Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Photo Opportunities November 15, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It’s like a Pavlovian response. I see someone taking a group shot, and I automatically steer their way and offer to take the photo so everyone can be in it. It’s a good human thing to do, I think.

But a recent event may have begun dismantling the conditioning process. We were heading out of the stadium after a baseball game when I spotted a man lining up a woman and two boys, I’d guess about 7 and 9 years old.

“Can I take the shot so you can all be in it?” I asked.

“Yes! Thank you!” the man said, then handed me his camera and pointed to the shoot button.

“Say ‘chili-cheese fries’!” I said, then I looked through the viewfinder and noticed one of the boys was doing his best impression of a troll face. “Seriously?” I asked, as I lowered the camera. “Is that your best choice?”

The kid looked surprised that I’d called him out, and for a second, I felt badly that I’d ruined his fun. Maybe he’ll appreciate it when he’s 30, I thought to myself. But then his dad looked over and laughed as he saw his son’s expression.

“Nice catch!” he said to me. “You must be a mom.”

“Yup,” I choked out, as I lined up the shot again and captured a keepsake of four normal-looking people—three of the four with unforced smiles.

I handed back the camera and accepted their thanks, and wondered to myself if it would have made any difference if I had responded, “Nope. I’m just a woman who used to be a kid, who loves kids, who gets kids. Don’t have to be a parent to do that.” Did I miss a teaching moment? Could I have given this one family something to think about, a little more awareness that childfree people are human too? Could I have gently impressed upon them that we don’t need to give birth to have parenting skills?

Sometimes it just seems easier to nod my head, swallow the slights, and keep the game moving. But the fact that I’m still thinking about this months later makes me wonder if I made the right choice.

And then to make things even more complicated, I start to wonder why I assumed this was a dad taking his family out to the ballgame? Maybe he, like me, was an uncle who loves his nephews, who also comes naturally to great parenting skills. Funny how our conditioning, our trained responses to situations, takes over. Funny how, in the midst of bashing other people’s preconceptions, I am confronted smack in the face with my own.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Although she came of age during the Los Angeles Dodgers’ glory days, she’s now a committed fan of the San Francisco Giants. 


Bitter Is So Last Year November 14, 2011

I’m done with bitter. I’ve tried it on, worn it for a while, and you know what? It doesn’t suit me. It makes me look old. And unfriendly. It makes me look like someone I wouldn’t want to be stuck in an elevator with, or seated next to on a long-haul flight. So, I’m done with it.

Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you’ve been dragging your bitter around with you for a while, too. I don’t blame you. It’s completely understandable. I felt as if the universe had done me wrong. It wasn’t fair that I couldn’t have children. I didn’t deserve it. My list of woes could go on. But the thing is, I realized, that griping about the injustice of it all wasn’t going to change anything. And it wasn’t even making me feel better!

I first noticed this a while ago when I sat down to write a blog post. I can’t remember what the topic was, but I’d seen it or experienced it, and thought, “This is great material for a post.” But when I sat down to write it, I just didn’t want to. I was tired of hearing myself complain.

Pretty soon, I realized that I’m really not bitter anymore. And the final nail out of the coffin, if you will, was when I heard the Duggar news last week. I just rolled my eyes. No bitterness at all. In fact, I realized that there isn’t one single thing about her life that I would want. Not one.

I’m not saying I’m just going to put on a happy face from here on out. Can’t promise I won’t have a snide comment to make once in a while, but I’m not going to allow bitterness to give me wrinkles, and as I won’t have children to give me gray hair either, I figure I may as well go for the whole hot package.

And speaking of not being bitter, check out this article: Infertile and proud.


In Remembrance November 11, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Current Affairs,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 11:11 am
Tags: , , , ,

I’d planned to write a witty, scathing rant about the Duggars today. Or maybe a criticism about the women deliberately scheduling C-sections to have their babies born on 11-11-11. Both are such easy targets.

But driving to a doctor’s appointment this morning, I pulled up behind a car with a Purple Heart license plate. (Purple Hearts are awarded to military personnel wounded or killed in combat.) And I thought, “Really, who cares about the Duggars?”

Today is Veteran’s Day in the U.S. and Remembrance Day in Canada and the U.K.. In my homeland, Remembrance Day (or Armistice Day, as it used to be called) commemorates the end of World War I, and is marked at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

So in honor of all those who have served and continue to serve their countries, I’m posting this post (and some trivial whine about the Duggars) at 11:11:11 on 11-11-11.


Guest Post: Chero, Nicole Niquille November 10, 2011

[Editor’s Note: Thanks to Elena for finding this great “Chero” (childfree hero.) If you have a favorite Chero, please send me a post about her.]

Courtesy: Hopital Luka

By Elena

A week ago, when I was having my first coffee in the morning, I spotted a “chero” story in my local newspaper here in Berne, Switzerland. It was titled The Second Life of Nicole Niquille, but maybe it’s rather about Ms. Niquille’s third, or fourth life… so I would like to share this story about someone who has re-invented herself more than once in her life.

