Is adoption an option for you? Why not?

We haven’t spoken much about adoption here. Perhaps it’s irrelevant in cases where one partner doesn’t want to have children for whatever reason. A baby is a baby, a child is a child, and they don’t want one. But for couples who don’t have children because of infertility or a health problem, adoption would seem to be an option. I’m betting many of us have been asked: “Why don’t you adopt?”

Fred and I considered it before he decided he didn’t want to do kids with me at all. His older two children from his first marriage were both adopted. Fred and his first wife thought they could not conceive. Then, surprise, when she was 38 and he was 40, she got pregnant, and Michael was born. After which Fred got a vasectomy.

The older two children were adopted as infants from government agencies in the 1960s. Fred and Annette were give only the most basic information: nationality and health, no names or background. An effort was made in those days to match parents to children in terms of looks and ethnicity. Overall, it worked pretty well. When Michael came along in the ‘70s, his siblings were jealous. He looked just like his dad, and they felt that he got all the goodies. Of course by then their parents were older and financially better off.

When we got together, the older kids were in their teens and Michael was turning 7. We looked into adopting the way Fred and Annette had done before. We discovered that Fred, in his late 40s, was too old. Although we had friends who were adopting from other countries or by private agencies, we didn’t pursue it any further.

Fred wasn’t anxious to start over with a new baby. But for me, it was something else. I wanted children who were biologically connected to me and my family through all the generations. I wanted them to share my ethnicity and my physical characteristics combined with Fred’s. I wanted people to look at us and see the connection. I wanted a child who was part of me. If I couldn’t have that, well, never mind. I didn’t want just any babies; I wanted my babies.

Selfish? Perhaps. I know there are children who need parents, and I’m glad there are people willing to take them into their homes. Right now my niece is going through the process to become a foster mother. She’s single, 29, and braver than I will ever be.

Adoption is not easy or inexpensive. Couples who have spent years trying to get pregnant may already be drained of hope and cash. Prospective parents have to jump through a lot of hoops to be approved. Adoptions fall through, sometimes several times before parents get to bring home a child. Adopted children always have that other family out there somewhere, and they come with a big set of unknowns about their physical and mental background that may surface later. They’re yours but not quite.

And yet, it can be wonderful. I have seen beautiful adoptive families in which biology doesn’t make a bit of difference. But it would for me.

What about you? Have you thought about adoption? Would you do it? Why or why not? Does it matter if they’re not biologically yours?

Additional reading:

This post from loribeth, who blogs at The Road Less Traveled, got me thinking about adoption:  March 15, 2015: “The A word: Why we didn’t adopt”

General information about adoption: National Adoption Center (promotes adoption from foster)

Adoption Fact Sheet offers lots of good into. Adopting from China costs $20,000 or more!

Statistics about abortion: https://www.americanadoptions.com/pregnant/adoption_stats

“What Does It Take to Adopt a Child in Britain?” Stories of three adoptive families in the UK

Is 49 Too Old to Become a Dad?

He’s older and thinks he’s too old to become a dad. I read that in so many comments. In fact, I received such a comment from a man this week. “Ezz” says he’s 49 and his wife, 33, agreed they didn’t want kids when they got married five years ago. Now she has had a change of heart and wants to have a baby. He’s still not into it and feels that he’s too old. Sound familiar? Sure did to me since my husband and I were almost exactly the same ages when we got married. I hear it a lot. The guy says, “Nah, I’m too old.”

Is he? We know that while women’s time to procreate is limited, men can keep producing sperm all their lives. We know that some celebrities, like Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Michael Douglas, fathered children when they were in their 60s, and they claim to be very happy. But what about your average guy?

My husband had three children from his first marriage and didn’t want to do it again. The thought of going through all the stages with new children just made him tired. As it was, he was the oldest dad in every setting with his youngest son, who arrived as a surprise when Fred was 39.

As I write this, I realize that if Fred and I had had a child in 1986, the year after we got married, that child would have been 14 when his dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, would have spent his teen years watching him deteriorate and would have been 21 when he died. But nobody could have predicted that. Fred might have stayed healthy and full of energy into his 80s or 90s. Would it matter that people mistook him for his child’s grandfather?

There are practical considerations. An article from Time magazine,“Too Old to Be a Dad?” by Jeffrey Kluger, certainly raises some concerns. It suggests that babies conceived with older men’s sperm might be born with autism, schizophrenia and various physical problems. We don’t hear much about that, but it’s certainly something to talk to the doctor about.

