Monday, December 24, 2012

TING AND I: Our Decisions About Chlldren


Tina deeply regretted that she was not able to bring Ted [who was 9] with her when she left Chicago [along with Phil, who was two]. For years this was for her, as for Ted, a terrible loss. Our friend, Wendy Garfein, describes (see “Tributes”) a day at Ledgewood Commons when she and Tina shared their deepest regrets:

Sitting at her kitchen table and reliving her decision as she talked, Tina remembered all the struggles she had gone through. She seemed to be ashamed of herself for making the decision to survive, because it meant leaving Ted behind. Years did not diminish her sorrow and guilt over this decision. It was at that point that I shared my personal story and my own sorrow and guilt over my own [analogous] decision years earlier in my life. Self-acceptance has been difficult for both of us to achieve, but Tina’s sharing with me, and enabling me to share with her, has helped us both.
Tina, by sharing her love-story, showed me that day the qualities which I admire in her to this day: her courage, compassion, and integrity. I felt the courage that she needed to make the decision to start a new life and to leave behind her little boy, Ted. I knew that leaving him behind, she felt that Ted must feel abandoned. Her compassion for Ted and her desire to show him her love was evident to me. It was not so easy for a young Ted to comprehend, however. I knew that with time and maturity, Ted would understand her decision and grow to know his mother, as I do: as a woman with the courage, compassion and integrity to live that love each day.

In the tragic movie, Sophie’s Choice, that Jewish mother is compelled by the Nazis to choose only one of her two children to be spared the trip to a death camp. Tina’s choice was not so momentous but still was so very difficult.


Probably three years into our marriage, around 1987, we had a serious discussion about whether or not to try to produce a third child, half-sibling to Phil and Ted.

Characteristically, Tina wanted me to have a child “of my own,” as I had not had, nor tried to have, one in my first marriage. Phil was adorable, so another like him would be great, and a little girl like Tina would have been delightful, too.

At 43, Tina was a bit old for this, and the risk of birth defects increases with the parents’ age. At 44, I was not sure I had the energy for a baby. I had been the eldest brother of five and had done my share of “parenting” in that role. I could take it or leave it, much as I had come to love Phil. I feared that Phil and Ted could feel a bit displaced by the presence of a half-sibling, whom they might suspect we favored. We decided not to have more children.

The next question was: tubal ligation for Tina or vasectomy for Doug? True to her generous heart, Tina volunteered for the operation, wanting to leave open the possibility that if anything happened to her or to our marriage, I would not be prevented from having a biological child with a subsequent wife.

So often in the past, Tina put others ahead of herself. Now, Tina comes first, but everybody counts.

A teacher in her high school, Mr. McGhee, recognized how special she was and applied to her the quotation, “All things noble are as difficult as they are rare.” Noble, rare, Tina.

In retrospect, choosing not to have another child seems to have been the right decision. Our health issues have often been very challenging. Still, we can’t know what we have missed.

Soon we would have our hands full with multiple sclerosis and then cancer.

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