Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Privacy July 31, 2012

This post was originally published on January 14th, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Earlier this week I wrote about inappropriate chitchat, and my heart breaks over the comments (several came offline). Readers shared some of the horrible, though possibly well-intentioned, things people have said to them that added salt to the already devastating wounds of infertility.

“When are you going to have kids?”

“So which one of you is the reason you can’t have children?”

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

We’ve all heard variations on this theme, and I don’t know if it ever gets easier to come up with an appropriate response. The bigger issue I think we haven’t yet discussed is when—if ever—to tell people, and who we should tell, versus our right to privacy.

How are you handling this? Did you break the news to a few key people, expecting them to spread the message down the line? Did you tell just close family and friends, hoping to gain their support? Did you include a paragraph in your annual holiday newsletter? Or have you kept it to yourself?

Speaking of privacy, if you’re uncomfortable openly posting your thoughts or concerns on the blog, there are members-only discussions going on in the forums. You’ll find comfort, compassion, empathy, and support here. I hope you’ll reach out. Meanwhile, consider yourself cyber-hugged.

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

 

Family Support February 27, 2012

I talked to some of my family back in the UK this weekend, as I often do, and it struck me after I’d hung up how lucky I am to have the family I have.

I have two older brothers, both of whom have kids­­–my fabulous nieces and nephews. My mum is a good grandma, but I know she would have enjoyed playing the grandma role to the children of her only daughter.

I think there’s a bond that happens between a mother and daughter when the elder woman gets to pass along her knowledge and experience.  My mum didn’t get to do that, and it saddens me, even though I think she’s ok with the situation. My mother is nothing, if not pragmatic about the things life hands out.

I’m lucky because I’ve never felt pressure from my family with regards to children. I’ve heard the occasional insensitive comment, but I know those weren’t meant to hurt me, and probably said because of an uncomfortable situation where there really wasn’t anything better that could have been said.

But I know that other people aren’t so lucky, and that their families don’t understand at all why they don’t just keep trying to have a baby, why they can’t just put the failed attempts and losses behind them and try again.  It’s hard to explain to someone that you have to stop trying for the sake of your own sanity and that making the decision doesn’t lessen the desire for children.

So, I’m curious to hear how your families have handled your situation. Have they been supportive? Do they understand what you’ve been through and the decisions you’ve made? Or has your not having children caused a fissure in your family?  And how have you handled that? Let me know.

 

Whiny Wednesday: World’s most insensitive comment October 26, 2011

During my random Internet rambles I came across a community called Widows Too Young, an amazing group of women who have lost spouses. (Can I just say at this point that I love how we women come together to support one another. We rock.) However one of the forums deals with women who are childfree, and I think this one wins the prize for “most insensitive comment ever.”

SusieBear posted that for years she and her husband dealt with prying questions and insensitive remarks about their decision to be childfree. Now that her husband is gone, people are actually commenting to her about what a comfort children would have been to her, and suggesting that she must now be regretting her decision to not have kids.

Really, people? Is there any chance you could engage your brains before opening your mouths? Can you please explain what it is about these statements you think is actually going to be helpful?!!

 

I’ve complained plenty here about the things people sometimes say to “help,” but I think that this really takes the cake. My heart goes out to SusieBear, and I’m glad she’s found a supportive community that gets it.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, and while it’s hard to top Susie’s whine, feel free to have a grumble and get your gripes out.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Cell Phones October 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

I love my cell phone. I don’t know how I ever got along without one. It allows me to text flirtatious messages to my honey (while he’s sitting in Very Important Meetings), it provides a sense of extra security should I ever need roadside service, it gives the illusion of professionalism when clients catch me “at work” at the bakery down the street.

However.

I miss the old finger-dialed, actually ringing, heavy-weighted unit with spiral cord–connected receiver for one reason: When circumstances warranted, I could smash the receiver down with a satisfying slam. Remember those days? An un-helpful customer service representative gives you attitude, and BAM! A persistent telemarketer calls in the middle of dinner and asks for the male head of household, and BANG! Your father/mother-in-law/sister/so-called friend hurts your feelings for the last time and you’re done, so SLAM!

Tapping end on the screen of my high-tech model just doesn’t send the same message.

(Sigh)…I miss the good ol’ days.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She now understands why her parents vacationed in spots with no phone or TV service.

 

You’re such a mom August 9, 2011

Last week I was grumbling to a friend about how much time I spend looking for my glasses. Seriously, it’s ridiculous. I can never find them and without them, I can’t see clearly enough to find them. I have a list of places I look first – desk, nightstand, purse, bathroom – but it’s not uncommon for me to find them on the stove, on top of the trashcan, on the floor, or in the bed.

 

“You need to have a place you always put them,” suggested my friend.

 

I’ve heard the exact thing from my mother for decades, but clearly it hasn’t done me a bit of good. I take my glasses off when I don’t need them and I put them wherever I am at the time.

 

I rolled my eyes at my friend. “You’re such a mom,” I told her.

 

Driving home later that day, I reran the conversation in my head and I cringed at the emphasis I’d put on the word mom. I’d used a disparaging tone, suggesting that my friend’s tendency to want to help was something negative.

