I was rather disconcerted recently to read a very pro-women (I don’t say feminist, because as I understand it, feminism’s about equality – what I read would surely come under the slang term ‘feminazi’) article on the Guardian website which spitefully made fun of and ripped to shreds a number of picture memes the author had seen shared on facebook, which in her opinion promoted misogyny.
Fortunately most of the people who read her article disagreed with her viewpoint, which gives me hope for the readers of the Guardian, at least, but I presume there are those out there who would agree. She stated
I particularly dislike the frankly smug and sanctimonious motherhood images: the implication is that a woman can’t be fulfilled unless she’s a mother and can’t have known love; and that any kind of pre-parenthood life was empty and shallow.
I wonder if she’d find it misogynistic to suggest that humans (indeed all living things – remember the ‘R’ in Mrs Gren?) are created in a way which not only makes it possible but also part of their inherent role as a member of their species to reproduce. Judgeing by the tone in her article, I suspect she might.
Yes lots of people (you notice I don’t just specify women) get gushy over their kids. Often rightly so. Sometimes in an over-the-top manner, but I daresay we’d all prefer to be around the kind of person who appreciates their kids and wants to share their experience with others than the kind of person who dislikes their children at a fundamental level and does them down in public. I’ll take the chance that everyone reading this is at heart a decent person and agrees with me.
My bezzie is the kind of person I love being around. Her children are super and spending time with them all is more than great – it nourishes the soul. My Goddaughter and her daughter met at my wedding and somewhat fell in friends with one another. They’re both getting old enough that we thought a sleepover might be manageable. I therefore spent a fun weekend taking my Goddaughter to my bezzie’s house for a sleepover with her kids. It was manageable and it was fun, in spite of the hiccup that her daughter came down with a bug and was sadly rather poorly.
And so it happened that in the midst of cleaning up pools of you-don’t-want-to-know-what for what felt like the Nth time at some unholy hour of the morning, my bezzie turned to me and said “You know, it’s not too late…you don’t have to have kids.”
I understand her point – she was sleep-deprived, her good towels had just been used to soak a puddle of you-can-guess, she was on her 3rd load of laundry that evening and had decided to run the gauntlet of trying to support her little one through a day of not eating so that her poorly innards could recover – but she has vastly underestimated (or misunderstood – I can be fairly vague sometimes, even with important stuff) my desire to be a parent. That, or the situation just plain got to her. I am blessed that she lets me in on how difficult it can be and shares the tough stuff as well as the good – she tries to tell me the truth about being a parent with knowledge which can only be gained through hindsight. I confess I don’t always understand, likely a result of the rose-tinted ‘wanting children’ spectacles I wear.
Later, as she comforted her daughter, I was privileged to witness a small portion of the depth of the bond between them – the love and strength in it. And yes, the evening had been punctuated by challenge, but the care and patience and undeniably awesome relationship they share is what I hope to have one day. That evening, that precious moment in the dark, early hours, was my green grass on the other side.
It’s not that I think I’m incomplete as a person (the feminazis of the first paragraph will be pleased to hear). I fully believe I have the capability and functionality (is that even a word? Possibly not in the UK) to undertake the rest of my life with no children. If I were single, this would certainly be the path I’d anticipate. And I wouldn’t think myself incapable. I happen to be blessed with a Husby who is wonderful and lovely and who loves me very much (most of the time – perhaps not when I ask him if he’ll make a cuppa when he’s just sat down) and we could easily spend our lives growing old together, by ourselves, unfettered.
We don’t want to.
We have untapped potential to fulfil the ancient call of our genes and emotionally, it weighs upon us. I sometimes think more so on me – I know I have child-shaped holes in my heart. I’m fairly sure Husby does too, but I don’t think I’d catch him describing it in quite those terms.
We are unrealised parents.
I want the pains of being stretched and grown-inside. I want to be woken up by a tiny life kicking the bejiggers out of my internals whilst I’m trying to sleep. I want the morning sickness and the expanding tummy. I want the stretch marks. I want the clothes to no longer fit. I want the long, tiring labour. I want that first moment of meeting and every moment after – even the sick-in-the-night ones and the screaming-hairy-ab-dab ones.
When we adopt, I want the nervousness of the first meeting. I want the confusion of a fully-shaped little person who I don’t yet know well enough. I want the long, slow process of building that relationship. I want to do the theraputic parenting and have the frustration and pain in knowing that I wasn’t able to protect my child in their earliest experiences because I wasn’t there. I even *almost* want the dark moments I’ve read about where the car keys are in the hand, the body is shaking and the tears are flowing because it’s very nearly too much.
I want to miss sleep. I want to miss a social life. I want to survey the tatters of every preconception I held about parenthood. I want to know that in many ways I didn’t have a clue what it was I wanted. I want the personal knowledge which only experience and hindsight can bring.
I want to know that it’s far too late to turn back and I want to relish the thought.
I’m not naiive enough to think I’ll necessarily enjoy all of the experiences I want to undergo (nor indeed want to undergo some of them more than the once), but I am determined to rejoice in them. Being able to have those experiences with your child is such a blessing, as I can see in my nearest and dearest whose relationships with their children are nothing short of wonderous.
Perhaps I’m being too effusive. Perhaps I’m placing too much of a positive spin on things after miscarriage and then discovering we might never conceive (though the sentiments existed prior to either of these). Perhaps I need to get a grip.
Or perhaps not.