Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Book shows how people can change their minds about having kids

Sometimes it seems like every woman over 30 has kids, right? Well, not always. I'm reading a wonderful true story called Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family by Melissa Hart. An Oregon writer and teacher, she was the guest at our local Nye Beach Writers Series last weekend. She is a wonderful writer, performer and teacher, one of those people who just sparkles with life.

Melissa grew up not wanting children. Her childhood, profiled in her earlier book Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhood, was more than a little unusual and she saw traits she did not want to pass on to another generation. Plus, despite years of babysitting, she didn't really like babies. Her first marriage a bust, she raised cats and dogs instead. One day at the dog park, she met Jonathan, and a romance blossomed. Now Jonathan didn't want babies either. Perfect, right?

Jonathan was a volunteer at a raptor rescue center that cared for injured and orphaned owls, hawks, eagles, kestrels and other wild predatory birds. He was going to school and planned to be a photographer, but the raptors were the center of his life. He soon lured Melissa in to volunteer, too. They fell in love, moved in together, and eventually got married. Together they poured their love and nurturing energies into the birds and their four-legged children. They agreed they didn't want to have babies. Jonathan, plagued infections in his testicles, had a vasectomy. Still perfect, yes?

Well, it was perfect until Melissa met Jonathan's sister's adopted daughter and realized she wanted to have a daughter, too. Nervous about how her new husband would respond, she told him she wanted to adopt a child, not an infant but a girl a few years old who needed a home. He said yes. Now I'm at the place in the book where they're trying to adopt. I can't spoil the rest of the story for you because I haven't read it yet.

But here's the thing. People change their minds, and that's okay. We're human. So many of the people who comment here have experienced that change of mind, either themselves or in their partners, sometimes to wanting a baby, sometimes to not. Problems arise when only one person wants to change the terms of their relationship. Ideally, if you both really love each other, someone gives in and the other accepts the decision. That's so hard. Sometimes it's impossible. But we need to try to be open to each other's changing needs and desires.

And read this book. It's encouraging. Besides, if you don't end up having babies, maybe you could take care of owls or dogs or salamanders . . .

Have a wonderful week, and send me some comments besides the spam I keep getting about magic spells and potions, house remodels and website development.

Time to go walk my dog child before she starts eating the furniture.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Should I feel bad that I don’t feel bad about not having kids?



Okay, let me state that I did want children and if I could go back and change things, I would have  a house full of kids and grandkids yelling “Mom!” and “Grandma!” “I’d take over my mother-in-law’s title as “Grandma Lick.” Maybe even “GG” as she asked her great-grandchildren to call her. I could spend my days making things for them all, saving keepsakes and pictures and family stories—aw rats, I do feel bad.

But not always. That’s the thing I want to communicate. Most of the time, I enjoy my uncomplicated life. I don’t go to a store, restaurant, church or anywhere else, see people with their kids and feel pain or sadness. I used to, but I don’t anymore. I’m content most of the time. I know many of you hurt when people in your lives have babies. I do, too. I even cry when characters on TV shows have babies. But when a friend welcomed a new granddaughter recently, I felt only happiness for her.

My life now is about other things, my writing, my music, my dog, my friends, my family. It's about food, books, travel, art, and faith in a God who had a reason for making me childless.

I did do some weeping during the holiday season, but it wasn’t over my lack of children. I miss my husband, who died 3 ½ years ago. I feel his loss in everything. I ache when I see other women with their husbands. I hurt bad when I see couples kissing or holding hands. I go to a concert alone and realize most of the audience is grouped in twos. I look under the Christmas tree and there isn't much there because most of the gifts used to be the ones Fred and I gave to each other.

It hurt more this last Christmas because the friends I usually spend the holidays with were all busy with their kids and grandkids. I didn’t want to be them; I just missed being able to spend time with them.

Do I wish I had kids? Yes, but I don’t feel bad most of the time. I have moved on.

So many of you are stuck in the don’t-know-what-to-do place. Stay with the mate who doesn't want children or look for someone else before it's too late? It’s a decision no one should ever have to make. But consider this. When you’re in your 60s during the holidays, which would you miss more, the children you might have had or the partner/spouse who is with you right now? 

