Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Longing for the Sleeping Child

As darkness descends over Highway 20 on my way home from Albany, it's pretty, with soft gray and medium gray sky, gray-green trees and shrubs, people heading home in their cars. Annie is curled up sleeping in the back.

A warmth rushes through me. I have had this feeling before with a sleeping dog. I think how sweet it would have been to have a child like that. They would have been more energetic earlier, but how wonderful it would be to have them sleeping beside me now.

I could have watched them grow from babies to children to adolescents to teenagers to adults, watching the changes, watching them learn, teaching them everything I know about life. Finally they would be companions and helpers in my old age. They could carry on family traditions, keep the photo albums, take my name and my genes into the future.

All it takes is a sleeping dog to make me feel the pain of childlessness again. I missed something so huge, so vital. It's like four part harmony was offered for the song of my life and I only played the alto and bass, with no melody.

It just kills me. I feel like I have to do something about it. I know there's nothing I can do. It's too late, but I can't accept it. I wish this were a sleeping child in my back seat right now. My children would be adults, but my grandchildren could be riding with me through this gorgeous night. Instead, I reach back and pet Annie's soft gold fur. Her tail flaps, and I see her eyes glowing at me in the dark. Thank God for dogs.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Do you give your pets Christmas presents?

I'm back from my eye surgery. I still can't see as well as desired, but I will soon. All hell is breaking loose with my husband in the nursing home, but hey, it's Christmas and my best friend is close at hand.

Her name is Annie. Technically, she's a dog, but I think both of us forget that fact most of the time. Because she is my best friend, housemate and pseudo-child, I'm wondering if I should get her something besides another box of Milkbones for Christmas.

I don't usually buy gifts for my dog. She chews up every squeaky toy, panics if I put anything kind of decoration on her, and already eats too much. Plus, she doesn't know or care about Christmas--although she did eat the plastic hand off a snowman yesterday. Her favorite thing in the world is snuggling in my lap (all 74 pounds of her). All she wants for Christmas is for me to sit down for a few minutes--or share that great-smelling box of Portuguese sausage my aunt sent me.

However, I'm in the minority. Surveys by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association show that 63 percent of pet owners give their pets Christmas and birthday gifts. After all, they're members of the family.

How about you? Are you giving your cats and dogs toys, treats or new clothes this Christmas? Do you think it's crazy or makes sense because they're your babies?

What about your parents? Do they give your pets presents in lieu of gifts for grandchildren?

Do you sign your pets' names on your Christmas cards?

I'd love to hear what you think about this.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Let's all celebrate what we DO have and not worry about what we DON'T have.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What's it like to be childless during the holidays?

Hi there. I'm double-posting today because I'm having eye surgery tomorrow and don't know how soon I'll be back online. With luck, it will be next week, but just in case . . .

Let's talk about Christmas--or Chanukah, which began yesterday. Do you feel left out at this time of year because you don't have children to exchange gifts or celebrate with? What about stepchildren? Do they fill the gap? Do you spend the holidays together or apart? Do you exchange gifts? Or do the stepchildren disappear because your spouse doesn't have custody during the holidays?

Do you skip the whole thing by heading to a sunny resort somewhere?

What's the holiday story at your house?

Do I have children?

I got to the space on the Who's Who form where it asked for the names of my sons and daughters and decided to come back to it another day.
At the furniture store where we bought a new mattress, we told the lefthanded salesperson that we were both left-handed, too, and she innocently asked if we had any children. "No," I replied, then looked at my husband said, "Well, he does."
Last Mother's Day, I told anyone who asked that I was not a mother. Period.
What happened to my stock answer of "I have three stepchildren?" For years, that's what I said, that's what I wrote on forms, that's what I put on those pesky high-school reunion questionnaires, that's what I wound up telling Who's Who.
It was a good answer. It acknowledged my husband's sons and daughter while conveying that I have not actually given birth. People would know that yes, there were children in my life, even if they weren't mine. I could go on to discuss being a Boy Scout mom, dealing with teenage attitudes, planning a daughter's wedding or welcoming grandchildren into the family. Just don't ask me about birth, colic or potty training because I don't know.
But that was years ago. The kids are grown. My stepdaughter has a granddaughter now, and I may never see that child outside of Facebook.
It's partially our fault because we moved away to Oregon--something I would never have agreed to do if I had children of my own back in California.
The step between me and my stepchildren became a chasm when my husband came down with Alzheimer's Disease and moved to a nursing home. He doesn't always remember that he has children. And now, when people ask, I just say no. It's easier. I still care about them and hope they care about me, but the only thing we have in common these days is our last name.
My, this is a gloomy post, isn't it? It's really okay. It's just a fact. What about you? When people ask if you have children, do you count stepchilden or other non-biological children in your life or just say "no."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Build a robot baby for Christmas?

Let's start off with an interesting news item. It seems this childless couple in the UK built themselves a robot they named AIMEC, and now they treat him (how do they know the gender?) as their son. He's brilliant, funny, musical, and helpful around the house, they say. Maybe they'll even make him a baby brother.

Before you jet off to read the article at, be forewarned that you'll be greeted with an annoying barrage of pop-up ads. But it is a fun story. And ladies, if your husband doesn't want an actual child, maybe he'd go for this. Most guys like gadgets.

But seriously, Thanksgiving is this week. Right away, our holidays don't look like the ones we see on TV because we don't have children and grandchildren to gather around the table eating turkey and pumpkin pie. Unlike parents, our plans don't revolve around our kids. That gives us some freedom to choose what we want to do, but it also may spark feelings of sadness and loss.

I'll be spending Thanksgiving with my dad at my aunt's house. My brother is coming, and I'll see some cousins I haven't seen for a while. But I'll be the one flying solo, the one whose life bears no resemblance to everyone else's.

What can we do? I suggest we all spend just a little while thinking about what we don't have and a lot of time feeling grateful for what we do have. One of my friends at church, for example, is in a wheelchair. She can't walk, she weighs over 300 pounds, her husband died recently, and she has no money and no way to earn any. Compared to her situation, I am blessed in so many ways.

Let's count our blessings, folks. It could be worse.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are you a childless stepparent?

How many of you are childless stepmothers? Me, too. My husband came with three children. That led to two step-grandchildren. Now there's a step-great-granddaughter, but I'm way too young for that.

We do not have a warm and fuzzy relationship. In fact, now that they're adults, we don't have much of a relationship at all. But at least when we do cross paths, we hug and say nice things, unlike some other steps.

