It’s Okay to Enjoy Other People’s Kids During the Holidays

Hanging out with cousin Francis and the offspring of my cousins Rob and Candace.

Dear friends,

I survived Thanksgiving. 1636 miles of driving. Four different motels. Some much-needed hugs and talks with loved ones, too much good food, and getting reacquainted with my niece, nephew, cousins, and six children ranging from five months to six years old, and two dogs. Exhausting but also wonderful. Three of the little ones were my brother’s grandchildren. The other three belong to my cousin. Thanks to Covid, the kids hadn’t seen me in two years. They weren’t quite sure who I was at first, but we worked that out. I have precious memories of playing in the sandbox, making pretend meals, snuggling, and talking. So sweet. So fun. So loud and messy. 🙂 And no, I didn’t feel bad about not having children. Maybe it’s my age, but I was able to just enjoy the children for the magical beings they are. 

Being an aunt rocks. I hope I don’t have to stay away so long next time. One of the little cousins has been video-chatting with me on Facebook messenger. It’s so fun to see her gap-toothed smile on the screen. I think I need to do more online visits. Aunt Sue is tired of driving. 

Will they come to Oregon to visit me? Maybe, maybe not. Young families are not as portable as single adults like me. Watching their struggles for a few days has opened my eyes to the challenges of parenthood that come between the cute baby phase and sending them off to college. I need to make the effort because they just don’t have the time or the energy right now. That may be true in your family, too. 

Only now that I’m back at home do I feel lonely and miss the company and the commotion. If you are finding the holidays very painful right now, believe me when I say that they will become easier as you pass menopause and move on to other possibilities. 

So, tell me. How did your Thanksgiving go? Are there things you did this year that you will not do next year? Did you try my suggestions from last week about speaking up when people say stupid things about you not having children? Please share in the comments. Thanksgiving was just the warmup. Hanukkah is happening now, and Christmas is coming at us like a runaway stagecoach. We need all the support we can get.

Hugs from Aunt Sue 

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Don’t Let the Holidays Get You Down This Year

Thanksgiving is upon us again. Maybe, like me, you have already left home and are among the people with whom you’re going to celebrate the holiday. Maybe, like me, you will be seeing people you haven’t seen since the pandemic started. Now, masked and vaccinated, you’re hoping it’s safe, at least from Covid-19.

You may already be facing the questions from friends and family that drive you crazy. “Hey, when are you going to have kids? “Don’t you want to have kids?” “I want to be a grandmother. Where are my grandkids?” “You’re looking a little chubby. Are you pregnant?”

You could spend the whole holiday sulking. But don’t. I hope we have learned something in our time of isolation. My prescription for this year is to be honest. Don’t just think it; say it. Don’t mutter to yourself or your partner. Tell people how you feel. “Mom, those questions really hurt.” “We are trying.” “No, we haven’t decided yet.” “My partner does not want to have children, and I have decided to support him in that.” “We’re having trouble getting pregnant.” “I just don’t want to talk about it.” “Please don’t say things like that; it hurts.” “It’s hard for me to be around your kids when I may never have any of my own.” Tell the truth. If people don’t take it well, that’s their problem. If they love you, they will do their best to understand and support you. Maybe next time someone says something hurtful, a family member will say, “Hey, get off her back. She’s working on it.”

There’s always the option to skip the turkey fest and go eat burritos somewhere nobody knows you. Or stay home and watch Netflix. But why miss the good parts of the holiday? I know there are things you are thankful for. If you get to hang out with other people’s kids, enjoy them. If you like pumpkin pie, enjoy the pie.

Don’t silently fume and go cry in the bathroom. Share your burden. it will be lighter if you do.

I dictated this post while driving south on I-5 in California. I know there will be less than perfect moments. My niece’s kids haven’t seen me in so long they won’t know who I am. But I’ll just have to get to know them because they are magical little people.

If you are grieving, think about a woman at my church who has suffered many losses, including the death of a daughter and the loss of her eyesight. She allows herself to cry for five minutes a day, then says, “Shirley, get on with it,” and moves on. Take your five minutes, then let it go for a while.

