Friday, December 14, 2007

What's wrong with wanting a baby?

My Google alerts (great service!) brought to my attention a scathing review of Madelyn Cain's The Childless Revolution. Jessa Crispin writes on her Bookslut page that "those who choose motherhood and those who choose childlessness are on opposite sides. Once you've chosen, you're alien to the other group."
Well, I have noticed a divide between the "childfree" and the "breeders," but can't we reach across and find a peaceful way to relate? A lot of us who don't have children wish we did, and some of those who have kids wish they didn't.
In her review, Crispin begins by telling us Cain isn't qualified to write about childlessness because she had a child when she was almost 40. The fact that she had trouble conceiving for all the years before that doesn't count. And the fact that she had an intense desire to be a mother puts her on the "other" side, the breeder side. Do you agree?
Crispin goes so far as to note how many pages Cain devotes to each of her three sections, the childless by choice, by chance and by happenstance. The childless by chance get the short end, she says. "This isn't really a book about being childless. This is a book about women who wanted children but didn't get them."
She also also complains that Cain's book is poorly written and that it has too many personal observations. I disagree. The issue of having children or not having them is personal.
All this makes me sigh. I hate to see women dividing into enemy camps. Also, I happen to think the Childless Revolution is fine book. See my review on the Childless Resources page on my website.
What do you think? Can a mother write about childlessness? Are mothers and nonmothers so different they have to live in separate worlds? Have you read Cain's book? What do you think?

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

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 possible 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

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How do you answer THE QUESTION

When people ask why you don't have children, what do you say? My favorite answer so far is "because I've seen yours." Another good one is, "No, would you like to give me yours?" But really, a lot parents start their conversations with "Do you have children?" And when you say "no," they want to know why. Depending on my mood, I just say, "No I don't. God had other plans," or I explain that I have three stepchildren but no kids of my own. Several of my friends just say they have dogs.
Do people ask you? What do you say?

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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are you grieving over your lack of children?

As many of us know, not having children can be painful. A terrific article in today's Contra Costa Times talks about this and describes some of the agencies that are helping childless women deal with their grief through therapy. The piece, called "Childless by Fate, Choice," was written by Jessica Yadegaran. It includes a forum to answer the question "Have you come to terms with not having children?" I would love to have people answer that question here, too.
I'm currently working on the chapter about grief in my Childless by Marriage book, and it is interesting how one's feelings change over time. It's also hard not to project my feelings onto other people.
So how do you feel about it? Do you regret your choice? Are you still trying to decide what to do? What advice would you give someone like the 35-year-old woman I interviewed this weekend who is dating a man who doesn't want any more children?

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Sadie's gone

This has to be short or I'll start crying. We had to put our dog to sleep yesterday. Sadie's cancer came out of remission and had reached the point where she was fighting to breathe. It was time to end the suffering. The actual dying was easy, thanks to a kind vet with wonderful shots that gave her her first restful sleep in months. It's a cliche, but she looked so peaceful. The hard part is facing the empty house. I keep thinking I hear her, that I will see her around the corner, that I need to open the door for her. Last night as I started gathering her food, her pills, and her blankets, I realized this has to be what it's like when you lose a child, your only child. Suddenly you don't need all these things, and the center of your existence is gone. Are you still a mother anyway? Am I still a dog mom?
Now all I have to hug is a stuffed bear and a husband who can't stop crying. It's time to share my mothering energy with him. While Sadie was sick, I'm afraid I put her first every time, just as I'm sure I would have done with a child.
We will get another dog eventually, but she--or he--won't be Sadie.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

These Dolls are Too Much Work!

