A guest post by Rebecca
To my friends,
This letter is difficult to write, and largely I am writing it because I have spent so long not being honest – either with you or myself. I am writing it with this aim of honesty, rather than with any specific purpose to mend, heal or change anything.
The first thing I remember wanting to do when I grew up was to become a mum. I wanted a family of my own and, in all honesty, this isn’t really a huge thing to ask, to want or to hope for, is it? It’s a natural, human instinct. I count myself so very lucky that I have found someone with whom I can settle, hopefully into old age. However, the becoming-a-mum aspect, as you know, has not been so successful.
Am I a mum? That’s the first question. I’ve tried to have a baby for nine years. Every month, I’ve imagined a baby and when he or she would be born. I’ve been pregnant six times now. Five lost through miscarriage, one because she was unwell. I’ve felt my baby kick. I’ve been in the labour ward for three days straight, pushed and pushed and pushed until my baby was born. Held her. Dressed her. Arranged her funeral. I’ve found myself inexplicably unable to conceive again after all of that loss. Four gruelling IVF cycles, each one with the promise of another baby, but my uterus remained quiet. Deafeningly so.
When I’m with you, I don’t feel like a mum. I know that the day-to-day experience of being a mum is not something that I’m a part of. I know that there are sleepless nights, feeding issues, teething, prams, nappies, temper tantrums and bad dreams… I know that there are smiles, first steps, bedtime stories, first days at school, ballet shows, laughter, conversation, game and family holidays. I know that these things are all so important to you all, and of course they should be. These are your children, your families.
But what can I say to relate to these things? I can imagine them, and what it would be like for this to be my life. But it’s not my life.
Every day, I wake up and I remember that my babies died, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to have another one – one to bring home. I’m not going to have that life. I have had to think of other, alternative plans. Sometimes I enjoy the things I’m doing, and remind myself of the freedom of being childless. A new career move. A new holiday. But none of it takes away the fact that when I think of my future and I feel like there is loss, after loss, after loss. No teenage tantrums, no visits to university, no first loves, no weddings, no grandchildren.
Sometimes you’ve reminded me that, had I had a child, maybe they wouldn’t like me or maybe I wouldn’t like them, or maybe they’d move to Australia, or maybe they’d be estranged. Maybe!
But is it so unreasonable to imagine, that probably they wouldn’t do or be any of those things? Probably we’d spend Christmas together, probably we’d go for walks with the grandkids, and probably they’d always feel like coming to our house was coming home.
Nobody can know their future, I understand that. But my imagined future is gone forever, and the mum and the grandma I always thought I’d be has died. Part of me died with my babies.
So why am I writing this? It’s because the total and honest truth is that it’s hard to be around you. You’ve been a support to me over the years, and have been there for me. Sometimes though, I think you’ve forgotten to really think about my perspective.
That’s partly my fault, because I’ve always pretended everything’s fine – even to myself. I’ve pretended that holding your baby, playing with your toddler, or chatting to your child doesn’t leave me so emotionally winded that I feel like I want to sleep for a week afterwards. I’ve bitten my tongue when you’ve moaned about pregnancy sickness, because I know it’s horrible (because I’ve been there) and yet I wish with all my soul that I was throwing up and growing a healthy baby.
I’ve sympathised when you’ve been tired, because being chronically tired is horrific, even though I’d sleep for three hours a night for the rest of my life to have my baby back with me.
None of those things are your fault, because you have a right to talk about then and ask for support when they’re difficult. But I can’t stop my brain from screaming that I don’t want to hear it. That I’d swap in a heartbeat.
‘Sorry there’s no heartbeat.’
Sometimes there are words and phrases that you need to think about. Things like ‘there’s nothing harder than…’, ‘it’s the worst thing…’ and ‘I’m so jealous of you because…’ (don’t you think I’m jealous of you too?).
I do love your children; I don’t want you to think otherwise. I want to hear about your children in the same way that I want to know about any family member of yours. However, when the baby-talk takes up the whole time we are together, I’m lost. And, to be honest, it feels like I’ve lost you.
There have been so many moments I’ve felt utterly alone when I’m with you all. Walking along a pavement with three mums all pushing their baby in a pram while your arms are empty, with nothing to push, is physically painful. Before, it felt like I needed to be strong, I needed to get through that feeling because one day I’d be ‘in the club’. One day, I’d know how it feels, and I’d join. But I’m not in the club – and I’m not going to be.
So what happens next? Where does it leave us? You deserve to be able to talk about your children, and to be mums. I could sacrifice my own feelings, and come to the meet-ups anyway. Keep quiet at the dinners, when the talk inevitably turns to breast-feeding or school places. Pretend I don’t notice when I can’t get a word in edgeways.
I’m OK with my life as it is. I have a very happy marriage, a good job, a nice home and a cat. I have lots of interests and have met all sorts of people. I have learnt so much in the last few years, and I’ve feel like I’ve changed almost immeasurably, and mostly for the better. It’s just that this altered version of me doesn’t fit in with you anymore, at least, not at the moment.
So you can see what I meant when I said this letter has no specific purpose, other than to be honest. I’ve felt sad, I’ve felt angry, I’ve felt excluded and that’s why I had to write this. Maybe I could have asked for more from you, but I didn’t. Maybe I shouldn’t have had to ask for more.
With genuine love and sadness,