Book Review: The Pregnant Pause

 

The Pregnant Pause by Jane Doucet, published by All My Words, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 2017.

Does she want to have a baby? As her 37th birthday approaches, that’s what Rose keeps asking herself. She loves children, but also loves her job. She and her husband don’t have much money, and he won’t commit until she’s sure one way or the other. He feels no pressure. He will still be fertile for many more years. Plus he’s not getting harassed by parents, co-workers and even strangers who want to know why she hasn’t reproduced yet. Nor is he the one to whom his mother gave a book of baby names for Christmas.

Readers of this blog and my Childless by Marriage book will recognize many of the situations Rose faces–the clueless remarks, the friends obsessed with their offspring, the fear of waiting too long, the spouse who won’t commit to parenthood, the wondering if you’re not cut out for motherhood.

In this enjoyable novel, Doucet hits all the familiar notes. Childless or formerly childless readers will nod in sympathy. I especially ached for Rose as she tried to get her husband to explain why he hesitated to have children. He really didn’t want to talk about it (sound familiar?). Rose asks why he doesn’t want children right now. Is it because he thinks he’d be a bad father? No. Is it the loss of sleep? No. He finally admits he doesn’t want the responsibility. What if she got pregnant by accident? Would he leave her? “No, of course not. But I wouldn’t be happy about the situation . . . are we finished with this discussion?”

This self-published book by a long-time Canadian journalist could have benefited from another run through the copy editor to deal with tense inconsistencies and add more life to the dialogue. But bravo to Doucet for offering a novel in which children are not guaranteed. I think you’ll enjoy reading it.

Doucet’s website: www.thepregnantpause.net

Full Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the author.

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Have I mentioned the NotMom Summit? It’s a two-day conference happening Oct. 6 and 7 in Cleveland, Ohio. I will be one of the speakers, along with many of the most active women in the childless/childfree community. Jody Day of Gateway Women is coming all the way from the UK. We’ll have Marcia Drut-Davis, author of Confessions of a Childfree Woman; Laura Carroll, author of Families of Two and The Baby Matrix, Laurie Lisle, author of Without Child: Challenging the Stigma of Childlessness, and so many more. Think about coming. For once, you will not be surrounded by moms. For details, visit http://thenotmom.com/the-notmom-summit-2017. I would love to see you there.

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Readers, We have been getting lots of great comments on recent posts. People are talking about stepchildren, childless women’s roles, Klinefelter’s syndrome and more. Scroll back to past weeks and join the discussions. Or use the search box at right to find subjects you want to read about.

Book tells stories of ‘missed motherhood’

Let’s talk about books on this snowy morning. Yes, it’s snowing on the beach in Oregon. So pretty. So not going to my dentist appointment. 🙂

Comstock, Kani with Barbara Comstock. Honoring Missed Motherhood: Loss, Choice and Creativity. Ashland, OR: Willow Press, 2013.

In a world where having children seems to be the default setting for most women, Comstock acknowledges that large numbers of women do not become mothers for physical or circumstantial reasons. Even if they do have children, they may have lost other babies to abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth. The book includes the Comstocks’ personal stories of non-motherhood, followed by a series of first-person narratives from other women. It concludes with a series of resources to help deal with grief and the loss of children.

Aside from some grammar glitches, the book is well-written and the stories are engrossing. I was shocked at the number of women here who had abortions, sometimes multiple, and others who had one miscarriage after another. The situation I address in my own Childless by Marriage book and blog, the partner who is unwilling or unable to make babies, is glossed over with one story that ends happily with a great relationship with the woman’s stepchildren. Believe me, it doesn’t always work that way.

I was also bothered by the frequent mentions of something called The Hoffman Process, a personal growth program in which both women are deeply involved. For approximately $5,000, you can spend a week at one of their retreats and release all your trapped feelings. Some online writers call it a cult. Are the Comstocks trying to sell us the course? Are they qualified to offer the psychological information they include? They are probably right that most of us do not fully express our feelings or acknowledge our losses, but I don’t know if we need the “process.”

