Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goals for a new year without children

Dear friends,
So many of you have been writing to me about your childless by marriage situations. I feel for your grief. I share it. Although I like to think I have accepted my situation and moved on, sometimes I want to curse and throw things when I realize, again, what I have missed by not having children. I never really direct my anger at my husbands who didn't want to have kids with me. I'm more angry at myself for letting the opportunity slip by without taking action.

With my husband passing away, this will be my first year in a long time that I haven't been married, so I have a new life to build. I get angry that this happened to us. It's not fair that I don't have kids or a husband at this age. But you know what? Hanging onto the bitterness doesn't do any good. God gave me this life, and I need to live it.

Whatever your situation this year, let's set some goals for dealing with being childless by marriage.

Repeat after me:

1) I will discuss very honestly how I feel with my partner or spouse. I will not hold back, even if I'm afraid that what I say will make him/her angry or sad. They need to know. Silent resentment will poison our relationship.

2) I will decide once and for all whether I can live a life without children. Is this person worth giving up children? If not, I will do something about it.

3) I will find a way include at least one child in my life as an unofficial godmother, auntie or whatever I want to call it. I can find this child in my family, among my friends' children, in volunteering in my community, or even one of those situations where I "adopt" a poor child in another country.

4) I will find something to be thankful for every day.

5) (this one's for me) If I am posting as Anonymous, I will start using a name. It doesn't have to be my real name. It can be serious or silly, but it will help Sue tell one poster from another.

Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Find the light in this holiday season

My dear friends,

It's almost Christmas. I know this is a tough time for people who are grieving the loss of the children they might have had. We also miss those who have passed away. I know I would give anything for another hug from my husband or to hear my mother laugh again. But we have to accept things as they are right now, today.

Look around you and see all the good things you do have: your health, your home, the wonderful people in your life, good food, and this beautiful earth on which we live. Just now, I looked out my window and saw wild birds having a party. Bright blue Stellar's jays, brown-and-orange varied thrushes, and black-hooded Oregon juncos grazed on the lawn while a purple-breasted swallow swooped across the sky. A hint of blue showed through the clouds, and my Sitka spruce stood tall and strong despite decades of harsh wind, rain and frost. The winter solstice has past, and we will be getting more daylight every day. There is much to be grateful for.

Yes, we are surrounded by people who have children when we don't. It's easy to resent them. Don't. Love them, and love their children. Be glad they are here. If you are meant to be a parent, you will, but meanwhile, don't blind yourself to everything good in this season of light and joy.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Birth control pills and the childless woman

Did you know that birth control pills were not legally available to unmarried women in all U.S. states until 1972? The Pill was only approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960 and was not prescribed even to married women in every state until 1965.

Think about what a difference The Pill made in people's lives. You could have sex without worrying about getting pregnant. You didn't have to deal with condoms or the various other iffy devices available then. All you had to do was take a pill. You didn't ever have to get pregnant if you didn't want to. Suddenly women had a real choice about whether or not to have children or when to have them. It gave them a freedom they had never had before. Since then, the number of women who don't have children has more than doubled, not a coincidence.

As those of us who are childless by marriage know all too well, The Pill also made it more likely that we would not have children with partners who didn't want them.

In 1972, the man who became my first husband hurried me to the San Jose State student health center for a prescription. He wanted sex but not babies. In those days, the hormone dosages were huge. I suffered every possible side effect--bleeding, bumps, nausea, weight gain, and more--before trading my pills for a diaphragm. When I married Fred, I didn't need birth control because he had had a vasectomy. I remained childless.

Today's birth control pills have fewer side effects and in fact are often prescribed to help with bad periods and other problems in the reproductive department. Of course, we worry a lot more about sexually transmitted diseases and need to take precautions. But pregnancy? The Pill took care of that.

What brought all this up? I was looking for some updated information for my Childless by Marriage book and came upon this fascinating site called http://www.thepillcom. If you dodge, the ads, you can read the whole history of birth control there.

How about you? What is your experience with birth control?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dec. 17: First Date with Prince Charming

"Don't screw it up," my friend Sandy told me before I went on my first date with Fred Lick. I did my best. I dressed up, styled my hair, took care with my makeup. I tucked my diaphragm into my purse, just in case. And then he drove up in the rattiest car, and I thought, Oh no, what am I getting into.

But you can't judge a man by his car. Fred was in the process of getting a divorce, which is hard on the finances, and his teenage son had put something on the car that ruined the paint. None of that mattered. Fred was handsome, smart, and funny. He had a good job supervising senior centers, and he lived in this quaint little house in the Willow Glen section of San Jose.

He took me to a winery in the east foothills, one of his favorite places. Then we went out for Chinese food. After that, we back to his house to watch movies. We didn't actually see the second movie. Somewhere early in "Flashdance," we began making out. I excused myself to put in my diaphragm, and Fred brought pillows and a blanket for the floor. We made love.

Unlike other guys who assumed sex came with dinner, Fred was gentle and considerate. He kept asking, "Is this all right? Are you sure?" I was sure. By the end of the evening, we both knew we belonged together. It was the beginning of a beautiful love story.

I soon learned that I didn't need the diaphragm. Fred had had a vasectomy. After a certain amount of talk about adoption and ways to get me pregnant, he let me know the three kids he had from his first marriage were enough. We never had children together, and I grieve that loss. But that does not negate the love that began on Dec. 17, 1983. Fred is not here to celebrate this year, but I will remember and treasure what I had rather than what I have lost.

So many of us get caught up in what we don't have. We start seeing our mates as the enemy rather than the people we love. Take some time today to look at your spouse, partner or lover and treasure what you have with them. Maybe you don't have kids, but you do have each other. Thank God for that.

Happy anniversary, Fred.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let's do the holidays our own way

Thank you so much to the ladies who sent kind words after my last post. This season is tough for so many people for so many reasons. It's tempting to think we're the only ones grieving. A friend's brother just died. I can be grateful my brother is alive and well. Another friend's grandson is dying of cancer. At least I don't have that pain in my life. Another friend is stuck in a wheelchair. Thank God, I can walk.

I wanted to tell you what happened the day after I decided I couldn't do the Christmas decorations. I discovered that I could do it, but not in the same old way. I had boxes of ornaments that my mother-in-law left us, which we had never used because the tree was always full of stuff we had to put on it. I decided I would cover the tree with these new-to-me ornaments. Then I added just a few of my own that made me feel good. The rest stayed in the box. I changed what I put up and where I put it. No Christmas stockings, no wreaths all over the house. This year, I don't need to please anyone else but myself. That is one advantage of being on your own. Lonely, oh Lord yes, I'm lonely, and I got a pang this morning when a couple at church talked about going home to decorate the house with their kids, but I'm kind of glad to be free to do or not do Christmas as I please.

If Christmas is driving you nuts this year, change it up. If certain traditions make you miserable, do something else. If you want to eat steak and drink champagne on Christmas, do it. If you've always wondered about serving meals to the homeless, try it. If you want to spend the holidays in bed watching videos, go ahead (when you don't have to be at work, of course). If people ask what you're doing for the holidays--and they will ask--just smile mysteriously, and say "I have plans." It's none of their business what they are.

And thank God that you're not waiting in line at the toy store.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Childless feel worse at Christmas

I debated about posting this. I don't want to bum people out with this blog, but I need some love tonight. As most of you know, my husband passed away earlier this year. And like you, I don't have any kids. Well, I got the Christmas boxes out to decorate the house and put up my fake tree and discovered I just couldn't do it this year. The whole Christmas thing just makes me feel more alone. It all speaks of a house full of people, and I don't have that.

Today I got one of those Christmas card photos from a friend who is posing with her husband, daughters and grandchildren. It's a beautiful picture, and it's fun to see how much they've changed since I saw them last. But it makes me sad. To think I could have had that just kills me. My picture would show me and a dog. Most of the time, that's fine, but today . . . it just hurts.

Maybe you're feeling down this time of year, too. We need to support each other. How are you doing?

I have been reading a childless blog by a woman called loribeth. It's called The Road Less Travelled. She talks about the holidays, too, plus a lot of other great posts. Check it out.

Thanks for letting me whine.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Being childless has its blessings

We often mourn here about what we don’t have and the grief we feel over our lack of children. But it’s important to look at the flip side, too. Because we don’t have children to take care of, we have a lot more time and freedom to devote to other things that are important to us.

Most of our marriage, Fred and I were able to do things that parents can’t do as easily. We traveled a lot. We did not have to worry about taking the kids along or going places that children would enjoy, and we had enough money because we weren’t taking care of children. We went antiquing a lot. We bought things that maybe parents of young children couldn’t afford. I went back to school and got my master’s degree. If we had children, we would be paying for their education. We were able to go out whenever we felt like it: lunch, romantic dinner, shows, hiking, without worrying about babysitters or school schedules. I was able to go away as needed for work.

We were “childfree,” a word that makes me cringe, but not having children does give us freedom to concentrate on adult things. I could not have done all the things I have done in my life if I had to take care of children. I believe I would gladly make the sacrifice in exchange for the chance to be a mother, but I have to remember the blessings, especially this time of year when I’m missing my husband and feeling awfully alone.

Let’s all stop and think of at least five things that we can do because we don’t have kids. Take comfort in the blessings we do have. Feel free to share here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Grieving over childlessness lasts a long time

Dear friends,
The holidays can be tough for a lot of reasons, but not having children--and wishing you had them--can make it especially difficult. Everywhere you turn, you see children. You attend family gatherings where everyone else seems to have kids, watch your friends going all out to make Christmas special for their children, and you get bombarded by child-centered TV shows and commercials.

