Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side August 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This post was originally published on July 18, 2011

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

Infertility, Depression, and Help July 2, 2012

Courtesy: Microsoft Images

As if in response to my post last week about the way in which life-changing news about infertility is delivered, this article popped into my inbox a couple of days later.

I’ll admit I scoffed when I first started reading.

“Women who are stressed and anxious before in vitro fertilization (IVF) are no less likely to have a baby, new research suggests. But if the treatment fails, it may take a toll on their mental health.”

It may take a toll on their mental health. You’re kidding. It took a study to figure this out?

I was surprised to discover that two separate studies found no link between anxiety and a woman’s ability to conceive. Wish I’d had those studies on hand for every time someone told me, “Just relax!” However, the next time I hear someone doling out that advice to an infertile, I can promise I’ll be smugly piping up with this information.

The article went on:

“Of 103 women with a failed [IVF] attempt, 60 percent had symptoms of a clinical anxiety disorder – up slightly from 57 percent before their IVF cycles. And 44 percent had clinical depression, which was up from 26 percent before treatment.

It’s not surprising that many women with a failed IVF attempt would have such symptoms, according to Pasch. But there has actually been little research into how IVF outcomes may affect women’s mental health, she said.”

And here’s where I found my little nugget of hope. Up until now, the emotional and psychological effects of unresolved infertility haven’t been studied, and that which has not been studied cannot be remedied. But someone’s paying attention now.

“According to Pasch, infertility practices should do more to help women with mental health symptoms – though not because it would be expected to improve their odds of IVF success.

“Psychological interventions need to be geared toward helping women feel better, and not toward increasing their chances of pregnancy,” Pasch said.

Some larger, university-linked infertility centers have on-site services for women who want mental health counseling. But most practices do not, Pasch said.”

In my little fantasy world there will come a day when fertility clinics and Reproductive Endocrinologists, even OB/GYNs and GPs, are armed with studies such as these, as well as information and resources to guide their patients to the help and support they need.

If you could turn back time, what would you have wished for in the way of help? If you dealt with infertility, what resources would you have wanted from your doctor when you realized your options were running out? If you’re childfree by circumstance or even by choice and have struggled with coming-to-terms with that, who do you wish you could have turned to for help or guidance?

It may be too little to late for most of us here, but not for those women who will come behind us.

 

Guest Post: Trying to Live Shame-Free May 17, 2012

By Catherine Elizabeth Lambert

“No woman should feel ashamed for what they cannot control.”

For about 16 years my husband and I tried to conceive a baby but to no avail. For most of that time, I felt deep shame. I was embarrassed to be around my pregnant friends. I never knew what to say to them and didn’t want to lay all my problems in their laps either. A lot of the time I hid in my house and cut myself off from most of my friends. I was not a pleasant person to be around at work. I was very moody.

Recently, through writing, I have come to realize that I shouldn’t feel ashamed for something I couldn’t control.  I did everything within reason to conceive a child. I was also tired of hating my body because I was born with a malformed uterus and genes for endometriosis, which were handed down by my mother.

My shame started to dissipate the more I wrote. English class was my least favorite subject in school, but I was shocked by how easy the words flowed out of me when I decided to write my memoir.  My emotional thoughts were overflowing. After I finally completed my book, I felt a huge sense of pride.  A feeling I was not very familiar with besides getting my A.A.S in 2003. My book helped me move past my depression and sadness around childlessness. I no longer feel the shame I once did.

Catherine Elizabeth Lambert is the author of Lost in a Sea of Mothers: Am I a Mother Yet? and is currently working on a novel. Married for 21 years, she has no children of my own but for the past six years has been a proud foster mother to three young adults. You can visit her at www.lostinaseaofmothers.com.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side July 18, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

 
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