Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Teachable Moments May 21, 2012

As I’ve been reading the comments on this blog recently, I’m dismayed at the distressing situations some of you have found yourselves in lately. From celebrating a birth in the family to being asked to coordinate Mother’s Day activities for all the (other) moms to having pregnant bellies foisted upon us, we’ve all found ourselves in one of these situations at one time or another.

For many of us, our response, as well brought up citizens, is to suck it up, hide the fact that we’re hurting, and do what’s expected of us. Incredible as it seems, sometimes it’s easier to just make it through the event as best we can than to stand up and explain to someone why asking a women who can’t have children to host a huge celebration for someone who can perhaps isn’t the most well thought-out plan.

This is one of those “teachable moments”­—an opportunity to be an advocate and to educate the public about some of the many misunderstood facets of being childfree/childless/infertile.

Yeah, right.

It all sounds good on paper, but when emotions are raging, feelings are hurt and injustices are being dealt left and right, the last thing you want to do is get on your soapbox and educate.

And yet, in many cases, the other person isn’t meaning to be insensitive or cruel or even thoughtless. In most cases, they honestly don’t understand that they’re ripping out your heart and tap dancing all over it when they gush about babies and pregnancies and mommies.

I learned this a number of years ago in a writing class when someone kept using the word “retard” to describe people who acted stupidly. Finally, one of the women in the class stood up and said that she had a daughter who was mentally challenged and she explained why the word “retard” was so offensive and upsetting to her. She said what she had to say very calmly and without humiliating the person, and I have never forgotten that moment. I’ve never used that word since and I cringe whenever I hear it. Not everyone in the class that day will have had the same response, I’m sure, but I know that several of us walked away that day with a new level of understanding of mental disability.

I’m not going to sit here and say we have a duty to educate the public so that “some day infertility and the plight of non-moms everywhere will be understood.” It would be great, of course, but for right now, many of us are just focusing on making it through the day with our emotions intact. And I know that some people just don’t want to hear about a topic that, frankly, makes them uncomfortable.

But what if we spoke up? What if we said, “You know what, this is what I’m going through right now, and it’s hard for me to be around babies/pregnant women. It won’t be like this forever, but for now, I need you to cut me some slack.”?

I realize you’ll have to pick your moments and targets carefully and you’ll have to be mentally ready to talk about something you’d probably rather not talk about at all, but if it meant that one person had a better understanding of your situation and did in fact cut you some slack, it might be worth it. Only you can know that, though.

 

Awareness February 13, 2012

I’m not sure if it’s the same where you live, but if you happen to be in the U.S., you’ll already be into several weeks of red and pink window displays and newspaper ads for romantic dinners, and great prices on jewelry and red roses. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, and like so many holidays, it’s become a huge commercial venture here.

Despite my somewhat curmudgeonly attitude towards Hallmark holidays, I would ordinarily be taking the opportunity to wish you a Happy Valentine’s Day.

But my resistance comes from somewhere deeper than a distaste for over-commercialism. Now that I am not going to be a mother, I have a more highly tuned awareness of the minefield of global holiday greetings. I know how hurtful it can be for a stranger to glibly wish me a happy Mother’s Day, not realizing what a painful thing that is for me to hear.

Because of this, I now appreciate that by wishing “Happy Valentine’s Day” to everyone I meet, I could inadvertently be reminding that person of what they don’t have. And I know how that feels. Shouldn’t Valentine’s Day, like Mother’s Day, be a personal exchange between the two involved parties?

So, I won’t be broadcasting a Happy Valentine’s Day message here. But instead, I wish you love and I wish you someone good to share your life with, whatever that means to you. If you have that love, cherish it. And if you don’t have it, I hope you find it soon.

Wishing you love today, in whatever form it comes.

 

Light a Candle and Remember October 14, 2011

Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

Although I haven’t suffered through this experience myself, my heart goes out to all of you who have. I’ll be lighting a candle for you and your loved ones – wherever they are – today.

 

It Got Me Thinking…Abouts Childfree PSAs April 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

While on a treadmill at the gym this morning, I caught the tail end of a public service announcement (PSA) about forest fire prevention. PSAs encourage us to stop smoking, promote charities that support vital medical research, raise awareness about health and safety issues, and diminish the stigmas associated with victims of assault and people who suffer from mental illnesses. In the last category especially, they remind us we are all equally human. And it got me thinking….When do we, the Women of the World Who Are Childfree, get a PSA?

Our script might read something like this:

Music in background: instrumental of Bonnie Raitt’s* “Something to Talk About”

Voice #1, Kathleen Guthrie*: My name is Kathleen. I am a writer and I am childfree.

Voice #2, Oprah Winfrey*: My name is Oprah, and I don’t need to have children of my own to raise up humanity.

Voice #3, Lisa Manterfield*: My name is Lisa. Every day, women around the globe are rocking the world instead of rocking a cradle.

Voice #4, Ashley Judd*: My name is Ashley, and we are Women of the World Who Are Childfree. Join us today and get a free toaster!

*All of these rocking women are childfree.

Okay, I’m kidding about the free toaster part. But one day, in my lifetime, I’d like for women like us to be able to talk openly about being childfree without having to apologize or feel sorry for ourselves. Better yet, I’d like to see my childfree-ness become a nonissue when my value is measured in our society.

Ad Council: Are you hearing us?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on eHow.com.