Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Gratitude for What You Do Have November 19, 2012

During a recent workshop support call, we were discussing loss and how to begin coming to terms with the idea of not having children. One member raised a question:

“How do you keep moving forward day-to-day?”

It’s a good question. When you’ve suffered a loss, or a series of losses, and you realize children aren’t going to be in your future, how do you keep getting out of bed and getting on with life, when what you feel like doing is curling up and wishing for the world to just leave you alone?

Another member of the group had a great suggestion:

“What helped me was staying focused on what I do have, instead of obsessing about what I don’t have,” she said.

When the goal of motherhood has been your main focus for so long, it’s natural to focus on what’s lost, what’s being given up by walking away from that goal. (And let’s face it, it can be a very long list.) But a little dose of Pollyanna can go a long way in making it through the day.

Look around you. There’s evidence everywhere to support what we do have. If you don’t live on the East Coast of the U.S, you probably have power in your home. In fact, you most likely have a home to have power in. Maybe you have good health, a strong relationship, a close family, or good friends.  When you look up and look around, it’s amazing to see how much you do have.

Shifting perspective can be a good coping tool. It doesn’t diminish what’s been lost, not one bit, and it doesn’t mean there’s no excuse for grief, or sadness. That loss is real and it takes time to heal. But shifting focus can help you keep moving forward.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., traditionally a time of gratitude. So, employing this perspective shift, what are you grateful for in your life? How are you lucky? What are some of the things that you do have going for you?

 

You’re Not Alone November 15, 2012

Last month I announced the Great Life Without Baby Makeover and asked, “If you wandered onto a site that was exactly what you’d been looking for, what would you find there?”

You responded with some great suggestions and I’m working to implement those ideas as best I can.

Several of you mentioned how much you enjoy the Guest Bloggers, how refreshing it is to hear new voices, and how reassured you feel by knowing you’re not the only person going through this mess.

Andrea suggested a new “You’re Not Alone” column, featuring readers’ “own stories of fall, personal suffering, and acceptance: of slowly getting back up.”

I love this idea, so I’m putting out a call right now.

“Tell us your stories!”

Here are some suggestions to start you thinking:

What do you wish you could tell people?

What was your darkest moment?

What turned things around for you?

What made a difference?

How did you start coming to terms?

How do you see your future?

What’s the silver lining you never could have imagined?

Your story doesn’t have to include all of these—or even any of these. I’m just using these as prompts to light a creative spark.

And if you’re thinking “I’m not a writer; I can’t do this” banish those thoughts right now. Storytelling is a basic human instinct. It’s how we learn and how we share information. Don’t overthink it; it’s in your bones. Just tell us; we’ll appreciate it because many of us will have lived it too.

So, put on your thinking caps and send me your stories. You can email them right to my inbox at: lisa [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

I can’t wait to hear from you.

 

Whiny Wednesday November 14, 2012

Some weeks Whiny Wednesday is my favorite day of the week and some weeks I have not a care in the world to whine about.

This week I have a list…and it’s long…but I’m too darn tired, crabby, and hormonal to even get started.

But don’t let me get in the way of your whine this week. It is Whiny Wednesday after all, so knock yourself out.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About My Letter to the President November 13, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Dear Mr. Obama,

I voted for you. Twice. And last night I stayed up well past my bedtime in anticipation of hearing your acceptance speech. I was glued to the TV, watched the projections on several channels, and toasted the success of your campaign. Finally you came on and addressed us all. Or so I thought.

You shared a story about meeting a family in Mentor, Ohio, that risked losing everything to provide for their 8-year-old daughter who was fighting leukemia. Fortunately, health care reform allowed for their insurance coverage to continue. (Amen, by the way.) “I had an opportunity to not just talk to the father, but meet this incredible daughter of his,” you said, “and when he spoke to the crowd listening to that father’s story, every parent in that room had tears in their eyes.”

