WNYC Interview

LIFE WITHOUT BABYJust wanted to let you know that I’ll be speaking with Brian Lehrer on WNYC tomorrow (Thursday April 2) on the topic of being childless-not-by-choice. This is a companion piece to the segment he did earlier this week with Meghan Daum on choosing to be childfree.

My segment airs around 10:50am EST. You can also tune in online here, and he’ll be taking calls for the show. I’ll also post the recording once it’s available.

~ Lisa

Whiny Wednesday: Menopause

Whiny_WednesdayI’m currently enjoying a journey into menopause. Yeah, it’s a hoot. All the symptoms of PMS, plus fuzzy head, weight gain, night sweats, the works.

I’ve been prescribed HRT and I’ve been reaching out to older friends for advice, because there’s a lot about this I don’t know. Most of my friends have gladly offered support, however one woman (a friend of a friend) looked at me and said, “Menopause? You’re too young for that.”

I assured her I was not, and left the conversation, but really, is that a helpful thing to say? Yes, I know I’m too young for menopause. Add it to the list of things my body’s given up before its time. And then ask me how I feel about the possibility the rest of me might be aging faster than it should too. Does this ever end?

As you may have guessed, it’s Whiny Wednesday. I feel better for my venting. Hope you feel better for yours.

P.S. This in NO April Fool’s joke, believe me.

Spring Cleaning and Baby Stuff

By Lisa Manterfield

Spring has sprung and I trashdon’t know if it’s the new season and the idea of a new start that’s got me in an organizing mood, or if my hormones are just going wild, but I have been in a cleaning and decluttering frenzy lately.

I’ve made trips to the thrift store with bags of clothes that are too big, too small, or just plain ugly. I’ve purged my kitchen of all those “good idea” gadgets, rusted cake pans, and broken plates that I’ll get around to gluing “someday.” I’ve even parted with a box full of books, which is a big give-up for me. And just today I caught myself eyeing the curtains in my living room and thinking about throwing them in the washer.

While rummaging through a rarely used cupboard last week, I came across some baby-related stuff. I’ve been getting rid of all those things for a while now, and I was fairly sure they were all gone. So it was a deflating moment when I unearthed some items that had slipped through the net.

This find was particularly difficult, as it was the glossy information packet we received from our first fertility clinic. It had a picture of a beautiful glowing baby on the front and was filled with encouraging stories, happy family photos, and explanations as to how the expert team would help us build the family of our dreams. Inside I found test results, ovulation charts, and notes written in my own handwriting, reminding me of where I’d been. The whole thing reeked of hope and it stirred up some of those old emotions.

To my credit, I ditched the whole thing without getting upset. I didn’t keep one scrap of paper. There was another, similar item in the cupboard, too, but now I can’t even remember what it was, because I tossed that out as well.

After that, I went to my bookshelves and pulled out the Knitting for Two book I’d been keeping. In addition to the maternity cardigan I started (that I think might still be somewhere in the house) I’ve actually used the book to knit a sweater for a friend’s baby. I’ve only done that once, and I realize now that it was part of the hair shirt I chose to wear for a while, when I was forcing myself to be around other people’s babies, and to be “genuinely happy” about pregnancy announcements. This was long before I figured out my need to grieve and heal, and now I can be happy for someone else’s news, and I no longer need to torture myself by knitting from my baby’s book. So out it went.

My purging of baby stuff has been a gradual process. At first, I couldn’t get rid of anything. After a while I threw out the assorted test kits, and the doctor info, moving slowly towards throwing out baby clothes (and even a maternity top a friend had given me.) The fertility and pregnancy books went next, and so it continued.

I’ve no doubt that there will be other landmines scattered around my house (such as the cardigan) and that they’ll come to the surface some day, but now I know I can handle them. And I know I can throw them away with no (or little) love lost.

Whiny Wednesday: Pity

Whiny_WednesdayLast year I asked you to share topic ideas for Whiny Wednesday. Quite a few of you were glad to oblige. Thanks for the great ideas.

So, this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic is:

Other People’s Pity

As always, you’re free to vent on your own topic, too.

If you have Whiny Wednesday topics you’d like to see voiced, please drop me a line.

