Can You Answer the Hard Questions About Childlessness?

Jo Vraca

Do you get stuttery when people start asking questions about your childless situation? I sure felt like I did last night when I was being interviewed for an upcoming podcast. And I’ve published two books and over 700 blog posts on the subject. Jo Vraca of the UnRipe podcast from Melbourne, Australia asked some tough questions that I found difficult to answer.

I have told the story of how I came to be childless many times. First husband didn’t want them, second husband had a vasectomy and three kids from his first marriage. But she pressed for more.

When did I know for sure that my first husband didn’t want children? There was that comment, when I thought I might be pregnant, that if I was, he’d be gone, but did he actually say, “I never want to have children.” No. Why didn’t I press him on it, get a commitment one way or the other? Why didn’t I threaten to leave? I was only in my 20s. Why didn’t I take my fertile eggs and find someone who wanted more than a sex partner?

I don’t know. I was young. It was the 70s. We were Catholic. I thought we had to stay married. I thought no one else would want me. I thought eventually he’d give in. After six years, a few months after he announced that he wasn’t sure he wanted to stay married, I caught him cheating. I moved out and filed for divorce. The Catholic Church annulled the marriage based on his refusal to have children.  

I haven’t seen my ex since 1981 (I know, longer than many of you have been alive.) Through his sister and through searching online, I know he got married two more times and never fathered any children. So maybe I have my answer.

But why did I let him take motherhood away from me? I wish I had a good answer for that.

Then came Fred. I knew the facts, and yet I didn’t face my future as a childless woman for a long time. When did I know for sure? Again, I can’t say. I guess I knew it as I approached 40 and saw no Disney movie magic making my dreams come true. Was there a day when I said, well, if I’m married to Fred, I’m never going to have any children? Not until after I went through menopause in my early 50s. Why not? Was I hoping the stepchildren would fill the gap? I guess I was. Did they? No. Maybe if their father had been more involved, if I had tried harder, if my family had been more welcoming . . .” They’re not in my life, and I feel this big knot of guilt when I think about them.

Finally, knowing everything I know now, would I still stay with Fred? Yes. I never met anyone else I’d rather be with. I just wish childlessness had been a more conscious decision and that we had talked about it more.

Jo Vraca asked really challenging questions. She’s a good interviewer, and she doesn’t waste time on nonsense like so many podcasters do. She forces people to think, and that’s a good thing.

My UnRipe interview will be online in a few weeks. I’ll share the link when it’s available. Meanwhile, give some of the other interviews a listen.

Jo, an author, dog and cat mom and chef in training, is childless herself. At first, she and her husband both agreed they weren’t interested in having children. But as the biological clock ticked down, she changed her mind. He went along with it, but they couldn’t conceive. They tried IVF, but it didn’t work. Finally, he said he really didn’t want to have a child or to go through any more fertility treatments. So they stopped.  

Life happens, and often we don’t note the moments that change things. Years later, we look back and wonder: How did that happen?

Does this stir up some questions for you? I’d love to read your comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Don’t Ask Me How Many Grandchildren I Have!

“How many grandchildren do you have?” a Facebook friend posted last week. People started commenting with their numbers—7, 3, 5, etc.

The original poster is one of those people who are always posting questions. What foods do you hate? What countries have you been to? Who starred at the first concert you attended, etc.? I’m sure you have friends who do that, too. That’s fine. It’s fun. But then this grandchild question came up.

I could not help myself. I typed, “Zero. You should not assume that everyone has children and grandchildren.”

That’s all I said. But it lit a fire. The mommy brigade scolded me. It’s all in fun, they said. I don’t have to get all angry about it. I said, “I’m not angry, but I need to represent my people who would find this question hurtful. Enjoy every minute with your grandchildren. Just be aware that some of us don’t have them. I’m jealous of everyone who does.”

Jealousy is my go-to response these days. I tell folks who are happy about their families that I’m jealous as hell. Period. Let’s move on.

