To Shower or Not To Shower

By Solo Girl 

invitation - pixabayI have a large extended family; we have to rent a hall for big family holidays so we can all get together.  And now all those sisters and female cousins are newly married and reproducing.  Every time a baby shower comes up I’m invited, and I wrestle with myself over whether or not I should be able to go yet.

I’ve always been supportive and encouraging with my family, happy to celebrate in another’s happiness.  It’s been four many years since my dream died, and I get the sense that I’m expected to be “over it” by now.

Unsure and not wanting family to think I’m selfish or emotionally immature, I went to a cousin’s baby shower about a year ago.  I mentally prepared myself ahead of time.  For example, I’m terrified of flying, but I know that there is lift-off, food, a movie and a landing, and then it’s done.  I thought about how there would be food, presents and games at this shower, and then it would be done.  I thought to myself “I should be able do this, even my own Mom is expecting me to go.”

I thought the worst part would be the games, but I was wrong.  It was the chitchat.  I actually got stuck between my mother and a cousin having a conversation on the couch about how all the women in our family have long labors.  Seriously.  When I got home I wrote myself a note in black marker and stuck it on my kitchen pin board where it still remains today:  “You never have to go to another baby shower ever again.  No one will notice; no one will care.  It’s torturous.  Don’t Go.  Don’t feel guilty”.

But a year later I still get shower invites and I continue to question whether I am – or should be – ready to attend now.  And I want to know, is it ever going to be something I can attend?  And what can I tell my family that will help them understand how painful it is to attend without sounding like I’m feeling sorry for myself after all this time?  They have high expectations of me, and I really do think they mean well.  I was in a deep depression four years ago, and I think they are trying to make me normal again.  I think.

I’m glad Irina Vodar is producing a documentary on the subject of infertility that some helpful social norms will come of it.

How do you handle these situations?

Solo Girl lives on her own with her 2+ dogs in Ontario, Canada.  She focuses her time on volunteer work and fostering rescue dogs.

 

It Got Me Thinking…About Limoncello Days

By  Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingWhen life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When life hits you upside the head then kicks you when you’re down, make limoncello.

I’ve had my fair share of limoncello days, and I’m sure many of you can relate. While I’m not an advocate of drowning my sorrows in booze, I think there are healing benefits to stepping away from my challenging routine, finding someplace quiet to sit, taking a few deep breaths, calming my heart, and sipping something lovely.

If you’d like to stock up for the limoncello days to come, here’s a simple recipe from Giada De Laurentiis (find the full recipe, reviews, and tips here on foodnetwork.com):

Ingredients:

10 lemons

1 (750 ml) bottle of vodka

3-1/2 cups water

2-1/2 cups sugar

Directions:

  1. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.
  2. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
  3. Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.
  4. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight.
  5. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Cin cin!

Whiny Wednesday: “Accidental” Pregnancies

Whiny_WednesdaySome time ago, Maybe Lady Liz wrote a brilliant guest post about friends posting pregnancy announcements on Facebook, only to add that they were “accidents.” I thought it would be a great topic for this week:

“Accidental” pregnancies

You can read Liz’s original post here. Just be advised if you decide to click through to her blog that it is no longer about not having children, as Liz is now a mom.

Ms. Cellophane

By Lisa Manterfield

Orate Mirror in the Corner of a RoomHave you ever been around people who behave as if you can’t possibly know anything about life because you don’t have children?

I’m sure that all of us have heard the old chestnuts, “You wouldn’t understand; you don’t have kids” or “I didn’t understand until I became a mother” (which implies the same thing) or even “Only a parent could know how this feels,” as if being childless strips away all capability of empathy.

And then there are those situations where you just feel invisible, when the conversation about children and parenting is swirling around you and no one even bothers to make eye contact with you because what could you possibly contribute?

These instances make me think of the wonderful “Mr. Cellophane” number from the musical “Chicago.”

And even without clucking like a hen,

Everyone gets noticed now and then,

Unless, of course, that person it should be,

Invisible, inconsequential me.

Personally, I’m done with feeling insignificant because I don’t have kids. It took me a long time to get to this point, but now I hold my ground in conversation. I contribute when I can and simply listen and nod when I can’t, just as I would if I found myself in a conversation on any other topic on which I’m not an expert.

