This is not strictly a post about pregnancy loss, or grief, or our recovery. However, I do feel like it's relevant to all of those things, because this post is about something that has an influence on all of us, whether it's directly part of your life or not - the shadow (and light) of it hangs over human society, subtly altering our experience just by existing. It also has a direct relevance to loss and grief, because often it is the place people turn in times of difficulty. And it has the potential to upset some people.
This post is about religion.
It's about my personal relationship with religion, and how it has figured into my grieving process. It's not intended to offend or upset anyone - it's just my view of the world. I want to state upfront that I don't have any issue with the practice of religion, providing it's not used as a stick to beat others with (and to me that is the fault of the person practising it, not the religion itself). I think "Faith", in it's many forms, can be a wonderful thing. That being said, here we go . . .
I was raised as a Christian, specifically Roman Catholic. I went to Christian schools. We went to church on Sundays. I studied religious education at school (I even took an advance university course on it for extra credit - what a nerd). I played in the church band. I was even an altar boy for a little while.
Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, when my rebellious streak was at it's streakiest, I decided I didn't want to go to church any more. To me, it felt stale, repetitive. I'd sit in my pew and listen to the congregation mumble the words by rote. There was no feeling to it, no passion, and I thought - how can God be here? How can this be God? I found energy and passion, and love in other things - mainly music at that time, but also nature, and friendship, and (even though I was too cool for them at that age) family.
I remember the conversation with my parents. They understood my reasons, and they respected my opinion. They were not zealots, they were never going to disown me for giving up religion. They certainly weren't fundamentalist about scripture - if I'd told them I was gay, they would have been cool with that. But Church wasn't just a religious thing for them - it was a family activity. Every Sunday after mass we'd chat outside the Church with other families, and often a big group would meet at someone's place for morning tea. That was a big part of the weekend, and of my upbringing. I remember cream donuts from Mt Eden Bakery as a staple. Also, I had two younger brothers. If I was allowed to skip out on Church it would create issues with them. I could believe what I liked, they said - but while I lived in their house, I needed to continue to participate in this family routine.
As a parent, I get that instinct now, As a teenager, I wasn't having it. I was just at that age where rules of any sort felt like a righteous injustice that I had to battle with all the fire and brimstone of a civil rights activist (what do you mean I have to have wear a collared shirt for our family photo??! Form the picket lines!) and this was about my beliefs. It felt too important to let go. It also felt like a giant waste of time to sit in church for an hour and listen to something that I had no interest in. I could be doing better things with my time, like sleeping (hey, I was a teenager). I was also over the post-Church morning tea thing. Most of the other teens my age where no longer attending them, and even if they were, we were often from different schools or cliques, it's not like when you're 5 and everyone is your mate.
We argued. I shouted. They shouted. I reasoned, they reasoned. Things got emotional, then heated. In a typically teen melodramatic finish, I punctuated a final "NO!" by punching a hole in the living room wall. It was stupid, destructive, unnecessary. If my child ever does something like that, I'll be so pissed. Weirdly, it also worked. My parents eventually told me that, if I felt that strongly, I didn't have to go to Church, that they would explain it to my brothers. I had "won", but like a child who gets their way by throwing a tantrum (isn't that exactly what I'd done?) I felt a bit embarrassed by the whole thing. The outcome was right, I thought - but I didn't like how we'd got there. In a final flourish of irony, the hole in the wall was covered with a picture of Jesus (honestly I think it just fit the gap, it wasn't a veiled message. I think.).
Now that I had my spiritual freedom, of course I used it for very deep and enlightened things - video games, girls, sleep. I didn't think too deeply about religion or the existence of God for a long time. I suppose if you'd have asked me, I would have considered myself an agnostic - I felt there was some sort of higher presence there, and (maybe out of habit from childhood), at times of great need or sadness, I'd turn to It. It wasn't so much "praying" as a request for strength, a hail Mary pass when I really needed something to go right for me. So it was a pretty selfish view of "God" I guess.
