#WomanCentered is an independent project by conceptual artist and community organizer, Natasha Marin. Inspired by Women at the Center, a project created with support from the United Nations Foundation Universal Access Project. This series of interviews seeks to tell the inspiring, interconnected stories of women’s reproductive health, rights, and empowerment.

Shannon Hardwick of Midland, TX.
How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?

That’s a big one. I was married for a quick 15 months and in that time, had a baby girl. Now, I have a lot to think about as far as where I can/should move or live in order to maintain a good relationship for my daughter with her father. I do not have the same kind of freedom I had before, as do most mothers, but mine even more so. However, it has given my life a kind of depth I could have never replicated in any other way. And, I may have to put off some things, but only for a while. I really do think, emotionally and professionally, having a kid has actually made my life better.

Do you feel pressure to fulfill an idea of womanhood that may/may not correspond to who you actually are? If so, please describe.

Absolutely. I feel guilty when I leave my daughter for my professional or extracurricular activities, but know that I need to maintain my own sense of self while also being a mother (and a single one at that) — so it’s hard.

And I do feel a sort of judgment. But everyone mothers differently. At this current time in my life, I also don’t feel any particular need to have someone in my life, and I guess sometimes I feel less of a woman because of it. I don’t know if that makes sense. For the first time in my life, I don’t really want anyone, but I find myself still wanting that validation from another that I am wanted and desired. But do I, really? I don’t think, most of the time, I actually do want that. But maybe I feel like other people think, “Well, what’s wrong with her if she doesn’t have someone else to validate her womanhood? I actually dedicated the two years following my divorce to complete celibacy (I’m coming up on year two) and it’s very freeing. I have been wanting to write about it, but I fear sounding preachy or judgmental, but really, I just want to relate what my experience with this has been. But I’m afraid to talk about self-love, both physically and emotionally.

Do you have advice for other women regarding birth control methods that worked well or didn’t work well for you?

I have only ever used the low-dose birth control pill. I tried to switch, once, to the Nuva ring, but it messed with my body so badly, and the switch back to the pill from the Nuva ring actually caused pregnancy for me! So, I’m absolutely terrified to try anything else every again than my trusty OrthoTricyclen Lo.

In 2016, openly discussing one’s reproductive choices is still considered taboo, why do you suppose more women aren’t having these conversations?

I think the political atmosphere is such that people feel afraid of being judged in a knee-jerk reaction kind of way. I know many Christians who are pro-choice but afraid to speak up, for example. This is not a black or white area. And on the topic of abortion, you have to admit there are real human emotions involved and that’s always hard to deal with. People can politically stand one way, but emotionally think contrary to that, and to speak emotional honesty into such things can be scary.

Where are you on the continuum of self-love? On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being Kanye West), how much do you love yourself and how do you reinforce and/or improve this?

I have been on a crazy journey these last couple of years. I started running to search for myself (as in actual running) and that has become it’s own sort of spiritual path to self-love. The last time I “met” myself was in the mountains of Utah, where I was sent after a self-destructive high school career. It was a behavior modification program, really. I met myself and fell in love with her. But you forget. Life moves in when you come down from the figurative (and in that case, literal) mountain. Well, running in my first half marathon last week, actually, caused me to go back there, again.

I would say I’m at a healthy 8? I still have my moments of insecurity and I’m trying to find that balance in between the mountain and the valley.

If you could go back in time and give your younger self some vital information or critical education about your body, your overall wellness, or your reproductive health, what would your advice be?

I would tell her to not give away her body and time to people that didn’t value her. That would have saved me a lot of heartache.

What is the best (most relevant and applicable) piece of advice your mother has given you?

She basically said she didn’t want to give me too much advice because I wouldn’t follow it. And that’s mostly true. I think what stuck with me the most and what was most true, was her telling me that women just aren’t usually ready, emotionally, for sex, until they are older. That was true for me. (Of course, I didn’t listen). Ha.

Shannon Hardwick’s first full length book, Before Isadore, is forthcoming next year from Sundress Publications.