Nicole Niquille is 55 and lives in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. She will shortly be appointed an honorary member of the Swiss Mountain Guide association, which has more than 1500 members – only 25 of which are women. Ms. Niquille is only the third woman to be awarded this honor; the association has decided that she is clearly a pioneer of professional mountaineering. And she has reached this goal despite – or maybe because of – many obstacles in her life.

Ms. Niquille was 18 when a severe motorbike accident left her badly injured and with her left foot nearly severed from her leg. The doctors managed to save the foot through several surgeries, but it never regained its full flexibility. It was only in her hard mountaineering boots that she wasn’t affected by this. So she fell in love with climbing the alpine mountains on her doorstep, because “it was a good reason to fight: my own body, and the mountain.”

She trained hard and learned everything necessary to survive in the mountains, how to climb the sheer and icy mountainsides of the Alps, and how to guide other people in this hostile environment. Going through professional mountain guide training, she had to fight for the respect of the men in that profession, and after her successful exam, she became the first female professional mountain guide in Switzerland. That made her an attraction, and many happy and successful years followed. Until one day, 17 years ago, when the second accident happened.

She wasn’t even climbing, but collecting mushrooms at the foot of a mountain near her hometown, together with her former husband and a friend. A small rock, only as big as a walnut, was loosened higher up on the slope by an animal and fractured her skull. She spent 21 months in hospital and was initially completely paralyzed and not even able to speak. In this situation, she really considered suicide “as soon as I am capable of it again.” But slowly her injuries mended and her will to live returned, though the accident left her a paraplegic.

Today she says, “At first, I was aggressive and angry. Then I made a decision for a new life and new goals.” She left her first husband, because “He only saw the patient in me, not the woman I once was.”

At 38 years old, she found her new project: A small auberge (guesthouse) near the Lac de Taney in a remote side valley of the Valais mountains (1440 meters above sea level). In her wheelchair, she managed the guesthouse until 2010, as a manager, host, and expert and counselor in mountaineering questions. It was there she found the love of her life, her second husband. She also used part of the big sum of money she received from the state invalidity insurance to build a hospital in Nepal, which treats 1000 patients a month. This humanitarian project, she says, is “like the child I never had.” When the hospital was destroyed by an earthquake in September this year, she travelled to Nepal to personally oversee its reconstruction.

The obstacles in her life, she says, lead her to advance inwardly, to go on an inner journey.

Elena lives in Berne, Switzerland. She is a social scientist, social worker and enthusiastic amateur fiddler.


Whiny Wednesday November 9, 2011

Filed under: Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am

It’s Whiny Wednesday. Now’s your chance to tell it like it really is.


Whine on!


It Got Me Thinking…About Soccer November 8, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I am a lifelong UCLA Bruins fan, I am growing to love the San Francisco Giants, my adopted team, and we have season tickets for USF men’s basketball. But cleats down, my favorite spectator sport is kindersoccer.

Kindersoccer is not quite “soccer” because it is being “played” by first-year athletes, the five- and six-year-olds. There are no real rules. The players travel around the field in a pack, following the ball, kicking randomly, and ignoring any concept of positions or strategies. Once in a blue moon, the ball connects with a foot, meanders through a tumble of pudgy bodies, and makes its way into the net. Everyone cheers. No one boos or screams obscenities. Loyalties are not based on team colors. It’s a field full of pure joy.

I don’t get to experience this very often, because as a non-mom, I am on the sidelines of the sidelines. I’ve told family and friends, “Send me your game schedule! I’d love to come!” and occasional invitations come through. But mostly, they are ignored, I guess because the families are too busy or they don’t think I’m serious in my request. And after I’ve asked a few times, I let it go, because I don’t want to seem pushy or weird.

This. Totally. Sucks.

So to my friends with kids, I repeat: I would love to join you in cheering on the basketball/baseball/soccer/football team this and every season. Your kid gets all the glory, and you might mend a piece of my heart. Everybody wins.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She will never forget watching her nephew make his first hit in his first-ever T-ball game.


What’s Your Holiday Plan? November 7, 2011

OK, even if you’re still in denial, sooner or later you’ll have to face the fact that the holidays are coming at us. Halloween is over and Thanksgiving (for those of us in the U.S.) is just over two weeks away.


No matter which holidays you celebrate, odds are it will mean family get-togethers, maybe including relatives you see only once a year, and holiday parties where people drink too much eggnog and say stupid things.


Whether it’s your brother-in-law yelling across the dinner table to ask how the baby-making’s going, or great aunt Ethel fussing over your cousin’s brood and then turning her questions on you, or Bob from accounting unfolding a wallet full of toe-haired kids and grilling you about your family, the holiday season can be a minefield of awkward questions and inappropriate comments. So what are you going to do?


Granted, one option is to hole up with It’s a Wonderful Life and a box of Kleenex, but I don’t recommend it. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to go out in public and it pays to be prepared.


