For This Child| February 21, 2023
My struggles are real, and my history doesn’t invalidate them
he rain is hammering down, drenching every last fiber of my clothes. I’m not wearing a raincoat, nor do I have an umbrella. I just had to get out. I had to run, to save some of the sanity I still had left.
I run until I can no longer hear the nagging or screaming. I run until I can no longer feel the vibrations of door slamming or wall climbing. I run until I can no longer see the phone lighting up with another call from school, another call that reinforces my failures as a mother.
The weather is apropos. My thoughts, mirroring the rain, come pouring out. They thunder, they flash. They leave my brain a puddle of mud. How did I end up here?
A streak of lightning transports me to another time not so long ago. I’d been walking in the rain then, too. Running. Running from the diagnosis that I just couldn’t face, from a world that was so foreign to me. I just couldn’t.
“Hashem, why me?” I’d sobbed. “You know I have it in me. You know I’d make a great mother… devoted to my children, pleasant, patient. Why did you have to take this dream away from me? Why?”
The downpour continues. Those “why’s?” echo louder. Now, though, they take on a different ring. “Why is mothering so incredibly difficult? Why haven’t things turned out the way I dreamed they would? Where are all the strengths I thought I had, back when I wished for this seemingly unattainable dream? Why can’t I be more patient, more loving? Why?”
I feel so helpless. So, so dejected. Where is my gratitude? I had wanted them so badly, and now…. What a lowly, ungrateful person I must be, to yearn for something so badly, and then to finally attain my dreams and fail so miserably. Maybe I never was cut out to be a mother after all….
Is this what I davened for?
Sure I know that my children came with unique challenges. But my gratitude should be greater than my struggles!
An old comment keeps nagging at me, gnawing at my conscience. At a moment of struggle, a fellow mother who had also dealt with infertility, commented, “If you feel this way, you likely haven’t waited long enough.”
I keep making conscious attempts at waving the comment away. My struggles are real, and my history doesn’t invalidate them.
But then I wonder. Maybe she’s right? Maybe it really is my incompetence? Maybe had I struggled even harder, for even longer, I’d have been more equipped? Maybe I didn’t struggle enough, and that’s what’s causing me to flounder so helplessly? I look down and see my reflection in a puddle. It makes me wonder who I am. I certainly am not the sweet, patient mother of my dreams. Where has she gone? Did she ever even exist?
Recently, I saw a call for input on the topic of Motherhood Post Infertility. It asked: How has your role as a mother been affected by your infertility journey? Be it simple (do you find yourself having separation anxiety?) or even spiritual (are you a different sort of parent due to your infertility journey?), please share! We would love to hear!
I’ve contributed in this space in the past. But I know that this time, they don’t want to hear my thoughts. It’s the feel-good, happily-ever-after stories that people like to read.
It goes like this: You struggled so much to have children; inevitably you will parent with so much gratitude and patience! Are there dark sides? Of course! Let’s talk about things like separation anxiety and smothering love… we want to cover all the bases!
No, I tell myself, no one wants to hear about the truly dark sides. About the difficult struggles that come after the struggles. About the dreams that materialize into reality and aren’t so dreamy. It’s really uncomfortable. Unpleasant. It evokes a subconscious fear of invalidating the deep desire we had to become mothers.
But as the rain slows, I take a deep breath. I know I cannot be the only mother-after-infertility to feel this way. I cannot be the only one to grapple with these difficult thoughts. The Whys. The Hows. The wondering if I can ever even entertain the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars and the emotional energy it will take to try again, when I’m already struggling with the ones I have. And questioning if, infertility aside, do I even have what it takes to have another child?
Where is my sweet yearning for motherhood I had back then?
The sun dries my clothes and my eyes. I retrace my steps and head back inside. I am greeted by the clattering, the shouting matches, and the roaring laughter that is the manifestation of my dreams.
I pause for a moment to take it all in. This is the dream I davened for. This is what motherhood looks like, with the good, the bad, and the ugly. I may have struggled greatly to have these children, and I may have entered motherhood with more insight. But children are still children, and motherhood is still a struggle. The answer to my prayers, but a struggle nonetheless.
The struggles of my years dealing with infertility were real. And my struggles as a mother are real. They are both part of who I am today.
“El hana’ar hazeh hispalalti — for this child I prayed.”
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 832)
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