I am thankful for you. Last week when I was falling apart, you were on my side. Together, we can do this.

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Those Moments When You Really Wish You Had Kids

Photo by Tara Winstead on Pexels.com

As I was standing tiptoe on the step stool after replacing a light bulb in the office, fighting to hold the glass cover, the metal thing that goes over the hole and the knobby thing you need to screw in to hold it tight, my arms screamed in pain, and I knew that any second I would either fall or drop everything. No wonder my father and my mother-in-law waited for the “kids” to come over when their lights burned out. I’ve had four go this week. I have run out of bulbs. The fixture over the kitchen is hanging crooked because I couldn’t get the metal plate thing back on and gave up. Also, plaster from the ceiling above the fixture was falling into my hair.

I got the office light hung because I had to. I was still in my bathrobe at the time. When I went to get a blouse out of the closet, the sliding door came off its track. It’s wide and heavy, and I have a bad back. It’s sort of in place now, but I’m afraid to touch it. It’s like this all over the house. I’m perfectly willing to pay someone, but finding a reliable handyperson around here is difficult. I have had several. Some were drunk, some were idiots, and some came once to start a job and never returned. Then there’s the guy who hung a door meant for indoor use on my garden shed. In the cold weather it has buckled and swollen to the point I can’t open it. I had to borrow a shovel from my neighbor because all my tools are in there, along with the spare key to the house.

It’s crazy to live in a four-bedroom house alone. I do not want to move into a senior residence like several of my friends have done lately. I just want someone to help me take care of things. Lacking a husband makes it hard, but most women outlive their husbands. I can look back at the women in my family who gutted it out alone. But they all had adult children who helped them, who did everything for them in their very old age. I know, I know, having children is no guarantee they’ll be around to help, but most of the time they are.

The view from my window today is gorgeous. Blue sky behind winter-bare alders and spruce trees. Red deck and railing that I painted myself. A lush green lawn. I love my home. But there’s that door I can’t open. And the kitchen fuse blew for no reason the other night.

I’m a family of one woman and one old dog who follows me around expecting me to take care of everything. Married people who have children soon expand to more and more people. Husband and kids. Grandkids. Great-grandkids. And all of their spouses. So many people. And I’m just one.

The other night in the hot tub—repaired recently at huge cost, and now I wonder if it’s leaking—it occurred to me that if I had had children with my first husband, they would be in their 40s by now, and their children would be in their teens or 20s. There might even be a great-grandchild. If I had had children with Fred, they would be in their mid-30s. And I would not be driving alone to California for Thanksgiving. I’d be spending the holidays with my kids. In a self-pitying fit of depression, I shouted to the world, “I should have had kids! I fucked up!”

And the world said . . . nothing. So I buried myself in work and got over it. If you dwell on these things, you’ll go nuts. The truth is, I didn’t f-up. I never really had the opportunity. End of story.

I should be boosting you up, giving you advice. But this is the 773rd post at the Childless by Marriage blog, and I’m running dry. Please, tell me your stories. Submit a guest post. Share in the comments how you get past those moments when you just can’t stand it, when you might have very logical reasons for being childless, but suddenly none of them make sense. Most of you are much younger than me and are still in the middle of your journey. Tell us about it.

We’ll talk about Thanksgiving next week. Between now and then, you might want to attend Jody Day’s webinar “Reclaiming the Childless Holidays!”  next Saturday. If you can’t attend the live presentation (9 a.m. PST), you can watch the recording later. Register here. https://bit.ly/3wVam9p I signed up.

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Would You Choose to Become a Single Mother?

When you commit your life to a partner who is unable or unwilling to have children with you, you make a choice. You give up motherhood or fatherhood in exchange for the love of this man or woman. Many of us at Childless by Marriage have made this choice. But what about the other option? What if you decide having a child is more important than having this partner?