If you are alone, it's even harder. Comments on a much earlier post about childless grief have increased lately. I'm sure the holidays have something to do it. Some of the comments are just heart-breaking. Martha wrote to me yesterday. She didn't marry until she was 40. She wanted children. Her husband said he didn't. She hoped he'd change his mind, but then, only five years after their marriage, he died of a heart attack at age 48. Now she's 45, still wanting children but beginning to doubt that it will ever happen. An only child, she has no nieces or nephews, and so many members of her birth family have died that she is in danger of being the last one left. It's hard to know what to say except to urge her to build a family of friends who can help her move on.

Others wrote to me after Thanksgiving. Ericka, for instance, found it really difficult to be around her nieces and nephews this year. They just reminded her of what didn't have.

The holidays are challenging, but if we can count our blessings and treasure the people we do have in our lives, we can get through this and maybe even enjoy it.

Don't sit home and stew. Get busy. If you're alone, call a friend. If you don't have a friend, make one. Volunteer somewhere. Reach out, and someone will reach back.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mothering my four-legged baby

This morning, as usual, I tiptoe to the kitchen, trying not to disturb my dog Annie as I take my pills and pour my orange juice. She sleeps in the laundry room, which has a doggy door to back yard. As soon as she hears me, she will stretch, jingle her tags, and come running to the sliding door in the kitchen, paws banging against the glass. The trick is to get myself organized before this happens, to grab a few minutes of peace for myself.

I open the door. She comes rushing in, gives me kisses and waits for me to serve her some Kibbles N Bits. But no. First, I escort her back outside, telling her to go potty. Obediently she squats on the grass to do No. 1, then races to the other side of the yard for No. 2. After sniffing the air and observing what’s happening beyond the fence, she sprints back to the house, where I let her in to eat.

While Annie eats, I crank up the pellet stove to warm the house. Annie joins me there, the orange light of the fire reflecting in her golden eyes. I hug and pet her and tell her once again how much I love her. After a while, she curls up on the pink blanket on the big chair by the window while I go to my office down the hall.

As I work, I’m ever alert to her actions. If she barks, I leave my desk to find out what’s wrong. If she comes wandering in, I give her a big hug and promise I’ll be free to play in a little while. If she snatches paper out of my recycle box, I’ll chase her around the house to try to get it back. Sometimes I succeed, but more often, she leaves shreds of paper all over the living room. And I smile because, compared to Annie, paper doesn’t matter.

Annie is a dog, but I raised her from 7 weeks old, when she only weighed eight pounds, the size of a healthy newborn human. Now 70 pounds and almost four years old, she’s still my baby, and most days, she’s enough.

Copyright 2011 Sue Fagalde Lick

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving with the granddogs

Well, my childless friends, how did your Thanksgiving go? The holidays can really drive home our lack of children when we’re surrounded by other people’s kids. So many of the festivities seem to be designed for children and families with children.

However, looking at it from a more positive slant, we can sleep, eat, and party in peace without worrying about caring for little ones--unless of course your little ones are animals.

For the first time in ages, I didn’t go to California this Thanksgiving. Instead, I stayed here in South Beach, sang at an early morning Mass and went to a friend’s house for dinner. This friend has three children, the oldest 31, the youngest 18, but so far, she has no grandchildren, only granddogs. And the kids brought the dogs.

What a delight. I had met “Whiskey” and “Porter” before at the dog park, but didn’t know they were related to Terry. Whiskey, a brownish terrier, and Porter a big old black lab mix his “grandpa” calls “Moron,” came charging in, giving us all kisses, patrolling under the table, and resting their heads in our laps. Whiskey looks a lot like my Annie, only smaller, and Porter looks like Chico, a dog I used to have. It was so great to hug them and play with them and talk about dogs all afternoon. For once, I did not feel left out. We all had dogs.

The food was great and I enjoyed the people, but the highlight of my afternoon was Whiskey and Porter. Then I got to go home to my own dog child. Give me a dog and it’s a happy Thanksgiving.

How about you? Were you able to be happy for what you have without mourning what you lack? Or was it a tough holiday? We’re here to listen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

What If Your Mate Says No to Kids?

Last week, I wrote about how important it is to have The Conversation with our mates about whether or not we want to have children. It can be a tough conversation to have, especially for women. Sometimes men are like fish. We don’t want to speak too loudly for fear of scaring them away. I know that’s how it was with me. I lacked the self-esteem to say I wanted children and would do whatever it took to have them. With my first husband, by the time I found out he didn’t want to have children, our marriage was already going badly. It didn’t matter what I said; it wasn’t going to happen. But what if we had had that conversation before we got married? Maybe we would have avoided a troubled marriage.

With Fred, well, I suspect he was actually worth sacrificing children for. We had such a love, the kind they make movies about. He was the best husband a woman could want. He did not want to have more children, but I think if I really insisted that I had to have kids to be happy, he would have gone along with it. I didn’t insist. I just moped. I think part of me believed I had already lost my chance with my first marriage, and I was lucky just to have another husband. Also, to be honest, I wonder if my desire was not as strong as my desire to do other things in life, but I’ll never know. We avoided the conversation.

So what does one do if one’s mate says, “Absolutely not. I refuse to have children.” A lot of people who comment here are dealing with that problem right now. Do they push to the point of destroying the relationship? Do they risk abandoning the love they have in the hope of finding someone else who will welcome children? Do they give up their dream in order to stay together? How do you make such a decision?

I wish I had all the answers to these questions. We each have to find them for ourselves through soul-searching and prayer and being alert to those moments when everything becomes very clear.

What do you think? What do you do if he/she says, “No kids. No way.”

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have you had the "baby" conversation with your mate?

I didn't know my first husband didn't want children until we were well into our marriage. He seemed good with other people's children. I assumed he'd be great with our own. But I was wrong. He kept wanting to put it off until he finally admitted he didn't want kids at all. By then, our marriage was shot anyway so we didn't talk much about it. We should have talked about it before we got married, but we never did.

With my second husband, we talked around the issue of having children but never addressed it head-on. He had had a vasectomy and he told me didn't want to add any more kids to the three he already had, but did I believe him? No. Did I stand up for my right to be a mom? I did not.

All too often, we fail to have one of the most important conversations we should have with our mates. We might not agree on whether to have children, but at least we need to be honest about it. I think if I had really pushed, I might be a mother today. But I never straight out said, "I want children. This is important to me. I will be devastated if I never become a mother."

Sometimes we're afraid to push, for fear our partner will get angry and break up with us. But if you can't talk about such an important topic, how good is that relationship anyway? Now don't bring it up on the first date, but if you've been together a while, it's time to have the baby talk.

For this conversation to succeed,we have to know what we want. Is not having children a deal-breaker, or can you live with it? How strongly does your partner feel about it? Why does he think he doesn't want kids?

All too often, I see couples who find themselves in a miserable place because they didn't work this out before it was too late. I know it's hard to bring it up. But try it. Maybe you could say something like, "I always wanted to have a little girl." See what he says, then follow up. Make sure you both are clear on this all-too-important issue. Sooner or later, it will harm your relationship if you don't.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Did you ever lie about not having children?

Once upon a time, I was a regular contributor to a parenting magazine. I wrote articles about nutrition, health, summer camp, the likelihood of having twins, the cost of having a baby, and other topics. I glommed ideas off my stepson. He wouldn't eat vegetables? It became an article. He was color-blind? Another article.

When I interviewed parents and childcare experts, I did not tell them I had never had children. I let them assume that I was a mom, that Michael was my kid. At the time, I was immersed in the day-to-day challenges of life with an adolescent. I did the doctor runs, got the calls from the school, baked cookies for the Boy Scout troop. Didn't that count?

I got busted a few times when people asked about my experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and infant care. I had no such experiences. My parenting life began when Michael was almost 12, and it was only part-time. Then I would have to confess that I didn't actually have any children of my own. But most of the time it was easier to pretend.

How about you? Have you ever lied about being a parent? Pretended your stepchild, niece or nephew or another kid was your own?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did you expect to have children?

I'm a child of the '50s. Born in 1952,I came of age at the peak of the women's movement, devouring every issue of Ms. Magazine, proudly telling people I was a feminist. I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I also expected to be a mother. From the time I was a toddler, my parents had trained me to follow my stay-at-home mother's example. Yes, writing and music were fine, as long as they didn't interfere with a woman's primary job: taking care of her home, husband and children. We're glad you're getting good grades in school, and it's nice that you got your poem published, but can you bake a cake? Can you hem a skirt? Can you diaper a baby? TV shows and movies from the 1950s and '60s formed me in the Doris Day mold. Whatever else I might want to do, I would get married and have children.

It didn't turn out that way.

How about you? I know I'm older than many of my readers, so maybe your experiences were different. Were you raised to be a mom or was that just one of many options? I'd love to hear what you have to say on this.

Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Childlessness in the Bible

Life was clear-cut in Biblical times. If you didn’t have a baby, it was because you couldn’t conceive or couldn’t carry a pregnancy to term. None of the husbands said, “I don’t want to have kids.” Maybe they thought it, but they wouldn’t dare say it. Couples needed children to help with the work and to carry on the family to future generations. Some poor woman on her 15th pregnancy might have wished for a condom, but we don’t hear about that.

I recently happened upon a website that lists all the women in the Bible who suffered from infertility. It’s at It’s important to note that all of these women eventually gave birth: “And she conceived and bare a son.”

