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On Becoming Mama

This Mother’s Day I’m reflecting on my own infertility and filled with hope for those still struggling. 

It is easy to forget about those years now. Years I spent praying for a baby. Years of broken-hearted months, disappointment, and abandonment. But it’s true... I almost wasn’t a mama at all. Infertility is a quiet blip in my cancer story when we were deciding which option of chemotherapy to use. According to my oncologist, twelve rounds of ABVD chemotherapy was ‘Our best shot, but likely to cause sterility.’

I remember sitting in the office that day. The look of angry determination on my dad’s face. The weight of the decision teetering between myself, my parents, and my doctor. Finally, Dad said what everyone else was thinking - “Hit this thing with the biggest guns you’ve got. She can always adopt.” 

That was that. 

Years later, while married to my first husband, I was hopful. Maybe I would fall into the small percentage of survivors who would still be fertile? After almost 2 years of trying, I resolved that motherhood probably wasn’t in the cards. Then, during a routine check up, an OB nonchalantly said, “Even if you did conceive, the fetus probably would not be viable. Most doctors, knowing your medical history and likelyhood for relapse, would recommend terminating pregnancy." ... So, not only was I never going to have a baby, I was unceremoniously reminded that cancer loomed over me like a black cloud of destruction. 

Shortly after receiving that news, I was divorced. 

I moved on with single-hood, resolving myself to never being a mom and maybe not having many years left. I convinced myself that I was not made for motherhood. I was made for work, adventure, travel, and - if I lived long enough- philanthropy. 

On our first date I told Sean "You should know that I can't have kids, so don't go falling in love with me if that's a dealbreaker." 

“That’s cool. We’ll have dogs and be rich,” he said with a wink. 

Nine months and six days after we got married Cian Jude was born. 

Doctors said he was a miracle. I was so full of scar tissue that I shouldn't have been able to conceive, much less carry him full-term. I wasn't "made to have babies" they’d said. 

“Go home and enjoy your baby."

Five months later we found out that Eoin was on his way. 

I was terrified.

Two babies. 

Fourteen months apart. 

Another looming deployment. 

An unavoidable cross-country move.

I didn't know how I was going to do it. 

But then ...  I did.

Eoin Scott arrived, tiny and squished, and nuzzled up under my chin. In an instant there WAS enough room in my heart for two babies. 

My sons are amazing. They are smart, creative, tender, interesting, and totally weird. They drive me nuts and fill me with joy. 

But I didn't think I was deserving of them for a long time. Mothering did not come naturally for me. I should have been thrilled to have these kids, but I was plagued with doubt and fear about my ability to raise humans. Two boys was chaos amplified. Mothering little ones that close in age was absolutely overwhelming. I was exhausted and uncertain. But we learned a lot along the way. 

Finally, when the boys were 3 and 4 years old, we rounded a corner as parents. You know that sweet spot - where everyone is potty trained, your stomach is nearly flat, and no one hates you? Yeah... we were there. 

Then, Sean got an idea... in the shape of a baby girl.

I was more than resistant. 

Cian and Eoin were not planned! Wasn’t trying for a third baby tempting fate? What if I couldn’t have another baby? What if I disappointed him? What if it was another boy? What if Sean left me like my first husband? Besides - even if I did get pregnant - I’d probably be an epic failure as a girl mom. Nonetheless Sean was persistent, consistent, and totally irritating about trying for a little girl. 

One night, at Target, Sean grabbed a little red dress off the rack and said "You're sure you don't want something to put in here? It's now or never...come on!" He was preparing for another long deployment and if we waited now we would have to wait 3 more years. It really was now or never. 

Maybe it was the perfect summer night. 

Or the twinkle in his eyes. 

Or the two glasses of Pinot noir I’d had at dinner. Whatever it was, I caved. 

I looked at him holding that tiny dress and said, “You get one chance.” 

We should have named her Chance. 

If I never accomplish anything else in my life beyond raising these children, then I will die content. I’m so thankful for these kids and for the ever-present guidance of our Maker. 

To go one step further... I recently stumbled across an interesting thing durning my quiet time. In Genesis, Abraham prayed for the women in Abimelech’s household to be able to conceive because their wombs had been closed. Isn’t it interesting that the first recorded intercessory prayer - praying for someone other than one’s self - is regarding infertility? Yet infertility is still commonly an unspoken prayer request ... even in these modern times? I think there’s something to that point.  

For all my mommy-longing friends with empty arms and broken hearts, I contend for you! Reach out for prayer! Let us pray for you! Let us intercede on your behalf! May your arms be filled with babies and your hearts be healed!