Gambling with Life

By Carol A. Provence

Bringing children into the world is a speculative venture.  It has all the elements of a gamble, something resembling Russian roulette in its potential for disaster.  Yes, seems we no longer worry as much about the hazards of dying in childbirth, medical advances have moved along there, but don’t kid yourself you’re gambling with dice that tumble in many directions before they land and show their faces.   There are the genetic dice, emotional dice, economic dice, and the psycho-social dice to name a few.  It is perilous business to shake up that pair of egg and sperm dice.  The outcome has long reaching consequences and absolutely no guarantees are given. 

Your great expectations, your best efforts and prayers toward the endeavor of parenting may fill your heart with both great hope and terror at the task you have set in motion.  And indeed it should.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It is a risk for only the greatest, bravest risk takers around.  Some may call them stupid, as they call all grand risk takers.  Keep in mind it is best to be as smart as possible and work at minimizing your risks with well thought out conscious decisions and execution with the best equipment available.  But even that will not guarantee the outcome.

Because no matter how much you might feel in control, the losses and gains for the most part will lie beyond your mere hands alone.  Your ideas and notions of life’s continuum order of things might not run parallel with the realities that actually unfold as you attempt to travel and keep that parental plane on course.  Don’t ask why…most of life’s big steps are taken with the best of intentions and greatest of hopes and possibly life was meant to be that way…to keep us keeping on.  Even when we see the evidence of the land mines along the path; see the broken hearts and dreams that lie shattered by some who were unlucky enough to stumble upon life’s sudden surprises.  Never doubt, even in the midst of the mundane everyday drudgery that you will surely begin to take for granted; the days that you may find yourself bristling under; the incidents that will test your patience and courage, there lies potential for deep ruptures to your heart.

The pain of childbirth itself may turn out to be the pain most easily forgotten.  It is your heart that will need the capacity to expand without bursting and contract without shriveling up completely embittered; just remember for your life and the lives you bring into this life, they came with no warranties and most definitely a no return policy.  Once you get on the ride, it will be the biggest and bumpiest roller-coaster with unimaginable highs and lows ever.

Who am I and why do I speak so?  Well due to my own genetic makeup, I was barred from having children without medical intervention that opened the way for me to decide in favor of that option after almost five years of marriage.  Can’t really remember when I didn’t want children and dreamed of marriage and family.  And I thought I had hit the child-bearing lottery by being able to choose to have two beautiful healthy children; turning out with a bun and a hot dog; girl first, with a boy following almost 4 years later.  I was over the moon devoted to pouring my whole self into this effort at motherhood.  But, I was a naively optimistic 24 years old when I had child number one and in reflection should have hit the pause button and taken a longer look at my own roller-coaster, chaos driven childhood; studied closer the contributing sperm half of this project and his strength of character.  Neither of us were whole self’s and probably didn’t make a whole together at that point in time.  On top of that there was no real support from either of our families; in fact we were surrounded with negativity and frightfully bad examples.  Each of us had an alcoholic parent, no guidance in healthy relationships and communications.   We had been high school sweethearts in a very small town.

Hitting the pause button came later, after the fact as I was deep into the project.  Suddenly, I had feelings of not knowing myself at all, because who I was seemed to only exist and be tied up with who I was in relation to the needs and expectations of others.  Even though I needed this pause to ponder my own unique self I didn’t see the unexpected danger of withdrawing my all encompassing energy and focus from these others who only saw me as the all giving tit in the sky that they had come to suckle upon. Weaning the hometown crowd wasn’t going to go over with applause, instead it was seen as a threat to the status quo and their well established comfort zone.  But, who could have guessed the extent of the land mines they would choose to put in place to throw me off balance and even to punish.

After nineteen years of being faithfully married, children now reaching teen and pre-teen ages of fourteen and ten years of age; a husband now 39 years old would pull the stunt of suicide leaving me with our two children, first and second mortgages and life insurance policy he had changed recently that had a suicide clause that made it null and void.  No note; so don’t bother to wonder or ask; and I’m not going into the ugly details here.  That’s for the book version.

Worse was the cloud of negative judgments, cruel rumors and misperceptions that would further choke off even my ability to see myself clearly.  Everyone needed a scapegoat and this was another role I had been given early on by the network of others from family of origin onward.  The dead man somehow became the hero and the usual scapegoat became the easily targeted suspect.  This cruel interruption and explosion would leave me stunned and walking around with post-traumatic stress without a support system to help me navigate my next steps.  Shit even the marriage counselor he had picked a few months before the suicide started trying to date me after the funeral.  I was abandoned and deeper into the land of the lost and fighting for a tangible identity; I may have stumbled along badly in all the confusion and flood of new unexpected emotions.  Not claiming I am or was ever perfect; just spent too much time trying to be, in order to be worthy of some love and recognition.  Let me affirm just what a lost cause that is…perfection.  I was first born of six children myself and a girl that duty called “the responsible one.”  I had never gotten any encouragement, acknowledgement or appreciation for my previous efforts as daughter, sister, wife, in-law or a mother; now it would become an even more impossible task.  The blame game was on!  All previous efforts were now completely nullified and overshadowed, as if they never existed and replaced with even the most superficial of perceptions and denial.

I may have somehow survived the accident of this crash, but that wouldn’t stop my being picked up from the side of the road and thrown under the bus over and over again, in order for others to not see the driver’s responsibility in this accident of life.  And my punishment would persist by these very children of my loins who would completely disown me if I did not bare the mantle of blame and crown of further emotional abuse.  Going as far as to not allow me to see, or be a part of being a grandmother.  Oh I waited for them to mature and experience life for themselves; hoped for some sort of truth to set me free, but now after 20 years this seems not to be, and at this late date and point in my life I’m not sure I even want to deal with their unacceptable twisted good guy/bad guy bullshit.  I have told them I will no longer play the victim/victimizer game.  There are far too many shades of gray in any relationship that outsiders, including children, can never witness.  Their twisted perceptions, their anger and pain would be encouraged, nurtured and fostered by all that original negativity that I had so bristled under from my earliest days.

By far the toughest birthing I’ve undertaken is the one as a “survivor” who works everyday at self acceptance, inner peace, cutting the cord of co-dependence and establishing healthy self boundaries…and yes a big dose of courage.  By meeting myself and life with acceptance, kindness and compassion this allows me to extend the same to others and if need be to release them to their own life lessons. My children came through me, but never really belonged to me.  I was well aware of this…read Kahlil Gibran’s poem, On Children. I had a print of this on my wall before I ever had them.  Ultimately what belongs to Life will always go back to Life.  We are the bow and they are the arrows.

My personal dreams and efforts were blown into a thousand different pieces.  We all do the best we can with what we know at the time of our decision making.  Not wanting to be a “Debbie Downer” here, just saying all decisions come with risks; life is the ultimate dicey undertaking!  Along with the joy will be disappointments, regrets, doubts and even pain?  How many songs are written with lines reminding us there isn’t only sunshine, but also clouds and rain.  John Lennon said life is what’s happening while you’re busy making other plans.  Those lyrics are there for a reason; a reminder that just like in every hello, there is a goodbye.  Marriage vows had for better or worse in them and we didn’t like that much and thought we could change with words what that meant…don’t even have vows for parents and children or a license for that matter…we might want to rethink that.

“I hold it true, whate’er befall;

I feel it when I sorrow most;

‘Tis better to have loved and lost

Than never to have loved at all.”

      Alfred, Lord Tennyson… from In Memoriam poem written in 1849


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