Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Father’s Day June 15, 2012

Sunday is Father’s Day here and, to be honest, it had barely entered my mind until my brother mentioned that he was looking forward to some extra presents in addition to the ones he got for his birthday earlier this week.

Maybe it slipped my mind because Father’s Day doesn’t come with same folderol as Mother’s Day. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Fab has grown children, so he doesn’t feel quite the same loss I do on Mother’s Day. Or perhaps, it didn’t occur to me because most of the readers of this blog (at least the participating ones) are women. All the same, I feel remiss that I almost let the day go by without mention.

There are (theoretically) just as many childless men as there are women, and you probably know at least one. Maybe he’s not making a big fuss about the coming day, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be feeling any pain. He may just be being “manly” and keeping his emotions close.

So, if you happen to know a non-dad, check in on him this weekend and make sure he’s doing okay. And let us know what you plan to do to get him through the day.

 

Dealing With Our Scars June 14, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

How much time do you spend concealing “what is?”   As I begin my road toward healing, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I have tiny scars on my chin from blemishes. I don’t like them, so every morning I dig into my arsenal of beauty products — foundation, concealer, powder, and the like — to make them appear like tinier, lighter versions of what they are.  This enables me to leave my house feeling a little less self-conscious.

The time I spend performing this ritual allows me to practice hiding my emotional scars as well. I take stock of how I’m feeling, rehearse my mask of calmness, and identify potential triggers that might set my heart reeling. It’s a routine I haven’t quite yet mastered. With relatively fresh wounds, it is difficult to maintain composure at times, especially in the face of cherub-like cheeks, rounded bellies, and all things that radiate motherhood. I am no Lady Gaga.  Yes, you CAN read my poker face.  I need more practice.

Last month as I was getting ready for an unavoidable family reunion and bracing myself for being around a pregnant relative, I wondered aloud to Hubs if it would just be easier to wear a little sign around my neck. It would be like a “Don’t Feed the Bears” sign, only mine would read, “Don’t ask me about [insert relative’s name here]’s pregnancy.”  He shook his head sympathetically, laughed and said with his best southern-boy charm, “That ain’t right.”  I agreed, and then offered to make him one too.

Joking aside, Hubs is correct. Indiscriminate expressions of hurt are not appropriate. Everyone has their own burdens, and our issues belong to us. We simply can’t expect everyone to sympathize with our plight. Not many people truly can. Selective concealment is a necessary evil.

This leads me to wonder how we can know when it is appropriate to reveal our emotional scars to the outside world. What yardstick is used to decide when we show them and to whom? How do we prepare ourselves for the reactions of those who just don’t “get it?”  Do your scars protect you?  Do they give you strength? Or do you no longer consider them as such?

Quasi-Momma is not quite a mom, but has always wanted to be.  In her blog, Quasi-momma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Skunks June 13, 2012

Filed under: Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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We have a skunk family living under the house behind us. It’s so fun to watch them scrabbling around in the garden with their little tails stuck in the air, all attitude. I’m not foolish enough to get close, but from a distant, they’re terribly cute…

…until they dug up my vegetable garden.

I came out the other day to find my pepper plants all felled, my tomatoes tunneled under, and skunk-sized holes among my Swiss chard. There was dirt and seedlings flung far and wide.

 

Trying to maintain a good attitude, I am grateful that I even have a garden in my urban environment, and that there are critters that get to share this space. But, as it’s Whiny Wednesday, I’m dropping the Pollyanna act for today. Grrr.

What are you muttering about between gritted teeth today?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Those People June 12, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Last night I attended a production of Beauty and the Beast at an elementary school. First of all, I was knocked out by the stage presence, talents, and enthusiam of the young performers (mostly nine and ten-year-olds, I think). Second, it was a hoot being part of the audience. I was there as a supportive aunt, alongside parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, and friends of all ages. We cheered every entrance, laughed and applauded mid-scene, gave the cast a thunderous standing ovation, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It was riotous, rambunctious, and so much fun.

Considering the context, I found it interesting that the couple seated in front of us shot daggers at our row whenever my young nephew piped up. “That was HILARIOUS!” he’d say, in response to a character’s funny line or expression. “Did you see the salt and pepper?” he asked, during the big “Be Our Guest” musical number. It seemed each time he had something to say, Those People turned abruptly in their seats and shot us The Look.

Come on, people! We were surrounded by cranky babies, chatting adults, and distracted children (tantrum in the side aisle, anyone). It was noisy, it was chaotic, it was fun! This wasn’t a Shakespeare tragedy performed by revered actors. This was kids, doing the unexpected things kids do, surrounded by an audience of kids (young and old) who behaved…well…appropriately.

