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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Infertile in Heels December 21, 2012

heelsLa Belette Rouge doesn’t write often about infertility anymore (she’s busy moving on with her life without children), but when she does, she nails it.

Last week, she batted around the idea of a companion show to Bravo’s “Pregnant in Heels.” Her idea of “Infertile in Heels” made me laugh out loud.

Although, I’m not sure there’s much of an audience for the glamorous side of infertility (mainly because there really is no glamorous side, that I can see) there’s certainly room for some media time that doesn’t revolve around pregnancy and parenting.

I wish that infertility and childlessness had a place in mainstream conversation. I wish that information and guidance was more readily available, so that those of us who find ourselves traveling that road would know exactly where to turn for help, whether that be knowing and understanding all the options open to us, or getting help putting the chic into our childfree lives.

Tracey is one of the panelists who’ll be speaking with me at the Fertility Planit Show next month, and I’m looking forward to finally meeting her in person. I’m expecting a lively conversation.

 

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.

 

The Fertility Planit Show December 17, 2012

plan_photo_1350546426Next month I’ll be attending The Fertility Planit Show in Los Angeles. This weekend-long event brings together “world class experts, therapists and inspirational leaders” to help people “find everything you need to build your family.”

Now before you think I’ve gone off my rocker or back to the dark side, I’ll explain that I’m going because I’ve been asked to speak on a panel about letting go and coming to terms with not becoming a parent (official panel title is still under discussion.)

I’ll admit I was wary at first about throwing myself back into the melee of the infertility world, especially when I noticed one of my former doctors on the list of speakers. I was concerned about the emotions that might be dredged up for me and I even considered the danger of exposing myself to new family-building options and starting again on that “what-if…” cycle.

I was also unsure about speaking on this topic. To my mind, people who have bought a ticket to learn about how to get a baby won’t want to listen to someone telling them it’s okay if they don’t. I could almost imagine the headline: “Happy childless woman tarred and feathered by furious infertiles.”

I know that most of the people there won’t want to consider the possibility of not having children. When I was in the thick of my own parenthood quest, I know I didn’t. But a friend gave me that message anyway, based on her own experience, and although I didn’t want to hear her then, when I reached the end of my infertility rope, her story gave me comfort and hope for my future.

So I’ve accepted the invitation to speak. I’m impressed with the show’s organizers for including this important, but deeply neglected topic. I hope that the attendees will never need to hear about coming-to-terms with a life without children, but some of them will, and when they’ll do, I hope they’ll recall a panel of women who told them once that the road ahead might be rocky, but they won’t be alone and everything will someday be okay.

 

Truth and Hope December 7, 2012

Crossed fingersThe “hope” discussion surfaced again this week, when Pamela at Silent Sorority wrote an eloquent post about the dangers of misinformation regarding infertility.

Pamela brought to light the writings of another infertility awareness advocate, Julie, who criticized celebrity infertiles (now celebrity parents) Guiliana and Bill Rancic for publicly telling infertile couples, “If you stick with it and never quit, it will pay off.”

You can read what both Pamela and Julie have to say on the topic here.

I heartily agree that this kind of blind encouragement gives people a false sense of hope that infertility is always surmountable. There are enough of us here to shout that belief soundly down to the ground. I’ve written about this kind of “don’t give up hope” comment on this blog in the past and how paralyzing it can be to someone who doesn’t want to keep hoping for a miracle.

But what do you say instead?

I remember working with a young woman who was planning to start trying for a family. I can well remember calling on the wisdom of my experience and offering her my unsolicited, yet sage, warning that getting pregnant might not happen immediately. She got knocked up the next month and I ate crow. I hated that I hadn’t been more positive and could only paint for her the most dire of pictures.

But experience comes hard-earned and I bet Guiliana and Bill know that. It’s one thing to be positive and encouraging, but a little truth and reality can go a long way. Perhaps Guiliana and Bill would have done better to say, “Yes it worked out for us, and yes, we are among the lucky ones.”

 

You’re Not Alone: Seeking A Meaningful Life December 6, 2012

This is the first guest post in the new “You’re Not Alone” series of reader’ stories. If you’d like to see your story here, you’ll find details in our Writers’ Guidelines.

