I get to keep my uterus

Whoa, there’s a headline. I visited the gynecologist Wednesday, fully expecting that the two-years-delayed hysterectomy was about to occur. But no, she said things haven’t changed since last year. Just keep doing my kegels. Wait, I’m doing one now.

The other good news was that I’d lost seven pounds since last year’s exam, and my blood pressure was lower than ever, a good thing in a family that tends to stroke out.

But back to the uterus. I was quite nervous driving to Corvallis for my exam. There’s always the awkwardness of showing your parts to the doctor and the fear she might find signs of cancer. Have I mentioned that childless women are more likely to get breast, uterine and ovarian cancers? We are. But I was also wondering how I was going to work surgery into my busy schedule. I pictured myself pleading, “Can I keep it until October? I have some time then.” Shoot, I don’t even know how to fit in my dog Annie’s spay job before she goes into her first heat.

As I muttered to myself on the road, I finally said the words I’ve always shied away from: “I’m never going to have children.” I heard myself and thought, whoa, I said it. Does that mean I’ve accepted my fate? Yes and no. With menopause, it’s a done deal. I still have regrets, and those puppies I’m always talking about are not the same thing. They’re dogs, not people. Cute, but really hard to call on the phone.

Part of me wants to get this useless uterus out. It’s almost like the final stage of menopause. Take out the unnessary parts. But it makes things so final.

Meanwhile, pregnant young women dominated the waiting room, their bellies sticking way out in front of them. I scanned the middles of every woman who came in, smiling at the ones with no “bump.” My group. An older lady sitting across from me scanned the magazines, heavy on parenting, and chose a National Geographic.

As I waited in the examining room, wearing a gown that left half of me exposed, I scanned the walls. Everything was about having babies: pictures of babies, nutrition for a healthy baby, how to make labor easier. Can’t they set aside an examining room for those who are never going to have babies and might be losing their uteri? Call it the Empty Womb Room? It would be the compassionate thing to do.

Anyway, I’m keeping my parts for now and hoping for happy test results. And I’m never going to have a baby.

Where’s the Nursery?

“Dream House,” the slender file was labeled. I remembered it well, a 1968 home economics assignment filed away in a cabinet covered with bumper stickers for PBS, ecology groups, and local newspapers.
It was a great house, done up in bright red, green and yellow. I had an office, a darkroom, a craft room and a gallery, lots of bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bedroom, everything except a nursery. At 16, it never occurred to me to allot space for children. My home was a glorified office complex with living quarters attached.
The rest of the folder includes plans for a build-it-yourself desk and craft ideas for the kitchen and den. No nurseries or bunk beds.
Why didn’t I think about a place for children? I couldn’t have known that 35 years later I’d enter menopause without giving birth, that the equipment that caused me killer cramps every 28 days would never serve any purpose, that I would be married twice to men who wouldn’t or couldn’t have kids, that my only mothering experiences would be dog-mothering or step-mothering. I couldn’t possibly have known all that. I was not one of those teens who decide early that she doesn’t even want to have children. And, although I claim a bit of ESP, I don’t think that was involved here.
Perhaps I was just innocent. There’s no space for a husband in that house either. A late bloomer, I didn’t start dating until I was in college. By the time a man showed up at the door to take me on a date, my parents were so relieved they didn’t even consider imposing a curfew or giving him the third degree. But I daydreamed like every other teen of boys and men falling in love with me, wanting to marry me. Did I not realize that relationships with men usually led to children, or at least they did back in the ’60s? Love, marriage, baby carriage. I didn’t know much about sex, but I think I knew that much.
So why at 16 didn’t I leave space in my dream house for children? Why did I just seek work space?
I was a kid who “mothered” baby dolls, toddler dolls, Barbie dolls, stuffed animal dolls, enough dolls to cover my entire double bed. I gave them all names, carried them around with me, made them clothes, talked to them all the time, and grieved when they got torn or bent. I called myself their Mommy.
At the same time, I was in full wife and mother training. I learned how to cook and sew and clean. Mom had me washing, drying and ironing clothes by the hamper-full. By the time I was 10, I could copy her famous chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. By 15, I could prepare a full dinner. I could also knit, crochet, embroider and sew. Whatever other career I might pursue, my main life’s work would be the same as my mother’s: caring for a husband, home and children.
So why didn’t I put a nursery in my dream house?
Had I already decided that since I had had no dates at 16, nobody would ever ask me out, so I might as well plan life as a creative spinster? I don’t think so. As a 30-year-old divorcee whose life was all about work, I thought that, but not when I was in high school. I had crushes on several boys and at least one teacher, and I was berserk over Paul McCartney. But a nursery? Babies? I wasn’t thinking about that. Do most 16-year-olds think about babies in that window between playing with dolls and real-life pregnancy? Maybe that’s why so many teens get pregnant by accident. They don’t see it as something that might really happen to them.
I have always wanted a terrific office. Nurseries are pretty and soft and warm and smell of baby powder, but I have never seen myself belonging in one. I wanted to fit in; babies are God’s most amazing creation, but maybe I always knew he had another plan for me, a plan that required an office.
They say that the way you envision your life is the way it will turn out. If I had drawn a nursery into my dream house, would I be a mother and grandmother now? I’ll never know because it never occurred to me at 16.
Just as most of my classmates never thought about including an office in their dream houses. What for?
Perhaps this pencil diagram in an old folder in an old file cabinet contains the key to why I never became a mother. I could blame husband number one for not wanting them or husband number two for not wanting any more than the ones he already had. I could attribute my childless state to persistent use of birth control. But the truth, somehow, is that I always wanted an office, not a nursery. And that’s what I got.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick

Welcome to the Childless by Marriage blog

I have resisted doing this blog for a while because I should be working on my book by this title, but so many women have contacted me and visited the “Childless Resources” page on my web site that it seems like a conversation that is dying to happen. People can’t wait until I get the book between covers. Plus thoughts and happenings keep coming up that don’t/won’t fit into a book or an article. So let’s blog a bit. I admit up front that I am a professional writer doing books and articles on the childless thing, and I promise I will not use your comment without your permission. That said, here’s my situation:

I have been married twice. Husband number one didn’t want children, although he didn’t tell me that until a few years in. It was always wait till he finishes college, wait till he gets a good job, wait till we buy a house. Then there came a time when I thought I might be pregnant, and his tune changed to: if you have a baby, I’m leaving. Ouch. I wasn’t pregnant, but the marriage didn’t work out anyway.

Husband number two, a wonderful older man who already had three children, didn’t want any more kids. He had had a vasectomy. I thought he might change his mind, but he didn’t. So now I have just reached menopause with no kids of my own and three stepchildren I’m not close to. I regret not having children, but at the same time I know that I have done a lot of things in my life that I could not have done if I were a mother.

So that’s the deal. Missed my chance, but maybe that’s what God had in mind for me.

I’ll be sharing stories, statistics, comments, etc., here. I welcome you to join me. Be forewarned that I don’t consider myself “childfree.” I’m “childless.” There’s a difference.