Thursday, February 4, 2010

some people aren't meant to have children

First off, I should note that I wasn't referring to any specific mistake of mine with the last post (there are too many to choose from); rather, I thought the caption summed up the prior post, or at least one sentiment.

Yesterday I got done with work and looked forward to an immensely enjoyable evening of eating some homemade chicken and rice soup, watching last week's episode of Project Runway on, and reading one of the books I had just gotten from the library (a stack of Terry Pratchett novels and the only book at the county library's central branch on the emotional aspects of infertility, rather than on treatment options. You'll be shocked that it - again, the only title on the experience of infertility - was a book about secondary infertility).

My peaceful evening was interrupted (and some of my reading hours stolen) when I heard from my sister, who is currently living abroad. Of course I love talking to my sister - the disruption was in the form of her news. My father and stepmother have been married for 15 1/2 years, and my father had just emailed my sister to tell her that my stepmother is moving out. They've each found new places to rent, and are preparing to go through their state's conciliatory divorce process.

They have two children, ages 4 and 7. As I've no doubt mentioned before, the 7yo is practically a ruined kid - her father (and mine) wants to be a grandfather, which is age-appropriate, at 62. Her mother seemed, from my sister's birth onward, to want only someone to love her. This is not an appropriate expectation for a child; the idea is that you love them. There is no quid pro quo.

How do emotionally insecure people parent children from whom (rather than for whom) they want only unconditional love? It's easy. Give them everything they want. Never tell them no. Have no expectations for them at all. Never punish them. Never admit that they've done wrong. Destroy your finances (my father and stepmother will be filing for bankruptcy. They have a current six-figure income - which has been spent to the point of crippling credit card debt on totally random crap for their home and the kids, most of which goes into the garbage before it's used), your career, your mental stability, and every resource you need to parent them responsibly, in order to give into whatever demands they have - at 2, at 5, at 7.

And then they'll love you. Oh, wait - my sister has clearly had no respect for her mother since she was about 3. Her attitude would appear to be merging into disdain, with faint tinges, already, of hatred. Nice job there.

My stepmother was sweet but eccentric before she had children. She was a loony during both pregnancies. But from the day my sister (the older of the two kids) was born, she has never been healthy, nor ever again the person she was. She's pretty obviously unbalanced. I'm sure she had post-partum depression - and was a little fragile before - and took on parenting strategies that were designed to make it true that, and obvious that, somebody desperately needed her, couldn't be away from her for ten seconds. It made her valuable. And she created a baby monster, now an elementary-aged monster, and with that monster around, getting worse by the day, her sanity never returned. At least, this is what I suppose happened. On the symptoms, at least, I'm clear.

So I talked to my father on the phone last night. He was obviously upset, but more stable and rational than he's been recently. He said something interesting. My stepmother is leaving him; but their kids are about the same age that my siblings and I were when he left our mother (6, 4, and 2). And it breaks his heart. (What is that they say about karma? Sigh.)

It was an obvious comment on his part, perhaps, but it jogged a thought loose...I remember that although my mother nearly lost her mind (well, for her) when we got "physical custody" switched from her to my father when I was 17, when we saw her on weekends after that, she was so much more peaceful. Having the three of us to raise made her crazy and hysterical all the time. Three kids were way too much for her (one kid would probably have been too much). The first kid clearly did in my stepmother. My father was dysfunctional with both the first and second batches; his marriage to my stepmother seemed much more healthy and functional, if imperfect, before their kids came along. (Obviously I'm not in a position to comment on my parents' marriage before children, but they were married for six years before they had any kids, and separated six years after the first one was born.)

You see where I'm going with this. It would be trite and pop-culture to say that the kids destroyed the marriages. My point is (a little) more subtle: these people were not mentally healthy before. Marriage was a challenge. But children were an impossible challenge. Because of their particular defects, they were unable to have children and stay stable.

And none of them had any fertility problems that I know of - whatsoever.

I've thought about the stresses that children would put on my marriage. Finances would be tighter, of course. But I'm pretty sure I'd be happier home with small people than working. There was a time when I was good with kids. I worked in day care. I worked with the high school youth group, I was a confirmation sponsor, and I tutored younger kids in high school. I don't think the stress would do me in. And insofar as our marriage is troubled, the problem is that both of us are inclined to be bitter, too jaded, and distant from God. I hear tell there's something about babies that helps with those issues. I believe we'll work through our issues and make our marriage a smashing success anyway, but I don't believe for a second that infertility has made it anything but harder.

