What’s This? Common Ground That Doesn’t Involve Motherhood Or Infertility

Resolving Infertility

I’ve been spending less and less time in the infertility blogosphere — and for all the right reasons. With my mind no longer preoccupied or dogged by tortured emotions associated with not being in the mommy club, the messiness of healing from infertility, or the rehab-like experience of reinvention and learning to live again, I am busy engaged in a full life.

It’s not that I’m not interested in what everyone has been writing (because there are certainly lots of provocative posts and followup thoughts, including this set of comments), it’s just that I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do — and that’s a first class problem. I also see this fullness as progress, harkening back to the time that predated my infertility struggles. Today feels familiar and reminiscent of the joie de vivre that once infused my life.

I am both amused and heartened to see that I’m not alone in feeling like I’m at a new stage of life. I read recently that Lisa Belkin, 53, who pioneered The New York Times Motherlode blog (and was kind enough to publish an essay I wrote about Mother’s Day years back) made the decision to leave her latest role as a senior columnist covering family life and parenting for The Huffington Post to join Yahoo News as a senior national correspondent. She explained: “I’ve aged out of parenting, so it’s time for someone else to go and cover that subject.”

KJ Dell’Antonia, today’s Motherlode editor, said it best: “Lisa heads off to a real new adventure–back to longer form reporting and showing us ourselves, and not just our parent-selves.”  KJ is also leading an expansion of Motherlode, complete with a new tag line: “Living the Family Dynamic” and inviting a new, more expansive approach.

That’s what we all are doing, as parents, as children, as aunts, uncles and siblings. ‘Dynamic’ is exactly the right word for our always active, ever-changing lives, and the family dynamic is, for many of us, the greatest driver of all that change.

Amen, sister. (You can read my two cents on the expanded blog scope. Feel free to share yours.)

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We’re all part of a family, but sometimes in answering filial obligations or in our single-minded efforts to grow our family we lose sight of the other attributes that make up who we are. Fact is, our friends, hobbies, talents, work, community and life experiences add up to make us multifaceted. We might get separated from the pack or stuck disproportionately on one facet as we move through different life stages but with some imagination and a broadening of our view our varied paths can join up again in new and different ways. Personally, I’m delighted to find my friends who are parents eager to focus on the non-motherhood aspects of their lives. Seems there are limits to how much mommy and child-rearing talk anyone can stomach.

I’m heartened, too, to see that as we move through different stages of life we have the ability to once again try on different roles, test the waters and reconnect with and build upon different parts of ourselves. For instance…

Last night I was out with friends listening to great live music. This morning I was working on a research project with a new client. Late this afternoon I was on the phone with Miriam Zoll brainstorming a new grassroots health education initiative. Tonight, I’m learning to cook up a new homemade marinara sauce with a friend who first came into our lives professionally but has since traveled the world and is now in the midst of remodeling a condo. She’s given us some creative new ideas for our home. Tomorrow, after some meetings, I’m scheduled to meet an AP photographer. This photo shoot resulted from an interview with an AP reporter collecting stories about those experiencing job flexibility due to the Affordable Care Act. I described how as an asthmatic (pre-existing condition, anyone?) I’m breathing easier since the ACA gave me the freedom to leave a job I stayed in longer than I wanted to due in large part to my employer’s health insurance plan. My departure opened up an opportunity for a new hire, and I’m growing a thriving small business practice. This entrepreneurial chapter eliminated a tedious commute and opened up more time in the yoga studio. I’m bendier than I’ve ever been.

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What new and exciting non-infertility, non-child-rearing activities are you involved in?

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17 thoughts on “What’s This? Common Ground That Doesn’t Involve Motherhood Or Infertility

  1. Cathy Broadwell

    Hi Pamela!

