Parallel Universe

I read one other blogger’s posts consistently, with voyeuristic interest.

On the face of it, we have nothing in common. Her whole blog talks about experiences I’ve never had and that makes me feel human and humble and hugely grateful.

I’ve been mostly spared having my nether regions over-exposed and prodded by countless instruments wielded by men-in-white-coats who are more likely to recognise me once my pants are down by my ankles. Her blog leaves me embarrassed by my own fecundity. It is agonizing, as no amount of good will wishing can change a thing. This poor soul is tormented by the need to be what I’ve been for the past fifteen years. Namely, a mother and a lucky cow.

Kids – with or without them – they’re an open wound of agony, grief and regret. You think that the joy that children bring makes up for everything they ruin, break or destroy. Don’t get me wrong, mine have shown me how the capacity to love keeps growing even though I blame them entirely for the loss of my figure.  They’ve also made me more selfish and time poor. They absorb so much of my energy and waking hours I can’t be as charitable and altruistic towards the wider world  in the way I would like to be.

To think that – getting knocked up – was a part of the random experiment of growing up, getting married and settling down: “Shall we, throw a bit of caution to the wind, see what happens and then make it up from there?” That was about as deeply as it was discussed.

Truthfully, I was always scared that I’d never know when I was ready to start a family. The ‘if’, ‘when,’ and ‘do we really want to?’ might have gone on rumbling on in conversations with no final decision made. So I left it entirely to serendipity. The chance option seemed a better way than waiting until I really wanted it, because what happens if you then find you can’t? Or, the other fear – the elephant in the room : “Will I be able to cope  if I have a child that isn’t normal?”  You  have to keep your fingers firmly crossed about that one or run off to get the tubes tied.

I don’t think, for a moment,  I could go through extraordinary physical and emotional lengths, painful in both extremes to have a baby. Perhaps because I luckily I’d had all my children before I met the overwhelming need to bear them. Would I have flunked fertility treatment like a sissy? Taken long 3rd World expeditions to hot and sunny places to find a little brown ready-made baby instead? One with big dark eyes, rescued from squalor on the streets, that would make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Life is a rollercoaster…

At the start of this year, I believed she and I were both on a parallel time line. We both had been waiting for something hugely significant to start for a very long time. Each project had a nine-month time line and as hers was starting at the exact same moment as mine, I was predicting champagne corks popping simultaneously in our parallel worlds.  Now, to save any confusion here: Womb For Improvement wants something quite small, a baby, whereas, I was looking for the bricks and mortar postpartum location, i.e. a proper family house.

I’m damn sure a new home will change my life. I’ve spent 12 ½ years in a house we bought as a temporary home; we’ve overfilled with junk, kids, pets and detritus. Year after year, I’ve become more depressed with living in it. I couldn’t give a shit any more if dirty shoes walk on the carpets, the dog has torn holes in the furnishings or if nothing gets put away. My attempts to keep house were abandoned long ago as a fruitless up-hill struggle. If I want to like where I live, I go outside and enjoy my garden, as the location – for what we need – is pretty perfect.

In all it has taken 10 years of our lives discussing ideas and options and then 2 ½ years drawing up architect plans, getting planning permission, costing and then starting again, in order to build the perfect home for what we need.  We were finally granted planning permission in January and, apart from “Where the hell do we get the money?” there it was, my one wish granted, at last the go ahead and it could start to happen.

Happily, I also read that WFI was to start her IVF.

My house is going up, the roof trusses have just gone on and the completion date is at the start of December. We are currently discussing flooring and bathrooms.  For practical reasons (and for incontinence issues) I want surfaces that can be easily mopped with disinfectant but not to end up looking clinical like a hospital.

Sadly, her IVF failed and so did the next round.

I think about her ‘downs’ and how gut wrenching awful she must feel. If my womb was still good to go, I’d be offering mine for surrogate. But we all have ‘downs’ – some unbelievably bleak or we wouldn’t appreciate the ‘ups’.   My first-born; that random, “Shall we just see what happens if we get a little careless…” experiment is not quite right. He doesn’t have ‘Downs,’ he’s not autistic, but he can’t talk beyond the words of a two-year old.  I wish he did just in order to have a bit of dialogue. In my bleak moments, I fear his future and mine because he’ll always need someone to care for him.  I lament I’ll never have ‘empty-nester’ syndrome to look forward to, the rediscovery of being a couple without kids again, silvered-haired and staring at the setting sun on a Saga holiday.

There is no comfort in not being able to have children if that’s your heart’s desire. We only imagine the perfect children we will bear.  As soon as my first son was born the emotion over-whelmed me. It was ‘love at first sight’ pure and simple.  Perhaps the passion with which I adored him was a necessary force to carry me through the disappointment of learning he was outside the lines of normal development. I wish I could say that the misery of not getting pregnant might spare some later, greater pain. I’ve coped with my son happily when my other two were also little and needy, but as the years pass and the more my younger boys start to fly off in their independent lives, the more my grief sets in. I miss what he ought to be – his faulty chromosome might be mine – and I wail angrily at the injustice of the imperfect gene.

I can’t begin to tell you why a home designed to suit our family’s needs  will change my life…it will.  And I can only continue to hope for someone else’s happier ending too.

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About Jessica Milln

Single life was full of many great and adventurous ambitions. The offspring curtailed all that. Thankfully, living in Cornwall keeps me chilled.

4 comments

  1. maturestudenthanginginthere

    Jessica, what a lovely post. I don’t really know how I found your blog, possibly we have similar tags. I am also a carer and we have just (yesterday) been granted planning permission to build a home that suits our family’s needs. It sounds as though you are way ahead of us though. I’ve signed up to your blog as I would be interested to know how you get on.

    Jacqueline

    • Hi Jacqueline, how nice of you to drop by. I may indeed start posting pictures of the house build. It doesn’t look like much at the moment but it is very exciting watching it grow every day.

  2. Thanks for the big up!

    I don’t think anyone knows how they’d cope in different situations.

    Given a few years your “see what happens” mentality might have morphed into the desperation I feel now.

    Equally I am amazed by strong women like you who juggle their families with caring for children who have additional needs. I don’t know how I’d cope, but if I did get pregnant and if the child did need extra care (and the papers seem to be at great pains to warn me this week that this is a risk I am taking with IVF: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-13992232) then we’d have no choice.

    But I’ll tell you what, one of my other ambitions is to build my own house one day. Whatever the practical necessities that have gone into designing your moppable surfaces, I hope that your house also holds some whimsical delights.

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