Friday, November 27, 2009

I guess it does get better

Holidays again. This year I had all kinds of plans for Thanksgiving - brother-in-law in town without his kids for the first time. I was going to hang out with the boys and enjoy all kinds of grown up fun: motorcycle riding, hunting, dinner at our friend's house whose kids were with the "other" parents. Unforutnately, the creeping crud conspired to bring me down.

I was pretty bummed yesterday when I realized my Thanksgiving dinner would be a solitary bowl of chicken soup next to a box of Kleenex as I sent my hubby and his brother packing to the friend's house with casseroles. But, I didn't get as bummed as I have in years past about not having a family to spend this time with - in sickness and in health.

In years past, I had invited these same friends to a holiday dinner or brunch or something to celebrate, but they always had their own family events to attend to and suggested we get together when "the holidays calmed down - how about January?" They didn't realize they were my family, all I had during the holidays besides my hubby. And this year, when finally I would get to spend time with those friends on the actual holiday...I couldn't make it. Dagnabit!

I have to say I've gotten pretty good at distracting myself. Call it avoidance, call it redirecting my thoughts to something else. I find myself dwelling less on the sadness or depressing aspects of not having a family of my own (other than my hubby, and my dad and sister in other states), and instead focusing more on the joyful aspects of my life. On the freedom I have to do what I want. On enjoying my time to myself. On being able to focus on work or a book or going on a hike with a friend. I don't feel as shallow as I used to when I tried to think this way.

So, I had a cold for Thanksgiving but I also had a decent time. I discovered Pandora (awesome Internet radio); got caught up on a presentation for work; indulged my pets; ate chocolate; caught up on TIVO and my bible study. Tomorrow I hope to feel well enough to take a long walk by the river. Life is not all that bad.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A blog about this blog

This blog has been up for almost a year, and last week I checked out the Google Analytics trending results. I looked at the traffic sources, and reviewed the keywords that individuals typed into the search engines to find this site.

Here is the list. Read it, and at the end I’ll tell you my reaction. I wonder if it will match up with yours.

childless not by choice
childless church
childless in church
childless couples church
childless pastor
support groups for childless women
"childless women "+"the church"
"childless women"+"church"
"focus on the family" "have children" or "have kids"
"til children do us part"
articles on childlessness
bible childlessness
bible verses "today is the day the lord has made"
bible verses of encouragement for couples trying to get pregnant
biblical encouragement for childless women
blog "childless not by choice"
blogs written by women who have decided not to have children
books dealing with childless not by choice
books on childless not by choice
childfree couples church
childless church member
childless couples by choice judged in churches
childless couples painful
childless couples, church
childless deeply wounded
childless in the church
childless not by choice hurts
childless not by choice not infertile
childless pastor couples
childless pastors
childless second class
childless support groups
childless women bible
childless women by choice
childless women support group
childlessness and hope
childlessness grandchildren
childlessness in biblical times
childlessness prayer
childlessness support
children's lessons for psalm 46:1
christian book about woman who can't have children
christian church childless couples
church and childlessness
church childless couple
church childlessness
church for childless couples
coping with being over 40 and childless
dealing with childlessness
delayed motherhood arguments
delaying marriage personal growth
divorced, childless and over 40
faith and childlessness
first time motherhood late 30's
focus on the family + childless
forgot to have kids
getting over being childless
getting over not having children
helping the childless
how can church help infertile couples
how churches can help infertile helping pastors on mothers day
i feel like i don't belong at church because i'm infertile
infertile couples who never have children
is church relevant to childless couples
jesus healing for childlessness
mid-life crisis childless
midlife crisis no childless
new mothers should be sensitive to childless friends
no i did not forget to have children
no place in the church for women without children
pastor childless
resources for women who can’t have children
stones for childless
support group for childless women
support groups for older childless women
support groups, childless
the childless pastor
the church and childlessness
ttc midlife
why did i not get to have kids
will i ever get over being childless
women forgetting to have children -quotes
women who didn't have children
christian book about woman who can't have children not by choice

My first reaction: Heartbreak for all these women in pain. Amazed at how women can feel so lonely and in pain in their church community. Heartbreak for pastor’s wives that cannot conceive. Sadness that women (and men?) turn to search engines to help find answers to their grief.

