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.