I have been reading postings at the Childless Stepmoms forum. If you're looking for company, you might want to check it out. Be forewarned: What I see there most is a lot of anger. The childless stepmoms often seem to be at war with the biological mothers and with the teenage kids. The younger children are usually all right, but there are constant battles over child support, visitation, discipline and other issues that come from sharing children. It's a good place to vent with friends who know what you're talking about.

In contrast, blogger and artist Tiffany Lee Brown writes about the joy she has found in step-parenting. Once a childless stepmom, too, she recently became a mother herself. She says her great relationship with her stepdaughter made her want to have kids of her own. Read her blog at

What is your experience with step-parenting? Do you think it's harder because you don't have children of your own? (I do.) I'd love to hear what you have to say.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are you a family without kids?

Well, we survived Halloween, when the world is filled with little kids in costumes and a few adults who feel the need to dress up. I stopped in Corvallis that weekend and found myself in the midst of a chamber of commerce event that filled the streets with costumed children and harried parents. I saw spidermen, Lady Gagas, princesses, dogs, a ninja turtle, and more. Part of me was glad I didn't have to deal with the whole thing, but part of me wished I had a little one to dress up and take around the neighborhood.

Our church had a Halloween party that night. The flyers promoted it as a "family" event. I knew from past experience that "family" is code for "kids." All of the activities and refreshments would be designed for people under the age of 12. So I stayed home.

Have you noticed that everything advertised for families is actually geared to people with children? A childless couple apparently is not a complete family. It grates on me sometimes, especially now that I'm a party of one (husband with Alzheimer's in a nursing home, if you haven't been keeping up.)

How many people live in a standard two adult-two kid unit anymore? If they do have children, eventually those children will grow up. The word "family" should include all different configurations of people who love each other, even if none of them are children.

Now we just have to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even if you don't celebrate those holidays, the media has already begun to bombard us with images of happy families that always include children. Look around, folks. We don't all have kids.

How are you dealing with the holidays this year? Are there certain occasions that are especially hard? Do you have advice for those who grieve this time of year?

Monday, November 1, 2010

How about a little fun?

We mope a lot around here about the kids we don't have. The attitude is totally different at a lot of childfree sites. They celebrate their freedom. Although we may wish with all our hearts that we had children, I think it's important to recognize that being childless does have its blessings, at least in the years when our kids would have needed constant care. It's the whole glass half empty/glass half full conundrum.

Anyway, have you ever heard of Breeder Bingo? I found it at the Happily Childfree site. It's like regular bingo, except the squares are filled with the stupid things the unaware say to people who don't have children. Whenever you hear one, fill in a square. When you fill up a row, holler Bingo!" It's brilliant. Find your bingo card and rules at

Monday, October 25, 2010

Have you ever felt this?

I'm in church playing the piano for 5:30 Mass.. A baby has been gurgling and whining throughout the Mass, and now I hear him letting out a wail. His mother is standing in the aisle bouncing him. Suddenly out of nowhere I have this bone deep physical need to hold a baby. I'm not even sure I know how, but I need to. When I realize that it's unlikely I'll ever have the chance to do that—I'm estranged from my stepchildren and step-grandchildren and live far from my niece and nephew—I just want to wail.

I lose all track of what's going on in the Mass for a moment because it hits me so hard. I look back on the last 26 years with my husband and think "What happened?" I was married, then alone, then married and now I'm alone again. I have no babies to hold. I don't think there's any amount of compensation or redirecting of mother energy that can counteract that physical need.

I know there are childless women who claim they have never felt a desire for children and don't expert to ever feel it. God bless them. But for me and maybe for you, it's such a deep physical need that no amount of logic will make it disappear. It's a loss which I will always grieve. Just as I miss my mother, miss touching her, miss the way she smelled and the sound of her voice, I miss the children I never had.

It's like when you're so hungry that you can't think of anything else. You can't talk it away. You need food or you will die.

I'm thinking maybe it's time to stop writing about being childless and go find someplace where I can hug babies. Who is going to let this 50-something childless stranger hug their children? Mothers would see me as a threat. I can hug puppies, but not human babies.

I tune back into the Mass in time to play the next song, but the feeling that something's missing lingers.

Do you ever feel this way?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

How can we use our mothering energy?

In a comment on a previous post, Elena said she wished she knew how to use her "mothering energy." I wanted to flip out an easy answer about getting involved with kids at her church, a local school, or some kind of social program. But then I realized I would not feel comfortable doing any of these things. I have minimal experience being around children. I am utterly unprepared to teach or take care of them. I could learn, but the idea makes me nervous. I know, they're just kids and I was one once, but I feel less qualified to work with children than I feel about the accounting job someone just suggested I apply for. At least I have been balancing checkbooks (sort of) for decades.

Mothers and others might find it difficult to believe that a woman could go through life spending almost no time with children, but it happens. It happened to me, and maybe it happened to you.

These days I lead singing with the children at our church on Wednesday nights. It's fun, but another woman does all the talking and interacting with the kids. I just sing and play my guitar.

Some childless people have lots of kids around them. Maybe they come from big families where they took care of their siblings or they have nieces and nephews they adore. Some are teachers or work with kids in daycare or medicine or some other field. They're using their mothering energy all the time. We could volunteer at church, school, or the children's shelter to be around children, but if you don't feel comfortable with that, I understand.

Let's look at it another way. What is mothering? Beyond actually giving birth, it's taking care of someone else. God knows we all need that, no matter how old we are. We can provide food for the poor, company for the lonely, help for anyone who needs it. And it doesn't have to be human. We can take care of dogs. We can grow flowers or tomatoes.

And we can make things, using our creativity in so many ways, whether we write books, bake bread, make sculptures or program computers.

I know it's not the same as having children, but moping about what we don't have doesn't help for long. Grieve for a while, admit that it sucks, then find some other way to use your motherly powers.

What are your thoughts on mothering energy?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wise words for women without children

"Birthing is in every cell of you. You do not have to have a baby to experience the essence of you." Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of the fabulous Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, said that on public TV last week. I was in a hotel room in Washington state, using the TV for background noise as I got dressed. Suddenly my ears perked up. What did she say? Hey. Northrup also stressed that the world needs its childless "aunties" for the all things they do.

Northrup, who is in her 50s, often talks about rebirthing and the opportunity women have after menopause to create themselves anew. For childless women, we find some peace because our body has ended the debate on whether or not we should have children. The issue is settled. Certainly it's that way for me. Oh, I still wish I had kids and grandkids. I still ache for the loss, but it's easier to accept because there's nothing I can do about it. I must live the life I have.

