Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Baby Envy? Not Me September 7, 2012

An acquaintance is expecting her first baby any day and she has had enough of being pregnant. “I’m ready to get this baby out of me,” she said.

The old me would have pursed my lips and tried to resist telling her she ought to be lucky she’s pregnant and that I’d give anything to change to places with her for just one day. In fact I would gladly change places with her if I could. I’d gladly put up with the swollen ankles, the lack of sleep, the total and utter discomfort of lugging and extra 20, 30, 40 pounds around in 90-degree weather. I’d love to know what it feels like to be in her shoes.

But that’s the old me. The new me doesn’t want or need to give her a lecture.

A little over a year ago we sat at dinner, both peering over the crest of 40 and looking at a life without children. I know what she’s been through to get to this point and I know she isn’t really complaining about her good fortune. I also know that, now, I wouldn’t change places with her for anything in the world.

We’re both heading into a new chapter in our lives. Hers is going to involve a lot of sleepless nights, probably at least two decades worth. And mine? I’m not sure yet. Maybe I’ll get serious about finally finishing that novel I’ve been noodling with for years. Or maybe it’s time to move away from the city and the good school districts, and find a little place in the country.

All I know for sure is that my life is open to possibility now, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

 

Everything happens for a reason August 4, 2011

I read this article in the New York Times this week. It’s the story of a neuroscientist whose daughter was born with Down Syndrome. Dr. Costa did what any of us would have done facing a diagnosis of a loved one; he threw himself into research. The difference is he is now close to finding an effective treatment for Down Syndrome.

In a quote pulled from the article, Dr. Costa said, “Things happen for a reason…” implying that he would have not moved into this field of research at all had he not had a personal reason.

Now the whole “things happen for a reason” thing usually rubs me the wrong way. It’s right up there with “it’s all in God’s plan.” My own personal belief system doesn’t go along with the idea that my life has been mapped out for me, and that being unable to have children is all part of some grand scheme for me to do something else instead. Just as I don’t believe that Dr. Costa’s daughter was born with Down Syndrome so that he could be the one to find a cure.

However…

My life is different because I don’t have children. Opportunities will come along and I’ll be able to take them because I don’t have the responsibility of parenthood. And, while it’s unlikely that I’ll be the one to find a cure for infertility because of my own diagnosis, I do believe that, like Dr. Costa, I will someday look back on my life and see that something good happened to me because I was infertile.

Just don’t know what that is yet, but I’m looking.

 

 

P.S. On a personal note, my friend Sarah is a vocal Down Syndrome advocate for her beautiful three-year-old son, Gideon. She’s currently promoting a fundraising drive for Down Syndrome Research and Treatment. Information here, if you’re interested.

 

Oprah’s Second Chance January 20, 2011

Oprah Winfrey was one of the first guests on Piers Morgan’s new talk show this week, where she talked candidly about the loss of her baby when she was 14. Oprah has said in the past that she has no regrets about not having children, but this time she talked about how losing her baby was her second chance to turn her life around and make something of herself.

Love her or hate her, there’s no denying that Oprah has certainly made something of herself. She talked to Morgan about the chain of events – beginning with going back to school and becoming head of student council – that led to her becoming the person she is today. “None of those things would have happened and the whole trajectory of my life would have been different,” she said on the show.

Although I have no illusions of my own life paralleling Oprah’s, I have to say that it’s certainly taken some unexpected turns since that doctor told me I would never have biological children. I’ve started a blog, met women from all around the world, written a book, and been quoted in a magazine as an expert! Recently, another avenue has opened and I’ve been working with a therapist friend to develop a series of workshops to help women deal with the effects of infertility and childlessness (more to come on that soon!) None of these things were in my plans two years ago and certainly would never have happened if I’d merrily gone on to become a mother.

They say that for every door that closes, another opens, and I’m a believer. The motherhood door closed firmly for me, but once I picked up my chin and looked around, I discovered a whole host of opportunities waiting for me. While I don’t believe I was denied motherhood so that I could do these things instead, the converse is certainly true -none of these things would have happened if I’d had children.

Has your life changed for the better because you don’t have children? Have you had opportunities you wouldn’t have had if you’d been a mother?