Making Peace with Childlessness, 2/08/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #124)

My husband and I are a doting Aunt and Uncle to our nieces and nephews.  They are the light of our life and we are very proud of them.  We are blessed to have them in our lives.  And though they are in high school and college now with social schedules that would rival most presidents–I see their activity reports on their Facebook pages, Ha!–we love when we can get together with them.  They are lovely young people whom we nurtured and watched grow up.  We would take them to the zoo, bowling, miniature golf, movies, etc.  I had so many Disney kid vhs tapes and games for them to play with at our home that when our former neighbor from our growing up years had her grandchildren to visit, I let her borrow what she needed to keep them occupied.   Toys R Grati–Ha!  And I was also the ‘good’ aunt.  I would send my niece and nephew home–who lived in our same city two blocks away from our house the first ten years of their life–tired from soccer drills and other games that they gleefully played at our house and with the neighbor kids next door, rather than loading them up with sugar to detox on my sister’s watch.  Ha!

We had dearly wanted our ‘own’ children [(1) right], but it was not meant to be.  A combination of infertility–including all of the physically and emotional painful medical procedures and operations I endured that go along with that journey–and then timing interfered.  You see, just when we thought they we were finally  on the track for adoption 13 years ago after giving up on getting pregnant ourselves–we had attended the 30 hours of parenting/fostering classes over ten weeks and had our first home safety inspection by a caseworker–my father became ill with strokes and needed my attention.  Since I was the “childless” one among my siblings, it fell to me to shoulder the lion’s share of seeing to his care.  The irony of my tending to his financial morass of him not paying his bills for six months even though he had plenty of money (because he had probably had small strokes prior to this that left him able to ‘cover’ in front of we his kids, but he could not function capably we realized later when I had to stop him from being evicted, etc.) and his medical and personal care needs–bathing, feeding, taking him to the doctor’s office, etc.–rather than to a child’s needs–was not lost on me.  But my Dad needed me and I was glad to do it.  He died in my and my sister’s arms two years later.  The nurses said it was the most peaceful and loving passing they had ever witnessed.  It still makes me tear up to think about it.

I had done so much babysitting growing up–the standard teen girl job–that I was then and I am now a nurturer. Apart from my work as a graduate teaching assistant and research assistant, I was a mother’s helper during graduate school for a friend’s kid and that little boy and I used to take walks through a local museum and the  zoo.  I also spent a Summer in graduate school being a mother’s helper for one of my professors wives and I ended up teaching their kids to swim.  Oodles of fun!  When the eldest girl was about 7 years old, I let her borrow my pink satin and tulle ballet dress that I had worn as a child, for her Halloween costume one year.  Then, years later when she was an adult, I gave her that dress to keep for her own little girl to wear, since I had no little girls of my own.  Whenever I run into those kids (now young adults) these days, the gleaming smiles on their faces at seeing me makes my heart sing.

I also taught  1st & 2nd Grade Sunday School and Summer Vacation Bible School for 8 years.  I’ll say that again 8 years!  I loved it! I think I learned and grew as much as the kids did as we shared bible stories and what they mean for our lives today. And since I love crafts, we would always have some craft or art project associated with our lessons.  However, I learned my ‘lesson’ and stopped using glitter after the kids tracked gold glitter [(2) right] into the church on their ark of the covenant art projects.  Ha!  I had even baby sat one little girl when she was an infant and then she was in my class five years later.  And these delightful children were my solace as my husband and I went through our many years of infertility travails. And one time, we were within ten minutes of my husband coming home and injecting me with fertility drugs when I got the call saying that I had to go back on my uterine medication because of ‘suspicious cells’.   I am the lady who has had 8 D & C operations and countless other in office medical procedures (mostly without anesthetic)–super painful, the most awful of which was an hysterosalpingogram–over a seven year period because of endometrial issues, with ‘suspicious cells’ that had to be biopsied and then removed time and again.  But we could never get my womb hospitable enough to make a baby–despite my having ‘good’ eggs.   If I hadn’t had these sweet children to see every week in Sunday School, it would have been a much more bleak time for me. It has been about 10 years since I taught Sunday School–my having started my doctoral studies in the interim.  My 8 years of Sunday School students are almost all grown up and out of college now.  And I am now starting to attend these young people’s college graduations and weddings–as in my essay “Dancing at Jordan’s Wedding” from last November.

