Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Another Voice for the Childless-Not-By-Choice March 19, 2011

We’ve long bemoaned the lack of media coverage for the childless and childfree. I know that I’ve complained several times about “safe” magazines, such as Runner’s World springing unexpected parenting articles on me in between the shoe reviews and training programs.

 

So, when I was asked recently to contribute some thoughts about childfree/childless/infertility blogs for a sidebar to an article about the mommy blog phenomenon, I was understandably hesitant.

 

Well, the article came out in BITCH Magazine this month (Spring ’11) and I must say that I’m thrilled. After the main Mommy Blog article was a FULL PAGE article entitled Barren Bloggers in Breederville!

 

OK, not the most flattering of monikers, especially considering one of the bloggers mentioned now has twins, but right up there, flying the flag for the “life after infertility” crowd was Silent Sorority’s Pamela – and yours truly.

 

And Hallelujah, if the author didn’t make a point of mentioning that some women choose a life path that doesn’t include motherhood, and that (and I quote) “Infertility and adoption experts stress that [adoption] is not a universal solution,” especially for “emotionally and financially drained” infertility patients, hesitant to “embark on yet another uncertain journey.” Honestly, I could kiss the author for getting those words into print. In fact I am considering printing them out and keeping them in my pocket for the next time someone asks if we ever considered adoption before deciding to live childfree.

 

Anyway, I’m keeping an eye open for the article popping up online, and when it does, I will most definitely be posting it here.

 

Sisters, if we just keep talking, eventually, we will be heard. –x-

 

Ride, Sally Ride! March 18, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Children,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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By Kathleen Guthrie

For years, whenever I heard Wilson Pickett sing “Ride Sally, ride” in the classic tune “Mustang Sally,” I thought he was singing “Ride, Sally Ride”—for astronaut Dr. Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. It still makes sense to me, although I now know the song was first released in 1965, and Sally made her historic flight two decades later.

While my contemporaries and I were playing dress-up in our mothers’ satin pumps and imagining glamorous exploits for Barbie and her chums, Sally was paving the way for a whole new universe of possibilities for girls. With a BA, BS, and a master’s degree in physics, she was a PhD candidate in astrophysics looking for new challenges when she responded to an ad in the newspaper. Over 8,000 people applied, only 35 were accepted, of which six were women. In 1978, Sally joined NASA’s space program.

Her giant leap for womankind occurred on June 18, 1983, aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger. During the 6 days, 2 hours, 23 minutes, 59 seconds of Mission STS-7, Mission Specialist 2 Sally K. Ride and her four crewmembers deployed two satellites and conducted numerous experiments. They traveled 2.2 million miles and orbited Earth 97 times. Her favorite part was being weightless: “I could do 30 somersaults in a row and slither like a seal from one side of the cabin to the other,” she said. “And of course we couldn’t resist playing a little bit with our food!”

Sally is childfree, but she has spent the intervening years raising future astronauts. She has made it her mission here on Earth to show kids that science is cool. She has written several books on space aimed at kids and, in 2001, she founded Sally Ride Science, a company dedicated to encouraging and supporting boys’ and girls’ interests in science, math, and technology.

Maybe one day she’ll return to space. As it stands now, Sally took her second and final space ride in 1984. Guess what was played as her morning wake-up song?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

 

Erin Go Braugh, Dr. Lynn! March 17, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Children,Health — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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In celebration of St. Patrick’s Day I thought I’d forego the green beer and pay homage to an incredible Irish woman.

Kathleen Florence Lynn was born in 1874 in Co. Mayo. She was a political activist, supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and an accomplished doctor.

Dr. Lynn was one of the first women to graduate in medicine from the Royal University of Ireland and she was the first female resident at the Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin. Sill, these qualifications didn’t protect her from discrimination because “she was not a man.”

Dr. Lynn joined the ranks of the Citizen Army and was Chief Medical Officer during the 1916 Easter Rising. When her Commanding Officer was shot, she, as next highest-ranking officer, was promoted to Captain. She was imprisoned for her role in the uprising.

While working with Dublin’s inner city poor, she realized the need to provide adequate medical and educational care for mothers and infants. At that time 164 out of every 1000 babies born in Dublin died from preventable diseases. In 1919 Dr. Lynn helped establish Saint Ultan’s Hospital ‘for the medical treatment of infants under one year of age.’ She thumbed her nose at the hospitals who had turned her down in the past by insisting that St. Ultan’s be staffed and managed entirely by women. During her time there she pioneered use of the BCG vaccine against tuberculosis more than a decade before it went into general use in Ireland.

Dr. Lynn devoted her “spare” time to children, too. She served as Vice President of Save the German Children, an organization that found homes in Ireland for evacuated children during the Second World War. It’s impossible to say how many children’s lives she helped to save during her career. And of course, she had no children of her own.

Dr. Lynn was definitely her own woman. It is reported that she turned down the use of the hospital’s chauffeur and enormous car, preferring to make her own way through the world by bicycle.

