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.