Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Words or Tears September 13, 2012

By Peggy McGillicuddy

There are numerous examples of what NOT to say to someone who is dealing with infertility. What can be more difficult is to describe what TO say or do when someone you love is going through the experience.

The most appropriate and comforting response I have received came from my younger sister, Katie. We were conversing on the phone one night, and the topic glided over to my problems with conceiving. My husband and I had been going to a fertility clinic. We had been trying for a while, but to no avail.  Due to my age, IVF was the most logical next step, but not an option for us.

With a lump in my throat, I told my sister that I had reached a point where I felt like I now had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to have children. I needed to start grieving. There was silence on the end of the phone. For a moment, I was annoyed, thinking that Katie didn’t want to talk about the subject.  But then I heard it.

She was crying. Not weepy, soft tears, but sobs.

I was taken aback, not anticipating this response. I really didn’t know what to say. So I asked a dumb question, that I already knew the answer to.

“Why are you crying?”

 

Between sobs, she said, “Because, Peggy, that’s so sad for you.  And sad for all of us.  I was imagining having a niece or nephew from my big sister. I’m so sorry. It’s just not fair.” 

 

And then she cried some more.

A sense of calm came over me. We talked a bit more about it, but there wasn’t a whole lot to say. I was stunned by how much better I felt after the interaction. I tried to figure out why, and came up with this:

She didn’t come back at me with advice on how to get pregnant. She didn’t try to fix it. She didn’t point out all the positives in NOT having children. She didn’t say, “Just adopt.” She didn’t tell me to be grateful for the things I already had.

Katie did not say that perhaps I didn’t want to be a mom badly enough, because if so, I would “just” do IVF. She didn’t imply that I had less right to grieve because I wasn’t trying every medical intervention available. She didn’t tell me I was already a “mother” to so many (it sounds nice, but it is NOT the same). And most importantly, she didn’t change the subject.

What she did do was profoundly different than all of those things listed above, of which I’d already heard. My sisters reaction was the most compassionate and appropriate because it matched the emotional intensity and sadness that I was already feeling. I didn’t have to explain why I felt so lousy, or justify my grief. I didn’t need to make excuses for myself or my choices.

What I got from Katie during this brief interaction over the phone was something that I hadn’t yet received from anyone else. Validation and permission.

Permission to grieve for a loss felt so deeply. Validation of the pain of infertility reflected back to me through someone else’s voice.

Listening to her on the phone that night, I finally felt someone else understood why my heart was breaking without me needing to explain why.

My sister’s tears did more for me than any words ever could have.

Peggy McGillicuddy is a counselor, consultant and group facilitator who works with children but is not a mom. You can explore her blog at akidfirst.com.

 

Meeting Other Childfree People August 27, 2012

Life Without Baby is taking a short hiatus. Please enjoy some favorite posts from the last two-and-a-half years. We’ll be back to normal next week.

This post was originally published on April 19, 2011

Recently, a reader posted this comment:

“Do you have any tips on how to find people without kids? I went to a RESOLVE meeting once and made friends with a fellow infertile… who got pregnant the next month.”

I suspect we’ve all had that feeling of being cheated on by someone we hoped would be an ally, while at the same time being glad the person got what she really wanted. So how do you find other childless people to spend time with?

Here are a few of the ways I’ve found kindred spirits:

Activities at non-kid-friendly times

I go to an early morning exercise boot camp three days a week. It starts at the ungodly hour of 6:00 a.m. which is a tough time for anyone, but especially for people with very young or school-age kids. Most of the people in the group don’t have children and I’ve been going for long enough that I’ve made a small circle of childless friends. What’s great is that our primary connection is exercise, not childlessness.

Stealing or borrowing other friends’ childless friends

Quite a few of my friendships have come about through mutual friends. I’ve been invited to a dinner or barbecue, made my way around the room, making polite conversation, until I’ve met someone I’ve clicked with and discovered they don’t have children either. I have several childless friends who were introduced to me by mutual friends with children. In some cases the original friend has drifted away and the new friend and I have grown closer.

