When Chronic Illness Forces a Regretful Childless Choice

We often talk here about childlessness that comes because one’s partner is unwilling, but what if that partner wants children but has health conditions that make pregnancy impossible or dangerous for mother and baby? What if you find out after you’re married?

Fans of the movie “Steel Magnolias” will remember when Shelby, the young woman played by Julia Roberts, defies her mother and her doctors and gets pregnant despite her Type 1 diabetes. When the child is a few years old, Shelby dies of kidney failure. The pregnancy was too much strain on her body. It’s melodramatic, not totally realistic, and the movie comes from an era when childless marriages were much less common, but it does shine a light on that horrible decision some people are forced to make. Do I want a baby enough to risk my own health and the baby’s?

On the Nov. 22 episode of The Full Stop podcast, three guests told their stories of health problems that forced them to give up on motherhood. Charlie Bishop has MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser) Syndrome, in which females are born with absent or underdeveloped reproductive parts. Pregnancy is not possible for the one in 5,000 women with this condition. Bishop is planning for a childless life, which includes getting married next year, travel, writing, and directing an organization called MRKH Connect, which sponsors research and offers support. She can be found across social media via @mrkhconnect.

For Palo Barker, a condition called myasthenia gravis has prevented her from even considering pregnancy. Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune, neuromuscular disease that causes weakness in the skeletal muscles. Some days, Barker says, it takes all her powers just to breathe. She is in and out of the ICU and takes high dose steroids that could harm a fetus. She is active in a group called Chronic Survivors Childless Warriors and myasthenia gravis groups in the UK. She also has a private group for Asian childless women, open by invitation only.

Steph Penny suffers from lupus, an autoimmune condition which makes the risk of miscarriage or congenital deformities too great. She has written about her own situation and that of others who are childless not by choice in her book Surviving Childlessness: Faith and Furbabies. She has also carried her message into her work as a singer-songwriter with songs like “Angel at my Keyboard”, which you can listen to at stephpenny.com.au.

While Bishop and Barker didn’t really have much of a choice, Penny says she faced what she calls a “forced choice.” When told there was a 50 percent change she would miscarry or the baby would be born with severe deformities, she and her husband decided the risk was too great. It seemed like the only rational choice.

For these women and others like them, their reasons for not having children are not visible from the outside. People may assume they don’t want kids when that is far from the truth. They face the same clueless questions and dire predictions about a lonely old age as the rest of us, but what choice do they really have?

Although the podcast guests were all women, men also deal with illness, injury, or congenital problems that make pregnancy risky. They too may face a “forced choice.”

These conditions may not show up until after one is grown and in a relationship, wanting to have children. How do you deal with this? If you’re the spouse, do you give up on having children? Do you leave and seek someone else? Or do you accept this loss together as a couple and support each other through the difficulties of the illness?

What do you think? Do you or someone you love have a chronic condition that would make pregnancy impossible or inadvisable? How do you live with that? If it was possible but risky, would you take the chance?

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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Halloween When You Don’t Have Children: Trick or Treat?

Parden my tardiness this week. I had a bad reaction to my Covid vaccine and was not up to posting anything here, but I feel much better now. I offer a reprise of my 2016 post, which says everything I have to say about Halloween. And no, I am not putting a costume on my dog.

It’s time for kid-centered holidays. Labor Day was no problem. But Halloween is a different story. All those kids whining about costumes and candy. All those proud parents taking pictures of their little ones dressed as pumpkins, Ninja Turtles, or whatever’s hot this year. Carving pumpkins, baking orange-frosted cupcakes, buying sugary treats to hand out at the door. It sounds exhausting.

Yesterday, I asked my hair stylist, mother of four, if she was ready for Halloween. She sighed. “Almost. I still have a few more things to do.” At that moment, I did not mind one bit that I don’t have children.