We haven’t talked much here about single parenthood, but more and more women are going that route. When I was growing up, it was a huge scandal to become pregnant outside of marriage, and for many, keeping the baby was not an option. You had an abortion or gave the child up for adoption. But now, 41 percent of births in the U.S. are to single mothers. Of those, at least a third were planned. Many of today’s young adults grew up in single-parent homes or other forms of non-traditional family. To them, it doesn’t seem so strange to embark on single parenthood.

In a Nov. 3 interview on the “Ladies Like Us” podcast, Lori Wear, a single mom who coaches other single moms, told her story. Her first marriage didn’t work out, and she was not finding a suitable partner among the men she dated. In her 30s, she decided that if she didn’t have a child by age 40, she would do it alone. Now she has two children, conceived with donor sperm. She had wanted to use her own eggs, but when those proved not viable, she used donor eggs.

There’s no shame in it, Wear says. “Single mothers by choice is another version of a family.”

When you start looking around, single mothers pop up everywhere. In the past, one became a single parent only by divorce or death of the other parent. That still happens, of course. But now women are becoming single mothers on purpose.

An HBOmax movie titled “Single Mother by Choice” follows a woman who becomes pregnant on her own during the pandemic. It shows the joys and the challenges of going solo.

Two websites, http://www.choicemoms.org and https://www.singlemothersbychoice.org, offer information and support for the whole process, from thinking about having a child to taking care of it after it’s born.

Choosing to have a baby on your own is a bold choice, but more and more women are making it. Some get pregnant with sperm from a friend. Some use an anonymous sperm donor. Some freeze their eggs so that they can become pregnant when they feel ready. Some skip the pregnancy and adopt. None of this is easy, but they are determined to be parents and not willing to wait for the perfect partner.

Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, author of “Single Motherhood by Choice” for medium.com, wrote that she decided when she turned 40 to conceive with donor sperm. “I figured that I had the rest of my life to meet Mr. Right and a father for my child, but only a tiny window to have that child.”

The stigma of being an unmarried mother has eased. Only the most conservative among us would speak ill of an unmarried mother or call her children bastards. They’re just children now. With most women working, we can support ourselves and a child without the help of a husband. It may not be easy, the wage disparity is still there, but it can be done.

I believe it’s easier to have children with a partner and two incomes. But if you find yourself without that partner, that doesn’t mean you can’t have children.

I’m not going into the nitty gritty of how to become a single parent. This is the Childless by Marriage blog, after all, and I don’t want to leave the men out. Guys, have you thought about acquiring a child or two on your own? What, besides the obvious lack of a uterus, would stop you? Women, what do you think? Have you considered adopting or getting pregnant on your own? Do you know any single parents? Would you do it? Why or why not?

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Once a Dog Mom, Always a Dog Mom, I Guess

It’s 6 a.m., rainy and dark here on the Oregon coast.  My dog Annie is sleeping beside my bed, but I have work to do. I’ll be quiet so as not to wake her. She needs her sleep, and I need time to focus without her nudging me for food and attention.

“Writer/musician/dog mom,” it says at the beginning of the bio I use when I submit my writing to publishers. Dog mom. Other writers’ bios say “X lives with her husband and children in X,” but this is what I offer.

My dog Annie is old now, almost 14. She’s can’t hear. She’s arthritic and loaded with benign fatty tumors. She has a permanent head tilt since her bout with vestibular disease last winter. When we walk now, she weaves back and forth, unable to stay in a straight line. I know one of these days she will die. I will have cared for her through her entire life from puppy to old dog.

Today she is sleeping next to my bed, and I’m wondering if I should call the vet about her constant itching and licking. It’s always something. That’s parenthood. That’s also caregiving, not so different from what I did for my husband and my parents before they died although I didn’t have to dry them off after they went out in the rain to relieve themselves.

In a couple weeks, I plan to leave Annie overnight for the first time since the pandemic began. I am finally going to see my family in California. I have hired a dog-sitter who will sleep here and watch the house as well as Annie. No way could I put my dog in the kennel or leave her alone with someone dropping in twice a day to put kibble in her bowl. When she was younger, yes, but not now. She’s not just a dog. She’s my best friend, my baby, and my family. Dogs are not children. They don’t grow up, move out on their own and become independent adults dropping in occasionally to visit “mom.” They are your responsibility till they die.

