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?

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LWB Mentorship Program September 28, 2012

Next Thursday marks the official end of the four-month mentorship program I’ve been facilitating. It’s been truly inspirational to watch this group of 15 women pull together to help one another through one of the most significant experiences of their lives. It’s like a super-concentrated version of what I witness on this site every day, only we get to talk in person, too, which adds a deeply personal dimension.

 

I’m planning to start offering the final version of the program in the New Year, but I want to do one more beta test with a slightly different format and some new material before then. If you’re interested in joining a small group of women for an eight-week program, beginning October 9th, I’d love the chance to work with you.

 

You can find all the details here, or drop me an email if you have more questions.

 

Are You Afraid of Grief? September 10, 2012

It took me a long time to realize that my infertility was a loss that I needed to grieve. Once I understood that, I then had to figure out how to grieve a loss that most other people wouldn’t understand. Being raised in a “stiff upper lip” culture where grief is something quiet and hidden, and public grieving is frankly embarrassing, I had to give myself permission to grieve. Only then came the wrung out exhaustion that comes from letting all those emotions out of their box. No wonder so many of us skirt grief and wait for it to just go away.

The problem is, grief doesn’t just go away. Even if we tuck it away and wait for it to slowly leak away, we still carry it around with us. We can go for days thinking we’ve got it all under control and then the tiniest trigger can flip the lid off the box and let all those emotions come flooding out. So, we avoid social gatherings, family events, and even friends as a way of keeping a lid on our grief. But it still doesn’t go away.

In her book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about layers of grief and how our losses compound when we don’t fully deal with our grief. As someone who only recently learned the importance of grief, this explains why I’ve so often found myself in tears at the funeral of someone I barely know. I realize now that I’m stilling letting out my lingering grief for a decades-old loss that I’ve kept buried away.

On Friday, I’ll be releasing a mini workbook about dealing with difficult social situations. It has lots of strategies for how to go in mentally prepared and how to get out again in one piece. What makes theses situations so difficult, though, is the grief that hovers under the surface, waiting to spring out at the first sideways glance. Until we take our grief out and face it, those emotions will keep coming up again and again. Is it time you took your grief out of its box?

 

What’s Lost…and Gained August 16, 2012

This post was first published on May 4, 2012.

By Peggy McGillicuddy

 

“To have a child is to forever watch your heart walk around outside of your body”

I have had the above quote taped to my bathroom mirror for years. For most of my adult life, I have worked directly with young children and their parents, but I am not a parent myself.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be, but life happens. Approaching 41, I’ve been officially diagnosed as infertile.

At the beginning of my career I wondered if I was qualified to run parenting groups. Who was I to give tips on being a mom or dad?  Eventually I realized that I had the empathy and skills to do the work regardless. But I quickly came to understand this: the only way to truly comprehend the connection between a child and parent was to experience it. This didn’t bother me, because I always thought, “someday I will know what it’s like…”

There is a strong possibility that “someday” won’t arrive.

Coming to terms with this has been difficult. I watch parents and children together, struggling through situations that are often not ideal.  Addiction, poverty, divorce separation…problems that seem insurmountable.  But one fact stands alone in the chaos.  A connection so deep.

I watch kids introduce me to their parents, so proud.  I see sons and daughters forgive a mom or dad, simply because of their parental role.

I can only imagine what it must be like. I can’t put into words what I see when a parent tells me how special their son or daughter is. How much they don’t want to see them in pain. How it hurts their heart.

I was recently speaking with a friend about my grief over not having a child.  I feel it in my gut on a daily basis.  She is the mother of two adult children.  Attempting to make me feel better, she said,

“Look at it this way. When you have kids, you love them so much. You spend the rest of your life worrying about them.  They’re always yours. Even when they’re grown.  If you never have kids, you won’t have to experience that kind of worry in your life.”

 

True. I won’t know what it’s like to see the joy, the accomplishment. To have my heart leap out of my chest with pride or anticipation. If I never have kids, I won’t experience the kind of connection that can only happen between a parent and child. I won’t need to be concerned that I let them down in some way.

I won’t be exposed to the pain that having a child could potentially bring. I will not have a life filled with worry. My heart won’t break each time my son or daughter feels disappointment, or sheds a tear. I will never have to experience what it’s like to have my heart walk around outside of my body. That’s what my life won’t be like.

