What’s this phrase you’re chatting on about?
Been going round my head for a while.
Trying to express where I am at with my uterus and all the rest of it.
Funny thing, motherhood. You don’t know if you can be one till you are one.
And we’ve had a go. We had a miscarriage. That was sad. More about that another time.*
But no actual baby, see. And no medical reason why it can’t happen.
So we just have to be patient, cos it might happen.
But we also have age and time against us.
Old eggs and dusty sperm.
I mean, we almost got there once.
So we sit in limbo.
Living our lives with an eye on a possible alternative .
If it doesn’t happen, it isn’t the end of the world (for us).
We’re not desperate for kids in the same way we aren’t desperate not to have kids.
It can sound kind of flippant but really, it’s just being in Motherhood Limbo.
Some people are in limbo, heavy with the potential of a broken heart.
So clear that motherhood is the only way for them.
Sometimes I envy those who have always known they didn't want to be a parent.
A calling to be a different kind of elder.
Yet I can’t be in the #ChildlessGang because I have this other wish
and I can’t be in the #MotherhoodOrBust gang because I don’t feel that neither.
So here I am, in Motherhood Limbo.
I got pushed into saying I didn’t want kids for a while.
People asked me so much and when I said ‘I’m not sure’
people said ‘Oh you’ll need to make up your mind’
or ‘Don’t be silly, you’d make a great mum’
or ‘When you meet the right man, you’ll change your mind’
and other things that sort of made sense but also didn’t make any sense
but I just nodded because I was tired.
Then I got annoyed and I would say ‘I don’t want to bring kids into this messy world’
and to be honest,
a bit of me still feels that on some level.
I became the Queen of avoiding children questions.
If someone asked, I would say ‘no’ to having children and then look away.
They would assume there is a sad story and most people can’t cope with a sad story.
Or know it's weird to pursue such a story with someone you just met in the self-checkout queue.
Not everyone is awful. In fact, most people are kind. We are all trying our best.
Sometimes we just aren't ready for the question we thought we wanted to ask.
I don’t mind people asking me, actually. What I mind is people not be prepared
for an answer other than ‘Yes we have kids and we can’t wait to have more’
or ‘No, we don’t have kids because we didn’t want them’.
There isn’t space for ‘We had a miscarriage so we don’t know’ or
‘Well, it depends what the universe wants really’.
Not that I think the universe is pulling my ovaries with bits of wool
going ‘Maybe, maybe not’ but rather there is a mystical element to pregnancy and birth.
Your body takes over.
The doctors can’t explain a lot of fertility.
That’s why you get diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertility’ - cos the science can’t know everything
when it comes to the magic of creating life.
Have I gone off topic?
I think I might have.
Maybe. Maybe not.
We don’t often hear about this space, Motherhood Limbo,
because we like sharing stories when they have an ending.
‘We never wanted kids so that made it an easier conversation’
‘We tried but it didn’t work out’
or ‘We just looked at each other and I was pregnant with twins!’
And I wanted to tell my story in the middle of the story, rather than in the nice tidy end bit.
Which there will be, one day. Not right now.
So here I am, in Motherhood Limbo. Maybe you are too.
Maybe you have a child and you are in 2nd child limbo.
Maybe you are waiting for a partner to arrive and you can hear that clock people talk about.
Maybe you are in adoption limbo.
Maybe you... *insert your limbo*.
And I salute you.
Anything where we have to sit and wait for the world to give us the answer is hard.
It’s one of the few things you can’t Google.
‘Will I have a baby?’
So we sit in Motherhood Limbo.
You might be in motherhood limbo,
or fatherhood limbo,
or parenthood limbo (or some other kind of limbo),
where you have opened yourself to something and you are aware that it might not happen.
It is not the outcome that is necessarily the difficult bit, but the limbo.
The holding of both spaces. The moving forward with your eyes on two prizes, being open to both.
I thought you either had kids or you didn't.
I didn't think you sat in limbo.
I thought a doctor would say 'You are barren'
or 'We predict a baby in 9 months'.
Yet here we are, in limbo.
I wouldn't describe it as a sad place. I mean, sometimes it is.
Mostly, it's a tricky place to stay. To explain to people.
We are not distraught at (potentially) not having kids, we are not actively trying not to have kids,
and I don’t want to go down the IVF fiddling about route so am I trying hard enough you say?
Well what a thing to ask with your hand in a tube of Pringles.
But mostly the answer to those questions that appear at parties
and family things or in people’s eyes, because you can see when someone wants to ask
but has been told it is rude to ask so they don’t ask even though they want to,
the answer to whatever your question was, is probably
‘I don’t know, because we are in limbo.’
Motherhood Limbo. It's a strange place**.
*I will write about my miscarriage another time, because it was quite the ordeal.
Not even Fleabag had prepared me for it.
**Some of you will be desperate to send me some advice.
Very kind, but please don't.
I have enough advice.
I have good friends and a therapist.
If it is really good advice, please write a blog post and share it for the world to see.
I will see it there.
9/23/2021 11:54:21 am
Thank you!! You spoke to my heart and my limbo ❤❤❤
9/23/2021 12:16:05 pm
Thank you for giving me the words I’ve struggled to articulate xxx
9/23/2021 03:10:10 pm
9/23/2021 05:51:59 pm
4 miscarriages and limbo doesn't get easier. It's the hope that kills you and the hope that keeps you going. You're not alone, there's lots of us here.
9/23/2021 11:32:39 pm
Yes. This. I didn’t know others were in limbo with me. Hello, and thank you xx
9/26/2021 08:48:48 pm
Thanks for this Pippa, it really spoke to me. I’m also in motherhood limbo. My personal limbo is that I’m gay and we don’t want to use an anonymous sperm donor. The ‘am I trying hard enough’ element of your piece resonated with me a lot. Like, am I going to actively pursue motherhood? Or not? How do both me and my partner both pursue motherhood if only one of us wants to carry? Such a muddle of thoughts for me. Thank you again for this. x
10/1/2021 12:13:45 am
I too have adopted the sad "No" and turned away. Stops that infernal advice giving.
12/26/2021 01:15:07 pm
We were fortunate to have children at first time of asking so were oblivious. We didn't appreciate our good fortune and I wonder if we cherished our kids as much as you will. Your voice needs to be more widely heard.
Friend Across the pond
4/22/2022 06:46:15 am
Thank you Pippa. What a comfort to know there are others. What an eloquent piece. What a place, what a place.
9/26/2022 05:09:22 pm
It makes me think about being pregnant and being alone all day. And then feeling like your life is over because you don’t want to do anything but clean and cook and sleep. You can’t even go shopping anymore because everything is so expensive! Except for diapers and formula, which are totally affordable if you can find them at Costco or Sam’s Club.
9/29/2022 09:30:52 pm
The idea of Motherhood Limbo is based on the idea that women who want to return to work after having children should be allowed to do so, but that there is no realistic way for them to do so without sacrificing their families. The new policy proposal suggests that parents should be able to keep their jobs while remaining at home with their children.
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