Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

The Antidote to Shame: Empathy September 24, 2012

I recently watched this TED talk by Brené Brown, who is a “vulnerability researcher.” She speaks on the topic of shame, something we’ve talked about many times here.

The talk is about 20 minutes long and worth watching. The part that struck me most comes right at the end, when she has this to say:

“If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: Secrecy, silence, and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.”

This idea resonated with me so deeply and it felt like the crux of what this community is all about. So many of us feel shame because we can’t or didn’t or won’t have children. We stay quiet about it, working through our complex emotions alone and in silence, and feeling judged by a culture that prizes family and reveres motherhood. And our shame grows.

But find an empathetic ear­—someone who’s walked a mile in your shoes, who’s run the same emotional gauntlet, and who really understands what you’re going through—and that shame starts to wither. As Brown says in her talk:  “The two most powerful words when we’re in struggle are ‘Me too.’”

How many of you are living with feelings of shame? I encourage you to reach out to this community. Talking about your experience with others can help break your silence and secrecy, and I can promise that you’ll find empathy here.

 

Guest Post: Trying to Live Shame-Free May 17, 2012

By Catherine Elizabeth Lambert

“No woman should feel ashamed for what they cannot control.”

For about 16 years my husband and I tried to conceive a baby but to no avail. For most of that time, I felt deep shame. I was embarrassed to be around my pregnant friends. I never knew what to say to them and didn’t want to lay all my problems in their laps either. A lot of the time I hid in my house and cut myself off from most of my friends. I was not a pleasant person to be around at work. I was very moody.

Recently, through writing, I have come to realize that I shouldn’t feel ashamed for something I couldn’t control.  I did everything within reason to conceive a child. I was also tired of hating my body because I was born with a malformed uterus and genes for endometriosis, which were handed down by my mother.

My shame started to dissipate the more I wrote. English class was my least favorite subject in school, but I was shocked by how easy the words flowed out of me when I decided to write my memoir.  My emotional thoughts were overflowing. After I finally completed my book, I felt a huge sense of pride.  A feeling I was not very familiar with besides getting my A.A.S in 2003. My book helped me move past my depression and sadness around childlessness. I no longer feel the shame I once did.

Catherine Elizabeth Lambert is the author of Lost in a Sea of Mothers: Am I a Mother Yet? and is currently working on a novel. Married for 21 years, she has no children of my own but for the past six years has been a proud foster mother to three young adults. You can visit her at www.lostinaseaofmothers.com.

 

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.

 

The Shame of Childlessness April 23, 2011

This post was originally published on July 31, 2010

Recently, a friend confided that shame plays a big part in her life because of her childlessness. She told me:

“I think my Mom is embarrassed that I never had children, especially since there is “no good reason” why I didn’t.   It somehow reflects on her–her nurturing, her mothering skills, etc.  Instead of seeing it purely as my choice, there is a negative connotation for choosing not to have kids.  I think it is the same negative aspersion put on women who never marry. What is wrong with her?”

If you’re childless-by-choice, have you experienced this kind of shame? Are your family and friends supportive of your decision?   What about if you’re childless-not-by choice? Does shame play a role in your life too?

 

The Shame of Childlessness July 31, 2010

Recently, a friend confided that shame plays a big part in her life because of her childlessness. She told me:

“I think my Mom is embarrassed that I never had children, especially since there is “no good reason” why I didn’t.   It somehow reflects on her–her nurturing, her mothering skills, etc.  Instead of seeing it purely as my choice, there is a negative connotation for choosing not to have kids.  I think it is the same negative aspersion put on women who never marry. What is wrong with her?”

If you’re childless-by-choice, have you experienced this kind of shame? Are your family and friends supportive of your decision?   What about if you’re childless-not-by choice? Does shame play a role in your life too?