Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Fabulous Friday: Summer Fever June 29, 2012

It’s Fabulous Friday and I have Summer Fever.

Although I haven’t quite faced putting my long sleeves and my greys and browns away, and I’m not entirely ready to impose my pasty legs on the world, a summer breeze keeps blowing in my office window and I’m itching to be outdoors in it.

I want to eat lunch al fresco, put my feet in the ocean, and wander the farmer’s market sniffing out the ripest, juiciest peaches.  And I’m ready to travel.

(I’ll take a short second here to acknowledge that I won’t be spending my summer shuttling kids from one camp to another, nor will I be wrestling crabby toddlers and luggage for 14 through the airport. For this, I can find gratitude and even sympathy.)

My Mum celebrates her 80th birthday this summer, so Mr. Fab and I are planning a trip. And let me tell you, if it’s not pouring with rain, England in the summertime is glorious! I can hardly wait to be there, because there my pasty legs won’t stand out form the crowd, the ice cream is delicious, and with luck the barbecue in my brother’s backyard won’t get rained out this year. Ah, such bliss.

So, what about you? Do you have summer fever? Are you making plans? Are you itching to get out and frolic in the sunshine, too?


Shedding My Skin June 28, 2012

By Quasi-momma

I going to start off by saying that I realize that this might not be the most popular post I will ever write, simply because in it I am referencing tarantulas. (I know. Creepy!)

I never in my life thought that I would ever compare myself to one.  I’m never been afraid of common household spiders.  If my Skid were pressed to say one positive thing about me, it would be that I am the spider killer in the house.  However, exotic spiders like tarantulas give me the willies.

My brother had one as a pet when we were teenagers.   It was given to him as a gift, much to my consternation.  Just knowing that it was in the house had me on guard.  I would frequently poke my head into his room to make sure that that top of its cage was securely weighted, so it didn’t get loose.

One day, I got the scare of my life when during one of my periodic checks I found a spider perched atop the weighted piece that held the cage shut.  Once I got past the flush of sheer panic, I noticed that there was also a spider in the tank as well.  Did he get a second one that got out?!?  No.  When I stopped seeing spots, I realized that the “spider” on the top of cage was simply the spider’s old exoskeleton that had been preserved.

The spider had recently molted, but my brother decided that it would simply be more fun to scare the holy heck out of us than to tell us about it. (He almost had his sister’s skin to add to his collection because I nearly jumped out of mine.)

In my recent decision to accept that my fertile years are through and that I may never have children of my own without divine, medical, or financial intervention, I am tripping over every stumbling block imaginable.  I had a vision for my life and clear expectations of being a mother, and those expectations are very difficult to release. I described this struggle on my blog as “shedding my skin,” which got me thinking about that darn spider.

After doing a little research about the molting process, I discovered that it makes these creatures very vulnerable, even to their usual prey.  To protect itself, a tarantula will make a cradle-like web to lie in while it goes through its changes.  When a tarantula has emerged from its old skin, it will be extremely soft, tender, and sensitive until it has developed a new protective layer.   I’m now feeling strangely sympathetic.  I know the feeling.

So as I continue to “molt”, I will be thankful for what my spider experience has taught me.  While I don’t have the luxury of hiding away, I know that I must protect myself and treat myself gently.  I also can hold onto the hope that one day I’ll be stronger, and be secure in the knowledge that growth requires vulnerability at certain times in our lives.  While the changes ahead remain uncertain, there are things I know sure: change is always inevitable and sometimes painful, and I hope to never live in a house with a tarantula again!

Quasi-Momma (aka: Susan the Spider Killer) is living a childless, but not childfree, life as a stepmom.  Her blog, Quasi-Momma, is a collection of her reflections on pregnancy loss, childlessness not by choice, and not-so-blended family life sprinkled with a little gratitude and lot of heart.  


Whiny Wednesday: Ungrateful Pipsqueak June 27, 2012

The other weekend I took myself out for a quiet lunch at my local Thai restaurant. I don’t mind eating alone, in fact, sometimes I prefer the solitude of food and thought, so imagine my dismay when the hostess sat me right next to the long middle table filled with a collection of families, all with small children.

As it turned out, the children were impeccably behaved and the parents were attentive and respectful of the other diners. All except one.

This dad was a big mouth and a know-it-all, regaling his audience and half the restaurant with his worldly knowledge of everything from campers to tax evasion. Then Father of the Year went on to complain how difficult (and expensive) vacations were now that he had a “princess” (his wife) and kids, and how much easier and fun they’d been before then. And how much more he drank since having kids, and how, even though there were five other non-working adults living in their house, his kids always came crying to him in his office.

