Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Angels October 30, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Deedy is the gentleperson who visits old souls in nursing homes. She sends flowers for no particular reason, writes cards to simply say “Thinking of you!”, calls regularly just to chat and reminisce. Now in her 80s, she has a driver take her on her rounds, otherwise she hasn’t slowed much in her efforts. She’s a champion conversationalist, a goodwill ambassador, a messenger of cheer, an angel on Earth.

Long ago she recognized that friends were slowly dying of loneliness because their own extended families were too busy with jobs, children, and other important responsibilities to tend to their elders, so Deedy picked up the slack. She doesn’t do any of this because she expects anything in return, but because she has a good heart. And she’s able to do this with such vigor because she is not married and doesn’t have children of her own. Ironic, isn’t it?

I’m often asked who my childfree role models were. To be honest, it wasn’t until last year, when we did the series on cheros (heros who happen to be childfree), that was I able to I think of any. For some women it’s an inspiring aunt, teacher, or boss. I can’t recall one childfree woman who was part of my growing-up years. Then there was Deedy, who came along in my late 30s, just as I needed someone to shine a light and show me a different path. Deedy is my personal chero. I hope I have learned well from her, for I intend on following her example and becoming a chero to others.

Look around you and share with us: Who is your personal chero?

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

 

Whiny Wednesday: Thanks a Lot, Facebook October 24, 2012

In the interests of fuelling my Whiny Wednesday fire, Kathleen was kind enough to send me news of Facebook’s new “Little One” pregnancy tracker app. (Here’s a link, but please click through with caution as it’s a baby fest.)

Not only does the app provide video of baby’s development, users can also “Keep friends and family involved throughout your pregnancy with weekly updates, comments, gift registry, and polls.” The idea is to make it easier for moms-to-be to share photos and news.

I am currently “involved” in a family member’s pregnancy via Facebook. And let me tell you, this woman needs no help from an app in broadcasting her daily updates. In fact, it’s starting to become fascinating to see which unrelated topic she can twist around to the subject of her pregnancy next.  I know she’s excited, and I am happy for her, but mix it up a bit, lady, ok?

Glad that’s off my chest. What’s on yours today?

P.S. On their open salon this week, Pamela has a wonderful analogy about what it feels like to watch a friend (or family member) go to the other side and lose empathy for those left behind. On her blog, Keiko talks about having to announce her pregnancy and feeling guilty for “not failing.” Check out the conversations.

 

 

Whiny Wednesday: Bad News October 17, 2012

My friend called this week with “bad news.” I braced myself because this has been a week of one piece of bad news after another. It seems that every time the phone rings or I get an email from a friend it bears news of major illness, death, or financial disaster.

Fortunately, my friend’s bad news was only that she had to stand me up for a concert date we’ve had planned for six months. Any other week, I would have been aggravated, possibly devastated (it was an Adam Ant concert, after all), but if there’s any good news come from this week, it’s that all the bad news has taught me perspective.

Thankfully, it’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s your whine this week?

 

In the Wake of Hurricane Infertility September 17, 2012

On a walk recently, my husband mentioned that a friend of ours is planning to move with her husband and small daughter to a more family-friendly neighborhood. I knew what was coming next. Once someone has a baby, it seems it’s only a matter of time before the next pregnancy announcement comes. I’d been expecting this news and my genuine happiness for her showed me how far I’ve come.

However, when my husband broke the news of our friend’s pregnancy, I saw him shrink away in the way you’d expect a mistreated dog to cringe when someone raises his voice. It made me sad to realize the damage my infertility experience has left in its wake.

My husband isn’t the only one who’s been affected. I’ve noticed friends stepping very carefully around the topic of babies and children, and keeping a close eye on me to gauge my reaction as to how much they can say. I am grateful for their sensitivity, but I’m sorry that they still can’t fully relax around me.
My infertility and my subsequent healing have been the major focus of my life for a number of years now. I’ve been working hard to sort through my emotions, deal with my grief, and get to the point where I can have conversations about pregnancy and babies without feeling upset or envious. But I realize that those around me don’t know yet how far I’ve come and they’re still stepping gingerly around me, as if I’m and unexploded bomb that looks safe enough but that could go off at any time.

It seems that the next step of my healing journey needs to be repairing some of the damage done by Hurricane Infertility, and letting my friends know that it’s safe to be around me again.