There are so many people to whom it never occurs that some of us, for all kinds of reasons, never have the opportunity to have children. I feel a duty to let them know. More than a fifth of us don’t have kids. They need to see that, acknowledge it, and maybe have a little bit of sympathy instead of closing the door in our faces.

Can I get an amen?

Have you found yourself in situations where you had to challenge the assumption that everyone has children? What did you say?

***

On the brighter side, something cool happened on Saturday when I was walking Annie on the next block. This Corgi named Winnie always comes waddling out on her short legs to greet us. She has the softest fur I have ever felt. On Saturday, she was accompanied by a group of little boys. The smallest one came running over to pet Annie with long slow strokes. Suddenly he turned from my dog and put his arms around me. He could only reach up to my hips. I was so touched. Then he ran back to his yard, but he stood there waving as we walked on.

“I’m Grandma Sue to the world, and I love it,” I told my deaf dog.

I promise you will reach a point where little ones are a delight and not just a cause of deep pain.

***

Here comes Mother’s Day again. Do whatever you need to do to nurture yourself on that day. Take a bubble bath. Or a hike. Buy yourself flowers. Dye your hair blue. Honor your own mother if she’s still around. Avoid social media and don’t put yourself in situations that will make you feel worse (Sunday brunch!!!). If you didn’t see it on the Childless by Marriage Facebook page, do listen to this Childless Not by Choice podcast, which offers great advice from 11 childless women about surviving the holiday. Host Civilla Morgan always makes me feel better.

Big hugs to one and all. Sue

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

My childless dog and I face old age together

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chicoannie48081.jpg

April 10, 2008

Fred and I adopted two 7-week-old puppies last week, and it really feels as if I have two babies. They’re the same weight as babies, have the same needs, and fill the same needs in my heart. Last night, my church choir surprised me with a puppy shower. There were two baby blankets, but of course no little onesies. I did get dog treats, chew toys galore, balls, wee-wee pads, and lots of advice. There was a gorgeous white-frosted cake with big red flowers on it. This may sound totally nuts, but it felt as if I had received something I’d been waiting for all my life. I sat on the floor of the chapel opening presents and soaking it all in.
As assistant director, I was surprised that there had been a wave of e-mail that didn’t include me. Those sneaky singers.
Puppies are certainly not the same as humans. They won’t take care of you in your old age. Conversations are rather one-sided. And they poop and piddle on the floor. But for the childless woman who wanted children and didn’t have them, they’re one way of filling that emptiness.
Has anyone else found that to be true? What other ways can you feed the maternal need? I’d love to hear your ideas.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20210412_160157704-edited.jpg

I wrote the above in 2008, shortly after my late husband and I adopted 7-week old puppies Chico and Annie. Those dogs took all my attention in those early days. Messy, needy, adorable. They were my babies, or as close as I was going to get.

It was absolutely the wrong time to adopt dogs, especially two at once. My husband’s Alzheimer’s disease had reached the point where I couldn’t leave him alone, and within the year, he would be living in a nursing home. Three years later, in April 2011, he would die. By then, I had just one dog, Annie. I had to give up Chico, prone to jumping fences and attacking other dogs. I have a bite scar on my leg from when I tried to keep him away from a visiting dog. It broke my heart to lose him, but I couldn’t keep coming back from the nursing home to find that he had run away again. I don’t know what happened to him. As in old-fashioned human adoptions, once I signed him over, I gave up all rights.

Now it’s April 2021. My Annie has gone from baby dog to middle-aged to old. She’s stiff with arthritis and loaded with benign fatty lumps. Her once-tan face is now completely white. Instead of saying how cute she is, people comment on how old she is. Some hint that she won’t be with me much longer. I know. That’s the hell of “fur babies.” They don’t live as long as we do. In less than two decades, we watch them go through the entire life cycle from birth to death.

