Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

What Are You Struggling With? March 30, 2012

Last week, while out on a walk, I watched a little frog make her (I assume) way across a pond. She was a feisty little thing, swimming like crazy as hard as she could, then pausing a while at a clump of pond weed or a log to catch her breath and regroup before swimming off again.

It struck me that her efforts were a good analogy for my own journey with coming-to-terms with not having children. I would battle through one set of emotions, then stop to rest and settle with the new mind-set for a while, only to discover some other trigger or unresolved issue, and off I’d go again to figure that out. Unlike my little froggy friend, my journey wasn’t a straight line across the pond and I often found I’d swum in a circle and needed to revisit an issue I thought I had under control.

Right now, today, I am well into the acceptance stage of my journey. I can be around small children and babies, and I’m not flooded with grief every time I get a pregnancy announcement (although I’m not yet to the point of being thrilled either.) I’m mostly at peace with the idea that motherhood won’t be a chapter in my personal history and I wrestle with some of my thoughts about the future and where I’ll end up.

Right now, I’m struggling with grandchildren. My husband has two grandchildren and it is a daily struggle to keep my emotions in balance. On the one hand, I don’t want to deny him the joy of being a grandfather. He’s good at it for one thing, and his grandchildren are mad for him. On the other hand, I find it very hard to share that joy. On the surface, I want to embrace this new adventure, but it’s hard, and I realize that tucked way down below the surface are some strong and well anchored feelings that I haven’t worked through yet. So, off I go again, swimming for the next patch of dry land.

Do you feel this way, too? Do you feel as if you keep rehashing the same problems, disguised as something else? What are you struggling with in your own journey right now?

 

Pregnant Lady Compliments March 29, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

At my thirty-first birthday party a couple weeks ago, one of my pregnant friends, Megan, did something truly shocking post-dinner: she actually joined us for the after-party at the bar. My surprise wasn’t due to her tossing back white Zins like Franzia was going out of business (she wasn’t, for the record). It was the fact that she made such an effort to maintain some semblance of her previously childless life when so many of my other friends have dropped off the face of the earth after becoming pregnant.

In some ways, I don’t blame them. Once you turn thirty, it becomes embarrassingly exhausting to pretend you want to rage at the bars till they turn the lights on. But trying to do it with morning-turned-all-day-sickness, back pain and swollen ankles…while SOBER?! No thanks. Needless to say, I was impressed as Megan hung in there through a mortgage payment’s worth of Bud Light for the rest of us and a few overly-emotional shufflepuck games.

Little did I know I’d come to regret including a photo of her in my Facebook album the next day. Mere moments after posting it, I was getting pinged left and right with messages that people I’d never met were commenting like mad on my album. I began to wonder if I’d unwittingly captured a wardrobe malfunction and it’d gone viral.

But no. I’d stumbled into one of my biggest pet peeves: the absolute AVALANCHE of compliments bestowed upon pregnant women when their photo appears on Facebook. Every woman Megan had ever met began leaving comments on the one photo she appears in. You know the ones I’m talking about. Your run-of-the-mill “you look beautiful!”, “you’re glowing!” and my favorite, “Look at you, pregnant lady!” Yup, she’s pregnant. You nailed it. And by the way, if you have to continually comment on how lovely she is now, what did she look like before? A cow?

And at the risk of sounding like a petulant child…it was MY birthday! Why was it hijacked by a belly? Why is the fact that someone was pregnant the most fascinating, comment-worthy part of that night? Are the rest of us that uninteresting and unphotogenic?

Well alright, I realize that I DO sound like ridiculous child. Likely because it has activated within me some simmering junior high-esque sentiment that if I don’t have a baby, no one will ever lavish that kind of attention on me. (Boy, I didn’t have to dive deep into the subconscious to retrieve that one.) I know this is just one of a million ways that society exalts pregnancy and the child-bearing process, so I’m not sure why this one’s got me so fired up. Maybe I’m just a grumpy thirty-one year-old now.

Am I the only one who’s being driven insane by this?

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at www.MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Living After Infertility March 28, 2012

I subscribe to Resolve’s “Living After Infertility Resolution” Support Community. Or at least I used to until yesterday, when I removed myself from the mailing list.

Apparently, the only viable “resolution” for infertility is pregnancy and the “support” forums are filled with questions about the best strollers for twins and complaints about weight gain at 24 weeks. When I dug back into the archives I found exactly THREE posts from people trying to move on with a childfree life.