    This article came at a very timely moment for me. I just quit my job yesterday, for a multitude of reasons. One of them is that someone who works under me acted in a non-profressional manner using me as a scapegoat, and then my bosses asked me to clean up the mess. I thought … “I am not a BABYSITTER”. I don’t have time for this! And at 44, is this really what I want to be doing with my childfree life? Maybe not having children was what my life is about afterall. Maybe I can touch other’s lives without having to give birth to them. Or send them to college. Maybe I can send ME back to college to open new doors of opportunity for myself.

    After everything I’ve been through, I am considering physical therapy as my next career move. It’s a way that I can help many people, including the aging population. Also, one of my interests that has helped me grow emotionally and physically stronger during these years of being an infertility survivor, I’ve taken up pole dancing! It’s very empowering and healing I find. But I have sustained several injuries from it, thus the interest in physical therapy. I am quite ready for a new adventure. This is my life afterall, with or without children. How am I going to make an impact, and how am I going to find joy every day.

    I’m looking forward to the next chapter.
    Thanks again for being a shining beacon for all of us. I still often feel very alone in my everyday life dealing with the emotions surrounding infertility and childlessness, as no one wants to talk about it. They literally change the subject awkwardly if I even mention it. You always help me feel less alone. I can’t thank you enough for that.

    *hugs*
    Cathy

    1. Congratulations on a big move! Love all the ideas and interests you’ve outlined. Do keep us informed with what comes next, Cathy. Very proud of you!

      1. Cathy Broadwell

        Thanks, Pamela. The future is now!
        Also, I recently got LASIK surgery (two weeks ago, which was quite scary and I also had to muster up the courage for that too).
        Even since, I feel that I can see more clearly. The fog has at least somewhat lifted. Wallowing in pity has a time and a place. But for me, it’s not now. That was yesterday.

  2. Thank you for this, feel like this gives me the looking glass into my future one day.

  3. Fabulous article Pamela & I look forward to hearing how your life develops.
    For me not having children brings the gifts (and sometimes curses) of flexibility and freedom and I too have given up my career, simply because I could.
    I’m finally discovering who the authentic me is and the new skills I’ve learned have expanded my comfort zone massively. I love that I can explore my inner and outer world and can experiment with different things, especially new and exciting ways of being creative.
    As you know I use much of this to support childless women, and making a difference to others is a privilege.
    In the next week or so my activities include lunch with a group of women who don’t have children, country music festival (in London), singing with my choir at a sports event and planning a trip with friends to New York.
    Lesley x

    1. You’re doing important work, Lesley. Role models help us all see new possibilities. Keep discovering and sharing. Cheers!

  4. This post, in combination with Mali’s post and the comments there, strikes directly at the heart of the ongoing assumption that the only measure of a life fully lived is one that involves procreation. Yet I can easily think of many people who live full lives who do not parent and find even more examples of people who have procreated who are shadows of being human.

    There are many factors that are driving this. The obvious being that parenting is hard and recognition is important in order to guarantee raising the next generation. There’s also the financial aspect of all things baby (kinda like all things wedding) and the economic gains for businesses. But I also believe a lot of this also has to do with misdirected assumptions of what is worth celebrating and of value. That somehow, pregnancy and giving birth elevates one’s status in society while contributions like the ones you talked about are “lesser.”

    Thank you for posting about this. So much to think about in these regards and I hope it will lead to good discussions about enacting change.

  5. I was sitting here thinking that I had nothing new and exciting to announce. Then I remembered! (How could I forget?) I’m about to relaunch a travel business I started back when I was just coming to terms with having no kids. It started well, but was sadly neglected when at the same time I found myself very busy with more lucrative consulting work. I’m tidying up the website, and thinking further about pricing, and so should be launching soon. It may not give me the lifestyle I want, but hopefully will contribute to it.

    So watch this space!

  6. Like Mali, I’m sitting here thinking I have nothing really new or exciting going on in my life right now to talk about. But I AM on the cusp of some big life changes. My husband was downsized out of his job almost a year ago, so it’s been a period of adjustment for us. Happily, we still seem to be in a position that will allow me to retire early at 55, as we had hoped. I could always work longer if I want to, of course, but I am thinking that life is too short, & I will probably retire sooner vs later. We wont’ be rich, but we will be comfortable. (I can relate the tedious commute & the desire to spend more time in the yoga studio…!)

