Shame: everyone knows what it is because shame is a universal emotion. So how do you become shame-free?
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Although not Latina herself, guest Rena Martine shares her expertise in addressing shame, which is deeply rooted in Latine culture. Rena is a former DA who now works as an evidence-based intimacy coach, helping women love their bodies, experience deep intimacy, and have great sex, shame-free.
Rena also emphasizes the importance of understanding our family’s input based on what we know now, without resorting to blaming or hating our parents because of the difference in our cultural lenses. Because shame is instilled from an early age, not just from the messages perpetuated within family, but also through religion, personal experiences, and all the media we consume.
The interview delves into sensitive topics such as PCOS, pregnancy termination, and our individual sterilization choices. We talked candidly about these topics, and encourage you to approach this with an open mind.
We’ll also discuss Rena’s upcoming book The Sex You Want: A Shameless Journey to Deep Intimacy, Honest Pleasure, and a Life You Love slated for delivery to a bookshop near you in 2024.
Key takeaways for this episode include:
- why shame exists and how it might show up in your relationships
- the vocabulary around shame, such as “shoulds”
- what becoming “shame-free” can mean for you specifically
- why rest is an important aspect of all of this
Find Rena online at:
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In this episode
- Rena’s TEDx Talk: The Truth about Sexual Shame
- Taino language info: Let’s Talk Taino
- Episode 3: Perfectionism and Childfree Latinas: The Ivy League School Dropout
- The Nap Ministry website
- Episodes on rest
- Episodes discussing PCOS
- Navigating the Depths of Shame with Rena Martine
- Igniting a Shame-Free Rebellion Against Generational Trauma with Rena Martine
- Choosing Freedom: Rest & Sterilization with Rena Martine
[00:00] Paulette: And welcome to La Vida Más Chévere, the place where Spanglish speaking childfree Latinas y Latines are learning to dismantle the toxic cultural bullshit we all grew up with. I’m your host, Paulette Erato.
[00:17] ¿Y de qu hablamos hoy? Bueno mis amigues, today I’m chatting with Rena Martine. She is the first non-Latine person to be on this podcast, and I was very careful about this. I don’t let just anyone come on this show. It’s very important to me that the guests and topics I cover are specifically for childfree Latinas y Latines, even if they have broader appeal to the world at large.
[00:42] So why did Rena get the invite? Because today we’re talking about shame, which is so deeply rooted in the Latine culture–in Latindad– that it’s basically weaponized, especially against women. With a topic this sensitive, I really wanted to ensure that we did it justice. And because I know Rena personally and have watched the type of work she does closely, I knew I could trust her to help us. You, me, everyone else listening, help us navigate this topic. So who is she?
[01:12] Rena Martine was a Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney for 14 years where she specialized in sex crimes, child abuse, and domestic violence. She continues to serve women today as an intimacy coach, educator, TEDx speaker, and author with a mission to help women love their bodies, experience deep intimacy and have great sex, shame-free.
[01:35] That’s one hell of a unique background. Also a heads up. We’re gonna talk about abortion and sterilization in today’s episode. It’s part of Rena’s childfree story because even though she isn’t Latina or Latina, she is indeed resolutely, I’d even say enthusiastically childfree.
[01:53] And I’ll throw another trigger warning in before we hit that part of the conversation.
[01:57] Oh, and before we start, I want to remind you that the podcast is now open to your support. It’s my goal to keep this show ad free for as long as possible, but yo, it does cost money to produce this. So if you like what you hear and you wanna throw a couple bucks this way to keep it alive, see the link in the show notes that says support.
[02:16] Also join the Substack to get more out of each episode. That’s free. It’s also in the show notes. Okay, let’s jump in.
[02:25] And today I have Rena Martine with me. I’m so excited to talk to this woman and you’re going to be just as excited to hear from her when we let you in on why she’s here, because some of you’re gonna be like Rena Martinez?
[02:38] No, Rena is not actually Latina, and that’s okay. She is childfree, which obviously is what La Vida Más Chévere is all about, but she’s gonna tell you all about that. Rena, thank you so much for being here today.
[02:51] Rena: Thank you so much for having me. And you know it’s funny that the DMV still thinks that my last name is Martinez and they keep sending me my car registration with Martinez on it, even know my last name has never been Martinez. Someone out there wants me to be Latina, but I’m not quite yet.
[03:09] Paulette: In your next life.
[03:11] Rena: Exactly. Exactly.
[03:13] Paulette: So Rena, we’ve heard your bio: lawyer, LA DA office, sex crimes, and now you’re women’s intimacy coach, which, could you explain what that is?
[03:22] Rena: Sure. So in my capacity as a women’s intimacy coach, I work with women one-on-one to help them love their bodies, experience deep intimacy and have great sex, shame-free. What the heck does that mean, Rena?