Yes, it might be fun to do Halloween with my kids. I might enjoy every minute of it. By now my children would be adults, possibly bringing their own children to my house to show their costumes to “Grandma.” I’d be posting pictures like crazy. But that’s not going to happen. Living out here in the spooky old woods, I don’t even get other people’s kids coming to the door. So I don’t have to buy candy. I still have a few of last year’s Tootsie Pops that I bought in a fit of optimism, but it’s too dark out here. If somebody knocks on the door, it might be a bear.

Remember that even if you had children, you might not see them on Halloween. My father’s children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all lived far away, and he didn’t see them on Halloween. Mostly he just worried about trick-or-treaters smashing his plants and trashing his yard.

I could feel sorry for myself on Halloween, but I have choices, as do you. I can go to one of the many events for children and shower them with candy and compliments about their costumes or visit someone who lives in a more child-friendly neighborhood. My late mother-in-law lived in a section of town where people brought their kids by the busload. For several years, she hid in a back room while my husband and I handed out little Hershey Bars for hours. It was fun.

If you live in civilization, you can enjoy decorating your house and yard and offering tricks and treats to the neighborhood kids. Dress up, get silly. If you don’t have a kid, be a kid.

Or put on your own costume and go party with other adults. Karaoke, anyone? Pumpkin-tinis? Dancing to “The Monster Mash?”

If someone is pushing you to watch them and their kids have fun, you can go and be the fun “auntie” or “uncle.” You can also say no, stay home, turn out the porch light and watch TV. It’s okay.

What are your plans for Halloween? Are you looking forward to it or dreading it?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

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IT’S OKAY TO LIKE YOUR CHILDLESS LIFE AS IT IS

Dear friends,

In last week’s post, I was all “woe is me, I’m alone. I don’t have kids, my husband died, and here I am, injured and alone.”

Let’s look at the other side of things today. For those who missed last week’s post, a rotten board in my deck gave way, my leg went through it, and I fell backwards. I ended up with a broken rib and a leg bruised from hip to ankle. No fun, but it could have been so much worse. The incident showed me that I need a better emergency plan. I’m working on that.

Fast forward a week. My deck has been repaired. I’m healing. I can now move around without screaming, and my bruises are not as colorful anymore. In a few weeks, I’ll be as good as new. I plan to exercise like a maniac to get rid of the weight I’ve gained sitting around.

But here’s the thing. Once the original shock faded, I realized I love my life. I love my freedom. If my nonexistent grown children had rushed to the hospital, they would have insisted I could not take care of myself, that I should not live alone anymore. They would put boundaries on my freedom. Oh Mom, don’t do that. You’re too old. Too delicate. Too injured.

They would have had a fit if they saw me hanging my Halloween lights the other night. I just love colored lights, and I felt well enough to do it.

I love my freedom. Yesterday on a whim, I took myself to lunch at the nicest restaurant in town. Then I bought groceries, did some shopping, and went to the library. Back home, I walked the dog, then settled in the sunny patio to write. When I ran out of words, I played my mandolin, probably driving the neighbors crazy, but who cares? I had nobody else’s schedule to worry about, so I did what I wanted to do. This was not terrible.

My friends rallied around when they heard what happened. They brought food, flowers, and prayers. They offered rides, housecleaning help, and even a bed to sleep in if I didn’t want to be alone. I often think of myself as alone, but I have more people, than I realized, and help is available when I need it—even though I don’t have a husband or children. Of course when they need help, I need to be there for them, too.

I need to make a plan for Thanksgiving. I don’t enjoy spending holidays alone. I’m going to have to reach out, and that’s hard for me.

But sitting in the sun in the patio that I put together myself, I thought, “I love my life.” Should I feel guilty for not being sad? I don’t think so.

People who have traditional families often have to wait until retirement to pursue their passions, to write that book, take that class, or go on that trip. We don’t have to wait. We can do it now.

Some people choose not to have children. They want the freedom, the uninterrupted time, and the money they can save. They sound selfish to those of us who would happily trade all that for someone who calls us Mom or Dad. But since we’re in this situation, let’s admit that sometimes it’s not so bad.