We’re got Sarah, wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac; Rebekah, wife of Isaac and mother of Jacob and Esau; Rachel, wife of Jacob, mother of Joseph and Benjamin; Manoah’s wife, the mother of Samson; Hannah, wife of Elkanah, mother of Samuel; Elizabeth, wife of Zacharias and mother of John the Baptist, and a Shunammite Woman, whose husband and son are unnamed.

We also read about St. Anne, patroness saint for childless people, who conceived the Virgin Mary in her old age. And, at another site,, we read about this prophetess who was unable to conceive for a long time, but eventually became a mother of six “through devoted prayer to God.”

I would love for the Bible to tell us about women who were never able to conceive or whose husbands refused to give them children. There must have been some, but we don’t read about them in the Bible. The choices were much clearer in those days. If you could have children, you did. If you couldn’t, you prayed for divine intervention.

The issues are much more complicated now, but I suspect prayer wouldn’t hurt. If nothing else, pray for clarity and peace. Run through the Serenity Prayer. If you’re not religious . . . well, I welcome your suggestions.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Comforting words for the childless

One of many anonymous commenters sent me this: "Hi Sue, I'm the anon from Oct. 30th same age group...I wanted to share something that may help others. Tonight I was starting to feel depressed and anxious (after hearing about a friend's children) and decided to speak with my husband about my feelings. He shared that he feels bad sometimes for us not having children or grandchildren but he chooses not to dwell on it. He doesn't want to dwell on what we don't have but what we do have. He takes a piece of paper and lists everything he can think of to be thankful for. Count your blessings. So I did the same. Then I worked out for an hour to rid myself of the negative energy. This was helpful, tonight, for me. Hoping this will help others...Thank you again for this site."

Try it. I think it does help.

I found a poem by a poet who calls herself Mareymercy that gives me great comfort and I hope it will help you, too. It's called "But Who Will Take Care of You When You're Old and Dying?" The poem offers an answer to those people who ask how you'll survive old age without kids. The last stanza is especially comforting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mommy Training with Dolls

I once had a hundred dolls. I lined them up on my dresser and counted them. My math was probably off, but they were my children. Every year at Christmas, there seemed to be a new doll I just had to have. If Santa didn't bring her, I'd die. One year Santa brought a three-foot-tall walking doll I named Patty. My friend Sherri got one, too. We walked them down the street toward each other so they could be best friends, just like us. My dolls always had dark hair and eyes like me. Sherri's dolls were blondes.

Each new doll I received spent the first night sleeping against the pillow next to me while the others slept with the stuffed animals at the foot of the bed. It's a wonder there was any room left for me. I named the newcomer, kissed her and wrapped my body around hers to protect her from the night terrors.

The next morning, I dressed her, combed her hair and brought her to breakfast with me, setting her up against the milk bottle, pretending to feed her bits of toast and eggs. I took her to school with me, never wanting to leave her alone. I knew she was just a cloth or plastic doll, but she was a real person to me.

Back in the 1950s, the big innovation was baby dolls that drank and wet. You inserted the tip of a rubber bottle in the hole between their lips and squeezed the milk or water down their throats. Rather quickly, the liquid came out a hole on the other end. It was too messy to do in the house.

Sherri and I fed our "babies" outside in the patio. That was our house. It never seemed odd to us to be two mothers sharing the same house. Our husbands were nonexistent or off at imaginary jobs where they belonged. Like our mothers, we spent our days taking care of the house and our babies. We talked to our dolls all the time, telling them how sweet they were and how much we loved them. We taught them what we had learned about Jesus in catechism class, along with the ABCs, the times tables, and the capitals of all the states in the U.S.

Betsy Wetsy and Tiny Tears led to Chatty Cathy, who could talk when you pulled the string in her back. "I'm hungry." "I'm thirsty." "I love you," she said. Then we got Barbie and her curvaceous friends. My black-haired Barbie had a best friend named Sandy, and they hung out with Sherri's blonde Barbie and Ken. We invented boyfriends and careers for our dolls. Mine were always in show business. Sherri's Barbie was a stay-at-home mom.

We watched our children grow up in that redwood patio with the cracked concrete floor. We cooked our pretend meals in the brick fireplace that my father and grandfather had built together, and washed the dishes in the sink Dad had made from scraps of wood and old pipes.

I was a good mother to my dolls, but all too soon I faced the empty nest.

When I was around 13, growing breasts and having my first periods, my mother decided I didn't need dolls anymore. "You're getting too old," she said. "It's time to give them to Goodwill.

"No," I protested. "They're mine." My children. How could I give them up?

Mom was not one for sentiment or saving things. Most of my dolls went away. I kept only a few, the ones Mom couldn't find. My favorite, Chatty Cathy, sits on top of my bookshelf right now, looking down with a goofy smile. I change her outfits to match the seasons, choosing from a red and white trunk full of clothing. Chatty Cathy gargle-talks like an old lady who's had a stroke. One of her shoulders is cracked so her arm falls off if I'm not careful. She doesn't have any teeth. But I love her anyway.

Mom ditched my dolls as a sign it was time for me to grow up, date, get married, and have flesh-and-blood babies.

Well, I did part of that. The invisible husband became real, and every now and then I got to play mommy with my stepchildren—until their real mother showed up.

But I never had babies. A little girl with a doll is a mommy in training. I guess I was training for the wrong career.

How about you? Did you play with dolls? Did you consider yourself their mother?

Copyright 2011 Sue Fagalde Lick

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Free to Be Aunt Sue

Published in the Oregonian 12 years ago. William is an adult now. He’s going to law school. Although he loves his Aunt Sue, he is currently entranced by a girl named Andrea.

“Aunt Sue, Aunt Sue!” says the little boy in the man’s body, urgently seeking my attention. I seem to be the one person in the family who doesn’t answer his persistent attempts to join the conversation with an annoyed, “William, be quiet!” His words are the chorus of a sweet song to me.

I actually want to hear what William has to say. I enjoy listening to him fumble through questions and statements that fall easily from the lips of adults. He’s 17, heading for college next year. The world of grownups is just beginning to open up to him, and he is anxious to leap forward feet first, even though he doesn’t know where he might land. He resents not being able to taste beer, play Keno, or try a slot machine. He fantasizes about his first romance and his first apartment. He has his first car and his first job. He wants to try out all the other perks of adulthood. Now.

William, a giant at 6 foot 4, is impatient, hyperactive, always saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Teenage girls enter the room and he gawks in a way that will cause them to laugh at him rather than date him. He eats four times as much as anyone else and still claims to be hungry. He mopes when he doesn’t get his way.

No matter. I love being Aunt Sue. I’m the one person who will let him play the same passage of “Fur Elise” on the piano 50 times and let 20 times go by before I make him correct the wrong note he keeps hitting.

William is full of questions, goofy ones and smart ones. “How come you look so much like my father?” I explain genetics. “How come it’s okay for Uncle Fred to be 15 years older than you but I can’t date a 25-year-old?” I tell him that the differences level out in middle age. “Why haven’t your novels been published? You’re a good writer.” I can’t answer that one.

In the pocket of my red jacket is a red plastic parachute man, a treasure. My nephew won it at the casino in Lincoln City. While his parents gambled, I accompanied him to the arcade. I dropped quarters in all sorts of machines, so baffled by the games that I often ran out of time before I figured out how to play. William confidently cashed a $5 bill and went from game to game, fighting monsters, driving a race car and a space ship, catching a bass. When it was time to go, he had a fistful of blue tickets to trade for little-kid prizes. He picked three parachute men, said the red one was his favorite and then gave it to me. Outside, we tossed our parachute men into the wind, running after them as they crashed into the dirt, then letting them fly again. For a few minutes, I was not 47; I was 17, playing with a friend.

It’s a special thing, this aunt-nephew bond. William is a kid with an insatiable need for love. Because I have no children of my own, I have plenty to give to him.

Perhaps someday he will find a wife who will love his dimpled face and smile at his idiosyncrasies, but just as his parents have standards they demand of their son, she will have unspoken rules for what a husband should be. Not me. All I need from William is to be himself and call me “Aunt Sue” once in a while. That’s enough.

Do you have a special relationship with a niece or nephew? Feel free to share.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pregnant Dreams

Before menopause hit, I often dreamed about being pregnant. Here is a typical dream:

I dreamed I was six months pregnant last night. Another woman in our group was farther along and her big belly poked out under her green maternity blouse like a beach ball while mine was not as obvious. I held my big white shirt tight against me to emphasize my condition because I wanted everybody to know I was not fat; I was pregnant.

Pregnancy puts a woman into a special state of grace. It brings her acclaim and privileges. She’s “queen for a day” for nine months, the immature young woman turned Madonna. It’s the ultimate achievement. She has not only caught a fellow, but she’s having his baby.

Old people, priests and mothers see the swelling up front and nod; this woman is fulfilling her proper role, she is healthy and fertile, she is partnered with God in the miracle of giving birth. People bring her gifts, pink, blue, yellow, and green blankets and booties and bottles and all manner of baby carriers. They throw her baby showers, at which she sits in all her swollen glory receiving more presents, hearing baby stories, playing games, and eating chocolate cake.

The pregnant woman is eating for two. Barring doctor’s restrictions, she can eat whenever she is hungry and indulge in whatever sweet, fattening, sinful food she craves, be it pickles and ice cream or maple donuts with custard filling. She can get fat; she is supposed to get fat. When she gets so fat her rings don’t fit and her belly button pops out like the indicator on a Thanksgiving turkey, people just smile. After all, she is pregnant.

