Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Outrageously Boring Birth Announcements June 7, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Remember when we used to get a real piece mail that wasn’t selling us something? It’s so rare nowadays that the handwritten address peeking out amidst all the junk actually makes my heart flutter a little.  Maybe it’s a letter from an old flame, fifty bucks from Grandma who’s senile and thinks it might be your birthday, or an invitation to a party in your honor for some fabulous thing you don’t even remember doing. But no, it can really be only one of two things: a wedding invitation or a birth announcement.

A wedding invitation is cause for excitement. Once you get over the annoyance of being addressed as Mrs. Husband’s First Name/Husband’s Last Name (my first name is not Mrs. Drew, thank you very much!), you have the opportunity to peruse the various invites, cards, return envelopes and that little wisp of tissue that no one ever knows what to do with. You get to judge them on color choices and menu options, decipher whether or not there will be a full open bar or just beer and wine, get miffed about not being invited to the rehearsal dinner. In short, there’s lots of good stuff in there.

But the birth announcement? Without fail, this is the same boring 4 x 6 Snapfish card. A montage of black and white close-ups and a list of stats: name, date and time of birth, inches, pounds, and ounces. I don’t mean to be rude here, but I’m genuinely curious – why on earth does anyone care how many ounces a baby was, other than the poor woman who had to push it out? It would be so much nicer to actually get an interesting piece of news here, maybe hear something about the parents. How many hours was Mom in labor, did Dad make a fool of himself and faint in the delivery room, etc.? Or at least something more interesting about the baby – how did they pick the name or what does it mean? Since baby names these days are more closely guarded than federal secrets, it’d be nice to finally hear how they chose.

All of this could come in a nice little note on the back and would reignite everyone’s excitement on getting a solid piece of paper news about friends and family. I might even start saving them in a little drawer. But if I keep getting the same old thing, I’ll probably just continue throwing them in the trash and later feeling very bad about having to toss a pile of coffee grounds or banana peel on a baby’s face.

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 Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Fabulous Friday: Canoes and Medals June 1, 2012

Hope your Friday is fabulous today. Did you rekindle an old passion this week? Or try something new?

Mr. Fab and I took a canoe down the Russian River last weekend. It was definitely new for us. I won’t bore you with the entire story, suffice to say, we saw much of the scenery backwards, became intimately acquainted with a couple of overhanging trees, and I lost my prescription sunglasses overboard, so navigated most of the river basically blind. But we survived, and ultimately (in hindsight) we had fun, plus we learned a lot about our relationship, not least of which is that we’re much better in competition (backgammon, dominoes, mahjong) than in cooperation (tandem riding, canoeing, etc.) Information that’s good to know, I think.

What about you? What did you try?

In other totally unrelated new, I’m very pleased and excited to be able to officially announce that my book, I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home: How One Woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood, just won a silver medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards. So, thank you to all of you who’ve been so supportive and especially to those of you who took the time to write nice things about it to me, on Amazon, or on your blogs. The awards ceremony is on Monday in New York City, but unfortunately I won’t be there in person. Rest assured, though that I’ll be raising a glass here in California.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Tantrum-Free Vacations May 29, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Bonjour! I am back from a bon voyage to the City of Light and I am here to report that it was lovely. I walked, cycled, toured, explored, drank wine, ate pastries, and people-watched till I almost missed my over-extended “real” life.

Among the people I watched were the children. Earlier this year a woman released a book about her observations that French children are better behaved than British (and American, I assume) children. French Children Don’t Throw Food claims the author. Oh, really? Now I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know what she observed, but based on my own completely unscientific research I can report: They most definitely do.

During our brief visit to Paris and a few surrounding cities, I witnessed red-faced, shoe-tossing, hair-pulling, sibling-hitting, throwing-themselves-on-the-ground-while screaming hissy fits in several languages. I watched German mothers, Chinese fathers, and French grandparents try to calm their foaming little monsters into submission, all while my husband and I blissfully enjoyed our childfree vacation.

And the best news is, once we returned stateside, we continued to enjoy the relative calm of our normal life because we are childfree. The only food throwing in this house happens when we’re making pizza dough from scratch.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her memoir about her journey to childfreeness is in the works.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Traditional Families May 22, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting. White, upper-middle-class, staunchly Republican. Parents still married to each other (celebrating 50 years this summer). Dad worked for the same company for 47 years; Mom stayed home to raise three all-American kids. Look at a snapshot of any holiday celebration, and you’ll see us gathered around the dining room table, with flowers from Mom’s garden in the centerpiece, a golden turkey nesting in a great-grandmother’s platter, and everyone dressed with a smile. Picture-perfect.