What can you do today that you could not do if you had children? I look forward to your comments.

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Fun book with nobody having babies:

The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas

It’s the 1880s. Addie French is a madam in a small town in New Mexico. She has two “girls” at the moment and pitches in as needed with the gentlemen callers. She has a boyfriend in New Mexico named Ned and another unnamed boyfriend in Kansas, where she visits to shop and socialize. On the train home from Kansas, she meets Emma, an aging mail-order bride who is about to be stood up by her potential husband. Addie takes pity on her and lets her move into her boardinghouse—not as a good-time girl. Soon Emma and Ned get chummy. Ned happens to be a bank robber, and they cook up a get-rich scheme, but everything goes catawampus, with crooks tricking crooks and surprises right up to the last chapter. Do the good guys win? Well, it’s hard to tell who they are, but it doesn’t matter. This book is good to the last page.

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Childless, Alone? What’s Your Emergency Plan?

3d cartoon woman falling from height, illustration isolated on white background

Last Thursday, when I walked out on my deck to take some pictures of the trees in the fog, a rotting board collapsed underneath my foot. My leg went through, and I fell backwards across the edge of the deck onto the wet lawn with my leg still stuck between the boards. I live alone. There were no neighbors within shouting distance, the young ones at work and the older ones too far away to hear me. I had been holding my phone, but it flew out of my hand and onto the grass when I fell. I had no choice but to push myself up and pull my leg out. I’m grateful I had the strength to do that. Maybe all that yoga I have done over the years helped. If I couldn’t push myself out, I don’t know what I would have done.

Thank God the leg was not broken, but it hurt, and I had this weird pain in my back. I told myself I’d go to Urgent Care the next day if it wasn’t better. I had work to do.

I was watching TV that night when I turned slightly and something in my side popped. Uh-oh. A minute later, I sneezed, felt agonizing pain, and couldn’t catch my breath. I have to go to the hospital, I thought. Something is really wrong. Carefully I put on my shoes.

Unlike the time when I drove to the ER at midnight with chest pains, which was stupid, I knew I should not drive myself. I was shaking all over and couldn’t stand up straight. I called a neighbor. She was out of town and so sorry she couldn’t help. Screw it, I thought, and dialed 911. After my first-ever ambulance ride to the hospital, X-rays showed a broken rib and contusions from hip to ankle. All they could really offer was painkillers. Everything will heal in time.

“Do you have anyone to be with you?” the nurse asked as I lay on the hospital bed in my green gown and yellow Covid mask.

“No,” I said, holding back tears.

“Do you have anyone to drive you home?”

“I thought I’d take a taxi,” I said.

She shook her head. “Since Covid, taxis are hard to get around here.” We live in a small town with no Ubers and sparse bus runs. “You’d better try to find a friend or family member to come get you.” She handed me my phone.

I wanted to cry so hard, but I held it in. I had already wept after the fall, and I would do it again, but I had to find a ride. It was midnight. Most people I knew were asleep. I called a church friend who stays up late. It was a bit of drive, but she said she was happy to do it. I waited by the door in a wheelchair. I was so glad to see her.

Then I was alone with my dog again. I couldn’t sleep, my brain reliving the fall, thinking about what could have happened. I couldn’t find a comfortable position in the bed. I’m not a fan of recliner chairs, but I wished I had one. I wished I had someone to bring me my pills. I wondered how I would change the Lidocaine patch over my ribs by myself (turns out it’s not that difficult).

The next couple days brought me a lot of attention as the word spread. Friends brought medicine, dog food, flowers and dinner. They prayed over me and assured me I am not alone, that they care. My family lives too far away to be of any immediate help, but I am blessed with great friends.

Now I’m taking care of myself. Some things are difficult, but I’m managing. The pain has been severe, but it is easing. I am so grateful that this was not the event that would send me out of my independent life and into a nursing home.

