For too long into our infertility journey, I rode the bus to a job I hated, resenting the fact that the job I so longed for was being denied me. I had in my mind, as many infertile women do, a dream of motherhood that would surpass anything else I could possibly do or achieve. With haughty resentment I judged those mothers on the bus who yelled at their children, walked them through the rain without appropriate clothing, did nothing to stop their disrespectful backtalk, and a multitude of other sins. I won’t be that kind of mother, I assured myself, those women clearly don’t realize how lucky they are…
There’s a ‘poem’ floating around that lists all the reasons why women who struggled with infertility will be better mothers… it even claims that I will be happy to rise in the middle of the night to console my crying child, because this is what I have longed for. A year ago, on a smelly bus crowded with cranky children, frustrated mothers and fellow runners of the rat race, I would have believed it.
Over the past three and a half years I have watched, often through tears of mingled joy and disappointment, many of my IF friends conceive, give birth, or adopt. I have watched them struggle, flounder, sob their frustrations and fears: a striking realization that motherhood after infertility is not some magical dream, but a reality of plain old hard work… the hardest work anyone will ever do.
It’s not that I didn’t know this. I remember calls from my three sisters at various times, seeking some way to stop a child from crying for another hour. I chose for a time, however, to dismiss it. I longed to believe that at the end of this rocky road there would be a smooth path of uninterrupted bliss. There would be hugs and kisses, “I love you, Mom”s, stroller rides to the park, bathtimes, bedtimes, playtimes. There would be a tiny warm body that would reach for me over anyone else in the room, owies that run to me for comfort, dandelions in the windowsill.
And then I got to thinking… The prodding thorn of ‘what if’ lurking just beyond that image of happiness. What if motherhood is just plain hard? What if motherhood is too much for me? What if, when I call someone for advice, sobbing on the phone while my child screams in the background, I’m reminded that this is what I wanted? And what if (oh, what if!) I turn out to be a terrible mother?
It took me time to realize that all women face those fears, not just those who struggle with infertility. I was patient with myself in reconciling the necessary hard times with the inevitable joy of having a child. And thankfully, I seem to have reached a turning point.
This past weekend Len and I visited friends whose preemie twins (remember Evan and Erik?) were home from the hospital. We ordered in pizza, snuggled babies who wavered between crankiness and dreamland, and had frank conversations about how hard parenting is. There’s two of them. They’re cute, but seriously, there’s two. Two. Our friends are entitled to some complaining, and just because they do, we don’t doubt how much they love their two precious miracles.
And so I gave myself a break. I don’t need to somehow make it through motherhood without complaining, lest someone think I’m not grateful for my miracles (whenever they arrive). I’m allowed to break down when a child won’t stop crying, or tests my patience for the umpteenth time that hour.
At the end of September, Len and I are going to an adoption seminar to learn more about the process. While we’re not sure when we’ll be starting, it has been getting me thinking about motherhood more and more. The prospect of adopting a toddler who has, more than likely, experienced some form of trauma (whether emotional, physical, or otherwise), makes me realize we had better be sure about this, and entirely honest with ourselves about the hard work that will be required of us. I’m not suggesting it’s harder work than adopting a newborn, or giving birth, but it’s different. And it scares me a little just thinking about it.
For now though, I’m scrapping the ‘I’ll never do that’ from my inner dialogue. I will stop assuming that all frustrated mothers don’t appreciate their children, and hope that someday, someone will do the same for me. I can’t promise to smile when a child wakes me in the middle of the night, but I’ll go for the same reasons all mothers do: love.