In some ways, not having children can be a blessing. Yesterday I came across a fabulous post called "Women's Energy Bodies--Phases and Life Cycles." In it, blogger "mommymystic" describes the phases of a woman's life from a yoga point of view. She includes motherhood but also discusses the role of the mature childfree woman. " . . . In many religous traditions, a woman's spiritual worth seems to be equated with motherhood. Those who put this forth seem to be forgetting that most of the better known mystics in all religious traditions, male or female, have not had families . . . "

Read the whole post and be inspired.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Is This Not Mothering?

I may not be an actual mother, but sometimes I get weary of mothering anyway. I take my husband, who has Alzheimer's Disease, to the doctor and find myself explaining where we're going and why and assuring him that the doctor will not hurt him. He will not give him any shots. As we walk, I hold his hand, not out of affection the way it used to be, but to keep him from getting lost or falling down. In the doctor's office, I speak for him because he's not good with words anymore. The doctor speaks mostly to me because my husband does not understand what he's saying. When it's over, I wait while he goes to the bathroom, then treat him to a hamburger. Is this not mothering?

Likewise, when I come home from a trip, I need to pick up my dog at the kennel. First, I wash her blankets and straighten out her bed. I make sure I have enough food and make an appointment with the vet for her shots. Then I go get her. She runs out of her cage, gives me a big wet kiss and jumps into the car. All the way home, she's trying to get my attention. Pet me, love me, entertain me. Is this not mothering?

I recently read about a new website for Jewish women who are childless. It's called Take a look. Even if you're not Jewish, you may find something helpful.


There's a great article, "Childless by (100% Regret-Free) Choice," by Nanette Varian on the MORE magazine site. Granted, we might argue that we're not childless by choice, but you'll still find a lot of interesting information about how our lives are different, about attitudes toward childless women, about books to read, and more.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ladies Without Babies

Today, I just want to share this poem I found in my files. I wrote it when I was really having a hard time with the whole childless thing. I admit that some of this does not apply to ladies with dogs.

Ladies without babies
have kittens and puppies
and goldfish with names.
They treat them like dolls,
they pretend to play house,
but it certainly isn't the same.

Ladies without babies
have neat little houses
with reachable knick-knacks
and cream-colored carpets,
glass without noseprints,
low-hanging spice racks.

Ladies without babies
get nervous when mommies
bring fat drooling babies
to spread crumbs and dribble
on white satin sofas
and rip up their papers.

Ladies without babies
become doting aunties
to nephews and nieces
whose photos they flash
when ladies with babies
share latest releases.

Ladies without babies
have big empty laps,
breasts never needed to nurse.
Like girls in a play
with a family of dolls,
their wombs can only rehearse.

Copyright 2010 Sue Fagalde Lick

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mommy Training

The little blonde girl wandered around the auditorium at the monthly Fiddlers Jamboree clutching her little blonde doll. Now and then the girl talked to the doll and stroked its plastic hair. When the fiddle music got lively, she danced with her, looking back to make sure her mother was watching.

Across the room, a plain-looking woman with thick glasses and scraggly brown hair displayed a real baby as if it were a trophy. She showed that newborn to everyone. Look, see what I have. Suddenly this mousy woman had a claim to greatness: she had borne this baby. It was a very new baby, its navel still not healed, its head a soft formless bobble buried in blankets. She held it very carefully and proudly.

Meanwhile, I cradled my guitar and watched a tall blond in tight black jeans, a striped tank top and a cowboy hat serve cake to her fat daugh5ter whose buck teeth matched her mom's. The mother had the MC proclaim that it was Shannon's eighth birthday. After feeding her a giant portion of chocolate-frosted birthday cake, she hauled the kid on stage with her violin to squeak out a horrendous rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and an even worse "Red River Valley."

The mother stood by, smiling, sure that her fiddle-playing friends were impressed by her little prodigy. The woman overseeing the show held her hand over her mouth the whole time. I couldn't tell whether she was laughing or horrified.

Just when I couldn't stand much more of this mother-and-child adoration, I noticed the first little girl had dropped her doll on the ground and gone in search of other amusement. In fact, I almost stepped on the doll.

The toddler is a mommy in training—as I was once. I learned my lessons well, but I was trained to be something I didn't become. I sat in that sweltering auditorium, nervously awaiting my turn on stage and felt like a girl who had gone to a party and forgotten to bring her dolly. What did I have to show off? Just a nicked-up guitar and a couple of country songs.

This is an excerpt from my Childless by Marriage Book. Have you had moments when you felt so totally left out because you didn't have children?

Copyright 2010 Sue Fagalde Lick

Monday, September 6, 2010

What is the purpose of marriage?

I recently read a blog post that maintained that couples should divorce if they aren't going to have children--because marriage is all about procreation. Is it? Another post noted that on the Maslow list of basic human needs, finding a mate and parenting are right at the top with food and shelter. However, one could meet the parenting needs with children other than their own. What do you think?

Certainly, many religions believe that married couples are supposed to have children. I'm Catholic, and the vows clearly state that couples will gladly accept children and raise them in the Catholic faith. In fact, I got my first marriage annulled through the church on the grounds that my husband refused to have children. There's no question about what our church preaches. In fact, at a women's potluck dinner last week, I was clearly reminded of that fact as I sat like a rock in a river listening to women all around me talk about their children and grandchildren.

But what is the purpose of marriage? When I married Fred, children weren't foremost in our minds, especially after he told me he didn't want any more kids. He had three from his first marriage. This marriage was for love, companionship, sex, taking care of each other. We simply wanted to be together. Isn't that a good enough reason to be married? It occurs to me that Fred had already done the procreation part of life with his first wife. Now, it would seem I had missed my chance. I was supposed to make babies with Jim and I didn't. But at least I wasn't alone.

What do you think about all this? I welcome your comments.

