Choosing to be Childless

I had it all figured out. I had a plan of what I was going to do when I got pregnant. I was going to have photos taken every month of my baby bump, from the day of confirmation all the way up until the birth, Artsy, candid shots of my blooming belly in soft lighting, but not hiding any of the messy bits of pregnancy like stretch marks or rosacea.

Then, when the baby was born, I was going to have a pagan midwife and use meditation and hypnosis to give birth drug free. We were going to have mood-filled family pics, rose coloured and achingly beautiful. The miracle of birth. New life. All that.

I got older. We had donors lined up, my lesbian wife and I, but they all fell through. Then I turned 40 and we decided that probably the only way I could get pregnant was through IVF, and that was hella expensive, so the choice was made for my wife to bear our children. All my plans for the documenting of my own pregnancy was transferred to her, as was most of my life. She would have photos every month, she would have a pagan midwife and lovingly cradle our newborn addition in that rose coloured light. I was so excited for a brown baby, for my little rainbow family. We planned for it, had names picked out, godparents chosen, shared pictures of baby and toddler fashion that our very cool kid would wear.

And then everything changed. And I mean everything. Shattered marriage leading to a new job, new life, new couch to surf, new goals. Whether I liked it or not, my existence shifted. I found myself cleaning houses for a living; the suburban homes of the working mother, some married, some not, all with children of different ages, different stages. The one thing that became abundantly clear to me is that children take over everything. And I mean everything.

These women I clean for are all intelligent, hard working, motivated career women. They have jobs, they have partners, they have lives. But one thing I noticed that they all shared was that their lives and their homes were dominated by their children. They were mothers first. Women second. People third. Their lives were defined by their offspring. It made me feel anxious.

I went home, back to New Zealand to figure out where I was going. I tested the waters back home, trying on the possibility of moving there, having a baby on my own. My dad and his husband are there, both big fans of the idea of me progenerating little Bentons everywhere. I had a chat to one of my cousins about how her life had changed since she had kids. She said unequivocably that she loved her sons, but all her dreams for herself had taken a back seat. I looked at her face. She was tired.

On the plane flying back to Australia I thought about all the times I’ve been pregnant, ended in either a termination or miscarriage. My doctor had told me that I was very fertile, that despite the polyps in my ovaries and the scarring in my uterus, I had a “very viable womb”. If that were so, why so childless?

The realisation settled on me like dust settles on polished wood: I would make a wonderful mother. But I will never be one.

Quite simply, I’m too selfish to give up my life for a child. I gave it up for a partner and it nearly destroyed me. I would love that child until I had nothing else to give, but I would grieve for my childless life. I understand that everything changes when the child is in one’s arms, but to be honest, I don’t want that change. I’ve just emerged from a cocoon of my own making, all my insecurities and neuroses woven into a personal carapace that blinded me as it protected me. I have broken free of not only an abusive and toxic relationship with another person, but also with myself. I’m not ready to put that aside to dedicate my energy to someone else, fruit of my loins or no. By the time I am ready, I will be too old. I’m already too tired.

I wept painful racking sobs over this decision. I had longed for a baby since puberty hit at age 11 and I had always assumed that it was an inevitability. Even as I flip flopped about marriage, shooting out a sprog was unquestionably a thing that would happen. But as I’ve matured and grown and realised what being a parent actually entails, I’ve chosen myself instead. I look back at all the sacrifices my mother made for us kids, how the decision to have a family impacted her life. She died stating that her greatest achievement was her children and I am so grateful to her for that. But I just can’t do it.

I’m okay with it now. In another life, in a parallel universe, I am a mother and I’m damn good at it. In that existence, my kid is ridiculously talented, intelligent and beautiful and will grow up to change the world. And in that world I would be content with being a mother first. I would be proud to be a mum.

But not in this one.

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You used to take my breath away. There was a time when I’d look at you and my heart would stop, just for a moment. I’d watch you dance and my knees would buckle at the heat emanating from my very core. I used to wonder how I got so lucky to get someone as sexy, as talented, as wonderful as you.

Now, it’s all been exposed as an illusion. You tag me in things because I wrote music for you, hoping I’m sure, to impress me. But I can see through it all now. It doesn’t impress me. I don’t feel the same heat. In fact, I feel a passing indifference. It’s all the same. The same moves, the same looks, the same songs, all directed at someone else, all trying to show me what I’m missing out on. I’m not missing out on much.

Today, though. Today was different. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of love. It was, but I walked into that room where three years ago we exchanged vows that I thought were sacred, that I took very seriously, and it all came crashing down. Here, in this room, where another same sex couple were joining themselves together under the law, where I thought my life as a married woman had begun, I was reminded that you got away scot free. You walked away relatively unscathed. You don’t have to be confronted with any of this.