If I had children and grandchildren, like most 70-year-olds, one would expect them to rally around, sitting with me at the hospital, giving me rides, picking up my prescriptions, and dealing with my dog, who has problems of her own. But I don’t. Maybe they wouldn’t anyway. But I hope they would.

My handyman has already replaced the rotting boards in my deck and assures me it should be secure for a few more years. After days of fog, the sun is finally shining, and I will sit on my deck later.

And yes, I’m looking into those emergency-alert devices, even though I hate the whole idea of wearing one.

Meanwhile, this incident has shown me that I need a better emergency plan. I need a team of friends who are ready to go if I need help. The people are there. We just need to make it more formal, so I have names and numbers ready for me—and the hospital—if/when this happens again. In return, I will do the same for them.

I’m terrible about asking for help. Yesterday, I bought my own groceries, and I probably should not have done that. It was harder than I expected. If we create a plan, then we can feel comfortable calling on our friends when we need them. I’m going to work on that. Did you know that 27 percent of American households are occupied by people living alone? Some have kids; some don’t. We all need a plan.

Most of you are nowhere near my age, but it’s something to consider in this childless life. If you never have children and your partner is gone—even if they’re just gone for a week or a day—who will you call? How will you manage your own care, especially if you are severely injured or unconscious?

We can do this childless thing, even survive old age alone, but we need to be ready for the unexpected. I certainly never dreamed the deck would break under me. It must have been the weight of that extra chocolate chip cookie I ate the night before.

Ilustration copyright: 3dmask

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Without kids, what pictures go in the album?

Daughters Day. Son’s Day. Last week, social media was loaded with photos of people celebrating their children. As if Mother’s Day and Father’s Day weren’t bad enough. I had to look away.
It’s not just hard on childless people. What about those who have kids but not of that gender? Or worse, whose children have died or whom they never see?
I understand why parents take and post lots of kid pictures. It’s the same thing that makes me focus my camera on my dog all the time. They’re cute. They’re ours. We’re proud of them. We want to show them off. We want to mark the milestones and the changes as they get older. I get it. I just can’t look at it too much before I start feeling sad.

Big yellow dog with white face seen in profile in passenger seat of a car in front of the vet's office.

Photography has changed drastically since I was young, back in the days when people picked up their photos at the pharmacy or photo store, showed them to their friends, then put them in albums, labeling each picture with names and dates.

My dental hygienist, whose life revolves around her kids, said no one does photo albums anymore. True? I hardly ever print out my photos. I stopped doing albums ages ago. My pictures are not even well-organized on my phone and my computer. No one looks at them but me.

Do people still display family photos in their houses? If I had kids and grandkids, I suppose I’d have their pictures all over the place. Instead, I have paintings, knick-knacks, wall hangings, and pictures of relatives who are no longer alive.

I do have a growing accumulation of photos of my great nieces and nephew on my computer, but that’s where they stay.

For generations, my family collected photos and put them in albums. I have inherited pictures from my parents and grandparents, most of them attached to black pages with white or gold stickers slipped over the corners. They’re falling apart. I also have my modern color photos on sticky pages. Those are fading. I have scanned some of the most precious photos to share online because that’s the only place I share pictures these days.

I don’t know where my photos will go when I die. Honestly, I don’t think anyone in my family will want them. But what a tragedy to throw them away. It’s like throwing away a life.

What to do with the photo albums and other family heirlooms is one of the sticky things about not having children. If we had children, I’ll bet we would still be preserving their photos in some way, whether in a traditional album, a Facebook memory book, or a fancy scrapbook. We’d be making virtual slide shows and videos. We’d want to save all those memories and pass them down. But without children, is there any point in doing it?

When my husband died, I mailed lots of family photos to his brother and his kids. But I still have many pictures of precious times I spent with him, including those days when I felt like kind of a mom with his children around. I’m keeping those pictures for me.

Life is so transitory these days. You take a picture, post it online, get some likes and comments, and move on. Is that just the way it is now? Should I stop living in the past? Does it matter that Facebook and Instagram are bound to disappear as technology changes?

