Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Certainty October 26, 2012

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I always used to have an answer to that question. For a time the answer was, “Raising my children and writing brilliant novels in my spare time.”

These days I don’t have a clear vision of how my life will look 10 years from now. It’s not to say that I don’t have goals and plans—I have plenty of those—but what I no longer feel I have is certainty. I really have no clue where or who I’ll be in 10 years time.

After a strange week, where I’ve felt sure of nothing, I always know that there’s one thing I can count on. If I walk around the corner from my house and go down the hill, I will find the ocean. Some days it will be calm and enticing, other days—like today—it will be wild and intimidating. But it will always be there. And if I am here, in this place, 10 years from now, I can be absolutely certain that the ocean will be there, too.

If you’re feeling uncertain right now, what’s the one thing you can count on?

 

A New Life, Without Children October 1, 2012

If you could wave magic wand or be given the secret elixir that would give you a baby tomorrow, would you do it?

For many of you, I know the answer would be a resounding yes. And it would have been for me, too, once. When I was in the thick of trying to have to a baby, and for a long time after we stopped trying and starting trying to come to terms with the idea of not having children, magically having a baby was the thing I usually wished for whenever I blew out birthday candles, broke a wishbone, or had some other imaginary chance to get exactly what I wanted.

But here I am now, a few years removed from that time and my desires have changed. It’s been a long, bumpy journey of acceptance, of coming-to-terms, and of finally making peace. And now I find myself making plans for a future that children won’t easily fit into.

There are some who’ll say that I can’t have really wanted children that much in the first place if I feel this way. These are the same kinds of people who implied that my widowed mother couldn’t have cared as much for her late-husband as they did for theirs because she went on to find love again. What those people don’t seem to grasp is that part of healing, part of moving on, is taking the life you have and shaping it into the best it can be. If that means falling in love and marrying again, that takes nothing away from the first, lost love. And if it means building a full and happy life that doesn’t include children, that in no way diminishes the original desire and the subsequent loss.

Recovering from loss isn’t about dragging the weight of what’s missing around with you forever. It’s about finding a place in your heart for what was lost and building a new life new around it.

For me, the fact that my plans no longer have room for children of my own signifies that I’m making excellent progress down that road of recovery.

 

Feeling Directionless July 9, 2012

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice:   I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Being a goal-oriented kind of person, I have an illustration that includes this quote in my office. It reminds me that writing out goals, creating strategies, and checking off accomplishments doesn’t matter a hill of beans if I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m trying to go.

Despite this reminder, I often find myself overcome with a feeling of being directionless. Yes, I have things I want to accomplish, but I don’t really have a big picture vision of how I want my life to unfold. I don’t have a long-term view of what my life will look like in 5, 10, or 20 years, and beyond. It’s not that I’m looking to plan out my path to the last detail – I know that’s impossible – but I can barely see beyond the end of the year. It’s a strange feeling for someone who, 20 years ago, had her entire life mapped out. Or at least she thought she did.

The trouble is, that life had always included children, and even as I made twists and turns in career, relationships, and geographical location, the expectation of someday becoming a mother was always a constant. Once it became a possibility, it also became the focus of my life.

Now that motherhood is no longer a realistic prospect, my vision of how my life will unfold is missing a big and important piece of the puzzle, and I’m finding it hard to see the future clearly. I have career goals and travel goals, but the vision of who I will be in the future is blurry.

Maybe learning firsthand that plans don’t always work out as we’d imagined has softened my need to make them. It’s also possible that I never really had a vision for my life, but instead adopted the cultural expectation of motherhood and called it my own. Regardless, now it’s gone, I feel like an early explorer who can see my world only as far as the horizon, with no idea of what might lie beyond.

 

Fabulous Friday January 13, 2012

Earlier this week, Rerah commented how great it would be to have a “Fabulous Friday,” where we can list all of the positive things we do or want to do, or are able to do because we don’t have children. I think this would be an excellent way for us all to keep our eyes on the future and what it might hold for us, even as we’re dealing with the past.

Kathleen mentioned that she is planning a cycling trip to France this year and is gathering information on things to do.

My plans for this year also include travel. Mr. Fab and I once created a Bucket List of places we wanted to visit. We made a start on checking things off, but life happened, we got busy and distracted, and our last few trips have been places that are quick and easy to book and don’t require much planning.

So, this year, I’m dusting off my Bucket List, making time to do some research and planning, and then we’re going…somewhere. I’ll report back later.

So what do you have planned, or what would you like to have planned? Could you use some encouragement? Let us know here, so we can keep one another buoyed up and maybe offer advice and support, if needed.