I’m feeling very sad because she has lost her most of her hearing. Yesterday, the vet confirmed there was nothing they could do about it. I wish I could give her my hearing aids. I know what it’s like not to be able to hear. Both of my parents had severe hearing losses, and my hearing isn’t great anymore. Even yesterday at the vet, trying to communicate from the parking lot (COVID restrictions), I had to admit to the technician that with all the traffic noise in the background, I couldn’t hear what she was saying, even though the phone was turned all the way up. She came out to talk in person.

Annie doesn’t hear me coming and going anymore. She curls up in the doorway so she can watch me and know where I am. She doesn’t respond to verbal commands. I try to use gestures now. She mostly understands. I talk to Annie all the time—since Fred died, she’s the only one here to talk to—but now I know she can’t hear me, and that breaks my heart. She is still my beloved companion, and I thank God for her every day.

I know I should be writing about you and your childless by marriage situation. I will get back to that, but I know that for many of you, your pets are part of the family. Feel free to tell us about them. With Mother’s Day coming very soon, we all need a dose of kitten or puppy love.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Bowl brings back time before I was childless

Maybe it was the chocolate Easter bunny I had just finished, vowing to start my diet again as soon as I ate the last bite. Maybe it was the lingering effects of my second Covid shot. Maybe I should have listened to my mother when she told me it was bad to leave the dishes in the rack to dry.

I was pulling the tray for the toaster oven out of the dish rack when I upset the delicate balance and watched my 47-year-old Pyrex mixing bowl slide into the sink and shatter loudly enough for my half-deaf dog to hear.

“No!” I screamed. Looking at the green and white glass in the sink, I wanted to cry. It’s not just the bowl, which was the biggest one in the set. I have other bowls. It’s the history behind it.

It was 1974. I was going to be married in a few weeks. I was sporting a tiny diamond on a white gold band. My engagement picture had appeared in the San Jose Mercury-News and in the Milpitas Post where I worked part-time as a reporter, writing features in a rustic old house-office with a bunch of hard-smoking, cursing reporters pounding away on manual typewriters on layers of leftover newsprint with carbon paper in-between.

I was also finishing my last semester at San Jose State, where I would graduate with my degree in journalism two weeks before the wedding. In my spare time, I was setting up the apartment where Jim and I would live. I had already papered the shelves where my bowls would be stored.

The shower was supposed to be a secret, but my grandmother spilled the beans when I answered the phone in my parents’ kitchen. She told me about someone who could not attend the shower at my aunt’s house on Saturday night. I played it cool, said something like, “Oh, that’s too bad,” then rushed to the bedroom to confront my mother. “Is there going to be a wedding shower for me on Saturday night?”

“God damn it,” said my mother who never swore.

Grandma never could keep a secret.

So many of the women who were there that evening have passed on, including the grandmothers, the aunts, my mother and mother-in-law, and my best friend’s mother, Ella Shope, who gave me the nested set of four Pyrex bowls, half white with green flowers, half green with white flowers. My friend Sherri gave me matching baking dishes. I have been using them ever since, through two husbands and 11 different homes, from graduation into Medicare.

Now those bowls are considered vintage and sell for over $50 each in the antique stores. Will I buy another one? Probably not. I’m at an age where I need to let go of things.

But the memories of that wedding shower remain. In those days (maybe still?) the number of ribbons you cut opening your gifts was supposed to predict how many children you would have. That night, everyone, including me, assumed children would be coming soon. Yes, I was getting a degree and working for a newspaper, but I’d be a mother, too, and such a good one. My own mother would be the best grandmother. My grandmothers would still be around to be great-grandmothers . . . None of us had any idea that it would never happen, that we would not gather again in a year or two for a baby shower, at least not for me.

Wedding showers are difficult if you’re not in a good place relationshipwise, but baby showers are the worst torture. To sit there watching the pregnant one celebrate the upcoming birth and all the moms comparing experiences that you might never have hurts so bad. I know you can indentify.

When everybody’s in the same mindset and the same stage of life, showers are a lovely tradition, making sure the younger, less financially stable person has everything she needs to start the new phase of life. Very nice. It’s just that some of us are going in other directions. We might need support, too, but it’s not built in like baby showers.