We’ve often talked about how to deal with those difficult, awkward, or downright rude questions. It all sounds good on paper, but then someone catches us off guard and we end up mumbling an almost apologetic answer and then kicking ourselves later (or venting about it on Whiny Wednesday.) So, let’s get prepared.


Think about all the events you’re going to have to attend this season. Think about who’s going to be there, and how informed they are about your personal situation. (If you see some relatives only once a year, word may not have reached them that you’ve stopped trying, for example.) Think about the questions you might be asked and practice your answers.


This technique is called Mental Rehearsal. Athletes use it to visual scoring points; people use it for job interviews to practice confidently asking questions; even the military use it to prepare troops for what they might face on the battlefield. True, you can never know what you’re going to face on the holiday frontlines, but if you’ve practiced an answer to “So, when are you guys going to have kids?” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” you’ll be prepared, even if someone throws out a variation.


Here’s an article with some suggestions on how to practice this technique. Try it now, before the holiday madness kicks in. Maybe you’ll even get to relax and enjoy the season, instead of dreading the inevitable stupid question.


Ten Childfree Celebrities November 4, 2011

As a pleasant antidote to the constant celebrity baby bump bonanza, I thought I’d share these ten childfree celebrities and their thoughts on parenthood. Yaay for them!


Now, I’m just waiting for the “Top Ten Childfree-Not-By-Choice Celebrities,” then I’ll know we’re making progress.


Happy Friday, Everyone!



Guest Post: Perspective November 3, 2011

By Jill B.

Quite frankly being a friend is sometimes too much effort.  Friendships take time and energy and when you’ve lots of things on your plate, they often move further down the ‘To Do” list.

But I’ve been reminded recently about the value of those friendships and how nurturing them, even just a little bit, can reap the most beautiful rewards.

In October 2009 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer.  Now, don’t get me wrong, it came as a huge shock, it was horrible at times, and very stressful.  But two years on I am cured and, compared to what many people go through, it was a walk in the park.

Around that same time a friend was diagnosed with lung cancer.  A healthy living, non-smoking vegetarian, a loving mother to a three-year old boy, a trusted friend, an honest and caring giver, a wonderful cook, one of the most fun people I know.  Sadly, she passed away earlier this year at the age of only 42 leaving her beautiful boy to know her through our memories and stories.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve wanted to call her in the last few months; just for a chat, to ask her opinion, to get that recipe for melt-in-the-mouth-5-hour-roast-lamb, to ask her about the places she travelled, to share a laugh but most of all to tell her just how much I love her and how much she made a difference in my life.

I was “brave.” I told her how much I loved her before it was too late, but how many of us don’t?

Since her diagnosis (and mine) and especially since losing her, I’ve made sure that I say those three magic words to the people who really matter.  Sometimes it’s hard, because some people don’t know how to react, but mostly, I’ve received the heartiest hug and to hear those magical four words back – “I love you too.”

Having cancer certainly taught me who my real friends are, and I’m sad to say that I’ve said “farewell” to a few folk in the last couple of years.  It’s always a difficult decision to choose to end a friendship whether actively or simply to let it drift away, but there simply isn’t time enough to maintain a friendship with every great person that you meet.

I’ve recently returned home to Scotland from my dream holiday visiting the fantastic national parks of southwest USA.  Whilst I was there I managed to meet up with my oldest school friend in Las Vegas.  She has lived in the US for almost 20 years and our contact in that time has been sporadic.  We were in grave danger of drifting apart.  But when she emailed to say that she and her husband would love to meet up with us in Vegas, wild horses wouldn’t have stopped me.

It was the best time of our holiday.  Seeing the Grand Canyon was truly awesome, but wrapping my arms around my childhood friend and receiving a hearty hug back is beyond description.  The two days we spent together felt wonderful and like I was 15 again (well 15 again but with serious jet lag).  We couldn’t remember how or when we met but we can’t remember a time before we knew each other.  A really magical time.

So, now I’m home, what am I going to do about my friendships – the ones that really matter? Refreshed and renewed, I’ve been calling, emailing and lunching in a frenzy with the folks close to home, and less than a week after returning home from the USA, I’ve booked a flight to California to see my friend again.

She is over the moon and we’re planning what we’re going to do together already.  It seems silly that I’ve neglected this friendship for so long.  When I see her in six weeks time, I’m going to give her a big hug and say those three magic words.

Jill B. lives childfree in Scotland. She loves to travel to see beautiful places and good friends.


7 Billion? Don’t Blame Me November 2, 2011

As we welcomed the seven-billionth human being into the world this week, I’m overcome with a low-rumbling sense of doom. Let’s face it, we’re really making a hash of taking care of our little planet and one of these days, the poor overtaxed thing is going to get severe heart burn and burb the human race into oblivion. It probably won’t be in my lifetime, and because I have none, it won’t affect my children and their descendants either. I’m trying to muster up some smugness in that thought, but I’m afraid it just won’t come. My only consolation knowing that the other creatures will be better off without us.


It’s Whiny Wednesday. I’m crawling back under my little cloud of doom for the day, but feel free to vent about the issues that are under your skin today.



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