Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

How Did You Know You Wouldn’t Have Children? May 31, 2011

I write a lot about issues that affect me now that I’ve more or less come to terms with the fact that I won’t have children. Looking back over the past two or three years, I can see just how far I’ve come, and I’m pleased. Unfortunately, that’s not always very helpful for readers just beginning their journeys and sometimes I’m asked, “How did you get there?”

It’s a good question, but it doesn’t have a simple answer, so I thought I’d take a look back at some of the milestones that shaped my journey and try to analyze what made a difference for me.

Today, I’m starting with The Decision. How did you know you were going have to figure out how to come to terms with being childfree?

If you dealt with infertility, a doctor probably gave you a diagnosis that you knew would mean the end of the line, but if you were anything like me, you didn’t just throw up your hands at that point and say, “Okay, well I guess I just won’t bother trying anymore, then.” So, when did you know you were at that point?

If you are childfree by some circumstance other than infertility, maybe your journey was different. Maybe you toyed with the idea of having children despite your situation. How did you know that motherhood was definitely not going to be a part of your future?

And if you are childfree-by-choice, when did you know you wouldn’t have children?

I think all our stories are different, because it’s such a big milestone in our lives and not something that changes in an instant. For me, a number of factors were in play, but I think the biggest one was that I knew my husband and I were suddenly on different tracks. I think that he knew (although he didn’t like it) that it wasn’t going happen for us, whereas I was still running from doctor to doctor trying to find something that would work. I could feel us begin to drift apart and I finally realized that my marriage was more important to me than trying to prove that I wasn’t infertile.

“Don’t you mean you realized that your marriage was more important than having children, Lisa?”

No. And that’s one of the other factors in this. I realized that my quest was no longer about having children; it was about winning and proving that I wasn’t broken. My doctor had told me that using donor eggs would give me about a 50 percent chance of conceiving, but I didn’t want to use donor eggs and I didn’t want to go through IVF. That was my choice for my own reasons. But if having children was my top priority, wouldn’t I have done whatever it takes?

This is way too much public psychoanalysis for me right now, so let’s just say that my decision to get off the crazy train came slowly. There were many events that happened that pushed me towards the decision and many more that made me change my mind again along the way. Eventually though, I reached the Tipping Point and started figuring out how I was going to come to terms with the fact that something was wrong with me and that I wasn’t going to have children.

How about you? How did you get to that point? Please share your stories; yours could be the one that makes a big difference to someone who is trying to start coming to terms.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Inappropriate Invitations May 30, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Yesterday afternoon, I received an online invitation to a networking event for entrepreneur moms. I did a little bit of research before replying, and quickly figured out that the invitation came from a “friend” on Facebook, an old friend from elementary school, who had invited every person on her friends list. So I can’t take in personally, and I didn’t include a comment with my RSVP explaining why I wouldn’t be attending. But, boy, just for kicks, I’d love to invite her to an infertility awareness seminar.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

Food: Greek Salad = Summer May 28, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Continuing my new tradition of taking a break from talking about “it” on Saturdays, I thought I’d post something on one of my favorite subjects: food!

Here in the U.S. it’s Memorial Day weekend, which for many people, marks the start of summer. For me, however, summer doesn’t really begin until I make my first Greek Salad. With fresh-picked, sun-ripened tomatoes, crisp cucumbers, and fresh herbs, tossed with salty feta cheese and plump kalamata olives, one bite can transport me to the shore of a Greek island, with fishing boats bobbing in the harbor and bouzouki music drifting from a nearby taverna. Heaven.

In our house, this summer tradition usually involves me picking the ingredients fresh from my garden, but this year, between a busier than usual schedule and our attempts to live in two different places, 400 miles apart, I have ended up with no vegetables planted in either place. Undaunted, I’ll be trawling my local farmer’s market, waiting until I can get all the ingredients there. Because, yes, you can make this salad in December, with ingredients from the supermarket, but honestly, why bother? When your tomatoes have been picked while they’re still pink and shipped from Mexico, no amount of imagination is going to conjure a Greek island.

So, here is my Greek Salad recipe. It’s stolen straight from Epicurious.com, my go-to place for recipes, and was first published in Bon Appétit magazine. It takes about a half hour to make, but tastes better when it’s made a couple of hours ahead of time. You can use it as a side dish with a chicken kebab or a lamb burger, but our favorite way to eat it is as a main course, with a loaf of crusty bread and a bottle of chilled rosé – eaten al fresco, of course.

Lisa’s “Summer’s Here!” Greek Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups diced seeded peeled cucumber (from about 1 large)
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper (from about 1 large)
  • 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives or other brine-cured black olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 ounces)

Preparation:

Toss first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

 

Who Will Inherit From You? May 27, 2011

Have you thought about your plans for after you’re gone? Do you know who will inherit what from you? If you don’t have children who will automatically inherit, have you given consideration to where you’ll pass along your worldly goods?