Mr. President, when did compassion become the domain of parents? I am a childless woman, yet I had tears in my eyes when I heard about this family because I have walked this walk with friends, coworkers, and family members. Just because I haven’t birthed or adopted a child doesn’t mean I have no heart. In fact, quite often when a friend has been in crisis, I and other childless friends have been the ones to step up and help—financially, emotionally, physically—because we do not have the responsibilities and time commitments of people who have chosen to be parents.

In a campaign, I know how easy it is to fall into preaching to your constituents, and I suppose that’s why we hear so much about family values. It certainly was a hot topic throughout this last campaign season. Yet I ask you to consider that families come in many sizes and descriptions: mixed race, two moms, two dads, single parents, childless, and single people who create family among friends. We are all compassionate, not because we are parents, but because we are human. And guess what else, we all vote.

Wishing you much success in your new term. God bless all of America!

Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status, but sometimes she gets a little riled up.

 

The Blame Game November 12, 2012

Last week, a woman I’ve known for almost ten years finally decided it was safe to ask me a question about infertility.

“I wondered…” she began. “My grandmother always used to say that when there are cats in the house, women don’t have babies. I didn’t believe it and thought it was just an old wives’ tale, but recently I’ve noticed that many of the women I know who don’t have children have cats. Do you know anything about this?”

I told her I hadn’t heard of this, that it was most likely just superstition, but that I’d look into it and let her know.

But even as the logical part of my brain was writing the idea off as a misguided belief, and even as I was surfing the internet looking for any shred of scientific evidence to support it, I found myself looking sideways at Felicity, my poor unsuspecting cat, and wondering if she could be the cause of my otherwise unexplained infertility.

It’s been a while since I’ve caught myself playing the Blame Game—taking some irrational idea and trying to twist it into an explanation of why I can’t have children. I did it a lot in the early days, racking my brains for something in my past that I could pin my infertility on. Everything from Chernobyl fallout and birth control to too much computer time and too much wine was put under the microscope as a possible culprit. I refused to believe that it could have been “just one of those things.”

The scientist in me won’t allow fate, God’s will, or bad luck to factor into my infertility. There is a biological reason that my body’s reproductive system got old before the rest of me, and why my ovaries don’t function like they’re supposed to. But like so many other things in life, pinning blame on something or someone doesn’t change the outcome. So, I’m choosing not to expend my energy on finding the culprit, but instead I’m putting my efforts into making the best of the hand I’ve been dealt.

Call me fatalistic, but playing the Blame Game feels like a waste of my valuable time—time that could be spent living my life instead.

 

Holiday Support Group November 9, 2012

A few of you mentioned recently that you’d love to be able to find a local support group near you. It’s going to take a bit of coordinating, but it’s on the list of things to figure out in the near future. In the meantime, the next best thing is a support group that meets by phone.

I’ve been facilitating some group support calls as part of the “Finding Peace” program and participants say that it has really helped to be able to talk with peers who understand them. As the facilitator, I’ve been really inspired by the support and camaraderie I’ve experienced in these groups.

With the holidays fast approaching, it seems that now would be a good time to offer up some extra support. It can be a busy time of year, so rather than putting together a formal program, I am hosting a series of support group calls that you can drop in on as needed.

The first call is on Thursday, November 15th at 5:30pm PST and the cost for the one-hour meeting is $20. If it looks as if this is something that is going to be of value for everyone, I will add additional sessions throughout the holidays and into the New Year.

If you’d like to register for the November 15th session, you can do so here. If you’d like to learn more, you can find all the details here. And if you’d like to receive notification when more sessions are added, you can do that here.

As always, I’m open to feedback and suggestions as to what will be most helpful.

 

Guest Post: Child-Tinted Glasses November 8, 2012

By The One Hand Man

I had a boss once who was married, very successful, but childless. When questioned about his lack of offspring he shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t for him.

Not understanding him at the time, I viewed him as someone who didn’t want that ‘completion’ in his life.

Knowing what I do now, I would probably have kept my mouth shut.

It is, as I understand it, a natural feeling to desire your own children. So does that mean it is ‘unnatural’ not to want them?… I should think not.

