Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Other Scarlet Letter November 12, 2010

As a writer, less than 50% of my time is spent writing and the rest is spent marketing. It’s one of the many ways in which the profession has changed over the years. As part of my marketing campaign, my email signature includes links to my two most recently published articles (one about dealing with infertility, the other about being a family of two) , a link to this web site, and a note that my new book (a memoir) will be coming out soon! All of these things point blatantly to the fact that I am childless and infertile.


Recently I was in a room of ten people, some of whom I knew but most of whom I’d never met before. I had spoken to them all via email and included my signature. It dawned on me that every single person in the room knew these very intimate details of my life. Believe it not, despite airing my life here on this blog, I am a very private person, and I had a sudden moment of panic and discomfort knowing that everyone knew this information about me. I may as well have pinned a scarlet “I” to my dress.


Later, one of the men I’ve known for a number of years told me he’d read my articles and didn’t realize that my husband and I had dealt with infertility. He and his wife are childless, too. Another woman who I’d never met before also came up to me after the meeting and mentioned that she too was childless-not-by-choice.


Finding kindred spirits in those two people more than made up for the others knowing all my secrets. I am not proud of being infertile, but I am no longer ashamed of it either.


9 Responses to “The Other Scarlet Letter”

  1. Pamela Says:

    Have had the same panic attacks … I often wonder what it must be like to have the dominant writing themes be about, say, hiking and wine and spa reviews — a few other areas of my life!

  2. I have had those attacks too! I use to think that people were looking at me with the ” I feel so sorry for you” stare. Running the senerio thru their minds in a ” I am so glad I don’t have to live like that” tale.
    Once the door is open though, I am thankful for all the new people I have met, allies.

  3. Kathryn Says:

    I just read yesterday – – that among women 40-44 in the US 17-18% are childless, nearly 1 in 5. This is across all races, education, income & various parts of the country.

    My question – WHERE are all these folks? I can think of only 3 in my acquaintance who fit that. Seems like we should be more visible if we are 1 in 5 (rather than what it feels like, 1 in 20 or 1 in 100)!

  4. Mali Says:

    Interesting. It has been 7 years since the door shut on my fertility. I’ve hardly come out to anyone except a very few friends and family. And rarely discuss it, except with infertility friends on the internet. But I’m starting to feel I can “come out” now too. It’s not that I’m ashamed. I guess I’ve been worried about the judgements of others, when you know they’re less informed, and how that might affect me. But actually, I’m proud to be an infertility survivor.

    And although I write a blog about, as Pamela said, spas, and wine and food and work and sports, and another one about travel, I’m also starting a new blog too, being honest about my infertility and the realities of living life without children. But keeping it within the groups of people who understand, who might need support or gain strength from seeing that life is okay. Anyway, if anyone’s interested, here’s the link.

  5. happynenes Says:

    Not only that, but I like to think that by coming out the closet about surviving, we are hopeful examples to folks who are still struggling through unsuccessful infertility treatments. I’m still happy, my life is still good – much better than I thought it would be. Being childless is not what I wanted, but it’s not the hell I thought it would be either. I feel like hearing that revelation from other survivors made me realize that I could survive and move on from infertility and even (gasp) go on to have a happy, fulfilling life. You ladies who are writing memoirs have done some of us a bigger service than you realize. Hugs to you!

    • lmanterfield Says:

      Thank you for this. My friend is childless-by-circumstance, rather than because of infertility, and is currently writing about her story. She is a survivor, too. I sent her your comment. You have done her a great service by saying this. It’s hard to keep writing when you don’t know if anyone will even care, but knowing that you could make a difference to jsut one person is what keeps us writers sitting at our keyboards. xox

  6. […] Friday’s post, Kathryn added a comment with this article about childless women. According to a recent Pew […]

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