Advice for the Potentially Childless by Marriage

What would you tell a young person facing a childless-by-marriage situation? I was interviewed last night for the UnRipe podcast from Australia. Interviewer Jo Vraca and Mina  Sedgman kept asking me this question, pushing for a concrete answer. What I wanted to say was “I don’t know” or “Every situation is different.” I said, “Talk about it,” “Make a conscious decision,” “Don’t do what I did.”

I felt like what I did back in my 20s and 30s was so wishy-washy. I never made an actual decision, even after we considered the options and Fred told me he really didn’t want to have any more children. I never told him, “Hey, I really want to have children and you need to step up.” I never said, “Okay, if I marry you, I accept that I will never have my own children.”

I just went ahead and got married, tried to bond with his children, and gradually decided I had been ripped off. I had not. I was just doing my usual denial of facts. Way too many Disney movies had convinced me that if you just wish hard enough for something, it will come true. Queue the music for “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Sometimes you don’t get your wish. I don’t think I really got that until I was in my 50s, when menopause, my mother’s death, Fred’s fatal illness, and my father’s years of major health problems pushed all thoughts of parenthood way into the past.

So, now that I’ve had time to think about it, what would I advise?

1) Talk about it, talk about it, talk about it. If you have always wanted children, start the discussions early. A few dates in, it’s okay to mention that you look forward to having children and ask how they feel about it. As the relationship progresses, keep checking in. As we have seen in many posts and comments here, people change their minds. You and your partner need to be a team, not adversaries.

2) If the person you’re falling in love with offers a hard no to kids and you can’t stand the idea of never having them, walk away. I know that’s hard. In the interview, they asked me if I thought about walking away from Fred. I did not. I was obsessed with my career, and I had my stepchildren, who I thought would fill the gap. I was so in love and so sure no one else would ever love me like he did that leaving didn’t seem like an option. But it was. I was 33 when we got married; I still had time. I was wrong to think I’d been ripped off. Consciously or not, I chose this. So I advise you to make a conscious choice: Is this a deal-breaker? Then go. Are you willing to live with it? Then stay. I know many of you feel trapped, but you do have a choice.

3) Having children is huge, but many of us are called to do other things with our lives. Consider what else you are besides a potential mother or father. What talents and interests can you pursue full out without the constraints of parenthood? Consider the possibilities instead of the impossibilities.

4) If you accept the childless life, let yourself grieve the loss of the life you thought you would have. Don’t be silent about it. Tell your mate, family and friends what you’re dealing with, and don’t let them shame you into thinking you’ve done something wrong or that you have no right to grieve.

Dear readers, having come this far in your childless journey, what would you advise someone facing a similar situation? What would you do now if you had it to do over again?

My interview on the UnRipe podcast will be online shortly. I’ll let you know where to hear it. My thanks to Jo Vraca and Mina Sedgman for a fabulous conversation and for their continuing efforts to support childless women.

Love or Children: the Flip Side of the Story

Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both is the title of my new book which came out Dec. 7. In my mind, this book, based on the Childless by Marriage blog, is totally about being childless because your partner is unable or unwilling. If you insist on having babies, you will have to leave and find someone else. It’s one or the other; you can’t have both.

But when a friend who has children saw the title and said, “I need that book,” I realized a whole other set of people might be looking here for answers they may not find. What if you were the one who had children? What if you were a single parent? Would that make it difficult to date or remarry? That’s not the subject of this blog, but a lot of us have dated or married single parents. Suddenly our relationship is complicated with babysitters, custody arrangements, a lack of privacy, child support payments, and the growing awareness that those kids will always come first in the parent’s heart. The kids may be resentful of any potential mother or father substitute or so eager for a new mommy or daddy that it’s all a bit overwhelming. You may like the person you’re dating, but that’s a lot of baggage to take on.

When the woman says, “I have two kids,” does the guy say, “Oh, great. I love kids,” or “Whoa, that’s a deal breaker”? When the guy says, “I have three kids and they’re with me this weekend,” do you get excited or nervous? Is your new girlfriend or boyfriend terrified their kids will scare you away?

In the few cases I dated men with children, they did not have custody, so it was a little easier to deal with. In one case, I got along better with my boyfriend’s sons than I did with my boyfriend. With Fred’s kids, it was easy with Michael, the youngest, but the teenagers came with massive chips on their shoulders. I wanted so bad to be a mom, but it never got as warm and fuzzy as I wanted it to. Would I rather Fred didn’t have children at all? Well, then I’d wonder why not. At his age, don’t most men have children?  

