One of the things that's guaranteed to upset the Wicked Steppie equilibrium is a social outing to some kind of function where there are loads of young families. Particularly if this happens on a kidless weekend, and I've been successfully pretending we are a normal adult couple with no cares in the world other than enjoying each other's company.
Last weekend, we had one of these functions. I actually wrote this post on Monday, but have been internetless all week, so am only just getting to put it on here now.
Now, Wicked Steppie didn't want kids for most of her adult life, let's get that one straight. Babies? Yucky little puking and crapping machines that scream a lot, and as for nine months of pregnancy without booze, well FORGET IT!! And as for a family home with the white picket fence prison, hell no. Wicked Steppie spent the first half of her twenties hopping around the world having relationships with pseudo-artists (and managing to marry a gay one, but that's another story) who were much happier eking out a living in squalid flats, existing on baked beans, cheap red wine "from more than one country", and spliffs.
But Wicked Steppie grew up, eventually, and met and fell in love with Single Dad. It was something of a surprise to know that there were other kinds of men in this world - men who didn't spend their twenties drunk, stoned and trying to pick up girls. Men for whom the words "marriage" and "family" didn't send them running. Single Dad was devastated when the family that he'd built his adult identity around collapsed around his ears. All he'd wanted was a wife and kids, but he married an evil lesbian gold-digger who'd had a child as a get-out-of-employment-free card. Even after the woman's first affair, my naive sweet boyfriend took her back, in the hope that they could rebuild the family he cherished so much.
As much as I may pick holes in DP's parenting, there's no denying he's a good and loving father. This should be great for me - after all, I can already see he's good Dad material, right? At least I know that if we have kids, he's not going to run screaming from nappy changes or change his mind, leave me with the kids and go get a Lamborghini and a younger woman. He's a family man. This is a good thing, right? Well, there's just one teeny tiny snag. You see for us, kids are a very big IF. 5 years ago, DP had the snip - as a result of the treatment he got from that witch, he figured there'd be no more family in his future. Well, he was right, for a few years - until along comes Wicked Steppie.
I can't describe how much it hurts, at times, even physically. If I see DP hold someone's baby, or at times when he cuddles SD and looks at her a certain way. A couple of weeks ago, I saw some baby photos of SD with her daddy, and also (ick, ick) the BM and him together with their brand new baby daughter. I couldn't stop the tears. As much as the BM is a nasty piece of work, and I can kid myself that they were never, ever happy, those photos obviously lie really well. I couldn't bear the thought that we might never have that together, and the childish "it's not fair" rose along with the lump in my throat, as I contemplated the expensive, painful and very non-guaranteed IVF treatment that we have to go through in order for us to experience parenthood together. Why, why, why, did he have to have the snip? The day he did it, unknowingly, he broke my heart. Is this punishment for all the sneering I did at Smug Families back in my younger days?
So that's why, these days, I hate functions where the floors are crawling with other people's babies. I sometimes feel there is a suspicion towards me, as a childless woman, and a stepmother to boot, and I sense reluctance at times of the mothers to allow me to hold their babies, where they'll hand them happily to each other or to the grandparents. If they do know of our situation, I think they might worry I'll turn baby-snatcher and refuse to give it back. If they don't know why I'm childless, there's an assumption I don't know what I'm doing. It seems that with the experience of birth, along comes some kind of miraculous knowledge bestowed by osmosis (of course, it couldn't be all those nights sat up reading Gina Ford)....and if you dare express any kind of opinion on child rearing, you are looked at like a cricket commentator who doesn't realise he's mistakenly wandered into a football match.
So here's where I get to admit that I WANT A BABY with DP. I want to see him look adoringly at OUR child, play football with our son, let our daughter paint his nails in glittery pink. I'd like SD to be able to be big sister. And for us to be Mummy and Daddy, not Daddy and I'm-sorry-you-are? I can see what a great dad DP is, but it frustrates me that he's Dad to a kid with someone else. I can only take a tiny bit part in SD's life. DP would like to think in his more fantastical moments that we could treat her like our child, and has sometimes expressed to me that he wishes I could think more this way, but I can't do it. Your own child doesn't talk about their mum's house, tell you how her mum grows carrots or does her hair....because you are their mum!
But....I'm not going to be a Mummy any time soon. IVF costs a small fortune, with no guarantees of success, and since our monthly mortgage and bills add up to DP's entire salary, we can't afford for one of us to be home doing the child rearing. We live on my salary, and after DP's commuting costs are paid, it doesn't leave a hell of a lot. Because of SD, we can't live in a smaller place, in fact we'd need a bigger one to accommodate a child of our own - more expense. And I do worry that SD might not take too well to being a big sister and having to share her dad even more. I don't think DP's that bothered - he's got things how he likes it, his partner, his kid. If he could wave a wand, he'd have SD with us more, whereas I'd wish for our own child! I don't think it matters to him whether we have kids or not, because whatever happens, he'll still be a Dad.
I wonder sometimes if it might be better to try and resign myself to childlessness and get comfortable with it. Would it be easier to deal with that heartache now, rather than trying and failing at IVF? If we fail, I may never be a Mum, but he will always be a Dad. He's never going to have to confront being childless.
I find myself becoming envious of those with uncomplicated situations where there are no previous kids and no bitter exes. No worries about will the kids from the first relationship be jealous or feel pushed out. No worries about whether our child will be as special an experience for DP, because it won't be his first. No worries about whether our child will be treated differently by the family. It must be nice, to be able to start your own family from scratch, both of you doing it for the first time. As long as I stay with DP, I'll never know.....