Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Child-Tinted Glasses November 8, 2012

By The One Hand Man

I had a boss once who was married, very successful, but childless. When questioned about his lack of offspring he shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t for him.

Not understanding him at the time, I viewed him as someone who didn’t want that ‘completion’ in his life.

Knowing what I do now, I would probably have kept my mouth shut.

It is, as I understand it, a natural feeling to desire your own children. So does that mean it is ‘unnatural’ not to want them?… I should think not.

If you put a spreadsheet together of pros and cons of having children, I reckon the cons would outweigh the pros about five to one, so it is perhaps more natural not to want your own kids.

For me, the thought of going through the pearly gates without even trying is not something I can face, but having struggled with infertility and IVF, I am familiar with the sympathetic stares of child bearing parents, especially when my wife and I rock up to children’s parties and the like without any kids of our own.

I have had three years of batting off the obligatory “so no Kids yet then?” remarks, I can only imagine the frustration of those who never have children – a lifetime of explaining themselves when they really shouldn’t have to.

The pressures of having children (or not) can become immense, and with feet being put in mouths left, right and centre, I have quickly learned not to judge or assume anything about individuals and couples without children.

Some can’t have them, some don’t want them, but what business is that of ours?

The One Hand Man: Married in 07, sperm test in 08, IVF in 09, another sperm test in 10, adoption started in 11 – still going through the adoption process. Not had any recent sperm tests. Read more at: www.theonehandman.co.uk

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Our Future Together October 2, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Your Future Together: Health Information You Need to Know.”

When my husband-to-be and I went to city hall to get our marriage license, we left with a small stack of papers, including a booklet with the above title. Curious, I opened it in the car and flipped through the pages. “Living a Healthy Lifestyle” was introduced on page 1, with recommendations for regular check-ups and exercise, a balanced diet, and up-to-date immunizations. Brief sections explaining the warning signs and resources for victims of domestic violence and HIV/AIDs followed. All this got me up to page 14. The remaining 34 pages are all about—you guessed it—family planning, pregnancy, and healthcare for babies.

There are resources listed for where to get genetic counseling, two full pages on the importance of increasing folic acid intake, and tips on things such as “Have someone else change the cat litter box daily” when you’re expecting. But no where—no where!—is there any mention of infertility, IVF, adoption, or the childfree option. Wait, I need to amend that. On page 16, there’s a list of family planning services available to eligible, low-income couples. Bullet number 4 reads: “Limited infertility and cancer screening services.”

I assumed this pamphlet must be way out-of-date, but the copyright is 2010, and the legal notation on the back indicates it must be distributed to all marriage license applicants. If that’s the case, I’d like to add some new sections to the 2012 edition, sections that address questions such as:

How long should we try to conceive the old-fashioned way before seeking professional help? What is the process for adopting a child? As a gay couple, how do we protect our parental rights? Who offers counseling when our dreams of having children are crushed? Can we have a happy and healthy marriage as a family of two?

I think someone needs to let city hall know that there’s a lot more information we need to know.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She—and her husband—have chosen to be childfree.

 

Guest Post: Miracle Stories August 30, 2012

This post was originally published on April 20, 2012.

By Quasi-Momma

In responding to the April 4th Whiny Wednesday post, a few of us commented on the frustrations of having to deal with the inevitable, “Have you considered … adoption, fostering, egg donation, or surrogates?” It is annoying.  Why do other people think (a) they have the answers and (b) that we haven’t considered whatever “solution” they are proffering?

The worst is the suggestion followed by the “miracle story.”

I was extremely surprised when I got such a story from a friend.  She is a new mom who suffered several miscarriages on her way to mommy-hood. I am happy for her, and still consider her a sister-in-arms, even though she’s crossed over.

