Saturday, December 27, 2008

Goodbye Google Ad Sense

Faithful readers (all four of you) may have noticed that I have had the Google Ad Sense gadget on this blog. Google Ad Sense of course promises a small check in the mail as advertising payment once you achieve a certain threshold of visits and click throughs. I don't really have a mission to have a huge number of visitors, and also have not received any checks in the mail, but left it up on the site nonetheless. The ads are contextual and are selected based on the content on the page. Initially I watched them and they appeared to be innocuous, probably as I didn't have much content up yet.

However, I checked out the ad Google Ad Sense put on my blog today. It was a link to www.hooraynokids.com, described as "a social site where adults who have chosen to be childfree can meet and get to know one another." I visited the site...yikes. While the premise is helpful, I just can't relate to many of the folks who post there. Most of the posters either a) celebrate being "childfree" (like children are a disease or parasites) to the point of criticizing and mocking "breeders," or b) clearly make choices that are self-centered even to the point of not caring what their spouse feels about the child/no-child decision in the marriage.

I'm glad there are places for people with those sentiments. I have been gravitating toward other forums such as Childless Not By Choice which has been very supportive, is more Christ-centered and is more sensitive to the complex nature of this issue.

In the meantime, goodbye HNK and goodbye Google Ad Sense.

Book Resources for Childless Women

I found this link to be very interesting. It is a list of books compiled by Sue Fagalde Lick on the topic of being childless and dealing with it. I am ordering the two books listed below. The description of each book is from Sue who also has another blog called "Childless by Marriage."

Never to Be a Mother: A Guide for All Women Who Didn't--or Couldn't Have Children, by Linda Hunt Anton, HarperCollins, 1992.
This is basically a psychological self-help book. It offers 10 steps for dealing with childlessness. The focus is on grieving and gradually accepting the loss of the children one will never have. It may be hard to find, but will be helpful to women dealing with the loss of the children they'll never have.

Childless But Not Barren, by Kristen Johnson Ingram, Magnificat Press, 1987.
It's exceedingly preachy, more than a little corny, and the fictionalized Bible stories are filled with errors, such as expecting Mary's cousin Anna and her husband to write notes to each other. Anna would have been illiterate. Nor would she had thought, gee, my husband is a half hour late getting home. However, this Christian book for childless women touched me more than once, even inspired me in places. Ingram offers stories of nine childless women from the Bible and nine women from real life and shows how their faith in God led them to live fulfilled and valuable lives. The first three women of both eras conceived late in life, their trust in God satisfied. The next three raised other women's children, and the last three worked for the glory in other ways, one as the "mother of Israel," another as a prophet, another as a spiritual guide. Ingram's moral: trust in God, put him above all things and don't waste your life moping about not having children. Use the life you are given and the mothering skills you have to care for others and spread God's light in whatever way you can.

I'll let you know what I think of these books when I get through them!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas wrap-up


Merry Christmas to all! I think it was a good idea to have folks over Christmas morning after all, though I’m not totally committed to doing this every year. Right before the brunch I thought I was a little loony to be inviting an assortment of people over on a day when most folks don't even leave the house and just soak in the quietness of the day. I even swore I wouldn't do it next year before the brunch had started! I think the worst part was finishing up cleaning the house on Christmas morning (tidying up bird cages is the worst, but I don't want guests to see what messes birds REALLY are). I got sort of frazzled and depressed, so I just made myself stop and get on my knees to pray that God would take my depression away and help me to stop focusing on myself and to instead focus on Him and on helping others enjoy the morning.

We ended up having a dozen or so folks come over, and amazingly most showed up right at 11am! The friends that came over were an assortment as I predicted: a single friend, two whose spouse was out of town or didn't want to socialize, a couple whose children from a previous marriage went off to the other parent’s for the day, and a few families with kids which made it a great and balanced mix. It was a nice morning with lots of conversation that went through several pots of coffee and most of the food. I really enjoyed chatting with everyone, especially getting to know the family of 6 that came over representing 3 generations.