My wife is not religious, and religion wasn't part of her upbringing. Her Dad is technically Anglican, but he doesn't practice, and her Mum has no religion I'm aware of. It just wasn't part of her life. She was fascinated by my history, in a "look at that weird fish, why does it have blue spots" kind of way. We talked about our beliefs, and agreed if we had kids, we didn't want them to be raised in any religion. We felt they should be able to make their own choices, and I thought from my experience that my early exposure to religion had taken away some of that choice - it was already in my head, before I truly had the ability to decide if I wanted it there (but then again, maybe the ethics and guiding principles of Christianity helped me to not grow up a jerk? OK not a total jerk . . .).
Although I am not religious, I remain intrigued and fascinated by faiths of all kind - Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist. In recent years, having done more thinking and some more reading on the subject of God (I can recommend this and this especially), and come to the conclusion that I'm definitely an atheist now. For me, there is just no good evidence of the existence of a Creator. I'm not ruling it out completely, but in order to function in the world, we all have to make some base assumptions about what is true - and I hold the non-existence of a God as one of those truths. You don't need to be 100% certain of these assumptions in order to act on them either - I also can't rule out the possibility that (as some scientists and Elon Musk apparently believe) all of reality is an illusion and we are in a Matrix-style simulation - but to be safe, I'm going to avoid jumping off roofs and trying to dodge bullets.
So, all this is to say that, when we had our annus horriblus in 2016, losing our baby, my wife's physical and mental well being, and almost losing ourselves along the way, we didn't have a religious life raft to cling to. We were on our own, in the real world, with our grief. We had to work through it ourselves, learning to swim together, keeping each other afloat. I can't speak to whether that is a good or a bad thing, whether having a religion would have grounded us in some way - or whether it would have made it even harder, whether the events of 2016 would have made us call our religion into question, and then you're adding a spiritual crossroads to everything else you've got going on.
I can say I've never been tempted (tempted? Isn't that a weirdly biblical choice of words?) to go back to Christianity, or any religion for that matter. I respect aspects of religious life - the community, the structure, the history, the rituals and the way they reflect meaning. I can honestly see benefits, right down to the physical - religion is calming, grounding, it gives you a platform to build off. I also find it limiting. It's prescriptive, and in my opinion the prescriptions are often not founded on any basis of fact or research.
I feel like I can get the same benefits from other forms of ritual - meditation, yoga, exercise, journaling - and I personally find meaning and connected-ness in nature more than any Church. When I'm rowing a boat at night on a glassy lake and I look up at the stars, the world is beautiful and wondrous enough for me without needing to bring God into it.
That's not to say you can't or shouldn't believe and still process your grief effectively. I guess one way religion could be useful in dealing with pregnancy loss is the practice of "faith" - that is, the ability to envision and believe in something that's not physically "there". I suppose my love for my daughter is really an act of faith - I've never met her, I never truly "saw" her or held her in my arms. I have various artefacts that provide some basis for belief (pictures of the scan, her ashes) and various symbols that represent a concept of her (rainbows, certain songs, a bracelet I wear with her and Sam's initials). These things, and what they prompt in my head, are my relationship with her, and, being a practical, physical person I struggle with that sometimes. Maybe having a religious practice would help me to hold her in my mind and heart in a more "real" way?
When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, I can remember going to Church and thinking that the Priest actually was God. Like, God is up there on the altar, he's come here specifically for a chat with us. Which is weird, because we went to different churches sometimes, so I knew there were different priests. I guess the way I thought of it, God is magic, he can be who he wants, like a shapeshifter. And He was definitely a "he" in my mind - the idea of a female or even gender-neutral God hadn't crossed my mind. Which again, is silly - if there is a God, why would he/she have a gender? What possible purpose could that serve, beyond giving us a pronoun to call him/her by? But this is a good example of how even believing in what you see can deceive you. I genuinely thought I saw God, and all of the ritual and rhythm supported that belief, but in the end it was just some dude in a white robe.
