Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Got Me Thinking…About Perks June 19, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I’m working in my fuzzy gray slippers today. I can do this because I’m a freelancer, I work in an office in my home, and the only creatures likely to see me in less-than-professional attire are my dogs. On most days, I choose to get dressed to the shoes because it is part of my routine, my discipline. But on a day like today, I am relishing the little perks of my status.

Which got me thinking about some of the little perks of being childfree. We’ve talked about the big perks, like having extra money for luxury purchases, being able to sleep in on the weekends, and the flexibility to travel on a whim during the off-season. I’m starting to also appreciate some of the little everyday things, too. Like being able to turn on the TV or computer without first having to shut off parental controls, or being able to curse a blue stream when I stub my toe (i.e., not worrying that my child will later repeat those words in church). I like that the laundry is manageable in my household and that I really only have to go to the market once a week. I like that right now it’s quiet here and I can hear myself think.

I think a big part of this journey for me is moving from acceptance to appreciation. For so long, I could only see the woe-is-me side of life, the loss of the family I couldn’t have, the experiences I knew I’d miss. As I shift my perspective a bit, I’m starting to see all that I have, all that I’ve been given, all that I didn’t lose.

I wish for you today a sense of peace as you look at some of the perks in your life.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her memoir about her journey to childfreeness is in the works.


How to be Happily Childfree in 10,000 Easy Steps April 26, 2012

There are two questions I get asked frequently: How did you come to terms with not having children, and how long did it take?

The answer is something akin to “how long is a piece of string and how many knots can you tie in it?”

Believe me when I tell you that if I could write down ten easy steps to making peace with being childfree-not-by-choice, I’d do it, but the answer isn’t that simple. Yes, there were many things that happened along the way that helped me make some peace, but it took closer to 10,000 steps than ten.

Writing down my story was hugely cathartic, venting about the injustices on this blog helped, too. Realizing I wasn’t alone in this and that people like you were out there wanting to talk through the minefield has helped immeasurably. Drawing a line in the sand and saying, “This is where that chapter of my life ends and this is where I start healing” also helped. And frankly, telling myself a big fat lie that I was better off not being a mother actually helped me to realize that in many ways I was. Setting new goals, appreciating the benefits of not having kids, and allowing myself to feel bitter and badly treated when I needed to. All these things helped.

I don’t think there’s a formula for working your way through this, and it’s definitely a journey of making forward process and dealing with inevitable setbacks.

As for how long the process takes? How long is that piece of string? It’s been three years for me and I consider myself largely at peace with my situation. I have closed the door on the idea that I will have children someday and most days I’m good with it. Everyday it gets a little better and a little easier. Some days there will be reminders of what I’ve lost and sometimes a flicker of a thought of “what if…”

The truth is, in many ways, I expect this piece of string to go on forever. The experience of infertility has changed me. It is one of the most significant and life-changing events of my life, and I don’t think the repercussions of that will ever stop reverberating. It doesn’t mean I won’t find harmony and even happiness in this new life – I already have – but I don’t expect this journey of coming-to-terms to ever fully end.


Living for the Ladders March 5, 2012

Courtesy: Wikipedia

Do you remember the game Chutes and Ladders? In the UK we called it “Snakes and Ladders” and I loved it. I had a nursery rhyme version with Jack and Jill happily climbing the hill on one ladder, and then tumbling down at the next snake (or chute). Humpty Dumpty, Rock-a-Bye-Baby, Little Bo Peep and her poor lost sheep were all there with their assorted joys and disasters.

In case any one is reading and has no clue what I’m talking abut, Chutes and Ladders is a board game. There are 100 squares on the board and you roll a dice and move along, trying to be the first person to reach 100. If you land on a ladder you get to follow the ladder up and jump ahead on the game. If, however, you land on a chute (or snake) you slide back down the board to a lower number. There’s no strategy involved in the game at all, and it’s pure luck as to whether you joyfully climb the ladder or careen back down a chute.

I woke up this morning thinking about this game and thinking about how much life can be like chutes and ladders, especially when you’re playing the “coming-to-terms” game.

Case in point: Mr. Fab and I had a great weekend. It’s the first one in a while that we’ve spent together just relaxing and enjoying one another’s company. We slept late, took a long walk, planned a vacation, and took a long afternoon nap. It’s on weekends like these that I realize all the positive things that have come out of us not having children.

But on Saturday night we had dinner with some friends at their home. They and the other friends who were invited have adult children, so the evening was spent talking about all kinds of other things not relating to the perils of parenthood. But in their bathroom were photos of their children as toddlers, sitting in the bath, covered in bubbles and laughing those infectious toddler laughs, and for a few minutes I found myself just staring at the pictures and thinking about all that I’ve missed with not having children. My happiness hopped on a chute and slid back down a few squares.