Shushing my nephew and occasionally covering his mouth didn’t diminish the noise around us, and also didn’t put an end to The Looks. I caught myself thinking, I wonder if they’re childfree? Certainly I’ve been at the receiving end of kicks to the back of my seat and been annoyed beyond reason when a screaming baby drowns out the pivotal speech of an Oscar-worthy performance. (Take the kid outside! Get a sitter!) I’ve given The Look, too. But not here, not now. I don’t want to be one of Those People, who give people-who-happen-to-be-childfree a bad rap, who perpetuate the stereotype that “childfree” is the equivalent of “child-hater.”

I feel sorry for them. Those People missed the point of the evening. While they grimaced and frowned, the rest of us created wonderful memories by getting swept up into the total chaos of a kids’ show, with all the goofs, good humor, and, yes, noisiness that comes with it. I wouldn’t have wanted any less.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s at work on a memoir about her journey to being childfree.

 

Graduation Season June 11, 2012

It’s graduation season and Facebook and the local newspapers are festooned with pictures of graduating high school and college kids. I have a niece graduating from university and a nephew aiming to get the grades to go the university of his choice in the fall. It’s an exciting time and it always makes me wistful.

I’m over my longing for a baby and over my desire to be pregnant. I got over the desire for a screaming toddler first of all, and am largely at peace with the idea of not having the chance to raise children. But my recovery always seems to fall apart when it gets to the teenagers.

You’d think I’d have to be crazy to long for teenagers, and no, I’m not exactly pining for a pouting, door-slamming, know-it-all emo. But in general, I like young adults. I love to get into a conversation (difficult as it might be sometimes) with someone old enough to have opinions, but not yet old enough to be cynical. I love to hear about their ideas and dreams and plans for themselves. And I would have loved to have a kid of my own to be proud of.

I no longer ache for the cherub-like cheeks of a new baby or the warmth of a child in my lap. But I do get a little melancholy knowing I’ll never enjoy the pleasure of knowing I did a good job raising a decent human being to send out into the world.

This feeling will pass and my teen longing will join the ranks of the other stages of childhood I’ll miss and have mourned. But for now, I suppose I’ll just keep imposing myself on my nieces and nephews and living vicariously through my very proud mom friends who are celebrating their children’s rites of passage this summer.

 

Hormones (again)…with Humor June 8, 2012

It seems that hormones are the hot topic of conversation this week, but leave it to Pamela at Silent Sorority to find the humor and silver lining in menopause.

Quoting information from The North American Menopause Society, Pamela writes:

“Have you found yourself in recent years ‘flooded with emotions as the reality sets in that [you] will no longer be able to conceive a child. The impending loss of fertility can rattle overall identity as well as a sense of sexuality and desirability.’”

Pamela’s eloquent response?

“Been there done that — got the freakin’ t-shirt.”

I read her post yesterday morning and, to be honest, it set my attitude to positive for the entire day.

It’s no mean feat to find the humor or the silver lining in infertility, menopause, or unplanned childlessness, but when you do, it can really make your corner of the world a brighter place, even if only for a day.

Wishing you all a Fabulous Friday and a lovely – and humor-filled – weekend.

 

Guest Post: Outrageously Boring Birth Announcements June 7, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Remember when we used to get a real piece mail that wasn’t selling us something? It’s so rare nowadays that the handwritten address peeking out amidst all the junk actually makes my heart flutter a little.  Maybe it’s a letter from an old flame, fifty bucks from Grandma who’s senile and thinks it might be your birthday, or an invitation to a party in your honor for some fabulous thing you don’t even remember doing. But no, it can really be only one of two things: a wedding invitation or a birth announcement.

A wedding invitation is cause for excitement. Once you get over the annoyance of being addressed as Mrs. Husband’s First Name/Husband’s Last Name (my first name is not Mrs. Drew, thank you very much!), you have the opportunity to peruse the various invites, cards, return envelopes and that little wisp of tissue that no one ever knows what to do with. You get to judge them on color choices and menu options, decipher whether or not there will be a full open bar or just beer and wine, get miffed about not being invited to the rehearsal dinner. In short, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

But the birth announcement? Without fail, this is the same boring 4 x 6 Snapfish card. A montage of black and white close-ups and a list of stats: name, date and time of birth, inches, pounds, and ounces. I don’t mean to be rude here, but I’m genuinely curious – why on earth does anyone care how many ounces a baby was, other than the poor woman who had to push it out? It would be so much nicer to actually get an interesting piece of news here, maybe hear something about the parents. How many hours was Mom in labor, did Dad make a fool of himself and faint in the delivery room, etc.? Or at least something more interesting about the baby – how did they pick the name or what does it mean? Since baby names these days are more closely guarded than federal secrets, it’d be nice to finally hear how they chose.

All of this could come in a nice little note on the back and would reignite everyone’s excitement on getting a solid piece of paper news about friends and family. I might even start saving them in a little drawer. But if I keep getting the same old thing, I’ll probably just continue throwing them in the trash and later feeling very bad about having to toss a pile of coffee grounds or banana peel on a baby’s face.

