Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

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.

 

Tolerance August 16, 2010

After last week’s post about the overheard conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about tolerance and about trying to understand one another. I think that, as a group, we childless women often feel (and often are) misunderstood. We feel that people don’t think before they say things that hurt our feelings, that people with children make assumptions about the type of people we are, that employers assume that, because we don’t have kids, we are the go-to people for extra work. We’re always ready to stand up for one another whenever there’s an injustice done to one of our sisters. I love that about us.

And yet, even among ourselves, we have different frames of reference. There are those of us who are physically unable to have children; those of us who are emotionally unwilling, because of our circumstances; there are those of us who don’t have the opportunity to be parents; those of us who are childless by choice; and those of us who never had the desire for children. And even within those groups, each of us has a different story to tell about how ended up here on this site, looking for other women like us. Each of us looks at our situation through our own personal filters—just like those people out there who look through their own filters and see us differently than we see ourselves, who look at a childless person and see something they cannot understand.

So, I’m writing on a theme this week. It’s a bit of an experiment, so if the wheels fall off by Wednesday, just come back next week and everything should be back to normal. But for this week, I’m writing about tolerance. Stay tuned.

 

Seeing the World Through Childless Glasses June 8, 2010

I saw this Cathy cartoon in this morning’s LA Times and at first it made me laugh with the intended joke, as well as the gentle dig at support groups. But then I whipped out my childless glasses and took another look. As Cathy would say, “Ack!”

I’m looking at the expression on Cathy’s face and wondering what’s going on in her mind. If you follow Cathy at all, you’ll know that she too is childless, although it’s never really mentioned, and it’s not clear (at least to me) if this is a choice or a circumstance for her. Either way, she discovers that she has even less in common with her newfound friend, and that she’s more alone than she thought she was.

Yes, it’s a cartoon, yes, I know I’m reading far too much into it, but childlessness is a filter I bring along with me in life now and, whether I like it or not, it tints everything I see.

 

NY Times: India Nurtures Business of Surrogate Motherhood June 1, 2010

This story makes my head spin. I need to pick a corner and say something about this, but there are so many corners to choose from, I’m going in circles.

On the one hand, I keep trying to convince myself that these women in India are happily carrying babies for wealthy Westerners because the $7,500 they’ll receive will give their own families a better life. The latter is true. It could take these women three years to earn $7,500 in a normal job. But “exploitation” is a word that won’t stay out of my mind. Would these women do this job if they weren’t desperate? There’s a whole list of exploitive ways for women to make money when they’re up against a wall. Is this job anything more than prostitution?

And of the people who use the service. Some claim they are ordinary people who couldn’t afford the $75,000 it would cost to use a U.S. surrogate; some are getting around their own country’s laws; others are just looking for a bargain. They’re all buying babies.

But I understand that maniac desire for a child; I can see how someone could see this as perfectly acceptable.

OK, I’m picking my corner now.

This is madness, utter insanity. This unbridled quest for motherhood is totally out of control. We live on an overpopulated planet; we have unwanted children all over the place, so why are we going to such extremes to create more? This has become absolute mania and at some point this bubble is going to pop. Just as the stock market had a meltdown and just as the real estate market blew itself up, I predict that somewhere down the line, the baby market is going to self-destruct. And it’s going to be a horrible unhappy mess when it does.

OK, I’m done. Going back to my room now.

 

When Will the Childless Find a True Champion? May 29, 2010

In her wonderful blog The Road Less Traveled this week, Loribeth posted a great piece about former First Lady, Laura Bush and her new memoir, Spoken from the Heart. In the book, Mrs. Bush reveals her own battle with infertility as well as her mother’s pregnancy losses and how those affected the whole family. Loribeth included a very insightful excerpt from the book, which I now share here.

“The English language lacks the words ‘to mourn an absence.’ For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful, some not. Still, we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only ‘I am sorry for your loss.’ But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”

It’s a beautiful quote and a sentiment I share.

