know, that the person from the interactions you've had with them, it's not going to be a productive conversation. There's no need to get into situations where that you have identified aren't going to be good for you.
[00:39:48] Andrea: Right. Yeah. And I think that's great. I love, I love what you do where it's think about all the different scenarios.
Because like, even though you're not going to think of every scenario, you can think of a handful that, that are kind of a good sample and then create your answers and then give yourself that permission to write down your answers that you would never say out loud that are just, just get it out there to say it because sometimes we just want to.
[00:40:15] Sarah Jane: That's very real. That is a real part of your experience and it needs to be acknowledged and witnessed by you by getting it out of your brain and onto the piece of paper.
[00:40:28] Andrea: Yeah, let's start by not judging ourselves with our answers and let's give ourselves that grace. So you help women. You are also a health coach and talk to me about how you are helping women that are childless not by choice.
[00:40:43] Sarah Jane: So a number of things that sort of are umbrellas that we work with. So one thing is integrating grief. So grief is there in every journey to childlessness. It shows up differently and can be different based on different people's experience. But everybody has the right to their grief. So acknowledging grief and doing different sort of.
exercises and contemplations and readings around how grief is showing up and building a relationship with grief. Because like I said earlier, it's grief isn't something like, okay, I spend a little bit of time on and like, okay, now now that's what's next for as long as I live my experience of childlessness will ebb and flow.
So having this relationship and what we call keeping grief warm allows to recognize that along the way. And to give myself the permission and the space to recognize when it's coming up and having some tools and ideas around. How can I care for myself? How can I soothe myself in those different moments and times of grief?
So that's one, integrating grief. The second sort of pillar is amplifying agency. So agency being that recognizing that you have choices. And learning how to make them. And so the methodology is, is again, kind of the same self reflection, contemplation. This is where I actually bring in movement practice, yoga practice, because when we do things with our bodies that say like making choices, it helps cement and build confidence in that we have choice and we can make it.
As in a journey to childlessness, no matter how you get there, choice was taken away at one point or many points along the way. So this erodes from, in my experience and in many other childless women that I've spoken with, it erodes self confidence and this idea that we can make good choices. Because think we've tried something like tried to have a baby and made choices that we think are going to have that outcome and they haven't.
And so that's a really big, you know, it's a life altering experience. So we start with building confidence with making choices through trauma informed yoga. So it's a little bit different than in a regular studio class. The cueing is where it sort of comes in. So in a regular studio class, someone might say, Raise your arms above your head, and everybody lifts their arms up.
In this trauma informed yoga, the cue is, Raise your arms to a height that works with your shoulders today. So you have to think about, oh, what height does work with my shoulders today? You have to tune into how it feels in your body. You have to make decisions and you have to be willing to make a decision that might look different than the person next to you.
And so that's where you build the confidence in making your own decisions for yourself based on the functional objective, despite what's going on around you. So that's amplifying agency. And then the further, the last one is embodying possibility. So that idea of looking up, looking around, like what's possible now for me on a daily basis on, and maybe your career, maybe in your social life, in all aspects of your life, what's possible now.
And starting with what do you even like? Because I know for myself and for many women that I've spoken with, when the hyper focus is on one thing. And having a baby and that you never get to have that thing, your view just gets narrower and narrower and narrower and add grief onto that, which also creates a very narrow way of being and envisioning your life.
It can be hard to remember or even know what you like anymore. So we start with what kinds of things did you like to do when you were a kid? You know, maybe you loved. horseback riding and somewhere along the way you've just stopped. So maybe that's something that you want to try out again. Or maybe you loved coloring.
There's lots of adult coloring books. You don't need to be a, you know, a proficient artist. to do artwork or maybe you like pottery or maybe you haven't read a novel in a long time because you've just been so focused on informational books that are going to help try and and get you where you are so maybe you you read a novel so trying to look for these things which you call glimmers so there's triggers like a cue in the nervous system.
So, and it's usually to amplify the nervous system into a flight or fight response. Glimmers are things that you think about or bring to mind or do that downregulate the nervous system that get you that like cozy feeling that like, Oh yeah, I really like this kind of feeling. So we, we work on a smaller level with those glimmers.
to try and see, to open up small pathways of possibility. And then we build out from there.
[00:46:24] Andrea: I love that. So something that came to my mind, and it was from talking earlier, when you say not by choice, I wanted to get some clarity on that because I know, like I said before, there's a lot of people who are child, who don't have kids by choice.
But there's a thousand reasons why they made that choice. And sometimes the choice is not that it was a completely closed door, like they had a hysterectomy or something like that, but it seems like such an impossible choice that to move forward with something that technically is possible, it would be detrimental.
because there are so many risk factors with whatever chronic illness you have or what's going on. And, and so choice is technically made, but they still feel like the fullness of that choice wasn't even available. Are those people that you work with as well?
[00:47:12] Sarah Jane: Yes, absolutely.
So yeah, I'm glad you brought this up because a choice is a funny thing, right? So if you look at my story, I technically chose to have a hysterectomy. I gave consent to that. I chose not to pursue adoption or fostering, but that's not really a choice. There's many reasons. So we chose not to do IVF. That was for financial and health reasons, but technically.
I chose not to, right? So this idea of who's making the choice and who isn't, it's the person themselves. So maybe you are childless because you didn't meet somebody during your fertile years. that you would feel suitable that would, that you would have a child with. That's not by choice. Maybe you had an upbringing and in your family and for whatever reason you didn't feel confident that you would be a suitable parent, so you didn't pursue it.
That would also fall into the category of not by choice. As you say, maybe there's illness, maybe there's financial considerations. It's, it's really, really broad. It's not only folks who have had my experience of a hysterectomy, and it's a pretty clear line, but it doesn't have to be. It's defined that, that not by choice is defined by the person themselves.
[00:48:44] Andrea: So I know there are people listening that absolutely want to get in touch with you. I'm going to have information in the show notes, information in the description of this episode, but tell people how they can get in touch with you.
[00:48:56] Sarah Jane: So the place is my website and it's embodied. Possibility. com and I write a weekly article.
So I'm very active on that website. So there's lots and lots of information and resources. I also am active on social media, mainly on Instagram, and that is also at embodied possibility.
[00:49:19] Andrea: Fantastic. Sarah Jane, thank you so much for coming on and sharing your story. And I know I learned a lot. I know listeners have learned a lot and I really, I really appreciate you sitting down and talking with me.
[00:49:32] Sarah Jane: Thank you so much. I appreciate being here.
[00:49:35] Andrea: If you like the show, don't be shy. Please give us a five star rating and review. Follow us on Apple podcast, Amazon music, or wherever you're listening right now. To see complete show notes and resources mentioned in this episode, visit andreahansoncoaching. com.

About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.

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