Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Mes Ancenstres November 1, 2012

Thank you to Kaymet who was kind enough to tell me about this beautiful French film series, Mes Ancêstres (My Ancestors.)

The film’s creator, Frédéric LaBonde interviewed ten men and women around the theme of childlessness. The result is a beautiful series of poignant and inspiring stories.

Here is a version with English subtitles. Click on the eyeballs to hear each story.

 

Certainty October 26, 2012

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I always used to have an answer to that question. For a time the answer was, “Raising my children and writing brilliant novels in my spare time.”

These days I don’t have a clear vision of how my life will look 10 years from now. It’s not to say that I don’t have goals and plans—I have plenty of those—but what I no longer feel I have is certainty. I really have no clue where or who I’ll be in 10 years time.

After a strange week, where I’ve felt sure of nothing, I always know that there’s one thing I can count on. If I walk around the corner from my house and go down the hill, I will find the ocean. Some days it will be calm and enticing, other days—like today—it will be wild and intimidating. But it will always be there. And if I am here, in this place, 10 years from now, I can be absolutely certain that the ocean will be there, too.

If you’re feeling uncertain right now, what’s the one thing you can count on?

 

Leaving Behind the Old Life October 8, 2012

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

~ Anatole France

I saw this quote recently in a book about writing, but it struck a chord with me. It relates to so many things in life, including making peace with a life with out children.

One of the hardest stretches of my journey was the space between realizing that our options for building a family were running out, and the point where we made the decision to stop trying. I knew there were options still open, but they were beyond the scope of what Mr. Fab and I were willing to do. At some point we had to make a decision that we would not have children and that we would find a way to be okay with that. It was one of the hardest (and perhaps longest) decisions I’ve ever had to make.

I’m sure you’ve found yourself in this kind of situation in other areas of life, too. You know that you have to take a new direction, that ultimately it will be the right decision, but as France says, in order to do that, we have to leave a part of ourselves behind. Sometime the hardest part is listening to ourselves and not being afraid to make the wrong choice.

My first career was in engineering. I’ve made several career changes since then, trying to find the place in the world where I’d be happy. I’ve found it in writing, but it took me a long time to get here.

Many people can’t understand why, after all those years of college and graduate school, I would abandon a perfectly good and respectable career. I’ll be the first to admit that if I’d just stuck to engineering, I would probably have been more “successful” and definitely would be making more money, maybe own a home and live comfortably, but I know I wouldn’t have been happy. I might have been successful by the conventional definition, but the cost of sticking to a career that didn’t make me happy, just because it’s what was expected of me, didn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t easy to let go of that life and take a risk of finding happiness in another life.

Part of finding happiness is letting go of that which doesn’t make us happy. Although I believed that having children would make me happy, I was miserably unhappy running in circles trying to produce a baby that my body had no interest in creating. I could have gone on trying forever, but the cost to my mental and physical wellbeing would have been enormous. Letting go of that part of my life enabled me to find peace with my new life, even if it’s a life I wasn’t sure I wanted.

 

P.S. Letting go of the dream and the imagined life with children is the first topic we cover in the Finding Peace program. There are still some places available in the new session, which begins tomorrow. You can find all the details here.

 

A New Life, Without Children October 1, 2012

If you could wave magic wand or be given the secret elixir that would give you a baby tomorrow, would you do it?

For many of you, I know the answer would be a resounding yes. And it would have been for me, too, once. When I was in the thick of trying to have to a baby, and for a long time after we stopped trying and starting trying to come to terms with the idea of not having children, magically having a baby was the thing I usually wished for whenever I blew out birthday candles, broke a wishbone, or had some other imaginary chance to get exactly what I wanted.

But here I am now, a few years removed from that time and my desires have changed. It’s been a long, bumpy journey of acceptance, of coming-to-terms, and of finally making peace. And now I find myself making plans for a future that children won’t easily fit into.

There are some who’ll say that I can’t have really wanted children that much in the first place if I feel this way. These are the same kinds of people who implied that my widowed mother couldn’t have cared as much for her late-husband as they did for theirs because she went on to find love again. What those people don’t seem to grasp is that part of healing, part of moving on, is taking the life you have and shaping it into the best it can be. If that means falling in love and marrying again, that takes nothing away from the first, lost love. And if it means building a full and happy life that doesn’t include children, that in no way diminishes the original desire and the subsequent loss.

