Voices of Dignity: Claire Stuart

Voices of Dignity: Claire Stuart

Tell us about yourself.

I met my husband at intermediate school at age 12 and we’ve been together ever since. It’s our 18-year wedding anniversary this year, and we have two amazing kids Micah 9 and Zoe 7. Family is everything to me and a huge motivation to work towards a more inclusive Aotearoa. I have always been passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion and am privileged to be working in this space. In my current role as GenderTick Manager, I am helping to support the wellbeing, development, and achievement of women and girls across Aotearoa. Coming from a family of 5 girls with an inspiring strong mother, it means a lot to be doing such meaningful work.

What does the word dignity mean to you? 

Dignity and respect go hand in hand. It’s how you treat people – regardless of their demographic characteristics. We are all human; we are all worthy of kindness and respect and understanding. There is real power in dignity and respect – they lay the foundation for all other values.

What was your experience with your period? 

For years I thought I was a ‘wuss’. I thought the excruciating pain I was experiencing was what all women experienced with a ‘normal’ period. I never heard other women talk about periods or complain about them. I secretly felt ashamed that I wasn’t ‘woman enough’ to deal with having a period. It wasn’t until I had trouble getting pregnant and saw a specialist that I found out I had severe endometriosis- something I’d never heard of before. My body has been through a lot, years of excruciating pain and heavy irregular periods, two surgeries to remove endometriosis and adhesions, IVF, two pregnancies, two emergency c-sections, and this year – major surgery, a hysterectomy. I guess you could say my experience with periods hasn’t been very good, but looking at the positive side, I am grateful to have had them and to have experienced pregnancy.

What is the best thing for you about being/identifying as a woman and menstruation? 

Motherhood. After being told I would likely never become a mum, even with IVF, I can proudly say I did it, and it was worth every moment of pain, every disappointing phone call, every needle, every blood test – the whole emotional rollercoaster. This broken body of mine grew two beautiful, amazing children and I couldn’t be more proud.

What makes you feel empowered, comfortable in your own skin? 

I feel empowered knowing that I did it, I pushed myself to the limit and I became a mum. It was physically and emotionally hard, but I did it despite the odds. My hysterectomy took place in May, and I feel like I’ve done a full circle. I am comfortable knowing I made the right decision to improve my quality of life, so I can enjoy being a mum pain-free - I am proud of my scars.

What would you like to say to anyone experiencing their first period? 

Celebrate! The ability to have a period is such a powerful thing! Women’s bodies are amazing and should be celebrated. You will learn to understand what feels normal for you, listen to your body. A period shouldn’t be debilitating. If you experience severe pain, make sure you speak up and seek help.


In addition to this interview, Claire has generously provided us with a link to a piece she wrote for OhBaby magazine in 2012 where she shared her IVF diary. More about Claire and her  journey with IVF is available here

Thank you, Claire. 

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