I was sitting in her living room broken-hearted over recent news of a pregnancy in the family, when the conversation turned to the financial barriers of adoption.  She launched into this story of a friend who was an obstetrics nurse who managed to adopt a baby from one of those “I didn’t know I was pregnant” patients that you hear about on TV, but never quite believe they exist.  The total price tag was around $6,000. What an incredible stroke of luck.

 

I honestly did not know what to do with that information.  What was I supposed to take from it?  I am supposed to camp out in emergency rooms waiting for a mom who might not want her baby?   Seriously, I love my friend, but this was not a helpful story.

I think that Americans are groomed to expect a happy ending. I personally blame the entertainment industry for this.  All problems are resolved in Hollywood.  No problem is insurmountable.   It is so pervasive that when people encounter real life scenarios that can’t be fixed, they are confounded, and that’s when the suggestions and the stories start a-flyin’.

What these well-intentioned people don’t understand is their stories usually have the opposite effect than what was intended.  Instead of feeling inspired, we feel deflated.  Why someone else and not us? What are we doing wrong? Have we not tried hard enough? Are we unworthy?

I do believe in God and the power of faith and prayer, but with that comes surrendering to the fact that our destiny may not look the way we envisioned it.  God is not a cosmic ATM. If we all got the miracles we prayed for, everyone would be a lottery winner, right?

We all have different paths, and they are beautiful in their own way. Part of our struggle with childlessness is embracing it for what it is worth and finding the beauty in ourselves and our lives with or without baby. It is not an easy path, and, unfortunately, there is no easy way for us to make others realize that.

Luckily, we do have an amazing community here. One that reminds us we are not alone, and that in itself is something I consider a small miracle.

Quasi-Momma, whose real name is Susan, is not quite a mom, but really wants to be. In her blog, Quasimomma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Those Moments April 24, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It happened so quickly. I was crossing a street and noticed ahead of me a woman and two small boys, about two- and three-years-old. As they rounded the corner, the wind caught the stack of coloring book pages the older child was holding, pulling them from his hand and scattering them across the sidewalk. As they scrambled to stomp on them and pick them up, I sprinted across the street to help.

I handed my small collection to the woman, then said to the young artist, “What beautiful artwork. Did you make these?” He looked up at me and beamed. And I looked into the eyes of the son I could’ve had and thought, I still want one.

And there goes years of therapy!

I think this has to be one of the hardest things about this journey. Even though we may have been told we can’t have children, or know we can’t have children, or have come to terms with our choice to not have children, there’s still that what if factor. The miracle cure, the quicky adoption, the rogue egg. It’s still possible, right? It’s not too late! If I still want this, I can make it happen! All those crazy-train thoughts waiting to bubble up to the surface at a moment’s notice.

Fortunately, my brain took over and, by the time I’d walked the rest of the way home, I had catalogued all my (very sensible) reasons for being childfree and overruled my flip-floppy emotions. I was back to being at peace with my choice. At least my brain is good with it. I just need to work a little more on getting my heart on board.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

Don’t Ignore…the Life Without Baby Option April 23, 2012

If you’re someone who imagined, or even expected, that motherhood would be part of your life, the option of a life without children isn’t one you’d be in any hurry to consider. But for many women, that can become the only reasonable option.

I never thought that I would be childfree, childless, a non-mom, or however you’d choose to describe me. Children were always going to be a given for me, “No matter what it takes.” But in reality, I wasn’t willing or able to do whatever it takes, and eventually the option that started to make the most sense to me, even though I didn’t like it, was a life without children.

Medical technology has made great strides over the past decade or two (I was just reading an article this morning about the latest procedure that enables women to freeze ovarian tissue.) Adoption has lost much of its stigma and is considered by many to be the obvious next step for someone who can’t have children of their own. In many ways, there’s a perception that infertility is never an insurmountable obstacle to a family, and that there is always a next step available.