Recovering from loss isn’t about dragging the weight of what’s missing around with you forever. It’s about finding a place in your heart for what was lost and building a new life new around it.

For me, the fact that my plans no longer have room for children of my own signifies that I’m making excellent progress down that road of recovery.

 

Growing Up Together September 21, 2012

Last weekend I got to spend the day with one of my oldest and dearest friends. I’ve mentioned her before; she’s the friend I’ve known since I was about four, have remained in touch with over the years, and who reached out across the 6,000 miles that now separate us to make plans to reconnect in person. In the past year, we’ve managed to get together somewhere in the world on four different occasions.

As we walked around San Francisco last weekend, she hooked her arm in mine and said, “I’m so glad we get to grow up together.”

I laughed at first. We’re both 42 (and a half.) Surely we’re done growing up. We’ve shared so many life experiences over the years and we’ve traveled together through relationship ups and downs and major life upheavals. We’ve each dealt with health issues that have changed the course of our lives, and both of us have families of two. Over the years we’ve shared stories and laughs, and we’ve shopped, eaten, tested cocktails, and hiked. We’ve been through so much together and there is still so much more ahead of us. We are still growing up and I am very glad that we get to do it together, even if not always in the same corner of the world.

Who are you growing up with? Who do you sometimes take for granted, but who is always there, growing up alongside you? Give that person a shout-out today and let them know how glad you are to have them in your life.

 

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life August 23, 2012

This post was originally published on April 12, 2012.

By Iris D

“Just enjoy your life.”

These were the words one of my mom friends shared with me not too long ago.  I had not seen her since she had her second baby, and we got to talking about kids and I opened up to her and told her that my husband and I were unable to have biological children, and how difficult this was for me.  That evening I learned that her older son, now about 5 or 6, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  She told me that when she and her husband married they had agreed to remain childfree, but that after some time she changed her mind and really pushed him to reconsider, and so their first son was born.  I guessed by our conversation that they had decided to have a second child largely out of concern for their firstborn.  My friend is an older mom and her husband is quite a bit older than she is. Although her son seems pretty high functioning, she worries mostly about the potential for social isolation that children with Asperger syndrome might experience.

Lately, I’ve thought a bit about my friends and family who have special needs kids.  I have a little cousin (now 15) who has Down Syndrome and another cousin who has a significant learning/developmental disability, this latter case is even more difficult because the young man in question looks physically very strong and people do not understand that he actually has a problem and cannot help some of his behavior.  In both cases, the people in question have siblings that will hopefully step in and take charge if and when their parents are unable to do so, but I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an immediate or extended family that can help. I recall reading an article a few years back about an older woman who was looking for someone who could step in and care for her adult disabled son, as her health no longer allowed her to do so.

These stories get me thinking about the many needs that are out there and the opportunities that I might have to volunteer my time and of course about the positive emotional (and physical) benefits of volunteering, but they also remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I allow myself to think about my childlessness, mostly I just feel sad, and so lately I really try to remind myself to feel grateful for the life I have right now, and sometimes I hear my friend’s voice reminding me to just enjoy my life.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.

 

Feeling Directionless July 9, 2012

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice:   I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Being a goal-oriented kind of person, I have an illustration that includes this quote in my office. It reminds me that writing out goals, creating strategies, and checking off accomplishments doesn’t matter a hill of beans if I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m trying to go.

Despite this reminder, I often find myself overcome with a feeling of being directionless. Yes, I have things I want to accomplish, but I don’t really have a big picture vision of how I want my life to unfold. I don’t have a long-term view of what my life will look like in 5, 10, or 20 years, and beyond. It’s not that I’m looking to plan out my path to the last detail – I know that’s impossible – but I can barely see beyond the end of the year. It’s a strange feeling for someone who, 20 years ago, had her entire life mapped out. Or at least she thought she did.

The trouble is, that life had always included children, and even as I made twists and turns in career, relationships, and geographical location, the expectation of someday becoming a mother was always a constant. Once it became a possibility, it also became the focus of my life.

Now that motherhood is no longer a realistic prospect, my vision of how my life will unfold is missing a big and important piece of the puzzle, and I’m finding it hard to see the future clearly. I have career goals and travel goals, but the vision of who I will be in the future is blurry.