I’ll admit that I don’t have a plan in place, mainly because a) I don’t have much to leave anyone, and b) I’m not planning on checking out anytime soon, but the thought does pop into my mind once in a while, and at some point, I’ll want to get something down on paper. My main concern is that my family possessions – photos, keepsakes, and a couple of bits of jewelry – stay in my family, which most likely means leaving them to my nieces and nephews.

I came across this article this week, about a Pasadena couple who left $8 million to their alma maters. The couple had no children and quietly amassed their fortune and lived very unassuming lives. Their neighbors spoke fondly of a kind and quiet couple who were an integral part of the community, but never showy. I read this article and thought, “that’s how I’d want to be.”

Contrast that with these two articles, the first about Elizabeth Taylor’s children allegedly at war over her $600 million estate, and the other about three brothers in South Africa battling over the fortune they will (or will not) inherit from their wealthy childless aunt.

I don’t expect to have millions for my relatives to battle over when I’m gone, but I would like to make sure that the people I care about have something to remember me by. I’d hate to think of my most treasured (if not monetarily valuable) possessions ending up on the shelves of Goodwill.

 

Let’s Talk About Sex May 26, 2011

A new reader, let’s call her Kerry, contacted me recently and had this to say:

“I’m in the coming-to-terms stage. Being 35 and on the crazy train for 5 years is enough for my husband and me.  I would like to hear from others about how to deal with (sigh…) loss of libido.  I assume I’m not the only one?  But I don’t know what to do about it, other than see a therapist, and I don’t really know how that will help anyway.  I used to have a sex drive like a MAN and TTC seems to have killed it almost completely.  This causes me much sadness, embarrassment and anger, and I have no idea how to fix my body’s refusal to enjoy sex!  I want to get back to enjoying my life, and this is a huge barrier.”

Let’s face it: having sex on-demand is like being force-fed chocolate. It sounds like a lot of fun at first, but it doesn’t take long for the novelty to wear off.

If you’ve been on the TTC (trying to conceive) merry-go-round, you know all about charting fertility and the mad scramble for the bedroom when that little line on the ovulation test stick shows up. After just a couple of months of failed attempts, it’s difficult to muster the enthusiasm to keep trying, especially as the success of the mission depends so much on both people being “in the mood” and even “in the moment.” Add to that the fact that the most intimate parts of your anatomy have been paraded before countless doctors, and the whole think quickly loses its allure.

From my own experience, I remember how sex became a frustrating chore and how quickly it stopped being about fun or even love. I also found that, once sex was associated with trying to conceive and all the emotional baggage that comes along with it, it was hard to separate the two again. But it’s possible.

I am no expert on the psychology of sex and libido, but I can speak from my own experience, so I will.

It does come back. It takes time and it’s part of the healing process. Once my husband and I got some distance from our experience and were truly on the road to moving on, we were able to focus on one another again, and the love that brought us together in the first place was still there. In fact, I think that the experience we went through together has brought us closer in many ways. We talked about it a lot (a LOT!!) and both agreed that, as awful as the infertility experience was, we were glad we went through it with each other, and not with someone else. In many ways, it has brought us closer and it helps to remember that.

As for getting the old libido back on track, pick up almost any women’s magazine and it will have an article on rekindling the passion – warm bath, candles, lingerie, toys. I think the trick is finding the thing that works for you. Warm baths and candles, for instance, are a sure way to put me to sleep. Here’s what does work for me. [Note to my husband: you should have stopped reading this post about five paragraphs ago. Sorry.] Commit to a minute. Just one minute. Even if you’re not in the mood, you can do anything for a minute. Agree that if it’s going nowhere after a minute, you’ll stop. Odds are, once you’re actually in the throes of intimacy, the rest will follow.

Ladies, what has been your experience in this department? Do you have any advice for Kerry? Please share it.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Opinions are like [fill in the blank] May 25, 2011

It’s Whiny Wednesday again, but I must admit, I’ve been feeling pretty chipper lately, and not especially whiny. I’m calling that a good thing.

If you’ve not been quite so perky lately, feel free to let it all out here. And if you’ve been just too cheery and need something to whine about, here’s an article from the Colorado Springs Gazette that came across my radar this week.

We Must Produce or Import Children: Freedom from kids will make us poor.

Now, I’ll admit that the article is almost too ludicrous to post. The author’s claim is that America’s declining birthrate will have an ill effect on our economy. He says:

“The dangers of population decline are quite simple. We cannot sustain the economy, and the general welfare of humanity, when old, non-working Americans — dependent on pensions and government subsidies — outnumber people of working age. A minority cannot provide adequately for a majority, any more than a pyramid can balance upside-down.”

His argument is that more people need to reproduce in order to support retirees. He seems to have overlooked the fact that all these new people will eventually age and need supporting too, and that we will also need to feed, house, and provide services for this booming population.

Ah well, the beautiful thing about the Internet is that everyone’s opinion is welcome. Sigh.

 

Healing Through Creativity May 24, 2011

Just a quick reminder for anyone considering attending the Healing Through Creativity workshop next month. We have five spots still to be filled and the Early Bird Special price is good through May 31.

If you are thinking of attending but can’t yet make a commitment, please drop me a note through the Suggest a Topic link, just so I know you’re interested.

