Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThanks to everyone who has contacted me with Whiny Wednesday post ideas. I have a good list now, but keep them coming. You can send topic ideas through the Contact page.

This week’s topic is another tender subject:

The constant struggle of feeling my life is imperfect because of not having children.


How do you feel about this? Has that feeling changed with the passing of time?

As always, the floor is open for any other whines and rants you need to get off your chest.

The Power of Voice

By Lisa Manterfield

MP900433193Last weekend I attended the 2014 World Domination Summit in Portland, OR, where I spent the weekend surrounded by creative types and some incredible people looking to make a difference in the world. It was truly an inspiring experience.

While I took something of value away from every speaker who presented, every story I heard, and every person I met and talked with, there were, as always, standouts.

One speaker, Shannon Galpin, told her story of traveling to Afghanistan to provide education programs for women and girls in conflict zones. She talked about going into a women’s prison in Kandahar to interview some of the women and girls being held there. She was concerned that these women, already in danger because of their actions, would not be willing to speak to her and tell their stories. She couldn’t have been more wrong.

So many women wanted to talk to her, she ended up spending hours over the course of several days sitting with them and recording their stories. At the end of her time, one woman unclipped her elaborate hair clip and offered it as a thank you gift. “No one has ever cared enough to hear our stories,” she said. This experience prompted Shannon’s wonderful TED Talk on pity, apathy, and the power of voice, which I encourage you to watch when you have 10 minutes to spare.

The sentiment also struck a deep chord in me as I thought more about this idea of sharing stories and having a voice. It made me think about some of the conversations I’ve had about why I don’t have children, how the topic is met with pity or apathy, or handled with platitudes about whether we tried x or y treatment or if we considered adoption. Even people who know and care about me have expressed their own discomfort about the frankness of what they’ve read in my book or one of my blog posts. It has sometimes felt as if no one really wants to hear the story of what happened and how much the loss of not getting something I really wanted—having a child of my own—has rippled into every aspect of my life.

But that isn’t going to stop me talking because, for every person who’s squirmed, I’ve come across ten who’ve said, “I appreciate your honesty” or “That’s exactly how I feel” or “Thank you for giving me a voice.”

Earlier this year, we launched “Our Stories” on this site. Since then, we’ve featured almost two dozen of your voices. Firstly, I want to send an enormous hug to everyone who had the courage to share her story. I always want to give a massive shout-out to Kathleen who created the column and worked with every storyteller.

Gwen shared her story and told Kathleen, “Putting my story out there and reading responses from women who have dealt with the same exact problems and feel the same way as I do… I am comforted and I do not feel so alone.”

And Maria said, “I felt like people connected with my story and it gave them hope. I feel like we are all here for a reason and that is my purpose right now—to take what I have learned and share it with others.”

This is the power of voice. This is why we keep telling our stories, even when it gets uncomfortable for us and even when it sparks pity or apathy in others.

Our Stories will be taking a short hiatus in August, as I take my customary summer break and rerun some of the year’s favorite posts. But we’ll be picking up again in September and we’d love to share your story.

You’ll find a questionnaire to get you started and details on how to submit on the Our Stories page. I hope this will help you to find your voice, inspire others, and know that you’re not alone.

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.

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThis week’s Whiny Wednesday topic is that old chestnut:

The baby shower!

A reader wrote:

I would like to know how others handle baby showers. I have vowed to not go to any more baby showers after leaving the last one in tears and disappointed in myself because I felt so strong before I went. Do others have emotional issues about other people’s baby showers or am I alone?

After assuring her that she definitely was not alone in feeling this way, I thought I’d turn the topic over to you.

Please whine, rant, empathize, and even advise on this most delicate of topics.

Lessons Learned From The Brink: Know Your Love Language

By Paulina Grace Hay

HeartAfter living through a second miscarriage and the brink of divorce within a matter of months, I’ve gained some new crucial resources in my emotional toolbox. Here’s one lesson taught to me by a therapist that I come back to repeatedly. It made a huge impact in connecting with husband while I was dealing with the emotional roller coaster of infertility. When I begin to feel disconnected today, I come back to these basics.

