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Missing Someone Who Was Never There

I’m reading Jasper Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer.  It’s the ChickieNob’s book, but she left it on my bed.  I had been reading Judy Blume’s new book, and I got to the first plane crash and I was done.  DONE.  Done with a capital D.  I closed the book and decided not to torture myself.  I’m already not great with air travel, so it seemed like a poor idea to poison myself more.

I picked up Fforde’s book and started reading to get the scene out of my head, and I ended up liking the beginning so much that I told the ChickieNob that I wasn’t giving the book back for a few days.

Thanks, kid.

Anyway, the main character in the book is an orphan, and in a scene on page 43, she is speaking to a fellow orphan who is admitting that he misses his unknown parents.

“I miss my father,” said Tiger. “I don’t know who he is, where he is, or whether he’s alive or even knows I’m here — but I miss him.”

“Me, too,” I said, blowing my nose and thinking for a moment before clapping my hands together.

It was such a touching moment in what is usually a whimsical and humourous book.  We relate so deeply to this thought: Of course he would miss his father, even if he never knew his father.  Of course he would feel his absence deeply.  We are meant to know our origins, to know our connection to the world around us.

But I reread that sentence flipping the child-parent relationship:

“I miss my child,” said Melissa.  “I don’t know who she would have been, or when she would have come, or whether she’s out there still waiting to be born — but I miss her.”

Why does the understanding only flow in one direction?  Why don’t we extend the same empathy towards the childless mother as we do the motherless child?

I don’t know — it was such a jarring moment, and then I fell back into the story.

18 comments

1 Valery Valentina { 09.22.15 at 8:22 am }

I miss her too.
hugs.

2 a { 09.22.15 at 9:39 am }

“Cause the childless mother is an adult and therefore expected to suck it up. 🙁

I LOVE The Last Dragonslayer series and I really want a Quarkbeast.

3 illustr8d { 09.22.15 at 9:40 am }

I miss my daughter too. I sometimes think how different, better, things would have, or at least, could have, been.

4 Katherine A { 09.22.15 at 10:27 am }

I wonder at times about mine and miss them too.

To take a shot at your question: I think that the reason the understanding doesn’t flow towards the childless mother is that the idea scares a lot of people. Even though children being orphaned is an awful event, I think there’s still a sense that it’s in the natural order of things. Children are *supposed* to eventually bury/let go of their parents, not the other way around. And the adults often aren’t in a situation where they need to worry about being orphaned at that point. They can offer empathy without truly putting themselves in that child’s shoes in a way that hits uncomfortably close to home.

But that lack of empathy still sucks.

5 loribeth { 09.22.15 at 10:54 am }

Great point, Mel. Adding to the comments above, if you reach a certain age & don’t have a child, people assume you either didn’t want one or didn’t try hard enough (because fertility treatments always work & adoption is so easy…!). And if you lost a pregnancy/child, the assumption (still, today) is that you can always have another — whereas mothers are deemed to be irreplaceable, even if a kind stepmother or other mother figure eventually enters the child’s life.

6 Cristy { 09.22.15 at 1:50 pm }

This gave me chills. I still think regularly about the ones we lost. And I miss them terribly, even though I never got to meet them.

You’re right, the understanding tends to only flow in one direction. I think it may have to do with people having a general understanding of losing an older loved one. The other way is too difficult to imagine for most.

7 Quintain { 09.22.15 at 1:52 pm }

Pretty sure you’d get the same empathy if you were talking about a baby you’d placed for adoption.

A miscarriage, a stillbirth or even a neonatal death doesn’t count as a “real” person in most people’s view.

8 Julie Aguas { 09.22.15 at 2:10 pm }

Wow, this is a really good point. I miss the ones I’ve lost in that same way.

9 Sadie { 09.22.15 at 3:34 pm }

This post reminds me of a quote from (the HBO show) Six Feet Under, when one of the characters, I think in relation to her own miscarriage, says the following:
“You know what I find interesting? If you lose a spouse, you’re called a widow, or a widower. If you’re a child and you lose your parents, then you’re an orphan. But what’s the word to describe a parent who loses a child? I guess that’s just too fucking awful to even have a name.”
It often feels like that is exactly how society views it, and in so doing, just looks away. I miss all three of the babies I lost, and knowing who they might have become.

10 Amel { 09.22.15 at 4:03 pm }

Brilliant questions, Mel. I LOVE this post so much and the comments, too.

11 Jenn { 09.22.15 at 4:08 pm }

Hold on, wait! More Jasper Fforde?! I sure wish I had the time to read it.

12 Jessica { 09.22.15 at 9:04 pm }

It is a painful paradox. There are motherless children and childless potential mothers. Sometimes, adoption matches them.

13 Lori Lavender Luz { 09.22.15 at 10:48 pm }

I envision a world in which compassion is extended to both sets of people. It looks a lot like the ALI community.

14 Mali { 09.23.15 at 5:45 am }

I don’t really know what to say. Everyone’s already said it, and I’m filled with emotions.

15 Mina { 09.23.15 at 8:29 am }

I miss her too. I went shopping for the boys the other day, and saw the perfect coat for winter for my daughter that is turning six soon, in another world. I felt my heart breaking all over again. I left without buying anything anymore.

I tried to explain this to someone, and I was told to try for a third child, maybe I would get a daughter. It was like I spent my entire time explaining how I felt talking to a wall. I do not want a third child that could be a daughter. I miss my daughter that I lost. THAT daughter. Why is that so hard to understand?

16 Jess { 09.23.15 at 8:17 pm }

I love this. Because like A. said, there’s a “suck it up” mentality… Now that I am in the adoption wait, people don’t understand why I would choose to reflect on and be sad about my two losses, about the only times I got to be pregnant so briefly. It doesn’t mean I’m not excited for my mystery baby to come just because I grieve the ones who never were. I also loved Sadie’s Six Feet Under quote. I love that you flipped it. It’s perfect.

17 Heather { 09.23.15 at 10:02 pm }

I’ve been sitting with this one for a bit. The thing is everyone has a mom and dad. Therefore, if someone has never met one, they know that they are out there. They know that mom or dad or both are out there or were here if they have passed on. It’s a given, a guarantee.
Where as the flip, is an unknown. Not everybody will have children. There is no guarantee that the child is out there waiting for you. So flipping it, is hard. It doesn’t seem to make sense to some people but others will get it.
I don’t know, maybe I’m not making sense, it’s been a long week!

18 md { 09.23.15 at 11:49 pm }

beautiful post.

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