Annie has fallen in love with my neighbor Cheryl and her partner Alec. When we walk, she drags me to their house. On good days we sit in the sun, and on rainy days we sit inside. As we talk, I watch Annie every minute because this old dog suddenly acts like a puppy or a toddler. She’s into everything. She devours the cats’ food. She runs off down the hall exploring. I’m constantly removing items from her mouth, whether it’s a garden tag, a stray piece of plastic, or a dropped popcorn puff she found beneath a chair. “What’s she up to now?” is our theme song until she finally wearies and takes a nap.

I can’t imagine life without a dog, yet I’m beginning to think Annie might have to be the last one. Or at least the last big dog. Many of my aging dog mom friends are saying the same thing. We want to travel. We want to be free of constant care. We worry about tripping over the dog and breaking a hip.

I know I can’t have another dog that I can’t pick up and put in the car. Annie is too heavy to lift, and, after two knee surgeries, she can’t jump. Getting her to the vet in an emergency is a nightmare.

But who am I without my baby? Without being a dog mom? I’m thinking of fostering dogs in need of homes. Or maybe I’ll get a small dog. Because I’ll still be a dog mom.

Dogs are not children, even if some of us put them in baby strollers or dress them up for Halloween. They are beautiful creatures, my favorite in the whole world. But they are not children. On our walks, I greet the neighbors’ dogs by name. Hey Oakley, hey Dewey, hey Harley, hey Scout. Hey Booboo, nice sweater. The children? I don’t know their names. I’m a dog mom.

When people ask about my children, I don’t counter that I have a dog. I say no, no kids. Having dogs is not the same. It’s a wonderful thing, but not a substitute for children. A dog will never call you on the telephone or sit by your hospital bed. They won’t sort your stuff when you die. But they will snuggle with you by the fireplace on a cold night and force you to get out and walk in the rain when you’d rather watch another episode on Netflix. They will love you unconditionally and don’t care whether you are dressed up or look like an unmade bed.

Writer/musician/dog mom—yes, I’ll probably get another dog when Annie goes. She won’t be Annie, but she’ll be my friend. My companion. My baby.

And now my baby wants breakfast. And a cookie. And an arthritis chewy. Gotta go.

The Christmas season has begun already, not even taking time for a breath after Halloween. Hang in there. Meanwhile, tell us about your dogs and how they are or are not your babies. I look forward to your comments. 

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Surviving a Childless–and COVID–Halloween

Halloween is a non-event when you live alone with no children around. Or it can be. Amid the Facebook barrage of babies and kids in Halloween costumes, Annie the dog and I will live a normal day. Because Halloween is on Sunday this year, I’ll go to church. I’ll walk the dog. I’ll do laundry. I’ll meet with my poetry group. After dark, I will sit in my living room watching something on Netflix. I’m not even going to bother to turn on the porch light. Nobody comes trick-or-treating out here in the woods. It’s too dark and too dangerous, with no sidewalks and wild animals lurking among the trees. In normal years, the few families with kids take them elsewhere to trick-or-treat.

Thanks to COVID, a lot won’t be going anywhere. Some will attend “trunk or treat” drive-through events or gather at local churches. But kids will still be wearing costumes and still expecting candy, even if it all comes from their parents. My neighbors have their Halloween graveyard display set up, many have pumpkins on their porches, and I’ve got orange lights in my window. But we’re not expecting little kids to come knocking on our doors.

Years ago, I asked him about Halloween when he was a kid growing up on a ranch in California back in the 1920s and ‘30s. Did he go trick-or-treating? No, he said. He never did. The houses were spread too far. There were no street lights. Did he have a costume? Nope. The most that happened at his house was that his father might carve a pumpkin. Jack-o-Lantern, he called it. I suspect his mother used the insides to make pies. You couldn’t just throw out food during the Depression.

