May he rest in peace.

One of the things I do when I have nothing to do is type names of people I used to know — old classmates, friends, co-workers, etc. — into Google and see what comes up.  Most of the time it’s just those “people finders” that ask for an additional fee and promise to give you the person’s address, age, criminal background, work history, etc.    I think most people have probably spent time browsing the names of people they know only slightly or that they lost touch with long ago.  But sometimes you get lucky and find some actual information about the person, sometimes even photos of the person.

Today I was thinking about the roommate I had in the hospital where my son was born and where we spent the next 5 days, recovering from C-sections.   The woman was about a year older than me, and had an older daughter (my son was my first).   I remember I was in the room first, and at some unspecified time during my morphine-haze first evening,  my new roommate was rolled in, followed by a glass basinette on wheels containing her newborn son, Sam.  There we were to spend the next few days recovering, getting to know our newborn sons,  and waiting for “bowel sounds” — after major surgery, this is a major milestone.  It means you’re ready to start eating real food again, so this is the only time in your life you will actually be praying to fart — because nothing in the world tastes better than your first bland dinner of stewed apple slices, white rice, and chicken nuggets after three days of liquids only.

We visited only once after we both went home.  When the boys were about a year old,  we got together at my friend’s house.   At that age, they played very little with each other but got into everything else.  I remember being in a near-panic because her son was already using full words, while mine still just babbled nonsense or even worse, was silent.   I decided after that visit to take my son to speech therapy.  It wasn’t necessary.  He started talking just shy of three years old — quite late according to the child development experts, but when he finally spoke, he did in complete sentences, completely skipping over the one-and two-word stage.   The pediatrician told me some kids are perfectionists and play “practice tapes” in their heads, but won’t speak until they are sure what they want to say is perfect.   That’s probably true, since my son is a perfectionist and even has an OCD diagnosis.   I also remember a time or two when I heard him alone in his room as a young toddler, apparently practicing his words.  If he knew you were listening, he’d go silent, so I had to be very quiet and not let him know I knew.   Needless to say, when he finally started talking, there was no shutting him up.

I typed the woman’s name and her son’s name in Google.  Nothing came up on my friend at all except a few people-search websites which demand a fee before they give you anything,  but there was definitely something about her son, Sam.  There was a very flattering picture of Sam at about age 19 taken at university, where he was an honors student.   He had a great smile. He looked like a nice person, the sort of guy I’d want my daughter to marry.

And there was an obituary.   I hoped it was for another person with the same name, but  I read over the entire entry, and it was definitely him.   All the names, his age, and the location of the funeral home fit.

Funeral home.  Funeral.  A funeral for a boy born the same day and year as my son, who recovered in the same room as my son.  I wanted to cry.  I think I did shed a few tears.  For a child I had known for just a few days in October of 1991.

The obituary said Sam had died of cancer, which he’d been battling for 15 months.  Oh, God, no.  No, no.   I looked at the smiling college photo of him and tried to imagine him lying in a hospital bed with advanced cancer.   I couldn’t.

I wish I could reach out to his parents now, but it would be way too awkward.  I’m not even sure they would remember me.  Not even sure it would be appropriate.   Besides, what do you say to someone whose adult child has died?   Losing one of my adult children is my biggest fear.   I seriously don’t know how anyone can ever get over something like that or ever live a normal life again or think about normal things again.   But somehow when it happens to other people, they do get through it.

I know I would have no idea what to say, or I’d blurt out something really awkward and cringeworthy like, “I would kill myself if my son died so young,” or, “Wow, that could have been MY son.”  No, no.  I won’t say a word to them or try to contact them.   It happened almost a year ago now anyway.  But it’s so spooky and sad.   May he rest in peace.


What I really think about having children.


When I was in my twenties, I used to dream about having a big family–four children to be specific. Raised as an only child, and having friends who came from big families that seemed a lot happier than mine, I foolishly thought that if only I had siblings, my childhood would have been happier (in actuality, it probably would have made things even worse!)  Entering my late teens, unlike most of my peers, I didn’t have any real career goals or ambitions. My only real desire was to marry and have a bumper crop of babies. This wasn’t exactly fashionable in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when my desire for domestic bliss was at its most intense. Back then, if you were a woman who preferred starting a family over having a career, you were seen as some kind of throwback to the 1950s.

In retrospect, I understand why my desire to have a family–preferably a large one–was so strong. I never felt like my family was a “real” family. Because of the toxic family dynamics that made me feel like an outsider in my own home, I had a strong desire to “make up” for what I perceived to be a non-family, and create the kind of ideal family I wanted to be a part of so badly. But it doesn’t work that way.  Having kids won’t cure a toxic, abusive, lonely childhood.   The number of children you have doesn’t matter; what matters is how able you are as a parent.