Monday, August 30, 2010

In some ways, we're all mothers

I stop at a grocery store in Yreka, California to buy something for breakfast. At the cash register, the young man ahead of me gasps in relief as he dumps an armload of cantaloupes onto the conveyor belt. The cashier quickly rings them up. $10.70. "Dang," he says. He only has a wrinkled ten-dollar bill. In the pregnant pause, I whip a dollar bill out of my wallet. "Here," I say. The checker takes it, gives me 30 cents change. The kid mumbles "thanks" and moves on. The checker also says, "Thanks." I feel like a mom, quickly seeing the problem and jumping in to help. Who's to know I'm not a mother, that my kids don't go to school with this kid? I walk out feeling happy.
Speaking of kids with problems, I just finished reading Debra Gwartney's Live Through This. It's the painful story of how her two oldest daughters became more and more out of control. Drugs, suicide attempts and nights when they didn't come home led to their running way and living on the streets for long periods of time while their mom went crazy trying to find them, hoping they weren't dead. I would hope that any of us, mothers or not, would do what we can to help any kid in trouble. As women, I think we're all mothers at large. When we can, we should help, whether it's a runaway who needs something to eat or a teenager who's short 70 cents at the grocery store.

Can you think of times you have acted as a mother for someone else's child?

Monday, August 23, 2010

We have our own saint

Did you know the Catholics have a patron saint for those who are childless? I stumbled upon it the other day. She's Saint Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. Not much is known about her, but it appears she did not conceive until late in life and Mary was her only child. She's not quite the saint for those of us who are not infertile, just childless by marriage or circumstance, but she's as close as we come. You can read about her at

Is there someone you admire who really exemplifies our situation and might be our own unofficial saint?

I took another run through my Childless by Marriage book, tweaking it here and there over the weekend. Now I think it's really ready to blast into the world. Stay tuned.
For those who noticed steam coming out of their computer in my recent exchange with my stepdaughter, we have reached a delicate peace agreement offline.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Book revisions done

I finished revising my Childless by Marriage book tonight. Whew. I think of it as a "memoir plus". I tell my story but also include comments from a vast number of other people, including many childless women. There's a good deal of motherly :) advice thrown in, too. Now comes the hard work of getting it published. I will also offer excerpts to appropriate markets. All suggestions appreciated. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sometimes dogs are better than kids

I took my dog Annie to my husband's nursing home yesterday. It was her first trip there, and I feared she'd be too wild and crazy. But she was great. All those dog classes paid off. She didn't knock anybody down or potty on the floor. Instead, she sat quietly letting people pet her, and she made Fred so happy.

Everyone wanted to meet her, including the staff, other visitors and other residents. People with dementia who never talk to anybody or don't make sense if they do suddenly came alive with my dog, stroking her fur, telling her what a pretty girl she is. Miraculous. I started thinking about getting involved with therapy dogs. Check out the Therapy Dogs International web site for some great information on this.

As we drove home, Annie dozed beside me, her paw on my thigh. I was so proud and in love with that dog. It has to be something like parents feel about their kids when they do well.

I got to thinking that in some situations, like nursing home visits, a dog is actually more of an asset than a son or daughter. After all, babies cry, kids get bored and whine. What human two-year-old would sit still for two hours like Annie did? A dog doesn't get grossed out or offended by anything the residents might say or do. Grown children are likely to question every decision you have made.

Dogs live in the moment. Annie was happy just to explore her new surroundings and soak up the love. I'm very proud of my dog child.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do your stepchildren accept you?

Ah, stepchildren. I don't dare write what I want to write today for fear it will make my stepchildren dislike me more than they already do. It's not all their fault. Their father never reached out to them. Although I never missed sending a birthday or Christmas present, they seem to feel that we didn't care about them when they were younger, so why should they care about us now?

The thing with adult stepchildren is that they no longer have to visit the non-custodial parent. They don't have to share their children with you. They don't have to remember your birthday. If you didn't build a relationship when they were young, it's over. Recent events have made it clear they don't consider me family. So now I hug my dog, the only "child" I raised well.

Stepchildren are so tricky. They've got all that divorce baggage. How often do they love and respect both parents after the split? I suspect it's rare. They'll blame one or both for breaking up the family. Along comes the innocent new spouse, who is battling forces set in place long before she or he arrived. God bless those stepfamilies that blend together like flour and sugar in a cake batter. The rest of us separate like oil and vinegar. Heavy stirring may blend them for a while, but they inevitably separate again.

How is it with your stepchildren? Are you close? Do they include you in family events? Let's talk about it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When the dog-child runs away

I sat under the tree in the backyard at midnight crying. My dog (the one in the picture, now full-grown) was gone. She ran out through a gate left ajar by the new gardener. For a while I heard her rustling through the forest that surrounds our house, but now I heard nothing but the ocean in the distance. it was a dark, cloudy night with no stars or moon showing. I had done everything I could to raise this puppy to adulthood and keep her safe, but now I didn't know if I'd ever see her again. Oh, how I cursed that gardener in my mind. The gate had looked closed, but he didn't hook the latch, so Annie must have pushed it open.

I wandered the neighborhood calling for Annie, swinging my flashlight around. The growth was too thick in most areas for a human to walk. When I didn't find her nearby, I drove my car slowly down the streets where we take our walks. Everything looked different in the dark, the trees gray and spooky, the houses dark and silent.

I was exhausted, but I couldn't go to bed without finding Annie. I feared she would be attacked by a coyote or fall into a ravine. If she got out onto the highway, she could be hit by a car as easily as the raccoons, squirrels and possums I see on the road every day.

No sign of Annie. No one to call at that hour. I was completely alone--except for God. I sent up a prayer and drove home. Once upon a time, when I had both Annie and her brother Chico, I used to be able to get them home by waiting in the open car. They'd think I was leaving and jump in. I parked my Honda Element in the garage and settled onto the tailgate with my flashlight, a box of Milkbones and the garage door remote control. In a few minutes, I heard twigs crackling. And then, praise God, Annie ran and jumped up beside me. Before she could think, I closed the garage door.

I gave her a big hug. "You're grounded," I informed her. My dog is my child. My only child. Thank God she's back.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Georgia O'Keeffe: childless artist

Georgia O'Keeffe never had children. A famous artist of the 20th century, she started painting in her teens and continued into her 90s. She lived a fascinating life. Married to Alfred Steiglitz, an art patron and her mentor, she wanted to have children but agreed with him that motherhood was incompatible with her art. She needed to focus all of her attention on her painting, and that's what she did.

Okeeffe was a strange woman who dressed in black and shunned the company of other people. She spent most of her life living alone in an adobe house in the desert. She became known at first for painting huge vivid flowers that seemed to some to be loaded with sexual imagery. Later she fell in love with the American Southwest and painted many scenes of the desert and of the bones and rocks she found there. Steiglitz proclaimed that she was the first to present a woman's view of things.

Did she wish she'd had children? Perhaps, but her art was everything.