I avoid using profanity in a public forum, but not in the comfort of my own home, so when I tell you I said, “Forget it!” you can fill in your own blank for what I really said.

I think that Resolve does wonderful work in helping people deal with infertility, but for those of us who have run out of options or made the decision to get off the crazy train and get about the business of building a life without children, that support is non-existent. Unless a miracle baby happens, there is apparently no living after infertility.

Well, that’s not the case here, sisters. I am alive and well and swearing like a sailor to prove it. And when National Infertility Awareness Week comes around next month, you’d better believe I’m going to be out there saying, “Hey!!! What about us?”

It’s Whiny Wednesday, my wondering living friends. If you’ve got something to say, now’s the time. Just watch your language, if you don’t mind.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About the Caretaking Question March 27, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I usually include in my byline for this column that I am “mostly at peace with being childfree.” I now can tolerate the occasional baby shower, I genuinely celebrate news of friends’ pregnancies, and I relish my unscheduled weekends. I am growing accustomed to a childfree life, but one nagging issue still troubles me.

In recent months, complications from arthritis, pain, and plain ol’ old age have crept up on my 14-year-old chocolate lab, Scout. It’s fallen to me to provide for her new needs, like carrying her home from walks when her legs can go no further, supplementing her diet with soft treats like ground turkey and steamed broccoli, and lugging her up and down our front stairs for pee breaks throughout the day.

I’m not complaining. I feel privileged to be Scout’s human, and I want her final days to be as comfortable as possible and full of love. I cherish this precious time with her. But it’s got me thinking….

In caring for my sweet girl, I am confronting my greatest fear, the one big bad ugly fear I have about being childfree: Who will take care of me? When my mind or body gives in to the inevitable aging process, who will step up to manage my finances or coordinate medical care? Who will assist me up stairs or change the batteries in the smoke detector or make sure there’s food in the fridge? I worry there will be no one to keep me company in the lonely hours of my golden years, and to hold my hand, offering comfort and prayers, when it’s my time to pass from this life to the next. Will I end up paying someone to perform all these tasks perfunctorily?

Both my grandmothers lived into their 90s. When they needed help in their final years, there were children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at their sides. But I am childfree. I have no caretaker in the wings. I am saddened by this thought and, frankly, I am scared.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with being childfree.

 

A Great Place to Raise Kids March 26, 2012

I live in “a great place to raise kids.” People have been telling me this since before I made the decision to leave L.A. and make this my part-time home.

I love it here. I can walk into town for just about any service I need. I can walk or bike from my house along a creekside path that takes me out into the vineyards. A ten-minute drive away is a huge State Park, where I can hike, bike, look for birds, and enjoy the peacefulness of the countryside. For me, this is a great place to live.

I didn’t give much thought to it being a great place to raise kids until my neighbor stopped me one day last week. She and her husband run a day care center in their house and even as I write this post, I can hear the kids playing and squealing in the backyard. It doesn’t bother me. I enjoy their laughter, and when things turn ugly – as they’re apt to do later in the afternoon around nap time – I get to enjoy one of those “Phew, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that tantrum” moments.

But last week, the neighbor lady made a welcome gesture to join her and her friends for cocktails one night. “We have a great group of ladies here in the neighborhood,” she told me. “You’ll love them.” But I realize that in this “great place to raise kids” this woman’s great group of ladies all have kids too.

I was struck with an image of myself sitting on the couch, clutching a pina colada and staring like a deer in the headlights as the neighbor asked me if my husband and I are going to have kids, while a dozen pairs of inquisitive eyes bore into the new girl, waiting to hear her answer.

I’ve lived in L.A. for 18 years. I barely know any of my neighbors because, as a general rule, L.A. is a great place to be anonymous and neighbors don’t often come around to introduce themselves. As a woman without children, it’s a great place to blend into the background. But here in “a great place to raise kids” I’m starting to worry that I might not fit in after all.

 

That He Would Do This for Her March 23, 2012

By Sue Fagalde Lick

When my friend John started going out with Lizzy, a teacher at least 20 years younger than he was, I kept my qualms to myself. Who was I to judge? Had I not married a much older man myself?

A couple years later, I ran into John and Lizzy at the Toledo, Oregon summer festival. Weary from strolling up and down Main Street, I saw them in the crowd sitting on orange folding chairs by the stage outside Bank of the West and decided to join them in the shade of a big alder tree.