[03:34] Really, I serve a lot of different women. Some are in relationships where perhaps things have either gone stale, they were never that great to begin with. Perhaps there’s some religious shame at play, where a woman just has never been in touch with her body or pleasure, or was told that it was something that she wasn’t supposed to be allowed to want.
[03:55] Or we’ve got someone who’s single, who’s recovering from a breakup and who’s taking a real hard look at her past relationships and saying, wait a second. I wanna get off this ride. I wanna stop repeating these patterns. So every woman is unique, but what they all have in common is a sense, “okay, what’s wrong with me that I can’t do this thing, right?”
[04:15] Whether that be sex, whether that be romantic relationships, or whether that even be platonic intimacy. Cuz I’ve worked with quite a few women who are these successful badass bitch go-getters at work, but they have no idea how to turn that off and form meaningful connections with people.
[04:38] So intimacy is really just showing up as you are and allowing yourself to be seen. Whether that’s inside the bedroom or outside the bedroom.
[04:47] Paulette: So you’re not just a sex coach?
[04:50] Rena: Correct! Correct. Yes, yes, yes. Because pretty much anyone can have sex, but not everyone can experience intimacy. And so that’s where I bridge those two together.
[05:03] And you can have sex without intimacy and intimacy without sex, but sexual intimacy is kind of its own beast, and that’s a huge part of the work that I do with my clients.
[05:11] Paulette: How did you get into that? I met you at a party, but why don’t you tell the audience really, how do you jump from being in this hardcore legal situation to now coaching women one-on-one in something that requires such a tender touch.
[05:27] Rena: Right. I mean, not that it didn’t require a tender touch with a lot of children, which is what I did when I was a DA. So childhood abuse survivors, but also grown adults too, and not just women, men as well. But my own journey really plays into why I do what I do today to help women. Because I felt a tremendous amount of shame in my own life cuz I did all the things that I was told I should do and should want.
[05:56] So I got married and we had the white picket fence lifestyle and I really sucked at monogamy and I was like, why can’t I get this thing right? I’m supposed to want this, I’m supposed to wanna get married. I’m supposed to wanna have kids. I’m supposed to wanna go to couples game nights all the time. And oh my God, I just feel like I’m living in a prison.
[06:18] And so I’ve been in therapy most of my adult life, and I’ll tell you, not all therapists are created equal. And I finally found someone who was just like mind-blowingly good. And I came to her begging for her to fix me. Like help me just be grateful and happy for this really good life that I have. And she dismantled that.
[06:39] Broke me down, I mean, in the kindest way, but led me to understand that I wasn’t broken. And that’s really what shame is. It’s this idea that there’s something broken with us. There’s something abnormal about us, that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just trying to fit the square peg of Rena into the round hole of the white picket fence.
[06:59] And once I went through that journey, I came out the other end of it, I ended my marriage and I started living my best life, I felt so free. And then the pandemic hit and after I had baked all the bread and watched all the tv, I mean, at that time I knew that I wanted to help people differently. I had really burned out from prosecuting sex crimes because the justice system doesn’t always work how it’s supposed to.
[07:28] And so all of these things kind of collided at the same time where I had my great reckoning during the pandemic, like, okay, I’m living my personal life in a way that aligns with me, where I feel like I’m in integrity. I have partnered with someone who doesn’t want the conventional white picket fence either.
[07:46] I’m living my life according to my rules, but there was still this crack in my container when it came to my work life. And so pre pandemic, I thought to myself, I’m gonna go back to school and become a therapist and take my time doing that. While I was still working as a DA, I’ll take the years and years, it’ll take me to accumulate the number of hours I need to, but I’ll do that.
[08:09] And then by the time I turned 50 when I could actually retire with a pension from the DA’s office, I would have a second career lined up and I could just transition into doing that. So pandemic hits, and I’m like, wait a second. 50 years old. That’s 12 more years of my life. Right? And is there a way I can start helping people now?
[08:31] So I went and got a coaching certification just to see if I would like working with people one-on-one. It turns out I loved it. It turns out there was a huge demand for intimacy coaching, especially evidence-based. And I say that because most sex coaches out there are spiritually based, and I’m not one of them.
[08:50] There are very few who take a neuroscientific approach to what they do, but it’s the lawyer in me. I want the evidence, I want the data, and I want the facts, right? So yeah, I was kind of juggling both at the same time, working from home as a lawyer during the pandemic and also seeing clients. And something had to give.
[09:07] And I thought, you know what? If not me, then who? I don’t have kids I have to support, right? I’m not married. My partner and I, we live separately from each other. I don’t have a mortgage. My car is paid off. Who else is gonna be able to take this massive leap from a very stable government job with the golden handcuffs, to follow their passion?
[09:29] If not me, then who? So I made the scariest decision I have ever made, which is saying a lot cuz I’ve made a lot of those. And left my really stable career to help women do in a shorter period of time what it took me years to do on my own, like years of therapy, years of anguish, years of couples retreats with my then husband.