I haven’t been invited to a shower in years. That’s fine. Fewer hours squirming in the Planet Mommy. But I’m still jealous of that outpouring of support, the presents and the cake, and the man who shows up to help carry the loot home. I’m jealous of it all.

It’s interesting how material things last longer than people. I miss those older women who gathered around to share their wisdom and make sure I had everything I needed as I began my grownup life. All those women in dresses, nylons and pearls moved on, and now I’m the old lady. I miss that time when all was rosy and possible.

And I miss my green and white bowl.

What has been your experience with wedding and baby showers? Torture or fun? Have you received items that you will treasure all your life? Please share in the comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Still Childless, Still Living with COVID-19

Dear friends,

Photo by Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com

Today I’m getting my second COVID vaccine shot. I’m less nervous this time because I know the procedure, from where to park to what to do when I get into the big building at the fairgrounds. I know the shot itself won’t hurt much, although my arm will ache afterward. I am nervous about getting sick afterwards. Some do, some don’t. After my second shingles vaccine in February, I was flattened for three days. I have left my schedule open this week just in case.

Meanwhile, here in Lincoln County, Oregon, the number of COVID cases has gone up and we’re back in the “high risk” category, with all kinds of restrictions on where we can go and what we can do. Shots or no shots, it feels like it will never end.

Who knew we’d have a second Easter of pandemic shutdowns? Another spring break wearing masks, afraid to be with groups of people?

Meanwhile, I keep seeing everybody’s kids in their Facebook posts. Dyeing eggs. Hugging stuffed Easter bunnies. Playing together in the sun. This year on Easter Sunday, I had the courage to tell my brother when he sent photos of him with his adorable grandchildren—whom I have not seen since the pandemic started—that I am jealous of what he has. He needs to understand that while his photos give me joy and I don’t want them to stop coming, they also bring pain because I don’t have my own grandkids. Because COVID has lasted so long, these little nieces and nephew won’t even know who I am. I was so hoping for a relationship with them. Facetime, you say? So far, our family doesn’t do that.

As they get vaccinated, many of my grandparent friends are reuniting with their grandchildren. I am happy for them, but the photos make me feel more alone, here in the woods with my old dog.

Zoom meetings, classes, and church services have become all too familiar now. I am grateful that I don’t have children struggling to learn via computer screen and making it hard for me to get any work done. I see the advantages of not having children during this difficult time. But I’m lonely.

I thought I had nothing to say today, and I didn’t want to be depressing. Well, here we are. Please, tell me how you’re doing after a year of this? How has COVID affected your childless situation? Have you put everything on hold or worked it out? Does the closure of so many things make it impossible to move forward? How did your Easter go?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Nomo Book Club offers ‘safe’ books for childless readers

Tired of books where everyone seems to have children? Like the book I just read in which one of the female leads has two children, 8 and 14, and the other has a one-year-old and a baby on the way?

So was Lisa Ann Kissane, one of the speakers at the recent Childless Collective Summit. Childless herself, she was weary of childless characters having miracle babies, successful fertility treatments, or being given babies to raise. Bam, you’re a mother, problem solved. So she founded the “Nomo Book Club,” nomo being short for “not mother.”

Lisa Ann reads constantly, looking for books that won’t be upsetting to women who don’t have children for whatever reason. She rates them with a “trigger warning level” from red–don’t read this–to orange–proceed with caution–to green–no worries here. The green ones are hard to find. Male heroes are often childless, but the heroines not so much.

Certain genres, like romance, seem to require that the women end up married with children or at least the promise that that’s coming. But we all know that happy ending doesn’t always happen in real life. Lisa Ann looks for stories that represent how it really is. She warns there is just as much of a danger of creating stereotypes of childless women as there is of women who have children. The hard-hearted career woman, for example.