Since I’ve been a widow, I have thought about what it would be like to remarry. The man would probably have children and grandchildren, and they might not accept me at all. I certainly wouldn’t replace “Mom” or “Nana.” If they loved me, how wonderful, but I fear I’d be coming in way too late for that.

What about leaving a childless relationship to have children on your own, via sperm donor, adoption, or another relationship? If you have these kids by yourself, will that sour your chances for love later on? I don’t know the answers to these questions. I’d love to hear what you think about this.

The book Love or Children is not a dating guide for single parents. There are other books on that subject. But it is interesting to look at the flip side of the childless by marriage equation. What if you were the one with the kids? Many of us have married people with children from previous relationships. In the early days, was that an attraction or a potential problem? Did you foresee the existence of those children preventing you from having your own? Would you rather they did not have kids? You’re anonymous here; you can be honest.

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Annie Update:

My sweet Annie, whom I wrote about on both my blogs last week (read my posts here and here), is home. After two weeks in the veterinary hospital when she was unable to stand or walk on her own, she’s up and driving me crazy. She’s still a bit wobbly, but getting stronger every day. I hopeful she’ll be back to normal in another week. I really didn’t know whether she would survive. I’m so grateful. Thank you all for your loving comments and prayers.

***

Next week, I’m going to be interviewed for the UnRipe podcast for childless and childfree women. Click here to check out some of the previous episodes. Host Jo Vraca is in Australia, but we’re recording at a civilized 6 p.m. Oregon time next Tuesday. as soon as I find out, I will let you know where and when you can hear it. The most recent episode, “Four Childless Women Walk into a Bar,” offers a wonderful discussion from varying points of view, including having a partner who doesn’t want kids, having trouble conceiving, and simply waiting too late.

Our pets are not baby substitutes, but . . .

Are our pets baby substitutes? We have talked about this before, and my answer to anyone who says, “Well, at least you have your dog,” is that it’s not the same, but recent events have made me think about this more deeply than ever.

My dog Annie has been in the veterinary hospital since Christmas. Because nothing local was open during the Christmas weekend, I took her to Corvallis, 55 mountain-road miles from where I live. The Willamette Veterinary hospital is incredibly busy. Due to Covid, people can’t go inside with their pets. I have now waited in my car in the parking lot for 12 hours spread over three different occasions and waited for phone calls every minute of every day and night. I constantly wonder if the vet will tell me it’s hopeless and recommend that she be euthanized. I constantly fantasize that the vet will tell me Annie is up and walking, hallelujah.

Day after day, they say she’s “about the same.”

Until Christmas afternoon, she was having a great time with me and “Auntie Pat.” She shared our Christmas food, went for a walk, and lay between us enjoying our company. Then she went to get up and collapsed. Got up, collapsed again. Somehow, falling again and again, she made it to the back yard, where she lay soaked in the rain and refusing to move until my neighbors helped me get her into the car. Christmas was so over as I sped in the dark to Corvallis.

At almost 13, after two knee surgeries, Annie has severe arthritis, but her main problem is something called Vestibular Disease, a sort of doggy vertigo that makes it impossible for her to find her balance. At first, she looked like she’d had a stroke, her face scrunched up on one side, her body falling to the left. She wouldn’t eat or drink, just kept whining and crying. Now she’s eating and drinking and acting much like herself, but she still can’t walk on her own. She has worn a catheter to urinate, which led to a urinary tract infection. She has bed sores from lying on her left side so much. Are we just putting off the inevitable?

The doctor asked me to buy a “Help ‘em Up” harness that lifts under her shoulders and hips When I brought it, I could visit. Wonderful. I would be able to see for myself whether Annie was still Annie. I got up early and drove to Corvallis, then called from the car to say I was there. An aide whisked the harness away, saying she wasn’t sure about a visit. But I could wait. I waited. All morning.

I watched the woman in the next car be reunited with her little dog. The dog licked her face, sniffed her all over, and settled on her shoulder, much like a baby, finally going to sleep, safe and content with “Mom.” But not Mom. His mother was a dog. The woman is his human, the person he trusts to take care of him. Watching them, I sobbed. I hadn’t seen my dog in 12 days and the way things were going, I wouldn’t see her that day either. They kept telling me they were too busy to arrange a socially-distanced visit.

At 12:30, I got them to let me in to use the restroom and broke their Covid protocol to accost the receptionist and beg to see my dog. She went into a back room to check. Maybe later today, no promises, she said. I went back to my car and cried some more. I felt cold, hungry, and hopeless.

