• arekidsforme

Podcast Episode #9 - Emilie Pine

In this episode, I speak to Emilie Pine,  author of the multi award winning book 'Notes to Self'.  We discuss her movement through, and experience of, many positions regarding parenthood - not being sure if she wanted to be a parent, very strongly wanting to be a parent, having a miscarriage and needing to accept that she wasn't going to be a parent.  We discuss the guilt that can come with deciding not to pursue IVF and how important it is to stop defining yourself through what is absent in your life, even though this is a hard and ongoing process. 




Episode Transcript:


Mgt O Connor

Welcome to The Are Kids For Me podcast. This podcast is for you if you have ever asked, or are currently asking yourself this question. It's a big question which can be hard to answer for lots of reasons. And I'm hoping to provide you with some information that can help. In each episode I will speak to people with personal and or professional experience in this area. My own name is Margaret O'Connor, I'm a counselor and psychotherapist who offers specialist counseling on this topic. I conducted my master's research on how women in Ireland make the decision to become mothers or not. And I really really love talking about this topic. I hope you find it useful.


Today I am honored to speak to Emily Pine. Emily is a professor of modern drama at the School of English, Drama and Film at University College Dublin. She is widely published as an academic and critic on Irish studies, performance and cultural memory. Emily's first collection of essays called 'Notes to Self' was a number one bestseller and has been translated into 15 languages. She won the IACI Booker Literary Award, the Sunday Independent Award for Best Newcomer and Book of the Year 2018 at the An Post Irish Book Awards. In this interview, we have a really honest and open discussion following the experiences she writes about in her book. This includes not being sure if she and her partner wanted to have children or not, trying to become pregnant unsuccessfully, and then finding a way to live with the fact that they won't have children. We discuss the guilt that can come with deciding not to go through IVF. And the importance of recognizing that parenting is one life choice. And there are many other ways to live your life and express yourself. We also talk about how important it is to stop defining yourself through what is absent in your life, even though this is a very difficult and ongoing process.


So thank you very much, Emily, it's absolutely wonderful to talk to you today. And I suppose when I was making my wish list of guests to have for the podcast, you were definitely on it because of your book, called 'Notes to Self' in which you talk about your, you call it the baby years. And so I'm really delighted to be able to talk to you about that today. Thanks a million.


Emilie Pine

Thanks so much for inviting me, Margaret. It's lovely to hear your voice.


Mgt O Connor

After emails, yes. And so yeah, so I suppose I'm curious to to maybe hear a bit, you you went through different kind of positions and decisions around whether you wanted to be a parent or not. So I'm wondering if you can talk us through some of those experiences, and maybe particularly what led you maybe to changing your mind at different points along the way?