In acknowledgement of the role she played in the 1916 Rising and the Irish War of Independence, Dr. Kathleen Lynn was buried in 1955 with full military honors

 

Happy Bloggiversary! March 16, 2011

Filed under: Childfree by Choice,Childless Not By Choice,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Today marks the one-year anniversary of the launch of this blog and the Life Without Baby site. A year ago today I sat outside a café with a glass of wine and a dozen oysters and posted my mission statement for the site. It was:

“To fill the silent space that exists in the motherhood discussion.
To be a voice for women who are struggling with infertility or who do not have children, whether by choice or circumstance.
To shine a light on the business of baby-making and to turn a mirror onto the craziness of baby mania.
To be a champion for the right of women to choose not to become mothers.”

Hopefully I haven’t wavered too much from that goal.

Since then I’ve written 289 posts that have been seen 28,603 pairs of eyes! One of the top posts ever is also one of my favorites. I posted The Secret Society of Childless and Childfree Women on October 22, 2010 and almost 500 people have viewed it. I’m still working on that idea for the piece of jewelry, I promise.

Here are some other reader favorites:

Silent Sorority: A (Barren) Woman Get Busy, Angry, Lost and Found

The Ticking Clock

“Getting Over” Infertility

Advice for “30 and Childless”

The lowest ranked post ever was this one: Prisoner applies to become first man to father child behind bars. Only one person has ever viewed this post. If you have a second, please show it some love.

It would be hard to keep coming here every day and posting if I didn’t know that people were out there reading. And they are. You are!! In the first full month of operation, this blog had 469 visitors. If you were one of them, thank you. One year later almost 6,000 people are dropping in every month. If you are one of them, thank you!!

A blog without readers is just a secret diary, after all, so thank you for all your wonderful support. I’m sending you a slice of virtual bloggiversary cake. It’s calorie-free. Enjoy!

 

Susan B. Anthony – Fighting for Equality March 15, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Susan B. Anthony made her first public speech for women’s rights at the 1852 national convention in Syracuse, New York, and campaigned tirelessly throughout her life. When asked if women would ever be granted the right to vote, she once responded, “It is inevitable.” Yet it wasn’t until 1906, 14 years after her death, that American women finally achieved their goal with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

She also was the first non-allegorical woman to be featured on a circulating U.S. coin, the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which was minted in 1979, 1980, 1981, and 1999. I always thought this was cool, but didn’t know until recently that it’s ironic.

In 1872, Susan was arrested for voting illegally in the presidential election. Despite passionate arguments that invoked the recent passage of the 14th Amendment, which gave the privileges of citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” (with no gender distinctions), she was convicted without being allowed to testify on her own behalf. The judge ordered the jury to find her guilty and then sentenced her with a fine of $100. Here’s where it gets fun: She responded by announcing, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty.”

She never did. The embarrassed government never made any concerted effort to collect, and in fact, the trial fueled her notoriety and opened the doors to a bigger platform from which to spread her message of gender equality.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

 

Mary Cassatt March 14, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Mary Cassatt is one of my mother’s favorite Impressionists. She loves the tender portrayals of the mother gently bathing her toddler, gazing fondly as she nurses her beloved infant, or otherwise sharing precious and serene moments in daily life.

I have always wondered why there were no portraits of the tantrum, the lacy collar covered in barf, or the at-her-wits-end parent dealing with an explosive diaper as appalled diners look down from their stools in the snooty café. Maybe these images are missing from Mary’s portfolio because she idealized motherhood, because she fantasized about what it would be like, because she herself was childfree.

Not being privy to her private thoughts and longings, I can’t pose an answer to why she chose her subjects, but I can celebrate her enormous success as an artist.

Born into privilege in America in 1844, Mary traveled extensively as a child, then spent many of her working years in France. There were many obstacles. At times, her father, who objected her choice of career, paid for her basic living expenses, but refused to cover her painting supplies. One custom of the day was that women painters were not allowed to use live models. Nonetheless, she persevered and created an extraordinary career. Her first notable success came when her Two Women Throwing Flowers During Carnival was purchased at the 1872 Salon. Then she seemed to hit her stride, starting in 1879 when she displayed 11 works at the Impressionists exhibit—alongside Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, and Paul Cézanne—and turned a profit. Her paintings have since sold for as much as $2.9 million.

In her later years, Mary advised major art collectors and encouraged them to donate their purchases to American art museums. For her many contributions to the art world, France awarded her with the Légion d’honneur in 1904. She championed women’s rights and, in 1915, included eighteen paintings in an exhibition that supported the women’s suffrage movement. Today her work is shown in prestigious museums around the world.

Maybe in her day she also heard, “You’re not a mother, how would you know?” But she sure knew what would appeal to generations of art lovers and collectors.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

 

Beatrix Potter March 12, 2011

Filed under: Cheroes,Children — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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“Once upon a time, there were four little rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter.”

