Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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.

 

 

Flying the Non-Mom Banner October 22, 2012

My fellow bloggie friend, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, is always one to proudly fly the childfree flag. If you’ve read her book, Silent Sorority, or visited her blog by the same name, you’ll also know that she speaks on this topic with intellect and eloquence.
This week, Pamela will be hosting a 5-day Open Salon alongside infertility advocate, Keiko Zoll. Although now on opposite post-infertlity paths (Pamela is child free; Keiko is in the early stages of a donor egg pregnancy), I know that these two women will provide a lively and intelligent discussion on the topics of infertility, motherhood, and the childfree option. If you’d like to tune in and follow along, here’s where you’ll find the conversations this week:
To Mom or Not to Mom: A 5-Day Open Salon on Infertility, Motherhood and the Silent Sorority
Welcome to our open salon, hosted by Keiko of The Infertility Voice and Pamela of Silent Sorority. We created this open salon to discuss both sides of the motherhood debate from our unique perspectives in a responsorial fashion between our two blogs.Over the next five days and culminating in an open Twitter discussion #ALIMomSalon this Friday at 12:30pm EDT, we seek to parse out the concerns and vulnerabilities of transition within the ALI (adoption/loss/infertility) community without tripping over political correctness and delicate sensibilities.We hope you’ll join us every day this week and will be inspired to add your own responses in the comments here and at (the other person’s) blog and even by writing your own blog posts about this salon too!

Monday- intro to the conversation setup & first topic
At The Infertility Voice: Dealing with Survivor’s Guilt
At The Silent Sorority: Dealing with the Mommy Waiting Room

Tuesday – we write from opposing POVs
TIV: Accepting reality when motherhood won’t be happening
SS: Finding a place in a new world and reconciling conflicted emotions

Wednesday – addressing The Mommy Phenomenon
TIV: The Queendom of Mommyhood
SS: The Consequences of Placing Moms on Pedestals

Thursday – To Pass or to Stick Out: when to make infertility part of the conversation

Friday – Twitter Chat, 12:30-1:30pm EST #ALIMomSalon
Recap/reflection posts at TIV and SS

 

Your Wish is My Command…Well Almost October 18, 2012

Thank you for all the great feedback about the website makeover last week. I must admit to chuckling a bit as I envisioned a small but dedicated staff of writers, researchers, and editors all busily implement these ideas. As it’s just little old me and my somewhat limited grasp of technology, I pledge to do what I can.

Just to clear up a couple of concerns right away:

  • The blog itself isn’t going to change much, with daily posts, guest bloggers, and of course, the much-beloved Whiny Wednesday. J
  • This blog will never, ever, ever morph into a TTC, pregnancy, OMG-aren’t-my-babies-amazing blog. That ship has most definitely sailed for me and even if some unforeseen monumental miracle occurred, the last thing I’d do is bring it here to gloat about it! In fact, at this juncture, I’m not entirely sure how much gloating I’d be doing. Let’s just say, no worries on that front.
  • One of my biggest desires for a while has been to bring the LWB private site and the blog together under one URL. Not going to attempt this myself, but hope to find someone who can make that happen.

As for all you great suggestions, they have been duly noted and are on the list for consideration.

Thanks again for your kind words and input. I’m looking forward to the next chapter in the “Life Without Baby” story.

 

Prying Medical Questions October 15, 2012

I visited a family member in the hospital last week and overheard an orderly asking an elderly patient if she’d had a bowel movement that day.

“Mind your own god#@m business,” said the patient.

The orderly persisted. “The nurse needs to know.”

“Well tell her to go scr%# herself,” yelled the patient.

“I’ll tell her that.”

This scenario would be funnier if it wasn’t so sad, and I empathized with the woman not wishing to divulge such personal information. It reminded me of my own dreaded visits to the doctor/dentist/chiropractor when the doctor/nurse/medical assistant would glance at my chart and then fire off the list of questions:

Are you pregnant?

Do you have children?

Have you ever been pregnant?

Are you taking birth control?

For most women, these are routine questions, no more prying than “Do you smoke?” or “How many days do you exercise?” But for many of us, we dread this personal snooping.

These questions can poke at our most tender emotions and shower us with feelings of shame, regret, or just plain sadness.  It’s even worse if the person is actually listening (rather than just checking boxes) and pieces together a combination of responses that doesn’t add up in their normal view of the world. I’ve experienced that pause, while the information sinks in, and I’ve even been asked follow-up questions like “Are you trying?” Which leads to a long and uncomfortable explanation of why I’m not.

