18 June 2006

More mid-life musings

Found Arwen/Elizabeth's blog again via Fructus Ventris' blogroll and enjoyed reading her natterings about her yearned-for pregnancy. It's wonderful to read that she's doing well. She's a thoughtful young woman.

She wrote one post about how easily she cries, and, as I read it, I thought about myself at that age. I rarely wept. The day my dear one walked out of my life, I did not cry about it. I went through terrible times which rocked my soul and tore me up inside, but tears were not the way I handled it. Instead of crying jags, I had migraines.

Weeping was something I refused to do, so part of my life was staying away from incidents or situations which would touch me emotionally. That was part of why I married the man I eventually did, and it was certainly the reason behind my refusal to have any children.

There was a time a few years ago when all that changed. My dear friend supported me from a distance while I wept the tears I had not shed for thirty years. One of the thoughts which triggered hours of uncontrollable sobs was the acknowledgement of the horrible consequences of letting him go from my life when I did. I went on into life without the possibility of knowing what the skin of his back felt like, or realizing one day I was with child, or watching him with his babies. At the time, I deliberately shut such thoughts from my mind; if I had not, I would have collapsed.

Now, my cup of joy is full, and I can read Arwen/Elizabeth's posts without having tears overwhelm me - not because I'm suppressing them, but because they've all been cried, and I can be happy for her. However, beneath my joy, there is still the deep ache of knowing that I'll never lie with that man and have the joy of giving a child life with our love.

There has been some discussion on other blogs recently of Why childless people hate me by Emily Yoffe. Her mention that people have a skewed sense of the time involved in parenting resonates with me. During my worst and darkest years, I could not get through a day without an enormous effort of will. The thought of putting a child into that mix was - unthinkable. I never seriously considered it. I could have done tremendous damage to a child; I couldn't even take care of myself.

My choice was also influenced by the fact that my sister was born the week before I turned 11, and my parents divorced when I was 13. I spent a lot of time taking care of that little girl, and it wasn't easy and I didn't have help... not to mention I was nowhere old enough or mature enough or experienced enough to take care of a child. But that wasn't an acceptable response in those days. I had to do it; to remonstrate would have been labeled "whining." So I did my part, and it did a lot to satisfy any fledgling material instincts. I have changed diapers, and helped with homework, and ineptly advised and counselled about all types of things.

But it wasn't my child.

To all the childless by choice, I would echo Emily Yoffe's advice: be open to reconsidering. I was influenced heavily by Paul Ehrlich, but he was wrong. We cannot assume that we, with our tiny minds, can know the truth about what might happen. God can and will provide for us. Time speeds up phenomenally as you get older and as children grow. More children really can be easier than fewer, because they can help and entertain each other. We need partners in law firms and vice presidents in corporations, but none of those will be remembered for those roles the way a mother is remembered for hers.

God only knows why my life turned out the way I did. I don't know why he allowed me to make the choices I did. They were not what he would have chosen for my life, but he stayed by me and protected me as I blundered my way through a wilderness of depression and hurt and fear. Maybe that's what it took; I'm incredibly stubborn. He has granted me some time with the one my heart loves. One day, I will meet my dear one's children. Perhaps one day they and I can sit together and go through old photo albums, and maybe I'll see images of their father holding them when they were very young. I likely will weep, a mixture of joy and delight and the deepest ache a woman's heart can know, short of the loss of one of her own. I certainly won't be able to explain in those moments that I loved their father so dearly and wanted to experience the everyday mysteries of life with him... only with him, ever.

I want to touch them and hold them so much ... these young people, now grown and forming families of their own. When I look into their eyes I see their father, and I love them instinctively. It is the closest I shall ever know to that unreasoning, fierce attachment a mother feels for her child. I could not love them any more if they were my own. It is the bond I feared when I was young; the one which will slay me inside if anything happens to any one of them.

It is high risk behavior, this loving. All that is mine is transmuted into ours, us, we, let's. When I was grieving four years ago, weeping constantly for weeks and weeks, it was because I'd gotten through life without ever feeling that way, and I was having to come to terms with the reality that I never would. Like Arwen/Elizabeth in her grieving before her pregnancy, I had to let God do whatever it was he needed to do in my heart, and accept the pain without a murmur. I had to give up and let the grief rampage through my heart and soul until I was empty and quiet. And then, just as inexplicably, God heard her prayers and gave her the dearest wish of her heart. And he did the same for me.

Those who escape the realities of family... I wish them well. For their sakes, I hope they don't wake up one day, as I did, and suddenly have to face up to all they pushed away out of a misguided bid for self-protection. We were not made for ourselves, but for each other. It is only in giving up all rights to ourselves that God can, finally, enter in.

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