And I gently joke to my hubby these days about ‘the breeders’ of the world when I see unruly children and even less pulled together parents in public or at church.  Ha!  I never understood that 3-2-1 Magic parenting technique–wherein you let the kid get away with misbehaving the first two times and then you admonish them to behave the third time they hit their sibling, say a bad word, or whine like kids do.  The 3-2-1 Magic approach seemed to me to be telling the kid that they could misbehave twice before being required to behave.   I think a kid must have come up with that parenting technique.  Ha!  From my viewpoint, I always liked ‘psyching’ out the kids in my charge.  I would thank them for picking up their toys before we moved on to the next game–even though they hadn’t agreed to pick up their toys.  My thanking them made them think they had agreed to pick up their toys, so they did pick up their toys.  Snap!  My parents were always unfailingly polite and I am that way with children and others.  I find that if you treat a child well, that child learns to behave well.  And behaving well goes for any adults out there with a potty mouth.  Put a sock in it and don’t say questionable words around kids.  “Little pitchers have big ears” as the saying goes.  Otherwise, I have a bar of soap that we can stick in your mouth.  Ha!

And then, there are our students at the university where I serve as an advisor and such.  During my 26 years, I have seen a lot of students come and go as our majors and now our alumni.  We bring alumni back to talk to current students throughout the year. And I stay in touch with them via social media these days.  A few weeks ago, I mentioned in a post on our alumni affinity group social media page that we had a new group of international students joining us and I made them brownies to welcome them.  You must understand that my moist and fudgy brownies with a powdered sugar topping [(3) right] are legendary in our department.  Ha!  I can’t count the number of batches of them that I have made over the years for our department wide picnics and holiday parties, special events, and such.  So when I mentioned the brownies online, not one hour later one of our alums commented back asking how she could get some of my yummy brownies.  I replied that she should just give me a few days heads up if she was coming into town and I would make her some brownies.  Then I thought that since we have over 600 living alumni, I might get overwhelmed with brownie requests.  Ha!  So, I posted that I was good for one extra batch of brownies a month and that our alums should ‘carpool’ and come visit on the same date.  Ha!  However, it was my 5 dozen batch of sugar cookies emblazoned with the 2005 World Year of Physics logo on them [(4) right]  that I made for our Physics Enlightens the World event April 18, 2005–we were one of many institutional participants for this light relay around the world–where my cookies made the ‘big’ science headlines, even making it into the national professional organizations newsletter.  Ha!

And you would think that at my age–if you have read some of my posts, you can do the math on your own, Ha!–that I would be immune to the pangs of still wanting to nurture a child of my own–whether grown below my heart, or in it (as some adoption mottos go).  But I’m not.  Every time the doctors have to give me a pregnancy test before they do a different kind of procedure, I hold my breath–hoping that the test might come back positive.  And I feel regret when they tell me that the pregnancy test is negative–even though the nurse says it gleefully.   And technically, I am still within a five year age range where I could feasibly–if not likely to–become pregnant. And, they cleared up my hubby’s prostate infection that the doctors belatedly discovered was killing his sperm–after the doctors not bothering for years to test for why his sperm seemed to be ‘sparse’.  So now my hubby is up to 20 million ‘soldiers’.  Snap!   Well, it makes him feel good. Ha!   So, I continue to have a very small hope. Afterall, at my ultra sound last year they told me that I had the uterus of a young woman.  Snap!  So, at least ‘something’ is ‘young’ about me.  Ha!

Besides, babies and little ones are precious and I rejoice with them when my friends and colleagues are thus blessed.  Actually, I’m usually the one co-hosting the baby shower, as I will again this Spring for one of my colleagues and his wife who adopted a child–though I will never have that happy event (a baby shower) myself.  I’m very well adjusted about it most of the time–only tearing up occasionally these days. I find that it is better to count my blessings and focus on the positive, rather than to dwell on the negative.  It’s not that I’m ‘not’ reflective of my journey–I am, as this post reveals.  It’s just that I know well enough not to beat myself up about something that I’ve long since learned is not in my power to control.  The Serenity Prayer [(5)] comes to mind [(6) image right and text below]:

“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.”

