Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Hey Advertisers, You Talkin’ To Me? December 11, 2010

I was browsing a magazine this morning, drinking tea and eating some excellent toast with almond butter and blueberry jam, when an ad caught my eye. It might have been the two very handsome cats that first stopped my eye, but it was the words that really caught my attention.

“New and improved Blue cat food is cat-preferred and mom-preferred.”

Eh? Mom-preferred? What was that supposed to mean? I’ve become so accustomed to advertisers talking over the heads of non-moms that my first thought was that moms liked the food because the natural ingredients would do no harm to Little Johnny if he decided to help himself to the cat’s dinner. But reading on I realized that the advertisers were speaking to “moms and their furry family members” – i.e. pet moms.

This struck me as smart advertising. As a cat-mom (but not a human-mom) this ad spoke directly to me and I appreciated that. On taking a closer look I also realized that human-moms weren’t excluded either. Very smart advertising. Of course the cat-dads were excluded, but as the magazine is geared to women, I doubt there would be many complaints.

Did the ad cause me to run out and buy this brand of food? Well no. My furry family member is a cat after all, and I can’t just go around changing things on a whim, but I appreciated the advertisers thinking outside of the mommy box and including those of us with only furry family members. Maybe they’re starting to realize that just because you’re a woman of a particular age, doesn’t automatically mean you’re a mom.

 

A Culture of Blame December 10, 2010

I came across this article on Childless.com.au, an Australian site. The author, Jane Blakely, is an Australian living temporarily in Malaysia. I found her experience fascinating.

While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room she got pulled into a conversation with a Malaysian man, Raj, who asked her if she had children. When she replied that she didn’t, here’s what happened:

“In my culture, it is expected a couple will have their first child within the first year of being married,” he said. Continuing the family lineage through childbirth is of utmost importance in his culture, Raj said, and the “suitability” of a wife will be called into question by the groom’s family if she hasn’t had a child within the first year of marriage.

The suitability of the wife? There are no male fertility issues in Malaysia? How very Henry VIII!

My initial thought after reading this way, “Boy, I’m glad I don’t live in a culture like that.” But to a lesser extent, I do.

When you don’t have children, you are not the norm, and while people may not openly point fingers of blame, you know they’re speculating as to where the problem lies. “Is it her?” “Is he firing blanks?” And we too often hear stories of marriages that don’t survive infertility, and of spouses who left because they needed to have a family.

Jane’s article was a really eye-opener for me – not because it educated me about other cultures, but because it caused me to take a closer look at my own.

 

Family Traits December 9, 2010

Filed under: Childless Not By Choice,Children,Family and Friends,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I always thought one of the fun things about having biological children would be looking for family traits. I always wondered which of my relatives my children would look like and who they’d take after.

For example, my niece has the Baker Chin. It’s the same little pointy chin my Grandma Baker had, as well as my mum’s younger sister. None of us kids have it, but it popped up in my niece. My mum (and I’m sure she won’t mind me telling you this!) has a funny shaped head. She has a large frontal lobe (full of math brains) and a rounded protrusion at the back. She can never get a hat to fit. One of my nephews has exactly the same shaped head. I get my math skills from my mother; my brother gets his “life of the party” personality from my grandfather, and my older brother is a dead-ringer for my dad. Line up my uncle, brother, and two of my cousins (each from a different aunt) and they all look like peas in a pod. It’s uncanny.

I’m a bit of a Mr. Potato Head of all my relatives from both sides of the family. I have my mum’s smile and bony ankles and my dad’s eyes and the funny blip on the end of his nose. I look like both my brothers, half my cousins, and at least one of my nieces, so I’ve often wondered which traits my children would have inherited from me and which of my family’s characteristics would have popped up.

I’m sure some of this wondering comes from vanity, and the hope that I’d reproduce a mini replica of myself, but much of it is also scientific curiosity. It’s fascinating to watch genetics in action and it would have been fun to see which long-dormant trait came up in my kids.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Another Exorbitant Airline Fee December 8, 2010

Filed under: Family and Friends,Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Last weekend my husband and I finally settled on our Christmas plans. We are going to take a simple, inexpensive trip to an undisclosed location and just relax, spend time together, and catch up with ourselves. As it’s going to be a home-away-from-home trip, I decided I’d like to take our cat with us. It’s a short flight, we’d be door-to-door in three hours, and it’s better than leaving her alone at home, even with the very best cat-sitter (which my neighbor is.)