[09:50] I mean, trying to figure this all out. And so I’ve committed myself to saving people time in their journey so that they can reach the other end of the rainbow cuz it is so nice over here. The water’s warm. Come on in.
[00:10:02] Paulette: That was very beautiful.
[00:10:07] We’re about to hear about Rena’s TED talk that she gave late last year. I’ll have a link for you in the show notes and on Substack, but I have to apologize for one kind of big thing. I kept referring to a tornado of shame in her speech. When what she actually called it was a hurricane. That’s my bad.
[00:10:24] But quick history lesson. Did you know that the word hurricane comes from the Taino word “jurakán”?
[00:10:30] That’s the language of the native people of Puerto Rico. Isn’t learning stuff fun? I’ll leave you a link in the show notes about that too. Anyway, back to Rena and the hurricane, not tornado of shame.
[00:10:41] You’re also now a TEDx speaker. I remember when you were prepping for that and like giving whole behind the scenes how-the-sausage-is-made process. And then it finally came out. I’ll have it linked in the show notes for people to watch, and it was about the tornado of shame.
[00:10:57] Shame is a thing that I think is universal. Everyone understands what that means. And this tornado of shame I think will really resonate with my audience, Latine or not, because there’s a lot locked up in feeling guilt. Feeling like putting ourselves first is such a shameful thing to do. You should never prioritize your own self before the family. Like these are real problems that our culture faces and we’re made to feel bad about that. You know, what do you say to someone in that situation?
[00:11:34] Rena: Well start by understanding that biologically we’re wired to feel shame. Because we needed shame to stay alive a really, really long time ago. We have a lot of parts of our brain that are still holdovers from when we were hunters and gatherers, and shame is one of them. So at the time, if you were threatened of being cast out from your community, from your tribe, essentially, this unpleasant feeling that we now call shame would creep in so that you could stay alive essentially.
[00:12:05] And so we are left with this feeling of shame, but interestingly, it’s now universally considered to be a psychologically damaging emotion. So it’s bad for us. Not only is it like, you know, our appendix where it doesn’t really do anything, it’s, it’s actually bad for us. So, like I said in my TEDx talk, it’s like if our brains were computers, we’re walking around with these clunky, outdated desktops on our necks that also have viruses on them.
[00:12:33] So really confronting our shame is an act of rebellion. And I wanna touch on what you brought up about how pressure and shame shows up in the Latina community and the sense of you have to be a martyr. Because I see that so often with my clients who span the race and ethnicity spectrum.
[00:12:53] But one of the first things we do is really start unpacking, okay what messages, what external messages did you get growing up about what it means to be a woman? About sex? About what a woman’s role is? I mean, all these things. And so often, and not just with my Latina clients, but with other clients, I will see them saying, “well, I grew up in an environment where my mom says, you gotta do everything for the family. It’s your job to keep things together.”
[00:13:21] And so it’s no wonder that now as adults, they’re people pleasing in their relationships. They don’t know how to use their voice. They’re sticking around in relationships that may even be borderline abusive. Because as children, they were taught, no, it’s your job to keep things together, and if things are therefore falling apart, that’s your fault.
[00:13:43] So that’s how I see shame creep up. And as far as this tornado, this hurricane of sexual shame, when we’re talking about women, people say, “Rena, where do you think the majority of women’s shame comes from?” And I say, well, I think the better question is, where does it not come from? Because it can come from our families of origin, it can come from our religion, it can come from heck, the Instagram accounts we follow, the the trash reality TV we watch.
[00:14:14] And sure it can come from surviving sexual trauma. Because that’s what a lot of people assume. Well, sexual shame, that means that you must have survived some sort of traumatic event. And no, that’s a small portion of the sexual shame that we have walking around on this earth.
[00:14:30] Because I see plenty of women saying, “Hey, my body doesn’t work this way. What’s wrong with me? I can’t orgasm this way. What’s wrong with me? Is it abnormal that I do this?”
[00:14:43] So anytime I hear words like normal, abnormal, what’s wrong with me, or the word should, I know that that’s all code for some sort of underlying shame.
[00:14:55] Paulette: This is why I asked her to be here. And I think you hit on a lot of points that not only is universal to women, but Latinas specifically, these are all things that we carry within us. And, women like us who are breaking generational cycles by not having children and not perpetuating that same tradition. Because that’s part of what it is, right? These traditions of sweeping shit under the rug, staying quiet in the face of what might look, feel, and actually be abuse like you just mentioned, like that shit is hard.
[00:15:30] And it’s really hard sometimes to step out of that, right? That’s where you help women on this journey, right? Can hold their hands in figuring out how to even come to terms with all of these weird emotions that come from doing the exact opposite of what you grew up doing.
[00:15:48] Rena: Right. But, and part of it too isn’t to get people to say, “wow, my parents must have been assholes,” or “My parents must have been idiots. Like, why were they feeding me this toxic stuff?”
