Ageing Without Children

Home » AWOC » Guest blog – A letter to … my miscarried baby

Guest blog – A letter to … my miscarried baby

Thirty-two years ago at 16 weeks gestation you died inside of me. It had taken me a long time to get pregnant and to my knowledge I have never been again. I hated my body for a long time. I felt useless, worthless and less than a woman. I wanted to run away from the world but mostly I wanted to run from my own hurting self. With care and love and encouragement, from many people, but most significantly from my own mother, I slowly began to realise that even if I was not to be a biological mother I did have other opportunities and my life was not valueless.

It was not until after her death five years ago that I realised that my mum, your nanna, never ever focused on her own loss – no babies for me, no grandbabies for her – but always on mine, always on me. A return to study followed by a career in higher education have provided me with the resources to explore in detail the complex relationship between mothers and others.  I have been privileged to have been able to spend so much (paid) time researching perinatal loss, infertility and in/voluntary childlessness; issues and experiences that I and many of those I have spoken to believe to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Whilst grieving for you and for the other babies I began to realise that I would never give birth to my mum told me that one day I would be grateful to you for what you had added to my life. Deep in distress I could not then see how this could happen. I do now. I am grateful not only for the memory of you but also for how reflecting on what you mean to me has influenced the person that I am and the relationships I have.

I write this letter to you during the first World Childless Week (11th-17th September 2017) but in many ways ‘childless’ does not feel like an appropriate label for me. In my work and personal life I am blessed by friendships with some wonderful younger people, and in some cases with their children also. And yet, on a daily basis, I feel not only the loss of you but an exclusion from a group to which I am always peripheral. I have had my knowledge of childcare and of children and young people denied (despite an earlier career as a nursery nurse and nearly three decades of teaching and learning with young adults), been told that I will never understand my own mother as truly as I would if I had been a mother myself (which feels like an insult to the precious relationship we had) and been lectured on the benefits of having no parental responsibilities (as if I am not able to work this out for myself). Additionally, all of my adult life I have been, and remain, a mere bystander in more conversations than I could ever count. So, I am constantly cautioned (if only fleetingly), by friends, acquaintances, strangers, and when reading the news or watching a drama or film that I am different. On the other hand people often assume that I am a mother, and possibly now at 58 a grandmother, without asking or see me as available and willing to care for others because they assume that as a woman I have all of the skills and inclination and more time and less responsibilities than those with day-to-day childcare responsibilities. Although I resent this expectation as much as other ‘feminine’ expectations of women, whether mother or not, I do in reality want to nurture others and I am grateful to those who accept such from me.

Overall then my status as mother/not mother and as motherly or not is complex and I vow to continue to challenge simplistic stereotypes and to advocate for an understanding of all women’s reproductive identities, experiences and (non)choices. This I do as your mother and in memory of my own wonderful mum. Both of you are with me always, in my head and in my heart.

Gayle Letherby

Advertisements

Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: