Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Measuring Progress Via the OB/GYN June 4, 2012

Mud Dancer Wearing a Mask ca. 1990s Solomon Islands, Melanesia, courtesy MS Images

Reader Katy contacted me recently about the overwhelming experience of visiting her OB/GYN and being inundated by all those pregnant bellies. I’m sure many of us here can sympathize with her.

I got to thinking back about my own experience with those dreaded visits and was interested to see how they ultimately provided a measure for my progress.

When I was trying desperately to get pregnant, I remember looking at all those pregnant bellies and baby pictures posted on my doctor’s wall. I’d fantasize about making my first pre-natal appointment and glowing proudly in the waiting room. Then I’d imagine my baby’s picture up on the wall of fame.

As I continued on my journey and it became apparent that pregnancy wasn’t going to come easily for me, those annual visits became harder. My eyes would turn longingly to the bellies and the babies, but at the same time, I wanted to look away. I couldn’t bear to see what I didn’t have and didn’t know if I’d ever have. It was just too painful.

It didn’t get any easier after we made the decision to stop our quest for a family. I think that first visit after we stopped was the hardest of all, as I had to look at the mommy pictures and try to reconcile the idea that I would never join their ranks. To make matters worse, the Nurse Practitioner, a woman I’d been seeing for my annual exam for years, came in with my chart and started asking the usual slew of questions.

“You’ve never been pregnant?”

“No.”

“Are you using birth control?”

“No.”

“Are you trying to get pregnant?”

[Pause] “Not any more.”

There was another longer pause as she tried to piece all this together, so I saved her the trouble and explained our situation and that we’d decided to move on. She went on to tell me about a friend of hers who was 46 and had just had her first child via egg donation. I remember mumbling that it wasn’t for us and hurrying the conversation along to the real reason I was there.

Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until much later, when I was replaying the horrible scene over in my mind for about the hundredth time that I realized she wasn’t telling me the story from an “It’s a miracle and it could happen to you, too,” point-of-view. There was lot more to her friend’s story than I’d given her the chance to tell me, and she was in fact showing her support for my decision to draw a line in the sand. In hindsight, I wish I’d been in a place emotionally to have a conversation with her about her friend, as an understanding ally was exactly what I needed at that time.

At my last appointment earlier this year, I found myself studying all the birth announcement photos more carefully. I formed opinions about people’s choices of baby names, looked for families I recognized (and found one), and fabricated histories for those I didn’t know. I did this without sadness or envy or remorse.

Looking at those pictures was almost like browsing the pages of National Geographic and seeing photos of some fascinating tribe who had this strange ritual called “reproduction.” I felt that I was not of their tribe. I didn’t feel superior or inferior, not less than or more fortunate than, just different. I’m from another tribe. I will never be like them, and just as similarly, they will never be like me.

Coming to terms with being childfree takes time and some days you may feel as if you’re making no progress at all, but sometimes the thing that can be the hardest to face can turn out to be the thing by which you’re finally able to measure just how far you’ve come.

 

Whiny Wednesday April 25, 2012

Hooray, hooray, it’s Whiny Wednesday today!

This week I was in a conversation with my friend “K” and a young woman who said of their mutual friend “D”, “She’s never going to get pregnant if she keeps stressing out like this.”

K and I exchanged a knowing glance (she knows all my story) and I think she probably held her breath for a moment, waiting to see if I would actually lose it on the spot and give this woman a full on lecture about infertility.

I didn’t. It wasn’t the time and place for a teachable moment. Instead I said, “Well, that’s easier said than done. Trust me; I know.”

Still, I can’t stop thinking about D and hoping she has someone to talk to who understands the hell she’s undoubtedly in right now. I know that K understands, but it’s clear that not all D’s friends do.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. I’ve set a bit of a melancholy tone here, but don’t let that stop you from venting what’s on your mind today.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About What Comes Out of My Mouth April 10, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

So here I am, a couple of years into coming to terms with my childfree status, at a point where I feel confident I’ve made my peace with this whole not-going-to-be-a-mommy scenario. It’s been a while since I’ve dreamed about babies or ached when I’ve held an infant or cried when a childfree friend has crossed over into mommy-mania. I’m good. Really. Or so I think. Because then I opened my mouth and something inexplicable came out. Here’s what happened:

After months of thinking and planning, I’ve decided to take a detour in my career path, to set aside the long-term goals I’d outlined for my business and devote time and energy to finishing a passion project. As part of this shift in priorities, I needed to let my business networking group know my intentions, as a way to hold myself accountable and to ask for their support. I stood up before my colleagues and said, “I have some big news….” And then I said, “And, no, I’m not pregnant!”

What the fruitcake?! Where did this come from? This was inappropriate on soooo many levels, and it’s so not like me. Right? I mean, I always behave professionally in professional settings, plus I blog and talk openly about being childfree and I rarely ever think about getting or being pregnant.

But apparently there’s a corner of my subconscious that is holding onto the dream. There must be a tiny part of me that still believes only announcements such as “I’m engaged!” or “I’m pregnant!” count as “big news.” I’m so disappointed in myself, appalled that sad Little Me has poked her face out from behind the mask of strong, savvy, childfree Big Me. I’m horrified that there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe this huge leap I’m taking in my career is worth sharing and celebrating.

