Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

I Wish I Could have Told My Friends November 5, 2012

I am lucky to have some truly wonderful friends. I have a couple of friends in particular who were really there for me while I was going through the mess of trying to get pregnant and the subsequent coming-to-terms with not.

These women made me cups of tea and put an arm around my shoulder when I couldn’t hold in my tears. They met me for lunch and asked how things were going. They didn’t push the issue when they could see I didn’t want to talk and they didn’t try to help by offering solutions, based on zero knowledge, or sharing hopeful stories of miracle pregnancies. They seemed to know exactly how to be there for me, and yet when we talked about those times later, they admitted they were just as lost as I was and were winging it all along. I guess I just got lucky.

Other friends weren’t quite so lucky in their “winging” and I wish I could have helped them to help me. I wish I could have put into words what I needed from them, kind of a mini instruction book, so they wouldn’t feel so helpless. I wish I would have known then what I know now and been able to explain it to them.

I wish I’d known that what I was going through was a huge life-changing experience and that I would be a different person for it. I wish I could have told them that I’d still be the same old Lisa, but changed, just a bit.

I wish I’d known I would be okay in the end, no matter what the outcome.

I wish I could have explained that much of the time I didn’t want to talk about it because I was working so hard to keep my emotions at bay.

I wish I could have told them that some days I really wanted to talk about everything and tell them how angry and frustrated I was.

I wish they’d known I was lost.

I wish they’d known I was scared.

I wish they’d known that I could no longer see the future for myself beyond the end of my next cycle.

I wish they’d said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”

I wish I’d been brave enough to just cry when I needed to and I wish they would have known to just hand me Kleenex until I was done.

I wished they would have known how much I appreciated their friendship and how, even if I went astray for a while, I’d be back, stronger than ever and ready to be a good friend for them, too.

If you could have told your friends (and family) what you needed, what would you have said?

 

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?

 

Father’s Day June 15, 2012

Sunday is Father’s Day here and, to be honest, it had barely entered my mind until my brother mentioned that he was looking forward to some extra presents in addition to the ones he got for his birthday earlier this week.

Maybe it slipped my mind because Father’s Day doesn’t come with same folderol as Mother’s Day. Or maybe it’s because Mr. Fab has grown children, so he doesn’t feel quite the same loss I do on Mother’s Day. Or perhaps, it didn’t occur to me because most of the readers of this blog (at least the participating ones) are women. All the same, I feel remiss that I almost let the day go by without mention.

There are (theoretically) just as many childless men as there are women, and you probably know at least one. Maybe he’s not making a big fuss about the coming day, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be feeling any pain. He may just be being “manly” and keeping his emotions close.

So, if you happen to know a non-dad, check in on him this weekend and make sure he’s doing okay. And let us know what you plan to do to get him through the day.

 

Uncovering Grief February 16, 2012

This week, I’m very pleased to introduce a new Guest Blogger.

Shannon Calder is a psychotherapist, specializing in grief and loss. In this, her new column, she’ll be addressing some of the issues many of us are facing as we look towards a life without children. I hope you’ll find her guidance helpful.

Uncovering Grief

By Shannon Calder

“If we carry our storms like actors pretending to be brave, each swallowed tear will fill our hearts like a bag of stones.”

– Alison Asher

Grief is a sacred time, a sacred act and it is the way we honor the importance of what we lost. The amount of grief we feel is in direct proportion to the importance of the person or idea we have lost. It is an honor to grieve.

My name is Shannon and I am a psychotherapist and a survivor of grief. I phrase it that way because surviving something indicates that it is still with you, in you, but that you pulled through and gained strength and meaning from it. I am here to remind you that grief does not evaporate, but like the wind, it breezes in and then recedes, leaving you to respond in its wake. How fast it recedes and how much havoc it wreaks on your life is the result of how you respond to it. I am here to help you with that and to listen, because grief is with us no matter how long ago we lost something or someone.

I am all for moving on, moving up, moving around, being positive and letting go. Every now and then I may discuss these very ideas. However, my purpose, whether it is on this blog or in my profession, is to address where people are in the moment and to speak to who lives and breathes underneath the persona that we show the world. I think we can agree that we don’t always feel like moving on, letting go or being positive.

Frankly, I don’t think putting happy pants on everyone and sending them back out into the world does them, their spouses, or the drivers next to them any good. It leads to repressed, angry, sad, grief-filled folks running into or running over each other unconsciously.

Do not misunderstand me. In your life, away from this discussion, it is a brilliant idea to have a stiff upper lip in most situations. But in this discussion with me, or anyone else on this blog, and hopefully with the people you trust the most, invest in the emotions that come with grief and give them the attention they deserve. If you are honest with yourself and others about what you feel, they can give you what you deeply need.

This is my not so subtle call to arms to those of you who are grappling with grief. If you are having trouble deciding what you feel, figuring out if you’re grieving, then that is completely valid and we can address that. I want to encourage you to do as Alison Asher says and “soar straight into the storm,” but only do this if you have a lifeboat. I hope that this column, the resources discussed here and the exercises we try can be your lifeboat, along with the friends and family you find here on this blog and in your life. Rally your resources and bring them close to you.

Please write to me with questions and/or your stories. I will attempt to address many of them in this column.

Be well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [AT] lifewithoutbaby [DOT] com

Resource:

Alison Asher wrote Soaring into the Storm, a lovely book about anyone facing adversity. She interviewed people of all ages and backgrounds who endured tragedy and came out strong. She is an artist and a poet and she survived the loss of a child.

