My jaw dropped

Published / by sandymichelet / 1 Comment on My jaw dropped

It was a LOT different than I thought it would be. Looking back, I should have read the agenda for the 2 day conference a lot better. It clearly stated the event’s purpose. However, my brain decided that it would be something similar to the Gateway-Women’s retreat. I was wrong.

For the purpose of clarification….this blog defines childless as those who cannot have children (for whatever reason). Childfree describes those who have made a conscious decision not to have children.

On Friday, a childfree keynote explained the backlash she received after a 1974 interview on CBS’ 60 Minutes. She and her husband discussed their decision to not have kids. The morning after the TV show she was fired from her job, received death threats and was ostracized from her friends/family.  After realizing the footage had been edited to remove any positive references, she became an author and now in her 70’s, continues to advocate for and celebrate those who decided not to have children.

The message, though, was a little hard to take. The keynote was cheering (arms in air) about not having kids….actually celebrating….mere feet from childless women who had come to the event unsure of what they were looking for….but I don’t think this was it. She was celebrating not having the one thing that some in the room desperately wanted but couldn’t have. The more she spoke, the lower my jaw dropped.

Please understand. I have nothing against Marcia Drut Davis. I admire and applaud her for taking a stand and setting the stage for women to be able to make the choice to have kids. (After the conference I purchased her book for a friend and asked Marcia to sign it…which she happily did.)

So why was I so….so….shocked? Confused? Honestly, I think I had just geared myself up to hear a supportive talk for the childless and was surprised by the obvious lean to the childfree life.

After the keynote, 4 superstars in the childless/childfree community took to the stage for a panel discussion and a Q&A. Based on the comments and the audience participation, I guessed the room was split about 80% childfree, 20% childless. Childfree women shared their stories. More cheering. So far, nothing from the childless.

I reallyyyyyy started to question if this weekend was going to work for me. And I don’t think I was alone.

I watched the mic move throughout the room while I sipped on coffee…I initially had absolutely no plans of speaking up…….I was full from lunch and happy with the caffeine. But my heart started to break for my new childless friends who I knew had to be listening to everything I was….and who were not being acknowledged as attendees. I raised my hand, asked for the mic and started to share my thoughts (insert your surprised face here):

  1. “Yay for you if you decided not to have kids. Seriously, it is your choice….and I applaud you not having kids just because someone/society/your mother says you are supposed to have kids.”
  2. “Something was becoming very clear to me. We actually had three groups in the room: a.) The cheering childfree, b.) the childless who were well on their journey to peace (like me) and c.) those who were coming to terms with their childlessness and accepting that their life wouldn’t turn out like they’d planned. That last group was rightfully raw with emotion….and being completely ignored.”

A few random claps…and I felt like I had alienated myself from the rest of the group. Way to go, Sandy. Making friends in Cleveland….

The conference organizer, Karen Malone Wright thanked the panel then addressed the group. From the podium, she spoke directly to me with sincere concern for the childless women in the room who (at least in my mind) had previously been unacknowledged. Then….she clarified the format for us….and realized that she hadn’t done it at the beginning over the conference. The first day’s keynote was dedicated to the childfree, the second day the childless. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhh. That made a LOT more sense. I immediately felt better. Kudos to her for starting The Not Mom group to provide a safe space for women who (for whatever reason) do not have kids. She is passionate about making this group inclusive and protected.

After the clarification, I was flying high. And ready to meet some peeps. Ba BAM!

During the break I was lucky enough to meet women who felt the same way I had all morning….and they wanted to speak up but didn’t know what to say or, as one woman said, didn’t have the strength to say it. So…my estimation of 80% childfree, 20% childless was actually wrong. The childless were there…but just not ready to talk yet.

So….that meant that the following day was for us. And Jody Day did not disappoint.

Next Blog Post: The Super Hero of the Childless

It’s just like Woodstock – but without the mud

Published / by sandymichelet / Leave a Comment

Well….and probably without the drugs and rock and roll…..but I’m not making any promises.

In early October, I and a zillion* other childless women (*numbers not confirmed yet) will descend upon Cleveland for the annual Not Mom Summit.

The 2017 Not Mom Summit….yeah, one actually exists.

For most of us who have been to a conference, we know how it works. Keynote speaker, concurrent sessions, lots of networking, probably a lil drinking. The website promises to connect, inform and empower the growing community of women without children by chance or by choice. Sounds like a laughfest, right?

Why am I going?

Because misery loves company? No. Because I want to cry in front of bunch of strangers? No. Because we are all a bunch of lonely, desperate women? Wrong again.

—————————————————————————————–

I talked to one of my closest friends (she is also a childless). She contrasted the difference in how she and I are both handling this life. She doesn’t like to talk about anything related to childlessness because she finds the whole thing devastating. And, as you know….people are morons…. so the conversation about childlessness never ends well for the childless one. So she has created a cocoon for herself to insulate her from the pain of the outside world.

Remember, that childlessness never ends. It is more obvious when someone is in childbearing years and cannot get pregnant at that moment….but …..but not having a child means not walking someone into their first day of kindergarten, watching them learn to play a musical instrument or watching them attend their first homecoming, consoling them during their first breakup, watching them grow and be a better you than you could ever be (and…get a few of the bad qualities, of course!)….it means not watching my child have a child of her own….

It. Never. Ends.

Years ago when this first started it felt like every piece of bad news was a sharp knife and I couldn’t catch my breath. The blade on each experience/test/failed attempt got longer, sharper and was pushed in with much more force than the last.  In the past, my response to the sharp blades were still met with anger and sheer determination that I would overcome this. I would win this war. I would have a child. As time passed (along with my hope), the blade seems to have dulled a little and only cuts me once in a while. As a childless woman ages, the support system changes. The “YOU CAN DO THIS!”, “YOU CAN BEAT INFERTILITY” cheerleaders are replaced with those on the sidelines, sadly in the realization that this is it. And the cheers stop. And the pity starts.

I am 49…so I am muchhhh further along than many women who are just starting this journey. While I can’t say that I am an expert at the childless life, I am an expert at my childless life. When I started this blog I was still whispering the term “childless”….I knew that I identified with the group but was still struggling…..now, I am more of a “scream it from the rooftops to let other women know its ok” kinda gal.

So….uh…why am I going?

Remember my friend from earlier? She didn’t want to talk about it….as I grow stronger, my network of childless women grows stronger. My tribe grows stronger. Now I am bringing it up as opposed to cowering in a corner waiting for someone to ask me if I have kids. Wanna know what a loser I am!? I made freaking cards…. because I keep running into people who have been touched by childlessness and infertility….and I want them to know they are not alone.

So back to the Not Mom Summit.

I am excited to meet other women and see where they are in their journey. An event like this is one of VERY few places we can go without fear of someone asking “do you have kids, why don’t you, did you this/that to get pregnant?”. We don’t hear miracle conception stories at the lunch tables next to us. We aren’t shown pictures of other people’s kids. At this moment, we are insolated. THIS is our support system.

So, will it be fun? Heaven knows there are tears on the other side of the plane ride but I am ready for it. I am ready to meet keynote speaker Jody Day in person and tell her how she helped change my life. I am also ready to bond with women exactly like me. It could get crazy up in here! A few women…a few glasses of wine….stories about hysterosalpingograms….we will be out. of. control.

…..If my plan works, I will be making friends, sharing stories and trying to let those who couldn’t attend know what’s happening. So think Woodstock. Think Oscars. Only different.