Trusting the Path

By Lisa Manterfield

pathDo ever feel as if you’re in a constant battle with yourself? So often I make a decision and forge ahead on the path of my choice, only to catch myself looking longingly at another paths and wondering if I ought to have taken them instead. As soon as I make a decision I lose sight of all the things I’ll gain from choosing that path and can only see all that I’ll be losing from walking away from the other paths.

I certainly did that when I chose the “life without children” path.  I knew what I would gain by opting to stop treatments and I knew what I would gain by walking away from the adoption route we were on. I knew that my sanity and my marriage would benefit from that decision, and that I’d claim back the life that was passing me by. But I could also see clearly everything I would lose from walking away from the possibility of motherhood.

I know I made the right choice, and I’m glad I kept walking on my chosen path, but it doesn’t stop me looking back once in a while to see where I might have been.

Recently I had a conversation with a friend who was making some difficult life decisions. She talked about the idea of trusting that the path you’re on will take you where you’re supposed to be.

At first glance, this reeks of “everything happens for a reason,” a philosophy that makes me bristle. Personally, I do not believe that I was denied children so that I could take a bigger, more important path instead, or that I wasn’t granted motherhood because it was more than I could handle.  I have an untreatable medical condition; I cannot reproduce; end of story; $#it happens.

And yet I’m intrigued by the idea of trusting the path.

There is no doubt that not having children will take me on a very different path than motherhood; it already has. But what if I stopped fighting that? What if I stopped looking over my shoulder at all that I’ve lost and trusted that the path I’m on will take me where I’m supposed to go? Granted, I might not have much to blog about with my new peaceful self, but perhaps I could just enjoy the journey and see where it takes me.

What do you think about the idea of trusting the path?

 

Our Stories: Kara

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesKara, 34, was one of those little girls who mothered her baby dolls and younger siblings. “I always knew I was going to be a mom with a lot of kids,” she says, but circumstances led her down a different path. These days she experiences the all-too-familiar cocktail of grief, guilt, and anger, with hints of acceptance, as she and her husband pursue their Plan B. Here’s what she has to share about her journey.

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

Kara: Childfree by circumstance. After trying for 10 months, my OB/GYN thought it was because my cycle wasn’t regular. After we “fixed” me and I still wasn’t pregnant, my husband was tested. His sperm count came back zero and he was diagnosed with no vas deferens [a congenital condition in which the tubes that carry sperm fail to fully develop].

After doing our own research, we talked our primary care doctor into having my husband tested for Cystic Fibrosis (CF). He was diagnosed with CF, but in what is called a “mild” case. Mild cases are where the mucus builds up somewhere other than the lungs, usually either the sinuses (my husband’s case) or digestive tract. Because of his having CF, I had to be tested before a fertility clinic would see us. I don’t have CF, but I have 5T Polymorphism. For me that means nothing, that is just how my DNA is “strung” together. But 5T doesn’t “play” well with CF, and we would have a 50% chance of having a child with a classic CF case (in the lungs). That was something we didn’t want to do to a child just to be parents. We stopped the journey after only four years, and we already knew adoption wasn’t a calling we felt was for us.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Kara: I still go through the stages of grief, usually skipping denial and spending more time than I should in the angry stage. We’ve moved on to Plan B, but sometimes I feel guilty being there.

LWB: What was the turning point for you?

Kara: After meeting with the fertility doctor and seeing how all they wanted was my money and not caring how the process was difficult for my husband, we just stopped cold. They didn’t care that my husband was the one with the issues. We could get donor sperm and that would make a baby. I didn’t want any baby, I wanted my husband’s baby. After much prayer and talking, we decided it was healthier to stop.

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

Kara: Seeing others mistreat their children. Or parents complaining about their kids for selfish reasons.

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

Kara: Being able to do Plan B: travel around the world. Sometimes, when I’m in the angry grief stage and a mom complains to me about my travels, the best part is saying, “You got to multiply and replenish the earth…I get to travel the earth.” (Sometimes being the big B word is mentally healthy for me.)

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

Kara: It usually starts with a quick no. How sarcastic my answer is depends on who is asking and what stage of grief I am in that day.

LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?

