Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Maybe Baby, Maybe Not: Elusive “Congratulations” September 6, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the Orange County fair, and he became unaccountably obsessed with the idea of adopting a pygmy goat. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it’s arguably the cutest animal on the planet. But, well – it’s a goat. And we live in a small condo in Southern California. None the less, it became an amusing topic of conversation between us and his sister who was along for the ride.

As a joke, she sent us a photo of goat’s milk on Facebook and I commented that she shouldn’t give my husband any more encouragement with regards to our “little girl” because he’d decided he wanted it to be a girl. Someone who didn’t look closely at the photo and doesn’t know us all that well misinterpreted the conversation and commented, “Drew is having a baby?!” It was immediately “liked” and commented on by several people, and I got my very first (albeit false) taste of the accolades heaped on those who are expecting a child.

I got to feel what it’s like for people to be genuinely excited about something you’ve done, and be really, really happy for you. It felt…amazing! For a couple of seconds. Until I remembered this was all based on a misunderstanding. But I was really struck by how it gave me such a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that people would be so over the moon if we had a kid. I know it’s downright silly, but hey – we can’t always control our feelings.

I also know that getting pregnant isn’t the only thing you can do where people will express their congratulations and excitement. But it sure does seem to be the one thing that generates the MOST excitement and the MOST accolades. I feel like if I ever finish my book (which I think may actually wind up being more painful than labor) and sold it to some fabulous publisher, that status update wouldn’t garner even half the likes of one saying “I’m pregnant!”, despite the fact that anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been writing for years and would die of happiness if I ever published a book.

Some may dismiss this all as silly Facebook politicking. And on some level, it is. But it’s also a microcosm for how society really feels about things. If baby announcements are the things that excite you most on Facebook, they’re probably the things that excite you most in real life. Calling to tell my mom I was pregnant would likely result in a burst of (happy) tears, while delivering some news about a promotion at work or buying our first house would probably earn me a heartfelt, but decidedly less emotional, congrats. Not because my mom is desperate to become a grandmother or doesn’t care about my career, but because babies generate more emotions. They just do.

Some others would question why I care so much about whether people are happy for me, and would encourage me to pursue my non-baby-related goals for my own personal satisfaction. That’s all well and good, and of course, that’s the route I’ll go. I just sort of wish I hadn’t gotten a taste of what it felt like to be on the other side.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

What Kind of Mother Would I Have Been? July 23, 2012

What kind of mother would I have been?

This thought crosses my mind once in a while, for example, this weekend as I was lugging another dead plant out to the alley to dump its desiccated remains into the compost bin.

What kind of mother would I have been if I can’t even keep a plant alive?

Or on Sunday when I decided to let my indoor cat out into the garden to chase a few butterflies, and then got chatting to my neighbor and forgot about her. (She was fine, as it turns out.)

Would my kids have been the ones standing alone outside the school while I was sitting down to dinner looking around the table, thinking What’s missing here?

I realize that plants and cats don’t take quite the same level of mothering as children, but would I have been an attentive mother?

Maybe I’d have been the opposite – an overindulgent, permissive mother, whose children would create undisciplined riots everywhere they went. I mean, I spoil my cat rotten and she has absolute power over me. Would my children have pushed me around, too?

I know this is just self-pity talking, but I wonder, was I just not meant to be a mother? Do I not have the right stuff?

Too bad we’ll never get to find out.

 

Guest Post: Outrageously Boring Birth Announcements June 7, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Remember when we used to get a real piece mail that wasn’t selling us something? It’s so rare nowadays that the handwritten address peeking out amidst all the junk actually makes my heart flutter a little.  Maybe it’s a letter from an old flame, fifty bucks from Grandma who’s senile and thinks it might be your birthday, or an invitation to a party in your honor for some fabulous thing you don’t even remember doing. But no, it can really be only one of two things: a wedding invitation or a birth announcement.

A wedding invitation is cause for excitement. Once you get over the annoyance of being addressed as Mrs. Husband’s First Name/Husband’s Last Name (my first name is not Mrs. Drew, thank you very much!), you have the opportunity to peruse the various invites, cards, return envelopes and that little wisp of tissue that no one ever knows what to do with. You get to judge them on color choices and menu options, decipher whether or not there will be a full open bar or just beer and wine, get miffed about not being invited to the rehearsal dinner. In short, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

But the birth announcement? Without fail, this is the same boring 4 x 6 Snapfish card. A montage of black and white close-ups and a list of stats: name, date and time of birth, inches, pounds, and ounces. I don’t mean to be rude here, but I’m genuinely curious – why on earth does anyone care how many ounces a baby was, other than the poor woman who had to push it out? It would be so much nicer to actually get an interesting piece of news here, maybe hear something about the parents. How many hours was Mom in labor, did Dad make a fool of himself and faint in the delivery room, etc.? Or at least something more interesting about the baby – how did they pick the name or what does it mean? Since baby names these days are more closely guarded than federal secrets, it’d be nice to finally hear how they chose.