And now I struggle to figure out what it will be.  In a strange way, infertility can be a gift.  Over the last few years, it has pushed me to re-evaluate myself, to slow down, and take a step back.  Infertility has forced me to take a look at my relationships.  It’s challenged me to reflect on what is important.

And it’s led me on a quest, which has not yet been fulfilled.  I no longer believe that the only way to experience your heart walking around outside of your body is by bearing children.  There are other paths.  I just need to discover what mine is.

Peggy McGillicuddy is counselor and group facilitator who is actively searching for her heart.  To join her on this quest, check out her blog A Kid First!

 

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.

 

The Sliding Scale of Grief July 30, 2012

This post was first published on February 25, 2011

J and I just purchased a used trombone. In the very early stages of our relationship we discovered all sorts of odd things we had in common, one of which is that we both played the trombone as teenagers. Anyway, we’ve been talking about learning to play again, and we finally found a used instrument in good condition.

The main difference between a trombone and other brass instruments is that you make the notes by moving a slide up and down, rather hitting a key. It makes it a lot more difficult to hit just the right note. It’s also what makes the trombone so much fun to play, because you can slide easily from note to note, up and down and back again.

The reason I’m telling you all this is that today I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole coming-to-terms process. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of school grades, with the freshman class having just made the decision to live childfree or to stop fertility treatments, and having no idea how to start getting used to the idea. They eventually graduate to acceptance and begin to find a way to get happy, and ultimately go on to live a full and happy life without children.

But it’s really not that simple. You never really do hit all the notes precisely and in order. It’s much more like playing a trombone, where you slide from one state to the next and sometimes back again. One day, you’re content and determined to make the most of your situation, then something happens to trigger all those old emotions and you find yourself sliding back down. Then you get to talk someone who understands you and you feel like you can really figure this out…until your friend announces a pregnancy and back down you go again.

So, I’m wondering, where are you on the sliding scale of coming-to-terms? Where are you right now and have you been better or been worse? Do you feel that, even though you have setbacks, you’re slowly moving towards a place of peace, or can you see no way to ever come-to-terms with your lot in life? Or have you already been up and down the scale and have finally found a place of contentment? I’d like to know.

 

Fabulous Friday: Finding the Fun Again July 20, 2012

courtesy: iStockphoto

Trying to make a baby is supposed to be fun, and for a while it can be. But if you’ve been trying for some time, maybe even years, odds are it’s lost its luster.

What’s worse, the stress of infertility or the specter of a rapidly closing fertility window, plus the constant conversations of why you don’t have kids, can color your entire life. After a while, it’s easy to forget what you used to do for fun or even that you’re still supposed to have fun.

It’s been well over three years since Mr. Fab and I decided to get off the baby train, and let me tell you, it’s been hard to reignite our passion for the fun things in life.

We talked about it recently and realized it’s time to find that fun again. We made a list of things to do around town and we’re checking them off.

So far, we’ve taken a (rather exciting) canoe trip, been back to our favorite museum, and seen Gone With the Wind on the big screen. Here’s our list of what’s to come:

Go to an L.A. Galaxy Game

Play Mahjong at the Skirball Center

Have Dim Sum in Chinatown

Go to the Griffith Observatory

Kayak around Naples Island

Take a Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus Tour of Hollywood

Go on a day sail

What about you? Are you remembering to have some fun? What’s on your list?

P.S. For those of you who get to be an auntie to nieces, nephews, and children of friends, happy Auntie’s Day for Sunday.

 

The Next Step May 18, 2012

For some time now, I’ve been bemoaning the lack of support available for those of us facing a life without children, whether we’ve reached the end of our infertility ropes or otherwise run out of options, money, or stamina to build a family. As far as most organizations are concerned, women are either planning to have children, trying to have children, or don’t like and don’t want children. There is a lot of misunderstanding and very little support for those of us who find ourselves in one of the many gray areas that surround those well-supported categories.

Several months ago, I came to a crossroads on my own journey of coming-to-terms with being childfree-not-by-choice. I knew I had to either stop talking about my infertility, put the whole episode behind me, and move on in a different direction, or I needed take the hand I’d been dealt and do something with it. For those of you who’ve been following along for a while, you’d be right in guessing that I opted for the latter.

