Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side August 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

This post was originally published on July 18, 2011

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Gertrude Ederle August 1, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Gertrude Ederle was a champion, a trailblazer, a celebrity, and a “chero,” a hero who happened to be childfree. Saturday marks the 85th anniversary of her historic swim across the English Channel.

Gertrude was born in 1905 in New York and became a competitive swimmer at a young age. At just 13, she joined and began training at the Women’s Swimming Association (WSA), and soon she had broken and established more amateur records than any other woman around the world.

In 1924, she won a gold medal with the 400-meter freestyle relay team, and bronze medals for the 100-meter and 400-meter freestyle events at the Olympics in Paris, France. She was disappointed by her third-place wins, since she was favored to win gold in all events, so she looked for new challenges. In 1925, she crossed the Lower New York Bay in just over seven hours, a distance of 21 miles. Then, later in the year, she made her first attempt to swim the English Channel, but her trainer pulled her out before she could finish.

Undaunted, she made her next attempt starting from France on the morning of August 6, 1926. Sometime around hour 12, someone on one of the tugboats following her became concerned about the weather and choppy waves and shouted to her, “Gertie, you must come out!” She replied, “What for?” She stepped onto the English shore 22.5 miles and 14 hours and 39 minutes after her first stroke, beating the men’s record by nearly two hours. Her record held until 1950. At 21, she had become the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Back home in New York City, Gertrude was celebrated with a ticker-tape parade. “Queen of the Waves,” the press called her. She had brief career in entertainment, including playing herself in the 1927 movie Swim Girl, Swim. After the hoopla quieted, she devoted herself to teaching deaf children how to swim. She herself had suffered from hearing problems due to a childhood bout with measles, which left her completely deaf by 1940. She passed away at 98 in 2003.

“People said women couldn’t swim the Channel,” Gertrude said in 1930, “but I proved they could.”

Indeed she did.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She continues to find inspiration in the stories of many of our “cheroes” (heroes who are childfree).

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Gallbladders July 25, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

I was in my 20s when my favorite aunt had her gallbladder removed. As I recall, she told me it was due to pressure from when she was pregnant, and any woman who had more than two babies would have to have the same surgery. My mom, a mother of three, provided further proof when she had a cholecystectomy, as did many of her childbearing friends. So, naturally, I assumed some day, after I was done having babies, I’d lose mine.

Now, as a childfree woman, I look back and wonder if that was all a bunch of old wives hooey. And you know what, it’s not! According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Pregnancy increases the risk for gallstones, and pregnant women with stones are more likely to have symptoms than nonpregnant women.”

And I think, “HA!” Not only do I get to skip the wretchedness of morning sickness and the flesh-ripping pains of childbirth, but I get to keep my gallbladder too. Score another point for the joys of being childfree!

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeWithoutBaby. She’s starting to see the upside of being childfree.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About the Dark Side July 18, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m pregnant!” my friend gleefully announces.

And I think, Well, f*ck me six ways to Sunday, but I instead I jump up and embrace her and say, “Congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!”

Yup, another one has gone over to the Dark Side. My playmate, my buddy, my date for tea and chick-flicks will soon switch discussion topics from the last great novel she read to the merits of cloth versus disposable diapers and the challenges of getting into the “right” preschool/private school/ballet studio. While I bravely continue to pursue political movements, investing options, and the hottest new tapas restaurant this side of the Bay, she’ll be focusing on PTA politics, college funds, and how to get her kid to eat green vegetables.

Before long, the excuses for missing lunch dates (sick baby, sick kid, soccer games) will grow tiresome. She’ll kindly include me in the first few get-togethers with her new friends from the mommies group. I’ll make polite conversation when I’m invited to baby showers and first birthday parties. But eventually I’ll get lost in the mist as she gets sucked into more and more “family” events and senses how much more she has in common with the other reproducers. “Whatever happened to your friend Kathy?” they might ask. “Oh, she never had kids.” “Oh,” they will say knowingly. Or so I imagine. This is worse than being the last kid picked for teams. This is being told you can’t even play the game, but if you want, you can watch from the bleachers.