What about you? Do the happy family photos online bother you? Do you save your photos in albums or hang them on the wall? Most of my pictures are scenery, dogs, or selfies. Without kids, what do you photograph? Do you have a photo collection? Where will it go when you’re gone?

I look forward to your comments.

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What will you do with your one childless life?

Red candle, white flame, black background--signifying our dreams

“The happy ending doesn’t have to be a child; the happy ending can be something else for you.”

These powerful words came from Lana Walker, one of the panelists at a World Childless Week webinar titled “Accepting the New Me; the Childless Me I never Imagined.” (watch it here). All five women dealt with infertility. As I discussed last week there’s a difference between being childless by marriage and childless by infertility. But the result is the same. We don’t have children.

Walker, who reinvented herself as a massage therapist, is still grieving her loss. In fact, she thought she could not offer massages to pregnant women because it would be too upsetting, but now she specializes in massages for pregnant women. It’s a way to offer care and love to them, she says. While childlessness is rough, she notes that her lack of children has given her the gift of space, time, and energy to do other things. “Grieve, then let it go to make space for the other things you can do,” she says.

The others agreed that not having children opens up other possibilities. Lucy North, married with two cats and a dog, followed her desire to live on the coast and become an artist. One of her specialties is greeting cards and affirmation cards for childless people.

Kat Brown is an author, journalist and book editor. She has a book about childless women coming out in 2024 titled “No One Talks about This Stuff.” It has been a great help to talk about her experiences with others, she says. She sometimes uses the clueless questions people ask her as teachable moments to explain what it’s like to be childless and hopefully help them to be more understanding. Childlessness is just one facet of us, she stresses.

Victoria Firth works in the arts and theater and created a show about her childless journey. Being single and childless gave her time to care for her mother at the end of her life and to follow her creativity where it led.

Stephanie Joy Philips turned her energy to organizing World Childless Week to bring together people like herself.

At the beginning of the session, Philips lit a candle. She asked each panelist to describe her life as the mother she might have been. Then she blew the candle out. “That dream is gone,” she said. At the end of the session, she re-lit the candle. “Our first dream went out, but it doesn’t mean we can’t have new dreams.”

Powerful words. My friends, if you had a dream of motherhood or fatherhood, what new dreams will you have? Your life is yours. What will you do with it?

Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

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Childless by marriage vs. childless by infertility

Being childless through infertility and being childless by marriage, when the issue is not lack of eggs or sperm, are two very different things. With infertility, couples try hard to conceive and deliver a child. They undergo all kinds of invasive treatments, spend huge amounts of money, and ride a rollercoaster of hope and disappointment, only to end up still childless. Some suffer multiple miscarriages and a grief those of us who have never been pregnant can only imagine.

They have no choice in this outcome. They did everything they could. Adopt? It’s not so easy, especially if you have already used up all the time, money, and energy you can spare.

When a couple is infertile, whether the problem is from his sperm or a problem with her reproductive system, their only choices are to accept their fate, try whatever they can, and ultimately to stop trying. They do it together because they both long to be parents.

It is possible to be childless by marriage because your spouse is infertile. You may not know that in advance. When you find out, you have a choice: stay and face the same choices as other infertile couples or split up and look for someone who can give you children.

Is that your story? I know some of you reading this are in that situation.

What if you knew going into the marriage that children would be impossible with this person? So many men, especially those who were married before, have had vasectomies. Is it possible to get them reversed? Yes, but the surgery doesn’t always work. The longer it has been, the less likely the man will be able to provide healthy sperm.

What if there’s no physical reason you can’t have children together? What if it’s just that your mate does not want kids? That’s quite different. I wonder about relationships where couples disagree on something so huge. What else will they clash on? Money? Career? Where to live? But you love each other. So maybe you can accept a marriage without children. Or maybe you can’t. You do have a choice. You can take your healthy sperm or your fertile ovaries elsewhere.