Emilie Pine

Yeah, the, I mean, like, like many people, it's funny, I remember having a conversation with a friend. And we were talking about..we must have been in our early 30s. And we were talking about the topic of children and people were..my friends were having children kind of, you know, probably from 30 onwards or so. And ah and I said oh, you know, I just don't know whether whether that's for me? And she said, Oh, you know, what did she say exactly...because I think it's important. She said, if I if I don't become a mom, for me there is no point. And I remember being stunned by that as a response. Because it was so far away from where I was. And that was when I started to realize that it was something that I'd always assumed would happen. But maybe it wasn't going you know, maybe I didn't have it that inbuilt or that in integral to who I thought I was. Because I'd spent so much, all of my 20s working and training to become an academic. And that was really important to me, and was such a passion for me. And was so all encompassing that I couldn't imagine. I certainly couldn't imagine, and I knew lots of people who did it, but I certainly couldn't imagine how doing a PhD and having a baby at the same time. So that was all put on hold. And then you know, I didn't have a job. And I thought, right, we.. all have these kind of obstacles or hoops or milestones that we think we have to tick off before we're allowed to make certain life decisions. I mean, in hindsight, everything is crystal clear. But I I really felt very lost at the time in terms of how to make that decision. Like what are the questions that you ask yourself, because it seems so speculative. I had spent, you know, 30 years just being me, and the idea of adding another person to the mix seemed wild. And I did, I was very lucky to be in a kind of stable relationship, incredibly happy. And, and my partner was basically in the same sort of position as me, kind of wondering whether.. not so much.. I mean, it sounds sounds very crass, but that it was almost a lifestyle choice for me, like is this what I want to do with my life because I could see how radically my life would change, and that I needed to want to. And then it was when I had gotten my current job. I'm a lecturer in University College, Dublin. And I remember my mother saying to me, oh, it's so great you have a pension now. And I thought, oh, yeah, great (laughter). It doesn't seem like such a wonderful milestone when you're in your early 30s. But I started to think, oh, okay, this is, this is my life now. And I do want to add, add in this kind of other element, and, and I had spent a very short amount of time kind of, in a caring role for somebody, and who was vulnerable and dependent. And I, it was tough, and it's challenging, and it's emotionally difficult. And I realize just how much that gives you actually, how it was the opposite of what I normally do, which is, you know, very self centered, I don't mean selfish, I mean, something like I do whatever I want to do. And I couldn't in that in that period. And as a result, I actually was happier. And that was the opposite reaction than I thought I would have. And I thought it would be emotionally really difficult. Anyway, so that's just to give you a kind of a sense of, of how that changed. And I started to say, to my partner, you know, this is this is real for me. I don't want to speculate too much about what was going on in his head, because even you can be with someone decades, and, and what they're feeling is a mystery. And so when I talk about this, I use the word I a lot, which sounds very, again, self centered, but it's just because I don't want to project what I was thinking onto onto him. And, but I was, I was really sure, I was suddenly really sure. And it was, it was, again, looking back, it's kind of strange to me, how you how you can go from unsure to really sure, and then it became all I could think about. And it took me a while to convince him of the wisdom of this plan. And we went through some back and forth on it. And, and I was kind of in, and he would say, that I was kind of the driver of it. And then, and then suddenly, we were we were trying, it's just a very, very strange thing. I talk about in the book as, you know, you go one minute, you go from trying not to get pregnant to the next minute, doing everything you can to get pregnant. And it's, you know, it's kind of a funny moment.


Mgt O Connor

I thought it was interesting, because in the book, you talk about kind of doing the pro and con list and it's all kind of quite logical, you know, on the one hand, and then this, you know, you kind of you call it 'the love', you know, seeing the love that, that parents and children have and really wanting that, like did that, did it feel like that was a kind of a shift between kind of the logical and the emotional, or visceral, almost?


Emilie Pine

Yeah, it did. And I'm used to being able to make a list of pros and cons and weigh things up and say, oh, you know, what big life decision will I make here and I quite like the thinking and that's.. that I think of now, which is that, generally we don't have to do a lot of thinking about big life decisions, we actually kind of know internally what they are. But on this one I really didn't, I was really, really torn. And then it seemed, I was slightly stunned by my as I said, to go from unsure to sure. And to go from, well, it doesn't really fit with my life right now to it doesn't really matter, I would do anything for this love. And so to push the brain.. I felt and and that sounds terrible kind of binary talk, you know, I felt like I was putting my brain to one side and really leading with my body and really leading with my heart and making decisions based on that. And yeah, no, and I was suddenly really committed. And but you know, that is I guess why we do things you know..


Mgt O Connor

Sometimes I ask people.. like it's very easy generally to do the pro and con list. And for lots of things, you might do a pro and con list and you might still end up doing the opposite of what seems logical anyway. So I think that plays a role here in particular yeah...


Emilie Pine

It's sometimes that way, you know, where you say to yourself, I'll say the opposite to myself and see how I react to it. And, and I said oh, you know, like a life without children and I was very upset at that idea. And that kind of clarified things for me and and really early on, and we..well not that early on, but retrospectively quite early on. For me, if I thought..that was the thing when I made the transition, I thought, brilliant, you know, a couple of months. And, and I, you know, seemed to have been stuck with a wonderful group of friends, but a group of friends who got pregnant really quickly, and were like, oh, wow, it's happened straightaway and, you know, drink your wine now, because you won't be able to drink it for nine months, and so on. And it didn't, it didn't, it just became this kind of awkward silence in my life. And then I did have a couple, two positive pregnancy tests, but then a negative test, which happens incredibly often. And, you know, you know, they call it a, I think, a lost pregnancy, in the sense that it never really, you weren't really technically pregnant, but you had enough of the pregnancy hormone to create a positive test. And that really kind of again, clarified it for us that sense of loss, and rather than relief. And again, you know, when you when you think, when you think you aren't going to have something, it really made it for both of us very real, how much we wanted it.


