Rocker yang

The letter to Seamus that Minnie had shown me made me look at my friend in a new way. She had laughed in the past about baby names. “Oh sure, I had heaps picked out,” she’d said. “Seamus for a boy and Celery for a girl”.

“Celery?” I assumed that Minnie was joking.

“I know, I’m not generally a huge fan of clean living fanatics…. I do not know what I was thinking!” She laughed, “But then I decided on Katinka Pearl. Katinka because it sounded so exotic and a name for a heroine, and Pearl after Janis. Janis Joplin. I wanted my daughter to have a good blend of yin and rocker yang”.

I looked at Minnie and wondered again how little I knew her. Why were we having this conversation only now? How long had we been mates? How had I not known this before? What the hell had we been talking earnestly about all these years?

“I don’t like you looking so sad. All this happened a long time ago, you know. I’ve dealt with it. It’s not raw like before”. Minnie stroked my sleeve. How like her to try to reassure me about how her story had affected me.

She smiled, “Did I ever tell you about the funny doctor I saw who tried so hard to put me off going to the fertility clinic? She was quite odd…” Minnie described the GP, a middle-age-ish General Practitioner who had grilled Minnie about her pregnancy intentions when she’d gone for a health check-up. Because Minnie had wanted her nest to be perfect, she’d started all the vitamins, added the folate, upped her daily exercise regime, changed lanes on the freeway to avoid other vehicles with smoky exhausts and even stopped dyeing her hair.

The GP had examined her, told Minnie she was overweight, said to her sternly, “You know this child will inherit all your inadequacies, right?” Minnie had been a bit stumped by the GP’s bluntness but also curious about where it was leading. Ten minutes later, Minnie’s head was reeling. According to Dr Grim Genes, any child of Minnie’s would have a tendency to put on weight; be short of stature; have long-sightedness; be prone to mental health issues, and not appreciate having an older mother (even though Minnie at this time was only 31). I felt outraged on Minnie’s behalf, hearing this catalogue of insensitivity. “Didn’t she know you were a single woman who had thought long and very hard about this?” I asked. Minnie smiled. “I was really taken aback at the time and wondered why she tried so very hard to put me off. What was her agenda? Then, the penny dropped. I reckon the GP was struggling with her own maternal surge and I think she raised all her own issues with me about becoming a mother to see if my arguments could help her make her own momentous decision.”

I looked solemnly at Minnie. She shrugged, “Oh well….I wasn’t going to let one naysayer spoil my dream….”

Son

Son

Minnie told me that she used to console herself, “At least I’ve never lost a child or had a miscarriage…” That was, she explained, until a well-meaning midwife friend told her she probably had miscarried but just had not realised it. That seemed to have shaken her up even though more than 10 years had passed. I wondered if there was something my friend had not shared with me. I did not ask Minnie directly. It seemed callous to pry but I left lots of gaps in our subsequent conversations about being mummies, hoping to prompt her to fill the space with an explanation. This didn’t happen for several months. At first, in fact, the gaps culminated in a strain in our friendship – she avoided me – then one day, after I had talked her into a quick coffee, she handed me a letter.

The letter was from Minnie but addressed like this:

“My dearest Seamus

I haven’t met you yet but already I love every atom of you. How can that be? One day you will find out. I have waited for such a long time and worked so hard for you. You didn’t ask to be born and I’m sorry I’m not more conventional. I know it’s not going to be easy for you but I believe love truly will conquer all. I tried the conventional mummy and daddy, face-to-face way of bringing you to life but it wasn’t to be. I tried ever so hard but I didn’t want your Daddy to be a mean man or an ignorant man. That’s all I seemed to meet. Your father, I’m proud to say, sounds like a very good man. If I had met him we may even have gotten along. Ironically. I never did, as far as I am aware. He donated to a fertility clinic, stipulating a single woman be a recipient. That lucky lady is me. You have siblings and the clinic will help you find them, should you decide to. Your father is tall, educated and he sounds humble and kind.

I know you are inside me. I feel you. I talk to you. I hear you. I incubate you. I cannot wait to meet you, my darling boy. I love you with all of me. Already! Even though you are barely a squiggle…”

The letter continued but my tears made it difficult to keep reading. I could picture a son of Minnie so clearly. It turned out that a few times, during her stint with the fertility clinic that Minnie’s menstrual cycle had been disrupted and she’d imagined a successful pregnancy. She’d written the son she imagined a letter, picturing him growing, explaining her rationale for bringing him into the world. It was a carefully crafted, thoughtful, sweet letter and she’d wanted to do it to help him understand. Her ex-partner, who’d teased her about going to the clinic, had made her worried.

“I wanted Seamus to know how loved and wanted he was,” she said. “I hoped I wasn’t pursuing motherhood for selfish reasons that might hurt him or bother him. I really felt him, I thought. I felt so foolish and betrayed by my own body when the pregnancy tests were negative. I didn’t believe the first or the second kits after each cycle of insemination. I spent a fortune going to different pharmacies each month so chemists wouldn’t see me buying multiple kits and feel sorry for me”.

“I don’t think people will pity you,” I said. Minnie shook her head.

“You don’t get it. It’s okay though,” she patted my arm. “I don’t know if it is worse to have written a letter to an empty space, a defective womb, or to have written a letter to my son whose soul checked out of my body for a better nest in another woman’s body”.

I couldn’t think of a response. I still can’t.

Baby Showers

Minnie’s policy: no baby showers, no exceptions. She did not always feel this militant but after two hideous experiences, she had quickly developed shower fatigue. She was sure the original concept was noble in intention but they had never worked out for her.

The first, in her early thirties, was for a family friend who had not intended to have a baby. It was a genteel blur of an afternoon with women of all ages exchanging advice about breast feeding. Minnie felt unable to contribute and her face hurt from the effort of trying to smile as the owners of successful hormones shared their stories. The second shower, in her late thirties, was more earthy. A gigantic, inflated penis balloon knocked her on the head as female friends told funny tales. The mother-to-be, despite being rich enough never to have to work again, had made a list of demands at a local shop and Minnie had despondently trailed around the store, feeling increasingly alienated at this exorbitant Santa’s grotto of under 5s merchandising.

Minnie knew many of her bad feelings emanated from envy but she also thought baby showers were more about clever marketing and peer pressure than a genuine mother-to-be’s rite of passage and strong celebration of female bonding. Maybe they were good for a struggling parent-to-be without a lot of emotional support or money but the baby showers around her were usually for affluent women who hired decorators for the nurseries. She had got very drunk after both the ones she had attended but even her hangovers were easier to bear than the pain of an empty womb.

Tick, tock

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…

Longing

image.jpegIt 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.

Mini Minnie

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.image

The hips that lied

imageMy 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.