So, the Listen to Your Mother show was last Saturday. A week has gone by, and I think I’m still letting it sink in. To say it was life changing and empowering seems trite, or somehow not enough, though it’s certainly true. I feel so honored and grateful to have been part of the inaugural Baltimore cast. These women’s stories inspire me to keep telling mine.
I wrote the piece I read at Listen to Your Mother specifically for the show; it hasn’t appeared previously on my blog. I’m a little nervous to post it here because it’s very personal. But it has a message I’d like to share, and I figure I read it last weekend on stage in front of a few hundred strangers, so…here goes. Thank you to everyone who came to the show, and to those who support me here. It really means so much.
(Written for and Read at Listen to Your Mother Baltimore 2014)
I stood in the shower with my forehead pressed against the glass, crying “why?” over and over again.
I had just lost my second pregnancy, which had taken thousands of dollars, daily injections, an invasive egg retrieval procedure, and wild hormonal mood swings to conceive.
My husband and I had started trying for a baby three years earlier, never imagining that we would face obstacles. But month after month, nothing happened. And before long, my life was consumed by charts, doctor’s appointments, tests, fertility yoga, acupuncture and eventually in vitro fertilization. I thought of little else, but told myself it would all be worth it once we had a baby.
In vitro worked like a charm the first time, and I was beside myself with joy. I wanted to be a mother more than I ever wanted anything, and I had traveled a long, hard road to get there. But at our first ultrasound, we found our babies – there were two – did not have heartbeats.
I was stunned, as if someone had slapped me across the face for no reason. We cried. We took a break for several months, regrouped and then decided to try again. But after another cycle, we had the same positive pregnancy test followed by the same heartbreaking experience at our first ultrasound – the pregnancy was not viable.
This time, it really sent me reeling. I was crushed with grief at losing another baby, but it went beyond that. Throughout our infertility ordeal, I plowed ahead, convinced that if I could just get pregnant and have a baby, I would finally feel whole. Now I had to stop and get honest with myself.
I wasn’t happy. I had let my driving quest to have a baby obscure the fact that I had little in my life except my husband and my job. I was close with my family, but they lived 800 miles away. I had few local friends, no hobbies, nothing that lit me up inside. And the truth was, my husband and I were like two planets, rotating around different suns and spinning further and further apart. Deep down I knew it, but I thought – when we have a baby, he’ll settle down. He’ll want to be home more. Life will be as it should be. And then I will be happy.
But eventually, our marriage reached its breaking point. The night I finally admitted it and stopped desperately grasping for a baby to keep us afloat, I went for a long walk and thought about how I ended up here and where I wanted to go. I looked up into the inky sky dotted with stars and asked God to give me strength.
I was starting over and would be on my own for the first time. I knew that I would need to give up having a baby for now, and that it might not happen for a long time, or maybe ever. But I inhaled and exhaled. I let go. I decided to have faith and to follow a new mantra, which was: “Say yes.”
After that night, I started to “say yes” to new opportunities, to things that scared me, or on some days, to just getting out of the house. And little by little, I built a new life. I started running, joined a running group and trained for races, which I loved. I made new friends. I accepted invitations. I tried new projects at work. I read books and wrote. I bought a house on my own and created a home I loved.
I released the fear that I might not become a mother. I still wanted it. A lot. But I didn’t let it consume me. And I was really happy. I felt full inside.
Then a funny thing happened when I least expected it.
I met a guy.
A different kind of guy who saw things in the world that other people might miss, things that were interesting and beautiful. He inspired me, encouraged my dreams and made me laugh. He was patient and strong and kind.
When we got married, we decided we would try for a baby right away, but I cautioned him that it might take a while. Or it might not happen at all.
So, imagine my surprise when I became pregnant just a couple weeks after our wedding. I was thrilled but cautious. At our first ultrasound, I held my breath and gripped my husband’s hand as we looked at the screen and saw a tiny but strong heartbeat, chugging away: the beautiful beginning of our daughter, Isabelle.
So, I got what I always wanted. But to get there, I had to accept that I might not. I had to plant my own dreams and sow my own joy, come what may.
And isn’t that just like motherhood? Letting go of preconceived notions of perfection. Accepting what is. Diving in and embracing life in all its messiness and magnificence.
Isabelle is now one year old. She is passionate and focused, inquisitive and headstrong. She is often far too busy to take naps. She cranes her head in every direction when entering a room, determined not to miss anything. She grabs handfuls of our cat’s fur whenever she has the chance, squealing with delight – much to our kitty’s chagrin.
Each day, I see our daughter taking in the world. I see her learning, loving, living – and I feel joy fill my heart. If I can teach her one thing as she continues on this journey of her wonderful life, it would be this: Don’t wait.
Don’t wait for something or someone to make you happy, to fill your life. You are beautiful, amazing, a miracle. This life is yours. Take it. Bite into it. Let the juice dribble down your chin in all its sweetness. Embrace your passions, as crazy as they may be. Don’t be afraid. Have faith. Understand that some things come in their own time, the right time. Just like you did. And know you are loved beyond all comprehension.