Mgt O Connor

Okay. And because, again, I'm struck in the book, you're talking about, like, you're doing all of these things. So you're, you're monitoring your ovulation, and you're doing lots of other things while being at work, while doing everything else. What kind of timeframe would you be talking about there?


Emilie Pine

Oh, you mean, how long does it take? Or kind of a daily timeframe? Because the daily thing was kind of hilarious that I would, I would think, how do people do this, you know, I was doing that thing where I was, you know, going to the go to the loo to do an ovulation test, because you have to do it at a certain time in the morning, and sometimes I would have early morning classes and have to do it, and you know at work or, and kind of with the, with the test, it looks like a pregnancy test. It's a long kind of stick, and having it stuck up the sleeve of my jumper kind of walking to the loo thinking I'm really hoping I don't bump into anyone. And just thinking, wow, why do we have to do this, and it's kind of entertaining to do it for the first couple of months, because it's a bit of an adventure. And you think, oh, you know, look at me, kind of taking ownership of my fertility. And I, I really did feel that, I really did feel a kind of sense of empowerment, especially when, because I'd been to the GP a couple of times, and my GP was nice, but pretty ineffectual. I felt and you know, kind of just saying things like oh, let mother nature take its course and I thought I really am not that interested in Mother Nature. And so I started doing a lot of reading, reading blogs and reading books and and, you know, reading about kind of female fertility and, and things like cervical mucus, which became, you know, my best friend, for four years, and which I've never heard off. I mean, it was amazing.


Mgt O Connor

Sorry yeah I was just saying, I had a very similar conversation with a friend of mine. And we were like, all women in our 30s going what like nobody knew, what it meant or what it should be like or anything, it's mad and you say that you're kind of saying how do we not know this?


Emilie Pine

I know because and I mean, again, in hindsight, I think it's because when we were when we were kids doing sex education in school. And it's very different because I then went to, I moved as a teenager, I moved to England, and it's done really differently. They're like, they have it all the time. And but in Ireland, we just when I was growing up in the 90s in secondary school, we just had kind of maybe once a term or a couple of times a year. And you know, it was basically how not to get pregnant. And you were this idea that you could get pregnant at any moment. And then you're in your late 30s desperately trying to get pregnant, and you realize there's about three days a month, you can get, I mean, what a con (laughter), really, and that and so they can't teach you about your body, because that information would actually teach you something else about your sexuality. And they and they don't want to do that. And I didn't and I didn't go to a Catholic school. So it wasn't that, it was just part of the larger ethos. Anyway, that that's a slight tangent (laughter). But this was really kind of a discovery for me. And so for the first while, it felt fairly empowering and felt like a quest and I'm an academic, I do research, research is what I like, I know what I'm doing with it. I'm like, okay, this is part of my you know, pros and cons again, I will marshal my resources and I will beat this thing called infertility. And then the months go by and the months become years and then and I did get pregnant, but I miscarried very early and and which was really painful and with people, from the doctors to family members who were being considerate and compassionate and thought they were saying the right things, but they said you know, don't worry, you'll get pregnant quickly after this. And, and people had good news stories and that was lovely. But then I didn't, and I didn't and I didn't. And it became this unspeakable thing in my life, you know, and, and I said it to my partner and he said, I said, Why? Why am I feeling this so badly? Why am I grieving for so long over this very early stage miscarriage? And he said, it's because you didn't get the story stopped there, you didn't get the happy ending version. And, and at that stage, we were still trying. And so you know, all in all, kind of three years, three and a half years. That was our life.


Mgt O Connor

It's a long time to be you know, thinking about something and doing something very practical about it like, basically every day like this, you were saying your marking in, you know, your ovulation in your diary..


Emilie Pine

My complex fertility chart (laughter). I mean, I laugh about it now. But it wasn't funny at the time.


Mgt O Connor

Absolutely. So like, every day, like, was there ever a day in that time you think you weren't thinking about it?


