- My pronouns are they/them and I now identify as pansexual. Pronouns and relationships are described as/by who I was at the time.
For the last couple of years, I’ve found myself mourning the child I never had. They would probably be in the their early 20s by now. I miss a relationship that has never occurred. I have enjoyed the company of teenagers and young people for a long time, the age group most people think are ‘awful’. I love them. I could be missing the child I never had or I could be missing young people more generally as it’s been a while since I worked with any – I am a trained educator and have a 17 year career working with young marginalised people.
As a young teenager, I thought about growing up and getting married and having kids, because that’s what you did in the 1970s. It was the main narrative offered to the young women in my safe little world. I was going to have a girl, her name was going to be Michelle, that was such a beautiful name. I had no real thoughts about how that baby would come about and if there was going to be a husband of some sort.
In my late teens and early 20s I became dead against having children, they weren’t for me. I liked them, I liked other people’s children, they liked me, but no thanks I was happy to give them back. I wanted to be the coolest Aunty there is. I wanted my brother to meet someone, become a dad, or even meet a woman with a child and I could still be the cool Aunty. About this time, some of my long-term school friends started to become more serious in their relationships and they started to get married and then after that came the kids, because that was the correct order of things. It was all going towards the bigger ‘plan’ or how my circle of friends viewed adulting in the late 80s. Slowly, family life replaced the weekend binge drinking.
I learnt a lot from my friends who were having children. I learnt that my opinion no longer mattered when it came to children, because, what would I know? I was childless. These friendships became hard to maintain because when I was with these friends, they were hyper focussed on their children. (which I absolutely understand). The times I got to see my friends it would be all about the kids, what colour their poo was and which university they were going to – even though the child was only two. At the beginning of this I had started to study education, so I did know a thing or two, if not from an academic background, so I wasn’t as clueless as they made me feel. Back then we didn’t have mobile phones or social media, so catching up with friends was all about calling them, working out a time and visiting. All my friends wanted for me was for me to get married and have my own kids, so I could join in and be part of their world. I was a bit lost. I didn’t fit.
It was the late 80s early 90s I was working in a boring job and visiting my friends when I could. I grew quite attached to the various spawn they all had. Whenever we had a big get together with the usual bunch of friends I would go and hang out with their children, while the men/husbands went to one side of the room and the women the other. I suppose it makes sense now, me the single Enby (not that I knew then) hanging out with the kids. I mean these kids were going to be my people for life…right?
In 1993 I started Art School. One of the best decisions of my life. This separated me further from my old ‘school buddies’ and opened my world up in all the best ways. Through this time, I saw less of my old friends and less of their children. I was still of the mindset of ‘no children’. I had discovered my number one passion, art. I also met new friends at art school that I had more in common with, our lives were consumed by art, 24 hours a day. A good weekend was sitting around finishing art pieces surrounded by friends doing the same thing.
In 1994 I went into my second year of art school. I met The Man, who would later become my husband. The Man and I would spend a lot of time with our small subset group of friends, talking about art and music, astrology and reading tarot cards. One of these friends fell pregnant. The Man and I watched our friend go through pregnancy with anticipation. The Baby was born and was very much loved by a tribe of art loving misfits. We looked after him on occasion and watched him grow.
As it turned out, The Man could not have children. I started to get a biological pull thing happen. I had heard of this; it was the weirdest thing. My body wanted a baby, but mentally I didn’t. I would drive past the local primary school on my way to uni/art school and I would think ‘I want a baby, no, I don’t want a baby, I can’t even have a baby in this current scenario…..’ Plus, we were broke. I was a broke student and why on earth would I even choose to have a baby right now. It was the strangest thing. I was about 27.
Life went on and The Man and I continued to watch The Baby grow into a small child, then not such a small child. Later a sibling for The Baby came along. I barely saw my old school friends, our friendships were just fading out, our worlds very different. I finished my four-year art school degree.
More friends had babies, one old school friend and another friend who I had been to art school with. A lot of my art school friends were younger than me and they had hit ‘an age’ or time where they started having babies. It was the same scenario again for me. Although, the creative people tended to have different attitudes towards having children than my school buddies. It got to a point where all my friends that I was in regular contact with, had children. Sitting back and ‘watching’ over the years I learnt that you really begin to see people’s values really come alive when they have children. One friend was glad she had had a boy because boys were so much easier than girls. At the time I commented ‘I think health is more important’.