I suppose it doesn't matter how silly or crazy your beliefs are. If they matter deeply to you, they are real - whether that's the existence of God, or whether you really lost a child. And if those beliefs enrich your life (and as long as they don't hurt anyone else), they're worth holding onto. If I have a "faith" these days, that's it - believe in what strengthens you - let the rest of it go. And of course, after recent devastating events in our country it's important that we see people's beliefs as being their own business. It's our job as human beings to accept everyone no matter what their faith, or lack thereof. We are all human, we are all alive, and life is precious.
So we've been a bit quiet for a while... because life, really. In the last quarter of last year I was doing a wellness course called My Good Life, and that took all my mental and physical energy to commit to. Plus, motherhood, seeing a few clients in my salon, helping at at Sam's school... and what was the other thing? Oh yeah. Being constantly fatigued.
We had a good summer. I should clarify that and say Sam had a great summer - he had an amazing adventure of camping, learning to ride his bike, swimming at the school pool, play dates, birthday parties, meeting some alpacas, lots of reading, bike riding, scooting and an awesome 6th birthday outing to Jump trampoline park. It was a long 7 weeks but it was only really in the last week that he started to get ratty with what I assume to be the lack of routine & need for more kid contact and I started to wish for school to start up again. We had a good time the two of us, he's now at an age where he's often self-sufficient so I was able to have time in my day for my mental wellness routine, to have easy starts to the day. The best part of the holiday for me other than spending more time with my number one boy was not having to battle to get him to school in the morning - anyone who has had challenges with a kid not wanting to go to school will know what I mean!
The other thing I enjoyed was the clear identity I had - I was his full-time mother & carer. I had a purpose, a defined role. Not once did I feel guilty or useless. I was exhausted sure, and I had to pace myself, but Sam was ok with slow starts, with long stretches playing Lego or board games, with only managing one activity every day, some days none. Plus, having a pool key meant I could take him there and sit on the sidelines while he tired himself out. It was the best summer weather-wise and mental-health-wise I've had in a long time.
Mentally, I had just finished this 9 week course where we'd done a lot of "mind-shift" stuff - re-learning ingrained behaviours, changing my internal voice from negative to positive, embracing the power of gratitude. It was powerful stuff and I think it helped me go into the festive season relatively emotionally stable. In the course we learnt that childhood rejection of some sort has shaped us to have certain beliefs about ourselves that frames how we see ourselves and how we relate to stress & trauma. That to move forward to be the healthier version of ourselves we had to dig deep into our sub-conscious to re-learn behaviour, correct those negative "truths".
For me, one of the first and most significant changes was my internal voice - my biggest critic. Now, I knew from my psychologist sessions that I "should" be talking to myself with kindness, the way I would talk to a best friend. But was I doing it? Well, clearly not. It was always easier to talk to myself in a negative critical way because I'd been doing it for so long. So I created a personality for my negative voice - I called her Joy, ironically. I would have conversations out loud with Joy - "Come on Joy, that's a bit harsh", "Joy, that's actually not true - you did your best", "Joy, it doesn't matter if that person thinks you're weird - that's their issue, why do you care?". Slowly I started to change my internal voice, and now, 3 months into 2019 it's not often that I have to tell Joy off. Amazingly I have employed this same strategy with Sam to try and give him a way to deal with moments he feels anxious, particularly about school to great success. His internal voice is called JT (?? Who knows where that name came from, but isn't it interesting that it's the reverse of T.J?) & he has conversations out loud to JT. Sometimes I remind him - "Remember, JT is just trying to protect you, that's his job, so you say "Thank you JT, but I'm safe right now"."