I can take my very small cat in the cabin as my one piece of carry-on luggage. Perfect. But this privilege will cost me $200! That’s more than the cost of my own seat, and the cat will be on the floor for most of the flight. In addition, I will also have to pay to check my bag as my cat will be my hand luggage!

I realize this policy is in place to discourage people from traveling with their entire menageries, but right now I am not happy and the only place I can come to whine about this is here to you.

It is Whiny Wednesday. What’s got your goat (or cat or ferret or turtle?)

 

All I Want for Christmas is Wa December 7, 2010

Filed under: Family and Friends,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’ve been trying to give my husband ideas for what I might like for Christmas this year. It seems that throughout the year I have lots of ideas for things I’d like, but as soon as December hits all I can think of is slippers. I do need slippers desperately – my favorite ones have holes in both toes – but it’s not exactly the kind of “Wow, I can’t believe you got this for me” gift that Jose has in mind. So I’m wracking my brains, adding boots, a purse, and jewelry to my list and then taking them off again because I don’t really need them, or I want them but don’t know exactly what kind I want. To be honest, aside from slippers, I don’t really need anything, but the one thing I’d really like for Christmas this year is Wa.

Wa is a Japanese word, meaning peace and harmony. It not only means peace with others, but also peace within oneself. I could use a little Wa in my life. Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty good, in fact in the big scheme of things, I consider myself lucky. But I don’t have much Wa. I’m often frustrated, stressed, over-worked, racing from one task to another, trying to do it all and do it all well. If you’re a 21st century woman, you’re probably thinking “join the club, sister.” I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it gives me little comfort.

Books and magazines tell me to take time for myself, breathe, smell the roses, go to yoga. Sometimes just the idea of doing any of these makes me even more anxious. I just need to get things done, crossed off the list, and then I can relax. But life never works like that and it seems to go out of its way to throw up obstacles and road blocks. Just when you have enough money for that weekend away, the washing machine dies; when you plan your day’s schedule to move smoothly and efficiently from one meeting to another, someone makes a last minute change and throws the whole thing off. Without Wa, these are the things that can throw me into a tailspin.

So, I’m going to give myself a Christmas gift this year. I’m going to give myself Wa. I’m going to figure out what’s really important on my giant task list; I’m going to look at all the people who depend on me, either emotionally or from a work standpoint, and figure out who and what is really important…to me. I’m going to remember to breathe, to practice “Progress not perfection,” and to keep that task list short, but important. And then maybe I’ll have enough Wa that going to yoga or taking a stroll at the beach will sound like a very good idea, and just another thing I have to do.

How are you finding (or maintaining) your Wa right now?

 

It Got Me Thinking About…A Holiday of Our Own December 6, 2010

Well, hallelujah! About jumped out of my chair when I read Donna Brazile’s column in the December issue of Oprah’s O magazine (the donna files, page 60, or here). In “The Overlooked Holidays,” Donna suggests we introduce some new gift-giving occasions. She writes: “I’ve spent thousands on showers, weddings, babies—and for the record, I’m happy to do it—but sometimes it feels as if the world is built for couples” (and mothers, fathers, and grandparents). Wouldn’t it be nice to give “a small token for those of us who never married or had children?” YES!!! Yes, it would be nice. Very nice indeed. Thank you, Donna, for speaking up.

Now we just need to figure out what to call our fabulous new holiday. Suggestions?

Kathleen Guthrie is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. She is learning how to embrace being childfree.

 

Childless Women and Breast Cancer Risk December 4, 2010

I went to my doctor for a check-up this week and the subject of breast exams came up. My doctor (he’s relatively new to me) asked me if I had children and when I told him I didn’t, he said, “Well having children and breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of breast cancer.” It was all I could do to say, “Well then, I’ll just get right on that!”

In my doctor’s defense, it was just a passing comment and not any kind of accusation that I was neglecting my health by not having children, but I couldn’t help but think that this was just another strike against childlessness. Regardless I decided it was my civic duty to research this and report back to you.

A Google search of “childless breast cancer” turned up more contradicting facts than a political sex scandal and starling little trustworthy information. I found this:

Women who had their first full-term pregnancy after age 30, and women who have never borne a child have a greater risk of developing breast cancer. During pregnancy, estrogen levels surge so high that there is a small immediate risk of breast cancer, but the long-term effect, particularly with breast-feeding, decreases risk.

