The January 2007 Marie Claire featured the heartfelt life story of Danielle. She knew as a girl that she always wanted marriage and children:
The eldest of five, I'd loved kids from an early age and knew, with an unwavering certainty that I would have at least two. I would live with my children and their father ...
It was not, however, until age 35 that she met Rob, a man she wanted to start a family with. Conception proved more difficult than expected and she subjected herself to four years of IVF.
Finally, she fell pregnant but the child had Down syndrome and she decided to undergo an abortion. Eight months later she was pregnant again, but this baby died in the womb. She was shocked by this turn of events, being unaware of the difficulties of childbirth in later life. She tells us:
Although I'd just turned 40 I'd never even considered this risk. After all, my mother had given birth to my little brother at 44. I assumed - naively - that, having finally managed to conceive, I'd go on to have a normal healthy baby, just like she did. But it wasn't to be.
Her partner Rob was now in his 50s and was understandably reluctant to keep pursuing fertility treatment. She now had to choose between him and further attempts at IVF. She thought at first she might be strong enough to leave him but then decided not to:
How could I give up the love of my life to become a single mother in her 40s? How could I put that pressure on a child?
But things didn't go well for her:
Life became hellish. Grief was transforming me into a woman I didn't know. I had such a loving, caring, supportive partner and yet I wouldn't allow him to touch me. He had fallen in love with a happy, slim, successful, creative woman and now found himself relegated to the role of carer to a weeping, empty vessel, who had ballooned from a size 12 to a size 20 through lack of self-care ...
Although Rob's behaviour was never anything other than selfless and loyal, I felt that I had “denatured” our relationship.
The relationship ended soon after, leaving Danielle feeling that she would "die with the pain". She moved in with her sister and her children. Her lost dream of motherhood is still with her:
These days, I indulge myself occasionally in the fantasy of who my lost daughters would have become ... I imagine that I'm getting ready to drive to the school gates to pick them up. I don't want to lose touch with these phantom children growing up inside me. I feel like a better human being for loving them.
My lost motherhood will always be with me. It's like a dull ache that every so often, at unexpected moments, sharpens into jolting pain - like when I see the ecstatic face of a new mother as she looks at her baby.
So what went wrong? Why did Danielle end up in such unhappy circumstances? The men of my generation won't be surprised by her answer:
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