One to One Coaching

I offer free 30 minute telephone/Skype consultations for people wanting to find out more about coaching on the 'baby decision'. Email me at and assistant Laura will respond and arrange an appointment with you. Visit for more information about my coaching services.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Fear: How does fear prevent us knowing if we want children or not

My appearance on Woman's Hour happened last week and you can listen to the whole show here BBC Woman's Hour Broadcast  Thanks to everyone who emailed me with warm words after the broadcast - it was much appreciated!

I've only been on the radio several times over the years and each time, I've been racked with nerves.  The day before appearing on Women's Hour,  I was filled with FEAR.  I was convinced that I would freeze on air, that I would stumble or make completely no sense what-so-ever.    I was in a state of panic.   I also kept thinking How could I get out of this?  This was very strange as I had yearned and yearned to be able to be on the radio and to get the message out about the struggle that so many women go through in trying to decide whether to have children or not.

So why was I so fearful? Why did I now want to push away something I thought I wanted?   The coach part of me knew that my saboteur (or inner critic) was in complete control - he was hissing that I wasn't worthy and that I was too fluffy, too liable to waffle and talk around a subject for AGES to be able to be a slick and effective radio presenting

One of my coach friends, the fab Meg Lyons offered me a coaching session after I reached out to her. We went through different scenarios which did help calm my nerves a little.  But she mentioned something that had a powerful effect on me which was:

'Anytime we do something outside our comfort zone, anytime we stretch ourselves or try something new, we feel fear... that's a natural response.  The key is to acknowledge it, accept it and then do what we need to do in order to grow and stretch'

Just that knowing that fear is a natural part of this process of doing something outside my normal comfort zone made that fear less powerful. 

And I realised that this is a parallel process to what all of my baby decision clients go through.  One of the reasons that this decision can be so scary and fearful is that it requires us to go outside our comfort zone.   Even if women make the positive decision (as so beautifully described by Dr Ginette Carpenter on the Women's Hour show) not to have children, it's still a decision that is asking us to stretch ourselves.  Why? Because, in this instance, it is asking us to shut the door on a potential future opportunity.  My clients who are considering a child free life say that they are often worried that they are making the wrong choice, that if they decide not to have children that they will be missing out on an experience that they can never have otherwise.  In this age where FOMO (fear of missing out) is becoming a recognised syndrome and cause of unhappiness, it's not comfortable to say that we are going to say no, that we are going to shut a door on a possibilities.  So many times women in their late 30's or early 40's have said that if they were a decade later, they would happily defer the decision because they would like to keep all their options open.

And that's why that for many people this really is a decision they have to make.  On the Women's Hour programme, Jane Garvey said she didn't understand how this really was a decision. For her, it was either something you did or you didn't... not a conscience decision.  I think this is because for Jane and many women who knew they always wanted children,  this was always an implicit assumption that they made personally and that was reinforced by societal norms that meant that they didn't need to think about.   However, to go against the grain, to question this implicit assumption is uncomfortable.  It is pushing against a comfort zone... which can lead to women who are thinking about embracing a child-free life to feel fear.

On the other side, if a woman is considering having children when they already have a good and comfortable life, the fear that we might be taking something on that would disrupt that and that our saboteur says, we might not be cut out for, that we have no experience of,  really forces out outside our comfort zone.  It is a decision that can stretch us and we can, like I explained did with the radio interview, search for many reasons why this decision is not for us.  Even if we have a strong desire to have children, our fear of moving outside what we know can be immense.

That's why, as I said on the Women's Hour show, one of the things I do with all my clients is to get out all their fears.  We need to shine a light on our fears in order to deal with them.  Are they fears led by the saboteur because we are frightened of stepping outside our comfort zone?   Once we bring these fears out, we can grapple with them and we can look at how likely these fear are to occur.  Sometimes I find that just acknowledging a clients fear as normal can take the  power away.

A fear that comes up again and again is that women feel like they might not be the best mother, that they don't feel like they are cut to be a mother or that they don't feel like a natural mother.   It can help just to hear someone say that many of us who are mothers feel like that, many of us feel inadequate and not like the mystical natural mothers we've all heard about.   We can still go forward and be mothers and have ambivalence.  That's normal.  That's what being human is all about.  The myth of the natural mother is not one that is born out in reality.  And in fact, it's when we try to life up to unrealistic myths around womanhood or motherhood is when we fall down - because we can never achieve this, we are being set up to fail.

What I want for all women is that they feel that whatever choice that they make is a positive decision.  Yes, fear is a part of the decision making process.  But fear shouldn't be the reason we make the choice to be either child free or a mother.  We need to trust ourselves to make a positive decision and find ways to acknowledge but then vanquish the voices of fear.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Why I coach women who don't know if they want to be a mother or not

I'm a big fan of the BBC Radio 4 programme Woman's Hour and have been a listener for over 20 years.  In 2018,  I was invited on the show which was hosted by Jenni Murray and this felt like the pinnacle of my career.  (you can listen to that show here Beth Follini & Christina Odone on Women's Hour ).  I've now been invited on again when I will be discussing how women can and do make this decision and to talk about my own personal journey.

Many people have asked me what led me to coach on this specific and very niche issue.  Over the years, I've had comments from people who are very perplexed by what I do.  Usually, they have never felt stuck on the issue - they have always known that they either want children OR don't want children that they can't understand why someone would go to a coach, a stranger for help on this issue.  'If you don't know if you want a baby or not, then you definitely shouldn't have one.' is a comment I've heard several times.

But I know exactly what it is like to feel stuck in the land of indecision around whether to forge ahead and have children (or attempt to have children) or to carry on and live a child free life.

For me, my decision was complicated by the fact that I disagreed with my partner about having kids.  As he already had a grown up child from a previous relationship and was already of an age when he thought he had put all that behind him, it wasn't ideal for him to embark on the journey of having another child.

I bounced back and forth between the options for a couple years  not sure what to do.  I looked for some advice or guidance but didn't find a whole lot out there to help me.

Finally, I felt that my desire for a child outweighed many of the logical and practical reasons against. My partner came on board with the idea and we now have a 13 year old son.

At the same time, I also know that I would have had good and fulfilled life without children - it would have just been a different life.

When I started my training, I realised that coaching would be a great way to help other people who were in the same situation I had been.  Coaching helps people 'get out of their own way'.  It allows us to look at decisions and life choices in different ways than we have been.  I get people to visualise the different parts of them that are in conflict.  A classic tension is between the 'head (logic, reason) and the 'heart'.  So I encourage people to shut their eyes and visualise these two parts.  What does your head have to say? And what about your heart? What would it like to do.

I also get people to write out all their fears on a mind map - their fears and anxieties about having and not having children  And then we look at them  in the 'cold light of day' and find ways we can respond to those fears.  If they are afraid they might be lonely when they get older if they don't have children, we brainstorm things they can do that will help overcome loneliness as they age.  How do they feel about choosing not to have children when they feel more confident that they have other options to deal with potential loneliness.   If they have a fear that they might not be a good parent, I ask them to examine the veracity of that fear - is that just a belief of their inner critic or saboteur?  What happens if they imagine showing the inner critic the door... what do they believe when the inner critic isn't able to speak and wield so much power?    When clients do this, they often feel clearer about their decision and less clouded by fear.

Having coached on the issue for over 10 years now I can honestly say it is still incredibly rewarding.  Particularly when I hear from clients who have been able to move on and feel at peace with whatever decision they have made, whether it be to be child free or to have children.   I feel so privileged to have been able to have been able to walk alongside them on their journey.