When I wrote my novel Up Beaver Creek, I wasn’t really thinking about it as representing childlessness, but I guess it reflects my own reality. The heroine, P.D., was unable to have children, and none of the main characters are raising children. A couple of twin boys make a cameo appearance, but generally this is a childfree book. Is P.D. going to wind up with children? No. She has moved on.

As for my previous novel Azorean Dreams, I’m pretty sure the protagonist, Chelsea, will soon be a mother. I wrote it more than 20 years ago and went with the cliché.

Lots of book titles were tossed around during the Summit discussion with Lisa Ann. Among her recent favorites are Midnight Library by Matt Haig, Confessions of a Forty-Something F##k Up by Alexandra Potter, Sourdough by Robin Sloan, and Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata. See her latest recommendations at Kissane’s website, https://lisaannkissane.com/

The featured book for March was Eudora Honeysett is Quite Well, Thank You by Annie Lyons. In April, she offers a book of poems, The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace. Don’t you love the title?

If you like to read, I highly recommend joining the Nomo Book Club. Have you read some books that you found encouraging for childless readers? Are there others that made you feel bad because they were all about babies? Please share.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Three Strikes, No Kids, and Still Standing

I yield the floor today to S.C., who offers this guest post:

As I prepare to celebrate my 65th birthday, I have been thinking back on my life’s journey and some of the truths that have lived with me since I closed the door on my dream of being a mother 25 years ago. I now lead a happy life with my husband of 36 years, but I hope for a brighter journey for the young childless women of today who are still coping with many of the same challenges my generation did. Although things are changing slowly, our pronatalist society still seems to be most comfortable sweeping childless women under the rug, one of the last of society’s unrecognized disenfranchised groups, written out of the dialogue because people don’t quite know what to do with us.

This post highlights some of the things that have shaped me and helped me grow into the resilient woman I am today.

I always wanted kids, and everybody knew it. I was the one at family gatherings who played with the younger kids because I enjoyed their company. I babysat as soon as I was old enough. I majored in Early Childhood Education in college and envisioned what my kids would look like, who their father would be and how we’d all live happily in the house with the picket fence, never giving a thought to how ordinary it all was but delighting in the dream of being a family. I grew up during the feminist movement and I was convinced I could do it all, family, career, personal life.

At 28 I married a wonderful man eleven years my senior who admitted to being unsure if he wanted children. I was convinced he’d be as happy as I was once they came. After a year of being married and no pregnancy, my doctor told me we should find out why. It turned out my fallopian tubes were very nearly non-functioning, with major blockages. After years of tests, procedures and being monitored for fibroids, I was finally told I had to have a hysterectomy at 39. Strike one.

With natural childbirth off the table, our only chance to become parents was adoption or surrogacy. Now my husband openly balked. He had been willing to go along with trying to have “our own” kids, but raising “somebody else’s” kids didn’t appeal to him at all. Surrogacy using his sperm was the compromise we came to agree on. Finding birth mothers for “hire” was complicated, involving contracts and lawyers, so we agreed to talk to family and friends who qualified as birth mothers. It didn’t pan out. Strike two.

Although we were down to his most objectionable option, I convinced my husband to start down the adoption path and see where it led. We pursued it for six months, but it was mentally grueling after all we’d been through, and I could tell his heart wasn’t in it. All along the way, I had felt my dream of having a family becoming less and less likely, but I knew this was my last chance. By forcing adoption, our once strong marriage would be on shaky ground and there was a better chance than not we’d end up divorced. I was faced with the impossible decision of staying in a childless marriage or leaving in hopes of finding another mate and adopting in my mid to late 40s. I didn’t want to raise children alone, and I loved my husband. Deciding to stay was strike three for my dream of having kids. 

I’d be lying if I said the next five years of our marriage were great and I was sure I had made the right decision. I was in and out of therapy, and although I didn’t want to admit it to myself or to him, I resented our outcome and pinned the blame squarely NOT on me. I didn’t say, “You did this! It’s all your fault.” Instead, I lashed out at him for things he didn’t deserve to be lashed out about. I became sullen and moody. I felt like I was in quicksand sinking fast. 