In the toy department at Fred Meyer's last week, I watched as a mother dragged her daughter over to the doll department and asked her to choose which color stroller she wanted. The girl, maybe 7 years old, wearily said she'd take the purple one.
I have been researching dolls for my book on childless women. I knew what we had when I was a child, but not what kids are playing with now. Only a childless woman with no little kids in her life would have to rely on Google and trips to Wal-Mart and Freddies to find out what dolls are hot now. I felt like a spy, whispering into my little voice recorder as I roamed the aisles. Keep in mind I live in a small town. We don't have a Toys R Us.
Thank God there are still plenty of baby dolls, but some of them do so much I can see how they'd wear a little girl out. The first ones I saw, on the end display, actually defecate. Seriously. They come with fake food, fake poop and fake diapers, which I suppose one has to replenish on a regular basis. Who decided that was fun?
Other dolls drink and wet, just like good old Betsy Wetsy of the 50s. Water goes in one hole and out the other. The baby dolls close their eyes when they lie down and open them when tilted upward. Some are programmed to randomly wake up giggling or crying. Some say a few words. They come with lots of accessories, including diapering supplies, bottles and food, play pens, car carriers, strollers, and sleeping bags. You'd need a station wagon to carry all their stuff around.
However, these dolls are awfully cute and lifelike. In addition to pressing all the "try me" buttons, I wanted to scoop one out and hug it. I guess that's why I still have my Chatty Cathy doll, pictured above. She speaks as if she's had a stroke now, but I still enjoy her company.
There are plenty of older dolls these days, referred to as "fashion dolls." These include the Bratz line that has been demeaned for teaching shallow values. I don't know; I think they're cute, although their huge painted-on eyes are kind of strange. We also have lots of Dora dolls. And Barbie's still around, slightly more realistic-looking than she was in the '60s.
Most girls enjoy dressing their dolls and pretending to send them to school or parties or into glamorous careers. Kids get to practice for real life. I don't see a problem with that, although many of the childless women I have interviewed claimed they never liked to play with dolls. Foreshadowing their future?
It's encouraging that today's dolls come in multiple ethnicities. On the other hand, it worries me that so many of them come with names, prefab dialogue and written histories. I think one of the best parts of play is using one's imagination. Let the little girls name their own dolls and make up their own stories. That's part of the fun, having those conversations that start, "Let's say we're going to the store and . . . "
In addition to the many dolls, Wal-Mart and Freddies offered lots of stuffed animals, including a parrot that never shut up, and a dog that supposedly lifted its leg and peed if you pushed the right button. Again, like the defecating doll, a little too real.
I'm happy to report that there are still plenty of dolls, and they're not going to corrupt our society's children.
As a woman who never finished growing up, I kind of want one. Is that why we get pets? An adult woman doesn't look half as crazy cuddling a terrier as she does holding a Little Mommy doll—unless of course she can find an actual little girl to play with.

Copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Alone in the Emergency Room

Going through my old notes, I find this, written in the local hospital emergency room where I drove myself last spring when my eye turned red and began oozing puss so thick I was half blind.
Sitting in this little room in the ER at Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital, I feel more and more sorry for myself. Everyone else has people with them: parents, children, siblings, friends, somebody.
“Who drove you here?” the first nurse asked.
“I did.”
A look of concern passed over his face.
My husband, 15 years older than I am, has Alzheimer’s and can’t drive anymore. Nor could he help me with insurance cards or forms. In fact, if he were here, it would be like having a child along, an impatient child who kept fiddling with the medical equipment and asking when we could go home.
I had sat down to dinner but wasn't hungry. My eye was getting worse. I got up, put the food away, brushed my teeth, grabbed my purse and drove myself to the hospital. No, wait, I called a friend who always says to call her if I needed help. She wasn’t home.
So here I am, alone, half blind, stuffed up, thirsty and wondering if I will be able to drive home. Husbands die, I think. I should have had children. They'd be adults by now and could take me to the hospital.
I sit on the table, swinging my legs, waiting. I can hear a small dog barking. He has been barking for at least an hour.
Going nuts with nothing else to do, I make notes about the room I’m in. Not much bigger than my bathroom, it has fluorescent lights, a fire sprinkler, and white linoleum with grey speckles. There’s a green plaid curtain, a gray stool, a plastic wall rack holding four boxes of blue plastic gloves marked small, medium, large and extra large. There’s a hazardous waste depository, a paper towel holder, a Corporate Service Excellence award posted for the third quarter of 2006. I see a rack with tissues, swabs, sheets, plastic covers, pillow cases, blue hospital gowns, and barf basins. There’s some sort of heart machine, a bed, an IV pole with four hooks, a rack full of flashlights to look in your eyes and nose, an oxygen machine, a blood pressure bulb, a wastebasket, brochure racks—empty except for pamphlets on HIV/AIDS. A magazine rack holds copies of Metropolitan Home, People, Western Interior, and Sunset. Swell. If I could see to read, I could do a little freelance-writing market research. There’s a code call button, a phone, a red light switch and a gray help call button. I want to push them all.
Across the hall is a bathroom with a commode and a handicap toilet. I'd use it, but I'm afraid that's when the doctor would come. After two hours, I'm not taking any chances.
The doctor finally comes in, swabs the gunk for lab tests, looks in my nose, mouth, and eyes, listens to me breathe and disappears for another hour.
Let’s describe the doctor: wiry hair, green scrubs, white tennis shoes. Grouchy.
Nearing four hours, he comes back with a diagnosis: On top of pharyngitis--an infection in the voice box--now I have conjunctivitis, popularly known as pink eye. It’s a viral infection, very contagious. I need to use wet compresses and eye drops and keep my stuff away from everybody else’s. For the throat, he advises salt water gargles. He hurries away, his shoes squeaking on the linoleum.
For this, I waited here alone until almost midnight.
A nurse comes in with a package of pain pills. They are exactly the medication I told the first nurse I couldn't take. Besides, it doesn't hurt bad enough for narcotics. On a scale of one to ten, I rated my pain at one and a half.
With the gunk wiped away, I can see a bit better. I go home and prepare my own gargles and compresses. In a couple days, the first eye is clear. The infection has moved into the other eye, but I know what to do, and it soon goes away.
It’s all very minor, but I can’t help thinking: what if this was something more serious where I could not drive, could not speak, could not tell anyone my name, date of birth, medications, insurance numbers or allergies. What if they just gave the me the pills that make me sick because there was no one to say, "Hey, wait a minute."
Damn, I should have had kids. Those ever-present buddies on TV shows are a myth. Childless, parentless, we're on our own. What is that Tennessee Williams line about always depending on the mercy of strangers? I don't want to.

