So its been over a year since I last posted – I feel guilty, I do, but I do have an excuse or two.
- (chronologically rather than importance-wise) B & I became 2 out of 4 joint leaseholders of a pub; spent a month refurbishing said pub, opened it and set about making it a profitable business before; falling out with our business partners and thus needing to become more responsible for the project whilst having less time to do so because:
- I got pregnant and had a baby
yup. Here it is in (slightly less) brief:
Jan: Planned for pub & got keys
Feb: Spent 15hrs/day refurbing pub; opened pub
Mar: Ran pub; found out I was pregnant
Apr: Ran pub, prepped for beer fest; felt rubbish
May: Ran pub, saw proto-baby for the 1st time, climbed a mountain with my Dad
Jun: Hols with W, Ran Pub, visited in-laws
Jul: Ran pub, 2nd Scan, publically acknowleged pregnancy
Aug: Ran pub; failed miserably to organise maternity cover but did lots of paperwork
Sept: Ran pub beer fest, hol with B, failed to reconcile difference with business partners
Oct: Ran pub, desparately rearranged staffing, agreed change in role of business partners
Nov: Took maternity leave, went home, had baby
Dec: fed baby, changed baby’s nappy, tried to sleep
Small was born almost exactly 9 months after we opened the pub (probably not a coincidence) and in the meantime I navigated the ups and downs of running a small business whilst also trying to find my footing in the new way our relationships with the each other and the world would work.
W, B & I did not smoothly negotiate the new patterns in my working life, new timetables and new fiscal entanglements; we also did not resolve issues surrounding our desires and responsibilities to the precious life we have been gifted with
W’s parents have not been wholly supportive and she had a breakdown in her mental health in the last months of my pregnancy. Similarly, the failure of our business partners to put the time and energy we expected from them into the pub, coupled with differences of perspective led to conflict and a lot of stress.
And despite the hertache I now have 2 impossible dreams growing in front of me…..
Now not to fail them
Like Ms Jolie my mother died of cancer (technically a secondary cancer that spread from the original breast cancer). She was a few days shy of her 46th birthday when she died after 4 or 5 years of fighting the illness.
I know that because of this statistically my chances of contracting cancer are approximately double that of the rest of the population but I have never been tested for the faulty gene that Ms Jolie carries. Partly, this is because I’m neither very old nor a mother and partly its because my mother is the only member of my family to have had such an early onset cancer.
Her elder sister has fairly recently been diagnosed with breast cancer much later in life [this probably means that despite the location it was an entirely different type of cancer] and my Father’s aunt also has cancer but of a different type.
Nonetheless, I have been thinking about what a genetic risk of cancer means for me and what I might do about it. After my step-mother was also recently diagnosed with breast cancer and with my 30th birthday fast approaching my father has recently asked me to talk to my Doctor about screening. It seems a big step to consider what options the NHS might have for me with regard to earlier and more frequent tests (not normally offered to lower risk younger women) and an even bigger step to consider both genetic testing and a mastectomy. Yet, I want to be responsible and to think about the impact of my health on the people I care about – if I could prevent my loved ones watching me go through debilitating treatments and potentially dying 20 odd years before my time should I do it..?
My immediate answer must be yes. I wouldn’t wish my childhood experiences of cancer on anyone. But..
(You knew there was a but right?)
I’m not quite 30 and I don’t have children. At this stage in my life the idea of having children and possibly breast-feeding them is still more important than a statistical chance. I don’t think my breasts are the arbiter of my femininity or that I am less me without them (though I imagine it would be a shock to the system) and I don’t think that breast-feeding is a sign of true motherhood but I do think that personally I’d rather try for kids before messing with the status quo. Furthermore, I’m not ready to deal with the potential hormonal and emotional repercussions of such testing and surgery whilst kids are still a possibility. If (like Jolie) I already had children perhaps I would be more concerned with their future and how much time I could offer them but right now I am well aware that the knowledge of genetic issues combined with the physical effects of mastectomy might be enough to stop me from ever having children and I don’t want that to be the reason for our choice.
If I have a mastectomy I want it to be after we have children – and if I test positive for the gene, removal of the ovaries is also a consideration – but after kids.
Maybe that is selfish. Maybe its naive. But the fear of not being enough of a mother because I don’t have one to guide me can’t be enough of a reason to cut out a part of the mother I want to be. I would – will – actively protect my family through surgery if necessary but I can’t give up on making the family stronger because I am afraid of statistics.
Tonight I am thinking about planning.
As I try to juggle the google calendar to make sure that W & B get an equitable division of my time each week that fits around all of our various commitments and work on what holidays we can arrange I am acutely aware of the drawbacks of my ‘lifestyle choice’. Both W & B are permanently compromising even more than most people to make this work and sometimes that is really hard.
How should I decide what will make them feel valued? What about individual emotional crises or changeover periods? How much do I take control and how much input can they have to the overall schedule so that they both feel involved and yet don’t tread on each others toes or feel embarassed about asking for stuff?
It makes me worry about how much more complicated it will be if I get a full time job.. a brand new set of negotiations and compromises and perhaps more fragile feelings. I know that we can manage because actually each of us are committed not only to each other but to making sure that as little pain as possible is involved. I know that sometimes I worry too much and that everyone has bad days or needs that they aren’t sure how to communicate straight away but that we can manage.
