In case you missed it, the overall theme of this blog is me talking to my 26 year old self about stuff I would like to have known. In this year of blogging 2018, I am attempting to use this theme to confront and tidy away some of my demons. In my last post, D-I-V-O-R-C-E I dealt with my ex-husband shaped demon. Here, I’m facing up to another of my life’s issues – namely, children, or the lack of.
At 26, it felt like I had my whole life before me. Most of my dreams and ambitions were still intact. Whilst I was fairly career-oriented, at that time, in my sights I had the whole “happy families” thing – mum, dad and a couple of kids, in a rambling home, with a dog. Conventional, I always was. Anyway, friends had begun “settling down” and having children and I was starting to want some of what they had.
As I have described, I blew my hopes and dreams out of the sky by making a monumental mistake in my choice of husband. The consequences of that choice have rippled out through my life, like a pebble skimming a pond.
The first big ripple that stirred the waters most dramatically was that my ex-husband didn’t want children. Shame he didn’t make that clear before we married, when the subject came up, but there we are. You sure as hell can’t make a man have children. You can, however, free yourself from a selfish, self-regarding man, who makes you very unhappy, so that’s what I did.
I must accept my share of blame in the relationship, though I did try to make my marriage work. When it failed, I decided men weren’t worth the effort. What to do, then, about that loud ticking in my ears that became positively deafening whenever the subject of babies, pregnancies and children came into my world? Drastic measures were contemplated that would give me the baby without the man. Suffice to say, I bottled it.
The years rolled by. I dated, but my heart wasn’t in it, literally. I concentrated on my career, travelled a lot and had a fairly full life. In those years of living independently, I got to find and be myself. I enjoyed spending time with my friends’ children, but always felt a sense of isolation and “otherness” because I could not swap stories of the trials and tribulations of parenting. I did not have the experience of being a mother to share and compare. I felt that I just wasn’t getting to the essence of life. It’s no coincidence that very many of the new friends I made were also childless, some from choice, some not. It was easier on my soul not to be confronted with what I so much wanted, but didn’t have.
They say life begins at 40. Yes and no. At 40, I met my partner, with whom I have enjoyed 18 years of loving support and adventure. When I met him, I was having a bit of a mental meltdown about being 40, and was still nervous and ambivalent about committing to another serious relationship. Fortunately he is as calm and laid back as I am hysterical and unduly dramatic about everything. Patiently, he helped me to banish/manage my demons, but by the time I had overcome all that, it felt too late to contemplate the whole “trying for a family” thing again. I had given up on the idea of that, for myself.
So I reconciled myself to my childlessness, partly believing that I was paying the price for the bad choices and decisions I made around my relationship with my ex-husband. “No use crying over spilt milk”, as my dear old mum used to say.
More years rolled by, then my partner’s daughter had twin girls. Two beautiful, funny, captivating and loving little people. Just what I always wanted. I have known them from their first hours and love them as if they were of my own flesh and blood. They call me Nana and although they have a vague notion that I am not related, they seem to take that complication in their stride and repeatedly tell me, they love me. I believe them. They square a circle, they are my redemption, my second chance, my hope for the future. They have helped me both to forgive myself for my stupidity and wrongdoings and to experience just a little of what it feels like to be a mum. I took a very circuitous route to get to these children, but what the heck, I got there in the end.
So what would I say to my 26 year old self about all this? Well, I would say that somewhere along the line you have to get to know and like yourself. It just won’t work well, if you don’t.
As well, I would say that we all have dark days, months, years when it doesn’t feel great to be alive, for whatever reason(s). Daily I hear or read stories of the tremendous challenges which people face and I don’t know how they cope. All I can say to my younger self is that I have found it helpful to reflect back on bad experiences and to look for and focus on any positive I can find. That can be very difficult to do and often the positive is nothing more than a learning point about self and how to negotiate a way through life. On a more optimistic note, good things do happen and joy can be found. The experience of the good can be heightened by surviving the bad.
So, it’s not always straight lines to your destination. Sometimes the lines get broken and you fall between the gaps, but you get there in the end.