Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

You Are Not Alone July 12, 2012

   We read to know we are not alone.

~ C.S. Lewis

Most of us live in countries where we enjoy freedom of speech and if we choose to talk about infertility, or childlessness, we can. The problem is that for many us, these are still taboo subjects and not suitable for cocktail party conversation. I know that many of you haven’t spoken about your situation beyond your very closest family members and most trusted friends. It’s scary when you don’t know how people will respond.

When I first began this blog, I was uncomfortable talking openly about infertility and living without children. I was afraid of being attacked or being controversial, and honestly, of getting my delicate feelings hurt.

But, in writing about this subject, I’ve discovered that, even when I thought I was the only person who felt a certain way, I seldom was. I also learned that there is nothing more comforting than hearing (or reading) the words, “Me too,” from someone who truly understands how you feel.

Every Thursday, some wonderful guest bloggers have shared their points of view, written about their experiences, and given us the chance to say, “Me too!” Now I invite you to put your thoughts into words. What are the issues you face? What’s helped you on your journey? What’s been good? What’s been unbearable? What have you learned about yourself on the way?

Odds are if something is important to you, it will be important to someone who reads it, too.

You can send your submissions through this form, or email me directly at editor [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com.

If you need some inspiration, check out some of the recent guest posts.

 

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.

 

Whiny Wednesday May 2, 2012

It’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to vent if you need it.

Just for fun I thought we’d do the Three-Word Sentence Whine again. Remember that? It’s an exercise I borrowed and adapted from author Abigail Thomas and her wonderful book Thinking About Memoir (which, by the way, is a great resource if you’re considering writing down your story.)

The rules are that you can whine about anything you want, but it must be in sentences of three words. The idea is that it forces you to get to the point of what’s really on your mind, plus it’s good for the old grey cells.

Whine on, my friends!

 

Freedom April 27, 2012

A few years ago I decided to make the leap from the corporate world to a career as a freelance writer. It was definitely a leap of faith and I’d be lying if I told you the transition wasn’t rocky. But leap I did and I haven’t looked back more than a few hundred times since. (I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek, as there have definitely been days I’ve considered chucking in this crazy dream and going back to the safety and dependability of corporate life.)

When I made the decision to follow my heart, there was also an idea in the back of my mind that working from home would fit so much better with my other plans of raising children. I even bought a book called Writer Mama in preparation for my dual role. It turned out be a great resource for a writer, as long as I skipped over the “mama” bits of information.

Fast forward a couple of years and not only do I realize how naïve I was to think I could easily mix babies and books, but it turns out I also spend much of my time writing about not having children. Who knew? But the thing is, my life is pretty good regardless. In fact, most days it’s better than pretty good.

In the past, I’ve written somewhat flippantly about the benefits of not having kids, but the reality is that I have the freedom to be more creative, to experiment in my writing, and try new things, while still having time to do the not-so-creative work that actually pays the bills. And I really value that freedom.

I didn’t get the life I wanted and planned for myself, but I may well be getting the life I needed and I think, when all is said and done, it’s going to turn out be a pretty good life after all.

 

How to be Happily Childfree in 10,000 Easy Steps April 26, 2012

There are two questions I get asked frequently: How did you come to terms with not having children, and how long did it take?

The answer is something akin to “how long is a piece of string and how many knots can you tie in it?”

Believe me when I tell you that if I could write down ten easy steps to making peace with being childfree-not-by-choice, I’d do it, but the answer isn’t that simple. Yes, there were many things that happened along the way that helped me make some peace, but it took closer to 10,000 steps than ten.

Writing down my story was hugely cathartic, venting about the injustices on this blog helped, too. Realizing I wasn’t alone in this and that people like you were out there wanting to talk through the minefield has helped immeasurably. Drawing a line in the sand and saying, “This is where that chapter of my life ends and this is where I start healing” also helped. And frankly, telling myself a big fat lie that I was better off not being a mother actually helped me to realize that in many ways I was. Setting new goals, appreciating the benefits of not having kids, and allowing myself to feel bitter and badly treated when I needed to. All these things helped.

I don’t think there’s a formula for working your way through this, and it’s definitely a journey of making forward process and dealing with inevitable setbacks.

