Category: Other people and how they handle it

GUEST POST – Childless & Childfree – Two Peas in the Same Stigmatized Pod

Published / by sandymichelet / Leave a Comment

Below is our first guest post written by an incredible author….. Grab a glass of wine, sit back…and read a different perspective. In her own words: 

I have worked with Sandy for several years, and anyone who knows anything about her will know she is one kick-ass party planner. I’m sure she has planned her own funeral because honestly, she wouldn’t trust anyone else to get it right. I can just hear her voice from beyond the grave, “Those chairs with those tablecloths?! What kind of monster…”

That’s why it came as no surprise when three months into my engagement she informed me that my unborn child’s first birthday party was already planned – theme decided and Pinterest board full.

——————————————————————————————————————–

“Every party needs a theme and deviled eggs”

                                      –  Sandy and every other Southern woman, ever.

——————————————————————————————————————–

I am used to having this conversation now, but I still tense up when I have to tell someone what I told Sandy that day. “We don’t want children.” [Enter collective, audible gasp from audience here]

Did you know there are actually two types of women in regards to having children?

  1. Childless  – these are the women and couples who want children but are biologically unable to bear them due to a plethora of reasons.
  2. Childfree  – the women and couples who do not want to add children into their lives due to a plethora of reasons.

The more Sandy and I talked, the more we realized how mainstream society stigmatizes the childless and childfree in similar ways. Let me be perfectly clear: I don’t pretend to understand the burden and heartbreak a childless woman feels. No one can possibly understand until they walk that walk. I am certainly not suggesting that our journey is the same – only that when it is all said and done, we get lumped into the same group.

Don’t believe me? Let’s compare using the Five Stages of Grief, DABDA, aka the Kubler-Ross Model. This model is typically used to describe the stages of coping with the death of a loved one but isn’t it metaphorically perfect? Our families and friends must cope with the death of their expectations of us as mothers.

During a woman’s prime child-bearing years, she’s likely to hear these things from friends, family and even strangers as it becomes more and more clear she won’t reproduce:

1 DENIAL

  • What society says to a childless woman
  • What society says to a childfree woman
    • You’ll change your mind.
    • You’re still young! You don’t know what you want.
  • What they really mean
    • You’re not taking this seriously. I’m not taking you seriously.

Both responses imply that the woman has put little thought into her current situation and what she wants in life. The truth is, these two types of women actually think about, research and defend their situation more than anyone else.

This is the most hurtful stage for the childless woman. For the childless woman, this is the stage they are pouring the most effort, emotion and money into their dreams of being a mother. By saying “just relax” you’re actually saying “you have control over this situation and you’re mucking it up somehow.”

For the childfree woman, this is the stage they have arrived at after endless conversations with their partner/friends/mothers and deep self-reflection. For me, I have spent countless hours reading books by women who have bypassed motherhood (like this one) as well as lengthy conversations with my fiancé. To be told I will simply change my mind one day is laughable. This decision was not made by me solely or on a whim. I don’t say I don’t want children in the same casual way I say I don’t want pickles on my burger. My life partner and I arrived at this decision after serious consideration. If we do change our decision (not likely), it won’t be from influence from anyone else but us.

Recently, a coworker asked me if my fiancé and I would have children right after the wedding or if we would wait. “Are those my only two options?” I asked. From my perspective, this is like asking someone at their retirement party if they will move to Florida right away or wait a few years. “I don’t want to move to Florida…” Sure you do! Everyone wants to retire in Florida. You’ll change your mind when you’re older.

2 ANGER

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?!
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • Not having children is selfish. You only care about yourself!
    • You HAVE to have kids. It’s a life experience you can’t miss out on.
    • Who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?!
  • What they really mean:
    • I’m uncomfortable with what’s happening because my expectations of you are not being met in reality.

Selfish is a word that gets thrown around a lot when people hear someone has chosen not to have children. Even the ultra-cool and modern Pope Francis called us out. A person living their life the way they want to is not selfish. Being mad that someone isn’t living their life the way YOU want them to, is. Creating a human simply because it’s a life experience and (potentially) would add to my happiness is not a good enough reason for me. My decision is not a personal attack on your lifestyle and it’s ok if you feel differently. That’s YOUR life… you see how this works?