I used to dread these visits, but they’ve become easier over time. I’m ready for them. I know they’re going to be asked and I am now at the point where I can answer without too much emotion. I’m also always ready to deal with questions that go beyond the scope of my visit.

I usually say, “We tried and it didn’t work out, and that’s ok.” And I’m ready to answer the follow-up question about whether we considered adoption. My answer is always pretty pointed, something like, “Believe me, we considered everything.” If a line of questioning continues, I keep my responses short and, if the person still doesn’t get the hint, I say, “I’d really prefer not to talk about this right now.” Directing the conversation back to the actual reason for the visit is also a technique that’s been recommended.

So, how do you deal with those doctor appointments? At what point does medical fact-checking cross into “mind your own business” nosiness? Have you even neglected regular check-ups to avoid these questions? How do you manage this often-difficult situation?

 

In the Wake of Hurricane Infertility September 17, 2012

On a walk recently, my husband mentioned that a friend of ours is planning to move with her husband and small daughter to a more family-friendly neighborhood. I knew what was coming next. Once someone has a baby, it seems it’s only a matter of time before the next pregnancy announcement comes. I’d been expecting this news and my genuine happiness for her showed me how far I’ve come.

However, when my husband broke the news of our friend’s pregnancy, I saw him shrink away in the way you’d expect a mistreated dog to cringe when someone raises his voice. It made me sad to realize the damage my infertility experience has left in its wake.

My husband isn’t the only one who’s been affected. I’ve noticed friends stepping very carefully around the topic of babies and children, and keeping a close eye on me to gauge my reaction as to how much they can say. I am grateful for their sensitivity, but I’m sorry that they still can’t fully relax around me.
My infertility and my subsequent healing have been the major focus of my life for a number of years now. I’ve been working hard to sort through my emotions, deal with my grief, and get to the point where I can have conversations about pregnancy and babies without feeling upset or envious. But I realize that those around me don’t know yet how far I’ve come and they’re still stepping gingerly around me, as if I’m and unexploded bomb that looks safe enough but that could go off at any time.

It seems that the next step of my healing journey needs to be repairing some of the damage done by Hurricane Infertility, and letting my friends know that it’s safe to be around me again.

 

Maybe Baby, Maybe Not: Elusive “Congratulations” September 6, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to the Orange County fair, and he became unaccountably obsessed with the idea of adopting a pygmy goat. For those of you who haven’t seen one, it’s arguably the cutest animal on the planet. But, well – it’s a goat. And we live in a small condo in Southern California. None the less, it became an amusing topic of conversation between us and his sister who was along for the ride.

As a joke, she sent us a photo of goat’s milk on Facebook and I commented that she shouldn’t give my husband any more encouragement with regards to our “little girl” because he’d decided he wanted it to be a girl. Someone who didn’t look closely at the photo and doesn’t know us all that well misinterpreted the conversation and commented, “Drew is having a baby?!” It was immediately “liked” and commented on by several people, and I got my very first (albeit false) taste of the accolades heaped on those who are expecting a child.

I got to feel what it’s like for people to be genuinely excited about something you’ve done, and be really, really happy for you. It felt…amazing! For a couple of seconds. Until I remembered this was all based on a misunderstanding. But I was really struck by how it gave me such a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that people would be so over the moon if we had a kid. I know it’s downright silly, but hey – we can’t always control our feelings.

I also know that getting pregnant isn’t the only thing you can do where people will express their congratulations and excitement. But it sure does seem to be the one thing that generates the MOST excitement and the MOST accolades. I feel like if I ever finish my book (which I think may actually wind up being more painful than labor) and sold it to some fabulous publisher, that status update wouldn’t garner even half the likes of one saying “I’m pregnant!”, despite the fact that anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been writing for years and would die of happiness if I ever published a book.

Some may dismiss this all as silly Facebook politicking. And on some level, it is. But it’s also a microcosm for how society really feels about things. If baby announcements are the things that excite you most on Facebook, they’re probably the things that excite you most in real life. Calling to tell my mom I was pregnant would likely result in a burst of (happy) tears, while delivering some news about a promotion at work or buying our first house would probably earn me a heartfelt, but decidedly less emotional, congrats. Not because my mom is desperate to become a grandmother or doesn’t care about my career, but because babies generate more emotions. They just do.

Some others would question why I care so much about whether people are happy for me, and would encourage me to pursue my non-baby-related goals for my own personal satisfaction. That’s all well and good, and of course, that’s the route I’ll go. I just sort of wish I hadn’t gotten a taste of what it felt like to be on the other side.

