Becoming a mom wasn’t easy for me. If you’ve been reading our lovely blog for very long, you may recall some of my stories about our struggles with infertility. As ACMB pays tribute to the multi-faceted beauty of motherhood, I’ve been reflecting on the changes in my own heart, body, and soul over the last several years.
My husband and I talked about becoming parents off and on for about a year, and the thought of having a baby sounded fun, but I never really considered what it would be like to be a mother. At the time we played in a few rec volleyball leagues, often met friends for dinner, went to the movies nearly every weekend, and enjoyed very lazy Sunday afternoons on the couch. I wasn’t ready to give all of that up. Then one day, it suddenly just didn’t seem important to me anymore. I actually hoped I had a reason to NOT sign up for the next sand volleyball season. I enjoyed the thought that this margarita could be my last for a while. Little did I expect the long, painful journey that lay ahead of us. Years of acting like I was pregnant when I knew I wasn’t as we prepared for yet another fertility treatment. Still going to movies, but now avoiding anything that could be remotely emotional because I just couldn’t hold it together (thank goodness for superhero movies!). Sitting quietly in the corner at gatherings with our friends and family because I was desperate for a distraction from the turmoil in my soul.
All the while my focus was still on having a baby, not being a mom. It may sound strange to separate the two, but preparing to have a baby is not at all the same as preparing to be a mother. Preparing to have a baby wreaked so much havoc on my body that I have come out on the other side unrecognizable to myself. Multiple surgeries to remove recurring endometriosis and scar tissue from my ovaries, the inside and outside of my uterus, and other organs. Cocktails of synthetic hormones that caused bloating, weight gain, headaches, and blackouts, as well as attacks of the crazies when I could hear myself becoming insane but had no power to stop. Injections for months at a time that often left giant, multi-colored bruises and marked my skin with injection sites. During those years I hated my body. I felt broken, like my body wasn’t able to do what it was designed for. I was angry that my clothes didn’t fit. I resented the physical restrictions I was given. But you want to know the awesome part? I did it. My body bounced back and healed with remarkable speed after each surgery. Even though all the medicines made me forget what “normal” felt like, my body used them to overcome endometriosis and was eventually able to welcome and grow a teeny-tiny embryo into a beautiful baby. Twice. And now I know that nothing could have prepared me to be a mother.
Now at the beginning of my second pregnancy, I don’t hate my body. Yes, I had to have surgery, again. I had to take lots of medicine, again. But this time I don’t even hate the shots. I’m not saying I look forward to getting stuck with a giant needle every morning for 12 weeks, but this time around my focus is different. The first time, I cried because I had to get daily shots to have a baby. I did it, and I knew it would be worth it, but I was still angry at my body. Now all it takes is a giggle or kiss from my daughter to remind me that I’m not doing this just to have a baby. I’m doing this because being a mother is the most incredible, life-changing, perspective-altering experience imaginable, and I can’t wait to do it again.
Yes, my body is unrecognizable from before the years of fertility treatments, but so is my heart. I am more patient and understanding, not only at home but also with the children I work with every day; after all, each of those children is somebody’s baby. I am less selfish with my time and energy. Even when I’m exhausted after a full day of work or dreading the inevitable Monday morning, I am excited to spend the evening playing with my daughter instead of catching up on the DVR. I finally understand that God didn’t “do this to me,” but used this time to strengthen my marriage, faith, and character.
This is probably my last pregnancy; without divine intervention, it is unlikely I will get pregnant on my own. Knowing this makes me a little sad, and so I will cherish every moment and milestone of this pregnancy differently than my first. In the absence of fertility treatments in the coming years, I might actually be able to get my body back in shape so that I feel comfortable in my own skin again. I know I will never be exactly the same, and I am finally OK with that. Motherhood has transformed me—heart, body, and soul. I’m still getting used to the new me, but it’s getting easier. My body is strong. My soul is still. My heart is full.