Like so many promised lands, not all was as it first appeared in her new, shiny, sparkly home. The first clue: one newish man of Minnie’s acquaintance refused to confirm his eligibility for dating. “Of course I’m not married, you’re so suspicious…” He smiled a confident, easy grin as if it was all a big joke. They had known each other a few weeks.
Several weeks later, after more strange inconsistencies, he revealed he had been lying to her since they met. “Does it make a difference?” He asked innocently. Minnie was taken aback. “Yes, actually it makes ALL the difference”. The man looked surprised. “If you want a child I’ll give you one”. Minnie thought about the man’s wife. She thought about how she might feel if she were married and her life partner casually impregnated another woman in such a lackadaisical manner. Similar offers followed. “How strange this place is…”thought Minnie. Pretty on the outside, not so dazzling on the inside. She thought of the little boy in the story who travelled to another land. He had a lovely time but still yearned for the familiar at the end of the story.
In Minnie’s new home, the barter system appeared to be a baby in exchange for a visa to the original land. Minnie, like the child in the story, wanted to go where people knew her best, not this place with its upside down values. At times, when her wanting to be a mother was strongest, she lay awake trying to imagine changing her beliefs but her thoughts always led to unhappiness around the child. If a man was so eager to reproduce with her, despite being in a supposedly committed union, then how many others was he saying the same glittery script to? She needed trust to make a little person. Her clock ticked…
It is impossible to convey how powerful the maternal urge can be if you have not experienced it. Minnie describes it as being eaten by longing from the inside out. Her urge to conceive was strongest in her late 20s/early 30s. At that time she was in her most stable ever, “grown up” relationship.
As she remembers, she and John discussed having a family shortly after meeting. They decided to revisit the idea after a year. During that time, she helped care for John s three children. At the end of the year he asked could we wait a little longer? Another three years passed; Minnie s bond with her stepchildren was strong; John s parents adored her and his friends started making references to a baby. She dutifully visited their homes and praised their children. The thing they did not talk about grew. It grew so big Minnie would drive home from work and expect to see its shadow in the driveway.
Eventually, Minnie could stand it no longer. Fortified by wine one evening, she brought the shadow into the room. She said I need to know when. He said I never promised that. She tried to breathe into the howl that fought for breath in her belly. John said, “I never wanted more children. Three is enough. I will marry you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But, there s one condition. You change your mind”. Minnie looked at the man in front of her and wondered who he was. With tears in his eyes he asked how can you miss something you’ve never had? Minnie drove away, her heart shredding in her chest.
John moved in with a single mother (two children). Minnie worked, cried into her dog’s coat every night and researched fertility clinics.
The only time Minnie did end up with a mini Minnie alongside her was through well-meaning “tosh talk”.
An old school friend had died in a car crash. She happened to resemble her. At a couple of different alternative healing events, psychics “saw” her next to Minnie. They tilted their heads to one side, lowered their voices and softly enquired, “Did you lose a child?” They described the image. Each time Minnie kept quiet, knowing she had not miscarried but wondering if guardian angels did exist. If they did, she did not mind the idea of Rosa accompanying her on her life journey. Rosa had been a party girl during her short life and Minnie had loved her untamed soul.
Minnie could not imagine how it felt to lose a child. She had always felt for parents who had. Grief was a many-headed monster who developed a dragon’s tail lashing here and there when it came to a lost child.
Minnie mourned for what might have been but never was.
Maybe Minnie was destined to be barren? She was certainly unconventional. At a time when other little girls talked about princes and princesses, Minnie told her mother she thought she would be married three times and it might work the third time.
In other respects, Minnie was highly conventional and responsible: she did a lot of babysitting and child-minding in her teens. She was startled by hanging pheasants at one stone cottage. At another gentrified address, she struggled to fulfil the parents’ timetable which included daily violin practise for a 6 year old. Only ten years older than the child at the time, Minnie could not see the merit in imposing such a punishing schedule on a child who wanted to play. She had to phone her mother for advice from another babysitting gig. The toddler kept peeling off her nappy. She was screaming; Minnie was sobbing with exhaustion. The toddler’s parents could not be reached on any of the numbers they had left. Minnie’s Mum talked her through it over the phone. Turned out the child had an ear infection. The parents had decided not to inform their babysitter so they could enjoy a night off. Minnie had felt powerless as the child repeatedly stepped out of her nappy and bustled away screaming. It was her first experience of the power of a toddler. Of not being able to reason with another person.
One trio of little girls Minnie looked after she imagined as her own brood. The sisters were very different to each other. The youngest was a fairytale princess, the eldest an imaginative writer, the middle one…a tearaway in training.
Minnie was gentle, kind and responsible. She attended Junior Red Cross and Girl Guides. She was was a popular child-minder. There is a photo of her, lean and fair-haired, gazing as if mesmerised at a small child next to her. She looks curious and astounded by the little person in the making by her side.
My younger self saw my future self as a farmer’s wife. Children milling about, ruddy complexion, dogs and geese. I look back fondly at the little girl who imagined having six children easily. I was always told I had child bearing hips. That turned out to be a lie. These hips have borne no life. I ve tried to conceive but it did not work. This is my story – or rather, this is Minnie s story. Minnie s story of the hips that lied.