Yes, I know everyone says you can't count on your children to help you in your later years. But at least, if you have children, it's a possibility. 

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Monday, October 15, 2007

I'd Be Wishing They Were Dogs

Do You Want the Dog Honda or the Child Honda?

Honda in Japan is giving childless customers the option of installing a dog crate or a Pekingese-sized glove compartment nook instead of child car-seats. With the childless rate nudging toward one-quarter of the population, the car manufacturer figures if they build it, people will buy it.

Since I have no chance of having a baby at this point,I would. One dog Honda, please.

I recently read an article on by Reuter's Sophie Hardach ("In Dog We Trust: Japan's Childless Turn to Canines") about Japanese professional women pushing prams with tiny dogs inside, tiny dogs dressed in little doggie clothes. A surgeon quoted by the author said she was too busy for husbands and children, but she got lonely, so she adopted dogs. Does this not sound like little girls torturing the family dog with bows and doll clothes? Suddenly I think of an old joke where a guy looks into a carriage at a dog in a baby bonnet and says, “That’s the ugliest baby I ever saw.”

Over the years, we've all known people who treat their pets like children. Look at my friend Carol, whose parrot Barney runs her life. The other day when we met at the mailbox, she said she had to hurry back in because Barney knew she was home from work. If she dallied outside, he would get angry and poop on her.

On weekends, Carol wears shirts torn by Barney's talons and teeth and stained by his droppings. Every day she plays music for him, takes him into the shower with her and shares her meals with him. She and her human partner never leave town together because they can't leave Barney alone. After Barney bit Carol recently, leaving a deep red gouge in her finger, I said if it were me, I'd smack him so hard there would be green feathers flying all over the house. She just smiled and shook her head. "I just told him not to do it again."

Childless interviewee Bonnie says, "I treat my dogs like children at times. My adoptive mom always said she'd like to come back as one of my dogs. Maybe I treated them better???

It's probably good that I don't have kids. I might kill them. One night shortly after we adopted our dog Sadie, I dragged home from work exhausted and hungry, put my dinner on the counter for a minute and turned around to find she had eaten half of it. I whacked her so hard I felt bone against bone. I apologized afterward. Being a dog, she forgot all about it. She’s still trying to cadge my chow 10 years later.

I flash on my Grandma Rachel’s dachsund, Gretchen, whom she referred to as "Gretchie." She coddled that dog, much to the frustration of my grandfather who preferred the big old mutts that used to keep him company on the ranch. Grandpa’s second wife, Rachel never had children of her own. She was such a terrible cook that her offspring might have starved, and she was more than a little eccentric. I can still hear her reading poetry to us one visit and see her behind the curtains pretending she wasn’t home the next. But she was completely devoted to her dog.