I’d like to tell you that I’m too nice a person to wish he would choke on his pad thai, but sadly, that’s not the case. I so wanted to tell him what a total git he was and that he didn’t deserve the beautiful wife and children he had. Oh how I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. But I didn’t. I couldn’t even look at him and fling him one of my best dirty looks. I just kept my eyes to myself and channeled my internal daggers his way.

I understand that parenting is hard work, and I can only imagine the changes that happen in a person’s life when they have children, but this arrogant, ungrateful pipsqueak did not deserve the gifts he’d been given.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, my friends, that glorious day when vitriol and bile are the specials du jour. What’ll you have?


It Got Me Thinking…About My Issues June 26, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

In the 7th grade, I was assigned the task of creating a family tree. I loved this project, as I was able to trace my father’s family back to their arrival in the U.S. from Ireland in 1762 and learn the names of my grandfather’s 16 (that’s not a typo) siblings. It was so interesting to see all the connections.

Relatives on both sides of my family continue to dig into our past, and recently one forwarded an updated chart that includes my generation and our children. By “our” children, I mean the children of my siblings and cousins, because, as you know, I don’t have and won’t have children. This is where things get icky. As I flipped back through the pages, I was stopped cold with a notation that appeared here and there in previous generations: “No issue.”

That’s it. End of the line. You either added branches to the tree or you became insignificant. No mention of creative writing talents, beautiful singing voices, athletic prowess, or successful careers in politics, all attributes that appear in living relatives. There’s no link to my great-grandmother’s wildly popular donut recipe or my great-aunts’ and great-uncles’ great acts of faith. Nothing to indicate which of my ancestors was funny like my dad, compassionate like my aunt, or courageous like my nieces.

A few family elders are still around and are sharing their stories, so I get some answers, but as I think about the tree and my place in it, I’m saddened. My siblings are both listed along with their spouses, and their children appear in a fresh new column. My space for now is blank. “No issue”? I believe I am making worthy contributions to both my family and the world at large, and I take issue with the idea that I can and will be reduced to that label. I refuse to accept that a very full life can be measured solely by the producing of heirs.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her memoir about her journey to childfreeness is in the works.


Life-Changing News June 25, 2012

In the realm of attitudes and stigma surrounding infertility and childlessness, I have a long list of things I’d like to see change in my lifetime. Somewhere close to the top of that list is the manner in which life-changing news is delivered.

Here’s how I first got official notification that there was something very wrong with me, and that my chances of conceiving naturally were next to zero.

A phone call. From someone (not sure who) in my RE’s office, but certainly not my doctor. I was at work, in an open office space, within earshot of my co-workers when I got the call.

The Mystery Person said, without pausing for breath, “We got your test results back, your blah-di-blah is high, so call us on the first day of your next period so we can get you started on IVF.”

No explanation of what that meant. No word about infertility. No offer of counseling on what to expect or where to go for help. I went from “let’s do a test to see what’s going on” to “let’s do IVF because you’re infertile” and the course of my life did a full 180 in the span of a ten-second conversation.

From talking to many of you on this subject, I know that this was not an isolated incident; in fact, I’d dare to say it’s the norm.

I compare this to my friend’s experience when a lump in her breast was diagnosed as cancer. She talked about the physicians who walked her through every step of her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. She talked about the volunteers at the breast center who took her into a quiet, comfortable room and gently guided her through brochures and directed her towards her counseling options. My friend’s diagnosis was life-changing, too (and not necessarily life-threatening, either), but the way the news was delivered couldn’t have been more different.

There was a time when cancer was a shameful disease and people didn’t talk about it openly, but kept it to themselves. Over the years, that’s changed. The medical community learned the need for compassion and understanding when dealing with patients who are scared and whose lives have been turned upside down. Thankfully, survival rates for cancer have risen dramatically over the years, but the need for compassion hasn’t diminished.

My hope is that infertility will attain a similar level of understanding and compassion, so that no one should have to have their lives upended with no more support than a ten-second phone call.


Connections June 22, 2012

The mentorship program I’ll be running starts on Tuesday and I feel….

There are so many adjectives I could insert here: nervous, grateful, excited, expansive, cautious, even calm. Sometimes I feel them all at the same time.

But I’ve been searching for the word that describes another feeling that has been sitting with me for the past week or so as I’ve been getting to know the participants. And that feeling is “connected.”