And I’m pissed. But mostly I’m lonely. It’s really, really hard to make new friends when you’re over the age of 40, and it’s that much harder when, like me, you leave the city you’ve lived in for those first four decades and move some place where you know no one but your fiancé. You have to make a determined effort to get out, try new classes, start new groups, and hope to find a connection. It’s not unlike dating, and it can be really exciting, but mostly scary and discouraging. But you carry on, remembering the closeness you once shared with old friends who, over time, could read your thoughts and finish your sentences.

Since moving here three years ago, several of the women who I thought could become part of my new posse now are new mothers. I didn’t know they were trying; we hadn’t known each other that long, so the topic never came up. A couple had been trying for years, and became pregnant shortly after meeting me. My friend Lisa found this hilarious and suggested I offer myself out as a fertility icon: Become friends with me, and you’ll be knocked up within 3 months—guaranteed!

After the fourth announcement, I broke down and told my fiancé how crushed I was, how broken-hearted, how devastating this was to my developing social life. He laughed at me, pointing out how ridiculous I sounded for getting so overly dramatic and self-pitying. And he’s right. Because, really, I am happy for my friends. And it won’t be as isolating as I imagine, it will just be different.

When I get the “good” news, when I sink into one of my funks, I fully realize that I am the one who has gone over to the Dark Side. But for a short while, I need to lose my perspective and my sense of humor, wallow in self-pity, and mourn the loss of my friend. Because underneath my happiness for her, I still hurt for myself.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. It’s raining today, and she’s feeling blue.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Baseball and Babies July 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

I thought it was some kind of spoof. While watching our San Francisco Giants lose to the San Diego Padres, we caught a vague ad about a “World Championship Baby!” Huh?

 

I went online the next morning to learn more and discovered that, yes indeed, there is a contest to recognize a baby who was conceived around 7:54 pm on November 1, when the Giants beat the Rangers to clinch last year’s World Series. The winning baby, expected to arrive on August 1, will receive a named brick at AT&T Park, a gift card for $2,010, and an “official certificate signed by the Giants.” Meanwhile, fans can browse an online gallery of moms-to-be and their ultrasound images.

 

This whole thing makes my skin crawl. Maybe I’m envious and oversensitive. I can’t say, however, that I’ll feel any better if the geniuses in marketing try to make it up to me by having a “Childfree Women Free!” Day next season.

 

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Kinder-soccer is still her favorite spectator sport.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Telling Friends June 27, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

“I’m leaving my husband.”

It was girls night out, and my small group of gal-pals was catching up over wine when Jen* dropped this bombshell on us.

“What?!” After twenty years and three kids together, their marriage was one I held up as a role model for making things work. How did it suddenly come to this?

That night I learned she’d been going to counseling for years, trying to make it work, trying to overlook her husband’s shortcomings for the sake of keeping their family together. She’d wanted to leave him months earlier, but the timing wasn’t right, and now she was ready to take the leap and begin to build a better life for her and her children.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” I asked, as I reached over to touch her hand.

“Because you are so happy and in love, and I didn’t want to take away from any of your pre-wedding romantic bliss.”

I quickly replayed our recent visits in my mind and looked for clues that things were amiss, some hint of her pain that I hadn’t picked up on, some expression or comment that gave an opening for my to check in with her, to ask her deeper questions, to see how she was doing. Had I said anything that made her feel worse? Had she felt I was rubbing her face in my happiness? Had my joy in my new role as bride-to-be added to her hurt? I hated that I had not been a good friend to her in her time of need.

I respected her choice to hide her situation from me, yet it also broke my heart. “I wish you’d told me. I want to know so that I can be there for you.”

“But you have so much else on your plate with all the wedding stuff.”

“I’ll always have stuff on my plate, but my priorities include taking care of my friends.”

As I mulled over this in the ensuing week, it reminded me of our conversations—on LWB—about talking to our friends and families about our struggles with infertility and childfreeness. When do you tell them? What and how much do you tell? It’s not dissimilar from Jen’s decision to not tell her friends what was going down in her marriage, and I found it interesting to be on the other side of the conversation for a change.

