Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Read about the "Silent Sorority" of barren women

Have you read Silent Sorority? I can't put it down. In this memoir, author Pamela Mahoney Tsigninos tells the story of her struggle to get pregnant, trying all the techniques that modern science has to offer, before realizing she will have to accept her childless state as permanent. Yes, she is struggling with infertility while many of us are fertile but don't have a partner who wants to make babies with us, but many of the challenges she faces, especially in the second half of the book, are the same. Indeed, her title echoes what most of us know: people don't talk about this stuff much.

Tsigdinos writes with such a free-flowing easy style that I have already gotten halfway through the book in half a day. You can read about her and her book at www.silentsorority.com.

While I was blog-hopping yesterday, I came across Laura Carroll's blog, called La Vie Childfree. Carroll is the author of Families of Two, which tells the stories of 15 married couples who have decided not to have children. She has published a fascinating post this week on the increasing number of Gen Xers who are not having children.

I also found http://gateway-women.com, a UK blog by psychotherapist Jody Day for the one in five women who don't have kids. She calls us "nomos," short for "not-mother." You'll find some good reading here, too.


Friday, February 24, 2012

How is a childless body different?

Earlier this week, we talked about the increased risk of cancer for women who have never had children. We are also at greater risk of osteoporosis and certain kinds of arthritis. But before we all rush out and try to get pregnant to stave off cancer, we need to remember that pregnancy and childbirth have their own risks.

Pregnant women experience a host of symptoms, including nausea, weight gain, swollen feet and ankles, dark or blotchy patches on their skin, varicose veins, frequent urination, hemorrhoids and backache. They may also suffer from gestational diabetes, anemia, high blood pressure and aggravation of whatever health problems they had before. Some of the less-known possible side effects include bleeding gums, yeast infections and hair loss.

The above risks don't even count the delivery, which can lead to death and certainly includes excruciating pain, a total loss of dignity and control, and permanent scarring from C-sections and episiotomies.

In North America, death from childbirth used to be fairly common. As recently as 1917, nearly one in 100 live births resulted in a mother's death, and it's still possible. The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics reported 17 deaths per 100,000 births in 2008. We have it comparatively good. In other parts of the world, dying during childbirth is much more common. For example, in Tanzania, it is said that mothers commonly say their final goodbyes to their other children before giving birth, because they know they might not survive.

Most of the bad effects are temporary, but some of the potential permanent effects of giving birth include stretch marks, loose skin, weight gain or redistribution, weakness of the abdominal and vaginal muscles, breasts that shrink and sag after breast-feeding ends, varicose veins, a loss of dental and bone calcium, and vaginal changes that can alter one's sex life and cause urinary or fecal incontinence.

We don’t talk about these things, and you generally can’t tell by looking at us whether or not we’ve ever been pregnant. Looking at myself in the mirror, I see a carbon copy of my mother at this age. I do have arthritis and the beginnings of osteoporosis, but I doubt that it has anything to do with never being pregnant. Please God, I could live without the cancer that killed my mother.

What about you? Do you notice differences between your body and those of your friends and relatives who have children? Can you tell by looking who’s the mom and who is not? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

Copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick
Portions of this post are excerpted from my upcoming book, Childless by Marriage.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Should nuns take the Pill?

Did you hear the one about how doctors in Australia are recommending that nuns take contraceptive pills to reduce their death rates from cancer? It's true. Dr. Kara Britt from Monash University, Melbourne, and Professor Roger Short from the University of Melbourne published an article in the medical journal the Lancet recommending that nuns be allowed to take the pill.

Why? It has been common knowledge for a while that women who never bear children have a higher risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. Apparently, pregnancy and breastfeeding offer protection by reducing the number of ovulatory cycles a woman has in her lifetime.

Studies in the 20th century showed a higher death rate from these cancers among nuns. The Australian researchers suggest that putting them on the pill would help. Using oral contraceptives has been shown to reduce the cancer death rates by 12 percent. Using the pill for this purpose shouldn't violate the rules of the church because it's being used for health, not for contraception, Britt and Short argue. No response from the Vatican yet.

Assuming most of us aren't nuns, have you ever had a doctor suggest you take the pill for health reasons even when you weren't worried about contraception? My doctors have suggested the pill to regulate my periods and to even out my moods but never for cancer protection. If we've never given birth, we're in the same boat as the nuns.

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Me Babysit? Remember the Great Jell-O Explosion

As I mentioned in my last post, I wasn't a great babysitter. Neighbors figured if I was teens, I was surely qualified. Wrong.

The first night I cared for little Shawn and Annette down the street, I had to call my mother in to help. The little guy had cut his finger. Blood all over. Toddler screaming. His sister making it stereo. I couldn't tell whether he had cut his finger off or what. Plus he needed a diaper change, and I had no clue how to do it. Mom cleaned up the tiny cut on Shawn's finger, kissed it, bandaged it, took care of the diaper and soon had both kids calm and happy. Magic.

Then there was the great Jell-O explosion. I don't exactly remember what happened anymore. I think I was typing my homework at the kitchen table. The kids wanted Jell-O, so I said go ahead and help yourself, which you don't do with pre-kindergartners. Next thing I knew, there was red Jell-O on the dark green sofa, on the light green walls, on the beige carpet, on the curtains, on the kids and even on me.

"Oh my God," I gasped, looking around at the destruction. I sank onto the Jell-O-stained carpet, horrified. A real mother would have changed and bathed the kids and cleaned up the mess with appropriate cleaners, but I had no idea what to do. I dabbed at the Jell-O on the walls with paper towels, making the stains worse than they had been, and I left the kids covered in red goo. It's amazing that I still got my 75 cents an hour—and was invited back again, with strict instructions not to give the little ones anything to eat. People assume that by the time you're 16 you can babysit. Not true. Not if the only babies you have ever been around were made by Mattel.

(copyright 2012 Sue Fagalde Lick, excerpted from my upcoming book, Childless by Marriage, pre-order information coming soon.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Don't Know Nothin' About Babies

Some women can't wait to get their hands on a baby. If a mother brings her child to the office, they reach out for the little one, anxious to feel the magic of a child in their arms again. Me, I back away because I don't even know how to child properly. Babies take one look at me and start crying.

My mother had the gift. Babies always seemed to know they were in good hands with her, but she had lots of practice. Her brother was much younger, and Mom was the designated babysitter. She had lots of younger cousins, too, so she knew how to handle babies, how to hold them, how to feed them, how to diaper them, how to get them to stop crying.

I grew up in a different era in a different kind of family. When my brother was born, I was still a baby myself. My parents didn't have any more kids. All the children on our block were the same ages as Mike and I. I did not have babies around to take care of--unless you count my Tiny Tears doll. When I tried babysitting in my teens, it was a disaster. I'll tell you a story about that in another post.

As a young married woman, I was surrounded by other young married women who were not ready for children. If they had had babies or if my first marriage had lasted longer, maybe I would have gotten used to being around them. But I got divorced, and when I married again, I married a much older man whose kids were nearly grown and whose friends' children were already adults. I missed the baby train altogether. I got a small taste with the stepgrandchildren, but not enough to compete with experienced mom-types. I still can't put on a diaper so it doesn't fall off.

Dogs are a different story. I am a fully qualified dog mom. But I missed the training for people moms. How about you? Did you grow up with lots of babies around? Were or are you surrounded by women who have children? Are you comfortable around babies, or are you stranded on the Planet No-Kids like me? I'd love to hear your experiences.