I've sort of been 'brewing' this blog post for a while now, but even as I type, I'm nervous about how it will be received... will it be a bit too much like just letting you all read my journal? Well, maybe. But then maybe that's just what blogging is anyway. And if you've ever read this blog before, or if you know me in actual real life, then you'll know that I'm a majorly over-sharing extrovert, so hey, whatcha gonna do?!
I've blogged on a similar-ish theme before, just after Mothers' Day last year - http://katewharton.blogspot.co.uk/2014_04_01_archive.html.
This time it was being at the New Wine England Summer Gathering that made me start to ponder this whole issue of childlessness. (And before I go any further, if you don't know what New Wine is, check it out here - http://www.new-wine.org/home)
So. I want to write about not having children, and what that feels like for me. I want to do that, although it may make me cry, because I find the writing cathartic, as a way of processing it all. And I want to do it too because it may just help someone else along the way, to think or reflect or face up to this issue for themselves.
I want to be really careful about the language I use, and I hope you'll bear with me. I don't want to offend or upset anyone. I can only share my thoughts and my experiences - yours will be different. And I can (obviously) only talk about not having children from the perspective of someone who is single. The issue of childlessness is a whole different thing for married people who are unable to have children, and/or have lost children. I have a number of friends in that category, and I grieve for them. I can't imagine what that feels like. I've found this blog to be a beautiful and honest exploration of some of those issues - http://saltwaterandhoney.org/
I recognise too that for many single people, the 'children thing' isn't a thing at all. It is at best a peripheral issue, something that inevitably goes alongside being single, but isn't too much of an issue in and of itself - certainly not the main event. It's not something that people necessarily think of when they think of singleness. Single people don't have a spouse. Married people can be childless, not single people. And yet for some (although of course not all) single people, it can be one of the biggest areas of pain.
I would love to have children. I've wanted to have children for as long as I can remember, and I don't think that's just because in a way it's sort of assumed that women will. It was just something within me - I wanted to be a mum.
I love children, and I'm pretty good with them. I can, generally, talk to them, and play with them, and have fun with them and enjoy their company. Whether they're teeny-tiny, or toddlery, or tantrumy, or tweenagey, we can usually manage to get along well.
Obviously I love my friends' kids a huge amount. I have 3 fabulous Godchildren, and those 3 families contain my most favourite 7 children ever. But lots of other friends have kids too, and they're all special.
I really love spending time with children. It's such an awesome privilege to be allowed to be part of a little person's life - that they'll talk to you about the stuff that matters to them, and give you a big slobbery kiss because they've missed you, and slip their hand into yours as you walk down the road.
I spend quite a bit of time around kids at the moment. Partly that's a life-stage thing. Lots of my friends either have small kids (or much bigger kids!), or are pregnant. We do lots of things for kids at church. Just this last week we had 43 kids and their parents/carers in church for a fun day, and then we took them all on a trip to a theme park. It was great - sharing life with them, talking to them about Jesus, seeing their excitement as they went on the rides, hearing their laughter.
And at New Wine too, it was great. We had a fair few kids on our camp site (including all 3 of my gorgeous Godchildren - what a treat!), and it was really fun to have them around and to hang out with them in a really relaxed way.
And yet. You see, there was a bit of a meltdown. That's what started off this whole train of thought. One evening, I just completely lost it. I didn't see it coming at all, but all of a sudden there it was. i was in the main evening session, and a guy from my church walked past on his way to the cafe to get a drink, so I offered to hold his baby while he did. She's 7 months old and she's just so darned cute! We had a bit of a cuddle and a dance, then he came back with his drink and took her back. A few minutes later a dad and a toddler from another local church went past. In fact the toddler raced past with a look of determination on her face and the dad frantically ran after her to try to stop her from causing mayhem. She was wearing a yellow t-shirt with a giraffe on it. That's what did it, I think. The yellow giraffe t-shirt.
I basically sobbed for the whole of the rest of the evening. It wasn't pretty. There was a lot of snot. I don't even know why I was crying. Well, you know what I mean. I was crying because there are beautiful, gorgeous, adorable small people in the world and I won't ever have one of my own. But still, I don't know *why* I was crying, at that moment and in that place.
I talked to God a lot about it, that evening and in the days that followed. I wondered, to myself and to God, what it was all about. I wondered whether it would always be this painful, whether yellow giraffe t-shirts would always make me cry. Perhaps they will. Perhaps that's ok.
Later I bumped into some lovely friends, who saw past the snot, and prayed for me, and understood. That's another incredible blessing right there.
I'm so grateful to God, and to my friends, for the little people in my life, and for the joy they bring. I pray that I'll always enjoy being with them, even though it might sometimes be hard too. I pray that they'll always want to spend time with me. I pray that I'll never become bitter over the things I don't have. I pray that I'll always stay thankful for the things that I do have. I pray that I'll continue to try to become like a little child myself, as Jesus said I should (see Matt 18:1-3).
I pray for every little person today wearing a yellow giraffe t-shirt, for every grown up person given the awesome job of caring for them, and for everyone for whom tied up in that whole business there's pain, or grief, or sorrow.
I saw this video today. It's unbelievably precious, and a reminder of the total miracle of new life. Don't watch it if you don't want to cry a bit! (And I recommend you don't read the comments after it - people get crazy on the internet...). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fhe44oPdp1U