Maybe I'm naive. Maybe my dh and I are a rerun of my parents (all three of them). Maybe we would bust up - and ruin the kids - as my parents did us. But I think rather the opposite. And I wonder whether some combination of my father, mother, and stepmother would be at least somewhat peacefully married now, had they been unable to have kids.

Maybe infertility is not such a bad thing - if only it happened to the right people.


  1. I can think of more than a handful of people who probably should be infertile.

  2. Wow hon - this is a very loaded post, but quite understandable. I am so sorry you have to endure this especially right now!

    I will be praying for everyone involved!


  3. Sorry you are having to deal with this mess of family issues. I'll be praying for your family, especially for your siblings.

  4. C'mon...only us "special" people get to be IF! I don't think I'm IF because I wouldn't make a good mother..and my dh would not make a good father...I just think God has other plans for us that may not include parenthood. It's easier to say those words then to practice them of course....I do ask God "Why not me?" He hasn't answered. Wow...what a complex family you have...I had no idea that you had little baby step sisters.

    But I can't help but agree that there are people out there who have had children on a whim and can't wait for them to grow up and move out of the house. They just didn't care for the whole parent thing. hmmm.....

  5. Well said.

    By the way, I love Terry Pratchett! He knows how to turn a phrase. He's one of my favorits authors.

  6. Agreed.
    I like to think my nutty family is the cause of my good qualities-the whole strength through adversity thing :)
    I have one unstable parent by nature and one by nurture. Funny how that works. There are 4 kids. We are split down the middle-2 with issues and 2 without. So much for one in four-I guess it is dominant and not recessive when it comes to genes? I am without of course, in case you were wondering!
    My parents and my BFF's parents had a child way late in life and we have seen firsthand the lack of supervision, discipline, making up for it by spoiling...yuck.
    Anyway, my long winded way of saying I can relate. And though I know we shouldn't judge, I have certainly had the same thoughts at times, related to my own family and some random strangers.

  7. To play devil's advocate, it's really hard to know what's going to happen to you once you have a kid, unless you know yourself really, really well (and I'd argue that many IFers do, because they have to to learn to cope with IF). Even then, plenty of things will throw you for a loop.

    Recent studies have shown that couples are often less happy once kids come into the picture. I understand now why: It takes incredible coordination, willingness to say ba-bye to certain desires and dreams, deep love and motivation to communicate. My husband and I have been rocked by the experience, though in the end, we're stronger and happier for it. But we ended up with a great kid, and we were very, very ready (as it turned out; I thought I was totally going to suck at this and hate it).

    It's sad that people miss the point of the whole affair: to guide a person to become the best and happiest possible human being they can be. I feel for your little sis...

  8. Well we definitely all know that people are NOT infertile because they won't make good parents. There is no rhyme or reason to who is infertile. Although, it's pretty much 100% that if you're a druggie, or an irresponsible teenager, or cheating spouse, etc. that you'll have NO problems reproducing.
    I am incredibly sad for your younger siblings. They deserve parents who will love them, discipline them, and guide them in life. It's always painful to see other people failing so badly at parenting...but even more so when it's family.

  9. Thanks for visiting & commenting - unfortunately I haven't blogged in forever, but I still am reading & discovering new bloggers, though I seldom comment just now.

    What a terribly difficult situation for your dad, the kids, the whole family. I hope things will stabilize there soon.

    One place I do like to check out is the bella online forum for married no kids ... it's for people who (for the most part) have chosen to live child-free. There are some difficult threads that are hard to read on there, but there is a lot of insight into the struggles & reasons, and advantages, of not having kids.

    I've been pondering this week about having desire in our heart - do we have these desires as a way of God speaking to us to guide our way? Do we have these desires (from where ??) and it's how we respond to them that brings us closer to God or further away? I am still really questioning why we might have very strong desires (ie. for kids) that - for some people anyway - are not fulfilled. It's easier to see how & why having a strong desire might be a guiding from God when it is fulfilled in some way, perhaps after a struggle. but what if it isn't?

    Anyway I am thinking of you, and wishing you safe passage ...