What If Your True Love Doesn’t Like Dogs?

One big disagreement, whether or not to have children, dominates this blog. If he wants them and you don’t or vice versa, what do you do? Leave or suck it up and let them have their way. But that’s not the only thing couples disagree on.

For example, an article published in the Marin Independent Journal in California asked the question: “You love dogs, he doesn’t—can this relationship survive?” Now that’s a big question.

Having grown up in a pet-less household because my parents didn’t want to bother with furry offspring, when I got old enough to make my own choices, I adopted a cat and then a dog. I can’t imagine living without a furry housemate. Luckily, both husbands were pro-pet. But what if they weren’t?

What if you have reached some kind of truce on the baby question, but now she says no dogs, no cats, no pets, no way. How about birds? Nope. Maybe they’re not anti-pet, but they have asthma or severe allergies. You can’t walk a goldfish. You can’t hug a turtle. What do you do?

There are other big issues to disagree on. You want to buy a house; he’s happy renting an apartment. He wants to move across the country; you want to stay close to your family. You want to go back to school; he thinks it’s a waste of money. Your church is the center of your life; she doesn’t believe in God.

What do you do? Back in the 1950s and 60s, Ladies Home Journal Magazine published a monthly column titled “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” If these questions were posed back then, the columnist would probably tell the wife to do her wifely duty and surrender to her husband’s will. Things are a little different now. Husbands and wives are supposed to be equal. But when they disagree on major decisions, one may still ask “Can this marriage be saved?” Well, can it? Where is the line? What’s the deal-breaker? If you disagree about children, will you disagree about other important things? Does that make you incompatible or human?

I wish I had the answers to all these questions, but maybe only the people involved can answer them. Neither of my husbands went to church. I accepted that. I went back to school; Fred accepted that. I wanted a house, but didn’t get one until well into the second marriage; I accepted that.

Compromise is required of every relationship. He likes Brussels sprouts and you hate them. You cook them for him. You want to watch “The Bachelor” on TV, and he wants to watch Monday Night Football. You get two TVs or stream “The Bachelor” after the game. He wants to go to Las Vegas, and you want to go to Hawaii. You do Hawaii this year and promise to hit Vegas next year. You work it out.

Or you don’t. Such disagreements drive couples into therapy or at least to someone sleeping on the couch. If no one will give in, can the relationship survive?

What do you think? What will you compromise on, and what’s a deal-breaker? What if he doesn’t like dogs?

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‘Your Fertile Years’ offers eye-opening facts

Your Fertile Years: What You Need to Know to Make Informed Choices by Professor Joyce Harper, Sheldon Press, 2021.

Back in 1969, Dr. David Reuben published a little book titled Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex But Were Afraid to Ask. People couldn’t wait to read it because frankly they were afraid to ask. Joyce Harper, professor of Reproductive Science at University College London and a longtime fertility researcher, has written a 2021 version that includes everything a woman or man could possibly want to know about sex and reproduction. Loaded with research and study results, it’s not easy reading, but here are the facts about menstruation, fertility, how to have good sex, contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases, how a baby gets made, egg freezing, in vitro fertilization, menopause, and the future of reproductive science–artificial wombs that could be implanted in men?!!! Everyone with reproductive parts should have this book on hand.

Harper, who has three children conceived by IVF, is very frank about age and reproduction. Men are blessed with millions of sperm and keep making them throughout life. Women come with a limited supply and a deadline. If you want to get pregnant the natural way, she says, you should do it before age 35. In your 20s would be even better. To make things worse, she cites studies that show fertility begins to decline at a younger age for women who have not had children.

She writes: “In my view, women need to decide if they want a family in their late twenties to early thirties, and, if they do, they need to make some important life choices. If they have a willing partner, they can decide to start trying soon, or if they have decided on solo motherhood, they may wish to start donor insemination An expensive alternative is to have their eggs frozen. Or they could decide to wait, in the hope that they will be one of the lucky ones.”

