Kathleen sent me this photo forwarded from a friend, and I thought it would make a great Whiny Wednesday topic. So, here you go:
Kathleen sent me this photo forwarded from a friend, and I thought it would make a great Whiny Wednesday topic. So, here you go:
This is such a difficult and emotional time for everyone, and I’m not sure there is anyone who isn’t facing some sort of challenge right now. So I wanted to provide a space to talk about the challenges we’re facing as we’re on lockdown, facing the loneliness of social distancing, or perhaps once again feeling marginalized because we don’t have children.
What challenges are you facing in this era of Covid-19?
My apologies for missing last week’s Whiny Wednesday. It wasn’t some cruel April Fool’s joke; I just forgot to hit the “Publish” button!
Often we feel pressure to do something incredible with our lives because we won’t be doing the other “incredible” thing: being mothers.
In the past it’s sparked some healthy discussion, so I thought I’d use it as this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic:
Feeling the pressure to do something else amazing instead
Let the healthy discussion begin!
“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy, for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves;
we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
In these strange and scary times, this quote in a book about writing struck a chord with me. It relates to so many things in life, including making peace with a life without children.
One of the hardest stretches of my journey was the space between realizing that our options for building a family were running out, and the point where we made the decision to stop trying. I knew there were options still open, but they were beyond the scope of what Mr. Fab and I were willing to do. At some point we had to make a decision that we would not have children and that we would find a way to be okay with that. It was one of the hardest (and perhaps longest) decisions I’ve ever had to make.
I’m sure you’ve found yourself in this kind of situation in other areas of life, too. You know that you have to take a new direction, that ultimately it will be the right decision, but as France says, in order to do that, we have to leave a part of ourselves behind. Sometime the hardest part is listening to ourselves and not being afraid to make the wrong choice.
My first career was in engineering. I’ve made several career changes since then, trying to find the place in the world where I’d be happy. I’ve found it in writing, but it took me a long time to get here.
Many people can’t understand why, after all those years of college and graduate school, I would abandon a perfectly good and respectable career. I’ll be the first to admit that if I’d just stuck to engineering, I would probably have been more “successful” and definitely would be making more money, maybe own a home and live comfortably, but I know I wouldn’t have been happy. I might have been successful by the conventional definition, but the cost of sticking to a career that didn’t make me happy, just because it’s what was expected of me, didn’t make any sense. But it wasn’t easy to let go of that life and take a risk of finding happiness in another life.
Part of finding happiness is letting go of that which doesn’t make us happy. Although I believed that having children would make me happy, I was miserably unhappy running in circles trying to produce a baby that my body had no interest in creating. I could have gone on trying forever, but the cost to my mental and physical wellbeing would have been enormous. Letting go of that part of my life enabled me to find peace with my new life, even if it’s a life I wasn’t sure I wanted.
Just a reminder that, as Life Without Baby moves into the next stage of its life, the community forum will be closing down on April 8. If you’ve met people you’d like to stay in touch with, now is the time to exchange information.
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
This simple phrase is the one thing I wish someone had said to me. It would have meant that someone—one person—acknowledged that my inability to have a child was an enormous loss for me and that I needed to grieve that loss, as if my children had existed.
As many of us are now facing a different kind of loss as we adjust to life alongside COVID-19, it’s worth taking a moment to acknowledge that small griefs can trigger our dormant deeper grief, and that the feelings of loss many are experiencing right now can be compounded when we’re dealing with other losses.
So let’s talk a bit about loss and grief.
In Western culture in particular, most people don’t know how to behave when someone loses a loved one. They follow accepted protocols such as sending cards or flowers. Some may call to offer help or just show up on the doorstep with the ubiquitous tuna casserole. A few will know to give people space when they’re mourning, expect unexpected behavior, and be ready for tears or anger. Still, most people struggle with how to handle those in pain.
Our society also has an unwritten hierarchy of loss. Someone who’s lost a spouse, a child, or a parent is given different allowances to someone who’s lost a boyfriend/girlfriend, a friend, or an elderly relative. Further down the ranking come pets, coworkers, and ex-lovers. Even people who’ve lost houses, jobs, and limbs are allowed a degree of understanding, sympathy, and mourning. But most people have no idea how to react when they can’t see the thing that was lost—in this case, motherhood and all that it encompassed. Many people won’t understand—or even acknowledge—your need to mourn at all.
In her 2010 memoir, Spoken from the Heart, former first lady Laura Bush writes about her experience with infertility. “The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence,” she writes. “…For someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like slant, ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?”
The fact is that your children and your idea of motherhood did exist for you. If you had planned on having children, you undoubtedly made room in your life for them. This might have included creating life plans around the assumption that someday kids would be part of that plan. In some cases, making room for children in your life might have included making physical room, perhaps dedicating and even decorating a room in your home that would one day become a nursery, or it may have involved moving to a bigger house or a more family-friendly neighborhood. Did you pick out names for your children? Did you imagine which family members they might take after? Did you fantasize about your daughter winning a Nobel Prize for her research or your son bringing home a gold medal from the Olympics? You probably thought about the kind of mother you wanted to be. You collected data as you went through life, putting check marks through things you observed that you’d do better when you became a mother and striking red lines through the things you’d never do with your children. And you undoubtedly imagined what it would feel like to hold a child that was yours.