By SparklingRain

It took exactly two tests, and our result was clear: the possibility of having our own biological child was smaller than the chance of my being able to speak Klingon fluently.

At first I thought I had a plan: even without children I swore I would lead this “fulfilled life”.  Friends happily suggest that dear husband and I could really have fun: we could go jet-setting across the globe at will, having nobody waiting at home. “Or, or!” they would suggest excitedly, “You can always have a weekend project of..see..renovating your house? Growing a great rose garden?  You see, you have to make your life more exciting, more meaningful!”

A much older colleague chimed in: “Those not blessed with children ought to find their true purpose in life. You, I don’t see you doing any charity work. What do you do on weekends anyway?”

Unfortunately though, if meaningful life consisted of either having children or the combination of endless vacations and charity work and a beautiful house with a rose garden, then I’d be doomed. We do have decent income, but vacationing is limited to a neighboring city once a year. On weekends, I am afraid we mostly stay home or wander around in galleries or museums, and then get home and sleep or read a book.  I am startled to realize I don’t have the inclination to do volunteer work, let alone gardening.

I was so close to Googling what a “really meaningful life” looked like. Being lazy however, I simply looked around one evening as we were watching TV and glimpsed on my very own fingers, tangled with dear husband’s.  We were laughing at some local politicians being interviewed on TV, trashing their less-than-smart tired jargons. One politician remarked about how the country needed to start paying attention to the welfare of teachers nationwide, because “poor financial condition make lousy teachers”. We both teach, I am a lecturer of Electrical Engineering, he is a Visual Arts teacher, and we both strongly feel good teachers are good teachers, whether they ride a limousine or a bicycle to school.

And it hit me: I am lucky to have this man to watch bad TV shows together, to laugh at them with our fingers tangled into each others’, and to share a view important to us. (Come to think of it, we share many views, such as one should not bother whether cereal can only be eaten in the mornings and steak in the evenings.) We both have jobs we love, which we secretly think we are good at. Working with young adults and teenagers however have its own perks. They simply either listen to you or yell (well almost) at you, they will make sure you know whether you’re a good teacher or you speak mumbo-jumbo in class, never caring whether you have 0 or 14 kids. Dear husband has seen his students successfully enroll in good arts departments of universities in the country and abroad; I have seen my students grow from quivering masses of confusion to confident engineers – and I would like to claim that our lives are meaningful because of that.

For the longest time I thought I just needed to add a routine of diaper-changing or breastfeeding to my daily life and voila: meaningful life. It has been two years since I decided not to pursue fertility treatments, and I can say it’s all good.  Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s actually time for my dose of fiction books. Some people’s meaningful lives may consist of hauling children to a pediatrician or promoting world peace, and I respect them for that – if only they would respect my time to curl up on the sofa with my book.

SparklingRain lives with her husband and several outdoor cats in Indonesia. She blogs at http://tembusmatahari.blogspot.com

 

Around the Blogosphere November 30, 2012

I’ve been hanging around out in the blogosphere lately and decided to bring to you a few things I found this week.

Challenged with writing about a life-changing moment, IVF Male shared a poignant post about infertility’s long series of life-changing moments in “Staring Down the Infertility Train.”

Mali celebrated the two-year anniversary of her wonderful blog at No Kidding in NZ.

On The Road Less Travelled, Loribeth writes about a different kind of anniversary­—what would have been her daughter’s 14th birthday—and the milestones she won’t get to celebrate.

And Pamela, at Silent Sorority, stuck her tongue firmly in her cheek and provided the facts to back up a theory many of us have probably considered, that perhaps we’re just too evolved to reproduce.

And from me, I’m just wishing you a Happy Friday and a great weekend.

 

Facebook’s Skewed Perspective August 20, 2012

This post was originally published on April 1, 2011.

In the news this week was a warning from doctors about teen depression and Facebook. Listed among the “unique aspects of Facebook that make it a particularly tough social landscape to navigate” were the “in-your-face status updates and photos of happy-looking people having great times,” leaving some kids to “feel even worse if they think they don’t measure up.”