I just finished reading a fascinating biography of O'Keeffe. Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keeffe by Laurie Lisle tells the story very well. One can find more information about the artist and her work at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum website and at the PBS American Masters site. A Lifetime TV movie about O'Keeffe also tells her story.

This raises the perpetual question: Can a woman be a mother and an artist (writer, dancer, CEO) at the same time?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Let's Count Our Blessings

I pause at a rest stop on the way to Albany and see a young couple playing with an adorable curly-haired baby. I think, oh, I should have had that, but other visions make me glad I missed that stage of life.

I see a pregnant woman walking with difficulty to the restroom, a squalling baby in her arms. I see another pregnant woman in town, pushing her one-year-old in a stroller. She walks heavily, her face bearing the weight of the world. Is she wondering how she got herself into this?

At Fred Meyer, I get in line behind this attractive white-haired woman who has a child somewhere between 18 months and two years old her stroller. The kid is grabbing everything as she tries to put it on the conveyer belt. Grandma is flummoxed. She leaves stuff in the cart and forgets to pay for it, seems totally confused. She sends a bagger off to get her a Coke. He brings regular and caffeine-free, not sure what she wants. She says, "Oh I need the caffeine; I'm taking care of three grandchildren."

I plunk my light bulbs, tea and moisturizer on the conveyer belt, glad I don't have to deal with any of this. Sometimes I feel bad about not having children, but other times, I think, "Oh, thank you, Lord."

Think about it. As much as we might mourn our loss of children, there are some good things about not having children. Let's make a list.

I'll start:

1)I'm not wrestling a child at the grocery store.
2I can go to the bathroom in peace.
3)I'm not exhausted from being pregnant and taking care of a one-year-old at the same time.

What else should be on the list?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Joy of Little Voices

I have been leading the children in song at our Vacation Bible School this week. I'm finding that it's fun. Somewhere along the way, I moved from seeing every child as a reminder of what I don't have to simply enjoying children wherever I find them. They're delightful, all jammed into the pews singing in their high voices, doing all the gestures, up, down, turn around, hands in the sky, hands to the ground, etc. Their young brains learn the songs far quickly than we can. Singing with them allows me to feel young and be goofy, too.

These little guys and girls have boundless energy, so I'm not sorry when they run off to their lessons and someone has else has to worry about keeping them from tearing the place apart. My music gives me a way to interact with them that fits my abilities and my temperament.

If you're grieving over not having children, I understand. I have cried so many tears over this issue, but believe me, it really does get easier. Meanwhile, love the kids around you and know that while you are not a mother, you can play a role in their lives, even if it's singing "Pharoh, Pharoh" to the tune of "Louie, Louie."

Monday, June 21, 2010

A Welcome Addition to the Literature

There's a new book out I wanted to share with you:

Two is enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living childless by Choice by Laura S. Scot,Seal Press, 2009.

Scott has made voluntary childlessness her mission in life. She founded the Childless by Choice Project and has conducted extensive surveys and interviews to present a clear picture of what it means to be childless by choice. Although a tad didactic--we don’t all care about the statistical details that she seems to labor so hard over--this is a well-researched and sympathetic book. Scott offers sound advice for those who have not yet made the decision of whether or not to have children. She also provides extensive information and resources, including books, groups and websites. Overall, Scott’s view is that we need to learn to accept each other, no matter what our choices are regarding parenthood, and this book is a good step in that direction. If you changed the theme from childfree to childless by marriage, this is the type of book I originally set out to write, although mine has changed in scope over time. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sex and No Baby

I just saw the second "Sex and the City" movie last weekend. To those who criticize its total lack of redeeming social value, I say, what's wrong with just having fun? But beyond that, it really grabbed my attention when the question of whether or not to have children came up. If you haven't seen the movie, I hope I'm not spoiling anything. Early in the movie, Mr. Big asks Carrie if she wants to have children, and she says she doesn't think so. Throughout the movie, she makes a point of their marriage being just the two of them forever. One couple reacts rather badly when she tells them that they aren't having children. I wonder now if Carrie says she doesn't want kids because she's pretty sure Big doesn't want them.

We can all guess what Samantha's views on motherhood would be: forget about it. Charlotte and Miranda both have kids. So we see at least two sides of the question of whether or not to be parents and how it affects one's life.

Is "Sex and the City" unrealistic and over the top? You bet. It's sheer fantasy. But even here, our characters come up against those who believe that the next step after marriage must be motherhood.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

New Childless Book

Australian author Justine Davies has put together a new book called An Inconceivable Notion. In it, 18 people who are childless not by choice tell their stories. They came to be childless in varying ways, but I think you will identify with what they say. Among the issues discussed are fertility treatments, marrying someone who doesn't want kids, dealing with relatives and friends who keep bugging them about having children, and feeling left out among friends who are all parents.

Davies, who has three daughters, is a freelance writer, blogger and author of How to Afford a Baby and How to Afford a Husband. For more information about the book, visit her website at You might also enjoy her blog posts on the subject at and

An Inconceivable Notion, due out today, June 1, is available at bookstores and online from Finch Publishing at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Beware of those easy answers

I was reading a question put online by a woman who is 40, childless and married to a man who doesn't want kids. She says it's too late for her to get pregnant. What should she do? She sounded really heart-broken. I'm betting none of the answers given will ease her pain much. It's so simple for folks not in this situation to tell us what to do. It's very likely this woman already thought of all possibilities suggested and knows why they might not work for her.

Commenters offered this advice:

You're not too old to get pregnant. Maybe yes, maybe no. It is harder when you're over 40, and the problem with the husband remains.

Adopt. First, a husband who doesn't want to father his own child probably doesn't want to adopt someone else's. Second, many adoption agencies have age limits.

Get a dog or cat. Well, that helps some, but it's not the same.

Get counseling. Maybe you're depressed. Perhaps, but not having children (when you want them) is a loss and she should be allowed to grieve. It can help to talk about it with a therapist, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem.

Talk to your husband. Maybe she has, and he is not going to change his mind. If she hasn't told him exactly how she feels, she should tell him and see if they can work out a solution that makes both of them happy.

Leave the bum. Maybe she loves him and wants to spend the rest of her life with him. She just wants to have children, too.

Judging by the comments we get here, I suspect many of you already understand the dilemma. There are no easy answers. Someone has to sacrifice, and it's going to hurt. The best hope is to make a decision and try to find peace with that decision.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Check These Out

My Google alerts brought me some great stuff to share with you.