The flowers, turkey, and smiles are the same in contemporary photos, but we’ve added a few new players. My brother married his college sweetheart and they introduced four beautiful daughters. My sister went off to college and came home a Democrat. Then she went off to graduate school and finally figured out she was a lesbian. A few years later, she joined her partner in a commitment ceremony, and they welcomed two boys with contributions from a sperm donor, a “donor daddy.” I was the lone ranger for many years, the only single person at the table, till I met and married my husband in my mid-40s. He is African-American, and we are childfree.

While growing up and well into adulthood, I never imagined there was any other kind of family for me outside of the traditional model that raised me. I had every expectation that I would follow in my mother’s footsteps and create a home and family in her image. I held tightly to that illusion, through many unfulfilling relationships and socially awkward encounters (“Why aren’t you married?” “Don’t you like children?”). I think it’s a miracle that my “right” family was revealed to me and that I am able to embrace it.

I would argue that our society’s definition of a “traditional” family is flawed. Certainly census statistics show that single-parent homes, adults living alone, and mixed-race families are more the norm than marketing directors would have us believe. I look down our street here in San Francisco (and, admittedly, we are a liberal and open community), and I see this reflected back to me through our neighbors’ homes where multiple generations, languages, races, and genders commingle without special notice.

Here in the childfree community, we’re often made to feel that our families are “nontraditional,” which translates to “less than” or “incomplete.” This way of thinking is so judgmental, so hurtful, and so unnecessary. If you’re single, you can create your own family among close and supportive friends. If you’re married or in a committed relationship, you know that it takes only two to make your family. Other people expand their families to include caretaking of nieces and nephews, elderly relatives and friends, or beloved pets.

The “nontraditional” extended family I am part of today is a beautiful thing, defined by love, acceptance, and respect. In my own home, I feel blessed to be one of a family of two, which we augment by sharing our table with friends who have become family. This is my family, this is my new traditional, and I think it’s perfect.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is working on a memoir about her journey to embracing life without baby.

 

How Does Your Company Define Family? May 3, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

In my B.B. life (Before Blog), I worked in Human Resources for a Fortune 500 company. Part of my job was communicating our benefits package to employees, prospective employees, and surveys like the Top 100 Companies to Work For. The magic words to get ourselves on that Top 100 list and snag potential new hires? Family friendly.

Sounds nice, huh? Brings to mind things like flex time, telecommuting, and additional days off. And these are all true. For parents. Flex time means you can leave early to pick your kids up from school. Telecommuting means it’s not a problem for you to work from home when your child has a runny nose. And additional days off means two days off each year for employees to attend their child’s school-related activities.

Of course, there’s nothing in the fine print that says these benefits are exclusive to parents. But try asking your boss to stay home because your husband has a sore throat, or to leave early for a romantic dinner out and compare that to the reaction a mom receives when she asks to come in late to attend her kid’s award ceremony. Parents who take time off for these activities are revered for their family values – and typically aren’t expected to make it up. Those without kids who try to access the same perks are dubbed lazy and irresponsible, despite the fact they spend much of their time covering the workload for (some, not all) missing-in-action parents.

So why do they call these benefits family friendly when they don’t encompass all types of families? The nice snappy sound of alliteration? People do love alliteration. But no, I think it’s that people don’t really associate the word family with a childless/free couple. With 20% of women aged 45 not having kids, isn’t it time we re-evaluate the definition of that word and start structuring our benefits programs accordingly?

Most of us work pretty hard at some pretty stressful jobs. Those of us with only one or two weeks of vacation could really use an additional day off now and then to feel like our jobs haven’t completely consumed our lives. Parents take that opportunity on a regular basis, to say nothing of the six weeks – several months mothers take off for the birth of each child. Childfree/less women have a special challenge to ensure they find meaning in their lives through something other than the built-in mission of motherhood. Some find it through their careers, but for those who don’t, shouldn’t they be afforded the same rights as parents to pursue the things most meaningful to them?

It’s not all bad news – there are some progressive companies out there offering ala carte benefits options to employees that ensure single or childfree/less employees get an equal slice of the benefits pie, and aren’t stuck subsidizing the cost of other people’s children’s insurance. But I imagine we’re still a long ways away from the Fortune 500 shifting their views on the definition of a real family.

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 Maybe Baby, Maybe Not.

