I live 40 minutes from Virgina Tech.
The day of the tragedy, my friend Claudia in New Jersey, called me and asked if I would call hospitals closest to the university campus because her friends were not able to reach their daughter, a student at Virginia Tech.
I was helping my mentee do a college paper at the time. I asked her to use her cell phone and call the Montgomery County hospital, the one hospital the distraught parents could not reach, due to the volume of the calls. We connected with the hospital and asked if this student had been admitted. They told us they could not tell us, it was a privacy issue. Until they had notified next of kin, they could not say who they they treated, only that they had admitted a number of Virginia Tech students. I called Claudia and told her I couldn’t get any information. She said the parents were on their way to Tech.
The next morning my friend Claudia called me and told me that this student had been killed. I responded, "oh, shit!" My heart tumbled and I had no words. I could not imagine what these parents were going through. I have no point of reference, other than friends and family who have passed suddenly. The shock is numbing, I know. But I don’t know what it means to lose a child.
Tonight, I watched Oprah. One of the people she featured on the show was women who had lost all four of her kids to the estranged husband who came into the house while she was on a early morning walk and shot all their sleeping children and himself. She admitted to Oprah she had planned to commit suicide. She could not imagine life without her children. This earlier appearance on the Oprah show had helped her to change her mind and carve out a new path, which led to second marriage and the birth of twins.
It was clear that this woman had a very difficult time imagining a life worth living without her children. Eventually she found a man who fell in love with her and accepted her tragic past and fractured healing. It was not enough to find this person; she also wanted another child. She got two—lovely twins—while the pictures of the children she had lost remain plastered over her refridgerator.
Her husband and the twins were featured on today's episode, proof that there is life after a tragedy as senseless and devasting as this. From my childless-by-choice perspective, I am left with these thoughts:
Was the new family critical to her healing?I am saddened by the fact that this woman could not imagine a path to happiness that did not include biological children. She clearly had much success as a mom. She had raised four wonderful kids. She was a good mom and perhaps she wanted to continue to do something she was happy doing. I get that.
Was her identity so tied up with being a mom that she could not see a happy life otherwise?
What I don’t get is why some women feel motherhood is the only path to fulfillment. Perhaps they don’t have childfree friends. Someone who can say that it is possible to be happy without children. There are other ways to utilize the skills that served you as a mother. Mentoring, managing, foster care, childcare, volunteer activities focused on children. Or not. Dian Fossey found her fulfillment living and dying in the jungle advocating for her gorilla families.
This woman admitted that, in the aftermath of her childrens’ murder, she could not pass a soccer field without crying, so I can appreciate why she didn’t think of these of these alternatives in the short term. But they exist for her, and others like her, who have lost children and long for the experience of caring for a child.
The childless and childfree who want the experience of children in their lives know this.
Technorati Tag: Childfree
May 02, 2007
I live 40 minutes from Virgina Tech.