Who are the children that never get born? Who are the ones who are born but are gone before they ever get a chance to live, to learn or to grow?
I am a father of three beautiful children, inquisitive, intelligent and each one their own character. I am also the father of two other children, children who for whatever reason never got the chance to be, to experience life and to share my life as their father or in the life of my wife as mother.
I remember the joy of discovering my wife and I were expecting our first child. We were only a few years married, young and madly in love. We felt ready to add to our happy family and were lucky with how quickly we fell pregnant. I remember the extra joy I got from life knowing that inside my wife was a child that was ours, boy or girl it mattered little. We both already had such love for that child that we had created together.
I remember just as clearly how my life crashed down around me as I came home one day from my menial job to discover my wife in bed distraught and in tears.
We had lost our baby.
It is only when you lose something so precious, so small, something that you love so much that you discover just how frightfully common such a loss is. Nobody talks about such a devastating loss. None of us are strong enough to open such a painful memory and deliver it as the simple truth it is without first knowing that those we share it with have suffered the same devastation.
Our family doctor assured us of how normal a miscarriage is, how unborn children can just stop growing, stop living. The frustrating thing still is that there could be no explanation. For some this miscarriage of life is enough to slow their own life down even to the point where it stops.
I did not shed a tear for this child, and yet what I felt at such a loss was indeed true sorrow. It must be that the tears shed by my wife were enough for the three of us.
When we were ready to try again the doctor assured us that the chance of successfully having a baby was higher now due to what had happened before. Again we were luckier than some and it was not long before again our lives were full of hope and promise. This was the greatest and most exciting part of the mystery of what together we had created, the eventual discovery of that person me and my wife had together made.
So soon after the great joy of discovering we were expecting again for us was more frustration and sadness, tears of pain. Yet another baby of ours now gone never to show its face, never to laugh or cry and never to become a part of our family. Another child left to be a mystery forever. Who would they have become? What mischief would have they come up with? Who could have been their friends had they been given the chance to be born? We would never get the chance to know.
After losing two children you wonder what will happen the next time you try. I feel for those who cannot have children but want them. I feel also for those who try and try only to have the life they had created gone before they get the chance to say hello. This trying so desperately to have the joy, the pleasure, the responsibility of a little child in your life changes people. I know how I felt when we were trying so hard to become a family of three only to hear of the happiness other people were enjoying as they celebrated a baby’s birth. You feel jealousy as you wonder why it can’t be us. You feel guilty that you cannot allow these people their joy without feeling so negative yourself. Your sadness deepens as their joy at such a wonderful gift coming into their lives grows.
Our third time trying for a little baby to join our loving family was a miraculous success. After months of worrying, wondering when this child would cease to be I was deliriously happy to witness the birth of our baby boy. All the pain, all the sadness, all the tears unshed suddenly vanished away as I held our little boy in my arms.
Since that special day we have had two more children, two precious, marvelous, amazing little girls. Our family feels complete and whole. I never forget though those two lives that will never be. If I wonder enough maybe one day my tears will come. I will always remember the ones who were to come but never did. They are our children lost but never forgotten.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem