Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

What have you done for you lately? June 14, 2010

On my street, Sunday mornings bring a steady parade of dad’s with their offspring. I imagine the mom’s tucked under fluffy down comforters, sipping freshly squeezed orange juice and enjoying a couple of hours with a good book and a bottle of nail polish.

Granted, this is an image from my fantasy of motherhood, but it reminds me that mothers (at least the lucky ones) sometimes get special credit in the form of a Sunday morning in bed, an afternoon at the spa, or even a whole day once a year devoted to them.

So, as non-mom’s I ask you: what have you done for you lately? If you haven’t treated yourself for a while, maybe this should be the week. I’ve booked an afternoon off for a massage and facial this week. What are you going to do for yourself?

 

Summing Up My Childless Life June 7, 2010

Reader Sarah posted this excellent quote on her blog, Five Camels. This is one of those quotes that makes me want to get up and shout, “Amen!” And when applied to living a childless life, it just resonated with me.

Thanks Sarah.

 

Life Without Baby Handbook May 31, 2010

Reader Lynne posted a comment recently about responding, or rather being unable to adequately respond, to a colleague’s pregnancy announcement. Her story got me thinking that what we need is a Handbook that we can refer to in sticky situations, and let’s face it, there’s never a shortage of those.

The idea is that we can all chip in with our best responses to situations and questions we’ve all faced and I’ll compile the answers, maybe on a new Handbook page. This shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but you never know, your witty response to someone’s thoughtless question might just save someone else.

So, let’s kick off with Lynne’s conundrum:

A colleague announces that she’s pregnant with twins. How do you respond?

Answers below, please.

 

When Will the Childless Find a True Champion? May 29, 2010

In her wonderful blog The Road Less Traveled this week, Loribeth posted a great piece about former First Lady, Laura Bush and her new memoir, Spoken from the Heart. In the book, Mrs. Bush reveals her own battle with infertility as well as her mother’s pregnancy losses and how those affected the whole family. Loribeth included a very insightful excerpt from the book, which I now share here.

“The English language lacks the words ‘to mourn an absence.’ For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only ‘I am sorry for your loss.’ But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”

It’s a beautiful quote and a sentiment I share.

I am always pleased when well-known figures step up and admit to infertility, just as I am equally infuriated when glowing celebs parade their miracle offspring and deny any dealings with the “sordid” world of fertility treatments. But, I wonder: when are we going to get a true champion? What will it take to make infertility a suitable subject for polite company, and who is going to use their fame and power to stand up for the childless and help lift that taboo? I guess, sisters, we’re just going to have to do it ourselves.

 

Can you spot a childfree woman? May 25, 2010

Filed under: The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I recently got the chance to meet a friend of my aunt’s, who I’d heard plenty about. This woman would not fall into the category of physically attractive, with her purple puffy eyes and facial hair that would rival either of my brothers. But she was a feisty old bird. She held my attention in a conversation and I could see the gumption and grit in her personality, despite her old and slowed down body. I’d heard she was a force to be reckoned with, and I’d also heard her described as an old busybody. I could see where she could be a complete pain in the rear, but I also really enjoyed the short interaction we had. She was interesting.

I also knew instinctively that this was a woman who had never married and never had children. How? Was it the hardness about her that hadn’t been softened by nurturing for little ones? No. I’d seen that hardness in other mothers. Was it that independent spirit that was still strong from never having to consider the needs of anyone else? Possibly, although I have an 65-year-old uncle who is a bachelor and he has none of this woman’s drive. So, what was it?

Have you had the experience of instinctively knowing that someone doesn’t have children. What was it that alerted you? Do you even know? And if so, is it just we childless women that can instinctively pick out our own kind, or do we stand out in a crowd?

Food for thought. What do you think?

 

Not Exactly Lonely May 24, 2010

 

My young nephew has no qualms about asking the most personal questions, and he’s so earnest and compassionate that usually I can’t help but give him an honest response. He’s asked why I don’t have any children, and also what happened to my first husband. I’ve told him the truth in both cases and he’s appreciated that, as far as I can tell.

Recently he asked, “Don’t you and Jose get lonely without any children.”

“No,” I told him. “We have lots of friends, and we have Felicity, our cat, plus we have lots of nieces and nephews.”

Somehow though, this response didn’t seem to satisfy him. Perhaps because it doesn’t satisfy me either. Do I get lonely because I don’t have children? Not really. Most of the time I wish I had more time alone with my own thoughts, rather than less, but do I feel a sense of loneliness sometimes, even when I’m around other people? I do. Sometimes.

Sometimes I feel that the connections I have with others are more tenuous than they would be with a child. My brothers have their own children and, while we’re still close, our connections have weakened as the bond with their children has grown. Somewhere inside me is a tiny empty hole that nothing can fill. Most of the time I’m not even aware of it, it’s so small. But every now and then I’ll experience a melancholy sensation that feels like loneliness and feels as if it could only be filled with children.

 

Guest Blogger: Carrie Friedman May 16, 2010

Excerpt from PREGNANT PAUSE, by Carrie Friedman

 

During my first three years of marriage, everywhere I went, people’s eyes migrated to my unchanging waistline. And it was everyone. Not just friends and family, but the eye doctor, the dental assistant, the bagger at the grocery store. And all of them felt entitled to ask.

The strangest inquiry had to have been from my yoga teacher: I drove across town once a week to take this class because I loved the teacher, a hip young German woman with a thick accent who’d play Tina Turner music during the sun salutations. She was the kind of funky that made you wish you had a tattoo. Something small and tasteful but a little bit bad. Because she hadn’t fully grasped the language yet, she was often unintentionally poetic when speaking to all of us. My favorite was, “you are lifting the Springtime of your heart to the flowers in your skull.”

I was resting in savasana pose, on my back, when she knelt down near my ear and whispered: “Your ovaries are ripe, yes?”

I opened my eyes and looked up at her. “My who?” Surely she meant something else. Eggs? Omelettes? Oranges? Or maybe this was some sort of German lesbian come-on line?

She whispered again: “Your ovaries, they are bright and ready for the babies.”

I pulled my legs to my chest, as if this could somehow block her x-ray vision into my pelvis, and stared at her, confused. Who was this woman and why was she tracking my ovulation better than I was? How could she tell? Was I bloated? And did she have to interrupt my peaceful resting pose, the one chance I had per week to fully relax and reflect?

I didn’t stick around after class to clarify, and my ovaries and I never went back.

On our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, a mere month after Stephen and I tied the knot, my Great-Uncle Marvin focused on the area just below my waistline and said, “Oh Carrie! I see a little paunch! Is somebody expecting?” His eyes became googly and he sounded like he was talking to a puppy. He didn’t go so far as to poke my paunch, which was fortunate since I would have broken his fingers.

No, Marv,” I said. “I just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, just like you.” I stopped short of asking him when he was due.

Why do people feel entitled to ask? Did they see the wedding band and connect marriage with procreation? It was obnoxious: For all he knew, I couldn’t have kids. For all I knew I couldn’t have kids, as I had not yet tried. But imagine if I had submitted to all kinds of treatments, only to come up empty-wombed. Imagine how painful this line of interrogation would be. Stephen thinks some people ask because it helps them validate their own choices. But he doesn’t truly understand how infuriating it is, and that’s no doubt because nobody badgers men about procreativity with the same frequency.

Was there a more personal question than the equivalent to: “So! You and the hubby having lots of unprotected sex lately?” How would they feel if I looked at their wrinkles and grey hair and said: “You look older every time I see you. You planning for your funeral yet?” or “You’re menopausal, right? How’s the dryness?” Sure, maybe they were just making conversation, but when I thought of ice-breakers, birth control didn’t spring to mind.

Perhaps childfree couples should all carry a printed card in their wallets, with this list of possible responses to the dreaded “when are you having babies?” question:

  • I had two this morning. They were delicious.”
  • Actually, I can’t have kids. I’d managed to go a few hours without thinking about it, but thanks for reminding me.”
  • Well, we had one. You must not have read about it, but long story short, don’t hire an English nanny.”
  • We’re not. We’ve decided to clone.”

Hopefully that will shut them up.

 

Carrie Friedman lives and writes in Los Angeles. She has been published in several publications, including Newsweek, and in a couple of anthologies, including Cassette From My Ex. Her website is www.carriefriedmania.com.

