Dare we ask for more than one child?

Shortly after I was born, my mother used to tell me, Grandpa Fagalde said, “Well, when are you going to have your boy?” Exhausted from giving birth, she wasn’t thrilled about the idea at that moment, but a year and a half later, she gave birth to my brother. Like most of families on our block, our parents had two children, a boy and a girl. A full set. We fit perfectly in our three-bedroom baby boom houses in the suburbs of San Jose.

Fast forward to 2020 and the Childless by Marriage community. So many people here are hoping, praying and pleading to have a baby, just one, but I suspect we really want a full set, too, which means more than one.

If we only manage to have one, he or she would be an “only child.” Although lone children can thrive, happy to receive all of their parents’ attention, they will go through life without the companionship of another person who has exactly the same family history and who will be around for major family events. They might also provide nieces and nephews for you to cherish. God knows I would hate to have gone through the recent loss of my father without my brother. We were a team throughout that ordeal and he has handled the brunt of the estate management.

In so many situations we read about here, a person would be lucky to have a single child. The partner is already reluctant, or the body is not cooperating. If one sperm and one egg actually get together and if the pregnancy lasts the whole nine months and if the baby is born healthy . . . dare we ask for more than one? Should we just pray for twins?

Sure, having more than one child is double the cost and double the effort. My mother always said she sometimes thought she’d lose her mind those first few years with the two of us both in diapers and into everything while Dad was at work all day. But it was good for us. We always had someone to play with when other kids weren’t around. We fought a lot, but we were united against the world. Now that our parents are gone, we still have each other. I have always wished I had a sister, too, but Mom and Dad didn’t cooperate.

As Catholics, if they were following the rules, my parents would have had more children, but honestly most Catholic couples use birth control of some kind. As a working class family living off my father’s income as an electrician, they would have struggled to take care of a larger family. Two was enough for them.

Many of our readers have married someone who already has children from a previous relationship. So did I. Two of my friends in that situation had one more child together. For medical reasons, they could not have more. Others had more than one. I’m not going to say the children from the second marriage blended perfectly with the kids from the first. They did not turn into the Brady Bunch. They got along, but it was always clear they came from different tribes. But both partners in the marriage got the children they wanted; no one was left childless.

Back to the original question. While we’re asking to have one child, dare we ask for two—or more? What do you think? Are any of you “only children?” Do you wish you had a brother or sister? Would you like to have more than one child with your current partner? Dare you ask? Or would negotiations completely shut down if you went that far?

Driving down the road, I often follow cars with stencils on the back window representing their families. Have you seen them? There’s the mom, the dad, the multiple children and the dog. How many people would we like on our back-window stencil?

I look forward to your comments.

Interesting reading:

“The Rise of the Only Child,” Washington Post, June 19, 2019

 “The Truth About Only Children,” The Guardian, May 31, 2018

 

 

 

Why Didn’t You Answer My Comment?

         Why didn’t I respond? That’s the question I keep asking myself as I go through old posts and comments here at Childless by Marriage. This is the 679th post. (No wonder I have trouble finding a new topic.) Some topics have brought in dozens of comments, some only a few or none. Whenever I write about partners who don’t want kids or about stepchildren, the comments come pouring in. Sometimes I write something that seems just brilliant to me, and . . . nothing. As I comb through the posts for a “best of” compilation, I ponder whether I should skip the ones that raised no comments.
         But let’s talk about commenting on blogs. I read a lot of stuff online. I click a lot of “likes” and “hearts.” But I don’t comment very often. It takes time and thought. It also makes me visible to the author of the blog and its other readers. I often find I don’t have much to say, or if I do, I think it’s dumb. I’m may not want to get involved in an extended discussion. Maybe you can identify with some of these reasons. I totally understand if all you want to do is read. That’s fine.
          But I’m in charge of this blog, and I have set up certain expectations, like that I care about you all. I do. I truly do. But in reading back through the old posts and comments, I’m finding comments filled with worry which no one answered. I want to respond now. I know what I want to say. But it’s years too late. I don’t know what the person’s situation is now, and chances are they would not see my belated comments.
          Why didn’t you answer then, I ask myself. There are times when you readers are having a good discussion and you really don’t need my input. After all, I already had my say in my blog post. Sometimes it’s that I approve the comment on my phone or my tablet where it’s more difficult to write, thinking I’ll post a response when I get back to my computer. And then I forget. At other times, I just don’t know what to say. This is hard stuff.
          All I can do now is try to do better. I always try to approve your comments as soon as WordPress notifies me about them. For recent posts, I have taken the time to edit grammar and spelling mistakes. I will never change the content, but I will make minor changes that make your writing more readable.
         I know you have poured your hearts out. I pledge to respond more often where a response seems needed, if only to reassure you that someone has heard you and cares. I encourage you all to chime in, too. We need to stick together. And if you wrote before in a time of crisis, we would all love to know how things turned out.

