Childless and childfree women come in lots of shapes and sizes. We are all colors, all cultures, and all ages. As much as we have in common, we are also very different. Some people say it is strange to define ourselves by things that we are not, so let’s determine what we are instead.
Childfree blogger Laura LaVoie interviews women bloggers without children who answer the question, “If you’re not a mom, then what are you?”
In Interview 7, we meet Loribeth, the woman behind The Road Less Travelled. After years of infertility treatment and delivery of a stillborn child mid-pregnancy, Loribeth made a brave choice to blog about her journey.
Tell me about yourself and your blog.
I am 52 years old and have been married for almost 28 years. I work in corporate communications, and am a long-time employee with the same large company (27 years).
Why did you start blogging?
Blogs did not exist when I first started looking to the Internet for support after my daughter was stillborn in 1998. The Internet was still very new (I just got my first home PC & went online in late 1996) & I felt a bit leery putting myself out there.
I did find a private e-mail list for women who had lost a baby in pregnancy or infancy and were trying for another – that felt “safer” and it was a huge support for me. I am still in touch with two women that I “met” through that list. My husband & I attended a “real life” pregnancy loss support group and then wound up facilitating it. We were with the group for more than 10 years in all. But my daily Internet fix was my daily lifeline that got me through each day until the next group meeting.
As time went on and we were going through infertility treatment, I started poking around some of the infertility sites and message boards. After we made the decision to stop infertility treatment – in the summer of 2001, when I was 40 – I started looking for resources for women like me, who had wanted children but were facing a life without them. Needless to say, there wasn’t a whole lot out there – it’s not exactly what women going through infertility treatment want to hear, that not everyone gets a baby out of this process. But I did find a few message boards and sites, one board in particular, which was a huge support for me. Sadly, it no longer exists, but I am still in touch with several of the women from that site today, through Facebook and through another, private forum that we set up.
I suppose one reason why so few people are writing and talking about life without children after infertility and loss is that they just get on with their lives and try to put the past behind them. For whatever reason, I haven’t quite been able to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I have a good life and I don’t sit around moping all day about what I don’t have.
But, there’s certainly not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my daughter, or am reminded in some way that I am a childless woman in a world that’s gone nuts for baby bumps and mommies. So that’s why I continue to write about these issues and offer my support to others in similar situations.
I probably started reading infertility blogs sometime in 2006. One of them was Stirrup Queens, and through her amazing huge blogroll, I was able to find a few that were related to childless/free living after infertility & loss – in particular, Coming2Terms by Pamela Tsigdinos. With encouragement from Melissa at Stirrup Queens, I decided to start my own blog in the fall of 2007 – almost 10 years after the loss of my daughter, and six years post-treatment, which I suppose makes me somewhat unusual for an infertility blogger. At the time, Mel was running an infertility-related book club and I was dying to join in. I also knew there were very few resources out there for women like me, and I thought I should put my voice out there and share my experiences.
And here I am, five-plus years later, still writing.
How do you feel you are treated as a woman without children?
Once I got into my mid-40s, the questions and pressure (subtle and otherwise) to have children (“it’s still not too late…”) gradually (thankfully) petered out. But I still find there’s that awkward pause when people ask how many children I have, or how old my children are,and I say I don’t have any. (I tend not to talk about my daughter in casual conversation… then it REALLY comes to a screeching halt…!)
I scrapbook for a hobby, and I have had people question why I do it, when I don’t have children! (Ummm, Hello, I have a life and memories that I might want to preserve, too.) I was at a “crop” (gathering of scrapbookers where we work on our albums) and the woman seated next to me asked me how many kids I had, and after I said, “None”, she turned to talk to her friends and I don’t think she said another thing to me all day.
I mean, really, I’m a nice person, I won’t bite. You can still talk to me about my husband, my (other) family, my work, the books I’ve read lately, the movies I’ve seen, my latest vacation, my opinion on current events… is it really that hard to relate to me just because I don’t have a child?
What defines you and your life?
Infertility and loss have had a huge impact on my life, and continue to do so… but I don’t like to think that they “define” me.
I suppose some people who don’t have children decide to lead an unconventional life in other ways. I sometimes get the feeling that people think we should constantly be travelling… or chuck it all and become missionaries in Africa …or run away to live on a tropical island somewhere (because we can…!). Really, aside from the fact that our life doesn’t revolve around children, as a parent’s might, we live a pretty ordinary life.
We have a house in the suburbs with a big backyard (although we do talk about moving to a condo in retirement). My DH and I have a very close relationship that has somehow survived the worst that infertility and loss have thrown at us. We both have somewhat stressful jobs, although I don’t think either of us would describe ourselves as focused on our careers, and we most certainly did not choose our careers over a family.
We may not have children, but we are both pretty family-focused, on our parents and siblings and our two nephews (I love being an auntie!). I am one of my family’s chief genealogists – I may not be adding branches to the family tree in the usual way by having kids, but I still feel like I am expanding our family (into the past instead of into the future) and our knowledge of it through my research.
We both love books and movies and theatre, and we hope to travel more in the coming years. We are also hoping to be able to retire early, within the next five years or so – something we most certainly could not have done if we’d had a family to raise and educate.
What message do you want to send to advertisers and readers?
To advertisers: Please remember that “woman” does not automatically mean “mother.” Something like 1 in 5 women today will never be a mother, for whatever reason, and that number is growing. That’s a pretty substantial segment of the population, and since we’re not raising children, we have a fair amount of disposable income. So why the constant focus on mommies and kids?
To infertile women considering moving on without children: It’s not an easy road… but you do have company, and there are more and more of us out there who are speaking and writing about our experiences. There is life after infertility, and it can be good. But, don’t expect an overnight transformation. You’ve probably spent years and years, since you were a child, assuming you would have a family someday. You need to take time to grieve the loss of the life you thought you were going to have – a life that so many others take for granted.
To other readers who come to my blog for whatever reason: There are many reasons why a woman might not have children. Some of us, like me, endured infertility and/or loss before deciding it was time to move on with our lives. Some of us never found Mr. Right, and didn’t want to be a single parent. Some of us made a deliberate choice not to have children, for a variety of reasons. Some of us have health issues that make pregnancy difficult or impossible. Some of us married men who already had families and didn’t want more children. Some of our partners seemed receptive to the idea of children at first, but ultimately decided fatherhood was not for them. Everyone’s story is different, and there are many, many shades of grey. Don’t assume.
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