I am always pleased when well-known figures step up and admit to infertility, just as I am equally infuriated when glowing celebs parade their miracle offspring and deny any dealings with the “sordid” world of fertility treatments. But, I wonder: when are we going to get a true champion? What will it take to make infertility a suitable subject for polite company, and who is going to use their fame and power to stand up for the childless and help lift that taboo? I guess, sisters, we’re just going to have to do it ourselves.

 

Can you spot a childfree woman? May 25, 2010

Filed under: The Childfree Life: Issues and Attitudes,Uncategorized — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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I recently got the chance to meet a friend of my aunt’s, who I’d heard plenty about. This woman would not fall into the category of physically attractive, with her purple puffy eyes and facial hair that would rival either of my brothers. But she was a feisty old bird. She held my attention in a conversation and I could see the gumption and grit in her personality, despite her old and slowed down body. I’d heard she was a force to be reckoned with, and I’d also heard her described as an old busybody. I could see where she could be a complete pain in the rear, but I also really enjoyed the short interaction we had. She was interesting.

I also knew instinctively that this was a woman who had never married and never had children. How? Was it the hardness about her that hadn’t been softened by nurturing for little ones? No. I’d seen that hardness in other mothers. Was it that independent spirit that was still strong from never having to consider the needs of anyone else? Possibly, although I have an 65-year-old uncle who is a bachelor and he has none of this woman’s drive. So, what was it?

Have you had the experience of instinctively knowing that someone doesn’t have children. What was it that alerted you? Do you even know? And if so, is it just we childless women that can instinctively pick out our own kind, or do we stand out in a crowd?

Food for thought. What do you think?

 

Guilty of Prejudice Against the Childless May 18, 2010

A friend recently announced her engagement. At 44 she is getting married at last. I know this woman’s story intimately. She is someone who dreamed of motherhood, but never met the right man. She seriously considered having a baby alone using a sperm donor, but realized that it wouldn’t be the responsible thing to do in her situation. So she started making peace with her childlessness. Then she met a wonderful man—and realized that what she really wanted was a loving adult relationship and time with him, and that children were no longer her priority. And he didn’t want children anyway.

When she announced her engagement to me, she speculated as to how long it would be before some tactless bozo raised the subject of kids. To my absolute horror, I realized that during our entire conversation I was wondering if the engagement had changed their attitude about having children. The tactless bozo was very nearly me!!!

So, despite my thoroughly modern, feminist attitude to living child-free, deep inside of me lurks a traditionalist, who at some subconscious level still believes that first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage. Yikes!

Our natural instinct is to reproduce and continue the survival of the species, so it’s no wonder that so many people can’t get their heads around someone’s decision to not reproduce. Maybe we need to cut those people some slack after all.

Or maybe not. Because, while man cannot fight his natural instinct, evolved man can learn when to voice his opinions and when to keep his (or her) big mouth shut.

 

Issues for Childless Men May 17, 2010

My husband’s cousin recently commented that she would never become a grandmother because her only surviving son was gay. Her comment then prompted my husband to ask me if this website included gay men in its audience. The whole interchange inspired several threads of discussion regarding potential grandparents, modern families, and whether this site was a place that childless men would come, or if the female readers would be as open if men were lingering around. All this is material for future posts, but the thought that bubbled to the surface this time was: What about childless men? Which of the same issues do men and women face and are there other issues that are unique to men?

My husband has grown children from his previous marriage, so I’m not able to ask him about being childless, although he’s more than able to talk about the frustrations of infertility and of having a wife who is unable to have the children she wants. So, for those of you with male partners, what issues do you think men face? Do they feel the same pressure from family? Do their friends (and complete strangers) ask the same tactless questions? Do men feel the same sense of loss that we women sometimes feel. And is it easier for a man to make the decision to be childless?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

 

Guest Blogger: Carrie Friedman May 16, 2010

Excerpt from PREGNANT PAUSE, by Carrie Friedman

 

During my first three years of marriage, everywhere I went, people’s eyes migrated to my unchanging waistline. And it was everyone. Not just friends and family, but the eye doctor, the dental assistant, the bagger at the grocery store. And all of them felt entitled to ask.

