Bill, divorce, healthcare, love, marriage, narcissists, relationships

“Isn’t she lovely?”

The featured photo is me at age 12, on my beloved pony, Rusty… At that time in my life, I figured I might be a mom someday. It wasn’t in the cards for me… Maybe that’s okay. Warning in advance that this is a very personal post.

Livingston Taylor’s moving cover version of Stevie Wonder’s classic song about his daughter, Aisha.

I continue to learn more about Bill’s younger daughter as every week passes. Lately, we’ve been exchanging emails. This morning, I received one that gave me pause. In it, she apologized to me for being “insensitive” about my “infertility”. I had recently written in an email that I had always wanted to have children, but was never able to have them. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I figured she already knew.

But this morning, I found an email from her, and she expressed kindness over my “infertility”. I guess she assumed I never had children because I literally couldn’t get pregnant. The truth is, I don’t actually know if I was infertile. I am almost surely infertile by now. In any case, I have never been pregnant.

There I was, sitting in bed this morning, trying to decide if it was appropriate for me to tell my husband’s daughter the reason I don’t have kids of my own. I asked Bill, and we decided that I should tell her that Bill had a vasectomy when he was still married to Ex. He later had it reversed, but it was eleven years after younger daughter’s birth. Though the reversal surgery was technically successful, I never managed to conceive.

Then Bill went to Iraq, and we had a bunch of Army moves that made trying to conceive with medical help logistically difficult and financially impossible. By the time we had recovered financially from Bill’s first marriage and paid off most of my student loans, I was getting pretty old. We ultimately decided that not having children was okay.

I carefully wrote this explanation for younger daughter. Bill is going to follow up with more of the story. I don’t want her to think he had the vasectomy because of her.

My father also had a vasectomy after I was born. My parents always made it seem like he did that because I was such a “difficult” child. Of course, now I realize that decision had nothing to do with me, personally. My mom hadn’t expected to get pregnant again after my sister was born. Eight years later, there I was… and I was a big, colicky baby, with big lungs. Mom didn’t want another child. Quite frankly, she hadn’t really wanted to have me. So, to keep the peace, my dad got snipped. I don’t think he had wanted to have a vasectomy, but my mom insisted.

In Bill’s case, he decided to have a vasectomy mainly because of financial reasons. Ex had her son from her first marriage, plus the two daughters they’d had together. Bill was supporting the whole family on his income, which, at the time, wasn’t much. He was an Army captain at the time. Ex got pregnant with ease, but she wasn’t a very attentive mother.

One time, when older daughter was a toddler, Bill came home from work to find that she hadn’t been fed. Ex was in bed, depressed, and older daughter had pulled a block of cheese out of the refrigerator. It had a knife plunged into it. I’m not sure where ex stepson was at the time, but it was clear that Ex wasn’t taking good care of the children.

Then, because his Army career also wasn’t going that well, Bill temporarily got off active duty. The family moved from Washington State to Arkansas, and Ex’s sister and young daughter moved in with them. Bill was supporting his family, plus Ex’s sister and daughter, on the piddly amount of money he made working at factories in Arkansas and from National Guard duty. It would have been disastrous and irresponsible for them to have another baby.

Bill was also concerned about the bizarre way Ex behaved when she was giving birth to younger daughter. He said she had kind of disassociated from the pain, crying that she would “be still”, as if she was hallucinating about being abused. At one point, she even refused to push. Bill had to tell the nurse that Ex was a victim of abuse and was apparently having some kind of traumatic flashback. The nurse realized what was happening and managed to get Ex to snap out of her spell and give birth to younger daughter. The scene was disturbing enough that Bill didn’t want to see it happen again.

Bill did propose to Ex that she get her tubes tied, since she clearly had issues with being pregnant and giving birth. Ex, of course, shot down that idea and shamed Bill for even suggesting it. So he had the procedure done, which in the long run, was probably a blessing. Ex clearly wasn’t done having kids, and she would have gotten pregnant again with Bill if he hadn’t gotten snipped. She had two more babies with #3. I don’t know what their births were like, but according to younger daughter, Ex is still neglectful and abusive.

