It Got Me Thinking…About Taking My Own Advice

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingEarly last December, I was on the verge of an epic meltdown. I’d given up vacation days to help a client meet a tight deadline, I was too tired and busy to participate in traditional rituals like window shopping and checking out neighbors’ decorations, there would be no feast to bring scattered family together, there were no children to remind me of the magic of the season…waaaaaaaa!

My husband held me as I whined and cried, and as he dried my tears he said, “Why don’t you go read your book?”

“Because…sniff, sniff…I finished the last good book I had and the one I requested from the library isn’t in yet and….”

“No, no,” he said, in his kindest and most patient voice, “your book, the one you wrote, about how to get through the holidays.”

Oh. Right. Why didn’t I think of that?

He was referring to Life Without Baby Holiday Companion, a collection of classic blog posts Lisa Manterfield and I put together from this site that offer inspiration and encouragement for getting through the season. It was created in response to what we heard so often from readers: that holiday festivities can bring up all sorts of painful emotions when you’re childfree-not-by-choice.

In times of crisis, it’s so easy to forget what is right in front of us, so I would like to take this opportunity to remind myself—as well as you—what we have here on LWB:

  • a wealth of advice in posts, recent and from years past
  • more wisdom in the comments shared by readers
  • inspiration in “Our Stories”
  • support in the Forums

If you’re hurting—when you’re hurting—I hope you’ll look to LWB for comfort. Reach out to other LWBers and share what you’re feeling. Allow us to walk alongside you, to offer understanding in our unique yet similar experiences, and to remind you that you are not alone.

Last year, after being so wisely advised, I did just that. I brewed myself a pot of tea, placed a few sugar cookies on a pretty plate, and sat down with “my book” to heal myself. I won’t say I made it to “Merry!” that day, but I did start to feel better.

Tonight is Halloween in the U.S., and hundreds of sweet little darlings—none of them mine—will descend upon my neighborhood in search of tricks and treats. Even before the first knock at my door, I am starting to feel the ol’ familiar tugs on the heartstrings, the sick anticipation of the holiday blues. But this year, instead of giving into the lure of another meltdown, I’m going to be proactive by re-reading the book and spending some time on our site. I trust I will find ideas for getting through the coming weeks with some grace, compassion, and a healthy dose of perspective. I might even find my way back to seeing the magic and joy that can still be mine this season.

Wishing you happier holidays,

Kathleen

 

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

Life Without Baby Holiday Companion is available in an ebook format on Amazon, now at the very affordable price of $2.99. If it feels like you’re heading for a blue Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa, I hope you’ll order a copy today and find some of the peace you long for.

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayThis Friday is Halloween, which for many of us means streams of cute children knocking on our front doors.

Love it or hate it; it’s hard to avoid it. So the discussion topic for this week is:

How do you handle this difficult holiday?

As it’s Whiny Wednesday, there’s room for your gripes here, too.

Talking About Grief

By Lisa Manterfield

MP900438973I’ve been writing and talking a lot about grief lately—here on the blog, in my fiction, in my personal life, in the novels I’m reading, and for the new ebook series. Even last week, when I got chatting to a stranger on a train, the conversation turned to the topic of grief.

Over paper cups of tea, this woman—who had lost her brother to suicide—and I talked about how grief stays with us long after we’re “over it”, how the shape of grief changes with time, how it can change us, and how everyone carries around their own personal grief.

My only regret in the discussion is that it didn’t begin sooner on our journey, because I would have liked to hear more about what she had to say on the subject. But eventually we parted ways, she to her office and I to airport, and I didn’t have the opportunity to ask her more about her grief.

So, I’d like to ask you instead.

  • How has your grief changed over time?
  • How has your loss changed you?
  • In what ways has your grief crept out, even when you’ve tried to keep it under wraps?

As a society, I don’t believe the topic of grief gets enough attention. We’re uncomfortable with grieving people, no matter what type of loss they’ve suffered, but it’s especially true when the loss isn’t understood.

