Given that Mother’s Day was just yesterday, I have no doubt that when you read the title of this blog you thought it would have something to do with mothers/ motherhood/ mothering in some way. And you would be right – despite that the phrase “Mum’s the word” actually has nothing to do with mothers. The idiom, as you may know, means “say nothing” or “do not reveal a secret” and has its origins in Middle English, around the turn of the eighteenth century. I won’t bore you with any more detail about the phrase’s origin, save to say that the meaning of this phrase coincidentally sums up what is weighing heavily on my heart following Mother’s Day, making it an appropriate play on words for me at this time.
This blog has been going for over two years now and you will know that I have at all times been real in my writings. In so doing, I’ve made some people uncomfortable and heard more than one or two “tut tuts” along the way. It would be far easier, let’s be honest, to leave the difficult, raw subjects out and blog about only happy bubbly things. But that’s never going to be who I am and I am not going to be the one who “says nothing” as implied by the title of this post. I turn 42 next week (eek!) and, as most of you know, I have not experienced the privilege and blessing of having children. And while I love being a dog mom (which I’ll talk about more later), the reality is that the absence of having had children in my life is a source of great pain for me.
When I was growing up, I was never one of those girls who always wanted to do babysitting duties, or who fawned over little kids and babies. I wasn’t really interested, to be honest, and I remember thinking as a teenager that I didn’t think I would have kids of my own. But of course, a teenager’s thoughts and emotions are nothing if not transient, and so there was no doubt that, from my 20s, I wanted my own children. I am blessed with an awesome relationship with my parents – and one of the reasons for me wanting children at that time was so that I could give my kids what my parents had given me – a loving home that formed a solid base for facing life – together, as a family.
As I entered my thirties, the fantasy of the husband, 2.4 kids and golden retriever behind the white picket fence was still there and front of mind, albeit that the hues of that picture in my mind were a little less sharp and bright, a little more subdued. And the colours faded a little more with each year that passed after the age of 35. I was faced with largely varied reactions from “Oh, you still have plenty of time” to “You should already have had your eggs frozen, it’s too late now”, and everything in between.
I stopped going to babyshowers (and it seemed there was one every second weekend). My friends understood that it was just too painful for me to be there when all that was spoken about was babies, birth, breastfeeding, etc. etc – knowing that I wasn’t part of that club (and was often the only single girl there). The environment was just too “in your face” for me to deal with and caused me too much angst and sadness. And lest there be any misunderstanding, I was always very happy for the friend who was pregnant – genuinely happy. It was just a matter of self protection that saw me politely declining those invitations. And the friends who I am close to completely understood that – as my friend Linda recently said to me when I declined her baby shower invitation, that she would prefer for me not to be there if it was going to cause me any amount of pain or anguish, and she would hate to be the cause of that. (Thanks Linda – your understanding was (and is) special).
I admire the girls who have decided that they would like to have a child where they may not have a partner, and went after that dream, sometimes through hectic AI and IVF processes. Those girls have walked paths that are often difficult and I fully respect their choices. I have been asked so many times why I don’t have a child “on my own” – and the answer remains (as it has from the beginning), that I don’t want to have a child on my own. That doesn’t undermine anyone else’s choice that they may have made – it’s merely a very personal choice, and my choice is that I wanted to have children with a husband, and have a family unit. (Yes, there are those of you that have told me that there’s no guarantees in life – you may get married, have kids, and then get divorced, and so still end up as a single parent. So what’s the difference? And you’re right – there are no guarantees. However, that doesn’t change my view).
So now I’m turning 42 and the 2.4 kids haven’t arrived and I find myself in the desperately painful place of having to accept that they now probably never will. And before you shout something along the lines of “You never know, there’s still time“, hear me out. I have not been married before, as you know, and have had a few relationships here and there, but have largely been single in my adult life. I’ve been privileged to live an amazing life so far, filled with some truly incredible things – from special family times watching the Migration in the Masai Mara, to countless bubbles-drinking sessions with my friends; from climbing mountains across three continents and breathing in the exquisite air at Everest Base Camp and the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, to running marathons in Paris; from travelling to remote corners of the globe to climbing the corporate ladder to become a partner at the biggest law firm in the country… so many things have filled my life.
And so it is that I know that, if I were to get married and start a life with the man of my dreams one day, I would want to spend time with him for a few years…just him and I. I wouldn’t want to fall pregnant immediately and add a tiny baby to the mix, because I’ve lived the single life for so long, that I want to fully experience life with a partner by my side before rushing to try and fall pregnant. So even if the man of my dreams and marriage were to happen today (which it’s not going to – don’t worry – there’s nothing I’m about to spring on you 😉 it would mean I would only be considering children with him in my mid-40s, if at all, which is too late for me personally. (Again, that is just my opinion. I don’t judge anyone else’s views on what is too early or too late, and so similarly request that you don’t judge my views on it too).
Even as I write this, I can hear the various responses that I am probably eliciting – and I know those responses well because I’ve heard them all before. “Well if you don’t want to have children immediately, then you obviously don’t want them badly enough” and “If you’re not willing to do it on your own, then you obviously don’t want them” etc. etc. Even though there’s an innate sense of feeling that I have to justify my perspective and feelings to you, I know that I don’t. This is personal, and I am merely being real by giving you a glimpse into my journey.
And so it is, that I have started grieving the loss of the children I’ve never had. It hurts. I’ve cried. A lot.
And every year, Mother’s Day is like a knife in the heart. This year was particularly rough for me – which I guess is understandable given that with each year that passes, it’s less likely for my dreams of children to come true. The insensitive marketing around Mother’s Day is unbelievable. The chocolate ads that refer to motherhood being the highest calling in the world, and the jewellery promotions reflecting that there is no role in life more essential than motherhood, to name but a few. Um… thanks… that makes me feel wonderful (not!). My only saving grace over this time is the growing references to ‘dog moms’. And I’m a very proud dog mom. As you know, Chuckles is my everything. My everything.
So as I finish off this post in my 40 before forty journey, it will have become clear to you that having a child was not a blessing that was going to befall me before 40, or in the two years thereafter. And if my speaking about this makes you uncomfortable, I’m truly sorry. But hopefully, rather than make you uncomfortable, it will make us all a little bit more aware of the people around us in our world who may not be ‘traditional’ moms as we think of them, which could be for a number of reasons – including they may be adoptive (heart) moms, dog moms, aunties (who are super cool, by the way), girls who have been trying for years to have children, or girls who have yearned for children, but never had them, like me. And I plead with you to give all of these special people in our world an extra hug today – you see most of the ‘traditional’ moms would have received extra hugs yesterday, perhaps even some spoils 🙂 Which, by the way, I’m sure they fully deserved! But then there are those that spent time yesterday in tears. So please give them a hug when you see them. They need it. They need you. We need it. We need you.
And so, for me, ‘mum’ is unfortunately not the word 😦
Signing off with love, and tears…