In theory, that’s somewhat true, but in practice, it’s never as simple as that, and many us find that we reach the end of our emotional or financial paths long before we exhaust the list of family building options available to us. It’s hard to walk away from the dream of motherhood, but sometimes it just makes sense.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. There are many things that I would wish for my former self, if I were starting out on the road to parenthood again. I wish I’d had more information; I wish I’d had someone I could talk to, who could guide me through the process; I wish I’d had one great doctor who could have given me a step-by-step work-up, an accurate diagnosis, and a set of options sooner, before I’d exhausted the emotional stamina and financial means to use them.

But now, three years after deciding to end my quest for motherhood and starting to make peace with my life without children, I have this wish: I don’t want to promote childlessness as an option. I don’t want to say, “Hey, you! You don’t need to put yourself through all that hell any more. Come over here and be childfree!” I don’t wish “unresolved infertility”, as I’ve heard it called, on anyone. But when some of us reach that point, I wish there was more support available. I wish that infertility resources included information about choosing to walk away from motherhood, and how to come to terms with that decision.

The theme for NIAW this year is “Don’t ignore…” and my request is this: Don’t ignore those of us for whom the infertility journey does not end with a baby.

And now for some resources that are available: There are lots of us out here in the blogosphere, talking about this topic. Check out the blogroll on the right and please support their efforts to have our voices heard. If you have a blog on living without children, and it isn’t yet on the blogroll, include it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. We have a strong community here on this site, so if you’re new here, cruise around and see what we’re talking about. You can also sign up for the password-protected site where you talk to other women in a private forum.

If you’d like to hear some live voices (and see some beautiful childfree faces) please join me here this Saturday, April 28th at 12:00pm PST as I talk to three wonderful women about their own journeys to come to terms with being childfree-not-by-choice. There’ll be the opportunity to chat live with other women online and make connections with some kindred spirits.

Finally, if you’re here supporting NIAW and want more information about infertility, please visit these links.

 Infertility 101

About National Infertility Awareness Week

 

Guest Post: Miracle Stories April 20, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

In responding to the April 4th Whiny Wednesday post, a few of us commented on the frustrations of having to deal with the inevitable, “Have you considered … adoption, fostering, egg donation, or surrogates?” It is annoying.  Why do other people think (a) they have the answers and (b) that we haven’t considered whatever “solution” they are proffering?

The worst is the suggestion followed by the “miracle story.”

I was extremely surprised when I got such a story from a friend.  She is a new mom who suffered several miscarriages on her way to mommy-hood. I am happy for her, and still consider her a sister-in-arms, even though she’s crossed over.

I was sitting in her living room broken-hearted over recent news of a pregnancy in the family, when the conversation turned to the financial barriers of adoption.  She launched into this story of a friend who was an obstetrics nurse who managed to adopt a baby from one of those “I didn’t know I was pregnant” patients that you hear about on TV, but never quite believe they exist.  The total price tag was around $6,000. What an incredible stroke of luck.

 

I honestly did not know what to do with that information.  What was I supposed to take from it?  I am supposed to camp out in emergency rooms waiting for a mom who might not want her baby?   Seriously, I love my friend, but this was not a helpful story.

I think that Americans are groomed to expect a happy ending. I personally blame the entertainment industry for this.  All problems are resolved in Hollywood.  No problem is insurmountable.   It is so pervasive that when people encounter real life scenarios that can’t be fixed, they are confounded, and that’s when the suggestions and the stories start a-flyin’.

What these well-intentioned people don’t understand is their stories usually have the opposite effect than what was intended.  Instead of feeling inspired, we feel deflated.  Why someone else and not us? What are we doing wrong? Have we not tried hard enough? Are we unworthy?

I do believe in God and the power of faith and prayer, but with that comes surrendering to the fact that our destiny may not look the way we envisioned it.  God is not a cosmic ATM. If we all got the miracles we prayed for, everyone would be a lottery winner, right?

We all have different paths, and they are beautiful in their own way. Part of our struggle with childlessness is embracing it for what it is worth and finding the beauty in ourselves and our lives with or without baby. It is not an easy path, and, unfortunately, there is no easy way for us to make others realize that.

