Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Saluting a Four-Star General August 31, 2012

Photo credit: U.S. Army photo

This post was originally published on March 10, 2011 as part of National Women’s History Month.

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

To follow the trajectory of a Hollywood starlet or celebrity fashionista, just open the pages of a current pop culture magazine or click onto one of the gossip-fueled Web sites. You can read about their many romances, fashion hits and misses, critiques of past performances, and buzz about their latest projects.

Now, if you really want to be impressed by a rising star, visit http://www.army-mil, the official homepage of the United States Army, and read up on Ann E. Dunwoody. Her bio will dazzle you with its listing of her responsibilities and awards. Highlights include service in Desert Storm and being awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (twice) and the Legion of Merit (three times). In 2008, she further distinguished herself, and established her place in our history, when she became our first female four-star general.

I need to repeat that: Our first female four-star general.

In an organization that has been historically male-centric, this is an extraordinary achievement. Yet “… I grew up in a family that didn’t know what glass ceilings were,” she said at the time of her nomination. “This…only reaffirms what I have known to be true about the military throughout my career, that the doors continue to open for men and women in uniform.”

I was going to hail her as a trailblazer until I read this quote, an example of her humility, character, grace, and leadership: “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer [yup], but it’s important that we remember the generations of women whose dedication, commitment, and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”

Join me in saluting General Ann E. Dunwoody, soldier, wife, childfree woman, and door opener.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s finding inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree) as we celebrate National Women’s History Month.

 

Guest Post: Miracle Stories August 30, 2012

This post was originally published on April 20, 2012.

By Quasi-Momma

In responding to the April 4th Whiny Wednesday post, a few of us commented on the frustrations of having to deal with the inevitable, “Have you considered … adoption, fostering, egg donation, or surrogates?” It is annoying.  Why do other people think (a) they have the answers and (b) that we haven’t considered whatever “solution” they are proffering?

The worst is the suggestion followed by the “miracle story.”

I was extremely surprised when I got such a story from a friend.  She is a new mom who suffered several miscarriages on her way to mommy-hood. I am happy for her, and still consider her a sister-in-arms, even though she’s crossed over.

I was sitting in her living room broken-hearted over recent news of a pregnancy in the family, when the conversation turned to the financial barriers of adoption.  She launched into this story of a friend who was an obstetrics nurse who managed to adopt a baby from one of those “I didn’t know I was pregnant” patients that you hear about on TV, but never quite believe they exist.  The total price tag was around $6,000. What an incredible stroke of luck.

 

I honestly did not know what to do with that information.  What was I supposed to take from it?  I am supposed to camp out in emergency rooms waiting for a mom who might not want her baby?   Seriously, I love my friend, but this was not a helpful story.

I think that Americans are groomed to expect a happy ending. I personally blame the entertainment industry for this.  All problems are resolved in Hollywood.  No problem is insurmountable.   It is so pervasive that when people encounter real life scenarios that can’t be fixed, they are confounded, and that’s when the suggestions and the stories start a-flyin’.

What these well-intentioned people don’t understand is their stories usually have the opposite effect than what was intended.  Instead of feeling inspired, we feel deflated.  Why someone else and not us? What are we doing wrong? Have we not tried hard enough? Are we unworthy?

I do believe in God and the power of faith and prayer, but with that comes surrendering to the fact that our destiny may not look the way we envisioned it.  God is not a cosmic ATM. If we all got the miracles we prayed for, everyone would be a lottery winner, right?

We all have different paths, and they are beautiful in their own way. Part of our struggle with childlessness is embracing it for what it is worth and finding the beauty in ourselves and our lives with or without baby. It is not an easy path, and, unfortunately, there is no easy way for us to make others realize that.

Luckily, we do have an amazing community here. One that reminds us we are not alone, and that in itself is something I consider a small miracle.

