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?

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Here Comes Christmas, COVID-Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Childless or Not, This Thanksgiving Will Be Different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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