Luckily, we do have an amazing community here. One that reminds us we are not alone, and that in itself is something I consider a small miracle.

Quasi-Momma, whose real name is Susan, is not quite a mom, but really wants to be. In her blog, Quasimomma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Charity Case March 7, 2012

It’s happened again. I’ve been offered a child for adoption. Unfortunately, this “child” is the adult black sheep of the family, a young man who has so disappointed his own mother that she’s willing to give him away to a charitable cause, i.e., me.

I’m fairly sure (although not 100 percent certain) that this woman was kidding when she said, “You can have one of mine,” but even so, I can’t help being totally insulted by her suggestion that I am so desperate to be a mother that I’d take her seriously damaged goods.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s rubbing you the wrong way this week?

 

The Night Watcher December 12, 2011

This weekend I went to see Charlayne Woodard in her one-woman show The Night Watcher. The play is a made up of a series of short stories about the relationships she shares with the many children in her life, and it was fascinating.

Charlayne “missed the small window of opportunity” she had to have children of her own and chose not to adopt. She makes no bones about the fact that she and her husband (and dog) can spend Sunday mornings in bed reading the newspaper and drinking Bloody Mary’s because they don’t have children, but also that she is able to play an important role as auntie and godmother to a lot of other people’s children.

It was  so refreshing to see this point of view in a public forum and I laughed out loud at some of her scathing observations, and blinked back tears at others. Charlayne touched on many of the subjects we’ve brought up on Whiny Wednesdays – how when you don’t have children, someone is always trying to “fix” that; how she’s judged as being something less than a woman; and how her opinion is so quickly dismissed, even by a mother who is all but absent from her own daughter’s life. I related to her experiences and appreciated her frankness.

I’ll admit, though, that the show was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster to watch. I found myself flip-flopping along with Charlayne between lamenting the joys I was missing by not having children, and appreciating the life I have. And of course, it brought the subject of our own journey back up to the surface again, and got me and Mr. Fab talking about it, which isn’t always pleasant, but is nonetheless beneficial.

The Night Watcher closes here in L.A. this coming weekend, but if you get a chance, get out to see it. Don’t forget your chuckle muscles and your Kleenex, though.

 

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.

 

“LOST AND FOUND, Life as I (K)NEW It” September 24, 2011

Filed under: Children,Family and Friends — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

As you know, I am usually very hesitant about posting stories relating to families, children, and babies, and that’s not going to change any time soon, but adoptive parents, particularly those who adopt through the foster care system, have a special place in my heart. From my own experience, I know that this type of adoption is a calling and it takes a special kind of person to pull it off.

Amy Hill, playwright and star of Lost and Found: Life as I K(new) It, was 47 years old and single when she adopted a baby girl through the L.A. County DCFS. Now, she and her 11-year old daughter, Penelope have taken their story to the stage in this

two-woman show about the trials and tribulations of multiracial/transracial adoption and single motherhood.

We each have a unique story to tell about our journey towards or away from motherhood. While Amy’s story took a different course to any of our stories, it’s often in the differences that we find common ground.

If you’re in the Los Angeles area, consider checking out Amy and Penelope’s show.

 

“LOST AND FOUND, Life as I (K)NEW It”

Japanese American National Museum,
 Los Angeles, CA

October 1 @ 7 pm

October 2 @ 2 pm & 7 pm

Amy Hill explores how her life has evolved since her daughter became a part of her family. She talks about adoption, single motherhood, multiracial/transracial identity mash-ups and her continuing struggles to figure it all out in a humorous and honest way. Far from her days of flying solo, she has moved into a not so solo world: her daughter may or may not make an appearance.

$15 Members, Students, Groups (10+), Seniors

$20 non-members

Want to see a teaser of the show? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTmcqaSkkcs 

 

 
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