[00:15:57] But also, okay, what did they teach me about what it means to be a woman? And then how is their lens different from mine? So that in their mind, that made sense. And also are they doing the thing I’m trying to do? Because if your mother was somebody who didn’t value higher education or didn’t have access to it, for example, it may have made sense that yes, this is your job, this is what you do. But has she done the thing you’re trying to do? If you’re leading a different path, then no. And like I say, don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.
[00:16:34] Don’t put on somebody else’s pair of glasses and assume the lens that they see the world from because their lens makes sense to them. And so understanding. Okay, her input, my family’s input, it came from a place, and it makes sense to them. We’re all rational actors. However, I have a different prescription that I need, right, for the, for this path that I’m trying to follow.
[00:16:57] And so I think doing that kind of micro level dismantling can be really helpful because we’re giving everyone some grace in this particular circumstance. So I’ve heard a lot of people say, “okay, I’m scared to go to therapy cuz they’re just gonna convince me that I hate my mom and dad and that they were terrible people.”
[00:17:15] And so, yes, there is a slight bit of truth to that when it comes to therapy. That is not what I do with my clients as a coach. It’s really putting things in their home and in their place. Marie Kondo-ing our emotions.
[00:17:26] Paulette: Marie Kondo-ing our emotions. That’s brilliant. And you know, I’m at the point in my life where I’m also able to separate how my parents raised me because that’s what they knew.
[00:17:38] You know, they were doing the best that they could do with what they had and that might not have been great. But also I am able to see it more objectively than when I was going through it. Right? So two things can be true. Parents could have tried their best and parents could still have not done for us what we needed.
[00:17:56] Rena: Abso freaking lutely. Yes, yes, yes.
[00:18:03] Paulette: There was a lot in there. So I wanted to take a breather to examine some of what we covered here. A lot of what we know about ourselves today is through the lens of what our parents wanted for us. This is a common first gen struggle, but it doesn’t stop there. There’s always this aim for better, even for perfection, which I did a whole episode on. I’ll leave it in the show notes.
[00:18:26] I really appreciated how Rena compares it to needing a different lens prescription, different glasses. Our parents knew only what they knew and they hopefully, hopefully they did their best with the information they had at the time. But our generation is maybe trying to accomplish something different.
[00:18:42] It’s a different world now. It could absolutely be in line with what our parents hoped for us, but they don’t have the same glasses prescription to see it as we do. So they may not be able to see it through the lens of their own experiences and their own limitations. And that’s okay. I just wanted to make sure we didn’t gloss over that.
[00:19:02] And we’re all human.
[00:19:03] Rena: Yeah. And I mean, none of us are perfect, nor should we strive to be perfect.
[00:19:07] Paulette: Oh my gosh. Perfection is a lie.
[00:19:09] Rena: Yeah. It’s bullshit. I mean, I say a lot, think of how many industries would collapse if women started loving our bodies tomorrow. But think of how many industries would collapse if none of us were striving for perfection.
[00:19:22] Paulette: Mm-hmm. What I say all the time is that decisions are not life sentences. Right? There are very few things in this life you can’t walk back. Very few things that are absolutely permanent once you make that decision. Cutting off your leg, you know it’s not gonna grow back.
[00:19:36] It rarely happens, right? If you find or see yourself in a situation where you have to cut off your leg, it’s probably a life or death kind of situation, right? You have to remove that limb in order to go on and live your best life. Live your life más chévere as we do on this program, but most other things you can change your mind about.
[00:19:54] You can decide, you know what? That’s not working. Let me turn this car around and take a different path.
[00:20:00] Rena: Absolutely. And giving yourself permission to fall out of love with what you thought you wanted. Because people will often stay in relationships, for example, well I made the commitments. And that isn’t necessarily doing anyone any favors if you’re staying out of obligation.
[00:20:19] But you had me thinking when you were talking about cutting off the leg, like things that can’t be reversed. And before we started recording today, we were talking about the concept of regrets. And when people asked you have any regrets in in your life, Rena? I say I have one, and it was over plucking my eyebrows in the nineties.
[00:20:34] Paulette: You know what? You’re right. I usually go with face tattoos, but even those are removable. When I was 15, I over plucked my eyebrows and I am going to be 45 probably by the time this episode airs. And 30 years. Yeah, I’m with you.
[00:20:49] All right. Well, we’ve talked about shame. We’ve talked about sexual shame. That’s what you do for a living. That’s who you are, right? Like this is a vocation for you. This is who you are. For anybody who wants a model of someone living La Vida Más Chévere, Rena is here for you. Like Rena embodies her work to such a degree because that is your best life, right?
[00:21:11] Rena: Yeah. Yeah. I mean there’s very little distinction between work and play for me, which is usually a blessing, but sometimes a curse. Cuz I’m like, wait gosh, I’m working again. I didn’t even mean I’m working right now.
