Thursday, March 26, 2015

Childless readers, I need some inspiration

Dear readers,
I know I’m late with this week’s post, but I’m coming up empty. Usually by the time I set fingers to keys on Wednesday morning, something has begun to form in my mind, but right now, Thursday evening, I’ve got nothing. I can tell you a few things:

1) It’s spring break here on the central Oregon coast, and the place is swarming with tourists, half of whom seem to be either babies, young children, or pregnant women. I mean, everywhere I look. It’s bumming me out. Most of the time, I don’t see that many kids or pregnant people because the population is so heavily slanted toward the over-60 crowd, but wow, they’re all over my world this week. Kids, parents, grandma and grandpas in my face every time I leave the house.

2) I seem to be doing a lot of caregiving lately. No, my dad is fine, but a good friend had heart surgery last week, so I’m back to sitting beside a hospital bed. Also, my elderly neighbor needed someone to sit with her husband, who is suffering some serious mental and physical problems after his heart surgery turned out badly, so I hung out at their house. And now, my dear dog has Kennel Cough/aka Bordatella. Every time she starts coughing, my heart stops. The drugs seem to be working, but all of my mom cells are engaged in taking care of her. And yes, she did get vaccinated.

3) The childless news is full of the usual stuff: somebody’s leaving their fortune to their pet monkey, the Pope says childless couples are selfish and sad, pollsters are predicting a lot more seniors living alone in the future because fewer people are having children. The childfree crowd is still claiming you don’t need children to be happy. And I keep getting comments from people who claim a spell caster has solved all their problems and now they’re happily married with children.

Help me out, you guys, send me some ideas. I might even accept a guest post or two. Let’s keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What if the man has had a vasectomy?

I keep receiving comments lately from women whose male partnerns have had vasectomies--surgery to prevent them from producing sperm. A vasectomy is intended to be permanent birth control. But people don't always see it as permanent. The guy can just have surgery to reverse it. Right?

It's not that simple, my friends. Here's why.

1) If a man has had a vasectomy, at some point he was sure enough that he didn't want any children--or any more--that he was willing to have surgery to make it permanent. That's pretty darned sure. Maybe, as in my husband Fred's situation, he had no idea that his first marriage would end and along would come a younger wife still wanting babies. In our case, we talked about having the surgery reversed, but Fred finally admitted he really didn't want to start over with another baby. If I had had older kids, it would have been okay with him, but he found the whole baby and toddler thing exhausting and didn't want to do it again when he was pushing 50. Your man may be younger and more interested in having children, but never forget that at some point, he was sure he didn't want to get anyone pregnant.

2) Reversal doesn't always work. The surgery to reverse the vasectomy is much more complicated than the original vasectomy surgery, and it's not always successful. There may be blockages or the man may have developed antibodies to his own sperm. The longer it has been since the vasectomy, the worse the odds. If it has been less than thee years, chances of getting pregnant are better than 50 percent, but after 10 years, only about 30 percent result in pregnancy.

3) It costs a lot of money, estimated $5,000-$15,000, and most insurance companies consider it an elective procedure which they don't cover.

I hate to bring more grief to people who are already suffering over the possibility of not having children, but we need to face reality. When you hook up with a man who has had a vasectomy, he is infertile and he may or may not be willing or able to change that. But that doesn't mean it's impossible. People do have the surgery and make babies. Talk to your doctors if you're thinking about it.

You can find more information about vasectomy reversals at these websites.
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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Where have all the grandmas gone?

Last Sunday, I had one singer in my church choir for the early Mass. Everyone else had gone out of town to be with grandchildren. Cathy and I, not mothers or grandmothers, stayed behind. This is not unusual. Most of our singers are over 60, and most of them are grandparents. Although they like to sing and are devoted to the church, when it’s a choice between the baby and the music, the baby wins every time.

I can’t blame them. If my life were different, if I had children and grandchildren, I’d want to be with them, too. I might live somewhere else to be near them, and I might not have this choir director job that keeps me busy every weekend. I’d be busy with the kids. Or maybe not. Some families don’t get along, don’t live close to each other, don’t find time to be in each other’s lives.

