Thursday, 3 July 2008

Grieving for the unborn child

Other people have blogged about this phenomenon in the past, women in my life - friends and familly - have struggled with it, or discussed it, strangers in the parents' room at the shopping mall have raised it. Now it's my turn, I guess.

The thought really struck me as I was in the shower one morning recently: My days of being pregnant are over. I won't be having any more babies. This makes me very sad. Don't get me wrong here, I love my boys, they bring joy into my life every day. For a long time I thought I would have no children at all, not necessarily because I didn't want to, but because I didn't feel like I was ready, or that my relationship was ready. Then at 31 things changed and we decided to have a child, so D'Arcy arrived in the world. That was it, we said. No more children. One is enough. It was for my (now ex) husband, but after some time I wanted to do it again, only not with him.

It's a funny thing I suppose, but I'm not really cut out to be a mother in some ways. My emotional state is fragile at the best of times, and I don't have endless patience. This last pregnancy at 38 was really tough on me, physically and emotionally, and even before I was pregnant I was saying - this will be the last one. 38 is my upper age limit for child bearing. But almost as soon as Erik was born, I was thinking "hey that wasn't so bad, I could do this again". (His birth was so easy in comparison to D'Arcy's). I am surrounded by older women giving birth. In the mothers' group I went to when D'Arcy was tiny I was the youngest at 31. The oldest woman of the 4 was 37, and she went on to have another child at 39. The others were 36 and 34. In D'Arcy's class at school is a girl who lived in our street when D'Arcy was small. She is 6 weeks older than he is. Her mum had her second baby a week and a half after Erik was born, and she is my age. One of the teachers at school has a surprise pregnancy at 41, and another parent just gave birth at 43. However, I just don't think I'm up for it.

Of course the underlying thing here is that I have sons. I have no daughter. I feel the need to grieve the unborn daughter that will now never be. She even has a name, but I can't tell you because it makes me cry too much. It's the name we would have given Erik, had he been that girl. But he isn't. He's my beautiful boy, my Teeny Little Super Guy. My last child. I don't know why I suddenly want a daughter so much (perhaps because I don't have one?) because when D'Arcy was born, I was relieved that he was a boy, that he didn't have to go through the hell that girls do, especially modern girls. And I didn't have to go through the whole pink/shiny/frilly nightmare that may have been the end of me. Instead I have a gentle, caring, thinking boy. Probably two.

It's true about the strangers in the parents' room. Yesterday we were in there changing and feeding Erik, and struck up the usual conversation with another mother there.

Her: That looks like a new baby
Me: He's 4 weeks today? How old is your daughter?
Her: She's 5 months...they grow so fast don't they? This is my last baby so I feel like I have to hold her as much as I can while I still can. Keep them close.
Me: (surprised look). Definitely.

I am lucky. I have not suffered through miscarriages, or had to terminate pregnancies. I have been able to conceive when I wanted to, reasonably efficiently. Others are not so lucky. I have close friends who have undergone fertility treatment in order to conceive a much wanted child, others unsuccessfully. I get to choose. It's a powerful and important decision, but I get to make it.


Julie said...

Oh Crit! I know so well what you are feeling. I still get sad when I think of the girl's name we will never get to use. And if it's any consolation, I do have a girl already and I still feel that way.

The last part of your post makes me think of why my husband never went to preschool. He was the youngest of three and his mother didn't want to be parted from her last baby any more than she could help.

Parenting is so bittersweet.

Ampersand Duck said...

Such a LOVELY post. Thank you.

Sara said...

I'm definitely struggling with all of this, so your post really spoke to me. 38 years old and 2 we have another? Lots of mixed feelings about that, though I was fortunate to have a very easy last pregnancy (at 36). I'm so tired, much of the time, and eagerly look to toddler-free days, when things like eating at restaurants isn't a battle.

And yet...thinking that stage of my life is over, pregnancy and breastfeeding and tiny babies brings me a lot of sadness. And we'd be thrilled with a third girl, but knowing I'd never parent a boy? There's loss there, too.

Zoe said...

My daughter would have been a Tallullah.

But very happily, one of my best friends is having her first child in October (at 37) and rang the other day to see if I minded if they used the name. I think it's great.

Hold those little boys tight


Mummy/Crit said...

Hey folks, it's really helpful to know I'm not alone with these thoughts and feelings, and good to hear some of your stories too.

helen said...

Oh yes yes yes..

Fi said...

far out, Crit - I just stumbled upon this post. It's wonderful.

People are always commenting how I have my pigeon pair and I do feel very lucky (I conceived easily and my only miscarriage was so early that there was never a heartbeat). I felt the pressure drop off when I had Laura because I had always wanted a girl and was a bit unsure about having a boy, as it was so unfamiliar to me, having had no brothers in the house as a kid. The joy I felt when I saw that I had a boy was a big surprise to me... but I have to admit part of it was relief that I now had one of each and might not have to go through labour again (I was wrecked at the time!!).

However, as I thought a bit more about it as the months passed, I felt sad that I'd never be preganant again, never breastfeed again etc. I still feel that a bit but, like you, I just feel too old and lacking in patience and energy to do it all again! These two are more than enough of a handful - the upside being that they also provide enough moments of joy!!

I'm now moving on to thikning about the distant future - wondering if these two will ever give me grandchildren! Laura is thinking of adopting, if anything, and who knows whether James will be capable of holding down a relationship.... his capacity for affection will most likely at least ensure the sowing of his seed, even if we don't know where ;-)