As for how long the process takes? How long is that piece of string? It’s been three years for me and I consider myself largely at peace with my situation. I have closed the door on the idea that I will have children someday and most days I’m good with it. Everyday it gets a little better and a little easier. Some days there will be reminders of what I’ve lost and sometimes a flicker of a thought of “what if…”

The truth is, in many ways, I expect this piece of string to go on forever. The experience of infertility has changed me. It is one of the most significant and life-changing events of my life, and I don’t think the repercussions of that will ever stop reverberating. It doesn’t mean I won’t find harmony and even happiness in this new life – I already have – but I don’t expect this journey of coming-to-terms to ever fully end.

 

Whiny Wednesday April 18, 2012

I’ve been back from my vacation for two days and already my head feels as if it’s about to explode.

 

Why do I keep saying “yes” when I really mean “no”? Why do I create a weekly task list and put enough tasks on it to last a month? And why, why, why am I not working on my new book project, when I know that’s what will really make me happy?

 

If you have answers to any or all of these questions, feel free to post below. If not, feel free to vent your own frustrations. It is Whiny Wednesday, after all.

 

P.S. My vacation was wonderful, blissful, and peaceful. I miss it already.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About What Comes Out of My Mouth April 10, 2012

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

So here I am, a couple of years into coming to terms with my childfree status, at a point where I feel confident I’ve made my peace with this whole not-going-to-be-a-mommy scenario. It’s been a while since I’ve dreamed about babies or ached when I’ve held an infant or cried when a childfree friend has crossed over into mommy-mania. I’m good. Really. Or so I think. Because then I opened my mouth and something inexplicable came out. Here’s what happened:

After months of thinking and planning, I’ve decided to take a detour in my career path, to set aside the long-term goals I’d outlined for my business and devote time and energy to finishing a passion project. As part of this shift in priorities, I needed to let my business networking group know my intentions, as a way to hold myself accountable and to ask for their support. I stood up before my colleagues and said, “I have some big news….” And then I said, “And, no, I’m not pregnant!”

What the fruitcake?! Where did this come from? This was inappropriate on soooo many levels, and it’s so not like me. Right? I mean, I always behave professionally in professional settings, plus I blog and talk openly about being childfree and I rarely ever think about getting or being pregnant.

But apparently there’s a corner of my subconscious that is holding onto the dream. There must be a tiny part of me that still believes only announcements such as “I’m engaged!” or “I’m pregnant!” count as “big news.” I’m so disappointed in myself, appalled that sad Little Me has poked her face out from behind the mask of strong, savvy, childfree Big Me. I’m horrified that there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe this huge leap I’m taking in my career is worth sharing and celebrating.

As much as I’d like to shove Little Me back behind the mask, I can’t ignore her or the uncertainties that occasionally bubble up from my subconscious. I think these surprises are part of the process, and they must be examined and addressed. Clearly, I’m still learning how to live the life I’ve been dealt. I am in a much better place than I was a few years ago, and I believe I’ll be in a better place in years hence. Till then, I need to be gentle with myself and not too judgmental when I speak before I think.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She’s mostly at peace with being childfree.

 

Uncovering Grief: Writing the Story of Your Day March 15, 2012

By Shannon Calder

Before writing, I’d sidestepped my sorrow, not knowing how to move through it. The terrible ache, I believed, would always be there. Writing changed that.”

 – Susan Zimmerman

6:45pm – 3/12/12

5 years ago at 6:45pm my mother’s body was wheeled out of her house, the same house where I sit writing this column, in her office.

Grief clouds everything. I had an important interview to go to today, an errand at the post office, a client to see, this column to do, and a psychological assessment to write. My loss was apparent to me in all these bits of business. It gave them all great meaning. Nobody really thinks about how this is the day, the week, the month, where I still feel that I am moving through tear gas. Five years later, with eyes wet and muscles weak, much of my life, the things I do, the house I live in, has great meaning. It creates the kind of richness in my existence that does not feel man made. People may think I’m over it, past it or that I don’t grieve anymore. But everyone here knows that grief stays with you. And I believe that grief bestows meaning.

