Thursday, May 31, 2012

Book birthing pains

I've been immersed in formatting the paperback version of Childless by Marriage lately. They ought to have Lamaze classes for book author-publishers. Writing a book is nothing compared to the pain of trying to get all the words in the right places on the pages. Headers, page numbers, spaces, words that want to sit at the top of the page all by themselves--It's maddening. You think you've got everything fixed, but the next time you look, there's a heading at the top of the title page, or the page numbers don't match the table of contents. I woke up this morning with the realization that I need to insert some blank pages that are going to throw everything off.

I'm literally tearing my hair out. I need to breathe. Hee hee hee. Hoo hoo hoo. I need soothing music. And ice chips (with gin). And I need somebody to hold my hand. But it's almost done. The print book will have a prettier cover than the one on the e-book, and I'll love this book even more than my five previous books. I know from experience that I will forget how difficult it was to get this book born, just as people say mothers forget the pains of childbirth.

At least with a book, I gain less weight, and I get to keep my clothes on. But it does keep me awake at night.
Thanks for hanging in here with me. And thank you for the great comments on "grandparent envy." I was writing about feeling sad because I'm not a grandparent, but some of you reminded me that our own parents may also be feeling unhappy because we didn't give them grandchildren. Thank God my mom and dad were totally supportive. I sympathize with childless people whose parents add to their burdens by bugging them about it. Anybody got any good comebacks for when the folks start ragging on them for not having kids?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ever feel grandparent envy?

If you think menopause might bring relief from your yearning for children and your envy of those who have them, think again. As Barbara Gordon writes in this Huffington Post piece titled "Grandparents: An Unexpected Envy," we may make peace with not having children, but not having grandchildren is another kind of loss. Many of my friends are enjoying grandchildren these days. They leave town for frequent visits and show off the latest pictures on their cellphones and on Facebook. Their lives are all about the kids while mine is about work and the dog.
Not having grandchildren is having an odd effect on me these days. I can't seem to understand my age. Maybe I'm crazy (probably), but without children and grandchildren to mark the generations, I feel stuck in a perpetual young adulthood. Now, that probably seems like a good thing, but my wrinkles and memories tell me I can't be a kid forever. I don't even want to; been there, done that. If I try to hang out with the young folks, they see me as an old grandma person. People my own age want to talk about their grandchildren and their travel adventures.

We've fallen off the life-cycle track. You're a child, a teen, a young adult, a mom, a grandmother, an old lady. At each stage, younger generations take your place. For those of us who never have kids, it doesn't work that way.

Sunday, we had a Baptism at church. The world's cutest little boy, all dressed in white satin, received the water and blessings to join the Catholic church. His parents and godparents were attractive couples who seemed to be in their 20s. Sitting with the choir, I imagined what it would be like to stand up there holding a baby. Then I realized I would be the graying mom taking pictures. In reality, I'm neither. It's confusing.

Am I nuts? Have you ever felt like you've lost your place in the generations by not having children? One of the women I quoted in my book said she no longer knew which table to sit at during holiday dinners because she didn't have kids. Not a kid, can't sit with the moms . . .

It's something to think about.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

This 'daughter' came with an accordion

Last Tuesday, I played the piano at church for the funeral of an 87-year-old man who had lots of friends and a very interesting life. His wife, Rose, had suffered through a journey similar to mine as Alzheimer's Disease gradually took her husband away. Until I read the obituary, I did not know that Rose and her husband Bob never had children. Seeing Rose at church services and luncheons, I had assumed she was a grandma like everybody else. But no. At the funeral, the family didn't even fill one pew. There were just Rose, her brother-in-law and his wife and a nephew. We still had a pretty good crowd because Bob had many friends, and the Knights of Columbus paraded in their regalia, but not much family.

I don't know why they didn't have children. I didn't know them very well, and the funeral wasn't a good time to ask, "Hey, how come you don't have any kids?" God knows none of us enjoy that question.They married relatively late in life. Bob was 42, and I'm assuming Rose was about the same age. Maybe they just couldn't get pregnant. Infertility treatments had not yet become common.

One of the speakers at the funeral was Gina, a young woman whom Bob had taught to play the accordion. She said Bob had always wanted a wife and two girls, and she became one of those girls. She sat with the family during the service, her restless little boy making everyone smile with his black suit and bow tie and red rubber boots.

When she asked him to become her teacher, Gina said, Bob started to say no, then told her he thought God was giving him one of the girls he had always wanted. So maybe the answer is that you accept the family you're given, through birth or otherwise.

It's not the same as your own, but perhaps God has placed young people in your life who can help fill that emptiness. Rest in peace, Bob, up in heaven playing the "Beer Barrel Polka."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

'He made me have an abortion'

Relax, that headline does not refer to me. I have never been pregnant, never had an abortion.