Those concerns aside, the resources included at the back of the book are a boon for any childless woman trying to figure out how to grieve her loss and move on. They include rituals one can perform alone or with friends and a wonderful Mother’s Day ceremony I would love to try. You can also find these rituals at their website, http://www.missedmotherhood.com.

The emphasis really is on physical loss of a baby. If your problem is with your partner, well, you have already found us right here.

Kani Comstock and I will both be presenting at the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio October 6 and 7.

Michele Longo Eder, Salt in our Blood. Newport, OR: Dancing Moon Press, 2008

Right after I read the Comstocks’ book, I launched into this memoir by a local woman about the loss of her stepson at sea. I’m still deeply engrossed in this 430-page paperback, but wanted to share part of her story that applies here. The author, an attorney with no children, married a fisherman with two sons. He had custody of the boys, and their mother was not involved at all. Michele immediately became their mother. They call her “Mom,” and she calls them her sons throughout. There is no “step” between them at all. There is also no mention of wanting her own biological children or regretting not having them. Of course, it’s not a happy story. One of the sons dies. She grieves him like her own. Is it possible for a woman to step into a family and bond so completely bond that someone else’s children become her own? Is this only possible if the bio mom is not around? Something to ponder.

Meanwhile, there’s snow blowing past my window. I’m calling the dentist’s office. Not coming. Have a good day, wherever you are and whatever your weather.

Books offer discouraging view of IVF

Fertility treatments aren’t necessarily relevant when you’re fertile enough but one partner just doesn’t want to have children. However, in some couples, the problem is physical. You both want to make babies, but due to problems with sperm or eggs, it’s not happening. Should you try in-vitro fertilization and other high-tech procedures? Would it work? The books I’ve been reading lately suggest the costs are high and the chances are poor.

Avalanche: A Love Story by Julia Leigh, WW Norton & Co., 2016

This book was sent to me to review. If you’re considering fertility treatment, you might want to read it. Or you might not because it could scare you out of it.

When they can’t get pregnant the usual way, novelist Julia Leigh and her husband resort to science. When their marriage fails, she continues alone with sperm donated by a friend. She is already in her 40s, and the odds are not great. Hormone injections, freezing eggs, embryo transfers—none of it seems to work. How long can she support her dream of having a child? Reading this book confirms my personal belief that success is rare and it’s not worth the misery. Leigh, an accomplished novelist and screenwriter, is very clear about the odds—not great—and the treatments—not fun. But it is a gripping story, easy to read in a day or so.

You can read a longer review of this book at Jody Day’s Gateway Women site.

Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility, and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies by Miriam Zoll, Interlink Publishing Group, 2013

Like many modern women, Miriam Zoll wanted to get her career well-established before she had children. She thought she had plenty of time. Finally married and pushing 40, she was ready. When the natural way didn’t work, she went to a fertility specialist. She soon learned that fertility assistance treatments such as in-vitro fertilization and using donor eggs were not the guaranteed route to parenthood most people believed. This memoir takes us on her harrowing journey to become a mother, trying every possible way. As it tells her story, this book also serves as a warning to anyone who thinks technology will lead to pregnancy. Not only is the success rate depressingly low, but no one knows yet what the long-term effects will be. This book, a little long but well-written, successfully blends memoir and research and should be required reading for anyone considering procreation after age 35.

The Pater: My Father, My Judaism, My Childlessness by Eliot Jager, The Toby Press, 2015

This memoir emphasizes Jager’s complicated relationship with his father and his struggle with being a childless Jewish man. Jager and his wife could not conceive. Fertility treatments failed. They did not want to adopt. Meanwhile, his religion told him a man was not complete without children. In addition to his own experiences, he shares conversations with other childless Jewish men and offers the scriptural view of childlessness. I would have liked him to talk more about his personal struggles with not having children, but the narrative kept veering back to his father. It is also mired in footnotes and Hebrew words. Still, it’s an interesting read.

