Thursday, July 31, 2014

Can a magic spell end your childless woes?

My life was a disaster. My husband didn’t love me. He would not give me children. I was unable to conceive. We were headed for divorce. And then I met Dr. X, a spellcaster. In no time, our problems were solved. Now we have a happy loving family with three children, and I owe it all to Dr. X.

Crazy? Perhaps. But I get one or more of these comments almost every day. You don’t see them because I mark them as spam and get rid of them. They are spam, right? Usually the grammar errors and unnatural language give them away as not having been written by real people. But some of these comments sound so logical that I’m tempted to publish them. What if they were real?

If somebody offered you a magic spell that would solve your problems with your partner and enable you to have all the children you wanted, wouldn’t you try it? Don’t we all wish someone would wave a magic wand and take all of our troubles away?

When I was still fertile, there were times I hoped to become magically pregnant, despite birth control and reluctant husbands, but it didn't happen. The Virgin Mary is the only one who got pregnant without sperm meeting egg. As a Christian, the closest I can get is asking God for a miracle. Is that the same thing? I can hear God up in heaven echoing what my mother used to say: “I don’t do miracles on demand. Figure it out yourself.”

The truth is, we have to work out our own lives. Instead of a magic spell, we have to do the work to make our dreams come true. Sometimes that means making the difficult decision to leave someone we love. Sometimes it means staying with that person even if we disagree on important issues, like children, and loving them anyway. Sometimes it means talking out a resolution, even though the hardest thing in the world is talking about it. And sometimes it means looking around and realizing that you are surrounded by wonderful children you can love, even though you didn’t give birth to them and even though it hurts sometimes.

If only someone could cast a magic spell and fix all our problems. Do you believe it’s possible? What would you ask for if you could? And what miracles can you work all by yourself?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

You love him, but can you love his family, too?

When you marry someone, you marry their family. You marry their demanding mother, their goofy father, their sister who has “issues,” their aged grandparents, their rich Uncle Jack and all the in-laws and outlaws connected to them. If they have been married before, you also marry their kids and their ex. Maybe you only want this man or this woman, but you get the others, too.

Sometimes it’s a blessing. Maybe your own family isn’t so great and you can’t wait to jump into a new family. Sometimes it’s the other way around.

I’ve been lucky. I was married twice, and both sets of in-laws were pretty great. Not perfect, but good-hearted, sober and crime-free. No kids were involved with the first marriage; we were still kids ourselves. But when I hooked up with Fred, I became stepmother to two sons and a daughter and co-parent with their mother. For the most part, we all got along. We’ve had our quirks and disconnects over the years. We’ve fought, we’ve cried, and we’ve held each other in hard times. It is not easy melding into someone’s established family, but I love those kids and wish I saw them more often, and I consider their mom a friend.

Widowed now, I wonder about getting married again and think I just don’t have the energy to fit into another man’s family. His parents and grandparents might not be alive anymore, but there will probably be siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws, plus children and grandchildren who will not be interested in having another mom or grandma. There’s no way I could catch up all the years I wasn’t in their lives. There are other issues. A man my age will also have property and financial matters to deal with, and his interests may be totally different from mine. It’s too late to grow together or to share a lifetime of memories. So I’m thinking I’ll do like my grandmother and great-grandmother and declare my late husband the last husband.

What has brought all this to mind? For the first time in 30 years, somebody asked me out. I had my first date yesterday with someone other than Fred. We went to lunch. He’s nice and he claims to really like me, but there were no sparks. Will I see him again? Maybe, but just as a friend.

What has all this got to do with you and childlessness? A lot of readers here are either married or considering getting married to people who already have kids. Quite a few are thinking about leaving childless marriages in the hope of having children with someone else. I think you should do whatever feels right. I never hesitated for a minute about taking on Fred’s children and family. In fact, I often thanked my husband for giving me this family.

All I’m saying is when you take on a spouse, you take on his or her baggage. Sometimes those bags can be damned heavy.

What about you? What are your experiences merging into your loved one’s family, with or without children? Blessing or disaster? I’d love to know. Please share in the comments.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Over-40 wisdom for childless women

Today I'm yielding my platform to Jody Day of Gateway Women who on her 50th birthday has published a marvelous post titled "Things I Wish I'd Known at 40." She offers the truth about fertility, menopause, grief, relationships, society's views of childless women, and the joys of life beyond the childless dream.

Lines I love in this post include:
"Freed from chasing the dream (and fantasy) of motherhood, you begin to realise old dreams and create new ones."

"The life you're going to create instead of motherhood is going to be richer and more fulfilling than you can yet imagine, and in ways you cannot yet imagine." 

Jody Day, founder of Gateway Women, is also the author of Rocking the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfiling Life Without Children, a great book about dealing with childlessness.

