Childlessness needn’t define who we are

“Childless is one of the many things I am.”

A year ago last weekend, I was at the NotMom Summit in Cleveland, Ohio, listening to Jody Day say this. At the time it was one of many things the founder of Gateway-Women and author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Life Without Children, said as I scribbled madly to capture it all in my notebook. But this one line alone gives me a lot to think about this week.

Last Sunday at church, we listened to a visiting priest preach that sex is only allowed in marriage and only for the purpose of creating children. Furthermore, all forms of contraception and in vitro fertilization are sins. What do you tell the men who insist on having sex before, during and after marriage? What if you can’t have children? What if you and your partner disagree about whether to have children? This young bearded priest, presumably celibate all his life, has no idea how complicated real life can get. It is never black and white, more like a rainbow of colors.

And what does he say to those of us in the pews who have not used our bodies as vessels for children? Are we then worthless? Once again, I’m saying things that might get me in trouble at my church job, but they need to be said. It’s not just the Catholic church either. I’m hearing preachers of other denominations on the news saying women should be content with their role as mothers. But what if we can’t be mothers?

We are not worthless. Childless is just one of the things you and I are. It’s a big thing. It makes us different from 80 percent of the adults around us. It affects everything else in our lives. That’s why I wrote my Childless by Marriage book. I wanted people to know how different our lives are because we never had children. But Jody Day is right. It’s not everything, and we should not miss all the good things in our lives because of the one thing we missed.

I am not just a woman without children, any more than I am just a woman whose husband died. I’m a dog-mom, musician, writer, homeowner, daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. I have a family history I’m proud of. I’m the first person in my family to earn a master’s degree, and the bookshelf bearing my published works is getting full. I like to cook, travel, take long walks, do yoga, learn new songs, watch movies, and read books. I dabble in needlework and make quilted wall hangings. If I could do it over, I might be a mother, too, but I can’t waste my life dwelling on what I don’t have or letting people make me feel like damaged goods because I failed to procreate.

How about you? What else are you besides someone without children? Even if you’re still hoping to have children, there’s more to be proud of. Let’s make a list to remind ourselves that childless is not all we are.

I look forward to reading your comments.

 

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Birthdays are tough for childless women

Jody Day of Gateway Women, a UK organization for people who are childless not by choice, is celebrating her 54th birthday. In her blog post today, “Ten Tips for Healing from the Heartbreak of Childlessness,” she notes that she doesn’t mind her birthdays now, but in her 40s, when she was trying unsuccessfully to conceive, it was a different story. Every birthday was a reminder that she was running out of time.

Jody’s post takes me back to my 40th birthday. I was struggling with my childlessness at that point. Fred and I had been married for seven years. My fantasies about somehow getting pregnant in spite of his vasectomy and his declaration that he did not want to have any more children were fading away. It wasn’t going to happen. It was too late. Sometimes I just couldn’t stand it. I struggled with depression, overeating, and overdrinking.

The day before my birthday, I attended a retreat with women from my church. One of the rituals we did, lighting a candle for our loved ones, sent me into a major meltdown. Everyone was talking about their children, and I would never have any. I was not a person who wept in public, but I sobbed for a long time. Then I wanted a drink, but there was no booze.

I shared a room that night with Julie, who was unable to conceive. She and her husband were trying to adopt a child, but having trouble with that process. We talked late into the night before falling into sad, heavy sleep.

The next day, back home, my family threw a big party for my birthday. Everyone was there to celebrate and laud my accomplishments. I made them laugh with a speech about the joys of growing old ( Now I know 40 is NOT old). It was all great fun, but inside I was hurting. Other people’s children ran around the hall, playing and shouting. Where were my kids?

Like Jody, I find birthdays easier now. I have other issues, like being alone and fearing old age, but I don’t think too much on my birthdays about my lack of children. It’s too late to change the situation. The hurt returns unexpectedly at other times, a moment when I’m feeling lonely or when my friends share pictures of their grandchildren. This grief is real and should be acknowledged, Jody emphasizes in her blog.

I know many of you are right in the middle of the hurting time. Someone reading this may be having a birthday today. I feel for you. If there’s anything you can do to change your situation before it’s too late, please do it. If not, then the hard work is learning to accept it. Jody offers good advice in her blog.

Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone.

No Children? What is your Plan B?


Jody Day, a British woman who founded Gateway-Women.com an online community for childless women, recently published a book called Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children. In it, she tells about how she struggled with infertility and other issues that prevented her from having children. They also prevented her from enjoying the life she had because she was so busy thinking about the life she did not have. In her book, Day talks about the “shadow life.” She was simultaneously living the life she had living a shadow life in which she was a mother.
“At no point in that time (a 15-year stretch no less) did I fully and completely embrace the life I was actually living, that of a childless woman. I was always in transition to the next stage when my real life would begin.”
My friends, we only get one life. As my father likes to say, “It is what it is.” And it could be much worse. Ask anyone who is paralyzed or suffering from a fatal illness or who has lost a limb. Ask anyone whose spouse or child has died. Every day that we can get out of bed on our own and choose what we want to do is a good day and should not be wasted.
We risk poisoning our relationships not only with our mates but with everyone else around us if we see only that they have kids and we don’t. Try to see beyond that. Why do we love these people? How would we feel if we lost them?
Examine your lives. Acknowledge what you are probably not going to do. One of the childless women I interviewed for my book said she looked at having children like a lot of other things she had never done and probably never would. She would not be a published author, would not live in Paris, would not be a concert pianist, would not be rich, tall or thin. But she loved the life she had.
If there’s something you really feel you must do, then do it. If it means finding another mate or adopting a child instead of giving birth, just do it. But if you are not willing or able to take these steps, look at what else you can do. You probably have more choices than most because you are not tied down with children. The “childfree” crowd sees that as a good thing.
Make a list of everything that you CAN do, that you get to do, that God gave you the opportunity to do. Now use that list to design your own Plan B.
In future posts, we’ll talk about rituals to let go of childless grief and places to find support from people who understand. Meanwhile if you haven’t read Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children, do yourself a favor and read it. Jody will take you through the steps toward starting to not only survive but enjoy the life you have.