[00:21:23] But it is such a relief to not have to wear these different hats. Because I felt like I did have to do that quite a bit in my last career, in my career in a very conservative profession as a prosecutor, and now I’m like, I wear the same thing. I talk about the same things as I do outside my life, at work, and inside my work life. And there isn’t this cognitive dissonance there, and that is so liberating.
[00:21:48] Paulette: Mm. There is the word of the year right there. Liberation, for all.
[00:21:55] So on top of being a former attorney, this badass intimacy coach and a TEDx speaker, Rena is now also writing a book.
[00:22:05] I’ll let her tell you all about it, but you best believe you’re gonna want a copy of this when it comes out. I’ll have the title in the show notes so you’re not like, ah, what was it called? Sex something. Don’t worry. The whole title will be there and then it’ll become a hyperlink once the book is actually out.
[00:22:20] Also get on Substack and I’ll alert you to it when it’s available. Also, get on Rena’s newsletter. It comes out on hump days, of course.
[00:22:28] So you’re writing a book. The book won’t be out until 2024, but tell us more about that.
[00:22:33] Rena: Okay, so it’s called The Sex You Want. And the subtitle is A Shameless Journey to Deep Intimacy, Honest Pleasure, and a Life You Love.
[00:22:44] And what it is, it’s a self-help book. So nonfiction. But it’s a little bit different than what’s on the current sexual self-help offering in that I share a lot of my personal stories and those of the clients that I’ve had the honor of working with. Those are anonymized for them, not anonymized when it comes to me and giving people lessons.
[00:23:09] So each chapter is a lesson illustrated by stories, but also with practical tools on how to go out and do this. So I tell you, go to this website, check out this product. Like I’m telling people how to do the damn thing. Like that’s kind of my motto because no one’s teaching us how to do it. I wrote the book that I wish I’d had on the beginning of my own journey toward being shame-free.
[00:23:36] Because a lot of what’s out there right now is being written by academics or clinicians, and so there’s this kind of ivory tower perspective. And mine is supposed to feel like a conversation between two friends over a reasonably priced bottle of wine.
[00:23:56] Paulette: Trader Joe’s wine!
[00:23:58] Rena: Exactly. And that’s what it’s supposed to read like, very conversational. I’m not talking at you, I’m with you. And what sets it apart too is that I talk about a lot of topics that have typically been siloed in the sex world. So I talk about BDSM, I talk about ethical non- monogamy. I talk about, Hey, you wanna have a threesome? Here’s how to do it. In addition to all the things you might expect in a sex book. But what my editor had said to me when, when she wanted to buy the book, when the publisher wanted to buy the book for me was, “I like the fact that you treat all of these things that people might consider as taboo as just normal topics of conversation.”
[00:24:38] And so it’s a good start to your journey. And like I say, there’s never an end to your journey. But this is inviting the reader to approach their own life from a place of curiosity to start getting rid of their shame and invite in more pleasure and better relationship to themselves and to other people.
[00:24:58] Paulette: What’s really exciting for me is, first of all, you light up when you talk about it. People aren’t gonna have the privilege of watching you talk about it on this show, but go follow her on Instagram. Because not only does she talk about this all the time, like the content of your book is in your stories, all day, every day, and you light up when you talk about this, which makes it clear that you love it, and that’s why you’re so invested in it.
[00:25:22] But also if you want sex toy recommendations, get on her newsletter. She will tell you, she will send you discount codes. She will show them in her stories! If your needs are somewhere else, if you wanna explore BDSM, here is someone who will actually talk to you about it, without making you feel like you are the weird one.
[00:25:40] And that’s what I love about you so much. In your stories on Instagram, every day you’re like, dismantling this weird idea that we have culturally around sex and you’re just making it okay to talk about. Like it just feels like it’s okay. Like you were saying, it’s two girlfriends over a glass of reasonably price Trader Joe’s wines, probably rosé.
[00:26:02] Rena: Oh my gosh. It’s so funny because literally one of the chapters in my book opens up with me having a conversation with a friend of mine, over a bottle of reasonably priced Trader Joe’s rosé in my backyard at the time. This book is for you, paula, do you know?
[00:26:19] Paulette: Yes, I wanna signed copy. I will be buying my copy from an indie bookshop and then taking it to you so you can sign it for me. Hopefully a women owned indie bookshop. And then hopefully we can get your stuff in the hands of other marginalized communities, not just women at large, but let’s get that into the bookshops in East LA. Let’s get that into the bookshops of Inglewood and Compton. And women who, where the family ties, especially for black and Latinas and the shame and the religion and all these things that can overwhelm you, those are the people who need it the most! Who need to just approach sex and, and your body with just liberation.
[00:26:57] Rena: Yeah. And there’s, in some cultures, a history of our body not belonging to us, for a variety of reasons, and there is that intergenerational trauma that comes along with it. And so this is just an opportunity for me to reiterate that becoming shame free is truly an act of rebellion from a neurological evolutionary perspective, but it’s also an act of rebellion in terms of breaking these generational curses that we never asked for.