It refers to the many women I have interviewed or read about who aborted their only pregnancies because the men in their lives insisted they weren't ready for children. This makes me so angry. The question isn't whether or not one believes abortion is wrong. The question is whether somebody else has the right to tell you what to do with the fetus in your own body. What man is worth letting them make such a huge decision for you? It's the worst form of abuse. In most of these cases, the women were not teenagers. They were grown women who in other circumstances would have welcomed a baby. But because Mr. I Don't Want to Be a Dad said no--or not yet, which eventually became no--they aborted.

They thought they would keep the man by aborting the baby, but in almost every case, the man dumped them anyway. And the women never got over it, especially when they lost their only chance to be mothers.

Laura always thought she'd have children, but she didn't marry until she was 29. Her stepchildren were nearly as old as she was. Her husband seemed to want more children, but when she conceived, he changed his mind. "It's either the baby or me," he told her. Remembering this ten years later, she begins to cry. Her husband assured her they could try again later, when it was a better time, so she had an abortion. But every time she tried to talk about having a baby, he refused to discuss it. "That attitude went on for seven more years." She pauses to blow her nose. "I just turned to him one day and said, 'Bob, are we or are we not going to have kids.?' And he said no."

Sarah did it more than once. Shortly after she left her home country to be with Clay, she discovered she was pregnant. Clay said it was too soon. They needed time to get a house, to become more settled in together. She agreed to have an abortion, thinking there would be another chance. But the day she came home from the hospital, he told her, "No, we're not going to have kids." 

Sarah was 33 then and still hoping, but he didn't change his mind. In fact, the same scenario happened again. This time she had deliberately stopped taking her birth control pills. He was furious and insisted she have another abortion. She did. "He talks so reasonably," she said, her voice trialing off.


I have interviewed other women who were comfortable with their decision to have an abortion. They had not planned to have children and believe they did the right thing. For example, Joyce and her husband Tom got pregnant when her IUD failed. They agreed to abort and believe they made the right choice.

I'm not here to debate whether abortion is right or wrong or whether or not it should be legal. It's a personal choice. What I'm saying is that if you are the one who is pregnant, you have to be the one to make the decision. Don't let anybody force you into it, especially if you know you want children. If the man in your life is insisting you have an abortion that you don't want, dump him, not the baby.

What do you think about all this?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

He says no kids; what do you do?

Last week, I shared my stories of how my two husbands didn't want children. I should have mentioned that some of the guys I dated in-between would have been happy to father my children, but they weren't the kind of men I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

Several of you have already commented on your situation. Check the two previous posts to read what they said. There's still time to join the conversation. Has your partner told you he or she doesn't want to have kids with you? Or is it just implied by their actions and reactions? How do you respond? Do you say, okay, I love you enough that I can accept your decision? Do you say, uh-oh, that's a deal-breaker? Do you accidentally-on purpose stop using birth control? Do you tell everybody in the world what a rat he is but stay with him anyway? Are you afraid to bring it up?

This is a tough situation, but the one thing I learned is that moping in silence or complaining to everyone but the person who could help solve the problem doesn't fix anything. So what do you do?

It's not always a question of wanting different things. What if your partner would like children but is physically unable to have them? Do you love him or her enough to stay with them anyway?

I'm looking forward to your comments.

Next time (drum roll), we're going to talk about abortion.

Meanwhile, several publications are reporting on a recent study that said married couples with children are happier than those without. Here's a link from the Vancouver Sun. I don't know if I buy it. See what you think.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

He said he didn't want any more kids

Thursday, I wrote about how my first husband, Jim, didn't want children. It was a gradual, non-stated thing until I thought I might be pregnant. Then he said he'd leave if I was pregnant.

Our divorce a year or so later had nothing to do with that, but under the rules of the Catholic church, I was able to obtain an annulment on the grounds that he refused to have children. The diocesan tribunal in San Francisco ruled it an invalid marriage.

So, three years later, along came Fred, cute, funny, loving, responsible, gainfully employed, all the stuff a girl wants in a husband. The first time we made love, I rushed to put my diaphragm in, but it proved unnecessary. He had had a vasectomy after his third child was born. After we got engaged, we talked about reversing the vasectomy or adopting a child, but finally he told me that he really didn't want to have any more children. I was upset, but we went on to get married. Did I think he'd change his mind? Probably. I tend heavily toward denial. But in our 25 years of marriage, the only babies in our family were the ones his daughter had.

Looking back, I'm glad Fred was honest about not wanting more children. Over the years, I found that he liked children, but didn't want to be responsible for them. Like Jim, he wasn't keen on babies. To be honest, he wasn't even that good with puppies. All that noise and mess. I grieved the loss of the children I might have had, and, to Fred's credit, he felt tremendously guilty.

