Sunday, November 8, 2009

Motherhood in more ways that one

In the recent discussion of finding out a baby's gender, one friend of mine spoke in a really quiet voice that made me think. She simply started to say, "If I were able to have a baby..." she concluded with her feelings on finding out the gender but the beginning of that statement caught my heart.

My own struggle with infertility has colored my view on things such as large families, birth control, and even finding out the gender of a child, but being that I have children now, I sometimes forget those things.

However, this friend is a mother. Her one reason for living in this life was to have a baby. She married her high school sweetheart and after years of not conceiving she was given a reason. Unfortunately it was at that moment the marriage ended. Her husband did not want to try any type of reproductive technology (they are not Catholic) and also ruled out adoption. He only wanted a sure thing. She struggled through the next few years with the knowledge she we would not be a mother but also that she was no longer a wife.

But then, something happened. She met another man and was married and became a mother. No, she was not able to suddenly become pregnant and they did not adopt, but her new husband had children from previous marriages and she bore the title of step-mother and step-grandmother proudly. She was careful not to overstate her position, but her step-children and step-grandchildren love her dearly. She is Grandma "C" for the little ones. She has become good friends with the mothers of her husband's children and while it has always been an easy road, it has been fulfilling. As she told me, "I have the children God always wanted me to have, just not the way I had imagined having them."

I recently read similar sentiments from actresses Sandra Bullock and Betty White that experiencing pregnancy and birth were not necessary for them to feel fulfilled in a mother's role. That the gift of their step-children filled their hearts with love and helped them to feel complete in their role as a mother. I think this is a beautiful gift we tend to overlook because of the circumstances that put these women in their roles.

Divorce is an ugly, ugly thing. I married into a divorced family and the whole "walking on egg shells" bit was new and extremely unpleasant to me (after 11 years it's hardly new anymore, but still unpleasant). And the loss of a spouse the "natural" way is painful beyond words. For children going through these traumas, it can hardly be expected that they will trust a new person in their mother or father's lives. However, there are some men and women special enough to open their hearts to these children and love them without condition no matter what the circumstances. And for those suffering from infertility, a step-child can be a ticket into feeling a love only imagined before.

My husband's step-mother does have a biological child (my husband's half-brother) but that never has changed her loving my husband and his brothers. She introduces them as her sons not to diminish their mother's role, but because that is how she loves them, as if she had carried and birthed them and wiped their runny noses and kissed their boo-boos. So I have witnessed this love first hand.

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