I didn’t notice Lizzy’s belly until they stood to move their chairs into the sun. Was it really rounded under her denim overalls or was I imagining it? No, she was definitely pregnant.

Battling hot flashes and glad to be out of the sun, I remained alone in the shade, gazing up at the yellow and green leaves. With each gentle breeze, waves of sadness washed over me. John had finished raising his family. He had retired. He enjoyed his life of writing, music and bicycle trips. I was certain he did not want to start raising children again, but I could see the whole picture: Lizzy was young, she wanted a family, he loved her, and he could not deny her that part of life.

Of course it could have been an accident, a birth-control failure, but they were both too smart for that. This was pregnancy on purpose. That he would do this for her . . . It echoed in my head like a mantra: that he would do this for her. A corresponding chant answered: that my husband would not.

But I got it wrong. When I asked John about it later, he said he was the one who wanted another child. Lizzy didn’t mind doing without, but he wanted a chance to do a better job than he had before.

Why wasn’t my husband like that?

I had been through this so many times. It was not Fred’s fault. I had married him despite his declaration that he did not want to have children with me, that the three he had with his first wife were all he ever wanted. I had decided it was better to have him without children than to marry someone else I loved less or, more likely, to remain alone. Besides, had I not always placed my career above everything, thinking that someday I would get around to kids, but not today, tomorrow, next week . . .?

Suddenly the toe-tapping music grew tiresome. I needed to do the laundry, start dinner, make some phone calls. I kept glancing at John and Lizzy, unable to stop staring at Lizzy’s belly.

I had thought I was past this, beyond this agonizing over not having children. As I gathered my things, waved goodbye to my friends, and started the long walk to my car, I asked myself “Will it never end?”

Sue Fagalde Lick has been married twice to men who did not give her babies. She blogs on the subject at www.childlessbymarriage.blogspot.com.

 

With Eyes of Faith: Chero, Elisabeth Leseur March 22, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

“Those whom we encounter on our earthly path

often see in passing the outer wrappings of our being

and go their way, confident of knowing us well enough. 

Let us be careful not to do the same with the companions of our life.”

~Elisabeth Leseur

Among childless women, there are leaders and there are followers.  Many of the Cheroes celebrated on this blog are leaders who made a big splash, had great impact on the world, and made a name for themselves. That’s great if you’re a leader, but not all of us are called to do that. Elisabeth Leseur provides us with an example of what happens when a childless woman simply follows Christ.

In 1889, Pauline Elisabeth Arrighi married Felix Leseur after meeting him through mutual friends.  Felix was a doctor who also directed a large insurance company and it was sometime during medical school that he lost his faith.  After marrying, he permitted Elisabeth to practice her religion, but he and his friends constantly ridiculed her for what they thought were ignorant superstitions.  Despite this tension in their marriage, they loved each other passionately and Felix provided his wife with a wonderful life, which included travel to countries like Italy, Russia, Turkey and Greece. In her own words, Elisabeth provides a glimpse into the relationship: “Some joyful days, because of a present from Felix, and more because of the words that accompanied it – words so full of love that I am moved to great happiness.”

From the time they married until her death from breast cancer in 1914, Elisabeth prayed for her husband’s return to the Christian faith.  She kept a diary to give voice to her experience, but Felix did not learn of it until after she died.  A year later, he not only regained his faith, but also published the diary.  (The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur, published by Sopia Institute Press, is still available!)

In his remarks that preface the diary, Felix says: “My beloved wife, Elisabeth, prayed incessantly for my return to the Faith…But she did this secretly, for she never argued with me and never spoke to me of the supernatural side of her life, save by her example.”

A few years later, in 1923, Felix was ordained a Dominican priest, and over the next two decades devoted his ministry to giving talks about Elisabeth’s spirituality.  Father Leseur died in 1950 and the Church opened a cause for his wife’s canonization in 1990.

What I admire about this Chero is that she did not leave a difficult marriage to pursue holiness elsewhere, nor did she worry about leading causes to justify her existence as a childfree woman. So if you’re feeling a lot of societal pressure to go out and do something to fill the void left by infertility, think of Elisabeth…and pray.

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She is praying for her own husband’s return to the faith and found domestic bliss by acting on the advice of good marriage counselors.