Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Babyfly dreaming

I was going to write – had actually written nearly 400 words – about how I may have been lying to myself for the last sixteen years or so about wishing that I'd had kids of my own. The lie being ‘I always wanted my own children but circumstance prevented me’.

Circumstance coupled with my own fear certainly didn’t encourage, but it was my own decision all along not to become pregnant whilst in a long-term relationship and I decided just before my 40th birthday to end my fertility with a tubal ligation. So did I ‘always want my own children’? Perhaps. Maybe. Possibly… Or not?

My younger adult years – ten of them actually – included being a step-parent to two young girls. I was devoted to them and loved them but left their father as suicidal depression overtook me. The result of years of emotional and some physical abuse. I knew that there was no rightness in conceiving with him and I think my body agreed.

As my thirties began I followed my heart and found art, a need to learn and a desperation to experience life beyond the wrong career and the wrong partner. Going to college, then university and somehow living a piece of youth I’d missed, was amazing and affecting. The last year of my degree course was marred by nagging pain and odd discomforts; MS was diagnosed shortly after my graduation ceremony. The decision to be sterilised followed about two and a half years later.

The thinking went: I have no current partner, but I still want to have sex; I will use condoms of course… It will take time to build a relationship, I am nearly 40 and I don’t want an accidental pregnancy.

I never wanted to bring children into the world if they weren’t fully wanted and to be welcomed; the main reason for not adding to my ex-husband’s family.

There seemed no real choice. I was single, fit and doing well after great effort to control the MS symptoms and a big commitment to improving my health. There is good evidence that relapse is more common after childbirth. Any future from where I was then meant that my own health had to come first. And so, no more fertility.

But what of the girl of fourteen wishing for The Waltons? I mean literally; that by the time I was in my twenties I would have born several children with more to follow? 'Night Jim-Bob!

My desire to give birth to and nurture a complete tribe was deep and passionate. It didn't really abate until the passing of time showed how unreal it was; I didn't have a boyfriend, let alone anyone with whom to procreate so generously. And I never did.

No boyfriends in my teens and when I met the man who became my first husband, at the age of 22, he landed an untried and untested model; bendy, energetic, innocent and willing. His two beautiful children seemed so available, their mother having died two years before we all met. So, two down, several more to go?

No. No more. Just the sense of duty and obligation that goes with an old-fashioned view of what partnership might be. I did as seemed 'right' and put up with my new losses. Lost independence, lost virginity and by the eighth year, lost hope. I was better off out of that, The Waltons having long since faded into sepia memory. It took two more years to leave and I left everything including the two girls so lovely and loved... That is my regret.

Not the lack of birth children, but the loss of the ones I loved. At the time I was broken, caught between that obligation, the fact of a marriage made in a church and vows to stay no matter what. I knew no way of leaving that included telling such young people what was going on; 'your dad raped me' doesn't really work. Nor does 'he's a complete narcissist'. He did, he was and I left loving him deeply in spite of the scars. But thank goodness I did, I wouldn't have lived much longer if I'd stayed.

I don't regret the decision to be sterilised, nor do I now want children. They would be mid-teens by now and frankly I wouldn't want to have to deal with that! I don't want teenagers, nor actually any more twenty-somethings. A second marriage brought more of other people's children with whom I have constructive and loving relationships and none of the guilt of having been their birth parent!

A relative recently mentioned that they were sad not to have, or hope to have grandchildren. But they have a child, a grown-up, functional adult who is loving and creative. That ought to be enough I think. Grandchildren are just a fact of others procreative activity, no one has a right to them; especially in these modern times. And, so many grandparents are carers and childminders, it might be a blessing.

Learning to make something of what one has and to value a life which is not extended through genetic sharing is quite hard, especially having hankered after seven children! But if I regret leaving some young people in the lurch, I know that they are loved and capable of love. And the younger generation for whom I represent an older, perhaps wiser and occasionally cool resource seem happy enough with me as I am. I like that.

And frankly, bengal cats are enough!