Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Gratitude for What You Do Have November 19, 2012

During a recent workshop support call, we were discussing loss and how to begin coming to terms with the idea of not having children. One member raised a question:

“How do you keep moving forward day-to-day?”

It’s a good question. When you’ve suffered a loss, or a series of losses, and you realize children aren’t going to be in your future, how do you keep getting out of bed and getting on with life, when what you feel like doing is curling up and wishing for the world to just leave you alone?

Another member of the group had a great suggestion:

“What helped me was staying focused on what I do have, instead of obsessing about what I don’t have,” she said.

When the goal of motherhood has been your main focus for so long, it’s natural to focus on what’s lost, what’s being given up by walking away from that goal. (And let’s face it, it can be a very long list.) But a little dose of Pollyanna can go a long way in making it through the day.

Look around you. There’s evidence everywhere to support what we do have. If you don’t live on the East Coast of the U.S, you probably have power in your home. In fact, you most likely have a home to have power in. Maybe you have good health, a strong relationship, a close family, or good friends.  When you look up and look around, it’s amazing to see how much you do have.

Shifting perspective can be a good coping tool. It doesn’t diminish what’s been lost, not one bit, and it doesn’t mean there’s no excuse for grief, or sadness. That loss is real and it takes time to heal. But shifting focus can help you keep moving forward.

This Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S., traditionally a time of gratitude. So, employing this perspective shift, what are you grateful for in your life? How are you lucky? What are some of the things that you do have going for you?

 

Holiday Support Group November 9, 2012

A few of you mentioned recently that you’d love to be able to find a local support group near you. It’s going to take a bit of coordinating, but it’s on the list of things to figure out in the near future. In the meantime, the next best thing is a support group that meets by phone.

I’ve been facilitating some group support calls as part of the “Finding Peace” program and participants say that it has really helped to be able to talk with peers who understand them. As the facilitator, I’ve been really inspired by the support and camaraderie I’ve experienced in these groups.

With the holidays fast approaching, it seems that now would be a good time to offer up some extra support. It can be a busy time of year, so rather than putting together a formal program, I am hosting a series of support group calls that you can drop in on as needed.

The first call is on Thursday, November 15th at 5:30pm PST and the cost for the one-hour meeting is $20. If it looks as if this is something that is going to be of value for everyone, I will add additional sessions throughout the holidays and into the New Year.

If you’d like to register for the November 15th session, you can do so here. If you’d like to learn more, you can find all the details here. And if you’d like to receive notification when more sessions are added, you can do that here.

As always, I’m open to feedback and suggestions as to what will be most helpful.

 

I Wish I Could have Told My Friends November 5, 2012

I am lucky to have some truly wonderful friends. I have a couple of friends in particular who were really there for me while I was going through the mess of trying to get pregnant and the subsequent coming-to-terms with not.

These women made me cups of tea and put an arm around my shoulder when I couldn’t hold in my tears. They met me for lunch and asked how things were going. They didn’t push the issue when they could see I didn’t want to talk and they didn’t try to help by offering solutions, based on zero knowledge, or sharing hopeful stories of miracle pregnancies. They seemed to know exactly how to be there for me, and yet when we talked about those times later, they admitted they were just as lost as I was and were winging it all along. I guess I just got lucky.

Other friends weren’t quite so lucky in their “winging” and I wish I could have helped them to help me. I wish I could have put into words what I needed from them, kind of a mini instruction book, so they wouldn’t feel so helpless. I wish I would have known then what I know now and been able to explain it to them.

I wish I’d known that what I was going through was a huge life-changing experience and that I would be a different person for it. I wish I could have told them that I’d still be the same old Lisa, but changed, just a bit.

I wish I’d known I would be okay in the end, no matter what the outcome.

I wish I could have explained that much of the time I didn’t want to talk about it because I was working so hard to keep my emotions at bay.

I wish I could have told them that some days I really wanted to talk about everything and tell them how angry and frustrated I was.

I wish they’d known I was lost.

I wish they’d known I was scared.

I wish they’d known that I could no longer see the future for myself beyond the end of my next cycle.

I wish they’d said, “I’m so sorry you’re going through this.”

I wish I’d been brave enough to just cry when I needed to and I wish they would have known to just hand me Kleenex until I was done.

I wished they would have known how much I appreciated their friendship and how, even if I went astray for a while, I’d be back, stronger than ever and ready to be a good friend for them, too.

If you could have told your friends (and family) what you needed, what would you have said?

 

Danielle LaPorte on Soul Soup November 2, 2012

Photo Credit: Sherri Koop

Danielle LaPorte posted this inspirational article on her blog earlier this week: Soul Soup. (Keep this in mind when you’re falling apart.) Naturally, it caught my attention.

Danielle writes:

“There will be a time, a passage when you don’t really know who you were, or are, or can be. It’s natural, it’s divine, and it’s the chemistry of beautiful, awesome change.

