It is always what I thought I would be. It even said so in my baby book. Eighteen months: She is already a little mother. She cares and cuddles and loves her baby dolls. When I was nine, my grandmother gave me a doll cradle I would keep near my bed, and I would change my favorite doll into pajamas and clothes. When I played house with my sisters, I imagined I had a big family. In middle school, I was sure I wanted to have ten children. Their names and genders were all picked out. I knew I wanted to have a big family with many babies to cuddle.
I always knew I wanted to be a mother.
I watched my 20’s fly by, but I wasn’t worried. I could still have a big brood, if I met the right person soon. I dreamed of stretchmarks and big bellies. I hosted countless baby showers. I volunteered weekly in the church nursery. I sat in a canoe with a friend grieving her miscarriage. Nuzzling baby necks and comforting the ones with separation anxiety. I babysat far longer than my peers and sang countless lullabies to other mama’s babies.
My 30’s have also gone alarmingly fast. My heart thrilling to be a godmother and aunt. Throwing more baby showers. Visiting friends in the hospital and cradling their newborns. I thought about a family with biological and adoption children, so I could still have my big family. I wondered what type of childbirth would be best for me. I yearned to give of myself sacrificially. Would my eventual family ever do foster care?
I ached to be a mother.
A bout with cancer at 25 took away my dearly held dream. I just didn’t know the far-reaching consequences until a few years ago. I wouldn’t be able to have biological children. It is a difficult and painful subject for me to talk about, so I don’t share it often. This has been one of the hardest pieces for me to ever write because it is so raw emotionally.
The last few years, I have had to grieve the loss of something I never even had. It has been hard to navigate and understand. I feel silly a lot. I rarely talk about it. I hold the hurt close to my heart.
How can I be so sad over something I only ever dreamed to be?
Understanding what it meant was a blow. It felt as if the door of an exclusive club slammed in my face. I hear messages floating around me: you are selfish unless you have kids, or you can’t know real love until you are a mother, the memes and Facebook posts tell me. It makes me feel like less of a woman. When people ask, I want to say, but this isn’t my choice! I wanted to selflessly give all the middle years of my life to having babies and raising children.
But my body betrayed me. It didn’t do what feels like it should do so naturally.
The grieving of something lost that you never had is called disenfranchised grief. A grief that is not clear to the world over why you are grieving. But grief is grief even if it is not always understood, and it needs to be walked through, if not we stagnate in our pain and bitterness.
I have experienced all the stages of grief. I sobbed at night, alone. I felt tears prick at my eyes when I saw a pregnant woman. Internally, I raged at God. How could you create me to want something good and withhold it from me? Why, why, why?
I haven’t found answers, but I have found peace with the path God has me on. Dear friends have allowed me space to grieve, to feel safe sharing the deeper recesses of pain I don’t know I can share with the world. Even when they couldn’t understand my grief, they wept with me. I have learned to embrace life and find ways to nurture and mother, even if I don’t get the title. My freedom has given me great opportunities to love and support and encourage others in ways motherhood would have prevented me.
But no matter how much I have come to terms with my grief and feel honest gratitude at the life right in front of me. I still ache knowing I will never hold my own newborn baby and see her off to school or watch her graduate, to never be called mom – well, it just sucks sometimes. And the ache feels bigger than I can bear.
To the ones who have watched a dearly cherished dream die, I stand with you. We all hold in our hearts some sort of quiet loss. The kind the world may not really comprehend. Secondary infertility, infertility, singleness, divorce. The list could go on. What grief do you hold close to your heart? Feel the freedom to grieve over your loss. You are in a safe place here.Have you ever had to watch a dream die? Can I just give you permission to grieve the loss?Click To Tweet