And then I did something that would turn the tide on our future. With my husband’s full support, I made the terrifying decision to quit my corporate job and took early retirement from a successful but largely unsatisfying career. Combined with no kids, an unfulfilling career had been a drain on my energy, strength, and happiness. We had planned for early retirements financially by banking my check and always living well below our means, but this accelerated the plan for me by close to ten years.

Things didn’t magically turn wonderful overnight, but they gradually got better. I began exploring career options I had always thought I might enjoy: teaching, cooking, coaching, starting my own business. I ended up working as an independent consultant in my profession of Human Resources, and my husband and I even did some corporate training together. We traveled. We reconnected.

We’ll be married 37 years this October. I left the corporate grind 18 years ago. I occasionally think about the what ifs and I’ll always be sad about not having kids. But I made the right choice. Striking out doesn’t always mean going down.

Although I didn’t get to be a mother or a grandmother, it doesn’t define who I am today: a vibrant, happy woman whose gifts include the unique perspective and wisdom gained by traveling the challenging road of the involuntarily childless. 

***

Thank you for sharing your story, S.C. Readers, what do you think?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Do You Have to Read This Blog in Secret?

Photo by Ekaterina Bolovtsova on Pexels.com

Last week on a whim, I asked whether Childless by Marriage readers felt they needed to hide their participation in the blog, Facebook page, books, etc. I had just had a vision of a spouse looking at the computer and asking, “Why are you reading this crap?” or “Aren’t you over that yet?”

It turns out some of the folks here do have to hide their participation in Childless by Marriage and anything else related to their childlessness. Anon S said it’s her “dirty secret.” Jo, another frequent commenter, said she shares a laptop computer with her husband and can only read Childless by Marriage when he’s not around. She can’t join the Facebook page without him knowing about it.

Holy cow. I don’t know why it took me 738 posts to think of this. I guess I have had the luxury of a private office for so long I forgot that most people don’t have that. I am so sorry.

I have always had my own computer, and my late husband Fred took little interest in what I was doing on it. If I wanted to share something, I called him in or handed him a printed copy. I didn’t start the blog until he was well into Alzheimer’s, so he had no idea. But I’m sure I was journaling and reading about childlessness throughout our marriage. My annual Mother’s Day tantrums were not invisible. I remember him saying “Oh, babe.” That’s all. No further discussion. But I hid most of my tears from him. I didn’t talk much about it with anyone. What good would it do?

Anon S, featured quite a bit in the Love or Children book made from the blog, said she was worried about being found out. She won’t be. Even I don’t know her name or where she lives. With the exception of a few friends from other parts of my life, I don’t know who anybody here really is. All I know is what you tell me, and that’s fine. I want this to be a safe space.

Last week, I attended the first Childless Collective Summit. Most of the speakers talked about infertility. Our main focus here is on our problems with partners who can’t or won’t make babies with us. I feel bad for those with both kinds of problems. I can’t imagine your pain.

Some aspects of childlessness are common to us all—grief, feeling left out, dealing with rude questions, worrying about our future, etc. I wonder how many women attending the Summit, which lasted for four whole days, felt they had to hide what they were doing. If so, it took real courage just to be there, even on Zoom. And God bless Katy Seppi of Chasing Creation who organized the whole thing.

I hate that some (many?) of you have to join us in secret. If we’re ever going to find peace, we need to be able to talk about our situations, admit to our grief and claim our efforts to make sense of life without children. To put it in psych talk, we need to “own our stories.”

In Jody Day’s keynote speech at the Summit, she said that 10 percent of people without children are childless by choice, 10 percent by infertility, and 80 percent by circumstance. That’s us. We need to be free to talk about it and to support each other. Childlessness for whatever reason should not be seen as a dirty secret we need to hide under the mattress like porn magazines. 

