This is going to be a tough one. Another seemingly innocuous situation that should be easy, but for me is anything but. It comes in different forms—a conversation, a moment in a TV show, a scene in a book—but it always has the same effect. Some reference to motherhood makes me flinch.
Today, it’s in an English lesson I’m teaching online to a 7-year-old boy in China. I’m supposed to be teaching him to say, “This is my mom.” Slide after slide in the lesson shows a happy mom cuddled next to her child. Mom and daughter hugging. A toddler son kissing his mom. Mom after mom after mom.
There will never be anybody who says of me, “This is my mom.”
I do not resent the chain of events that led to this. It just is what it is. I was single throughout the years of my peak fertility. Once I finally got married, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and we had to put pregnancy on hold. By the time we received the green light from my doctor to try for pregnancy, we were hardly spring chickens. My peers were posting pictures of proms and graduations of their kids—budding young adults—while I was just hoping for a baby. Just one.
We tried everything. I took medication to stimulate ovulation month after month until I hit the maximum dose. Then, we met with a fertility specialist. I read article after article. And I did all this prayerfully. We believed, we hoped, and we waited. And then we tried again the next month. We exhausted all options including adoption, which my husband decided against because of our ages and season in life. We tried everything until there was nothing left to try.
My journey to motherhood came to an unexpected end.
There’s a mother and daughter who come often to my mind. I see them as clearly as I see my hand in front of my face. The little girl is about four or five. They’re wearing matching outfits in the fall: jeans, long-sleeved white tees, scarves, and boots. They’re posing for a picture side by side, smiling. The mom is happy. Really happy.
Then I blink and remember that dream has died. The mom in the picture is me. The little girl is the daughter I always wanted but will never have.
Motherhood. I’ll never have what I always wanted. This dream did not come true for me. The task before me now is to learn to live with this new normal. To find a way to cope with all those little moments that inevitably pop up that flash motherhood in my face. To deal with the pain of infertility and discover what’s next for me. I know this won’t be easy, but I also know it’s not impossible.
So, I choose . . .
To not let disappointment turn to bitterness.
To not let this one sadness, big as it is, sour my whole life.
To live not in the shadow of what will never be, but in the light of all that’s to come.
To find the strength to keep dreaming even though this dream did not come true.