Women’s Health: Scoliosis Changed My Whole Life — Like It Does Many, Many Women

Women’s Health: Scoliosis Changed My Whole Life — Like It Does Many, Many Women

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Women’s News: Why Staying Childless Is NOT The Path Of Least Resistance

Women’s News: Why Staying Childless Is NOT The Path Of Least Resistance

Women’s News: Why Staying Childless Is NOT The Path Of Least Resistance


Katie Gard

Freelance writer and photographer

Let’s talk for a minute about parenthood.

Or, more accurately, non-parenthood.

It seems like there’s a lot of talk these days about a woman’s right to focus more on her career than on trying to be a perfect mother, or the converse — a woman’s right to quit her career and stay at home to raise her children without becoming subject to ridicule.

But there’s another group of women who, I can almost guarantee, suffer even more scorn than the woman who misses her kid’s birthday party to attend a staff meeting or the woman who trades in her satin work pumps for plastic breast pumps: It’s the woman who has the guilt-free ability to join her co-workers for a cocktail after a rough day. The woman who has time to work out in the morning. The woman who can cook an amazing, stress-free meal and enjoy eating it with her significant other at 8:00 p.m.

I’m talking here about a woman’s right to choose.

Not her right to choose to stay pregnant, but her right to choose to never get pregnant at all.


I have a dear friend who, just before she married the man of her dreams, insisted that she wanted to wait at least five years before starting a family. One year into the marriage, the deadline quickly dwindled to three. Then one. Then, suddenly, it seemed as though nothing was more important than fertilizing the crap out of her eggs. It was like something in her had biologically snapped and the only thing that could mend it was impregnation. Nothing, it seemed, would make her whole but the experience of bringing life into the world.

And she wasn’t the only one. It was happening to other friends as well. And friends of friends. It seemed as though once they reached the age of 28 or 29, they experienced an uncontrollable, instinctual urge to procreate.

I, on the other hand, have been married for nearly seven years. We’ve been together for ten. At first, I figured I had no desire for kids because we were still so young. Then, I figured I was waiting to see what it was like for my friends first. And now that they have them, I love snuggling their babies’ softness and making their babies laugh and smelling their babies’ heads.

Their heads smell amazing.

But then another interest catches my eye — a book containing a unique recipe, a documentary about an exotic locale, a bright, shiny object — and poof! The baby is no longer the coolest thing in the room.

And then I think that the amazing baby head smell might not be a good enough reason to have one. Maybe I should wait for that have to have one feeling.

Maybe, if that’s the case, I’ll be waiting forever.

Of course, when I try to explain this to women who are with child — either currently or futuristically in their hormone-filled minds, I get a blank stare.

I start hearing from them less. I’m not in on the jokes. I don’t get invited to functions, because either there will be babies there and that might make me “uncomfortable,” or it’s a “mom’s day off,” and I obviously don’t need one of those since every day is a day off for me.

It’s just one more check among many in the “bad military spouse” column, and I’m pretty sure I’m on that blacklist already.

But the point is, I seem to be somehow less of a woman if I choose to not have kids.

I’m not a member of the club.

And it really doesn’t bother me when I can’t contribute to conversations about mucus plugs and nipple shields or what it feels like the first time your baby smiles or produces normal poop. But it does bother me when I’m apparently unqualified to discuss our country’s education system during casual conversation. Or the merits of mothers choosing to stay at home versus focusing on their careers. Because, last I heard, you don’t need a baby to have a brain.

All of that said, I choose to surround myself with women — mothers and non-mothers alike — who are fairly open-minded when it comes to parenting. Women without kids who don’t shun the ones who do. And women with kids who don’t judge me for a decision — not set in stone — that’s perfectly reasonable to make. Women who still remember what life was like in the time Before Baby. Women who don’t use phrases like, “You wouldn’t understand — you’re not a mom,” because they know my lack of child does not make me ignorant to the fact that it must be beyond stressful to stay up all night, to constantly worry if you’re doing things right, or to miss an opportunity to schmooze with your boss because you have to take a sick kid to the doctor instead. They don’t say those things because they know they worried about that before they had kids. They knew it would be hard.

My friend pointed out that for someone who doesn’t think she wants kids, I sure do talk about them a lot.

But the truth is, because she always knew she wanted to be a parent, she doesn’t understand what it’s like to not be a mom. To not have that inherent desire. To hear every day that we “don’t understand.” To stress out about missing a child whose head we’ve never smelled. To wonder whether we’ll regret the decision once it’s too late.

I realize that women who scoff at me are likely insecure about their own decisions.

And I realize when I openly judge other women, I’m displaying — in the ugliest way possible — insecurities about mine.

Sometimes I wish my husband had accidentally knocked me up ten years ago, even before we got married, just so I would no longer have to be responsible for this decision. When it comes to the pressures society — especially other women — especially my mother — places on me to get pregnant, sometimes it seems like not getting pregnant during wedlock is far worse than getting pregnant outside of wedlock.

I’d be a card-carrying club member by default.

But there’s another club I know I would miss.

The club that allows me to pour a glass of wine at 8:00 p.m. because I want one — not because it’s when the baby goes to bed. The club whose members can peruse the web on a whim for tickets to Lisbon and actually buy them if prices are right. The club in which sleepless nights can be blamed on an unstoppable flood of inspiration and too much caffeine and the Midnight Muse.

Of course, these experiences must pale in comparison to the limitless love of a child.