Pregnant. Blessed. Privileged. I want to be that. In my dream, I wanted to shine a spotlight on my belly so the whole world knew. Look at me! I’m pregnant!

In reality, I know it’s not all smiles and blessings. Some pregnancies are horrible from beginning to end, but this is the fantasy of a woman who dreams about being pregnant.

My period is coming. I’m swollen with water weight, achy and expectant, constantly checking for the first blood and the first cramps. That’s when the dream usually comes, when my subconscious plays what if. What if this were a baby instead of PMS, what if I had nine months of sanctified pregnancy instead of nine more periods? What if this buildup of blood and tissue in my uterus, this baby nest, wasn’t wasted this time?

I wake up rubbing my belly and feel it shrinking under my hand. No, I am not pregnant. Never will be.

Have you had dreams like this? I'd love to hear them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Blame the childless adults?

A couple recent articles have got my teeth gritting and may do the same for you.

First, apparently, the problems with the economy are partically our fault because we don't have children. Say what? A recent article in the Washington Times titled "Modern Economies 'Rise and Fall' with Nuclear Families" talks about a study by the Social Trends Institute that implies we need more people to marry and have children to keep the economy going. Essentially what this study says is that married men work harder and earn more money and couples with children consume far more goods and services. The fact that so many people are not getting married or having children is hurting the economy. Therefore, governments should encourage marriage and procreation.

Unfortunately, the story has been removed from the Washington Times website. I wonder why. I also wonder whether the numbers are really that different or whether parents and non-parents just spend their money on different things. What do you think?

Another article, published at,is headlined "Childless Adults, Unsurprisingly, Don't Understand Children." The author calls her/himself Anonymous Attorney. She (I'm guessing) raves about how children are being diagnosed with ADHD or bipolar disorder and put on medication unnecessarily by psychologists, social workers and other professionals who don't have children and therefore can't understand them. If they did have children, they would know these kids are behaving normally. She concludes, "We don't actually have an epidemic of mentally ill children. We have an epidemic of childless professionals."

If that doesn't make you grit your teeth, I don't know what will. True, we don't have children of our own, but we don't live in isolation. We once were children, we have been around children, and the folks who work with kids have lots of training.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

If you don't have children, who is your family?

These days, I wince when people talk about family activities. They always seem to have all these people around, a spouse and children and maybe grandchildren, to do things with. Since my husband passed away, I just have a dog.

If you're teetering at the point of deciding whether or not you can be happy without children, think of this as a cautionary tale. I have been married twice to men who didn't want to have children with me. Husband number one just didn't want them. Fred, number two, already had three kids and didn't want any more. He backed that up with a vasectomy long before we met.

In that second marriage, I gained three stepchildren, so in some respects I was not completely childless, but trust me, for most of us, having stepchildren is nowhere near the same as having your own. There are those lovely families that blend so well the "step" disappears, but they are rare. Like most stepchildren, mine have their own real mother, and now that I'm not linked with their dad, we have no connection at all. No, that's not true. We're Facebook friends. But so are lots of other people.

Meanwhile, my real-life friends are busy with their kids and grandkids. Some even have great-grandchildren. Yes, I have some terrific friends, and I have a shrinking family of older relatives and cousins. I won't be alone on the holidays and I can get a lunch date if I want it, but on a day-to-day basis, it's not the same. Mostly, I have my work and my dog.

I wince when people talk about families.

If you're 30-something and have a choice, think hard before you volunteer to give up having children. If you really want children, fight for it.

Sorry for bumming you out, but that's how I'm feeling today.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Are educated women more likely to be childless?

“A College Degree as Contraceptive,” published on the Discover Magazine site, includes some interesting statistics. A study by the Pew Research Center found that about one quarter of all women with bachelor’s degrees and higher in the United States never have children.

The rate of childlessness among professional women is also higher than average. A Center for Work-Life Policy study showed that 43 percent of the women in their sample of corporate professionals between the ages of 33 and 46 were childless. Among the Asian American professional women in the study, the rate of childlessness was 53 percent.

Many studies have shown similar numbers. It appears that the more education a woman has, the less likely she is to have children. Also the more money she has. The same article reports that poor women in the U.S. are five times more likely than higher-income women to have an unplanned pregnancy, and six times more likely to have an unplanned birth.

Interesting, yes? There is speculation that poor, uneducated women have less access to information, contraception, and health care. Maybe they simply don’t see as many choices for their lives. When I was finishing high school, it looked like my family would not be able to afford to send me to college. The theory was that I would just get married and have children anyway, so I didn’t really need a college education.

As it turned out, I did make it to community college and then to a university, and I did not have children. I wound up divorced and grateful I had a career to support me. When I remarried, I continued to work, and I still did not have children. My dad is probably still trying to figure out how he wound up having granddogs instead of grandchildren.

My best friend and I were the only young women on our block who did not get pregnant out of wedlock before the age of 21. We were also the only ones who went beyond high school degrees. Is there a connection?

Perhaps those of us who go to college delay childbearing during the years when women who aren’t in school are starting their families. Or maybe there’s some truth to the cliche that “career women” are too devoted to their jobs to deal with babies. Of course this doesn’t even address the issue of husbands who can’t or won’t father their children.

Why do you think more educated, professional women are childless? I’d love to hear your comments.
Just for fun:
Remember the Savvy Auntie? We have talked here before about the “Savvy Auntie” book and website. Author Melanie Notkin has a fantastic article on the subject in today’s Huffington Post. If you’re feeling blue about not having children, read this and give yourself a boost.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Childless stepmothers offer support

Many of us who are childless by marriage are also stepmothers to children from our husband's previous marriages. It's a difficult role. I have heard about step-relationships that are sweet and wonderful, but most of us find it a bit rocky. You may not get along with the biological mother. The kids may resent you and keep reminding you that "You're not my mother." If you have no children of your own, they are a constant reminder of that fact, plus a lack of experience with kids may make it harder to be an effective parent.

I don't think I did a great job of step-parenting. My husband was a hands-off kind of dad who did not push to spend time with his kids and grandkids. I didn't give much of myself to them either. Now that he's gone, I rarely hear from any of them. If we weren't Facebook friends, I'd have no idea what's going on in their lives.

Speaking of Facebook, I recently stumbled into the Childless Stepmothers Support Group there. Its members share their problems and experiences, along with advice and sympathy.The postings are frequent and fascinating. If you're struggling as a childless stepparent, you might want to do a search for it and join. Only members can see what's posted there.

Also take a look at, which bills itself as "the place where stepparents come to vent."

Another site to try is Only stepmothers who don't have biological children are allowed join, and postings are private.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Once again, children are assumed

I spent yesterday in a writing workshop. Most of us were women trending toward middle age. The teacher, an Irish-Catholic man with three children, is a terrific writer and an amazing speaker. His goal for the class was to open up our minds to create lots of story starters we could work on later. That was great, until we got to the exercise about our children's names. We were to make lists of our kids' names and then list all the names we rejected when we were naming our kids.

Suddenly I was stuck. Like most of us, I had a few names in mind for the kids I might have had. A girl would have been Emily Elaine, after my aunt and my mom. I also like the name Sarah. For a boy, maybe Robert. I wrote those down, but I couldn't list the names I had considered for my kids and rejected because I didn't have any kids in the first place. I wished at that point that we could list our dogs' names. That I can do. I was so relieved when he went on to the next exercise.

It's amazing to me that in today's world with so many people who don't have kids, people still assume that everyone does. Have you experienced this?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Baby pictures?

I lay back on the bed in the small dark room at the hospital and stared at the screen. As I have seen in so many TV shows and movies, there was the fuzzy image in the shape of a windshield-wiper swath. My pants were open, coated with gel, and the technician was running a wand over my belly. Although I knew it was impossible, I wanted to see a baby up there.

The image looked just like the screen on our old black and white TV when Dad was up on the roof trying to get the antenna to work. If you stared at it long enough, you started to see things that might be there. In this case, I pretended I could see a fetus. But no, it wasn’t there. One more time, I felt the loss of the children who might have been.

An hour earlier, my doctor had felt something irregular in the area of my left ovary and ordered an immediate ultrasound. The good-looking male technician pointed out my bladder, my uterus, and the places where my ovaries supposedly were, but I couldn’t see them. I sure hoped he could interpret all that black and white fuzz.

Having seen it done so often on TV, the first part of the ultrasound was familiar and physically painless, interesting even. The writer in me was already constructing my prize-winning essay and wondering if I could get a photo to take home. But then he announced Part 2, which consisted of inserting a long wand into my vagina and poking around for a while to get close-up pictures. Not so fun. Do they do this with pregnant women? I have no reference.

The good news is that my doctor ultimately determined that everything was normal. “Normal” is such a beautiful word, isn’t it? I still have all my baby-making equipment, even though they are too old to use. Still room for a miracle.

Or maybe I just had mine.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Manterfield really understands childlessness

Here's a book you might want to read.

I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home by Lisa Manterfield, Steel Rose Press, 2010. This is a memoir that includes all phases of childlessness. Manterfield's first husband did not want to have children. She was still hoping he'd change his mind when their marriage broke up.

Then she met Jose, who was older, already had children and had had a vasectomy, but he was willing to do whatever it took to have a baby with Lisa, including having surgery to reverse the vasectomy. Surgery complete, Lisa and Jose set about trying to make a baby. They had names picked out and all kinds of plans for little Sophia or Valentino, but she didn't get pregnant. Ultimately, Lisa had to accept that she might never be a mother and that maybe life without children could be all right.

