It Got Me Thinking…About (Not) Giving Up

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTThe coach was disengaged, half of the team hadn’t shown up, which meant our team was down two players compared to their opponents, and our girls couldn’t seem to make any progress toward the goal. They were being humiliated, and, by the half, my niece was beyond discouraged. No one out there that day would have blamed them for forfeiting the game, however….

As she came over to my brother and me on the sidelines, we had our pep talk ready, built on years, if not decades, of experience in disappointments and failures.

“Your teammates are giving 110%, they’re playing with their whole hearts. You can’t give up on them!”

“See it through, finish what you started. Get out there and do your best, and I promise you will feel proud of yourself for the effort.”

“Choose your attitude! Get in it to win it!”

As she jogged back out on the field and rallied her teammates, I wondered if we’d given her the right advice. Perhaps this should have been a lesson in losing gracefully? But what was done was done, and we watched as those amazing young women pulled together as a team, turned the tide, and won the game…by three points!

It was an awesome experience, one that I am so glad I was able to share with her. It was thrilling to witness her incredible triumph. And as I drove home, I reflected upon what the lesson had been for me. It wasn’t, “Don’t give up! Give one last miracle for having a baby a go!” I’m way past that. Instead, what I heard from the sweet, small voice deep inside me was, “Don’t give up on yourself. You have something to offer the world, so keep your eye on the goal and keep kicking!”

Have I been down, beaten, discouraged, humiliated? Oh, yes. Would anyone fault me for staying down? Maybe. But today I choose to get back up, and I hope you’ll get up with me and give it—whatever “it” may be for you—one more try. You—yes, YOU!—have something special to offer the world. Don’t give up!

 

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

Whiny Wednesday

Whiny_WednesdayHappy Whiny Wednesday! I hope you’re doing okay today. If not, this is the place to get it off your chest.

This week we turn to spotlight on the men in our lives and discuss the topic of:

Spouses or partners who aren’t dealing or healing

If you have one of these, we’d like to hear to about it.

Dealing With the Day-to-Day Challenges

By Lisa Manterfield

WorkBook3_3DThe third book in the new Life Without Baby ebook series is out today. In Dealing With the Day-to-Day Challenges I tackle all those issues we talk about here on the blog, including what to say when someone asks if you have kids, how to handle surprise pregnancy announcements, and how to get through social events and holidays.

I sent an early draft of the book to Kathleen, who offered me lots of great notes for improvement. In fact, one of her comments resulted in an entire new chapter. She said that while it’s important to cover the big issues that come up for us, one of the biggest day-to-day challenges, especially in the early stages, can be simply getting out of bed and bracing ourselves to face a world that seems to have shut us out.

I really appreciated her insight, because the truth is I’d forgotten what it was like to lie in bed in the morning and absolutely dread having to get up and face people. I’d forgotten what it was like to go to work each day being constantly on guard in case anyone said anything to flip the switch on my emotions again. I’d forgotten how often I seriously considered staying in bed and hoping it would all just go away.

I hope I’ve managed to tackle all those issues in this book, and I want to say a big “thank you” to Kathleen for her insight and for the amazing work she’s done editing the whole series.

Workbook 3: Dealing With the Day-to-Day Challenges is now out on Amazon, along with books 1 and 2 in the series. If you’ve read the books and found them helpful, I’d be very grateful if you’d consider adding a review on Amazon. It can help really help other people find the books—especially those women in the early stages who’ve yet to discover that they aren’t alone after all.

Our Stories: Diana

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesI was so excited to see a new story pop up in my inbox. I love getting to know our members, and I’m always encouraged when I can see a bit of myself in their stories.

Once I started reading, though, my excitement turned to heartache and compassion. Diana, 39, has had a long and difficult journey, and today she’s still in a very dark place. I’m not going to sugarcoat this: Her responses to our questions are real and raw, and I appreciate her being so candid.

It’s possible she hasn’t been able to talk with anyone who truly understands what she’s going through or can offer real support, and that’s where we come in. The members of Life Without Baby have sympathy in spades. We’ve either been there or we are there, we know how it feels, and we are pretty good about knowing what to say and what not to say.