It was different when my brother and I were growing up. We couldn’t wait to put on our costumes and go up and down the street filling our bags with candy while Mom handed out candy at our house. We knew almost everyone in the houses and all the kids on the street. It was like a big party. I can still taste the green suckers and the Three Musketeers bars.

Times have changed. Now we have COVID. Now people worry about giving kids too much sugar. Now people worry about needles in apples and drugs in cookies. They worry about someone hurting their children. And some of us are alone.

In his last few years, my dad sat in his living room watching TV with the lights off as Halloween went on without him. It was too difficult for him to get up and answer the door. His own children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren lived far away, so he would never see them in their costumes. Unlike most people, he didn’t own a computer or a smart phone to view photos on social media. Mostly he worried about hooligans damaging his lawn or his house.

I was visiting my father in California on his last Halloween at home. I bought candy, put it in a bowl by the door and handed it out to the kids who came. Dad got a kick out of their costumes.

But my father died two years ago, the house was sold and subsequently torn down, and I’m alone in Oregon. Halloween is a hard holiday. I enjoy the fun of costumes, kids, and candy. But not being a mother or grandmother, I’m not part of that world. That’s a mom world, you know?

I could put on my mask and join in somewhere. A friend who is the same age and also widowed posted a Facebook photo of herself in costume with her tiny piano students, also in costume. They all seemed so happy. She has a grown son, but he doesn’t live around here. She didn’t let that stop her from having a happy Halloween. Like everything else, Halloween is what you make of it. Without kids, I guess we have to try harder.

But no, I’m not putting a costume on my dog.

How is Halloween for you this year? Any plans? Any kids around? Does it make you feel your childlessness more than usual?

CNN–and everybody else–has ideas for a COVID-safe Halloween. Kind of takes the fun out of it when you have to carry a bottle of hand sanitizer if you happen to touch something or someone, doesn’t it? Here’s the link to the CNN story on the subject.

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My Aunt and Uncle Found a Way Past Childlessness

My cousin’s daughter, now in first grade, has started messaging me on Facebook. She sends me goofy photos, videos, and emojis, and tells me about her day. I send goofy photos, videos, and emojis and tell her about my day. I keep it short and simple because she’s still very young, but if feels so good to have this relationship. Her teacher suggested the students message an older relative. I would love to hug that woman hard for making this little girl a factor in my life.

This little girl and her siblings would not exist without what seems like a miracle. Her grandfather, my uncle, was paralyzed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident. He was only 25, a police officer responding to a call. Horrible thing. A brilliant man, he spent the next 40 years in a wheelchair or in bed. When the accident happened, his daughter was two and his son not quite one year old. With their father in the hospital for many months, they stayed at our house most of the time. Ultimately my aunt and uncle split up. Still in her early 20s, my aunt couldn’t face a lifetime of caregiving. None of us could blame her for moving on.

But love struck again. My uncle met a nurse at Stanford Hospital. They fell in love and eventually got married. Her parents were so angry they didn’t come to the wedding. He was divorced, stuck in a wheelchair, and he would never give her a normal life—or children. But he did. I don’t know the details. It was the 1970s, fertility assistance options were not what they are now, and people did not talk about it, but with the help of medical science, they produced a son and a daughter who are now in their 40s and parents themselves.

Men with spinal cord injuries definitely face challenges fathering children. They may not be able to have intercourse in the usual way, may not be able to ejaculate, may not produce viable sperm, but there’s a chance. Many of the methods used for other couples at fertility clinics can be used for paralyzed fathers. This article offers some of the specifics: “The Best Male Fertility Options after an SCI (Spinal Cord Injury).

I’m not using names and feel uncomfortable sharing even this much of a very private story, but I love all four of my uncle’s kids, and I’m so glad they exist.

Disability is one of the many ways a person can be childless by marriage. Certainly my uncle’s second wife, now my beloved aunt, could not count on having children with him. It might have just been the two of them, with occasional visits from her stepchildren, and then just her alone when he passed away at age 65. She made a choice and ended up with a big wonderful family that includes all four grown children and a whole lot of grandchildren.