For the longest time, I thought that my–our–being ‘childless’ meant for me that I was not fulfilling the love I had to give.  I also felt that something was missing from my life.  However, in these twenty two years of my so far childless odyssey, I have gone from saying we weren’t blessed with children–my code for letting people know that we had dearly wanted children, but hoping that they wouldn’t ask me for the details about our struggles to have them–to now saying that we are blessed with nieces and nephews.  Which we are.  We are also blessed with the church kids and our university students, etc.  So, I may not be anyone’s ‘official’ Mother, but I am a very nice Aunt, Wife, Sister, Daughter [(7) right], Colleague, Advisor, Mentor, and Friend.  And those roles or hats that I wear are relationships that I am very grateful for and I cherish them.   Cheers!  ;->

P.S.  And why did I tell you this?  Because I had shared some of the above with a friend of mine recently–who bravely shares her thoughts about her own journey with us via her blog.  And she said that when I felt ready, others might welcome hearing about my journey–in case they were also on a similar path.  So, though I’m nowhere near as brave as my friend, this essay is ‘part’ of my story.

References

(1)     A framed full size print of this mother and child painting titled “At the Concert (Dans la loge; In the Box; A Private Box, 1880)  by Pierre Auguste Renoir hangs in my piano room. This print was given to me as a gift from my then retiring Chairperson and his wife who knew I loved music.   The graphic here was found at  http://www.bc.edu/bc_org/avp/cas/fnart/art/19th/painting/renoir001.jpg ,
photo by J. Howe.

(2)     Gold glitter image was found at http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_dqB_506AljE/R3SHkGMGK7I/AAAAAAAABL0/pPdiWMoswYg/s400/4+gold+glitter.jpg

(3)     Example of someone’s moist brownies was found at http://www.foodbuzz.com/custom/photo/257/200/1418451-photo-from-post-intense-chocolate-brownies-with-powdered-sugar-and-freshly-grated-nutmeg.jpg

(4)     5 dozen sugar cookies with the World Year of Physics Logo on them for Physics Enlightens the World at our university on April 18, 2005  http://www.wyp2005.at/images/usa12.jpg

(5)     Link for information about the Serenity Prayer was found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serenity_Prayer

(6)     Serenity Prayer text and image was found at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_lOUhYnCg2cU/S5MmRNtyhLI/AAAAAAAABFk/C8RUj39hpYI/s400/serenity+prayer.jpg

(7)     Grati at 20 months old, my father is behind me.  I like to think that if I had had a little girl, she might look a little like me as I did here.

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About Gratiana Lovelace

Gratiana Lovelace is my nom de plume for my creative writing and blogging. I write romantic stories in different sub genres. The stories just tumble out of me. My resurgence in creative writing occurred when I viewed the BBC miniseries of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North & South in February 2010. The exquisitely talented British actor portraying the male lead John Thornton in North & South--Richard Crispin Armitage--became my unofficial muse. I have written over 50 script stories about love--some are fan fiction, but most are original stories--that I am just beginning to share with others on private writer sites, and here on my blog. And as you know, my blog here is also relatively new--since August 2011. But, I'm having fun and I hope you enjoy reading my blog essays and my stories. Cheers! Grati ;-> upd 12/18/11
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21 Responses to Making Peace with Childlessness, 2/08/12 Gratiana Lovelace (Post #124)

  1. bccmee says:

    This is a beautiful story. Yes, we all have our travails and no matter how much we wish, sometimes we do not get what we want. As you say, it’s wisest to accept things as they are, especially since we cannot control our lives 100%.

    Like

  2. Fabi says:

    Good morning Grati,
    Of course you are brave! You remind me those Southern ladies (like Scarlett’s mother) described in the book “Gone with the Wind”: always gentle, polite, considerate, feminine but with a great inner strenght. (Only you aren’t Southern!) And you never lose the sense of humor.
    I winced while reading about the painful procedures for which you passed and got sad with your sadness when they failed. But I think that nothing happens without a reason in life, even if we can’t understand it. Maybe if you had your own children, you couldn’t have devoted so much of your time and love with others, like nieces, nephews, friend’s kids, Bible School kids, university students… You are a “little mother” of them all. :)
    There are many ways of being father and mother beyond the biological one.
    We can see through your stories how much you love children too, because they are always present. And the stories themselves are your creativity’s children.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely real story.

    Like

    • Good morning Fabi,
      Thanks for your lovely note. And you’re right that my love stories’ happy endings usually involve children–or the hint of children to come–since that would be my dearest wish. Because as the author, I get to control my characters’ destinies.
      Cheers! Grati ;->

      Like

  3. jazzbaby1 says:

    Grati, this is really beautiful.

