Almost exactly 27 years ago today my life changed utterly. I gave birth to my daughter and anyone who has ever been a parent will know that whatever was going on before that was tossed right out the window.
Since the big “bust up” a few weeks ago and the subsequent reconciliation (oh, yes, there was a reconciliation–much quieter, of course), I haven’t heard much from J. It’s kind of like that for us. When I hear from her, there’s something she wants or needs, even if it’s couched in the terms of checking in or offering to do something for me. Occasionally, she will call just to tell me something funny or something good that’s happening, but more often, when I see her name on the caller ID, there is a sense of dread that it’s going to cost me a lot of money. Of course, I allow this, so it’s not her fault, right?
Sometimes I read other women’s blogs and stories about their children and their feelings of maternal love and tenderness and hope and longing, etc. I envy those women. I wish I felt those things about my daughter. Of course, I love her, but down deep, my heart has never been engaged in being a parent. Being a parent was never anything I wanted to do and the circumstances surrounding how it happened have always been a source of deep pain, angst, worry and soul hurt for me. Twenty-seven years later, I am still trying to forgive myself for making the decision that changed not only my life, but hers as well. She deserves to have been more wanted.
So many articles, web sites, reference material, etc. are devoted to the stories of women who spend their lives apparently wracked with guilt over abortions. This is very convenient, I think. I certainly do not make light of that decision because I know first-hand what it entails. I have seen both sides of that story. However, I can say that while the decision to have an abortion was also a painful one at the time, I never lost a night of sleep over that decision afterwards. I knew it was the correct one for me, however wrenching it might have been in the short term.
The decision to have my daughter was not mine. That is, ultimately, I did choose to go through with the pregnancy rather than not, but there was tremendous pressure from the “outside” to do so, specifically in the form of my first husband. The bottom line is, I got pregnant and had a child to prevent him from carrying out threats to hurt my family if I didn’t. There was never any real desire, deep down inside myself, to have a baby. Not then, and really not ever. After years and years of tearing myself up over this, I have come to the conclusion that that particular type of “maternal” feeling or desire was simply left out of me. Not bad or good, just a fact.
As far as I can tell, there are not many articles published about this. Certainly the “right to life” folks don’t want to hear that woman make the choice to have children and then regret it for the rest of their lives. Even if women have doubts during pregnancy, HAVING the baby is supposed to make up for it, that’s what we’re all told, right? I am here to tell you, that is a lie. They make such simplistic statements like, “Are you saying you want to kill your child now?” Oh my god, how STUPID are they? Of course I don’t want to “kill my child”. But do I wish I could go back and UNMAKE the decision to ever have a child? Well, yes, quite often I do wish that. It has nothing to do with my child as a person, but with my own inner nature.
People who know me might be shocked at this, because I’ve been called very “mothering”. Sometimes I think they confuse my love of food, cooking, and those kinds of “home” skills for “mothering”. It’s true I love to feed people, love to cook good food and see people happy eating it. But that’s not really “maternal instinct”. Trust me, there’s a huge difference.
People might say, but you look after G so well. It’s true, I do. I want her to be cared for, to be cared about, to have the supportive environment that she needs and deserves. I love her. But our relationship is full of reciprocity. Everything I do for her, I get back from her; what we do for each other is by mutual choice.
There is no reciprocity in the parent/child relationship. It is ALL about the child. For me, becoming a parent was all about giving up everything I WAS to “do” for someone else who has yet to care much about what was/is going on with me. Which is, I get it, perfectly normal. The parent/child dynamic has been rocky since time began, I imagine.
No one knows the future. Obviously, I can’t say that my life would have been smooth sailing without a baby attached to it. In fact, it could have been much worse. I acknowledge all that. Doesn’t make living with the “wrong” decision any more pleasant.
Now, 27 years later, things are easier, I’m happy to say. I marvel at what my daughter is doing, though given her genetic make up and the long line of strong, willful women she comes from, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise. She is creating for herself the family I wasn’t able to give her. She is now caring for 4 children and her husband has a big, extended family. She would have been the happy oldest child of a “passle” of siblings, but I wasn’t willing to take that particular plunge ever again. She appears to thrive on the drama and chaos of her relationship (Abraham would call that “contrast”) and out of this arises new determination to go forward. The good thing is that it makes me incredibly grateful for every good thing that I have in my calm little life and the way of living that I have crafted for myself.
Over the past few years, I have been able to detach more of my personal involvement in the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” regarding my daughter. She is on her own path and for now it seems to be satisfying her. Her children are wonderful and she apparently loves being a mom. Those 2 boys have my heart totally tied up in knots all around their little fingers, sometimes I think that perhaps I was supposed to “get through” having a child so I could know the joys of being a gramma to boys. I understand that the Universe has ways of working things out like that.
I am thrilled when I hear my daughter talking about school, and engaging and getting excited about learning. Once during a fight about her staying in school, she threw up that, “Oh, how am I ever going to use any of this?” argument in my face. I countered by telling her that I hoped she might want to learn just for the sake of learning. She is discovering that joy now, and it’s great to watch.
She has been my toughest and best teacher, I realize that now. If not for her “contrast”, I might not ever have realized the kind of life I want, quiet, deep, simple and content. Without having this baby who threw my life into total disarray and upset, who knows where I would be now?
This is a new year, in a new decade in a still-new century. No more looking back. Done is done, no regrets. The scared new mom of 27 years ago is now a wise woman who can accept herself and her past, and now I get to watch my daughter become her own wise woman. This past year has been one of growth and change for both of us, and pretty much all for the better.
Blessings abound in my life, and my daughter is one of the biggest.
Happy birthday, Bug.