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.

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Beyond Childlessness: Counting My Blessings

It’s my birthday! Rahhhhh! Birthdays are often problematic for me. I whine about the gifts I don’t receive and the people who aren’t around, but this time I’m just feeling grateful. My friends, I have a good life. As I prayed a summing-up-the year prayer last night, I didn’t even think about not having children. It’s true. I didn’t. I thought about all the great things I do have. My days are full of writing, music, books, dogs, great food, beautiful scenery, family and good friends who feel like family. I have had 64 years of good health. That could change in a heartbeat, but I am grateful. Yes, I miss my husband, and sometimes I wish I had more money, but at this moment, I know I am blessed.

I am grateful for you, too, for this sister and brotherhood of childless people that has formed here and taken a life far beyond my Childless by Marriage book. We can comfort each other, help each other to make the decisions we need to make, and encourage each other in our lives that may not have children but they do and will have many other wonderful things. Trust me. There will be tears, there will be regrets. But there will also be laughter and joy.

No, I haven’t started drinking already. It’s still very early here in Oregon. In a little while, I have to go into a difficult meeting at work, and it may be hard to hang on to a positive attitude. But I’m determined to do my best.

I found a couple of podcasts online that I think you will find interesting:

In the UK, they have just celebrated what is called Mothering Sunday. Like our American Mother’s Day, it’s a tough day for those who don’t have children. This “All Things Considered”program, which you can listen to for the next couple weeks, can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b072nr1j

You can also listen to a discussion about the choice  of whether or not to have children and an interview with psychotherapist Jeanne Safer, author of Beyond Motherhood: Choosing a Life Without Children at http://iowapublicradio.org/post/childless-choice#stream/0

Also, do you know I have another blog called Unleashed in Oregon? Check out this week’s post, “Lawnmower One, Widow Lady Zero.” It might give you a smile.

Next week I’ll be in Tucson on a combination work/pleasure trip, so we will have a guest post that I know you’re going to love.

Your comments are always welcome.