Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Learning to be Childless June 4, 2010

It’s been a funny week this week and I’ve learned a lot about myself. The main thing I’ve learned is that I’m not yet completely comfortable with this whole childless thing. Oh yeah, I talk a good talk, but put me in a conversation where the subject comes up of my status with regards to children, and there I am squirming in my seat, averting my eyes, and deftly changing the subject.

This has happened twice to me this week, both times in the company of other women who are also childless. You’d think I’d be comfortable in that situation, and able to talk openly about my childless status and my story, you know, the one I’m so happy to put in writing for complete strangers? But I’m not. Not quite.

I’m still a little raw about the education I received this week and I still haven’t had time to think it over, to scratch away at my own veneer and try to figure out what’s going to underneath. Maybe I don’t want to risk getting one of those sympathetic looks, one of those, “Oh, you poor thing. I completely understand” looks. Maybe I don’t want to feel I have to explain my childlessness. Or maybe I don’t want my childlessness to define me and so I just don’t want to talk about it any more.

All I know is that if I’m going to tout myself as some kind of advocate for childlessness, I’ve got a lot of work to do on myself first.

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12 Responses to “Learning to be Childless”

  1. Nyx Says:

    So you are Childless because you wont a child but can’t have one? or ChildFree because you do not wish to have one? there is a difference between the two states of being for many people.

    Which ever way it is, we all have to learn to live with the choices we make and choices that are made before us.

    Nature chose to make me childless, but I chose to be ChildFree because it was right for me (I chose to be CF long before I new I was infertile).

    It is also good that you are writing putting your feelings down so that you can at least look back on them and see how things have gone over time for yourself. Even years later, looking back can be helpful into seeing what you where thinking or at least get reminder of how it was in the past compared to current stuff in ones life.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Thanks Nyx,
      In my case, I’m spanning being childless and childfree. I was not able to have children naturally, so am childless in that respect, but then made a decision not to pursue radical infertility treatments or adoption, so from that standpoint I fall into the childfree category.

      What struck me in my interactions this week was that I really don’t regret the decision I made to be childfree, and yet when pressed in a conversation I found myself completely uncomfortable talking about it. I guess because I am spanning those two worlds, it’s not always easy to “Pick a team” so to speak. But yes, it’s all a learning process, and writing it down and talking to other people like yourself is a tremendous help. (plus it’s fun to use myself as some kind of lab rat to pick apart the human psyche. There’s all kind of interesting stuff going on in there.)

  2. Jennifer Gill Says:

    I think giving up a dream is always going to hurt a little. Coming to terms with a reality we didn’t envision for ourselves can be done with beautiful grace, but it doesn’t change the longing buried deep in our hearts. I appreciate members like Nyx (didn’t know there were CF-truly-by-choice people here too!) for the perspective I don’t yet have; for not feeling left behind and left out and letting me see into that point of view. But I have wondered as I admire this blog, Lisa, how you came to terms with the impact of childlessness-not-by-choice so well, and really quite quickly, in order to give all of us this place to be “okay.” I agree with you about not wanting sympathy/pity, and SO relate to not wanting to be defined by my childless status! Yet the longing is an honest component of who we’ve become as non-mommies. I guess I’ve been glossing over it too, and hope that there’s a productive way to channel it as we live with it. I am learning for me that it fluctuates monthly (oh, those blessed hormones! grrr!!). In a bit of a valley myself currently as well.

    All I can figure is that we WILL go on, and learn from ourselves and each other. I know I perk up whenever there’s a notification of a new Life Without Baby post, and I am somewhat honored to see you bring your struggles here too. I suppose many of us have a frustrated need to nurture, and feeling that even by listening to one another we can do some good, well, it helps.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Jennifer,
      Thanks so much for this. I’m very glad to hear that my ramblings help, and I am also learning a lot from the people like you, who post their own thoughts and struggles.

      I think that for me, for the first time in my life, I adopted the “fake it ’til you make it” motto. There came a point when I knew I wasn’t prepared to do what I needed to do to have a child and that if I didn’t get off my own personal crazy train (yes, darn those hormones) I was going to wreck my own life and potentially an important relationship–my marriage. So I knew I had to stop.

      But you can’t just turn off the longing, or just come to terms with the idea that your body has let you down (I think for me that was bigger than the longing). So I just decided I HAD to be okay with my decision. I faked it for a long time by telling everyone “I’ve made the decision and really, I’m completely okay with it.” I started looking for all the reasons why I was better off not having children, and guess what? I found a LOT of reasons. LOL.

