Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Child-Tinted Glasses November 8, 2012

By The One Hand Man

I had a boss once who was married, very successful, but childless. When questioned about his lack of offspring he shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t for him.

Not understanding him at the time, I viewed him as someone who didn’t want that ‘completion’ in his life.

Knowing what I do now, I would probably have kept my mouth shut.

It is, as I understand it, a natural feeling to desire your own children. So does that mean it is ‘unnatural’ not to want them?… I should think not.

If you put a spreadsheet together of pros and cons of having children, I reckon the cons would outweigh the pros about five to one, so it is perhaps more natural not to want your own kids.

For me, the thought of going through the pearly gates without even trying is not something I can face, but having struggled with infertility and IVF, I am familiar with the sympathetic stares of child bearing parents, especially when my wife and I rock up to children’s parties and the like without any kids of our own.

I have had three years of batting off the obligatory “so no Kids yet then?” remarks, I can only imagine the frustration of those who never have children – a lifetime of explaining themselves when they really shouldn’t have to.

The pressures of having children (or not) can become immense, and with feet being put in mouths left, right and centre, I have quickly learned not to judge or assume anything about individuals and couples without children.

Some can’t have them, some don’t want them, but what business is that of ours?

The One Hand Man: Married in 07, sperm test in 08, IVF in 09, another sperm test in 10, adoption started in 11 – still going through the adoption process. Not had any recent sperm tests. Read more at: www.theonehandman.co.uk

 

Guest Post: Words or Tears September 13, 2012

By Peggy McGillicuddy

There are numerous examples of what NOT to say to someone who is dealing with infertility. What can be more difficult is to describe what TO say or do when someone you love is going through the experience.

The most appropriate and comforting response I have received came from my younger sister, Katie. We were conversing on the phone one night, and the topic glided over to my problems with conceiving. My husband and I had been going to a fertility clinic. We had been trying for a while, but to no avail.  Due to my age, IVF was the most logical next step, but not an option for us.

With a lump in my throat, I told my sister that I had reached a point where I felt like I now had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to have children. I needed to start grieving. There was silence on the end of the phone. For a moment, I was annoyed, thinking that Katie didn’t want to talk about the subject.  But then I heard it.

She was crying. Not weepy, soft tears, but sobs.

I was taken aback, not anticipating this response. I really didn’t know what to say. So I asked a dumb question, that I already knew the answer to.

“Why are you crying?”

 

Between sobs, she said, “Because, Peggy, that’s so sad for you.  And sad for all of us.  I was imagining having a niece or nephew from my big sister. I’m so sorry. It’s just not fair.” 

 

And then she cried some more.

A sense of calm came over me. We talked a bit more about it, but there wasn’t a whole lot to say. I was stunned by how much better I felt after the interaction. I tried to figure out why, and came up with this:

She didn’t come back at me with advice on how to get pregnant. She didn’t try to fix it. She didn’t point out all the positives in NOT having children. She didn’t say, “Just adopt.” She didn’t tell me to be grateful for the things I already had.

Katie did not say that perhaps I didn’t want to be a mom badly enough, because if so, I would “just” do IVF. She didn’t imply that I had less right to grieve because I wasn’t trying every medical intervention available. She didn’t tell me I was already a “mother” to so many (it sounds nice, but it is NOT the same). And most importantly, she didn’t change the subject.

What she did do was profoundly different than all of those things listed above, of which I’d already heard. My sisters reaction was the most compassionate and appropriate because it matched the emotional intensity and sadness that I was already feeling. I didn’t have to explain why I felt so lousy, or justify my grief. I didn’t need to make excuses for myself or my choices.

What I got from Katie during this brief interaction over the phone was something that I hadn’t yet received from anyone else. Validation and permission.

Permission to grieve for a loss felt so deeply. Validation of the pain of infertility reflected back to me through someone else’s voice.

Listening to her on the phone that night, I finally felt someone else understood why my heart was breaking without me needing to explain why.

My sister’s tears did more for me than any words ever could have.

Peggy McGillicuddy is a counselor, consultant and group facilitator who works with children but is not a mom. You can explore her blog at akidfirst.com.