Ah…  the infamous who’s going to take care of you when you’re old question. Nursing homes are full of people who had children. Are our fates really that different? Also, having children as a deposit for future care sounds kind of, dare I say, selfish?

3 BARGAINING

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • Why don’t you adopt?
    • Have you tried IVF?
    • Have you tried unicorn tears?
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • Just try! If you don’t conceive, it wasn’t meant to be. But you can at least TRY!
    • You’ll feel differently when it’s your child.
  • What they really mean:
    • I know what’s better for you than you do.

Again, they’ve tried. Again, we’ve thought about it. I will handle my own life decisions, but I’ll be sure to file your suggestions appropriately.

4 DEPRESSION

  • What society says to a childless and childfree woman:
    • I feel bad for you. You’ll never know true happiness. Being a mother is the greatest joy in life.
    • I’m sad for your parents. They would’ve been great grandparents.
  • What they really mean:
    • Maybe one last guilt trip will help you get pregnant/change your mind? No? Then I’m just plain sad. This is something I wanted for you and wanted to have in common with you.
    • I do believe that mothers feel a different kind of love. I won’t ever experience that and that’s ok. There are a lot of types of love to experience in life and mothers don’t own love as an emotion. I am not less loving because I am not a mother.

5 ACCEPTANCE

  • What society says to a childless woman:
    • .
  • What society says to a childfree woman:
    • .
  • What they mean:
    • We have not evolved enough to understand this.

We still have work to do. Blogs like Sandy’s and articles like this one from Time Magazine are helping to create an American culture where women and couples aren’t seen as unfulfilled, depressed failures if they don’t have children. Forbes magazine even did a piece on “Otherhood” and the change of casting the 19 million+ childfree women in the USA as frivolous or desperate.

I never dreamed I would have so much in common with a woman who wanted children so strongly, but Sandy and I have become advocates for each other’s cause. I am now hyper aware of and sensitive to situations that isolate the childless women and I am amazed at everything I didn’t notice before. Yes, there are pregnancy magazines at the foot doctor and even while Pope Francis was shaking his pope finger at the childfree, he managed to isolate the childless by talking about what a holy gift children are and how lonely a marriage will be at the end without the joy of children. I’m aware of these things because Sandy decided to speak up about her daily life through the eyes of a childless woman.

To my childless friends, when you cross the bridge from the battle of infertility onto the other side of “what the heck happens now,” know that there are more women here in your corner than just those who struggled with infertility. There are the childfree women who are also being asked “who’s going to take care of you when you’re old?” Behind that question is a choir of childless and childfree women who are all answering in unison “We will.”

#

THANK YOU to this incredible guest post author…I hope we can have many more from her! I’ve read this post 20 times and love it more each time. The conversation has started. Let’s keep it going.

Adoption is soooooooooo easy

Published / by sandymichelet / Leave a Comment

Every person or couple struggling to have a baby has heard the same advice. In fact, the advice never ends….and it is usually horrible.

I am not against getting advice. Help me pick out the color of my couch or the flowers for my front yard. I’d love that.

However, I needed a little more space when it came to whether or not adoption was right for us and how to maneuver through the process. We didn’t publically discuss our troubles with fertility until I started this blog a few months ago. Most of our friends and family had no idea of the struggles. We (for whatever reason) kept the fertility problem close to the vest…so when it came to adoption, Craig and I were like a steel vault. We didn’t tell anyone we were considering adoption because it would provide a glimmer of hope….and so far we hadn’t been successful with any other baby-making activity.

I don’t know why….but starting the adoption process and not ending up with a baby seemed like Failure – Level Two.

————————————————————————————————————————————

If anything can guarantee a child it is adoption.  Yep. It’s that simple.

Walk into Target, select the one you want, put it in the shopping cart, on the conveyer belt, load into your car and BAM! You’re a parent.

————————————————————————————————————————————

There are numerous routes on the adoption journey…and many of those end with beautiful, happy families. We know several couples who have adopted and can’t imagine how they could be any happier. We aren’t adoption experts……but this is our experience and 3 options we considered.

Adopt through Catholic Charities

We started here. Just like the maze of infertility…there is a web of processes for adoption…an entire world that no one even knows exists…unless you are one of the *ah hem* lucky ones with fertility issues. One of the women at Catholic Charities realized that we were clueless and walked us through a high level of our options.

