Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About The Meaning of Christmas December 25, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

For unto us a Child is born. (Isaiah 9:6)

As I heard these words in my umpteenth pre-Christmas service, my first thought was Pfft! Right. I mean, isn’t it bad enough that I have had to endure yet another holiday season being painfully aware of the lack of children in my life? And then at every turn I am reminded that we mark this holiday in celebration of a miraculous birth. Come on! This almost trumps Mother’s Day as the worst day of the year for those of us who are childfree-not-by-choice.

For reasons I still can’t completely articulate, this has been the hardest holiday season for me yet. After a boisterous Thanksgiving with a houseful of young nieces and nephews, I slipped into a depressed funk as I anticipated a painfully quiet December. I forced myself to listen to Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters (so cheery, I wanted to smack someone), I baked cookies and gave them away, I chose to hang lights and make the house festive for me, even though it seemed pointless and pathetic. Several times I considered giving in to the darkness, donating all my keepsake ornaments to Goodwill, and spending today in bed with a jug of mulled spiced wine.

Instead, in a moment of pure inspiration, I chose to get quiet and listen. I lit a candle and prayed for light. I cried out my hurts and losses to a god who has heard it all many times before and still comforts without judgment. Having released some of my grief, I took a deep breath and invited Cynical Me to take a well-earned holiday. Then I invited Holy Me to give me a new perspective. And here’s what she said:

It’s not about a miracle baby, Love. That’s just the symbol. It’s really about the miracle rebirth of hope and faith. 

Oh, my. That’s exactly the gift I needed this Christmas, I just didn’t know how to ask for it. With tears streaming down my face, I asked for forgiveness for my lack of trust. I felt humbled by the abundance of good gifts I do have in my life, and I expressed my gratitude to God who has great things planned for me and delivers in ways I could never have imagined.

If I could give you one gift this holiday season—whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Al-Hirjra, or a tradition of your own making—it would be what I have received myself: a renewed sense of hope, a heart full of love, and peace within.

May you experience unexpected blessings today, dear sisters.

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

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To New Beginnings December 24, 2012

Red reset buttonIf you’re reading this post, it means the world didn’t end on Friday. I’m glad; I have a lot of things I still want to do, and there are presents underneath my Christmas tree that I’m looking forward to opening.

While many folks predicted December 21st to be the cataclysmic end of life as we know it, in reality the end of the Mayan Long Calendar was simply the end of a cycle and the beginning of a new cycle, kind of like the odometer in your car going back to 000000. Instead of the end of time, this new cycle is more of a reset button.

I love the idea of a reset button. In fact, I wish the Mayan Long Calendar was considerably shorter so we could get to reset more frequently. Often, as we rumble along, life sticks to us.  But it doesn’t slow us down. Rather, life’s experiences, and especially the stresses and hurts, add to our mass and increase our momentum, until sometimes we find ourselves barreling along, feeling out of control of our emotions, our stress, and even our lives in general.

And then come the holidays. Holiday stress can certainly add to that momentum, even more so when your emotions are already running high and your holidays aren’t shaping up to the way you’d envisioned them.

So, this year I’m pressing my own reset button. I’m slowly letting go of the image of my ideal Christmas and I’ve begun experimenting with creating a new Christmas celebration that better suits my unconventional family. Instead of trying to adapt my old traditions, then feeling disappointed when they don’t live up to my expectations, I’m shaking up the way I celebrate the holidays.

This year Mr. Fab and I are going out of town for Christmas; we’ll be celebrating on Christmas Eve, instead of our old traditional Christmas Day; and we’re going out for dinner instead of cooking a big traditional meal. We’re hitting the reset button on the holidays and taking back Christmas in our own way.

At its very core, Christmas is a celebration of new beginnings, and I hope you’re pressing your own reset button and creating your own way to celebrate the holidays. No matter how you choose to celebrate, I wish you peace, happiness, and new beginnings. And to those of you who celebrate, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.