Thursday, April 26, 2012

The coldest reaction to childless grief

"Get over it." That's what his girlfriend said when this man who wrote to me told her he'd have a hard time dealing with not having children. They were talking about marriage. She had been married before and had a daughter. Now 45, she wasn't interested in trying for another. But he was younger and still wanted kids. He wanted her to understand that he would need a lot of moral support if he never became a father. She said, "get over it." 

As far as I know, they're still together, but now he's worried about her attitude.

You don't just "get over" losing your chance to have children. We all need to find a way to live with it, to keep it from ruining all that is good in our lives, but that feeling of something missing does not just disappear. It's a bit like the feeling we have when someone we love dies. As the priest told my father, brother and me before my mother's funeral, there's a wound in our hearts that will never completely heal. Ten years later, I know it's still there.

I have heard people say "get over it" about lots of things. Childlessness is definitely one of them. I know men and women who have progressed from childless to childfree. They have come to a place where they don't mind not having children. They're even glad about it. God bless them, but it's not that easy for most of us. The least our partners can do is try to understand that sometimes that old wound will still hurt.

I think "get over it" is one of the most hurtful phrases in our language. It denies our right to have feelings, and those who say it should get over that.

Has anyone ever said this to you?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

This Childless Book Gets It Right

I have mentioned this book before, but I have finished reading it now and can heartily recommend it to my childless friends. 

Childless: Reflections on Life’s Longing for Itself by Gillian Guthrie, Short Stop Press, 2012. This is a marvelous book that covers a vast range of topics related to women who don't have children. Guthrie, who grew up in South Africa and lives in Australia, spent many years working in television news before tackling this book that is close to her heart. Married twice to men with problems, she didn’t find a man who would be a suitable father until she was at the end of her fertility and she was not able to conceive. 

To produce this book, Guthrie conducted extensive research and called together childless women to meet for Childfree Lunches where they would talk about things people with children wouldn't understand. The resulting book is beautifully written, nicely weaving Guthrie’s own story into the overall picture of childlessness in Australia and the rest of the world. Currently one in four women are childless in her country. 

Chapters introduce us to all sorts of women without children and how they happened to be that way. Guthrie writes about gay women, women in politics who have been trashed for not having children, women who grew up with abusive and/or mentally ill parents, women who suffered through legal and illegal abortions, women who waited too long, women who waited too long, the grief of childlessness and so much more. 

The book is available in print and as a Kindle ebook.

Speaking of Kindle ebooks, my book Childless by Marriage is still scheduled to be released for Kindle on Mother's Day. Things are moving a little slowly with cover design, but I'm still hoping for that date. 
Finally, if you want a giggle or just to see me make a fool of myself, I recorded a humorous piece called "The Last Two Eggs" on YouTube last week. Take a look. 

See you on Thursday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

It’s Baby Season Again

Yesterday, I ran away to the “valley,” Oregon’s Willamette Valley between the Pacific Coast Range and the Cascades. I felt like I was smothering in gray sky, rain and storm-battered evergreens, work was frustrating, and I just had to get lost for a day. Do you ever feel like that? I have always had those days, and, not having children to care for, I can just get in the car and go.

My main destination was the mall in Albany, OR. Seventy miles away, it’s the closest one to where I live, and it’s not much of a mall. I'd have to drive a hundred miles for the real thing. I was hoping to find some new slacks and something pretty to wear for an upcoming party.

What I found was babies everywhere. Here in our small town on the coast, I live in an area dominated by retirees and tourists, so I guess I’m not used mainstream America, but everywhere I looked were young women with small children and/or pregnant bellies. Did I envy these young moms? Not really. Many of the kids were screaming, grabbing at the merchandise or talking incessantly. The visibly pregnant women looked . . . uncomfortable. What I did envy was how most of them came in pairs or groups with other young mothers, how they shared this stage of life with others going through the same thing. I never had that. Perhaps you haven’t had it either.

