Sarah Lawrence

It’s been one hell of a life changing journey over the past five and a half years in terms of my infertility and ultimate childlessness.

Not content with having one fertility wrecking condition, I had two. I’d struggled for years with health problems, that none of the ‘experts’ identified. It wasn’t until my miscarriage in 2012, that I was taken seriously and would ultimately be diagnosed with stage four Endometriosis in 2014.

I’m going to be honest, my mental health has always been a bit shaky, but after the miscarriage, I hit my lowest point...or so I thought. Because, less than two years later I was told there would be no children during a 10 minute consultation. It was then that I truly became familiar with what it feels like to hit rock bottom.

What got me through it? Counselling, soul searching and a level of bloody mindedness that even surprised me. I wasn’t going to be beat by this thing, even though there have been times that I’ve felt like it was going to.

However, that’s not the end of my story because just one year after being told I’d never have children of my own, my symptoms started to return. I was then diagnosed with Adenomyosis in 2015- a similar condition to Endometriosis, but it manifests in the muscular lining of the womb. It meant yet more procedures to hold off the symptoms and the inevitable hysterectomy. It was only ever going to be a short term fix and so ultimately I had to have this serious piece of surgery in November 2017. Hello again rock bottom!

While I was back down there for a while, by this time, I had already decided that financial services wasn’t where I wanted to be. I wanted to contribute and give back to my community. I’d already trained and qualified as a life coach in 2016 and I’m presently training as a counsellor. All so I can give back to my community because I want to be able to support and empower people going through this difficult and painful process. And that’s why I set up After the Storm.

Michael Hughes

I’m one half of a childless couple that have as we like to say “made it through” but we didn’t do it alone. Many years on the psychologists couch delving into the combined results of dysfunctional families, PTSD from childhood sexual abuse and depression from our childlessness helped us greatly.

On the other side of this we discovered a love of travel, that has taken us to many parts of the world this too helps us cope with being CNBC. It was the writing of a blog that I started on the eve of Mother’s Day 2016 at 1am in the morning in a motel off the i10 just outside of Quincy in Florida on one such trip that has led me to being part of this podcast.

It was from here we found a Facebook group ‘Childless Path To Acceptance’ that was full of women in our position. The warmth, support and love that flowed from this group opened our eyes to a wider world. It was 2018 on another adventure this time in the UK, in a Shepherds Bush pub, The Green, that we met Stephanie Phillips, the admin of the group, who went on to found World Childless Week, Berenice, and the courageous Sweetie Horne, who, just like my wife Vickie was scared of what was to come by opening themselves up, as we were all just about to venture into an event called Fertility Fest.

For those that like the more personal knitty gritty Vickie and I met when we were about 16 as we both had a casual job at the local McDonalds. I was new to Australia as my family had emigrated to Australia from the UK a couple of years before we met, Vickie on the other hand is a true ‘Skippy’. We married in our mid 20’s and started for a family closer to our 30’s and by 40 we had to draw a line in the sand to say, we’d never be parents. Of course there is much more to the story, but you’re going to have to listen to the podcast to find that out.

Berenice Smith

I’m a graphic designer, web designer, stained glass artist and creative. I’ve been through 6 rounds of failed IVF and have recurrent miscarriages. I have suffered with PTSD. Counselling, changing my working life and being open about my losses has helped me to come to terms with grief.

I’ve also started a ‘project me’, looking after my health through plant based eating, embracing meditation and improving my mental health. This helps me to come to terms with all the things my body can’t do and focus on the postives. Like you, I get good days and bad days. The podcast was a good day idea!

In 2013, I began studying for a Masters in graphic design and typography. It was during this degree that I created a social design website called Walk In Our Shoes, based on research to attitudes in the media about childlessness. The site shares stories from our community through unique feet selfies and was inspired by the work of Bibi Lynch and Jody Day, who are now friends of mine.

I’ve spoken at Fertility Fest where I met Michael and Sarah. I was a finalist in the Cambridgeshire Digital Awards and listed as One to Watch, Cofinitive 2019. I’m part of Pecha Kucha Cambridge, a member of Women Who Code, and UX design group IXDA. I am passionate about helping our community with their creative needs (branding, books and websites) for their plan B, C or Z via my design practice.

I bring my design and tech skills to the Full Stop as the creator of the brand and website. I live in Cambridge where I’m owned by a dog. Along with Michael, I’m a proud World Childless Week champion and passionate supporter of our community.