As much as I’d like to shove Little Me back behind the mask, I can’t ignore her or the uncertainties that occasionally bubble up from my subconscious. I think these surprises are part of the process, and they must be examined and addressed. Clearly, I’m still learning how to live the life I’ve been dealt. I am in a much better place than I was a few years ago, and I believe I’ll be in a better place in years hence. Till then, I need to be gentle with myself and not too judgmental when I speak before I think.

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

 

Whiny Wednesday: People Who Ought to Say Nothing April 4, 2012

Kathleen’s post about mistakes and well-intentioned people got me thinking about people who really ought to just mind their own business.

A few years ago, when I my glorious plans for motherhood were just beginning to come crashing down around my ears, Mr. Fab and I went wine tasting. As a rich, fruity cabernet was hitting my bloodstream and making my crappy world feel better, a woman (whose world was feeling a little too good) leaned over and said, “Should you be drinking?”

I was confused for a moment, until I realized she was peering at my belly. Admittedly, I’d put on a few stress pounds over the previous year, but I was beyond mortified that she’d mistaken my bloat for a pregnancy, especially considering that was the one thing I was truly aiming for.

I’d like to tell you that she realized her mistake immediately, but alas, she had to ask me twice – the second time for everyone around us to hear.

So, while I agree that most people are well-intentioned when they make a faux pas, in some cases, people just ought to keep their traps shut and mind their own damn business.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, ladies. Let ‘em fly.

 

Guest Blog: Non-Accidental Accidental Pregnancy March 8, 2012

By Maybe Lady Liz

Why is it that every pregnancy announcement these days is quickly followed up with the footnote that this was an “accident”? One of my friends called last night with the big news, and I truly was shocked to hear it. She’d been debating for a long time whether or not she even wanted kids and hadn’t come to any kind of conclusion. After delivering the bombshell, she said, “Obviously, this was a total surprise and completely not on purpose.”

So of course, I countered with a question as to what happened to her birth control – you know, that little pill she’d been taking every day of her life since freshman year of college? That’s when I got the “Welllllllllllll….”, followed by a convoluted tale of a change in insurance, a radical increase in cost, a two-month swing where she and her husband just went without and they thought they’d be okay because a doctor once told her she might have trouble getting pregnant someday.

I’m sorry, but that does not an accident make. What’s an accident, you ask? Someone who takes their birth control religiously, at the same time every day, and one still manages to get past the goalie. Someone whose condom breaks and on their way to get the morning-after pill, they’re kidnapped and held for ransom until it’s too late. Someone whose Nuva Ring fell out and somehow, they didn’t notice it. These are accidents. Going off your birth control for two months while still having sex, is not.

I don’t think my friend is a scheming, conniving liar. I think she actually believes, on the surface, that this truly was an accident. But anytime you’re having sex while not taking every precaution to prevent pregnancy, there’s got to be a part of you that understands and accepts the potential consequences. And I’d have to argue that going through with it means that even if it’s just on a subconscious level, you sort of want a baby.

What I can’t figure out is why people are so eager to convince everyone it was an accident. Why can’t they own up to what they want? There’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a baby. Is it because society has made us feel that becoming a mother should be secondary to having a career? Or that we should have accomplished this laundry list of great achievements and amassed a small fortune in college funds first?

I don’t know, maybe it’s not important. But for some reason, it’s just driving me crazy lately! Is this happening to anyone else, or is it just my delusional friends?

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 www.MaybeBabyMaybeNot.com.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Taking Liberties January 18, 2012

Recently, my friend calling me, fuming.

She’d been “volunteered” to co-host a baby shower for a woman she knows. Note that I didn’t say a “for a friend.” This woman is the wife of her partner’s colleague. Their relationship is such that she’s only heard about the pregnancy through the grapevine, and not even from the woman herself.

The kicker? The other two “volunteer” co-hosts are both women who don’t have children.

Maybe my friend should be flattered that her organizational skills are so valued, but she doesn’t feel that way. She feels it’s assumed she has time to put together a party because she doesn’t have kids (even though she’s a busy business owner.)

I’m wondering if that person is also thinking that these married, childless women are going to be paid back some time soon with showers of their own. I can’t speak for the other two women, but that’s not the case with my friend, and organizing a celebration for someone else’s baby is not something she’s currently glad to do.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. You can whine on behalf of a put-upon friend if you’d like, or feel free to whine for yourself.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Doctor-Patient Confidentiality November 30, 2011

I’ve had  a bad back for a couple of weeks now, so I went to a new doctor for the first time. Here’s the conversation we had (roughly) and keep in mind I went in for a bad back:

Dr: Do you have kids?

Me: No.

Dr: Are you married?

Me: (in my head) What the hell does this have to do with anything?)

Me: (out loud) Yes.

Dr: (moments later) Have you had kids?

Me: No.

Dr: Any pregnancies?

Me: No.

I considered explaining my situation, but the guy’s a chiropractor for God’s sake and he has my file right there, so I let it go. A few minutes later I’m standing with my pants around my ankles getting a back x-ray.

X-ray Tech: Are you pregnant?

Me: No.

X-ray Tech: Is there any chance you could be pregnant?

Me: No.

X-ray Tech: When was your last period?

Me: (gives her the date)

Short pause while she does the math.

X-ray Tech: Ok, I’m going to hang a plate in front of you to protect your ovaries.

Me: (in my mind) Don’t waste your time; they’re already fried.)

Me: (out loud) OK.

So, maybe I was a surly patient. I chalk it up to my bad back. But sometimes I don’t feel like explaining why I don’t have children, not even to my doctor.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. I’m cranky about doctors; what’s under your skin this week?

 

 
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