My husband and I didn't have time to open up all of our own presents until after everyone left. He was a gem and even put up with me being in my day-of-party-panic mode for a little while. After an afternoon nap we then went to the latest Bond movie. So, that made it a busy day and very enjoyable overall (with only a little bout of a pity party). Today - WHEW - holiday is over.

Will I do this again next year? I think I will, though I wouldn't say this is quite a tradition yet. My grandmother and her sisters/brothers always held a huge Christmas brunch. It was not just a tradition it was a prominent annual event, it served as the ending punctuation for the year. I certainly don't think this brunch will quite have that significance in my life or others, not yet anyway, but I do think it will be a nice respite for people in similar positions to enjoy...and a way to surround myself with a "family" of friends at a time that could be very lonely.

I hope your Christmas morning was wonderful in its own way, and that you found some time to enjoy the day too!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Development Arrested

So, why did I call this post “Development Arrested?” The reason why I am in a “woe is me” funk is not only because I am clearly still working through the grieving and mourning process of this life condition (“childless not by choice”), but also because I feel like I am missing out on a key part of life, a key part of my personal development. I am sad that I am missing the life experiences of raising a little person and teaching him/her how to read and important lessons in life, enjoying silly laughter, sharing his/her experiences. Sometimes I can’t relate to women that have kids. I don’t know the lingo or what is popular with families these days; I feel like I am from a different country yet I am familiar with the language and the currency. I read articles in the doctor’s office about child development and they have always fascinated me. My knowledge ends with the last period in the article and I feel like there must be more to the story – but I don’t know what. In a conversation with friends about their families, sometimes I have little to contribute, no experiences to share. I hear some of my friends talk about troubles with kids in school or with teachers and I have no idea what to offer; I haven’t been there and no Berlitz book can help me. Sue Fagalde Lick in her blog, “Childless by Marriage” said, “One of my missions in this blog and my other writing is to make people understand that women who don't have children miss a lot in life, including learning how to take care of them.”

I try to relish the benefits of being childless – like the free time, the ability to stay up late and read a book, or go shopping in the afternoon if I want to. I can go out of town anytime I want (with a call to my pet sitter and available vaca days at work) - my hubby and I are planning a trip to Bonaire! I can donate time and money to a charity for Atlanta’s homeless. I can spend time on my bible study, on work, on a new passion, on figuring out a new life purpose. But many times I feel like these luxuries are so shallow, so hollow. And, I haven’t figured out a new life purpose yet.

If I turn back to scripture, 1 Corinthians 13 outlines what is important in life: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

I do have faith, and I do have hope. I guess I had hoped for more love, more people to love in my life, in my family. Instead, I know I must rejoice in the people that I do have to love! Well, when I am allowed to love them, on their terms. In the meantime, I know the Lord loves me, any time, all the time, and that comforts me.

Holidays: No one gets out unscathed

I know that title is pretty cynical, but I really thought I was going to get through this holiday season unscathed. I hoped to not have as much pain about not having a family as in the past. I remind myself I DO have family: my dad lives in Texas, sister in New Mexico. I saw my in-laws in Minnesota for Thanksgiving. But I mean in my house, close to me. Of course I have a fabulous husband who I am crazy about. At the moment he is spending a couple days a week deer hunting, which leaves me lots of alone time during the holidays, and I miss him. I know so many young moms would love to have a few days alone, so I try to revel in that sometimes. Plenty of me-time is one of the luxuries of having a very, very small family made up of two adults. Yippee.

To get through this period where everything in our culture is focused on getting together with family, I have been focusing upward and less inward, which has helped greatly. I know that God knows I am hurting, and he has a great plan for my life without kids. I am coming closer and closer to trusting Him and leaning on him for my fulfillment. He wants me to be joyful in my life! My favorite bible verse lately is from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” I wake up and think this phrase first to get a good mindset for the day, rather than thinking about how I don’t have a family around me for the holidays.

