When did I first become afraid of being unable to have children?
In my early twenties, with no boyfriend on the horizon I had a very real fear of being ‘left on the shelf’. I was all too aware of my body clock ticking away, and hated it when well meaning people assured me that I was still young, that there was plenty of time and ‘you never know what’s around the corner’. To me, there wasn’t plenty of time and the years stretched ahead of me looking depressingly empty of companionship and a family of my own. I mean, I had to meet that special someone, start going out with him, wait for him to ask me to marry him, and get married. That all took time. In my head I would try to chivvy God along a bit (just in case He hadn’t realised that I was running out of time): ‘Okay Lord, if I meet someone by the end of this year then I should be married in, let’s say two years, and then all the books say you should be married for a year or two before trying for a baby. Lord, that means I can’t have children for four more years!’ It was all very dismal at times.
But then Adrian came into my life; we enjoyed a whirlwind romance and were married within eighteen months of meeting each other. I’d heard horror stories from friends who were already married about relatives and friends who, with the wedding safely out of the way, start dropping not-such-subtle hints about starting a family. Thankfully, we didn’t experience that. Instead I was gripped with the fear of failing to ‘catch’ for a baby. There seemed something shameful in wanting something that I might not be able to have. Other people seemed able to produce babies with relative ease, but what if I couldn’t? Faulty defence mechanisms kicked in: if people thought I wasn’t bothered about having children, then no one would think I was a failure if it didn’t work out.
So from the early days of our marriage, I began dropping casual comments into conversations: ‘I’m not really into little kids, I never have been,’ or ‘I’m rubbish with holding babies, I prefer dogs and rabbits any day’. This irrational behaviour wasn’t based on fact, merely on fear. On one memorable Saturday evening, I was holding forth to my brother and sister-in-law somewhat vocally about how I couldn’t stand children and couldn’t imagine having any of my own (all lies). There was a silence while their eyes met. And then my brother turned to me, cleared his throat and said: ‘We wondered if you would agree to becoming the legal guardian of our children if anything happened to us.’ Classic.
I still don’t know why I felt it was so shameful to be unable to have children. But the fear and shame persisted for the next twelve years, and became a stronghold in my life that had to be demolished. But more on that in another post.