I came across an interesting blog post on inadequacy as I was catching up on blogs this morning - I was sick and didn't feel like doing much else - and the jist of the post was that this blogger feels 'less than' because she is 26, unmarried and child-free.
I can't lie and say I don't remember the 'less than' feelings and to be honest, I still get those. I don't know why but I mistakenly believed that as soon as I got my crap together, got married, had a place of my own and had a child that suddenly I would be so insightful and feel totally full to the brim. And in a way I do, but in other ways I feel so much less than...what I could be? What I want to be?
I have a history of depression - I hate saying that and seeing it in front of me. I still see my struggle as something to hide from, because it's still not socially acceptable to be depressed, no matter how many adverts are thrown at us from our TV screens to accept people as they are, the truth is that things move at a snails pace in the acceptance stakes. Especially with any kind of illness. And especially with depression.
So, I have a history of this illness. And the threat of it returning always hangs over my head in some way - I feel 'free' of it because I don't have those days where my negative brain swallows up my positive thoughts, or where I'm sinking into a mental sinking sand, but the threat of it looms. In pregnancy I suffered a great deal with depression, which I kept to myself. I admitted some of my feelings to a few people, but they were horrible and consuming thoughts. I don't even know if I can share them here because they seem so awful now.
I didn't know that depression would hit me like a speeding truck when I became pregnant. I didn't know it would be so awful for me. For some odd reason all of my depression passed when I hit the second trimester. The pregnancy was real, I suppose. There was less risk of miscarriage - which I was convinced was next, rather than a healthy, slightly over cooked, baby. I know people play off miscarriage like it's not a thing, but it really, really is a thing. It hurts so deep that women don't even talk about it and quite frankly I don't believe a lot of men understand it. It was on my list of one of the most devastating things that could happen to me during my pregnancy with Roman - because I wasn't sure if I could do it all over again. Lose a child, overcome the overwhelming grief (if ever), hope for another child, be pregnant and fear the whole time.
That was my main trigger. A fear of miscarriage, of death, of a child who's not even a child yet but carries with it all the promise and hope of the future. And so I was depressed, in denial and very sick for my first trimester. I didn't enjoy it like I should have - you know, when I could still bend over.
And when I look back on what was making me unhappy when I was young, free and single it was the pressure I put on myself. I measured where I was in my life against where others had got to at my age and I felt I came up short every time. I'm not saying this was a trigger for my depression back then, because it wasn't, but it didn't help. The way I constantly compared 'me' to 'them' wore me down.
The point is that all of our lives start differently. When a baby is born it releases a chemical to the mothers brain to tell her body to go into labour - the baby decides when it is good and ready to be born (with exception to cases where medical intervention happens, obviously) and yet we go through life trying to decide when it's 'our' time. Wrong. Everything happens when it happens. And sometimes it can happen when you're least expecting it.
I didn't expect that when I turned 22 I'd be engaged less than a year later. And to Bryan, my friend. Everyone tells you to be prepared, to be ready and to plan things out but the truth is that life is never planned - how many babies do you know that were planned? I was an accident, for a start and one my parents didn't even know about until a few days before my birth! If they'd spaced out pregnancies, waited until they had money then I'm not wrong in saying that they'd be raising primary aged children by now. Bryan would be married off to someone else. Life would be great, but it would be different. Granted I'd never know the differences but it's knowing that if people did things differently then things might not be how they're supposed to be.
If we force ourselves to love someone, we'll never know the true joy (and pain in the butt) that love and marriage can bring us. If we get pregnant simply to make our parents grandparents or to compete with our siblings (trust me, it happens) then we'll never be true to ourselves. If we attach 'I should be doing this' to our age or place in life - i.e the mother who 'feels like' she should be out at work because all her friends are, yet yearns to be at home with her babies and feels that path way is right or the young graduate who feels they should be married 'by now' because they're nearly a certain age...to them and everyone I mentioned before them, and to you, my readers I say this: take a chill pill and accept that everything you might want to happen or land on your doorstep might never be. Just because you think it and dream it doesn't mean you'll be it.
Go back to what I said before; Granted I'd never know the differences but it's knowing that if people did things differently then things might not be how they're supposed to be. If you do things differently. If you go against the grain of knowing how you feel, knowing what's the right thing to do and you work towards 'what everyone else says I should be doing' then things might not be how they're supposed to be.
We all arrive differently. I was born by C-section, my son was not. I was not planned, my son was. I'm the third child, my son is the first. There are precious little baby photos of me, there are thousands of my son. Does all of the above mean that his life is more genuine, more real, more tangible than my own? No. It means that my sweetness, my delight and my agony are different. His will be different. His path in life will be different to mine, the choices he faces will be different, the challenges will be different and the pressures will be different.
Everyone is different and for some reason or another what we truly want out of life truly never happens. I always believed I'd have three children - three seems like a 'good' number to me and four just seems too much (speaking as the third of four children.) However, life decided differently. I was asked to serve a mission when I was 21. After a lot of careful and prayerful consideration...life decided differently. I also studied Creative Writing and Communications - I didn't graduate. Life decided differently. I dreamed of marrying a dark haired man with dark eyes. Life decided differently. I didn't think that at 26 I would have a two year old child and have been married for over three years. Again, life decided differently.
Yes, I made these choices - asides the three child one, I could very happily have three children right now, but my body is not willing - but it was the path I took in order to get to the stage of making the choices. I could have decided not to go to university, to never get married, not go on a second date with Bryan or give him the benefit of my doubt (and I'm glad I did. He rented a movie for me this afternoon and bought me easy things I could eat) and I could have easily put off having Roman. But these decisions would have lead me to having zero children and being stuck on the same spot for the rest of my life. That is not a path I would want to travel because I'm here, although frail in physical form, to get the most out of life. To experience the most and to love what comes.
Not to pine for what's ahead or to think 'I'm 26, I should have 3 kids and a driving licence by now.' I'm here to put one foot in front of the other, to keep going and to keep making decisions that lead me to happiness. And not to be stuck on the past, stuck in fear mode. And definitely not to think 'by the time my parents were my age they had X, Y and Z' (and just so we're clear, I don't go around thinking that.)
The point is this: you're you. You've chosen different paths to your friends with loads of kids or your best friend from university who just got married. Or you know, lo and behold, your parents who seem to have everything - they don't, they struggled just like you do and they still struggle in their own way. We all got here by different means and we all get by with different means. No two lives parallel (even when it feels like it at times) and there is no time limit on when it's right to be married, have children and all those trimmings. Just know that when the time comes it will feel good, it will feel right and it will feel genuine.
And if it never comes? It will. If not in this life, then the next. I'm aware some of you might not believe that so to those of you who don't; just know you're loved. And that you're special and thought of often, even when it feels like you're the most lonely person in the world. And you should never feel 'less than', no matter who you are or what you've achieved.
We're different, diverse and each have our own stories. Someone's worth isn't measured by the stretch marks of a pregnancy or a ring on their finger. It's their strength to endure, their fighting spirit to carry on and their ability to ask for help - and to take the help they're given.