Know Your Love Language

Have you ever felt like you were speaking to someone you love and feel like they didn’t understand you at all? I remember feeling like I spoke Chinese and my spouse French. We basically had no idea what the other was saying. As you can imagine, it’s hard to connect if you can’t communicate clearly or you don’t think you’re being heard.

Enter Dr. Gary Chapman and his best selling book called The 5 Love Languages. It’s truly the one book I think every person on this planet should be required to read. (The original version is about marriage, but it applies beautifully to dealing with human beings in general.)

According to Dr. Chapman and his extensive experience as marriage counselor, there are five love languages. Each one is a way to show love and to be shown love. You might have a primary and secondary one and even speak another. Here’s a brief overview with examples from my marriage and life:

Words of Affirmation:
If you like being praised or receiving a beautifully written note, this could be you. If you enjoy talking or writing, this might also be you. If someone criticizes you, it can feel like a slap in the face.

This is definitely my primary love language! I’m very verbal and my husband very quiet. When we would argue he would stop talking and shut down. Now he knows I’d much rather receive a personal note over a gift like jewelry.

Physical Touch:
This is not just about sex. It might be a hug, stroking hair, a pat on the back, or holding hands. This is my husband’s primary love language. When we would fight I’d say, “Don’t touch me” and “I want to be alone.” Total disaster for both of us! Now I make a point to give him several hugs and kisses during the day or just sit with him on the couch.

Acts of Service:
If you like doing things for other people, this could be you. This is a love language my husband uses to “speak” his love to me, even though I didn’t realize it for quite a while. It was my sister-in-law (who is married to my husband’s brother) who commented that “acts of service” is the love language that her husband “speaks” to her. It was like a light bulb went off. Now I make an extra point to say thank you and appreciate when my husband does things like walk the dog, take out the trash, and help my parents.

Receiving Gifts:
If you like giving gifts, small or large, this could be you. If someone doesn’t give you a gift (or doesn’t like your gift) and that upsets you, this could also be you.

My sister-in-law (married to my brother) is this love language. She would always bring me a trinket or something when they came to visit. (We have very different taste so I rarely enjoyed the gifts.) I’d exchange a holiday gift if I didn’t like it. I’d give my gifts to them with a gift receipt and didn’t think twice about it if they exchanged it. They never did. We were never very close. The following Christmas I saw a little statue with a mother and two young boys and it instantly made me think of my SIL. I bought it for her. When she opened the gift, which wasn’t extravagant, she cried like a baby. I knew I’d tapped into her love language. I stopped exchanging their gifts and told her how much I liked them. It’s gone a long way in improving our relationship.

Quality Time:
This one is all about giving another person your undivided attention. For women this often means face-to-face attention. Talking to your spouse while he’s watching television or staring at his phone is not undivided attention. My husband is really great now at pausing the television and talking to me when I need it. I try to be clear when I need his attention and say, “Is now a good time to talk? Let me know when you’re free.” It’s more respectful of his time and energy.

I’d love to hear what your love language is and if this information gives you new perspective on the relationships in your life. Not sure which one you are? Start here with the 5 Love Languages online quiz at:

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

If you’d like more information on the 5 Love Languages, visit Dr. Chapman’s website at:

http://www.5lovelanguages.com

Paulina Grace walked away from the infertility roller coaster six years ago. She hopes to help other women let themselves grieve and then let themselves live. Outside of running her own business, Paulina fulfills her need to nurture by being an involved aunt and caring for her aging parents.

Our Stories: Lee

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesLee is in a painful phase of her journey. She always wanted children, but was never able to conceive. Now 49, she describes her current feelings as somewhere “between sad and depressed.” Read on for more details, then, if you’ve been in her shoes and have made some progress toward acceptance of a life without children, please take a few minutes to offer her encouragement in the Comments.

LWB: Please briefly describe your dream of motherhood.

Lee: I was the oldest of five children, and we had many foster children in our home over the years. I always knew I’d have children, most likely a combination of through birth and adoption.

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

Lee: By chance, I was never able to get pregnant. We [she’s married] did not pursue any fertility interventions.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Lee: I’d say I vary between sad and depressed, but resigned, angry, and attempting to embrace Plan B.

