Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Birth" Announcement

For years I have wrestled with a personal struggle that my closest friends and family were all too aware of but didn’t know quite how to help. They all watched as I put my body and mind through the wringer in an effort make my dreams a reality. I tried everything; different positions, consultations with specialists in the field of medicine, meditation, exercise, yet nothing happened. People often told me to relax, that I was trying too hard, that I was too uptight, that nothing would happen if I didn’t just chill, but these words fell on deaf ears. How can they possibly give me advice, they have no idea what I was going through. Time marched on and people around me were making their big announcements and it didn’t seem fair, why were they so lucky? What were they doing that I wasn’t? With my self-confidence shredded I thought about giving up, maybe it was not in the cards for me, maybe I wasn’t good enough, or deserving enough. It took nearly two years of hard work, sacrifice, struggle, heartache, and sometimes tears but here I am, about to tell the world (or a small cross-section of it) my big news.

On Friday morning I received word that I was promoted at work. Without going into too many details this is a personal victory of monumental proportions, one that many agree is long overdue making. Moving mountains might be easier than getting a promotion in my organization and I had actually considered leaving the company for a year to come back in at a higher position; a very successful method that many colleagues use to get ahead. But alas the bittersweet moment came and I am trying to savor sweet happiness rather then wallow in the bitterness that it took so long. Ironically I received my big announcement about 30 minutes after hearing the family news that my cousin was in the hospital about to give birth. My family eagerly awaited the arrival of the newest family addition and I am not naïve to think that anyone would find my news that exciting given the circumstances. So I told a couple of coworkers, a friend, my mother, and my husband. My mother’s excitement actually surprised me given the impending arrival would make her a Great Grand Aunt. I didn’t want to push my luck by telling my sisters who for all intensive purposes were about to become Aunts to a cousin who is like a sister; someone would have their thunder stolen, and that person would be me.

Through the years I have spoken with other childfree women who struggle with how to share their own “big news.” Pregnant women broadcast their news from the hilltops, expecting all around to be happy and joyous. People expect women to have children and many childfree woman are pressured into changing their minds and making the announcement that all their friends and family really want to hear; any other update is secondary. Unfortunately other life successes are discounted because people place such emphasis on women as child bearers. The role of mother is an important one (one I argue that far too many people do not take seriously enough), but women who choose other roles and other paths in life should not be dismissed as less important. Although it is a satirical newspaper, The Onion recently published a line that many childfree women can relate to and communicates volumes on this topic; "But what do I know. I'm just the lead researcher for an entire team of Northwestern grad students who look to me for the answer because I'm their boss. All my achievements are irrelevant because I never had any kids, right, Mom? Right?"

From another angle it did not dawn on me until recently how friends and family might struggle with the right way of announcing their pregnancy news to me or any other openly childfree person. The epiphany came when my friend Becca shared her news with the following caveat; “We know it’s not for everyone but we're excited about this next stage in our lives and wanted to share the news.” Admittedly I’m not as excited as their other friends and my focus is on the health and well-being of the woman I already know and love and not that of the child she is carrying. I might not fully understand why anyone would want children, but when the announcement comes from a couple who are stable, loving, healthy, happy, financially sound, and competent then I can share in their happiness.

Those who meet my “criteria” for sharing in pregnancy happiness are often the same couples who accept and embrace me for who I am and would receive my non-pregnancy news with equal excitement. They are people who accept that babies aren’t for everyone and understand there are other paths in life that deserve celebration and recognition. Some women conceive babies, others conceive ideas. Some women birth human babies, others “birth” businesses, books, art, gardens, blogs, stamps in their passport, marathons, community service, and promotions. These are the “babies” of the childfree that also take years to develop, raise, and grow. It is important to recognize and celebrate these successes whether a woman is a parent or not.

13 comments:

Serafina Pekala said...

WOO HOO!!! Congratulations my dear! Oh, I'm so happy for you! What wonderful news.

I think part of the reason why I like working with 20-something college students, is because most of the time they're not turning into breeders yet. However, I also feel like they don't "get" parts of my life because they're not at the same point in their lives. I know so many amazing CF women online and it's such a wonderful community but I still wish I knew more CF women in my "real" life.

I'm glad you know couples who will be parents and not breeders! I know one such couple and it makes me feel a bit more hopeful for our species. :)

ohJai said...

Sooo, chelle.... Where did you register so that we can buy you gifts to celebrate?!?

;-)

Bethany Zecher Sutton said...

And then there's the unpleasant situation in which you have children, and that becomes your only accomplishment worth talking about... Being a mom is only one piece of a complex puzzle of who I am. And, truly, while I like talking about my child, I like talking about other things too. Sometimes, even more so!

Bethany Zecher Sutton said...

p.s. Congratulations, Michelle! I was so caught up in your message that I forgot to state the obvious! What a great milestone. I'm so glad it worked out for you.

Explosive Bombchelle said...

I'm registered at Coach, Franklin Covey, and Calvin Klein...

Bethany, I was thinking of the same point you make but it sounds so much better coming from an actual parent. Mother is just one of the many roles you (and all mothers) have. It is a shame that so many people think once a woman is a mother that is the only thing she is. Yes, you are a mother (which is no doubt complex!) but you are so much more.

Nancy Reed said...

Yay Chelle! Let me know when you are hiring :)

Diane said...

Congratulations! I know you've worked hard for this, and it has been a long and mostly un-appreciated struggle. It does seem like there is no way to announce it - people keep imposing the "expected" announcement, and disregarding that for you, this is a HUGE deal, and in all fairness, will change your life as much as a different type of announcement would.

Congratulations, and have a hell of a happy hour for me! You deserve it!

Colleen said...

Congratulations Michelle! What an awesome accomplishment!!

Nursedude said...

It's great to see good things happen to good people in the corporate world. As somebody who used to work for the same company as 'Chelle works at, it does not always work that way.Way to go 'chelle!

tony powell said...

Congratulations. You deserve all you want in life. We have successfully ducked the child issue for 32 years. We treat announcements of births the same as we would accept announcements of raises, promotions, weddings, etc. We are happy for those that receive and have no regrets of our choices. Plus we never would give up golf!

Explosive Bombchelle said...

Thank you again everyone, and Tony, me thinks I'm going to need to work on this golf game if I'm ever going to really move up the corporate food chain... good thing I'll have time to do that :-D

Nicole said...

congratulations! and "hear, hear" to your comments about the emphasis on women as mothers and its consequences, particularly for those women who choose not to have children.

Alex said...

Wasn't I supposed to give you golf lessons at one point? Whatever happened to that?

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