On this course we had weekly homework on our mind-shift stuff, and sometimes is was incredibly confronting. Sometimes enjoyable - like the gratitude ritual, which quite frankly, just makes sense. Apparently, if you're in a negative pattern of thinking, gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions to help you re-programme those negative neural pathways. Again, I had tried gratitude in the past. I had tried a daily gratitude journal but it hadn't stuck. Maybe it wasn't the right format for me, or maybe I just wasn't ready to embrace it until late last year. But once I added the gratitude ritual to my day, and once I was guided what I need to put into it to help change my beliefs - I started to feel lighter. The gratitude ritual is really simple, you do it every day for about 5 minutes. You think of something you're grateful for - say, your amazing husband. You visualize that person (or object) - what does it look like, what would it feel like to reach out & touch it, what does it smell like, taste like - whatever of the 6 senses are appropriate obviously. Then you imagine your gratitude getting bigger until it's bursting & then you let it go, thanking it. You do it with 3 things. Simple.
For me though, I was grateful for Nick, grateful for Sam, sometimes for Richie the dog, sometimes for the weather, sometimes for our house. But it wasn't until Morella, one of the coaches, made me see that my guilt & grief over having one child wouldn't change until I was grateful for only having one child - for the amazing life the 3 of us currently have and could have in the future. Being grateful for us a a trio has changed things dramatically for me. It took some tears, breaking down in front of the whole group, confronting some uneasy truths about why I've been holding onto my negative story, but I am starting to feel grateful and lucky for having an only child rather than lacking.
The other area I'm working on is being grateful for my body. That's a really challenging one as I felt it had let me down in the past. I didn't recognise it, couldn't connect with it. I still struggle daily with this as my health isn't where I want it to be. But I'm trying to be kind & accepting of my journey and my challenges rather than disconnecting from my body. It's bloody hard though!
So that brings me back to my current headspace and why I decided today was a good day to write a blog post. I realised that in the 5 or so weeks since Sam has gone back to school my mental energy has dipped down again. I now have uninterrupted time in my day to meditate, do my gratitude ritual and some yoga without having to remind a small human that slamming into the room isn't relaxing. But my internal value has dipped - my identity and self worth seem to be tied to how much I can achieve in one day. And right now my energy is still so low that the smallest things are exhausting. We're working on it physically, the Doctor & Naturopath have me on a regime to try and heal my Chronic Fatigue, but it's a slow process. In the meantime, having extra time in my day feels like a curse - if I fill it with activities and chores, I have nothing left for Sam & Nick. If I rest, I feel incredibly lazy and unproductive. I remind myself daily to treat myself with kindness and just accept the current situation. That working on my mental health is actually incredibly exhausting but so so important. But the best part of my day is 3pm when my role becomes clearly defined - mother, caregiver. And the best part is that Sam doesn't mind if I don't have a lot of energy as long as he's fed, paid attention to and cuddled (see, I'm so grateful for that one mostly well-behaved child, imagine me trying to cope with my current state with two kids?!).
So until 3pm my self-worth fluctuates and it's incredibly challenging. I think there is an ingrained view that women need to be copers - to be superwomen. Especially now when it's expected that mothers will work (and actually most need to to live in this expensive city). And while I do work, it's sporadic and I can't over-commit myself or risk letting people down or doing an average treatment when my energy runs out. But I'm also not a super house-wife either, with the house-husband doing the lion's share of the washing & vacuuming & 90% of the dishes. So what value do I add then? It's ridiculous in this society, where mental health problems and suicide are such an issue that I can't allow myself to have a simpler pace of life and embrace all the good things I'm doing because I don't fit into a category that can be explained. When people ask me what I do, it seems like a lie to say Beauty Therapist because it's so part-time, does it even count? And if your child is at school 6 hours a day, 5 days a week can you be a full-time mother? Is full-time Recovering-From-Trauma-and-Working-on-my-Wellness-to-be-the-Best-Mother-and-Wife-I-can-be a thing? Is Trying-to-get-my-Energy-up-so-I-can-Find-Some-Enjoyment-in-Life a role? And because the medical world - the public health system, the medical insurance companies - don't recognise my current state as actually being worth supporting, is it all in my head? I know it's not, I know that I can't get better without doing a heck of a lot of hard work. But in the meantime, it's not a recognised state of anything, by anyone other than the people close to me who love me and don't judge me for what I'm going through.