 

I thought about the discussions we’ve had here about offhand comments people have made to us that have been so hurtful, and I realized I’d just done the same thing. What if my friend, with a daughter just graduated from high school and preparing to move out into the world, was feeling the pangs of her future empty nest and having a crisis of confidence now that her motherhood services were no longer needed? What if her daughter had said the same thing recently and she’d been stung? What if my offhand comment had really hurt?

 

We can’t censor everything we say on the off-chance we inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings, or there would be no room for humor in the world, but this incident reminded me that everyone brings their own filters to a conversation and what might be an offhand remark for one person could be hurtful to another.

 

The same rules apply to us, the other way round. Because of our filters regarding childlessness, infertility, or our choice to be childfree, what feels like a hurtful barb could just be intended as a meaningless throwaway comment. If we can’t censor the world, then maybe we just need to adjust our filters.

 

Whiny Wednesday – Thoughtless Comments March 9, 2011

It’s Whiny Wednesday and I’ve been brewing a post for a couple of weeks about people who leave thoughtless comments on blogs.

I’ve come across several cases recently of commenters posting hateful or at least unthinking comments on blogs and websites. The worst was on an article about infertility that I reposted here. That article generated some of the most cruel and heartless comments I’ve ever read on the subject.

Then, last week a fellow blogger told me of her experience with an equally unpleasant throw away comment someone left on a blog she visits. It was one of those comments about the childless and childfree that we know in our hearts aren’t true, but that sting anyway. The words, bitter, pathetic and whiny are often associated with those stereotypes.

I know better than to read comments on news sites, because I always get riled up, and yet I do it anyway, and then find myself stomping around furious that someone could be so thoughtless and insensitive.

Finally last week, I had lunch with a friend who had published an article called My Husband, the Convicted Murderer on Salon.com. Her article spawned 122 comments, ranging from support and understanding to the inevitable hate mail variety. I asked her; “How do you deal with this?” and she gave me some helpful advice.

She said (and I’m paraphrasing here):

“Some people just come looking for a fight. They’re looking for controversy and they’re looking for someone to leave their darkest thoughts. The internet is the perfect, almost anonymous place to do that.”

She’s right. People come from all sorts of dark places, and often with their own personal agenda. Sometimes people post before they think, or they just don’t bother wasting energy thinking at all. There’s nothing we can do to help those people, and odds are, they don’t want to be helped or educated or enlightened. They just want to fight.

I feel very fortunate that most of the people who find this blog are coming with something positive to say. It has helped create the kind of community I’d envisioned when I first started this project. But when I venture out into the wider world and encounter the other kind of commenters out there, I’ll be sure to keep my friend’s advice in mind.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, so chime in to the discussion or feel free to have a whine of your own.

P.S. On the subject of other blogs, here’s an article tying in to our National Women’s History month series that I posted on Divine Caroline earlier this week.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Privacy January 14, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Earlier this week I wrote about inappropriate chitchat, and my heart breaks over the comments (several came offline). Readers shared some of the horrible, though possibly well-intentioned, things people have said to them that added salt to the already devastating wounds of infertility.

“When are you going to have kids?”

“So which one of you is the reason you can’t have children?”

“Why don’t you just adopt?”

We’ve all heard variations on this theme, and I don’t know if it ever gets easier to come up with an appropriate response. The bigger issue I think we haven’t yet discussed is when—if ever—to tell people, and who we should tell, versus our right to privacy.

How are you handling this? Did you break the news to a few key people, expecting them to spread the message down the line? Did you tell just close family and friends, hoping to gain their support? Did you include a paragraph in your annual holiday newsletter? Or have you kept it to yourself?

Speaking of privacy, if you’re uncomfortable openly posting your thoughts or concerns on the blog, there are members-only discussions going on in the forums. You’ll find comfort, compassion, empathy, and support here. I hope you’ll reach out. Meanwhile, consider yourself cyber-hugged.

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

 

Defending Our Honor August 12, 2010

Last night I almost came to blows in defense of our collective honor. It was our last meal out on vacation and we were making it a good one–crisp tablecloths, fresh seafood, flowing wine–you get the picture. The restaurant had all but cleared out as I was sampling the delectable flavors of some homemade lavender ice cream, when I caught a snippet of conversation from the other remaining table.

“He’s very selfish,” said the man, “He doesn’t have children…”

As you can imagine, that caught my attention, so I craned my neck to hear more. Unfortunately I was too far away, but I did catch this:

“Yes, she hasn’t created the next generation. She has three step-children, of course, but that doesn’t count…”

Sisters, I was this close to marching over there and setting this bunch of old coots straight. How dare they assume this man didn’t have children because of his selfishness? How dare they suggest that this woman had an obligation to procreate to carry on some family line. How dare they suggest that raising someone else’s children isn’t a worthy role?

In the end, I decided these people were a lost cause, and that it wasn’t worth ruining my lovely dinner for the sake of their education. There are some people who just aren’t going to get it, no matter what. But I think that our generation is starting to understand and to value people for more than their ability to pop out heirs.

That having been said, when I walked past their table on the way out, you’d better believe I gave them my very best evil eye.