When I was little, I told my mom, “Mom, when I grow up, I want to be just like you: nothing.” Some people scoff at these words, but I think moms get it, I think moms understand. Those simple words didn’t mean that my mom was a nobody, that I didn’t respect her or that I wanted to grow up just to stay home and watch soaps and eat bonbons all day (goodness knows, my mom didn’t!). I was expressing the desires of my heart: not be be a career woman, but to be a MOM, just like her.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to bear children and be a mom. I’ve always loved babies. I’ve had other career goals along the way – archeologist, architect, nurse (baby nurse!), doctor (baby doctor!), graphic designer, midwife – but what it all ever came down to was that I wanted to be a mom. You can imagine my EXCITEMENT when my husband and I decided we were ready to start trying to conceive!!!…..
…..Then you can perhaps imagine my utter devastation when my period came, month after month after bloomin’ month. [Who ever expects to deal with infertility, growing up?! I sure didn’t.] We were fortunate to have the means to eventually attempt IVF, and we were gloriously blessed with success on the very first try!! Our son is now 13 years old, and I try to remind myself how so very, very blessed we are to have him.
Following our son’s conception, I was in seventh heaven! I was totally in my element: I loved pregnancy, I loved childbirth, I loved the newborn/infancy stage. I LOVED mothering a small child! I loved being ‘nothing’. In the ensuing six years, we tried, on and off, with greater and lesser intensity, to conceive a sibling for our son. I did fall pregnant from one frozen embryo, but miscarried shortly thereafter; besides that….. nothing. We tried everything under the sun! Herbs, homeopathy, allergy elimination, acupuncture, chiropractic, fertility diet, shamanic healing and past-life regression, for pete’s sake, along with another fresh IVF cycle and the glimmers of hope provided by the remaining frozen embryos, all to no avail. When we moved to Australia – I was nearly 40 years old! – we thought we were done, but a friend turned us on to a nutritionist and herbologist specialising in fertility, so we gave it one more try (one more series of tries),… to no avail. We thought we’d be with her for only about 3 months, but 14 months later, 14 periods later, we just had to pull the plug. We were spent.
While I worked through my grief, the light at the end of my tunnel was that, if nothing else, if I couldn’t bear my own children, if we couldn’t adopt children (with the likelihood of an eventual move back overseas, we wouldn’t be able to honour the terms of an open adoption), I would put my passion for babies into truly needy children: we would become foster parents. It was a shift, going from hoping for our own and growing our permanent family to letting go of that and focusing on temporary care of someone else’s child, on giving my heart to a sweet baby and having it wrenched from my arms a few months or years later, but it was a shift and a commitment I was willing to make. …..Who expects to be DENIED as foster parents?? I sure didn’t. And I didn’t agree with the agency’s reasons, but nevertheless we had to move on.
So……… It took me a while to readjust to life, to shift my sights entirely: I had to adjust to a life without the prospect of infants in my care. At 45, I’ve mostly made peace with it. I can get tears in my eyes without too much effort, but I don’t think about it much any more. I was forced to rediscover myself, to find out what else I like besides babies, how else I enjoy spending my time besides plotting how we’re going to ‘get’ babies. I’ve learned that I love cooking nutritious food, I love making JennTangles (Zentangle®-inspired artwork), and I love helping other people – in fact, I’ve discovered a way to feed that mama-nurturing part of my soul: I volunteer with moms who need support, who are having trouble adjusting to motherhood or who just need an extra pair of hands. I’m getting my baby fix every week!
As it turns out, having one kid has definitely got its perks – just ask him, as he revels in lots more mom- and dad-time and attention than he would otherwise get! Having a single child makes travel much easier, too, and certainly reduces the number of birthday cakes and parties I have to think about each year. I still wish with most of my heart that our son had a sibling, but I’ve also learned to appreciate our situation as it is, to look for the silver lining, and to make the most of what we’ve got. We may not have all the kids we’d wanted, but we’ve apparently got all the kids we need. We are so blessed!