In late afternoon, I was thinking I’d have to drive home without a visit when they told me to come in. Annie and I met in a little sitting room where the workers put blankets on the floor and brought her dinner. It took two of them to get her there, using the harness. Three hours of driving and five hours of waiting were all worth it just to hug my Annie and tell her I loved her, to stare into those big brown eyes. She looked better than when I brought her in, but she was not ready to go home. Maybe a few more days with the harness . . . God knows how much money this is costing me, but I don’t care.

This morning while I was in the shower, the doctor left a message that Annie is about as good as she’s going to get and is ready to go home. I have appointments and work to do today, and I don’t know how I would get my dog out of the car or into the house. The folks at the veterinary hospital don’t seem to understand that it’s just me here. No husband, no kids, no roommate. The four other people who live on this street are gone during the day. My friends, mostly older, are hiding from Covid. I don’t know what to do.

She’s just a dog, some might say. But she’s my Annie, my person, my partner, and my dependent. Because I am a childless widow with no family nearby, Annie is the only flesh and blood mammal I can hug freely and with whom I can be completely myself. I have cared for her from 7 weeks to old age. We have been through so much together.

Last night, I thought about what our pets are to us, what Annie is to me. I had watched an old episode of the TV show “Parenthood.” Talk about triggers—everybody is dealing with their parent-child relationships, and it just made me cry. Somehow I felt like a worried-sick parent as I watched. I am not Annie’s mother. But I have been responsible for her care since she was a puppy. She depends on me. She loves me, but she does not take care of me. She is my companion, but not an equal one. I control the keys, the leash, and the can opener. “Mother” may be the wrong word, but it’s something like parenting.

Whatever you call it, she’s an integral part of my life, the one I greet in the morning and say good night to when I go to bed. Child. Best friend. Partner. Roommate. Old Auntie. Pet. Pride and joy. A human is not supposed to be all these things wrapped into one body. You’re either a child or a best friend, a partner or a pet. But a dog can be all these things. Annie is.

The vet hospital “hold” recording that I have heard over and over refers to us as “pet parents.” The receptionist has asked if I’m “Annie’s person.” They don’t say “owner,” which I suppose would be accurate, too, although I hate the sound of it. I did pay for Annie, just like I paid for my car, but it’s a lot different.

Whatever we are to be called, a dozen of us sat for hours in that parking lot in the rain waiting to have our dogs taken care of or waiting to be reunited. Sitting there, I remembered my mother coming to get us after school on rainy days, the safe feeling when my brother, the neighbor kids, and I were in the car heading home.

If I bring Annie home tomorrow, I will have to cancel my few outings for the foreseeable future. I don’t know how I will manage by myself, but at least she will be on this side of the mountain and we’ll be together.

I have gone on too long about my own problems. The country is going crazy this week, and that is very frightening. But the subject of the day is our pets. Mine is a dog, but cats, rats, gerbils and llamas count, too. What are our pets to us and what are we to them? I still say they are not a baby substitute. For many, many reasons, it’s not the same. So, how do they fit into the picture for you? I welcome your comments.

Will the New Year Bring Babies, Breakups or ???

Adios, 2020. Happy New Year? This has been a year far beyond our control, a year when the “normal” just around the corner keeps moving beyond our reach. We’ve seen lockdowns, businesses closed, and people sick or dying of a virus we had never heard of a year earlier. We’re wearing masks and minimizing contact with other people except by computer on Zoom—never heard of that before 2020 either. Wildfires, hurricanes, political upheaval, Brexit—we’ve had it all. In the midst of this craziness, when most of us are just trying to survive, how can we even think about having babies? What if you’re single? If you didn’t go into the pandemic with a partner, how could you think about dating?  

I often compare COVID to musical chairs. Whoever you had with you when the music stopped, that’s who you have for the duration. If you had no one, well, welcome to my world. As I write this, even my dog Annie (pictured above as a puppy) is gone. She has been in the veterinary hospital since Christmas, when she collapsed with a type of vertigo called Vestibular Disease. It looked like a stroke, but it’s not that. As of now, she is back to eating and drinking and can sit up, but she still cannot stand or walk. Will she recover? I don’t know yet. You can read more about her situation at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

Now that we have a fresh new year, a blank page on the calendar, can we go back to normal? Can we go from sick to healthy, fearful to confident, isolated to together again? To eating in restaurants, attending concerts and plays, working out at the gym, going to church, and throwing parties?