And here’s what I learned: It’s important that we share our pain so that we can allow our friends to support us. Allow them to be better listeners, to learn how to help you with a hug or by knowing when it’s better to ignore the elephant in the room. Once you open up to a close friend, you also have an ally in groups. Moving forward, when the dynamic shifts to all things pregnancy and mommydom, and you feel yourself being pushed to the periphery, your informed and sensitive friend can help steer the group back to more inclusive topics before you have a meltdown.

Please share. How else will I know what you need? I want to help. I want to be there for you. I say to Jen, as I say to you, “Please let me know how I can best support you.”

*Not her real name, of course.

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

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Transplants June 20, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

If my sister needed a new kidney, I’d be the first one in line to give her one of mine. I also have a pink donor dot on my driver’s license that will allow surgeons to remove and share any viable organs with strangers when my time has come. So when I first saw this article about a 25-year-old woman possibly getting her mother’s uterus so that she could have her own children, my heart cheered for the miracles of modern science.

And then I read more closely, and these little words made my heart stop: “…Sara is so desperate….” Oh, dear God, here we go again.

Described as “completely unproven,” this tricky and experimental procedure involves surgeries and drug therapies for both the recipient and the donor, in this case, Sara’s mother. If the transplant is successful and Sara is able to bear a child, she will later have to endure another surgery to have the uterus removed. These women apparently are willing to go through all of this, even knowing that in a previous attempt, the mother-to-be’s body rejected the transplanted uterus when she was four months pregnant. I find the multitude of tragedies in that scenario horrifying.

I want to believe that miracles are possible. I want to know that there is hope for Sara and for my friends who would make wonderful parents if this is indeed the “cure” they need. But I can’t help but worry that this is just another example of greedy, egotistical doctors preying on the desperation of others.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She loves children, but won’t be having any of her own.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Inappropriate Invitations May 30, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Yesterday afternoon, I received an online invitation to a networking event for entrepreneur moms. I did a little bit of research before replying, and quickly figured out that the invitation came from a “friend” on Facebook, an old friend from elementary school, who had invited every person on her friends list. So I can’t take in personally, and I didn’t include a comment with my RSVP explaining why I wouldn’t be attending. But, boy, just for kicks, I’d love to invite her to an infertility awareness seminar.

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

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Stevie Nicks May 2, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

Sheryl Crow recently revealed that rock legend Stevie Nicks advised her “not to have babies, ’cause you’ll never write a great song again.” (Watch their amazing duet of “Landslide” on Oprah here.) Now, I don’t agree that mothers can’t also be great songwriters, but it is hard to argue with Ms. Nicks when you consider her legacy: more than 40 hits, over 140 albums sold, 8 Grammy Award nominations as a solo performer, 1 win for Album of the Year (for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours), and 4 decades of success in the music industry. Plus, she looks damn hot at 62.

Tomorrow, May 3, Nicks’ latest album, In Your Dreams, will be released. In a parallel life, she might be helping out with the grandkids. Instead, in part because she’s childfree, she’s touring with Rod Stewart, promoting her album, and moving all of us with her extraordinary musical gifts.

So I say, Let’s support one of our own! Purchase the album, get tickets to her shows (visit her official Web site here for more information), and show the world that childfree women ROCK!

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

 

Are you a Savvy Auntie? July 6, 2010

Even though we don’t have children of our own, many of us have nieces and nephews or godchildren in our lives. In the past few years, I’ve come to realize how important my role as aunt is. I am a trusted adult with life experience, but I am not the dreaded parent. I am an ear to talk to, but I’m not the rule-maker. Best of all, because I won’t later have to be the disciplinarian, I am free to be fun and silly and maybe even a little bit bad (for example, going out for ice cream within the “You’ll ruin your dinner” timeslot.) I love being an aunt and my only regret is that I’m not geographically closer to my nieces and nephews.

I came across this website, Savvy Aunties, recently. It’s got lots of great information for aunts (and uncles, of course). It’s also a hang-out for childless aunties, and I found a few interesting articles for us there, such as this article about how parenthood is now regarded as a lifestyle choice, and some hot discussions on the forums, like this thread about insensitive things people say.

On the subject of being an aunt, my good friend, past guest blogger, and aunt-extraordinaire, Kathleen Guthrie, wrote this article, How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever.

Enjoy, Aunties and don’t forget to drop subtle hints to your loved ones that July 25th is Auntie’s Day!