Another concern is that the father may die, like Fred did, when the child is still relatively young. He might not live to be a grandparent. And the child’s grandparents might already be gone when they’re born. I was blessed to have my mother till I was 50. My dad is still alive at 94. And I had all four grandparents for a big chunk of my life. Two of my great-grandmothers were still alive when I was little. Are we cheating these children out of important life experiences by starting our families late in life?

Think about that older man. Just when he’s looking forward to retirement, to having time and money to travel or pursue new interests, there’s a kid needing to be taken care of and educated. If he has a baby at 50, the child will be a teenager when he’s ready to retire. When you look at it that way, it’s hard to blame the guy for being reluctant to start a family.

But what about this younger woman who wants to be a mom, who is and will be an appropriate age? She and her parents are likely to still be around. Is it fair for the husband to deprive her of children because he’s older?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I would love to hear what you think about this, especially if you’re in this situation now.

 

Check out these articles that offer a response to the Time Magazine doom and gloom piece:

“What My Son has Taught Me in the First 100 Days   by Robert Manni

“What Time’s Article on Older Dads Did Not Report”  by Len Filppu

P.S. Today is Fred’s birthday. He would have been 79. Our mythical child would have been 29. Big sigh. Thank you all for being here.

 

 

Does this mean we can’t have children?

Does my partner’s condition make it impossible for us to have children? Do we dare? What if one of us says yes and one of us says no?

In the last few days, I have received several comments from a woman with epilepsy. Over the years, I have heard from people who suffer from diabetes, venereal disease, mental illness and other problems. Should they/could they have children? What if things go awry? Will their babies inherit their conditions? Three responses come to mind.

First, couples need to share important physical information that might affect their ability to bear healthy children, and they need to talk it through. To hide such things would be more of a deal-breaker for me than telling me about them. Are you not talking about it for fear the other person will leave? If they really love you, they won’t. If they can’t handle it, better to find out now.

Second, are you marrying a baby machine or a life partner? Ordinarily, babies follow marriage, but not always. For better or worse, right? Since my husband died, I can tell you I miss him far more than I miss having children.

Third, you need to get as much information about the condition as possible. Talk to doctors, do research, find out the risks and possibilities. Make an informed decision.

Epilepsy is scary condition. I have friends and relatives who suffer from it. The writer spoke of her fear that she might have a seizure in labor or while taking care of a baby. That’s a very valid fear. I know women with epilepsy who have successfully given birth and raised children to adulthood. I have known others who didn’t dare take the risk. If you have this condition, talk to your doctor. If you can get the seizures under control, motherhood may be possible. But both parties have to be willing to try, knowing the dangers.

My first husband had a form of epilepsy. Early on, he taught me how to take over if we were riding in the car when a seizure happened. His seizures were terrifying, but I didn’t love him any less for it, and it had nothing to do with our not having children together.

When I was dating my second husband, I questioned him about why he was so quick to get a vasectomy after his son was born. Was there some physical problem he was worried about? No, he said. He just didn’t want any more children. But everyone has something. Almost everyone on my mother’s side of the family has diabetes and kidney disease. Fred’s son inherited his farsightedness and will probably have to deal with thyroid disease at some point because it runs very strongly in Fred’s family. But meanwhile he’s a healthy young man who enjoys hiking and mountain-climbing.

There’s so much we don’t know. But people who claim to love each other need to talk about the things they do know and find out as much as they can before they have children together–or decide not to. If you can’t talk about these things with your girlfriend/fiancé/spouse, see that as a big red flag. Maybe this isn’t the right person.

What do you think about all this?

Childless don’t fit advertising stereotypes

Do you pay attention to advertising? I tend to read or play video games during TV commercials, and I ignore the ads I see in print or online. But if you look, you might notice that the ads feature two types of women: young hotties and moms. Ditto for men. Either you’re surfing and mountain-climbing, or you’re a dad. Stereotypes. All women over 30 are mothers, all men are fathers. So target your advertising to parents. Think of all the stuff they buy.

Yeah, well, as writer Alina Tugend protested in a recent New York Times article, advertisers should also consider childless people. Click here to read her article, “Childless Women to Marketers: We Buy Things Too.