This first workshop is “Finding Your Identity After Infertility.” All the details can be found here.

More workshops are planned for later in the year, so stay tuned.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Relocating May 23, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Good friends who live in the Midwest recently learned that layoffs are imminent, and they are looking at yet another move to another company, another town, another home. I’ve lost track of how many companies they’ve worked for over the years, but they’ve changed states at least two times since their kids were born, and in a few months, they’ll be packing up and making their way across another border.

Losing a job, uprooting from a community, managing all of the stresses that come with a move of any size or distance…my heart goes out to them. Add to that the difficulties for their now-teenage children. After the last move, their sons, who were sports stars in their former town, had to try to quickly prove themselves to new coaches (with mixed success). My friend, who has always been involved with her kids’ schools, was turned away from serving on the PTA board (talk about small town politics). Their daughter had to navigate new cliques. Now they’re going to do it all again.

My heart goes out to them, and then I say a little prayer of gratitude that we don’t have kids. If, God forbid, we are one day victims of budget reforms or downsizing and have to move to take new jobs, we could go anywhere in the world. Certainly, it would be painful to say good-bye to friends and nearby family, and it would break my heart to leave the city we love so much, but we could do it. We would make it work, without the limitations and challenges parents face, such as having to find a house near the right schools, or yanking a hormonal teenager away from her friends, or worrying that the painful choices we sometimes have to make are hurting the people we love the most.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s found that her book collection has grown every time she’s had to pack for a move.

 

Silly Saturday: Bold Facial Hair! May 21, 2011

Filed under: Current Affairs,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Photo courtsey: Wicked MonkeysBy Kathleen Guthrie

This has almost nothing to do with being childfree.

In Norway over the weekend of May 14, more than 150 contestants from around the world participated in the World Beard and Moustache Championship. In 17 categories, men’s facial hair designs were judged on size, grooming, originality, and how “good-looking” their style is. Medals were awarded.

While I’m initially drawn to the freak-show factor of the elaborate creations, I ultimately think, BRAVO! I love that these men have found a community where they are appreciated and celebrated. As Bruce Roe, president of a Washington-based Whisker Club and a multiple winner said, “The championships are an excuse for us to get together with our friends…I have some trophies, but the best part is the friends I’ve made through the years.”

Certainly, many people would look at these gentlemen and judge them as a sub-class of society. Funny, that sounds to me like how childfree women are often viewed. And, just like these fascinating bearded guys, we are ignoring our critics, demonstrating that we are fun-loving humans, reaching out to each other, and creating community.

I think that’s awesome!

P.S. Congratulations to Elmar Weisser of Germany who took home gold medals for the Full Beard Freestyle and Overall categories! Click here for photos of the 2011 winners.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She loves a feel-good human-interest story.

 

Book Review: Complete Without Kids May 20, 2011

I recently read Dr. Ellen Walker’s new book, Complete Without Kids: An Insider’s Guide to Childfree Living by Choice or by Chance (Greenleaf Book Group, 2011). In it, she shines a spotlight on what it’s like to be childfree, based on dozens of interviews she conducted with singles and couples across the U.S. She covers the circumstances in which her interviewees became childfree – whether by choice, circumstance, or happenstance – and the effects that being childfree has had on their lives. She addresses the issues of pressure from friends, family, and society, as well the impact living childfree has on marriage, friendships, career, and the long-term future. Her research makes for a fascinating insight into the lives and choices of others.

Reading the book, it was interesting to spot traits I shared with some of Dr. Walker’s subjects and to put a clinical term to some of my own experiences of infertility and coming to terms with being childfree-not-by-choice. When Dr. Walker talks about one of Freud’s tools for coping, I could clearly identify my own path of applying logic to my own story and even convincing myself that I never really wanted the thing I couldn’t have. Freud called it rationalization; I call it “Fake it ’til you make it.” Regardless of the label, I was encouraged to learn that I wasn’t alone in the way I’d handled my own circumstances.

I was really touched and saddened by the story of Miriam, an 89-year-old woman who had dealt with infertility and admitted that, even now, she still feels deprived and has never been able to find peace with her childlessness. 43-year-old Jill attended a women’s retreat that began with a circle where everyone was asked to give her name and tell how many children and grandchildren she had!! Out of fifty women, Jill and a young Japanese exchange student were the only two who didn’t have children. Jill speculates as to how that experience influenced the younger woman’s decision to have children, so that she wouldn’t find herself the “odd duck” in the room later in life.

Fair warning to those of you who didn’t choose to be childfree. The book is definitely skewed towards people who made a clear decision to not have children. Dr. Walker, a psychologist who began this project while exploring her own choice to live childfree, points out early in the book that, although the three groups of childfree people overlap in places, she found a marked difference in attitude and experience between those who chose not to have kids and those who found themselves in that situation.  While the disadvantages of a childfree life get their space in the book, the advantages take center stage. However, as someone who wanted children but couldn’t, I was able to look at the many advantages quoted by those who chose to be childfree and use them to find a silver lining in my own situation.