What if you never find anyone else? Ah, that’s the risk. It’s a gamble. But unlike those struggling with infertility, at least you get to roll the dice.

Last week’s webinars at World Childless Week got me thinking. A majority of the speakers were childless due to fertility problems. They are grieving and trying to build new lives after years of fertility treatments and disappointment. As I sat here with my healthy never-used uterus, I could identify with much of what they said because we are all lacking children. We all deal with insensitive comments, feel left out at family gatherings, and grieve the children we might have had, but suddenly it came at me with big flashing lights: I had a choice. They did not.

What do you think about this? How is it different being childless due to infertility and being childless because you chose a person who doesn’t want kids? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you missed any or all of the sessions at World Childless Week, you can still watch the recordings at worldchildlessweek.net.

Thank you all for being here.

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A Letter to My Younger Pre-Childless Self

Those of us participating in the childless elderwomen online chat today (Sept. 14) at World Childless Week were asked to write a letter to our younger selves. Knowing what we know now, what would we say if we could? Here is what I came up with. I invite you to try this exercise for yourself and share it in the comments.

Girl reporter on the job, I had no idea what was coming.

Dear 20-year-old Sue,

If I told you how much the world would change in the next 50 years, you would not believe me. If I told you your life would be nothing like your mother’s, you would not believe that either. But it’s true. Everything will change. The only thing that will stay the same is you. Fifty years later, you will still be writing poems and playing music. You will stay up too late reading. You will keep doing yoga, even the shoulder stand.  But you will not be Doris Day married to Rock Hudson (before we learned he was gay). You will be none of those movie heroines who live happily ever after with the husband, kids, and house with the white picket fence.

I don’t want to frighten you, but you will never celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary with this man you think you love. Nor will you be a mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother, surrounded by the family you and your beloved created. No. You will look like your mother. Same brown eyes, black hair, soft padded breasts perfect for comforting a weeping child. You will know how to make cookies and knit tiny sweaters, how to teach a little one to read, to spell, and to love God. You will have mother love to give but no one to receive it except your dogs. You will have dogs.

It could be different if you take a different path now when there’s still time. You got a late start. You were the girl who never had a date in high school, whose parents were so strict you stayed home sewing or knitting when your classmates were going to parties and dances. Now that you’re in college, you’re just beginning to experience what others did back in middle school. First dates, first kisses, first sex. It’s okay. Sex is natural. And it’s good that you went to the student health center for birth control. It’s not time for babies now. Finish your education. You will need that degree to support yourself. You will never be a housewife or stay-at-home mom. 

Lose yourself in your lover’s arms. Enjoy it. But you do not have to marry him. And if you do, it’s all right to demand of him everything you need. Do not assume it will come naturally. This is not a movie, with love and marriage followed by the baby carriage. Talk to him, insist on answers. He has this way of clamping his jaws and refusing to talk. But he needs to know you expect to have babies. Just like you expect to keep writing and singing. If that scares him away, let him go. He is not your only choice. 

This marriage will not last. You will be alone for a while. By the time you find Mr. Right, he will have already had children and will not be willing or able to father any more. And no, this is not “The Sound of Music.” His children will not adore you. But, you will have a love worthy of any movie. It’s your choice. Love or children of your own?

No, your life will be nothing like your mother’s or anything like you expect. But it will be good. When you were playing with your Barbie dolls, were they mommies? No, they were not. They were singers going off to the “club” to perform. Who was your idol in middle school? Jo in Little Women. The writer. You will be these things. Your obituary will list your book titles instead of your children and grandchildren. That is not a terrible thing.

You still have time to change your fate. Make other choices now, and you might live a life like everyone else, filled with family who call you “Mom” and “Grandma.” But I suspect this is how your movie is supposed to be. It’s all right. Everyone can’t be Doris Day.  