I’ve spent the past few months compiling everything I’ve learned from my own journey and from talking to you about the issues you face and the solutions you’ve found to keep moving forward. I’m now developing a support program to help other women through the process of letting go of the dream of motherhood (sometimes the hardest part) and beginning the healing process.  The program will be aimed at women in the early stages of coming-to-terms and will include a combination of group workshops, exercises, and support phone calls over a period of four months.  I’m planning to beta test a pilot program with a small group beginning next month.

I’ll be putting out more detailed information about the program, including dates, costs, and what it will include, but for now, if you think you might be interested in a program like this, please leave your contact information here (it’s safe and confidential) and I’ll get more information to you shortly.

In addition, it would be really helpful to know what topics you’d like to see covered in this type of program, or if you’re further along on your journey, what you wish you’d known sooner.

I’m looking forward to being able to share more information soon and I hope that some of you will find this useful.

 

What’s Lost…and Gained May 4, 2012

By Peggy McGillicuddy

 

“To have a child is to forever watch your heart walk around outside of your body”

I have had the above quote taped to my bathroom mirror for years. For most of my adult life, I have worked directly with young children and their parents, but I am not a parent myself.  It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be, but life happens. Approaching 41, I’ve been officially diagnosed as infertile.

At the beginning of my career I wondered if I was qualified to run parenting groups. Who was I to give tips on being a mom or dad?  Eventually I realized that I had the empathy and skills to do the work regardless. But I quickly came to understand this: the only way to truly comprehend the connection between a child and parent was to experience it. This didn’t bother me, because I always thought, “someday I will know what it’s like…”

There is a strong possibility that “someday” won’t arrive.

Coming to terms with this has been difficult. I watch parents and children together, struggling through situations that are often not ideal.  Addiction, poverty, divorce separation…problems that seem insurmountable.  But one fact stands alone in the chaos.  A connection so deep.

I watch kids introduce me to their parents, so proud.  I see sons and daughters forgive a mom or dad, simply because of their parental role.

I can only imagine what it must be like. I can’t put into words what I see when a parent tells me how special their son or daughter is. How much they don’t want to see them in pain. How it hurts their heart.

I was recently speaking with a friend about my grief over not having a child.  I feel it in my gut on a daily basis.  She is the mother of two adult children.  Attempting to make me feel better, she said,

“Look at it this way. When you have kids, you love them so much. You spend the rest of your life worrying about them.  They’re always yours. Even when they’re grown.  If you never have kids, you won’t have to experience that kind of worry in your life.”

 

True. I won’t know what it’s like to see the joy, the accomplishment. To have my heart leap out of my chest with pride or anticipation. If I never have kids, I won’t experience the kind of connection that can only happen between a parent and child. I won’t need to be concerned that I let them down in some way.

I won’t be exposed to the pain that having a child could potentially bring. I will not have a life filled with worry. My heart won’t break each time my son or daughter feels disappointment, or sheds a tear. I will never have to experience what it’s like to have my heart walk around outside of my body. That’s what my life won’t be like.

And now I struggle to figure out what it will be.  In a strange way, infertility can be a gift.  Over the last few years, it has pushed me to re-evaluate myself, to slow down, and take a step back.  Infertility has forced me to take a look at my relationships.  It’s challenged me to reflect on what is important.

And it’s led me on a quest, which has not yet been fulfilled.  I no longer believe that the only way to experience your heart walking around outside of your body is by bearing children.  There are other paths.  I just need to discover what mine is.

Peggy McGillicuddy is counselor and group facilitator who is actively searching for her heart.  To join her on this quest, check out her blog A Kid First!

 

Join Me LIVE Today! April 28, 2012

Good morning (for some of you at least)!

I hope you’ll be able to join me today as I chat via video with some fabulous childfree women. Expect inspiration, insight, and even some laughs. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing these ladies and I hope you’ll enjoy hearing what they have to say, too.

Here’s the link to the Live Stream channel where the event will be hosted.

It all starts today at 12pm Pacific time. If you’re not sure what time that is where you are, here’s a time zone converter. Use America/Los Angeles to convert.

Once we go live, you’ll be able to chat to one another using the chat function to the right of the video. I will try to hop in on the discussions when I can.

If you can’t make it to the live broadcast, don’t worry. I’ll be recording the whole thing and you should be able to watch it on the same channel beginning later today.

So pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee, or wine, and join me. I’m looking forward to it.