 

Win a copy of Carrie’s brilliant book, PREGNANT PAUSE. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll draw a random winner next Saturday. The book is also available on Amazon.

 

Find your tribe with “Groups” May 13, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’ve been fascinated to meet the members of this site and hear everyone’s stories. Numerous times I’ve talked to someone and thought, “Oh, they should really talk to the person I met last week.” And now they can!

I’ve just added the “Groups” feature to the main site. You’ll find it on the left side of the homepage and also as a tab at the top. “Groups” allows members to create groups based on their situations, issues, or interests. To get things going, I’ve started a couple of groups. Please feel free to create your own, based on the people you’re most interested in meeting.

We’re all here with the same common interest—living child-free—but our childlessness doesn’t define us. I’ve chatted with gardeners, cooks, crafters, and entrepreneurs. I’ve met women who have dealt with infertility, or the loss of a child or spouse. I’ve met women who have never wanted children and those who are still trying to get to grips with this whole childless thing. Some of us have families that just don’t get it; some of us feel as if we’re surrounded by new babies and pregnant women. We all have something we want to talk about.

 

My goal has always been to create a community where we can meet and talk to like-minded women. I hope you’ll find your tribe out there.

 

The Importance of Friends May 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Last Friday I attended a family funeral and, as is always the case, the occasion served to galvanize my own final wishes (which I hope won’t need to be carried out for a long time.)

From attending funerals over the years, I’ve decided I want no formal service conducted by someone who barely knew me, no family airing their grievances over my casket, and no rambling eulogies by people who are supposed to say nice things about me but can’t. I do know that it’s important that some sort of commemoration take place, preferably a party with good food, flowing wine, and funny stories, not for my benefit, but for the sake of the people left behind. I’ve learned from experience how important a ceremonial closure is for the bereaved.

The problem is, I don’t know who my bereaved will be. With a husband 15 years my senior, my family 6,000 miles away, and no children of my own, who’s going to make sure my final wishes are carried out? Who’s going to even care when I pop my clogs, shuffle off this mortal coil, and head for the great writer’s conference in the sky?

I think that the answer will be: my friends.

Watching my own mother bound towards her 80th year is both inspirational and educational. I compare her to others her age (and younger, frankly) and try to find the factors that make her so youthful. Exercise is number one, along with good diet, positive attitude, and mental toughness. But right up there is friendship. My mother has so many circles of friends—her athletic friends, her artistic friends, her church friends, long-time neighbors, and even friends she’s maintained from her very first job more than 60 years ago. When she’s hit dark patches in the past, it’s been her friends who have pulled her through. When her husband, my father, passed away almost 25 years ago, we children were dealing with our own loss and her friends were the ones that kept her moving forward and moving us forward. And I know that my friends will be there for me too, in time’s of need, and when my time runs out.

Having children comes with absolutely no guarantee that you’ll be taken care of in your last days; ask those residents in senior care facilities who sit and watch everyone elses families roll in and out every Sunday. Ensuring care in your old age and having someone to carry out your last wishes is not a good reason to have children, but it’s another great reason to have friends.

 

The Double-Edged Freedom of Childlessness May 6, 2010

Filed under: Childfree by Choice,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’m writing this post from the airport terminal in Los Angeles. This will be my third trip in as many weeks. My husband and I went to New York for a weekend to celebrate my 40th birthday earlier in the month; next his job called him to Northern California and I tagged along with my traveling office. Now a family emergency means that I need to go home to England for a couple of weeks, so off I go again.

The thing is, if I had children, I couldn’t be doing this. If I had school schedules and missed classes to deal with, or frankly even if I had to find the money for three round-trip tickets instead of just one, it wouldn’t be feasible. Being childless not only allows me the do the fun things without worry, it leaves me free to take care of the other things that are important to me, namely my family—my mother and husband.

There’s a downside to this freedom, too. Although my geographically undesirable location means I’m usually the last person to be called in for family help, some of my friends are given more than their share of the responsibility because of their childlessness. Quite often I think that the sibling without children is given the responsibility for organizing family gatherings or taking care of aging relatives.

What do you think? How does your childlessness affect your role in your family?

 

 
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