If you’re childless-not-by-choice and spend any time at all on Facebook, these painful feelings might sound all too familiar. There’s nothing quite like a pregnancy announcement or cute kid pictures to remind you of what you don’t have.

But take heart!

The report is very quick to point out that Facebook “provides a skewed perspective of what’s really going on.” I think that’s true. While there are some people who clearly don’t give a second (or even a first) thought to what they post on Facebook, I know that I am very aware of how many people can read my posts and the different levels of “friendship” I have out there. Because of this, I’m always careful to manage my public persona.

If I’m having a crappy day and life is just the pits, I stay off Facebook; I don’t post my misery to the world. On the other hand, the pictures I do post are usually of my best days, out in the sunshine, with my husband, in some exciting locale, living a dream life!

I think that the majority of people post this way – we put our best Facebook faces forward – so it’s easy to look at a small sliver, a snapshot of someone else’s life and see it as perfect. In other words, it’s easy to look at a portrait of a happy family or read a jubilant pregnancy announcement and perceive that someone else has EVERYTHING we want.

But life just isn’t as simple as that.

If you’re at the stage in your journey where seeing some else’s children or baby news tips you over the edge, I strongly recommend giving Facebook the elbow for a while. But that’s just my opinion. There’s been a really great discussion on the forums about how to deal with Facebook. Take a look to see how other readers dealing with it.

 

Hope vs. Acceptence August 13, 2012

Life Without Baby is taking a short hiatus. Please enjoy some favorite posts from the last two-and-a-half years.

This post was originally published on April 12, 2011. You might also enjoy the follow-up post from April 16.

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.

 

Guest Post: Why Not Me? July 26, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

As I try to accept being childless not by choice, there are moments when I am overcome with small torrents of grief and anger.  It usually is precipitated by the thought of someone who is currently pregnant followed by a white hot flash.  For a brief moment, I’m rocked by different waves of emotion:  there’s longing and sadness (of course), but there’s also a very strong feeling of indignation.

It doesn’t seem to matter who I am thinking about either – it could be a person who has been nothing but horrible to me, someone who has suffered losses like I have, or someone I barely know – the intensity of the feeling, the longing, and the burning is the same.

The indignation confuses me.  The very strong sense of “why them and not me?” throws me for a loop.   Why the person who has treated me unkindly, the person who already has been blessed, or the person who manipulates and abuses her children?   I could float away for days on a sea of anger that arises from such thoughts.

I know that I have the right to feel anger about my situation, but at some point it seems like a futile exercise.  It certainly isn’t going to change my situation.  It just overtakes me for a minute, leaving me feeling a little more depleted once it passes.

In an attempt to make sense of confusing situations, I like to listen to podcasts while I work.  However, there are very few out there that deal with CNBC or pregnancy loss.  So one day, I ended up settling on a Christian podcast relating to grief from child loss.  The podcast was an interview with singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife Mary Beth. The couple had lost one of their adopted daughters when she was run over in their driveway.   It was very hard to listen to them lovingly describe the joy she brought to them and the pain, confusion, and guilt the family dealt with after her death.

At one point, the subject of feeling angry about their loss came up.  Did they ever wonder why this happened to them? To which they calmly replied, “Why not us?”   I was floored by this response.  In it was a level of humility, grace and acceptance that I had never witnessed before.

The question of “Why NOT me?” is an interesting one (and a bit of a difficult one) to consider when unresolved feelings rear their ugly heads.  What is it that I possess that enables me to endure this versus someone else?  How can I take this and make this something for the better?  What does this serve: not only for me, but for others?

I’ve been exploring the idea of the importance of purpose in life.  Until recently, I thought that my purpose would be fulfilled in motherhood.    Now, I know it must be something different.   I think that all this anger, burning, and pain must be used as a catalyst to keep pushing me to explore until my actual purpose is found.

What about you, ladies?  How does “Why NOT me?” impact you?

Quasi-Momma is living a childless, but not childfree, life as a stepmom.  Her blog, Quasi-Momma, is a collection of her reflections on pregnancy loss, childlessness not by choice, and not-so-blended family life sprinkled with a little gratitude and lot of heart.