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.

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.

It Got Me Thinking…About the Story Time

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

I am going to be a “mystery reader”! This is nothing like a mystery shopper, someone who goes into a store, shops a bit, then rates the service. Instead, I am the mystery. On a given day, after tantalizing clues about my identity have been revealed, I will surprise my 6-year-old nephew when I show up to read a story to him and his fellow first-graders.

I about leapt out of my chair when I read the invitation my sister forwarded from the teacher to aunts and uncles, grandparents, and special friends. “I AM SO IN!!!!” I replied. I love reading to my nieces and nephews. Bedtime stories with friendly monsters, fairytales with happy endings, wild yarns that tickle the imagination; hand me any book and we’ll read it together. Before I moved closer to them, I even checked out books from the children’s section of the library, made up silly voices for each of the characters, and read to them over the phone.

My date isn’t until after the new year, but I immediately started thinking about my selection. Make Way for Ducklings is a personal favorite from my childhood. I regularly give Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too as shower and first birthday gifts. Dr. Seuss, wild rumpusses, Shel Silverstein, the many adventures of Winnie the Pooh…and then it hit me. I’ve been giving these beloved books as gifts for years, but I don’t have any of them on my own shelves.

Dangitall! I always assumed I’d have a shelf full of children’s storybooks, and I imagined how I would teach little ones how to read then sit in awe as they discovered the joys of reading for themselves. I looked forward to becoming reacquainted with my favorite characters, experiencing precious stories through a grown-up perspective, and appreciating anew the artistry that goes into creating them. I’ve been making such good progress in coming-to-terms with my childfree status that I didn’t see this left hook coming. Like with so many of our experiences as childfree women, something that made me so happy also makes me so very sad.

I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and pick a story that I think will be fun for everyone. It’s no mystery that I’m going to savor every moment I have with my wee audience. Meanwhile, I tip my hat to the thoughtful teacher who came up with the mystery reader program and is giving me the opportunity, just for one morning, to live in my fantasy world.

Whiny Wednesday: When We Were Kids

Whiny_Wednesday

A college friend just posted a photo of her son at his high school graduation.

It got my attention because the “kids” weren’t much younger than my friend and her now-husband were when I first met them, and, as the boy looks like his father, the photo reminded me of them and how flipping long it’s been since I was in school.

It also caused a pang of sadness for another experience I won’t get to have. I won’t get to send my teen off to college or take a photo of him and realize he’s a carbon copy of his dad.

It’s Whiny Wednesday, and today I’m feeling whiny about how unfair life can be.

Cooking for Two

By Lisa Manterfield

MP900182714Here’s how I know I was supposed to have kids:

I am totally unable to cook for only two people.

Even though I was one person for a long time and my family has been two for over a decade, I still cook for a family of five. There are always leftovers in my fridge and I often turn the remnants of one meal into something different.

Maybe it’s because I grew up in a family of five and learned to cook for five that I can’t seem to downsize my portions. Or maybe there’s just a part of me that’s pure old-fashioned mother and wants to feed everyone. “Eat, eat! How are you going to grow big if you don’t eat?”

Well, Mr. Fab and I are growing big on my cooking, and now that my mother is visiting, I’ll be fattening her up to.

Do you have a maternal instinct that you can’t seem to shake off?