Quasi-Momma, whose real name is Susan, is not quite a mom, but really wants to be. In her blog, Quasimomma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Water Baby August 29, 2012

This post was originally published on January 25, 2012.

My water cooler has sprung a leak. I put a black plastic bowl underneath to catch the drips.

The next morning the water had formed a perfect sonogram-like fetus-shaped pool.

I hate that something so stupid can still cause such a sharp reaction in me, and that I’m still thinking about that peanut shape days later.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s making you want to kick something today?

P.S. The following day, the “water baby” had changed into a heart. Interpret that as you will.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Wit August 28, 2012

This post was originally published on September 27, 2011.

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This morning, still brooding over yesterday’s failings and anticipating today’s regrets, I felt the need for something stronger than my book of affirmations to get me going. So, as I lingered in bed, I reached under my nightstand and pulled out The Portable Dorothy Parker.

It’s been several years since I’ve shared the company of the legendary wit who gave us “Brevity is the soul of lingerie” and “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses”…and I’ve missed her. As I skimmed some of her poems, I started to smile. Soon I was giggling. I laughed out loud when I landed on the quip that reminded me, “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

So often I wake up steeled to take life so very seriously. I have roles and responsibilities that need to be fulfilled. I have bills to pay, decisions to make, dogs to feed, and schedules to plan. Sometimes the way I cheat and deprive myself in the daily quest to respond to all the “shoulds” gets so overwhelmingly depressing that I end up doing next to nothing and feeling like a worthless slug.

Ms. Parker had a few thoughts about this in her poem “Observation:”

If I don’t drive around the park,

I’m pretty sure to make my mark.

If I’m in bed each night by ten,

I may get back my looks again.

If I sustain from fun and such,

I’ll probably amount to much;

But I shall stay the way I am,

Because I do not give a damn.

That was just the inspiration I needed. I threw off the bed covers and marched purposely toward a refreshingly hot shower, vowing to ditch some of the day’s shoulds and go in search of more giggles. I hope to end the day with a better awareness of the absurdities of life, with a new perspective that will help me reorder the priorities on my to do list. It’s likely I won’t get everything done that needs to be done, but just for today, I choose to not give a damn.

Like Ms. Parker, Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a childfree freelance writer. 

 

Meeting Other Childfree People August 27, 2012

Life Without Baby is taking a short hiatus. Please enjoy some favorite posts from the last two-and-a-half years. We’ll be back to normal next week.

This post was originally published on April 19, 2011

Recently, a reader posted this comment:

“Do you have any tips on how to find people without kids? I went to a RESOLVE meeting once and made friends with a fellow infertile… who got pregnant the next month.”

I suspect we’ve all had that feeling of being cheated on by someone we hoped would be an ally, while at the same time being glad the person got what she really wanted. So how do you find other childless people to spend time with?

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found kindred spirits:

Activities at non-kid-friendly times

I go to an early morning exercise boot camp three days a week. It starts at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. which is a tough time for anyone, but especially for people with very young or school-age kids. Most of the people in the group don’t have children and I’ve been going for long enough that I’ve made a small circle of childless friends. What’s great is that our primary connection is exercise, not childlessness.

Stealing or borrowing other friends’ childless friends

Quite a few of my friendships have come about through mutual friends. I’ve been invited to a dinner or barbecue, made my way around the room, making polite conversation, until I’ve met someone I’ve clicked with and discovered they don’t have children either. I have several childless friends who were introduced to me by mutual friends with children. In some cases the original friend has drifted away and the new friend and I have grown closer.

Groups and clubs

Just getting out and meeting people in general is a really good way to ultimately meet other childless people. Joining a group or club relating to your interests or hobbies means you automatically have something in common. I’ve been in book clubs, running clubs, and various classes. Over time, I’ve attached to certain members of the group, and just because of schedules alone, the childless members have ultimately gravitated to one another.

Childless and child-free groups

I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I’ve considered it. No Kidding! is an international social network for people without children. They have chapters all over the country and arrange social events regularly. If there’s one near you, this seems like a great way to meet people.

