Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Thinking About My Old Age October 29, 2012

The question often seems to come up of, “What’s going to become of me when I’m old? Who’s going to take care of me if I don’t have children?” It’s a question that rattles around in my brain more often than I’d like, and my answer is always the same: “I have absolutely no idea.”

Given that my husband is 15 years my senior and my family lives on a different continent, I am facing the statistically real possibility that I will be someday be alone with no blood relatives within a 6,000-mile radius of me. I’m thinking that as long as I remain physically and fiscally fit, I’ll get long well enough. I have friends and interests, not to mention a job that doesn’t tie me to any particular geographic location, so I could choose to move closer to my family if that’s what I wanted to do.

But what happens if I’m not healthy, either physically or fiscally? What happens if I need care that I can’t afford to pay for and there’s no one around who gives enough of a damn to look after me? What will become of the poor, impoverished, childless widow then?

These are the thoughts that pop into my head, and honestly, it’s depressing. If I allowed these thoughts to take hold, it could be paralyzing. I could see myself planning for this possibility, saving every penny for my future healthcare and frantically collecting friends in the hopes that, in my time of need, one of them will be a friend indeed. I could see me putting my current life on hold for the sake of avoiding a future life alone, and I don’t want to do that.

I don’t want to get all Pollyanna about this. I am thinking about this future possibility. I am trying hard to keep myself healthy, I’m nurturing my friendships, and I’m trying to be smart about my finances. But I’m not looking at my friendships with an eye as to who will take care of me (that would be weird, for one thing) and I’m not living now for the possibility of my future, because it might not happen that way.

Anyone who’s ever made plans for the future and then watched them fail to come to fruition (is that anyone here?) knows that life has no guarantees. Yes, statistically I should outlive Mr. Fab and someday be alone, but in reality I might not. Yes, theoretically people with children will be taken care of in their old age, but if you’ve ever visited a retirement home, you’ll know that’s not a given either. In fact I wonder if people with children aren’t sometimes more alone because their friends assume their kids are visiting and taking care of them? As a friend, I am more likely to step in to help a friend who doesn’t have family than one who has a partner and family close by. Likewise, I hope that my friends will be there for me, when needed.

So yes, I’m aware that I may need a plan for the future, and I am thinking about what my options might be. But there’s no way of knowing what my future will be, so I don’t want to fritter away my present worrying about it.

P.S. After writing this post I came across the image above and it made me laugh. Who knows, 40 years from now I could still be sitting here blogging about how to get along without children. Hopefully by then I’ll have it all figured out. 🙂

 

Leaving Behind the Old Life October 8, 2012

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;

we must die to one life before we can enter another.”

~ Anatole France

I saw this quote recently in a book about writing, but it struck a chord with me. It relates to so many things in life, including making peace with a life with out children.

One of the hardest stretches of my journey was the space between realizing that our options for building a family were running out, and the point where we made the decision to stop trying. I knew there were options still open, but they were beyond the scope of what Mr. Fab and I were willing to do. At some point we had to make a decision that we would not have children and that we would find a way to be okay with that. It was one of the hardest (and perhaps longest) decisions I’ve ever had to make.

I’m sure you’ve found yourself in this kind of situation in other areas of life, too. You know that you have to take a new direction, that ultimately it will be the right decision, but as France says, in order to do that, we have to leave a part of ourselves behind. Sometime the hardest part is listening to ourselves and not being afraid to make the wrong choice.

My first career was in engineering. I’ve made several career changes since then, trying to find the place in the world where I’d be happy. I’ve found it in writing, but it took me a long time to get here.

Many people can’t understand why, after all those years of college and graduate school, I would abandon a perfectly good and respectable career. I’ll be the first to admit that if I’d just stuck to engineering, I would probably have been more “successful” and definitely would be making more money, maybe own a home and live comfortably, but I know I wouldn’t have been happy. I might have been successful by the conventional definition, but the cost of sticking to a career that didn’t make me happy, just because it’s what was expected of me, didn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t easy to let go of that life and take a risk of finding happiness in another life.

Part of finding happiness is letting go of that which doesn’t make us happy. Although I believed that having children would make me happy, I was miserably unhappy running in circles trying to produce a baby that my body had no interest in creating. I could have gone on trying forever, but the cost to my mental and physical wellbeing would have been enormous. Letting go of that part of my life enabled me to find peace with my new life, even if it’s a life I wasn’t sure I wanted.

 

P.S. Letting go of the dream and the imagined life with children is the first topic we cover in the Finding Peace program. There are still some places available in the new session, which begins tomorrow. You can find all the details here.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Our Future Together October 2, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Your Future Together: Health Information You Need to Know.”

When my husband-to-be and I went to city hall to get our marriage license, we left with a small stack of papers, including a booklet with the above title. Curious, I opened it in the car and flipped through the pages. “Living a Healthy Lifestyle” was introduced on page 1, with recommendations for regular check-ups and exercise, a balanced diet, and up-to-date immunizations. Brief sections explaining the warning signs and resources for victims of domestic violence and HIV/AIDs followed. All this got me up to page 14. The remaining 34 pages are all about—you guessed it—family planning, pregnancy, and healthcare for babies.

