Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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.


What Are You Struggling With? March 30, 2012

Last week, while out on a walk, I watched a little frog make her (I assume) way across a pond. She was a feisty little thing, swimming like crazy as hard as she could, then pausing a while at a clump of pond weed or a log to catch her breath and regroup before swimming off again.

It struck me that her efforts were a good analogy for my own journey with coming-to-terms with not having children. I would battle through one set of emotions, then stop to rest and settle with the new mind-set for a while, only to discover some other trigger or unresolved issue, and off I’d go again to figure that out. Unlike my little froggy friend, my journey wasn’t a straight line across the pond and I often found I’d swum in a circle and needed to revisit an issue I thought I had under control.

Right now, today, I am well into the acceptance stage of my journey. I can be around small children and babies, and I’m not flooded with grief every time I get a pregnancy announcement (although I’m not yet to the point of being thrilled either.) I’m mostly at peace with the idea that motherhood won’t be a chapter in my personal history and I wrestle with some of my thoughts about the future and where I’ll end up.

Right now, I’m struggling with grandchildren. My husband has two grandchildren and it is a daily struggle to keep my emotions in balance. On the one hand, I don’t want to deny him the joy of being a grandfather. He’s good at it for one thing, and his grandchildren are mad for him. On the other hand, I find it very hard to share that joy. On the surface, I want to embrace this new adventure, but it’s hard, and I realize that tucked way down below the surface are some strong and well anchored feelings that I haven’t worked through yet. So, off I go again, swimming for the next patch of dry land.

Do you feel this way, too? Do you feel as if you keep rehashing the same problems, disguised as something else? What are you struggling with in your own journey right now?


Hope vs. Acceptance April 12, 2011

In the past week two different people have made comments to me that have amounted to the same message: Don’t give up hope; there’s still a chance you could have a baby.

Whether you’re childless-by-choice, or by circumstance, I’m willing to bet you’ve had someone say something similar to you.

“It could still happen.”

“You’ll change your mind.”

“Don’t give up hope.”

The “don’t give up hope” type of comment is the one that hits me closest to the core. While I think that hope is key to human survival, I think it can be dangerous if it isn’t backed by action. Just hoping something will happen someday is how potential and lives get frittered away.

While I was trying to get pregnant, I was full of hope, but I was also doing everything I possibly could to make it happen. Now that I am no longer trying, I am no longer holding out hope.

But this doesn’t mean I feel hopeless. And this is what I want to be able to explain to people who still carry hope for me.

Losing hope of having children is very different from accepting and coming-to-terms with the fact that I won’t. I am not hopeless; I haven’t thrown in the towel; I haven’t rolled over and surrendered to my childlessness. I have made a conscious decision to stop my quest to conceive and for the past two years I’ve been working on coming-to-terms with that decision. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just changed my outcome. I haven’t simply given up on the idea of having children; I’ve made a decision to live childfree.

I know that many of these comments are said with the best of intentions. People who care about us can’t bear to see us not get something we want, or not get something that they think we should want. There is still a pervading idea that people who don’t have children do, or eventually will, want them. But some of us just don’t, or won’t, or did once, but don’t anymore. For the latter group, it’s not about giving up hope; it’s about accepting what is and building a life from there.