Adult children of narcissists seem to come in two flavors: those who never want to have children at all because they don’t want to foist their own issues onto any potential offspring; and those who, like me, want to “make up” for what they didn’t have, who want a childhood “re-do.”

I never had those four children. I didn’t even marry that young. I married at age 27, and didn’t have children until I was in my early 30’s, and then I only wound up having two. In 1999, I became pregnant for a third time, but had an abortion because my then-husband’s abuse was at its peak and we were struggling badly financially too. There was no way he would have accepted another child and I knew in my bones this third child would wind up being abused far worse than either of the previous two were, so abortion was the only choice I felt I had. Sometimes I wonder what that child would have been like and I sometimes have regrets, but I still think I made the right choice. There really wasn’t another choice under the circumstances.

I remember the day I went in to have the abortion, I asked the nurse to show me the ultrasound (I was right at the end of the first trimester–12 weeks–so it was almost too late to end the pregnancy). She said, “are you sure?” I said yes, that seeing it and knowing the sex would bring closure. She turned the screen around toward me. It was a boy. I stared at the image for a few minutes and cried a little. The nurse was very kind and empathetic. She said, “are you sure you still want to go through with it?” I wiped my eyes and said, “yes.”


Although my religion opposes abortion I don’t regret my decision, even though I sometimes think about what that little boy might have been like. I know he would have been abused by his father. I also was pretty mentally ill myself at the time (I had just been hospitalized twice not too long before that pregnancy). I highly doubt I could have coped with a new baby, with no support from anyone, not even my husband. It was hard enough for me with the first two. I think that poor baby would have had a miserable childhood.

Over the years, I realized something surprising about myself. I really don’t care all that much for children. Of course I loved my own two kids dearly and would have done anything (and would still do anything) for them, but I wasn’t a very patient mother and I found I really didn’t enjoy too many of the tasks associated with motherhood. I was disappointed to discover how mind-numbingly dull and frustrating much of parenting can be. It can also be extremely triggering for someone who came from an abusive background, but I had no awareness of this.

I realized too late that I’d idealized parenthood, seeing it as if it was a Vaseline-lens commercial, not the sometimes ugly and painful reality it actually is. Maybe if I’d had younger siblings to tend to, I might have had a more realistic view of what motherhood actually entailed, but as I did not, I entered adulthood with a romantic, idealized picture of perfect motherhood and the perfect mother I would become–when in reality, I never had the right emotional tools to be that ideal mother. I do care about children in a general way; I hate hearing about children being abused or neglected and I want what’s best for them, but when it comes to dealing with babies and young children on a personal level, well, I’d rather not.


If I had to do it over again, yes, I’d still choose to have my kids. They’re the best thing that ever happened to me, even though raising them was much more difficult than I’d anticipated. I’d try to be a better mother to them and a lot more patient with them. I’d also set better boundaries. I would have taken them away from their father when they were much younger, instead of remaining in a doomed, toxic, abusive relationship that only proved to be as detrimental to them as to me. I would have made different choices in other ways too. I wouldn’t have allowed my 11 year old daughter to live with her father just so she wouldn’t hate me. I would have been strong enough to say, “Hate me all you want, but you will not live with your father.” I’d also go into parenthood knowing that it would be a job and not a Pampers commercial all the time.

When I was in my twenties, I couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to have children. To me, it seemed like the most important and exciting thing anyone could do. I remember a friend told me she was thinking of having her tubes tied (she was 24 at the time). I was horrified and begged her not to do it. She didn’t (but not because of anything I said) and several years later had a daughter. Today I don’t think I would have told her not to do it though. I can certainly understand why some people choose to remain child-free. Parenthood is a hard job and it’s definitely not for everyone. Some people just aren’t cut out to be parents and there’s nothing selfish about making the choice not to be a parent. It’s a lot more selfish, in my opinion, to bring a child into the world for selfish, narcissistic reasons. I also get tired of all the baby-worshipping I see on Facebook and everywhere else. Frankly, I’d rather look at pictures of people’s pets than people’s babies. I really don’t know why that is, but I know a lot of people feel the same way. Babies just aren’t that appealing to me anymore. A lot of my peers are becoming grandparents but I have no particular desire for grandchildren. Of course if I have grandchildren, I know I’ll adore them, but the idea of having them isn’t something I care about one way or another.

When I was young, I think I liked the idea of having children more than the reality of it. I was trying to make up for something I lacked in my childhood. That’s never a good reason to have kids. Liking children and enjoying their company is really the only good reason to have them. Any other reasons–extending the family line, appeasing the relatives, duty, pressure from a spouse, wanting a mini-me, wanting a childhood do-over, wanting someone to care for you when you’re old–none of those are good reasons to have children. But I wonder how many of us actually had our children for the “right” reasons. Most of us probably didn’t, and still did the best job we could because we fell in love with our kids when we met them and wanted the best for them, in spite of everything.