It's not always that one person is the bad guy. I can see Fred's side. He was 15 years older than me, and he had spent years raising the three kids he already had. He had thought he was done with that part of life until I came along. If there's any blame to be laid, it's on me. Fred loved me enough that I believe he would have gone along with the process if I had insisted that I couldn't be happy without being a  mother. Instead, I made a non-decision and the years passed until it was too late.

How about you? Have you made a definite decision to have or not have kids? If you cannot be happy without them, have you made that clear to your partner?  Will it damage your relationship if one person has to give up what they want?


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Childless journey begins: the revelation

In your search for a mate, you think you have found THE ONE. After years of bad dates, maybe even bad marriages, this man or woman is a keeper. And then, one day, after you've given him or her your heart, they drop the bomb. They can't or don't want to have children with you. He tells you he's had a vasectomy. She tells you of problems that will keep her from getting pregnant. He keeps telling you he's not ready for children. She shares that she never felt the urge to be a mother. He says the kids from his first marriage are more than enough. Gradually--or suddenly--you realize that if you stay with this person, you will never have children. Now what do you do?
This week I want to talk about that revelation. How do we find out that our partner isn't going to have kids with us?

I was married twice to men who didn't give me children. My first husband, Jim, seemed like he would be a great father. I watched him play with other people's kids and assumed that he would welcome our own. In our Catholic marriage prep, we both signed a paper saying we would welcome children and raise them in the faith. But once we were married, he kept wanting to put off pregnancy. Not till we get good jobs, he said. Not till we get a house. The years were passing by. My friends and relatives were having babies, and I wanted one, too.

When I started taking care of the neighbors' baby, I saw a different side of Jim. He couldn't stand its crying, its smells, its needs. And then, when I thought, despite rigorous use of birth control, that I might be pregnant, he dropped the bomb. If  I was pregnant, he was leaving.

Would he really have done that? I'll never know. It turned out I wasn't pregnant. Soon after that, our marriage fell apart for other reasons. I do know that he did not have kids with his next wife either.

In my next post, I'll talk about the revelation in my second marriage. But today, I'm asking you. How did you find out children might not be in your future? Did they tell you straight out, did something happen, did you guess? Did you believe them?  Let's talk about it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Childless Links

Hi there. I have decided to post three times a week now, with one of those days being a collection of links that I have found. Let me know if this is helpful to you. I welcome your suggestions for other links to share.

1. Did you know that the founder of Mother's Day was childless? According to this article, "Founder Anna Jarvis was childless and other Mother’s Day trivia," the woman who got it started didn’t have children and never intended for the commercial insanity that Mother’s Day became. 

2.In "The Nomos Manifesto: are childless women the new suffragettes?" Jody Day of Gateway Women suggests that we women without children can be a collective force for change in our world. Furthermore, she offers a list of demands to improve the lives of Nomos/aka non-mothers.

3. At Life Without Baby, Kathleen Guthrie Woods writes about how she prepared for Mother’s Day and what actually happened.
Then there's “We are Content Being a Family of Two.” A woman who calls herself J-La-Sta talks about her late-life marriage and how she deals with the many misunderstandings she encounters about their decision not to have children.

Happy reading. See you Thursday. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy un-Mother's day

I know it's not quite Mother's Day yet, about five hours to go here in Oregon, but it's Mother's Day somewhere, and you may have noticed that the mania started early. Advertisements for gifts for Mom, friends planning Mother's Day activities, radio shows playing mother-centric songs--it's everywhere. Even on Facebook, it's Mom, Mom, Mom.
It occurred to me as I was walking my dog through the woods a little while ago, that there's nothing out there in nature to make us feel bad about not having children. The trees don't care. The squirrels aren't running around buying gifts for their mothers. The mama robins aren't stressing out over whether they'll get presents tomorrow. Just get away from the media, and you'll be fine.

I went to a post-wedding shower this afternoon. It was lovely, high tea elegantly served in a beautiful house, followed by gifts and wedding pictures. Everybody else there except the new bride is not only a wife but a mother, and the bride is actively trying to get pregnant. I felt a bit like a purple goose in a field full of white ones. But that's okay. We must learn to be proud of our purpleness. God made us purple for a reason.

I ran across a great column at by Anne Lamott called "Why I Hate Mother's Day." You might want to read it. Anne is a mother, but she gets how we feel.

My own un-Mother's Day gift to you is the release of Childless by Marriage, the Kindle ebook. Click here to buy it for only $2.99. Cheaper than the cocktail you might get to wash your troubles away.

