It Got Me Thinking…About “I’ll Nevers”

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Whenever I get tired of hearing myself whine about all the things I’ll never get to experience because I’m childfree—feeling a second heartbeat within my body and beaming with pride when someone says “She’s just like you”—I find I can put an end to my self-pity party by thinking about some of the annoying things I’ll never do. This includes:

1.  I’ll never ruin another couple’s romantic dinner because I’ve let my toddler run amok in a nice restaurant.

2.  I’ll never keep an entire airplane full of stressed-out businesspeople and weary travelers awake with my screaming infant, because if I can block out her cries, surely they can make an effort.

3.  I’ll never insist that, because my child is actually the smartest/most talented/most gifted kid in the group, he should get special treatment.

4.  I’ll never have to schedule a vacation to coincide with school holidays, so I won’t be part of the masses of humanity standing in line in front of you to get into the museum/amusement park/restroom stall.

5.  I’ll never say the words, “How would you know? You’re not a mother.”

6.  I’ll never offend a stranger by asking him to hold my child while I lift up my shirt, fumble with snaps, and flash my breasts before taking the kid back for a public feeding.

7.  I’ll never saddle a colleague with extra work because I have kids.

8.  I’ll never blow off a friend because I have kids.

9.  I’ll never tell my husband to go take a cold shower because I’m worn out from taking care of his kids.

10.  And I’ll never, ever con extended family into going on a Disney cruise.

What’s on your list?

Whiny Wednesday: People Who Don’t Appreciate Their Children

Whiny_Wednesday

Overheard outside my local café recently:

“I have three kids and I hate all of them.”

Can someone please explain to me why this jack@$$ gets to have the privilege of being a parent when so many lovely people I know (including myself) don’t?

It’s Whiny Wednesday. This week’s topic:

People Who Don’t Appreciate Their Children

What’s got you spitting nails this week?

Memorials and Milestones

By Lisa Manterfield

MP900214902It’s Memorial Day here in the U.S., another excuse to barbecue, but traditionally a time to remember members of the armed forces who gave their lives.

Last year, Mr. Fab asked that we go to the cemeteries where his relatives are buried. One of those cemeteries is also the place I had my big epiphany when I realized I was never going to have children. I hadn’t been back there since that day, now several years ago, and I knew it would be a loaded place for me, but it was time.

I went and I remembered. I gave myself permission to feel whatever I felt. I felt quiet and I felt sad. I took some time to just sit and look at the spot where I finally acknowledged I would never be a mother. I didn’t cry and I didn’t feel as if going there pushed me back into my sadness. I realized I was doing okay.

It’s important to remember where we’ve been, to acknowledge what’s been lost. It makes us who we are today, for better and for worse.Going back there marked another milestone on my road to recovery and each one gets a little easier

***

MP900214902On the topic of milestones, this site passed its own milestone recently. We now have over 2,000 members in the private community. If you’re not yet a member, I encourage you to join. That part of the site is password-protected, so you can chat freely and safely on the forums. There are always great conversations happening and it’s a good place to find support when you need it.  It doesn’t cost anything to become a member and you can sign up here.

***

You may have noticed a new Books page in the navigation bar. On this page you’ll now find all the Life Without Baby books, as well as all the books recommended by other readers.

The first three books in the Life Without Baby ebook series are now available as downloadable PDFs, as well as in ebook format from Amazon. You’ll find the links to each on the Books page. The final book in the series is in the works now and my hope is to have it, plus the complete print version available in the fall.

If you happen to have read the books, and if you found them helpful, I’d be most grateful if you would take a minute to leave a review on Amazon. It really helps me in a couple of ways: 1) It makes me feel good, 2) It helps other people to find the books when they search this topic, and 3) It enables me to keep this site funded (because there is some cost involved in keeping it free of baby product ads, spam, and internet trolls) and it moves Mr. Fab one tiny step closer to retirement, for which he will be most grateful. :-)

Our Stories: Karin

As told to Kathleen Guthrie Woods

Our StoriesAlthough she came from a very close extended family, Karin didn’t really think about motherhood until she experienced infertility in her early 30s. Then it became a “dream.” Now 41, she and her husband of 19 years find themselves in a place of mostly acceptance, but she feels somewhat alone in her concerns about the future. If you can relate, please reach out to her—to all of us—in the Comments.

