Kowhai, North Canterbury, NZ

“As 40 comes closer I think about it on a weekly basis; it definitely feels like quite an important milestone for me, a stake in the ground to which to compare the rest of my life against.”

Kowhai is looking forward to turning 40. She says: “I’ve come through a lot of things over the last decade, and it just so happens that now, at 39, things are finally more or less coming into alignment in my life, and I’m really enjoying it. I really know who I am now, and comfortable with it. There’s a peace that comes with that, and I’m really looking forward to this birthday and future decades.”

Three decades of gruelling events including earthquakes, breakups, mental health challenges and job changes means other birthdays have been in unstable places for Kowhai, but a series of very good therapists and counsellors have helped her work through these events. She says: “I’ve built a good support team around me now, and family dynamics have improved to the point where we now talk about things. I just feel a sense of stability coming into my life.”

Kowhai lived through the 2011 earthquake that devastated Christchurch, which she describes as “pretty frightening”. She says: “I was in a building where the false ceiling fell through onto us, covering us in debris and white dust. It’s true what they say about your whole life flashing before your eyes.”

This was a pivotal moment for Kowhai who realised she wanted to find a partner and have children. She says: “It was the first thing I thought of when the shaking stopped, so I knew it must be true. I realised that if I’d have died in that moment I’d have been sad not to have met someone and had a family.”

When she was younger, Kowhai never thought she’d have children, or even have a relationship. Rather, she thought she’d stay single and be some kind of poet living in the wilderness. She says: I was a very romantic minded person, I read things like Cave in the Snow about that woman who moved to Tibet and lived in the Himalayas for twenty years alone and thought, that sounds great! So I was a very strange, almost monastic person and quite a loner.”

She started seriously focusing on getting her life more balanced, and after a decade of waitressing on and off, got her first career job at 31. She says: “Even though I had a good degree and was trained, I didn’t have the confidence and I didn’t back my skills. Now, I won’t settle for less than a good culture, a good boss and good money. I value myself much more now than I did in my 30’s.”

Kowhai had hoped to have children before she was 40. She says: “I was with someone when I was 35 and I thought that was going to be the relationship with which children would come, but it didn’t, and so I’ve felt very left behind the motherhood gang for about a decade.”

Kowhai and her current partner have been going down the IVF route for a year now, trying to start a family. She says: “It’s been a long process for me but I’m coming to the point where I’m actually really happy with our life and it doesn’t necessarily all hang around children. 6 months ago I felt very different; I’ve been on a really big roller-coaster with this process, and back then I’d have told you that I was in a really dark place and pondering how I would even live without children, seeing fertility as a burning piece of rope that was getting dangerously close to the bottom. With excellent counsellors though we’re in a position where we’re going to give it our best shot for a couple of years with fingers crossed, however I’ve come to a place of peace that if, after a couple of years, we’re not blessed with our own child, we’ll still have children in this house. I’d like to foster or adopt or something like that. The fear is largely gone now and we’ll figure it out some way.”

Kowhai’s also learned to love her body as she heads into her 40’s. She says: “Low confidence, low self esteem, martyrdom and accepting less than I deserve will not be going into the 40’s with me. All of that body shame, all that “oh I need to be thinner or stronger”, has gone. I love my body now, and I embrace my curves and hips. I always had a fight with my stomach, thinking it needed to be flat and toned like a washboard, but last year I was looking at it, and it was soft, and womanly, and I had a moment of clarity. I thought ‘you know what, it’s actually a really beautiful body, I don’t know why I’m so hard on it.’ That’s the last piece of self love that needs to be filled, because there’s nothing wrong with my body. I’m so much happier now, I’m enjoying bringing these curves out into the world. I don’t want to spend my whole life fighting, I just want to have a good relationship with myself, and that includes the body I’m inhabiting.”

Published by Paps

I love running, writing, travel and adventure. I'll give anything a go once, and am always up for a laugh.

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