For the longest time, I was adamant that I didn’t want to be a mother. I had a horrible, tough childhood, subjected to victimization in a home ruled by depression, lies and the idol of marriage. Marriage was something which God had joined together, and no man, or woman, or child, should EVER try (or hope) to tear it asunder. Divorce was the vilest dirty word. And so, in our ways, for 12 years, my sister and I were daily sacrifices on the altar of that idol.
I determined that I would NEVER have children, because my experience of being parented was so hurtful, so poor (not in *all* ways, but in many) and so confusing, that I genuinely thought I would have nothing to give a child. In addition to which, LOOK at what parenting turned you INTO! Because with childish egocentricity (emphasized by the insistent message that I was a burden; something to be put up with and dealt with – never someone to be cherished or enjoyed) I assumed that somehow, part of the responsibility for that toxic home lay with my sister and I. I mean, it MUST, right? We were there, after all, being demanding and requiring input and attention, and getting things wrong and mucking things up and being in the way…some of the blame must be apportioned to us. And I never wanted a child of mine to feel that way for turning me into such a horrible person, and for ruining my home.
But I got a job working with children and gradually my heart unfroze. I realized the full extent of how horribly wrong my frame of reference for family life was, and on the day my sister announced her first pregnancy, I cried bitter tears of regret, because as the older sibling, surely it was supposed to be my turn first?
Yet marriage and children (I know not everyone feels the need to tie any knots before getting knocked up, but as a committed Christian, I wasn’t prepared to do it any other way. Which makes my story that much harder, I’ll admit) was not forthcoming. So I waited until I found the chap who had a touch of destiny about him. The first time we met, my gut told me “He’d be a good husband and a good father.” As I got to know him, I could see myself growing old and content with him by my side. And when he proposed, once I got over the surprise, I didn’t have a second thought about saying a joyful “Yes!”
If I’d known, would I have done things differently? If he’d known, would he?
You see, my dear Husby turned out to be sick. Sicker than either of us realized or anticipated or would fully know until three years down the line, when we received the official word that there’s no point trying for a baby anymore, because we will never be able to conceive naturally. We will (hopefully) be offered one shot at fertility treatment. And then we’re cast loose to figure out how to live our lives.
And in the meantime, to make matters worse, our marriage has been plagued by this sickness and its associated challenges, for its entirety. Three years of absolute hell; of suddenly having to manage a spouse who had succumbed to that dread beast, depression. Who often didn’t want to be alive by the end of the day. Who claimed he loved me, but rejected me on several very intimate and very painful levels, as a result of seeing the world through the dark cloud of mental ill-health.
His sickness also pervaded to other parts of his body, resulting in two miscarriages for us – the bitterest pills to swallow, that our first two children – our Neverborns – might be our only two. And each time I allow myself to think about that for too long, it absolutely devastates me and leaves me bereft.
In the time since, the gates have slammed down, one by one, on our options for parenthood. We can’t foster or adopt, as the depression has us (rightly) disqualified from their eligibility criteria. We can’t afford private fertility treatment. And we have some of Husby’s sperm frozen, so why would we waste our one shot on donor sperm?
This is our final chance to realize our fragile, shaky, precious dreams of becoming parents to a live child, and it sucks beyond belief to know that the success rate for the treatment we might get – the BEST treatment – stands at 16%.
The irony of those miscarriages is strong. And each month when crushing disappointment claws at my heart as I realize that no, I’m not pregnant. Again. It is only balanced by the knowledge that at least I’m not LOSING another baby. Because there is no more profoundly painful feeling I have ever encountered than knowing that my body – designed to protect and nurture and grow – had been unable to hang onto my child. Or the knowledge that each of my tiny babies were defective, and were never going to grow beyond the point they reached, and so just gave up; zipped up wrong – abominations to be disposed of and expelled.
No pain EVER equalled this before.
And so I face life as an Invisible Mom – potentially forever. No one will see my children. I’ll never get to hold them close or smell their hair or kiss their scraped knees better. I’ll never shout at them or get kicked in the face by them, or embarrassed in restaurants by their behaviour, or have my heart broken when theirs is.
I’ll get to sleep in on the weekends. To do precisely as I want, when I want. With two incomes, I’ll be able to buy myself nice things, and enjoy them without risking the ruin of little fingers. I’ll be able to drink without worrying that I might need to be sober if one of the kids had an emergency. I won’t have to pay out for schooling fees or worry about bullies. My life will be my own.
And I’d trade it in a second.
Lizzi is a deep thinker, truth-teller and seeker of good things. She writes her thoughts on her blog Considerings. You can also find her on Facebook at her Considerings page as well as on the group Invisible Moms Club.