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

Karin: We were first childfree by chance and now it’s by circumstance. After years of unexplained infertility, various drug treatments, one horrific miscarriage, and lots of ovulation kits, my husband and I decided to stop trying for children. At that point, I began a very intense hatred of my body. My [menstrual] cycles were very long and painful, and as I grew older, they got worse and worse. This only intensified the self-loathing I was carrying around. It got so bad that the only option I had left was a hysterectomy. Knowing that I was not going to be able to conceive without massive medical intervention, and knowing that path was not for us, I decided to go through with the hysterectomy. It was the best decision I have ever made. I feel like I got my life back! Thanks to mindfulness training, yoga, and that surgery, I’ve been able to accept my body again and, more important, regain peace.

LWB: Where are you on your journey now?

Karin: I’ve been in the acceptance phase for quite some time. I have a wonderful husband and a very fulfilling job. But the residual feelings of isolation and fear of the future are what dominates my infertility issues now.

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

Karin: The fear of who will take care of me when I am old. My grandparents were in wonderful assisted living facilities toward the ends of their lives, but they were still attended to by my mom and my aunts—everything from shopping for basic needs to handling the finances. I cannot think of anyone in my life now who I could rely on to help us in our old age. My husband is an only child, and my sister has only one daughter. I do not have the nieces and nephews that many others have and will hopefully rely on when the time comes. And this truly terrifies me. This is, by far, the most difficult issue for me now. I feel quite alone in this. I don’t think many other people who are childfree have this worry, or, if they do, it is not as intense as mine. Also, I am the only person in my immediate social circle who does not have children. I feel like all the feelings of loss and isolation will resurface when my friends become grandparents.

LWB: What have you learned about yourself?

Karin: That I’m stronger than I thought I could ever be. You read that going through infertility will make you a stronger person, but until you actually feel it, it’s hard to believe. I’ve also learned to live life as consciously as I can with as much compassion as I can muster. Living a life with as little harm as possible toward others, including the environment around me, is rewarding and purposeful. I didn’t feel it this intensely prior to trying for children.

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

Karin: I say “NOPE!” And if they ask why not, I simply say “We tried and it didn’t work out.” That usually stops people. Occasionally, people will ask why we didn’t adopt, and I say adopting does not cure infertility and we believe adoption is a calling that we just didn’t have.

LWB: How has LWB helped you on your journey?

Karin: It was the first community that got it!! Besides Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos’ book Silent Sorority, what else did we have? LWB has been so incredibly integral in my journey that it’s hard to put into words. I would, however, like to see more information or discussion by others about being childfree in old age and the new dynamics that will come into play when we are not just non-moms but non-grandmothers!

 

We’d love to hear your story! Go to the Our Stories page to get more information and the questionnaire.

Whiny Wednesday: Being Excluded

Whiny_WednesdayHave you ever been in a conversation with a group of women, only to watch the talk turn to motherhood and feel yourself fading into the background?

That’s the topic of this week’s Whiny Wednesday:

Being excluded from conversations because you don’t have children

Happy Whining!

In-person Support Group: Chicago

holding handsLong-time reader, Andi, emailed me recently to let me know she’s starting a local support group in Chicago for women and couples who are childfree-not-by choice.

If you’re in the area and would like to find out more, Andi has posted information on her community page. You can also contact her directly via email: ayakovitz [at] hotmail [dot] com.

I’m so pleased to hear that groups like Andi’s are forming and there are places for us to go to talk about this in person.

If you know of a group near you or if you’d like to start one, please use this site as a resource.

You can leave information in the comments (just beware of posting personal information and be sure to encrypt any email addresses.)

You can also form a regional group on the community pages, or post information in the forums. The information will be seen only by members, so you can safely post details there.

My Perfect Imperfect Life

By Lisa Manterfield

Courtesy Hasbro Games

Courtesy Hasbro Games

I’ve been taking a fantastic creative writing class at UCLA Extension. Each week, we start off with a writing exercise from a choice of prompts, and last week, one of the prompts was, “I’m tired of pretending my life isn’t perfect.” I almost took the prompt.

It’s not hard to write about the part of my life that is so obviously imperfect: the fact that I wasn’t able to have children. I could (and do) write about that broken bit. But if I took my life apart, I’d find lots of areas that aren’t perfect. Isn’t every life like that? Everyone has challenges, and life would probably be dull without them. But part of the thrill of living is overcoming life’s challenges. Without the obstacles there’s no glory of victory.