I’ve been hearing everyone’s stories and, without fail, I’ve found something of myself in each of them, and something of them in me. The tapestries of our journeys are different, but so many of the threads are the same.

I’ve had this experience of connectedness so many times before, reading the comments you leave on this blog and even meeting some of you in person. The one thing I no longer feel is the thing I felt most at one time, and that’s “alone.” For that, I thank you.

So, onwards and upwards, and into a new chapter.

And there’s that excitement and nervousness bubbling up again.

By the way, if any of you have been thinking about joining the program, there are a few spots still available. All the details are here.


A Senior Moment and the End of “How Come You Guys Don’t Have Kids?” June 21, 2012

Mr. Fab called me earlier this week, mortified (and secretly pleased) that he’d just received his first ever senior discount at the ripe old age of 56.

I tried to suppress my laughter, but he was on to me. Luckily, he was a good sport about the whole thing and we immediately headed online to see where else we could take advantage of his, ahem, maturity.

Then it dawned on me. He’d given me the perfect “helpful” conversation ender.

“Do you have kids?”

“No. It didn’t work out for us.”

“Oh, you’re young. There’s still time.”

“Actually, my husband gets a senior discount.”

At which point, I’ll walk away and let them figure it out for themselves.

All joking aside, I know these conversations are never this easy and I don’t mean to be flippant, but imagine if you could come back with a snappy reply to those “helpful” suggestions. What would you say?


Whiny Wednesday: Family Obligations June 20, 2012

My whine today is for my friend who was planning to attend a three-day conference for her personal passion this summer, but now has to go on vacation with her extended family of in-laws.

To make matters worse, she and her husband had no input into the destination decision, and so my friend, who does not have children of her own, will be spending her vacation time on a “family-friendly” cruise.

Needless to say, she is not thrilled.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to gripe about matters big or small.


It Got Me Thinking…About Perks June 19, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I’m working in my fuzzy gray slippers today. I can do this because I’m a freelancer, I work in an office in my home, and the only creatures likely to see me in less-than-professional attire are my dogs. On most days, I choose to get dressed to the shoes because it is part of my routine, my discipline. But on a day like today, I am relishing the little perks of my status.

Which got me thinking about some of the little perks of being childfree. We’ve talked about the big perks, like having extra money for luxury purchases, being able to sleep in on the weekends, and the flexibility to travel on a whim during the off-season. I’m starting to also appreciate some of the little everyday things, too. Like being able to turn on the TV or computer without first having to shut off parental controls, or being able to curse a blue stream when I stub my toe (i.e., not worrying that my child will later repeat those words in church). I like that the laundry is manageable in my household and that I really only have to go to the market once a week. I like that right now it’s quiet here and I can hear myself think.

I think a big part of this journey for me is moving from acceptance to appreciation. For so long, I could only see the woe-is-me side of life, the loss of the family I couldn’t have, the experiences I knew I’d miss. As I shift my perspective a bit, I’m starting to see all that I have, all that I’ve been given, all that I didn’t lose.

I wish for you today a sense of peace as you look at some of the perks in your life.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her memoir about her journey to childfreeness is in the works.


One Understanding Person June 18, 2012

How many times, when someone’s asked how you’re doing, have you said, “Oh, fine,” when inside, you know you’re really not? Plenty, I’m guessing.

We’re culturally pre-programmed to respond this way, because the truth is, when people say, “Hey, how are you doing?” what they mean is something like, “Hey, I see you, I’m acknowledging your existence and letting you know that I want you to think that I’m a friendly person, but don’t get too close, and definitely don’t answer my question honestly, because I really don’t want to know, unless everything’s rosy in your world.”

Cynical? Perhaps? But imagine answering that question honestly and picture the look you’d expect to see on most people’s faces.

Which is why we protect ourselves by telling everyone we’re fine.

Recently, Wendy added a comment to a post I wrote, and shared something she had once posted on her Facebook page. She wrote:

“Sometimes when I say, “I’m okay,” I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, ‘I know you’re not.’”

Wendy said she got a lot of hugs after that post.

It’s incredible what a difference one understanding person can make. I’ve met several surprise ones over the years—a friend of my mother’s who caught me off guard with an understanding word; a stranger at a cocktail reception, who told me she and her husband didn’t have children either, and who became my BFF for the evening.

So, today I’m sending out a thank you to all the understanding people out there to let them know how much their simple word or hug made a difference to me.

Who’s been your surprise understanding person?