So that’s my book report. Read ’em if you dare. Meanwhile, the comments have been pouring in on previous posts, especially, “Go or Stay” from Aug. 31. Take a scroll back through the posts and see if you want to add to the conversation. Thank you all for being here.

 

If Not a Mother, What Will You Be?

Book Review

Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen by Lisa Manterfield. Redondo Beach, CA: Steel Rose Press, 2016.

It looks like you’re never going to be a mother. So now what? That’s the main focus of this book by Lisa Manterfield, the founder of the Life Without Baby online community. Although it is addressed to women and leans toward those with fertility problems rather than partners who don’t want kids, most of the wonderful advice in this book applies to all of us.

Step by Step, Manterfield takes us through the process of learning to live with our childlessness. In the opening chapter, “Letting Go of the Dream of Motherhood,” she helps the reader figure out when it’s time to stop trying and move on. She offers rituals to help us mark the end of our quest to have children. She goes on with chapters on dealing with the loss and the grief.

Other chapters cover finding support, aging without children, and envisioning new possibilities for our lives. She also gives practical advice for dealing with those difficult situations we all face: the people who want to know how many kids we have, the ones who claim we’re lucky to be childfree, and the ones who offer unwanted advice or thoughtless jabs that hurt us to the core. She helps us get through the holidays, including the dreaded Mother’s Day, and other situations that put us in tears years after we think we’ve gotten over our pain.

One of the points that really stuck with me was her emphasis that not having children does not mean we are broken or failures. We don’t have to make ourselves crazy trying to compensate for our lack of children. I have done that. Have you?

In each chapter, Manterfield offers exercises for readers to help figure out what to do next, along with tales from her own life that prove that she has same struggles as the rest of us. This is a very comforting and helpful book for women trying to move past the overwhelming panic and grief that comes with realizing you might never have children. I wish I had had a book like this when I was 40 and struggling with the reality of my situation. I highly recommend it. And do visit the Life Without Baby site. But keep coming back here, too.

Thanks to Lisa for guest-blogging here last month. Let’s keep in touch.

So, read the book. Chin up, we’ll all get through this. Keep up the comments. I’m encouraged by the community we’re building here.

What about those who are childless by un-marriage?

When I heard that MelanieNotkin, author of Savvy Auntie, was about to publish a new book called Otherhood (Seal Press, 2014),  I rushed to buy a copy. I was sure this book about women who never had children because they never married would be fascinating. But the book let me down.
Otherhood started well, but I found it hard to identify with the women Notkin was writing about. Her study of unmarried childless women is pretty much limited to attractive, successful women in their 30s and 40s living in New York City. They go to clubs, date a lot, and meet at swanky places to complain about the guys they date. It’s very Sex and the City. I love that show, and I sympathize with Notkin and her fabulous friends, but she leaves a world of never-married people out of the story. Where are the women who are shy, fat, disabled, poor, uneducated, ugly, awkward, or living in small towns without a lot of eligible men? Where are the people who haven’t had a date in decades, if ever?
Notkin is childless and so are most of her friends. They talk about their options as they approach 40 and beyond. Some are freezing their eggs. Some are considering getting pregnant with donor eggs. They debate over whether they should have a child on their own. All of these options are so expensive most of us can’t afford them, especially without husbands to share the cost. With all the new ways to get pregnant, Notkin says she sometimes she feels guilty for not wanting to have a baby by herself. Is that becoming the new norm, single parenthood? The latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that in 40 percent of American births, the mothers are not married. So people are definitely having babies without husbands, but as Notkin notes, it’s not easy.
And then there are those who almost get married but break up over the having-kids issue. I get comments here all the time about couples who break up or are considering it because one of them is waffling about children. In fact, this morning I received a comment from a woman whose husband has left her because she can’t have children with him. I want to turn into my mother and shout “What’s wrong with these people?”
I’m alone now, but I have been married twice. I have known love and companionship and step-children. I really feel for those people who wanted the whole happy ending and never had a chance at it. And I am certain most of them are not living Sex-and-the-City lives drinking cosmopolitans with their girlfriends and complaining about the latest celebrity or Wall Street mogul they dated.
Otherhood is well-written and entertaining, but it only tells a small portion of the story. What do you think about this? I’d love to hear your thoughts on childlessness by way of never finding the right partner.