 

Baby Envy? Not Me September 7, 2012

An acquaintance is expecting her first baby any day and she has had enough of being pregnant. “I’m ready to get this baby out of me,” she said.

The old me would have pursed my lips and tried to resist telling her she ought to be lucky she’s pregnant and that I’d give anything to change to places with her for just one day. In fact I would gladly change places with her if I could. I’d gladly put up with the swollen ankles, the lack of sleep, the total and utter discomfort of lugging and extra 20, 30, 40 pounds around in 90-degree weather. I’d love to know what it feels like to be in her shoes.

But that’s the old me. The new me doesn’t want or need to give her a lecture.

A little over a year ago we sat at dinner, both peering over the crest of 40 and looking at a life without children. I know what she’s been through to get to this point and I know she isn’t really complaining about her good fortune. I also know that, now, I wouldn’t change places with her for anything in the world.

We’re both heading into a new chapter in our lives. Hers is going to involve a lot of sleepless nights, probably at least two decades worth. And mine? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I’ll get serious about finally finishing that novel I’ve been noodling with for years. Or maybe it’s time to move away from the city and the good school districts, and find a little place in the country.

All I know for sure is that my life is open to possibility now, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Feeling Cheated July 3, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My long-time friend, Teri*, and I had spent the morning reminiscing about our college days, catching up on work and vacation plans, and updating each other on sorority sisters we’d friended on Facebook. I was in my kitchen, putting together a salad for lunch, when she finally acknowledged the elephant in the room: The fact that we’re both childfree. She knew I was working toward accepting a childfree life, and I was aware she’d endured several unsuccessful fertility procedures, but we’d managed to talk around it until…

“Do you ever feel…?” and she paused for a moment, seeking the right word.

“…cheated.” I’d never articulated this before, but it was exactly what I felt, and the admission surprised us both.

She looked straight into my eyes with full recognition, then burst into heart-wrenching sobs.

I sought words of comfort as I held her, but nothing could compensate for the emptiness we both were experiencing. Teri would have been an amazing mother. She and her husband are a wonderful couple, part of a loving community of family and friends that would have embraced a child. But you know the story: She and her husband have run through their savings and battered their hearts in attempts to get pregnant, in the process depleting the stores that might have helped them adopt. There will be no children for them.

Even though I’ve made great strides in my journey, there are moments when I have a few choice cuss words for God—or whoever it is who makes the big decisions about our fates. I think about the man who beheaded his teenage daughter because he didn’t approve of her lifestyle, the foster parents who starved and neglected the children in their care, and the woman who left her toddler alone in a filthy apartment so she could go clubbing. These people get to have children but not me? Not Teri?! You bet I feel cheated!

“Life isn’t fair,” my mother once told me, and I continue to wrestle with how to make peace with this. Sometimes I force myself into positive thinking, the whole “acting as-if” process. Instead of focusing on the lack, I focus on the gifts, such as my health, my friends, my dogs. Even reading that now I scoff at the triteness, but I persist. I have to start somewhere to point my heart in the direction of healing, and I suppose I can count myself lucky that I have these blessings when others have been cheated out of good health, supportive relationships, and loyal companions.

Still, I ache for my dear, sweet friend and the unfairness she’s been dealt in life. I don’t want to trivialize her pain, I don’t want to deliver some callous platitude. As we quieted our hearts and wiped away tears, what I said to her was, simply, “I am so sorry.”

*Not her real name, of course, and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with her decision to be childfree.

 

One Understanding Person June 18, 2012

How many times, when someone’s asked how you’re doing, have you said, “Oh, fine,” when inside, you know you’re really not? Plenty, I’m guessing.

We’re culturally pre-programmed to respond this way, because the truth is, when people say, “Hey, how are you doing?” what they mean is something like, “Hey, I see you, I’m acknowledging your existence and letting you know that I want you to think that I’m a friendly person, but don’t get too close, and definitely don’t answer my question honestly, because I really don’t want to know, unless everything’s rosy in your world.”

Cynical? Perhaps? But imagine answering that question honestly and picture the look you’d expect to see on most people’s faces.

Which is why we protect ourselves by telling everyone we’re fine.

Recently, Wendy added a comment to a post I wrote, and shared something she had once posted on her Facebook page. She wrote:

“Sometimes when I say, “I’m okay,” I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, ‘I know you’re not.’”

