Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Chero of the Week: Charlayne Woodard November 18, 2011

You might recognize Charlayne Woodard from TV shows like Law and Order, ER, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, but more recently she’s been making a name for herself on Broadway.

Charlayne isn’t a parent, but she’s a godmother, auntie, and mentor to dozens of other people’s children. She’s had a stranger on a subway train tell her she’s not a real woman because she doesn’t have children, and she’s had a friend try to convince her to make a split second decision about adopting a baby. But she’s stood firm, and now she’s written a one-woman play about her experiences as a non-mom.

The Seattle Times called The Night Watcher “thoughtful and engrossing, entertaining and poignant” and says that Woodard “vividly illustrates a critical source of love for young people living in a culture that exalts the idea of biological parenthood but doesn’t always follow through.”

I’m so pleased to see someone finally addressing the subject of the important role that people who aren’t parents can play in the lives of children. And lucky for me, Charlayne is bringing her show to Los Angeles this month, so I’m going.

I’ll report in when I’ve been, but for now let’s hear a “Brava!” for Charlayne Woodard for having the courage to speak up about being childfree.

 

With Eyes of Faith…Hannah’s Significant Other November 17, 2011

By Dorothy Williams

“…why are you weeping? Why are you not eating? Why are you so miserable? Am I not better for you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8)

 

The questions a husband asked his barren wife many centuries ago could just as easily represent feelings secretly harbored by our family members today. Can you imagine poor Elkanah sitting by the bedside of his wife, Hannah, feeling completely helpless and perfectly invisible as she quietly sobbed and rocked herself? 
And I ask myself, how many times did my own husband sit by me feeling the same thing? Or what about my sweet mother?  Or even my best friend? I was blind to their love, too, as I grieved the loss of my children.

 

In the biblical story, Elkanah had two wives named Hannah and Peninnah, but only Hannah was barren.  Peninnah used her status as a “mother of sons and daughters” to provoke and torment Hannah because she viewed her as a rival. Seeing what was going on, Elkanah gave “a double portion to Hannah because he loved her, though the Lord had closed her womb” (1 Samuel 1:5).

 

When we are provoked, it’s easy to devalue the close relationships we enjoy with our spouse and other best friends. I guess it’s because the power of the moment gets our focus fixed on what we lack rather than on all that we have.  For me, it was like a giant microscope was shoved into my face every time I had to deal with a pregnancy announcement.  My grief forced me to peer down a tube at this giant hole in my soul, blinding me to the daily favor I enjoy as a child of God.

 

And speaking of God, the same questions could be posed in a different way:  Isn’t our relationship with the Lord better for us than ten sons?  And where in our lives has God given us a “double portion” because we are so deeply loved?

 

It’s something to think about this Thanksgiving, as we count our blessings.

 

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She enjoys time spent with her family in Christ.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Feeling Old…Again November 16, 2011

Getting old is the pits.

 

Even though I’m not yet even halfway through my planned life journey, I’m falling apart. Last week it was hot flashes; this week it’s a bad back. Not life threatening, but certainly life adjusting. And let me tell you, there’s nothing to make you feel more decrepit than being unable to lift your leg high enough to put on your underwear.

 

Luckily for me, my brother suffers from the same Achilles heel, so I was able to call him for sympathy. And now it’s Whiny Wednesday, so I can gripe to you too. I’m planning to be fully recovered and fit for dancing by the weekend (not that I plan to dance, but it would be nice to have the option) but in the meantime, all I have to say is, “Wah! Poor me!”

 

As it is WW, feel free to out-whine me. I dare you.

 

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.

 

 
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