No Kidding: The book, the club, the goats?


Book review: 
No Kidding: Women Writers on Bypassing Parenthood, edited by Henriette Mantel, Seal Press, 2013
When I started working on my Childless by Marriage book, nobody was writing about being without child. It was almost a taboo subject, but now the shelves are filling up with books about not having kids. Most of them, like this one, are about the joys of being childless by choice. In this case, 37 women writers in the entertainment business tell the story of how they ended up not being mothers. Although a few did try to have children and learned that they couldn’t, most never wanted them in the first place. They were too busy with their careers and not interested in the sacrifices required to raise a little human being. 

The writing here is good. Many of these women are comediennes, and they know how to put together an amusing essay. But after a while, all the stories blend together in my mind because they are so similar. Some of the names are familiar. Most are not. It is an entertaining read. Readers in the childfree-by-choice crowd are sure to enjoy it. Perhaps those who are childless not by choice will find some encouragement and see that life can be wonderful without children. At least that’s what these women tell us. 

The club: 
In addition to being the title of a book, No Kidding is the name of an international club that provides opportunities for members to make new friends whose lives are not wrapped around their children. Members are all ages, married and single, and lack children for all kinds of reasons. You can find chapters all over the world or start a new chapter if your area doesn’t have one. Many of the people who comment on this blog and at other childless sites describe how uncomfortable they are at gatherings where everyone else seems to have kids. This is a chance to find friends with whom you have more in common. 

The goats: 
When I was young, people who used the word “kid” were quickly corrected and told that a “kid” is a baby goat. Well, we humans have stolen their word and often use it to describe our own offspring. Funny we don’t call them calves or puppies. Unlike humans, goats don’t use birth control. If you put a he-goat and a she-goat together at the right time, they will have baby goats. Believe it or not, there are actually goat mating videos on YouTube. I don’t want to get in trouble for recommending goat porn, but they’re pretty funny. 

No kidding. The word “kid” applied to a child apparently traces back to the 13th century with Olde English and Norse origins. But how did the word kid come to be used also as a synonym for joking? Beats me. 

Have a happy day.

Jody Day’s book rocks the childless life


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Jody Day of Gateway-Women.com and I have corresponded off and on over the last few years. We both write about childlessness in our blogs. She lives in the UK, where it really seems as if the conversation about not having children has advanced far beyond that in the United States. When she said she was writing a book, I couldn’t wait to read it, and I was not disappointed.

In Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children, Day offers childless women a way to define what their lives can be without children. If Plan A, to be a mother, didn’t work out, what is Plan B? Day’s Plan B is to write about and create a community to support women who are childless by circumstance–which includes those of us who are childless by marriage. In addition to her blogs and online groups, she hosts gatherings of childless women and 12-week courses to help them find their new path as non-mothers, nomos, as she calls them. If you live in the UK, you can actually meet in person. But if you don’t, you can be with them in spirit through this book. 

Day, who is training to be a psychotherapist, tells her own story and provides exercises to help women dig themselves out of their childless grief and discover the new life that is still available to them. Chapters explore family histories, our relationships with our bodies, stereotypes about childless women, our views of ourselves, ways to heal from our grief, and much more. She also includes extensive lists of resources that in themselves are worth the price of the book. 

I did get a free copy of the book, but I would recommend it just as highly if I had paid for it. There are lots of books about childlessness on the market these days, but most focus on the joys of the “childfree” life or the sorrows of infertility and don’t get at the things bugging those of us who are childless by circumstance. I hope you’ll read my Childless by Marriage book if you haven’t already, but do read this one, too. It will help, I promise.  

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