    So, theoretically, two years from right now, I could be retired (!) — and that’s something we never could have done, had we had children. Also in less than two years time, our oldest nephew & godson will be getting married — he proposed to his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day & they are looking at fall 2015. His younger brother likely won’t be too far behind. I will never be the mother of the bride (or groom), but aunt of the groom(s) has a nice ring to it. ;) It will be bittersweet, but it will also be FUN ;) and I am looking forward to helping my SIL get ready for the big day(s) however I can.

  7. By the way — interesting article in today’s Globe & Mail about fertility & the millenial/Gen-Yers coming up behind us, and what they can learn from our experiences. I thought it fit very well with the kinds of things you & other post-IF bloggers have been writing & speaking about:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/relationships/its-gen-ys-turn-to-face-the-baby-clock/article17478562/#dashboard/follows/

  8. dear Pamela,
    I am glad that you spend less and less time in the infertility blogosphere. That means that you are 100 % healed! I am really happy for you!
    I hope to be there in the next few years…
    Until then… I still have some blogging to do until I am healed.
    lots of love from sLOVEnia.

  9. This post makes me think of a recent Smithsonian article I read entitled “The End of …You”

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/what-moment-do-you-finally-become-yourself-180948001/

    The tag line is “At What Moment Do You Finally Become Yourself?” … The article goes on to explain that people think the present will be their future forever, and they forget how much they change/evolve/grow as time passes. Give it a read , it’s short! My favorite paragraph is the 3rd. Thanks for the post!

    1. Excellent article, Megan. Thanks for sharing. I’m familiar with the researcher behind his story. I wrote about his work once before: http://blog.silentsorority.com/if-you-think-youve-changed-just-wait/

  10. Great Piece Pam.

    Though my wife and I have yet to decide whether we will pursue adoption or continue to live childless outside of dealing with my MIL going through chemo there are a lot of positive things going on in my life. Since Christmas I’ve lost 20lbs and am as light as I was my freshman year in college. Last year because of depression I lost the motivation to exercise or avoid overeating. It’s taken a lot of hard work through self control of not overeating and exercising but my hard work has paid off.

    Another positive in my life is my career which has really taken off. I’ve been traveling more but it’s opened me to networking opportunities and learning experiences. My boss has shown a ton of confidence in me and for the first time in my professional career I feel that I’m working for a company I can see myself with long term.

    Most importantly my relationship with my wife is as good as it’s been in years (even before my infertility diagnosis). We’re communicating as good as we ever have and we are enjoying each other’s company.

    I don’t know what the future holds for us and whether these positive vibes will continue but I’m going to enjoy the moment and not worry about what the future may end up being.

    1. Well done, Greg! Good to hear about all positive changes. Alex and I are meeting next week with a researcher who is looking into infertility’s impact on relationships. You and your wife sound like great candidates. Will ping you after I learn more about his work.

  11. Jen

    Hi Pamela,
    It’s been a while since I’ve visited your blog (good time to catch up) and similarly, I’ve been M.I.A. from the infertility blogosphere lately. I still contact others through the fantastic Gateway Women resources, however I’ve been very pre-occupied with life as it stands now. And while it took a while to get to the ‘present day’ version of myself, it’s a wonderful thing to be so aware of all the great parts of my life that were on hold for so long. I can appreciate so much more these days, and the impact of the ‘non-family’ status just doesn’t get to me the way like it used to. It’s losing it’s power over me. I know this came about because I wanted it to… so badly. I wanted my relationship to be okay (and now it is), and I wanted to devote real time to my own interests (and now I am). So while there’s lots of hard work going on and I’m always busy (who isn’t?!), it is gradually leading somewhere that I actually want it to.

    1. So glad, Jen, that you’re in such a good place! Isn’t Gateway Women terrific? Jody Day has done a fabulous job building a welcoming and inspiring community of women.

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