 

Infertility, Depression, and Help July 2, 2012

Courtesy: Microsoft Images

As if in response to my post last week about the way in which life-changing news about infertility is delivered, this article popped into my inbox a couple of days later.

I’ll admit I scoffed when I first started reading.

“Women who are stressed and anxious before in vitro fertilization (IVF) are no less likely to have a baby, new research suggests. But if the treatment fails, it may take a toll on their mental health.”

It may take a toll on their mental health. You’re kidding. It took a study to figure this out?

I was surprised to discover that two separate studies found no link between anxiety and a woman’s ability to conceive. Wish I’d had those studies on hand for every time someone told me, “Just relax!” However, the next time I hear someone doling out that advice to an infertile, I can promise I’ll be smugly piping up with this information.

The article went on:

“Of 103 women with a failed [IVF] attempt, 60 percent had symptoms of a clinical anxiety disorder – up slightly from 57 percent before their IVF cycles. And 44 percent had clinical depression, which was up from 26 percent before treatment.

It’s not surprising that many women with a failed IVF attempt would have such symptoms, according to Pasch. But there has actually been little research into how IVF outcomes may affect women’s mental health, she said.”

And here’s where I found my little nugget of hope. Up until now, the emotional and psychological effects of unresolved infertility haven’t been studied, and that which has not been studied cannot be remedied. But someone’s paying attention now.

“According to Pasch, infertility practices should do more to help women with mental health symptoms – though not because it would be expected to improve their odds of IVF success.

“Psychological interventions need to be geared toward helping women feel better, and not toward increasing their chances of pregnancy,” Pasch said.

Some larger, university-linked infertility centers have on-site services for women who want mental health counseling. But most practices do not, Pasch said.”

In my little fantasy world there will come a day when fertility clinics and Reproductive Endocrinologists, even OB/GYNs and GPs, are armed with studies such as these, as well as information and resources to guide their patients to the help and support they need.

If you could turn back time, what would you have wished for in the way of help? If you dealt with infertility, what resources would you have wanted from your doctor when you realized your options were running out? If you’re childfree by circumstance or even by choice and have struggled with coming-to-terms with that, who do you wish you could have turned to for help or guidance?

It may be too little to late for most of us here, but not for those women who will come behind us.

 

When Childfree Friends Move to Mommieville May 7, 2012

It’s now been well over three years since Mr. Fab and I decided to call the whole thing off and figure out how to get happy with the idea of not having children together. It’s been a rocky road, especially in the early days, when hope would keep rising up to remind me of everything I was walking away from, even when I knew that walking away was the right thing to do. (I wrote a post about hope vs. acceptance last year.)

For those of you still in the early stages of coming-to-terms, know that it does get better, and you can get to a point of making peace with the situation. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that booby traps can still lurk around unexpected corners.

Recently, three of my childfree friends dipped their toes into the mommy pond. One had a baby after an awful infertility journey and the other two, once resigned to their childfree lives, met suitable partners and started discussing the pros and cons of attempting motherhood in their 40’s.

As a friend, I was supportive and talked with them about their futures. I was genuinely happy for my friend who got her baby and I’d be just as happy for my other two friends if they decided to go for it.

But our conversations made me feel as if I was on a raft, floating further and further away from these friendships. These women have been my friends for years, more than a decade in one case. We’ve been through all kinds of challenges together and our friendships have survived. But I know that motherhood would drastically change my friends and I’m afraid I won’t be part of their lives anymore.

And this is where it gets dangerous and I consider calling the calling off off.

I just read a story about a 57-year-old woman who used donor eggs and IVF to have a child, and it reminds me that with enough time, money, and lack of sanity, I could probably be a mother too, and then my friends and I could all be mommies together.

Fortunately these whims of mine don’t last long and reality gives me a swift kick in the behind. I made the decision I made after carefully weighing all the options still open to me. I had good reasons for not pursuing motherhood at all costs and those reasons haven’t changed.

But I would certainly miss my friends if they moved away to Mommieville, and at some point I’m sure they’d miss me too.