I was in a store the other day, spending entirely too much time on picking out my husband’s gifts, and I saw a woman in a wheelchair shopping with her caregiver and her canine helper. I said hello and commented on her lovely dog, and she gave me a great smile back. For a moment I realized that while I may be sad about my life circumstance, at least I’m not in a wheel chair, requiring a caregiver, unable to communicate. And she was able to flash me a great smile! So what am I whining about? Rejoice and be glad already.

I thought I was really making some personal progress this year and was really glad I was more joyful than in months past. Unfortunately, another funk started when I went to the OB/GYN for a follow up pap smear. (Side note: I am switching to a GYN as I really can’t handle the OB part of this practice anymore with all the happy families in the waiting room. I feel like I don’t belong as I’m not trying to get pregnant, am not pregnant, and don’t have kids in tow. But I digress.) I am now on my third doctor visit: two paps and now a biopsy (I pray things will be fine, I’ve had this before). The biopsy caused two reactions: One, I got dizzy. Two, the rush of whatever happened to my system (vasovagal response?) made me hypersensitive to the fact that I had just had a chunk of tissue removed from my largely cobwebbed uterus, and maybe it was time to just take it out of my body. Should the lab results come back with any problems, that is what will happen anyway. Why keep the thing if I have to worry every year about it becoming cancerous? It already is riddled with over 25 fibroids (they stop counting at 25). I think lack of use caused my uterus to get obsessive about its biological clock and spontaneously grow things anyway– but in this case fibroids don’t say cute things when they turn three. They just make me have to go to the bathroom all the time.

So, I started crying in the doctor’s office and now I’m back in this “poor me” syndrome. We started some new traditions this year that I hope will help me out of it. One: don’t go to Texas or Minnesota for the week of Christmas. Instead, enjoy time at home with my husband, friends and my church’s service. Two, invite folks over to take my mind off myself. I planned a Christmas day brunch this year, and planning a menu and having people to cook for is a welcome distraction. I sent out an Evite, and while I knew most of my peeps would have family commitments, it stung when the declines read “Sorry, I have family in town,” or “Sorry, I will be spending time with my family that day.” What these folks don’t realize is that they are my family. I was trying to plan a similar dinner a few years ago with what I thought were very dear friends. I started proposing dates for a simple potluck in November. No one would commit and in early December, one of my friends said that she would be too busy with family that entire month and maybe we should all get together in January. My other friend agreed. I don’t think they realized that this dinner was a highlight of my season, while it wasn’t on Christmas day, I was so looking forward to spending time with these friends (and their husbands) as part of my holiday celebration.

I’ve got a hodge-podge of folks coming over for brunch, and think it will always be a random group if I keep it up as a tradition. While hubby is out of town hunting this week, I am getting ready for company and making all my favorite recipes my mom used to make – pumpkin bread, fudge, sausage balls, pull apart coffee cake, and a tree made out of cinnamon rolls. I’ve been missing my mom this week (she passed away almost 5 years ago) and hoped making these favorites would comfort me and would help me continue my childhood traditions this Christmas. It has, but it has also made me grieve the loss of having my mom to talk to and, as my Dad has remarried, how I no longer have my original family to go back to. I know things change in life, but sometimes I feel a little lost.

I am still a little slow on the draw, but I know now that I need to look upward when I feel lost. That God is my father and He is all I need. That He has a plan for me and wants me to rejoice, for today is the day the Lord has made.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Childless in Church

A friend of mine asked if I noticed how hard it was to relate to most of the women in church - the majority of whom are mothers. I agreed, but thought I was the only one that was the odd one out! I am getting more and more used to being the only one in the circle who is chidless, but I am realizing I will never get over it.

My friend is going to see if she can get a women's small group started for women who don't have children, and I hope she is successful. I don't think the focus will be to provide a support group or to talk about being childless (I hope not, I am in ostrich mode now trying to not think about it). Instead, I think it would be good to get women in a more similar life situation together to praise God and enjoy doing a bible study together...and through that we will find compassion, understanding and a little more sensitivity to our situation.