After you read Diana’s story, I hope you’ll take a moment to reach out to her in the Comments, perhaps to share how you’ve found some light in the darkness.

If you’re in a similar situation, please reach out for help. You can start by connecting with other LWB members in the Community Forums.

LWB: Please describe your dream of motherhood.

Diana: I have always dreamed of becoming a mother. Always. I constantly feel that something is missing and nothing can make up for it.

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

Diana: I am childfree because my husband is sterile. We found out two years after we were married.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Diana: After 13 years, I’m still depressed. I have anxiety attacks, and I am nowhere near accepting the fact that I don’t have a child.

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

Diana: My motherly instinct is stronger than ever, and I feel like there is a constant emptiness in my heart.

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

Diana: Absolutely nothing.

LWB: What’s one thing you want other people to know about your being childfree?

Diana: Quit telling me to enjoy my life and travel and do things for myself. You don’t understand the emptiness. Materialistic things do not take the void away.

LWB: What do you look forward to now?

Diana: Nothing. I have good days and bad days. I just go through the motions.

 

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. 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 topic is for those of you who arrived here via the infertility route.

Do you feel you were left hanging by the fertility industry?

Okay, I know that’s a loaded question, so if you don’t feel like jumping in on this topic, or if it doesn’t apply to you, feel free to bring your own whine to the party this week.

Nothing is Crazy

By Lisa Manterfield

Furious womanI nicknamed my infertility journey “The Crazy Train.” It felt crazy because of the endless cycle of doctors and opinions that never seemed to get results. It was crazy because of the rollercoaster of emotions I experienced, one day feeling full of hope and certain it was going to happen for me, and the next sobbing my heart out because everything felt hopeless. And it was also crazy because of the things I told myself, the beliefs I chose to adopt to get myself through the mess, the potions, old wives’ tales, and witchcraft (quite literally) I tried in the hopes of conceiving.

But when someone referred to me as “crazy” for what I did, I took offense. Because nothing on this journey is really crazy.

Everything I did was something that was right for me at the time. All my behavior came out of an ever-mounting cycle of determination and frustration. And only when I met others like me who’d also been on that journey, and also thought they were crazy, did I realize how absolutely normal I was.

So, if you’ve been feeling like you’re losing your mind or if you’re wondering if you’re crazy, rest assured you’re not. Because nothing is crazy on this journey; it’s all perfectly normal.

It Got Me Thinking…About Taking One Day at a Time

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTI really thought I was healed, or at least was very close. I had released what I felt I’d been cheated out of and was actively embracing a Plan B. I felt like a trailblazer, a role model, a success story.

Oh, how the mighty fall.

My demise came in the form of a photo on Facebook of a dear friend, her wonderful husband, and their two beautiful children decorating their Christmas tree together. Something I will never get to do. One look at that image and I lost it.

We’re talking throwing-family-ornaments-in-the-trash kind of lost it. All the anger, bitterness, hurt, shame, heartaches, sadness, unfairness, why-not-me-ness I thought I’d worked out of my system came roaring back. It was epic. It was ugly.

Fortunately, I got talked back out of my hell-hole by an understanding husband and compassionate friend. The tossed ornaments were retrieved, my body was hugged, my spirit was soothed.

Humbled, and more than a little embarrassed, I took a fresh look at myself and again was reminded that the whole grieving-to-healing journey is not a straight A-to-B process. It’s crooked, jagged, with obstacles, speed bumps, and small triumphs followed by stubbed toes.

My friends who have battled alcohol addiction know quite a bit about this, about what it means to be in recovery, and I think we can benefit from their wisdom and experience. When the temptation to slide back down grows strong, when our resolve is weakened, when recovery seems like too much work or unachievable, we can borrow some of their slogans and tell ourselves:

Keep it simple.

Easy does it.

First things first.

Just for today.

How important is it?

Keep an open mind.

Live and let live.

Let go and let God.

One day at a time.

I now keep these reminders on my desktop, within reach for when I need a boost or in case I feel a new meltdown coming on. Perhaps one of them will help you today.