Emilie Pine

Yeah I guess there were times, and I remember going to the pub with a friend and you know, being in the two week wait, and kind of going, no, you know I'm gonna have sparkling water. And, and she was actually, you know, she was just very practical. And she just said to me, Emily just have a drink, just live your life. And at the time, I find that really, really hard. You know, as I was like oh you don't understand. But I think she was looking at me and seeing her friend in distress. And not that alcohol, you know, solves distress. That's not what I'm suggesting. But she was just saying, you know, you cannot live, you can't let that be the only only thing in your life. And at that stage, you know, we are talking about years. So she wasn't she wasn't being..I can't think of the word, the way of putting it, but she wasn't being inconsiderate, or or, you know, irresponsible or anything. She was just saying, maybe now is the time to start looking at how you're how you're doing this. And it takes someone from outside to do that.


Mgt O Connor

Because you you described that time as a very particular kind of loneliness, that it's such a private personal thing. And you're getting lots of unhelpful advice, and maybe unsolicited advice. And, you know, I don't know, it feels like there is a lot of over and back of trying to figure out well, what's everybody else doing? How's it working for everyone else? Because that's probably what it feels like. And then trying to fit that into your own situation? Yeah, but feeling really alone in it.


Emilie Pine

It is, it's really, it's really lonely. And, you know, at the beginning, I was getting lots of unsolicited advice, and some of it.. and all really well meant. And then it dried up and just became a silence, because it was just really awkward. And everybody knew, people who knew knew, and people who didn't know, you know, I was suddenly 38 or 39, they weren't gonna start mentioning it, you know, and, and comparison is terrible. Because you see, my friend, and again, she meant it really well. But she said, oh, you know, a friend of mine got pregnant after eight years of trying. I was like oh, my God I cannot do that, you know, and, and so. And so this is where there is this other kind of branch, where the path forks, and and, you know, we went for, for kind of basic fertility treatments, and, and tests, lots and lots of tests, and then ended up in an IVF clinic, and had a couple of consultation meetings and more tests and so on. And, and, you know, without going into too much detail on kind of what happened in those rooms. And then in our conversations afterwards, it just, it just became apparent that a, I was given something like a 21% chance of conceiving, and that was conceiving, not even having a, you know, healthy pregnancy. And, and, you know, just just conceiving. And I would have gone for that. At that point. I didn't really care. This is again, back to when the pros and cons list doesn't really matter. And I wouldn't, I didn't care what the odds were, I just would have done anything. And then we started having conversations about how, how everything else had been put on hold and about how we actually had a life that was really worth living. But maybe we and in particular, I but we weren't really living it. And because because we have this other kind of emotional burden. And so we decided that before we made the decision about IVF, we would pause, and that was the word that we used. To pause, just for a few months, so, the details are slightly hazy now for me, but say it was kind of late summer then or September, we thought we just would just pause until Christmas, and the IVF clinic, and you do have to remember that the IVF clinic is a private operation that makes a profit out of this, the IVF clinic was saying, you know, don't, don't pause, your fertility will decrease every second. It was a bit like the countdown clock, you know, doo doo doo doo. And now again, I'm joking about it but I really that, that felt it felt very painful at the time, and it felt very risky. But we decided to pause. And literally, I was so much happier. I mean, within a week. I was and I couldn't explain it. And I also and I still, I still feel this sometimes, but I felt it particularly then.. I almost felt guilty. For for how much happier I was when I had stopped trying. And, and yet, I could see that I was my mental health was just so much better.


Mgt O Connor

Mhhm ok..and I suppose unfortunately, that is something people talk about, you know, feeling like, you know that if they stop, or if they don't pursue IVF, it feels like they're giving up, or they don't know what community they fit in then. Because the assumption is that you will keep trying, and you will do cycle after cycle and all of that. And I imagine it must be a horrible area to find yourself in kind of not knowing oh, do I not get sympathy now because I'm not, I'm not trying or ..