After our talk, she sent me the article below. I hope you enjoy the point of view and the links!


Is There a Place for You in Your Church?

By John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter


We are thankful that churches and pastors are becoming sensitive to the hurting childless couples in their pews. A number of churches sponsor TTC Groups (trying-to conceive support groups), and pastors are reaching out to couples who have suffered pregnancy loss. Praise God!

Nevertheless, being part of the church is not easy for those who have not been blessed with the pitter-patter of little feet. Consider the following:

One Mother’s Day at church, as usual, the pastor asked everyone who was a mother to stand up, and then the congregation loudly applauded these fine individuals (of whom I was not one.) This hurt so badly I could barely contain myself.

I feel apart from the other women in our church, who are my age. All of them are moms! Even at church, a place where I always felt I “belonged,” I really feel “out on my own.”

Whether the need is for nursery helpers, Sunday school teachers, or youth sponsors, I am constantly being asked to help. After all, I have the time, right? Besides, it will give me time to be with children, right? I hate to say no, but being with children right now is just too painful—it reminds me too deeply of my loss.

I used to enjoy the women’s Bible study group at church, but now I dread it. All they do is talk about their children and grandchildren. I feel out of it.

The above suggests that many childless couples feel like second class citizens. The church—which should be a place of healing and community—too often becomes a place in which infertile couples are wounded and alone.

What can we do to help our churches become places where childless couples can say, “This is where I can belong and grow strong.” Here are some suggestions:

1. Keep your expectations realistic. Not every one in your church will recognize the depth of pain caused by infertility. To expect that all will “get it” only sets you up for continual disappointment.

Try to find one or two other people in your congregation who understand. Encourage them to pray for you, as you promise to pray for them (after all, everyone faces some kind of challenge.)

2. Make your pastor an ally. Most pastors work hard to provide Christ-centered support for people in crisis. But even the most sensitive pastor may not be able to give much support to infertile couples without two things you can supply: encouragement and information.

3. Publish an article in your church newsletter. Most churches have a monthly newsletter filled with news and information about the church. The editor is probably looking for articles to include. The following article by Catherine Ward – Long, Married Without Children: Four Ways Churches Can Incorporate Childless Women, is an excellent piece to submit. You have full permission from Stepping Stones and the author to reprint this article in your church newsletter. If you want an email version to reprint, write us at Stepping Stones (step@bethany.org.)

Unless pastors have personal experience with infertility, they may not think much about the infertile couples in your church – until someone encourages them to do so. Perhaps you are that someone! Remind your pastor that when childless couples hear their needs brought before God in prayer, they’ll never forget it. Conversely, if the needs of the childless are never mentioned, they’ll never forget that, either! As one church member puts it,

“Thankfully, our church is learning to reach out to those hurting while still honoring mothers. We are so grateful that in recent years our pastor has always prayed for those waiting on the Lord to make them someone’s mommy.” This acknowledgement means more to us that anything anyone has ever said.

4. Learn to say no without feeling guilty. Whether they need nursery helpers, Sunday school teachers, or youth sponsors, churches often tend to ask infertile couples to help. After all, you have the time, right! Besides, it will give you an opportunity to be with children!

If helping your church nursery is too painful, don’t feel guilty about politely declining. Consider volunteering for another area of service in the church instead. If attending a women’s Bible study is difficult because the topic always seems to revolve around parenting, find a study where the focus is broader. Remember that even Jesus sometimes said no to the demands of others in order to take care of Himself physically and spiritually (see Luke 5:15-16.)

5. Remember your greatest resource. The church is made up of people, and people can sometimes let us down. But “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…” (Psalm 46:1 NIV.)

Adapted from When the Cradle is Empty by John and Sylvia Van Regenmorter (Focus on the Family and Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.)