My husband, Ramin and I are now categorized as 'A childless couple'. Ramin has Multiple Sclerosis, diagnosed only three months after we were married. We have tried to get pregnant naturally for many years and went through a grueling round of in vitro fertilization (IVF) last Autumn and yet, even though we conceived three embryos, we didn't stay pregnant. One round was enough for me. I asked God the question and received my answer. Previous to this we 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. 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 a baby in my arms, I instantly feel happy for the parents and joyful to be in the presence of this tiny soul. I don't feel resentful or sad. Here is another little person I can love, and it's beautiful. It's the same when a friend announces she is pregnant! Wahoo! Another one of life's miracles!
I want to challenge that phrase 'A childless couple', It assumes Ramin and I, and others like us, 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. This is also why the term 'Childless' exists, it's a perceived lack. We all know that money, objects and fame do not make anyone happy in the long-term. 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. 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, wishing 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 condition 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, I choose to re-examine our societies' established assumptions and judgements. Such an insight can change our perspective from a materialistic to a spiritually focused one. For me this is not just a philosophical exercise but 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?
Ramin and I both have sisters who have children, three in Swansea, South Wales and four in Dormagen, Germany. We love these kids. We talk about them all the time. I see elements of myself and Ramin in them all. Spending time with them is joyful, rewarding and yes sometimes a bit too noisy (due to our own home being quieter), but I feel I am in exactly the right place at the right time when we are with them.
Our dear friends Vicky and Tom live in Kent and have two girls, who call us Aunty Fleur and Uncle Ramin. We love them deeply. I have many wonderful memories going for walks with their eldest, with her in a sling and playing with her bricks and paints. Their second daughter is a new-born joy, full of smiles and gurgles.
I have many friends with children, some live nearby, some much further. I enjoy the children's company as much as their parents and I always delight in their enthusiasm and different personalities. I want to be there for them as a trustworthy, spiritually minded adult. Or sometimes I just read stories before bed or sing silly songs to make us giggle.
I have my own Aunties and Uncles who gave me time and attention 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 I never even noticed this as a child. Des is an artist (and reminds me of a laid-back cowboy who has hung up his boots) and I remember him painting with me, chatting about life and having deep conversations with my parents. When they 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 when the loud voices of the Media, the passion for Celebrity and the ever-increasing competitive nature of work, play and status shout for our attention. Children need those who can guide them to overcome life's tests through inner strength. Aunts and Uncles can be of great support to parents in this capacity. I want 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 everyone around them. If we don't help fan these bright flames into life, then we are assured (and can see the evidence in the news) the same capacity for achieving great things will be diverted into the darkness of selfishness and negativity.
"Every child is potentially the light of the world," 'Abdu'l-Bahá said, "and at the same time its darkness.....Teach them to dedicate their lives to matters of great import, and inspire them to undertake studies that will benefit mankind."
Not being a parent has pushed my heart into reaching out beyond the immediate family (of my marriage) and maybe this has helped me realize how every person has an important part to play in the health and happiness of the village. When we broaden the circle of love to the children in our neighborhood or region, there are children all around us! It's all a matter of perspective. And just imagine what would change if we saw every child in the world 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. 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 and singing classes over the years in Scotland, Cardiff, China and more recently in Romania, I have to ask myself, am I childless? No, I'm child-full.
We are a child-full couple.
Singing with children at The Baha'i Summer School in Romania 2014
The Kitedance, Volunteering with Hua Dan in 2011
Oh... and we sleep really well every night ;)
(Originally posted in www.wehavems.wordpress.com)