Category: Support for childlessness

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.

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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.

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

Published / by sandymichelet / 4 Comments on GUEST POST – Childless & Childfree – Two Peas in the Same Stigmatized Pod

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.

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“Every party needs a theme and deviled eggs”

                                      –  Sandy and every other Southern woman, ever.

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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.”

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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.

10 of the most powerful minutes of my life

Published / by sandymichelet / 4 Comments on 10 of the most powerful minutes of my life

I have a challenge. Ask a group of women how they feel about themselves. Most of us are pretty hard on ourselves….we don’t work out enough, we don’t spend enough time with <<insert name>>, we don’t spend enough time doing <<insert activity>>, we never feel that we are on top of things, we can’t balance everything, whatevah whatevah whatevah.

Ask a group of childless women how they feel about themselves as childless women?  It almost brought me to my knees. Last weekend I attended a retreat right outside of Los Angeles (the other LA). It was a long flight and I had grandiose plans of catching up on email and reading a new book. Yep. You guessed it. Slept the whole way there.

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“So six childless women walk into a bar”

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The organizer had scheduled a quick get together Friday night for those already of us who were already in town so we could introduce ourselves and get ready for the weekend. A small group of us found each other quickly. We decided to grab dinner at this awesome dumpling joint (that makes it sound cool, huh??).

As we walked from the bar to the restaurant, one of the group yelled “Let’s cross the street…and don’t worry about the crosswalk….no one is going to hit a pack of childless women”… I had never heard that before and we all started to relax a little.  We ordered and started sharing stories so effortlessly. None of us were on edge waiting for the expected conversation that eventually happens when a group of people get together. No one in this group talked about their child or children. But everyone talked about the child we always wanted.

The next morning (and after my first Uber ride) we walked into the retreat center…..an intimate cottage that would be our safe place for the next two days. Do you know that sound when you first walk into church or a funeral home….where everyone before is talking in their normal voice and then as soon as you cross the threshold everyone starts whispering? Yep. That was it.

I have promised anonymity so “Mallory” welcomed us at 9am and gave us the game plan for the weekend.

After a forced 5 minutes of complete stillness and quiet, Mallory explained about our first official exercise. “Write a word or phrase to describe yourself as a childless women”…I couldn’t get my Sharpie out quickly enough. 1, then 2, then 3, then 4, then 5, then 6, then 7….I stopped counting the number of post-its I was using. We all got up quietly and stuck them to the wall.

Worthless | Less than everyone else | Not a real woman | Failure | No legacy | Afraid of dying alone | Pissed | Sad | Disappointed | Scared | Regretful | Shameful | Embarrassed | At fault/Blame | Discounted | Others are more important | Not valued | Alone | No one will remember me | Incomplete | Wounded | Inadequate | Unfair | Regretful | Not whole | Left out | Jealous | Lost | Unworthy | Judged | Misunderstood | Defective

In a previous post I said I wanted to hear my words come out of other people’s mouths…..Well I did. And I didn’t like it. Twelve strangers from around the country. Everyone wrote the same words. I knew what I thought about myself as a childless woman….but seeing other women experience those same thoughts was anguishing. I am not much of a crier. But the lump in my throat was so large I was actually Struggling. To. Breathe. I was ready to sit down. I had had enough. Mallory asked us to get closer to the posts and to “really look at them”. This group of strangers read each other’s words over and over again, silently sobbing, moving closer and closer together, arms linked. It was ten of the most powerful minutes of my life. I was not alone. I had found my people.

After that emotional drain I knew it had to be close to lunch time. I was ready to grab some food and think about something else. Nope. It was 9:20.