Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Whiny Wednesday: I don’t want to talk about this anymore August 15, 2012

This post was originally published on May 11, 2011.

Let me just say, right up front, that I love the community of women I’ve found through this blog. I’ve really been amazed at how people are willing to rally around and help others they’ve never even met. I attribute the speed of my healing progress to this community and to having somewhere to go to talk about infertility and childlessness.

But sometimes I feel as if I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

For the past two weeks I’ve stood up in front of a theater full of strangers and told my story. It was a fantastic experience and everyone I met was wonderful and supportive. (More about this very soon.) I know that talking about this issue is bringing it to the forefront and building understanding. People have come up to me and told me as much.

But sometimes I just want to be little old me. I don’t want to keep talking about “it.”

Recently, this article reminded me of why I don’t want to talk about “it.” Here, this writer pours out her heart and her “regrets” at never having children.

“I know, for example, that not being a mother means there is a part of me which remains unused, a love that will be forever unexpressed. I know that what any mother describes as the most profound love she has ever known is, to me, a locked door — there is so much love I will never be able to give, wisdom and understanding I cannot share, shelter and solace I cannot provide.”

I admire for having the guts to say that, and I know she’s right, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. There are a million ways to substitute for not having children, but none of them are really going to fill that gap. I know that; I feel that.

But, then she goes on to say:

“My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother.”

And that’s when I want to yell, “No!! Pull yourself together, woman! You have a successful career, friends, a great life. How can you say your life is a poorer place and that you are less of a woman because you don’t have children?” Forgive me, friends, but it just comes across as feeling sorry for herself, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And this is why I don’t want to talk about this sometimes. I don’t want to be defined by my childlessness; I don’t want to be a one-ring circus with the same act playing night after night; I don’t want to be “that poor pathetic childless woman, who never quite got over it.”

All that being said, I’m going to keep talking about it, because it’s an important topic to me, but I’m keeping an eye on myself to make sure it doesn’t become the only thing I can talk about, to make sure I don’t start feeling sorry for myself.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Telling Friends June 27, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m leaving my husband.”

It was girls night out, and my small group of gal-pals was catching up over wine when Jen* dropped this bombshell on us.

“What?!” After twenty years and three kids together, their marriage was one I held up as a role model for making things work. How did it suddenly come to this?

That night I learned she’d been going to counseling for years, trying to make it work, trying to overlook her husband’s shortcomings for the sake of keeping their family together. She’d wanted to leave him months earlier, but the timing wasn’t right, and now she was ready to take the leap and begin to build a better life for her and her children.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked, as I reached over to touch her hand.

“Because you are so happy and in love, and I didn’t want to take away from any of your pre-wedding romantic bliss.”

I quickly replayed our recent visits in my mind and looked for clues that things were amiss, some hint of her pain that I hadn’t picked up on, some expression or comment that gave an opening for my to check in with her, to ask her deeper questions, to see how she was doing. Had I said anything that made her feel worse? Had she felt I was rubbing her face in my happiness? Had my joy in my new role as bride-to-be added to her hurt? I hated that I had not been a good friend to her in her time of need.

I respected her choice to hide her situation from me, yet it also broke my heart. “I wish you’d told me. I want to know so that I can be there for you.”

“But you have so much else on your plate with all the wedding stuff.”

“I’ll always have stuff on my plate, but my priorities include taking care of my friends.”

As I mulled over this in the ensuing week, it reminded me of our conversations—on LWB—about talking to our friends and families about our struggles with infertility and childfreeness. When do you tell them? What and how much do you tell? It’s not dissimilar from Jen’s decision to not tell her friends what was going down in her marriage, and I found it interesting to be on the other side of the conversation for a change.

And here’s what I learned: It’s important that we share our pain so that we can allow our friends to support us. Allow them to be better listeners, to learn how to help you with a hug or by knowing when it’s better to ignore the elephant in the room. Once you open up to a close friend, you also have an ally in groups. Moving forward, when the dynamic shifts to all things pregnancy and mommydom, and you feel yourself being pushed to the periphery, your informed and sensitive friend can help steer the group back to more inclusive topics before you have a meltdown.

Please share. How else will I know what you need? I want to help. I want to be there for you. I say to Jen, as I say to you, “Please let me know how I can best support you.”

*Not her real name, of course.

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

 

Infertility, Men, and Communication May 19, 2011

Kathleen sent this article to me this week. It’s a kind of “Top tips” for men going through infertility. I really appreciated the writer’s ability to find humor in this topic, and I admire that he was able to step back from his own experience (he and his wife now have three children) and offer some advice to other men who find themselves in this situation.

