Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

In Consideration of Him December 27, 2012

grief togetherBy Quasi-momma

I once was blind, but now I see, to paraphrase an old hymn.   That pretty much sums up my perception of Hubs feelings about our inability to have a child of our own together.

I’m probably not the first woman to make the mistake of thinking her husband’s lack of visible and expressed emotion meant they were “doing just fine.”  Nor will I be the last.

Men react to loss differently than women. Men have the need to be strong. They don’t like to reflect.  Instead, they act.  I remember after our second pregnancy loss, my parents flew into town to help us through it. During the first few days, Hubs and Pop were just a whirlwind of household projects. It grated on my nerves.  We were supposed to be grieving, and yet there they were painting and replacing fixtures.  By day three I lost it on Hubs.  How dare he take our time of grief and use it as an excuse to take time off to do chores around the house?  What kind of unfeeling jerk was he?  Why wasn’t he as distraught and depressed as I was?

Earlier this year as I started on the path to accepting that “mommyhood” was not in the cards for me we fought again over my need to put some space between me and a pregnant relative.  I begged to be excused from family events.  In the face of his insistence, I lashed out at him in pain and anger.  “You don’t understand,” I hissed. “You’ve got children of your own.  You’ll never know what this feels like.”

I continued to see that way for some time.   But the fact is that he was and is hurting too.  We just hurt in different ways.  It hurts him to see me grieving the loss of a dream.  It hurts him that he can’t do anything to change our circumstance or make our pain go away.  I know he’d do anything to change things if he could. He even tried by helping me look into the only thing that our resources could afford – foster care – and we were both pained to discover that it was not the right option of us either.

I’m now starting to see how badly he wanted us to have children together.  Over time, chinks in his armor are beginning to show.  Sitting in church when the pastor makes reference to his soon to be born daughter, I can both hear and feel him groan inwardly.  At the mall while viewing Christmas trees decorated with pictures and wishes of foster children, I see him choke up just slightly.   When tiny footsteps announce that the children have returned from children’s worship, we exchange sad smiles with each other. And when the inevitable cute baby or “we’re pregnant” commercial graces our television set, I see out of the corner of my eye him slowly extend a middle finger towards the screen if only to make me laugh.

Now that I’ve opened my eyes to these small and different expressions of his sadness and grief, I feel less alone in this journey.  I also feel terrible that I had not seen this in him earlier.  Being at odds with your spouse during this struggle makes the pain deeper for both of you.  I share this in hopes that someone who has experienced the pain of this perceived gap might also see the ways in which their partner also hurts.  After all, you are in this together.

Quasi-Momma (aka: Susan) 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.  

 

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.

 

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.

 

Don’t Ignore the Beta Male December 13, 2012

andrew-head-22-2By The One Hand Man

I am lucky not to have felt the Beta male affect, at least not as badly as I could have, but I know many men do. I am no David Beckham though, he is as Alpha as Alpha males get, football, four kids, endless Calvin Klein pants. In fact, I would be wise not to compare myself with him too much.

The beta male affect, as I have dubbed it, is the feeling that you are less than you should be – second best, below par, an inch too low for the rollercoaster ride, or dial-up in a broadband world.

In terms of infertility, the Beta male affect occurs when you fail to get your wife pregnant. Notice I use the word fail – this is certainly what it feels like – failure… failure to impregnate your wife, failure to procreate, failure to fulfill your duty as a man.

With the World’s population reaching 7 billion, it is hard news to take when you are unable to add to that, whatever the reason for your genitals not being forth coming with a worthy contender, there is no escaping the feeling that you would be better off in a dark room, never to cross paths with a woman again.

This Beta male feeling can chip away at a man’s pride, his self-esteem, his feeling about the natural order of things, and his place amongst his friends.

But whatever we go through as men, you can be guaranteed that the women have got the rougher end of the stick.

Straight from their teens, women prepare for children by having a menstrual cycle, pregnancy itself lasts nine months, and the weeks, months, and possibly even years after, the women’s body has to recover from the sheer shock of carrying a child and giving birth.

Add infertility into the mix, and with processes like IVF and ICSI, where hormones are unnaturally manipulated, conditions like endometriosis, and medical procedures like a laparoscopy – women undoubtedly get the raw deal.

But this post is about us men, I doff my cap to anyone who can hold it together through infertility, but women, don’t ignore us Beta males – we too experience infertility, and harbor much of the emotional burden that you do, we just carry it around in our Calvin Kleins.

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

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Holiday Help December 11, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I don’t know what’s different about this year, but I’ve found myself capital-D Dreading the coming holiday season. I think I’m okay with my childfree status, I think I’m ready to create meaningful traditions that embrace my little family of two, I think I’ll be just fine at all the “family” sing-alongs, tree trimming parties, open houses, etc. Problem is, I don’t feel fine.

For so many years, I anticipated what holidays in my home would look like, and it’s just not that easy transitioning away from those dreams. So many of the activities I loved participating in as a child and young adult involved children, so what’s a childfree gal to do?

I turned to one of my favorite cheros (a heroine who happens to be childfree) for advice. Melanie Notkin is the founder of Savvy Auntie and the author of a book by the same title. (If you haven’t already, check out her fab Web site here.) In the “Holidays” section (page 124) she reminds me that “with the parents so often extrabusy…an auntie can actually help by making herself available to her nieces and nephews.” I know how being with my nieces and nephews takes me completely out of my head and gives me so much joy, so after perusing suggestions from Melanie and some of her readers, I started thinking about what I could do to creating some merriment and childlike wonderment for myself in the next several weeks. I could:

  • Offer to take the nieces out to shop for gifts for their parents.
  • Invite friends and their kids over for a cookie decorating (and eating) party.
  • Over Skype, read a classic holiday story—’Twas the Night Before Christmas or The Polar Express—to the children of faraway friends.
  • Bundle up my nephews and take them out to view the decorative lights in their neighborhood.
  • Host a hot chocolate tasting party (peppermint, cinnamon, and boozy for the big kids).
  • Invite other childfree friends over for Game Night—Charades, Celebrity, all those lively group games my family used to play when we got together.

I’m also thinking about spending extra time in the gym, reading a big juicy book, and watching all of the Harry Potter movies on DVD. I think these distraction options are healthier than fudge (which I’m still considering), and I’m also open to suggestions. I’d love to hear from you. How are you planning to face the holiday season this year?

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