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

Lee: There are so many facets to the sadness I feel. Sometimes it is things like not getting to feel a child growing inside of me, never getting to take those lovely baby bump photos, not having a baby shower. At other times it is things like missing the chance to raise children the way I think is the best, breastfeeding, baby wearing, co-sleeping, teaching my children to be confident and independent, compassionate and caring.

LWB: How do you answer “Do you have kids?”

Lee: I was never able to have children. I do have a foster daughter who started living with us when she was 17. She is now 25.

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

Lee: The freedom to get up and go whenever and wherever we want, not having to worry about children in this changing and often scary world.

LWB: What’s one thing you want other people (moms, younger women, men, grandmothers, teachers, strangers) to know about your being childfree?

Lee: The fact that I did not bear children does not mean that I do not have knowledge about children. I babysat from the time I was 13 years old, and I have spent 28 years as a pediatric physical therapist. I have a lot of knowledge to offer.

LWB: What is your hope for yourself this coming year?

Lee: To get my house and life in order so that I can do my crafts and have people over without stressing over my house!

 

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

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

 

 

 

 

 

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThis hot-button whine was sent in from one of our readers:

When you read an interview of some celebrity or hear someone say

“I never knew what love was until I had a child.”

So…is she saying that because I’m childfree I’m not capable or “real” love, or because I’m childfree I will be denied the experience of the highest expression of love?

Whether this makes your blood boil or cuts you to the core, whine away, sisters!

And if you have another great whine you need to get off your chest this week, here’s the place to let it rip.

The Irony of Infertility

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Infertile Women Behaving Badly

Back in May I wrote a post about my Mother’s Day plans for this year. You may recall that my friend and I had planned to take a trapeze class that day. Well, as it turned out, after battling the Mother’s Day traffic, the class was canceled due to some fierce winds that kicked up that day. Instead, we battled the Mother’s Day foot traffic to find a place to have a lunch with our respective Mr. Fabs.

During the weeks that passed before we could reschedule our class, I had a couple of doctor’s appointments that resulted in some tests. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I’ve been having some wild hot flashes and night sweats and generally not been feeling 100 percent.

On the day of our rescheduled class, as I was driving to meet my friend for our second attempt, my gynecologist called with my results. I wasn’t surprised to learn that my hormones were all over the place and my numbers put me officially in menopause.

I didn’t have too much time to think about this news as I was scaling a ladder and flinging myself off a high platform with nothing but a string net to catch me, but afterwards it all started to sink in. On the day I took my class, originally intended to take back Mother’s Day, I learned that any chance I might have had (slim as it was) to become pregnant and give birth to a child, was gone. The irony was not lost on me.

So, as Porky Pig would say, “Th-th-th-that’s all folks !” I am now officially done. And after a small wave of sadness, I’m okay with this. I’ve done my hard work in healing from my loss and I have my life moving in a direction I like. I don’t have to worry about how I’d feel about a surprise pregnancy (you know, like the ones people tell you happen “all the time.”) Somehow, there’s a finality to it all and it’s an end I think I was ready for.

Now I can get on with the business of doing things unbecoming for a woman of my age. I’m very much looking forward to that!

You can see my trapeze efforts in this video. I almost made the catch. And don’t be alarmed by the gasp from the crowd. I didn’t get hurt (apart from a few bruises and some muscle soreness the likes of which I have never experienced before!)

Lisa’s Trapeze from Lisa Manterfield on Vimeo.

It Got Me Thinking…About Makers: Women Who Make America

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingI stumbled upon this fantastic interview of Gloria Steinem in which she addresses—among other thought-provoking topics—how she felt about being single and childfree during a time when “women weren’t seen as much as a voice but more barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

I don’t want to print any spoilers, so I hope you’ll read it for yourself. Let me just say she inspires and empowers me and, like her, I am a “hope-aholic.”

Ms. Steinem is someone we would call a chero here, a hero who happens to be childfree. She is one of many included in the PBS documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America. You can learn more about the Makers initiative and the documentaries here.

 

Kathleen Guthrie Woods is a Northern California–based freelance writer. She is mostly at peace with her childfree status.

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayGraduation season is upon us and social media has been abuzz with snapshots of proud parents and their offspring. So it seems like a good time for this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic:

Feelings of jealousy when friends and relatives celebrate the milestones of being parents and grandparents.


As always, your other whines are always welcome.