Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side July 18, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

Harry Potter and the end of a tradition July 16, 2011

Filed under: Current Affairs,Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Mr. Fab and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie on Thursday night. We went to the midnight show, double-feature (Parts I & II of the Deathly Hallows), and didn’t get home until after 3:00 a.m.! We didn’t dress up as Harry and Hermione and didn’t line up to six hours ahead of time to get the best seat in the house. We didn’t go because we are Harry Potter fanatics; we went because it’s tradition.

Harry Potter is one of those quirky things that binds Mr. Fab and I together. I took him home to meet my family for the first time the summer book four came out. We lined up in town at midnight to pick up a copy, and I have a picture of him standing under my mother’s clock, holding his purchase.

We got married the year the third movie came out and we saw it on our honeymoon, dubbed into Spanish. We’ve bought every book at midnight, read them together, own copies of some in Spanish, Welsh, and Latin, and have been to every midnight opening show.

Young people interviewed after the movie said that the end of the Harry Potter movies marks the end of their childhood. They grew up on the books, and now the story has done being told, it’s time for them to move on. For us, I don’t think of it as the end of anything, just a catalog of good memories we’ve logged together. I know it’s goofy, but Harry Potter is special to us and it became a tradition and a guilty pleasure.

What traditions and guilty pleasures do you have? Is there an event that you never miss, no matter how goofy it seems to others?

P.S. happynenes, I’m envious of your visit to Harry Potter World!

 

It’s a zoo out there July 15, 2011

Last weekend, Mr. Fab and I visited the Oregon Zoo. It was a beautiful day and we visited the elephants, marveled at the lions, and had a very cool, fun time hanging out in the bat house. I saw Naked Mole Rats, almost saw the critically endangered Amur Leopard, and learned why tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears. When it got too hot, we stopped in a café for a cool drink and snack, and when we’d seen enough zoo we took the MAX back to our hotel and had a pleasant afternoon nap.

If you’re still trying to reconcile the idea that you’ll never be a mother, the zoo is a hard place to visit. Kids far outnumber adults and it can be an emotional minefield with all the cute doe-eyed babies peering at you from their strollers at every turn.

On the other hand, if you’re starting to come to terms with being childfree and looking for some benefits of not having kids, I can strongly recommend a visit to the zoo. For every sweet cherub, you’ll find a red-faced bawling toddler, or a demanding preteen tapping on the glass of the chimpanzee enclosure right next to the sign that says; “Don’t tap on the glass.” Most of the parents at the zoo looked fried, as if they’d rather be anywhere else, and I couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit smug, because Mr. Fab and I chose to be there, and chose exactly when we wanted to go home.

When you’re ready to look for the silver lining of being childfree, trust me, you’ll find plenty of examples, including the joy of an adult trip to the zoo.

 

Circumstantially Infertile July 14, 2011

Thanks to Robin for posting this link on the LWB Facebook page.

In the Huffington Post’s new “Women” section this week, Savvy Auntie, Melanie Notkin writes about the grief and lack of empathy that comes with being “circumstantially infertile.”

Melanie always wanted to have children, but just never met the right person. She talks openly about the insensitive and sometimes cruel things people have said to her. She also makes the case that, just because someone doesn’t have children, doesn’t mean they don’t like kids or aren’t maternal.

Melanie is the author of the fun book, Savvy Auntie, that I reviewed last month, and creator of SavvyAuntie.com. I also had the pleasure of interviewing her recently. More about that soon.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Casey Anthony July 13, 2011

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I am writing this posting while hurtling down the interstate to catch an early flight (it’s ok, I’m not driving.) I can count the hours of sleep I got last night on one hand, and I just had McDonald’s oatmeal for breakfast. You’d think that would be all I’d need for a good Whiny Wednesday, but no, I also have Casey Anthony on my mind.

If you’re tuning in from elsewhere in the world and haven’t been subjected to the media frenzy surrounding this case, you can catch up with the story here. Even though a jury found Ms. Anthony not guilty of the murder of her two-year old daughter Caylee, the court of public opinion decided long ago that Casey was responsible, somehow, for the little girl’s death.

Regardless of the trial’s outcome, no one can claim that Casey Anthony was a responsible mother. It saddens me to think of all the good and loving families Caylee could have been born into, and it makes me hopping mad to think that, at 25 years old, Casey Anthony will have ample opportunity for a second chance at motherhood and that, knowing how unfairly life works, she could be given another young life to care for.

 

Finding the Silver Lining July 12, 2011

When human cloning becomes safe and legal, I’m cloning my mum and renting her out.

During our weekly phone conversation this weekend, the subject of my childlessness came up and I told her that I was glad I’d made the choice I did, to get off the baby crazy train and start living my life again. She understood. (Reason #1 to clone her.)

I joked that Mr. Fab and I are now free to sleep in on Sundays, travel, and more or less do what we want to do when we want to do it.

My mum said something very profound. She said that, before my father died (25 years ago) she couldn’t have ever imagined how she’d survive as a widow. And yet she did. She found the silver lining in being alone. She went back to school; she traveled overseas for the first time; she learned to fix things around the house; and she could please herself what she had for dinner. (Reason #2)

It wasn’t that her life was better without my dad; it was just different, and she kept reminding herself of the positive side of things “because you have to,” she said.

I’m not sure I’ll ever say that I’m glad I didn’t have children. I can’t say that my life is better because of it, but it is very different to the life I’d planned, and most of the time, I can find the silver lining. Thanks to my mother’s hard-earned wisdom, I’m reminded to keep looking for the silver lining, because it’s almost always there.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Baseball and Babies July 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

I thought it was some kind of spoof. While watching our San Francisco Giants lose to the San Diego Padres, we caught a vague ad about a “World Championship Baby!” Huh?

