Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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?

 

Celebrity Babies August 30, 2010

I don’t make a point of following celebrity news, but it somehow manages to find me anyway. I must say that I’m pleased with the recent slew of celebrity sex tapes because they’re trumping the usual news about celebrity baby. Even so, you can’t make it through the grocery store line without somebody’s pregnant belly poking at you from the cover of a magazine.

Ever since Demi Moore posed naked and pregnant for Vanity Fair, celebrity pregnancy and motherhood have gone from taboo to acceptable, to the mess we have today, where pregnancy bumps and new babies are the latest celebrity accessories. Everybody’s doing it and there’s no escaping the news. The magazine racks at the grocery stores are covered with a who’s who of maternity. One magazine has a regular Bump Watch feature, and People magazine’s online version has an entire page dedicated to celebrity baby news. As if the gossip mags aren’t already doing their best to make us feel inadequate because our hair isn’t smooth, our waists aren’t tiny, and our clothes aren’t chic, now apparently we’re not perfect if we don’t have the most adorable baby in tow.

Well, I’m not buying it. Not until one of these celebrities comes clean about the difficulty she had conceiving with her size 0 body, or that motherhood isn’t just some pretty thing that comes with a designer nursery and a new set of cute clothes.

 

What are you grateful for today? August 27, 2010

Filed under: Fun Stuff,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Happy Friday. It is a happy Friday isn’t it?

We often get caught up in the things that go wrong and add to our list (sometimes long, granted) of what’s not good in the world, in our lives, and in our heads. So, today, I’m choosing to focus on what’s good in my life right now. Here’s an abridged list of  10 things for which I am grateful today:

  1. I live at the beach, where it’s deliciously cool
  2. My husband is coming home tonight
  3. I am my cat’s favorite human and we both know it
  4. My health is good
  5. I have wonderful, smart, and funny friends
  6. My mother is healthy enough to travel 6000 miles to visit me
  7. I’ve grown amazing winter squash in my garden this summer!
  8. Fresh strawberries
  9. Perfectly worn slippers
  10. Clean sheets

What’s on your list today?

 

Pamela Tsigdinos’ Great Interview About Moving Beyond Infertilty August 26, 2010

Life Without Baby member, Pamela Tsigdinos talks about overcoming infertility and making the decision to remain childless. It’s so great to hear her talking about the emotions, the stigma, and about “coming out of the closet” as an infertile woman. Wonderful. Also interesting to hear a discussion about choosing to get off the baby crazy train on a site dedicated to “IVF and third party family building.”

You can hear the podcast of her interview on the link below:

The Impact of RESOLVE with Executive Director, Barbara Collura, and Pamela Tsigdinos, Author of Silent Sorority, a Winner of Resolve’s Hope Award.

You can also check out Pamela’s website: Silent Sorority

 

Personal Images of Infertility by Monica Wiesblott

This image is part of the collection in Monica Wiesblotts’ new exhibit “Barren: Life on Infertile Soil.” Monica is a photographer whose work “examines the quiet reflections of a life without children, in a child-centric world and what it means to navigate daily in those constraints”. She says:

“The inspiration for the show was not only the discovery of my own infertility, but the silence surrounding it. The longstanding stigma of shame has made us a silent tribe of women.”

 

If you find yourself in Southern California this fall, make your way to Ventura to see Monica’s show.

BARREN: life on infertile soil

Personal Images of Infertility by Monica Wiesblott

 

September 30, 2010- October 23rd, 2010

Meet the artist: October 1st, 2010 5-8pm

Artist reception October 9th, 2010 4-6pm

 

Gallery 255

255 South Laurel Street

Ventura CA 93001

 I’m hoping to make it to the show and will report back when I do.

 

Finding a Community August 25, 2010

When I was younger I didn’t really get the whole “girlfriend” thing. My friends were always a mixed bag of male and female and I never felt I had much to contribute to the “girls’ night out” chatter.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the value of having a trusted group of female friends to help me through life’s challenges. It’s so good to have people to talk to who know that I’m not perfect and like me anyway, even when I do stupid things. It’s reassuring to know that, when you’re dealing with life’s issues, there’s always someone else who’s been through something similar, and can share war stories and solutions.

When I was dealing with infertility, I didn’t have that community. Although my friends were supportive and kind, none of them had been through anything like it. I looked for an online community, but couldn’t find one where I felt comfortable. I really did feel that I went through that whole chapter of my life almost alone.

