So, for some reason I have been having this experience lately. It feels as if the stories of beautiful, strong women I know shared with me both directly and peripherally are emerging and fitting together for a specific reason. It feels like one of those Magic Eye pictures where a chaotic constellation of colored dots yields an image when focused on in the right way. The stories that are continuously brought to my attention appear to be weaving together to highlight a message about choice, and loss, and the way we reconcile these things as women and potential mothers. I had a heartfelt conversation with a friend recently about life and death and how they unavoidably intermingle, particularly in our relationship to our reproductive journeys. Whether we make the choice to try again after a loss, or the choice not to, or the choice not to have children at all, or the choice to put ourselves at the mercy of fertility treatments or the adoption process, that choice for life comes with an inherent death of the corresponding paths not taken. There is loss in all of these possibilities, but there is also so much life in them.
I don't know what my motherhood story will be. At one point I was so certain of what it would look like, but I look back at that version of myself with a disbelief and jealousy that she was able to be so very sure. I recently returned for my much-anticipated first OBGYN appointment since my surgery (one day maybe I'll post my unfinished reflections "Back in the Stirrups Again" which currently remains in my drafts folder). At my appointment, my OB asked when I had received the go-ahead from the reproductive endocrinologist/surgeon to get back to trying for a baby. I realized it has been about 8 months since I got that okay. There was a pregnant (har har) pause (which I very well may have imagined) where I felt this gentle pressure to explain myself. I fiddled with the strings of my pale blue doctors' office gown and told the truth; that my body, mind, and spirit needed a little space from the baby-making rat race to regroup, reconnect, refocus. Right now I very much still want to give birth to a child some day and I am told that after my surgeries the equipment should be in working order, but there is also no way of knowing that until I try. Until we decide the time is right, I live in the uncomfortable acceptance that when that time comes, I still may not be able to. This is my choice, of course, to take a breath and wait (despite the fact that the branding of "advanced maternal age" waits for no woman), but the death of that forward reproductive energy is still a loss. The death of all that could have been always takes its toll. Similarly, for friends who have decided they never want to have children (and who are perfectly comfortable with that decision), I have heard about how that choice still carries with it a significant inherent loss whether it be emotionally or of biological potential.
I feel such a strong sense of kinship with all the babyless mamas out there (those who can't have babies, those who choose not to have babies, those who have lost babies, those who are longing for their baby who is growing in their heart rather than their womb to be delivered into their arms from overseas). I understand the intangible sense of loss that shimmers just below the surface of any variety of maternal aching. Earlier in my journey, perhaps I found myself more connected to those who desperately wanted babies but could not have them, but recently it has come into view how linked we all are. There is a universality in that every person has a relationship to their reproductive choices that holds great power as well as strong positive and negative energies. Along with the power that comes with our choices there comes the need to accept how out of control we are of some of the factors along the way. Just because we own and embrace and celebrate our choices after doing the hard work of making them, it doesn't mean they don't hurt. Just because we choose Door 1 doesn't mean we get to ignore that Door 2 and Door 3 exist and carry their own potential. There is darkness and light in every choice we make and we have to make space for both.
The experience of a sense of mourning coinciding with any choice made is not unique to mothers or to females or to reproductive issues. We all grieve the loss of expectations we've held tightly to over the years and we often are surprised finding ourselves grieving the ones we never expected or wanted in the first place. When we choose a path there is no way to deny that by walking down one, we forego another. Sure we could look at this like there is heartbreak at every turn, but we could also look at it like there is potential abounding at every turn. I have experienced first hand how endless possibilities can start to feel like none, but I am trying to learn to stand in the knowledge that mourning the loss of what could have been is part of making it to where you ultimately need to be (and to fully appreciating that place). Standing bravely, and openly, and humbly in the groundlessness of our choices is all we can ever do.