It's an interesting thing, being raised by a single woman in a conservative Christian church. One one hand, we're pitied, because we don't have the priesthood (male authority to act in God's name). On the other, we were kind of scorned, because clearly Mum did something wrong to make Dad want to leave. Coupled with that the fact that both my sister and I have now been diagnosed with severe mental disorders, but had suffered from them since childhood. So basically we were a whole lot of crazy in one house.
The thing about Mormons, or any conservative culture, is that women are supposed to stay home, and raise lots of children. There are some differences between Mormon culture and Biblical Patriarchy culture. For one, in Mormonism, birth control or NFP is OK; it's left up to each family to decide how/when procreation happens. But still, big families are praised. Then men who head large families always seem to be the men that get called to serve in higher areas. Men with 6 or 7 kids seem to become Bishop more often than men with 0 or 3. Women with lots of children are sought after for advice and sometimes contests can develop between women to see who can bear the most kids.
It seems, at times, that the thinking is more kids=more righteous parents. Because of the belief that children are blessings from God, there's the unspoken converse that fewer kids are God's punishment. Coupled with that the stigma of divorce, and single mothers of few children seem to have no place. I'm not saying the church is cruel. I'm saying that people tend to draw incorrect conclusions based on outside circumstance.
The fallout for us kids, was we were always babysitting. People thought we needed to know how to take care of kids so that we can raise our own one day. So we would babysit this family and that family. But it was never enough. There was always that little bit of mistrust, because we hadn't been exposed to babies since the time we were toddlers. Clearly that meant we wouldn't be as effective Mothers in the Kingdom.
I have always felt the sting of not being good enough to be Mormon, and I wonder if it stems from my childhood. Even after Mum remarried, she didn't have more kids. (It's because the step-dad never wanted kids; he didn't want use either, and made that perfectly clear, but he wanted Mum) So even in high school, our family was often compared to other families with kids similar age. The thing about church, any church, is that there is always the ONE FAMILY. The perfect family that everyone aspires to be, but secretly hopes will fall into ruin. My high school years were in a very small Mormon church-the area where I went to High School is far more Methodist-and there was usually 35 people on a good day. But there was always that one family. It was never us. We didn't have enough kids to qualify, Mum had remarried, and our attitudes were distinctly not very Mormon. We were too loud, too crass, and too uncontrollable.
But still I babysat. Hoping to learn the secrets that would make me a good wife/mother. I would always say I didn't want to get married and have kids, that I would rather be a biologist or something. I said that because I had always been fat and weird, and no guy had ever shown any interest in me. I said I never wanted marriage because I didn't think I'd ever get it. I headed to college expecting to be single and isolated forever.
Then I got married (much to some people's surprise, let me assure you). We wanted kids right away, but that wasn't in the cards. We went to church, and it was hard for me to look at pregnant women. I avoided baby showers, newborns, pregnant women, and Mother's Day. It was too painful. I felt that the reason I wasn't "blessed" with kids is because God was punishing me for something. People would ask "When are you going to start your family?" and I would be hurt, because I thought my husband and I were a family. I saw my lack of progeny as God's judgement upon my unrighteous life.
I think, despite my deconversion and redefining God, I still feel infertility is a curse. I wonder how much of it is because I had been indoctrinated with the notion that God's blessings=children. Some days I blame myself because of my weight, my diet, my past. Some days I hate the world. And some days, I'm grateful I'm barren. The addiction gene is crazy strong in my bloodlines, and so is mental illness. I would hate to screw over a kid before they were even born. I realize that getting pregnant would mean going off meds (apparently anti-psychotics aren't good for fetuses-who knew?), getting little sleep, and dealing with hormonal fluctuations that would drive my bipolar to new levels. Logically, I understand that. But sometimes the thought of not being a mother tears me up. Like today.
We are trying to license for foster/adoption. There was a family we saw online, 5 kids. I felt like they would be my kids, and ever since January, have thought of them as mine. We recently found out more information about them, and realised that their needs are more than we can adequately deal with. I feel like I let those kids down. We are not even licensed yet (should happen next week), but it's already been an unpleasant roller coaster ride. I don't know what to do, I don't know what I want. I'm feeling lost and helpless.
Holy cow. This post has turned into quite the pity party, hasn't it? I apologise. It's just one of those days...