Abuse doesn’t just steal our joy. It doesn’t just ruin our happiness and health. It doesn’t merely destroy any vestiges of self-esteem. It may also do something else even more cruel and unconscionable:
Rob us of our maternal instinct.
This becomes doubly hard when we’ve always wanted children. It trebles when we discover we’re infertile. And it quadruples as we wonder if we should even bother pursuing infertility treatment if this world is that bad, that brutal, that vicious. Why introduce more children into it?
That’s what I mean by abuse “robbing us of our maternal instinct.”
This is the quandary in which I and many of you find yourselves. Many abused women choose to say, “Never! I will never bring a child into this world to be hurt in the ways I’ve been hurt.” That’s a choice I’ve toyed with many and many a time. A choice I totally understand and respect.
But I’m infertile. I can’t seem to have kids, I don’t know why and I don’t know what, if anything, I should do about it. I’m too terrified to even visit a gynecologist. The very thought brings hyperventilation and a panic attack.
I always wanted children. But now? I’m terrified of perpetuating my own unhealthy coping mechanisms and the traits I’ve unwilling learned from my abusive parents onto my potential future children.
What if I teach them to be codependent, because I just can’t see it clearly in myself?
What if, in my quest to teach them to stand up for themselves, they become bullies?
What if I repeat the subtle verbal abuses that were used on me, without thinking before I speak?
What if my own rage bubbles up and my children become the secondary victim, much as I was the secondary victim of my abuser’s misdirected rage?
I’d never hurt them on purpose. Not in a million, billion years. But what if they breathe the shame, the vulnerability, the fear in the air, much as I absorbed it when I was growing up.
What if…? What if…? What if…?
But it gets worse. Somewhere along the line, I absorbed a bad attitude toward children. And I think I know where it came from.
Abusers hate kids. They hate looking into their clear eyes and seeing their evil and ugliness reflected back at them.
They hate the child’s tears when they abuse them. After all, you can abuse an adult and they’ll choke back their tears, so you never have to face the repercussions.
They hate looking into a child’s eyes and seeing the innocent, vulnerable child they used to be before they were abused, were toughened, were ruined and warped, turning them into the abuser they are today.
They secretly hate themselves, so how can they unconditionally love their child?
I absorbed this “children are stupid” attitude somewhere along the line. Perhaps it was when I was the stupid child. The child who could see clearly what was really going on…and was shamed for it.
To be a child was to not be respected. To be a child was to be inherently wrong. To be a child was to be a blank slate with no organic identity. To be a child was to have no rights, no privacy, no boundaries. Not even the right to say, “No! I’m seven years old now. I don’t want you washing my genitals anymore. I can do it myself.” Or “No! Don’t touch my chest.”
I would never, ever treat my child this way. And over my dead body would anyone do this to my child.
But do I even want to bring another human being into this sad, sad, horrible world where abusers see kids as fair game? What’s the point?
So when I stare into my sad eyes in the bathroom mirror with a basal thermometer under my tongue and a positive OPK (ovulation predictor kit) in my hand, I’m in a quandary. Should I tell my husband, Rhys, that “today’s the day”? Or should I just let another supposedly fertile (but probably infertile) month pass away without even trying? Like all the other months when “all systems were go” but I said nothing, choosing a cuddle over sex. All those months when I was secretly received when the HPT (home pregnancy test) showed a BFN (big fat negative.)
Because I’m terrified of bringing a child into this world. I long for a child and yet…and yet.
Abuse robbed me of my maternal instinct.