Groups and clubs

Just getting out and meeting people in general is a really good way to ultimately meet other childless people. Joining a group or club relating to your interests or hobbies means you automatically have something in common. I’ve been in book clubs, running clubs, and various classes. Over time, I’ve attached to certain members of the group, and just because of schedules alone, the childless members have ultimately gravitated to one another.

Childless and child-free groups

I haven’t actually tried this yet, but I’ve considered it. No Kidding! is an international social network for people without children. They have chapters all over the country and arrange social events regularly. If there’s one near you, this seems like a great way to meet people.

Another idea is using Meetup.com. You can sign up and state your interest in meeting other childfree people in your area.

We also have a Groups page on this site. Try starting a group for your local area and see if other people join. Hopefully you’ll find at least one other person who lives close enough to meet in person, and our membership is growing daily.

If anyone else has ideas on how to meet other childless singles or couples, please post them. I know that there are several other members who would love to find people they can connect with in person as well as just here online.

 

Whiny Wednesday: Living After Infertility March 28, 2012

I subscribe to Resolve’s “Living After Infertility Resolution” Support Community. Or at least I used to until yesterday, when I removed myself from the mailing list.

Apparently, the only viable “resolution” for infertility is pregnancy and the “support” forums are filled with questions about the best strollers for twins and complaints about weight gain at 24 weeks. When I dug back into the archives I found exactly THREE posts from people trying to move on with a childfree life.

I avoid using profanity in a public forum, but not in the comfort of my own home, so when I tell you I said, “Forget it!” you can fill in your own blank for what I really said.

I think that Resolve does wonderful work in helping people deal with infertility, but for those of us who have run out of options or made the decision to get off the crazy train and get about the business of building a life without children, that support is non-existent. Unless a miracle baby happens, there is apparently no living after infertility.

Well, that’s not the case here, sisters. I am alive and well and swearing like a sailor to prove it. And when National Infertility Awareness Week comes around next month, you’d better believe I’m going to be out there saying, “Hey!!! What about us?”

It’s Whiny Wednesday, my wondering living friends. If you’ve got something to say, now’s the time. Just watch your language, if you don’t mind.

 

Staying Strong December 19, 2011

Recently, my resolve has been tested. A new baby in the family, the use of my baby’s name, and a firm reminder that my family is, and will remain, very different from the fantasy family I’d created in my head. But, here’s what I’ve learned about myself in the past couple of weeks:

I am one tough, resilient lady. Life can throw all kinds of crap at me and I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again. Yes, the suit of armor that I’ve built for myself has its weak spots. Yes, there are holes in my life that I feel keenly from time to time, and my infertility is always going to be a tender scar. But, I am strong and I will survive. I may not have the life I’d planned, but my life is good and rich in ways I’d never imagined.

It’s these thoughts that I will stay focused on as we head into the holidays and onwards into a brand new year.

 

The Truth About Trying October 19, 2011

I know it’s technically Whiny Wednesday, but I decided that this ought to take precedence.

By now you may have heard about the Redbook/RESOLVE infertility awareness campaign The Truth About Trying. It’s a video campaign encouraging people (both women and men) to talk openly about their experience with infertility.

I was very honored to be asked to participate in the initial launch and you can see my video contribution here. You may also recognize Pamela from Silent Sorority and some others from the blog world.

I was very pleased to get involved when I was first asked. I’m so glad that a major publication is finally taking on this topic and bringing it out of the closet, and I was also glad to finally see some celebrities opening up and being honest about their experiences.

But I have to say, when the big launch happened on Monday night, I went scuttling into my shell. I’ve spent the last couple of days analyzing why I reacted this way. I’m still not 100 percent certain, but a big part of it comes from not wanting to be defined by my infertility and not having my childlessness be my sole topic of conversation. As I said in my video, I have all kinds of other, far more interesting things I want people to know about me, especially when they first meet me.

So, I’ve hidden in my shell feeling small for a couple of days, but now I’m coming out again. Because I remember what it’s like to deal with the infertility mess. I know what it feels like when you think you’re the only person in the world this has ever happened to. And I know that if we talk about this, it will eventually stop being such a shameful and taboo topic.

