REFLEXIONS
NOT HAVING CHILDREN - COMING TO GRIPS
By Robert Ross


If you're a parent, there are few things in life more important then your children. So strong is the bond between parent and child that most parents would agree that if they were in some horrifying event, and a life needed to be sacrificed, they would, without question, volunteer themselves to save the lives of their children.

I never really thought about having children until after getting married and settling into the house that I currently live in. Up to that point, my life was a series of adventures, from social activist to small business owner. After getting married, I knew it was time . . . it was now or never.

Both my wife and I married late in life, so there was little time to let nature take its course and "see what happens." After trying various methods in an attempt to conceive children, as a last effort we tried embryo transplants from donor eggs. This was an arduous procedure which involved tests, physical exams, a great deal of money, injecting my wife daily with a hypodermic needle and a lot of reflecting as to whether or not it was the right thing to do. Finally after months of preparation (both physical and emotional), the embryos were implanted, and a few days later we were told that it worked. One of the five embryos had taken hold. We were soon to be parents and were both excited and anxious at the same time.

Well, the embryo wasn't happy in its new home, and a few weeks later, after a bout of pain on my wife's part and a trip to the doctor, we were told there was a miscarriage. The disappointment was almost too much too bear. We had come a long way up to that point and decided to try it one more time. The process repeated itself almost exactly . . . injections, pills, the placement of the embryos, the anticipation when hearing that it had taken hold. And again . . . a week or so later, the physical pain, the trip to the doctor and the disappointment.

For weeks after, or I guess it was more like months . . . well, to be honest, ever since the event, we've never really talked about what it meant for each of us. It was too disheartening, too sad for both of us. Not a lot could be said, it just didn't work.

COMING TO GRIPS
So, what's it like not having children? Some would say it's great, liberating. Others, like myself, have this gap that we're reminded of daily. It wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for a couple of issues (which I realize are all selfish on my part). When people meet you for the first time, and they have children, at some point they usually want to compare children stories, so they ask, "Do you have children?" I still can't live with the fact that I don't, so I find myself lying more often then not "Yea," I say. If they pursue it with "How many?" I usually say two, a boy and a girl, and quickly change the topic of discussion. At one level, I'm happy with my answer . . . a boy and a girl, I like the image. At another level, I'm reminded of the disappointment and sadness that I feel.

Another area that I find odd is the fact that photographs no longer have any meaning to me. In the back of my mind there was the thought that photos of me, my life and my adventures would be handed down to my children. Without children, photographs have lost their significance. I know where I've been, and I see myself in the mirror every day, that seems to be enough.

Lastly, concerning not having children, I think about old age, nursing homes and health problems. Whose going to take care of all the problems associated with old age? If you have children, it's comforting knowing that hopefully, your children will be returning the favor and taking care of you when you're near the end. Without children, I don't know . . . it's a lonely image, will the State make all the final decisions?

I don't think I'll ever really accept the fact that I don't have children. There will always be a part of me that says "hey, how come?" Especially when I'm walking on the beach and I see the excitement in a two year old's eyes as the waves crash on the shoreline. I think . . . "Hey, how come?"

Robert Ross is a  columnist. He can be reached at SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com


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