Maybe Lady Liz is blogging her way through the decision of whether to create her own Cheerio-encrusted ankle-biters, or remain Childfree. You can follow her through the ups and downs at MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Water Baby August 29, 2012

This post was originally published on January 25, 2012.

My water cooler has sprung a leak. I put a black plastic bowl underneath to catch the drips.

The next morning the water had formed a perfect sonogram-like fetus-shaped pool.

I hate that something so stupid can still cause such a sharp reaction in me, and that I’m still thinking about that peanut shape days later.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s making you want to kick something today?

P.S. The following day, the “water baby” had changed into a heart. Interpret that as you will.

 

Hope vs. Acceptence August 13, 2012

Life Without Baby is taking a short hiatus. Please enjoy some favorite posts from the last two-and-a-half years.

This post was originally published on April 12, 2011. You might also enjoy the follow-up post from April 16.

In the past week two different people have made comments to me that have amounted to the same message: Don’t give up hope; there’s still a chance you could have a baby.

Whether you’re childless-by-choice, or by circumstance, I’m willing to bet you’ve had someone say something similar to you.

“It could still happen.”

“You’ll change your mind.”

“Don’t give up hope.”

The “don’t give up hope” type of comment is the one that hits me closest to the core. While I think that hope is key to human survival, I think it can be dangerous if it isn’t backed by action. Just hoping something will happen someday is how potential and lives get frittered away.

While I was trying to get pregnant, I was full of hope, but I was also doing everything I possibly could to make it happen. Now that I am no longer trying, I am no longer holding out hope.

But this doesn’t mean I feel hopeless. And this is what I want to be able to explain to people who still carry hope for me.

Losing hope of having children is very different from accepting and coming-to-terms with the fact that I won’t. I am not hopeless; I haven’t thrown in the towel; I haven’t rolled over and surrendered to my childlessness. I have made a conscious decision to stop my quest to conceive and for the past two years I’ve been working on coming-to-terms with that decision. I haven’t lost hope; I’ve just changed my outcome. I haven’t simply given up on the idea of having children; I’ve made a decision to live childfree.

I know that many of these comments are said with the best of intentions. People who care about us can’t bear to see us not get something we want, or not get something that they think we should want. There is still a pervading idea that people who don’t have children do, or eventually will, want them. But some of us just don’t, or won’t, or did once, but don’t anymore. For the latter group, it’s not about giving up hope; it’s about accepting what is and building a life from there.

 

Dealing With Our Scars June 14, 2012

By Quasi-Momma

How much time do you spend concealing “what is?”   As I begin my road toward healing, it’s a subject I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.

I have tiny scars on my chin from blemishes. I don’t like them, so every morning I dig into my arsenal of beauty products — foundation, concealer, powder, and the like — to make them appear like tinier, lighter versions of what they are.  This enables me to leave my house feeling a little less self-conscious.

The time I spend performing this ritual allows me to practice hiding my emotional scars as well. I take stock of how I’m feeling, rehearse my mask of calmness, and identify potential triggers that might set my heart reeling. It’s a routine I haven’t quite yet mastered. With relatively fresh wounds, it is difficult to maintain composure at times, especially in the face of cherub-like cheeks, rounded bellies, and all things that radiate motherhood. I am no Lady Gaga.  Yes, you CAN read my poker face.  I need more practice.

Last month as I was getting ready for an unavoidable family reunion and bracing myself for being around a pregnant relative, I wondered aloud to Hubs if it would just be easier to wear a little sign around my neck. It would be like a “Don’t Feed the Bears” sign, only mine would read, “Don’t ask me about [insert relative’s name here]’s pregnancy.”  He shook his head sympathetically, laughed and said with his best southern-boy charm, “That ain’t right.”  I agreed, and then offered to make him one too.

Joking aside, Hubs is correct. Indiscriminate expressions of hurt are not appropriate. Everyone has their own burdens, and our issues belong to us. We simply can’t expect everyone to sympathize with our plight. Not many people truly can. Selective concealment is a necessary evil.

This leads me to wonder how we can know when it is appropriate to reveal our emotional scars to the outside world. What yardstick is used to decide when we show them and to whom? How do we prepare ourselves for the reactions of those who just don’t “get it?”  Do your scars protect you?  Do they give you strength? Or do you no longer consider them as such?

Quasi-Momma is not quite a mom, but has always wanted to be.  In her blog, Quasi-momma, she explores her struggles with pregnancy loss and facing childlessness while grappling with the ups and downs of step family life.