Motherhood, lost and found.
Today is Mother’s Day in the US. As always I have mixed feelings on this day. My relationship with my own mother is “complicated.” I do not have any children of my own.
I started trying to get pregnant quite late in my reproductive life, past 40 years old. I just never felt ready before that. Above all I feared inflicting my own psychological problems on any child I might have and spent many years working with psychotherapists to manage anxiety and learn better coping skills. By the time my mind was ready, my body was over the hill. My husband and I did conceive once, but I miscarried at 8 weeks. Not an uncommon occurrence, and as it turned out, a blessing. Five months later I had a serious heart attack and that has been difficult enough to cope with. I don’t know how we could have cared for a child, too. That is if both I and the child survived the event.
So along with grieving the loss of function and loss of future dreams that are now beyond my reach, I grieve the child I will never have. Chronic illness has twice robbed me of the opportunity to be a mother. First as a young woman struggling with severe depression and anxiety and again as a middle aged woman with a problematic heart.
Never having given birth to my own child does not mean I have never had the opportunity to mother, however. My work has usually been an outlet for nurturing urges since I was a teen babysitter. I have done child care, brain injury rehab, worked in psychiatric hospitals, and finally became a nurse. I have always done helping work, whether taking care of babies, taking care of patients, or even helping people get from here to there when I was a bus driver. I have cared for mothers giving birth, mothers who lost their child, people who were dying.
At home, I care for my pets. Since I was 25 years old, I have had a succession of “fur babies.” In the last 20 years I have had 5 cats and two dogs. Most I acquired as kittens or puppies. I raised them and cared for them and finally held some in my arms as they died. My pets have brought me joy and love and help ease the loss of my own child.
My husband has two children and for a few weeks each year I play step-mother. When they are with us I strive to give them the unconditional love, the structure, and the boundaries to learn and grow. I am powerless to do much to improve their lives beyond what I can do when they are here. I try to set an example of a responsible, caring adult and hope that some of the seeds I plant will bloom in time.
I have a young nephew who brings me great delight. I held him in my arms when he was only a few hours old. I’ve watched him grow from infancy to the beginnings of self-sufficiency. He always gives me the purple car to play with when he visits because he remembers that is my favorite color. His spark and brilliance illuminate me and we learn from each other.
I hope to continue being at least part of a mother to all these children and pets. I suspect I will always find ways to nurture others. It is an integral part of me and my life.