Adopt through the foster care system

We had already been warned that the emotion of adoption was going to add a whole new layer to the fertility issues…but were told that adopting through the foster care system would test our patience and strength at every turn.

In the state of Louisiana, you cannot be approved to adopt without also being approved to foster. I think it is called dual certification. I was adamant that I didn’t want to foster…I could not have a child in my home only to have it yanked from me…my emotions were still too raw at this point.

However, to get to the adoption finish line we had to attend classes on “how to adopt/foster”. Our first one was early on a Saturday morning. We were the first to arrive (ok, we were 30 minutes early). We sat with several other people in the room….the woman conducting the class silently walked past the 6 of us and stood at a podium 20 feet away and began a lecture as if we were learning verb conjugation.

I was ready to hear about expanding our family, bringing love to a child who needed, etc. I was on the edge of my seat to hear her first words that would bring us to the finish line….a child. She held up a piece of paper….I leaned forward trying to see if it was a letter from a child, a picture of a happy family, etc. Nope. “To be reimbursed for mileage for your (3 mile drive from my house), fill out this form and send it to blah blah blah.” I could hear Craig exhale next to me because he knew what I was thinking….and terrified of what bit of wisdom/feedback/sarcasm/obvious irritation I would inject into this display.

I sat quietly (no, really!!!) and listened to a few facts. We weren’t allowed to have X number of kids living in the same room, we couldn’t have a child if we didn’t have a fenced in yard, we would be required to allow “inspectors” to come to our home to make sure we weren’t running some type of seedy operation out of our kitchen, etc.

Everyone in the room was interested in foster care…so in order not to slow down the Q&A session, we stayed after class so I could get my 5 typed pages of adoption related questions answered. I wanted someone to listen to me, hear our plight….provide the teeniest glimmer of light after this tunnel of blah. But nope. After years of being poked, prodded, put on medications to make my body do things, put on medications to make my body NOT do things, etc. I was told that I “just had to be patient”.

I am not sure if I blacked out at that point, but I remember climbing back into the car covered in tears and hearing Craig ask me over and over again WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT HER WHEN SHE IS TRYING TO HELP?

Adopt through a private agency.

This was by far the best experience.  I was talking with someone I trusted (I knew her personally). I wish we had started with her….however, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We didn’t know that every medical test, procedure, etc wouldn’t work. Had we known though, it really wouldn’t have mattered. We initially didn’t have the financial means to even consider a $30,000 adoption fee.

By the time we found this option, we were better off financially (granted, $30,000 was still an enormous amount of money). But….We. Were. Exhausted.  We had spent 15 years researching, trying option after option, etc. I didn’t have any energy left and didn’t have any more tears to cry.

Foot in mouth….the moron’s definition of a family

Published / by sandymichelet / Leave a Comment

In a casual conversation a few days ago, I was talking with someone about careers and laughing about how priorities change. Ten years ago we were climbing the corporate ladder and now we just want to go home and sit in the backyard. How things change! When we were wrapping up he said “I know you’d like to get home to your family….I mean, not your family….but to your husband.” He caught himself when he said family and tried to correct it.

Why would there be a need to correct that!? Uhhhhhh…..I thought that my husband and I were a family. Aren’t we!? I was surprised. Does that mean because we don’t have children together that we aren’t a family? Does that mean every childless couple is just that? A couple?? And they can never be more?

So that got me thinking.

———————————————————————————-

Sandy’s official definition of family:

Group o’ humans joined together through emotional ties; who you can count on at any time, day or night; who care about your existence and will fight to protect you; who know the good and bad about you but still love you; who matter to you; who you want to call when you have a really good day or really bad day.

———————————————————————————-

There are no right or wrong definitions of a family, right? I think we can all agree that blood relatives are not the best indication of family. Maybe on paper, yes. But in reality!? Nope. Some people have blood relatives who aren’t even on their radar. Read the soon-to-be-famous-Sandy’s-official-definition-of-family again. Those who meet that criteria could be extended family, friends, neighbors, co-workers or covered in fur or feathers.

The point is that we shouldn’t define ourselves by what someone else calls us. We make that distinction.

So…do I have a family? Yes. And I am going meet that family at Outback for dinner. Table for two.