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.

 

Whiny Wednesday – Christmas Shopping December 19, 2012

Last weekend I realized I couldn’t put off my Christmas shopping any longer (especially as many gifts need to be sent overseas,) so off I ventured to my local shopping street.

On a quest for a gift for a friend, I found about a dozen things I’d like for myself, and absolutely nothing for her. Three shops later and I was still drawing a blank. Finally, knowing I had to get something, I pieced together some silly items I thought she might enjoy.

Then, in the very next shop, I saw the gift I was really looking for. I bought that too and will just have to find suitable recipients for the other gifts.

So, here’s what I’d really like to do this year: I’d like to send everyone on my gift list a card explaining that their gift will arrive sometime in the next year. Then, as I’m going about my business and I see the perfect gift, I can buy it and send it, knowing it will be appreciated. Doesn’t that seem like a much better idea and more in the spirit of giving than combing the stores for any vaguely suitable gift?

It’s Whiny Wednesday, and I’m managing to keep my Christmas spirit generally up. How about you?

 

It Got Me Thinking…“The Good and the Brutal” December 18, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Aunt Kath….” My four-year-old nephew looked up at me with his big brown eyes, my sister’s eyes.

“Yes, love.”

“You know what I’m doing right now?”

“Nope. Tell me.”

“I’m pretending you’re my mommy.”

My heart swelled to three times its size before I felt like it was then ripped out of my chest. Choking back a sob, I said, “That’s so sweet. Thank you. Tell me….” But before I could ask him about this imaginary family of his, where he got the idea, what kind of mommy I was (funny, strict, a lot like his real mommy), he had moved on to a new topic, something to do with a game he likes to play at his preschool. Hours later, alone with my thoughts, I revisited this exchange and struggled to come to terms with what it did to me.

I’m not new to this conversation. This sweet boy is the youngest of six nieces and nephews, and each has gone through this phase of wanting to pretend I’m their mommy. Out to lunch or shopping with a niece (“Let’s pretend you’re my mom.”), playing in the park with a nephew (“Maybe they think you’re my mom.”). They’re all great kids, so I’m flattered and touched by their game. And they’re all great kids, so it also slays me emotionally. I would have loved being their mom.

I expected to grieve my losses, feel left out, and wrestle with difficult choices in the coming-to-terms-with-being-childfree dance. I just didn’t think that the same moments that fill my soul with unanticipated joy could also send me into new cycles of depression. Brutal, right?

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

 

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.

 

Year-End Planning December 14, 2012

It’s December and I don’t know about you, but I can smell 2013 in the air!

I know we still have the holidays ahead, and I’m promising to get into the spirit this year, but I love the New Year and so I’m already starting to wrap up 2012 and get ready for a fresh start next month.

I tend not to hold grudges or to hold too tightly to the past. Lots of things happened this year that I wish had happened differently, but they’re over now and out of my control. I can’t change them, so I may as well pick myself up, dust myself off, and apply the valuable lessons I’ve learned from my mistakes to make sure they don’t happen again next year.

So far, my plans for 2013 include a couple of trips, some time to finish my book, some exciting projects for this site, and some deliberate “white space” on my calendar to recharge my batteries.

What about you? Are you thinking about the New Year yet? What’s on the horizon for you?

 

Don’t Ignore the Beta Male December 13, 2012

andrew-head-22-2By The One Hand Man

I am lucky not to have felt the Beta male affect, at least not as badly as I could have, but I know many men do. I am no David Beckham though, he is as Alpha as Alpha males get, football, four kids, endless Calvin Klein pants. In fact, I would be wise not to compare myself with him too much.

The beta male affect, as I have dubbed it, is the feeling that you are less than you should be – second best, below par, an inch too low for the rollercoaster ride, or dial-up in a broadband world.

In terms of infertility, the Beta male affect occurs when you fail to get your wife pregnant. Notice I use the word fail – this is certainly what it feels like – failure… failure to impregnate your wife, failure to procreate, failure to fulfill your duty as a man.

With the World’s population reaching 7 billion, it is hard news to take when you are unable to add to that, whatever the reason for your genitals not being forth coming with a worthy contender, there is no escaping the feeling that you would be better off in a dark room, never to cross paths with a woman again.

This Beta male feeling can chip away at a man’s pride, his self-esteem, his feeling about the natural order of things, and his place amongst his friends.

But whatever we go through as men, you can be guaranteed that the women have got the rougher end of the stick.

Straight from their teens, women prepare for children by having a menstrual cycle, pregnancy itself lasts nine months, and the weeks, months, and possibly even years after, the women’s body has to recover from the sheer shock of carrying a child and giving birth.

Add infertility into the mix, and with processes like IVF and ICSI, where hormones are unnaturally manipulated, conditions like endometriosis, and medical procedures like a laparoscopy – women undoubtedly get the raw deal.

But this post is about us men, I doff my cap to anyone who can hold it together through infertility, but women, don’t ignore us Beta males – we too experience infertility, and harbor much of the emotional burden that you do, we just carry it around in our Calvin Kleins.

The One Hand Man: Married in ‘07, sperm test in ‘08, IVF in ‘09, another sperm test in ‘10, adoption started in ‘11 – still going through the adoption process. Not had any recent sperm tests. Read more at www.theonehandman.co.uk

 

Whiny Wednesday December 12, 2012

Well, we knew it was coming, and here it is. Last week the feted royal couple, William and Kate, announced the impending arrival of the royal heir.

I’m happy for them, I really am, because I could not imagine them having to through any sort of infertility issues in the very, very public eye.

But I can’t say I’m looking forward to the coming months of baby mania. Holy moly, if the wedding excitement was anything to go by, it’s going to be brutal.

Fortunately, there will hopefully be some humorous respite to ease the pain, such as Snooki offering the Duchess motherhood advice. Um, yeah, Snooki, why not offer up some style advice while you’re at it?

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I’m not feeling especially charitable towards celebrity mothers today. How about you? What’s on your mind?