The feeling of mourning something or someone I have never met was new for me. So often we mourn those we have lost: a death, a break up, a fight. We mourn memories of those of the past, not the memories with those never created.
This unfamiliar mourning met me sitting in a pleather turquoise chair in the waiting room of my gynecologist, reading an US weekly magazine that was a month old, learning what Jennifer Aniston’s and Justin Theroux’s surprise wedding looked like. I take in the room, the eerie silence of a Tuesday morning. There is a new mama to my left; she holds her newborn close to her chest, rocking back and forth, breathing in her child. To my right sits a mama to be, rubbing her stomach gently, eyes fixated on the muted tv, the subtitles running across the screen as Mario Lopez informs us of the hottest trends for summer. With the hypnotic sound of the clock clicking in the background, I focus my attention to the large stock photo hanging on the wall behind the receptionist. A mother holding her child on the beach. I felt a sting of jealousy followed by fear. What if this is never me? I start to hate this beautiful blonde mother, with her toes in the sand. She represents a life I may never know.
Finally, they call my last name. I move slowly as I pass the mama to be, wanting to reach out and touch her belly, the precious creature that is growing day by day inside of her, reflected glory of our Creator, life giving in all His wonder. I follow the nurse as she leads me to the back room. I don’t have to undress this time, unlike the many appointments that came before. Appointments where I was poked, prodded, striped and searched, looking for any answer to explain why my body has changed, why my body has forsaken me at 23. No, this appointment was only to hear results, since legally they can’t tell you over the phone—bullshit. As the doctor enters she takes a seat, she is soft and comforting, she has done this before. Time stands still as she explains in medical jargon what I had expected all along, what I prepared myself to hear, praying I’d never have to hear it. Telling me that I am in fact, broken. She finishes and hands me educational pamphlets, support websites, and suggestions that might help with my diagnosis. I look at her as if she were the grim reaper of my womanhood. Shame and fear fill me like a sink that has been left on, overflowing onto the floor in front of me. I am a puddle.
My body was created to create, a force capable of a miracle. This is my job, my calling, what I’ve always understood to be my lot in life. Ever since childhood, pushing a Cabbage Patch doll around in a toy stroller, this innate feeling that nudged me to care and give, to nurture and to protect. My future is supposed to be that of a beautiful blonde on the beach, toes in the sand, holding my sweet little girl, to be the stock photo hanging in the waiting room. The perfect image of motherhood.
I begin to mourn this concept of what perfect looks like, I mourn the loss of a child I may never create. I mourn being able to watch my belly expand and feel my child’s small kicks against my ribs, I mourn late night ice cream runs, sonograms, and maternity jeans. Will I be able to have children? I ask my doctor. She looks at me kindly and in a roundabout way tells me that it isn’t impossible, that many women with my same condition go on to carry to full term. So I leave, letting my mourning turn to hope.
It has been three years, and I have watched as motherhood takes shape across its beautiful spectrum. Every women’s struggle, journey, mourning, and joy looks different. I have friends who battled with infertility for years, trying every means possible, pushing science and their bodies to its limits. Others who got pregnant on their first try, a happy little accident. Mothers who experience the painful loss of miscarrying, who have sat on their bathroom floors, feeling broken but finding the strength to try again. And mothers who chose to adopt or foster children who need to be held and loved, children who need to be told they are worthy of everything good this world has to offer. None of them more or less deserving of the title of Mama. I don’t know what shape my role as mother will take, but I have never been more certain that—although it may not look the way I once had pictured it—it doesn’t change my calling.
At my most recent appointment, I look at that stock image on the wall, the one of beautiful blonde with her toes in the sand. I wonder about her story, how she came to be a mom, the trials, fears, and failures she might have faced. As the nurse calls my name, I pass the photo and nod to her. We are in this together.