family tree

I don’t know how many times I can say (and feel) how wonderful and difficult it is to see the children in my family (and deal with their parents). It seems as though I think and write about this all the time. I don’t know if it will ever get easier… 

In the four years we’ve been trying to having a baby of our own, there have been so many little ones born into our small tribe. A constant stream of all things baby — baby announcements and expecting mothers, baby showers and birthdays, baby blessings, babies after infertility, as well as other child-centered family occasions (aren’t they all?). These experiences truly run the gamut between happy and heartbreaking, and always leave me/us with somewhat mixed emotions. 

As I’ve said before (and here), it’s hard not to imagine our little boy toddling among these children, his cousins. He’d be the perfect age, smack in the middle of the four year olds and the one year olds. No matter how much I love these kids and enjoy their company, it’s impossible not to see them and reflect back on the gaping hole in our own lives — the absence of our own little boy and every other child we might have had these past four years. And any child we will never have. When I see these children, my heart is filled with love, yet at the same time I feel so very empty.  

In every way possible, it is so hard to feel like I am still a part of our family tree that keeps growing without us. Our little dead stump just sits there, barren, while the rest of the roots and branches just keep on growing and growing — intertwining and strengthening as each child evolves into their own little person, distinct with personality, and soon with a life of his/her own. I feel so distinctively separate from this phenomenon of endless baby-making and child-rearing that it’s a challenge to accept that we’re even in the same tree. Alone and apart and aching is what I feel.

Last night, we spent the evening with my cousins and their two little ones. Their four year old is a darling boy who we adore. He’s incredibly gifted with musical ability (I’m surprised he’s not on yout.ube yet). He is hilarious and we always have a good time playing with him. Their 15-month old baby girl came along their first month of trying again (of course) — which happened to be just a few months after our baby boy died — and I know it was hard for them to tell us. We are only now beginning to see this little girl’s personality emerge, as we only see them about once a month. 

These are just two of the many children in our lives. There is always joy in seeing these little beings, but of course this also comes with all the other feelings too. Duality in action.

So last night, when this little baby girl crawled up and into the Amazing M’s lap and nuzzled into him all cozy and sweet, gazing up into his clear blue eyes with her own, with the sweetest little smile, it warmed and just about broke my heart at the same time. Will that sight ever get easier to see? 

~ by luna on April 20, 2008.

11 Responses to “family tree”

  1. No. Sadly, I don’t think it will. I have a feeling it will always be that aching bittersweet. But that may be just ME talking. I often wonder if someone will cover us up on the tree with a piece of blue painter’s tape.

  2. I couldn’t bear to spend a moment with someone else’s child. Too painful.

    I also can’t imagine how I would have ever thrived without the support, guidance and love of my aunt who did not have children. She wasn’t a stump.

  3. Both you and the Amazing M have such extraordinary strength, love and courage to be able to withstand such poignant moments. I admire you so much for being able to do this – I seem to turn into this horrible, bitter infertile woman whenever I’m around other people’s children!

    Although you and M may not have children of your own, you still have a place on that family tree – as two wonderfully warm, generous and loving indivduals.

  4. It’s only been recently that I’ve been able to deal with other peoples’ kids – thankfully the ones I teach have been less of an issue as they’re that little bit older. Funnily enough, we’ve just come back from a long weekend with my husband’s brother and his two kids. It was the wee boy’s first birthday today and he seems to have a bond with my husband (who looks – and probably smells – very like his brother). So I’ve seen that look too and feel exactly as you do. But Antigone is right – I think we can all remember childless family members who had a profound effect on us (my Great Uncle John – he and his wife’s only child was born still and although he died long before I knew we would have IF problems, he always had a very special place in my heart). I reckon that if I never have my own children, at least I can give something to – and gain something from – the other children we know.

  5. Dh and I feel the same way when we are around our nieces and nephews and friends children. We love kids and they always warm my hearts. I’m especially attached to my little niece who considers me her 2nd mommy but yet there is always an ache in my heart as well. And I wonder when I will be able to have that with my own children. I’m sorry its still so hard and that you still have to wonder.

  6. At this point in my life, (you know, 4 yrs A.I. …”after IVF”), I wish I could tell you that it does. But for me it hasn’t and I’m sure it’s because I’m still in limbo. Maybe the closer I get to taking more steps towards adoption I will … but right now, no.

    I suppose “peace” will come in it’s own time. Probably most likely when we all least expect it. And who knows, just like when one is “truly happy” in life, the reality of that happiness might not even be acknowledged until that one moment of calm.

    I’m babbling, I know. Big hugs to you, Luna.

  7. The image of that child in M’s arms makes me cry. Certainly the way he took care of the baby goat, I’m sure, was just one example of the kind of the tenderness he would show a child. And it’s terrible to feel such conflict about a child you want to love in an unfettered way.

    I know that sense of feeling forever left out, from your own family tree. Jacob’s middle name was one handed down to the first born son, every other generation (C got the other name). Will he and his brother just be footnotes? Will anyone remember them in years to come?

    I wish you peace, Luna.

  8. I had to think about this one for awhile, & it’s great to see everyone else’s responses. Yes, it is hard knowing there will be no more branches shooting off this particular limb of the family tree. However, my mother’s family (on both sides) does have a fair number of childless relatives, & most of them live pretty full & interesting lives. I am sure many of them had thought they would have children someday, and I look to them for inspiration.

    I like to think our nephews will remember us fondly & maybe look in on us now & then in our old age, but I know there are no guarantees (just as there are no guarantees with your own children…!). The youngest one used to ask dh about Katie now & then. I’m hoping that he will continue to remember the little cousin he was supposed to have had. It’s so hard feeling like we’re the only ones who do.

  9. I feel the same way sometimes when I spend time with my two little nephews, who are 5 and 2 years old. I see it when my father-in-law talks endlessly about them, but has nothing to say about what’s going on with D and I. I don’t know if it gets easier… for me, it hasn’t yet. Sometimes I very much feel like that broken branch on the family tree.

  10. You are always in my thoughts, Luna, even if I don’t have the words.

  11. Your description of the tree/stump is so right-on. I think one of the hardest parts of not being able to have a baby with my husband is I’m missing out on bonding with his family through kids. it’s like I hold back and fear his aunts/uncles/mom, etc because I don’t have a child to bring to the “tree” and I feel so alone in that.

    Today I was feeling so sorry for myself in the checkout at the grocery store. I was looking down and I realized this little (probably barely 3 year-old) girl was looking up at me with this big smile. She looked right at me, smiled and said “hi!” It was weird — it made me feel so happy and sad at the same time, too.

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