My life is flawed in many ways, as all lives are, but it’s also a good and happy life, and on the whole it’s pretty close to perfect. And it’s hard work to keep clinging to the idea that it isn’t. It’s tiring to keep feeling bad about the parts of my life that didn’t work out as planned.

I didn’t get to have children, and it’s true that, for a long period of time, it made my life feel empty and deeply flawed. But that changed over time. I worked to overcome that flaw, to seek and take advantage of the silver linings, to work through my sadness—by writing, in my case—by gathering this community and sharing our stories. My marriage made it through infertility. That’s a victory in itself. And while there are still many challenges in my life, few of them are related to my childlessness anymore.

So, yes, I am a flawed human, with challenges to face, but I no longer wish to pretend my life isn’t perfect, just as it is, warts and all.

(And by the way, I didn’t take the prompt because there was another that sparked an idea. I’m glad I took that one instead, because that exercise turned into short story instead.)

It Got Me Thinking…About Greener Grass

By Kathleen Guthrie Woods

It was early in the morning on a national holiday. I was walking to our gym when I passed one of our neighbors as she loaded kids and gear into a minivan.

“Off to the gym?” she asked, grunting as she hoisted a toddler into his car seat.

“Yup.”

“I would give anything to trade places with you.”

For a split second I paused, then replied with the only response that seemed appropriate. “I’m sorry.”

As I continued down the street, it dawned on me that for the first time in years I wasn’t feeling (a) judgmental (she was, after all, dissing her kids) or (b) wistful. So often in the past I would have thought how I would have traded anything to have precious kids of my own, but now, not so much. I was pretty happy with the prospect of spending my holiday taking care of myself, maybe even reading a book or taking a nap instead of having to read a book to someone else hoping he would settle down for a nap.  I didn’t feel sorry for or envious of my neighbor, and I didn’t want to trade my grass for her grass. The grass was perfectly green on my side of the street.

Me thinks the healing process has begun.

Whiny Wednesday: When Technology Attacks!

Whiny_WednesdayMy whine this week is all about this site. Last week, like a dutiful blogger, I did my regular monthly system updates… and all hell broke loose!

As I’m sure you saw firsthand, the comment button vanished into thin air, making it impossible to post comments. Yeah, three days before Mother’s Day and this site is as good as useless.

Added to that, the updates also changed my very rigid spam filters, and while no spam made it onto the site itself, my inbox was overflowing with ads for cheap Oakley sunglasses and knock-off Louis Vuitton.

Everything’s more or less back to normal now, thank goodness (and thanks to a WordPress Wizard who works weekends!) I appreciate patience over the past week. But honestly, it’s times like these I wish we could all meet up for coffee in-person instead of online.

It’s Whiny Wednesday and it’s open forum today. Whatever’s on your mind, feel free to unload it here!

I’m Sorry for Your Loss

By Lisa Manterfield

thoughtsYou may have seen the recent article about a cancer survivor who designed her own line of honest greetings cards, the kind she wishes she’d received while she was going through treatment.

It struck me how many of these sentiments apply to us and what a difference it would have made for someone to send this kind of message to me, to acknowledge my grief and loss, and offer just a word of support.

The idea sent me on a quest to see if such cards exist, and what sentiments they conveyed. I was encouraged to find some thoughtful miscarriage and baby loss cards, with texts such as:

“My heart aches for you, and I am here to call on when you feel alone.”

“Please know that prayers and thoughts of love and care are being sent your way.”

“Please know that you’re surrounded by heartfelt sympathy for your loss as you gently lay your dreams to rest.”

You can see these cards here.

But, when I went looking for infertility cards, I found something entirely different. Most of the card were cheery and encouraging, along the lines of “Don’t give up!” “It will happen when it happens, so get some sleep while you can,” and the ever-encouraging “God has a plan for you, so be patient.” (I’m paraphrasing in all these cases, but not much.) In fact, almost all the cards had texts that would make the list of the very last you want to hear.

So, I’m wondering, would you have appreciated an appropriate card from an understanding loved one? If so, what would you have wanted it to say? (Greetings card companies, take note!)

Good news! The comments are back online. Sorry for the recent absence and the terrible timing. Hope everyone made it through the weekend okay. ~Lisa