If you put a spreadsheet together of pros and cons of having children, I reckon the cons would outweigh the pros about five to one, so it is perhaps more natural not to want your own kids.

For me, the thought of going through the pearly gates without even trying is not something I can face, but having struggled with infertility and IVF, I am familiar with the sympathetic stares of child bearing parents, especially when my wife and I rock up to children’s parties and the like without any kids of our own.

I have had three years of batting off the obligatory “so no Kids yet then?” remarks, I can only imagine the frustration of those who never have children – a lifetime of explaining themselves when they really shouldn’t have to.

The pressures of having children (or not) can become immense, and with feet being put in mouths left, right and centre, I have quickly learned not to judge or assume anything about individuals and couples without children.

Some can’t have them, some don’t want them, but what business is that of ours?

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: Cell Phones November 7, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

A local yoga teacher got fired for asking a student to turn off her cell phone in class. (Read the full article here.) The class was held at Facebook offices, so the argument was made that constantly checking her phone was part of the student’s job responsibilities, but others jumped into the fray and pointed out that she wasn’t saving the world. President Obama may need to be on call 24/7, but the rest of us can tune out for 50 minutes without serious repercussions. Seriously. Or, if it is that important, step outside and take the call where it won’t disrupt others.

Everyone I know who practices yoga does it for the physical benefits and for the calming effects, and they have the right to expect both. I go to the gym to exercise, clear my head, take care of myself, and I’ve been subjected to other gym-goers’ loud one-sided conversations about inappropriate topics including toe-nail fungus, a daughter’s STD, a string of cuss words that would make Howard Stern blush (still not sure what the actual topic was for that one). I’m so over selfish people who feel they have the right to subject everyone else to their boorish behavior. My whine this week: Turn off the damn phone!

What’s yours?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Useful Children November 6, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

While watering my backyard this morning, I thought about how I really really don’t want to spend the coming weekend tackling the jungle of weeds that have again taken over. The guys who come every other week to mow the lawn and hack away at the shrubs in the front don’t do this kind of work, and I assume the nearby landscape design center only offers overhaul services, which is more than I need.

If I had kids, I’d be set. In my youth, my parents took full advantage of the unpaid workforce living under their roof. We had weekly and monthly chores, and we were expected to participate in their many home improvement projects. We mowed, cleared, dug, scrubbed, polished, built, and painted. One year, following a trip to Scotland, we transformed the family room into a pub, with billiards table, dart board, and plaid carpet (loved that carpet). Our reward for painting the room was a kids’ corner, complete with bean bag chairs and the video game Pong on our own TV. Heaven, circa 1975.

Pulling weeds was one of our regular duties, and my mom found creative incentives for motivating us to stop our whining and just get it done. “You each get a bag, and the person who fills up the most gets a quarter! Go!” I picture myself now, standing out on our street, propositioning passing school kids with “Hey. Wanna make a little extra cash? I’ll pay you $10 and it’s easy”…then I picture how I would be arrested as a possible molestation suspect. Hmmm…not the best idea.

We live in a city, so there aren’t that many children around, and we don’t live on a neat cul de sac, where everyone knows everyone and it would be easy to offer one of the neighbor’s kids a chance to earn some pocket money in exchange for a little physical labor. My 11-year-old niece has one of those gigs. She does odd jobs for an elderly neighbor, like picking plums and walking the dog. She worked her tail off one summer and, with the promise for matching funds from her dad, bought a new bike. I have yet to meet any such entrepreneurs on my street.

As much as my siblings and I complained about the unfairness of all the work we had to do, I have great memories of the projects we did together as a family. I also am grateful for the skills I picked up, skills I use today as my family-of-two’s handywoman. And as I look into my future, I’m sad that I won’t get to recreate these memories and pass on these skills to a new generation. I’m also really bummed that I’m going to spend part of this weekend in my garden, alone, pulling those pesky weeds. I need to think what kind of incentive would get me to stop my whining and race to fill up the biggest bag. A quarter isn’t going to cut it. The promise of a new dress might be just what this big kid needs to get it done. But…oooh…a dress by Armani. Now we’re talkin’.

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