Relationships are difficult, especially when you disagree about children. In addition to your partner, you may have stepchildren looking over your shoulder. I can hear them saying, “You’re not childless; you have me.” We all know that’s not the same. We also have parents, siblings, co-workers and friends who just don’t get it. But we have every right to say, “This is my situation. I’m trying to deal with it. I hope someday you will understand.”

It makes me sad to realize you have to hide your reading about childlessness. I pray you can all find space and your own computers, tablets or phones to read whatever you want and the courage to declare, “This is important to me, so I’m going to read it.”

How is it for you? Do you feel free to read and comment or is this something you need to hide? What can we do to change the situation? I look forward to your comments.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Childless Fun Coming Up This Weekend!

Dear friends,

I want to share a couple things that are happening online this week that you might want to participate in.

Nomo (non-mother) Crones

“The Body and the Cycles of Life” is the topic of a new “Nomo Crones” childless elders’ chat happening Saturday, March 20. Jody Day is the organizer. I’m one of the women participating, along with Karen Malone Wright, Stella Duffy, Maria Hill, Kate Kaufman, Jackie Shannon Hollis, and Donna Ward.  

The flyer is posted above. Although most of you are much younger, I think you might enjoy taking an hour to listen. Our bodies, these amazing places where our spirits live, are fascinating. They have been made to procreate, but what if we don’t use those baby-making parts? Or what if they go wrong on us? Register here at https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_QBZqJhxxSqyjmxhIyqg2Zg. Be sure to convert for your time zone.

Childless Summit

If you’re not ready for crone wisdom, consider participating in the first annual Childless Collective Summit March 18-21. Katy Seppi, who has organized it, who is a young dynamo who wants the world to understand what it’s like to be childless not by choice.

Seppi is the founder of Chasing Creation: Designing an Unexpectedly Childfree Life, which includes a blog, Facebook page, and more. Find out all about the Summit, register and watch a video with Katy at https://www.chasingcreation.org/. Once you register, you will receive links to all the sessions.

Seppi’s story is an interesting one. She talked about it recently on Jo Vraca’s (un) Ripe podcast. She and her husband both grew up Mormon in Utah. Although the church is very pro-children, her husband wasn’t keen on the idea for the first decade of their marriage. Then, when he felt ready to be a father, they couldn’t get pregnant. Katy had fibroids and endometriosis. She had surgeries and tried IVF, but it didn’t work. She had suffered pain from her endometriosis for years and opted for a hysterectomy. She has spent the years since then dealing with her grief and finding her way through a life without children.

The Childless Collective Summit is a four-day virtual event, featuring 28 speakers, all focused on topics related to being childless not by choice. The free Basic Access Pass gets you in to all the sessions. If you can’t watch them when presented, you can still watch the recordings online later. There’s also a paid All Access Pass that gets you transcripts of the presentations and other goodies.

Day 1 focuses on our stories, Day 2 on healing, Day 3 on making connections, and Day 4 on looking ahead. Keynote speaker Jody Day will address “How to Create a Meaningful Life Without Children: Lessons from a Decade of Healing” on Sunday, March 21 at 2 p.m. EDT. Click here https://www.chasingcreation.org/summit-schedule/ref/26/ for the complete schedule.

We’ve Got to Talk About It

When I started writing about childlessness back in the 1990s, I had to look hard to find anyone else writing and speaking about the subject, but we are blessed now to have lots of people joining the conversation. You can read books and attend conferences and podcasts online, but you can also start the conversation at home. I know we’re limited by COVID right now, but if you look around, you may find others with stories similar to your own. You may have to start the conversation by noting that you don’t have children and asking if they do, but you’re not alone. With 20 percent of women not having children these days, the answer might be “No, I never had children.” Get together, ask them how it has been for them. If they say they do have children, explain your situation anyway. Help them to understand.

Etc.

I hope to see you online this weekend at the Summit or the Nomo Crones chat. Thank you to everyone who participated in the 99-cent sale for Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both. I appreciate your support. If you missed it, it’s still only $2.99 on Amazon for the Kindle version.