If only. On Jan. 1, we will still have the same problems we’ve got on Dec. 31, including childlessness. I have lost nine people I cared about this year, one to COVID, the others to the maladies of old age. I wish there were more children coming up behind them to fill the gaps they leave behind. I have my nieces and nephews, but they are far away, and I haven’t seen them in person in over a year.

I hope 2021 can bring some added daylight to your situation. As I have said in past years, make this the year that you speak plainly to your partner about childlessness and make a conscious decision to accept a life without offspring or do something about it. When you can’t have this partner and children, which are you willing to give up?

That’s the question explored in our new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I just got my copies yesterday. It offers the best of my blog posts and your comments, and I hope you buy it.

As we wind down, although we can’t see the future, we can hear the stories of older women who have lived the childless journey at Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen webinar today, Dec. 30, at noon Oregon time. Speakers include Jody Day, authors Kate Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Donna Ward, and Maria Hill, “NotMom” founder Karen Malone Wright, and me. This will be my first Zoom outing with this international group. To participate, click here and go to the registration link near the bottom. The session will be recorded, so you can listen another time if you can’t make it today.

I wish you all the best of new years. May the problems that keep you awake at night be resolved and much happiness come to you.

Big socially distanced hug,

Sue

Christmas! It’s All About Children!

Suddenly Christmas looks like it’s all about babies. For my other blog, I posted a video of me singing “Silent Night.” I thought about posting another song here, but every song I looked at that was not annoying and not copyrighted was about the Mother and Child or about children being all excited about Santa Claus. There were angels and shepherds, too, but the Baby Jesus is almost always in there.

Photo by JINU JOSEPH on Pexels.com

Of course, Jesus isn’t just any baby. Depending on your beliefs, he’s the son of God, a prophet, a king or just a really famous historical figure but definitely not just a regular baby. In our Catholic liturgies this month, we also have the story of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth having a baby after years of being barren. That child became John the Baptist. 

We don’t know for sure if Mary had other children. Some faiths say yes, some say no. Did the Virgin Mary stay a virgin? Did Joseph lose his chance to be a biological dad by sticking with Mary? The Bible doesn’t share that detail.

I’m thinking a lot about the Holy Family not just because it’s Christmas but because I just finished reading Sue Monk Kidd’s The Book of Longings, a novel about Ana, the fictional wife of Jesus. There’s nothing in the Bible about Jesus having a wife. Perhaps he stayed single so that he could focus on his ministry. If He did have a wife, many think it was Mary Magdalene, but what if he married a feisty first-century feminist named Ana instead? It’s fascinating to think about.

Ana wants to be a writer—a scribe—a role not usually allowed to women. A mother? Not so much. She uses the birth control methods of the era to try to avoid getting pregnant. You’ll have to read the book to see how that plays out, but it’s interesting to envision what it was like in a time when women had almost no freedom but still had dreams that motherhood would make difficult to fulfill.

Here’s another thought. What if Jesus did have a wife and He told her that he couldn’t have children because God the Father sent him to save humanity from our sins? What if Jesus’s wife was childless by marriage?

I’m just letting my crazed mind wander. I hope I don’t offend anyone. I have had too much stormy weather and Zoom church. Is the rain and wind in western Oregon ever going to stop? But seriously, does Christmas bum you out with all of its emphasis on mothers and babies? Are there songs that you just can’t stand because they remind you that you don’t have children? Are the holidays any easier for childless non-Christians? Let’s talk about it.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. It will be an odd one with COVID-19 keeping us from our usual celebrations. I have just had a loved one die of the virus. His live-streamed funeral is next Monday. I will be thinking of his wife and kids as my sister-friend Pat and I celebrate our little Christmas for two. We’re getting takeout food this time, too lazy to cook. But we are going to bake cookies this afternoon just for fun. Neither of us needs the added calories, but we miss the good times of yesteryear. So we’ll talk and sing and bake and treasure the moments.

What is your plan for this week? Is it easier or harder because you can’t gather with lots of people? Please share in the comments.

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NEWS!

On Dec. 30, I will join a group of older childless women from all over the English-speaking world for a Zoom chat titled “Fireside Wisdom for Childless Elderwomen.” Participants include include Jody Day of Gateway Women; Karen Malone Wright, founder of The NotMom; Maria Hill of Sensitive Evolution; Jackie Shannon Hollis, author of This Particular Happiness: A Childless Love Story; Kate Kaufmann, author of Do You Have Kids? Life When the Answer is No; Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life, and Stella Duffy, novelist, actor, playwright, and founder of FunPalaces. Click the link here for more information. It’s happening at noon Pacific Time, but will be recorded for those who can’t attend then. This is my first outing with this “Elderwomen” group, and I would love to see some friends there. Do come.