[00:27:29] Paulette: I’m really excited for it, so I’m sure follow along on Rena’s Instagram and I’m sure she will let you know. And also get on her newsletter cuz that comes
[00:27:36] out when, every Wednesday, right?
[00:27:37] Rena: Every Wednesday. Yeah. Every hump day.
[00:27:39] Paulette: Every hump day.
[00:27:43] We were about to dive into how Rena is childfree, but we took a little detour first. I’m leaving this in the podcast because I thought this little side quest of a topic of ours is so goddamn important. Resting. I’ve done how many episodes on this? I don’t even know anymore, but I’m gonna leave you a list of them in the show notes.
[00:28:02] So listen in and then I’ll jump back in with a heads up in a few minutes.
[00:28:05] So you’re childfree.
[00:28:07] Rena: Oh yes.
[00:28:07] Paulette: That’s what we connected on. But everybody at the party was childfree, so that was,
[00:28:11] Rena: Yeah, I mean, some of us are still children. I mean…
[00:28:15] Paulette: I mean, yeah, absolutely. You know, I dunno if this was true for you, but when people would talk about their children at work, back when I was in a corporate situation, I always felt like I am the child. Like I’m too much of a child to even be in this conversation right now.
[00:28:29] Rena: Yeah. No, no, no. It’s so true. But also, I don’t know if you had this experience too, but people were like, oh, you know, sorry, my kiddo’s sick, so I need to leave early. Or, oh, my kiddo has a soccer game, and I’m like, I just wanna go home. Like, do I need a kiddo to come up with reasons to leave work early?
[00:28:46] Paulette: No. That’s why PTO exists.
[00:28:48] Rena: Right. Right?
[00:28:50] Paulette: I, I talk about rest being an act of rebellion. And one of the accounts I love on Instagram so much is called the Nap Ministry, and it’s black women just telling us all to rest. Like, stop doing so much and just fucking rest. They also had a book come out.
[00:29:07] Rena: I love it. And rest is a form of productivity. Because it takes work. I was reading about this, that if you are constantly used to doing all the time, that rest can feel very uncomfortable in your body, and so you have to actually get better at learning how to rest. Which might sound ridiculous to some people, but for Overfunctioners, yeah, it’s a practice to learn how to just chill the fuck out.
[00:29:31] Paulette: Oh my gosh, I’ve never heard that term, overfunctioners. Yeah, I think a lot of people who think they’re like Type A or go by the motto, I’ll rest when I’m dead. Especially for people like that, they have to learn the skill of resting. And you only get better at stuff by practicing it. Practice resting.
[00:29:51] All right. We’re gonna talk about being childfree for reals now. So here’s your trigger warning again, in case you missed it at the beginning. Part of Rena’s childfree story includes a terminated pregnancy. We’re also gonna talk about our respective sterilization choices and what that looks like for us on the other side. PCOS is gonna make an appearance again. So I’ll leave you a list of other people who’ve discussed that on this show in the show notes.
[00:30:15] But we deal with this in real language. We’re gonna make jokes, and if that isn’t a topic that you’re comfortable discussing with your girlfriends or even an intimate partner, then it might sound kind of flippant.
[00:30:25] I urge you to listen to this with an open mind anyway. What you’re getting is pretty much the equivalent of girl talk over a reasonably priced Trader Joe’s wine. So in essence, a sneak peek at Rena’s book. But also this is our reality and I hope you glean something from us being so honest about it.
[00:30:44] So back before we went down this rabbit hole, we were talking about you being childfree. And within like the first few minutes of us meeting, we were talking about what we do for a living. And I’m like, oh, I have this podcast for childfree people. You’re like, “oh, I had my tube tied!”
[00:30:58] Rena: Yes, I had them removed, woman!
[00:31:00] Paulette: Excuse me! I’m so sorry you had them removed. So I’m still hoping my gynecologist can come on this show and talk about all of the sterilization options available to women. We know for men, you get a vasectomy, great. They’re out for a weekend and then they get to go back to their lives. But it’s so different for women.
[00:31:17] Did you always know you didn’t want kids?
[00:31:19] Rena: Yes. Although there was a period where I was like, okay, I’ll leave the question open. This was when I was married.
[00:31:26] Literally on my first date with my former husband, we talked about kids. Cause I’m like, I wanna put front and center that I don’t want them because if this is somebody who definitely wants them, then we’re not compatible and we can both go our merry ways. So I’d asked him, you know, what are your thoughts on kids?
[00:31:45] He’s like, I definitely want them. And I said, well, I definitely don’t, so I just wanna be upfront with you on that. And he was like, I don’t think that’s something we need to figure out right now. I come to find out later Paulette, because he knew that I was gonna be an aunt for the first time, a few months after that. My,
[00:32:01] Paulette: Oh the manipulative bullshit is about to start!