In the stores, whole sections don’t apply to me, the ones containing maternity clothes and things for children. There’s an invisible wall in front of those areas that says, NOT YOU. I bought some slacks, but did not find the dress of my dreams. What ever happened to lovely fabrics and tasteful designs made for adults? But that’s a whole other subject.

On the way home, I stopped at a park that runs along the Willamette River in Corvallis. It was warm enough to leave my coat in the car. The trees are starting to blossom, and the river, flooding and muddy a few weeks ago, looked green and peaceful now. Sitting at a picnic table, I watched a young engaged couple walk by, followed by a photographer taking pictures. I watched a father on a bike tow his baby in one of those plastic baby trailers while the mom roller-bladed beside them. And I watched four young men, possibly college freshmen from nearby Oregon State, pass by on skateboards. I observed and felt life passing by me.

Is it just me or are there more babies this time of year? In the fields I passed on the way to Albany, I saw lambs and calves. It’s spring, and the humans are reproducing, too. Have we bypassed the natural progression, missed baby season? Perhaps. But like the river, we move on. Have a fun weekend. Do something you couldn’t do if you had children.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Sharing our childless stories

I have been reading a new book from Australia called Childless: Reflections on Life's Longing for Itself by Gillian Guthrie. Here's an article about it called "Grieving for the Child She Never Had," published in the Brisbane Times. Gillian had two bad marriages to guys whose problems made them bad candidates for fatherhood. By the time she found the man she'd like to make babies with, she was too old. Familiar story? She tells it well. My book won't be out until next month, so you have time to read this one. I'll provide a full review when I finish.
I got a note from a Canadian journalist who is writing a series of articles about women who delayed motherhood, thinking they'd have children later, then found they were unable to conceive. She's looking for women, preferably Canadian, who would be willing to share their stories. If you're interested or know somebody who would be, contact Lia Grainger at
I found an amazing list of childless/childfree women who have done great things at Pinterest. The list might make you smile.
Finally, I have realized that you ought to know that you can keep up with me on a daily basis if you "friend" me at Facebook, where I'm @suelick.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Childless by Marriage book publication date set

I know. I've been talking about it for years. I wasn't even pre-menopausal when I started this project, and now I'm post-menopausal. But it's coming. Childless by Marriage, the ebook, is scheduled to be released May 13, which happens to be Mother's Day.Instead of moping about your childless state, you can read this. I'm starting with a Kindle ebook, which will be very reasonably priced. In that format, we can easily work out the kinks--if we find any--before the paperback goes to press.

I'm currently tweaking the formatting and stressing out over how my family, especially my stepchildren, will react. I worry about revealing so much of my life to everyone I know and everyone I don't know, but we need to tell our stories so people will understand what it's like to be childless in a world where most people have children.

Right now, I'm working with an artist on cover ideas. If you have suggestions, I'd love to hear them. I don't want anything cartoonish. There is occasional humor in the book, but being childless because you have a partner who can't or doesn't want to have babies with you is a serious matter. It deserves a dignified cover. So I welcome your ideas that I can share with Jeffery over the next week or so. He designed my Shoes Full of Sand cover, so I have faith that he'll come up with something wonderful.

So, ideas?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Eugenics caused thousands to be childless

I just finished reading an article in Essence magazine about eugenics. Have you heard of this? Between 1929 and 1974, it was legal in 32 U.S. states to force women to be sterilized against their will. Thousands of sterilizations took place in the name of preventing people who were considered inferior from procreating. Many were poor or disabled in some way. Many were black. Many were in their teens and sterilized without their consent. Their families were sometimes told they would lose their welfare benefits if they didn't do it. Can you imagine having this done to you, prohibiting you from ever having children? I'm shocked that it was still legal when I was a young adult.

In other countries, many more people have been sterilized, including hundreds of thousands in Nazi Germany and Japan, and it still happens in some places.