Here are some other losses you might be feeling:
Your children and your identity as a mother existed and were very real to you. You have experienced a great loss, and the only way to begin coming to terms with that loss is to acknowledge it and mourn it.
This post is excerpted from Lisa’s book, Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen.
A TIME magazine cover story awhile ago, “The Childfree Life,” came with an image of an attractive (and color-coordinated) couple lounging on a tropical, white sand beach, seemingly without a care in the world, resplendent in their designer sunglasses. That image prompted this week’s Whiny Wednesday topic:
The assumption that if you don’t have kids you have money to burn
Whine away, my friends.
A friend of mine went through infertility hell a few years ago. When we learned of one another’s journeys, we were both glad to have an empathetic shoulder to lean on.
Then she became a mother, and developed infertility amnesia.
I’m not begrudging her the celebrations, the constant Facebook posts, or the incessant parenting talk. I get it; I’m sure I’d do the same in her situation. But the final straw came last week.
A group of us gets together about once a year and we’re starting to plan for this year. We usually go out for dinner, or bowling, or drinks and dancing. Several of us in the group don’t have children and those who do are always glad for a childfree night of adult fun.
This year, the new mom suggested we change things up and do something family-oriented and include the kids. “Maybe a beach picnic or Disneyland.” I kid you not.
Thankfully one of the other parents shot the idea down, but I had to wonder how she would have felt five years ago, in the thick of her infertility hell, if someone had made this same suggestion.
She would have felt excluded and she would have been upset. Which is just how I felt when I got her email.
Today is Whiny Wednesday. Who or what has done you wrong this week?
This week marks the tenth anniversary of Life Without Baby. When I started this blog to help myself sort through the mess of infertility, I never imagined that, ten years later, I’d have posted more than 1,600 posts, received over 12,000 comments, and become part of an online community of almost 4,000 members. I feel like I’ve got to know so many of you through your comments, emails, and social media posts. I’ve even had the very good fortune to meet some of you in person. I have felt connected to a worldwide group of women who understand me, and I am grateful for the support you’ve given me.
For ten years, I’ve been writing about letting go of the life we had planned, about working through grief, and moving on to a new chapter in which we can find joy in our lives again. The time has now come for me to practice what I’ve been preaching. It’s time for me to embrace a new chapter in my own life.
2020 has already been a year of huge transition. Mr. Fab took early retirement, we had to say good bye to our beloved fur-baby, Felicity, and in a few weeks’ time, I’ll transition into the second half-century of my life. My professional life is also transitioning, with several very positive changes happening in my writing career (which I promise to tell you about as soon as I’m able.) As a result, my work is now demanding more than my full-time attention. All in all, I’m receiving a clear message from the universe that it is my time to let go and move on.
I have struggled with this decision, because you and this community mean so much to me, but here is the transition you can expect to see over the coming weeks and months.
Firstly, Life Without Baby won’t go away entirely. I plan to maintain the site as-is for the foreseeable future. You will still be able to find old posts and comments when you need to know someone else understands what you’re going through.
On April 10, the private community forum will close, but I will continue to post new posts on the blog until May 11, the day after Mother’s Day here is the U.S. My last post on that date will include links to what I think are the most helpful posts for different stages of this journey. After that, I will make some small adjustments to the site to make archived resources easy to find, but I won’t be writing new posts on a regular basis. The social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter will remain active for now.
I want to thank you for being with me on this journey. Many of you have written to say how much the site has helped you, but you should know that having you in my trusted community has been a huge help to me too.
I know several of you have followed me over into my fiction writing and I’m so pleased when I connect with someone from this community over there. Although I write stories about young adult women, the themes of lost dreams, grief, letting go, and finding strength find their way into my fiction work. If you’d like to stay connected, you can find me at LisaManterfield.com. I send out a monthly newsletter from there and am also active on Facebook, Instagram, and sometimes Twitter.
So, before I get over-emotional, I will sign off for now. I still have 15 more posts to write before May 11 and I hope to catch up with you in the comments.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being a part of my world.
This is a hot Whiny Wednesday topic and I’m sure you’ve all heard this at some point. I’d love to hear your thoughts:
“Why don’t you just adopt?”
“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.”
There’s an idea going around that not having children somehow makes us “less of a woman.” I don’t subscribe to this idea.
As this quote by author Anaïs Nin states, I am many, many women, and “mother” is only one element of me.
I am a writer, friend, wife, cat mama, reader, thinker, curser, fighter, nature-lover, spider catcher, traveler, cook, gardener, daughter.
All these women are fluid. They ebb and flow in me as needed. And when one of them isn’t able to fulfill her purpose, the others quickly rally to fill the gap, so I am always whole.
I am never less of a woman.
~ "a raw, transparent account of the gut-wrenching journey of infertility."
~ "a welcome sanity check for women left to wonder how society became so fixated on motherhood."