I also keep a list of amazing childless women in case I ever need to remind myself that we don’t need to be parents to make a difference. On my personal list is Amelia Earhart, Dian Fossey, Julia Child, and Juliet Gordon Low, who started the Girl Scout movement. If you need your own role models, Jody Day has put together an outstanding collection on Pinterest.

You’d be hard-pressed to call any of these women insignificant. I remind myself of this when I find myself allowing others to make me feel like less than who I am.

So what do you do when you start to feel like a Ms. Cellophane? Do you feign boredom, try to hop in with an intelligent anecdote, change the subject, or do you slip away and hope no one notices you’ve left?

It Got Me Thinking…About All the Single Ladies

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

One of the many beautiful things about our LWB community is the variety of voices and perspectives we’ve brought together. We’ve created a safe place here where we can cry, offer support, share hard-earned wisdom, and even whine about our different yet similar experiences. But as I read through recent posts and revisit older gems, I feel there’s one segment of our group that we need to encourage to join in more. Single sisters: This is your invitation to speak up!

The whole childfree-by-chance-or-circumstance status is painful, period, and I’d like those of us who are lucky to be in happy relationships to pause and acknowledge the quagmire of emotions when it’s compounded by the whole single-not-by-choice scenario. In my case, I spent my youth dreaming about the family I would create for myself. My 20s contained a series of disappointments and heartbreaks. By my early 30s, I hated how women (and men) would come up to me at weddings and baby showers and say “You’re next!” when I wanted so desperately to be part of the married and mommy clubs. Every time I heard what was intended as encouragement, it came across as another acknowledgement of my failings.

It got worse when I hit 40. I’d be standing in the middle of a country club, draped in a hideous bridesmaid dress, toes crammed in hideous shoes, smile frozen on my face while I stood among the other single ladies hoping to catch the bouquet and magically change my fate. I’d catch the eye of a married friend, she’d open her mouth as if to say It, then a look would cross her face and she’d decide to zip her lips. Peachy, I’d think, everyone else has given up on me too. I felt myself growing invisible, and I don’t want any of us to feel that way.

Platitudes such as “It will happen when you least expect it…God must have a plan for you to birth something else…You need to love yourself more, then love will find you” just don’t fly here. At LWB, we’re about having real, open, and often painful discussions about who we are and what we experience. Through our efforts, we hope to promote awareness and acceptance, to create a more inclusive culture, and to heal ourselves.

So, if you’re a gal who happens to be childfree and single, join the conversation. Comment on posts and share your unique perspectives. Check out the “childless couples—childless singles” discussion initiated by Elena K. Start your own discussion or create a group on our Home page. If you’d like to submit a guest post on this subject, visit this link for more information.

Please share your hurts, your reflections, your questions, your experiences. I wish I could have told my younger self, “You matter. You have something to contribute. You are appreciated and loved just as you are.” If you need to hear that, your LWB sisters are here to remind you that it’s true.

Whiny Wednesday: Being Taken Advantage Of At Work

Whiny_WednesdaySome people assume that if you don’t have children you have nothing but time. Nowhere you have to be, no responsibilities, and certainly nothing important to get home for.

Which brings us to this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic:

Being taken advantage of at work because you don’t have kids

And, go…

Not Less of a Woman

By Lisa Manterfield

“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.”

~Anaïs Nin

Lisa women circle

There’s an idea going around that not having children somehow makes us “less of a woman.” I don’t subscribe to this idea.

As this quote by author Anaïs Nin states, I am many, many women, and “mother” is only one element of me.

I am a writer, friend, wife, cat mama, reader, thinker, curser, fighter, nature-lover, spider catcher, traveler, cook.

All these women are fluid. They ebb and flow in me as needed. And when one of them isn’t able to fulfill her purpose, the others quickly rally to fill the gap, so I am always whole.

I am never less of a woman.

Our Stories: Amber

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesWhen Amber* is asked, “Do you have kids?” she answers, “We have dogs, which are much easier than children.” There’s a lightness and humor to her answer that puts people at ease, but it doesn’t reflect the challenging journey she’s been on and her amazing strength and perspective. I was struck by the depth and wisdom in her answers to our other questions, and I think you, too, will be moved by her insight. Maybe some of it will strike a chord with you and help you in your healing.

LWB: Are you childfree by choice, chance, or circumstance?

