This week’s Whiny Wednesday topic needs no introduction or explanation, so I’ll just put it out there:
This week’s Whiny Wednesday topic needs no introduction or explanation, so I’ll just put it out there:
This hot-button whine was sent in from one of our readers.
When you read an interview of some celebrity or hear someone say:
“I never knew what love was until I had a child.”
So…is she saying that because I’m childless I’m not capable or “real” love or that I will be denied the experience of the highest expression of love?
Whether this makes your blood boil or cuts you to the core, whine away, sisters!
And if you have another great whine you need to get off your chest this week, here’s the place to let it rip.
Let’s just say it: Mother’s Day is the nuclear bomb of holidays when you don’t have children. In normal times, it’s a day of brunches, church services, and flowers, when shops, offices, restaurants, and even our social media feeds are filled with celebrations of moms and all things motherhood. To top it all, this holiday has somehow escaped the political correctness cleanup that other holidays have undergone, so while many people are hesitant these days to wish someone a Merry Christmas, lest they offend, no one seems to have any qualms about wishing everyone a Happy Mother’s Day.
This year is bound to be different for many of us who are lockdown, so it’s hard to predict how it will hit us. One thing is for certain, the day won’t go without some sort of fanfare.
It took me a long time to be able to face Mother’s Day, but in more recent years I’ve done something fun for myself on that weekend. A couple of years ago I planned a trapeze class and another year I ran a half marathon at Disneyland. Each year, I’m able to note that the day bothers me less and less, and I use it to mark my own progress. I know that many of you aren’t there yet, and from past experience I know that it pays to face the day prepared.
If you plan to venture out over Mother’s Day weekend (assuming you’re allowed), be ready for almost everyone to wish you a happy Mother’s Day. This includes friends, neighbors, sales assistants, parking attendants, and even complete strangers you pass on your daily permitted exercise. Prepare your arsenal of stock replies and be ready to respond, so you don’t find yourself caught unawares and having to explain why you’re standing in the middle of the street in tears, yelling “It’s not a happy day at all!” to an unsuspecting stranger. My standard response is to say “Thank you. You too” and move on as quickly as possible.
Once you’re aware of the inevitable challenges the day can bring, it’s good to make a plan to keep yourself protected. If you know you’re not going to be able to make it through the day with your emotions intact, stay at home or make plans to go somewhere away from the biggest challenge spots. If you’re expected to attend a family gathering, even if it’s online, consider if you could take a pass, just this year. Even if the next Mother’s Day is months from now, take a few minutes to jot down the challenges you might face and come up with a plan. How will you spend the day? How will you honor your own mother? And how will you deal with the challenges you can’t avoid?
Kathleen sent me this photo forwarded from a friend, and I thought it would make a great Whiny Wednesday topic. So, here you go:
Do ever feel as if you’re in a constant battle with yourself? So often I make a decision and forge ahead on the path of my choice, only to catch myself looking longingly at another paths and wondering if I ought to have taken them instead. As soon as I make a decision I lose sight of all the things I’ll gain from choosing that path and can only see all that I’ll be losing from walking away from the other paths.
I certainly did that when I chose the “life without children” path. I knew what I would gain by opting to stop treatments and I knew what I would gain by walking away from the adoption route we were on. I knew that my sanity and my marriage would benefit from that decision, and that I’d claim back the life that was passing me by. But I could also see clearly everything I would lose from walking away from the possibility of motherhood.
I know I made the right choice, and I’m glad I kept walking on my chosen path, but it doesn’t stop me looking back once in a while to see where I might have been.
Recently I had a conversation with a friend who was making some difficult life decisions. She talked about the idea of trusting that the path you’re on will take you where you’re supposed to be.
At first glance, this reeks of “everything happens for a reason,” a philosophy that makes me bristle. Personally, I do not believe that I was denied children so that I could take a bigger, more important path instead, or that I wasn’t granted motherhood because it was more than I could handle. I have an untreatable medical condition; I cannot reproduce; end of story; $#it happens.
And yet I’m intrigued by the idea of trusting the path.
There is no doubt that not having children will take me on a very different path than motherhood; it already has. But what if I stopped fighting that? What if I stopped looking over my shoulder at all that I’ve lost and trusted that the path I’m on will take me where I’m supposed to go? Granted, I might not have much to blog about with my new peaceful self, but perhaps I could just enjoy the journey and see where it takes me.
What do you think about the idea of trusting the path?
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.
I was asked once, by a well-intentioned person, if I thought I’d waited too long to start trying to have children. I have to admit that the thought has flitted across my mind on more than one occasion, but once I stop to think it through, I’m able to answer the question with a resounding “No!”
I remember being completely affronted (and rightly so) by a very conservative college professor who told me that the prime age for women to have children was 18. Of course, looking at a chart of fertility vs. age, I now see that he was correct, even if his suggestion that motherhood might be a more suitable choice than college was extremely misguided.
Looking back at my 18-year-old self, it’s hard to imagine what would have happened if that young woman had become a mother. Yes, I know lots of women do it, and I probably would have too, if I’d had to. But thinking about all the upheavals I’ve put myself through, I just cannot imagine that a child would have benefited from having me as an 18-year-old mother. Maybe (maybe) my supposed topnotch fertility at that age would have enabled me to conceive, but it would have been no guarantee of my suitability as a mother.
The truth is, I have absolutely no idea if I was fertile at 18. I assumed that, like many, many women, I would still be fertile at 34, and look how that turned out. There’s no way of knowing how long ago my body decided it wasn’t up to the task of reproducing, and now I’ll never know.
When I look back at the 18-34 years, they were rocky, but good. I had all kinds of experiences that I couldn’t have had if I’d had children to take care for. I went to college—twice—moved to another continent, traveled to many countries, did volunteer work, had fun but unsuitable relationships, changed careers (more than twice), and got to sample adventures not well-matched to motherhood. I certainly don’t feel as if I wasted those years. I wonder if I’d feel the same if I’d been raising children all those years.
So, no, I don’t feel as if I waited too long. I waited until I was ready, and while I waited, I was busy living my life to the fullest, and I don’t consider that wasted time at all.
~ "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."