[00:32:06] Rena: He says, you know, I had a feeling that once you became an aunt that you might change your mind. Well, I became an aunt and I did not know that my heart could like open up as wide as it did, and so I thought to myself, you know, I think I could do it. I think I could do motherhood.
[00:32:22] I’m not saying I want to, but I think I could. But luckily, by the time we ended up getting divorced, we had not started trying. So it was not an issue, but I was leaving it open. It was definitely not something I needed. So I’ve had polycystic ovarian syndrome my whole life, which I’ve always been told like, Hey, it’s gonna be kind of hard for you to get pregnant naturally.
[00:32:46] And I’m using air quotes for people who can’t see them. So, yeah, whenever you wanna get knocked up, come to us. We’re probably gonna have to put you on some fertility stuff, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So I kind of always knew this, and I had never had a pregnancy scare in my whole life. I was like, yeah, I lean pretty infertile, and that’s cool.
[00:33:05] So fast forward to year before last. I am in a relationship now with my partner who I’ve been with almost five years, and I had gone off my birth control because I was having some side effects. I had made an appointment to see my new OB/GYN, cuz I had switched insurance cuz I left the county and had to buy my own dam insurance.
[00:33:26] So I was in this like few months of limbo where I was off the pill and I had an appointment with my new doctor to talk to her about sterilization, about getting my tubes taken out. And what the heck happened, Paulette? I accidentally got pregnant. Yeah, completely unplanned. And I’m grateful that it happened, and I know this might be a polarizing thing to say, but hopefully the target audience for your podcast will not be too offended by this.
[00:33:55] I’m grateful that it happened because it kind of gave me a chance to say, okay, Rena, you thought your whole life, this was gonna be a job for you to get pregnant, right? Like, a job, meaning fertility treatment and all this stuff. And here we go, we’re gonna hand it to you on a silver platter. And I was 39 at the time, like accidentally getting knocked up at 39 with polycystic ovarian syndrome is kind of unheard of.
[00:34:21] So it was handed to me on a platter and when that pregnancy test came back, I took one of the at home ones, there was no question in my mind, uh, that I did not wanna keep the baby. And so I’m grateful for the fact that this happened because that question has been answered for me.
[00:34:38] Paulette: Mm-hmm. You crystallized that for you, right?
[00:34:40] Rena: So I immediately went into the doctor, I got a much sooner appointment. I was like, Hey, I’d like to talk about termination. I was early enough on where I could just take the at home pill and do it that way, and we made an appointment to get my tubes taken out. So my understanding is that. If you’re a woman and you are certain that you don’t wanna have kids, doctors are now recommending you just have the tubes removed instead of tied, because it almost eliminates your risk of ovarian cancer.
[00:35:07] Paulette: Oh, fun!
[00:35:07] Rena: Yeah. But so my partner and I, we did have a conversation. Do I wanna get my tubes taken out? Do you wanna get a vasectomy? He’s 99% sure he doesn’t wanna have kids. I’m a hundred percent sure. And if I could also reduce my risk of cancer, why wouldn’t I? And let me tell you, the recovery for this procedure was like nothing.
[00:35:31] The procedure itself was like nothing. The Covid test, they had to do up my nose with the swab the day before the surgery. That was worse than the surgery and the recovery itself.
[00:35:43] Paulette: Please tell me more. Because I had an ablation and I would not say recovery was great.
[00:35:48] Rena: Okay. So I had an ablation at the same time.
[00:35:51] Paulette: Oh, okay.
[00:35:51] Rena: And you mean to stop your period and all of that?
[00:35:54] Paulette: Mm-hmm.
[00:35:55] Rena: Okay. So that’s actually a funny story and I wanna talk about the ablation too, because I didn’t even know this was an option. I’ve had terrible periods my whole life. When I went in to see my OB/GYN to schedule the tube surgery, I joked with her and I said, and by the way, if there’s something you could do to stop my period so that I don’t have periods anymore, but I’m, I’m not thrown into menopause, that would be really great too.
[00:36:17] That was a joke. She said, oh, actually, yeah, there’s a thing we can do for that. The ablation like you’ve had done. My mind was blown, Paulette. I didn’t even know this, did not know this was an option. She gave me a little pamphlet for it. I said, okay, can you just do that while I’m knocked out? And so she did that.
[00:36:34] My recovery was really easy. I mean, maybe I’m not reflective of the typical recovery process. I had to wear a pad for a few days, but I kind of took it easy. Had to wait a few weeks to start having sex again. But the surgery itself has done laparoscopically, so I have two like tiny little incision marks on either side of my belly button and then like a small one on the inside of my belly button and that’s it.
[00:37:03] So they don’t go up through the vaginal canal. It’s all just done laparoscopically.
[00:37:07] Paulette: Wait, they did the ablation that way too?
[00:37:09] Rena: No, I think they did the ablation vaginally, but the tube part was done laparoscopically. i was asleep. My doctor asked me what kind of music I wanted to have playing in the operating room. It was all women’s staff. This was like my dream surgery. This was seriously one of the most liberating days of my life.