Love,

Sue at 70

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World Childless Week, Sept. 12-18, is Your Chance to Feel Less Alone

poster for World Childless Week, white type of blue background

Next week is World Childless Week. Founder Stephanie Joy Phillips offers seven days of webinars, workshops, and access to resources for those of us who are childless not by choice. Some of the sessions focus on those who have struggled with infertility. If that is not your issue, you might want to skip those, but there is still a lot to be gleaned from these free online sessions. See the poster below for a list and register for the sessions that interest you. They will be recorded, so if you can’t make it at the time they’re aired live, sign up anyway. Many of the speakers are in the UK and their time is many hours different for people like me on the U.S. west coast.  

Each day has a theme. On Wednesday, Sept. 14, the “Nomo Crones” group, which includes me, will read letters to our younger selves. What would you say at 40, 60, or 80 to 20-year-old you? I will share mine in a Zoom session with the other crones at noon Pacific time and publish it here in the blog next week. I would love for you to try that exercise yourselves. It doesn’t have to be long, just a page or two. If you are willing, I can share them with the readers here at Childless by Marriage.

Here are Stephanie’s instructions:

Picture of Stephanie Joy Phillips, multi-colored dress, short red hair, big smile
Stephanie Joy Phillips

“Do you wish you could send your younger self the strength, confidence and love to face the future you’ve already lived? Let them know they are worthy and perfect just as they are, no matter what decisions they make and what life throws at them? Write that letter and share with them everything you can to help them realize how important they are, how much they matter and what positives they bring to the world and those around them.”

I would add: Knowing what you know now, what is your advice for your younger self?

White on blue, webinar schedule for World Childless Week

An alternative: If you feel like you’re too young to write to your younger self, try writing to your older self. What would you say to 60-year-old you?

I usually write more in this space, but you have your assignments, should you choose to accept them: Sign up for at least one event at World Childless Week and write that letter to your younger self.

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Brief side note: Did you watch the Bachelorette episode where Gabby booted a guy she really liked because she wasn’t ready to become a stepmother? I welcome comments on that, too. It’s a dumb show, but I’m hooked on it.

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How Has COVID Affected Your Decision to Not Have Children?

White sign on wooden table, orange background. Sign says: Not today, #COVID 19

When COVID hit us in 2020, people predicted a new baby boom. After all, with so many people forced to stay home together, wouldn’t they be having more sex? Wouldn’t people emerge from lockdown preggers or showing off new babies? 

So far, it hasn’t turned out that way. Birth rates actually declined for a while. The surge may still be coming, but maybe not. Things are different from when we had baby booms after the Great Depression and World War II. Pandemic or not, people are already having fewer babies in many parts of the world. Although couples may have been spending more time together in 2020 and 2021, perhaps working remotely on their laptops side by side at home and maybe even having more sex than usual (did you?), there are lots of reasons why they might keep using the birth control, including:

  1. Fear of illness. What if they got COVID while pregnant? What if they got very sick and died? 
  2. Lack of access to medical care. Remember when you couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment unless you were dying, when you had to jump through many hoops to get in the door of a clinic or hospital, when non-emergency procedures were canceled or postponed?
  3. Fertility treatment centers closed or greatly curtailing their work 
  4. Financial upheaval, people losing their jobs, businesses closing, nobody sure what would happen
  5. Adoption agencies closing or limiting services
  6. Bad news every day: illness, climate change, mass shootings, war–why bring a child into such a frightening world?
  7. Watching friends and relatives with children struggle with lack of childcare and remote schooling
  8. The difficulty of dating during a pandemic

The isolation period has pretty much ended, although we know it could come again. Things have reopened, but COVID is far from over. In fact, there’s a new booster shot coming soon. More people I know have gotten the disease lately than did before, although fewer are being hospitalized and dying.  

You know all of this. What I want to ask is how it affected the baby discussions at your house. Did you and your partner talk about changing your plans to have or not have babies? Or did COVID make no difference at all? Did the troubles of the last few years just cement your partner’s refusal to procreate? Do you know anyone having pandemic babies? 

Let’s talk about it in the comments. I really want to hear what you have to say. 

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

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