Kara: It gives me a place to read about and to vent to others who know how it feels to go through life without children.

 

If you’ve been feeling that you’re all alone on this journey, I encourage you to read other members’ stories here. There is a lot of wisdom and support in the stories themselves and in the comments. Then, when you’re ready, I hope you’ll share your story with us. Like Kara, you’ll find a safe place to “vent to others who know how it feels to go through life without children.” 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_WednesdayBitter. Desperate. Pathetic, sad, and lonely. That’s Hollywood’s typical childfree woman.

But don’t worry, in the end she’ll get her man and, of course, she’ll get her baby.

This week’s topic:

The way the media portrays childless women

Happy whining, my friends!

Marking Anniversaries…The Happy and the Sad

By Lisa Manterfield

LWBlogo_color_compact
March is a funny old month for me. It’s filled with all kinds of anniversaries, both happy and sad.

March is the month I lost my dad (sad) and, later, my stepdad (also sad).

March is also the month I married Mr. Fab (happy). We celebrate 11 years this year (very happy).

March is the month Mr. Fab’s granddaughter was born (happy and sad) and quickly became the month we decided to stop the quest for a child of our own (very, very sad).

It’s also the month I wrote my very first post on this blog (sad at the time, but very happy now).

So you can see, checking off the days on the March calendar can be a bit of an emotional ride.

What I notice, though, is that with each passing year, I’m less sad about the sad anniversaries and more happy about the happy ones. Even though “time heals all wounds” can ring hollow in a time of sadness, I’ve come to learn that it’s actually true.

Five years ago, when I wrote my first post, I couldn’t imagine that life could be happy without children. Oh sure, I knew I’d “get over it” eventually, but I never expected to move beyond the sadness.

What I’ve learned from all my sad anniversaries is that the sadness gets smaller every year, just a little at first, sometimes so little that you barely notice, until one day you can talk about the thing you’ve lost without choking on the sadness.

The sadness doesn’t completely go away, but most days it’s so small I barely notice it.

 

What’s next?

Anniversaries of all kinds are a good time to step back, reevaluate, and look back at how far we’ve come.

When I look back at some of my early posts on this blog, I see a woman who was angry and lost, but also skirting the deeper emotional truths about what she was going through. And she was still hiding in shame.

Later, I found a way to write more openly about how I felt, and eventually I was able to gain insight into the effects of my loss and how I might have better handled my grief.

These days, I’ll admit that I don’t have much new to say. I’m still learning, of course, but much I’ve what I’ve learned on my journey has been channeled into the ebook series, which I hope will continue to help other women stepping onto this path.

Those of you who’ve been long-time readers (and thank you for your support over the years) will no doubt understand how something that once consumed every waking moment can become something you think about only once in a while.

I also know that new readers are experiencing this for the first time, and I want to maintain this community, because I know it’s one of the few places to find true support and to be able to voice what our friends and family often don’t understand.

Over the coming year, I plan to rerun some of the more helpful posts from the past five years, as well as new ones as they come up. There’ll be posts from Kathleen and me, and of course, I wouldn’t dare take away Whiny Wednesday. If you’ve been a reader for a while, it’s a good way to see how far you’ve come over the years. If you’re a new reader, I hope you’ll find these posts resonate with you.

And what will I be doing with all my spare time if I’m not writing new posts? I’ll be working on the final book in the series, due out in June. I’m also working like crazy on a new novel that I hope to be able to tell you more about soon.

 

And there are presents!

As this is a celebration, of course there are presents. Several people have asked me if the ebook series will be available in format other than for e-readers. The ultimate goal is to put all four ebooks together as a print book later this year, but in the meantime, I’ve created downloadable PDFs of the books.

In honor of our five years together, you can grab yourself a free copy of the first book in the series. It will be available until the end of March, and can you get your copy by using this special link.

Get your free ebook

The other two books are also now available in this format here:

Workbook 2: Getting Through the Grief of Childlessness

Workbook 3: Dealing With the Day-to-Day Challenges

Workbook 4: Thriving in a New Happily Ever After (Out June 2014. Available for pre-order)

So, all that’s left is to say thank you for your ongoing support, for showing up here and reminding me that I’m not alone, and for continuing to support and help one another on this journey. I’m very honored to share this space with you.