All of this could come in a nice little note on the back and would reignite everyone’s excitement on getting a solid piece of paper news about friends and family. I might even start saving them in a little drawer. But if I keep getting the same old thing, I’ll probably just continue throwing them in the trash and later feeling very bad about having to toss a pile of coffee grounds or banana peel on a baby’s face.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Guest Post: Trying to Live Shame-Free May 17, 2012

By Catherine Elizabeth Lambert

“No woman should feel ashamed for what they cannot control.”

For about 16 years my husband and I tried to conceive a baby but to no avail. For most of that time, I felt deep shame. I was embarrassed to be around my pregnant friends. I never knew what to say to them and didn’t want to lay all my problems in their laps either. A lot of the time I hid in my house and cut myself off from most of my friends. I was not a pleasant person to be around at work. I was very moody.

Recently, through writing, I have come to realize that I shouldn’t feel ashamed for something I couldn’t control.  I did everything within reason to conceive a child. I was also tired of hating my body because I was born with a malformed uterus and genes for endometriosis, which were handed down by my mother.

My shame started to dissipate the more I wrote. English class was my least favorite subject in school, but I was shocked by how easy the words flowed out of me when I decided to write my memoir.  My emotional thoughts were overflowing. After I finally completed my book, I felt a huge sense of pride.  A feeling I was not very familiar with besides getting my A.A.S in 2003. My book helped me move past my depression and sadness around childlessness. I no longer feel the shame I once did.

Catherine Elizabeth Lambert is the author of Lost in a Sea of Mothers: Am I a Mother Yet? and is currently working on a novel. Married for 21 years, she has no children of my own but for the past six years has been a proud foster mother to three young adults. You can visit her at www.lostinaseaofmothers.com.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Nurturers May 8, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I can bitch with the best about how much I loathe the holiday that’s coming up this Sunday. I’ve spent past years avoiding church, restaurants, flower shops, TV ads, and, well, people who brightly wished me “HAPPY (you-know-who’s) DAY!” It was easier to hibernate than face painful reminders of what I am not.

But this year is different. This year I am embracing the second Sunday in May because a wise friend has transformed it for me. This year I am pulling out all the stops and celebrating because I am…drumroll, please…a Nurturer!

Here’s the message my friend sent out last May, and it is my message to you.

To the nurturers in us all: For helping friends in need, for compassion for strangers in pain, for helping children to learn, and for being good stewards of our world…Happy Nurturer’s Day!

If you are an aunt, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker, a coach, or a listener. If you’ve comforted another person, if you’ve offered support or encouragement, or if you’ve shared a hug. If you’ve read something on this site and responded with kind words or sent up a prayer for a sister in need. If you’ve been any or all of these things, then it’s time you acknowledge yourself.

You’ve been there for me, in our forums, in your comments, in your presence here with us on this site. For that I say, Thank you! and Happy Nurturer’s Day!

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

 

Uncovering Grief: Writing the Story of Your Day March 15, 2012

By Shannon Calder

Before writing, I’d sidestepped my sorrow, not knowing how to move through it. The terrible ache, I believed, would always be there. Writing changed that.”

 – Susan Zimmerman

6:45pm – 3/12/12

5 years ago at 6:45pm my mother’s body was wheeled out of her house, the same house where I sit writing this column, in her office.

Grief clouds everything. I had an important interview to go to today, an errand at the post office, a client to see, this column to do, and a psychological assessment to write. My loss was apparent to me in all these bits of business. It gave them all great meaning. Nobody really thinks about how this is the day, the week, the month, where I still feel that I am moving through tear gas. Five years later, with eyes wet and muscles weak, much of my life, the things I do, the house I live in, has great meaning. It creates the kind of richness in my existence that does not feel man made. People may think I’m over it, past it or that I don’t grieve anymore. But everyone here knows that grief stays with you. And I believe that grief bestows meaning.

I haven’t acted out on anyone today but I know my significant other has had moments in the last few weeks where he looked at me as if I was out of my body. There are times when people ask me what is wrong and I say nothing, when I mostly want to say, ‘my mother, my favorite person, died 5 years ago.’ But if I did say that, say my truth, I would say it to everyone, all the time. I don’t say it because I don’t want it to take me over every day.

I have grieved in writing this. Story predates psychology. Write the story of your day. Today was about me sharing a story of this day with you, this is basically how it’s done. You may have feelings while doing this, indulge them, I did. I didn’t craft this into the best writing ever. I wrote what I needed to write and I feel a relief to have shared this day’s story with you.

I hope you will do the same.

The act of writing brings a structure and order to the chaos of grief. It taps into the healing power of your own unconscious. By giving voice to fears, anger, and despair, by letting go of old dreams and hope; our self-healing powers come into play. The soul knows what it needs to heal. Through writing, it will lead you where you need to go.