The new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both, which offers the best of this blog, is out now. You can get it at Amazon or order it from your favorite bookseller. If you send me proof of purchase and your U.S. mailing address at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a copy of my previous book, Childless by Marriage, totally free. Overseas readers, due to postage costs, I can only offer the Kindle version. If you already own the first book, check out my web site and pick another book you’d like to have.

To promote the new book, I’m asking for reviews, speaking opportunities, guest spots on blogs and podcasts, and social media “shares” wherever you can. This is our book. Without your comments, it would be nothing. Let’s spread the word far and wide. Contact me at suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com.  

I am so grateful for all of you. I hope this Christmas eases your hearts and that you find peace one way or the other with your childless situation. Be well.

Merry Christmas and a blessed 2021,

Love Sue and Annie the Dog

P.S. did you see the true story about the childless couple who decided to adopt a calf as their son? Read it here.          

Here Comes Christmas, COVID-Style

I stood in line at the tiny South Beach post office yesterday to mail the last of my family Christmas gifts to California. The postmaster, working with her daughter and her baby granddaughter beside her, was exhausted. Far more people are mailing packages because, like me, they are not going to be with their families this year.

As the song goes, I’ll be home for Christmas. I’ll spend the day with the same friend who got me through Thanksgiving. We don’t want to cook this time. We’d go out, but COVID-19 has closed all the restaurants to indoor dining and we’re not going to eat in the rain. So we’ll get something to go or prepare something simple, exchange our gifts, and watch a movie. She has kids, but they’re far away. This will be her first Christmas since her husband died and her last one here in Oregon because she’s moving to California to be near her daughter. But this year, it will be us and Pandora the cat or Annie the dog—we haven’t decided which house we’ll be at yet.  

I will not watch my nieces and nephews and their children open the boxes from me to see if they love what I bought them as much as I do. The little ones probably won’t understand who I am. Since I was last able to see them, over a year ago, they have changed tremendously. They have learned to walk, talk and start to read. This makes me sad because I wasn’t there, but not nearly as sad as I might be if they were my grandchildren.

A friend from my church has never seen her grandbaby who was born in March. Some friends have taken the risk to visit their families and returned COVID-free, but that’s not how it always goes. I know too many people suffering from the virus, some in the hospital on ventilators. Where perhaps in normal times, their families would keep vigil at their bedsides, no one is allowed in. It doesn’t matter whether or not you have children now; you die with only hospital staff to hold your hand.

On a recent SheSpeaks podcast, Savvy Auntie founder Melanie Notkin reminded listeners of the importance of attitude. “Life is a struggle. It’s what you do with it.” So, she says, decide what you want to do with the life you have, not the one you didn’t have, and figure out the steps to move that life forward.

Meanwhile, send out your presents and be grateful for whatever you receive. If you are well enough to visit via Zoom or Skype, have fun with it. Feel free to wear funny hats, dress up the cats and dogs, or make a silly video. Be glad you don’t have to spend great swaths of time this year hanging out with relatives who are all about the children and don’t understand or sympathize with your situation. Just do the holiday your way. Zoom-watch church services from all over the world. Make burritos instead of cooking a turkey. Stay in bed all day or play in the snow. Watch an entire season of “The Crown” in one sitting.  

COVID is horrible. Our little coastal county has just been moved up to the “extreme risk” category. I know too many people with the virus, two of them in the hospital on ventilators. Little children like my great nieces and nephew will not remember a world in which big people didn’t wear masks. If we are alive and well, we must give thanks and enjoy the life we have been given, even if we never get the children we wanted to have.

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It’s here! Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both has been published. After seven months and several title changes, I have gathered the best of the Childless by Marriage blog from 2007 to May 2020 into a book. If I had had any idea how difficult it would be to boil down more than 700 posts into a reasonable-sized paperback and ebook, I might not have done it. I mean, it’s there on the blog. You can read all the posts and the comments. It might take months, but you can. But what if the Internet disappears? It could, you know, and we have built something here worth saving. Sure, I started it, and I write the weekly posts, but it would be nothing without your comments. That’s why the cover says this book is by “Sue Fagalde Lick & Anonymous.”

During the month of December, if you email me proof of purchase for Love or Children along with your address to suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a copy of my previous book, Childless by Marriage, absolutely free, paperback in the U.S., Kindle overseas. If you already have Childless by Marriage, you can give it to a friend or I can send you one of my other books. See https://www.suelick.com/books for other possibilities.

