Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

What Are You Struggling With? March 30, 2012

Last week, while out on a walk, I watched a little frog make her (I assume) way across a pond. She was a feisty little thing, swimming like crazy as hard as she could, then pausing a while at a clump of pond weed or a log to catch her breath and regroup before swimming off again.

It struck me that her efforts were a good analogy for my own journey with coming-to-terms with not having children. I would battle through one set of emotions, then stop to rest and settle with the new mind-set for a while, only to discover some other trigger or unresolved issue, and off I’d go again to figure that out. Unlike my little froggy friend, my journey wasn’t a straight line across the pond and I often found I’d swum in a circle and needed to revisit an issue I thought I had under control.

Right now, today, I am well into the acceptance stage of my journey. I can be around small children and babies, and I’m not flooded with grief every time I get a pregnancy announcement (although I’m not yet to the point of being thrilled either.) I’m mostly at peace with the idea that motherhood won’t be a chapter in my personal history and I wrestle with some of my thoughts about the future and where I’ll end up.

Right now, I’m struggling with grandchildren. My husband has two grandchildren and it is a daily struggle to keep my emotions in balance. On the one hand, I don’t want to deny him the joy of being a grandfather. He’s good at it for one thing, and his grandchildren are mad for him. On the other hand, I find it very hard to share that joy. On the surface, I want to embrace this new adventure, but it’s hard, and I realize that tucked way down below the surface are some strong and well anchored feelings that I haven’t worked through yet. So, off I go again, swimming for the next patch of dry land.

Do you feel this way, too? Do you feel as if you keep rehashing the same problems, disguised as something else? What are you struggling with in your own journey right now?


It Got Me Thinking…About the Caretaking Question March 27, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I usually include in my byline for this column that I am “mostly at peace with being childfree.” I now can tolerate the occasional baby shower, I genuinely celebrate news of friends’ pregnancies, and I relish my unscheduled weekends. I am growing accustomed to a childfree life, but one nagging issue still troubles me.

In recent months, complications from arthritis, pain, and plain ol’ old age have crept up on my 14-year-old chocolate lab, Scout. It’s fallen to me to provide for her new needs, like carrying her home from walks when her legs can go no further, supplementing her diet with soft treats like ground turkey and steamed broccoli, and lugging her up and down our front stairs for pee breaks throughout the day.

I’m not complaining. I feel privileged to be Scout’s human, and I want her final days to be as comfortable as possible and full of love. I cherish this precious time with her. But it’s got me thinking….

In caring for my sweet girl, I am confronting my greatest fear, the one big bad ugly fear I have about being childfree: Who will take care of me? When my mind or body gives in to the inevitable aging process, who will step up to manage my finances or coordinate medical care? Who will assist me up stairs or change the batteries in the smoke detector or make sure there’s food in the fridge? I worry there will be no one to keep me company in the lonely hours of my golden years, and to hold my hand, offering comfort and prayers, when it’s my time to pass from this life to the next. Will I end up paying someone to perform all these tasks perfunctorily?

Both my grandmothers lived into their 90s. When they needed help in their final years, there were children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren at their sides. But I am childfree. I have no caretaker in the wings. I am saddened by this thought and, frankly, I am scared.

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