 

With Eyes of Faith…A Brand New Year January 5, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you hope and a future.”

 

~ Jeremiah 29:11

I love that passage from the Bible, where God promises prosperity, hope and a future. Now that I understand the context, it’s one of my favorite verses to reflect on at this time of year, especially now that I have faced my own form of cultural exile as a childless woman.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke for God to people who loved the Lord, but nevertheless had been driven into exile from their homeland. At the same time he delivered a promise of welfare and not woe, Jeremiah also prophesied that the exile would last several more decades! Can you imagine a frail, little old lady, hearing this and shaking her veil?  She had, maybe, a few good years left on earth, so how could these promises be applied to her life? Since scholars say that the prophecy pointed to God’s plan for a messiah, perhaps she placed her hope on an eternal relationship with God, rather than a passing, earthly reality.

Like her, I also face an exile that I will not outlive.  After enduring pregnancy announcements from friends and family in my thirties, I now dread the upcoming “I’m going to be a grandma!” to a chorus of whoops and yells. As the mommy club keeps expanding (gosh, even women in convents use the title of Mother) so does my period of exile.

But unlike that frail lady in Babylon, I believe God’s plan for a messiah has been fulfilled. So when I reflect on the passage from Jeremiah, I think about the past year and see clearly how God provided welfare and not woe, in the here and now of my lifetime. I may not be delivered from exile but, like my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have a Messiah who walks with me through it, blessing me with a double portion of life’s goodness.

How do you approach this time of year?  What are your plans for the future?

Dorothy lives near Chicago.  She and her husband spend January weekends cross-country skiing the snowy, winding paths of forest preserves.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Lies July 5, 2011

Guest post by Kathleen Guthrie

After years of living with cracked tiles, a door that popped open at awkward moments, faucets that never completely turned off, and circa-1970 nonslip floor stickers, we finally remodeled our decrepit shower. The gentleman who did the work did an excellent job. His sales rep, hmmm, not so much: “It will be easy! It will be clean! We can do it all in a day!” I’m still finding dust and debris in odd places, and “Joe” (I’m not using his real name, ’cuz that’s not cool) was here for an exhausting 10.5 hours the first day, then returned for another 2.5 hours the next morning.

About three hours into it, Joe said to me in exasperation, “I don’t know why they tell customers we can do it in a day. These things always take at least a day and a half or two.”

Wouldn’t it have been a lot easier if the sales rep has just been honest? We could have planned ahead for two days of showering at the gym. Instead of having to cancel at the last minute, I could have scheduled meetings on different days. It certainly would have been easier on Joe, who had to bump other service calls and muck up other people’s busy lives.

And that got me thinking about other big lies I’ve heard in my life. A whopper came when I was a teenager and was experiencing debilitating menstrual cramps. My doctor, a very sweet man, said to me, “This is good. It will prepare you for childbirth so that labor pains will be a breeze.” I held onto his promise for the next 30 years while waiting to have my baby and experience the miracle of pain-free birthing. It’s not his fault that I didn’t get to have children. But I look back and wish someone had been straight with me, saying something like: “Don’t plan your dreams around the possibility of being a mom, because it might not happen. And these agonizing cramps? Yeah, they suck and life isn’t fair. Fill this prescription for pain killers and get over yourself.”

I know many of you have heard “I can make you pregnant!” “This procedure will work!” “It’s the miracle cure that will give you the baby you want!” But I wonder this: Would it have been any easier if someone had told us the truth upfront? Would we have listened and really heard it?

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

 

My Spare Room September 28, 2010

My mum arrived last week for her annual 6-week-long visit. This means I spent the prior two weeks tearing my house apart and reassembling it to accommodate a guest. We have two bedrooms in our house, the second room being my fulltime office. It usually contains my desk, computer, files, papers, office supplies—basically everything I need to do my job on a daily basis. But right now it contains a bed and a couple of suitcases, with my desk and computer squeezed into one corner.

While clearing out the room, I started thinking about a book I recently read—Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (an excellent book that I can recommend highly.) One of the characters in the book has a series of spare rooms in her large house, at least one of which is set up to receive the children she expects or is expected to have (the mystery is revealed later in the book, but I’m not about to blow it now.) I realized that I had never envisioned my spare room as a nursery. I think that in my mind, we would make do in our little place and once children came along, we’d figure out how to move to a larger house, maybe in a different town. But a part of me can’t help wondering what had really been going on in my subconscious mind that I never planned for a place for a child to live, despite planning, or at least thinking about, all kinds of details involved in being a mother.

What about you? Did you ever make solid plans that included actions, rather than simply daydreams?