Sunday, January 20, 2019


Another year older..! I recently celebrated my (gulp) 58th birthday. Kind of daunting. I don't FEEL 58 (except maybe sometimes in my knees...), and I hope I don't look it -- although I have definitely noticed more grey hair showing up lately. But, as my grandma used to say (& as I'm sure I've written here before), "It's better than the alternative...!"

Even before my birthday, I was thinking a lot about the subject of getting older, and specifically without children. There was that post from Cup of Jo that I flagged in an earlier post, about choosing not to have children, and all the young women in the comments section wondering what life as an older childless/free woman might be like -- seeking reassurance that things would be OK if they didn't have children.  There was Jody Day's social media comments on aging:
I'll be 55 next year and it really feels like a huge milestone - the beginning of my transition towards my 'young elderhood'. I'm excited by the idea of what an older, childless woman's life can be like - because as with my trip through being a middle-aged childless woman, I've found there's very little guidance or inspiring role models out there and so I'm going into unchartered territory - again!  
It IS unchartered territory -- not because we're the first women ever to head into our senior years without children (we're certainly not), but because we're the first writing about it, analyzing it and connecting to other childless/free women via the Internet.  All of us are fumbling our way down these roads less travelled (although it's great that we've been running into more and more fellow travellers along the way lately!).  (If I HAD to lose a baby, go through infertility & wind up childless not by choice, how fortunate I feel that it happened right at the same time that the Internet began taking off, bringing me support from wonderful online friends every step along the way! -- a comfort that previous generations of women never had.) 

One things I've observed (& written about before):  so often, those of us who wind up without children feel like we have to do something fabulous with our lives as "compensation."  On that front, I suppose, I have failed miserably.  ;)  I haven't travelled the world (yet?!), or worked with starving children in Africa, or found a cure for cancer.


I've watched my two nephews grow up to be fine young men, and dh & I have tried to support and encourage them along the way as best we can. We've helped to pay for their educations. We've been to their weddings, and provided generous wedding & housewarming gifts. We hope to spoil their babies someday (sooner vs later!). We spent 10 years supporting other bereaved parents through our support group facilitation work. I've managed to retire, early, and put the corporate rat race behind me. I've stayed married to my husband for almost 34 years now. I've stayed connected to my family. I've extended my family tree, not by birthing babies but through my genealogy research, by connecting the people here and now with the people and stories from the past.

That's something.

Do I regret that I'm not a mother? Of course I do. 

But is it possible to have a good life without children?  Of course it is.

If there's one thing I've learned over these past 20 years, it's that life is what you make of it.  You don't always get to choose what happens to you, but you DO get to choose how you deal with it.

When I lost my daughter -- and then realized I would not be having any other children -- I eventually realized that I had a choice.  Did I want my daughter's brief existence to destroy the rest of mine? Or did I want to honour her life by living the best life I could -- even if it wasn't the one I originally had in mind? (Being childless may not have been a true "choice," but what I did with my childless life most certainly was.) If there's a life beyond this earthly one, I want her to look at me and be proud to call me her mother.

No, it hasn't been the life I planned... but it's MINE. It hasn't always been easy (whose life is?) -- but, on balance, it's a pretty good life.  I may not have the children I wanted -- but I have a pretty great husband. ;)  I got to retire at 55, with a pretty fair severance package, a defined benefit pension (an increasing rarity these days) and some benefits. I have a lovely mortgage-free condo full of books and music and other nice things, with a great view of both sunsets and sunrises, and no snow to shovel or grass to mow. I have a wonderful family.

Seriously, I am a lucky girl (and I still often feel like a girl), and I know it.

*** *** ***

Related notes:

This article was published in the New York Times, appropriately, on my birthday. :) It's by Mary Pipher, about older women and happiness (and thank you to Sarah at Infertility Honesty for bringing it to my attention!).  Pipher writes about being in her 70s, but there was still a lot I here I could relate to.  Sample excerpts:
Gratitude is not a virtue but a survival skill, and our capacity for it grows with our suffering. That is why it is the least privileged, not the most, who excel in appreciating the smallest of offerings... 
Our happiness is built by attitude and intention. Attitude is not everything, but it’s almost everything...  
We may not have control, but we have choices. With intention and focused attention, we can always find a forward path. We discover what we are looking for. If we look for evidence of love in the universe, we will find it. If we seek beauty, it will spill into our lives any moment we wish. If we search for events to appreciate, we discover them to be abundant.
I wasn't the only one who found Pipher's article relatable. ;)  Pamela immediately grasped the specific parallels between the life Pipher describes and our lives without children, and transformed the piece into one of her brilliant word swap blog posts.  Please read!

Finally, Cathy used her final post at Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs to recount five things her infertility journey has taught her.  It's a great post. :)  Go over, read, and thank her and Eric for their insights over the past few years. 


  1. Happy happy birthday! This is such a powerful post. I love this: "If there's one thing I've learned over these past 20 years, it's that life is what you make of it. You don't always get to choose what happens to you, but you DO get to choose how you deal with it." YES. and what Pipher said about choices. It is lovely to have this community to help navigate the childfree not by choice existence. I appreciate you so much for that! And you are a lucky girl, what a wonderful life. I loved what you said about not losing your life as well as Katie's... Such a hard thought, but a good one.

  2. Happy birthday dear Loribeth! I love your post and how you see your life today :)
    Thank you also for sharing the links!

  3. Happy Birthday! I hope you always feel lucky - and I can identify with still feeling like a girl (as I approach that weird half-century mark).

  4. I know I wished you happy birthday elsewhere, but what a post to celebrate another year on the planet. Brava!

    I definitely think you have honoured Katie by living your life so well. This idea of the compensation, as you put it, or the Next Big Thing, as I call it, is so much rubbish. As you say, you can have such an impact on the world by being kind, by helping others. And how many people volunteer to help others for so many years? The good you have done will have rippled out into the world. Whilst you can't point directly to it, you know it's there.

    And yes to the whole "gratitude is ... a survival skill."

    Finally, another YES! to the gratitude that we have been through what we have been through at a time when we could get internet support. Oh, how that helps! I'm so glad you're here and still writing.

  5. Gratitude as a survival skill--I like it!

    Happy belated birthday Loribeth!! I just spent time this afternoon getting caught up on your blog, and now I learn that your birthday was Sunday. How perfect. :)

    It is definitely possible to have a good life without children. I've learned that from reading your blog and others' blogs and I've learned that from my own experience.

    Thank you for your blog. <3 Wishing you another wonderful year of good times, good food, and good books!