Clearly, such a list is driven from the content on the site. I took a few anomalies off this list that referenced authors and book titles mentioned in this blog, etc. There is one article on the site from 12/2008 called “Childless in Church” which obviously drew in much of the traffic. Obviously, dealing with this issue of being childless not by choice is something that is painful to deal with for others too, and that one place we turn to find resources is the Internet.

My second reaction, however, was that I should reach out to my church and make sure they are sensitive to the needs of the congregation. (In process!)

My third reaction - perhaps I should revisit my friend’s idea of starting a bible study for like-minded women in church to connect, praise God, and get to know one another. I’d hate to think that I am attending worship service on Sunday and sitting next to other women in my same position who go home and address their feelings by turning to the Internet, alone.

Instead, we should be turning to each other and the bible for comfort, support, and hope.

I don't remember posting Psalm 46:1 in a previous post, but guess I must have. I am glad to be reminded of it now.

"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble."
-Psalm 46:1

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Going Through The Motions

This post, in fact this blog, has been very hard to write. I have descended down what I’m calling my “thermometer of hope,” and it has been a hard ride.

Since February, I have been going through the motions of meeting with my OB/GYN to monitor the size of some cyst activity on my ovaries and the fibroids. At that time, I was on the “fading hope” side of the thermometer. I actually was doing more than going through the motions in February due to quite a few problems over the course of a few months that caused the fibroids to grow substantially. Things calmed down this summer and I felt better, which, of course, allowed me to put my head back in the sand.

One day, when I went back for a checkup, the sonographer saw me coming down the hall and said, “Haven’t you taken that stuff out YET?” In her imaging room she leveled with me. “Look, I had my hysterectomy and finally I felt better – if you aren’t going to have kids, just take this stuff out!” My doctor said the same thing – these things aren’t getting any smaller, let me know when you want to take them out. This was the first time I really started facing the fact that - really, no, really - I’m not going to have kids.

I sought a second opinion after searching hard to find a doctor that was GYN only (no OB, hard to avoid babies in the waiting room), female, and experienced in surgery. I found a great doctor who gave me more explanation, more options, a better description of possible outcomes…and essentially ended up with a more cautious, “You are in a gray area, but it would be reasonable if you wanted to go ahead and take this stuff out.” That day I crossed over from fading hope into no hope. But not right away…I first had to go to dinner with my husband to cement that passing.

The dinner marked another turning point for me. I wanted to go out to eat and chat about what I had learned with my husband. Maybe I shouldn’t have had two Texas maragaritas or struck up a conversation with the happy family next to us with two cute girls. Either way, the conversation at our table took a turn for the worse and ended up with me leaving to sit in the car and sob like I had needed to for a long, long time. It had been under the surface for months, bubbling up often at stop lights, listening to the radio, watching other families, etc. It felt really good to have a good sob. I guess I hadn’t had one in…years.

What would any husband do with his slightly intoxicated wife a complete mess in the passenger seat after an argument about the most sensitive topic in their marriage? He left me there and walked home. I didn’t know what was going on until I stopped heaving, but then I realized I was all alone in the car. He did come back and get me after an hour or so (we only live a mile or two from the restaurant), and he apologized the next day once we had another discussion about more appropriate ways to act in situations like that.

My defense mechanism for this specific issue to that date was avoidance. Change the radio station. Don’t look at the family. Don’t drive by the soccer field on Saturday morning. Don’t visit girlfriends with young children. Leave baby showers early. It seemed to be working for me. I normally am very communicative, solve relational problems quickly, vent quickly and move on. In this case I had just been skipping straight to move on. It really wasn’t working for me.

Or I should say isn’t working for me. Nothing has happened as a result exactly, but I am now headed into the “acceptance” part of the thermometer. Acceptance that this uterus ain’t birthin’ no babies. Acceptance that for my husband and me, adoption isn’t an option. Acceptance that if I don’t have surgery soon, I won’t be able to take advantage of the fact that this year’s insurance deductible is met, or take advantage of laparoscopy surgery instead of the alternative. I’m going through the motions and have found a third, very experienced surgeon who takes my insurance. I will probably have a hysterectomy by the end of the year.