1)There are numerous articles on the new Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. She, like Justice Sonya Sotomayor, is childless. On his True/Slant blog, Michael Roston joins those who worry that having justices who are not mothers will mean they don't understand issues pertaining to mothers, children, families,etc. Plus, their appointment will send a message that you can only rise to the top of your career if you never have children. He got a lot of reactions, both positive and negative. What do you think?

2) A new book called "Two is Enough" by Laura Scott looks at the effects of childessness on couples who never have children. I haven't read it yet, but it sounds interesting.

3) A video called "Childless by Choice" from the USC film school looks at several people who don't have kids for various reasons, including spouses who don't want them, neither person wanting them, and more. It's 21 minutes, short but touching and well done. Click the link to watch it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Duck and cover, it's Mother's Day

Dear friends,
Here we are again, Mother's Day. I'm hiding out. After all these years, I still teared up at church when Father Brian gave the annual Mother's Day blessing. After I complained at the liturgy meeting, he altered it include all women who nurture or care for others. But I still got misty.

If this is a tough day for you, you might want to take a peek at my "Childless Woman's Survival Guide" at the Exhale online zine. If that doesn't do it, visit, click on Childless and read my "Mother's Day Rant."

If you're still miserable, turn off all media and do something physical, like gardening, washing the car or baking cookies (which you will then eat). Put on some loud music and forget the whole Mother's Day business. It'll be over soon.

Monday, May 3, 2010

One of those dreams

I had another baby dream. I was having babies, twins, a boy and a girl. I went to the hospital and was escorted to a birthing room. A doctor gave me a shot that numbed my legs. I realized I didn't have anything at home for the babies, nor would they fit in my car. My husband had picked out names I didn't like. But he wouldn't listen to me.

A friend came in, and I showed her the babies by shining a flashlight on my belly. You could clearly see them, the girl facing me, the boy facing away. I could see their hearts glowing red. The girl talked to me in plain English.

All the staff went away. I felt the boy start coming out. I screamed for help, but nobody came. I was trying to hold the baby in when I woke up and realized there was no baby. Again.

Over the years, I have had lots of baby dreams, most of them not quite this strange. But I wake up certain that my breasts are full of milk. I feel my flat belly and can't believe there's no baby in there.

Do you have dreams like this? Do they ever stop? Do mothers have this kind of dreams, too?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

On the Other Hand . . .

Last weekend I played piano at the funeral of a 44-year-old man who died suddenly of the flu. Apparently it was the Swine Flu. His mother, Johanna, sings in our church choir. It would be bad enough to lose one son, but this was the third son who had died. Her husband also passed away a few years ago. She does have three daughters and some grandchildren left, but she lives alone. I can't even imagine how anyone can bear so many losses. At least we who have never had children will not have to deal with losing them. That is a blessing of sorts.

Most people who don't have children band together with friends or family to be their companions and their support. Johanna is doing this. But her pain is immense. Let's remember her in our prayers.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Taking care of "Mom"

My husband's nursing home invited families to a meeting Saturday to bring them up to date on what's been happening with the company and talk about issues such as security, finances and a new system for ordering adult diapers. The staff served a wonderful brunch in the cozy lobby. As I looked around the room, I noticed two things: I was the youngest spouse in the room, and half the people there were children of two of the residents. They came as teams, working together to make sure "Mom" has everything she needs. The residents didn't even know we were there. We were working behind the scenes. And I wondered, who will be on the outside advocating for me if, God forbid, I wind up in a care home without enough healthy brain cells to watch out for myself?

One can argue that people's children don't always step up when they're needed. They may live far away, be too busy or just not feel up to the task. I know that's true. Fred's children don't get involved in his care. You hope your spouse will be around, but it's all a roll of the dice. Who's going to make sure you have enough Depends in your drawer?

In modern Western society, we don't bear children for the purpose of taking care of us in our old age, but it sure is nice when they do. If you still have time to make the decision to have children or not have them, think about that.

Monday, April 12, 2010

We'll never be chosen

Dear friends,
Thank you so much for the heartfelt comments you have been making at this site over the last couple weeks. I know it isn't always easy to share, but it helps all of us to know we're not alone.

Now, just for fun, last night as I was preparing to paint my den, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" came on TV. It's a pretty good show, except for all the yelling. But it occurred to me as I worked on my tired old house that I will never be chosen for an extreme home makeover. Why? No kids. Have you noticed that every single family on that show has children?

What other reality shows will we not be on? The "Supernanny," of course, although we could qualify for "The Dog Whisperer". "Wife Swap" is out. We may be wives, but again, all the people chosen have children. We could be on "American Idol". We could do "Survivor" or "The Amazing Race". If we're young and gorgeous and looking for fame, we could be on "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette", but no "Extreme Makeover", at least not the home edition. We might need personal beauty makeovers, but when you get to my age, it's usually the daughter who outs her mom, so I'm safe.

As I write this now, my den is gleaming with new "vanilla custard" paint. I feel proud, even though my back is killing me and I have paint in my hair. New carpet next. I can't imagine my mother doing anything like this when she was my age. Does that have anything to do with being childless? I wonder.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Did you know this?

Women who have not had children are more at risk for several health problems. Among them are osteoporosis and arthritis. Apparently the hormonal and cellular changes that come with pregnancy offer some protection against these ailments. Previous studies have shown that arthritis in particular affects more childless women. A new study just released backs that up. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington in Seattle studied nearly 2,000 women and found that those who had had at least one child were 39 percent less likely to have rheumatoid arthritis. They're not sure why but suggest that fetal cells transmitted to the mother during pregnancy help lower the risk. Read Reuters' report on this study at

Before you panic, remember all the health problems that can occur with pregnancy and childbirth and count your blessings.

Have you noticed any physical differences between yourself and your friends or relatives who have children? Let's talk about it.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

You just can't tell

When I was dating my first husband, one of the things that impressed me was how well he interacted with children. I'd watching him playing with other people's kids and think what a great dad he would make. It never occurred to me that we wouldn't have children. I never dreamed that he wouldn't want them. It was the natural progression, right? Before we got married, we signed papers with the Catholic Church saying we would welcome children and raise them Catholic, didn't we? Oh, I was so young.

We had been married a few years when, despite using birth control, I thought I might be pregnant. To my horror, he said that if I was, he was leaving. I was not pregnant. The marriage didn't last long enough to find out if he might have eventually changed his mind. Perhaps after he finished college and we got a home of our own . . . But he has been married two more times, and as far as I know, he has never had any children.

Husband number two was good with kids, too, as long as he didn't have to deal with them at home. But he made it clear before we got married that he didn't want any more children. At least I knew how he felt about it.

