You don’t have any children… you couldn’t possibly understand what it’s like. You have no idea what tired is. You have no idea what stress is. You have no idea what responsibility is. You have no idea what pain is. You just have no idea…
These statements, have been shot my way now and again… and while in my 20’s and 30’s, it didn’t sting too bad. I still had time. It’s what I wanted most in life but I still had plenty of time. But now as I approach my mid 40’s, health issues have claimed my fertility, and there is little to no chance of adoption. And that hurts. Bad. I often have thoughts that I deserve it for breaking off my engagement at age 24, to a guy who couldn’t wait to knock me up, several times over. He was a really amazing guy who wanted lots of kids. And I wasn’t sure if I was “in love” with him. So I left to see if I could find my true love. Being the “awkward” girl who couldn’t just bat my eyes to get any guy she wanted, it took me a while to find another one who could compare. And when i finally realized I had found him… i wasn’t letting go. Eight years younger, he wasn’t exactly ready for fatherhood, and I never wanted him to feel pressured… by a certain someone’s biological clock. I knew in the back of my head, every day I stayed with him my window was getting smaller. I knew I might be choosing him over possible motherhood. And before I knew it, the window was closed. Not locked, but seriously closed. And I chose this, with zero regret. I would not trade my beautiful husband. But, it still hurts. Especially knowing the man you love might never have the chance to be a father.
As a childless woman, do I know what tired is? Yes. For reasons other than parenthood, I absolutely know what tired is. But lucky for me, it might not last eighteen+ years. Do I know what stress is? Yup. Been there, done that. Again for no reasons related to hearing the word “mommy” 3000 times per day, or keeping a teenager out of trouble. Responsibility? Sure. I am responsible by choice… it just didn’t take parenthood in my case. Pain? Yup. I’ve lived in the world of “excruciating”, or more than I thought I could possibly bear. I obviously haven’t done the whole childbirth thing, so I’ll give anyone that whole-heartedly! That business, preceded by the 9 months of pregnancy business, and proceeded by 2+ years of painful breastfeeding? I can’t say I ever really longed for those experiences specifically. But the chance to be someone’s mother? I knew I would absolutely, and gratefully suck it up for that opportunity. And when cancer takes your breasts, you become acutely aware you will never know the joy, or pain, of feeding your child.
My whole life has been void of any confidence, except when it came to the thought of being a mom. Would i be clueless about things like diaper rash and breast feeding? Of course. I wasn’t going for any mother-of-year awards. But I always felt confident that I could be a good mom. I just knew I wanted to be there for someone, like my mom was there for me. I wanted to give someone life, or a home, and show them how to be kind and make art. I wanted to tell someone they could be anything they wanted to be, and they could do anything they set their mind to. I wanted to know the agony and elation of watching them grow up, and setting them free to start their own family. I know I was hoping for a lot, but nearly everyone I knew was or was about to be a parent, so I naturally thought it would just happen in my life too when it was time.
I am sure it’s very difficult being a mother. And I certainly can’t imagine how challenging it is to be especially to be a single, and/or working mother. But what I’m trying to say is that it is also really difficult not being one, and being surrounded every day by people who are, who constantly remind you of what you are not, and what you now know you likely will never be. You know that inside, you are a mother too, but you have no child. There is nothing. No one.
Of course none of this is intentional, but people who have kids, mostly talk about their kids. And understandably…I would too! Kids are awesome! And I LOVE all the kids I have been blessed to know. When you are in these shoes, you’re genuinely happy for all of the parents and their beautiful parenthood stories, and you genuinely feel for them when they are faced with the challenges of parenthood…(i really can’t imagine what some parents have gone through!), but simultaneously you feel a stabbing pain every time kids comes up in conversation, and everywhere you go surrounded by parents, children and families. You feel a thousand times more pain when you see a child that is mistreated, neglected, or considered a nuisance by their own parents… and you would have do anything to have been a good mom to that same or any child. The pain never goes away. Or at least it hasn’t yet for me. And I expect it only gets harder as you age… to get old and never know the joy of meeting your first grandchild either. What are you supposed to do with all this love you were dying to give?
Lately though, I have decided to pull my shit together and move on. I will still, no doubt, have my moments sobbing in my cubicle or the supermarket… it really SUCKS not being able to have a child. But it’s time to change my focus entirely and let go of that dream. I don’t have to spend money on diapers, school supplies and college tuitions. So I can spend it on books and art supplies… and that’s a lot of art supplies!! Art is definitely my other passion in life, and it somehow got lost along the way. I think I had the twisted belief that once I became a mom, then I would go back to my art. Silly. So now I intend to pursue it like the dickens! And so far it’s working. I’m doing it. And I feel better! I haven’t sold more than a handful of things… I may never be able to leave my day job to spend my days working on it, but I do it whenever I can. My chest feels less constricted. I’m learning more than ever. And I’m putting myself out there for the first time, knowing that it’s OK that I didn’t go to art school, and that I can still be an artist. It’s ART for heaven’s sake! I don’t agree with some of the formal definitions of art… I believe it’s whatever comes out, in whatever medium, with any level of skill, applied with varying amounts of emotion, thought, instinct and effort.
That is the beauty in my story. Maybe if I became a mother, I would have forgotten about art entirely. And that would have been superb… because hey, there would be an amazing little person in my life whom I would be happy to sacrifice everything for. But I must believe there is still much good that can come of my life, and I am learning to find “meaningful” fulfillment in other ways.
Art is my child. I’ll create it. I’ll nurture it. By art, I mean painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, writing… Sometimes I will keep it tucked under my wing. But then I’ll send it out into the world and hope that it lives on and will make others smile.
And if somehow that window opens again to let a child in, I hope I can be half the mom that my own mother is, and I know that we will do lots of art, together. Lord knows I have the supplies!
I hope that this writing will not offend any of the beautiful moms out there who have given everything selflessly for their children. I do hope it will touch someone else in shoes similar to mine, and help give them the strength to move past the pain and toward a truly fulfilling future. Love can be given in many ways.
… i wrote this post in October 2013, when i was having an especially hard time with this whole subject, but was feeling afraid to put myself out there in this way. My husband sent me this article today, that had me thinking about it again. The article made me feel less alone. I thought maybe i should just put this post out there, in case it, or Melanie Young’s article, can make just one more woman feel less alone.