Where do we “childless by circumstance” people fit in?

In preparing to write this blog, I look at the posts in the various related Facebook groups I belong to. It always makes me uncomfortable. The posts at the Childless Stepmothers group burn with anger. The stepmoms seem to hate their stepchildren as well as the kids’ biological mothers. They resent the fact that they have to take care of these “brats” while they don’t get to have their own kids. Although my own relationship with my stepchildren has not always been smooth, I am always aware that by giving me a chance to interact with his kids, my husband gave me a family. It’s an opportunity to be a mother in some ways. I am lucky that the kids’ mom is a great person, and we all get along. It doesn’t always work out that way.
At the Being Fruitful Without Multiplying group, the overriding theme seems to be that people who have babies are idiots. Not smart enough to use birth control. Look how pregnancy ruins your body. Look how it ruins your life. How dare these breeders make us share our world with their “spawn?” And how could a doctor refuse to sterilize a person in his or her 20s, saying they’re “too young?”
At Childless Not by Choice, the grief fills my computer monitor with tears. Some members are childless because their partner can’t or doesn’t want to have kids, some don’t have partners, and some have struggled with infertility, including multiple miscarriages, stillbirths and failed attempts to get pregnant.They’d give anything to have children.
I feel most comfortable with the Childless Not by Choice group, but it’s not easy to face all this sadness.
In real life, too, it’s hard to fit in sometimes. At my new dentist’s office last week, the dental assistant went on and on about her children and grandchildren—as well as her husband. She didn’t ask if I was married or had children, and I couldn’t tell her because of the sharp instruments in my mouth.
At lunch last Sunday after church, I sat with four friends, all mothers, three of them grandmothers, as they passed around baby pictures and talked about their families. I love these women, but I felt like a papaya at a table full of apples. I sipped my iced tea and hoped our food would arrive soon.
I have other friends I meet at writing workshops and other events who are militantly childfree. If I say anything about kids, they proclaim that they never wanted them, thank God they don’t have them. They shudder at the thought of being mothers while I quietly hope the program will start soon.
It’s a crazy time. In my mother’s generation, everybody had children if they were physically able to do so. They were all happy apples. Now, with so many choices, it’s one big mixed-up fruit cocktail.
What are your experiences dealing with the moms and non-moms? Please share in the comments.
(If you want to join any of these Facebook groups, search for them by name. Most are private so people can share freely. If you need an invitation to get in, let me know.)

Bye-bye, Baby Pictures

Does seeing baby pictures all over Facebook and other social media drive you nuts? I often read comments here and elsewhere from childless/childfree people who can’t stand looking at other people’s baby pictures. Either they don’t enjoy babies or looking at these photos hurts because they can’t have them.

It’s not just online, of course. We can’t do much about our friends and relatives who insist on showing us pictures of their children and grandchildren. These days, they don’t need actual photos; they just click them up on their smart phones and make you look. Then of course, you feel pressured to say something complimentary about the wee one. Is it only me or are some babies ugly?

Sometimes friends start to realize you don’t want to see their baby pictures, but they get all huffy about it. Don’t show it to Sue. She’s not interested. Or Don’t show it to Sue. She hates babies. Not true. Babies are amazing, but I admit that I get more of a warm squishy feeling looking at puppy pictures.

Anyway, in some online situations now, you can get rid of the baby pictures. At http://www.unbaby.me, you can download a program that replaces baby images with dogs or a tropical beach or whatever makes you happy. Apparently it only works for the Google Chrome operating system so far, but it might be worth a try if you can’t handle anymore baby pix. Go to the website and try it just for giggles.

****

Dame Helen and me:

I woke up to a pleasant surprise the other morning when Sarah Rainey, a writer for the UK’s Daily Telegraph, e-mailed me for an interview. She had 20 minutes before deadline, and by the miracles of the Internet, I was able to receive her questions and send back answers in time to be included in her article. That article, which focuses on childless actress Dame Helen Mirren, is now online, titled “Helen Mirren confronts the final female taboo.”  I’m so flattered to be in such elegant company, and I think you will enjoy the article.

Baby pictures?

I lay back on the bed in the small dark room at the hospital and stared at the screen. As I have seen in so many TV shows and movies, there was the fuzzy image in the shape of a windshield-wiper swath. My pants were open, coated with gel, and the technician was running a wand over my belly. Although I knew it was impossible, I wanted to see a baby up there.

The image looked just like the screen on our old black and white TV when Dad was up on the roof trying to get the antenna to work. If you stared at it long enough, you started to see things that might be there. In this case, I pretended I could see a fetus. But no, it wasn’t there. One more time, I felt the loss of the children who might have been.

An hour earlier, my doctor had felt something irregular in the area of my left ovary and ordered an immediate ultrasound. The good-looking male technician pointed out my bladder, my uterus, and the places where my ovaries supposedly were, but I couldn’t see them. I sure hoped he could interpret all that black and white fuzz.

Having seen it done so often on TV, the first part of the ultrasound was familiar and physically painless, interesting even. The writer in me was already constructing my prize-winning essay and wondering if I could get a photo to take home. But then he announced Part 2, which consisted of inserting a long wand into my vagina and poking around for a while to get close-up pictures. Not so fun. Do they do this with pregnant women? I have no reference.

The good news is that my doctor ultimately determined that everything was normal. “Normal” is such a beautiful word, isn’t it? I still have all my baby-making equipment, even though they are too old to use. Still room for a miracle.

Or maybe I just had mine.

Mom Club strikes again and so do the dogs

My puppies are in timeout right now. They were so cute sleeping together atop the spa cover–until I looked out the window and saw them shredding it. I took a cue from Supernanny and shut them in the laundry room, not so much to think about what they did–they’re dogs–but to give them time to find something else to chew up and me time to stop being angry. Think they’ll get through the duct tape I used to patch the cover? You bet. And wait till their father gets home.

Still on the dogs, Chico literally chewed off Annie’s collar day before yesterday and chomped it into little pieces. I saw it hanging from his mouth, ran out and gathered the bits of cloth. I thought I got them all, but yesterday morning, I discovered that during the night he had barfed up the rest of the collar, including a plastic clasp. Yikes. I hear they calm down after the first year. I hope so. At least human babies don’t have teeth.

***

I opened my blogger screen this morning and what did I see? Baby pictures. Come on, Blogger, some of us don’t want to see babies right now.

***
At last weekend’s conference, I was having a fine time at the bar with a bunch of other writers when suddenly the conversation turned to children and I found myself sitting alone with my beer and basketball on the overhead TV screen while the others were huddled together talking about school, obedience, shots and other kid topics. Once again, the Mom Club had gathered and I was left out. Ever feel that way?

***
I did meet with agents and editors about the Childless by Marriage book at the conference. No good news yet, but it’s coming.