Sunday, May 11, 2008

not so deliberately barren

While I take the shortest of moments to silently congratulate my friends on their attainment of motherhood and a much longer one to talk to my own mum, across the sea, cloaked in the early stages of Alzheimer’s (she know who I am and I hope she will spend her remaining years on this planet being cognisant of those who love her) - I’d like to put it on record that I hate Mothers Day.

Ok, poke a stick at me and call it envy. Actually it is not; rather it is my annual day of mourning. In this post-falling-of-the-Twin-Towers world with the resurgence of family values, crafting and apple pie I’ve been left a little stranded. Like Tracee Hutchison, I missed that boat bearing the fruits of my fecundity. While I’m equally annoyed that some of us are invisible to the politicians, I don’t begrudge provision of greater maternity leave and childcare, I may not be a parent but I am still a feminist. But please if you are the proud friend of a late-30s or early-40-something female without children could you just take a minute and read her piece about being on the receiving end of careless questions and comments. They must be universal because I have had them all and too often from people who mean well but should know better. The “just go out and get knocked up by a stranger” line got a beating throughout my 30’s reaching a frenzied peak as the end of that decade came into sight. My gorgeous GP at the time crowned the notion with the nifty moniker “sperm bandits”. No, neither of us saw wilfully stealing someone’s DNA as an ethical thing to do. But oddly people who wouldn’t (these days at least, now they are trying to install values into their own offspring) lift an item off the shelf and slip it into their bag without paying would suggest a much more elaborate form of theft. The ‘hopeful’ stories of ridiculously old women bearing children, dropped like crumbs as if I was a starving creature, leave me bewildered and overwhelmingly tired. The patronising assumption that I had never wanted children (untrue), pity or even exclusion from certain child-centric events continues, even now.

Though my mother has been gracious about her lack of grandchildren it is very, very difficult to witness someone else’s parent sharing her sorrow on the subject. How much understanding or compassion would it take to consider that perhaps having 2 grown children, even if they haven’t produced offspring, may be better than the alternative? It can be very tough when something so personal and private becomes public property, with a bundle of assumptions and expectations.

I don’t mind when a good friend asks gently over a bottle of wine how I feel about the kid thing, respectfully acknowledging the status quo without presumptions, as one did recently. We all have our journeys of grief and pretending they they don’t exist is worse than never going there.

So while I’ll send up a cheer almost any day agreeing that maternity is a wonderful thing and every mother I have ever met has done or is doing a fabulous job, especially for enduring those endless hours of domestic, mind numbing drudgery – I’ll just try and avoid the cafes and restaurants today. Even the galleries and movie theatres and other such public spaces where families tend to gather. After all it is just one day, I have my garden and for once the Not Boyfriend is in Melbourne today, so I don’t feel quite so alone.

But I’m not trying to garner pity. I've had a quiet coffee on the deck listening to birdsong already this morning, there is a warm body waiting in bed for an undisturbed cuddle and have no demands on my time til tomorrow. Life really isn’t that tragic.

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Blogger docwitch said...

great post.

Although I'm a mother of a child, (although I think there are all sorts of mothers of different kinds of 'children', creative and otherwise out in/to the community), I certainly can both understand and imagine some these issues. Many women encounter them, and our choices as women are so often second-guessed and judged according to a mythical baseline of normality.

As someone who has 'only' one child, it is often assumed that since you popped out one, that it is a simple matter to keep reproducing. I'm often asked some pretty insensitive and intrusive questions with accompanying tones of pity, judgement, even accusations that it's selfish and unfair to my child. That it condemns her to being one of those 'only children', with the accompanying 'only child syndrome'.

I find this quite painful. As someone who has had fertility issues and pregnancy losses, (with all their physical and psychological ramifications), there is not a little terror at the thought of ever facing another loss. Having said that, I'm very happy to have my one, live, healthy child.

I hardly ever mention my experiences, as not only is it a painful topic, but it has been blithely suggested that I just 'go and get IVF'. Problem solved. A bit like just grabbing some sperm don't ya think?

9:40 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Absolutely - we are judged on how, when and why we do or do not breed. 'Cos let's not forget, that's why we are here on earth after all :)

Thanks for sharing.

10:23 am  
Blogger Pixie said...

am rendered 'speechless', maybe commentless is the right word.

2:14 pm  
Blogger Lost in a reverie... said...

Our choices, or those that are foisted upon us through circumstance, do define us, but I too dislike the assumptions some people make about the life events. And yes, women are unfairly judged on how many, when and why we breed, or not.

And the careless comments along the lines of: “Just go out and get knocked up by a stranger” - What a screwed up thing to say, even in jest (actually it's even more thoughtless as a joke).

I'm sorry about your mother, and not being able to be with her - my grandmother had dementia and it broke my heart the first time she couldn't recognise me.


7:50 pm  
Blogger Ed said...

Mothers Day, Fathers Day and increasingly any festival which involves some bloke who eventually gets nailed to a cross or the other bloke with the volcanos get my goat. What annoys me is that people with kids think they are exempt from normal social behaviour. I was quizzed yesterday on who's fault it was that we don't have kids. I thought it was theother way round usually when somebody got pregnant.

7:06 pm  
Blogger Bwca said...

I have 3 children - age 35, 39 and 40.

not even an email on mothers day.
not a damn thing.
do you want one of them?

no they were not starved or beaten in their formative years.
private school and disneyland, the best postcodes, never heard the word 'no'.
i'm fucked if i know what i did wrong.

7:04 pm  
Blogger Bwca said...

I have no siblings.
It has been my experience that 'only children' are less selfish, never having had to take measures re getting and keeping stuff from any siblings.
or having to carry on to get their parents attention away from siblings.

my friend judy became pregnant from her very first sexual experience.

hardly anybody gets the life experience they hoped to.

7:08 pm  

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