    Like

  4. Kitty says:

    Oh, Grati. I’m in tears. Our older single daughter, who is afflicted w/ PCOS, I am positively certain, moved away because she couldn’t bear the pain of seeing her sister happily married and a mother. There is nothing she desires more than to have some significant person in her life with whom she could make a family. So, in a sense, because I have a broken heart for her unfulfilled desires, my heart is full for you & your desire to be a mama. I’m reminded of Zacharias in Luke chapter 1, when he was performing his priestly duties in the Holy of Holies, the angel appeared to him & said, “Your prayer is heard.” I don’t believe that Zacharias, at his & Elizabeth’s age, was praying @ that moment for a baby. I believe that ALL prayers are answered @ some time and God chose this particular time to answer a prayer that Zacharias had prayed years previous. Just this morning I was reading John 15 where our Lord Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” My Dear, you are a wonderful Friend. You have denied yourself in order to be a servant to others. You know your own worth. I appreciate your frankness. I pray the Lord give you the desires of your heart. Hugs, dear Friend.

    Like

    • Hi Kitty,
      Thanks for your very kind note and wishes. You have me pegged rightly. I, too, have PCOS (poly cystic ovarian syndrome).

      If my PCOS had been diagnosed 15 years earlier when I was in high school and college rather than doctors just assuming I was a lazy chubby girl–despite my playing 4 hours of tennis and golf daily during spring to summer periods!!!–maybe they could have caught it earlier. My mother also had to have an ovary removed when she had me, her first born. And she had thyroid problems. But the “male” doctors then took the “easy” route and ignored my family medical history.

      I wish more people would realize that obesity is sometimes a “symptom” of health issues–and not a “cause” of them. Let’s stop beating up people about being chubby/fat–however we come to be that way. Finally, when we started going to a “male” infertility specialist, he thought that PCOS might be my problem. So, he sent me to an endocrinologist, also male, bless him. Dr. P asked to look at the back of my neck–the strangest doctor “come on” (not really a come on)–that I’ve ever heard. Ha! It seems that my skin discoloration on the back of my neck and on the corner of my wrists–coupled with a few skin tags (those bubbly looking bits of skin)–were outward physical symptoms as well. So, they put me on diabetes medication, which helped me lose a bit of weight–even though I wasn’t diabetic, because PCOS wacks your metabolism like crazy.

      But, I’ve had my biggest weight loss–70 pounds and counting over the last two years–by wearing a CPAP breathing machine at night. It seems that I was stopping breathing 126 times an hour. No wonder I was tired! And the pulmonologist said that when we don’t get restorative sleep, our bodies go into survival mode and don’t process foods (and medicines) correctly–keeping the fat for times of “starvation”. Who knew? I call it the sleep diet. He also told me at my last appointment that I probably wasn’t eating enough food. Now that’s a diagnosis I like to hear! Snap! Although, I’m not a big eater, I’m more of a nibbler–liking to have a taste of foods, rather than a large meal.

      So though it took nearly 30 years to figure out what was going on with my health with PCOS etc, at least we know now–even if it wasn’t in time for us to get pregnant. Sometimes you just have to keep pushing doctors for answers–and sometimes, they’ll have them.

      So, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your daughter. She’s young and I hope the doctors can ease her health issues for her. Your daughter “K” looks like a sweet dear soul in your family pictures. Please tell her that I say hi and I wish her every happiness that she wishes for herself.

      Much love and hugs! Grati ;->

      P.S. CPAP means Continuous Positive Air Pressure. I have SOSA–Severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea. That means that my airway closes when I sleep–hence my stopping breathing. But the CPAP machine pushes air through the airway, thus keeping it open and allowing a person to sleep for longer periods, thus gaining restorative and restful sleep. I know there is surgery to fix it, but it sounds gruesome. So the few Darth Vader jokes from my hubby at the beginning were just fine. Besides, I only put my breathing mask on after the lights are out and my hubby is asleep. Ha!.

      Like

  5. Thank You so much for sharing your story. I am at a point in my life when this topic is very close to my heart. I have looked into fostering, but found the limitations in my country heartbreaking. I have looked into adoption, but the chances are slim. Although I am at an age where I could get pregnant, I am weighing out my options. I hope the realization that many, many people go through this turmoil and know the heartache brings you at least a tiny bit of comfort. I enjoyed reading about all the people you have influenced and it made me wonder if you, in some ways, where not more important than their biological parents. There are many ways to love and nurture!

    Like

    • Thanks for your kind note, IWTBAPU!
      I wish you good things on your journey. Keep pushing the doctors and foster people for what you want. We have to be our own best advocates. It’s never easy, but I hope you get to where you want to be.