This passage can happen in big dramatic swells, as years of not quite knowing what you want to do; or seasons of confusion that aren’t quite depressing, but confusing enough to invite sadness in. This can happen in compressed bouts of uncertainty before you do something new or monumental.”

If you’re feeling lost right now, not sure what the future holds for you and uncertain who you will be, if not a mother, you are making Soul Soup.

This is a time of transition. Trust that you will emerge from the forest. And trust that you will find who you are and who you are meant to be. For now, have faith in the Soul Soup.

 

Anniversaries October 25, 2012

Do you have an “anniversary”, a day that is significant on your journey? Maybe it’s the day you decided to stop trying to conceive, or perhaps it’s the date of a miscarriage or stillbirth. How do you deal with those days?

My friend’s father died earlier this year, and she recently marked what would have been his birthday. She gathered some of her family and “celebrated” in a way he would have enjoyed. Her friends understood it was going to be a rough day for her and we gave her space and offered to listen, if she needed to talk.

But how do you deal with an anniversary that many other people wouldn’t understand?

I don’t really have any of those anniversaries. My quest for a baby simply ran out of gas. I never actually conceived, so my losses weren’t marked by any particular events. But if they were, I would mark those anniversaries the same way I remember other losses.

I wouldn’t schedule any work events or meetings that day. In fact, I might take the day off all together. I would be kind to myself and I’d allow myself to experience whatever emotions came up or me. I think I would give myself permission to just let my sadness be.

And the following day I’d get up and get back on the horse. I’d go about my business and I’d keep myself moving forward. I would get on with my life and I’d make plans to make it the best life it could be, and maybe the next time the anniversary rolled around, I’d feel that pain a little bit less, but that doesn’t mean I would forget what brought me to this point in the first place.

That’s what I’d do. How about you?

 

Whiny Wednesday: Thanks a Lot, Facebook October 24, 2012

In the interests of fuelling my Whiny Wednesday fire, Kathleen was kind enough to send me news of Facebook’s new “Little One” pregnancy tracker app. (Here’s a link, but please click through with caution as it’s a baby fest.)

Not only does the app provide video of baby’s development, users can also “Keep friends and family involved throughout your pregnancy with weekly updates, comments, gift registry, and polls.” The idea is to make it easier for moms-to-be to share photos and news.

I am currently “involved” in a family member’s pregnancy via Facebook. And let me tell you, this woman needs no help from an app in broadcasting her daily updates. In fact, it’s starting to become fascinating to see which unrelated topic she can twist around to the subject of her pregnancy next.  I know she’s excited, and I am happy for her, but mix it up a bit, lady, ok?

Glad that’s off my chest. What’s on yours today?

P.S. On their open salon this week, Pamela has a wonderful analogy about what it feels like to watch a friend (or family member) go to the other side and lose empathy for those left behind. On her blog, Keiko talks about having to announce her pregnancy and feeling guilty for “not failing.” Check out the conversations.

 

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Self-Awareness October 23, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

My friend Kim* is an amazing pediatric dentist. Not only is she highly skilled, but she is passionate about what she feels is her calling. I have always admired her and, quite honestly, have at times been envious as I see her in action, see how her patients l-o-v-e her, see how energized she is by her work. In fact, it doesn’t seem appropriate to call it “work” because she glows when she is in her element and even outside when she talks about it.

So I was stunned during a recent catching-up phone call when she announced she was letting go of her practice.

“What?! Why?”

“It sucks the life out of me, it’s just takes too much energy, I’m exhausted,” she said.

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I said, but that wasn’t entirely what I was thinking. See, Kim now also has a one-year-old daughter. Her job hadn’t changed. She’d never found it life-sucking before, quite the contrary. No, it is being a parent that is sapping her energy and making her too tired to continue to enjoy her job. I was saddened to hear that she was choosing to sacrifice her first great love, and also to hear that she was misplacing the blame.

But while I was quick to judge, once I took a step back and looked at the big picture, what I felt was compassion. I realized this was perhaps her way—consciously or unconsciously—of making peace with her sacrifice in her own mind. I do the same thing when people ask me why I don’t want kids and I respond by joking that my dogs take all the parenting urges out of me. Oh, I wanted kids, but I didn’t get to have them, and rather than have a complete meltdown in public, I deliver a half-baked “excuse.” I could easily imagine myself telling one of those strangers, “I just don’t have the energy to be a parent” versus revealing the real and painful reasons for my childfreeness.

When I think about it from my heart, I realize Kim and I aren’t all that different. We’ve both lost something we wanted, we’ve both sacrificed big dreams, and we’ve both lied to ourselves in an effort to salve the wounds. It makes me think that if we could be more honest with ourselves, and if we could then better communicate our real feelings with each other, there would be a smaller divide between the moms and non-moms.

We’re all women, doing the best we can with the paths we’ve been given. I hope that by being aware of this, the next time I am at the receiving end of a half-truth, I will bypass judgment and instead model understanding and compassion.

