Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

That One Weird Childfree Holiday Card in the Stack December 20, 2012

 By Maybe Lady Liz

They’re starting to roll in. The waves of holiday cards featuring happy families festooned in matching red turtlenecks ‘round the tree or Canadian tuxedos on the beach. There will be some derivation of a toddler with his arms slung around Dad’s neck. Or Mom watching the kids play on a blanket. Or an Ann Geddes-esque shot of a newborn falling asleep on a reindeer’s back, adorned with nothing more than a tiny Santa hat. If you’re lucky, and your friends and family are deft enough with Snapfish, you’ll get ALL THREE in an artistically staggered arrangement.

And if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop yourself from comparing them to the cards you’ve sent out over the past few years. Maybe you’ve squeezed your cats into little elf outfits and reindeer antlers (and lost an arm in the process). Maybe you’ve posed with your spouse in front of some magnificent European landmark in a subconscious attempt to remind everyone how awesome it is that you have the freedom and cash to travel. Or maybe you’re like me and my husband, who always try to outdo ourselves every year in the clever department. Last year, we put photos of ourselves at age 6, side-by-side, each ripping into hilariously dated gifts, and titled it “Keep Christmas old-school.”

And in years past, when our friends would send just a ho-hum photo with a generic greeting, we were pretty proud of the fact that our card stood out from the pack and had a little personality. We used to tack it up on the half-wall in our kitchen with all the others and pat ourselves on the back. But as the years have gone by, our card has started to stand out for a very different reason. Instead of noticing the unique panache of our card, I’ve started to see what’s missing: a baby, of course. Kids on Santa’s lap, all that jazz.

I try not to let it happen, but I can’t help but look at my cards in a different light – through the eyes of those who are sending out the baby cards. All our attempts at being so clever probably seem silly, frivolous, immature, shallow, self-centered (words that sound familiar to anyone who actually chooses to be Childfree). They must seem like a stage that was supposed to be passed by now, but isn’t. No doubt they somehow seem…less than they’re supposed to be, to them.

I know, I know – it’s probably all in my head and these aren’t very Christmas-y thoughts. But fear not. I’ll keep the funny Childfree holiday cards rolling. Somebody’s gotta Keep Christmas Weird.

Merry%20Christmas%20from%20The%20Ferences

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 MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

The Fertility Planit Show December 17, 2012

plan_photo_1350546426Next month I’ll be attending The Fertility Planit Show in Los Angeles. This weekend-long event brings together “world class experts, therapists and inspirational leaders” to help people “find everything you need to build your family.”

Now before you think I’ve gone off my rocker or back to the dark side, I’ll explain that I’m going because I’ve been asked to speak on a panel about letting go and coming to terms with not becoming a parent (official panel title is still under discussion.)

I’ll admit I was wary at first about throwing myself back into the melee of the infertility world, especially when I noticed one of my former doctors on the list of speakers. I was concerned about the emotions that might be dredged up for me and I even considered the danger of exposing myself to new family-building options and starting again on that “what-if…” cycle.

I was also unsure about speaking on this topic. To my mind, people who have bought a ticket to learn about how to get a baby won’t want to listen to someone telling them it’s okay if they don’t. I could almost imagine the headline: “Happy childless woman tarred and feathered by furious infertiles.”

I know that most of the people there won’t want to consider the possibility of not having children. When I was in the thick of my own parenthood quest, I know I didn’t. But a friend gave me that message anyway, based on her own experience, and although I didn’t want to hear her then, when I reached the end of my infertility rope, her story gave me comfort and hope for my future.

So I’ve accepted the invitation to speak. I’m impressed with the show’s organizers for including this important, but deeply neglected topic. I hope that the attendees will never need to hear about coming-to-terms with a life without children, but some of them will, and when they’ll do, I hope they’ll recall a panel of women who told them once that the road ahead might be rocky, but they won’t be alone and everything will someday be okay.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Holiday Help December 11, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I don’t know what’s different about this year, but I’ve found myself capital-D Dreading the coming holiday season. I think I’m okay with my childfree status, I think I’m ready to create meaningful traditions that embrace my little family of two, I think I’ll be just fine at all the “family” sing-alongs, tree trimming parties, open houses, etc. Problem is, I don’t feel fine.

For so many years, I anticipated what holidays in my home would look like, and it’s just not that easy transitioning away from those dreams. So many of the activities I loved participating in as a child and young adult involved children, so what’s a childfree gal to do?

I turned to one of my favorite cheros (a heroine who happens to be childfree) for advice. Melanie Notkin is the founder of Savvy Auntie and the author of a book by the same title. (If you haven’t already, check out her fab Web site here.) In the “Holidays” section (page 124) she reminds me that “with the parents so often extrabusy…an auntie can actually help by making herself available to her nieces and nephews.” I know how being with my nieces and nephews takes me completely out of my head and gives me so much joy, so after perusing suggestions from Melanie and some of her readers, I started thinking about what I could do to creating some merriment and childlike wonderment for myself in the next several weeks. I could:

  • Offer to take the nieces out to shop for gifts for their parents.
  • Invite friends and their kids over for a cookie decorating (and eating) party.
  • Over Skype, read a classic holiday story—’Twas the Night Before Christmas or The Polar Express—to the children of faraway friends.
  • Bundle up my nephews and take them out to view the decorative lights in their neighborhood.
  • Host a hot chocolate tasting party (peppermint, cinnamon, and boozy for the big kids).
  • Invite other childfree friends over for Game Night—Charades, Celebrity, all those lively group games my family used to play when we got together.