But because I know better and have the insight to see how ridiculous my guilt and lack of self-worth is, why can't I feel good about myself just the way I am? Life huh? Nick read over this post and told me he thought I should wrap this up, make it more hopeful at the end. But I think my exact words were: Nah, fuck that. This is where my life is and I don't have all the answers. I think those of you who have been reading from the beginning will know that we have always been honest, sometimes brutally so. So while I don't want to leave this post feeling helpless, because I'm actually not at the same levels of low I've been in the past, I also don't have a nice way to conclude this. I just hope that something in this resonates with someone - that they have that moment of "Yes, it's not all in my head!" or "I'm not alone!".... because truthfully, I think we all struggle sometimes with our identity and self-worth.
So we had a weekend away. It was something we both really needed and the timing couldn't have been better. We'd had a month of illness in our house in the weeks leading up to our mini break. First Sam had a week-long flu, then Nick & I caught a nasty virus that started as conjunctivitus and ended up with our bodies nearly shutting down. Then Sam got sick again, this time with a tummy bug while he was staying with his Grandparents (we quarantined ourselves away from him so he didn't get it too) and had to come home to have Mama-comfort. Then when we were all starting to get on the mend, I got had another gastro episode that knocked me for about 6 days. So the school holidays were a bit of a bust for poor Sammy.
And because we'd had weeks of either being sick or being caregivers, both Nick and I were burnt out & little niggles that had been bugging us recently became bigger and we both felt like we weren't connecting as we should be. So the opportunity to use some Airpoints and some money gifted to us by my in-laws for Christmas (thank you!) was extremely welcomed. And having two sets of Grandparents willing to have our little man for 3 nights meant that we could go on a real adventure.
We decided to make our way to the South Island, namely the Catlins, because it's a beautiful part of the country and somewhere we'd never been. And for us as a couple, going on an adventure together, experiencing new things is a great way to cement our bond. So the weekend was a great opportunity to re-affirm what we love about each other, our shared sense of humour and everything we have in common.
We went on a road trip exploring wild beaches, lighthouses and caves. We had a great time and came back this week feeling closer than we've been in a long time and more energised. However, it wasn't all happy-happy Instagram perfect. Because life isn't like that. I wrote a post about on Saturday. Basically, this is what I said:.
Sometimes you have to fake your energy to get your body to catch up to your mind. We're having a mini break away from the big city & our mini human, we're seeing some amazing parts of the Catlins in the South Island but it is still a challenge to feel the physical energy to enjoy our experience like the old versions of ourselves before trauma and PTSD came calling.
But you've got to keep faking it to tell your mind body & soul that it's going to be ok to live your life. One day it will get the message.
At the moment I'm doing a wellness course called My Good Life and a big part of the journey on this course is understanding what's going on in my mind and empowering myself through understanding, self compassion and gratitude. So understanding what really makes my heart sing, what makes me feel good, whether it be environment, relationships, exercise or food is basically what I'm spending my time doing. According to the PH360 study that we're using (which FYI is an eye opener so watch this space for me to talk about it more, because it's amazing!), wide open spaces and a cooler climate is the perfect getaway for me, so this couldn't have been set up better for me to enjoy myself.
And I absolutely did enjoy myself, it was the perfect environment, the perfect company and while my mind was happy and energised in a way it hasn't in a while, my body was still exhausted. And at times I felt frustrated and angry at my body for holding me back (like when Nick literally had to push me back 1.5kms up a hill). However, part of my journey is accepting my current situation and treating myself with kindness. My goal this week is to stop feeling bad about what I "should" be doing, stop comparing my journey to other people's or my own unrealistic expectation of what I'm supposed to be doing.
That's the thing about trauma, about PTSD, about grief. Your body and mind sometimes feel disjointed, especially in my case as my trauma is intricately wound up with illness and what my body has been through. So I'm learning to pace myself, to be okay with my own limitations and be okay with my current status. Small steps, day by day. I can't force my journey to go quicker than I want it to, I can only take on board all the tools I've been given and everything I've learnt and use them to take one day at a time
And like water, fighting your past won't help. You have to work with it, ride it, use it, even if you might swallow a little water along the way.
