When I first started blogging many years ago it was because I felt like I had no where to go to express or speak what I needed to. So I started to write, under a pen name. I was able to get my story out. And in doing that I started to find, and have found a voice again. My voice.
And so today, it is such a privilege to be able to give someone else a voice and to publish a guest post by them.
This is the story they never tell.
‘I’m not one for small talk. I despise pleasantries. I’d much rather jump right in and get to know someone on a deep level. That means asking personal questions that some people get taken aback by. I’m quite a direct person and people can take offence at my abruptness. I don’t mean to be rude. I just can’t be bothered talking about the weather when we could be talking about their hopes and dreams instead. I’m also quite an open person. I over share and I’m not private at all. I don’t mind people knowing about me. I’d rather be vulnerable if it helps other people to know that they are not alone. That is the reason why I’m writing this, but for once I’m not using my real name. This is only the second time I’ve shared a personal story publicly and anonymously. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to guest post because I’m not a blogger myself.
The thing is, there are two very common questions that I get asked in return which, although I’m very good at hiding it, make my heart ache.
“Are you married? Do you have kids?”
For most single and childless women approaching 30, this is a tough couplet. For me it feels even tougher, since the answers to both are loaded with secrecy and heartache.
I fell head over heels in love once. It was a glorious time but it was short lived. One of the biggest regrets I have is never having the courage to tell this person just how much I loved them; that I wanted to marry them. I lived with them, I said I love you and got the same in reply. Then just like that, there was someone else and our relationship was lost forever. You see this person was a woman. We shared the same bed, wore each other’s clothes and went for romantic walks along the river. Then she left me for a man. It’s a great fear for some gay women that their bisexual partner will leave them for a man. Being left at all is hard but when it’s for a man it feels even worse. We met in church and it was easier for her to be with a man. She had a choice. I didn’t.
She used to say she would marry me when it became properly legal. I often wonder if she would have kept her promise until March last year when it could’ve become a reality. Civil partnership didn’t feel real enough at the time. I admit to recently stalking her on social media after having enough self-discipline to block her for years. I kept a couple of mutual friends with the sole purpose of seeing tagged photos every so often. She is still with the same guy. They are very happy together. No relationship I’ve had since has ever come close to what we had. I sometimes wonder if I will ever marry because I will always compare people to her and everyone else will seem like second best next to perfection.
On top of this I have marriage after marriage to attend. The vast majority of them are straight, although I’ve been to more same-sex than different sex weddings this year. I’m at the age when there’s a conveyor belt of weddings. I’ve spent more on dresses this summer than I care to acknowledge. Every time without fail the inevitable question comes, “So when are you getting married then?” However jokingly spoken these words never cease to cut me deep. Innocently asked, mostly by people who have no clue that I would never marry a man even if you gave me a million pounds!
A few years passed. I had one casual relationship, then I met the second woman to whom I had a deep attachment. We worked together. I told her I got over being a lesbian and that Jesus had saved me but I was in so much denial. She was separated from her husband and had a toddler. I began to spend more and more time with her outside of work. I slept over at her house. I got to know her child. I grew to love them both deeply. At one point I spent more time with her daughter than she did and she started calling me mummy. At first I thought this was weird and I discouraged it but after a while I felt honoured. We joked about being lesbian mummies, but it wasn’t really a joke, so we began to discuss adoption. Her husband wasn’t really around; he barely saw his daughter and his idea of supporting her financially was to give her 10p in pocket money.
What does it mean to be a parent; is it just biology? Is it the one who brings a child up, wipes their mouth, changes their nappies, kisses them goodnight, reads them stories, takes them to nursery, and pushes them around in the buggy pointing out everything from aeroplanes to daisies? I believe it can be one or the other but it can also be both. Had I adopted her as was the plan, I would have had exactly the same rights and responsibilities as her biological mother. Had I been her biological mother’s male partner, despite not being her ‘real’ father, raising her as my own I would have also gained respect.
Then something happened. Something really bad happened. Then lots of really bad things happened all at once. Suddenly we were no longer a happy little family. Our plans turned to dust. I will never see her again. I will never see her daughter, our daughter, again. They are not dead, but for very complicated reasons that I cannot explain here, it is not possible for me to see them ever again.
Earlier this year, I heard about a charity called the Mariposa Trust who run services called Saying Goodbye for parents who have lost their children through miscarriage, stillbirth or in early childhood. When I heard about the work that this charity does I had all sorts of emotions going on. I’ve never been pregnant. I’ve never even had sex with a man. I’ve got no idea how it feels to carry a baby, although one day I hope to. I cannot explain to you the depth of the emotional bond that I had with this little girl. I saw her as my very own daughter and it breaks my heart that I will never see her again. It may sound dramatic to you but it feels as though she is dead. I feel like a part of me has died. I wonder if she still remembers me, still thinks of me, or still asks her other mummy what happened to me. I wonder if she’s got another parent now, male or female. I wonder if she’s got brothers and sisters. I wonder how she’s doing at school.
It’s approaching her birthday. I remember the last birthday I got to spend with her, how her face lit up with all her friends on her special day, seeing her beautiful smile break across her face. That is how I will remember her: in her birthday princess dress, jumping on a bouncy castle, with a huge grin, stuffing her face with chocolate cake, and lying next to me at the end of the day, falling asleep in my arms. I don’t even have many of the photographs I took of her because my camera got stolen and my phone died. That’s another huge regret. I ask myself over and over again why on earth did I not back up my phone or make copies or print the photos? Why was I irresponsible enough to leave my camera somewhere where it could be taken?
I feel guilty writing this. I think what justification do I have to write about how my heart feels like it was ripped from my chest? I’ve never been pregnant, never carried a child or a given birth. My child hasn’t died and yet I feel this inconsolable ache. I’m going to a Saying Goodbye service soon. I’ve wanted to attend one for quite some time now but felt like I didn’t deserve to go. I felt unworthy. I’d be called out as an imposter. I’m going to go because I have lost a child. She may not be dead, but she is lost and gone for ever to me.’