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Devotion

The lesser-told fairytale.

By Sian N. CluttonPublished 2 months ago 12 min read
6
Devotion
Photo by Liv Bruce on Unsplash

Will you marry me?

My stomach somersaults as I realise, I am engaged, betrothed, affianced.

People say little girls dream of this moment their whole lives, but for most of mine, I feigned no interest in the complexities of marriage. Nor did I ever fantasise about becoming a mother or raising children.

It's not that I wasn't interested. More so, I couldn't envisage a future where I was in such a place that it would feel appropriate.

I have spent many a year on my own, with quiet Christmases and empty birthdays. The few Christmas days I was lucky enough to be invited to, I felt awkward and embarrassed. Like a spare part. On the outside, looking in. Piggybacking on other people's happiness and their solitude of family.

For most of my life, I had nothing to offer. You hear about these great tales of bravery and ambition, where kids from less fortunate backgrounds manage to turn their lives around and make something of themselves, shocking everyone as they smash down walls and break the stereotypical mould that overshadows kids in the system.

I, unfortunately, was not one of them. It took me a long time to navigate life on my own and find my feet.

It's only now, in my thirties, that I feel like I have reached an acceptable level of adulthood. I'll admit, I still wobble from time to time, but it's not often. That innate feeling of running to a 'real adult,' one who's better at 'adulating' than me, is a stark reminder that my foundations are almost non-existent.

Yet, I make the most of what I have. And to be completely honest, regardless of what I have missed out on, I feel I have learned a few lessons along the way that I may not have otherwise.

That's not to say I'm not emotionally scared. Of course, I am. But I am a better person for it.

The most important thing I have learned is that love is a fragile thing. It's not guaranteed. It's not a right. Some people can love deeply, and truly, yet can go their whole lives without feeling an ounce of love returned. Love is a privilege.

For many, it’s a risk.

A risk of disappointment, of heartbreak.

There are many ways to love. The love we feel for family members, for our children, is worlds apart from the love we feel for our chosen partners, especially when falling in love.

To give someone your heart is to give them the ability to destroy you yet trust them enough not to.

I've had my fair share of people breaking that trust.

I spent most of my life being the crux of someone's joke. Bullied or overlooked, in one way or another, by many people in my life. A childhood lacking enough love and understanding, that I developed a soft soul. One that could always, and still does, find the goodness in people - the light.

When I was little, I found ways to keep drown drowning. One of which, as ridiculous as it might sound, was the solace I found in a TV show. One where relationships were tested but the kindness in people always triumphed. Where people sacrificed their immediate happiness for the good of others. One where love conquered all.

People living as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.

It taught me how to treat people and, even as a child, I vowed to live my life the same way. It also taught me to see the humour in life. Buffy could always stop me crying.

I realise how pitiful it sounds a television programme taught me so much about who I wanted to be in life, but never underestimate a lost teenage girl’s need for a role model.

I am aware it could have gone the other way, that I could have ended up adorning the crown of cold and calculated, myself. Instead, I took a different path. One that leaves me vulnerable to the ill-intentioned, in my naivety.

That’s not to say, I feel victimised. I am a confident person; I always have been. I am aware there are people out there who are much worse off, who would sacrifice everything to feel the level of love that I have, in my anecdotal experiences, but it doesn’t lessen the pain. Instead, it fills me with sorrow that there isn’t enough love in the world to go around.

There should be. There are enough people.

You don't have a choice but to believe in yourself when you're the only person on your cheer squad. It's safe to say, I'm made of fucking strong stuff... most of the time.

It’s an understatement to say when a child feels unloved it has a knock-on effect. For most of my life, if I’d tried to sing a love song, I would well up quicker than I could get the words out.

It was especially hard when I reached twenty-five and my health started declining. I found out pretty quickly how important it is to advocate for yourself in the medical world, which traditionally was my only option at the time. I’ve spent the last decade in and out of hospital, learning how my body is failing me. Getting diagnosis after diagnosis. If anything is a joke, it’s my health. It could be worse, I know, but that’s not to say it isn’t a heavy load to carry.

I started to contemplate a life where being alone was preferable. After all, who would want to take on such baggage? After craving intimacy and love for as long as I could remember, I thought perhaps I should give up on a dream that seemed so unattainable and resign myself to a life of peaceful solitude.

I’m relieved I didn’t.

Over the years, I've had a couple of long-term relationships, and when you have next to no family, your relationships become your world. Your everything. Your thin tether to the socially acceptable, to the wholesomeness of family life. All the while, far too acutely aware that you’re betting everything on this person, no life outside of him or her. No plan B, no exit strategy and nowhere to go if you walk away. No life outside of your love for this person.

When you're in that situation, saying it takes a lot, to believe in yourself enough to walk away, is an understatement. It takes everything. You can't run back to your parents if things don't work out. Your guarantee of a roof over your head, of someone on the other end of the phone, is nonexistent. When all your eggs are in one basket, you're fucked if that basket breaks.

I'm not sure where I found the strength, but I'm thankful every day of my life that I managed to muster it… to love myself enough to know that I deserved better.

The next couple of years were some of the hardest, loneliest, most confusing years of my life. I will never forget them. They have become a new, solid, foundation of mine. One I think of when I see the homeless on the street, in their desperate search for some compassion. When people judge them for their need to numb the pain; a feeling I understood all too well.

I was in my late twenties when I finally felt the crème de la crème of love - when I had my little boy. My life would never have changed if I hadn't fallen pregnant with him. The Doctors had told me it would be next to impossible for me to get pregnant, not that I was bothered.