I haven’t acted out on anyone today but I know my significant other has had moments in the last few weeks where he looked at me as if I was out of my body. There are times when people ask me what is wrong and I say nothing, when I mostly want to say, ‘my mother, my favorite person, died 5 years ago.’ But if I did say that, say my truth, I would say it to everyone, all the time. I don’t say it because I don’t want it to take me over every day.

I have grieved in writing this. Story predates psychology. Write the story of your day. Today was about me sharing a story of this day with you, this is basically how it’s done. You may have feelings while doing this, indulge them, I did. I didn’t craft this into the best writing ever. I wrote what I needed to write and I feel a relief to have shared this day’s story with you.

I hope you will do the same.

The act of writing brings a structure and order to the chaos of grief. It taps into the healing power of your own unconscious. By giving voice to fears, anger, and despair, by letting go of old dreams and hope; our self-healing powers come into play. The soul knows what it needs to heal. Through writing, it will lead you where you need to go.

 – Susan Zimmerman

Be Well,

Shannon

Contact me at: Shannon [at] LifeWithoutBaby [dot] com

Resource: Writing to Heal the Soul: Transforming Grief and loss Through Writing by Susan Zimmerman, writer, lecturer and author.

Shannon Calder is a writer, psychotherapist, and survivor of grief. She has an MA in Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute and is currently in a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology. She works in private practice treating people suffering from a wide spectrum of symptoms. 


 

Friends January 30, 2012

Yesterday I had lunch with two friends, Kathleen and Pamela.

Kathleen writes the fabulous “It Got Me Thinking…” column here on LWB. We first met five or six years ago in a writing class. Back then, both of us planned to become mothers someday, although looking back, it’s now apparent that we were both on the path to being permanently childfree, even then. We connected because we appreciated one another’s writing, and over the years, we found other things in common and became better friends. It just so happens that neither of us got our dream of motherhood, and our childlessness has become another bond that ties us to one another.

My friendship with Pamela, on the other hand, developed on a completely different trajectory. Our paths might never have crossed had I not found myself childless-not-by-choice. Although we live in the same state, we lived 400 miles apart with little in our lives to ever bring us together. But Pamela is the author of Silent Sorority, and I got to know her through her blog. Eventually, we met in person last year, and we soon discovered that our childlessness was only one of many things we have in common, and in fact, one of the least interesting. Our childlessness brought us together, but it won’t be what sustains our friendship. More likely, it will be wine, food, and travel.

It’s funny how life twists and turns, how connections are made and paths laid out. We meet people and we lose people. Some friends stick, some fall to the wayside. Friends change and move in different directions, and new friends come along and fill the void. Our plans change and our lives spin in directions we could never have foreseen. And yet, when the dust settles and we regain our balance, we often see that we are walking the path we were always meant to be on after all. And it’s encouraging to look around and discover that we have friends walking beside us.

In two weeks time, I’ll get the chance to meet some more wonderful women, when the San Francisco Group does lunch. I’m looking forward to finding things in common, and maybe making new friends.

 

Creative Therapy September 2, 2010

Today I finished making the final edits to the book I’ve been working on for the past six years. (Hard to believe it’s been that long!) When I started writing, my story was about all the ups and downs of trying to get pregnant, and although I say it myself, it was pretty funny. Of course, as my personal story kept growing, the book kept growing and growing, and getting less and less funny, until finally I couldn’t bear to write any more. I put the whole thing down for more than two years.

Eventually, I got to the place in my head where I was ready to tackle it again. I tossed out the entire original manuscript and started over from page one. Talk about a therapeutic cleansing. Now it’s done and I’m really pleased with the story I’ve been able to tell. But here’s something interesting: writing the story was a form of therapy for me. I relived every moment and sometimes it was painful. OK, a lot of times it was painful. But when I started editing, that changed. With every edit, I became less and less attached to the story. As I moved from the creative process of writing to the more analytical process of editing I gained distance from the story, until I was finally able to read the entire thing with almost no emotional connection.

I believe that writing the book has really helped accelerate my healing process. I can now look at my experience objectively and understand it, even see what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown from it. Suddenly that experience is not just something terrible that happened; it’s not something valuable. That’s something I never expected to happen.

Have you experienced the therapeutic benefits of writing or some other creative outlet? What worked for you and how has it helped? I’m a believer in creative therapy now. Are you?

 

 
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