Announcing ‘Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both’

I’m holding the proof copy, but you can buy the newly published book right now .

It’s here! Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both has been published. After seven months and several title changes, I have gathered the best of the Childless by Marriage blog from 2007 to May 2020 into a book. If I had had any idea how difficult it would be to boil down more than 700 posts into a reasonable-sized paperback and ebook, I might not have done it. I mean, it’s there on the blog. You can read all the posts and the comments. It might take months, but you can. But what if the Internet disappears? It could, you know, and we have built something here worth saving. Sure, I started it, and I write the weekly posts, but it would be nothing without your comments. That’s why the cover says this book is by “Sue Fagalde Lick & Anonymous.”

Coming up with a cover was tricky. How do you express the idea of being childless by marriage in a picture? We tried a lot of different images, children’s toys and flowers and such, but I like what we wound up with. It was originally sort of a brick red. We played around with the shade, but then I suddenly thought, “Hey, what about teal?

The designer, Erin, who works for an outfit called Reedsy.com, did a great job designing the cover and the interior. I’m sure she earned a few gray hairs dealing with the more than 300 live links in the Kindle version. She worked all last weekend on them and didn’t get much sleep. But she found the subject interesting, so that helps. At 35, she and her husband are talking about whether or not to have kids.

What’s in the book? Let me share the table of contents.

Introduction

  • When Your Partner Will Not Give You Children
  •  Stay or Go: What Should I Do?
  •  Parenthood Delayed
  • Baby Lust
  •  How Do You Heal from Childless Grief?
  •  Learning to Accept Childlessness
  •  Childless vs. Childfree
  • Locked Out of the Mom Club
  • Male Point of View
  •  I Can’t Believe They Said That
  •   Do the Childless Get Ripped Off at Work?
  •   If You Don’t Have Children, You Will Never . . .
  •   Where Does God Fit?
  •   The Joys of Stepparenting
  •   Not the Life I Expected
  •   Old Age without Children
  •   What Will Be Our Legacy?
  •   Childlessness Didn’t Stop Them

See anything of interest? I thought you might.

I need your help spreading the word about this book. If you want to write a review, let me know, and I’ll send you a PDF copy. Or you can buy the Kindle version for $2.99. Review it at Amazon, Goodreads, on your blog, or wherever. If each reader tells a friend, sales will go well. It is so important that people read and start to understand our situation.

I will do my part by broadcasting the news wherever I can.

Meanwhile, for you, my dear readers, I offer a deal. As you know, Love or Children is my second book on the subject. During the month of December, if you email me proof of purchase for Love or Children along with your address to suelick.bluehydrangea@gmail.com, I will send you a copy of Childless by Marriage absolutely free, paperback in the U.S., Kindle overseas. If you already have Childless by Marriage, you can give it to a friend or I can send you one of my other books. See https://www.suelick.com/books for other possibilities.

Remember, the conversation continues here at the Childless by Marriage blog. This is post #726, and I have no plans to stop. New readers keep joining, and comments keep coming in. Also, I’m still accepting guest posts. See the guidelines on this page. We have a Childless by Marriage Facebook page, too. Take a minute to “like” it.

Thank you all for making this happen.

Big socially distanced hugs,

Sue

It’s All About Eggs and Expiration Dates

You know how the egg cartons from the grocery store have expiration dates stamped on them? Living alone, it takes me a while to use a dozen eggs. I usually ignore the dates and keep using the eggs until they’re gone. If it’s really getting dicey, I’ll hard-boil them for sandwiches because I don’t want them to spoil. Eggs cost money, and, judging by the noises my neighbor’s chickens make, they aren’t easy to lay.

But I’m not talking about chicken eggs today; we have to talk about our own eggs, the ones we women produce in our ovaries, the ones that occasionally hook up with our partner’s sperm and make babies. I’ve said it here before and you don’t want to hear it again, but our eggs have expiration dates, too. Sometimes you can stretch things out a bit, but the time will come when if you don’t use them right now, they’ll be no good.

A recent Radiant Menopause podcast made the human egg situation very clear. In a Nov. 23 interview titled “OMG, I forgot to have a baby,” Joyce Harper, a professor of reproductive science at London’s Institute for Women’s Health, gave us the depressing facts on eggs and fertility.

Harper spoke from experience. When she was 28, she was ready to have children, but her husband was not. After they split when she was 32, she got into a relationship with another man who was also not ready. At 35, with a new guy who was ready, they started trying for a baby, but nothing happened.  Tests and IVF followed. Just before her 40th birthday, she gave birth to a son. They wanted more children and had twin boys via frozen embryo transfer two years later. Easy, you think? No. Harper did get her children but it took seven years of high-tech trying at great financial and emotional cost. The trauma of all those years when she couldn’t have a child will never go away, she said.