Congratulations on surviving the holiday season with all its many challenges. Now we move on. I promise it will get easier.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Are you afraid to demand what you need?

Dear readers,

Happy New Year! I suspect that you're as glad as I am that the holidays are finally over and we can get back to normal. The holidays build up so many expectations which usually result in disappointment. Right? So, let's just move on.

I have decided to feature some of the comments I receive here on the blog from time to time. They often come on old posts that you might not see. One of the posts that draws the most comments is "If You Disagree About Children, Is Your Relationship Doomed?" from Jan. 4, 2013. Most readers can't answer the question, but they're hoping somebody else can. Check out this comment from Miranda:

I'm 30 he's 38. He has seven yes 7 kids from previous relationships. Ages 10-22... We've been together just under ten years. We finally got married in 2014. I had been so excited to finally have the wedding and then his mother died the week of the wedding unexpectedly. They used our reception hall the day after the wedding for the funeral. :-( the week after the wedding I collapsed and a CT scan showed a tumor, a rare fibroid in my uterus causing chaos in my body and also not allowing an egg to ever attach. It's going to be removed next month. Up until this year I loved kids but my bio clock wasn't ticking or anything. Now it's ticking. Up until now he said he wasn't getting a vasectomy because it wouldn't be fair to expect me to help raise all his kids and then tell me I can't have one. Except that's exactly what's happening. He doesn't want more kids. He's worn out. He will have another but not because he wants to. It's a totally different story to raise other people's kids. His youngest is ten and We've had full custody since he was two. It's still not the same. I want my own child. I won't leave over this matter but I'm heartbroken. It seems like everything I've ever looked forward to is being destroyed. I can't feasibly get pregnant and feel good about it if it's just going to chase him off because he's tired of kids. I doubt he'd leave but I don't want to do it alone either.. 

Seven kids and he can't handle one more? Now he's getting a vasectomy? My reaction is that she should insist on having the child. It's not fair to say yes and then say no, especially in a situation where the woman has only a short time to get pregnant. I know all the reasons why it might not work, but the thing is, I think too often we're afraid to demand what we need, to say, "I want a baby, and we're going to have one." We're afraid it will destroy the relationship, that our mate will resent us, that he won't love the baby. But we might be mistaken about that. We're afraid to even mention it for fear he or she will get upset. I suggest that we all make 2015 the year we speak up for our needs. If it goes bad, it goes bad, but at least we didn't suffer in silence.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your comments. I'm sure Miranda would like more opinions than mine.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Does 'Happy New Year' make you cringe?

It's New Year's Eve. Do the words "Happy New Year" make you happy or make you want to weep and throw things? Was 2014 the year nothing good happened and now you don't have much hope for 2015? I know, holidays are hard. You see everybody else enjoying their families and can't help comparing your situation to theirs. No kids or grandkids, fighting with the husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend, or alone and thinking, "To hell with it. I'll just jump off a bridge."

Apparently that's what was going through the mind of a man who tried to jump off the Yaquina Bridge here in Newport the day after Christmas. The police wrestled him off the outer rail, and he's in the hospital now, but one would suspect he did not have a merry Christmas or look forward to a happy new year. I don't know whether or not he has kids. Apparently, it didn't matter.

I hope none of you are that desperate. If so, do something. Get help or get busy doing something to take your mind off your problems until you can bear them a little better. Go to a movie; don't wait for the DVD. I saw "Wild" the day it came out. It's a fabulous story of a strong woman overcoming her demons, and there's not a baby in it. It's probably playing in your area, too.

A new year is a time to make new plans. Have an honest talk with your partner and decide what to do about babies once and for all. Remember, he or she is not the enemy. Try to see their side. Agree on a plan and then move on.

Hint: Don't start the conversation while a football game is on.

I hope and pray this is the beginning of a wonderful new year for you. Remember, you are not alone. We're here for you.