I can think of a lot of things I wish I had known when I was 40. Foremost would be realizing how short and precious life is and how important it is not to waste any of it moping about things that aren't going to change.

What about you? If you're past 40, what do you wish you had known before? What advice would you give to our younger readers. I welcome your comments.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Should she stand by her man who doesn't want kids?

 What is this, 1914?

 A reader asked me that the other day after I advised a childless woman to stick with the man she had rather than get divorced in her 40s in the hope of finding another guy with whom she could have children. I tried to explain that at her age, the odds of finding another Mr. Right and getting pregnant were lousy. She was not happy with my advice. 

I flip-flopped with the next commenter, who was in her early 30s. I told her to go for it.

 Today, I received a comment from a woman whose fiance of 13 years just told her he has decided he doesn't want kids. I told her to keep talking.

Nearly every day, I receive comments from people, mostly women, who don’t know what to do. Their mate is unable or unwilling to have children with them. They may have said they would be happy to have babies before, but now they don’t want to. Often there are stepchildren who make things more complicated. The couple either fights about it all the time or they can’t talk about it. What should they do?

Dear God, I wish I knew.

My friends, I am not the goddess of all wisdom. I wish I could solve your problems, but I’m human. My views are necessarily tainted by my own experiences and by the fact that I’m Catholic, white and was raised in California by traditional parents of western European heritage in the 1950s and ‘60s. I’m also very practical. I don’t believe in diving out of a boat where you might be unhappy but at least you won’t drown in the hope that another, more beautiful boat will happen along. I also believe that most of us are lucky to meet one perfect life partner in a lifetime. If this is old-fashioned, so be it.

When I was a kid, back in the pre-birth control days, couples who were unable to have children stuck together. Often they adopted, but not always. People who simply didn’t want children either didn’t get married or they sucked it up and had them anyway because if you were having sex it was a lot harder to avoid. It was also more difficult to get a divorce. Things seemed simpler. You fell in love, you got married, and you had babies. Were some people brutally unhappy, feeling totally trapped? I’m sure they were.

But it is not 1914 or even 1954. It’s a new century in which nearly anything is possible. With so many choices, it’s hard to know what to do. I need your help. Feel free to respond to comments at any of the posts here with your own advice and experiences. Together we’ll figure it out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Teaching My Baby Dog to Swim at Beaver Creek

I might have sounded like a crazy person at the beach yesterday. The weather was perfect. I decided to take an afternoon off and help my dog Annie learn to swim. At Ona Beach, just a little south of where I live on the Oregon Coast, Beaver Creek ends in a wide, relatively shallow finger of water that runs into the ocean. To get to the beach, you have to walk a long trail from the parking lot through the picnic area and a bit of woodland. Then you cross a small wooden bridge and finally hit sand.

I talked to Annie all the way along. I usually do. In between discussing my life with her and giving commands—No! Off! Don’t eat that! This way!—I found myself teaching her. “This is where we had that picnic. That’s Salal. Those people are from New Mexico. That’s called a velella velella (blobby creatures on the sand that looked like yellow Jell-O).

And then we got to the water. Annie’s a little nuts, so I don’t dare let her off the leash. If she swims, I swim. Annie splashed into a shallow area that isn’t deep enough for swimming and flattened herself in among the rocks. I urged her up and led her to deeper water. She got anxious and pulled me back out. Standing on the shore, I pointed out tiny fish swimming along the edge of the water. She was busy with a smell in the weeds. Eventually I lured her back into the creek and started toward the deep part.

The cool water rose up my shorts, but I didn’t care how wet I got. I was busy shouting encouragement. “Come on, girl. You can do it. Just a little more.” As her paws left the ground and she started to dog-paddle, I was screaming, “Oh, look! You’re swimming! Look at you! I knew you could do it!”

A family nearby watched us. “She’s swimming!” I called. Soon everyone within earshot was watching. Some teenagers came down close. I know it’s not that big a deal. Most dogs can swim. The human kids were having a good time in the water already. But this was Annie, and I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time. Our weather is usually too cold, and I’m usually so busy I don’t get to beach nearly as much as I’d like to.

Annie clambered out, shook water and sand on everyone, and accepted some petting from her admirers. Then she led me on a long walk across the sand. I felt wonderful, young, alive, and happy. I did not miss having human children or even a husband—Fred didn’t like the beach much anyway. Too sandy.

Walking back across the bridge, I got into a conversation with a woman from Los Angeles who was hunting for agates. “I guess the dog needs her walk,” she said.

“Oh yes,” I replied. “And so does her mom.” It didn’t seem the least bit weird.

Dear friends, I’d love to have children and maybe you would, too, but life without them doesn’t have to be all grief and regrets. I would love it if you would share some of your happy childless experiences here in the comments.