~Lisa

It Got Me Thinking…About Being Childless by “Choice”

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTRecently, I received an e-mail from “Kim” who was struggling to find her place in our community. She hadn’t been through infertility, nor had she made a conscious “choice” to be childfree. Instead, she’d held out for Mr. Right and married a man she loved—who didn’t want children. It wasn’t exactly my story, but I could relate to much of it. I shared my response with Lisa, and she asked me to consider sharing it with other LWB readers.

If you see yourself in here, I hope you’ll find some encouragement, some support. I hope you’ll feel, maybe for the first time, that you are not alone.

Dear Kim,

I am so sorry to hear of your losses and sorrows. I get it! Our paths are similar.

First, congratulations on your recent marriage! I, too, held out for love, which meant I got married in my 40s. My husband was worth the wait.

Second, a bit of my own story: I went through a long process (mid-30s to early 40s) of exploring whether or not I could/wanted to have a child on my own, and ultimately decided it wasn’t something I could do. It still irks me when people accuse me of making the “choice” to be childfree, when I feel in my heart that this destiny was forced on me in so many ways. Like you, I wanted to be a mom and I would have been a great mom. So not fair!

By the time I met my husband-to-be, I was starting to come to terms with the facts that my age and health were not in my favor for bearing and raising children. Sure, I could have tried every medical miracle, but with what results? I couldn’t do it. When I knew we were at a defining point in our relationship, I sat my then-boyfriend down, ready to set him free if he wanted children, because I knew I couldn’t offer him any guarantees. It came as somewhat of a relief, then, when he told me he never wanted kids.

However…that doesn’t mean we don’t have moments of “What if…?”

You asked how other women in your, in our, shoes are “living with it.” I’m sitting here at my desk trying to think of the best answers to give you, the real answers. It’s not easy, Kim. There are days when I love my life just as it is, when I celebrate that one of the reasons my husband and I have such an amazing relationship is because we are not having to divide our energies and attentions to take care of children. We spend our weekends together, even if it’s just running errands or watching Law and Order reruns on TV. We aren’t driving in different directions to attend soccer games. We are the last couple on the dance floor at wedding receptions because our friends who are parents have gone home to relieve babysitters or because they’re exhausted from all their obligations. These are blessed days indeed.

And then…and then…Halloween comes around and I want to stay in bed and cry about all the joyful events I’ve missed and will miss. I have to talk myself into decorating for the Christmas holidays because there are no little ones to revel in the magic, no one with whom I can share precious traditions. I lied to a friend a few weeks ago, a friend I love, because I couldn’t bear to go to her baby shower. I will love her child, we will be part of her child’s life, but I just couldn’t sit in a room full of women who got what I so desperately wanted.

In between, I lean heavily upon the wisdom and experience of our sisters on LWB. Sometimes I can offer the words of encouragement and support; other times it’s me who needs to be picked up off the floor. I encourage you to spend some time familiarizing yourself with the resources on the site. Yes, many of the women are here because of infertility, but we can still learn from each other how to move through this and forward into new life paths.

Melanie Notkin of Savvy Auntie has coined the phrase “circumstantially infertile.” I personally hate the term, but it makes sense to me. She is childfree for the same reasons we are (and I believe she’s still single) and has turned her experience into being an auntie advocate. I encourage you to check out her site. From my own experience, I will add that being “the fun aunt” has its advantages.

I also have learned a lot from Jody Day’s book, Rocking the Life Unexpected. She has a site called Gateway Women. I know Jody (also circumstantially infertile) has groups around the world, so you might check if there’s one near you. If not, maybe you’re the woman to start one? There are also several forums online on the LWB site. Find a topic that speaks to you and jump in.

Finally, I want to remind you that healing takes time. Please be gentle with yourself, Kim.

With my best wishes,

Kathleen

 

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayA recent TIME magazine cover story, “The Childfree Life,” came with an image of an attractive (and color-coordinated) couple lounging on a tropical, white sand beach, seemingly without a care in the world, resplendent in their designer sunglasses. That image prompted this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic:

The assumption that if you don’t have kids you have money to burn

 Whine away, my friends.