If you've read Annamarie's post from last week you will have caught up with the news - I am a sterile man. Had the Snip. Got the chop. Shooting blanks. The boys are staying in the house. No juice in the junk. No venom in the snake. No sizzle in the sausage. I could do this all day..
Jokes aside (and if you know me you will know that I rarely lay the jokes aside), earlier in the year we did make the choice for me to have a vasectomy. We had been talking about it for a while, and in fact I always knew it was something I'd eventually have to do once we were done having children. Compared to the female alternatives, it's by far the best method of contraception, as long as you know you're done.
And that, really was the big call - being done. We've talked about this in the blog before, but we made the choice last year that we would be a one child family, that trying again, even though we are (or rather were) both biologically capable, would be too much of a risk to Annamarie's health, would consume too much of our limited time left on this world, and based on our experience might not even deliver the result we want - and if it did its likely it would come with a whole lot of hurt.
In the end it was me that made the call to pull the trigger. I booked the appointment, I arranged it all with medical insurance, I drove it. I did that partly because, hey, they're my testicles, and partly because I wanted to take away some of the pain and guilt Annamarie seemed to be feeling. She would often talk about feeling like a failure because she couldn't give Sam a sibling, like she was somehow less of a Mum, less of a woman because of it. As much as I might reassure her that I don't think that, that nobody thinks that (and if they do they're an asshole), it didn't seem to help. She still felt, somehow, that it was her fault.
And so, I made it my fault. Now its not Annamarie being unable to have more, it's me not being able to provide them. I wanted to carry that, to take that baggage away from her, to give her the freedom to be the amazing mum and woman that she is, without worrying about the woman she feels she ought to be.
It only sort of worked. The decision certainly made it final. It closed the door, sealed our life as a one child family. I think that made things easier in some sense, cleaner. It also took away the fear we harbored, every time that Annamarie started feeling nauseous or had a heightened sense smell, that it might all be happening again.
But, of course, it didn't take away the hurt, or the guilt, or the feeling of being trapped in a life you didn't choose. We made the best choice we could because a whole lot of others had been taken away from us. I know that it was the right decision, but I still feel pain and regret about having to make it - and about what it means for our future choices.
I know we are lucky. I know we have the privilege of more options than most, that we have had some amazing and unique experiences, that we have the immense joy of each other as a family. I am even grateful for many of our hardships, for what they have taught us, for how we have grown through them.
That growth has lead me to accept what is and move forward as best I can. I guess the thing I am continuing to learn is that moving forward doesn't mean leaving stuff behind, that you carry your past, consciously or unconsciously, along with you. It's like you are floating down a river, making ripples and waves as you go. You might leave those waves behind, but they bounce back of the river banks, disturbing things as they go, creating new currents and flows that influence how you need to paddle as you move along. And like water, fighting your past won't help. You have to work with it, ride it, use it, even if you might swallow a little water along the way.
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It's been bugging me a lot lately, and it seems to be the theme of my life at the moment, so I decided to write about it. This is in part about mother's guilt, in part about parents judging other parents and in part about internal doubts.
Where to start? Maybe with a question - Why do some people think it's okay to make comments about your family size? And why does it even upset me?
To explain... I often, (especially now that Sam has started school) meet new people and they always ask "So, you have just the one?" or "Is Sam your only child?". And I find myself fluctuating between the standard response (that doesn't make people feel uncomfortable) which is "Yup, just one lucky little boy" or the more honest but sanitised version of the truth "Yes, we had another baby but we lost her before she arrived, so it's now just Sam".
And then there's the other question, which follows the first response:"Do you plan on having any more?". And really, when that rolls around I think I should have just stuck to the second reply and dealt with their discomfort because a "No, Sam's going to be an only child" doesn't seem to cut it with some people. There's raised eyebrows, or just an "Oh" or even an uncomfortable silence. And with each version there seems to be a vibe that having one child is selfish or wrong, or that you aren't really a proper parent if you aren't juggling the needs of more than one child. And for me, my response about only having one child doesn't honour any of our journey and how we've come to this place and it doesn't acknowledge our much-wanted daughter. It also makes me feel inadequate each time.