Worldwide, young people are delaying childbirth. They are anxious to finish their education and establish their careers. They want to be in a stable relationship, preferably with the house and the picket fence before they attempt to get pregnant. Totally understandable. Times have changed and women have more options, but their ovaries have not changed. Even those who decide to freeze their eggs in the hope that they will find the perfect partner later on are encouraged to do so in their 20s, when their eggs are the most healthy and plentiful.

“Freezing eggs gives women more time to try to find Mr/Ms Right, rather than rush into a relationship with Mr/Ms Second Best. Some of those women who have a partner freeze their eggs to take the pressure of the relationship These women are usually older than the ideal age to freeze eggs, with the majority being over 35,” Harper says.

Couples who run out of natural options can turn to Assisted Reproductive Therapy (ART), which includes IVF, donor insemination, and other techniques. It’s stressful, expensive, and frequently not covered by insurance. In her book, Harper describes all the options in detail, along with the side effects and the odds of success. It’s not something you want to go into without thinking hard about it. How much is that baby worth to you?

Circling back to our theme here at Childless by Marriage, ART is not even an option if your partner doesn’t want a child in the first place.

The biggest lesson of Your Fertile Years is that you need to decide early how important it is to you to have children. If you can’t imagine life without them, you need to take action, whether it’s convincing your partner that you can’t wait, finding someone else to donate sperm or egg, freezing your eggs, or ending a childless relationship in the hope of finding someone new who wants to have children as much as you do.

This book goes way beyond having babies. Even if you decide not to have children, it offers extremely useful information about periods, PMS, birth control, STDs, and more, all that stuff your mom probably never told you. I know mine didn’t. Thank God for books.

***

My interview at the UnRipe podcast with Jo Vraca is online now. Listen to it here. Jo asked some hard questions. At the end, you hear a woman singing in the background. That’s me.

Our Nomo Crone Childless Elderwomen fireside chat last Sunday went very well. We are some rowdy ladies, all proof there is life beyond age 55, even if you never had children. Here’s the link to listen to the recording.

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Having babies twice as hard for gay couple

The Other Mothers by Jennifer Berney, Sourcebooks, 2021.

Many couples struggle to have children. Various circumstances, including infertility, work against them. But it’s twice as hard when the couple is two women.

In this marvelous memoir, Jenn and Kellie struggle first to decide whether they both want to try. Kellie is older and not as keen on having a baby, but ultimately she agrees. Then they need sperm to get Jenn pregnant. They try to go through the system, but medical professionals are mostly disapproving or clueless. They look for a husband, not accepting Kellie as Jenn’s life partner. The first doctor they see diagnoses their problem as “lack of sperm.” He also says he won’t do any diagnostic tests until they have been “trying” for a year, the same thing he tells heterosexual couples. Only after they have used up 10 units of donor sperm and Jenn has suffered multiple miscarriages do they find a doctor who is willing to take a closer look to see why all of the pregnancies have failed. By then, they’re out of money and losing hope. Ultimately the couple finds a solution with the help of their friends, but I won’t spoil the story with details. This book is an eye-opener, laced with research on the challenges facing same-sex couples who want to have children. It’s also a darned good story.

For readers here at Childless by Marriage, I have to include a trigger warning. Kellie and Jenn do end up having babies. If this bothers you, you might want to skip this one or stop reading when sperm and egg unite. But I think you might identify with much of the story, even if you’re straight.

I haven’t written much here about gay couples. Being straight, I can’t claim to know what it’s really like. I’m not even sure “gay” is the acceptable word anymore. Too much of my thinking is colored by the same-sex couples I see on TV, which is probably not realistic. The LGBTQ couples I know in real life are all childfree by choice.

It has only been a few decades since parenthood was even considered a possibility for the LGBTQ community. It was assumed that couples of the same gender would never have children because one of the ingredients was missing. But there are ways to make it happen. Adoption. A male friend and a turkey baster. Sperm donors, egg donors, surrogates, and fertility clinics.

But one critical ingredient remains: Both partners must want to have children and be willing to put in the time, money and misery to make it happen. It’s not going to happen by accident. If they’re not on the same page, they’ll be childless by marriage like the rest of us.