If your mate seems to enjoy playing with other people's kids, don't assume that he wants some of his own. Talk about it. Ask him before it's too late.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Did You Find Out?

When Fred and I got together, I was 31 and still hoping to be a mom. He was 46 and had had a vasectomy after his third child was born. For a while after our engagement, we talked about having a child together. If his vasectomy couldn't be reversed, we would try artificial insemination or adoption. We talked about it with my gynecologist. We collected information about adoptions. It never occurred to me that I would go to my grave without children.

Then one evening on a camping trip, Fred dropped the bomb. "I really don't want to have any more children," he said. "I'm sorry."

"Oh," I replied, stunned. That's pretty much all I ever said about it until many years later. Somehow, I had this big case of denial. He would change his mind, or a persistent sperm would find its way to one of my eggs, and I would have a baby.

Looking back, I should have demanded that we talk about this a lot more. I should have made it clear that I wanted children. But I didn't. Why? I was more afraid of losing Fred than of not having children. My first marriage blew up, the three-year relationship I had in-between turned out badly, and I had almost reconciled myself to being alone forever. Then Fred came along. I had never felt love like that, and I didn't dare do anything to mess it up.

Now I suspect that, if I had insisted, he loved me enough that we would have had children. But it's too late now.

So, ladies and gents in childless relationships, how did you discover your mate wouldn't or couldn't become a parent, and how did you react? Is there time to change the situation?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Childless women play important role

Throughout history, a certain percentage of women have remained childless. Although people have often viewed them with suspicion or pity, they play an important role in society, says Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love and the new book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. Childless women are free to do the things mothers can't. They teach, they nurse, they encourage young artists or become artists themselves. In myriad ways, what Gilbert calls the Auntie Brigade is there to help.

I don't know about you, but this comforts me. We who have not given birth still have an important part to play in the world. Sometimes we're lonely, but we matter. We are able to do things our mothering sisters cannot. On Wednesdays, I can lead the children in singing at my church because I am not fettered with a little one. Think about it. We can all mourn the losses that come with never being a mother, but what about all the things we CAN do because we don't have children.

I have not yet read the book, but gathered these excerpts in a review by Margot Magowan. Thank you, Elizabeth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Holding the baby

I think I'm beginning to understand why so many women gather around babies and vie to hold them. Lately my dog Annie, the one in the picture only two years older and 50 pounds heavier, has taken to lying on top of me whenever I relax in a chair or on the sofa. Spread over my lap or chest, she is warm and soft. As I pet her, she relaxes to sleep. Sometimes she snores. Sometimes she whimpers and her feet paddle as she dreams. I stay very still, stroking her fur, loving her. Of course a dog is not the same as a human baby, but there's something so elemental and right about that closeness, that young life against my body.

Human babies grow so quickly. It is not long before they're too big and no longer willing to lie in their mothers' arms. Most mothers can have more children, and they can look forward to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren that come in the never-ending circle of life. They ache to hold babies again. My mother always seemed so happy when she had a chance to hold a little one, but it didn't happen very often.

For those of us who are not mothers,we can only imagine that feeling. And hold our dogs, if they are willing to be held.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Baby in the Back Row

At the library for our monthly writers' meeting, I hear a voice behind me calling my name. I turn and blink, trying to recognize this young woman with a baby attached to her by what looks like an overgrown scarf. I won't remember her name until later, but I know she was one of my best students. She was writing about motherhood. It comes back to me. The last time I saw her, she was pregnant, and I was editing her proposal for a book about birthing plans. But that was—this is a different baby. She has three, I think. Then I discover this pudgy-faced Gerber baby is number four. The oldest is six. Oh. What do you say? He's beautiful. I love his tiny coveralls and the soft brown fuzz on his head. As our guest speaker talks, every now and then he gurgles a loud amen, and when we write, he seems to be studying the page, thinking hard.

Although wearing the glassy-eyed stare of someone who rarely gets enough sleep, my student seems content and bonded to her baby.

In the front row, another young woman, very young, has the same translucent, puffy look of a new mother. She clutches what looks like a blanket in her lap. Later I'll learn that it's her jacket. She's struggling to write about her recent experience giving her baby up for adoption. Like me, she keeps looking at the baby in the back row.

Afterward, I talk to my student, catching up. Yes, she is still writing when she can. She knows all about me from reading my newsletter. "How's Annie?" she asks. My dog. "Good," I say.

I get busy helping to put away the chairs. At home, as I relax into my big chair in front of the TV, Annie jumps into my lap, all 60 pounds of her. She keeps trying to lick my face. I pull her close and pet her soft fur. "Oh, baby, let's just watch American Idol, okay?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Even here they ask

At my husband's nursing home yesterday, we shared a red-clothed table with a mother and daughter for the Valentine's Day party. It wasn't much of a party. Most of the residents were napping. Those of us who were awake ate cupcakes, jelly beans, M&M's, and those little sugar hearts with writing on them. I sang songs and played my guitar, and we played a little bingo with the sugar hearts. Actually, the activities director, the daughter and I played bingo, and Fred and the mom sat while we pushed candies around their cards. The mom, Jean, has been in a mood lately. She used to be very talkative and always got up to sing and dance when anyone played music. But now she just sat there in her red sweater, frowning. Her daughter, dressed identically in red and black, sang with me as we tried to keep this slow party going.

After I had won my second round of Bingo and eaten another heart, Jean suddenly surprised me. "How many kids do ya have?" she asked.

I stared and saw her staring back intently. "I don't have any children," I said. I felt so disloyal to my husband, not acknowledging the stepchildren. But he was my link to them, and the link is broken. "He has three," I said," pointing to Fred. Jean went back to her silence as an aide started setting tiny glasses of milk on the tables in preparation for dinner. The daughter and I exchanged looks. Time to go.

I wonder what would have happened if I did have children to talk about.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Visit this magazine for childless women

Hi. Sorry about the delays. I can't seem to catch up, but I am pleased and proud to invite you to read the winter edition of Exhale, a literary magazine for childless women. My piece, "Childless Woman's Survival Guide," is included. The whole issue is about "levity," the ability to laugh in the midst of grief. Read this with Kleenex nearby. I suspect you'll want to bookmark this e-zine and perhaps join Exhale's discussions on Facebook.

Hey, here's another good thing: The holidays coming up, Valentine's Day and President's Day, don't have anything to do with children, so we don't have to feel left out. Celebrate. Oh, and don't forget Fat Tuesday Feb. 16. What a great month.
Back soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is That What I was Supposed to Do?

