Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Guest Post: Child-Tinted Glasses November 8, 2012

By The One Hand Man

I had a boss once who was married, very successful, but childless. When questioned about his lack of offspring he shrugged his shoulders and said it wasn’t for him.

Not understanding him at the time, I viewed him as someone who didn’t want that ‘completion’ in his life.

Knowing what I do now, I would probably have kept my mouth shut.

It is, as I understand it, a natural feeling to desire your own children. So does that mean it is ‘unnatural’ not to want them?… I should think not.

If you put a spreadsheet together of pros and cons of having children, I reckon the cons would outweigh the pros about five to one, so it is perhaps more natural not to want your own kids.

For me, the thought of going through the pearly gates without even trying is not something I can face, but having struggled with infertility and IVF, I am familiar with the sympathetic stares of child bearing parents, especially when my wife and I rock up to children’s parties and the like without any kids of our own.

I have had three years of batting off the obligatory “so no Kids yet then?” remarks, I can only imagine the frustration of those who never have children – a lifetime of explaining themselves when they really shouldn’t have to.

The pressures of having children (or not) can become immense, and with feet being put in mouths left, right and centre, I have quickly learned not to judge or assume anything about individuals and couples without children.

Some can’t have them, some don’t want them, but what business is that of ours?

The One Hand Man: Married in 07, sperm test in 08, IVF in 09, another sperm test in 10, adoption started in 11 – still going through the adoption process. Not had any recent sperm tests. Read more at: www.theonehandman.co.uk

 

One Understanding Person June 18, 2012

How many times, when someone’s asked how you’re doing, have you said, “Oh, fine,” when inside, you know you’re really not? Plenty, I’m guessing.

We’re culturally pre-programmed to respond this way, because the truth is, when people say, “Hey, how are you doing?” what they mean is something like, “Hey, I see you, I’m acknowledging your existence and letting you know that I want you to think that I’m a friendly person, but don’t get too close, and definitely don’t answer my question honestly, because I really don’t want to know, unless everything’s rosy in your world.”

Cynical? Perhaps? But imagine answering that question honestly and picture the look you’d expect to see on most people’s faces.

Which is why we protect ourselves by telling everyone we’re fine.

Recently, Wendy added a comment to a post I wrote, and shared something she had once posted on her Facebook page. She wrote:

“Sometimes when I say, “I’m okay,” I want someone to look me in the eyes, hug me tight and say, ‘I know you’re not.’”

Wendy said she got a lot of hugs after that post.

It’s incredible what a difference one understanding person can make. I’ve met several surprise ones over the years—a friend of my mother’s who caught me off guard with an understanding word; a stranger at a cocktail reception, who told me she and her husband didn’t have children either, and who became my BFF for the evening.

So, today I’m sending out a thank you to all the understanding people out there to let them know how much their simple word or hug made a difference to me.

Who’s been your surprise understanding person?

 

Happy Birthday, Dr. Seuss March 2, 2012

Courtesy: Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden

I couldn’t let today go by without giving a shout-out to Dr. Seuss, who would have celebrated his 108th birthday today.

Dr. Seuss penned such children’s classics as The Cat in the Hat, Horton Hears a Who, and The Lorax. His jaunty rhymes educated and entertained, and most of all, they encouraged children to read.

Dr. Seuss knew how to communicate with children. Maybe it was a natural talent or a thought-out method, but either way, he respected children and treated them as people.

I don’t know why Dr. Seuss and his wife didn’t have children of their own, and the reasons don’t really matter. But for anyone who says that it takes a parent to really understand children, I have two words: Dr. Seuss.

 

Family Support February 27, 2012

I talked to some of my family back in the UK this weekend, as I often do, and it struck me after I’d hung up how lucky I am to have the family I have.

I have two older brothers, both of whom have kids­­–my fabulous nieces and nephews. My mum is a good grandma, but I know she would have enjoyed playing the grandma role to the children of her only daughter.

I think there’s a bond that happens between a mother and daughter when the elder woman gets to pass along her knowledge and experience.  My mum didn’t get to do that, and it saddens me, even though I think she’s ok with the situation. My mother is nothing, if not pragmatic about the things life hands out.

I’m lucky because I’ve never felt pressure from my family with regards to children. I’ve heard the occasional insensitive comment, but I know those weren’t meant to hurt me, and probably said because of an uncomfortable situation where there really wasn’t anything better that could have been said.