There are resources listed for where to get genetic counseling, two full pages on the importance of increasing folic acid intake, and tips on things such as “Have someone else change the cat litter box daily” when you’re expecting. But no where—no where!—is there any mention of infertility, IVF, adoption, or the childfree option. Wait, I need to amend that. On page 16, there’s a list of family planning services available to eligible, low-income couples. Bullet number 4 reads: “Limited infertility and cancer screening services.”

I assumed this pamphlet must be way out-of-date, but the copyright is 2010, and the legal notation on the back indicates it must be distributed to all marriage license applicants. If that’s the case, I’d like to add some new sections to the 2012 edition, sections that address questions such as:

How long should we try to conceive the old-fashioned way before seeking professional help? What is the process for adopting a child? As a gay couple, how do we protect our parental rights? Who offers counseling when our dreams of having children are crushed? Can we have a happy and healthy marriage as a family of two?

I think someone needs to let city hall know that there’s a lot more information we need to know.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She—and her husband—have chosen to be childfree.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Typical September 5, 2012

I’ve taken almost a month largely away from work. I’ve rested, I’ve exercised, I’ve slept like it was going out of fashion. In other words, I’ve taken really good care of my mental and physical health.

Yesterday was my first official day back at work. I’m excited to get things rolling again, to start some new projects and face some long-running old ones with renewed vigor.

And, of course, I woke up with a cold.

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I’ve missed it these past few weeks. How about you? What’s making you shake your head and wonder why me?

 

Laughter: The Best Medicine August 6, 2012

This post was originally published on September 26, 2011

When was the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed. I’m talking deep, belly rumbling, side aching, snorting, laughter. Odds are, it’s been a while.

Last weekend I laughed longer and harder than I’ve laughed in a long, long time, and it felt SO GOOD!

The first bout came as my husband was telling our friends a funny and embarrassing story about his 21st birthday. I’ll spare the details, but think boys, bar, beer, waitress – use your imagination and you’ll be close. I’d heard the story before, but forgot the punch line, and for some reason it hit me right on the funny bone this time. I laughed so hard I had to excuse myself from the room to avoid snorting my adult beverage down my nose.

The second time happened when I rode a rollercoaster – something I haven’t done in absolutely YEARS! I certainly didn’t do anything so wild and outrageous during my TTC years (just in case, you know) and the opportunity hasn’t presented itself since. So, last weekend I rode The Roller Coaster at the New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas.

Let me tell you, I laughed! I whooped down the first drop, howled through the corkscrew, screamed in delight around the spiral and laughed so hard my legs shook. And do you know what? I felt great!

Something loosened up when I laughed like that. Some lump of built up tension released in me, and the weight that’s been dragging me down for so long lifted. Maybe it’s only a temporary reprieve, but I’ll take it. Laughter really is an excellent medicine.

So, if you could use a laugh, here’s a good article about the health benefits of laughter, including some tips for adding laughter to your life. (I’m adding “ride a rollercoaster to the list.)

I know that when life doesn’t go as planned it’s hard to find any humor at all, and when you’re healing from loss and dealing with grief, nothing’s funny. I know. But finding something to smile about, even just a giggle, can do you a world of good, and when the time is right, a great big belly laugh can help put your whole life back into perspective.

So, my challenge to you this week: Find something to laugh about. If nothing’s funny, just force yourself to smile until it turns into a giggle, and then let the laughter follow. I promise you, you’ll feel so much better.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Heredity July 25, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My dermatologist informed me this week that my latest skin issue is hereditary. It pretty much came over with my foremothers from Ireland four centuries ago and landed on my face, and there isn’t a darn thing I can do about it.

It’s more of an annoyance than a scary or damaging condition, so I’m not too put out by it. And I have to say, as I was leaving the doctor’s office, I thought of one benefit: At least I won’t be responsible for passing it along to any unsuspecting children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, so tell us: What physical or emotional traits have you inherited that you wish your ancestors had kept to themselves?

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

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Well-Intentioned People April 3, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Congratulations!”

I cocked my head in the universal gesture for Huh?

“I see you’re here for your first prenatal visit!”

“Um…no. Pretty sure I’m not.”

“Yes, it says so in the computer.”

“Pretty sure your computer is wrong.”

I’ve joked for years that my life is like a sit-com, and this vignette was a prime example. What started out as a routine annual physical (weight, blood pressure, checking my heart and lungs) had turned into a farce because someone at a call center had checked a wrong box and the receptionist felt compelled to announce it to the waiting room.

I easily could have turned this into a melodrama. I could have dashed into the ladies room, dissolved into a puddle of self-pity, and called my sister to wail about the unfairness of life, the cruelties of the universe. But there was no need to over-react. The receptionist wasn’t trying to hurt me; she was misinformed (not her fault) and she thought I had something to celebrate. Her intentions were kind, she was reaching out to me, and I’m sure she was gearing up to share her experience of her first prenatal visit when she was pregnant with the first of her three grown kids.