Emilie Pine

Yeah..and it feels like an, you know, you will see..I'm speaking in the second person, I don't know why.. I saw, I saw after we decided to stop because we paused for a few months. And then and after we had.. So I mean, the other event that happened around that time was that my sister was pregnant. And with her first pregnancy, and her daughter, Elena Jane was stillborn. On the first of January 2015. That just halted everything, it broke everybody's heart. And it was such a huge loss, that in the wake of it, I suppose.. we had, we had, you know, just talked about IVF, and so on. But we had also just decided that there are other there are other kinds of family. And that we would try for that instead, to create that sense of family to two of us, and then with our extended families who we're really close to as well. And so, you know, context really matters. And where you are in your life really matters, whether you're making the decision that you want to start trying, or you're making the decision to stop trying. And sometimes when I feel guilty, or when I feel overwhelmed, or when I think, oh god did I make the wrong decision, I have to step back and remember what the narrative was, remember what the reality was, and that things have got better and I have these, I have a really close friend who was in a very similar position to me. Again, she's a part of a couple and, and, you know, she said she would.. she and I would say, she had this great piece of advice, she said, I just think if you don't get this, then then you get to do something else with your life. And, and, you know, it doesn't have to be anything grand. And but just that sense that parenthood is one form of self expression. But it's not the only one. And there is that thing. And again, you know, it's really formative. And it's really hard to, to get out of your head. And but this idea that women are.. their greatest fulfillment will be as as mothers, and it is it is incredibly fulfilling to care and I see it in in friends and family with children. And but it is also exhausting. And it is also a constant act of self sacrifice. And it is also about putting someone else's needs before your own. That's the rewarding part. Right? They're completely interlinked, the rewards and the.. the cost of it. And in not being a parent, I don't get the rewards, but I also don't have to pay the cost and I can invest as a result in other things. I this has become a terrible financial metaphor, I didn't mean it to at all (laughter). But really thinking about self expression, I think and the reason I say all that is because then that's when I started to write. So it overlaps. And, you know, I've been really lucky that I got to publish a book out of it. But even if I hadn't, even if I was only writing for myself, which was how it started. I just started writing essays about you know, episodes in my life as a way of reclaiming myself, I think and remembering who I was. And saying to myself that you do have a story. And this sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud, but you are a person because I felt maybe I wasn't. That's the ridiculous part. And but it was really how I felt. And and so there was that, that decision to, to do something else. And even though I say all of that, and it's a very positive affirmation, because I'm I am childless and very, very happy. Those things are..and very sad at being childless, those things are not exclusive. And, you know, you there are days when I think I should have tried harder. And then there are days when I am relieved that my.. I feel like my body accidentally did me a favor.


Mgt O Connor

Mhhhm..ok..yeah, because we tend to pursue or we want the 100% correct answer, we want to know that we're doing the absolute right thing. Well, and we'll never have any regrets but that's very, very hard to achieve. So..


Emilie Pine

There isn't a right answer. And the thing that I, you know, that I think that doesn't get that much talked about, is people who did have children, and who perhaps feel that.. and have questions in their mind, and I don't want to speculate about it. I have a, I have a good friend who said, I sound like I'm talking about my friends constantly (laughter). These are all real people I promise you. I've a good friend who has two children, and who adores them but she says, I do not regret having kids. But if I if you rewind 15 years, I would make a different decision. If I knew then what I know now. And she's had health issues and so on. And so that, you know, it's part of that narrative. But I, I think that.. I think that it's a healthy thing to start to, for society and for individuals within that society and for families, and so on to talk about what happens if you don't have kids? And, and even what happens when you don't have kids? You know, and, and that, that, if you're ambivalent about having children, or you don't know whether you want to or not, perhaps that means you don't? Or perhaps you do, and it works out. And it's fantastic, and you're really happy. But the idea that the default position is maternity, is, is one of the reasons why it's then very difficult to move on from.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah and you were saying, you didn't or you didn't feel there was much representation. You reference Sex and the City as being kind of the main source which is so sad as that finished in 2004. But there wasn't much representation of people living lives without children. So how did you build a picture of what that was gonna look like for yourselves?


