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 StepTalk.org, which bills itself as "the place where stepparents come to vent."

Another site to try is StepDivas.com 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 LifeWithoutBaby.wordpress.com. She also has a fantastic video on her childless experience at http://lisamanterfield.com. It will make you smile and feel less alone.