Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Our Future Together October 2, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

“Your Future Together: Health Information You Need to Know.”

When my husband-to-be and I went to city hall to get our marriage license, we left with a small stack of papers, including a booklet with the above title. Curious, I opened it in the car and flipped through the pages. “Living a Healthy Lifestyle” was introduced on page 1, with recommendations for regular check-ups and exercise, a balanced diet, and up-to-date immunizations. Brief sections explaining the warning signs and resources for victims of domestic violence and HIV/AIDs followed. All this got me up to page 14. The remaining 34 pages are all about—you guessed it—family planning, pregnancy, and healthcare for babies.

There are resources listed for where to get genetic counseling, two full pages on the importance of increasing folic acid intake, and tips on things such as “Have someone else change the cat litter box daily” when you’re expecting. But no where—no where!—is there any mention of infertility, IVF, adoption, or the childfree option. Wait, I need to amend that. On page 16, there’s a list of family planning services available to eligible, low-income couples. Bullet number 4 reads: “Limited infertility and cancer screening services.”

I assumed this pamphlet must be way out-of-date, but the copyright is 2010, and the legal notation on the back indicates it must be distributed to all marriage license applicants. If that’s the case, I’d like to add some new sections to the 2012 edition, sections that address questions such as:

How long should we try to conceive the old-fashioned way before seeking professional help? What is the process for adopting a child? As a gay couple, how do we protect our parental rights? Who offers counseling when our dreams of having children are crushed? Can we have a happy and healthy marriage as a family of two?

I think someone needs to let city hall know that there’s a lot more information we need to know.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She—and her husband—have chosen to be childfree.

 

Dealing With Social Landmines September 14, 2012

The Dealing with Social Landmines e-pamphlet is making its official debut today. As promised in Monday’s post, this is a compilation of tips and strategies for getting through those difficult situations and handling prying questions. Even better, I’m offering it to you, my lovely readers, at the low, low price of absolutely free!

If you’d like your very own copy, plus more upcoming goodies, enter your name and e-mail here and I’ll get it to you right away. You’ll also receive a free subscription to the brand new Life Without Baby newsletter, delivering tips, challenges, and (of course) news to your inbox about once a month. If you find the blog posts and member site are all you need, you can unsubscribe at anytime and I promise my feelings won’t be hurt.

I’d love to hear your feedback on the e-pamphlet and any tips of your own you’d like to share.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Doctor-Patient Confidentiality August 8, 2012

This post was originally published on 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?

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Waiting February 21, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

As I’m having my teeth cleaned, the hygienist (early 30s, getting married this summer, knows I recently got married) asks, “So are you planning to have kids right away or are you going to wait?”

Um…wait for what?

When I was clear of dental tools, I reminded her that I am 45.

That ship has sailed, sister.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Most days she finds the absurdities in life very amusing.

 

Getting Through the Holidays December 8, 2011

I spotted this article in a couple of places this week, but here’s the Huffington Post’s version. It’s about coping with the holidays when you’re going through infertility, but I think that many of the points apply to any of us who are facing the holidays without children.

Here’s some of what the authors have to say:

  • Decide which events you’ll attend and know you don’t have to go to everything you’re invited to.
  • Think about how you’ll handle being around children, new babies, and pregnant relatives. Here’s a post about that.
  • Decide how you’ll handle the prying questions about why you don’t have kids yet. You know they’re going to come, so be prepared. Here are some ideas on that.
  • Start a new family tradition of your own (I highly recommend this one.) Here are some fun ideas on that front.

The point is, the holidays are supposed to be fun for everyone, including you! So don’t let some Grinch (even an unwitting Grinch) ruin it for you.

If you have other ideas for surviving the holidays, please post them here. We could all use a little help at this time of year.

 

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?

 

The Game of Life October 13, 2011

Courtesy Hasbro Games

My brother and his wife are very open with their children and talk to them about all kinds of things my mother would never have brought up in conversation with me. And somewhere along the line I know they’ve answered questions from their children about me and my lack of offspring. One of my nephews (let’s call him “Frank,” because he is – always) even asked me flat out why I don’t have children. So I told him.

I’m actually glad for this openness; it’s allowed me to practice answering direct questions honestly in a situation where they’re asked in pure innocence. When someone asks out of nosiness, I already know I can say, “I tried, but I couldn’t.”

On my recent trip home I conned my nieces and nephews into playing Game of Life with me. As I loaded pink and blue pegs into my car, “Frank” said, “It’s funny that you have so many children in the game when you don’t have any in real life.”

And then the cool, calm, well-practiced me snapped, “Well, you don’t have a yacht in real life either!”

Yes, sometimes I have this whole thing under control, and sometimes all the embarrassment and insecurities come rushing back at me and I bite off some poor innocent bystander’s head.

Frank, if you’re reading this post when you’re not supposed to, I’m sorry I snapped at you. And I know you’ll be mad that I called you “Frank” in this story, so I’m sorry for that too. And you’re right. It is funny that I always end up with a ton of kids in the game. It’s funny that I end up at the Millionaire’s Mansion sometimes too. If one of those doesn’t come true in real life, maybe the other one will. If it does, I promise to take you out on my yacht. Love, Auntie Lisa –x-

 

Age and Attitudes September 29, 2011

On a flight recently, I sat next to an elderly woman who was on her way to visit her granddaughter. Before long the conversation veered towards children and she asked me if I had any.

For a second, I got that sinking feeling. Here was a woman with children and grandchildren, who wasn’t going to understand why I didn’t. But I told her anyway, and even headed her off at the pass by explaining why before she asked.

But the thing is, she got it. She understood that the battle with infertility can be endless. She understood that sometimes you have to walk away. And she also understood that parenthood isn’t and shouldn’t be for everyone.

This is a trend I’ve been noticing lately. I’ve found that older people are often more likely than younger people to understand that motherhood isn’t a certainty for everyone.

Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with experience, or maybe it’s that perspective older people sometimes get about what’s really important in life. Whatever it is, I’m always glad to find that safe haven when it comes along.

 

Not Exactly Lonely April 21, 2011

This post was first published on May 24, 2010.

My young nephew has no qualms about asking the most personal questions, and he’s so earnest and compassionate that usually I can’t help but give him an honest response. He’s asked why I don’t have any children, and also what happened to my first husband. I’ve told him the truth in both cases and he’s appreciated that, as far as I can tell.

Recently he asked, “Don’t you and Jose get lonely without any children.”

“No,” I told him. “We have lots of friends, and we have Felicity, our cat, plus we have lots of nieces and nephews.”

Somehow though, this response didn’t seem to satisfy him. Perhaps because it doesn’t satisfy me either. Do I get lonely because I don’t have children? Not really. Most of the time I wish I had more time alone with my own thoughts, rather than less, but do I feel a sense of loneliness sometimes, even when I’m around other people? I do. Sometimes.

Sometimes I feel that the connections I have with others are more tenuous than they would be with a child. My brothers have their own children and, while we’re still close, our connections have weakened as the bond with their children has grown. Somewhere inside me is a tiny empty hole that nothing can fill. Most of the time I’m not even aware of it, it’s so small. But every now and then I’ll experience a melancholy sensation that feels like loneliness and feels as if it could only be filled with children.