When I was struggling to come to terms with childlessness and couldn’t see a way out THE most helpful thing would have been to see examples of women who had ‘made it through.’
You can find lists of childless women but you won’t find HOW they came to terms and WHAT they did.
So welcome to the second in my series of blogs to do just that.
You will be able to read about HOW it’s possible to come out the other side and I know you’ll get ideas as to WHAT you could do to lead a positive life.
If you haven’t come across Karen already, you should seek her out. She describes herself as the ‘Founding Voice and Executive Editor of TheNotMom.com’ which is a truly inspirational website for women who are not mothers by choice and by chance.
She writes some great articles on a wide range of relevant topics and, having had a couple of conversations on Skype I feel I know her and I certainly agree with her six word memoir!
I’m so pleased at how open and honest Karen has been with her story, and what’s also interesting is how different it is to Pamela’s. What I find really powerful is how she healed, and her story demonstrates so well how having an ‘event’ to mark the ending both of your dreams of motherhood and also of your grieving is a really helpful step. I know you’ll find Karen’s story really interesting.
So over to Karen,
Where are you on your journey now?
I am appallingly in a two-year countdown to my 60th birthday, but happily close to my 21st wedding anniversary, which is a very big deal to me, considering that my mother and grandmother were each married three times. My husband is very supportive of me, and my website, and the childless and childfree women who share their stories with me.
I started TheNotMom.com on Tumblr in 2011. I expanded and re-launched it the following year with a more broad American focus and global scope. Its distinction is an embrace of women who are not mothers by choice and by chance. In 2012, I won a $5,000 prize in a local business development competition and spoke about overlooked online audiences at BlogHer ’12. Since then, I’ve made great contacts (like Lesley) across America and around the world. I look forward to the day TheNotMom becomes my full-time and only occupation.
What’s your story?
As an only child, I dreamed of one day having a huge family. Cheaper by the Dozen was one of my favorite movies; The Waltons and Eight Is Enough were among my favorite TV shows. I learned that I was the result of an unplanned pregnancy when my mother was in college. My father was not the man she’d hoped to marry. She married my dad, and she loved me, but my existence meant she’d never have the life she’d dreamed of.
Soon after college, I became pregnant by the man I thought was the love of my life. When I told him, he asked me whose baby it was. Our relationship didn’t last long after that, and I had an abortion. In the late ‘80s, I married a man 12 years older than me with a grown daughter from a previous marriage. She had a two-year-old, making me a stepmother and step-grandmother before I ever gave birth myself. I divorced him after four years, with no regrets.
I remarried and hoped to have a child, but when my period arrived each month, I realized that a part of me was relieved. The older you get, the more you understand the sacrifices that motherhood requires. At 44, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and my gynecologist told me that my chances of a successful pregnancy were very low. The news sent me into a horrible depression that lasted for years. What had been ambivalence about having a child turned into an overwhelming sadness that had me leaving baby showers early and crying at the sight of a pregnant woman’s belly. I wondered if I’d ever overcome the grief.
The Internet was young then: “social” meant “chat rooms”, and the only ones I could find for childless women focused on infertility, IVF and miscarriage, and I didn’t fit in any of them. At my workplace and in my community, women without kids were hard to find.
What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
In 2001, I was one of 10 women invited to spend an entire Saturday sharing their stories at a pregnancy loss retreat. Most were like me, childless by chance, or happenstance. We each had different reasons why adoption, or surrogacy, or whatever, wasn’t tried. One woman was actually the mother of two, but she couldn’t get past an abortion in the ’80s. Another woman had delivered a stillborn baby, the result of her only pregnancy.
It was clear that we were each part of the walking wounded. We looked just fine on the outside. On the inside? Better not to look. The depth of sharing that weekend was rare indeed. Not one of us was accustomed to talking about the only subject guaranteed to spark unwelcome tears. What we knew how to do was self-preserving: Keep quiet about your truths, and your sadness. Put your big-girl panties on and get lost in the world’s busyness.
For me, the retreat’s most powerful session featured solitary walks through an outdoor labyrinth. As each woman began her walk, a gong rang as she spoke the name of her unborn child. (Not one woman had to think hard about it: every of us knew exactly what we would have named our child.) At the center of the maze, each woman left a farewell gift to her unborn child on the grass. (Mine was dolls of Mickey Mouse and Pooh I’d bought in DisneyLand in 1982 and carefully tucked away for the baby “destined” to come.) Then, we each walked out of the labyrinth empty-handed.
Driving home, I knew that I had achieved the closure I’d hoped for. Soon after, an astrologer told me that in this life I am a mother to many, but in non-traditional ways. I believed her then, and now.
What advice would you give to women who are not as far down the road as you are?
Through my website I’ve learned that every woman without children – those who chose this life and those who didn’t – is eager to know that she is not the only one in that situation. That would be my Number one message: I’m OK, you’re OK, and you are not alone.
What brings you joy/what’s your passion?
Writing has always been my passion, since I was a young girl. It makes me very, very happy to use my talents to offer an online resource for women like me. I have several books in development about NotMoms, social media, and my mother’s story. When anti-abortion advocates ask, “Where would you be if your mother had had an abortion?” I know that she might have had a chance at a better life.
What’s your 6-word memoir?
Smart, creative, funny woman exudes gratitude.
I’ve had a lengthy career directing and designing public relations, marketing and crisis management strategy for print, television, health care and philanthropic organizations in Washington, D.C., Detroit, Michigan and my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. In 2000, I quit my job to become self-employed, and through ODYSSEY Creative Communications, I counsel businesses and individuals and provide educational presentations on social media and contemporary digital tools.
In 2011, I attended South by Southwest Interactive, a five-day annual conference and incubator for cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity. I mentioned that it was hard to find myself online: women over 50 who aren’t empty-nesters, grandmothers or struggling with teenaged kids. The encouragement I received there led me to research the one in five women in the US and developed nations around the world who will never have children.
You can find Karen at http://thenotmom.com/
Did Karen’s story resonate with you? Are your experiences similar? If so please share your thoughts at the bottom
Interested in writing?
To recap, I believe it will really help those who are struggling to see what’s possible in their life. The purpose is:
• To show that it’s possible to have a positive life,
• To explain what’s positive about being childless and
• To explore what helped healing & how to make it happen.
If you’re interested in writing this is how it works.
I’ll post your story in your real name or any other that you chose to give me. If you have a website or blog I’d be happy to link to it so I’ll need the details and a short bio.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6.
I may do some minor editing to fit with the style of my website and keep to an average length. I will retain your words as far as possible. When I post it I’ll let you know.
I’ll need a bit of personal information please and I assure you that it will remain strictly confidential.
Blogs are so much more readable when they include photos. If you’d like me to include a photo of you and/or anything else relevant to your story, I’ll be happy to do so.
If you’d like to be included please contact me.
Over to you
If you’re wondering how to find your positive life I’d love to help you. You can book a complimentary session via my online diary or leave a message on my contact page and we can spend 20 to 30 minutes to get clarity on how we can work together to create a life you love.
And if you leave your email at the top of the page you’ll be the first to hear about more articles like this and, as a bonus you’ll get the e-book.
Please use the buttons at the bottom to share.