I remember the day I realised I wanted to be your Mummy. I remember exactly where I was.
The day I knew
It was the year 2000 and I was stood overlooking the dance floor of a pub on the edge of Manchester, watching our nephew and his new wife take their first dance as a married couple. Oasis and Half the World Away. Great choice! It made me smile. Then I suddenly thought “I want to wear a hat at my son or daughter’s wedding”. And, out of nowhere, I felt tears pricking my eyes. I just don’t know where that thought came from.
See, sweetheart, I had never really given motherhood any serious thought. Yes, of course, I grew up imagining I would one day change your nappy, buy you your first shoes, weep at the school gates on your first day. I started work at 18 and met your Daddy that very day. I didn’t know he would be your Daddy, of course, but four years later we were married.
But then grown up life happened. Your Daddy and me, we had busy careers. A house and mortgage plus an ageing parent to look after. Then your Mummy was made redundant too. It was never the right time.
Before we knew it I was 35. And at your cousin’s wedding. Weepy and hormonal. Married 13 years already, but now no longer carers, and ready to share our lives, and our home with you, little one.
Decorate the nursery
I was determined I wouldn’t let my desire to be a Mummy become my obsession. But it does. Mentally I was already choosing your bedroom colour. You were going to have the room at the back of the house, overlooking our garden. A quiet room away from street lights. We moved spare furniture in there, handy for you once you started to need clothes. and toy storage. You were still only a little person in our imagination, but we were excited about you!
We started to spend more time with friends who also had children. You would need friends, and these were all lovely little kids who would adore a new baby buddy too. Most of my own friends had families too, and some of those were already growing into teenagers.
You might also hear grown ups talk about their body clocks ticking. I think my clock was running fast at 35. So fast my GP suggested we might want to do some tests soon, just to make sure we still had it in us to make a little “you” and bring you into our world.
Life is a roller coaster
Can I let you into a little secret? I actually thought it would be your Daddy who would give me and you the biggest problem. He had mumps as a teenager which can affect a man. But it turned out he was absolutely fine and dandy.
So I went into hospital and they pumped my tummy full of gas and then sent a camera in through my belly button (I can imagine you giggling at that, now) to look inside. They found something called endometriosis. That is where the lining inside your womb, gets outside. They still don’t really know why it makes it hard for women to have babies, but it does.
To add to the confusion in my tummy, one of my ovaries (possibly the one where you are sitting, waiting, as an egg) was not in great shape either. Uh oh! Yes, I know! Seriously, if you could even get out of there it would be a miracle, let alone find my Fallopian tube. And when they said my other tube was blocked too I just thought “bad news comes in threes”. Or else we were relying on some pretty impressive pot holing from you, my precious little one!
The good Mr Watson (he was my obstetrician and became very familiar with my bits and pieces over four years) did some surgery, then sent your mummy to another surgeon to try and help you find a path to my womb. He then sent me away to practice making babies.
Just relax and make sure you have lots of rumpy pumpy
Mr Watson didn’t use those exact words of course. He is a doctor after all. But your Daddy and I got the picture.
The trouble is, it is hard to relax when your Mummy is constantly watching the calendar. Did you know there are only around five days of the month where we could turn you into a proper little person? No pressure, Mummy.
Month after month of hope – followed by gut wrenching disappointment.
Twice more I went into hospital for more surgery. Each time coming home imagining you were still in there, waiting for your moment. And then Mr Watson told me “you stand a better chance of winning the lottery than getting pregnant naturally”. I already knew my chance had gone.
Our dream was gone.
I was 39.
The truth is hard
We did consider IVF at an early stage, but I guess our hopes were still on nature being kind to us. By the time I was 39, I was tired. Emotionally drained. I was fed up of being messed up – and messed about with. A course of treatment which induced a temporary menopause, before one of my surgical procedures, sent me in a spin. I remember, my work colleagues were worried I had developed mental health issues. How would I begin to deal with even the hormone side of IVF, let alone the emotional side.
Some months I even imagined I had conceived and lost in a heavy period. You become convinced of changes, only to have your hopes dashed once more. How would I deal with a procedure where you go through something which implants an embryo, only to find it has failed. I can only imagine the grief.
So we decided to call it a day. And I cried for the child that never was.
I have never kept our struggle a secret. When the inevitable question comes up in conversation “and have you family?” I tell them no. “Unfortunately nature decided I was not to be a Mum”. There is no shame in that.
Although the easier answer may be career, age, “am just not the mothering kind”, they were never a reason. So I am not going to answer the easy way, just so you don’t have to share my pain. Nor would I expect anyone else, family or friend, to make any excuse for me when being asked why we have no children.
I am not ashamed of my body and its inability to create a life. The simple fact is, I had no choice in the matter. Nature (or rather biology) took that choice away from me. From us. That doesn’t make me a failure. Not on any level. It simply means my body isn’t plumbed they way it should be.
And, yes, it hurts.
Life goes on
I realise becoming a mummy is not a given. Nor a granny either.
The hardest thing is the realisation that the future you still imagined has gone. I had to try and accept it would never be. We would have to work on a new future, without little Smiths in our midst. I am 54 years old now, the age where our child would have been a young adult. Beginning their own grown up life and in time possibly their own children, our grandchildren too.
Every day I see the joys that new additions to a family brings. Social media has made it impossible not to see the happiness, the development, the growth. I won’t lie. It’s not long ago that I still found that quite tough.
Even Mother’s Day hits me like a baseball bat! Seasons which are all about the children sometimes test me too. Yesterday I created a Halloween pumpkin for the first time in my life. For the squirrels! All the while thinking about all the hundreds of children getting excited about it. Commercialism it may be, but excited kids at the heart, and I shed one more tear as I packed away another memory I didn’t get to make in my imaginary box.
Instead we now make those memories with nephews and nieces, old and young. Friends and their children too. And we have learned to fill our lives with experiences, three generations of dogs, even helped bring one litter of puppies into the world. You can only imagine the raw emotions those little fur babies opened up in me!
And, rest assured, I do love seeing the little people grow. Being included by friends and family with children of their own is still a precious thing. Choosing Christmas and birthday treats. Buying baby clothes.
And as for my little unborn baby?
Well, I still wonder what you would have turned out like. Would you have been a boy or a girl? Artistic? Musical? Academic? Outdoorsy? Would we have been good parents? Whatever direction in life, I hope we would have helped you build enough confidence to test the big wide world with adventurous feet, yet to always have a soft enough heart to show care and kindness to every living thing.
Lots of love, Mummy xx
This week is Fertility Week. There are lots of online resources this week showing support, including Radio 2 and 5 Live.
Featured image credit: Canva