Help me fill in the blanks. I would love to hear about your real-life experiences with same-sex couples and parenthood.

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The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

******

Sunday is also Father’s Day in the U.S. Or as frequent commenter Tony calls it, “Chopped Liver Day” because that’s how he feels. This week, Childless Not by Choice podcaster Civilla Morgan gathered several men to share their views and suggestions for surviving the day. Click here to listen.

Do We Settle Because We’re Afraid of Being Alone?

Do we commit to less than perfect partners because we’re terrified of being alone?

A webinar about spinsterhood got me thinking about this over the weekend. On Sunday, Jody Day of Gateway Women led the discussion with Civilla Morgan, who hosts the Childless Not by Choice podcast; Shani Silver, host of A Single Serving podcast, and Donna Ward, author of She I Dare Not Name: A Spinster’s Meditations on Life. (Read my review of her book here.) Ward, who lives in Australia, has just released an American edition of her book.

Our world is not kind to women who for whatever reason, aside from becoming nuns, never marry or have children. The assumption that everyone has a partner is even stronger than the assumption that everyone has children. Have you noticed how the world is set up for couples? Two settings at the restaurant table. Win a trip for two. Here’s a two-for- one coupon.

The word “spinster” has ugly connotations. It implies that something’s wrong with you, that you failed to attract a man. You’re unattractive, weird, asexual, can’t get along with people. Then again, as Ward writes, maybe you attracted plenty of men, but none of them were good enough to spend your life with.

Bachelors are not quite as frowned on, but still we wonder: what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you have a wife and kids like everybody else?

Maybe, like Silver, you like being on your own. You don’t need to be married or have children. She complained that every resource she sees for single women focuses on dating: how to get a man and end your single state. But for some singles, that’s not the issue.

It’s like being alone is a fate worse than death.

I have been alone for 12 years now. I get lonely. I have my memories to keep me company, but memories don’t put their arms around you. Memories don’t help you move that fallen tree branch that weighs more than you do. Memories won’t watch your purse while you go to the restroom, drive you to the ER when you sprain your ankle, or listen when you really need to talk to someone.

But having been married, it’s like I get this check mark from society on the box that says, “Approved.”

The list of challenges living alone goes on for days, but I don’t want to get married again. I like my freedom. Most of my widowed friends feel the same way. We have found our solo power and we like it. When we need help, we call each other.

When I was younger, would I ever have considered a single life? It wouldn’t have been my first choice, but it could have happened.

No one asked me out until I was in college. Too nerdy, too fat, not social enough, parents too strict? I don’t know. I was already wondering if I’d ever find anyone, if I’d be like my Barbie doll without a Ken. I was afraid no man would love me when everything in my world told me a woman needs to get married and have children. So when someone finally wanted to date me, I didn’t ponder whether I liked him; I said yes. And I continued to say yes through a first marriage that failed and a series of unsuitable boyfriends between marriages. When I think of all the garbage I put up with just to hold onto a man . . .

By the time I met Fred, I had come to believe I would be single for the rest of my life. What if he hadn’t come along? I hope I wouldn’t have married another dud just to have someone. I know people who have done that. Don’t you?

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who never married. People wonder about them. Are they gay, do they have autism, are they mentally ill, or are they just plain weird? What if they’re regular people who surveyed the choices and said, “I’m fine by myself”?

My dog follows me around all day. She’s afraid of being alone. Humans are afraid, too. Maybe it’s the herd mentality. The zebra that wanders off alone gets killed by the lion. But maybe we don’t need to partner up for safety anymore. We can just be part of the herd.

So how about you? Have you settled so you wouldn’t be alone? Do you think it’s better to make a life alone rather than to be with the wrong person? Does the idea of a solo life scare you so much you’re willing to put up with a less-than-perfect relationship to avoid it, even if that means giving up the chance to have children? Let’s talk about it.

******

The Nomo Crones are meeting again for another Childless Elderwomen chat. On Sunday, June 20, noon PDT, I will join Jody Day, Donna Ward, Karen Kaufmann, Jackie Shannon Hollis, Maria Hill, Karen Malone Wright and Stella Duffy. We’ll talk about coming out of the COVID cocoon and the skills we’ve learned from our childless lives. No doubt, our talk will range all over the place. We’re a rowdy bunch. To register to listen live or receive the recording later, click here.