The Man and I had continued to watch The Baby grow up. He was about 11 by now. We were both very attached to him, he was our Fairy Godchild, or that’s how we thought of him. Then came another pivotal point in my life. I came out.
I was to come out many times after this, but I came out as being attracted to women. The saddest, hardest thing was that the mother of The Baby and her Friend (the friend I had known for 20 years), did not respond well to me coming out. They thought I was ‘doing it on purpose’ to hurt The Man. What followed was like something out of a high school drama series. Everything was fine with The Man, but I lost contact with The Baby and his parents and that group of friends. I didn’t care about the ‘friends’ I did care about The Baby. I loved that kid. He had been part of my life for 11 years; I had watched him grow up. There was a moment where I decided I could never become attached to or be active in the lives of my friend’s children, because ultimately the parent has control over my relationship with their kid, and they can rip that child away at any time. I often wondered what the mother told The Baby. I was there, very active in his life one minute and the next minute I was gone.
In the process of coming out to friends, I caught up with some of the old school friends. One of the first things they brought up was that I could become a parent, if I had a younger partner would I be interested and maybe it was something that would happen. Now, coming out and all it involved, did bring up the idea that maybe I would want a baby with a family that was truer to my identity. I had a totally changed perspective.
I met someone who would become The Partner and as our relationship progressed, we sorted through the ‘process’ of whether to try to have a child as a lesbian couple. At nearly 40 I felt too old to carry a baby. It took us about four years to go through the decision-making process of whether we wanted a child, and how we would go about it. There are now lots of queer couples with children, as it has become more acceptable and is easier to make happen, but it was still not really ‘the done thing’ when we were going through our processes, even though it was only about 10 years ago. I remember reading somewhere that to be gay and to have a baby was a political statement, and I do believe this was very true at the time. Less so now, although there is still a long way to go for equality. Having a baby as a queer couple is nothing like having a baby as a heterosexual couple. Having a baby as a queer couple is (usually) a very considered, decision making then practical process…. Then it’s followed by bringing a child with queer parent(s) into the world and all that involves. Potentially homophobia or transphobia directed at the whole family, to name one issue.
It was a hard process to go through, and not something I am willing to discuss publicly. I will say that nothing about it was romantic. Ideas and opinions about conception and childbirth also vary immensely amongst people, let alone queer folk, because of the plethora of ways a person can come about having a baby added to their family. Several months after we had decided to ‘try’ I pulled the plug on it. I was worried about my own ability to be a parent. I was in my early 40s and my energy was fading fast, I was worried I wouldn’t have the health to raise a child. I was also worried about the health of my partner. We went through a process of grieving after this decision. For some time, we had imagined a future with a child. We had to undo all those dreams and come up with a new future. All of it was a very intimate experience and process. We had told a few friends we were ‘trying’, and it was hard to explain to these friends why we needed to stop ‘trying’. Another area where there is a difference of values. As a couple, my partner and I didn’t think we needed a child to complete our world.
In the present day I have more friends with children. Some are queer parents; some are heterosexual parents. I have friends with children of all ages from new babies to children in their 20s. I am now at an age where I could almost be a grandparent and the idea that if my partner and I had had a child it would now be about ten is strange. Since our decision to stop trying I have been glad on many occasions I decided I didn’t want a kid. My health has dramatically declined, and I now can’t work and have ongoing chronic illness/disability. I don’t have the energy I think a kid deserves. Or the energy I would have liked to have given to a child. I’m also not around groups of friends who have the expectation I will be part of their children’s lives. However, they more than likely don’t understand why, which is why I have written this blog. To tell my friends and others that I love kids, I love young people even more, my illness doesn’t give me energy to be present for their kids anyway, so all round I’m avoiding heart break.
My brother did end up meeting a woman with a baby. In fact, he met her when she was pregnant. I have not ever been part of that kid’s life, so I was never the cool Aunty. The Baby is now about 27 and I have been friends with them for some time on social media, however the earlier connection was broken forever. I haven’t spoken to The Baby’s mother or her friend since that night I came out to them. Their loss.