      So, did I cheat? Did I fool myself? Yes. But that’s what I needed to do to protect myself from getting hurt. I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with my denial, but putting on a brave face allowed me to work behind the scenes to actually come to terms and really be okay with it. And I am okay with it about 95-98% of the time. Every now and then sometimes creeps in and gets me, so I go to work and patch up the hole and go on. It’s not a perfect method, but it worked for me.

    • CactusHeart Says:

      @Jennifer Gill: You wrote “(didn’t know there were CF-truly-by-choice people here too!)”…

      Holy crap, are you kidding me? I knew I was CF since I was 8! *lmao*
      I think you might be hanging out in the wrong places *lol*. Perhaps you might want to switch your keyword from “Childless” to “Childfree” and find out you are far from alone. Some people like to merge these 2 distinctions as one & the same, but I think that does more harm than good, it adds confusion, not to mention it just plain rubs me the wrong way. “free” implies just that. Choosing to live freely OF IT. “less” implies living in lack of, and implies you’re living with the lack involuntarily, like “homeless”,”toothless” or “penniless”. No one uses the term “homefree”,”toothfree” or “moneyfree” unless I’ve seriously missed something *lmao* I VOLUNTARILY opted out of biological parenthood, so that makes me childFREE… The same way you would consider living without taxation “TAX-FREE”! NOT “tax-LESS”…Cuz…like, who WANTS tax, rite? *lmao*

      • Jennifer Gill Says:

        Hi CactusHeart (love that name!),
        I do understand the distinction, but thanks for the new point of view! My situation is probably more of a DSM-IV diagnosis – I always DID want children, but my head wouldn’t let me just see what my body would produce – I felt I had to be responsible for more than just the urge to breed. So I suppose it technically was a choice, but one that brings me a certain amount of hurt. I think if I were truly childfree-by-choice I would not likely have found this site, because I wouldn’t have needed the understanding and shared experience I found here. I still don’t quite fit in, as I’ve not gone the IVF route, but the unfilled place in my heart remains.

  3. Jennifer Gill Says:

    I don’t think you cheated or fooled yourself, exactly – “fake it ’til you make it” is a great way to change direction. I have some holes in my self-confidence on a good day, so in this arena I definitely need to do a little pretending to get moving in a healthy direction. 🙂

    • lmanterfield Says:

      At the risk of slipping into and “Annie” rendition, sometimes you have to just stick out your chin and grin (and hope the wind changes and your face sticks that way for a while.) 🙂

  4. Therese Says:

    I think with decisions this big a part of you will always think “what if” and/or struggle to come to terms with it. I think you just have to let yourself be confused about how you feel. In other words, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I sometimes wonder if I am doing the right thing by being childfree. Especially the further I get into my 30s and realize that it is not an option. I find that I am fascinated by the “idea of motherhood” as it is aggressively marketed to us and constantly “oooed” and “ahhed” over. But when I think about the practical impact that motherhood would have on my life; the idea of having a child in my house absolutely sickens me. Motherhood would steal my freedom. It would be the end of me.

    It’s complicated.

    • lmanterfield Says:

      It is complicated. Is it ever? I think it must be much harder if your body is capable of reproducing and you choose not to. So many more factors to weigh. For me, whenever I start loading up the pretty bits of motherhood and feeling regrets, all I have to do is throw in a couple of the things that I would actually have to do to make that a reality and it doesn’t look so pretty anymore.

      • CactusHeart Says:

        @Imanterfield: You wrote: “For me, whenever I start loading up the pretty bits of motherhood and feeling regrets, all I have to do is throw in a couple of the things that I would actually have to do to make that a reality and it doesn’t look so pretty anymore.”

        -Yeah, like launching a turd right there on the labor table as you’re “pushing” to deliver the baby??? Or how about cuttin’ a juicy fart??? Or peeing? I can’t believe how many expectant women are kept in the dark about that until the very last minute.

  5. loribeth Says:

    Everything you have written here, in the actual post& in the comments, rings true to me. I find it easy to preach to the converted or at least to the infertility community; not so easy to talk about it to people in “real life.” And yes, 95% of the time, I am perfectly happy with my childless-not-by-choice life — but every now & then, it just plain sucks. :p


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