A dear friend of mine is pregnant with her third child after trying for two weeks. She didn’t expect it to happen quite so quickly, and she worries about how much she can share with me.
I’m happy for her — of two minds about it, really – that of a friend, and that of an adoptive mother. I know that my friends who are able to conceive are a little extra careful with me when they talk about all this. I appreciate their concern – they love me and don’t want my hurt to come from their joy. And the truth is, regardless of how happy I feel for all these women, there is a part of me that aches a bit each time this process of becoming a mother begins again.
The other night at book club the conversation took the turn of how certain children favored their parents and siblings. One of the women has a five month old and people are about split on who the baby looks like – half say dad and half say mom. I notice my friend Colleen watching me to make sure I am okay with the conversation. My children don’t look anything like my husband or me. We will never debate whether Anja has my eyes, or whether Trevor gets that spectacular smile from me.
And so it was, looking at my extraordinary four and a half year old daughter the other morning, I thought, not for the first time, “Who are you? What is going on behind those eyes? I cannot recognize this person you are becoming. It feels so unfamiliar, and would it feel less alien to me if my blood were running through your veins – if you were mine?” Then, just as quickly as the thoughts form, I push them aside, remind myself that of course she is mine, remember how many of my friends have told me how daughters will do that to you – make you crazy. But the truth is, I will never know for sure.
The loss of never being able to conceive a child will always be a part of me. There was a time when it felt like a death. That was how I would describe it to others in my need to make them understand my grief. But that analogy doesn’t fit anymore. Now it’s more like a space, or a place, in my heart. A place where there are mostly just questions to which there will never be any answers – a gentle gnawing to know. And, maybe that is how my children will feel someday – perhaps how my daughter already is beginning to feel. The love I have for my children is as deep and as strong as any mother’s love, and I would not trade them for children I could create from my own genes, of my own body. That is not one of the questions in that place. And I suspect, over the long haul, my children will not want to trade me in either. Yet, they will wonder, “Would it feel differently if…?”
Maybe God has given me this place, these questions, so that when the time comes, I can better understand the feelings my children may have about their own loss. How amazing is that? Acknowledging and allowing myself to ask these questions exists entirely separately from my love for Anja and Trevor, and my ability to be of two minds on the matter makes me a better mother. I believe that when they need my understanding as they discover the gentle gnawing inside of their own hearts, I will be prepared in a way I never could have imagined. By giving myself permission to wonder, and love them just the same, I begin to prepare the way for them to travel a similar road.