reward vs punishment

I wrote this comment after reading Melissa’s post

“I wrestle with the punishment / reward idea constantly. As in, why do they get this reward and I didn’t?

I think, some little part of me, maybe in the deep dark recesses of my mind and heart, believe that I did not deserve a child; that my infertility, my miscarriages, my cancer were all a punishment.

It’s one of the hardest parts to let go of, actually. It’s harder than the loss and the grief, that compulsion to punish myself.”

I don’t know at what point you start to blame yourself for what happens to you. It certainly feels like a long-lived habit for me. I have some weird sense of “if you’re bad, bad things happen to you”.

My parents used to joke that they must have been Hitler and Eva Braun in a past life. It was supposed to be funny, but it was strange. Still, both fantastically good people, they endured a LOT of hardships early on in their marriage and therefore developed a pretty tough exterior. I thank them for this, because I was able to learn about dealing with unfairness early.

I think I was a really good kid, and as an adult, I’m a fairly good person. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve fucked up for sure, but deep down, I think my heart is more pure than rotten. On an intellectual level, I know I didn’t cause my miscarriages. I know that mistakes I made didn’t leave me unable to bear children, or make my ex-husband almost sterile. I know that the wrongdoings didn’t add up to a failed adoption, a cancer diagnosis or a failed marriage. Still, I can’t escape that feeling entirely.

It’s a small voice, like a mocking child. Like the little girl version of me on the playground, speaking in the tones I heard directed at me years ago.

Certainly, I can’t think that being a mother is a reward for being good. There are too many instances where that cannot be the case. Yet, when a woman who has struggled to conceive or carry a child becomes a mother, there is that belief that she has been blessed. The implication is that a woman like me, who remains childless, is not.

I’d like to believe that it doesn’t work that way, that the good things that happen to a person are just good things, and not a reward for being an ideal human being. I’d like to believe that the converse is true also. I’m just not entirely convinced.


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