I started this site to talk about life after infertility and to be heard, but the pleasant surprise for me is that I’ve finally found a wonderful community of women who want to talk, listen, help, and support one another. And we’re not just talking about infertility and being childless; we’re talking about books, gardening, travel, pets, family, you name it.

Have you found other helpful websites and online communities out there? Please share your finds with us.

 

Study Seeking Childless-Not-By-Choice Couples August 24, 2010

Katie Gentile is a psychologist and professor embarking on a new project that I’m very pleased to be able to share with you. She is currently interviewing couples who are childless-not-by-choice, with the aim of furthering the discussion about how women create meaningful lives in our mommy-centric culture. Katie’s interest comes straight from her own experiences with fertility medicine.

Katie is looking for volunters to interview. She’s looking to conduct two interviews of about an hour with each couple, and all the information will be kept confidential.

If you’d be willing to talk to Katie to help her with her study, please contact her via e-mail (kgentile AT jjay DOT cnuy DOT edu) or through her Life Without Baby page.

 

Childless Expectations August 20, 2010

 On my morning flight yesterday I sat next to a woman who asked me (after we’d started a conversation) if I had children. When I told her I didn’t, she didn’t pass any comment, ask me any prying questions, or shift away from me in her seat. Instead, we had a long discussion about helicopter parents, parenting as a competitive sport, and the pressures of being a teacher in this age. She offered her opinions and accepted mine without even a sniff of condescension at my lack of hands-on parenting experience. She told me about her children—a psychology student daughter, who doesn’t take any crap from guys, and a son who’s a successful white rap artist. She told me, without gushing, that she was very proud of her children, that she loves them very much, but if she had it to do all over again, she’s not sure she would. This was one of the most refreshing conversations I’ve had on the subject of motherhood in a long time, but it was strangely unnerving. I’ve come to expect certain reactions from people when I tell them I don’t have children; I’ve come to expect that look of skepticism when I give an opinion on parenting. My expectations may have come from experience, but they’ve created my own form of prejudice. I expect mothers to judge me in a certain way, and sometimes, they just don’t.

 

Why We Can’t Always Get the Help We Need August 19, 2010

Harriet Brown wrote this fascinating article in this week’s New York Times Health section. It’s about how we cope with other people’s crises, or more to the point, how others cope with ours. It was a real eye-opener for me, because I learned a lot about how I deal when people around me are in trouble, but it also shed light on some of the reactions we’ve experienced from other people. For example:

Awkwardness is a common reaction — not knowing what to say or do. Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”

If you’ve dealt with infertility or loss, I know you’ve met these well-meaning people. “My sister tried for 10 years, then gave up and got pregnant.” You know the ones. But why do people do this? Here’s one explanation:

Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivor’s guilt: People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis.

The author went on to explain that when her teenage daughter was hospitalized with anorexia, many of her friends disappeared, just at a time when she needed them most. Looking back, she realized that the friends who disappeared had daughters the same age as hers.

They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.

Interesting. Is it possible that some of the people who say things that feel cruel are just putting up their own defense mechanisms to avoid facing something that could happen to them?

Brown concludes by saying:

Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had.

David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta adds:

“The human condition is that traumatic events occur, and the reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”

We can’t control how those around us react to our crises, or how they help or hinder; all we can do is focus our energies on finding our own way through, and appreciate the people who are there for us.

 

Another Side of the Motherhood Discussion August 18, 2010

My friend Denise writes a wonderfully brave blog (and has also written a stunning memoir) about adoption. She was a teenage mother in the 60s and gave up her son for adoption, then finally tracked him down as a grown man.

I’ve been reluctant to share the blog because it’s always felt like such a delicate subject, especially those of us who never got the chance to have children of our own, but it occurred to me today that she touches on a lot of the same themes we talk about and the issues that we deal with. She writes about loss when you’re not allowed to grieve, about choices you have no choice but to make, about the hurtfulness of people’s attitudes and misconceptions, about hiding, and about being so mad you could spit.  Any of this sound familiar?

I think it’s always interesting to see a topic from multiple points-of-view and as we’re on the subject of tolerance this week, I thought I’d share this. Denise’s blog is a beautiful look at a different facet of this motherhood discussion. If you’re up to it, take a look.