***

I have discovered a new source of information, inspiration and information about childlessness. It’s http://www.listennotes.com, a search engine for podcasts. Plug in childless, childless by circumstance, childless stepmom, or some other variation, and you will find hours of good listening.

How Do You Defend Your No-to-Kids Partner?

Your family is ganging up on you about why you don’t have children. “What’s the hangup?” “Don’t you want to have a family?” “Is there something wrong with you?” “Everybody else has them.” “We can’t wait to become grandparents.” Etc.

What do you say? Do you tell them honestly that you don’t have children and may never have children because your spouse or partner doesn’t want them? Do you explain that your mate already has all the children he (or she) needs or that he thinks kids will cramp his style? Or that he believes only a fool would bring children into a world that is going to hell in a handbasket? Do you tell them further that you really do want children and you sit alone in your car and cry about it, but you’re stuck because of your partner?

Is your first response, “Well, sure, I’m going to be honest. I’m going to defend myself. It’s not MY fault.” Wait. Tread carefully here. This is your partner, the person you love, the person to whom you have committed your life. How do you think your family is going to react? Will they just say, “Okay. We understand”? I doubt it. They’re going to hate your partner. And they’re going to think you’re a fool for staying with this person who in every other way is your soul mate. From now on, the relationship between your partner and your family will be tainted. Depending on how your loved ones relate to people, they may jump all over your partner or just quietly seethe and talk trash about him to each other and to you. You will be stuck in the middle.

Has anybody experienced this? Show of hands. Higher. I can’t see you. My family was pretty chill about Fred. They knew he’d been married before, they knew he was older, and I must have told them he’d had a vasectomy. I didn’t have to say he didn’t want any more kids. That was irrelevant. In their eyes, he couldn’t have them.

I didn’t tell the world all the gory details. I’m sure I have mentioned before that my Grandpa Fagalde was especially persistent in asking why we weren’t making babies. Finally, I blurted, “He’s shooting blanks.” Meaning he had no sperm. That stopped the questions forever.

But what if there’s nothing wrong with his sperm or your eggs? To your knowledge, you could get pregnant right now–Excuse us for a half hour. Okay, done. The baby will be ready in nine months–How do you defend the two of you as a unit when the world starts ganging up, demanding answers, demanding action, demanding a baby, especially if that’s what you want, too?

I wish I had the answers to these questions. I don’t. I spent more than 30 years evading the nosy questions. I said, “God had other plans.” “It just didn’t happen.” “We have Fred’s three kids (and a vasectomy).”

I generally believe in honesty, but what happens when that honesty turns your family—or your friends—against your partner and against your decision to stay with that person. You and your partner need to be a team if the relationship is going to last.

Is it possible to get to a place where you can calmly say, holding your loved one’s hand for emphasis, “We have agreed not to have any children, and I hope you will support our decision”? Or maybe, “We already have [Insert names of stepchildren.] I hope you will love them as much as I do.”

It gets a little easier as the years pass and the ability to bear children falls into the past tense. You can say, “We never had any children. Tell me about yours.” Let them think what they will, place the blame wherever they want, but don’t give them time to dwell on it. If you need to elaborate, perhaps just say, “We have had a wonderful life together, just the two of us.”

Time for you to chime in. Have you been put in the position of defending your partner for his/her failure to make you a parent? How have you responded? How have people reacted? Can you support your partner when everyone else seems to against him/her?What do you suggest childless-by-marriage people say when their love ones insist on answers?