Would you/have you partnered with someone who is unlikely to be able to have children? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have children and/or accept that it’s not going to happen? It’s one thing when a mate is unwilling, but when they physically can’t make babies, what then? I welcome your comments.

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Is Your House Child-proofed or Dog-proofed?

My house is not set up for children. My ruby glass collection is in easy reach for a toddler. My guitars sit where little fingers could destroy them. All of the cupboards, including those with toxic cleaners, are easily opened by anyone with hands. There are no covers on the electrical outlets, no parental controls on the TV or any other media, no toys, no sippy cups, no child-sized furniture. I have no recorded children’s music or shows. I do not have children or grandchildren. My great nieces and nephew live far away. Most of my friends are older than I am. Children do not come here. It’s a child desert.

But the house is dog-proofed. When Annie and her brother were puppies, we had a baby gate and pee pads. As a grown dog, Annie has a doggie door to get in and out. I’m careful to leave the front door and the door to the garage closed at all times. I put nothing on or near the floor that she might eat, things like paper clips pencils, socks, glasses, my phone, or food. When I bake cookies, I cool them on a high counter because she cannot jump anymore. Nor can she open the cabinets, so whatever is inside is safe.

Visitors don’t understand. Workmen regularly leave their stuff where Annie can grab it. Nails, gloves, stray pieces of plastic or rubber, meters and tools or all sorts are fair game in her territory. I warn them, but most don’t take heed until we’re pulling contraband out of her mouth. She’s an old dog, but she will still nab things, haul them to her favorite spot in the yard, and chew them to death. Annie regularly grabs papers out of my recycle box. I can’t count how many pens I have found in pieces in the back yard. My song list has a mouth-sized bite out of it. Some of my doors and furniture have tooth marks where Annie or another dog has chewed. Most little kids don’t do that.

Then again, I don’t have Cheerios embedded in the carpet.

If children were coming, I wouldn’t know for sure how to prepare. I have been caught by surprise before by little ones snatching or breaking things that were important to me. Like the unsuspecting repairmen who find their tools in my dog’s mouth, I don’t know what they’ll get into until they do.

Check out this article on child-proofing your home. Oh my gosh, there’s a lot to do. Kids are clearly much more delicate and sneakier than dogs.

Not being a mom or a hands-on aunt, I have missed learning how to deal with having kids around. I feel bad about that. I suspect this all-adult life is missing something important. On the other hand, I’m kind of relieved I don’t have to deal with child-proofing. But I’m getting old. If I were going to have kids, that would have happened decades ago when I had the energy to deal with child-proofing. Yesterday I realized many of my friends are welcoming not just grandchildren but great-grandchildren. Good grief, another layer of childlessness to go through.

What do you all think? Are you prepared to welcome children into your homes? Are you more dog-proof than child-proof? Or am I the only clueless one out there?

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Conflict: Using Birth Control When You Want Kids

Are the new abortion restrictions being passed in some U.S. states relevant for us here at Childless by Marriage? As you probably know, Texas recently passed a law prohibiting abortion, for any reason, after the sixth week of pregnancy, about the time a heartbeat can be detected. At that point, many women don’t even know they are pregnant. Even if they do, by the time they make arrangements, it may be beyond the six weeks. In practical terms, most abortions are therefore illegal. At the moment, the Texas ban has been blocked while it goes through court challenges, but there does seem to be a trend toward more restrictive abortion laws.

I’m not going to argue pro-life vs. pro-choice here. I’m Catholic; you can guess how I feel, but I also realize that many women are going to seek abortions no matter what the law says, so why not make it safe for them to do it?

What does this have to do with being childless by marriage?

While researching my Childless by Marriage book, I discovered that far more women had had abortions than I ever suspected. For some, the abortion ended their only chance at motherhood; later circumstances kept them from having children. Some had abortions because their partners insisted that they did not want them to have a baby, at least not then.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are 189 abortions per 1,000 live births and 11.3 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years. More than half of those women are in their 20s, and most of those abortions are performed at around the 13th week of pregnancy.

