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.

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Guest Post: Mom Friends October 27, 2011

By Iris

Coming to terms with childlessness can be a very lonely process, especially when most of our friends, those we’ve reached out to over the years for support over things little and big, become difficult to be around.  Women who are consumed by motherhood and their children, and women who are preoccupied by the inability to have them, can sometimes make for a painful combination.

The bond of love between a mother and her child must and should be amazingly strong. I have been known to brag about my niece and nephew and to smother them each with hugs and kisses, probably more than their own mother does. So, I do not resent my mom friends for being less available to me than they were before having children, and I don’t mind listening to their concerns and stories about their kids, some of which I’m pretty fond of myself. It’s a different story, however, when a friend’s appreciation of her new role as a mother seems to translate into a devaluation of your own life’s worth because you have not given birth.

Much of what I read on childlessness and motherhood seems to enhance rather than reduce this divide between Moms and non-Moms, which made me really happy to come across Lisa Rankin’s tribute to her childless friends on that most difficult day for many of us, Mother’s Day.

And that got me feeling very grateful to those mom friends who help me hold on to perspective. The ones who remind me that there is more to life than motherhood, who know of my circumstances and encourage me to stay positive and enjoy my life, who remind me that happiness comes from within and that the grass is not always greener.  I’m grateful for their words and the sentiments of love and friendship they express.

Iris lives in Florida with her husband and best friend of many years. Five years ago infertility and other life stressors really messed with her head, but she’s gradually regaining her Self and her passion for life.

 

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.

 

Adapting to a Childless Life June 24, 2010

I recently read Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth. If you’ve never read it, I recommend it. Don’t be put off by the awful Steve Martin movie version; the book is a classic. In one of the stories, the family with twelve children goes through a string of household help (not surprisingly) because, quote: “People can’t move from a quiet home to a large family.”

I can imagine the shock of moving from a small quiet family into a household of 14, but what about the other way around?

I’m from a family of three children, but my brothers are 11 and 13 years my senior, so in many ways I’m an only child. I have memories of quiet afternoons at home with my mum, or of just making my own entertainment if there were no neighborhood friends to play with. Even now, I enjoy my peaceful life and like nothing better than a quiet evening at home with a good book. If there’s no one to talk to, I talk to myself. I’m seldom bored or lonely.

But I wonder, if I’d grown up in house with a big family, would I feel the lack of children in my house more deeply? Would I crave the noise and chaos, or would the quiet life I have be a welcome rest?

Do you come from a big family? Do you crave that company or have you adapted quite easily to a quieter life?