 

Wonderful Women Without Children April 30, 2012

Thanks to everyone who joined us on Saturday for the first ever Life Without Baby Live broadcast. I had a great time sharing the interviews I did with Pamela, Kathleen, and Melissa. Thank you to those wonderful ladies for being so gracious with their time and honesty, and thank you to the new friends who joined us.

We ran a concurrent chat function so viewers were able to get in on the discussion and add their own stories and insights. Despite the fact that were scattered to several (if not all) corners of the world, it really felt as if we were a group of women who’d sat down together to chat about life – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

If you weren’t able to join us (and I know it was the middle of the night for some of you and the middle of a beautiful sunny Saturday for others) you can catch the action at this link.

You’ll see the recorded show just under the main screen. Click on that and away you go. The recording will be living there for a while so you can watch it at your leisure and as many times as you’d like.

This was a great experience from my end and I hope to be able to do more interviews and discussions in the future. I’d love to get your feedback on ways to improve so I can do it even better next time.

 

Don’t Ignore…the Life Without Baby Option April 23, 2012

If you’re someone who imagined, or even expected, that motherhood would be part of your life, the option of a life without children isn’t one you’d be in any hurry to consider. But for many women, that can become the only reasonable option.

I never thought that I would be childfree, childless, a non-mom, or however you’d choose to describe me. Children were always going to be a given for me, “No matter what it takes.” But in reality, I wasn’t willing or able to do whatever it takes, and eventually the option that started to make the most sense to me, even though I didn’t like it, was a life without children.

Medical technology has made great strides over the past decade or two (I was just reading an article this morning about the latest procedure that enables women to freeze ovarian tissue.) Adoption has lost much of its stigma and is considered by many to be the obvious next step for someone who can’t have children of their own. In many ways, there’s a perception that infertility is never an insurmountable obstacle to a family, and that there is always a next step available.

In theory, that’s somewhat true, but in practice, it’s never as simple as that, and many us find that we reach the end of our emotional or financial paths long before we exhaust the list of family building options available to us. It’s hard to walk away from the dream of motherhood, but sometimes it just makes sense.

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. There are many things that I would wish for my former self, if I were starting out on the road to parenthood again. I wish I’d had more information; I wish I’d had someone I could talk to, who could guide me through the process; I wish I’d had one great doctor who could have given me a step-by-step work-up, an accurate diagnosis, and a set of options sooner, before I’d exhausted the emotional stamina and financial means to use them.

But now, three years after deciding to end my quest for motherhood and starting to make peace with my life without children, I have this wish: I don’t want to promote childlessness as an option. I don’t want to say, “Hey, you! You don’t need to put yourself through all that hell any more. Come over here and be childfree!” I don’t wish “unresolved infertility”, as I’ve heard it called, on anyone. But when some of us reach that point, I wish there was more support available. I wish that infertility resources included information about choosing to walk away from motherhood, and how to come to terms with that decision.

The theme for NIAW this year is “Don’t ignore…” and my request is this: Don’t ignore those of us for whom the infertility journey does not end with a baby.

And now for some resources that are available: There are lots of us out here in the blogosphere, talking about this topic. Check out the blogroll on the right and please support their efforts to have our voices heard. If you have a blog on living without children, and it isn’t yet on the blogroll, include it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. We have a strong community here on this site, so if you’re new here, cruise around and see what we’re talking about. You can also sign up for the password-protected site where you talk to other women in a private forum.

If you’d like to hear some live voices (and see some beautiful childfree faces) please join me here this Saturday, April 28th at 12:00pm PST as I talk to three wonderful women about their own journeys to come to terms with being childfree-not-by-choice. There’ll be the opportunity to chat live with other women online and make connections with some kindred spirits.

Finally, if you’re here supporting NIAW and want more information about infertility, please visit these links.

 Infertility 101

About National Infertility Awareness Week

 

Guest Post: Just Enjoy Your Life 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.

 

Happy Two-Year Blogiversary March 19, 2012

On Friday I celebrated my two-year blogiversary here at Life Without Baby. I kid you not. It’s been two whole years since I first posted a mission statement and set about talking about the unexpected situation of being without children.

So much has happened in these past two years, not least of which is that I’ve largely, although not totally, made peace with the hand I’ve been dealt. Not that it doesn’t give me an occasional wallop and not that I don’t get mad at the universe once in a while for screwing me out of motherhood, but on a day-to-day basis, I think I’m getting the hang of it.