So begins one of the most enduring children’s stories of all time. The Tale of Peter Rabbit has sold approximately 45 million copies since it was first published in 1901, making it one of the best-selling books of all times, and making its author, Beatrix Potter, a household name.

Potter wrote the original Peter Rabbit story for the five-year-old son of her governess, and in it she captured the essence of childhood mischief and its consequences, dealt out by a firm but loving mother.

Beatrix Potter had no children of her own, and yet she has delighted millions of children for over a century with her 23 tales.

And my favorite bit of Beatrix Potter trivia? When The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by six different publishers, Potter took the initiative and published the book herself. Go Bea!

 

Surviving March 11, 2011

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death of my father. 25 years have passed and I’ve grown from a teenage girl to a woman, but if I was sitting in a room with you, I still wouldn’t be able to tell you about my dad without my voice cracking.

Losing my dad was the single most significant thing that had ever happened to me. It changed the whole trajectory of my life and it colored everything I did for many, many years.

Then I found out I couldn’t have children.

In many ways that has trumped my father’s death. It has taken the title of Most Significant Event. It has changed the trajectory of my life in ways I could never have imagined, and it still colors everything that I do. But already I am able to tell you that I can’t have children, without my voice cracking. Because what losing my dad taught me is that life goes on and that I will survive. It does, and I will.

Last night I spoke about writing at the Wellness Community, a cancer support center near my home. I sat in a room with survivors, women whose Most Significant Event has given them an up-close view of their own mortality. Their diagnosis changed their lives and continues to color everything that they do. But they’re here, they’re talking (often with cracking voices), they’re telling their stories and they are surviving.

Life deals us blows; it’s the nature of the thing. But we go on and we survive. That’s what makes us human.

 

Saluting a Four-Star General March 10, 2011

Photo credit: U.S. Army photo

By Kathleen Guthrie

To follow the trajectory of a Hollywood starlet or celebrity fashionista, just open the pages of a current pop culture magazine or click onto one of the gossip-fueled Web sites. You can read about their many romances, fashion hits and misses, critiques of past performances, and buzz about their latest projects.

Now, if you really want to be impressed by a rising star, visit http://www.army-mil, the official homepage of the United States Army, and read up on Ann E. Dunwoody. Her bio will dazzle you with its listing of her responsibilities and awards. Highlights include service in Desert Storm and being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (twice) and the Legion of Merit (three times). In 2008, she further distinguished herself, and established her place in our history, when she became our first female four-star general.

I need to repeat that: Our first female four-star general.

In an organization that has been historically male-centric, this is an extraordinary achievement. Yet “… I grew up in a family that didn’t know what glass ceilings were,” she said at the time of her nomination. “This…only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career, that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform.”

I was going to hail her as a trailblazer until I read this quote, an example of her humility, character, grace, and leadership: “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer [yup], but it’s important that we remember the generations of women whose dedication, commitment, and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”

Join me in saluting General Ann E. Dunwoody, soldier, wife, childfree woman, and door opener.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

 

Whiny Wednesday – Thoughtless Comments March 9, 2011

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I’ve been brewing a post for a couple of weeks about people who leave thoughtless comments on blogs.

I’ve come across several cases recently of commenters posting hateful or at least unthinking comments on blogs and websites. The worst was on an article about infertility that I reposted here. That article generated some of the most cruel and heartless comments I’ve ever read on the subject.

Then, last week a fellow blogger told me of her experience with an equally unpleasant throw away comment someone left on a blog she visits. It was one of those comments about the childless and childfree that we know in our hearts aren’t true, but that sting anyway. The words, bitter, pathetic and whiny are often associated with those stereotypes.

I know better than to read comments on news sites, because I always get riled up, and yet I do it anyway, and then find myself stomping around furious that someone could be so thoughtless and insensitive.

Finally last week, I had lunch with a friend who had published an article called My Husband, the Convicted Murderer on Salon.com. Her article spawned 122 comments, ranging from support and understanding to the inevitable hate mail variety. I asked her; “How do you deal with this?” and she gave me some helpful advice.

She said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“Some people just come looking for a fight. They’re looking for controversy and they’re looking for someone to leave their darkest thoughts. The internet is the perfect, almost anonymous place to do that.”

She’s right. People come from all sorts of dark places, and often with their own personal agenda. Sometimes people post before they think, or they just don’t bother wasting energy thinking at all. There’s nothing we can do to help those people, and odds are, they don’t want to be helped or educated or enlightened. They just want to fight.

I feel very fortunate that most of the people who find this blog are coming with something positive to say. It has helped create the kind of community I’d envisioned when I first started this project. But when I venture out into the wider world and encounter the other kind of commenters out there, I’ll be sure to keep my friend’s advice in mind.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, so chime in to the discussion or feel free to have a whine of your own.

P.S. On the subject of other blogs, here’s an article tying in to our National Women’s History month series that I posted on Divine Caroline earlier this week.