Two generations later, I don’t have children either, but I have Sadie. And yes, she runs my life. If she breathes funny or limps, I'm on the phone with the vet. Every little sneeze or wheeze and I ask, "Are you sick?" Lately she has taken to moaning. I jump down to the floor, asking, “Are you all right?” She eases away from me, annoyed.

"She's fine. She’s just trying to talk," my husband says. Typical father. He’s not the one who gets up in the night to let her out. He’s not the one who abandons whatever he’s doing to open a door or feed her a "cookie." He’s not the one who says, “Sadie's bored. Let's go for a walk."

He’s also not the one who makes faces at the dog to see if she'll make the same face back. I have gotten her to yawn and to lick her lips. I think I can make her smile, too. Okay, I’m a little nutty like Grandma Rachel. Every generation should have a crazy artistic relative, right? But maybe she shouldn’t reproduce.

When other people call me Sadie's mom, I say, no, I'm not her mother. Her mother was a canine with four legs and a tail. And yet . . . I know every inch and scar of my dog, but I don't even know if any of my stepchildren ever had the measles. Furthermore, while other women go gaga when someone brings a baby into the room, I stand off to the side, not sure what to do. Bring in a dog, and I'm all over it. I gush over puppy pictures the way other women melt over baby photos.

Dogs and I connect. We communicate. In fact, I would love to be surrounded by dogs, all rolling around together in a pile. Babies are complicated. Dogs are simple. Eat, sleep, poop, play. They never grow up into something that wears size 13 shoes and decides you're an idiot.

Good thing I didn't have kids. I'd be wishing they were dogs.

copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick

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Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"My Art is My Baby"

I'm standing at my book table in Lincoln City, Oregon on a cold, rainy October Saturday. It's the "Plein Air" festival, expected to be a happy mix of painters painting, sculptors sculpting, musicians playing, and crafters, artists and authors selling their wares, but it's just miserable. I'm already tired of the MC making wisecracks about enjoying our Oregon weather.
Despite the rain, quite a few people have come, many with toddlers in pink and blue jackets and tiny dogs in little raincoats.
A pretzeled older woman wanders into my skimpy shelter and says she's trying to think of what to paint. An all-gray canvas? "How about a sea of colorful raincoats?" I suggest. She nods. "I was thinking of that."
A while later, two younger women wander over to check out my books. The tall dark-haired one says she's from Latvia. They ask what I'm working on now, and I tell them I'm writing about childless women. They look at each other and grin. "We're childless," they say.
"Really," I say. "Are you childless by choice?"
"Yes," they chorus.
"About once a year," says the Latvian lass, "my husband and I ask each other, 'Should we have a baby?' and we say no. My art is my baby." She makes intricately shaped and painted ceramic vases.
"Well, yes," I agree. "It is hard to be an artist and raise a family."
"I just have too much else to do. I don't have time for kids," says her curly-haired artist friend in the yellow slicker.
"But someday," I suggest, "you might be lonely."
Immediately comes the standard answer I have heard at least a hundred times: You can't count on your children to be around when you get old. They move away. They're too busy. "Look at my family," says the Lat, "My mother's all the way in Latvia. I hardly ever see her." Then she twists the knife. "What about your momma and daddy?"
"Well, my mom is dead. And my dad lives in California, which is far away."
"You see!"
And they go back to their art. Yeah, I see. But if I had kids, it would be different. Of course, everyone says that, too.
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Another book to ponder

I just finished another book that happened to be about babies and husbands who don't want them. After the Rice is a beautifully written novel by Wendy French, a writer I really like, but I was shocked by the ending. How much was the protagonist,Megan's, decision influenced by her husband's strong stand against babies? Did she remain childless to please him or was that what she really wanted? Am I just a romantic who wants others to have the babies I didn't have? Check it out. You'll love Wendy's writing style. The characters she creates are so delightful, I miss them now that I'm through with the book. But that ending. I just don't know.

While I'm at it, I might as well plug her other books, sMothering,Going Coastal and Full of It. Fun reading.