This is done with animals all the time. It's called "selective breeding." People prevent the weaker animals from procreating to create a superior line of offspring. But is this right for people? Who has the right to decide who gets to breed?

Among those people who don't want children, I often read about women asking to be sterilized by having their tubes tied. If that's their choice, that's a different thing. Just as we can choose to use birth control or to marry a man who has had a vasectomy, it's our decision to make. But nobody should make it for us, especially in such an irrevocable way. We might be able to find a new partner, but we can't get a new body.

What do you think about this?

For more information on eugenics, go to or this shocking story in the Charlotte Observer about a eugenics victim who was sterilized in 1971.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Why didn't I ever think of this?

It's Holy Week and we're crazy busy at my church, where I co-lead the choirs. We have services every night. After the Holy Thursday Mass yesterday, we were invited to stay and meditate, somewhat like Jesus' invitation to the disciples to stay with him in the garden of Gethsemane after the Last Supper. While I sat there, breathing incense and staring at Jesus on the cross, I thought about a conversation that took place earlier in the chapel where we rehearse. Somebody talked about her age in 1963 when President Kennedy was shot and then we all started comparing how old we were then. I was 11, home from school with chicken pox. My friend who started the conversation was already in college. That led me to thinking about my husband Fred, who was 15 years older than me. In 1963, he had been married for four years--without children.

Fred married his first wife in 1959. Until I was sitting in the church last night, I never thought about how they didn't adopt their first child until 1966. They spent seven years trying to conceive before they adopted a son, followed by a daughter two years later. In 1976, 17 years into their marriage, Fred's first wife became pregnant and gave birth to their second son. All those years, they must have been living with infertility and worrying that they might never have children. I'm not Fred's only wife who spent a long time without children. God knows why I never thought about this before.

Now I wish I could talk to Fred about it. Was he worried? Did he agree to adopt because he wanted children or because Annette did? It's one of those times when I wish I could have Fred back for a few minutes to ask all the questions to which I don't have answers. It would be swell if he could identify some of the tools in the garage and show me how to use the lawnmower, too.

Do I dare ask his ex? She was here for Fred's funeral, but I didn't think about it then. Do I just file this under ancient history that is none of my business?

I thought about lots of things during that long silence at church, little things like how much my feet hurt from standing and how I looked forward to having a snack when I got home to big things like thanking God for my many blessings. But realizing Fred and his first wife were childless for a long time really got my attention. After all that they went through, I came along asking for children. No wonder Fred wasn't up for another round.

Thanks for letting me share. Happy Easter to everyone. Please try to enjoy whatever you have in your life and not let what you don't have spoil the good stuff.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What if the situation were different?

We often talk here about partners who deny us children because they don’t want them. They already have offspring from a first marriage or they just don’t want kids. Like many of you, I married a man who had been married before. He was older, he had three children from his first marriage, and he considered that part of his life finished. He had sealed the deal with a vasectomy.

That vasectomy complicated matters. Surgery to reverse it might or might not work. He wasn’t interested in finding out. Nor did he want to try any of the other ways we might acquire a child; he just didn’t want a baby in the house.

But what if he was simply unable to father children? It’s possible that he couldn’t have given me what I wanted anyway. Fred and his first wife didn’t conceive for 16 years after they got married. The doctors never figured out why. Assuming they could not get pregnant, they adopted their first two children. Eight years later, his wife gave birth to a son.

How do I know that was not the one and only time Fred’s sperm could do the job? What if instead of telling me he didn’t want any more children, he had told me, “I CAN’T give you children.” I loved him so much that I probably would have married him anyway, but it puts a whole different light on the situation. The decision would be irrevocable. I wouldn’t have adopted; I have never been interested in raising someone else’s child.

Now what if you were the one who physically couldn’t produce a child? How would you feel if your spouse or partner really wanted kids? How would it change your relationship?

It’s something to think about.