I received a CD-rom from my cousins yesterday. It contained more than 1,300 family photos. The note promised pictures from several weddings, including my own, major birthday parties for family members, showers, holidays and more. Oh boy, I thought, eager to relive the old days with so many loved ones who have passed away.

There was some of that, but most of the pictures were of my cousins and their kids. Three cousins, five kids, three spouses of the kids at every age from newborn to young adult. So many group photos. Moms pregnant, moms at baby showers, moms holding their babies, moms, dads and grandparents with tiny gap-toothed kids of varying heights. The passing generations of parents to children to their children. Soon these young adults will be having their own offspring, and the cyle will go on with baby pictures, first communions, graduations, weddings, and more baby pictures. Of course the people who took the pictures, cousins whom I treasure even though I rarely see them, would focus mostly on their own families. My own photo albums have pictures of my family, although lately I haven't taken very many.

These days, my photos tend to be of old barns, flowers, bridges, trees, and dogs. If I had children, I suppose I'd be snapping photos of them incessantly and proudly foisting them on relatives who would display them on their pianos, end tables and bookshelves. But I don't have that kind of photos. A few stepchild photos here and there, but not many.

I did find some wonderful shots on the CD-rom of my grandmother, my mother and aunts and uncles who have passed away. There were a couple from my wedding and some that showed me the way I used to look. So young! I will save these pictures and love them. But the generations stop with me. I don't fit into the family picture the way my cousins do. I'm different. It makes me sad.

Do you know what I mean? Do you feel that way sometimes? Like the one looking on from afar?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Taking Chico away

My baby dog is gone. I surrendered him to the Willamette Humane Society last weekend--on his 23-month birthday. It hurt bad. I cried so much I made myself sick. I know there's no real comparison between this and giving up a human baby for adoption, but that's how it felt. I know we'll both be better off, but it's so hard. I drove to Salem with this handsome dog on the seat beside me. I pet him and talked to him. At the rest stop, he behaved perfectly, as he had for the last 24 hours. Was I really doing this? Could I really do this? I did. The moment I reached the counter, a woman took my dog away. I stayed to fill out papers, acknowledging that the shelter will not provide updates on his status. He is no longer mine. I drove home alone.

Now it's just his sister Annie and me. I hope not to torture you dear readers with more about this dog situation. For now anyway.

On the way to Salem, we followed a school bus for a while. I found myself waving at the children inside. Although I have never craved the company of children before, suddenly I find myself wanting to be around them. I don't want to be pregnant now. My old body couldn't take the strain. Is it some deep-seated instinct to be a grandmother now that I'm truly a grandmotherly age? Is it that the old people around me are dying and I want a sign of new life coming up like the bulbs pushing through the dead vines in my garden? I wonder if even women who choose to be childless feel a little twinge sometimes, a need to hold a tiny hand and see life through a child's eyes.

Go, Melissa!

I have been watching reruns of the 1980s TV show "Thirtysomething". It's interesting to see how issues such as childlessness were treated 20 years ago. Some things have changed, but some have definitely stayed the same.

In one episode, "career gal" Elyn asked her motherly friend Hope if it would be terrible if she never had kids. She wasn't sure she wanted them. Shocking disclosure. One might notice that she didn't cozy up to Hope's baby Janie.

Melissa, on the other hand, adored Janie and always had her in her arms. She ached for a child of her own and even suggested she might have one without a husband. Then along came the handsome Dr. Bob. Their romance developed quickly. He looked like "the one." Melissa loved his daughter Robyn, played by a very young Kellie Martin. Eventually the subject of having children together came up. It was an awkward conversation, along the lines of: I know we're not at that place yet, but hypothetically . . . , if, maybe, someday, how would you feel about having more children?

Alas, Dr. Bob had decided long ago that Robyn was more than enough. He did not want to go through that experience again.

Well, now what does Melissa do? At first she tries not to react, telling him and herself, it's early, there's time to change his mind. Still, he doesn't seem to want to talk about it, and his response never varies: Robyn is enough for me. Maybe he'll change his mind, Melissa persists. "No, he won't!" I'm shouting at the TV. A man of Dr. Bob's age who says he does not want children won't change his mind.

Finally Melissa presses him again for a definite answer, and he gives it to her: no more kids. Her response is one of the best exit lines I have heard. "I think me and my eggs will be moving on." And away she goes. I am so proud of her. Too many of us are so desperate for a man that we agree to give up children just to keep the man.

Not that Dr. Bob is a bad guy; he's just the wrong guy for Melissa. Perhaps we should introduce him to Elyn.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pink Draft is Done

I finished the latest draft of my Childless by Marriage book this week. Some tweaking and I will be ready to market the book, as well as excerpts and related stories. I call this "the pink draft," printed on pink paper so I can tell it apart from the other drafts.

I have interviewed many women and a few men over the past decade. Some are childless by choice, but lots of them tell tales of motherhood thwarted by husbands and boyfriends or delayed until it was too late. I will be trying to contact these women to find out what has happened since we talked and make sure it's still okay to use their comments. For some folks, the contact information I have is no longer valid. If I interviewed you for my book, please e-mail me privately at

Let us work together to make sure the world knows what it's really like for us.

Thanks for reading this blog and for your many comments. We will go on indefinitely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Come back

Could the Anonymous poster who commented yesterday or today on being 53 and devastated about not having children sent their comment again? It was great, and I accidentally deleted it. Thanks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Talk about pressure

Those of us in the US and UK may feel a bit pressured sometimes because we don't have children, but it's a lot worse in some other countries. India offers some particularly painful examples. A woman contacted me a year or so ago to tell me about her situation. She had not been able to conceive. Doctors found nothing wrong with her; her husband refused to be tested. Her in-laws persecuted her constantly over the lack of children. They didn't care that she was highly educated and a college professor. If she wasn't a mother, she had failed.

A more shocking case made the news last month. An Indian woman was harassed so badly over her failure to produce children that she finally kidnapped six male infants. When one of them died, she abandoned him, but her husband didn't know the children weren't his and was quite pleased--until she got caught. Read about it in this article from the UK's Telegraph or this piece from Calcutta.

A different kind of pressure has inspired the creation of the fake "Kid in a Kit." Intended for office workers who feel cheated by the moms and dads who get extra time off for parenting duties, the kit includes photos of a child, kid-type artwork, faux doctors' notes, and sample excuses to get out of work. Fun!

You never know what a childless woman will do. :-)