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Dog Parents at the Vet's Office

Parents meet at the pediatrician's office, but pet owners congregate at the vet's.
The best part is the waiting room. You never know whom you're going to meet. Even if you didn't know these people before, your mutual love of dogs gets the conversation going.
Yesterday, Sadie and I were doing our weekly recheck with Dr. H. She had suddenly decided she didn't want to go for a ride, so I hefted her into the back seat, and off we went. She sighed and settled onto the green towel spread over the upholstery.
In the waiting room, we hit the jackpot. An older man stood at the counter with a baby golden retriever straining at the leash to meet my big yellow shepherd-lab mix. Meanwhile, a young man sat with a lab pup who had lost a battle at the food bowl with the family's older dogs. The cream-colored dog looked like it had a black eye. Next to me, a middle-aged woman sat with a black dachshund wrapped in a pale blue baby blanket. "He needs his blankie," she said, patting his blanket-covered back.
My Sadie, sprawled on the speckled linoleum, was the biggest dog in the room and the best behaved, but that's only because she's old and sick. She used to be crazy like that golden pup.
"She's beautiful," said the dachsie owner.
"Thank you." I felt my ego fluff up a little. All Sadie's life, people have been stopping me to admire my dog. "Can I pet her?" they ask. "Sure," I say. Even sick and skinny, she's still a looker, and I'm proud of her.
Soon we were comparing illnesses. Dear Sadie has cancer. The dachshund has itchy ears and a sore on his rump where he kept biting himself.
"Oh, Sadie did that a couple years ago. It was such a mess."
Everyone gets into everybody else's dog business at the vet's. We might not share our own health problems, but we all want to talk about our "babies."
After the golden went home, the dachshund was called into the smaller examining room. They do it like that. They don't call the owner. The doctor peeks out and calls the dog. We humans just follow along as interpreters.
Sadie and I were called into the next room, the big room with the ugly red painting of an Irish setter and the big animal anatomy charts. An aide weighed her and took a blood sample. Then we waited.
As my dog pouted on the floor—hey, you tricked me again, she was probably thinking—I eavesdropped on the consultation with the dachshund. Hot spot, yes, could have told you that. Wax built up in the ears. "You never had that," I whispered to Sadie. "You have great ears."
Dirty teeth. Need to schedule a cleaning. "You had that," I say, rubbing my dog's soft fur. Could they sneak in a nail trim while the pup was anesthetized? "Sure," the vet said. "He'll never know the difference."
Oh, yes, he will, I thought. Sadie did. He'll wake up and think, what the heck happened to my feet?
The doctor went to another room to gather the dachsie's medications. I listened as the owner talked baby talk in a high voice. "You've got a hot spot, a hot spot, wow, my widdle baby has a hot spot."
"Shoot me if I start to talk like that," I told my dog. She looked up at me. "Yeah," I said, purposely keeping my voice low and adult, "We don't do baby talk." Okay, I do call her Booboo sometimes and I tell her a hundred times a day that she's the best dog in the world, but no, no, we don't do baby talk. Or blankies. Well, actually she does take her big pink quilt to the kennel with her, and she has an L.L. Bean bed in the den, but she has to sleep on something.
The doctor returned to the dachsund, arrangements were made for a return visit, and then it was our turn.
Dr. H. was pleased with Sadie's progress. Her cancer seems to be in remission, he said, suggesting another dose of chemo, the oral kind I have to stuff down her throat every 36 hours. It's a good news-bad news thing. She's feeling better, but I get to spend the next week praying she doesn't vomit up her pills. Even if she doesn't, I feel queasy until the treatment is over.
I met with the dachshund-owner at the counter as we gathered our meds and paid our bills. "He's a sweetie," I said, noting how she held the little black dog against her bosom just like a baby.
"Oh, thank you. I hope yours gets better."
"Me too."
As we went out the heavy orange door, the bullied pup was called in with his young owner, and the waiting room was temporarily empty.
I'm going to miss those people. None of us know anything about each other except that we love our dogs. Work, marriage, where we're from, whether we have children, none of that matters. We're dog mo—lovers. Maybe we'll meet again next week at the vet's office.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Another one of those books

