One of the remarkable benefits of starting Saltwater and Honey has been the privilege to hear other people’s stories. We love how we have been able to connect with people who are experiencing similar feelings of grief, even if their circumstances differ greatly from ours. I’m so pleased to share with you one of the new voices we have been hearing as we share our stories. I’m grateful for Steph’s bravery in wanting to share her experiences of childlessness as a single person.
I love stories. I was even browsing happily in the library today, knowing I had a pile of at least 10 books at home, all of which I am keen to read soon. I love listening to other people’s stories – of their lives, of funny things that have happened to them, of how they ended up where they are today.
My own story feels a bit more tricky right now. I’m in the middle of the story and I don’t know what will come next. As the years go by, I become more impatient to know what the next chapter is, and particularly whether that includes a partner and a family.
The story began with a love of dolls – buggies, dummies, clothes – I had it all. By age 11 I knew I was too old for dolls, and began to try and be allowed to hold a baby at any social occasion where one was present. I remember my aching arms but enormous sense of pride when an adult congratulated me on getting their small grandchild to sleep. I learned to babysit my school friend’s baby sister when I was 15. We made so many mistakes, but I was glad to be trusted. I recognise that it was the beginning of an involvement with children and families which continues to this day. I have been very very fortunate to have been part of the lives of so many people, even though my little charges are now teenagers, or even (frighteningly!) young adults.
You can hear it coming can’t you? Yes, there’s a “However”, a “But”, a flipside to this. The voice of this flipside has got louder as I’ve progressed through my 30s – “Where is MY own child, MY experience of being a mother, MY man who will give me a child? When is it MY TURN?!!” If this sounds selfish, it probably is – but I’ve given up apologising for that. I don’t think it’s any more selfish than the desire of a couple to have a child. It’s just normal. The answer to that voice is “I don’t know”. Well-meaning people sometimes say – it will happen; it has to; you’re a nice person. I would love to believe them.
But I don’t know how the story will end. Some people remain single and some people don’t have children. That’s hard to write because I avoid that truth. I don’t want to be one of those people. And as time goes on, it gets more difficult to experience unconditional joy at being with others’ children. I say difficult, but not impossible, and I would be devastated if my sadness ever “won” to the extent that I couldn’t be with these small and fascinating people. Even my nephew, whom I love with all my heart, reminds me that my little brother is there, experiencing parenting in the here and now.
I have investigated going it alone. Maybe ultimately I will choose that. But for now I still don’t know. As yet another Valentine’s Day and Mothers’ Day approach, I’m still waiting and still wondering.
I realise I’m painting a dark picture and I don’t mind people knowing that I am prone to depression. So I need reminding of the richness of my life now. I think the most precious part of that life is my friends. I have learnt as I walk with them, and they with me, that their grief, their burdens, their difficult marriage which is ending, their anxiety for their mentally ill child, their challenging teenager, their sleepless nights, their elderly parents, are all equally as real as my own grief. But also that their joy at a trip to the swings with a grandchild, their excitement at planning their son’s wedding, their banter with their teenager over dinner, their sense of contentment at being a mum or a dad, are also equally as real as the many joyful moments in my own life. And one person’s life experience is not “better” than another. I want to go on listening to them and to share in the good and the bad of life with them.
Recently I am grateful for something else too. A new friend who isn’t just sympathising – she’s empathising, and is brutally honest about her own journey. Her honesty challenges me not to hide this stuff or be ashamed of it, but it also gives me hope. Hope that “life in all its fullness” is possible for me, now, as I am. Not IF I meet the man of my dreams or IF I have a child, but right now, single and childless. I resolve to think about that a bit more, and consider how it might become a reality for me, not just a nice thought that’s for other people, but actually possible for me.
Maybe this middle part of my story could be about more than just wondering and waiting. As my excellent vicar would say, “Whatever happens, we continue to journey together”.
We would love to hear from more of you, so if you want to share your story with us then get in touch.