      Yes, we influence people in ways we never imagine. Although, I have one former student who is now getting her Ph.D. in Medical Engineering. So, I hope she invents a new mammogram machine. I told her my idea–a cone shaped device that sucks the breast into it via a vacuum pump and then the camera goes around the breast (no squishing). If the Dentist office can put our head in a vice and run an xray machine around us 360 degrees (for orthodontics)–why can’t they do it for our breasts? I’m just saying. *Grati shrugs*

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Cheers! Grati ;->

      P.S. Besides, if men had to have a certain part of their anatomy xrayed, you can bet that no squishing would be going on. Ha!

      Like

  6. jasrangoon says:

    Grati, this was a lovely post. It’s hard to read about your struggles and the painful procedures you had to endure. However, I’m sure that there are people reading your story and taking comfort from it. You have had wonderful opportunities to be a blessing to so many, in many ways it sounds like you have done a lot of mothering.

    Like

    • Hi Jas,
      Thanks for your kind note. I think it is good to demystify events in our lives sometimes. And I am now at a point in my life where I can share what I went through. You see, when you’re in the middle of it–health crisis, relationship break up, job loss, whatever–your feelings are often too raw to reflect upon or expose to others. But if my sharing my journey is at all helpful to anyone out there–so they don’t feel alone–I’m glad to do it.

      As I tell my friends who have lost a loved one–and I think it also applies here to personal struggles because they are a “loss” that we have to grieve for–sometimes we don’t get “over” it, we just get through it. And you just have to believe that you will get through it–until you do get to that point. Because you will get through it–sometimes through sheer force of will, or stubbornness in my case. *Grati smiles since a “ha!” might be too much.*

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. Cheers! Grati ;->

      Like

  7. servetus says:

    Great writing. We the childless find other ways to give to the people around us — and as your post makes clear, you don’t have to be a parent to parent.

    Like

  8. fitzg says:

    It does not require biological parenthood to be a nurturer or to love kids. (Though sometimes one could welcome the old Victorian seen but not heard) Among friends and family members are two who have grappled with the “infertility” issue – one did have a biological child, but was unable to conceive again. The other simply came to terms with the issue, and adores assorted nieces and nephews. I took almost a year get get pregnant, nearing 30. Infertility was a great fear. Kid happened, and I’m grateful. If it hadn’t happened – well, we don’t all have to be biological parents. Just keep loving all those kids who are, and become, part of your life. I’m quite fond of my son, of his cousins, and of my step-grands. Step nothing – they are grands. :D

    Like

  9. Ania says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I read with tears in eyes. I think that is in you so much love and you so beautifully to share this love with others (as seen for example in your stories). I think that giving love to all young people whom you are caring for, you’re like a sower and you give them a seed of love and I am convinced that in them this love flourishes.* Hugs*

    Like

    • Hi Ania,
      Thanks for your lovely note. I appreciate your kind words. I do feel blessed with love and friendship in my life. And my stories are “my babies” and I’m glad that I’m getting a chance to share them with you and others.
      Cheers and Hugs! Grati ;->

      Like

  10. RAFrenzy says:

    Grati, your attitude is edifying, and I agree with Fitzg that it absolutely does not require a biological connection for someone to nurture a child or love them. The woman who was the single greatest positive influence on my life was a woman who never had “her own children” and yet I loved her as if she were my own mother, and in fact my mother loved her as a mother. She is revered not only by my mother and me but many others. We have all risen up at times to call her blessed. Every Mother’s Day I feel compelled to pay homage to her memory in a very public manner, and I do it gladly! She was the personification of this verse:

    “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the LORD. Isaiah 54:1

    It’s plain you already have some children, and whether you have more, I have no idea, but whatever happens, what a wonderful blessing from the Lord. Thanks for sharing. It really touched me as it obviously did the others who commented and probably many more who will never comment.

    Like

    • Dear Frenz,
      Thanks for your lovely note. I, too, had spinster church lady friend named Emma, whom I would do mother-daughter things with over the years–since my own dear mother passed away thirty years ago–and Emma had never married and had children. Emma also was a blessing to my life and I wrote about her here on my blog last fall.

      And I had not read that lovely bible verse before. So I thank you for sharing it with me. And, it is perhaps also ironic that my Lutheran confirmation verse as a teen was John 14:27
      ” Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” working found at http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14%3A27&version=KJV

      Thanks again for visiting and commenting. Cheers and hugs! Grati ;->

      Like

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