But I know that other people aren’t so lucky, and that their families don’t understand at all why they don’t just keep trying to have a baby, why they can’t just put the failed attempts and losses behind them and try again.  It’s hard to explain to someone that you have to stop trying for the sake of your own sanity and that making the decision doesn’t lessen the desire for children.

So, I’m curious to hear how your families have handled your situation. Have they been supportive? Do they understand what you’ve been through and the decisions you’ve made? Or has your not having children caused a fissure in your family?  And how have you handled that? Let me know.

 

With Eyes of Faith…Not Easily Offended February 9, 2012

By Dorothy Williams

 

“Love is patient, love is kind…

it is not quick-tempered,

it does not brood over injury…”

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Can you tell when someone is bragging about their kids versus just sharing joy and being amazed by life? I thought I could, until I visited with an old friend I had not seen in twenty years.

Our luncheon started innocently enough as we sipped drinks while waiting for a table. We caught up on what happened after leaving school and where we landed in our careers. When we spoke of children, I revealed how keenly I felt the loss of my dream to have a family. My friend seemed to understand and, after sharing her joy over having two children, turned the conversation to her husband and the dog.

Then we reached our table. And then her merlot kicked in.

As my companion launched into a monologue about her son­ – that would last our entire meal – waves of shock and panic washed over me. I was about to learn just how smart Junior is, the great Ivy League school he got into, their wonderful times together when she watched him play sports, the awards he won, the private jokes they shared – well, you can imagine the rest.

What part of my struggle did she not get?  I considered my choices. I could indulge in a range of emotions popping like hot kernels in my consciousness, or I could load them onto tiny boats in a cosmic river, and watch them slip away. I chose that, and relaxed into a Christian form of meditation, called Centering Prayer. With a deep, cleansing breath, I secretly called on the Lord for what I needed and then…just…let…go…to focus on a prayer word.

At some point, the momzilla took a breath and said, “I am so sorry to keep talking about my son like this, but I miss him so terribly since he left for school!”

Ah, there it was.  My long-lost friend was not intentionally trying to offend me, but instead grieving the loss of her best friend. When he left for the east coast, a huge void opened up in her life. Talking about him – remembering the good times – made it seem smaller.  It also explained why we were reconnecting after twenty years. If I had allowed my indignation to rise up, our reunion would not have been the gift God intended.

Is it getting easier for you to tell if a gabby friend is bragging or experiencing something else? What helps you get through tense situations like this?

Dorothy Williams lives near Chicago.  She met with her old friend for a second lunch and they had such a good time that they now plan to meet monthly for activities like walking and kayaking.

 

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.

 

When a Little Bit of Education Goes a Long Way August 17, 2010

A couple of years ago Jose and I went to The Museum of Tolerance here in L.A. My parents grew up in England during the Second World War, so I’m interested in that period of history, and I wanted to learn more about the Holocaust.  MOT is a beautifully designed museum, both the external building, and it’s interior content. But we ended up leaving after only half an hour. Here’s why:

The museum only offers guided tours. You have to travel in a group and stop for the prescribed amount of time at each exhibit and be given all the information either by audio, or by watching a video, or reading. There’s no lingering over especially interesting bits and no jumping forward over areas that don’t grab your attention. For me (and this is a highly rated museum, so this is just my opinion) I felt that I was being force-fed my Holocaust education. The Museum of Tolerance wasn’t very tolerant of my ignorance.

Now, I’m an adult who took a free day from work and chose to visit this museum for my own edification. I have a college education, so I know how to learn under my own power. I wanted to be trusted to take the information and form my own thoughts. I wasn’t given that chance, and so I left, sadly, with my education.

I think that the majority of people out there in the world don’t understand the decision to be childfree and don’t understand how it feels to be childless-not-by-choice. I would say that most of us didn’t understand it either before we had that experience. I believe that we have an obligation to educate, to explain, to show people the other side of the story, but we can’t force-feed that education. The people in the restaurant last week got my back up with their closed minded opinions, but stomping over there and giving them a piece of my mind would have accomplished what? Nothing. Those people didn’t want to be educated, especially not by a complete stranger.

What I can do is work with the people who do mean something to me. When a well meaning (genuinely well-meaning, because there are some actual mean people out there) says something upsetting I have the choice to take the opportunity and explain my side of the story and why I’m upset, or let it go. Getting my hair all on fire and yelling about how insensitive they are isn’t going to help.

We need to talk, educate, explain, show, but only when the audience is willing and only for as long as they’re willing to listen. Bit-by-bit, we can tell our side of the story, and bit-by-bit, we can change the way other people view us.