But you know what they say about planning too far in advance!
I always wanted a large family, ideally 4 or 5 children. However I hadn’t bargained on the chronic health and developmental issues my brood share between them - or our shared infertility. We managed to delude ourselves that #3 would be free of gastro issues and were utterly in denial over our second son’s Autism at that point, but when #3 turned out to be #3 AND #4 we realised we had as much as we could cope with. Possibly more at times….. It was a no-brainer deciding that we are done!!
That, however is different from "feeling" you're done. I do really miss the tiny baby thing, wish like hell that I could do the early months again with any of them without reflux and pain, I feel really cheated on that score. The constant screaming was a bit wearing when everyone else seemed to get at least 10 minutes a day cuddling their new babies - and unless you have survived on less than 4 hours sleep for months on end you won’t appreciate how much we were “surviving” rather than living.
So, secure in the knowledge I couldn’t cope with more children - and honestly not wanting more health issues to deal with - I parted with the buggy, packed the slings away and passed on most of our baby and small-person clutter. I felt somewhat sad that I was "moving on" but great excitement too, it was both a cathartic and liberating process as I made that positive step across the bridge. Indeed there are huge positives in looking forwards not back, scary though it may be. I might have spent the first twenty-four years of my life dreaming of babies of my own, but the reality is that children grow, and it's also very true that each stage brings more opportunities and excitement. I truly relish every chance to share all my children's experiences, and teenagers are significantly less scary than social media would have you believe! Maybe I’m just lucky, but my older two are fabulous company and I am secretly dreading next year when my eldest spreads his wings and leaves for university.
I've been thinking a lot about this lately, hitting the menopause early has precipitated much soul-searching and reflection. Its one of life's crossroads, as trivial or as mountainous as you choose to make it I guess, but it certainly contributes to feeling at least a decade older than my years most days, this feeling of ageing initiating further reflection. Having made the transition relatively painlessly several years ago the past year has taken me by surprise.
My husband has become a grandfather, my brother now has a baby, and my neighbour is expecting. Suddenly I’m immersed in the world of tiny beings again - and they are not mine. More painful still, their development is not marred by health issues and they seem happy and relatively settled. But the shield I threw up for self protection also numbs my feelings towards these tiny people, and I feel less longing than I expected to hold or cuddle them, scared that if I reach out my emotions will be released and the pain of acknowledging that phase of my life - the only one I ever envisaged - is not only well and truly over but that it never was how I dreamt it. Perhaps the most terrifying prospect is that I will be forced to face the grief every parent with a child with chronic disability or illness hides from.... The reality that you love them utterly and completely for whom they are, but you would - in all honesty - prefer that they (and you) did not have to face the daily struggles which are a part of your everyday life.
And that’s the problem. Because that wall exists to prevent me from entertaining this self-indulgent and ungrateful thought - the cold hard truth that having a child with special needs of any kind is a raw grief as much as it is a celebration. It’s a grief I can ever get through without embracing it - and that I will never allow myself to do because it would feel like I was letting my children down hugely.
My children are my world, and their future my focus. Life is never dull on our family rollercoaster and I believe the past 17+ years has made me a better person. Even entertaining the possibility that any bit of it could have been different would release those almost unbearable emotions, and altering anything even the slightest bit would not only devalue our journey, but who they are.
And really they are all pretty damn awesome.
So I was “done” adding to my family a long time ago. I’m not sure I will ever know in my heart that I’m done, but it’s not a bad place to be. And somewhere over the rainbow, where unicorns fly, where I have children with no “issues” or difficulties, and there isn’t a hospital in sight one thing is certain - for all that perfection it’s mind-numbingly tedious, and my children are considerably less amazing.
I'll take this parallel universe every time. I never was one for rainbows - or unicorns.
|image courtesy of dorena-wm|