 

I went online the next morning to learn more and discovered that, yes indeed, there is a contest to recognize a baby who was conceived around 7:54 pm on November 1, when the Giants beat the Rangers to clinch last year’s World Series. The winning baby, expected to arrive on August 1, will receive a named brick at AT&T Park, a gift card for $2,010, and an “official certificate signed by the Giants.” Meanwhile, fans can browse an online gallery of moms-to-be and their ultrasound images.

 

This whole thing makes my skin crawl. Maybe I’m envious and oversensitive. I can’t say, however, that I’ll feel any better if the geniuses in marketing try to make it up to me by having a “Childfree Women Free!” Day next season.

 

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Kinder-soccer is still her favorite spectator sport.

 

Book Club and 30 Day Challenge July 10, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff,Health,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I know I don’t usually post on Sundays, but just wanted to give a quick reminder that the Book Club is up and running on the main LWB site.

Last month we read Emily and Einstein by Linda Francis Lee. That discussion is now under way on the group forum. July’s pick is Room by Emma Donaghue. We’ll start discussing that August 1. If you’re bookily inclined, jump in any time.

And for those of you who took up last week’s 30-day challenge, how’s it going? So far I am 9 days into my own challenge to move for 30 minutes every day. I took a Zumba class this week. Very fun. Let me know how you’re doing.

 

Craft Nerd July 9, 2011

Filed under: Fun Stuff — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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raycannonfeltet.jpgI am a craft nerd, or maybe a more accurate description is “craft groupie,” as I don’t really participate, I just collect and admire.

I jumped on the scrapbooking bandwagon a few years ago, bought a bunch of paper and funny scissors and made three stunning pages of scrapbooked photos. The rest sat in my closet for years until Mr. Fab finally convinced me that perhaps someone else might enjoy them more than me.

My friend Roberta is an ace stamper. She makes and sells cards, teaches classes, and writes for craft magazine. She has an excellent blog called Creative (Un)block, packed with creative ideas and she inspired me to try a little stamping of my own. I made all my Christmas and birthday cards one year, half the next year, and three the year after that. Last year I ran to Target at the last minute when I realized there was no way I was going to get around to making my cards.

I have three unwearable sweaters that I knitted, and another three or four in various stages of completion. I own colored pencils, paints, and have a burning to desire to grow and can my own food, learn to make cheese, make a mosaic fountain for my patio, and learn to draw the human form.

Somewhere inside me is a creative bug dying to get out, but somehow time, priorities, or passion get in the way of my aspirations.

Which doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate and even envy creative talent when I see it.

I stumbled across The Smallest Forest blog recently and got such a kick out of her post Embroidery: the tear away transfer method. I thought, “I could do that.” But honestly, I don’t have a talent for drawing or the patience for embroidery. I loved her Secret Message Ninja, too, but I wanted to have the idea, not necessarily copy it to get my own Secret Message Ninja.

I’m becoming more realistic about my desire and intentions regarding craftiness, but I still love to browse a good magazine, website or blog and dream about what my crafting life might be.

My local knitting shop, Cast Away, has a great blog with links to other projects.  Personal favorites include Ray Cannon’s miniatures.

Organic Gardening Magazine makes me want to tear up my yard and start a small farm.

Roberta’s blog reminds me that I could make cards if I wanted to.

The Cheese Queen has everything I’ll ever need to know when my desire to make artisanal cheddar gets the better of me.

Do you have a creative talent? Please share your passions, your projects and your favorite places for inspiration.

 

Destiny’s plans for a childfree life July 8, 2011

One of the many things I love about the internet is the ability to take a peek at happenings all over the world, hear different points of view, and experience the sensibility of different cultures. Take this article, Leading a good life without kids, for example, that appeared recently in Sri Lanka’s Daily Mirror.

As I began reading the story of Lathika, I wondered if I was reading a fairy tale.

“Lathika played with her doll, Fiona.  She loved “Playing House” and dreamed of growing up, getting married and having a family of her own one day” felt like a tame way of expressing the desire for motherhood.

When I read, “The years went by and Lathika did not mind the pain and discomfort of regular tests for her fertility for she was now desperate to have a child,” I scratched my head and started wondering what was wrong with Lathika. I have never spoken to anyone who “didn’t mind” the pain and discomfort of fertility treatments. I wondered if Lathika was some kind of Zen master (mistress?) who calmly took whatever life dealt her, or if the author of the piece was just clueless about the emotional frustration of infertility. I also wondered if perhaps Sri Lankan culture forced Lathika to put on a brave face and keep her real feelings to herself. That I could understand.

I read on about Lathika’s attempts to fill the void in her life with creative pursuits and volunteer work, and the calmness of the writing began to wash over me. I nodded my head at the quote, “Your children are not your own,” because I’ve always had that thought about the role of parents in the lives of the human beings in their care (more about this in another post, I think.)

By the end of the piece, I was touched by the message. Although I still wasn’t convinced that “we leave Lathika happy and fulfilled” in her new childfree life, I found myself catching my breath at the idea that “destiny had planned a different life path for her.”

We have an idea about what life is supposed to be like for us. We grow up, fall in love, have children, create a life for ourselves, and live to see our grandchildren become adults and create their own lives. But we all know that life isn’t as clean cut as that.

Maybe destiny has planned a different life path for us, too. Perhaps we can’t see what that path is yet, but like Lathika, I feel strangely comforted by the idea that a different, maybe even better life could be ahead for me because I don’t have children.