In fact, I'd felt relief.

Relief that I wouldn't have to face the decision of bringing another life into this world, my world. That my sadness of a life lacking family, lacking love, wouldn't be impressed on another soul. I didn't want to have to raise a child, not knowing if I could keep a roof over their little heads. And over my dead body, was a child of mine going to end up in care.

Yet, there I was, looking at a positive pregnancy test whilst cursing the doctor and his apparent online medical degree.

My stomach was in knots, yet I was surprised to find my heart was aflutter. My current relationship was strained, to put it mildly. It felt like I was looking down the barrel of a gun. Every lesson I had learned in life told me this was a very bad idea. Yet, every fibre of my being screamed at me to hold on for dear life. His life.

The pregnancy was a rough road. One I walked it alone, as was tradition. Waiting patiently for the day he would arrive, and I would get THE FEELING. You know, the feeling? You must know the feeling; every mother I'd ever met talked about it. That rush of all-encompassing love that overwhelms you when you finally see your baby for the first time, hold him, kiss him.

I waited for that day like a child waiting for Christmas morning.

I have enough self-awareness to admit that when it came, I was disappointed. Not in the baby, my son was my world the second I held him in my arms, but in the lack of sudden assurance that I was enough. No overwhelming feeling shook me to my core, no sudden burst of love filled me beyond question or doubt.

I felt the same as I had the day before.

Of course, I loved my baby. I loved him like anyone would love their child. But I felt a kind of disconnect. I vividly remember thinking that maybe I was broken. Perhaps the lack of support and understanding in my upbringing had left me with something fundamental missing.

I was wrong.

The next few months blew my inexperienced mind. The bond that grew between us is one that could rival even the most accomplished works of every great love poet who had ever put pen to paper.

As I got to know him, I became overwhelmed by devotion. Watching him grow has been the most rewarding experience of not just my entire life, but any other life I could imagine for myself. It is a love like no other. Unexplainable. Indescribable.

At the same time, a little bit inside of me died. A memory of an innocence I had long ago, shattered in the grief I felt for my childhood.

The old saying ‘you’ll understand when you have children of your own,’ runs through my mind all too often.

I will never understand.

This little boy saved me. He is the sole reason I strived to better myself. To become something of myself. To believe in a better life. To dream.

My determination to provide him with a life full of love, full of hope, changed everything about how I looked at the world. I would fill his world with love, and he would grow up in a happy home if it killed me.

Six years, two months, and twenty-seven days later, brings us to now. I'm writing this in the early hours of the morning as I'm lying in bed watching the sun begin to creep through the gap in the curtains. Everyone's asleep. A peaceful lull is filling the house and I think I’m the happiest I have ever been. I somehow, have so far, managed to pull it off.

My daughter joined us a year ago next month. Her existence was as much of a surprise to my doctors as her brothers. As is tradition.

People tried to warn me of sibling jealousy, but I have witnessed no such thing. I watch daily as he showers her with love and admiration, excitedly celebrating every little milestone and showering her with kisses so vigorously we must sometimes hold him back, for her own safety.

Perhaps I shouldn't, but I take it as testimony that my little boy has known nothing but kindness, nothing but support and understanding his whole little life. Nothing but love. And neither will she. I will spend the next years of my life getting to know her, as I did him, as my heart swells to gargantuan proportions. Only this time, I know what’s coming, so instead of doubting if I should feel something different, it brings a blissful tear to my eye.

I sing to them both, as they’re falling asleep. Okay, sing is a bit of a stretch, but I attempt tuneful air vibrations with my vocal cords, and I can do so without crying. Which is a huge breakthrough. Evidence of growth, of healing.

Becoming a mother has given me everything I have ever needed in life. My own family. My source of never-ending love. A forever love. It’s slowly and carefully fixing broken little bits of my heart.

And then, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, last week, her father got down on one knee and proposed.

That moment is burned into my memory for as long as I live. A person in this life chooses me, sees me for who I am and is unable to imagine his life without me. It fixed something in me I didn't even realise needed fixing. I guess, when you feel less than you are, when you feel broken, to have someone see you as special, as irreplaceable, to look at you the way he looked at me... there are no words.

If there’s one thing I have learned, in my thirty-five years on this planet – if you’re dealt a shit hand, stick with it. You never know, life can change on a dime. And no matter what, never give up. There’s so much love in this world, you’ve just got to find it.

I can’t believe I’m going to get my happily forever after.

valuespregnancyparentsmarriedliteraturehumanitygrieffosterchildren
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About the Creator

Sian N. Clutton

A horror and thriller writer at heart, who's recently decided to take a stab at other genres.

I sincerly hope you find something that either touches your soul or scares your socks off.

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Comments (3)

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  • Oneg In The Arcticabout a month ago

    Thank you for sharing your honest and vulnerable journey. This was quite a read, and I resonated with quite bit

  • Phil Flannery2 months ago

    That was quite the journey. I'm happy for your current situation and congratulations. Even though I spent 8 years as a home dad, I know the bond my wife has with our children is much stronger than mine and I love my children dearly. Your line, "To give someone your heart is to give them the ability to destroy you yet trust them enough not to." it is such a true statement, especially if you've been hurt in the past. It's sad when people take this for granted. A well written and heartfelt story.

  • Mark Gagnon2 months ago

    Sian, I congratulate you not only on your upcoming wedding but for having the courage to chronicle your life's journey to this point. It's not something I would relish doing. All the best!

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