Wherever you're at on the childless spectrum, I suspect you will identify with this book. It is well-written, well-researched and suspenseful enough to hold the reader from beginning to end. It’s a welcome addition to the literature of childlessness.

There's more. Manterfield blogs at She also has a fantastic video on her childless experience at It will make you smile and feel less alone.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Update on the Childless by Marriage book

So whatever happened to my Childless by Marriage book, the one I keep promising is on its way? Well, the book is written. I was actively seeking publishers when my husband's illness got much worse. He died in April, and I've been trying to swim back to solid ground ever since. But now I'm back in business, marketing as hard as I can.

I have found that most books on childlessness wind up being self-published. Although nearly a quarter of all women today never have children, publishers don't see a big enough market. I think all those childless women and men, as well as their families and friends, make up a huge market.

Never mind. I'd prefer the clout of a bigger publisher, but I have my own small publishing company, Blue Hydrangea Productions, which has already put out Stories Grandma Never Told and Shoes Full of Sand. See If no one buys the book before March 2012, I will publish Childless by Marriage as my 60th birthday present to myself. Count on it. (And yes, I am that old.)

Meanwhile, we have this site to share our stories. I have a childless resource page with descriptions of dozens of books and websites at my main website, I previously sponsored a Childless by Marriage Google group, but there wasn't enough action there to be worth the effort, and it was getting confusing as to what went where. If you're interested in a Facebook page, let me know.

While the Childless by Marriage book makes its way through the publishing world, I'm also working on articles and essays and will let you know where you can read them.

My Blogspot statistics tell me quite a few people are reading this blog. Some of you are quoting it elsewhere. Thank you. I'm flattered. Feel free to share what you find here, but please, because it is copyrighted material, let people know where you found it and link back to this site.

Thank you for your years of reading and commenting and offering support. Being childless in this society can be tough sometimes. It helps to stick together.


Friday, August 12, 2011

The Last Two Eggs (Just for fun)

If someone snuck a little TV camera up my fallopian tubes to my ovaries, what would they find?

“Que pasa? What’s that noise? Gertrude, are you awake yet? Something’s going on.”
“Mercy, Maria, go back to sleep. Nothing’s going to happen. Not after all these years.“
“You never know.”
“Please.” Gertrude sighs and sits up. “Let’s go over it again. She’s 52 years old and married for 20 years to this man who had a vasectomy, and then before that, there was the wall. Remember the wall?”
“Oh, sí. The diaphragm. Some very handsome sperm started up the path. Of course we could only see their silhouettes, but up they’d come, young and spirited and muy guapo, coming, coming, almost here, and then, boom. They’d hit the wall, get caught in the jelly, and die like flies in a spider web.”
“Those were sad times.”
“But antes, before that we saw some action.”
“When she was young.”
“Sí, young and slender and with no walls.” She sighs.
“I forget why we didn’t get together with anybody then.”
“Well, I remember that there was something muy weird going on. For months, we wouldn’t have no new eggs.”
“The pill.”
“I guess that’s what it was.”
“But there were a few fellows who got through.” Gertrude smiles, remembering. “They were not bad looking, but there was no spark. We held out for sparks, for magic, for romance, you know.”
“Should have grabbed what we could get.”
“I know, I know, but we all thought there’d be rushes and gushes of handsome sperm. It was just a matter of the right time. It never happened. One by one, our sisters sloughed away, gone forever.” Gertrude shakes her head sadly. “We’re the last two, Maria. I can’t bear the thought of losing you.”
“You might go first.”
“I suppose.” She silently watches the blood pumping through a nearby vein.
“I hear she’s a writer.”
“Writer? Words, words, words. All from the brain, nothing from below the waist. What good does that do us?”
“She’s a musician, too.”
“Is that what all that noise is about? Again, it doesn’t get us fertilized. Remember when we were young and fresh?”
“Como no? Now we’re so far past our expiration date we’re wrinkled up like raisins. If a hot sperm came swimming our way, we wouldn’t know what to do with it.”
“Or which one of us should get him. Should the kid get the Spanish genes or the Anglo ones?”
“Caramba. I’m too tired to even think about it now. Besides, I hear the uterus is shutting down.”
“Ah, I heard those rumors, too. I think the big U is getting a little senile, that’s all. One month, everything’s normal, the next, she forgets, the next she goes through two cycles to make up. It’s exhausting. And the hot flashes and the mood swings . . .
“She sends us plenty of food though. Tamales and cookies and ice cream . . .”
“Yes, she does like to eat these days. Once upon a time, I could practically see out into the world she was so thin, but not anymore.”
“No.” Maria rests against a soft red cushion, closing her eyes. “That’s okay. I don’t much care. We’re never getting out of here.”
“You’re wrong, Maria. Look, there’s something coming up the tube. This might be our chance. Do you see it? It’s coming closer and closer. It doesn’t look like a sperm, more like a box with one big eye and a very long tail, but we have to take what we can get at this point. Hey! Hey! Over here. Take us both! Let’s make twins! Come on, Maria, jump!”

I wake to the sound of a nurse asking whether I want tapioca or Jello. Then the doctor stands over me with his clipboard. “Well, Ms. Lick, it’s all over. Everything looked okay until we got to the left ovary, and then the camera malfunctioned, but we’ve seen enough. It’s just menopause. Nothing to worry about.

Copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2011 (Request reprint permission at

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dogs and kids don't always mix

I held my breath as my dog Annie sniffed at the little boy. Perhaps she thought he was an odd-shaped dog. After all, she knows even less about children than I do. But this little guy was barely old enough to walk, and my 80-pound pup was getting awfully interested in his diapered bottom. Any second, she’d jump on him and scratch or nip his pure white skin, and we’d be in big trouble.

The boy’s mom had let her three kids, ages about 1 1/2, 3, and 6, run free in the fenced dog park, a rectangle of bark chips, poop and shredded tennis balls. The boy’s older sisters played on the dog agility apparatus. Their own dog, a skinny brindled bulldog mix, sped around the park, touching noses now and then with Annie and a massive long-haired dolt of a dog determined to hump everything in sight. (His embarrassed owners would soon haul him away.) Meanwhile, the little boy staggered around in the middle of the park.

I grabbed Annie just before she got too friendly. The mom shouted out something like, “Hey, Winston(!), not all dogs like little boys.” To which he did not react. To him, a doggie was a doggie.

Mixing kids with other people’s dogs is risky. Dogs, as much as we love them, are animals. They communicate with their mouths and their paws. In a flash, they can bite or accidentally scratch someone. Poor Annie hasn’t been around children since I adopted her at seven weeks old. She knows nothing about them, does not understand you can’t sniff, paw or roll around with them the way you can with dogs.

Annie is a childless female like me. Spayed at six months, she occasionally displays romantic feelings, but she doesn’t know anything about puppies or baby humans.

Annie didn’t hurt the little boy, but things got out of hand when the mom passed out cookies and opened a Styrofoam box of French fries. Food! Annie tried to grab the cookie out of the little boy’s hand. I pulled her back. The bulldog dashed over to defend her family--or get some of the food--and a fight ensued. I dragged my snarling dog out by the collar.

I don’t hate kids or mothers, but the dog park is for mothers of dogs, not mothers of people. It's one place where we can all be equal as dog owners. As my late husband used to say, “Grumble.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Savvy Auntie offers comfort to the Childless

Although I miss being a mom, I love being Aunt Sue to my brother's kids. How about you? Are you somebody's aunt? (Or uncle?)A couple posts ago, I mentioned a site for Savvy Aunties, women who may not be mothers but who can be great aunts, godmothers and friends to the children in their lives. I just came across a video and a blog post by Savvy Auntie founder Melanie Notkin that you might be interested in.

Interviewed July 18 on CNN, she talked about "circumstantial infertility" and the challenges for women in their 30s or 40s who haven't found that special someone to father their children.

Notkin also posted a great piece at that you may find encouraging.

Notkin's book is Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids. Visit the Savvy Auntie site at

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Childlessness from the man's perspective

The only childless men I know are my younger relatives. All the men of my generation and older have children, although they may not have acquired them with their present wives. Childlessness comes with the second wife syndrome; he's done with kids, and you missed your chance.

But sometimes it's the woman who doesn't want to have children with the new husband. Either she has hers already or she never wanted to be a mom. Same problem. Or is it?

Men have more time. Women need to get pregnant no later than their early 40s while men have decades longer, so the need to hurry is less urgent. But once they're committed to a relationship with no babies on the horizon, don't they grieve the loss of children, too?

Man or woman, it always comes down to a decision. Do I love this person enough to sacrifice the children I might have had? Did I always want to be a mom or dad? There are no easy answers and no way for both people to get what they want.

I sometimes read a blog called Him + 17, written by a man who married a woman 17 years older than he is. They were unable to have children together. In a 2009 posting, he wrote, "I know I've missed out on something fundamental to human experience. Sheri has, too. Though I would not change a whit of my past if it meant losing Sheri, I sometimes try to understand who that young man was, and why he made the decisions he did."

A few years ago, an anthology called Nobody's Father was published by Touchwood Editions in Canada. It offers some good examples of the male perspective. Some of the men are content with their situation while others are clearly in pain. One writer admits to conflicted feelings when a child has a tantrum over something he wants at the store. While he is grateful he never had to deal with that situation, he simulantaneously wants to hold and comfort the child, giving him everything he wants.

If you wanted kids and don't have them, it hurts. Even if you never thought you wanted them, you might sometimes feel that something is missing.