***********

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The choices that lead us to childlessness

Fred Lick and Chico

I’ve been rewriting a memoir about caring for my husband with Alzheimer’s disease. In describing where we were back then, I needed to look back at how we got there and the choices we made. One of the biggest for me was choosing to marry a man who would not give me children. Fifteen years older than I was, Fred already had three children from wife #1, followed by a vasectomy. He made it clear he did not want to deal with babies again.

So why did I marry him when I had always expected to have children? Was it simply that the demise of my first marriage had left me feeling that I would always be alone and that I had already missed my chance? Maybe. Was it that my career was always more important than the children I might have had? I wonder.

I wish I could be anonymous today, but let’s dive into the reasons I committed my life to this man and gave up motherhood. As they say on American Idol, in no particular order. . .

  1. He had three children who could become my children. Instant family, two boys and a girl, no labor pains, no stretch marks. We didn’t exactly become the Brady Bunch, but they were kids and they were kind of mine. I got a partial membership to the Mom Club.
  2. I love, love, loved Fred. Still do. And he loved me.
  3. Men weren’t exactly lining up to be with me. After the divorce and a few more failed relationships, I thought I would be alone forever. Being married with no children beat not being married at all.
  4. My last relationship before I met Fred had exploded, leaving me a wreck. The man was verbally and sexually abusive and threatened to dump me every time I tried to stand up for myself. Fred was kind, smart, respectful and loving. He treated me like a princess.
  5. He brought love, family, and financial stability. I was not a “golddigger.” I did not marry Fred for money–he wasn’t rich–but I was aware that being with him would raise me out of poverty and let me pursue my writing and music dreams.
  6. Fred was a freaking catch.

I didn’t analyze it at the time. I didn’t make a list of pros and cons. We were ridiculously in love. Period. We both had been hurt in previous relationships and were happy to find love again. We had a lot in common. We fit. I have never regretted that choice.

Not that he was perfect. He had his quirks, but I’m kind of a pain in the ass, so I think I lucked out.

Until today, I never thought hard about why Fred chose me. I was his friend Mike’s sister. He found me pretty, talented, sexy and available. But I wondered at the time if he was ready for a new relationship. I had been single for four years, but he and his first wife had split less than a year earlier. Their divorce wasn’t final yet. Was I the rebound girl? Was it just that Fred couldn’t stand to be alone? I have seen men marry younger women to fluff their egos, take care of their kids, and cook their meals. I have seen men hook up with women with well-paid jobs to share their money. But Fred was doing fine on his own. He was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. He’s here not to ask, so let’s just say I appeared at the right time and place and it was good for both of us. Or, as I tell my religious friends, God put us together, one of his miracles.

Enough about me. More than enough. Hindsight is always 20-20, as the tiresome saying goes. If you’re in the midst of a potentially childless by marriage situation, don’t wait for hindsight. Go somewhere by yourself and analyze your choices while you have time to change your mind—or decide that you don’t want to change a thing. Just know why you’re doing it.

I welcome your comments.

NOTE: This is the 750th post at the Childless by Marriage blog. It started in 2007, years before the Childless by Marriage book was published. I’m amazed. I brag that I could write 500 words on any subject, but still…

If you would like to contribute a guest post, follow the guidelines on this page and go for it.

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10 Challenging Thoughts About Childlessness

1. Don’t assume you know what your partner wants. Ask. Ask again later to be sure, but don’t nag. Nagging doesn’t help, whether you trying to get someone to take out the trash or change their mind about having children. They feel the way they feel.

2. It’s not just women who get caught in childless-by-marriage situations. Men do, too. They just don’t talk about it as much.

3. When guys meet, they don’t ask, “How many kids do you have?” They ask, “What do you do?” Maybe we should all just say, “Tell me about yourself.”