This phase doesn't feel like acceptance yet; it feels like resignation. And, I still am a master at avoidance and not sure what to do about that. Today, hubby is out of town and I made myself sit down to write about it. I don’t want to talk about this with friends – I have done some of that and find I get opinions that stem more from their issues with having kids or not having kids than help for my issues. Maybe counseling. Maybe a women’s support group (I’m on Hystersisters and CNBC – but I’ve been avoiding them). Maybe meet with someone at my church.

Maybe I should do something rather than nothing - something other than going through the motions.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

NYT article titled "Til Children Do Us Part"

After reading this op-ed article published Feb 4 by the New York Times (see this link), I realized the article had little to do with couples actually parting over children in any way. Granted, the title is what drew me to the article, but I would guess from my publishing experience this was probably created by an energetic editor and not the writer of the article.

Based on research by Philip and Carolyn Cowan, researchers at UC Berkley (where my parents met and where I was conceived, I might add), the article made many sweeping generalizations - and some good points. The sweeping generalization that bothered me the most was:

  • Once a child arrives, lack of paid parental leave often leads the wife to quit her job and the husband to work more. This produces discontent on both sides. The wife resents her husband’s lack of involvement in child care and housework. The husband resents his wife’s ingratitude for the long hours he works to support the family.

  • First, there are many men that stay home these days! And, while I am sure one parent staying home (regardless of the sex) causes some of the discord listed above, my friends that have taken this route did it because of the overwhelming benefits for the household. Having two parents working in the family is hard, requires much more juggling of sitters and day care, and can actually be more costly in terms of the outside help that is needed to keep up with the changes. The additional stress taken on by maintaining two full time jobs plus being "on" for the kids is difficult - or so I hear from my friends (men and women alike). On the topic of parents spending more time with their children now than parents did in the 60s, researcher Ellen Galinsky found that "most children don’t want to spend as much time with their parents as parents assume; they just want their parents to be more relaxed when they are together."

    I found one good point that was most relevant to me - how the researchers categorized couples:

  • Some couples plan the conception and discuss how they want to conduct their relationship after the baby is born. Others disagree about whether or when to conceive, with one partner giving in for the sake of the relationship. And sometimes, both partners are ambivalent.
    The Cowans found that the average drop in marital satisfaction was almost entirely accounted for by the couples who slid into being parents, disagreed over it or were ambivalent about it. Couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born.

  • My hubby went from not wanting to have children, to being ambivalent, and finally back to not wanting to have children. I guess I was the one that gave in for the sake of the relationship (which I did in the previous marriage as well). Hubby's main argument was about the quality of marriage, though when I read between the lines I think he really was saying the quality of his life, his motorcycle riding, his hobbies, his ability to travel when he wanted, AND the quality of his sex life and time with his wife. My choices for giving in are complex, I think it was the right decision based on God's plan for my life, and I cherish my marriage. I am just struggling to reconcile with the decision.

    The Cowan's research seems to make his case. I wish there were more articles and research around these days about "couples who planned or equally welcomed the conception were likely to maintain or even increase their marital satisfaction after the child was born." Why? What value did it bring to the marriage, family or quality of life?

    This is the kind of information I couldn't find for my husband when were discussing the family issue. I would bring up anecdotes for happy families from my friends, for which he would bring up alternative anecdotes about unhappy families from his friends. Interestingly, this point was left on the floor, at least by the NYT. Maybe I need to read the original research to learn more.

    The crux of the issue may be the categorization of the couple falling into the category of "equally welcome the conception." As my paid friend said during the end of my first marriage, "You can't have half a kid." In my experience, being like-minded and having a common set of values (money, religion, politics, future goals, respect) is the key to a happy marriage, whatever the outcome of the family decision may be.

    But, for the future of humanity - I wish the media would not be so quick to bash how children can wreck a good marriage.