I returned to New Zealand seeking solace. Seeking my home. I didn’t find it. I hadn’t been home since my mother died, since you and I became wives, and it all slapped me hard in the face. You don’t have to feel any of this. You keep telling me that you were hurting too when you ended our marriage, but how could you have been? You will never be forced to come back here and go to the places we went to together, to relive those times now knowing it meant nothing to you. You do not have to look into the eyes of my family that took vows with you to help us to honour our union and admit that you fucked up. You will never be forced to remember, to have your home forever linked with something that was so full of promise, but wasn’t treasured as it should have been. You can just walk away into another person’s arms and never have to take responsibility for the pain you caused because you’re so good at pretending that everything’s fine.

I have to carry that weight. I have to carry it for both of us. Still. And I hate you for that.

But …

But, I’ve met someone else. I’ve met a man that has opened my eyes and my heart. I’ve met a man who has reminded me that I’m allowed to be beautiful, that I’m fascinating, that I’m intelligent, that I’m sexy. All the things you failed to see in me, he sees. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t want a man’s attention. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t need anyone’s attention, and yet here it is. And it’s reawakened in me the knowledge of my own power as a woman. It doesn’t lie with you. It doesn’t lie with him, either. It’s all within me and it’s all mine.

I am not pursuing this man. He came into my life simply as a signpost. He has reminded me that I am not your soon-to-be ex wife. I am not a divorcee. I am not one of many of the broken souls you have left behind. I am not one of your victims. I am better than how you left me. I am better than how you treated me.

I am moving on.

Onwards

This is an angry rant. Something I have to get off my chest once and for all and then I won’t waste any more time or energy on this bullshit.

Am I okay? No, I’m not.

I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never given you my heart. I wish I hadn’t fallen so hard for you. I wish I had never taken you home to my country to meet my family. Do you know that no one in my life EVER has met my entire family? No one, not friends, not partners, not even school friends have met both my brothers and my mother and father much less my extended family. No one. Except you. And now, with my mum gone, no one will again.

I wish I had never pinned my future on you, talked about kids, dreamed about where we’d live. I wish I had never believed you when you said my heart was safe with you. I wish I had never trusted you with my darkest secrets and fears. I wish I hadn’t relaxed with you.

I wish I had never married you.

I wish I hadn’t wasted all those beautiful and special experiences on you, you who didn’t appreciate or respect how so very important they were to me. You didn’t care.

I wish I knew how I had got it so collosally wrong when everything in me believed you were the one. I wasn’t naive when I met you, but I got it so wrong.

They say these things happen to teach us something. Well, all you taught me is that love doesn’t exist. All you taught me is that no one can be trusted. All you taught me is that I’m better off alone.

I had hope before you. I trusted before you. I saw the best in people before you. Now I’m closed off and cold and brittle. This is your legacy. You have ensured that no one will feel the depth of my love for a very, very long time.

But I’m so silly, because you don’t care about any of this. You don’t care about what you did to me. Our relationship was never about us, it was always about you. Even now, it’s about you. You didn’t love me. If you did, you would have never done those things to me. If you did, you would have left me alone.

So good luck. Good luck with your new, “completely normal” bedfellow, after all the lies and bullshit you told me about not being ready for a relationship. Good luck with not abusing her like you did me, and the woman before me. Good luck in not fucking it up like you did your marriage. A marriage that was only sacred to one of us.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry. You’re not. Don’t tell me you care. You don’t. I am a light that showed you the way and now it is lost to you. And you don’t even know how valuable it was, you narcissistic fuck.

You are dead to me.

Just In To Leave Her

Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.

Born to Love, Cursed to Feel

I can be on my own. I’m actually quite good at it. I enjoy my own company. I think I’m funny, smart and a good conversationalist. I could talk to myself for hours. I can be silent by myself for longer. I function better, actually, on my own. I have more money, I eat better, my career thrives, I’m thinner. I’m better on my own.

I never expected forever; I wasn’t brought up in a family of forever, but I must admit I got used to the idea of it. I felt like I could relax. I had no fear of making future plans.

I’ve been in love before.  I have loved keenly and powerfully, but with you, I don’t know, it was different. I can’t even say why it was different. I mean, I can give you reasons, like my eye was never turned (except once by an old high school friend who lives in New Zealand so there was no chance of anything coming of it and I wouldn’t have done anything anyway because I was so ridiculously in love with you). Like I could be myself around you, my full mentally unwell, ageing, thickening, witchy, farting and burping self. Like my family loves you. Adores you even. Like I could be wrong and you still thought I was cool. Like, I married you.

And then you lied to me. You did something that hurt me and you lied about it. I was angry and betrayed and I did what I knew I was allowed to do and I felt that anger and betrayal and I didn’t let you slide away from it softly. But I was prepared to forgive because I have been forgiven. I was prepared to love you anyway because I have been loved anyway and to be honest, I couldn’t help but love you. I always knew that I would with you.