I definitely see the charm of these new little people and feel left out sometimes. Monday was my birthday. I spent it alone. It was not terrible. I drove out of town, did some shopping, had an expensive lunch overlooking the ocean, sat on the beach, and hiked in a wildlife preserve. I got lots of calls and texts wishing me Happy Birthday. But if there were children or grandchildren, maybe I’d have been one of those moms at the restaurant surrounded by their family. I’d be the matriarch looking at the ever-growing dynasty that began with me and my husband: the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, their spouses and their in-laws. Heck, maybe we’d need a whole banquet room. But then I wouldn’t have been able to sit on the beach, write, take pictures and relax. Or enjoy my crab-stuffed salmon in peace. So don’t feel sorry for me.

You who are reading this are probably younger than me, so things may be different when you’re in your 60s. A recent AARP article gave statistics for what they see as “the new grandmothers.” They say 47 is the average age of the first-time grandparent and 62 percent are still working. Those numbers are bound to change with the next generation as they did for the one before me. My mother and my grandmother quit working paid jobs in their early 20s when they got pregnant with their first children. Honestly, at my age they were a lot older. They’d never run off on their own like I did.

Today many women don’t get pregnant until their late 30s or early 40s, so they’ll be much older if/when the grandchildren come. A higher percentage will be still working. And at least a fifth, possibly a quarter, of today’s young women are not having children, so fewer of them will be running off to hang out with the grandkids. People without children will feel less left out because they’ll have plenty of company.

Cathy and I, the non-moms, rocked those songs at church. One of the fussiest people in our parish sent me a note saying the music was just beautiful on Sunday. So there.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Can you love a man with too many X chromosomes?

Have you ever heard of Klinefelter Syndrome? Neither had I until last week. It’s relevant here because men who have it are usually sterile.

Klinefelter occurs when a male baby is born with an extra X chromosome, sometimes more than one. Usually males have one X and one Y. Females have two X’s. That extra X wreaks havoc with the boy’s system. The sexual characteristics that usually come with puberty come late, if at all. They have small testicles, sometimes grow breasts, sometimes have higher voices and don’t grow facial hair. They may seem more feminine than other boys. There are other aspects of the syndrome, such as emotional and cognitive delays, personality problems, weak muscles and a tendency to develop osteoporosis and bad teeth. The symptoms can be treated to a certain extent with high doses of testosterone, but hormone treatment does not restore the ability to produce sperm.

I recently read a book called Living with My X, written by Stephen Malherbe, a South African man who has Klinefelter Syndrome. Well into his teens, he still looked and sounded like a little boy and didn't know why. After he got the diagnosis and was treated with testosterone, he grew to normal size and went through a late puberty, but his problems were not over. Malherbe has been married and has had many relationships with women. Most of those relationships failed, partly because he had trouble communicating and partly because sooner or later he had to tell the women he was infertile. The first woman he told was his fiancĂ©e a couple weeks before the wedding. He shouldn’t have waited that long, of course, but how do you say something like that? They went ahead with the wedding, but the marriage didn’t last long. Neither did his second marriage.

Most of the women he told about his problem said it was all right. They could adopt children. But sometimes they realized that wasn’t going to be enough. Sometimes his personality got to them. He was always leaping into new schemes, unable to sit still. He has also suffered a variety of physical problems stemming from his Klinefelter Syndrome. In later years, he has found someone to love, but Klinefelter continues to affect his life.

Klinefelter Syndrome and other genetic variations can manifest themselves in various ways. They do not always cause infertility, but KS usually does.

Here’s a shocker. Approximately one in 500 male babies is born with one or more extra X chromosomes. The degree to which it affects them varies. Some have no idea until they want to have children and discover they’re infertile. What if a woman falls in love with such a man? What if he can’t give you children but he’s the sweetest person you have ever met? What if you don’t find out until you’ve been married for a few years?

There are a lot of reasons people don’t have children. This is one most folks don’t know anything about. You can find more information at the Klinefelter Syndrome support site.

Have you ever known anyone with Klinefelter Syndrome? I’d love to hear your comments about this.