A friend recommended I read a novel called "China Doll" by Barbara Jean Hicks because it was about a woman who yearned for children falling in love with a man who didn't want them. So I bought it. 77 cents for the used copy on, almost $4 for shipping. Setting aside the 1960s cover and the general corniness and predictability, plus the in-your-face fundamentalist religion, I've just got to say we've been duped again. By the final page, the woman has adopted a child, the man has fallen in love with both the child and the woman, and they get married and live happily ever after as a "real family." It wasn't all a lost cause because parts of it take place right here where I live, but that doesn't fix things. I don't know about you, but I'm sick of books where the woman who wants a baby gets a baby in the end.
There seem to be two kinds of books out there about childlessness: the "childfree" books that talk about how life is just fine without kids, and "the oh it hurts so much that I can't have babies" books, which usually end happily in birth or adoption.
In real life, sometimes you want a baby, but you don't get one, and you have to live with that fact. Has anyone out there ever read a book that told how it really is? That's what I'm working on. Comments welcome.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Nobody's Mother or dog's mother?

I just read about a relatively new book called "Nobody's Mother: Life Without Kids" by Lynne Van Luven. Teena from Toronto featured it on her blog called "It's All About Me!" Well, there's a good blog title. But I wonder if it also relates to people who are childless by choice. It's all about meeeee, not about some rugrat who's going to take all my time, attention and money. Never mind. I'm biased. But the book does sound interesting. Although I don't think it has too much about being childless by marriage, I'm ordering it and will report on it when I've read it.
Teena from Toronto says she and her husband Gord consider their dog and two cats their "kids." I can't tell you how many childless women have told me they're gaga over their pets. Does this say they really wanted children but preferred the kind you could lock in the back yard when you wanted to go somewhere or didn't want them around?
I don't think that's true for me. I wanted a dog because I adore dogs. Sadie is not a child substitute. If I had 15 kids, I'd still want dogs.
As I think I reported earlier, my dog Sadie has cancer. She's doing pretty well right now, but the doctor has decided more chemo would be too hard on her, so we have a couple months with her at best. Very sad, but we try not to ruin the time we have by thinking too far ahead.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Husband? What Husband?

My dog Sadie has cancer. My husband is sick, too, but his symptoms are less dramatic, and I barely notice him. It's all about the dog. I suspect that's how I'd be with children.
Perhaps my husband, Fred, was wise not to make babies with me. He was married before and experienced what it's like to live with a woman who was obsessed with her children. Maybe that's why he ran out and got a vasectomy after that last surprise pregnancy. He knew the mommy gene would take over again and he'd be toast.
During the night, I listen to Sadie breathing. Is she panting? Did she moan? Does she need to go out? I hear every time she shifts positions, her nails clacking on the walls or the floor. I feel her settle at the foot of the bed, pulling half the blanket down. I notice my husband trying to get some covers. Rather than help him, I just scooch down lower and go back to sleep.
First thing in the morning, I hurry out of bed to make Sadie's breakfast, carefully inserting her morning pills, leaving the husband to fill his own cereal bowl. I bake boneless, skinless chicken breasts for the dog, but do you think I'd offer to whip up some waffles for the spouse? Not likely.
"We're out of milk," the husband calls.
"Should have told me before I went to the store," I reply. I don't leave the dog or even look away from her. Milk, schmilk, the dog needs me.
Sadie spends most of her nights and early mornings lying on my bathroom floor. This morning I took my bath with her still there, leaving the door open and my clothes in the other room, doing my darndest not to drip water on her. God forbid I disturb her sleep. If it were Fred, I'd probably have told him, "Get out of here. I need to take a bath."
As I chatter all day long, my husband often asks, "Are you talking to me?"
"No, I'm talking to the dog," I reply in a tone that implies he's an idiot.
I'm constantly asking, "Where's Sadie?" I offer her food and water. If she won't come to her bowl, I bring the bowl to her. I worry over every bite, every pill, every bathroom trip. I pet her and tell her I love her a hundred times a day.
And the husband? He's on his own. I look over and comment, "Your hair looks funny" or "There's a stain on your pants." Do I rush to fix his hair or to find him clean pants? No.
When Sadie opens her eyes, I greet her like the Second Coming. Just now, I heard her coming down the hall. I left the computer to follow her out the door, applauding as she squatted on the grass. "Good pee!" I called. I gave her a treat, then hurried to present her bowl. I barely restrained myself from shoving my coffee-pouring husband out of the way so I could get to the dog food.
I watched every bite she ate, chanting, "Good girl, good girl!" until she had finished eating and settled on the living room rug. I left the husband to eat his healthy cereal and read his book alone. No "Good boy!" for him.
In fact, come to think of it, I have neither wished him a good morning nor touched him lovingly. If I had had children, God help my husband. I mean, look at how I am with the dog? How could he ever compete with a little person who grew inside me?
I recently read about women in Japan who dress their little dogs in tiny cashmere sweaters from the Fifi and Romeo dog boutique and push them around in baby buggies. They're too busy for husbands and kids, they said.
At least I feel guilty about neglecting my husband. But the dog has cancer. That trumps the sniffles every time. So I'll kiss the husband on the head and hunker down on the floor with Sadie. Fred will get his turn later.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Deal with It" article