So let’s start the conversation now. Let’s talk about this grief. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

It Got Me Thinking…About Attitude

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl ThinkingA girlfriend who also happens to be childfree forwarded me an article about the lifestyles of parents versus non-parents. I’m not going to share it with you because, frankly, you don’t need to read it. We’ve already seen so many variations on this theme, and I’m tired of the us versus them, the haves versus the have-nots. The central question in these articles, many of which are based on surveys, seems to be “Who is happier?”

What strikes me as I think about this is that the answer has nothing to do with what we have or don’t have. It’s not things or jobs or money or even children that make us happy. I know many parents who are miserable, many childfree people who are miserable, and many more from both camps who have found something to be happy about. What they all have in common, I think, is attitude.

I’m reminded of the best piece of advice my grandmother gave me. She passed away after 93 years of life, during which she experienced her share of joys and tragedies.

Me: Gram, what is your secret to life? What has kept you going through all of it?

Gram: (Thinking for a moment) Be happy. No…wait. It’s not just that. It’s realizing you have a choice and choosing to be happy.

Me: Wow. It’s so simple.

Gram: …and I have a scoop of ice cream every day!

I know many of you are treading through rough patches of your journey, and I won’t downplay your need and right to grieve. But when you look at the whole picture of your life, I hope you evaluate it with an attitude of gratitude. I hope you can make that choice. And on days when that’s easier said than done, I hope you’ll join me in enjoying a scoop or two of ice cream.

 

 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 suggested Whiny Wednesday topic is thought-provoking:

Fearing the quiet we will have for years

How do you feel about this? Is it something you worry about? If not, what is on your mind this week?

If I Had to Do It All Again…

By Lisa Manterfield

img_3090_#1 - Low RezMr. Fab and I don’t talk much anymore about our infertility journey. He’d as soon forget the whole ordeal and I prefer to look forward rather than dwelling on what might have been. But recently it came up in conversation.

“If I had to do it all again, I would,” he told me.

My first thought was “No way!” I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy and I don’t think I could bear to see Mr. Fab go through it again. But when I thought about it some more, I see there are positives that came out of it.

We are tougher than we were before, both individually and as a couple. We now know we can weather a major storm, and we’ll be okay when the next one comes along (and they always come along). I’m more compassionate toward others who might be in pain, now that I know what it’s like to be smiling in public and dying on the inside. I learned a lot about myself and how I handle crisis, and we’ve learned about one another. We’ve uncovered the people we really are.

So if I had to do it all again, I would. Would you?

Our Stories: LuDexMommie

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our Stories“This infertility journey nearly broke me on multiple levels,” LuDexMommie* writes. She believed she deserved to have a child, and as multiple fertility treatments failed her, she found herself in a very dark place on the “hope-despair rollercoaster”. Now 39 and soon to be divorced, LuDexMommie acknowledges that she could keep trying, she could recruit a surrogate or adopt, but “I am loathe to open myself up to more pain.” We can relate, can’t we? More of her story is below.

LWB: Briefly describe your dream of motherhood:

LuDexMommie: I didn’t dream, I assumed. I could easily picture all the wonderful moments shared between my child and me. I knew there would be challenges, but I felt I had the capacity to excel at raising a child. In fact, I was so confident that I went to lengths to develop my career and put motherhood (and what I felt to be a requisite relationship) on hold. My philosophy was that if you worked hard enough at something, you would get it. But I never considered having to work to have a baby.

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

LuDexMommie: I have premature ovarian failure and adenomyosis, and I consumed infertility technology for three years to battle against this. I have had four IUIs, two IVF procedures with two different egg donors (one was my sister!), two transfers with donor embryos, and two surgeries. Out of all that, only two chemical pregnancies resulted with a hell of a lot of heartache and grief. Circumstances got me here, but I find myself moving toward choosing a childfree life.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

LuDexMommie: Over the past few months it became clear that my marriage is an irreversible source of frustration, not support. I have always had difficulty relating to the term “DH” [Darling Husband] that I read about on blogs. My husband was quite limited in what he was able to give to the relationship, so I am choosing to move forward alone. I am hoping to connect with others without a DH.

