Yesterday evening I was directed via a blog post written by Lydia to an article in the Guardian, entitled ‘Mothers, Stop Moaning!‘ by Bibi Lynch. The crux of the article is that us women who are lucky enough to be Mums should open our eyes to how lucky we are to have reproduced and stop moaning about our lot, as she has recently found out that at the age of 45 she will be unable to conceive and our niggles to her are extremely painful and hurtful. You can see other excellent and thoughtful responses to this article by Katy, Marie Phillips and LadyCurd.
Bibi writes that yes, she understands being a mum has its difficulties but they are finite and surmountable and that really we mothers, whether stay at home or working, Have It All. To her mind motherhood is an idyllic state of being where our identity is leveraged to being superior to those who don’t have children and any problems we may face, from money issues to lack of sleep, can be solved by a cuddle with our bundles of joy.
Here it is: having a child is the most fulfilling, exciting, love-filled time of my life that I’ve ever experienced and having been told I had swiftly dwindling fertility at the age of 21 (thanks, Endometriosis) I am beyond thankful that I have been able to have kids. But it is also the hardest, the most mentally and physically challenging thing I have ever done, too. I don’t believe that in her article Bibi Lynch has given thought to the mothers who experience problems that may not be surmountable, or thought beyond that sweeping generalisation that all mothers are higher beings with fertile wombs and superiority complexes.
Our child was born with a rare and incurable genetic disease which affects somewhere between 80 and 150 people in the whole world. The chances that Will and I are both carriers of this condition and would one day meet and make a baby are completely mind boggling. Now that’s a part of parenthood that can’t be overcome by a squish of those adorable baby cheeks.
I’d like Bibi Lynch to be there on the days we wake up to an ill, unresponsive and floppy baby with eyes rolling back into her head whilst we rush around the house gaging how ill she is so we can decide whether to dose her with an oral medication, stick her with a needle or rush her to hospital. I’d like her to be there when we’re trying to explain to yet another doctor how emergent her condition is and how she must be treated whilst they’re fannying around with IVs and not listening to the ‘pushy parent’ because they have to follow protocol, though protocol doesn’t account for the treatment for her disease. I’d like her to be inside my head when I’m thinking about the future, worrying because nobody knows the long-term effects of her daily medications, worrying that Elfie will want to go on the year 9 Ski trip and I won’t want her to because if she breaks her leg she can fall into a coma within minutes. Then I’d like to hear her tell me to get over myself.
Every week I see fabulous jobs advertised that I would love to apply for; I had a great career before I became a mother and I hoped to return to it one day. But I can’t. I don’t stay at home to fulfil the Stay At Home Mother idyll, I’m here because if my daughter becomes ill I need to be here to advocate for her medical needs. I can’t bring myself to be more than a couple of miles away from her because if anything happens I need to be here to instruct doctors and to inject her. I’m happy to be that person but I still get regular pangs of jealousy at my high-flying, super-earning friends. That will never again be me.
The reality of caring for a child with needs like Elfie’s is exhausting but it’s life. It’s the hand we’ve been dealt. Just as it is others’ lot in life to not be able to have children, it is ours to be responsible for a child who has medical differences. That’s how I see it – this is our life and it is how we deal with it that makes us who we are. Every time someone asks me how we cope with the difficulties we encounter, or how we carried on when Elfie was deathly ill at 14 weeks, the answer for me is clear: we just do, and we did. Yes, it’s hard work and it’s emotionally horrendous sometimes, and perhaps we didn’t process what was happening at the time but there was no other option than just getting on with it. As tempting as I find it to burst into tears and wail about how life is unfair, I don’t, because it doesn’t help anyone.
Bitterness and regret for things that have or haven’t happened in your life breeds nothing but anger and hate, and if you can’t change your world why go there?
To Bibi Lynch I would like to say how sorry I am that she is unable to have children. Having never experienced infertility myself I can only imagine how heartwrenchingly painful this must be every single day. But the next time I have a bit of a grumble on Twitter about being woken up at 6.30am by my baby, don’t hate me for it, tell me to get over myself or think I don’t know how lucky I am; just understand that we might moan about the small stuff because sometimes the big stuff is too painful to bear.