I had a dream last night. Actually I had a number of dreams and the one just before I woke up featured a red blob that swallowed people up - but we will leave that one aside!
In my dream I had three children - girl and two boys. The house was a wreck because Joe was doing some DIY. He had taken out the shower cabinet in the bathroom. The wee girl was the youngest in the family and every time she came into a room where I was my heart just filled with love. I just delighted in her presence - she didn't have to do anything - but just be there for this overwhelming love to flow through me. I don't remember much about my oldest son, but the youngest son - I had a parent's evening to attend. He was seven. I was extremely angry with his teacher. At seven years of age she had already decided what he was capable of doing and what he couldn't do- she had labelled him, boxed him in and limited the things he was allowed to do. I can remember being so angry that I couldn't speak. My tongue was stuck in my mouth. The teacher bristled in front of me and said, "If you have anything to say to me, then just say it." I remember my tone of voice being very soft and of very little volume, but incredibly frightening. I don't remember the words I said, but just knew that it came for the heart of a mother who was standing up for her child.
In real life, I don't have any children. All through the dream, I knew it was a dream. There was a voice inside telling me all along, "But, Mel, you don't have any children."
For some people not having children is a choice. Maybe a married couple look at the state of the world and think that it is wrong to bring yet another person into a world where the resources are already stretched, and the world is not a pleasant place to be with threats of terror and war.
For Joe and I, that wasn't the case. We married fairly late in life - our mid thirties - discovered that natural means of child birth were not possible- endured a few years of fertility treatment - and a few miscarriages. The treatment seemed to become more difficult each month, and the emotional rollercoaster we found ourselves on seemed always to come close to derailing. I wanted to be a parent so much. I had so many people praying for me. One couple went up to the front of a big church meeting that Joe and I didn't get to, to be prayed for on our behalf. People brought words of prophecy that one day I would hold a child in my arms, and that they could see Joe pushing a baby around in a pram. I look back from where I am now and it was heart-breaking. In the middle of it all I held down a job, led worship and participated in the everyday life.
At the age of 40 I decided to draw a line and stop treatment. I don't believe that any woman had a right to motherhood. It happens to most, but not to all - but there comes a time when it all becomes selfish. I didn't want a child to have to grow up to have her parents collect their pension before they had time to stretch their wings. Joe and I are young at heart, and loving and just as much as those things are essential, I think the generation gap can get too wide.
For a number of years afterwards I just lived with the anticipation that God would do it anyway - that He would intervene anyway and that all those words and prophecies would come to pass.
People's hearts are not made to ride that kind of rollercoaster of feelings, and there just came a time when another line was drawn. To feel that there is no fruitfulness in your life apart from having children and grandchildren is to severely limit what God has in store for us. God opened up a different creative avenue for me - writing.
When I woke up, I mourned the loss of my "dream" family. There is no daughter who walks into a room and my heart thrills. I don't have a son to defend against a narrow minded teacher. All those things that parents do with their children - making sure that they brush their teeth, reading the same bedtime story for the millionth time, parent's evenings - I have none of that. Sometimes when I am standing in a shop queue, and listening to a mother shout at her child for some small and insignificant crime - I want to tell her what a privilege she has, that she shouldn't abuse. I don't say anything though.
Where is all this heading? On Sunday, after church we had a bring-and-share pot luck lunch at our house. Most times I don't need to worry whether I can find enough forks or mugs that are not chipped to go around! I was surrounded by generations of people. Two girls sat on my sofa in the front room and wove scoubies into elaborate patterns while a handful of men worked together to put a flat-packed bookcase together and it was so good.
I guess that being without children, I worry one day that I will be alone. There are no generations of family to "visit grannie". If Sunday did anything for me, it was to show me a picture of my future. I have a wonderful church family that surrounds me and involves me the vibrant life of the church. That is something to be nurtured and protected.