Advertisers don’t consider people like me either. When was the last time you saw an ad featuring a graying childless widow who lives alone in the woods with her dog? The ads for people in my age group always show great-looking man-woman couples enjoying their retirement on the golf course or on a cruise—when they’re not having fun with their grandchildren. Either that or they’re crippled and smiling as they ride a cart up a stairway. Where are the mature women and men who do things with friends? Or alone? Or who are still working? The ads suggest we all have partners, pensions, and money to live a life of luxury. Right.

Back to the mommy ads. No question parents buy a lot of stuff, from binkies to basketball hoops. This morning at the store, I watched a mom go through the list of back to school items for her kids. So many things! But my cart was filling up, too, with food and things for the house. And I buy paper, pens, and other so-called school supplies all year round for my business.

I have collected a few articles you might want to read.

“Why Don’t Advertisers Pay Attention to Childless Women?” by Elissa Strauss at Slate’s XXfactor.

“The Parent Trap: Marketing to Parents” from the Art institutes’ blog.

“10 Women in Advertising on Marketing to Women”. These women understand that women come in many variations. They analyze recent advertising and attempts to make things more equal.

We childless folks are becoming a bigger part of the population every day, and advertisers need to recognize us. They also need to figure out that people who do have children are many other things besides parents. As Tugend says, we’re here, and we buy stuff.

What have you noticed about the people portrayed in advertising? If you had the power to create ads, what would you put in them? Let’s talk about it.

 

 

Not having children need not define us

Dear readers,

About a month ago, I posted “Beyond Childlessness, Life Goes on.” I have gotten some great responses. I want to share with you this comment from Anon S that came in yesterday. I’m laid up with back problems this week, and Anon says it more eloquently than I can, so I yield this week’s space to her. Enjoy. –Sue

There are several older women in my hometown that I see on a regular basis who do not have children. One is happily married and is always doing fun things with her husband. They seem to have a lot of friends and do lots of couples things. I would love to talk to her sometime to see if she is really is as happy as she seems. I want to know if she was always this happy and if not – how did she get there.

The other woman is both single and without children. She is highly respected as she serves on many community boards and is involved in about anything you can possibly be involved with in our little town. Want to volunteer at the library, call Betsy – she’s in charge. Want to know about the prayer circle at church, call Betsy – the group meets at her house once a week. Want to know when the Halloween parade for the kids takes place, call Betsy – she’s on the judging committee and has purchased the door prizes for the kids. In a small town that values marriage and family, it’s odd to have a single woman of considerable age in the mix. She doesn’t date and has never been married. She seems very happy on her own. But she doesn’t let being on her own stop her from having friends to go to dinner with, filling her days and nights with commendable community work, and being a well liked woman of our community. She is considered a blessing to many.

Too often I compare myself to others. I’m stressed about life but imagine what a mother of three feels like? “Suck it up” is what I say to myself. “Get on with it.” And then I look at these two women I just mentioned and I feel like I’m wasting my freedom from children by living small and doing little.

Stories like this post and the one of your friend who passed away are very encouraging. The things that set one mother apart from all the others are the same things that set all of us women apart, our attitudes, our hearts, the things we do for our loved ones and others. The best peach pie in the world can be made by a mother of five or by me – a busy businesswoman who likes to bake. The best dressed woman at church can be a single woman with the time and money to be a fashion plate or it could be the mother of a special needs child who takes considerable effort to raise. Those children (or lack of them) do not define us or make us better or worse at anything. We are who we are and we should not hide or “save ourselves” for motherhood.

Thank you, Anon S. Comments?

 

What secrets are you afraid to tell your partner?

On June 30, Anonymous wrote:

“I am a 25 year old female. Recently started reconnecting with an old family friend who is 38 years old. He is divorced. He openly told me he couldn’t have kids which was the main reason for his divorce. What’s funny is that I had a crush on him since I was 14, and I never thought he would be interested in me. We lost contact for around 7 years and a lot has happened in both our lives.

“I’ve been reading a lot about how infertility would affect one’s life, and it’s almost the same for someone with an STD (sexually transmitted disease). Which I have. Genital herpes. I was diagnosed around 5 years ago. I was young and didn’t know how to handle it. I went through the toughest years of my life and I’m not quite over it yet. After my experiences informing guys about it before any potential relationship or sexual interaction, I’m afraid of his reaction. I’m afraid of rejection. I’m afraid of going through everything I’ve been through before, which is why I’ve been single for a while now.