Emilie Pine

I guess we just did it. And there with this... I mean, apart from Sex and the City, I'm clearly a huge American TV fan. And also Nora Ephron is one of my favorite writers and directors and she made "When Harry Met Sally", well she wrote, she didn't make "When Harry Met Sally", and there's that bit in, which is one of my favorite films of all time. And they don't have kids, it's so great! (laughter) And a, you know, you have to take your your joy when you where you can find it. And but Sally says at one point that, you know, she and her her ex, who she breaks up with, didn't have kids because they wanted to be able to fly off to Paris at a moment's notice. Now she's talking from New York. So that is a relatively extravagant kind of gesture. But it was one of the things that we said to each other, and that I was particularly determined to do was to, okay, if I'm not going to have kids, then I'm going to have the kind of life that I wouldn't have. Sorry that I wouldn't be able to have if I'd had children, right. So I will, I will get on a plane and go to Paris. So over the past few years, we've done quite a lot of traveling, which is not great for the planet, but we don't have children. So you know, our carbon load is much lower (laughter). And, and doing things like that, I mean, that's the really positive side of that. And I have have written two books in in those years as well, which has been, you know, again, a real privilege of having the time to do it. The negative side effect of it is that for a couple of years there I just massively over identified myself with my job. So in the vacuum of, okay, I can't have kids, and I feel like a failure, and I feel like my body is a failure..Right what can I do? Oh, yeah, I'll just go to work. All of the time, and as I did that, it took me years to kind of break it. And so we joke about it, me and my partner that I used to think, or see family and life as being really annoying because it interrupted work. Now, I actually see work as being really annoying as it interrupts family and life (laughter). And, but, or, or a better balance of those two things that, that you have them in relationship to each other. I always hated that phrase work life balance, but I think that is, that is what I have now, but but again, it's a process. And it was totally a reaction to it. And, and also a reaction to the fact that I didn't have anyone to say it to me or to talk about it. And I and I felt deeply ashamed..of of that word failure, you know, and I think, and I also really hated, and I still dislike sometimes people say to me, oh, you know, if you hadn't failed, you know, then then you don't discover the kind of inner resources and inner strength and stuff. And I think what a crap narrative that is, you know, you have to, you have to succeed at something else, if you failed at one thing. I just think it's a horrible, it's back to that feeling of loneliness, it's a really horrible place to live.


Mgt O Connor

And even I suppose a lot of the representative.. representation we do see is kind of the workaholic, childless woman, you know, that if you're not having children, you must achieve something great in some other fields, you can't just..


Emilie Pine

Wearing your power suit and you know, like hitting people with their briefcase when they get in your way. Yeah.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah. Which isn't helpful, either. And, okay, and I think you just a line from the book that I really love, that you you got to a point and you said that you were going to stop marking yourself through absence, so that instead of..and I'm not saying that you wouldn't think of it again, but I suppose maybe trying to stop defining yourself through what you didn't have. That sounds really important. How, how hard was that to get to? Or is that something that you still might have to work out a little bit?


Emilie Pine

Yeah, I don't think you ever really arrive at a finished, you know, finishing point where you can tick it easily off the list, you know, and I think most days, I'm fully aware of all the presence in my life. And, and I have a nephew who I spend a lot of time with, and friends with kids and all the rest. So it's not like I don't have have any children in my life. So and that's been a big part of, of that. And I also get to hand my nephew back at the end of the day, and go home and have a whole night's sleep. So I get the benefits of that as well. I do think it is a narrative that you have to remind yourself off. And the moments that I wobble are when I hear.. particularly about someone unexpected, getting pregnant, and I am not proud of myself in those moments...because I can be really happy for them, and also horribly jealous. And the that thing of absence and presence is that jealousy plunges me back into a feeling of failure and loneliness. And what it takes to get out of it is is to reclaim agency, to say, no, this is my life, this is the life I want, I claim this life, I choose this life. And that narrative works, you know, and I mean, it'll be slightly different for everyone else, I'm always amazed that one person's epiphany, you know you're like I've got it, here's the thing, and the other person is looking at you going that doesn't work for me. And so you'll have to find whatever that little, that little trick of the mind is to just turn you and and then and then you think that's great, because I wouldn't want somebody I care about to, to have to go through that feeling themselves so I am really happy for other people, I just want to get that on the record. But it is.. it is annoying that that's the kind of psychological little.. and it's funny when you look at it from the outside, but it doesn't feel funny on the inside and that little kind of rut that you can get into very easily.


