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 suelick@casco.net.

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. :-)