Reblog: A Roadmap for Life Without Children, by Shelagh Little

This is a September 2009 guest post from the New York Times Motherlode blog, one that I find particularly poignant and well-written, and want to share. In the introduction, Lisa Belkin writes: “Once upon a time being childless was simply the mysterious hand dealt by nature. Now it is a decision to stop, because there is always one more something to try.”

A Roadmap for Life Without Children, by Shelagh Little.

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  1. This is something that has been on my mind lately. Frankly, it terrifies me. But it helps to read things written by people whom had made this choice and survived. Thank you for sharing.

    My favorite part, “Please be self-aware about when, to whom, how and especially how much you talk about your children. Just as it is not flattering to be openly bitter about infertility, nor is it becoming to be boastful about one’s parental pride.”

    • That was my favorite part, too. That and the simple “I’m sorry.”

    • Yeah, it terrifies me, too. I like the part you point out—but one commenter on the NYTimes website really tore her apart for those words (as you can probably imagine). Sigh.

  2. LH

     /  February 5, 2014

    Thank you for passing this along. There are many great insights here. They certainly ring a bell with me. If I weren’t “in the closet” about all this, I’d post it on facebook.

  3. So good. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I truly believe that I will end up child-less. It no longer scares me. I have walked away from conversations where people were incessantly talking about their kids. People are so self-centered that they don’t even notice. Sadly, the world just does not care when you can’t have kids. If you speak up, you just look bitter. It’s a no-win situation.

  5. AB

     /  February 5, 2014

    thanks for posting this. i’ve read it before, and appreciate SL’s sensitive and smart observations. we are on track to keep doing more, but, i also appreciate the ability to let myself imagine that i could stop, that we could let this one go..and that we’d be just fine.

  6. Thank you for sharing this, it was an eye-opening look at living child-free. I agree with Heidi, the prospect terrifies me, but I love the perspective.

  7. Great share: it’s a choice that needs a roadmap. I sent it to a friend who is picking up the post-treatment pieces right now.

  8. Shelagh Little

     /  March 22, 2014

    Hi Everyone – Shelagh Little here, out from behind the shadows!

    I don’t often peruse infertility blogs anymore, but happened to see my NYT piece referenced here. I am so glad that what I wrote in 2009 has been helpful.

    I want to say that, five years later, things are just so, so good. I want to offer my sincere encouragement to anyone still trying to have a baby, and also anyone who is facing a choice to be child-free after infertility. Just as wanting a child represents one’s most deeply held and profound hopes and dreams, there are other hopes and dreams in there waiting for you to pull them out. It’s so hard to see that when you’re still focused on having a baby, but please believe me, they are there! And the process of discovering them, and seeing things flower in your life that you never would have expected is just, well, too amazing for words.

    My new project is looking twenty and thirty years down the line (knock wood) and thinking about how a child-free couple builds a network of loved ones and supports to have a good quality of life in the golden years. This is not discussed a lot, and even though having kids is no guarantee that someone will take care of you, child-free people have to be that much more diligent about this kind of planning.

    My best thoughts and deepest empathy go out to everyone who is confronting infertility and its aftermath.

    • This is what I love about social media! I was so surprised and delighted to see your comment here. I did not expect it, and thank you heartily for participating in our reflections here. I was drawn into your NYT piece from word one and felt that I was encountering a kindred spirit.

      I love what you have to say about how difficult it is to see the larger journey of life and all of the unexpected hopes and dreams we can go on to have after we let go of the focus on baby. I love that you call it a flowering. Wow. That is powerful.

      Byron Katie (Loving What Is) says that when she doesn’t get what she wants, she knows that she has been spared, and provided the path that is, which is amazing. It’s her way of saying that the way things unfold is perfect, and all we need to do is accept the unfolding to live in that perfection. I don’t know if I could go that far, but the sentiment helps me—to know that what I am focused on right now is certainly not the only path to happiness and fulfillment.

      Right now, I am pregnant again, with donor egg—we transferred two. The scary weeks are just around the corner, betas, first ultrasounds, all of the milestones I have never made it far past, even, last time, with donor egg. So I am trying to just be and relax as much as possible.

      Again, thank you for chiming in. I’m so thrilled to hear that you have gone on to have what sounds like a beautiful life, and have gained a lot of wisdom along the way.

  9. Shelagh

     /  March 22, 2014

    I also wanted to offer this funny story…

    I work out with a bunch of women who don’t know of my infertility history. The other day, I said something after a tough workout like “Wow, that must be tougher than having a baby!” One of the women there who has had two kids said something like, “She who doesn’t know shouldn’t comment…” And I thought, how funny, she thinks I never wanted children and am flaunting my child-free status!


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