I started writing an update that I have been hesitant about, but I realised that I was making important events in my life sound utterly boring. So here is a quick rundown:
Hubby and I can’t have children… blah blah… decided to adopt… blah blah… got turned down due to combined mentalness and age… blah blah… went for fostering… blah blah… got mixed reviews.
And that is where I’ll pick up. Some thought we were ideal foster carers but found our location difficult for placements. Some thought we were utterly inappropriate and rejected us. So we went to the local authority who were unsurprisingly slow to respond and impersonal, demanding forms and medicals and referrals, all before actually meeting us. Apparently our application raised “significant issues”. Our health, naturally. We would both need medicals which would then need to be ratified by their medical adviser. I wonder if said adviser has any expertise in mental health? Unlikely. They were concerned that we have been turned down by other agencies (something I didn’t realise hubby would be notifying them of), and would require us to provide their details so they could find out for themselves exactly why we were rejected.
I found myself feeling increasingly reluctant to submit to all of this. I don’t want my life to be scrutinised in such detail, all to be determined whether I am worthy of parenting a child or not. I don’t want my experience of mental illness to be dredged up time and time again, with people who do not know me deciding if I am or am not still mental.
Their last point was that they are concerned about our infertility and motivations for fostering. I was outraged at this to begin with. Because we can’t have our own children that somehow makes us unsuitable to foster other people’s children? However, upon reflection, I realised they have a point. Whenever I imagine myself with a child, it is my child. I am the mother. When I’m at church and I see mothers with children, I feel sad. But when I think about it rationally, do I really want to look after a child that isn’t mine? To play with it, feed it, be woken up in the middle of the night by it, clean up after it when it’s sick?
It’s weird, if we could have children of our own, I wouldn’t give it a second thought. But I found myself going over and over the pros and cons of having a child in my life. What if it negatively affected my career? If I do want to do a PhD how would I work full time, look after a child and study? Hubby is getting older. He would be the main carer, but is that fair on him? He has said over and over again that he is happy to do this, but still I felt guilty. Right down to my most selfish reasons – would I be forced to watch cbeebies for the rest of my life?
I have been feeling extremely guilty about these misgivings. Fostering is such a good thing to do, and I really feel strongly about it. I have always been one to try and plan my life out. Doing something meaningful has always been important to me. And then there was the whole thing about God’s will. I really did want to do what I believed God wanted me to do. I mean, this is a big decision. Deciding what to have for lunch, I doubt God has any strong feelings about that. To dedicate my life to looking after children? Perhaps he might have an idea. But how do you decipher what God wants? I have never heard a voice, and I felt pulled in all directions, it wasn’t like one particular option really stood out for me. It did to start off with, in August and September I was absolutely set on this. If I can change my mind so quickly, is it really right to be doing it?
On Sunday I called my dad and asked him what he thought. He said that if I felt no peace about the decision, then I probably shouldn’t be making it. According to his minister, if there is no peace, then it is likely that it is not what God wants you to do. I had no peace about this, but felt too guilty to admit it. If I knew what I was doing was right, I would submit myself to intrusions into my private life, as the local authority was demanding I do. I may not like it, but I would do it.
My dad said that really the two of us have to be 100% sure about this before we commit ourselves. I am clearly not 100%. So what about hubby? He has said over and over again that he is happy to do it, but does he really want to? Would he feel lacking in some way if he didn’t have a child in his life? And the answer I prised out of him is no. He wants to relieve my sadness. To me, that’s not a good enough reason to commit himself to raising a child in the later years of his life, when he has already been a parent.
So we’re not going to pursue fostering. As soon as I made the decision I felt the most profound sense of relief. I don’t have to plan my life right down to the last detail. Perhaps I don’t even have to aim to do something ‘worthy’. I don’t have to know what’s coming next. Part of my reasoning for rushing into fostering (in addition to hubby’s age) was that I know my MA will be finishing next September and I freaked out at the thought of not having anything to do. What a silly reason. Another motivation, I think, was feeling like I have to fit in. All around me, people are having babies. Anyone who is even remotely near my age in church talks about their children. That will only get more prevalent in the next few years as I enter my 30s. I think I have to make my peace with that. It’s okay to not fit in.
And of course, there is the issue of sadness. I feel sad when presented with a baby, when I watch mothers and their children, when I find out a friend is pregnant. I had a friend round for dinner on Friday night and found out she is three months gone. She has this teeny tiny extra bit of weight around her middle and is self-conscious about it (which incidentally, I found somewhat irritating, given I have gained three stone and am now overweight, with no mitigating circumstances like having another life growing inside me). I noticed her hands moving to her stomach more frequently than usual, how she sat with a cushion in front of her. And I found myself welling up. Must be my womb beating. I. Am. Woman. Must. Produce. Baby.
Well, tough shit. I won’t be having children and I will probably always be sad about that. But maybe that’s alright. Maybe I don’t have to fix the sadness. And that is probably the most powerful lesson I am learning. It goes right back over the last two years, when I lost loved ones from my life. I couldn’t cope with the sadness deep within me. I was always trying to make sense of it, to fix it, to remove it from my life. I began to learn in therapy that it is possible to live alongside sadness, without it overtaking my life. It is possible to be happy even with that ongoing sadness. And I’m re-learning this now. I am sad that I will never produce a child of my own. But at the same time I am happy that we won’t have our home invaded by a small person. I am happy that hubby and I can do what we want, when we want (after I’ve finished the sodding MA anyway). I am happy with my life the way it is.
My sister-in-law is four months pregnant, I found out on Sunday. My dad thought it might be hard for me to hear that in five months my brother will be a father. But it wasn’t. I have five siblings, so it is likely I will have lots of nieces and nephews. I can be Cool Aunt Narky. All the fun and none of the responsibility. Excellent.