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 Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Whiny Wednesday: [Bleep]ing Hormones June 6, 2012

Three words today – or rather, three letters: P.M.S. (or P.M.T. for some of you.)

After having a complete and utter meltdown over a missing phone headset yesterday, the ONLY thing that could restore me to a dignified human being was a bag of sweet potato fries and a can of lemon soda. Salt, sugar, and carbs. That, plus sending myself to bed early, like a cranky toddler.

It’s amazing the power of hormones. They can reduce an otherwise rational, level-headed woman to a blubbering illogical mess, and they can prevent a healthy young woman from producing viable, fertilizable  eggs.

It is Wednesday today, and I am SO whining about this today.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About What Makes Me Crazy June 5, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

You think you’re finally okay with being childfree, then your best childfree girlfriend announces she’s EXPECTING! and you find yourself sobbing hysterically over a carton of Haagen Daz. You turn on the six o’clock news thinking you’re going to hear actual news, but instead you get bombarded with baby bump status reports and profiles of unnaturally gorgeous celebrities who reveal secrets for losing all their pregnancy weight in just 4 weeks. You attend an important conference, all excited to focus on building your business, and get stuck in the middle of a passionate discussion about the struggles of working moms.

Is it just me, or is the Universe trying to make me crazy? I thought I was just being oversensitive, but then I got a new cell phone. In order to set up the apps, I needed to read the manual, which was only available online. In order to get online, I needed to register my phone. In order to register my phone, I needed to get the serial number from under the battery, inside the back panel. To open the back panel, I needed to refer to the manual. (Warranty be damned, I finally pried the thing open with a screwdriver.)

Once I got the manual, here’s what it said about organizing my apps: “Icons that have the * symbol cannot be removed. Only icons with the * symbol can be removed.”

I give up. Clearly the world has gone mad and is taking me down with it.

Pass the ice cream, please.

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

 

Measuring Progress Via the OB/GYN June 4, 2012

Mud Dancer Wearing a Mask ca. 1990s Solomon Islands, Melanesia, courtesy MS Images

Reader Katy contacted me recently about the overwhelming experience of visiting her OB/GYN and being inundated by all those pregnant bellies. I’m sure many of us here can sympathize with her.

I got to thinking back about my own experience with those dreaded visits and was interested to see how they ultimately provided a measure for my progress.

When I was trying desperately to get pregnant, I remember looking at all those pregnant bellies and baby pictures posted on my doctor’s wall. I’d fantasize about making my first pre-natal appointment and glowing proudly in the waiting room. Then I’d imagine my baby’s picture up on the wall of fame.

As I continued on my journey and it became apparent that pregnancy wasn’t going to come easily for me, those annual visits became harder. My eyes would turn longingly to the bellies and the babies, but at the same time, I wanted to look away. I couldn’t bear to see what I didn’t have and didn’t know if I’d ever have. It was just too painful.

It didn’t get any easier after we made the decision to stop our quest for a family. I think that first visit after we stopped was the hardest of all, as I had to look at the mommy pictures and try to reconcile the idea that I would never join their ranks. To make matters worse, the Nurse Practitioner, a woman I’d been seeing for my annual exam for years, came in with my chart and started asking the usual slew of questions.

“You’ve never been pregnant?”

“No.”

“Are you using birth control?”

“No.”

“Are you trying to get pregnant?”

[Pause] “Not any more.”

There was another longer pause as she tried to piece all this together, so I saved her the trouble and explained our situation and that we’d decided to move on. She went on to tell me about a friend of hers who was 46 and had just had her first child via egg donation. I remember mumbling that it wasn’t for us and hurrying the conversation along to the real reason I was there.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until much later, when I was replaying the horrible scene over in my mind for about the hundredth time that I realized she wasn’t telling me the story from an “It’s a miracle and it could happen to you, too,” point-of-view. There was lot more to her friend’s story than I’d given her the chance to tell me, and she was in fact showing her support for my decision to draw a line in the sand. In hindsight, I wish I’d been in a place emotionally to have a conversation with her about her friend, as an understanding ally was exactly what I needed at that time.

At my last appointment earlier this year, I found myself studying all the birth announcement photos more carefully. I formed opinions about people’s choices of baby names, looked for families I recognized (and found one), and fabricated histories for those I didn’t know. I did this without sadness or envy or remorse.

Looking at those pictures was almost like browsing the pages of National Geographic and seeing photos of some fascinating tribe who had this strange ritual called “reproduction.” I felt that I was not of their tribe. I didn’t feel superior or inferior, not less than or more fortunate than, just different. I’m from another tribe. I will never be like them, and just as similarly, they will never be like me.

Coming to terms with being childfree takes time and some days you may feel as if you’re making no progress at all, but sometimes the thing that can be the hardest to face can turn out to be the thing by which you’re finally able to measure just how far you’ve come.