I’m also thinking about spending extra time in the gym, reading a big juicy book, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies on DVD. I think these distraction options are healthier than fudge (which I’m still considering), and I’m also open to suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. How are you planning to face the holiday season this year?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Being Happier December 4, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Another childfree friend just sent me this link to a brief article titled “Sex and Alcohol Make You Happier Than Kids and Religion, Study Says.” According to researchers in New Zealand, “caring for kids” came in at #5 on the happiness-making scale.

I’d like to think there’s some truth to this, since it certainly offers more promise for my life. And it got me thinking about things that I do (in addition to having sex and drinking) that make me happy. Things such as losing myself in a great book, playing with my dog, laughing my head off at a silly movie, and lingering over a meal with friends.

What do you think? Would they get the same rankings in your corner of the world? And, most important, what makes you happy?

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

 

Everything Happens for a Reason December 3, 2012

My friend has been very sick recently. She is single, doesn’t have children, and her family lives in another state, so when she told me what was going on, I offered to go with her to her doctor’s appointments and help her out while she recovers from surgery.

One of the reasons I’m able to be there for her is that I don’t have children (the other is that I work for myself, so I can easily move my schedule around.) If I had children to care for, there’s no way I would have been able to sit in on her appointments or even just hang out with her and keep her company.

It’s also not lost on me that I am one husband and one diagnosis away from being in her position. As, statistically, I should outlive Mr. Fab, there’s a very real possibility that I could someday find myself in her shoes. And frankly, it’s scaring the crap out of me.

I’ve been pretty cavalier so far about what will happen to me in the future and who will be there for me when I’m old or if I get sick. Mr. Fab is a rotten nurse as a rule, but I know that if ever I were really sick, he’d be there for me. But if he’s not around, then who will be?

I now know from experience that there’s only so much a friend can do and I know that my friend has still spent much of the last few weeks dealing with her illness alone. Truly it’s a horrible thought.

But before I drag you down into a pit of despair, take heart. Something is going on with me that I cannot yet explain. Although I’m generally quick to dismiss the “everything happens for a reason” school of thought, I have a very strong and inexplicable feeling that something positive will come out of this experience with my friend.  Maybe I have something to learn from her or maybe she’s casting a light on something I need to consider. Maybe her journey will show me the solution to my own fear.

I’m sorry to be so vague and mysterious, but I don’t yet have any explanation for my odd feeling. But something is coming, and when it does, you can bet I’ll be sharing it with you here.

 

Around the Blogosphere November 30, 2012

I’ve been hanging around out in the blogosphere lately and decided to bring to you a few things I found this week.

Challenged with writing about a life-changing moment, IVF Male shared a poignant post about infertility’s long series of life-changing moments in “Staring Down the Infertility Train.”

Mali celebrated the two-year anniversary of her wonderful blog at No Kidding in NZ.

On The Road Less Travelled, Loribeth writes about a different kind of anniversary­—what would have been her daughter’s 14th birthday—and the milestones she won’t get to celebrate.

And Pamela, at Silent Sorority, stuck her tongue firmly in her cheek and provided the facts to back up a theory many of us have probably considered, that perhaps we’re just too evolved to reproduce.

And from me, I’m just wishing you a Happy Friday and a great weekend.

 

And They All Lived Happily Ever After…With Kids, Of Course November 29, 2012

 By Maybe Lady Liz

Last night, I finally saw the 1987 Coen brothers’ cult classic, Raising Arizona. For those of you who, like me, have been living under a rock for the past twenty-five years and haven’t seen it, the first hour and forty-two minutes are pretty solidly hilarious, and I highly recommend them. But (spoiler alert!), as someone who may not ever have kids, it’s the final two minutes of the movie that really ruined things for me.

Career criminal H.I. “Hi” McDonnough (played by Nicholas Cage) decides to walk the straight and narrow when he falls for a local policewoman, Edwina “Ed”. They marry quickly and Ed’s biological clock moves into full swing. After months of trying for a child, Ed is devastated when her doctor tells her she’s infertile. Knowing they’d never be able to adopt with Hi’s checkered past, they cook up a scheme to kidnap one of a furniture magnate’s newborn quintuplets. Hilarity ensues, of course, as the two of them navigate the challenges of a new baby and explaining just how they were able to adopt so quickly. Eventually, Hi’s past comes back to bite him as the baby is “re-kidnapped” by two of his recently-escaped cell mates. In their desperate chase to get the little guy back, Ed realizes that their original kidnapping was a horrible thing to do to a mother, and they return the baby to his parents.

But by this point, Ed and Hi’s marriage is pretty far deteriorated. Ed begins to think it was a bad match from the beginning and says she wants a divorce. But upon returning the baby, the furniture magnate (miraculously not angry at them) encourages her to sleep on it and not make any rash decisions. In Hi’s dream that night, which comprises the aforementioned final two minutes of the movie, he envisions a rosy future for him and Ed. Given the reality of their situation, you might think it would have been the two of them overcoming their differences and going on all kinds of exciting adventures or just enjoying each other’s company. But no. It was a rather cheesy montage that showcased nothing more than a parade of children and grandchildren running and out of their house, or sitting around a huge dining room table.

What’s the message here? That there’s really only one happy ending in life, and it must involve kids? I know I’m viewing the movie from a biased standpoint, and I’m reading far too much into it, but the implication seemed to be that despite all their marital problems, their lives might still turn out okay…as long as they’re somehow able to have children.

I should probably cut the Coen brothers some slack. After all, this was twenty-five years ago, when the term Childfree was still spelled with a lowercase “c” and people had a harder time imagining a rich, fulfilling life without kids. But, like so many other elements of pop culture, it was just a grating reminder that for most, a life without babies just doesn’t lend itself to that Hollywood storybook ending. I suppose those of us who wind up not having kids will just have to make sure we create our own happily ever afters.

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 MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.