The Unexpected Gift of Sharing Our Stories

Today I have a guest post for you by Kathleen Guthrie Woods who  is a long time member of the childless community & you may have come across if you follow Life Without Baby. She’s also the author of ‘The Mother of All Dilemmas: Dreams of Motherhood and the Internship That Changed Everything’ which has recently been published. In addition to writing for us, I’m really pleased to be able to offer a book giveaway, you can read how to enter at the end of this post. 

And now over to Kathleen.

Telling our stories, sharing our truths about being childless-not-by-choice, is scary. Even now, years into my journey of making peace with my status, whenever I’m asked “Do you have kids?”, I feel my jaw and stomach clench as I anticipate the reactions I’ll get to my answer. Four out of five times, the person I’m talking with will judge and try to fix me, and I feel my courage and manners are being tested.

But I’ve also learned to recognize the silver lining of opening up. Let me give you an example.

Several years ago, at a business networking event, I gritted my teeth while an older woman, after hearing my elevator speech about my writing, jumped in with “Why don’t you just adopt?” and “My friend’s daughter had a miracle baby when she was 53!” and “Maybe you didn’t really want to be a mother badly enough.” I sensed this wasn’t a teachable moment, so I said something like, “Thanks, but not really appropriate for me, and—hey—I need to refresh my drink!”

While I waited in line at the bar (Breathe, Kath, breathe…), I was approached by a young woman. “I’m sorry to bother you, but I overheard you talking and…” and this is when she whispered, “…that’s my story.” She then confided in me that she had very recently had a second miscarriage. I led her to a quieter room and listened as she told me her story, one that I was familiar with, as I’d heard similar stories from readers of my columns for the website Life Without Baby. The longing, the hoping, the heartbreak, the shame, the grief, and the isolation. I was humbled that she had identified me as someone she could open up to, and I was incredibly grateful that I could pass along a gift that had been given to me in darker days. “You are not alone,” I said to her.

“You are not alone” are four of the sweetest words I know. I think back to the days when I felt like the world was shutting me out, when I felt like a loser and a freak, the last of the single and childless women. By chance I connected with Lisa Manterfield during this period. As we became acquainted, we learned we were both on a journey of pursuing motherhood, and when Lisa founded Life Without Baby, I joined as a regular columnist.

Honestly, when I drafted my first blog post, I figured I was writing for an audience of two: Lisa and me. Although I was nervous as heck when I started publicly sharing my story, I figured I was writing my way through and to my own decision-making and healing, which was true. And then, as I opened up my heart, something amazing happened: other women opened their hearts to me, shared their experiences and hard-won wisdom, and offered me their support. Unexpectedly, I was on the receiving end of unconditional compassion from women I could relate to and who could, it seemed, read my thoughts and finish my sentences. Every time I read “That’s exactly how I feel!” in a comment, I wanted to cry with relief.

I learned that I was not a one-in-a-billion freak, but actually part of the nearly 20% of women who would not have children. Across oceans and time zones, we encouraged and supported each other. We said “I’m so sorry for your loss,” and we helped each other heal and move on with our lives.

Lesley and I have talked about how when we make ourselves vulnerable through telling our stories, we open the door for other people to be vulnerable with us, and everyone grows. What a tremendous gift! She offers a beautiful opportunity for all of us to do this through her Inspirational Stories. I hope you’ll read the stories that have been posted, and I hope you’ll consider sharing your answers to the questions as well.

Please take to heart that we are part of an international sisterhood of phenomenal woman. We are courageous. We are generous with our kindness and compassion. Today you might need to hear “You are not alone,” then one day, I trust, you will be in a position to offer this message to another woman in need.

More about Kathleen

Kathleen Guthrie Woods wrote the “It Got Me Thinking…” and “Our Stories” columns for Life Without Baby, and she co-authored Life Without Baby: Holiday Companion with Lisa Manterfield. The Mother of All Dilemmas, her memoir with a message, is available in Kindle ebook and paperback on Amazon.

And The Mother Of All Dilemmas

“You really should have kids.” Hurtling toward 40—and still single and longing for children of her own—Kathleen doesn’t need to be reminded that time is running out for her to turn her dreams for a family into reality. So she starts to consider a Plan B: becoming a single parent. But can she do it all on her own? And does she really want to? If only I could try it out, she thinks. For wouldn’t an internship as a single mommy help her make major life decisions? And then….

In an open, thoughtful, and sometimes hilarious memoir, Kathleen shares what she learns while caring for her 15-month-old nephew, Jake, while his parents travel. With Jake, she experiences the realities of single parenthood, including a taste of the loving affection she craves, fierce tantrums that test her best aunting skills, moments of bliss amidst exploding poopy diapers and ongoing sleep deprivation, and ah-hahs that have her questioning whether she has wasted her life.

And that’s just the start of her journey. Back at home, she unpacks and examines the societal baggage that led her to believe a woman’s only true value is as a mother. Empowered by her experience, research, and introspection, she learns to embrace the different paths women choose, including the one she ultimately chooses for herself.

“This book…offers information and solace to a great many single, childless women struggling to move forward either with pursuing the hope of solo parenthood or making peace with not doing so. This is the first time I’ve seen the dilemma of whether to have a baby, or not, as a single woman so well-articulated, and Guthrie Woods has done future generations of women facing this difficult choice a great service with her painstaking honesty and emotional generosity.” —Jody Day, psychotherapist, author of Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children, and founder of Gateway Women

“Kathleen Guthrie Woods takes readers on a journey of hope, determination, and resilience, ultimately to discover what matters most. If you’ve ever heard the phrase ‘You should have a baby,’ you should definitely read this book.” —Melanie Notkin, founder, SAVVY AUNTIE®, and author of Otherhood: Modern Women Finding a New Kind of Happiness.

And my thoughts …  being completely honest, I haven’t read the whole book yet, but I have read a number of chapters & completely agree that it is ‘open, thoughtful, and sometimes hilarious’ & is a welcome addition to the selection of books on living the childless life.

And you can win a copy

Kathleen has kindly offered 2 copies of The Mother of All Dilemmas to readers of this blog; she will post a paperback to one winner in the USA & gift a Kindle version to a winner who lives outside the USA

To enter, please leave a comment below, in your comment please state whether you’re in the USA or not & on 12th August I’ll randomly choose 2 winners.

You can read more about the book here (USA), or here (UK)

You can read book reviews and interviews I’ve done here.
And you can order your copy of Finding Joy Beyond Childlessness on  Amazon UK  and Amazon USA

3 thoughts on “The Unexpected Gift of Sharing Our Stories”

  1. Dear Lesley
    Thank you for sharing this and wow, Kathleen’s book sounds just brilliant particularly as i too am a single childless not by choice woman. I tried the solo route to motherhood but sadly after 11 years of iui/ivf failure or miscarriage, i disembarked the rollercoaster in 2019 at the age of 52 heartbroken and completely broken on every level. My plan B is still far from clear but there are more pools of sunlight on my path now. I am curious to learn what she chooses. I’m from the UK

    Reply
  2. Lesley and Kathleen,
    Thank you both for sharing your stories and for creating a space for others to share and be heard. It’s so important—and rare—in our community. I particularly love this line: “When we make ourselves vulnerable through telling our stories, we open the door for other people to be vulnerable with us, and everyone grows.” It’s so true.
    (P.S. I already own a copy of this extraordinary book, but I hope someone who really needs to hear Kathleen’s story wins a copy. -x-)

    Reply
  3. Thank you for sharing your story.i M in uk childless by circumstances. Hope I get enter in the prize.thank for all you both do

    Reply

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