And this leads me to my other topic…
More and more I notice how much W is tempted and terrified by the idea of kids, I know that B would secretly like children but feels that soon he will be too old and that there is no way the hurdles can be negotiated.
I am torn. I feel more like I could build a family with both of them than I ever knew was possible – that whilst children frighten me, it wouldn’t be a chore to watch my wife be the mother she should be or my boy giving that extra part of himself, maybe just maybe they would enough to make me good enough to be a parent.
But will time run out before the worries and troubles can be overcome. How is it possible to give W the family she craves which doesn’t make her, B or me feel alienated?
And if we did how would I possibly manage my calendar?
Lets return to some life musings..
So after talking about the problems of biology with regard to how we could all connect to a child – there are a few more biological issues that worry me.
Firstly, there are the problems inherent in passing on one’s genes.
I guess despite the desire to magically concieve a child with my beautiful wife I would be terrified of her passing on her family’s medical history and worried that if she carried a child it would destroy her slightly fragile health. In terms of my own family medical history, I know of no genetic illness or life-long problems and heart disease and cancer are so common anyway they are statistically not worth mentioning and yet add a flicker of fear for the future of any hypothetical child – if only the fear that they could lose a parent young.
These are perhaps the smallest worries though and the rest are more to do with my capability to deal with pregnancy and motherhood.
Mostly I’m afraid of the crazy.
Depression isn’t pretty and I worry that I could get worse with extra added hormones and no meds. I don’t know what the stats are but I do know that the chance of post-partum depression is much higher in people with a history of mental illness, as is the risk of psychosis.
I am afraid that I would take a significant swing for the worse and I worry about the repurcussions for the people I love. Logic tells me that the strength of my support network, my efforts at self-management and the care of the NHS would mitigate those things but my internal critic and basic sense of horror assume that I will be unable to relate to a child, be vicious, uncaring, thoughtless, reckless, hurtful. That everything about me will be unfit.
I am not really helping myself by those tiny nagging fears left over from childhood that tell me that a child growing in my body is like an alien feeding on my insides and eating up my sanity. But no one accused me of being rational on the topic.
Apparently popular wisdom tells us that the human drive to have a child is so great that all those doomed to be childless make do with animals.
Unsatisfied single women become Crazy cat ladies (this sometimes happens to effeminate single men too) Gay male couples are also assigned cats and for some reason chickens, lesbians of course have dogs and bachelors have something that will attract their desired sexual partner.
As a bisexual woman about to adopt a dog I of course take exception to this stereotype…
On the one hand I have seen in many people (and recognise in myself) the desire to lavish attention and affection on a creature somehow both beholden to you and unconditionally accepting of you – I have indeed seen too many cases of people abusing that love and trust and/or deluding themselves about the extent of its return.
But on the other I would argue that the companionship of an animal and its role in one’s life are so utterly different to that of a child who will (one hopes) grow to live without you and outlive you that the two are incomparable. I cannot imagine how the desire for one could ever be fulfilled by having the other… fairly sure I can’t take a child for walks, bury my face its fur, complain to it without a word of complaint in return, sleep with it curled at my feet; nor teach my dog to read or listen to it tell me stories.
I will however note some similarities about dogs and babies – they both require you to rearrange your house and buy special equipment in anticipation of their arrival and subsequent mess creation and breakages, they both expect you to keep anti-social hours and limit your holiday plans, they both cost you more than you can ever plan for, eat you out of house and home and demand unending love.
As you might guess we have been busily removing low-level clutter and breakables, stocking up on cleaning products, blankets and food and otherwise getting ready for the arrival of our rescue dog this weekend!
Once ‘married with kids’ stopped being the only idea of adulthood I knew (c. 7yrs old) it stopped being the kind of adulthood that would ever happen to me.
Pretty early on, way back before I gave a damn about sexuality I was sure that I’d never be a housewife and not much after that I knew I’d never be like my mum.
[Insert stuff and things – to be considered later(?)]
I was 15 before I ever heard of being bisexual (no I don’t know why it took so long – yes I even read porn mags without twigging..) and so for many years I believed I had to choose. Boobs or cock. Babies or dildos. Shaved head or shaved pussy.
I faked some interest in boys (I like older, macho, hairy Men – not footballers and Leo diCaprio) but could never commit and I just knew that only proper heteros got married and had children. Gay marriage was but a twinkle in an activists eye and besides which who would inflict that kind of lifestyle and bullying on any child. Even if I gave up my inclinations towards women, perhaps I would be too feminist, too career-oriented and selfish to dedicate my time to a child. A quasi-lesbian, semi-feminist? I would be a BAD mother.
Even without a commitment to a bisexual poly life, I had planned my funeral long before a wedding – no disney romance, no white lace and church for me and all in all the message was if you can’t be a good wife you can’t be a good mother – and queer folk ain’t good for marriage…
But married I am. and happy no less.
Lesbians with kids aren’t big news any more, whole functioning adults exist who not only grew up with gay parents but weren’t even in a media storm because of it.
I am 7 again and kids are back on the table and I don’t know how that feels.