Amber: I actually was never sure I wanted kids, but after some health problems, we were told “Now or never….” I had several surgeries to remove fibroids, and after each surgery I developed Asherman’s Syndrome. Several corrective surgeries, tons of scar tissue reforming, several dangerous ectopic pregnancies later, and then being told our only hope was a surrogate, well…I was fresh out of $75,000. You have to draw the line somewhere.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Amber: I have moved on to live my life and be happy. I still have a wonderful husband and two dogs, and we will always have a wonderful life as long as we are together. I refuse to throw it all away just because we cannot have children. Sometimes people lose sight of what they have while trying to reach another goal. It’s like what Alexander Graham Bell says in my favorite quote:

When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

LWB: What was the turning point for you?

Amber: Plan A was ruining my life and I was constantly devastated and sad. We were living in limbo between procedures and surgeries hoping for a miracle. As soon as we made the decision to move on, things started getting better and we starting enjoying our life again. We were back in control, and the most important thing was that we had each other. Thank God we had not lost each other in the whole mess. Lord knows I have lost multitudes of friends and family over our journey of infertility.

LWB: What’s the hardest part for you about not having children?

Amber: I worry about whom we will spend time with as we age, who will pick us up from the nursing home at Christmas. But, then again, some people’s children do not do that. I have to focus on the fact that we will have each other and a wonderful network of family and friends.

LWB: What’s the best part about not having children?

Amber: I get to spend all day, every day, with my best friend, and we can do whatever we want together at any given time. We get to take our dogs to the beach two to three times a year, sleep in on Saturdays, buy extravagant things, take naps whenever, hang out at the bar and watch a game, and, most of all, love each other more than anything on this earth.

LWB: What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Amber: This was from my friend Penny, who died way too young: “Life isn’t what it should be, life is what it is. However, we get to choose what to make of it.”

 

*Not her real name. We allow each respondent to use a fictitious name for her profile, if she chooses.

Won’t you share your story with us? Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.

Whiny Wednesday: Families Rule

Whiny_WednesdayKath sent me this article about Dolly Parton and her views on childlessness and other people’s children. She talks about how she’s made room in her life for her nieces and nephews, how their children came to call her “Aunty Granny”, and how she’s now “Gee-Gee” (for great-granny.)

“I often think, it just wasn’t meant for me to have kids,” she says, “so everybody’s kids can be mine.”

I love her for that attitude.

So, why did this lovely article make it to this week’s Whiny Wednesday spot?

Because in the sidebar of People magazine, in a section titled, “You May Like…” where I’d expect to find articles about other cheroes (heroes who happen to be child-free) like Miss Dolly, instead I’m offered stories about the ever-expanding Duggar clan and even more “things you didn’t know” about celebrities and their offspring.

Even when we do get to hear about someone without children, there’s no escaping the fact that, ultimately, families rule.

It’s Whiny Wednesday. What’s under your skin this week?

 

Asparagus, hope, and living childfree with no regrets

By Lisa Manterfield

IMG_1666A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about planting an asparagus bed. For me, this commitment to a long-term project signified a change in my outlook, and a sense that I had finally moved through a long period of uncertainty and could really think about my future.
I now have to confess that the asparagus suffered some neglect under my care. It grew and flowered, but then I ended up traveling a lot and by the end of the summer my poor bed was largely weeds, with a few brown plants.

I felt disappointed in myself for letting it go and I even questioned whether perhaps it was better that I didn’t become a mother, because how could I care for children if I couldn’t keep a few plants alive? Stop me if you’ve had this talk with yourself.

Then, over the winter, we had rain (not much, but some) and last month I spotted something green and delicious-looking among the weeds. Sure enough, I found six tender young asparagus shoots. I snipped them off, steamed them up, and ate them plain. It was by far the best asparagus I’ve ever tasted.

IMG_1668

Given that my asparagus bed has become a metaphor for my journey through non-momhood, I’m looking for a message, and here’s what I see:

I see that even when the surface looks like a big, weedy, hopeless mess, something wonderful and hopeful might be going on underneath. I see that even the minimal amount of care can be enough to nurture something good. And I see that making a commitment to a future you want will result in something positive, even if the journey doesn’t go according to your plan.

And now I’m looking forward to next year, because those six spears have shown me possibility, and next year I know I’m going to have a bumper crop.