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick

Over-40 wisdom for childless women

Today I’m yielding my platform to Jody Day of Gateway Women who on her 50th birthday has published a marvelous post titled “Things I Wish I’d Known at 40.” She offers the truth about fertility, menopause, grief, relationships, society’s views of childless women, and the joys of life beyond the childless dream.

Lines I love in this post include:
“Freed from chasing the dream (and fantasy) of motherhood, you begin to realise old dreams and create new ones.”

“The life you’re going to create instead of motherhood is going to be richer and more fulfilling than you can yet imagine, and in ways you cannot yet imagine.” 

Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, is also the author of Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children, a great book about dealing with childlessness.

I can think of a lot of things I wish I had known when I was 40. Foremost would be realizing how short and precious life is and how important it is not to waste any of it moping about things that aren’t going to change.

What about you? If you’re past 40, what do you wish you had known before? What advice would you give to our younger readers. I welcome your comments.

Some Tidbits for Your Childless Christmas Stocking

I’ll bet most of us are going a little crazy with Christmas only a week away. I was out of town for my dad’s surgery in early December (he’s doing great), so I got all off schedule. To catch up, I decided to do everything in one day: shopping, cards and decorating. For those inclined to try it, take my advice and don’t. About a third of the way through the decorations, I started sobbing. It was just too hard with no kids, no husband, and no family nearby. Why bother? The dog hovered around me, trying to lick my face as I dove deep into my pity party.
The next day I was over it and finished what I could, deciding I didn’t need to do everything I had done every year before. To be honest, not having children or grandchildren meant a lot fewer gifts to worry about. I had my presents in the mail before the post office closed at noon. Now I’m done decorating and almost finished with the cards. I’m finally able to listen to Christmas carols.
As we established in last week’s post, I don’t have any young children in my life. Everybody’s kids have grown up. But that’s not the case for lots of childless people. This time of year, they find themselves surrounded by people obsessed with making Christmas special for their kids. I’ll bet some of you can identify with this reader’s dilemma over the family gift exchange in the Ask Carolyn column. I like Carolyn’s answer. Do you?
In lieu of any brilliant thoughts of my own today, I offer two additional articles that I think you’ll find worth reading. In the first one, Jody Day of Gateway-Women offers a powerful essay, “Childlessness is a Political, as Well as a Deeply Personal, Issue” on the difficulties of being childless at Christmas  and throughout the year.
This piece, “I’m So Glad I’ve Frozen My Eggs,” linked from the Have Children or Not blog, offers a fascinating look at one possibility for women who are worried about not being able to have children until after their eggs are too old.
Happy reading, and please try to enjoy all the good things about the holidays and let the rest go. As always, I welcome your comments.

Jody Day’s book rocks the childless life


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 Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future 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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[Sue Fagalde Lick is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. ]

Thinking beyond our childlessness

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Sometimes I get tired of thinking about childlessness. I’ve got a million other things on my mind, including nonstop meetings and rehearsals this week, my ongoing struggle to put my water-damaged den back together (see my Unleashed in Oregon blog), my need to practice for two upcoming musical performances, my job playing the piano at church, my dog’s ongoing flea problem, my aging father’s ailments, my best friend’s close call with breast cancer and continuing fight with COPD, missing my dead husband, selling my novel, wondering when I should prune my hydrangeas, the floods in Colorado, the shootings in Washington D.C., the conflicts in the Middle East, why some fools are angry that our new Miss America is of Indian descent, what I’m going to wear to the church fundraiser on Friday night . . .
There’s so much to think about besides the fact that I never had children. I wish I had them. If I could go back and do things differently, I would. I think. I’m not 100 percent sure. Marrying Fred was the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing him was the worst. Not having children is barely a blip in comparison. I want kids. I want grandkids. I want sticky-fingered hugs and kid pictures all over my house. I want somebody to buy toys for and to teach and to love and to watch carry on our family heritage into the future. I want all that. I didn’t get it. It makes me so angry I want to throw things.
But I can’t change it now, and there’s no point in ruining the life I do have because I didn’t get the one I thought I’d have.
Some of these thoughts are coming up because I’m reading Jody Day’s new book Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children. It’s a wonderful book that can help women who wanted children and don’t have them to deal with their grief and move on. I will give you a full review as soon as I finish it, but you can order it now.
My dear friends, I hurt for you. I feel your deep pain as you struggle to deal with situations where you feel lost, where you don’t know what to do about your mate who can’t or won’t give you children, where you go nuts when people with children just don’t understand how you feel. I know. I’ve been there. It’s big. It’s huge. It affects your whole life. That’s one of the main things I tried to show in my Childless by Marriage book, that everything is different when you never have children. But there is more to life. And there’s more to you than just the fact that you don’t have children. Think about it.
Group hug?

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[Sue Fagalde Lick is part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. ]