Mgt O Connor

But I think you know, I usually ask people for advice that they would give to other people in a situation but I think even just that advice of not striving to get to a perfect place, that you're not gonna know 100%, that you'll have days where you feel differently and move, that not everything has to be so binary, that you will move between feeling okay and feeling bad and moving yourself in and out of that sounds like kind of just really good to take some pressure off of you. People strive and feel under pressure that they have it wrong. Until they get to this...


Emilie Pine

God, why are we so quick to mark ourselves down? It's amazing isn't it? Like, oh, this must this thing that I am doing or this thing that I am feeling that must be wrong somehow. It's amazing to me and it's funny when you, you know, I listen to you saying, you know, we have to accept that we it's not gonna be hundred percent right or a hundred percent happy and I think that sucks (laughter). I want it to be. I don't like that at all! And so part of it is just this kind of radical act of acceptance, you know. And again, my inner voice says that sucks too! But the point is when you get to the other side of that, it does feel and to not be stuck in that loop. And so whatever it is that take it takes to get to the other side of that loop is is really worthwhile. Okay.


Mgt O Connor

And, you know, I suppose I know...I mean, I just absolutely loved your book. So the book came out in 2018. And, and I hate this thing of oh, it's so honest, but it is so honest, you include the bits that you know like you said, kind of the jealous reactions or the things that we probably all have in our head, but wouldn't necessarily say out loud, typically..


Emilie Pine

That is smart just so you know (laughter), that is smart and wise. Publishing all of your inner bad thoughts is not smart.. but is very liberating.


Mgt O Connor

Okay, yeah, because I suppose the theme of the book as well is kind of, I suppose, I think, trying to kind of break the silence, talking about things we don't normally talk about, like, cervical fluid, and other bodily fluids and all the other things.. what was it like to write the book? So writing the book as a personal process, and then having it in the public. What was that like for you?


Emilie Pine

Yeah, it was a very private experience, which sounds odd in writing a book, that you then publish, but um, I wrote the first essay, and just to give people a bigger sense of it, the first essay is about, my dad, he's an, he's an alcoholic, and when he, when he went into liver failure, and what that was like, and, and him and the happy ending is that he's still alive. Plot spoiler..spoiler, my dad is alive, and I didn't have children. (laughter). That's what the rest of the book is about, but that was really a kind of the starting point for me, and to write about something.. having an alcoholic dad, and that I had known and grown up inside my whole life, and that other people had known but never said, it felt, again, very empowering, and like a huge release. And, and I wrote that first, and then I, and then I, then I wrote the baby years, which comes after that. And when I was writing all of the parts of the book, I would send them to the publishers and and I published the book with Tramp Press. And I would send it to Lisa and Sarah, the editors there, and they would read it. And it felt like it was this very private conversation between three women. And I was just edging out of my 30s at that point. And they were still very much in their 30s. And it felt like three women who were angry at all of the silences, that we had grown up with and that we were still living with. And my partner was very much a part of that writing conversation, he and I worked on it, really closely, and so that it's it's my story, but I didn't want to betray him either. So it felt really intimate, I didn't tell anyone. I mean I told my family, but didn't tell anyone else that I'm writing the book, it was really private. And so then it was published in July 2018. And in June, I said to Lisa Coen, the editor, I said, oh, can I change something in the book? She says no, Emily, it's at the printers. I was like, oh crap (laughter), because it was only really then and it seems ridiculous to say that now. But it was only really then that I realized it was going to be out in the world. And, and I'm just really grateful then when it when when it went well, and people read it because it could have gone either way. And I think if I had published it even five years earlier, in Ireland, it would not have got the reaction or the reception that it did, but post abortion referendum, and, and post, you know, just a kind of opening up of Irish society. And people were ready to talk about and read about women and their experiences. And so I had this enormously empathetic response from people who read it, and I'm so grateful for that. Because it's really hard. It's really hard to kind of say, all of the stuff that you have kept inside you for years. And and to say it out loud. I mean, I say say it out loud, I mean it's on a page. So I'm not saying it out loud..


Mgt O Connor

But it's not it's not yours anymore. As soon as you put it I think in any kind of format. You can't control what happens to it or how people react. Yeah, which is a different thing.