I'm considering some new features for this blog in the coming year. I welcome your ideas and comments.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas without kids: fantasy vs. reality



I was blow-drying my hair this morning when my mind conjured up a fantasy: My doorbell rings. I open the door to my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren saying, “Hi, Mom” and “Merry Christmas, Grandma.” Their arms are full of gifts and contributions to the dinner I will be serving at my dining room table on the good china. I can smell the turkey baking, the meat and butter mingling with sage and rosemary. The Christmas tree lights glow red, green, yellow and blue, and Bing Crosby sings “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” on the stereo. Soon my son will arrive with his kids.

Nice, huh? Oh well. I had a taste of this when my husband was alive, and we still lived close to his kids. Of course, we had to share the kids and grandkids with Fred’s ex-wife, but it was something. Now it’s just me and my dog Annie. Nobody is coming.

Am I trying to make you all feel bad? No. I’m saying we all have fantasies, fed by what we see other people doing as well as what we see on TV. And yes, it's hard to be alone. It hurts to see everybody else with their children and know we might never have any of our own. It takes a major act of will to set those aside and enjoy the holidays that we have, however we celebrate them. But we can do it.

I got a major wake-up call this last week after several days of moping. I wrote about it at my Unleashed in Oregon blog, which begins:

“I was going to write a whiny post about not having any Christmas presents. It would start, “The only gifts for me under my Christmas tree are the ones I bought and wrapped for myself.” I would explain that the main gift-givers in my family have all died, my remaining family lives far away, I have no kids, the younger folks in my family don’t seem moved to send presents to good old Aunt Sue, my friends are all traveling this Christmas, etc. Woe is me. While that’s all true, I have realized I’m an idiot.” [click here to read the rest]

The idea is that I don’t have the traditional Christmas, but I do have a LOT to be thankful for, so I need to quit whining and enjoy what I have.

A Facebook friend suggested something we can do for the new year. Find a big jar. Decorate it if you want to. Every day write on a slip of paper something good that happened that day and put it in the jar. When you’re feeling bad, you can go back to that jar and remember the things that made you happy. It doesn’t have to be anything earth-shaking, maybe just something that you made you smile, a hug, a cookie, a joke, a special moment, a new pair of shoes, the moon, a walk on the beach, a cuddle with the dog . . . I’m going to do it. Will you join me?

This Christmas, I wish you all a holiday full of peace, love, and acceptance. I love you all for sticking with me here at Childless by Marriage and look forward to visiting with you in 2015 (next week!).

How are you doing this holiday? Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Are you hurting during the holidays?



At least once every holiday season, I have a meltdown. I sit between the Christmas movies on TV and the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and cry. It seems like everywhere I go everybody is celebrating Christmas with their kids, whether it’s the school holiday pageant, my friends all heading out to be with their children and grandchildren, or those TV shows where everybody is gathered together, young and old, from babies to great-grandparents. Here, it’s just me and the dog. I will be spending Christmas afternoon with a childless friend at his senior citizen mobile home park potluck. That will be nice, but it’s not exactly a Hallmark holiday.

Last week I wrote about getting off our pity pots and joining up with our friends and family with kids to help them and to ease our own grief. I still think it’s a good idea. But let’s be honest. Sometimes we’re just hurting too much to do that sort of thing. We just want to hide under the covers until the holidays are over. Watching other people with their kids is the last thing we want to do.

“It’s just another day,” says my Scrooge-y father, who does no Christmas decorations or other festivities. He just writes a few checks for his kids and calls it Christmas. He never was big on holidays and since Mom died, forget about it. He has children and grandchildren, but he doesn’t do warm, fuzzy relationships.

It’s all about attitude. I plan to make the best of my holidays. I will enjoy the food and friends, the music and colored lights. I will enjoy giving and receiving presents. I will be working my church music job Christmas Eve and Christmas morning—my choice—to keep myself busy. I plan to have fun at that potluck. Will I shed a few tears? Probably.

Dad also likes to say, “It is what it is.”

I don’t want to alienate anyone by getting all religious, but think about what we are celebrating this time of year, whether you’re welcoming the birth of Jesus, celebrating Hanukkah, or enjoying the winter solstice. Whether or not you have children has very little to do with it. Try to see the blessings that you have, even if you’re looking at them through tears. To paraphrase the old Crosby, Stills and Nash song, “Love the ones you’re with.”

And turn off the TV if it makes you cry.

How are you doing this week? Please share in the comments.