I look forward to some lively comments.

Without Children, What Do We Look Forward To?

We have just welcomed a new month, a new year, and a new decade, another “roaring twenties.” We also had Christmas, but that happens every year. The change of year is a landmark for everyone, but what are the landmarks in our own lives and how are they different because we don’t have children?

Today’s post is inspired by a 2016 comment I found in rereading and editing for a future “Best of Childless by Marriage” book. SilverShil0h, a longtime reader and commenter, was having one of those days when life seemed to offer nothing to look forward to. How many of us have those days? I know I do.

Here is part of what Shil0h wrote:

“We watch other people have new adventures all the time. Preschool for the youngest. The older one is starting junior high, and football is a big deal. Homecoming outfits, a new flute in the house. A friend a couple years older than me just had her third. All of that is a world that my DH and I are only watching from a distance. It’s like one of those old fashioned bank teller windows – a little hole to say hello, a little slot to get the money. We see it all happening and we can talk all we want. But those people behind the window get to decide how much they will give us through that little slot.”

Parents have natural events to look forward to, starting with getting pregnant and the births of their children. Early on, the changes come quickly: first teeth, first words, learning to sit, crawl, stand and walk, potty training. Then comes preschool, elementary school, high school, and college. Parents mark the years with graduations, church ceremonies like baptisms, confirmations and bar mitzvahs. Jobs. Marriage. Grandchildren. Birthdays, holidays. Each event marks not only their children’s life but their own as they become more independent and leave the nest.

But what marks our lives? The first thing that comes to my mind is deaths because I’ve seen so many in my family lately. Death is certainly a marker, too. Losing your grandparents and parents is life-changing, but when you have children, there’s the compensation of something new for everything old that is lost. Your mother died, but your daughter had a baby, you know? Or so I have observed. Me, I just have the dog, and she’s getting old.

So what does mark our childless lives besides death? Graduating from high school and maybe college. Getting a good job. A promotion. Travel. Buying a house. Awards maybe. Surviving an injury or illness, such as cancer.

Our landmarks are our own, not our children’s.

When I think about the biggest events in my life, I count my two marriages and their endings by divorce and death. I count my more important jobs, the 11 different places I have lived, my college degrees, the places I have been, and the books I have published.

But what do I have to look forward to besides dying in 20 or 30 years, if not sooner? More books. I have a new poetry chapbook due out in March. I have other books I’m working on. I’m planning a trip to Texas, also in March. I have never been to Texas. It’s an adventure I can look forward to. I’m thinking I’ll buy a new car this year. Beyond that, I don’t know yet. I look forward to many little things, including lunch pretty soon, but big landmark things? Hey, maybe this year, I’ll meet another Mr. Right. Maybe he’ll have a huge family who will love me like crazy. One can dream.

Speaking of dreaming, what are you looking forward to this year? If there’s nothing, can you create something to look forward to? I know you want to have a baby. Let’s settle that once and for all. It’s 2020. Talk it out with your partner and make a decision that you can live with. Maybe that will give you a new landmark, something you can look back to this year and say, “That’s when that happened.”

But if there will be no children this year, what else can you look forward to? I know if you try, you can come up with something.

Please share in the comments. What have been the landmark events in your life and what are you looking forward to?

SilverShil0h, thank you for being here and for sharing your thoughts.

Happy New Year, dear friends.

 

You didn’t give me any grandchildren!

Merry Christmas! Or if you don’t do Christmas, enjoy whatever you do celebrate. Why am I posting on Christmas? Am I not busy? Well . . . not so much. The bio family is far away. The friend family is busy with their kids and grandkids. I’m having dinner with friends later, but now, I’ve got time.

Are you making yourselves crazy by reading all the posts online about everybody’s family Christmas celebrations? Well, turn it off. Go for a walk. Right after you read this, of course.

For parents and grandparents, Christmas is exhausting and expensive. I visited with a friend the other day who said he had something like 35 kids and grandkids to honor for Christmas. He married into most of them.

