Hey, everyone, it’s Mother’s Day here in the US. Perhaps you haven’t noticed, or perhaps you have. It’s kind of hard to miss if you spend any time on social media. Maybe you are surrounded by your family and friends with your mom by your side, or maybe are one of the many who are really missing their mom today.
Perhaps you are a mom-to-be or a new mom. But, maybe you are struggling to conceive, have lost a child, or are unable to have children of your own. Or, perhaps like me, you find yourself in a place you never believed you would find yourself. Confused, older than you feel, and frustrated at how little control we ever really do have over anything.
What does that have to do with Mother’s Day, you may ask. A lot. A little. Perhaps everything.
As a child and teenager, I was certain of three things. 1) I would be a teacher, 2) I would get married, and 3) I would raise a family. Period. End of story. That is what would be and it never once occurred to me that anything would be different. I grew up to be a teacher, I married my high-school sweetheart, and then everything went wrong.
If you have followed this blog, heard me speak, or read my memoir, you know that there was no happily ever after to my marriage. Instead, it morphed from a teenage crush to an abusive marriage that I spent over ten years trying to save and eight years recovering from. The problem is that you cannot save a marriage when there is abuse. You cannot fix someone who takes over and slowly destroys who you are. And the damage that is done can take years, if not a lifetime, to recover from.
He had wanted children, or so he said, but then changed his mind once I had put him through over six years of graduate school, and used the idea of children to humiliate and berate me. He told me how ugly and fat I would become, how we had more important things to do in life, and how he changed his mind. He was just beginning to live, and kids would ruin that. I was ruining life with my wanting them. “Why did I want kids so bad? Didn’t I have enough to do?”
I remember, even as I was preparing to leave my husband, thinking that I was dooming my chances of having children because, by the time I found someone, developed a relationship, and got remarried, I would be too old to have children. That is how much time and energy I had put into thinking about where children fit in my life. The thought of not having them destroyed me. But my marriage was causing more harm than I could bear, so I took my chances and left. I was off to start my new life.
But my new life was wrought with struggles I was unprepared for. Every date was a potential father to my children, when a man didn’t stay around (even for a few days) I was devastated that I was making no progress. My world revolved around finding a man, feeling loved, and getting the mom thing going. After several years of approaching life from a slightly messed up perspective, I started coming around. As I healed and found my own self-worth, I stopped searching for a future husband and father to my children.
But the thought of never having children was still painful and was severely interfering with my well-being. It was then that I decided I didn’t want kids. I remember the day; the exact moment. I sat at my niece’s first birthday party, struggling with my own feelings of loss and emptiness, struggling to hold back tears, and decided that children were too much work. I was 37 years old, I was single, and there was no prospect of finding a good man in my future. The past several years had taught me that. All the good ones were taken and those who wanted children already had them. It just wasn’t in the cards for me and forcing the issue was simply a sad form of self-destruction. I mean, I was too old for all this anyway, right?
That was my mantra. I went from wanting children to the point of it eating me alive to straight up deciding I was over it and life had to move on.
That worked great for a while. But now that I find myself pushing 41 years old and in a stable, healthy relationship, my old feelings are pushing back in. My arms feel empty and I find joyous news of new births and happy families in the park a hard pill to swallow. It isn’t that I’m not happy for those enjoying these moments, it is because there will always be a part of me that will want to be a mommy.
But at 41, I fear all the things older moms fear (even if they are not talking about it). Would I have a healthy baby? What if I’m being irrational? I’m pretty sure 3 a.m. wake up calls are not going to go well. I will be almost 60 when my baby graduates high-school! Am I prepared to bring on a child for the next 18 years? What if I’m too tired to keep up?
And, don’t forget, I just turned my life on its head last year. Can I even afford a child? Am I willing to give up my dreams? The dreams of my guy? Do I have to? And, life is finally – for all intents and purposes – perfect. What if this is just me concerned I’m making the wrong decision?
So here I sit, this Mother’s Day, struggling over the pictures of new babies and happy families, fighting bitter thoughts towards my ex for ruining my plans (I won’t lie about how angry my thoughts towards him are), angry at myself for staying so long with someone who didn’t deserve me and for wasting so many years, and saddened for the lies I tell myself. And all the while, I am thankful that I don’t have children with him as I couldn’t forgive myself for the suffering they would have endured.
Sometimes, no matter how much healing takes place, there are still demons that haunt you. I’m not sure yet how to battle these ones. I’m not really 100% sure what brought me to this place, but it is where I am. I realize that rationality behind many of the thoughts is off a bit, and I’m really not sure what it is that I want. Perhaps I’m simply clinging to an old dream, and old belief system; one that somehow seems to fit in my life. My only hope is that I can get it right, whatever right is.