Men out there, what do you have to say on this?

Friday, July 29, 2011

The road not taken

As I lay awake last night, one thought led to another, and I realized with a shock that the young sons of the man I dated before I met Fred must be in their 30s by now. I was so flabbergasted it woke me up completely. Forget sleeping.

Jason and Jeremy were 5 and 7 in the days when I dated their dad after my first marriage ended. We got along great, and I knew I'd be happy being their stepmother. I also knew that other children would follow because this boyfriend was eager to make babies with me. In fact, yesterday I found a poem I wrote about how I was worried that I might be pregnant out of wedlock. My, how things have changed. I never did get pregnant.

That boyfriend, let's call him Jack, was abusive. When he was in a good mood, things were great, but when he wasn't, look out. It would not have been a good marriage, but I could have had as many babies as I wanted.

Jack and I broke up for a while, and I started dating Gerry. He too was happy to welcome babies,although his crazy theory was: If you get pregnant, we'll get married. When I discovered he was doing drugs, I broke up with him. No babies there. I went back to Jack, but was lucky to escape relatively unscathed.

Then Fred came along. So nice, so kind, so loving. He didn't want to add any more children to the three kids he already had and he had had a vasectomy, but he was just about perfect in every other way. I married him and wound up not having children. Did I make the right decision?

If things had worked out differently, I could have had grown children by now.

Life happens one day, one choice at a time. None of us knows what lies ahead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Regrets or no regrets?

Going through the files, I have found two articles you may want to read, if you haven't already. it's interesting how they look at the lack of children from different viewpoints.

Nanette Varian's piece in More Magazine, "Childless by (100% Regret-Free) Choice," gives an excellent overview of how one comes to not have children and is full of good information about life as a woman without children.

Mandy Appleyard's "The Love I'll Never Know" in the Daily Mail definitely comes from a different place. Appleyard wanted children, but had trouble finding the right man. When she finally did, she suffered two miscarriages and was unable to have the children she wanted so badly.

Some of us are okay not having children while others mourn the loss every day. What do you think?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Childless women in pain

I had a great weekend, although I was strongly reminded of my childless status at a party where everyone was talking about their children and grandchildren. At such times, I can either smile and nod or hit the buffet table again. "Five grandkids, huh? And the new one is due in September? Nice." You know how it goes. I've been dealing with it for years.

But some women are in the throes of such deep pain they don't know what to do. I received messages from two such women this weekend.

The first is Jennifer, who writes:
"I'm now 37, husband is 40. We have been married for almost 13 years. I always wanted children...he wanted to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally, 3 years ago I 'made' him go to a fertility doctor with me. The doctor immediately thought it was me, put me on Clomid, etc. He tested my husband 'just in case'. On Halloween (my favorite holiday in the world...or it used to be)...I went for my check up to see how the Clomid was working. He examined me, told me I was responding "wonderfully"...and told me to have sex that weekend. I was SO thrilled!!!! Then, before he left, I asked him if he had the results of my husband's exam. He looked worried, and said "I'll be right back". He came back in a few minutes later, and simply said "There was a big problem. Your husband has no sperm". I must have said "are you sure" about ten times. I was shocked. He said "don't worry, we can use donor sperm and you'll be pregnant within a month or two". My husband, however, did not want to use donor sperm...My husband doesn't want to adopt. He's happy with his life. He likes his job and has his stupid band. I, on the other hand, am miserable. I feel left out. I don't have any friends anymore because all of my friends have children and that's all they talk about. I don't have family, so my having a child meant everything in the world to me. I feel so isolated and SO lonely...I honestly don't know how I am going to survive another day let alone a lifetime. Do you have any words of wisdom for me? I'm sorry to bother you but I'm at the end of my rope." :(

This morning, I got a message from Iris:
"I don't know where to turn. I don't know how to deal with the pain of
being childless. My heart never felt so broken. I am married now and
my husband has four children. None of those experiences were good. Now
between lay offs, strikes, and circumstances, think I will never have
children. I am 45 going on 46. If the window of opportunity is not
already closed, it is fast approaching. I don't want to feel this
pain. I don't want to be bitter. I don't know what to do."

Friends, we're all in the same leaky boat. I think the hardest time to be childless is when you're in your 30s and 40s and feel your chances slipping away. When you get older, I promise you will find ways to make peace with the situation. Meanwhile, I think it's essential to talk first with your mate. Try to make him understand how you feel, how very important it is to have children NOW. I was guilty of not speaking up enough. I think if I had, I would have children now. If your mate will not listen, find someone else to talk to, a friend,a counselor, anyone who will listen. Don't keep it bottled up. You also need to consider whether this man is worth the sacrifice. If you had to choose between losing him and losing your potential children, which would you pick?

I welcome your comments and your advice.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Are you a Savvy Auntie?

I mentioned the Savvy Auntie website last week. Making a visit there, I discovered that they have declared July 24 Auntie's Day. So, if you've got devoted nieces and nephews, maybe you want to drop a hint that they should plan some kind of Mother's Day-like celebration.

There's even a Savvy Auntie book by Melanie Notkin, which tells you how to be the best possible aunt--or great aunt or godmother or person who loves a child you didn't give birth to.

For those of us missing the children we haven't had, aunthood may be one way to fill that emptiness.

On a recent trip to California for my niece Susie's 24th birthday party, I found myself absolutely enchanted by her. Between my brother and me, she's the only biological offspring, although my brother adopted William, his wife's son from her first marriage. He feels like ours, too. I often forget that he doesn't share our genes. When he tells me he loves me or comes to me for advice, I feel all squishy inside.

My niece has my name, and she looks so much like my mother it's spooky (and wonderful). We're both left-handed and have a lot of other things in common besides her father and curmudgeonly grandfather.

Because we live in different states, I don't see my niece and nephew that much, but I love being Aunt Sue. I wish there were dozens of young people calling me that.

Meanwhile, on the long drive home to Oregon, I got to thinking about how cool it would be if I had had a daughter, too. My brother and I both got married for the second time in 1985. We were both in our 30s, plenty young enough to conceive. My daughter would be about Susie's age. They could have been friends, hung out together, shared confidences and clothing tips. I would have been so proud of both of them.

Sigh. These are the kinds of things that many women take for granted, not knowing how lucky they are. I'm not going to give birth. My stepdaughter is almost 20 years older than my niece, so they're not likely to become friends.

That's the way it goes in this world of multiple marriages, some of which do not produce children. I wish I had kids, but I'm glad I'm an aunt.

How about you? Are you an aunt? Are you enjoying it? Might you put some of your mothering energy into spoiling a niece or nephew? I look forward to your comments.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Attention Vancouver childless women

If you are childless and live in the Lower Mainland/Vancouver area of British Columbia, Emily Koert would like to talk to you. She is working on her doctorate in counselling psychology at the University of British Columbia and is researching childlessness after postponement or delay of motherhood. She is most interested in women who expected to become mothers but have run out of fertile years for various reasons, including reluctant partners.

Emily writes, "I am exploring the lived experience of chldlessness for these women, including examining how they construct their lives and identities as childless women." She wants to do interviews in person.

If you are interested, contact her at or contact me (here in comments or and I'll relay the message. Thanks.
I've been blog-hopping lately and have some sites to recommend.

TheNotMom, published by Karen Malone Wright, is a colorful collection of information and wisdom about childlessness. She was kind enough to reprint one of my postings on June 27. I'm enjoying this site and think you might, too. Find it at

While you're exploring, check out Have Children or Not,

You might also want to visit The Savvy Auntie,

Monday, June 20, 2011

Fertility doesn't last forever

I spent the weekend with family, including some young male relatives who are in their 30s and not yet married. One just ended a long relationship because his girlfriend wanted a commitment to eventually getting married. He said he was too busy building his career and resented her pushing him.

The other, almost 40, has been with the same woman for many years, but apparently they aren't going to get married until/unless he figures out what he wants to be when he grows up. Another young man at the party, mid-30s, has also kept himself uncommitted. When I look around the family, most of the men in their late 20s and early to late 30s have not yet committed to either a relationship or parenthood.

Now, I don't want to see anyone rush into a bad marriage just to be married, but I feel for the women who love them and would like to have children with them. The men say they want kids, but not anytime in the foreseeable future. They bristle when their women push for a commitment, but our eggs don't last forever. I fear that many couples in their childbearing years will end up without ever having children even though they wanted them. Being childless by mutual agreement is fine, but this kind of childlessness by delay makes me nuts.

Have you seen this happening among the people you know? As a woman old enough to be a grandmother, I want to shake these guys sometimes and tell them to grow up.

I'd love to hear your comments.

P.S. I've been on the road for almost a week and it's brutally hot here. I'm tired and cranky, but I mean what I say.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Childless widow is not helpless

I just finished reading a book called Widow to Widow by the late Genevieve Davis Ginsburg, M.S., who traded her therapy practice to lead Widowed to Widowed, a Tucson support group for widows. Overall, it’s an easy read, often comforting and informative, but this book was published in 1995,and times have changed.

Ginsburg portrays most of us new widows as helpless housewives. So not true. She also assumes that we have children. She goes on and on about dealing with the kids’ attempts to help “Mom”, effectively communicating your needs, and easing each other through your shared grief.

She does note in one brief passage that not everyone has children. She writes, “Too often women are made to feel that widowhood would be less painful had they had children. One of the first questions widows ask each other on first meeting is, 'Do you have children?' Then 'How many?' and 'Where do they live?'—as though their blessings can be counted by those answers.” In the next paragraph she tells how parents often go on to complain about the things their children do or don’t do. And finally, she says, children can be an important link in a widow's transition to singleness but not the only one. Ultimately she has to find her own way.