Abortion is sometimes used as a method of birth control for those willing to take a chance that they will not get pregnant and that they can abort if they do. Now the women in Texas and other states where regulations are being tightened to the point of prohibiting most abortions may be feeling there is no way out.

Most of us have used other forms of birth control, including contraceptive pills and patches, IUDs, diaphragms, and condoms. These methods require at least one partner to take responsibility. Ideally, they should both agree that they want to use birth control. Diaphragms and condoms require the cooperation of both parties. The pill and the IUD may have negative effects on the woman’s health. They can also be discontinued without the male partner knowing. How many of us whose partners have been hesitant to make babies have been told by well-meaning friends or relatives to just stop taking the pill and have an “oops” baby? Most of us, I’ll bet.

We’re far from the days when our ancestors could only prevent pregnancy by giving up sex, but it can still be a touchy situation, especially when we want to have children and know that pill we’re taking every morning or that condom we’re using every time we have sex is making it impossible.

So I ask you:

1. How do you feel about conservative politicians eliminating abortion as a birth control method? Does that have anything to do with your situation?

2. If you’re using birth control, how do you feel about it? Do resent that pill, hate that condom? Does your partner insist you use them or just assume that it’s “take care of”? Are you able to discuss it freely with them?

Please share in the comments. You can be completely anonymous. This blog does not work without your input.

Thank you all for being here.

****

On an unrelated note, having Facebook and Instagram go down earlier this week made it clear that I can’t count on reaching you there. To make sure you always know when there’s a new post, please use the subscribe button to the right of this post.

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How Does Childlessness Affect Your Sex Life?

Got your attention? This year, World Childless Week devoted a whole day to talking about sex. What’s sex got to do with it? Everything.

As Michael Hughes of the of the Full Stop podcast noted in a fascinating session, it all comes down to the sperm and the egg and how they need to get together to make  baby. In other words, sex. We don’t talk about it much, he said, but it’s a big thing.

Hughes and his podcast partners Berenice Smith and Sarah Lawrence are all childless through infertility. Each talked about how their efforts to conceive took the joy and spontaneity out of sex. It became less about intimacy and pleasure and more about making a baby. Every time they did it, the question hovered over them. Will it work? Will it lead to heartbreak with another miscarriage or failure to conceive? And how can you feel good about your body when it is not doing what it’s supposed to do or when you’ve gone through so many procedures you really don’t want anyone to touch you? Or when it physically hurts? After a while, they didn’t really want to do it.

The three said it took years after they gave up on trying to conceive to feel good about their bodies and enjoy sex again. Even now, it’s not quite the same as the old magic they had at the beginning.

In another session led by Jody Day, women in all aspects of the childless journey, including those who have never found a partner to make babies with, talked about their struggles with their bodies and sexuality and shared suggestions for learning to feel sexy again. It’s a wonderful session. You can watch the recording here. Also read Jody’s essay “Where Did She Go? Reclaiming My Erotic Self After Childlessness.”

I know that some of you are dealing with fertility issues. How is sex for you? Is every encounter about trying to make a baby? Or is it always a reminder that certain parts aren’t working?

For me, I can’t say that it affected my sex life. With my first husband, we were using birth control, but I always had that hope that when the time was right, we would welcome children.

With Fred, who had had a vasectomy, conception was never possible, and it was not part of our sex life, except for the relief of not needing birth control. We were not trying to make a baby. Our goal was simply intimacy and orgasms, and it was good. Now, listening to these people who struggled with infertility, pain, and hating their own bodies, I am grateful for my health. My body has its issues, but I like it just fine, and I still feel sexy.

This is the Childless by Marriage blog. Infertility is only one of many reasons we don’t or may not have children. If you or your partner are unable or unwilling to conceive, how does that affect your sex life? Do you think about it during sex? Does it make you not want to have sex? Do you resent using birth control because it’s keeping you from the babies you want to have? Do you think about the sperm or eggs being wasted because they’re not being given a chance to connect? Or does being childless free you to enjoy sex without the baby worry?

Sex is a tricky subject. How does being childless or potentially childless affect your sex life?

Do comment. You can be as anonymous as you choose to be.

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