As we’ve discussed before, there seem to be so few resources aimed at men. While it’s often we women who go through the worst of the testing and unpleasant procedures, it’s easy to forget that the men involved are working through their own confusion, conflicting emotions, and sadness.

Here’s a man who tried to do the right thing. He gave his wife flowers after every failed procedure. What a nice guy! Except that, from his wife’s point-of-view, the flowers were just a reminder of the failure she felt.

His discussion about the importance of communication is dead on, and I think that it remains true even if you’ve decided to stop treatments, or if you’ve otherwise decided that children are not in your future. We humans can be fickle creatures and our big life decisions are seldom clear-cut. We waver, we reconsider, and we’re affected by events in our environment. Talking about this is critical.

I know I’m often guilty of keeping my thoughts to myself so as not to upset my husband (although he does read this blog from time-to-time, so it’s hard to have too many secrets!) But experience has shown me that being honest about what’s going on means fewer surprises for him and fewer, “I had no idea…” conversations.

 

Whiny Wednesday: I don’t want to talk about this anymore May 11, 2011

Let me just say, right up front, that I love the community of women I’ve found through this blog. I’ve really been amazed at how people are willing to rally around and help others they’ve never even met. I attribute the speed of my healing progress to this community and to having somewhere to go to talk about infertility and childlessness.

But sometimes I feel as if I just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

For the past two weeks I’ve stood up in front of a theater full of strangers and told my story. It was a fantastic experience and everyone I met was wonderful and supportive. (More about this very soon.) I know that talking about this issue is bringing it to the forefront and building understanding. People have come up to me and told me as much.

But sometimes I just want to be little old me. I don’t want to keep talking about “it.”

Recently, this article reminded me of why I don’t want to talk about “it.” Here, this writer pours out her heart and her “regrets” at never having children.

“I know, for example, that not being a mother means there is a part of me which remains unused, a love that will be forever unexpressed. I know that what any mother describes as the most profound love she has ever known is, to me, a locked door — there is so much love I will never be able to give, wisdom and understanding I cannot share, shelter and solace I cannot provide.”

I admire for having the guts to say that, and I know she’s right, no matter how much I try to convince myself otherwise. There are a million ways to substitute for not having children, but none of them are really going to fill that gap. I know that; I feel that.

But, then she goes on to say:

“My regrets will always linger. My life is a poorer place for not having children, and I am less of a woman for not being a mother.”

And that’s when I want to yell, “No!! Pull yourself together, woman! You have a successful career, friends, a great life. How can you say your life is a poorer place and that you are less of a woman because you don’t have children?” Forgive me, friends, but it just comes across as feeling sorry for herself, and that doesn’t sit well with me.

And this is why I don’t want to talk about this sometimes. I don’t want to be defined by my childlessness; I don’t want to be a one-ring circus with the same act playing night after night; I don’t want to be “that poor pathetic childless woman, who never quite got over it.”

All that being said, I’m going to keep talking about it, because it’s an important topic to me, but I’m keeping an eye on myself to make sure it doesn’t become the only thing I can talk about, to make sure I don’t start feeling sorry for myself.

 

Not So Private Anymore February 23, 2011

Filed under: Childless Not By Choice,Family and Friends,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 8:35 am
Tags: , ,

I am a very private person.

 

I laughed when I told this to Pamela last week, doubly so when she told me that she was too. But it’s true. I don’t tend to wear my heart on my sleeve or share the private aspects of my life, sometimes even with my closest friends. I like to keep things to myself.

 

However, last night I attended the official launch party for my book. It was so much fun to mill around the room, talking to people and signing copies of my book, that somehow, in the thrill of the celebration, I managed to overlook the fact that all these people will now know the most intimate details of my life, my body, and my relationships.

 

But there; it’s done; it’s out there for everyone and his dog to know!

 

They say that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and I think that’s true. Infertility wasn’t something I ever wanted to deal with and in many ways I didn’t deal with it when it was happening to me. I didn’t confide much in friends or seek help elsewhere. I just kept it private. But the experience made me stronger and made me want to talk about it. It made me want to share the experience with other people so that they can better understand what it’s like. It’s not always comfortable, but I know it’s the the right thing to do.

 

I’m not such a private person anymore, and I’m okay with that.

 

 

 

It Got Me Thinking…Baby Chitchat January 10, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

We made the rounds of holiday parties in December, and I enjoyed myself 97% of the time. Loved catching up with friends and their significant others, meeting new people, and indulging in yummy things like mulled-spice wine and those little cocktail hotdogs wrapped in pastry and dipped in hot mustard.