4. Childless women still have motherly instincts. Example: Our new neighbor’s little boy runs around naked most of the time. He’s too old for that, plus it’s cold around here. I want to wrap a blanket around him and get him some clothes.

5. People with giant families will never understand what it’s like to be just you and your partner or to be alone.

6. Mother’s Day is a drag for most people. I’m guessing 80 percent of us hate it. Some don’t have children. Some have stepchildren who ignore them. Some don’t get along with their mothers. Some loved their mothers, but they’ve passed away. Father’s Day gets less attention, but the same issues apply: no kids, no dad, no acknowledgement from stepchildren. And all those pictures of fathers fishing, hunting or barbecuing with the adoring family, bleh!

7. There will come a point in your life when you don’t want a baby. The idea of caring for an infant sounds exhausting. But you do want grown children and grandchildren. You would give anything to have someone who looks like you call you “Mom” or “Dad.”

8. Most of us can’t point to the day we knew we were never going to have children. It just happens. When do you change from potentially childless to forever childless?

9. The UK and Australia appear to be way ahead of the Americans in forming groups and offering meetups and online support for the childless. Why is that? I have considered doing some kind of Zoom thing, but then I remember most of you prefer to be anonymous. So what should we do? Ideas?

10. Our book Love or Children: When You Can’t Have Both is listed for sale at target.com. I don’t know if you can buy it at an actual Target store; we don’t have any of those here. But people are ridiculously impressed. #1 on the New York Times bestseller list? Yawn. Available at Target? Wow!!!

Things have gotten a little too quiet around here. If you feel moved to comment on any of these, do it. Let’s talk!

Hugs from the Oregon coast.

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Failed vasectomy reversal means no kids

Six to 10 percent of men decide to reverse their vasectomies. There are no guarantees a reversal will work. The longer it has been, the less likely it is to be successful. For Laura Curtis and her husband, it wasn’t.

Curtis, a musician from Ontario Canada, told her story on the April 22 UnRipe podcast for childless women. She was 22 and he was 36 when they were married. He had had a vasectomy, but she had always wanted children, so he had surgery to reverse the vasectomy. It failed, due to an excess of scar tissue. Although her own reproductive system was perfectly healthy, she was facing a life without the children she had always dreamed of having. They tried fertility treatments, with several embryo transfers. That didn’t work either.

All of this was hard on the marriage, and it even led Curtis to consider suicide. She went into therapy, went back to school for a music degree, and considered more IVF. Then she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Because she couldn’t take her MS medication while trying to become pregnant, they ended their efforts to have children. “We made choices that didn’t feel like choices,” she told host Jo Vraca.

Curtis is now a singer and music teacher. She found comfort in going back to school and studying the effects of sex hormones on the voice, something she had really felt during her fertility treatments. Classical singing is a whole body experience. When you are in pain or your ovaries are greatly enlarged, it’s difficult to support the notes, she said. You can read her master’s thesis, “The Effects of Infertility on Female Vocalist Identity” here. Now she’s working on a PhD.

Curtis teaches music and sings with several groups, including the Childless Voices Choir, founded by Helen Louise Jones in the UK. Jones also leads a weekly chanting circle online on Sundays. Visit https://www.ourhealingvoice.com to find out more about the benefits of singing, especially when you’re going through a hard physical or emotional time. Curtis says the music feeds her soul. Although she truly wanted to be a mother, she now calls herself “involuntarily childfree” because she is loving her life.

Listen to the UnRipe podcast here. https://www.unripecommunity.com.au/blog/21-infertility-after-failed-vasectomy-reversal-with-laura-curtis/

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One more thing:

I’m relatively new at the church I’m attending now. Our priest likes to dialogue during the homily. The other day, he was talking about parents and children. He said he didn’t have any children, so he needed our input. Then he turned to me and asked what it’s like being a parent. In front of God and everybody, I said, “I don’t have any children either.” Stone silence for a second, and then he stuttered around and said something about picking the one wrong person to ask. He moved on. But, that was awkward. And even though I didn’t have children, I wanted to try to answer his question. People assume every woman my age is a mother and grandmother. Surprise! I’m not.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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