I encourage you to add your own video to the discussion. I think it’s important for people who don’t understand infertility to see we women, who have been through the wringer and come out the other side (largely) intact. If you do post a video (or if you have already) be sure to post a link in the comments, so that we can all come and cheer you on.

 

Infertility 101 April 25, 2011

Although I know that many of you have more education than you’d like on the subject of infertility, my goal this week is to get the word out there, and offer as much information as possible for people who don’t know about or understand infertility.

Here is Infertility 101, from the RESOLVE website:

Infertility 101: Get the Facts

What is infertility?
Infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system often diagnosed after a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse, or if the woman has suffered from multiple miscarriages and the woman is under 35 years of age. If the woman is over 35 years old, it is diagnosed after 6 months of unprotected, well-timed intercourse.

Who gets it?
Infertility is a medical problem. Approximately 30% of infertility is due to a female factor and 30% is due to a male factor. In the balance of the cases, infertility results from problems in both partners or the cause of the infertility cannot be explained.

What are the risk factors?

  • Weight
  • Age
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
  • Tubal Disease
  • Endometriosis
  • DES Exposure
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol

What are the signs and symptoms?
Often there are no signs or symptoms associated with an infertility problem. Listening to your body and getting regular checkups will help to detect a problem. Early detection and treatment of a problem are often critical in achieving successful pregnancy outcomes later.

How is infertility treated?
Medical technology now offers more answers and treatment options to men and women trying to conceive a child. From hormonal treatments, ovulation induction and Intrauterine insemination to more advanced technologies like in vitro fertilization, ICSI to surrogacy, egg/sperm donation and even embryo donation. For more information on treatment of infertility visit the Family Building Options section of our site.

What medications are used?
There are a variety of medications used to treat infertility. It is important to understand the medications and what their purpose is and to speak with your physician about the medications that will be used in your specific treatment plan. Read more about Fertility Medications.

What is artificial insemination?
Artificial insemination is now more commonly referred to as IUI (intrauterine insemination). It is a procedure used for couples with unexplained infertility, minimal male factor infertility, and women with cervical mucus problems. The procedure uses the husband’s or donor’s sperm, washing and treating the sperm, and then injecting it into the woman during the time of ovulation. Read more about IUI.

What is In Vitro or IVF?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) gets its name from the fact that fertilization occurs outside of the woman’s body, in a lab dish instead of a woman’s fallopian tubes. Typically, a woman will use ovulation stimulating drugs to produce an excess number of eggs. These eggs are surgically removed from the woman and fertilized in dish with sperm. If fertilization takes place, the physician transfers the embryo(s) into the women’s uterus. Read more about IVF.

How can I find an infertility specialist?
Visit RESOLVE’s Professional Service Directory to find an infertility specialist in your area or visit www.sart.org.

Can my OB/GYN treat me?
In many cases the difficulty experienced in becoming pregnant can be resolved by a gynecologist without a referral to a specialist. Often the problem comes down to timing intercourse with ovulation, which may be assessed using one of the over-the-counter urine LH test kits (ovulation predictor tests). Your OB/GYN can also conduct a basic infertility evaluation. If a problem is found during your evaluation and for more complex fertility issues, it is advised to see a specialist.

What questions should I ask my doctor?
It is important to go into the visit with your doctor prepared. Visit the “Downloads section” of this site which covers important questions to ask your physician on a variety of topics.

Also, if you haven’t yet seen Keiko Zoll’s excellent video, What IF? please take a look. She captures all the questions that ran through my head and then turns the idea around.

 

A Voice for Life Without Baby October 1, 2010

Last weekend author, blogger, non-mom cheerleader, and fellow Life Without Baby member, Pamela Tsigdinos, received an award from RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association, for her book Silent Sorority. Her post about the experience gave me goosebumps.

Pamela has taken her experience with infertility and turned it around into something outstanding. She is speaking out and being heard with her message that there is life after infertility, that there is life without children, and what’s more, that life is good.

Pamela, I know you’ll be reading this. I applaud you for the great work you’ve done and continue to do. Kudos, sister!