Of course, a few years after Bill made that life altering decision, he met virginal me. I appreciated that he was willing to have the reversal surgery. The Army also offered reproductive and fertility treatments, but we needed to be living in an area where they offered the therapies. We lived in the Washington, DC area when Bill had the vasectomy reversal, so that worked out for us. After that, we frequently moved (five times in seven years), and sometimes to places where fertility treatments provided by the Army weren’t always readily available. We weren’t willing to go more into debt to try treatments with a civilian provider.

I had always wanted and expected to have children, but Bill was my first and only sexual partner. So I don’t have children… and the whole mess surrounding the vasectomy is another major reason why I’ve been so angry with Ex all these years.

It wasn’t enough that Bill left their marriage infertile. She also severely alienated the children they did have together. It’s only because younger daughter is a kind, loving, and thoughtful person, like Bill is, that he’s able to know his grandchildren. Ex wanted to deny him that, too. She told them many lies about Bill and me. Making matters worse is the pervasive attitude among people that fathers are expendable and second wives and stepmothers are always homewrecking whores.

I wrote to younger daughter that I’m “okay” with not having children. I suppose that’s true, at this point. I certainly wouldn’t want to have a baby now, at this time in my life. But I do feel like that decision to be mother was taken from me. Yes, I know there are people who will try to point out to me that I could have married (or just had sex with) someone else… or adopted… or gone through fertility treatments. Those kinds of comments are very belittling and discounting. I specifically wanted to have a baby with Bill. It’s taken a long time to come to terms with the fact that I can’t. Now I realize that it’s probably better that way. Fortunately, Bill is enough. I love him very much and wouldn’t choose another partner, regardless of everything that has happened.

I hope that my email to younger daughter isn’t too much of a bombshell. I honestly thought she knew about Bill’s vasectomy. He will write back to her and explain it more, since he was the one who made the choice. I just want her to remember that infertility isn’t always due to the woman. For all I know, I was infertile, too. We never had the chance to find out for sure.

Yesterday, younger daughter and Bill exchanged Marco Polo videos. Bill is finding that he has to dispel some impressions that she has, as well as offer her some basic history lessons. I can’t help but think that if they had been able to have a relationship for all of these years, they would both be so much better informed. But hopefully, they can make up for lost time.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Bill really should have fought harder for his daughters. But dealing with a malignant narcissist is very difficult for the unaware and ill equipped. Unfortunately, when he and Ex split, Bill wasn’t in a good position to fight harder for access to his kids. So now, all he can do, is damage repair and restoration. Still, I am relieved that just like the song, younger daughter is truly lovely. She really is Bill’s daughter, in spite of everything. I’m finally starting to love her. Thank God for that.

Thank God for Stevie Wonder, too.


Reposted: Don’t ask, don’t tell…

This is a rerun post. It appeared on my original blog on June 4, 2014. I’m sharing it again because I just updated some travel posts from that time period and this post is related to them. Enjoy!

No, I’m not writing about the now defunct rule against gays in the military. I’m writing about people who ask very personal questions that they probably would rather not know the answer to. This subject comes up today after I read this very interesting blog post about a guy explaining why he doesn’t want to be a father. I happen to relate to this man’s experiences because, as a childless woman, I’ve heard a lot of the comments he’s gotten in retort. As a woman with no children, I’m sure the pressure for me to explain why I don’t have any kids is even more intense than it is for him.

I shared the post on Facebook and the responses were mostly positive.  There was one comment from a man, who said that he and his wife never had kids and no one ever called him to task over it.  I wrote that perhaps it’s different for men.  He responded that the author of the article is a man, to which I wrote that I knew the author was a man.  I was simply sharing my similar experience of being told that not having kids is apparently a huge mistake for which I will no doubt feel great sorrow.  

I can relate to what the blog author wrote, in spite of his gender.  When you are a woman without kids, particularly when you are a childless woman who is married to a military man, people often feel free to question why you don’t have any children.  Sometimes they’ll tell you you’ll be sorry you didn’t have them.  They’ll question who will look after you when you’re old (I think that is a really stupid reason to have kids, by the way.  It’s not right to expect your kids to take care of you when you’re old– it’s nice if they do, but I don’t think it should automatically be expected of them).  More offensive to me is when they try to tell me about adoption, as if that option has never once crossed my mind.

