I absolutely love babies.
If I am in a restaurant or a store, I just know there is a baby even before I see one or hear one. It’s like a sixth sense… about babies.
My circles have dubbed me the “baby whisperer” for calming them, getting them to nap, or encouraging them to feed from a bottle. I’ve helped calm stranger’s babies on airplanes, one mother suspiciously handing over her baby and me replying, “I am going to stay right here, besides we are on a plane, where would I go?!”
I learned a lot about caring for babies from my own family, where I have 32 first cousins. My cousin Angie graciously let me babysit her baby Leeden (who is now 13) consistently for the first two-three years of his life (with a lot of help from my mom when Leeden wasn’t sleeping through the night and I was still sleeping–uh–learning!) I also learned a lot from the wise women I worked with in early childhood care as an infant teacher in the Twin Cities.
I really mean it when I say I love babies.
But in my life, I won’t ever have a baby.
Biologically at least. And it’s taken me a long time to accept something I always kinda knew in the back of my mind.
I tried to get pregnant when I was 22 and it didn’t happen. I tried again at 30 and it also didn’t happen. I consulted a fertility doctor when I lived in Boston and was examined and told there was no medical reason I couldn’t get pregnant, but it would be hard to carry a baby full term because of my cervix.
I have a weakened cervix, either just from biology and being born with it, but I am also suspicious about my chosen form of birth control in my 20s: Nuva Ring. I am curious how that had an effect on my body. When I was 29, I had a cervical cancer scare and had cryotherapy done to my cervix to remove the tissue that had gone bad. It was painful and it was also how I learned I am allergic to the numbing agent they use. I had gone to the University of Minnesota to get my mysterious bleeding figured out and they were clueless. I finally got help from the incredible Dr. Hill at Mankato Clinic of all places– an elderly OB/GYN doctor who did an internal exam to locate the source of my bleeding that other fancy doctors had written off as me just being “over dramatic.” (Side note: ladies– you know your bodies best. Always be persistent in your care and be vocal.) He explained what he found and the course of treatment that I would have to continue once I was in Boston. I am still extremely grateful for how he helped me and upheld my dignity as a person.
I am now 34 and as time continues to pass, my love of babies is still there. But I have come to accept that I likely won’t experience pregnancy.
I won’t feel how it feels to see a positive pregnancy test, or how the first kicks feel. I won’t experience maternity clothes or creating a birth plan, and I won’t experience labor and delivery.
However, God is amazing. In the last ten years of my life, I’ve always worked with children, and in the last five, I’ve specifically worked with kids who are in the system.
They live in youth chemical dependency treatment centers. They live at State Hospitals.
They are the children who have needs and behaviors that can be difficult to meet. They are always underfunded by a state who continues to make cuts.
And I’ve gotten the honor to love them. To carry them in my heart for a few months at a time (but really forever, because if you’ve cared for kiddos, they always stay in your heart even when they leave your caseload.) I’ve been able to build relationships with them, sit in their pain with them, set limits with them, and remind them that they can do wonderful things.
These experiences have opened my heart to foster care.
Working in my current job with adult women who are going through chemical dependency treatment has opened my heart even more to doing foster care and even open adoption.
Things I would have never considered early on in my life just make sense to me now after spending so much time with people “in the system.”
But still, I experience pain.
The cruelest comments ever said to me have been, “you don’t understand, you’re not a mother.”
And while they are right, there are things I won’t ever understand since I am not a biological mother, it’s not a path I’ve chosen. I didn’t pick this body or have control over early life experiences that put me on this path. I’ve just accepted what’s been handed to me.
It is straight up cruel to tell a woman she wouldn’t understand because she is not a mom.
I would trade places with my friends who are moms any day. And my best friend Jackie knows this. She has borrowed her kiddos to me since the day she first gave birth. I am known to them as their auntie and they are so special to me.
Being a mom is so tied up in so many things– but most tenderly, it’s tied up in our identity. Growing up Christian, I see how I got messages early on about family and a women’s place. And while I thank God everyday that I was born into a progressive Christian family with feminist values, along with knowing women could be anything, the message of being a mother as the ultimate role was still pressed into me.
I remember the tears each time I got my period at 22 and 30 when I was trying to get pregnant. It was something that was more than sadness. It was a iceberg of my identity breaking off and floating away. My body was betraying my heart.
I still have to comfort the woman I was then today in therapy. I still have to remind her that Spirit is still at work.
I have to remind her that there are multiple ways to be maternal and those ways are so expansive.
I have to remind her that she’s never done anything in her life the traditional way, so why would she expect family matters to be the same?
I have to remind her that people mean well, but words still hurt. Thank God for therapy. Even therapists need therapy!
Over the weekend, I talked to my mom about having my tubes tied as a way to stop being on hormonal birth control. She was hesitant and advised me to wait. I turn 35 in April, I reminded her. And then we both just sat in silence.
I appreciate my family so much and how they have met me every step of the way. When I shared at Christmas three years ago that I was thinking of doing single parent adoption, they said they would support me. I moved home to Minnesota last summer after my sister Sally had her first baby. It’s been such a joy to help out with baby Isla! She is so sweet.
Like I said, I love babies.
I just can’t have them.
Please honor that in the same way I honor your parenthood. Sit with me in the heartache. Join me in the joy of fostering. Remind me that we woman are stronger when we band together.
And please stop saying, “you aren’t a mother, you wouldn’t understand”
It may be true, but it’s cruel.
Motherhood is something I very much want. I’ve just come to understand my path is a different path.
I take my first foster class in March with Ramsey county. I still dream about being able to buy a big old house and do LGBTQ foster care for teens, but for now I realize my rented attic apartment may have to do.
It’s a start. I will need your help, just like you’ve needed mine. ❤️