    Sunday, February 1, 2009

    Fighting Back the Blob

    Maybe the only way to deal with some truth that is holding you back is to get it out in the open and wrestle it down to the ground until it cries "Uncle!" Then, perhaps, forward progression can happen.

    For me, the truth I keep most buried is not having kids. Well, "not having kids" is the fact but the truth is I struggle with still wanting to have kids and an age, fertility condition, and husband that do not. I really am fine with it, no really. Or, at least so I think 98% of the time. I am relieved I don't have to deal with (insert rationalization here, as in changing body, fear of losing child, what if I birth an autistic/downs/terror child). I am blessed that I have a great life, wonderful husband, supportive friends, and in these days, a paycheck every two weeks. Isn't that enough?

    Luckily, most of the time I can beat back this truth behind the door of the closet, flip the latch, leave it behind and go on about my day. Sometimes, however, it slips out under the door, oozing over the threshold like the Blob and showing up when I least expect it.

    This weekend it was over 55 degrees in Atlanta and sunny. I decided to get some solar Vitamin D and went on a bike ride. I rode my (new!) bike from my house to a park along the Chattahoochee river. I wanted maximum sun so I wore short sleeves, but had to go at a sort of fast clip to keep warm. It was great!

    Until I stopped at my halfway point; the park opens up into an open field with lots of park benches and pavilions. I always see kids and happy families on the merry go round, so I went past that and got to the first open bench by the grassy field.

    Oh, great, there was the Blob. Why did he come too? HE wasn't invited.

    It must have been Dad's day out because the field was filled with dads and their 5-10 year old sons and daughters, playing catch of various kinds. Dad #1 playing keep away with his two daughters, Dad #2 throwing a ball to his 4 year old son (who interestingly wanted to wear a long black cape and cowboy boots, hmmm). Dad #3 was trying to play with 3 kids at the same time who a) did not want to play with each other but b) each wanted to play with dad separately. Actually, only two kids wanted to play with Dad, the third kid wanted to sit on the bench and sulk. Dad went between sitting with third kid and then running back on to the field to throw a Frisbee with second kid and tackling first kid.

    It was beautiful to see these dads enjoying their kids, but bittersweet at the same time. Were they all divorced families enjoying their last 2 hours of their biweekly visit? Or were they just such wonderful dads that they wanted to give mom some "Me Time" and get everyone out in the sun? I'll never know.

    I had to fight back the Blob from sitting with me on the bench, and tried to just enjoy watching everyone interact. It was serene to watch - for about 5 minutes. The Blob just kept inching closer while I was trying whack it back with my water bottle.

    I had to go, and after about 0.25 miles I forgot about it and enjoyed the rest of the ride. I must have out-pedaled the Blob. I didn't see him again until tonight while tripping around the web. I ran across another blog and it reminded me of the incident this weekend.

    I whacked the Blob back in the closet this time. I think the Blob sightings are farther and farther apart. Is that a sign of forward progression?

    Saturday, January 3, 2009

    Resolutions for the New Year (2009)

    Of course, I have created some New Year's resolutions, and will post them here to be accountable to myself and to the unknown masses:

    * Be more Joyful - enjoy every day, take more time to relax and chill out, not take myself so seriously. Being happy is a much better state than being stressed, sad and frustrated (which was how I was for much of 2008).
    "Today is the day the Lord has made, rejoice and be glad in it!" Psalm 118:24

    * Reduce commitments that are not important to my life in the long run. I kept so busy last year to take my mind off myself, but it was the wrong kind of busy. I was spending time attending meetings of women's organizations or working late, and instead I should have been doing pursuits that I would have enjoyed more, such as working out or spending time with my close friends and husband.

    * As always, lose 25 lbs by April 15. This time I joined the "Biggest Loser" group at work so I have some accountability and a community to help me. I actually want to lose more, but will try to reach the first goal of 25 lbs and when I get there I'll set another goal.

    * And, to write more often (blogging, posting on the CNBC forum, etc.) to provide me with a way to vent off these emotions. Without some way to release these feelings, they build up inside and get released in unfortunate ways...usually by becoming sad, frustrated and stressed!

    Happy New Year!