 

I Failed My Own Test May 13, 2011

Do you ever test yourself to see just how well you’re really doing with this whole “coming-to-terms” business? I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I’ve been inserting myself into mothering conversations, just to gauge how it makes me feel. I’ve started smiling at other people’s babies again, to see if it stirs up any dormant emotions. The other week, as I was driving past Babies R Us, I seriously considered pulling in and just walking around the store to see if I could do it. I realized it was a crazy idea, and I went home instead, but I’m pretty sure I would have been okay. Based on all these tests, in fact, I’d say I’m doing pretty well at re-entering the real world, where mothers and babies exist.

So, when I found myself in a conversation with a pregnant woman last week, it really was no big deal. I was genuinely happy for her and chatted about names and the baby’s sex, and how she was doing. No big deal. When she pulled a strange face I asked her if she was okay.

“Oh yes,” she said. “He’s just moving around. ”

I laughed and asked her what it was like.

“Here,” she said. “Do you want to feel him?”

Before I knew it I had my hands on her belly and I was looking at her wide-eyed as I felt her baby’s little backside sticking up in the air and a tiny pointy elbow poking out to one side.

“That’s amazing,” I told her. And it was.

As I drove home later that night, that baby was all I could think about. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a tidal wave of emotions barreling towards me and there was nothing I could do to get out of the way.

I could picture her little guy clearly and I imagined what it must be like to have another human being grow and move inside me. I could feel it. And then the what-ifs started. What if we tried IVF and it worked? What if we found an egg donor; wouldn’t it be worth it to go through that? And even as the logical side of my brain was listing all the good reasons to not even entertain these thoughts, the other side was cooking up a plan to offer myself up as a surrogate for another woman, just so I could experience what it would be like to be pregnant.

I’m not going to tell you that these were fleeting thoughts, nor am I going tell you how I laughed at my craziness and put these silly thoughts behind me; neither of those is true. But I am going to tell you that I know that this won’t be the last time this happens to me. My infertility is up there at the top of the “life-changing events” list in my life. And like the other experiences, it’s always going to be with me. Most of the time it will just hang out in the back of my mind and not give me too much trouble, but every now and then, something is going to trigger my memories and all those emotions will come rushing back. I think that’s just a part of being human.

 

Expressing Motherhood January 27, 2011

Last week my friend Holly invited me to go and see her performance in a show in Hollywood. “I totally understand if you don’t want to come,” she said, “considering the topic.”

The show is called Expressing Motherhood and is advertised as “the national, sold out, on-going play, consisting of moms sharing stories about motherhood.”

She was right, considering the topic, I did not want to go. I could think of few worse ways to spend a perfectly good weekend night than listening to moms babbling on about how hard or how beautiful, or how life-changing, personality-altering, amazingly incredible being a mom is for them. I could picture myself sitting there yelling, “Cry me a river, ladies!” as some mom bemoaned her sleepless nights. Even worse was the fear of dredging up all those emotions I’ve worked so hard to get in line, and having to be carried in a flood of tears from the theatre.

Needless to say, I politely declined the invitation and Holly understood.

But earlier this week, I had a change of heart. As I’ve been telling friends about my book, I’ve realized just how many people who have been with me through the whole journey and have been so supportive and encouraging.

Holly is one of those people.

She listened to my woes when I was trying to get pregnant and she encouraged me when I decided to write the book. She even had the guts to come and tell me face-to-face, and with tact and consideration for my feelings, that she was pregnant when she knew I was not. If I was going to be standing on a stage talking about not being a mother, Holly would be sitting in the audience, whistling with her fingers stuck in her mouth.

So I sucked it up – woman’d up, if you like – and bought a ticket for Friday night’s show. I’m going on my own, so I won’t have anyone to embarrass if I do have to be carried out, and I’m going to support my friend.

I can’t say it’s not without some trepidation that I will make the drive up to Hollywood tomorrow, but if nothing else, it will be an interesting experiment, and you can be sure that I’ll report in!

 

My Book November 20, 2010

This week I received the final cover design for my upcoming book, and next week the e-reader version of the book will be released.

It’s hard to describe all the emotions I’m riding through right now – excitement, pride, anxiety, second-guessing, and something else, some kind of melancholy.

I’m excited because this project has been a long time in the works. I’ve written it, added to it, edited it, and then last year I scrapped the entire manuscript (I mean every word of it) and started again with a blank page. (I’m getting a stomach ache just thinking about that!)  It had to be done and I’m glad I did it, but it was hard.

I’m proud because I stuck to it, I finished it, I didn’t let it collect dust in the bottom drawer of my desk, and I have fought to get it published and out into the world.

Which is where the anxiety comes in.

I’m anxious about putting such a personal story out there for everyone to see. Not so much the people who will hopefully benefit from reading it, but the lookie-loos, people who know me, or my husband, and want to get the gossip. I’m also anxious about the people in the book – my family and friends, my husband’s family – people who said or did the wrong thing without ever knowing it, and unwittingly gave me material. But everything in the story happened, and (as my friend Jeff says) it’s not mean if it’s true. But I still worry about what they’ll think.

I can’t quite figure out the melancholy. Maybe it comes from the feeling of something coming to an end (even though I know that many new things are just beginning), I’m not sure. An acquaintance asked me how I came to choose the topic and I explained that this is my story and that the topic chose me. And maybe that’s where the melancholy comes from. I’m very glad I wrote this book, but there’s still a part of me that wishes the topic had chosen someone else instead.

 

 
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