Starting at about age 45, childless women are at an increased risk for breast cancer in comparison with women who have had children, with the risk being from 20 to 70 percent greater.

That’s a big increase in risk, but the source was a pharmaceutical company selling breast cancer preventative medicine, and I couldn’t find similar numbers elsewhere. I did discover that women over 5” 7” tall have a greater risk (two strikes against me) and this article that confirmed that childless women were at greater risk, as were women with more than five children, teenage mothers, and mothers with children closer than 18 months apart. So a tall teenage mother of five or more children under age 7 is basically up the creek.

I also found a blog post on the same subject from two years ago! The fact that this two-year-old post hit the front page of my search suggests that this topic isn’t getting a lot of love

If you happen to have these statistics, please share them, but the bottom line is this: There are so many conflicting risk factors; some us will get lucky and some of us won’t. All we can do is take care of ourselves and check those breasts ladies! I will confess to not being disciplined about doing regular self-exams. I do it when I remember, but not on any regular schedule. That ends this month. Here’s a useful link that offers e-mail reminders to do your monthly self-exam as well as instructions on how to do it.

 

Finding My Christmas Cheer December 3, 2010

Filed under: Childless Not By Choice,Family and Friends,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 11:48 am
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It’s December and I can feel myself slipping into the black hole of the holidays. I have no gift ideas for my loved ones, no plans for how to spend Christmas, and frankly no time or energy to do anything about either. I could go on about being busy, getting frustrated with the holiday madness, and blah-di-blah, but it’s not Whiny Wednesday and that’s not what this post is about.

I’ll admit that my holiday funk stems from “that-time-which-shall-not-be-named” when my husband and I were at our lowest point on our infertility journey and decided not to bother with Christmas that year. We made no plans, didn’t get a tree, and decided to hole up for a few days and avoid everyone and everything Christmas-y. About two days before Christmas I finally cracked and thought, “I’m infertile; I’m not dead!” and ran out and bought a rosemary tree and something delicious for Christmas dinner. But even now, I still can’t get my Christmas groove back.

I think part of this stems from my family being so far away. I used to enjoy shopping in October for my nieces and nephews, then shipping a giant box of presents via surface mail. It was fun for me and for them to anticipate the arrival of the box. Would it make it in time? Would it make it at all? But since the USPS did away with surface mail and jacked up the airmail prices so that shipping costs more than the gifts, I do most of my Christmas shopping online and have it shipped direct. It’s efficient and convenient, but really, it’s no fun.

Today we received a gift from one of my husband’s corporate associates. Instead of the usual basket of fake cheese and heart attack salami, they sent us a beautiful live wreath. I opened it up and the house filled with the scent of pine and cedar. Christmas! Now, all of a sudden I want to get my tree, I want to bake gingerbread, and give homemade gifts. I want to throw a party, celebrate Christmas and have fun! But I can’t remember how.

If I’d had children I would have passed my family’s traditions on to them and my holiday fun would have revolved about them. But as it is, it’s just the two of us, and the cat, so how to make Christmas Christmas-y again?

What do you do to keep the Christmas cheer? Do you decorate? Bake? Sing? What do you do to keep the spirit of the holidays?

I’m going to find some string to hang up this wreath, and I’m going to get a rosemary bush and some poinsettia’s this weekend. I’m also going to plan an informal party – some friends and drinks. This year I’m putting some fun back into my holidays.

 

Whiny Wednesday December 1, 2010

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I have two whines today.

The first is that even though I’ve been using the usual Whiny Wednesday image since the dawn of this blog, suddenly my computer has decided it’s no longer a valid image. Whatever. Technology and me…we’re just not getting along lately.

Whine #2 is this: I’m toodling around on the internet last night, doing a bit of research for a new project and, of course, I get distracted. Through a series of “Hmm, that’s interesting” clicks I end up looking at a website offering fertility retreats. Sisters, I have been down this road before. I know how this story ends, and yet I still catch myself thinking, “Hmm, what if…?” 

It’s a sickness, I know. I took my medicine, stood in the corner and said, “Bad Lisa,” and I’m okay now, but really, when is this insanity actually going to end?

Anyway, it’s December 1 – 30 days until the end of another year – and I have a long list of whines I could share, but for now I turn it over to you. Whine on, sisters.