 

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

 

 

Dealing With Issues and Protecting Yourself

By Lisa Manterfield

300px-Cnl03I’ve learned a lot from my experience of navigating the world as an unwillingly childless woman. I’ve learned that it’s not a straight road of recovery, where you get progressively better day after day, and where challenges become easier to handle each time you encounter them. It’s more like a wild slip’n slide, where you get up, fall down, make progress and sometimes get hurt—sometimes all in the same day.

When I first started trying to navigate my new path in life, I took a very cavalier attitude, putting on a brave face and telling myself I could handle whatever challenges came my way. I was strong enough, I thought, to volunteer at my local hospital’s NICU, to visit friends and hold their newborn babies, and to keep pretending everything was okay, when it wasn’t.

If I had to do it all again, I’d be kinder to myself. I’d take note of how I was really feeling, and treat myself accordingly. I’d understand that there are stages to the healing process and I’d assess where I was before deciding how much I could handle. For example:

Stage 1: Protection

In the early stages—maybe when I’d just made the decision to let go of my dream of motherhood, or I was feeling especially vulnerable—I’d take drastic steps to protect myself. This might mean saying no to events I felt obligated to attend and more-or-less hibernating during the most difficult ones. I’d know I wasn’t going to do this forever, but I’d also know that it was okay to put my own needs first.

Stage 2: Experimentation

In this stage, I’d start to step carefully out in the world again. I might have events I was worried about attending, but if I really wanted to go, I’d say yes to the invitation. I might not feel like being social, but I’d make an effort to test myself, to go out knowing someone would ask if I had children, and hoping I’d be ready with an answer. These would be the days that gave me hope that this would eventually get better over time.

Stage 3: The New Normal

This is the stage I’m in most of the time now, but it took me some time to get here. I’ve worked through my grief and found my own ways to manage tough scenarios. I can answer questions like “Do you have kids?” calmly, and I’ve found ways to reinvent the holidays so I can enjoy them again. I am a childless woman and I’m okay with telling people that. I can even answer them if they decide to ask prying questions or make assumptions about why I don’t have children.

If I’d understood these stages earlier, I might have cut myself a little more slack when my emotions caught up with me or I got caught out in a situation I thought I could handle.

What do you think? Have you moved through similar stages and was it a linear path for you, or was it more the slip’n slide version?

It Got Me Thinking…About It’s Never Too Late—Really!

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

IGMTAmong my darker days are those when I’ve wallowed in the belief that I’ve wasted my life. I spent my childhood, my teenage and college years, and the decades leading to my 40s dreaming about and preparing to be a mommy.

Joke’s on me, right?

Sure, I’ve had some fun adventures along the way, had some big career wins, made amazing friends, but I can’t help but think about what I might have done with those youthful years if I’d known in advance I wasn’t going to have children. I might have taken more risks (trained as a racecar driver), made bolder choices (I could have lived in New York—or Provence!), pursued different interests (culinary school, Taiko drumming, raising and curing my own olives).

As I continue to grow older (fortunately) and gain more perspective, I’m seeing that most of those opportunities are still open to me. And when I feel discouraged, I’m finding a lot of encouragement in the world around me.

Specifically, let me introduce you to Ms. Willie Murphy. In 2010, she started lifting weights for the first time in her life, beginning with five-pound dumbbells. In 2014, she was named 2014 Lifter of the Year by the World Natural Powerlifting Federation when she deadlifted 215 pounds. Did I mention she was 77-years-old at the time? (Watch an interview with her and see her lift here.)

video still credit: Lauren Petracca

video still credit: Lauren Petracca

And even though the world, especially the fashion world, seems youth-obsessed, take a look at the face of French fashion brand Céline’s 2015 spring campaign: writer Joan Didion, looking oh-so-stylish at 80!

photo credit: Céline Spring 2015 Campaign

photo credit: Céline Spring 2015 Campaign

“I never used the words ‘I can’t’,” Murphy says. “I would just simply say, ‘I will try.’” And those, my dear sisters, are words to live by.

 

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 topic is the antithesis of the “People who talk about nothing but their kids” topic, but it can be just as difficult to deal with:

 People who assume you don’t want to be around         their kids

 Feel free to bring your own topics to the comments if this isn’t what’s on your nerves this week.