“Knowing what you know now, would you do it again?” The nurse popped a bite of blueberry muffin in her mouth, chewed wetly, and leaned back in her rolling chair, waiting for the answer.
“Hell, no!” the doctor swore in unladylike fashion. Running her blunt fingernails through her short, ginger hair she sighed. “I mean, I love my son…”
“Of course. I love my son too,” the nurse swallowed and continued. “My son is great. But I’m with you. If I were to do it all over, I wouldn’t have kids at all.”
Carefully organizing the patients’ charts from the previous shift, I tilted my head slightly so as to not miss a word of this astounding conversation. At 25, I was newly married. On fertility medication, I was trying to conceive our first child. The nurse and the doctor looked over at me and, seeming to realize that perhaps their conversation was indelicate considering my current hopeful state, they changed the subject.
Showing no outward emotion, I was inwardly horrified. I couldn’t imagine anyone feeling that way. Both of these women had teenage sons who, by all accounts, were good kids. I had never heard a mother speak such blasphemy.
Then I had my baby. Beautiful, perfectly formed, and…colicky. The workplace conversation echoed in my head from time to time in the following hellish weeks. By the time my son, born two years later, reached the toddler years, I actually understood their reasoning. This mommy gig was hard! Much harder than I had signed up for. I sank into depression, feeling like a terrible mother because, while I didn’t regret having my children, I could sympathize with that long ago exchange.
Fast forward to present day. Standing at the bathroom sink, I dipped the end of the stick into my carefully collected sample of first-morning urine, counted to twenty, and set the pregnancy test on the counter to wait. In moments it was apparent that the result was negative. I was not surprised. After all, my noble husband had undergone surgery 11 years ago to prevent such a happening. But being late in my cycle for the first time in eight years I figured I’d better be sure. We personally know two couples who, years after vasectomy, got surprise results. It happens.
Gathering up the packaging and instructions, I felt immense relief it hadn’t happened to us. The reasons to be thankful for not being pregnant are numerous. I’m 45, newly diagnosed with fibromyalgia, and have hundreds of permanent stitches closing my abs from the previous pregnancies that would rip out mercilessly if my belly were to expand in such a way again.
Pregnancy was no picnic for me with bed rest halfway through for the first three. While not on official bed rest for number four, I was on beached-whale watch, so huge that movement was difficult and my lower back was in serious protest. My husband likes to say I had to move slowly so as to not disrupt the rotation of the earth. It certainly felt that way. My watermelon-sized belly drew stares wherever we went. For the most part, I hated pregnancy.
But a strange and entirely unexpected emotion tugged at me as I threw away the negative test.
I can’t help it. No matter how awful pregnancy was for me, no matter how exhausting infancy is, no matter how overwhelming this motherhood journey has been…none of it compares to the wonder of these exquisite humans God has given me the privilege of raising. I look at my babies who are no longer babies at all, but real personalities, lovely people created in the image of my Holy God and I think, “How can I not grieve, just a bit, to know I won’t be bringing any more of these marvelous people into the world?”
This isn’t simply the disappointment of a missed opportunity, but rather is the bone-deep knowledge that this particular part of my life is really and truly finished. My days of anticipating new additions to our family are over. There will be no more soft, fresh smelling bodies to hold close to my heart. No more new journeys, training up and walking life with living, breathing embodiments of the love my husband and I share.
I think back to my co-workers’ now decades-old conversation. While I have had seasons of understanding how they could feel the way they did, I find it unbearably sad that they somehow missed something vital in the parenting journey. I won’t speculate on what that might be. I’m sure they both had differing reasons for feeling the way they did. All I can say is, if not for the gentle intervention of my gracious God, guiding me out of my innate self-centeredness and showing me the sometimes hidden beauties of motherhood, that could have been me. Instead, I embrace this sense of loss, grateful for the gifts I’ve been given.
Thank you, Lord, for helping me to not miss the wonder of being mom to these beautiful creations of yours. May we let go of all that would hinder the joy of being mommies. Let us keep our eyes on you, the only One who can enable us to love fully. Amen.