For a long time I found myself blogging into the ether, rambling on and wondering if there was anyone at all out there like me. My good friend Kathleen would come to visit the blog and post a comment, so that I knew at least one person was out there. In the first month the blog had 84 visits and I was so pleased! Since then (and this number blows my mind) there have been almost 150,000 visits from 95 countries!! Ladies, we are officially an international community and I want to thank you all for that. You and your support have a lot to do with me being to write that I am largely at peace with not having children. Knowing I’m not alone and that there are other women who have made their way through this minefield has been such a huge help to me, and hope that knowledge will help those of you still struggling.

So, now for the really exciting news! I am extremely pleased to have been nominated for a Kreativ blog award. I want to send a big shout-out to Peaches, who was so kind to make the nomination. Please check out her very fun blog, Peaches – a sad comedy.

So, the rules of the award are that I have to share 7 interesting things about myself and share 7 of my favorite blogs. So here goes:

  1. I was born and raised in the north of England (Sheffield, once famous for making steel, now famous for being the hometown of Def Leppard and The Full Monty) but have lived in California since 1993.
  2. I have two engineering degrees (hey, wake up, this is supposed to be interesting) and now I’m a writer (and much happier for it.)
  3. I can recite the alphabet backwards.
  4. I’m trying to learn to play the bagpipes and relearn the trombone, neither of which is impressing my neighbors.
  5. I’ve run three marathons but can barely run to the end of the block these days.
  6. I once worked as a stand-in and foot-double for a famous actress.
  7. My two favorite movies are Some Like It Hot and Young Frankenstein.

And now for a few of my favorite bloggie people:

  1. Silent Sorority – Pamela’s blog is one of the first I found and she’s kind of who I want to be when I grow up.
  2. A Woman Without Children – Vicki is a wonderfully thoughtful blogger who writes about living a fertile life
  3. No Kidding in NZ – Mali always has something insightful to say
  4. Gateway Women – Jody is taking the UK by storm speaking up loud and clear for childfree women
  5. Maybe Baby, Maybe Not – I discovered Liz recently and I love her humor.
  6. Writing Time – Barbara’s blog is where I turn when I need creative writing inspiration.
  7. Creative (Un)block – Robi is my go-to gal for all things crafty

Thanks again for all your support over these past two years, and here’s to more great years ahead.

~ Lisa

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Grieving Our Treasures March 13, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My wedding dress and veil hung off the back of my closet door for four months until I finally got my act together and donated everything to Brides Against Breast Cancer. It felt like the right thing to do. After all, I hadn’t loved the dress in a weepy way that so many brides do about their gowns; it was flattering, it got the job done, but I didn’t feel a strong sentimental attachment to it. I knew I’d never wear it again, although my husband suggested I save it to wear to the opera, and I had to remind him that we’d both slept through the only opera we’d ever attended together. Plus, the fabric couldn’t be dyed, so it was never going to look like anything but a wedding dress. I also had no illusions about saving it for someone else to wear on her big day, knowing each of my nieces will find her perfect style and silhouette when her time comes.

So I was unprepared for the wave of grief that hit me when I decided to look at it one last time before tucking it into the shipping box. I stood in front of my full-length mirror and admired the gently gathered folds of satin that accentuated my waist, the slightly dipped sweetheart neckline that flattered my bust, the long bands that my sister and best friend spent half an hour braiding in and out, adjusting just so, to create a romantic corset down my back. I tucked the comb into my hair and floated the cathedral-length veil around me. The moment was my own, just me and my ensemble, and that’s when it hit me.

There will be no daughter or granddaughter to share this with in years to come. No one will ask to take my gown out of storage, to reminisce, to ooh and ahh. No one will care to find out if it still fits me in 10 or 20 years, and no one will join me a generation from now as we double over laughing that this was considered “in style” back in my day, like I did when I revisited friends’ gowns from the ’70s and ’80s. No one will slip tiny feet into my wedding shoes, disappear under yards of tulle, and giggle as she imagines how one day she might walk down the aisle to marry the love of her life.

It’s not so much the gown that causes me grief, but the cold, hard loss of the future memories I’ll never have. It’s not the giving away of a treasured thing that hurts, but the giving up of so many other dreams.

Shannon is now writing an insightful column for us about facing the grieving process that comes with being childfree. She’s a brilliant and compassionate woman, and I encourage you to check out what she has to say. In a recent column, “How Does Grief Feel to You?”, she invited us to share what our grief looks like. I had to sit with that for a while, to let it sink in, but now I can answer: My grief is a small girl draped in layers of ivory satin and tulle.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.