There is no going back
During a conversation with a friend a little while ago while talking about normal inconsequential things the conversation turned to pets, my friend commented that if we were going to get a dog this time now before children would be the best time to do so. This comment was innocently made and I know my friend never meant to cause any hurt by it but those two words before children left me wondering, not for the first time, how others view my parenthood.
You see, I left the before children stage of my life last year. I planned to leave it, accepted that in doing so my life was going to change. For a long time I hadn’t been sure whether I even wanted children. It wasn’t a decision Martin and I made lightly and I think we would have been happy had we chosen not to have children. But we did choose to. I was apprehensive but happy to give up my old pursuits and habits for new ones. I became a parent. I had a pregnancy, my body stretched and changed. I painted a nursery, researched car seats and bought about a million muslin cloths. I read local schools’ Ofsted reports and balked at nursery prices. I attended antenatal classes, learnt breathing techniques to help with giving birth. I went through labour and pushed another human out of my body. I tore and bled and leaked and marvelled at the whole process of life as I gazed at my newborn son. I was without a doubt a parent.
Yet, as a bereaved parent my parenthood often feels invisible and the language used by others can add to this feeling of invisibility, this conversation with my friend was one of those times. I suppose from the perspective of others my current existence without the constant demands of a tiny person to care for may look the same as my existence before Henry but I am not the same childless person I was before. Every aspect of my life has been changed by Henry, by both his presence, the fact that he did exist and his absence, the aching gap his death has left. My parenting experience may have diverged from the norm but I didn’t un-become a parent when my son died. In the same way parents don’t stop being parents just because their child goes to school, gets married or is in a different room so it also is when a child dies. There is not going back.