Under other circumstances, it could have been a lovely moment. Or it could have been an awful moment. I chose to make it an absurdly funny moment. Once we cleared up the reason for my appointment, I stepped outside and called a close girlfriend who is also childfree. “You are not going to believe this…my life is a freakshow!” I told her what happened, and together we howled with laughter. Then we talked about how far we both have come on our journeys from disappointed mama-wanna-bes to mostly-contented childfree women.

We’ve all heard our share of insensitive comments, and we know well-intentioned but ill-timed comments can be even more hurtful. I’d like to suggest that we humans generally have the best intentions to be kind to one another, and it’s my intention to try to see this good in others as often as possible.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She believes laughter truly is the best medicine.

 

Lucky Me November 22, 2011

In her wonderful post last week, Dorothy talked about the idea of getting a double dose of something else good to make up for the child-shaped holes in our lives. I’ve been thinking a lot about that idea, especially as we tick towards Thanksgiving.

 

I don’t really consider myself unlucky. Sure my plans for having children didn’t work out, but I have so many other things going for me. And as a general rule, I feel that luck is usually on my side.

 

So, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are the top 10 things I am thankful for today:

 

10. My health, which is having its off-days lately, but in the big scheme of things is good.

9. I need to lose a few a pounds instead of having to worry about where my next meal is coming from.

8. I get to work that I love (most days.)

7. Clean flannel sheets. They’re one of life’s greatest indulgences.

6. I live 3 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and on a good day I can almost smell Hawaii from my back yard.

5. My friends, near and far, who make me laugh, or think, or who just listen

4. My family. Mad as hatters, all of ’em, but they’re pretty special.

3. My cat, who was good enough to pick me for an owner, and who loves me in her own strange kitty way.

2. My mum, who is about as good as a mother any daughter could ask for and is coming to spend Christmas with us.

1. My husband, who isn’t perfect, but is pretty flipping marvelous despite his flaws.

 

Feel free to join in and add your own list.

 

Laughter: the Best Medicine September 26, 2011

When was the last time you laughed? I mean really laughed. I’m talking deep, belly rumbling, side aching, snorting, laughter. Odds are, it’s been a while.

Last weekend I laughed longer and harder than I’ve laughed in a long, long time, and it felt SO GOOD!

The first bout came as my husband was telling our friends a funny and embarrassing story about his 21st birthday. I’ll spare the details, but think boys, bar, beer, waitress – use your imagination and you’ll be close. I’d heard the story before, but forgot the punch line, and for some reason it hit me right on the funny bone this time. I laughed so hard I had to excuse myself from the room to avoid snorting my adult beverage down my nose.

The second time happened when I rode a rollercoaster – something I haven’t done in absolutely YEARS! I certainly didn’t do anything so wild and outrageous during my TTC years (just in case, you know) and the opportunity hasn’t presented itself since. So, last weekend I rode The Roller Coaster at the New York-New York Hotel in Las Vegas.

Let me tell you, I laughed! I whooped down the first drop, howled through the corkscrew, screamed in delight around the spiral and laughed so hard my legs shook. And do you know what? I felt great!

Something loosened up when I laughed like that. Some lump of built up tension released in me, and the weight that’s been dragging me down for so long lifted. Maybe it’s only a temporary reprieve, but I’ll take it. Laughter really is an excellent medicine.

So, if you could use a laugh, here’s a good article about the health benefits of laughter, including some tips for adding laughter to your life. (I’m adding “ride a rollercoaster to the list.)

I know that when life doesn’t go as planned it’s hard to find any humor at all, and when you’re healing from loss and dealing with grief, nothing’s funny. I know. But finding something to smile about, even just a giggle, can do you a world of good, and when the time is right, a great big belly laugh can help put your whole life back into perspective.

So, my challenge to you this week: Find something to laugh about. If nothing’s funny, just force yourself to smile until it turns into a giggle, and then let the laughter follow. I promise you, you’ll feel so much better.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Pot August 8, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Down the street and around the corner from my home is a medical marijuana dispensary—one of two in our neighborhood. I am 100% in support of pot being used to ease the side effects of chemotherapy and other excruciating conditions, but I get really irritated when carloads of 20-something guys swing by on Thursday afternoons for their weekend party supplies.

 

I’m reminded of why I never tried it. Twenty or so years ago, I read something that said when you smoked marijuana, elements from the drug could settle into your fat cells. Specifically in women, it could lie dormant in your eggs and eventually result in birth defects in your future children. That was enough for me. I politely declined to join my friends when joints got passed around, and frankly, felt a little smug about my decision to be drug-free. In the end, it would pay off with happy, healthy children, right?

 

Fast-forward and I’m now at the time in my life when it’s clear I won’t be having kids. And, you know what, I’m a little pissed. All those years I spent exercising, eating right, not drinking, not smoking, not doing drugs so that my body would support a pregnancy—all for squat!

 

So I think it’s time I start making up for my unnecessary sacrifices. I’m too afraid of jail to experiment with illegal substances (much to the relief of my fiancé, who is in law enforcement), but I am thinking a gluttonous feast of sushi, Lemon Drop martinis, and chocolate, chocolate, chocolate is in order.

 

 

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She believes “Life is what happens when you’ve made other plans.”