I think that my life is always going to be this way, that I’ll keep making progress and moving gradually towards that place of being 100 percent at peace with being childfree, but there are always going to be chutes thrown in my way: the cousin’s pregnancy announcement, the friends celebrating milestones with their children, those moments when I rethink the whole thing and wonder, “What if we got back on the train? What if that risky and expensive treatment worked? What if we adopted?”

But, for every chute that comes along, there’s a ladder that will take me back up. So, the trick to maintaining sanity and finding peace is to keep living for the ladders.


It Got Me Thinking…About Shotgun Weddings May 9, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

We recently sent out save the date cards for our upcoming wedding and, in response, I’ve received several variations of “Didn’t know you were pregnant – har har!”

I’m not finding this the least bit humorous, although I’m sure this is what these Jim Carrey–­wannabes had intended. My fiancé and I have been together for four years, living together for two. We are getting married because we want to, not because we have to. And so what if I was pregnant? Would it make this occasion, our commitment to each other, any less solemn?

Of course, because I have finally (mostly) made peace with our decision to be childfree, this strikes a deeper, more painful chord. What I really want to do is reply back by saying, “No. Sadly, pregnancy is no longer an option for me.”

But that would be rude.

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She finally met her Mr. Right in her 40s and looks forward marrying him this fall.


The Sliding Scale of Coming-to-Terms February 25, 2011

J and I just purchased a used trombone. In the very early stages of our relationship we discovered all sorts of odd things we had in common, one of which is that we both played the trombone as teenagers. Anyway, we’ve been talking about learning to play again, and we finally found a used instrument in good condition.


The main difference between a trombone and other brass instruments is that you make the notes by moving a slide up and down, rather hitting a key. It makes it a lot more difficult to hit just the right note. It’s also what makes the trombone so much fun to play, because you can slide easily from note to note, up and down and back again.


The reason I’m telling you all this is that today I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole coming-to-terms process. I’ve been thinking about it in terms of school grades, with the freshman class having just made the decision to live childfree or to stop fertility treatments, and having no idea how to start getting used to the idea. They eventually graduate to acceptance and begin to find a way to get happy, and ultimately go on to live a full and happy life without children.


But it’s really not that simple. You never really do hit all the notes precisely and in order. It’s much more like playing a trombone, where you slide from one state to the next and sometimes back again. One day, you’re content and determined to make the most of your situation, then something happens to trigger all those old emotions and you find yourself sliding back down. Then you get to talk someone who understands you and you feel like you can really figure this out…until your friend announces a pregnancy and back down you go again.


So, I’m wondering, where are you on the sliding scale of coming-to-terms? Where are you right now and have you been better or been worse? Do you feel that, even though you have setbacks, you’re slowly moving towards a place of peace, or can you see no way to ever come-to-terms with your lot in life? Or have you already been up and down the scale and have finally found a place of contentment? I’d like to know.


All I Want for Christmas is Wa December 7, 2010

Filed under: Family and Friends,The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I’ve been trying to give my husband ideas for what I might like for Christmas this year. It seems that throughout the year I have lots of ideas for things I’d like, but as soon as December hits all I can think of is slippers. I do need slippers desperately – my favorite ones have holes in both toes – but it’s not exactly the kind of “Wow, I can’t believe you got this for me” gift that Jose has in mind. So I’m wracking my brains, adding boots, a purse, and jewelry to my list and then taking them off again because I don’t really need them, or I want them but don’t know exactly what kind I want. To be honest, aside from slippers, I don’t really need anything, but the one thing I’d really like for Christmas this year is Wa.

Wa is a Japanese word, meaning peace and harmony. It not only means peace with others, but also peace within oneself. I could use a little Wa in my life. Don’t get me wrong, my life is pretty good, in fact in the big scheme of things, I consider myself lucky. But I don’t have much Wa. I’m often frustrated, stressed, over-worked, racing from one task to another, trying to do it all and do it all well. If you’re a 21st century woman, you’re probably thinking “join the club, sister.” I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, but it gives me little comfort.

Books and magazines tell me to take time for myself, breathe, smell the roses, go to yoga. Sometimes just the idea of doing any of these makes me even more anxious. I just need to get things done, crossed off the list, and then I can relax. But life never works like that and it seems to go out of its way to throw up obstacles and road blocks. Just when you have enough money for that weekend away, the washing machine dies; when you plan your day’s schedule to move smoothly and efficiently from one meeting to another, someone makes a last minute change and throws the whole thing off. Without Wa, these are the things that can throw me into a tailspin.

So, I’m going to give myself a Christmas gift this year. I’m going to give myself Wa. I’m going to figure out what’s really important on my giant task list; I’m going to look at all the people who depend on me, either emotionally or from a work standpoint, and figure out who and what is really important…to me. I’m going to remember to breathe, to practice “Progress not perfection,” and to keep that task list short, but important. And then maybe I’ll have enough Wa that going to yoga or taking a stroll at the beach will sound like a very good idea, and just another thing I have to do.

How are you finding (or maintaining) your Wa right now?