I just read an interesting article called "We're Here, We're Childless: Deal with It." Writer Mark Edward Manning enumerates the reasons why he has chosen to be childless AND celibate. They include time, money, environment, social life, etc. Read it at and see what you think. Personally, it scares me. I see so many young people deciding not to have children because of the sacrifices involved. But isn't that how it's supposed to be? Besides, kids don't stay babies forever. They grow up into adults like you and me. Read it and let me know what you think.

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Who will help in your old age?

Buying plants at the nursery the other day, I noticed the supply was dwindling and asked the young owner if she was preparing to close for winter. It turns out she's preparing to close forever. Her father-in-law has Alzheimer's and she and her husband are moving to Corvallis (about 60 miles away) to help him and his wife. "They need us closer," she said. She seemed to have no doubt about the right thing to do.
When I ask childless women whether they worry about who will take care of them in their old age, most reply that people can't count on their kids to be there anyway. Do you think that's true?
Let me turn this around a bit. Would you uproot your life if your parents needed you? Have you done so or known others who have? Why or why not?
I know what I'd do, but I'd love to hear your answers first.

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Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My baby the dog comes first

Sitting at the vet's office early yesterday morning, I watched a woman about my age holding a white poodle to her bosom, patting it just like she would pat a human baby. The pooch, only two years old, has a serious intestinal problem. My dog, Sadie, a 13-year-old shepherd-lab mix, has cancer. She's too big to hold in my lap, but that doesn't stop me from lots of petting and baby talk.
We were all waiting while the vet dealt with a terrier who had been hit by a car.
In my surveys of childless women, I have found that most of them have pets and admit to treating them like babies. These days while my dog is so sick, I have to keep reminding myself not to ignore my husband. I suspect I'd have been the same way with kids. It would be all about the children and the poor husband would be doomed to sloppy seconds.
How many times a day do I speak to the dog and the husband says, "What?" Then I have to explain, "No, I was talking to the dog." Why wasn't I talking to the husband? Is it maternal instinct that makes us place the child or the pet first? If I had to choose between the dog and the husband, would I choose the husband? Ooh, that's a tough one.
Any dog moms out there care to comment on this touchy topic?

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

The grandma bag

I was selling books at an author fair last weekend when I noticed an older woman carrying a tote bag covered with children's photos. It's the grandma bag, built with plastic slots to display 4 x6 pics. There were babies and toddlers and pictures of what must be the woman's grown children posing with the grandchildren. As a bag, it was pretty ugly, but it's one of those symbols that so many mothers and grandmothers carry around, proof of a great accomplishment. Of course it may just be that she loves to look at the pictures. Nothing wrong with that. Just another little case of me feeling left out. The bag I carried that day had flowers on it.
You've seen the jewelry with gemstones or nametags for each child or grandchild. For lower budgets, one can buy tee shirts or license plate holders boasting of motherhood or grandmotherhood. Again, it's a whole market where we childless women are left out. Sitting at the stoplight, breathing the exhaust of a Buick with a World's Best Grandma bumper sticker, don't you sometimes wonder what your bumper sticker would say? World's best . . . dog owner? Flute player? Flag-pole climber?
We don't need any of this stuff. It's silly. It's often tacky, but there's that little twinge of oh, I'm not in the Mom Club. I'll never get a bracelet with the names of my kids engraved on it. And deep inside, we kind of really want one.
Anybody else feel that way?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

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 behind 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 professonal 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 it 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 steps 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.

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