[00:37:27] But I will say this, I posted about having this surgery on Instagram and I lost followers. When a year before I had posted about a mental health condition I had that required me to be hospitalized, and I gained followers because of that.
[00:37:45] So if that’s saying something about what we’re allowed to be as women, easier for us to understand losing our mind than it is not wanting to be moms. So that’s my story of being childfree. I have a bunch of barely hanging on plants and I have a really cute Siamese cat and that, that’s, that’s what I got going on over here.
[00:38:08] Paulette: That’s awesome. Thanks so much for sharing that. So my partner Ryan, who I talk about sometimes, you know Ryan, he said I was charred like a bourbon barrel and he loves bourbon. So that was cool. Uh, that’s our funny little joke. It grew back, like my periods came back.
[00:38:22] Rena: Okay. How long did it take?
[00:38:23] Paulette: Nine months.
[00:38:24] Rena: Did you go get it done again?
[00:38:26] Paulette: No. Um, so she told me it was a possibility, like, of course it is. And the periods are much lighter. They are like nothing I ever experienced without having hormonal intervention. Like when I was on the pill, I didn’t have, I didn’t have a period for like 20 years. It was the best time in my life.
[00:38:45] But in terms of not having a period. Everything else that came with it was less than desirable. Like the plumpness of my lips has come back. The, the dryness of my scalp has gone away, not being on birth control pills. It’s very interesting how the body responds to these things. But I do have a period and I do get cramps like I used to.
[00:39:08] So one of the, I guess we were joking around, my gynecologist and I, who I love, I’ve been seeing her for almost my entire adult life as well. She’s also childfree, which I love for her. I was like, I just want a hysterectomy. Like my mom had one at 36, but she had fibroids and endometriosis and all this other stuff I do not suffer from.
[00:39:26] They did find a fibroid, so they took care of that, but it was like tiny, right? Like it’s not a condition I suffer from that would lead to a hysterectomy making sense. So she’s like, well, if this doesn’t take, maybe it’ll be easier for you to talk me into a hysterectomy. She’s like, you could wait till you hit menopause.
[00:39:44] And I’m like, why do I have to?
[00:39:46] Rena: Right. You’re like, just make it stop now.
[00:39:49] Paulette: So, and you know, I hadn’t thought about having it done again.
[00:39:52] Rena: Because I, I think that’s kind of what you do, right? I, I don’t know. I mean, I haven’t gotten any sort of bleeding or spotting in the year and a half since I got it done. And the second it happens again, I’m gonna call my doctor and be like, okay, time to come in for a tune-up.
[00:40:06] I’m done. But I never suffered from bad cramps, but I still get like the phantom PMS symptoms, so I’ll like, you know, get a few pimples. I’m like, oh, it must be my mysterious time of the month where I’m not actually bleeding.
[00:40:18] Paulette: I remember the first time I experienced cramps again. I was like, what is that?
[00:40:24] Because it had been so many decades since I had felt that pain. Like I was horrified. I’m like, what is my body doing? And then I was like, oh fuck, those are cramps. I remember what those are like from, I haven’t had those since I was a teenager.
[00:40:36] Rena: And you know, it’s funny though, cause this can actually be a polarizing topic for some women.
[00:40:42] I had a few women reach out to me after I talked about my ablation saying, you know, I love getting my period. It’s a reminder that I’m connected to the universe, it’s a reminder that I am a woman. And so I wanna put that caveat out there to any listeners who might be like horrified right now that we all have different ways in which we connect to our womanhood and femininity.
[00:41:02] And as someone who’s periods that made my life a living hell for most of my life, uh, unpredictable, bleeding and everything like this is not a pleasant reminder of the fact that I’m a woman. So.
[00:41:12] Paulette: Well, thank you so much for being here. You are just a light. With your beautiful pink hair. Everybody go follow Rena on Instagram because she’s doing the work every day out there for free.
[00:41:23] She’s giving you all kinds of great information for free, but also join her newsletter and then sign up for a consultation with her because I think we can all use it. We can all use it.
[00:41:32] Rena: Yeah. Well, thank you for having me.
[00:41:34] Paulette: Will you please say the thing?
[00:41:36] Rena: That’s a burrito!
[00:41:40] You got something to say about this week’s episode?
[00:41:42] DM me on Instagram at Paulette Erato. And if you’d like to be a guest on La Vida Más Chévere, check out the guest form on my website at Paulette Erato.com. All of these links are in the show notes.
[00:41:54] While you’re at it, can I ask you a favor? I’d really appreciate your helping spread awareness about the podcast. So could you please share it on your socials or even send it to a friend? New episodes come out every other Tuesday. You can enjoy them with tacos or burritos![00:42:10] Muchísimas gracias for your support, y hasta la próximo vez, ¡cuídate bien!