It just occurred to me: Do some of you have trouble looking at all this childless stuff online because your partner might see it and get upset? I live alone, so I don’t think about it, but I can picture someone’s husband or wife–or their stepchildren–looking over their shoulder at the screen and urging you to shut it off. Does that happen? Let’s talk about it.

St. Patrick’s Day hugs to one and all. I’m wearing my green socks, shirt, and earrings. Have you got your green on?

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Her Life Didn’t Bring Children, But She Feels Blessed

Today we have a guest post from Melissa:

We are childless, my husband and I. Marriage came late to both of us; I was 39 at the altar and he was 48. Our conversations center around bodily aches, prescriptions, and retirement funds. My husband’s fingers are gnarled with arthritis and his limbs stiff. Simple acts like picking litter off the floor or reaching the bottom cupboard are laborious feats. For myself, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain, and various tight muscles contribute to remind me of my lost youth.

We decided, before marriage and without much discussion, that kids were not for us. My husband’s concern was the cost of parenting, and mine was the workload. I had observed and studied the plight of American mothers: saddled with the lion’s share of childcare and domestic administration, criticized relentlessly for any tiny fault, bereft of government support programs and affordable childcare. Motherhood in America was a raw deal for women, I decided. Coupled with this, my husband came into marriage not knowing how to change a diaper, mow a lawn, or plan meals. All this was enough to make me quite happily childfree.

We married, moved in together, and settled into the rhythms of later-in-life marriage, navigating the normal squabbles of who kept hogging all the mattress real estate and whose wet towel was on the floor. I set to work on the long task of pushing my husband out of his bachelor squalor and into more tidy habits. We worked, we quarreled, we got some mileage under our belts as a married couple.

Somewhat to my surprise, I began noticing a longing for children starting to creep around the edges of my subconscious. Sometimes it was the sight of my husband playing with our dog or a father biking with his children. My ovaries fired out regular missives to my brain, warning me that the motherhood window was almost closed. My husband’s patience, his smile, and his loving doting on me made me dream at times of meeting him with our baby at the end of his work day or taking a family walk with our toddler. Despite his physical issues and his sensitive ears that can’t bear the teakettle whistle, let alone a baby’s scream, my husband has many good fatherly traits that would bless a child.

At times, I do the evaluation, the “If he does get that promotion, maybe we could afford a baby and for me to be a stay-at-home mom so we don’t have to pay for childcare” or “If I gave birth next year, he would be 69 when our child graduated high school.” I play the numbers game and the what-ifs but with a sense of futility. The time really has passed for both of us. Neither of us has the stamina for late-night feedings, sleep deprivation, or toddler energy. The cost of parenthood in America is still too punitively high and we can’t afford to wreck our retirement planning. Plus, I know I would be doing the bulk of household work and emotional labor, and just thinking about trying to do this while working full-time makes me immediately exhausted. So we remain childless.

This makes me quite sad at times. Each month when my period arrives, I feel both relief and sorrow, another bloody reminder of the child I will never have as much as I am relieved to know that I’m not unexpectedly pregnant that month. I have my moments where I fervently hope for an “oops,” even as we are diligent about birth control. I worry about facing old age alone. My mother died last year at age 64, surrounded by her four children and numerous other family and relatives. I wonder who will care for me in old age, if my golden years will be silent and lonely, if I will outlive my husband or leave him a bereft widower. I struggle with understanding why my path was not motherhood, why I could not have met my husband sooner when children were a possibility. But there are no answers.

Yet my life is good. I have love, I have life and light, I have happiness. My marriage is blessed, we have friends and richness and joy. There are moments of poignant sorrow and loss, but there are many sweet ones that soothe away the pain. I am blessed.

What do you think? Lets hear your comments.

***

In honor of my birthday (March 9), I have lowered the price of the Kindle version of Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both to just 99 cents. The sale is this week only, ending March 15. So click now.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.