“I want to talk to him about what he feels about his infertility. I don’t know if I want kids or not. The idea of childbirth terrifies me! He said that he has cut out the idea of ever having kids. He doesn’t want them. (After reading a lot about it, is he just saying that because he’s upset and I don’t ask to try? I would try if he wants to…) I can feel that he would give anything and everything to make me happy … I’m just afraid it would change once he finds out about me… I know I’m writing on an infertility blog not an STD one but I’d like to know what someone in his position would think of this whole situation. A reader recently wrote that she was afraid to tell her husband about the STDs she suffered in the past that might affect her fertility. Would he be disgusted with her? Would he leave her? What if they could never get pregnant?”

Dear readers, we have not talked about STDs here before, but they happen. I understand why Anonymous is afraid to talk about it, why she’s afraid her boyfriend might go ballistic and leave her. There’s such a stigma, as if a woman who gets herpes is a slut. But most people have had previous partners, and perfectly nice people can get STDs. I told her she has to tell him. If they’re having sex, he definitely needs to know. What would you do if it were you? How would you feel if your partner told you they had an STD?

What about other kinds of secrets people hold back for fear their partner will break up with them? Things like abortions, infertility, babies they gave up for adoption, eggs or sperm they donated, previous relationships, or gender identity issues? When, how, why should you tell them? What happens if you never do?

Let’s talk about our secrets. You don’t have to share anything with the world that you don’t want to, but let’s have a discussion. What should Anonymous do?

A Childless Life Well Lived

Jill Baker
Jill Baker photo posted by Maureen Little on Facebook

Dear readers,

One of the women I interviewed for my Childless by Marriage book passed away last week. Jill Baker had been suffering from major heart problems for years. She was married once in her youth, divorced and never remarried. She never had children. But none of that defines who Jill was. Full of life, even when her body was failing, a large presence even though she was a small woman, Jill stood out wherever she went. She was funny, opinionated, and loaded with talent.

I first met Jill at the Central Coast Chorale, a singing group that I joined shortly after I moved to Oregon. Jill was the one always raising her hand with suggestions or laughing loudly from the alto section. We were both chosen to sing in a smaller ensemble that used to be called Octet Plus and is now Women of Note. You could count on Jill to hold down the low notes while the rest of us warbled up above. She was also a talented flute player. After I moved on to other musical endeavors, Jill rose to assistant director of the chorale.

Jill taught music—piano, flute, voice, and more. She sang in small groups and major choruses. She had also worked in bookkeeping, accounting and computer software because it’s hard to make a living with a music degree, but she was finally able to focus on music after she moved to the Oregon coast.

Back in the 1960s, she was engaged to be married when she discovered she was pregnant. Her fiancée took off as soon as she told him. She had an abortion in a motel room. “She was some kind of a nurse and did illegal abortions and it was awful,” Jill said. “I hemorrhaged for six months, during my final six months of college.” Once the baby wasn’t an issue, her fiancée came back, and they got married. He refused to even discuss having children. Eventually the marriage ended. She said she never found another man she felt strongly enough about to marry.

Before our interview, Jill had never told anyone about the abortion, but she had reached a point where she was willing to share her story and happy to have me use her real name. Telling me meant she would have to tell her family, she said. She was a brave woman.

Jill never knew for sure whether that abortion affected her ability to have children. Suffering from fibroid tumors, she had a hysterectomy in her 40s, . “I guess it wasn’t meant to be,” she said.

When I asked how she felt about never having children, she said, “I felt lucky in that I didn’t have that massive craving to have a child. I would have liked to have kids, but only if I was in a marriage where the husband could be a father. I never wanted to have kids just to have kids.”

Instead of having her own children, she dove into the role of aunt to her siblings’ children and dog mom to her precious canine companions. Jill was the one holding her sheet music with one hand and petting her dog with the other in the chapter of my book about dog moms. Asked if she felt left out when her friends talked about their children, she laughed. “No. I get ‘em back; I talk about my dog.” She added, “I get irritated when people feel sorry for me. I really detest that because I think I’ve had a good life. I don’t believe you have to have a husband or kids to be happy.”

As for old age, she was determined to live on her own as long as she could, moving into a retirement home if necessary. She never had to. As she left this life, her hospital room was full of friends who loved her like family.

Rest in peace, Jill.