Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Life-Changing News June 25, 2012

In the realm of attitudes and stigma surrounding infertility and childlessness, I have a long list of things I’d like to see change in my lifetime. Somewhere close to the top of that list is the manner in which life-changing news is delivered.

Here’s how I first got official notification that there was something very wrong with me, and that my chances of conceiving naturally were next to zero.

A phone call. From someone (not sure who) in my RE’s office, but certainly not my doctor. I was at work, in an open office space, within earshot of my co-workers when I got the call.

The Mystery Person said, without pausing for breath, “We got your test results back, your blah-di-blah is high, so call us on the first day of your next period so we can get you started on IVF.”

No explanation of what that meant. No word about infertility. No offer of counseling on what to expect or where to go for help. I went from “let’s do a test to see what’s going on” to “let’s do IVF because you’re infertile” and the course of my life did a full 180 in the span of a ten-second conversation.

From talking to many of you on this subject, I know that this was not an isolated incident; in fact, I’d dare to say it’s the norm.

I compare this to my friend’s experience when a lump in her breast was diagnosed as cancer. She talked about the physicians who walked her through every step of her diagnosis and subsequent treatment. She talked about the volunteers at the breast center who took her into a quiet, comfortable room and gently guided her through brochures and directed her towards her counseling options. My friend’s diagnosis was life-changing, too (and not necessarily life-threatening, either), but the way the news was delivered couldn’t have been more different.

There was a time when cancer was a shameful disease and people didn’t talk about it openly, but kept it to themselves. Over the years, that’s changed. The medical community learned the need for compassion and understanding when dealing with patients who are scared and whose lives have been turned upside down. Thankfully, survival rates for cancer have risen dramatically over the years, but the need for compassion hasn’t diminished.

My hope is that infertility will attain a similar level of understanding and compassion, so that no one should have to have their lives upended with no more support than a ten-second phone call.


It Got Me Thinking…Abouts Childfree PSAs April 11, 2011

By Kathleen Guthrie

While on a treadmill at the gym this morning, I caught the tail end of a public service announcement (PSA) about forest fire prevention. PSAs encourage us to stop smoking, promote charities that support vital medical research, raise awareness about health and safety issues, and diminish the stigmas associated with victims of assault and people who suffer from mental illnesses. In the last category especially, they remind us we are all equally human. And it got me thinking….When do we, the Women of the World Who Are Childfree, get a PSA?

Our script might read something like this:

Music in background: instrumental of Bonnie Raitt’s* “Something to Talk About”

Voice #1, Kathleen Guthrie*: My name is Kathleen. I am a writer and I am childfree.

Voice #2, Oprah Winfrey*: My name is Oprah, and I don’t need to have children of my own to raise up humanity.

Voice #3, Lisa Manterfield*: My name is Lisa. Every day, women around the globe are rocking the world instead of rocking a cradle.

Voice #4, Ashley Judd*: My name is Ashley, and we are Women of the World Who Are Childfree. Join us today and get a free toaster!

*All of these rocking women are childfree.

Okay, I’m kidding about the free toaster part. But one day, in my lifetime, I’d like for women like us to be able to talk openly about being childfree without having to apologize or feel sorry for ourselves. Better yet, I’d like to see my childfree-ness become a nonissue when my value is measured in our society.

Ad Council: Are you hearing us?

Kathleen Guthrie is a Northern California–based freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in AAA’s Westways, GRIT, Real Simple, and 805 Living magazines. Read “How to Be the World’s Best Aunt Ever” on


Going to the Silence February 10, 2011

Pamela posted this Huffington Post article yesterday and I saw it circulating around Facebook, so I’m sure many of you have seen it.

I thought it was a very intelligent and insightful piece and I was so glad the author was talking about infertility as a disease and how it’s something that needs to be talked about and better understood.

Of course, many of the comments just served to prove the author’s point that infertility is misunderstood, that it’s about so much more than selfish reproduction of oneself, and that the mental health aspects are hugely underestimated. If you decide to read the comments, be warned that they are not kind.

I read the article and I read as many of the comments as I could bear, and then I shrank down in my chair and reached for the mouse to close the article. I was upset, but I didn’t have the strength to add to the discussion. I didn’t want to get involved. I just wanted the whole thing to go away and leave me alone.

I’ve been feeling this way all week, which is why my posts have been creeping in mid-morning, instead of at 6:00 a.m. sharp. Because this week, I’m one of those women mentioned in the article who doesn’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to announce my infertility to the world; I don’t want to have to defend myself against people who would rather say something spiteful than engage their brains and think beyond their own little worlds for just a minute. I don’t want to speak up.

Taped to my computer screen is a quote by Amy Goodman. It says, “Go to where the silence is and say something.” It’s the mantra I use to remind myself to push the writing envelope and dare to say something that hasn’t been said before. I try to do that when I write, but it’s uncomfortable and painful, and just plain easier to not do it.

But the quote applies to my infertility too. It’s painful and uncomfortable to talk about it, and it’s so much easier to stay quiet and say nothing. But there is a silence out there and it’s damaging. As long as we stay quiet, the stigma, the misunderstanding, and the hurtful comments will prevail.

I didn’t want to, but I left a comment on the Huffington Post article and I’m reposting the article here. It’s not much, but it’s my way of going to where the silence is and speaking up until we are heard.