Ah, but that remaining 3%. At one lively get-together, I noticed a woman holding a sleeping newborn. I asked how old the baby was and then congratulated her on the new addition to her family. She responded by launching into the gory details of her C-section. I don’t even know this person’s name, but I can tell you a few things about her anatomy and how it was ripped apart during the birth of her child. The man next to me chimed in with his experience of witnessing his wife’s C-section. Feeling at a complete loss, I mentioned my sister had to have a C-section when her 10-pound baby was two weeks late. And then I realized what a complete ass I was for trying to participate in this sorry excuse for chitchat.

I turned away and joined a group of men who were discussing sports…or something. I really don’t know what they were talking about, and it didn’t matter, because all I wanted to do was shake the C-section images out of my brain.

Being childfree can be especially challenging during the holidays, especially if you’re still struggling to accept your status. We have all endured painful questions, awful suggestions, and shockingly inappropriate conversations. I invite you to share a few, and maybe we can start to find the absurd humor in all of this.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is trying to embrace being childfree.

 

A Beautiful Voice for the Childless October 28, 2010

Monica Wiesblott just closed a beautiful exhibition of her artwork in her show Barren: Life on Infertile Soil. If you didn’t make it the show, you can view it in her online gallery of the show.

I didn’t go to the show, even though I wanted to meet Monica and the gallery is just a couple of hours from my home. My mum is still here with me and I just wasn’t ready to take her with me nor was I able to get away alone. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that, although my mother knows about my infertility, we don’t really talk about it, and I’m okay with that. I get to talk to you about it instead. J So I wasn’t ready to open up that Pandora ’s Box with my mother by taking her to the show. Maybe one day, maybe not.

But I did view Monica’s show online, in the privacy of my own room. It’s beautiful and frank, sometimes even raw, but most of all it is courageous. Monica has put out there in photographs and sculpture, what many of us who have dealt with infertility, or who are otherwise childless-not-by-choice, have felt and experienced.

Monica told me:

“I have received a lot of wonderful positive response from the show, many people have cried in the gallery and many, many others have trusted me enough to share their stories of loss. I am usually approached with the words, “I have never told anyone this….”

It’s my hope that if people like Monica keeping talking and showing, fewer women will have to say, “I have never told anyone this….”

Please check out the show online. Monica is hoping to take the show to other galleries, so if you happen to move in artistic circles and can help, please let Monica know.

 

Infertility: On the Rise or Less Taboo? September 24, 2010

If you’ve ever bought a new car, you’ll know that once you decide on the make and model (and sometimes even the color), you start to notice that same car everywhere you go. For me, it’s been the same with infertility. Since joining the ranks of the “ovarially challenged” I’ve noticed infertility everywhere—in the news, in the movies, in my social circle. And yet there was a time when couples without children were rare and the subject wasn’t discussed in polite company. So what’s changed?

Is infertility on the rise or are we just more open to talking about it?

 

Finding Childless Allies August 31, 2010

On a recent trip home to England, I reconnected with an old school friend I haven’t seen in 25 years. It was so much fun to reminisce. I remembered her cat, Othello, long gone, and the trip we took on a canal barge; she remembered that I made her run with me on Sunday mornings and that my bedroom was always a mess. It was also fun to catch up on our lives since then and to see what’s changed and what we have in common. For instance: she’s been married to her high school sweetheart for 19 years, has worked in the same job for 21, and lives about four houses away from where she grew up. I’m on my second (and final) husband, have had more careers than hot suppers, and live 6,000 away from where I grew up. But we have lots of things in common, too: we both love to travel, we’re both close to our mothers, and neither of us has children.

The latter topic did not come up in conversation.

Our mothers know one another and so I’ve heard that, “she’s had some problems” and I’m sure she’s heard some variation of that about me.  And yet, we didn’t talk about it. Here is a woman who actually gets what it’s like to not have children, a woman with whom I once shared all my secrets, and yet neither of us brought it up.

Maybe it was our heightened sensitivity to the subject that stopped us from asking personal questions, or maybe our newly rediscovered friendship was just not ready to risk stepping into potentially dangerous territory.

Have you had this experience of finding an ally and then being unable to talk about your shared issues?

 

Confessions of A Childless Daughter August 5, 2010

I have a confession to make.

My mother doesn’t know about this site.

She’s just now finding her way around the Internet, so it’s probably only a matter of time before she finds me. I’ve even sent her and e-mail with the link in my signature, but either she hasn’t twigged on, or she’s too polite to mention it.

When I was back home in England this past May, I promised my friend that I would tell my mum about my blog, but even when she asked what I was working on, I chickened out. It’s like being 14 again and trying to pluck up the guts to tell her I’ve been invited to a party with a boy.

But I’m not 14; I’m 40, so why can’t I tell my own mother about something I’m really proud of—this website?

Do any of you suffer from being unable to talk about yourself, your work, or your childlessness, even to people you trust?

 

 
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