I spent the last two days on a personal silent retreat. Most times I would recommend being guided by someone on such a journey but the one I was taking was one that I knew I needed to do alone. I have done them both ways, with a guide to check in with and on my own. Having someone who you can check in with if things get hairy or you feel stuck is a good thing. This one was so personal that I felt the need to do it on my own. What follows is just part of what came out of my time.
I always thought that I would have children, lots of children. Growing up I just knew that I would have at least four children of my own body. Then I would also likely adopt or foster several or many more. Because of my family background – parents unmarried at the time of my birth, in fact not even together, married but separated before I turned five, and divorced when I was seven I was determined to having a committed relationship before bringing children into it. There is also a history of family bonding attachment disorder on my mother’s side due to generations of mental illness and abuse. With all of that in mind I was ready to wait for the right partner before conceiving.
Needless to say, I haven’t found that partner. Two weeks ago, I turned 48 and it has been four months since my last menses. Before that I had two in three weeks, before that I missed two months, before that I had two that lasted 2-3 weeks each in one six-week period. You get the picture.
So now I am at the end of times regarding having a viable pregnancy or producing a healthy child. And it is all a surprise to me, at least sort of.
I have never been pregnant. I have dreamed of it for most of my life; the dreams would come every few months. Before I became sexually active there was no real idea of conception. After my first partner that became part of the dream too. As time went on, I could dream of conception, nine months of pregnancy, full labor, holding my child, nursing my child and even naming my child all in one night’s “rest”. I don’t ever remember feeling rested after those nights. So much work, so much energy, so much time passing so quickly.
And now today I grieve. I honor and I thank the souls which I felt that I had contracted with. Not for the first time, but for the last.
About 15 years ago I did something similar. I decided to do a personal healing retreat and had many things on my agenda to work through. Lots to process and let go of, one of them being to let go of two of the four souls that I had been committed to bringing into this world. At 33/34 years old I knew that having four children was off the table for my body. I cried then, as I did today. Only then I still had hope and time. Today my time has run out.
I forgot to mention that between all the marriages of my parents I am the oldest of six children. Plus, my mother was a midwife. I attended the birth of several of my siblings and the births of friend’s children. Pregnancy, birthing and children have been a big part of my life and experience. I have spent most of my life working with children – baby sitting at first, as a nanny, working in preschools, elementary schools, middle schools. Running aftercare programs, being the director and event coordinator of a children’s dinosaur museum, creating stand alone summer programs for children and young adults in various forms. I was made for this. I am trained, I am experienced. And yet, it is not to be.
So now in the midst of my acknowledgement and heartbreak I sit in prayer and ceremony. I honor, thank and release those last two souls. They have waited as long as I have. Over the years they would come to me and ask over and over – “is it time yet?” Time and time again my response was, “not yet, sweetheart. But soon. Soon.”
I have broken my word. I have not honored my commitments. I have passively let them slip away.
For the last many years, I have made it known amongst my closest and dearest that I would be willing to do this on my own. Raise a child or children as a single mother. I dated, still hoping. But also realizing that I could/would not be deceitful. That I would have to acknowledge the father even if by the time a child was born, we would no longer be together. I also had to honor those who were clear that they did not want a child or more children. So, in all my honoring I have been dishonorable in my own way.
Never could I have imagined being an old maid – never married – never a mother. Yet here I sit just that.
I am truly clear that I know how to love. I know how to be in relationship. I know what it takes and that there must be compromise and growth throughout.
I am also clear that there will always be children in my life. I can have no life that does not include them in some way. My ultimate happiness comes from spending time with them.
The other side of the coin is that today the pain, abuse and mental instability of the mother line that I carry will no longer be perpetuated. All along I have known that this is part of the work that I incarnated for. I just didn’t know that in order to fully end it I would have to sacrifice my heart’s deepest longing.
I was never a woman who repeated that I wanted to have a baby. I have always said that I want children. I want to watch them grow, become individuals, explore life and find their own joy. I have counseled many women who say that they want to have a “baby”. As much as I love animals, I have always held a preference for children who would grow and progress beyond toddler hood. I find such joy in watching them bloom and makes lives of their own.
Here I sit, during these odd times in a world pandemic contemplating what my life will be like without motherhood or being a grandmother. Reassessing my identity. Redefining my life moving forward with a heavy heart that will always know what could have been but never was.