Try not to feel sorry for yourself today or to dishonor the mothers in your life just because of your own lack of children. Go do something you enjoy. The day will pass and you can forget about it for another year.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Surviving another Mother's Day

Dear friends, it's almost Mother's Day. If you're anything like me, you hate this day. It's all about mothers, and you are not a mother. People who don't know you assume that you look like a mother and must be one, and that makes it hurt all the more. Everywhere you turn, you see tributes to "Mom," advertisements for gifts and special activities for "Mom" and people planning family get-togethers to honor "Mom." You might even be hosting or attending one of these events this weekend. I'm sorry. I'll be leading the choir at two Masses at church on Sunday morning, so I'll get to experience the Mother's Day prayers and the after-Mass brunch twice. Then I'll go home to my dog.

For me, Mother's Day is not as bad as it used to be. For a while, especially after my mother died, the whole thing turned me into a raging crazy woman. I used to expect cards and gifts from the stepchildren, and that didn't happen. I get it. They have their own mother and grandmother to honor. It's just a tough day.

To survive, I urge you to avoid as much of the Mother's Day mania as you can. Do something that makes you feel good, preferably far away from mass media. If you can't, try to focus your energy on honoring people you love. Try not to obsess about what you don't have.Think of Mother's Day like Father's Day or Secretaries Day or Brussell's Sprouts Appreciation Day. It has nothing to do with you, so let it go.

And here's another antidote, shameless plug intended: Childless by Marriage, the Kindle ebook, is available now as at You don't have to have a Kindle to read it. You can download the Kindle reading program for free on any computer or smart-phone and most tablets such as the iPad. So curl up with a book and ignore the craziness until Mother's Day goes away. You might want to skip ahead to the chapter called Mother's Day Rant.

The print book will be out this summer, but you can read the ebook today for only $2.99.

Another antidote: Feel free to rant about Mother's Day here in the comments all you want.  We're here for you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Childless by Marriage, the cover

Okay, after much messing around with various images, we decided to go plain and elegant for the Kindle ebook cover. How do you express everything that comes from being married without children in a 6 x 9-inch space? We tried. We had pictures of a woman reaching for bubbles that included husbands or children or baby shoes. We had lovers walking hand in hand or kissing or staring at each other. We had me and my puppy, but in the end, we have this because this is not a romance novel. It's reality, and I didn't want to delay a day longer. Officially, I'm launching the book on Mother's Day, but if you want to get ahead of the pack,, in their amazing efficiency, already has the book listed for $2.99, the cost of a latte. Here's the link for Childless by Marriage, the ebook.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Are we childless mothers?

I was recently invited to join a new online support group called "Childless Mothers Connect." It's a colorful site with lots of opportunities to network with other childless women. So far, it's so new that there isn't much there yet, but I joined. I can see how it can be valuable in the future. The site includes forums for a variety of interests, including "Adoring Aunties," "Relationship Rap," "Savvy Stepmoms" and "Moms to the 4-Legged." The founder, Dr. Marcy Cole, blogs and comments on childlessness.

Cole's theory is that we are all mothers in some way, even if we don't have actual human children. I have toyed with the concept, considering whether we all have an innate need to nurture, to take care of the young and old, to create with what some call our "womb energy." In the end, I'm just not comfortable with the theory. Something doesn't feel right about it.

What do you think?  Do you accept the term "childless mother"? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Check out the Childless Mothers Connect website. You might find something you need there.
I had hoped to show you the Childless by  Marriage book cover today, but the artist and I have not reached agreement yet. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Am I a "Velcro daughter?"

Sunday we celebrated my dad's 90th birthday with a big party in San Jose (You can read about it at my Unleashed in Oregon blog.) As usual, I sat with my father and my brother. Unlike most of the guests, I brought neither significant other nor children. The room was full of people I hadn't seen in ages, and I had a great time--and the chocolate cake was fabulous--but I did notice that I was different. I was the only "Lick" in the room. And I wondered how I would behave if I had brought a husband and children. I know I would not have felt as free to wander around the room visiting relatives my marriage family would not know very well; I'd be concerned about their needs. But I worry that I might be a little bit like my dog, who is what some dog owners call a "Velcro dog." She attaches herself to me whenever possible, doesn't seem to be happy unless she is touching me. Have I, because I don't have a marriage family of husband and kids, Velcroed myself to my original family, still hanging with my father and little brother? Is this weird? Or is it sweet? There's a chapter in my soon-to-be-released book about whether childless women ever grow up.

What do you think? If you don't have kids, are you less likely to let go of your parents and siblings? Do we ever grow up?

Is "Aunt Sue" nuts? Wait, don't answer that. Have a great Monday.

I look forward to showing you the book cover on Thursday. The artist is tweaking it today. Childless by Marriage the ebook is coming!