As an Army wife who has no children, I am definitely not within the norm.  Add in the fact that I went to college, grad school, and was a Peace Corps Volunteer, and you really have a strange duck in your midst.  I’m not saying there aren’t other military wives like me.  I’m saying I have yet to come across very many of them.

The blog that I posted about on Facebook was written by an Australian man who, no doubt, doesn’t get the stink eye as much as your typical childless military wife does (not that there is such a thing as a “typical” childless military wife).  Reading his thoughts reminded me of an incident that Bill and I ran into just days ago, while riding a train to Landstuhl, Germany.  It was the last of three trains after two flights getting us from Nice to Frankfurt.  I was tired and a bit grumpy.

A young mom and her four kids got on the train. The children’s grandmother was also in tow. They struck up a conversation, having just come from Paris after a trip to Euro Disney. The kids were as tired and as over public transportation as I was, and they were being a bit disruptive. Mom was trying to get them to settle down for their brief journey to Ramstein Air Force Base. Bill was helpfully explaining the train system to the mom and grandma while the kids busied themselves. It turned out the mom and her husband were stationed in Germany. Bill and I told her how lucky they were and I said I’d love to move back to Germany and stay for a long time.

Then Grandma pipes up with, “Yeah, but how do you do that with a family?”

I said, “Oh, it’s just us and two dogs…”

You would have thought I’d just dropped the f-bomb in front of Grandma.  She gave me a serious stink eye that seemed to say, “How could you NOT have kids?  You are selfish!”

I didn’t try to explain, though later I wished I had said something to the effect of, “Well, we don’t have kids because I used to be a man.”  Imagine the reaction!  It would have been classic!

But I was too tired to come up with something clever to say and elected not to explain to Grandma why Bill and I don’t have kids.  For one thing, it’s the kind of thing that most people would consider TMI, though I don’t have any problem telling people if they insist on knowing.  For another thing, it was really none of her goddamn business.  Moreover, I’m sure that if she knew why we don’t have kids, she’d be grateful that I kept my mouth shut.

For the life of me, I don’t understand why people think it’s okay to bring up such sensitive and personal subjects with total strangers or acquaintances.  There are any number of reasons why a couple doesn’t have kids.  It could be as simple as them not wanting to reproduce, or the reason could be complex and painful, like one or both of them had cancer that left them sterile.  In my case, Bill had a vasectomy when he was married to his ex wife.  He had it reversed eleven years later and the operation was technically successful.  We commenced trying to make a baby… and we failed.

Then he got sent to Iraq and we lost several months of time when we might try to reproduce with assistance (not that I was really all that keen to undergo a medical procedure to get pregnant). I have never been interested in adoption and have determined that the maternal instinct in me isn’t strong enough to spend the time or the money on the quest to have a child. So I am resigned to being childless and have finally come to terms with that decision. But there are people out there in the world who apparently want to second guess my decision not to be a mom.

Grandma wisely didn’t ask me why we don’t have any kids.  If she had, I might have taken the high road and said, “I’ll forgive you for asking if you’ll forgive me for not answering.”  Or, if I was feeling bold, I might have told her the truth.  Then she and her daughter would have to explain what an unsuccessful vasectomy reversal is to the kids in their care.  Or I could have said something totally outrageous like, “I don’t have kids because my husband’s dick is way too large for me and we physically can’t have sex.”  It would have been a rude thing to say, but if you think about it, it’s probably no ruder than having someone you’ve never met before judge you for not being a parent.

I’m starting to get to the age at which people will soon probably stop asking me about whether or not I have kids…  Then they’ll ask if I have any grandchildren.  I can hardly wait.

By the way, I also thought it odd that Grandma apparently doesn’t think kids can be successfully raised in Germany or elsewhere.  Frankly, if I were a mom, I’d prefer it if my kids grew up outside of the United States.  Things have gotten pretty weird around here, if you ask me.