So, second question - why do I feel inadequate for only having one child? I've been pondering on this a lot lately. For the last three weeks or so I've been focusing on my mental health journey and the counselling and hypnotherapy I'm doing are making me confront some darkness I was sub-consciously trying to suppress, meaning these uncomfortable questions are coming out all over the place. And if I don't answer them, I might find myself in a worse place than I was before.
So, why? Why do other people's seemingly harmless questions provoke a response of guilt, sadness, anger and inadequacy? I think it's in part because of societal pressures. Yup, I'm going to blame society. But seriously, there's this unspoken expectation for you not just to breed, but breed to create a brood. A single child family in our corner of the world seems to be the minority and I know this isn't just my skewed view of the world. If was to do a poll at Sam's school, my guestimation would be that single-kid families would make up less than 10%. In fact, I can't think of one other kid in Sam's class who doesn't have siblings.
So, society, and more specifically, my own community, is making a one-child family different, outside the norm. Is that why I feel inadequate? I guess, yes, that's part of it. Every time I answer the "just the one" question, every time one of the kids in Sam's class asks when I'm going to have a baby, every time I watch Sam's school friends play with their siblings, part of me feels like I've done something wrong.
And then there's my own family dynamic. As one of three children, I am the odd one out. My brother and sister both not only have three children, but also bonus step-children. Every time we have a family occasion and I watch my nieces and nephews together I see Sam as the odd one out. I feel guilty that he doesn't have a brother or sister and I feel sad. My hypnotherapist believes that part of my feelings are due to an innate childhood need not to be left out and left behind. Something to do with me being the middle child and feeling like everyone else has the ideal family and I got left out. Maybe there's something in that too.
And then there's the guilt I feel for Sam on a daily basis. For not providing someone for him to play with, someone to share adventures with, someone to be there for him if something happened to us. The reality is that even if we did decide to have a child now, the age gap would mean they'd be at such different development levels they probably wouldn't play that well together anyway. And let's face it, my body couldn't handle a pregnancy any time soon, and by the time it gets better (because I have to believe it will) I'll be nearing 40 and would I be able to conceive anyway and if I did what complications would I have? And then there's the mental health question. I had prenatal depression with Sam, and post-natally wasn't exactly a breeze. I'm suffering PTSD now and I have anxiety issues. What effect would hormones have on my mental state, let alone being sick again for 9 months?
So I keep going back to the reasons we agreed to take the question out of the equation and decide to be a one-kid family. I still stand by all our reasons and believe we made the right decision. But it doesn't mean I don't long to hold my own baby again, to feel a baby kick inside my belly, to see that first newborn smile, the first roll, see them crawling, taking their first steps... It doesn't mean I don't constantly question my decision.
And I think the reason for that is constantly feeling the need to justify our decision, constantly having to acknowledge that we have "just the one". And I wonder if it's chipping away at my sanity every time. Will I ever feel good about our one-child family? Will I ever stop feeling guilty? Will I ever stop asking what if?
The reality is that the decision has been made, Nick had a vasectomy to take away the option because it wasn't right for us. So it's bloody unfair for me to keep thinking about it, keep beating myself up about it. That's life though isn't it? Constantly listening to that internal voice and either letting it take you somewhere dark or letting it lead you to a better place.
What do you think? Can I put this behind me and accept and celebrate our family for all the benefits of a one-child family? (the ability to travel easier and cheaper, less living expenses, more quality time with Sam without another child splitting our focus, easier childcare if we need to go our or away etc etc).
Or will I always feel a little piece of my soul being crushed every time I have to tell someone we"only" have Sam?
We are a family of 3. This blog is the story of how we almost became 4, why we didn’t, and what we are doing to recover from that experience.