Fertility does not wait for us to be ready, warned Harper. She is on a crusade to make people understand the math. At 35, fertility dives and the chance for miscarriage rises. Most miscarriages happen because something is wrong. The baby wouldn’t survive due to chromosome abnormalities or other problems. The eggs decline in quality as we age, so we’re more likely to miscarry when we’re older. We feel young, but our ovaries act the same way they did a hundred years ago, Harper said.

Gateway Women guru Jody Day wrote on her blog, “Most doctors agree that by the time a woman is 40, her chances of getting pregnant each month are approximately 5 percent.” That’s pretty poor odds.

There are exceptions to every rule, but for most women, conception after 40 will be difficult if not impossible. Menopause may not come for another decade—51 is the average age–but the factory is already shutting down. The age when your mother hit menopause is a good clue as to when you will, Harper said.

Here’s something crazy and seemingly unfair. Men’s fertility only declines slightly with age. Normal ejaculate contains more than 100 million sperm. Women are born with 300,000-400,000 eggs, but by puberty most of them have already died. During a lifetime, we ovulate about 500 eggs; the rest just die and slough away. What was God thinking?  

What can we do if our relationship situation does not allow us to get on with the baby-making before our eggs expire? Harper said more women are using donor sperm every year, but that’s not how most want to have their families. Freezing one’s eggs is a viable option. The ovaries may shut down, but the womb stays quite healthy. As you get older, pregnancy poses more risks, and you have to ask yourself whether you want to have a baby in your late 40s or 50s, but it can be done, just not in the usual way. When we hear about older women having babies, we can assume they had help. They usually have a willing partner, too.

According to an article in the AARP magazine (for people over 50), the majority of 50-plus women who become pregnant use donor eggs fertilized by sperm and implanted into a womb. It’s  expensive, $25,000 to $30,000 for one attempt. You could put a down payment on a house for that. Insurance rarely covers it, and it rarely works the first time. In fact, Day’s post said IVF fails in 77 percent of cases. You cannot count on it. You may go through a lot and still end up childless.

Bottom line? You can’t just let the years go by and hope for a miracle. The eggs won’t wait.  

Big sigh.

Harper has a new book, Your Fertile Years: What You Need to Know to Make Informed Choices, coming out in April 2021. It’s available for pre-order at Amazon.com now.

Feel free to share this post with your partner. Listen to the podcast, buy the book, and make an informed decision.

I know this isn’t a happy story. But with eggs, it’s use them or lose them.

As you think about whether or not you’ll ever have children, do you worry about your age and your eggs? Do men really understand how this works? I welcome your comments.

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The new book, Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both will be here next week. I will offer the ebook for a ridiculously low price during December so you all can get your copies. All the info will be in next week’s post.

Childless or Not, This Thanksgiving Will Be Different

Annie is not worried about Thanksgiving–as long as I share the turkey with her.

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve got a turkey defrosting in the refrigerator, but otherwise nothing is normal about the holiday. I will not be with my family this year. “Aunt Sue” will not see the little ones, not get those wonderful hugs, or hang out sharing family stories. On the other hand, she won’t feel left out because she’s the only one there who doesn’t have kids.

I’ll be spending the day at home with a friend whose husband died a few months ago. She has grown children, but they’re in Connecticut and California, and two of them have COVID. As the number of COVID cases soars, my friend and I will stay in our own two-person bubble and celebrate the best we can. I have no doubt we will argue over everything from from how to make the gravy to which movie to watch after dinner. Just like family. But we won’t be alone, and for that, I’m thankful.

This year, everyone’s holidays will be different, or they should be. Just because your relatives are family doesn’t mean they aren’t carrying the virus. Stay home. Keep it small. The grown children of three of my friends have COVID. One is in the hospital, very serious. Another friend has an eight-month-old grandchild she has not yet been able to meet because she can’t travel to Colorado. It’s tough for all of us, but maybe those of us without children are lucky not to experience that extra pain of separation from our kids.

I didn’t plan to preach, but this is frightening. We have had a huge surge of COVID here in Oregon, including right here where I live. We are in lockdown again. I feel as if we are at war.

At the same time, we have a lot to be thankful for. That we have friends and family to worry about. That this won’t last forever. For our health if we have it. For food and shelter, if we have those. For a chance to discover new ways to connect and to help each other. For our Childless by Marriage community. You are not alone.

