Ramin and I are now categorised as ‘A childless couple’. We have tried to get pregnant naturally for many years and finally went through a gruelling round of In-vitro-fertilisation (IVF) last Autumn and yet, for reasons still largely unknown, we conceived 3 embryos, yet did not stay pregnant. One round was enough for me. I asked God the question and received my answer. Previous to trying IVF we actually went through a year long process of applying to become Adoptive parents, yet sadly this route was closed to us. We could fight it. We could try somewhere else, but at the moment – this path is exhausted (and exhausting). We’ve now accepted that – unless a miracle happens – we will not be parents, and are moving on.
It’s tough for us both.
Coming to terms with this has been a longer process for Ramin than myself. Perhaps because my IVF experience was so physical. It’s another test related to MS that we both have to cope with, and it does often feel like the hardest part. It’s all the ‘what ifs…’ which play sad tunes on our heart strings.
Yet when I coo at and hold a baby in my arms, I instantly feel happy for the parents and joyful to be in the presence of a tiny soul. I don’t feel resentful or sad at not having kids myself. Here is another little person I can love, and it’s beautiful. Its the same when a friend announces she is pregnant! Wahoo! Another one of life’s miracles!
Today, I want to challenge that phrase ‘A childless couple’ as I think it’s misleading, comes from a materialistic view of life and annoys me because it assumes Ramin and I are missing out.
We live in a time when the quest for possessions, status and fame is well and truly up there with the quest for enlightenment. This influences the way we talk about and describe life’s achievements or failures. We all know that money and objects and fame does not make anyone happy in the long-term. In this society we are insidiously groomed to spend our whole lives aiming for spiritually empty-calorie goals and think less and less about feeding our soul spiritual food that would enrich us beyond measure. So a couple who do not have children are described as ‘A Childless Couple’ in the same way that a single woman is called ‘A Spinster’. Many people have ‘successful careers’ yet cannot stay faithful to their wives or husbands. So many famous movie stars, musicians and artists have died young through alcohol abuse or drug-overdoses (Oh River Phoenix!), yet we still envy their successes and wish we were more like them. The state of our soul is not as important as the estate we leave behind and then we enter the next world in a state of complete spiritual poverty. Yeah, that’s successful.
One of my favourite quotes from the Baha’i writings is this;
The soul of man is the sun by which his body is illumined, and from which it draweth it’s sustenance. (Baha’u’lláh)
So, in the light of this teaching, I choose to re-examine our societies’ established assumptions and judgements. A change in our perspective from materialistic to spiritually focused is not just a philosophical exercise, it’s a foundation for happiness.
‘A Childless Couple’ as a phrase annoys me, because of the word ‘less’. We don’t go around saying ‘An Abuse-less Couple’ for married couples who are loving to each other or ‘A Meat-less Couple’ for a married people who are Vegetarians do we? Also the phrase is just plain wrong and misleading!
Ramin and I both have sisters who have children, 3 on one side and 4 on the other. We love these kids. We talk about them all the time. I see elements of myself in the Welsh ones and elements of Ramin in the German ones. Spending time with them is joyful, rewarding and sometimes a bit too noisy (due to our own home being quieter), but I look forward to having their company and I feel I am in exactly the right place at the right time when we are with them.
Our dear friends Vicky and Tom have two girls, who call us Aunty Fleur and Uncle Ramin. We love them and will always be there for them. I was living with V & T just before their first daughter was born and I have many wonderful memories of carrying her, going for walks with her in a sling and playing with her as a little one. Their second daughter is a joy and together the girls are so exuberantly loving!
I have many friends with children, some live nearby, some live an hour away, some many hours away. When I see them, I enjoy the children’s company as much as their parents – and I always wonder at the different personalities, physical attributes, enthusiasms for this and that subject in life. I work on how I can be there for them as a trustworthy, spiritually minded adult. Or sometimes I just read stories before bed or sing silly songs to make them giggle.
I have my own Aunties and Uncles who gave me time and attention, who loved me as a child and who I feel very close to today. One couple in particular, Des and Cynthia, who currently live in China, do not have their own children – yet this never bothered me as a child. Des is an artist and I remember him painting with me as a child, chatting about life and having long deep conversations with my parents. My impression of him is that he is a laid-back Cowboy who has hung up his boots (even though his family are Irish/English) and I always found him fascinating to be around. When Des and Cynthia come to the UK, they often stay with us for a few days and the connection is just as strong.
The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is as relevant now as it was generations ago. In fact I would say even more so in a time when so many loud voices clamour for our attention such as the Media, the passion for Celebrity, the ever-increasing competitive nature of work, play, status and the incredible ability we have to access knowledge. Children need positive examples in their lives, people who can guide them to have spiritual values and overcome tests through inner strength. Aunts and Uncles can be of great support to parents in this capacity. So I see it, as a Aunt that its my responsibility to help every child I come into contact with to shine their light, not only for their own happiness but also for the sake of the whole world. If we don’t help fan the bright flames into life, then we are assured (and can see the evidence in the news) the same capacity for bringing light will be diverted into a capacity for reflecting the lack of light, the darkness.
“Every child is potentially the light of the world,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá would argue, “and at the same time its darkness.”
“Training in morals and good conduct is far more important than book learning,” he said. “The child who conducts himself well, even though he be ignorant, is of benefit to others, while an ill-natured, ill-behaved child is corrupted and harmful to others, even though he be learned.” Of course, he commented, instilling both moral education and book learning in children would be preferable.
“Give them the advantage of every useful kind of knowledge,” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote on the subject of child rearing. “Let them share in every new and rare and wondrous craft and art.” Yet he wasn’t suggesting a life of indulgence. “Bring them up to work and strive,” he added, “accustom them to hardship. Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind.”
(From 239 Days in America. Click here to read more)
Not being able to have children has perhaps given me a deeper understanding of parental love in that reaching out beyond the immediate family (of my marriage) has caused me to reflect on how every person, with children or not (married or single) has an important part to play in the health and happiness of the village – which in this time in the history of mankind is now the whole world, a global village. When we broaden the circle of love to the children in the neighbourhood or the region, the country or the continent and finally the whole planet, there are children all around us! Its all a matter of perspective. And just imagine what would transform if we all thought globally, saw every child as our own, loved every child as a member of our family.
So yes, Ramin and I have no children, but we are not childless. It’s our choice about how much we engage with the children that determines how much love we feel and receive back. Of course friends and family who are parents have a more engaged and intimate and I am sure more rewarding as well as testing relationships with their children than we do as Aunty Fleur and Uncle Ramin. Yet our related and non-related nieces and nephews are a very precious part of our lives. And when I think back to all the children who have been part of my drama classes over the years in Scotland or in Sherman Cymru, or who sang in whole-school assemblies with me in Primary Schools in Northamptonshire, or who learned beat-boxing and step-dance with my brother and I in Mien Yang in China, or who learned to be confident and sing their hearts out at the Summer School last year in Romania, I have to ask myself, am I childless? No, I’m child-full.
We are a child-full couple.
Oh… and we sleep really well every night 😉