There was always a type of ‘tug of war’ in my mind between whether to have children or whether to choose not to. No, our younger selves, never think ’maybe I can’t!’
I always felt time was on my side from my twenties to my thirties and even when I looked ahead to my forties: I told myself, I can still have kids: my mommy did. But ironically life got in the way: life as in, all that makes up life: work, relationships, and in my case animals-animals that were starving, abused, forgotten – they were everywhere. And that suddenly out of nowhere became my life: less relationships, clinging on to my career, as saving animals became ‘my career’! I just needed a career to pay for what I saw as my ‘real one’.
I’m no saint for doing this: it is choice behaviour. I choose to do it and they find me even when I don’t go looking – like a lot of other people-just like me. So, as the years passed, I still ‘sort of’ thought about kids and when people (mainly men) told me I would make a great mother, I would get these tiny cravings to have a ‘mini-me’ – always imagined that this Pocahontas little girl in dungarees and wellies, would trail after me, carrying clumps of hay through fields to hungry horses. But again life or maybe fate got in the way and finally drew the curtains on those sporadic baby dreams. I suddenly felt ill, started to bleed, and put off seeing my doctor until I had to. I was referred to a specialist and in his room in Galway City, he did an ultra sound and I got a taste of what it must be like to see your little baby growing inside you as I looked to the screen. But my scan showed some sort of tumour and an MRI was organised in the hospital. You leave these clinics with a whole host of new words added on to ‘your life’. They are heavy, and your feet feel like they are walking on quick sand as you walk to your car. I remember managing to crash into a concrete bollard that day as I pulled out of my space in the underground car park. Those new words were not just heavy: they were blinding! Suddenly what I thought I didn’t mind: not having kids was now possibly being stolen from me: it wasn’t about having a baby or not: it was choice. That word we all need and possibly take for granted when we have it. I knew I probably didn’t have a choice anymore. Ten years previously I had a similar near miss but early detection sustained my choice.
And to cut a long story short, I had a tumour the size of a tennis ball this time. After the MRI, a nurse who was quite apathetic when I was shown to the room to put on those awful gowns that should come with a picture of someone wearing one, well, she was very sweet and overly kind after the scan. So, I just said to her, it’s big, isn’t it, and she gave me more new words to leave with from another room to my car.
Yes, I probably would have made a good mommy to some little girl or boy. But it wasn’t meant to be part of my life course: these were. Who are these? They are the 100 animals I’m about to feed. They are the 100 animals that I will turn on heat lamps for; fill their bowls, give their meds to, lock into the stables as tonight there is a weather warning; they are the cats and dogs who are old now, who I will sit on the couch with to have a cup of tea. I’m no saint but I’m not selfish. And aside from my tumour and aside from not being in a position to try other means to have a baby, I think this possibly would have been my choice: they needed me more: more than the baby that didn’t exist. Where would they be? Yes, some would have met another rescuer; some would never: because they crossed my path or their desperately sad lives were told to me and I went looking to fight for them.
It’s ironic that I always pray to Saint Francis as he is the patron saint of animals and environment: it’s more ironic that Pope Francis could make such a blanket ‘all or nothing’ statement today: if you choose pets over children, you are selfish. Black and White statements can be hurtful, damaging, and they can lack mindfulness and inclusivity that exists in the grey area: the area where we should live in more. Here exists so many more than those who sit neatly on the other sides. Here we gain insight, here we gain empathy, here we see the reality for so many that are not ‘us’ at any given time, moment or issue.
I’m rushing writing this as I have to hit the yard and get the feeding done. I never thought I would type the words, ‘Pope Francis, you need to rethink what you said and reflect.’ Choosing pets over kids is not selfish. It’s just a choice (when we actually have the privilege of choice) but it’s still love. Besides,there are enough children in the world, every year there will be more born into the world. The world won’t run short of them any time soon. But to see people who choose pets over kids as selfish is probably one of the biggest untruths sent out into the world. I don’t know any animal lover, advocate, rescuer who is selfish. Not one. Some have kids, some have none and some have kids and pets.
I wonder what was really going on for Pope Francis when he made that statement. Doesn’t he know that ‘until we love an animal part of our soul remains untouched!’ The part that needs to know what pure, selfless and constant unconditional love is. It is transforming and it is transparent. There are no terms and conditions – perhaps something the Catholic Church could learn from.