I am thankful that the new book, Love or Children, created from these blog posts and your comments, will be out before Christmas. Put it on your wish list.

I will be extremely grateful if that turkey in my fridge is truly defrosted by tomorrow morning. I haven’t had anyone to cook a turkey for in over a decade, so I’m out of practice. The new situation has made it possible for me to finally host a Thanksgiving dinner.

Look at the upside if you possibly can. There is one. How about if we all meet someplace warm and tropical next Thanksgiving? That would be something to look forward to.

You can read more about my Thanksgivings past and present at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.

So, tell us about your Thanksgiving. How is it different this year? How is it the same? What are you thankful for?

‘Childless by the Marriage I Love’

Today, we have a guest post by Darinka from Hungary.

“But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world.

To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”

(Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince)

I like the story of The Little Prince, especially when the Fox tells this to the little boy. Reminds me of the “name it to tame it” approach that can help many times to settle our fears and heavy feelings. I set out for my journey of taming (and naming) my fox (or I could call it my monster) of childlessness three years ago when after seven years of marriage I learned that my husband didn’t want kids.

We live in an Eastern-European country, started our life together with very little means. We moved from one rented place to another, never feeling really settled. We both worked long hours, yet we didn’t feel financially safe enough to start a family. The topic did come up a few times over the years, but we felt the same way, that it was not the time yet.

Three years ago, we finally moved into our own home, which was a huge step for us. Now we were in our perfect little two-bedroom house on the edge of a small village by the woods. We now had the room and financial stability, so just after we moved, I felt it was time. My husband disagreed. We had to face that there are deeper reasons behind us not having kids than just financial ones. We started to go to counseling and found out more about our deeper reasons. My husband had a distant father who spent most of his life in severe depression, in and out of jobs, spending years in almost total silence and withdrawal. My husband was 17 when his youngest brother was born. He was an emotional crutch for his mum for many years, sharing the worries and troubles of his four siblings. So, my question of “Shall we have kids?” did not come to him as a sweet, exciting plan for life, more like another kilometer after a thousand-kilometer-long journey…no, no, not another one. 

A year after this, we decided to go for a puppy. My hopes were raised because I thought this meant we were making progress. We read books on how to bring up a puppy. Watched programs. Equipped the small bedroom, and so we brought home the sweetest black and white greyhound of six weeks. After three days, I sensed something was wrong. After five days, we both knew. My husband showed clear symptoms of burnout. He could not sleep, could not enjoy any of it, felt absolutely exhausted and depressed. He had such a strong physical and emotional reaction to caring for this little newcomer that finally it reached not only my mind but my heart, that this may be more serious than I thought, this may be permanent. We took the puppy back after a week. Cleared all her things. Packed up and went away for a few days because we couldn’t stay in the house. This sweet little puppy found a way to us. Showed my husband that he can’t accept the father within himself, showed me that I may never become a mum. She has opened a channel for my tears and sorrow. I cried for about six months. We shared many feelings, anger, fears, disappointment, hopelessness. But despite of all this (or because of all this), we moved closer to each other; our marriage became stronger.

I wanted to accept my husband’s feelings and decision. I read a lot, searched the web, joined groups, but couldn’t find a name for my monster. I deeply felt for those who struggled with fertility issues, but I didn’t. My brother and his wife were trying for a baby for seven years, my brother-in-law and his wife the same. We couldn’t really share our struggles with them. I couldn’t identify with those who are childfree by choice either. I am definitely not one of them. I felt it was neither my decision nor my medical circumstance, but what was it then?

I am still struggling with feeling the pressure of meeting others’ expectations, some guilt as I believe children are gifts from God. I find it difficult to say no to them, fear for the future. But I also know that the last thing I would want for my kids is for them to be unwanted by one of their parents. I’ve been there, I grew up like this, and I know it’s not a happy place. This is why I can’t follow advice like: just do it, no need to be ready, don’t worry, men usually want children less than women, just say you want it. Well, I can’t.

So, you see, it’s not only my husband; it’s me too. I am being loved and accepted by my husband. I feel it and I let myself enjoy this. I may still not feel wanted (that is too deep a wound to heal quickly), but I already know that I am.

Slowly a name is forming after all: I’m childless by marriage . . . and lately it seems less scary and less painful because I’m childless by not any marriage . . . but the marriage I love.

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Thank you, Darinka, for filling in for me this week. I am deep into the final proofreading for the new book, Love or Children, coming very soon.

I you want to contribute a guest post to the Childless by Marriage blog, see the information in the sidebar.