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

LuDexMommie: I wish I could take that cold, hard scar out of my heart and put it in someone else so they could instantly understand how much it hurts. I will not see an ultrasound picture of a baby growing inside of me. I will not brush my child’s curly hair. There won’t be recognition of myself in a child’s mannerisms. I cannot hug or kiss my child, and no one will run to me for comfort. I won’t be able to teach or learn from my child. I will not experience the pride that parents have for a variety of childhood “firsts”. There will be no school supplies, sports teams, musical instruments, birthday parties, scraped knees, bedtime stories, school dances, family vacations, or driving lessons. I won’t be mother of the bride or groom. No grandchildren for me. I anticipate loneliness. I anticipate pangs of jealously. I am fully aware that parenting is not all roses, but the decision to stop trying when so many rewards are possible is very, very difficult.

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

LuDexMommie: Getting “me” back, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Opening up choices for myself. Getting out of a dysfunctional relationship and making myself ready for a healthy one. Cultivating special relationships with my nieces and nephews. Simplifying my life. Recognizing my potential as a human being. Acknowledging the difficulties that having a child in my 40s would present, and taking advantage of the freedoms that being childfree affords.

LWB: What have you learned about yourself?

LuDexMommie: I am surprised that I’m willing to consider being childfree; I would not have predicted that when this process began. I learned what my limits are. I learned I am a positive person at my core, but not at the expense of being practical. I learned how people not going though infertility pain could not help me in the way that I wanted them to. I became more forgiving of obliviousness. I am still trying to understand what “grief work” is. I recognize better what makes me happy, what makes me anxious, and what I am willing to do. I am kinder to myself.

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

LuDexMommie: I say, “No. Do you have dogs?”

LWB: What’s your Plan B?

LuDexMommie: Ha! I’m way past Plan B. It’s time to rediscover myself and do things that make me happy.

 

*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_WednesdayIt’s Whiny Wednesday, your chance to gripe about the issues you’re dealing with this week. This week’s suggested topic is one we’ve all had to deal with:

 An over-abundance of work pregnancies

 I can relate to this one. When I was trying to conceive, I managed a small department of about eight people. One year we had three simultaneous pregnancies…and none of them was mine.

Whine away!

Guest Post: Infertility Cuts Men Up Too

By Sheridan Voysey

Childlessness isn’t just a “female thing.” It cuts a man up too.

I know. I’ve felt it—felt each stinging cut.

For ten years my wife, Merryn, and I dreamed of starting a family. Our journey in pursuit of that dream included special diets, courses of fertility-boosting supplements, healing prayer, and chiropractic sessions (yes, chiropractic sessions—you’ll try anything). The journey included numerous rounds of costly IVF treatment, and a year of assessment as potential adoptive parents followed by an agonising two-year wait for our hoped-for adoptive child.

We pursued our dream with all the energy we had. But our dream never eventuated.

Exhausted from a decade in the wilderness of infertility, we brought our dream of a baby to an end on Christmas Day, 2010, after doctors had told us, just days before, that our final IVF round had been successful. They’d been wrong.

I feel the loss of that hoped-for child today. I feel it when I see a father tickling his giggling daughter, or as I watch a family celebrate the birthday of their teenage son, or as I see a proud father walk his radiant, veiled daughter down the aisle. I hear a little voice at these moments that says, “You’ll never have that,” followed by a jolting sense of injustice. “It’s just not fair,” the voice says, “when we tried so hard to have a child.”

Yes, infertility can cut a man up.

