#WomanCentered: ERIN KHAR

#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.

Erin Khar of New York, NY.

How has having or not having children affected the overall trajectory of your life?

Having my son completely changed the trajectory of my life. As someone who had been in emotional and mental purgatory for years with addiction and depression, I never wanted children.

At age 28, I got pregnant with my son and was unsure about my ability to be a mother, about my decision to have the baby. Throughout my pregnancy, I remained unsure, ambivalent.

But, the moment I saw him, I looked in to his eyes and something switched. I instantly loved him more than I had ever hated myself.

I had to learn to love myself in order to love him and that turned my life around in every single way. Having a child saved my life.

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

No. I may have when I was younger, when I was caught up in pretending to be okay, pretending to be “together,” while I was crumbling inside.

Today, I face myself honestly and unflinchingly and without judgement. It has taken years to get to this place and that doesn’t mean I do it perfectly but I am truly at peace with who I am.

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

The rhythm method doesn’t work. Duh. I had two unplanned pregnancies in my twenties, both within a month of coming off of the pill. The first one ended in an abortion and the second one ended in having my son. I don’t regret my mistakes but I was irresponsible in thinking I couldn’t get pregnant.

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

Because everyone wants to give you their opinion.

In the past year my husband and I have been trying to have a second child. I had three miscarriages over the course of nine months and have written about it. The comments from strangers, and sometimes friends, can be jarring to say the least. I totally get why women are reluctant to talk about it — whether it’s about abortion, choosing not to have a child, infertility, miscarriage.

People, and for me it’s come mostly from other women, feel entitled to tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing with your own body.

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’d say always over 5, and usually around 8. But, when I was younger I usually hovered around a 2. To improve my self-love, I allow myself to feel whatever it is I’m feeling. It’s okay if I feel like today I need to stay in bed and watch reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210 and eat ice cream. And tomorrow, I can get myself out of the house, go for a walk, go to yoga, do something that makes those brain chemicals shift. Lastly, self-love is linked directly to self-esteem and the simplest path to gaining self-esteem is to do estimable things. That’s why being of service to others is such a basic way to access self-esteem.

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 your advice be?

I wish I had educated myself about my own fertility. In the past year, learning so much in trying to have a baby again, I realize how little I knew. I wish I had learned these things earlier, so that I could take more control over my own reproductive destiny.

Secondly, the only real opinion that matters about my body and my wellness is my own.

Erin Khar lives, loves, and writes in New York City and sometimes other cities too. Her work has appeared many places, including Sliver of Stone, Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood, The Manifest-Station, The Good Men Project, Scary Mommy, Your Tango, Mind Body Green, The Fix, and as a regular contributor to Ravishly She is currently working on her first book, a memoir.