Emilie Pine

Yeah, it becomes other people's stories. And it's funny because quite a few people who had done IVF said to me oh, you know, I did IVF too. And I said, no, I, I didn't do IVF. And I realized that when they had read it, they had had read their own story into it. And I think it's a really interesting, and maybe this is the academic in me, you know, it's a really interesting illustration of how and why we read. We read for connection with other people, but actually also with ourselves. And I think you read someone else's story and someone being really honest, and that helps you see your your own your own stuff. I have certainly, I mean, I remember reading Nuala O'Faolain's 'Are You Somebody' in the late 90s. You know, which, where she talks really openly about having had multiple sexual partners, and having grown up in a really impoverished family. I was like, oh my God, like wow. You know, even though my life has nothing in common with Nuala O'Faolain's, but I recognize the emotion of it really deeply, and it meant a lot to me. So, you know, just those kind of moments of reading, are.. can can really change or help change change your aspect on life I think.


Mgt O Connor

I was saying to you that myself and my friend went to see you read from the book in the Kate O'Brien Literary Festival in Limerick in 2019. Back when we could do those things in reality, and the emotion in the room was really palpable. You read two extracts one about your dad, and one about yourself and you really could almost physically feel, I don't know how many people were there but there was a lot of emotion in the room. And it just felt really positive. It felt like almost a relief or something that somebody is saying these things are happening. We all know they're happening, like separately. But to actually hear somebody say that these types of things are happening. And it really felt like people could relate to that maybe through their own lenses like you said. But it just felt really, really powerful. It's something that has really stuck with me. And I actually hadn't read the book at that point. I bought it on the way out. But it was a really memorable experience. And you said that was actually the only time you got to read from it?


Emilie Pine

No, that's the only time I've read that passage, I read a passage from the baby years that day. And I had to stop myself from bawling crying during it and I never read it again. Because I you know, it felt it felt like a very special day. And I have read from the baby years since when I go to festivals and events but I tend to read the funny parts because I promise you there are funny parts (laughter). But that day, and it was extraordinary because some people then in the audience and this happens you know at lots of literary events that I go to, not just the ones I'm doing, ones where you go to people who are reading from their memoirs and so on where people start to share moments from their own lives. And I always have the same reaction which is finally, at last we are having a real conversation. It's honest and everything is just being laid bare. And you don't want to do that your whole life right. We all need the masks and we all need the armor to get through our daily lives. But oh, I don't know, it's really nice to lay it sometimes.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And it felt very positive. I know people are probably going, why everybody was crying (laughter) But it felt positive!


Emilie Pine

See, that was the thing when the book was first published. And it says on the cover, don't read this book, it will make you cry. Sorry, don't read this book in public, it will make you cry. People kept saying, oh, I'm crying and I kept apologizing profusely, I was like I'm so sorry. But then I realized that people like crying (laughter). I'm not very good with feelings but other people are really down with their feelings and are gushing away. I was like, okay, fine. I learned something here.


Mgt O Connor

Yeah, sometimes a good cry is really good. And it's funny because I read it again yesterday and I cried again but that's fine, I'm ok with it. And there's also a really nice part, I don't think there's anything sad about that, where you learn to cycle as an adult. Just to balance things!


Emilie Pine

I think I was I was 25 when I learned to ride a bicycle for the first time. People kind of, I tell them that and they they kind of smile and nod, and then I go, no, I really did. I couldn't ride a bike before


Mgt O Connor

Oh yes, fantastic concept, everyone needs to know about it! But I suppose the point of the podcast really is to, and I see it happening already you know, people are responding to it really positively, way more positively than I expected. And trying to build up that sense of connection and reduce the sense of isolation because no one wants to feel isolated in whatever situation they are in. So thank you, I really am so appreciative of being able to talk to you today and sharing that. Is there anything you want to add?


Emilie Pine

No I think you know everything inside my head now! Thanks very much.


Mgt O Connor

Ok, fantastic. Thank you Emilie, so much.


Thanks so much to my guests for taking part and to you for listening. I would love to hear your feedback and any suggestions for other topics you would like to see covered in this series. I would also love to build a community of like minded people so please follow 'Are Kids For Me' on Facebook and Instagram if you want to find out more about this topic. I look forward to hearing from you. Watch out for the next episode soon.


Transcribed by https://otter.ai


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Margaret O'Connor MIACP      ©2018 by Are Kids For Me. 

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