It cuts a man up in more ways than the loss of fatherhood, though. Having written a book about Merryn’s and my experience of starting again after infertility, and sharing our story through speaking, I regularly have men confidentially email or pull me aside at conferences to share feelings they rarely share. “I can’t talk about this to my friends,” one guy told me. “I have low sperm count. I can’t father a child. That’ll hardly impress my football buddies.” For many men this threatened masculinity is the most difficult aspect of infertility.

The lost opportunity of fatherhood. Threatened masculinity. Infertility can bring a third kind of pain to a man too—a pain born of empathy.

Try watching your wife’s bottom lip quiver as the doctor delivers the results of those first fertility tests. Watch the sadness grow in her eyes—a sadness that may last for years.

Watch your wife’s face contort in pain as the needle extracting the eggs for your first IVF round goes in. Watch as she later recovers from the trauma in shocked silence.

Watch your wife wait in hope for the results of the blood test—for the phone call with the good news that you pray for. Watch time and again as her hope falls to the floor.

Watch as she waits, and waits, and waits for the phone call from the adoption agency. Any day now it could come—the call to collect our child. But the call never comes.

Watch as she sits on the bed, a circle of tissues around her and her eyes rubbed red. Watch as she cries night after night. Feel her body shake as you hold her.

Watch as she enters an identity crisis, wondering if she’ll ever become the person—the mother—she longs to be.

And watch as she struggles with the faith that once sustained her. Watch as she wonders if the God she prays to cares. If he cared, surely he’d give her a family.

Watch all this—watch and try not to be cut up. When the one you love most suffers so much, how can your soul not be ripped to shreds?

Over three years have passed since my wife and I brought our quest for a child to an end. We’re in a different place now—we’ve started life again. And our story is helping others who need their own new beginning after a broken dream.

But please know this: childlessness isn’t just a “female thing.” Infertility cuts a man up too. In more ways than you may know.

 

Sheridan Voysey is a UK-based writer, speaker, and broadcaster. His latest book, Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings, chronicles his and his wife’s journey to start life afresh after ten years of infertility. Follow him on Twitter @sheridanvoysey, Facebook, and get his articles and podcasts at www.sheridanvoysey.com.

It Got Me Thinking…About Getting Knocked Up

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Girl Thinking“If you’d really wanted to be a mother, you could have….”

OMG, how I hate sentences that start out like this. The advice the friend/parent/coworker/stranger then offers is well-intentioned (I hope), but so often feels shaming. It might be meant to be encouraging, but instead it comes down to “Clearly you didn’t want it badly enough.” Well, f*&% that!

As a long-time single woman who ran out of time, one of the pieces of advice I frequently received was “…you could have just knocked yourself up”—meaning I could have seduced some guy, “accidentally” neglected to use birth control, and duped him into being an unwitting sperm donor. Even writing this now, I find that so offensive. Morally, that does not align with who I am. Thinking about the deceit involved—whether the guy chose to marry me to make our child “legitimate” or whether I kept the pregnancy to myself and raised the child alone—makes my flesh crawl.

I guess the people who suggested this avenue thought it would be easy and victim-less, but I know better. My friend Paul (not his real name) was a very successful model. Early in his career, while he was in his late teens, he fell in love with a woman who was several years older, also a model. Their relationship was fiery, and ultimately heartbreaking for him when she broke it off after six months with no explanation. She refused his calls. She disappeared from his life, and he assumed she had traveled to another country for work, as he frequently did.

Six years later he was in New York when he ran into her on the street. Holding her hand was a beautiful little girl who clearly was Paul’s daughter. His former girlfriend coldly explained that she had chosen him for his genes, that she had never cared for him as a potential mate, that “her” daughter knew nothing about him, and that she wanted no part of him in their lives. When he shared this story with me years later, he was still devastated. My heart broke for him and for the girl who may never know the kind man who is her father.

I wanted to be a mother desperately, and I pursued many different options for having a child of my own. But when faced with the option of using and hurting other human beings, I realized a hard truth: I didn’t want it badly enough. And I do not regret my choice.

 

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