*Her name and details have been changed to protect her privacy.

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

 

Whiny Wednesday: Bad News October 17, 2012

My friend called this week with “bad news.” I braced myself because this has been a week of one piece of bad news after another. It seems that every time the phone rings or I get an email from a friend it bears news of major illness, death, or financial disaster.

Fortunately, my friend’s bad news was only that she had to stand me up for a concert date we’ve had planned for six months. Any other week, I would have been aggravated, possibly devastated (it was an Adam Ant concert, after all), but if there’s any good news come from this week, it’s that all the bad news has taught me perspective.

Thankfully, it’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s your whine this week?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Why I Can’t Grieve October 9, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It’s impossible to put on mascara when you can’t stop crying.

I learned this little truism the day after we put our sweet 14-year-old dog to sleep. I’d spent the day intermittently sobbing and whimpering—set off by her empty bowl, her favorite spot in my office, now vacant, and tiny reminders of my everyday companion. I had pushed off most work-related tasks, but still had to pull myself together for an evening event I needed to attend. With a lot of deep breathing, as well as promises to myself that I could continue crying my eyes out later, I managed to make myself presentable.

I’m not new to devastating losses. Almost daily, I still think of the best friend who died tragically when she was just 20, my beloved grandmother and “hot date” for movies who passed in 1993, and my father-in-law who left us 914 days ago. But the outpouring of emotions I experienced after losing Scout was a new breed of grief. Guilt, gratitude, longing, regret, relief, loneliness, heartache. At times it consumed me, as, I think, it should. And that got me thinking….

As a woman who is childfree by circumstances, I have never fully grieved the loss of my dream of motherhood. For 25 years or so, I’ve been in this crazy dance between longing and hoping, praying and wishing, denial, regret, jealousy, despair, having faith and losing faith. I used to beg God for a neon sign—seriously—a message so clear that said either “You will have children, so stick it out!” or “You aren’t going to have children. Get on with your life!” And the years went by. And the years went by. And here I am. I am 46 years old, childfree by circumstance (don’t you dare accuse me of making a “choice”), and I describe myself as “mostly at peace” with my status. But there are days when I still think “What if….”

I won’t trivialize the pain of our sisters who are childfree by infertility. I’ve held too many friends and sobbed with them over miscarriages, failed IVF treatments, and the loss of their dreams, and I know too well that their paths are filled with heartbreak. But because LWB is a place where we can safely share our deepest hurts, please allow me to say that there are times when I’ve envied their ability to grieve. My friends had defining moments when they could let it all out, when they could ask for support, when support was offered even when it was not asked for. Think of my journey like the quiet drip-drip of a faucet; it’s imperceptible, so no one calls in the plumber, but over time it causes the same amount of catastrophic damage as a flood. I have never had a moment of finality, never experienced that intense period of grief, and on some very deep and possibly damaged level, I wish I could.

Selfish? Perhaps. But hear me out. I know that grieving is necessary. The sobbing period winds down, you put your experiences into perspective, and then you move on. For I so would like to be able to move on. I want to embrace this path I’ve been given and find new purpose in my life. I’d like to feel that the wanderings of my childbearing years were not just wasted time. And I fear that, if I skip past the crucial grieving phase, I’ll never get to the phase of accepting and, ultimately, to that day when I can feel content with my circumstances.

P.S. Grief is a topic we’re addressing head-on here at LWB. If you are feeling stuck, consider signing up for the upcoming LWB Mentoring Program that starts this evening. You’ll find more information here.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s wrapping up a memoir about her journey to coming to peace with being childfree (and clearly it’s a work in progress).

 

Souvenirs October 5, 2012

Whenever Mr. Fab and I travel, we usually bring back a piece of local art. Among my favorites are a pair of oil paintings of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas that we bought from a street artist on Copacabana beach, a set of wooden masks from a Johannesburg market, and a rather buxom middle-aged angel mobile that I found and fell in love with in a cliff-top ceramics studio on Orcas Island in Washington. These pieces remind me of my travels and trigger memories – some good and some not so good – of journeys and adventures.

A few years ago we went through a period of hunting down sculptures and ended up with a number of statues, in bronze, wood, and stone, of pregnant women. Over time, these have found a home on shelves around our house and, like many of our belongings, have blended in and become part of the furniture. It’s only recently that I’ve become aware of just how many we’ve collected.

I don’t remember making a conscious decision to collect these sculptures, but at a subconscious level I suppose I was drawn to them because they represented my hopes and dreams, or more accurately, my expectations. Now, they represent a part of me I’ll never get to know.

And yet, these pieces don’t make me sad and I’ve never considered parting with them. Like the other treasures I cherish, they are souvenirs of my travels, not just mementos of geographical locations, but a map of the journey I’ve taken through life. Even though the road was sometimes rough, I still want to remember the places I’ve been.