 – Susan Zimmerman

Be Well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [at] LifeWithoutBaby [dot] com

Resource: Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and loss Through Writing by Susan Zimmerman, writer, lecturer and author.

Shannon Calder is a writer, psychotherapist, and survivor of grief. She has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently in a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. She works in private practice treating people suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms. 


 

Whiny Wednesday: Sanctuary March 14, 2012

Last week, determined to launch myself into some kind of exercise routine, I signed up at a local fitness studio for a month of unlimited pilates, yoga, and zumba.

At my first class I tentatively took my place on the floor and hoped the class wouldn’t be too torturous. It was, but not because of the exertion. It was painful because of the teacher, who talked through the entire class about her teething toddler.

Can there be no sanctuary anymore? Not just for me and the other childless women in the class, but also for the women who have teething toddlers of their own at home and who finally got out of the house for a peaceful hour and then have to hear all about this woman’s drama. Not professional.

Fortunately, it was tough class, physically, so I (and a few others I suspect) was able to let out a few audible groans and get away with it. And I’ve crossed her classes off my schedule.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, time to let out some own audible groans of your own.

 

Cheroes: Children’s Authors Who Didn’t Have Kids December 16, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

It takes a mother to truly understand children, right?

WRONG!!

Next time someone tells you that, whip out this handy dandy list of cheroes. All of these wonderful women wrote books that have resonated (in some cases for over a century) with little tykes all over the world.

Louisa May Alcott – Little Women (1868)

Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1900)

Kate Douglas Wiggin – Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903)

Eleanor Hodgman Porter – Pollyanna (1913)

Margaret Wise Brown – The Runaway Bunny (1942), Goodnight, Moon (1947)

Tove Jansson – The Moomin Series (1948)

Dodie Smith – 101 Dalmatians (1956), I Capture the Castle (1949)

Anna Sewell – Black Beauty (1957)

Louise Fitzhugh – Harriet the Spy (1964)

Penelope Lively – The Ghost of Thomas Kempe (1973), A Stitch in Time (1976)

Ann M. Martin – The Baby-Sitters Club Series (1986)

Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted (1997)

Kat DiCamillo – The Tale of Desperaux (2003), Because of Winn-Dixie (2000)

Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (2000)

Holly Black – The Spiderwick Chronicles (2003)

 

Whiny Wednesday: What any mother would do December 14, 2011

Filed under: Children,Current Affairs,Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

The woman who pepper sprayed shoppers at a Wal-Mart on Black Friday has decided to play the Motherhood Card.

The woman, who sprayed more than 20 shoppers while grappling to pick up a bargain X-Box said that her “Mama Bear instinct kicked in” when she saw her two teenage children were in danger, and she did “what any mother would do.”

Really? Because when I picture any of my friends with children in that same situation, I see them grabbing their beloved babies and getting them out of the situation they’d foolishly just put them in. I don’t see them rummaging in their purses and pepper spraying a crowd. And I don’t see them suing Wal-Mart for providing insufficient security.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. Greedy, stupid people rub me the wrong way. What’s on your nerves today?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Connections November 21, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Marlo ThomasThat Girl, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and “Free To Be…You and Me”—is on my mind today. I just finished her most recent book, Growing Up Laughing. If you need a pick-me-up, I highly recommend you run out for a copy. It’s her memoirs of growing up with her famously funny father, comedian Danny Thomas, and his legendary pals, which include George Burns, Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Bob Hope, and Red Buttons. She also interviewed present-day stars, such as Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Tina Fey, and Jon Stewart, to get their thoughts on how they ended up funny. I laughed out loud at the many anecdotes and jokes, and I have a new appreciation for the hard work it takes to be a successful comedian.

But what struck the deepest chord within me was a brief story about when Gloria Steinem, founder of Ms., asked Thomas to speak to a group of welfare mothers. Thomas was unmarried at the time, and childfree (she later became a stepmother to husband Phil Donahue’s four sons), and wondered what in the world she could talk about. “Trust me,” Gloria said. “They’ll love you—and you’ll love them. You’re all women.”

And I thought: “That’s IT!” That’s the one message I want to get out to the world through our site and through how I live my life. We’re not mothers and non-mothers, we’re not breeders and infertiles, we’re not with child or childfree. We’re all women.

Thomas bonded by sharing family stories. We can all relate to the antics of the eccentric grandmother, the regrets of aunts who shelved their dreams for the so-called security of marriage, the sisters and friends whose talents were “dismissed because they were women.” With her stories, childfree Thomas had the audience of mothers laughing and crying along with her. “Gloria had opened my eyes and my heart to the connections that we women have with each other.”

It’s so easy for me to obsess over other women’s haves versus my have-nots—or to gloat over the freedoms I enjoy that they have sacrificed for family life. Enough. Let’s focus on our common ground and celebrate and support each other, as women, regardless of the paths we follow.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She celebrates Marlo Thomas for breaking down barriers to gender equality. 

 

 
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