Wendy said she got a lot of hugs after that post.

It’s incredible what a difference one understanding person can make. I’ve met several surprise ones over the years—a friend of my mother’s who caught me off guard with an understanding word; a stranger at a cocktail reception, who told me she and her husband didn’t have children either, and who became my BFF for the evening.

So, today I’m sending out a thank you to all the understanding people out there to let them know how much their simple word or hug made a difference to me.

Who’s been your surprise understanding person?

 

Whiny Wednesday April 25, 2012

Hooray, hooray, it’s Whiny Wednesday today!

This week I was in a conversation with my friend “K” and a young woman who said of their mutual friend “D”, “She’s never going to get pregnant if she keeps stressing out like this.”

K and I exchanged a knowing glance (she knows all my story) and I think she probably held her breath for a moment, waiting to see if I would actually lose it on the spot and give this woman a full on lecture about infertility.

I didn’t. It wasn’t the time and place for a teachable moment. Instead I said, “Well, that’s easier said than done. Trust me; I know.”

Still, I can’t stop thinking about D and hoping she has someone to talk to who understands the hell she’s undoubtedly in right now. I know that K understands, but it’s clear that not all D’s friends do.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. I’ve set a bit of a melancholy tone here, but don’t let that stop you from venting what’s on your mind today.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Facebook Sickness April 17, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I’m convinced I’ve picked up a new form of morning sickness. The primary symptom of “Facebook Sickness” is feeling nauseated every time a “friend” posts yet another comment or photo updating her (or his wife’s) pregnancy. It’s an epidemic:

“Here’s a picture of me at week 5!” (Looking no different than you looked at week 4.5.)
“Here’s the latest ultrasound image!” (Still looks like a blob of nothing to me.)

“Today my pregnant wife is craving ice cream!” (I crave ice cream every day. Big whoop.)

“I’m kicking my mommy today. Love, Baby Girl Smith” (“I crapped on the hallway carpet today. Love, Scout the dog”)

I can’t comment with what I’m really thinking because that would be rude…and, well, I actually am happy for these people. But I am SO OVER the daily belly photos that I am tempted to post one of my own:

“Here’s a picture of my belly. Still fat.”

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. A bowl of chocolate chip ice cream would go a long way to adjusting her attitude today.

 

Guest Blog: Non-Accidental Accidental Pregnancy March 8, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Why is it that every pregnancy announcement these days is quickly followed up with the footnote that this was an “accident”? One of my friends called last night with the big news, and I truly was shocked to hear it. She’d been debating for a long time whether or not she even wanted kids and hadn’t come to any kind of conclusion. After delivering the bombshell, she said, “Obviously, this was a total surprise and completely not on purpose.”

So of course, I countered with a question as to what happened to her birth control – you know, that little pill she’d been taking every day of her life since freshman year of college? That’s when I got the “Welllllllllllll….”, followed by a convoluted tale of a change in insurance, a radical increase in cost, a two-month swing where she and her husband just went without and they thought they’d be okay because a doctor once told her she might have trouble getting pregnant someday.

I’m sorry, but that does not an accident make. What’s an accident, you ask? Someone who takes their birth control religiously, at the same time every day, and one still manages to get past the goalie. Someone whose condom breaks and on their way to get the morning-after pill, they’re kidnapped and held for ransom until it’s too late. Someone whose Nuva Ring fell out and somehow, they didn’t notice it. These are accidents. Going off your birth control for two months while still having sex, is not.

I don’t think my friend is a scheming, conniving liar. I think she actually believes, on the surface, that this truly was an accident. But anytime you’re having sex while not taking every precaution to prevent pregnancy, there’s got to be a part of you that understands and accepts the potential consequences. And I’d have to argue that going through with it means that even if it’s just on a subconscious level, you sort of want a baby.

What I can’t figure out is why people are so eager to convince everyone it was an accident. Why can’t they own up to what they want? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a baby. Is it because society has made us feel that becoming a mother should be secondary to having a career? Or that we should have accomplished this laundry list of great achievements and amassed a small fortune in college funds first?

I don’t know, maybe it’s not important. But for some reason, it’s just driving me crazy lately! Is this happening to anyone else, or is it just my delusional friends?

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at www.MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

 
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