But then I wouldn’t understand.

I’m not a mother.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-gard-/childless-not-the-path-of-least-resistance_b_2918034.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

A Message From The Creator


Women’s Health: Scoliosis Changed My Whole Life — Like It Does Many, Many Women

Womans bare shoulders

Leah LaRocco | Women You Should Know

When I tell people I have Scoliosis I’m surprised by two things. First, by how many people do not know what it is. Second, by the number of women I know who have some form of this condition. The best way I can think to describe Scoliosis is simply a curvature of the spine. Girls are at a much higher risk for developing this condition than boys. There is no definitive cause for Scoliosis. Studies have been done relating to many factors such as heredity, ethnicity, and age, but none have conclusively determined a cause.


My journey with Scoliosis began the day I went to the doctor following a bout with Lyme Disease at 12 years old. A routine physical exam exposed a small curvature in the bottom of my spine. My doctor advised us to consult an orthopedic surgeon who in turn suggested coming in every few months for x-rays to monitor the progress of the curve. Thus began the part of my adolescence I prefer to forget, to sweep under the rug and pretend it never happened.

As my body grew, the curves in my back increased to the point where the only option to slow their progress was for me to wear a back brace. I refer to the back brace as a modern day straight jacket for teenage girls. If you do a Google image search for “scoliosis back brace” you will be confronted with a series of pictures that depict what look like medieval torture devices. The amazing thing is that, 20 years later, the treatment options for Scoliosis remain the same: back brace or surgery.


The brace that I wore was composed of hard plastic that covered my chest and went down past my hips. The icing on the cake was the three huge Velcro straps used to tighten the brace so the internal pressure pads could do their job, constricting motion and muscles that might cause the curves to grow. Finding clothes to cover the edges of the brace was a near impossibility and I cried many times in front of the mirror when figuring out what to wear.

Wearing this shell sixteen hours a day for two years was a living nightmare for an introverted, active teen who played a sport and loved being outdoors. Over the course of my treatment, all of the doctors I worked with were men. As puberty hit and my breasts grew, I was in constant pain from the chafing plastic. Appointments were made, humiliating measurements were taken where a man would stand, hand on chin, furrowed brow, trying to determine how to melt the plastic in such a way that would make room for my aching chest.

Sleeping at night also presented its own set of challenges. If I lay on my side, the pressure pads would dig into my body, leaving bruises. If I lay on my back, the top of the brace would dig into my neck. If I lay on my stomach, the front of the brace would constrict and pinch my skin. I wore cotton tees under the brace that were soaked with sweat every morning. I felt totally gross.

Eventually my curve progressed to 48 degrees, the point where my doctor recommended surgery that would fuse my spine using bone from my hips, along with a steel rod. I emphatically declined. My body stopped growing during the course of wearing the brace, so the curves would not get any worse. I feel incredibly blessed not to have a disfigured body. One of my hips is higher than the other, and if you look closely when I’m wearing a bathing suit, it’s kind of obvious that something weird is going on with my back. But there are many women who struggle with far more physical issues stemming from their Scoliosis.

Today I still have three small scars that were a result of the back brace; two on my back, and one on my stomach. The scars on my body are nothing compared to the emotional scars that Scoliosis left on me. Being a teenage girl is one of the hardest things ever. There is so much pressure to be popular, smart, and beautiful. Development of self-esteem is either encouraged or damaged during those fragile years, and being different isn’t something that is always looked on favorably.

It was impossible to feel pretty or cool when I was wearing that brace. I felt hollow and insecure. It’s horrifying to me that girls today still have to fasten the same Velcro straps I did twenty years ago.


When I was going through all of this, my parents were by my side doing the best they could to see me through the challenges. My mom took me to every doctor appointment while I cried and yelled and cursed at her on the way to their offices. There was so much anger inside of me, so much hurt and pain that I couldn’t convey for having to wear this device, for having to deal with unemotional doctors who had nothing to say to a scared teenage girl who just wanted to be normal.

I share my story in hopes that it will incite a deeper understanding for parents and loved ones and friends who are helping a teen through a similar situation. Encourage them. Remind them of their beauty. Shop with them for pretty clothes that will cover the ugly edges of the brace. Talk about the situation to gauge where they are emotionally. Do not remain silent and pretend the pain doesn’t exist. And don’t ever knock on their brace as a joke.

I now go to the chiropractor every two weeks for an adjustment and therapeutic massage, which has helped enormously when it comes to managing lower back and neck pain. Some weeks I go in and feel fine until my therapist touches a muscle in just the right way and I suddenly realize the muted pain I’ve been carrying around.

I have very few limitations as a result of my Scoliosis, but I am always aware it’s there. I fervently hope that someday a more effective, less tortuous treatment option will become available for young girls who find themselves where I was twenty years ago. Until that day comes, family and close friends who demonstrate compassionate kindness are the healing balm, along with the understanding that this too shall pass.

Women You Should Know Lifestyle Contributor Leah LaRocco is a Long Islander who now lives in Franklin, Tennessee and works in the music industry for The Recording Academy. Her greatest pleasures include BBC drama, good British tea, botanical gardens, Betsey Johnson dresses, and playing with her two cats, Maddox and Myrtle. You can read more about Leah’s adventures in life and perspectives on people, places, and things on her personal blog Edges Like Sea Glass.

Read More:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/20/scoliosis-changed-my-life-women-girls_n_2909904.html?utm_hp_ref=women&ir=Women

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