If we have stepchildren, as I do, there’s no guarantee they’ll be around. So far, now that the services are over, they’re not. Would adult biological children of my own be calling every day to check on me, or would they be buried in their own grief and the demands of their own lives? I’ll never know.

If Fred and I had kids together, they might still be teenagers living at home. That would change the picture completely because I’d have to behave like a mom at a time when I might not feel like it. So many unknowns. Does it matter? What is, is. I share my house with my dog Annie, and neither one of us is helpless. We’re sad sometimes but perfectly capable of figuring out the rest of our lives without a husband and without children--if we have to.

Side note to young women considering marrying men who don't want children: Consider what it might be like years from now if he dies and you find yourself back where you started, only older. Is he worth it? Can you live with it? Something to think about.

Monday, June 6, 2011

What am I to my stepchildren now that my husband has died?

You marry the man who doesn’t want to have children with you; he already has children from a previous marriage. Sometimes his children live with you; sometimes you have partial custody or visitation, but they are definitely part of your life now.

Maybe it’s a close and wonderful relationship in which the word “step” disappears. Or maybe it’s a mess, and you can barely be in the same room with each other. For most of us, it’s somewhere in-between. You inevitably connect because you have their father in common. They grow up, they marry, they have children, and you become a step-parent-in-law and step-grandmother. Again, you may be close or distant, but there is a connection.

Then the worst happens, and your husband, their father, dies. Regular readers know that I’m living this reality right now, but let’s stay hypothetical for a minute. Your husband, the link to those children, is gone. You all grieve the loss, but now the question arises and sits out there like a hippopotamus in the front yard. What is your relationship now?

A web search turns up lots of legalities, mostly concerns about custody and inheritance. In both cases, let’s hope you’ve got something in writing. If you and your husband had custody of his children, and somebody wants to take the kids away from you, that’s a big issue that I’m not going to address here. Better find a good attorney.

When it comes to his estate, what happens if his wishes are not stated in his will depends on where you live. In some states, his kids are entitled to half of what he owned, and you get the other half. I don’t know about you, but giving up 50 percent would leave me homeless and bankrupt. In some places, as his spouse, you get it all, but it varies and you should know what the law says. You should also both have wills, even if you're young and healthy.

You should also know that in most states, stepchildren are not your legal heirs. When you die, they will not automatically receive anything from your estate unless you specifically leave it to them in your will.

So, if they’re not your legal heirs, we come back to what is your relationship now? I’m reminded of an aunt by marriage who has been widowed for several years. No one ever considered that she was no longer a member of the family when my uncle died. Of course, her kids are blood relatives . . .

It’s different with stepparents. We don’t share one drop of blood. Our only familial link is our spouse, and when he’s gone, then what? I guess it depends on what kind of relationship you’ve established over the years. If you have developed a close-knit family, you will remain in each other’s lives. If not, you may drift apart. In my case, we’ll see, but I fear it’s going to be the latter.

I’d like to offer some resources, but I find everything for stepparents is either legalities or young stepmothers complaining about their young stepchildren and their evil biological mothers. I’m not finding anything for older spouses with grown stepchildren. I’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions on the subject. And of course, if you’re a childless stepfather, just reverse the genders and the same questions apply to you, too.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I'm a widow?

As you probably know by now, my husband, Fred, passed away April 23 after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. It's hard to believe it has already been more than a month. I miss him every day, and if I don't keep my mind busy, I flash back to scenes from our lives together, both good and bad. Much of the time, I'm fine, but at any minute something can trigger my emotions. Grief is like riding waves. Some are small, some are huge, and there are calm places between the waves.

Meanwhile I'm trying to grapple with my new identity as an unmarried woman, a widow. I have a hard time with that term. It feels like there's an implied "pitiful" attached to the word "widow". Know what I mean? In other places and other times, a woman without a husband might be poverty-stricken and homeless, but that's not my situation, thank God. I just miss Fred.

As I reported earlier, his kids were here to help with the memorial service and that first week full of upheaval and out-of-town visitors. That was truly great. Now they have disappeared again. The oldest son got married, and I wasn't there. Too far, too soon. The daughter is back to work, school and loving her kids and grandkids. The youngest, who was supposed to come pick up some of his father's things, didn't show up.

When I went back to the cemetery for the placement of Fred's ashes in the mausoleum, I went alone. Then I sat in a chair stairing at the urn and cried alone. Even if they were my own children, I might have been alone because they don't live here. It's my choice to stay in Oregon. I can't blame them for the distance or for being busy with their own lives.

Meanwhile, I have a wonderful group of friends who feel like a family. Some of them are widowed, too. Others let me join them with their husbands and children for holidays and special events. I think we all need to reach out to other people and bring them into our lives. Young or old, there's no reason we can't love someone, even if they're not officially family.

Will I ever get married again? If so, might I take on a whole new set of stepchildren and stepgrandchildren? Do I want that? I don't know. I don't expect to find anyone as great as Fred was.

Now that the marriage has run to its death-do-us-part end, I ask myself if it was worth sacrificing my chance at motherhood. Probably. Most people don't get a love like we had, and most people don't get to do all the things I have been able to do as a childless woman. But if I had to do it over again, would I insist on having children? Yes, I would.

Peace to you all.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost in the Land of Kids and Mommies

I taught a writing workshop last night at the local intermediate school and found myself in a foreign country. Having never had children, I didn't spend my younger years taking my kids to school and attending school events. I've done a few interviews at school, but even those were a long time ago. It felt strange from the get-go. For one thing, I was old enough to the mother of all the adults present. When did that happen?

When I arrived, the doors were locked. Even during the day, they're locked for fear of dangerous strangers. When I was growing up in California, our schools couldn't be locked. The halls were all outdoors, but this place is like a prison, all indoors with very few windows.

A knock on the door got me in. Immediately a loud-voiced woman who looked too young to be a mom or a teacher started yelling that I had to sign in. Another young woman announced that she was the assistant superintendent of the school district and demanded to know whether I was a teacher or a parent. Uh, writer.

They brought me recycled paper, and we used recycled napkins to eat boxed pizza that could only be served by someone with gloves and a food handler's license. What happened to moms bringing cookies and punch?

Attendance was poor; apparently last night was a big night for school concerts and sporting events, none of which I knew about. Luckily I didn't pick the date, and someone else will have to recycle the leftover pizza and handouts.

As I began my talk, I realized the kids were barely paying attention and many of the words I used were probably too sophisticated, especially for the younger siblings who came along with their parents. I don't know what kids know at various ages these days, and I haven't developed that way of relating to children that some people, parents, seem to have.

I'm grateful that when I asked them to write, they did. A couple got so into it that they didn't want to stop, and they were happy to read their stories out loud when they finished. The event was a success because they did write.

But all night, I felt as if I was speaking in a foreign language, the language of someone who doesn't know how to act around children and their parents.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sometimes Stepchildren are All Right

When I married Fred, he had three children from his first marriage. The youngest was 8 and the other two were teenagers. As with most of us, I had no idea what I was getting into. I could not imagine that the daughter would get pregnant and married at 17, that the youngest son would live with us from age 11 to 20, or that long periods of time would pass with no communication between us and Fred's kids. Ours was not just a geographical separation but an emotional separation as well. Fred was not a hands-on dad, and I didn't feel confident leaping over him to cozy up to the three kids. We were cordial enough, but it certainly wasn't like I imagine having our own would be.

Whatever separation we have had over the last 26 years, they rallied last month when their father died. Michael, the youngest at 34, came bearing food. He was here to help me, he said, and he did. So did his sister, Gretchen, 42, who drove nonstop from California. Ted, the oldest, couldn't get away from work, but he sent a eulogy and was here in spirit.

Gretchen brought her mom. We are lucky that we have always gotten along well. I know that is not the norm, but it was kind of wonderful bringing together the whole picture of Fred's adult life, each of us sharing the parts that we lived with him. As Gretchen put it at the funeral, "Mom" had the first half of his life, and "Sue" had the second.

We stayed up late drinking wine, going through photos to create a display for the service, and telling stories about Fred. My father and brother also came up from California and it really did feel like one happy family. In death, Fred brought us all together, and I felt the barriers between us dissolve.

Will I see them again now that Fred is gone? I think I will. It took a lot of years but we are finally a family.

If your stepchildren are giving you nothing but grief, hang in there. They will grow up, and you will always have one big thing in common: You all love the same person.

Surviving Mother's Day

Dear childless friends, the Mother's Day assault is on. In the course of three minutes of channel surfing the morning shows, I came across gifts for "Mom," a Mother's Day breakfast cooking demo, and two TV show hostesses wishing each other "Happy Mother's Day." It's enough to drive a childless woman nuts, especially if she didn't exactly choose to be childless. Do I hear an AMEN?

I jotted down a few suggestions for surviving this holiday.

* Either avoid the television until after Mother's Day or record the shows you want to watch and skip the commercials. Or, watch DVDs until it's over.

* Instead of dwelling on your own lack of children, honor the women who are mothers in your life--your mother, grandmothers, sisters, friends and others. By taking the attention off yourself, you may be able to put a positive spin on Mother's Day.

* Buy yourself a gift. You know you deserve it.

* If you have stepchildren, don't expect them to show up bearing gifts. They're busy with their real mother and probably won't even think about you. Don't take it personally.