My husband’s cousin met her current husband after both of their longtime spouses died. He came with a huge family, too. She was planning to feed 30 of them on Christmas Eve. This morning, she and her husband planned to fly to Denver to visit her one daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. I’m tired just thinking about it.

I’m not complaining about getting to stay home and cook only for me while the family celebrates far away and the friends do their own family thing. Sounds selfish, but it’s true. But maybe, if I had kids and grandkids . . .

I see all those pictures of my friends cuddling their little ones, I see all the great things in the stores that I could buy for my grandchildren, and I imagine all the family events that won’t be happening—Christmas, First Communion, graduation, weddings, babies–and I feel a little ripped off. Annie the dog and I are good, but imagine how much fuller our lives could be.

I was reading an article about “grandchildlessness.” That’s such a long word. How about NonGrammas and NonGramps? Here’s the link.The author is writing about Australia, but one could tell a similar story almost anywhere these days. All of us who are not having children are also not giving our parents grandchildren. Our parents don’t have much control over that.

If we’re lucky, our siblings fill the gap. If not, well, think about how lousy we feel when people start hauling out the baby pictures. When you get to be my age, it’s the grandbaby pictures. You can counter with pictures of nieces, nephews and cousins, but we all know it’s not the same.

How do we help our parents to understand and accept what’s so hard for us to understand and accept? My parents kept quiet on the subject. They had my brother’s kids, and they knew being childless was a source of pain for me. My second husband’s mother said she had so many grandchildren from her three boys already that she had no need for more.

If I had stayed married to my first husband and remained childless, I can imagine it would have been different. His mother really wanted grandchildren. She was all about her Catholic-raised kids following the standard program. She had already bought a few baby things in the hope of prodding us into parenthood. I do not believe she would ever have a found a way to let it go if we said, “Nope, not having kids.” In fact, she might have nagged us enough that my ex would have given in. But if he only agreed to have children because everyone was ragging on him about it, what good would that be? She never had any grandchildren. That makes me sad. But it’s a trend, and it’s growing.

Has anyone nagged you to make grandbabies? How do you feel about not giving your parents grandchildren? Are you bugging you about it this Christmas?

How are your holidays going? Are you with the stepchildren or your bio family or on your own? Is it a happy day or fighting-tears kind of day? Feel free to share in the comments.

Merry Christmas, hugs to all of you. See you next year!

 

 

Have yourself a very doggy Christmas

Annie 9215AAnnie and I had not been to the dog park in a long time, not since she got into a fight with another dog and its owner cursed me out so thoroughly we both had our tails between our legs. My sweet pup has always been unpredictable around other dogs. I will not forget the day she grabbed a neighbor’s chihuahua and I was sure she was going to kill it. To her, that dog was no different from the rabbit she killed on one of our wilderness walks. I screamed like crazy, and neighbors rushed out to help separate the dogs. The little dog was okay, just a little bruised. Thank God.

There are certain dogs in the neighborhood Annie dislikes, especially Donut and Katie on the next block. Maybe they remind her of her brother Chico who used to pick on her. I wasn’t able to keep Chico, but she seems to have developed a prejudice against black dogs, and I didn’t trust her with any other dogs.

Harley, the yellow Lab who lives across the street, has helped change that. Annie and I met him when he was a puppy, just a handful of cream-colored fur. Now he weighs over 130 pounds and makes my tan 74-pounder look small. Harley is the kind of dog who loves everybody, human or canine. Annie was no exception. She didn’t know how to deal with that at first. She growled a bit. He didn’t react. She tried to walk away. He slapped his paws on the ground in an invitation to play. She hesitated, then jumped into play mode. They have been buddies ever since.

As the years passed, she has mellowed around other dogs. She still barks and pulls on the leash but does not go total Cujo anymore. Still, I have avoided the dog park. Even if Annie is calm, another dog might not be. One time, a pit bull attacked both of us, ripping my favorite pants. The owners just shrugged it off.

Yesterday, I had to mail my last Christmas gift to California, and it was walk time, so I put Annie in the car. Not in the mood for the beach—too cold—I stopped at the post office, then drove up the hill to the community college, which is just past the dog park. Maybe my music teacher friend would be there for a visit. If not, we could at least walk where Annie could sniff some new smells.