It was hard, don’t get me wrong. Everything you did triggered (I hate that word) what had happened with my ex, and all that distrust, that black, sticky doubt came creeping back in, but I wouldn’t let it infect me like it did back then. It was a struggle, but I was determined. Sometimes it overtook my thoughts and strangled them because my BPD doesn’t let go easily, but I was working through it and trying to find ways around it. Understanding myself and my own hand in it. Understanding you and where this behaviour comes from. I understood. It didn’t take the pain away, but it would have eventually. If you had just held on.

But it was too hard. Facing up to not being perfect, owning that sometimes you’re an asshole – just like every single member of the human race is sometimes an asshole – was too hard for you. The fighting that is inevitable after a bond has been tested was too hard for you. The work that had to be done was too overwhelming because you believed you couldn’t do it. You believed you weren’t worth it. So you left. And again, I understand. But my God, it cuts deep into the depths of my soul, a place that I have kept wrapped up and hidden away from the world. The path to that place was something I allowed only a very few of you to discover. A wiser person would grow vines around that path, obscuring it, allowing no one to ever again stumble upon it. But it appears I’m not wise, because I would let you find it once more. You left your mark there. It wants you back.

I was put on this earth to love. I am a nurturer, a guide, a gardener. I am a welcomer and a helper. A healer. But I forget that I need those things too, and I am cursed to feel all my experiences and all of yours and yours and yours and yours and I am left empty and broken but I still feel. I cannot stop feeling.

I am not perfection in any way other than my imperfection. I am a child, stumbling around in the dark, pretending I know the way, faking it until I make it. Life taught me that I must be prepared to make mistakes in order to grow, so I have made them gleefully at times, ready for the wisdom that comes with it. I am a hermit, I am insular, I block people out because I feel too much, I isolate myself because the voices in my head are too much company. I’m a terrible friend one minute and the best person to be around the next. I am selfish and selfless, I am strong and fragile. I am beauty incarnate and the hag of your nightmares. I am the queen of the Universe and the muck on your shoe.

This is who I am. And I will walk this trail again and again until the day I die. I’d just prefer to walk it with you.

The Right to be Human

I am writing today as a human being, born with the same rights as every other human being in this country. Born to believe in whatever spiritually makes sense to me; born to follow whatever dream I may have for my life; born to live freely in a Western country that embraces every human as an equal inhabitant. Equal, that is, as long as I’m straight.

Australia is supposed to be a free country. We arrogantly call ourselves part of the first world, an appellation we give to this country due to industry, opportunity, freedom of expression, and human rights. But that’s bullshit, because in Australia, gay people are not equal. Gay people do not have the same rights as every other citizen. A gay person is not allowed to marry their partner.

Now, I’ve heard every argument under the sun: the mother of my ex-girlfriend (yes, a woman with a gay child) questions the validity of the government putting energy into marriage equality as “there are so many more important things to consider, like our economy!” The ex-boyfriend’s mother said it was not a governmental issue because “marriage is a religious concern.” Julia Gillard, our Prime Minister, says she doesn’t believe in marriage equality because “it goes against my upbringing”. And spare me the religious diatribe that states that “homosexuals are an abomination against God”, ’cause I don’t believe in your God, and the Universe I am connected to doesn’t give a fuck who I share my bed with.

What this whole thing boils down to for me is that it’s about basic, fundamental human rights. These human rights are being violated, which makes it an extremely important governmental issue. Marriage ceased to be solely a religious convention decades ago – thousands of heterosexuals have non-religious marriage services conducted by civil marriage celebrants. It is definitely a legal issue. There is no demand for marriage between gay people to be recognised by the Church anyway, so the point is moot. And if you, like Julia, were brought up to be a bigoted, prejudicial idiot? Well, change. You’re an adult, aren’t you? You have the capacity for independent thought, yes? If that’s troubling for you, try this on: imagine you love someone so much you want to marry them, but you can’t because your government says you’re not allowed to. Imagine that the very act of loving that person was considered a crime in some Western countries a few short years ago. Imagine that holding your lover’s hand in public (or even behind closed doors) could get you hanged, shot or bashed. Now what do you think?

Photo by Christopher Bryant

Photo by Christopher Bryant

Look, not every gay person wants to get married, just as not every straight person does. The point is, the marriage equality fight is for the right to choose, just like straight people have the right to choose. And what will happen if gay people are allowed to marry? Well – hold on to your hats, people – some gay people will get married. That’s it. So, what’s the big deal?

This effects all of us. We all have a connection, however tenuous, to someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and is therefore being discriminated against by our government. All I am asking you to do, is open your mind and your heart. Change is coming.

P.S. In case you’re wondering, my sexual orientation is irrelevant. I’m writing as a human being, with the same rights as every other human being in this country. That is all.