* Avoid restaurants and mom-oriented events. Get away from it all by going hiking, to the gym, to a movie, to the dog park, or something else where the emphasis is not on moms and their children. I'm attending a poetry conference this weekend.

Here's another suggestion, and this is important. If you really feel that your life will be ruined if you never have kids and that your partner will never understand, perhaps it's time to think about giving him an ultimatum: If we can't conceive or adopt a child together, I'm out of here. Do it while you still have time. For me, I think Fred was worth the sacrifice, but that's not always the case.

Overall, try not to feel sorry for yourself. If necessary, duck and cover until it's over. Happy, um, Monday.

I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


Dear friends,
My husband Fred passed away yesterday after a long struggle with Alzheimer's Disease. I have been competing in the Poem a Day challenge at Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides blog. Today's prompt was to write a prayer poem. This is what I wrote. Fred is still my muse.


Today I am a widow,
my husband gone from his body,
the hands that caressed me stilled,
the lips that kissed with such
tender strength left open
to let his soul escape.

Lord, as I kiss his sunken cheek
and embrace him through the sheet,
sprinkling tears across his neck,
help me to remember that this
was just a shell, and now,
like you, he is everywhere around me.

Forgive my absence

Dear friends,
Please forgive my recent silence. My husband passed away yesterday. I will be back here with new posts soon.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Toddler on the altar

At church yesterday, I shared the podium with a woman about my age and a tiny girl with pigtails. I was singing the psalm while the Grandma was doing the readings. We don’t usually bring companions to the altar, but the girl was too young to leave alone in the pew.

I found it hard to concentrate on the Bible passages while this adorable child was hiding behind the podium, so small she was invisible to most of the congregation. Grandma did the first reading, I sang my song, and then Grandma got up for the second reading. Just about then, the girl started whispering, “I have to go potty!” To emphasize the urgency, she literally crossed her legs. I thought, Oh Lord, don’t let her go to the bathroom on the altar. Read fast, Grandma. In fact, let me read it so you can take her out.

At that moment, I did not envy the woman’s predicament. Being the lector is kind of a high-pressure job. It’s hard to maintain the proper solemnity with a potty-driven toddler hanging off your legs. But she did finish the reading, and the child held her water.

A while later, when I was back at the piano, I saw the woman holding the child against her breast, rocking her. She wore an expression of such contentment. Once again, I thought, “Damn!” (yes, I know, cursing at church) I will never have that. No grandchildren to bring to church and hold in my arms.

I do have step-grandchildren, both young adults now. But we never got that close. We never lived nearby and there were real grandmothers at hand. I was uneasy around small children, not knowing what to do. But the biggest reason we didn’t get close was my husband’s reluctance to make the connection. He did not enjoy small children and felt he had done the fatherhood thing with his first wife. Not only did he not want to have kids with me, but he didn’t feel any drive to connect with his grandchildren. I think it would have been good for all of us, but it just didn’t happen.

It’s funny. I never used to be comfortable around children, but now I’m starting to yearn for their company. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older. Perhaps I need to volunteer somewhere that will let me get close to children, closer than I get now singing for the kids in the religious education program. Close enough to hold a child in my arms. Do you know what I mean?

If you’re struggling with not being a mother, do you think about what it will be like to not be a grandmother?

Friday, April 1, 2011

No Way Baby!

Karen Foster, a Portland, Oregon counselor and speaker, has published a new book called No Way Baby! In it, she offers people like herself, whom she calls "childfrees" information to refute the dumb things people say to them. We're all heard these things: "So, you don't like kids?" "It's your duty to go forth and multiply." "But I want grandchildren." "Who will take care of you when you're old?" and "You'll regret it." Sound familiar?

Of course, those of us who are childless by marriage or otherwise not by choice might have different answers from what Foster offers. She does acknowledge the difficulty of being in a relationship where one person wants kids and the other doesn't. There is no way to compromise on this issue, she says. One person always loses.

Foster is not anti-child and applauds people who consciously choose to be parents, but you get a little taste of her attitude when she talks about being "child-burdened" vs. "childfree."

There's a lot of good information in this book, although it sometimes wanders off course. For example, we don't need the whole history of Social Security or a rehash of the feminist movement. We can, however, find lots of useful information and encouragement for enjoying life as non-parents in this book.

Foster blogs on childfree subjects and has information about this book and her new one at

Monday, March 21, 2011

But I Don't Have Any Children

I was feeling down the other day when I read on Facebook about this Blog called Daily Signs of Hope, so I went there. Right away, the blogger started talking about the greatest joys of his life: his children and grandchildren. Not helpful. I sat there talking back to the computer, saying, but I don't have any children or grandchildren. I just have Annie, my dog.

Sigh. I went back to Daily Signs of Hope this morning and discovered that once you get past the bit about the author's beloved children and grandchildren, he offers some wonderful advice for everyone about how we influence the generations that follow us. His other recent posts do not even mention the kids. Sometimes we childless folks are blinded by our own emotions and freak out unnecessarily.

However, many people who have children, who have a so-called normal life, don't even begin to understand what it's like for those of us who have no children, grandchildren or great-grandchildren. Their lives revolve around their kids. How many times have we heard people say things like, "I never understood what life was all about until I had children" or, "I never really grew up until my son/daughter was born" or, "Having children changes everything"?

I believe them. I know there are lots of voluntarily childless people out there who feel they don't need to have kids to fully experience everything they want out of life. I disagree. We ARE missing something. As we age, and the older people in our lives die, it sure would be nice to turn around and see someone younger coming up behind us. But if I open my eyes to it, there are young wonderful people in my life, even if I didn't give birth to them. I think my two favorite words are "Aunt Sue."

Both parents and non-parents need to work harder at understanding each other. The numbers of people without children, for whatever reason, are growing. Perhaps future generations will be more understanding about how some people have children and some don’t.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Are You a 'Career Girl'?

At a party last weekend, four of us women got to talking. We were all over 50. Two of us were childless and two were mothers of grown children. O. is 60-something. She had a difficult childhood and felt she would not be a good mother. Her husband didn't want children. She went to work at a young age, eventually making a wonderful career designing movie sets in Hollywood. As she moved through her childbearing years, those around her said, "Oh, she's a career girl." The mothers would shake their heads, implying that there was something sinful about choosing career over children.

T. and D. both had kids, but they both worked, too. After their divorces, they had no choice. T. noted, "Does anyone really think I grew up wanting to be a single mom to two boys and work my fingers to the bone sewing costumes? Come on."

I sighed. I had no kids, but I too was divorced at a young age and grateful I had a job to turn to. After I remarried, I kept working. "I would love to have my mother's life. I'd love to be a housewife," I said. We all laughed. None of us had that option. We always needed to work. Even when my stepson lived with us and my husband had a good job, I worked outside the home, struggling to juggle everything at once.

Am I a career gal? Are you? Did you choose work over children? I didn't. I just ended up with one and not the other. Whether we have children or not, why shouldn't our work be something we love to do? And why don't people look down on men who are devoted to their jobs?
What do you think?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Evelyn R's childless story

Although Evelyn had always loved children and wanted to have her own so badly she hoped she would get pregnant on her honeymoon, somehow it didn't happen.
By the time she got married at age 24, she had a job she loved. Her husband, Leonard, had just gotten out of the military and was struggling to find himself. The time wasn't right and they didn't even discuss having children.
As the years went by, she still liked her job, her nice home and their unfettered lifestyle and wondered if she wanted to give it all up to be a mother. They had been married 10 years when she decided to stop using birth control and see what happened. What happened was: nothing. She never went to a doctor to find out why they didn't conceive, nor did she urge her husband to get himself checked. That way neither one of them could blame the other for their failure to have children, she said.
Once, in the days before people could buy home pregnancy tests, she thought she might be pregnant. At first she felt annoyed, she said. "Then I got kind of happy about it." She was shopping for maternity clothes when she felt a pain in her stomach and discovered that her period had started. "So that was that."
Free from the burden of parenthood, they traveled, socialized, bought new cars regularly, and lived in expensive houses, enjoying the fruits of their earnings. Most of their friends were also childless. The only time she felt out of place, Evelyn said, was when they moved into a housing tract full of young couples just starting their families. They had nothing in common. "We couldn't even hold a conversation."
During her 42-year career with a Bay Area school district, Evelyn was surrounded by children. When she started as a principal's secretary in 1941, the year after she graduated from Heald Business College, she wasn't much older than the students she met. She soon became secretary to the district superintendent and spent the rest of her career in that position. She met co-workers and students who became lifelong friends. Friends half her age took her out and watched over her. She planned to leave her possessions to them when she died.
When we talked, years ago, Evelyn was 77 years old. She said she was too busy to even have a dog or a cat. She went to water aerobics classes four times a week and loved to golf, bowl, shop and visit friends. "I have more real close girlfriends than anyone I know," she said. She also had several young gay friends she considered her best friends. She was going to a friend's house in the wine country for Thanksgiving and was planning a winter trip to Cabo San Lucas. "I'm having a hell of a time," she said.
What did she say when people asked if she had children? "I say, 'No, I don't. I don’t have any children, and I'm an only child, but I've got a lot of friends.' If you say, 'Gee, I wish I had children,' you're dead."

At age 88, Evelyn was honored as the grand marshal of the city of Fremont's annual Fourth of July parade. Interviewed in the local paper, she talked about how she met former students every day, and they're all her "kids." She didn't say a word about the biological children she never had.

Those of us who mope about our childless state and worry about old age might follow Evelyn's example. Grieve if you need to, but don't let the lack of children ruin the rest of your life.