School was out for winter vacation, but it was a good walk, although I was wearing these leggings that kept wanting to fall down (Anyone else have that happen?). We walked around the college and then down the road a bit and finally circled the dog park fence. Inside, two large dogs streaked across the sawdust, running full speed. “Look at that, Annie,” I said. “Wow. Look at them go.” I didn’t know if my 11-year-old with her two patched-up knees could run that fast anymore. We continued around the outside of the park until the other dogs spotted us and came running.

Uh-oh, I thought. “Be good,” Annie, I said.

The dogs wagged their tails. One of them whined a little. Annie wagged her tail and whined back. She wanted to play with them.

Okay. I took her to the double gate, warned her that the others would be in her face, and let her in. They sniffed, Annie barked, and they took off. Oh my God, my dog was playing with other dogs. Soon I was talking to the other dog mom. We might have nothing else in common, but we had dogs.

After she left, it was back to just us. I kept praising my pup, and I swear she was smiling.

Yes, she’s a dog. Yes, I do not have human children. But I could not have been prouder if my child had won the school talent contest or gotten straight A’s on her report card.

Some days, I promise, you do not have to think about the children you don’t have.

And some days you do. I played the piano both Saturday and Sunday at my new church. They were incredibly welcoming, and I already feel at home on the piano bench there. But at “coffee and donuts,” sitting with other women, out came the baby pictures on their phones. Having none, I soon slipped away. It’s great being a dog mom, but it is not the same. We’re a different breed.

I don’t wrap gifts for my pup, but I did buy her a new blue collar yesterday. Her old red one was looking kind of ratty. I also bought myself an expensive pair of earrings for my newly pierced ears. We’re happy.

Choose your own kind of Christmas or whatever holiday you want, and don’t let the folks who don’t understand get you down. Feel free to share here about how your week before Christmas is going.

Maybe I shouldn’t have used my real name

Dear friends,

I have been reading old posts and your wonderful comments in the hope of bringing everything up to date and putting together a “Best-of” Childless by Marriage book. So many of you say nice things about my blog and about me. I am so grateful. You have no idea how much your support and your comments help me. We’re all in this situation together.

I wish I could be anonymous like you. Some members of my family have taken great offense at my posts. Maybe I should have chosen a pen name, ala Dear Sugar or Dear Abby. Too late now. To all of them, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Please don’t hate me, but you who have spouses and children and grandchildren have no idea what it’s like for those of us who don’t. Lucky you.

Enough. Read the Dec. 10 comments on my Nov. 29 post if you are curious about what inspired this.

Meanwhile, I want to pay homage to some of the people who have been commenting here for years. Anon S., SilverShiloh, Candy, loribeth, Tony, Marybeth, Crystal, Mali, Jenny, and so many others, including many Anonymouses whom I can tell apart by the way you write, a million thank yous. To those who have bravely used their real names, you rock. To those who have just started reading, welcome. Let’s take a minute to picture ourselves in a big room together and thank each other. C’mon, group hug. Pass the hot toddies around. Ooh, and the fudge.

Ah, yum.

Can you all come to my house next Christmas?

***

So, the old church choir director job is gone :-(, and I have moved to a new church, where I can sing, play guitar and tambourine if I want, and shout “Hallelujah” if I feel so moved. 🙂 There’s no pay, and I’m not in charge of the music, but I feel welcome there. Like my old church, this one is also Catholic, but it’s a less repressive version which most of my friends escaped to before I did.

Joining a new parish means filling out a registration form for my “family.” That paper is going to have a lot of blank spots. Spouse? Employer? Children? Yikes. However, on the other side is a list of tasks people can volunteer to do. I can check off a whole bunch of them—music, bulletin, stitchery, bazaar–maybe more than others because of all those blank spaces on the “family” side. Something to be grateful for.

Just like I’m grateful for you.

Hang in there. Christmas will be over in two weeks. In three weeks, we get a bright shiny new year. And a new decade. Isn’t that amazing? We are already 20 years into the 2000s. And we’re still here.