The strangest inquiry had to have been from my yoga teacher: I drove across town once a week to take this class because I loved the teacher, a hip young German woman with a thick accent who’d play Tina Turner music during the sun salutations. She was the kind of funky that made you wish you had a tattoo. Something small and tasteful but a little bit bad. Because she hadn’t fully grasped the language yet, she was often unintentionally poetic when speaking to all of us. My favorite was, “you are lifting the Springtime of your heart to the flowers in your skull.”

I was resting in savasana pose, on my back, when she knelt down near my ear and whispered: “Your ovaries are ripe, yes?”

I opened my eyes and looked up at her. “My who?” Surely she meant something else. Eggs? Omelettes? Oranges? Or maybe this was some sort of German lesbian come-on line?

She whispered again: “Your ovaries, they are bright and ready for the babies.”

I pulled my legs to my chest, as if this could somehow block her x-ray vision into my pelvis, and stared at her, confused. Who was this woman and why was she tracking my ovulation better than I was? How could she tell? Was I bloated? And did she have to interrupt my peaceful resting pose, the one chance I had per week to fully relax and reflect?

I didn’t stick around after class to clarify, and my ovaries and I never went back.

On our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, a mere month after Stephen and I tied the knot, my Great-Uncle Marvin focused on the area just below my waistline and said, “Oh Carrie! I see a little paunch! Is somebody expecting?” His eyes became googly and he sounded like he was talking to a puppy. He didn’t go so far as to poke my paunch, which was fortunate since I would have broken his fingers.

No, Marv,” I said. “I just finished eating Thanksgiving dinner, just like you.” I stopped short of asking him when he was due.

Why do people feel entitled to ask? Did they see the wedding band and connect marriage with procreation? It was obnoxious: For all he knew, I couldn’t have kids. For all I knew I couldn’t have kids, as I had not yet tried. But imagine if I had submitted to all kinds of treatments, only to come up empty-wombed. Imagine how painful this line of interrogation would be. Stephen thinks some people ask because it helps them validate their own choices. But he doesn’t truly understand how infuriating it is, and that’s no doubt because nobody badgers men about procreativity with the same frequency.

Was there a more personal question than the equivalent to: “So! You and the hubby having lots of unprotected sex lately?” How would they feel if I looked at their wrinkles and grey hair and said: “You look older every time I see you. You planning for your funeral yet?” or “You’re menopausal, right? How’s the dryness?” Sure, maybe they were just making conversation, but when I thought of ice-breakers, birth control didn’t spring to mind.

Perhaps childfree couples should all carry a printed card in their wallets, with this list of possible responses to the dreaded “when are you having babies?” question:

  • I had two this morning. They were delicious.”
  • Actually, I can’t have kids. I’d managed to go a few hours without thinking about it, but thanks for reminding me.”
  • Well, we had one. You must not have read about it, but long story short, don’t hire an English nanny.”
  • We’re not. We’ve decided to clone.”

Hopefully that will shut them up.

 

Carrie Friedman lives and writes in Los Angeles. She has been published in several publications, including Newsweek, and in a couple of anthologies, including Cassette From My Ex. Her website is www.carriefriedmania.com.

 

Win a copy of Carrie’s brilliant book, PREGNANT PAUSE. Just leave a comment on this post and we’ll draw a random winner next Saturday. The book is also available on Amazon.

 

Whiny Wednesday May 5, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Whiny Wednesdays — Life Without Baby @ 6:00 am
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When I tell people about my decision to not have children, and tell them the story of how I got here, a common response I hear is: “Don’t give up hope; it could still happen.” They don’t seem to understand that my situation isn’t hopeless; I’ve made an intelligent and considered decision and “hope” is no longer involved.

Here’s the reality: I have bum ovaries that kick out half-baked eggs. I’m 40 years old and am therefore well into the danger zone for birth defects. My husband is almost 55, meaning he’ll be well into his 70’s before our miracle baby makes it into college. We wrestled with the pros and cons of continuing a quest to have children and we’ve made an informed decision to stop. This is now what is best for us. So, if you’re thinking that I’m just saying I don’t want kids, but I’m secretly hoping I’ll get knocked up, I’m not. Please give me credit for my decision and for being strong enough to tell you the truth.

Oh, and Happy Cinco de Mayo.