 

Chero: Gloria Steinem March 9, 2012

Photo curtesy Gloria Steinem

Last year I was fortunate enough to see Gloria Steinem speak at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Steinem is the founder and former editor of Ms. Magazine and a tireless advocate for women’s rights. She is also childfree (although at 66, she married for the first time and became a stepmother to then 26-year-old actor, Christian Bale.) 40 years later, Steinem is still as vivacious as ever, and her work is still relevant.

It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century women around the world are still fighting for basic human rights, and that women in supposedly developed countries, such as the U.S., are still fighting for their reproductive rights. But here we are.

The governor of Virginia thinks we can’t be trusted to make a decision about motherhood, the Pope calls infertile couples who use reproductive technology “arrogant”, and radio talk show personality Rush Limbaugh apparently has a very low opinion of women who want to choose when, or if, to bring children into the world.

So, in honor of National Women’s History Month, here’s to an ageless Chero: Gloria Steinem.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Spoiled parents July 27, 2011

Filed under: Children,Current Affairs,Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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If, like me, you woke up on this beautiful Whiny Wednesday morning with nothing much to whine about, this little story ought to fire up a few complaints. (And thanks to Kathleen for sending this to me!)

[Warning: Before you click through, note that this story includes baby pictures]

A couple in Tennessee took out a home equity loan to get the $24,000 needed to undergo IVF–not for their one chance at parenthood, but to pre-select the sex of their fourth child. Oh yes. Already having two boys and a girl, these people thought their daughter would “miss out” if she didn’t have a sister to play with, so they took out a loan and flew to Los Angeles to find a doctor who offered gender selection.

What the fruitcake?!

I guess some people really don’t understand how precious life can be or how fortunate they are just have healthy children, or children at all. I hope that whatever void these people saw in their lives, it’s been filled now. Somehow, though, I think there’s more to this story than just wanting to even up the numbers.

 

Are Bank Loans for IVF Ethical? January 11, 2011

I thought long and hard before deciding to post on this topic today. To say it’s controversial is an understatement. But it can’t all be pretty all the time, so here goes:

 

The Bioethics Center, part of New Zealand’s University of Otago, recently posed this ethical question: “Are banks wrongfully exploiting the childless by offering and advertising loans for IVF?”

 

Apparently, ASB bank in New Zealand offers (and makes no bones about advertising) loans to pay for IVF treatments. They have produced a very emotional and persuasive commercial to promote their product. You can watch it on YouTube, but I’m warning you to do so at your own risk. This is direct-to-the-gut advertising at its best.

 

I have very mixed feelings about this subject. On the one hand, I don’t believe that IVF and other fertility treatments should only be available to the wealthy (and at anywhere from $10,000 – $20,000 a round, it’s not something that’s accessible to everyone.)

 

On the other hand, commercials like this fuel the notion that there’s always something else to try, always one more hope left, when sometimes, it’s just time to stop. It targets people when they are at their most vulnerable. In the banking world, they call that a predatory loan.

 

So the question I’m posing to you is this: is it ethical for a bank to offer and advertise loans to pay for IVF?

 

I’ll look forward to hearing your opinions.

 

 

Nobel Prize Awarded to Father of IVF October 14, 2010

Filed under: Current Affairs,Infertility and Loss — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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Last week, Robert G. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Psychology and Medicine for his work in in vitro fertilization. Edwards pioneered the technique that has allowed millions of infertile women to have biological children (about 4 million so far) of their own. There is no disputing that his work was ground-breaking and has made a huge and largely positive impact on our society.

And yet…

When I heard the announcement on the radio, my toes curled. I never went through IVF myself, but through this website, I’ve spoken to many women who have. I’ve heard their stories about the treatment, the drugs, the pain and the sickness, and I’ve heard about the failed attempts, numerous failed attempts in some cases. The two men discussing the Nobel Prize on the radio gushed about the miraculous technology and explained for the audience the basic process of retrieving, fertilizing, and transplanting the egg. Their commentary was full of wide-eyed wonder. But there was no mention of the drugs, the pain, the expense, the heartache, and I felt that they only told a fraction of the story.

I try to keep perspective and not allow any lingering bitterness about my own infertility to taint my opinion, but that’s impossible. I can’t unknow what I know, and yes, IVF has had a positive impact on millions of women, but it’s been a detriment to many more. Unfortunately, that side of the story is still seldom told.