Another idea is using Meetup.com. You can sign up and state your interest in meeting other childfree people in your area.

We also have a Groups page on this site. Try starting a group for your local area and see if other people join. Hopefully you’ll find at least one other person who lives close enough to meet in person, and our membership is growing daily.

If anyone else has ideas on how to meet other childless singles or couples, please post them. I know that there are several other members who would love to find people they can connect with in person as well as just here online.

 

Chero: Marilyn Monroe August 24, 2012

This post was originally published on March 29, 2011.

So many words come to mind when we think of Marilyn – bombshell, icon, tragic, to name but a few. Her image is universally recognizable, and almost half a century after her death, she remains an enigma. Above all, though, Marilyn Monroe was a star. She understood fame, even if she didn’t always like it, and she understood that her image was everything. She played the dumb blonde to perfection, but beneath that veneer, she was far from innocent or ignorant. You only have to read some of her whip-smart quotes to see that.

I have a special affinity for Marilyn that I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on. Her movies are among my guilty pleasures, with Some Like it Hot topping my list. There was something fragile and untouchable about her, and yet she had a strength and fortitude that I admire.

Marilyn was married three times, to James Dougherty, and more famously to Joe DiMaggio and then Arthur Miller. She never had children.

I wondered if she was childfree-by-choice, and how having children would have changed her life, her career, and her image. This was during an era when stars disappeared to quietly give birth and then reappeared on screen as stunning as ever. Motherhood and sexiness did not go hand-in-hand.

But in snooping around for this post, I discovered that Marilyn had suffered several miscarriages and at least two ectopic pregnancies that were terminated. For me, this information casts an entirely different light on the sadness I could always sense behind Marilyn’s eyes. Maybe that’s the unexplainable thing that has always drawn me to her.

Marilyn is one of my favorite Cheroes from this month, and she’s also responsible for the quote that stumped almost everyone in the Expressing Motherhood contest! Fortunately, Jennifer Segundo got it, and by virtue of being the ONLY correct answer, she is also the lucky winner! Thanks to everyone else for some great guesses.

 

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life August 23, 2012

This post was originally published on April 12, 2012.

By Iris D

“Just enjoy your life.”

These were the words one of my mom friends shared with me not too long ago.  I had not seen her since she had her second baby, and we got to talking about kids and I opened up to her and told her that my husband and I were unable to have biological children, and how difficult this was for me.  That evening I learned that her older son, now about 5 or 6, had been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome.  She told me that when she and her husband married they had agreed to remain childfree, but that after some time she changed her mind and really pushed him to reconsider, and so their first son was born.  I guessed by our conversation that they had decided to have a second child largely out of concern for their firstborn.  My friend is an older mom and her husband is quite a bit older than she is. Although her son seems pretty high functioning, she worries mostly about the potential for social isolation that children with Asperger syndrome might experience.

Lately, I’ve thought a bit about my friends and family who have special needs kids.  I have a little cousin (now 15) who has Down Syndrome and another cousin who has a significant learning/developmental disability, this latter case is even more difficult because the young man in question looks physically very strong and people do not understand that he actually has a problem and cannot help some of his behavior.  In both cases, the people in question have siblings that will hopefully step in and take charge if and when their parents are unable to do so, but I know that not everyone is as fortunate to have an immediate or extended family that can help. I recall reading an article a few years back about an older woman who was looking for someone who could step in and care for her adult disabled son, as her health no longer allowed her to do so.

These stories get me thinking about the many needs that are out there and the opportunities that I might have to volunteer my time and of course about the positive emotional (and physical) benefits of volunteering, but they also remind me of one of my favorite quotes, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”

When I allow myself to think about my childlessness, mostly I just feel sad, and so lately I really try to remind myself to feel grateful for the life I have right now, and sometimes I hear my friend’s voice reminding me to just enjoy my life.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.