Maybe learning firsthand that plans don’t always work out as we’d imagined has softened my need to make them. It’s also possible that I never really had a vision for my life, but instead adopted the cultural expectation of motherhood and called it my own. Regardless, now it’s gone, I feel like an early explorer who can see my world only as far as the horizon, with no idea of what might lie beyond.

 

Join Me LIVE Today! April 28, 2012

Good morning (for some of you at least)!

I hope you’ll be able to join me today as I chat via video with some fabulous childfree women. Expect inspiration, insight, and even some laughs. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing these ladies and I hope you’ll enjoy hearing what they have to say, too.

Here’s the link to the Live Stream channel where the event will be hosted.

It all starts today at 12pm Pacific time. If you’re not sure what time that is where you are, here’s a time zone converter. Use America/Los Angeles to convert.

Once we go live, you’ll be able to chat to one another using the chat function to the right of the video. I will try to hop in on the discussions when I can.

If you can’t make it to the live broadcast, don’t worry. I’ll be recording the whole thing and you should be able to watch it on the same channel beginning later today.

So pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or wine, and join me. I’m looking forward to it.

 

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life April 12, 2012

By Iris D

“Just enjoy your life.”

These were the words one of my mom friends shared with me not too long ago.  I had not seen her since she had her second baby, and we got to talking about kids and I opened up to her and told her that my husband and I were unable to have biological children, and how difficult this was for me.  That evening I learned that her older son, now about 5 or 6, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  She told me that when she and her husband married they had agreed to remain childfree, but that after some time she changed her mind and really pushed him to reconsider, and so their first son was born.  I guessed by our conversation that they had decided to have a second child largely out of concern for their firstborn.  My friend is an older mom and her husband is quite a bit older than she is. Although her son seems pretty high functioning, she worries mostly about the potential for social isolation that children with Asperger syndrome might experience.

Lately, I’ve thought a bit about my friends and family who have special needs kids.  I have a little cousin (now 15) who has Down Syndrome and another cousin who has a significant learning/developmental disability, this latter case is even more difficult because the young man in question looks physically very strong and people do not understand that he actually has a problem and cannot help some of his behavior.  In both cases, the people in question have siblings that will hopefully step in and take charge if and when their parents are unable to do so, but I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an immediate or extended family that can help. I recall reading an article a few years back about an older woman who was looking for someone who could step in and care for her adult disabled son, as her health no longer allowed her to do so.

These stories get me thinking about the many needs that are out there and the opportunities that I might have to volunteer my time and of course about the positive emotional (and physical) benefits of volunteering, but they also remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I allow myself to think about my childlessness, mostly I just feel sad, and so lately I really try to remind myself to feel grateful for the life I have right now, and sometimes I hear my friend’s voice reminding me to just enjoy my life.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.

 

Marking Time January 23, 2012

Just recently, I seem to have lost my ability to keep track of time. I was always so good at remembering things like how many years ago we visited such-and-such a place, or where we spent Christmas four years ago. But the last several years of my life have suddenly blurred into one big event. I can no longer accurately mark time.

Last week I had lunch with a good friend who inadvertently brought my lack of time tracking to my attention. Over lunch, we were talking about her daughter and we both expressed our shock that she is already in 5th grade. How the years fly! We talked about another friend who has since moved away and how vividly we remember going to see her new baby so many years ago. I realized that I have no idea how old this little boy is now. I imagine that he’s probably somewhere between 7 and 10, but I can guarantee that my friend knows exactly how old this little boy is. I have lost track of that time.

Walking home after lunch, it dawned on me that my time amnesia might have a lot to do with not having children. My friend is reminded on a daily basis of how old her children are. She marks the passing of time with birthday parties, school grades, and childhood milestones. She knows how long ago something happened, because she knows how old her kids were, or what grade they were in at the time. I don’t have that marker and so I have to try to fill in the gaps with other events, or news headlines to mark time in my memory.

Without children to mark time and propel my life forward, I can see how easy it could be to drift through the years. Children create milestones and new direction and, while I’m not in any danger of falling into a rut yet, I can see how easily my life could lose direction.

Maybe I’ve just hit by a patch of melancholy again, so does anyone else see this? Do any of you feel as if your life is drifting by?

 

 
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