To The Mothers Who Aren’t Mothers
As the country prepares for Mother’s Day, with all those cards and flowers on display, I want to tell you I see you. I know this day can bring up feelings that are hard to feel, share, and hide.
I am talking to the women who really want to be mothers, but are facing challenges with this process, inside or outside of your bodies.
I am talking to the women who have made the impossibly difficult choice of having an abortion.
I am talking to women who have lost a child, in any capacity. I know you have felt the deepest loss humanly possible inside your body. A loss that cannot be described with words, only howls, gut wrenching sobs, sounds you didn’t know your body could make.
No one talks to you about it. And if they do, it doesn’t help. Their kind words of advice, their gifts of “live your dream” quotable fridge magnets. It all just makes you feel more alone.
Maybe your job takes everything you’ve got and you’re starting to feel like it’s all you’ve got. Maybe you are in an abusive relationship. Maybe you are abusing yourself. Maybe your relationship with your mother is not healed. Maybe your body has been violated, you’ve been raped, molested. Your childhood taken from you.
Maybe you are waiting for the right partner, and you’re tired of waiting. Tired of the uncomfortable and sad ways you’re supposed to find a “match” in today’s world. Maybe you’re worried that it’s never going to happen and that makes you tight, stressed, sick, lonely.
Maybe you’re married and trying to get pregnant and can’t. Maybe you’re with him because you don’t want to mother alone, but he’s not right for you and you know it. Maybe you’re scared this is the best you can do.
Maybe you are being told by your gynecologist that you are geriatric and you should freeze your eggs now before it’s too late. Maybe you’ve made a pact with your gay best friend that you will co-parent if you don’t get pregnant by 38. Maybe you’re searching online for sperm donors. Maybe you’re starting to think you’re a lesbian. Maybe polyamory is where it’s at?
Maybe loved ones are asking if you’ve considered adoption? Fostering? Dog? Plants? Maybe you are making your house a home, cooking, cleaning, gardening, decorating, so the man will magically appear. Maybe you blame yourself for it not happening. You think something is wrong with you.
Maybe you got the dog and it didn’t help. The flowers are blooming and they make you sad. You take fertility tests and your levels go up and down. You panic. You eat goji berries and drink special teas and go see psychics and therapists and go into debt doing all this self care.
Maybe you work out too much. Maybe you are on social media way too much. Maybe you listen to self help books and they make you feel worse. Maybe you read your horoscope and take classes and make vision boards and take yourself on dates and light the candles and listen to everyone tell you everything. Maybe you cry and scream in your parked car. Maybe you drink wine and eat popcorn for dinner alone, binging shows that make you feel old, ugly, tired.
Maybe you’ve been told since you were a young girl that by age 30, you had to figure life out: money, relationships, body, sex, making a home, travel, being amazing, beautiful, interesting. You’ve received the message that you have to do it all, and so you do.
And you are waiting for your life to start.
Because you know you have to be a mother. And you want to give birth. To fight this urge is to fight nature. And you are told you have no time. Hurry up and relax. Gain weight. Stop caffeine. But you’re tired.
You can’t stop wanting it. So you go on bad dates. You use Tinder where the average age is 25 and you are 38. You buy more wrinkle cream. Your parents are getting sick. Your grandparents are dying. You feel empty. And your friends. God damn they’re having so many kids. So many weddings. So many baby showers. It’s exhausting. It’s infuriating. It’s obnoxious. They have found a match. They have given birth. They are now in another world completely, a world you want to be a part of so badly, and yet, you are left out.
And TV is one way to numb, but there are no shows about you. They have skipped over the part of the story you’re living right now.
You are in limbo: you aren’t in your 20’s, and you aren’t a mother.
I am here to say, me too.
I know it’s hard, and I see you. I lived in this limbo for 9 years.
I tried to get a TV show and web series made in Hollywood about a woman who wants to be a mother so badly she is willing to do anything to make it happen. No one was interested. (You can read the TV script here and the web series script here).
It seems the world is uninterested in you, even though they are telling you about all the products you need to buy to make yourself a better catch. Even though you consume, consume, consume, you can’t find your story anywhere. It’s a violent indifference.
But I’m sharing mine with you.
I wanted to be a mother so badly:
I pleaded with my ex husband to get back with me to have children. When that didn’t work, I begged him to give me his sperm, and maybe he and his perfect young girlfriend could co-parent with me. I looked into co-ops. I looked into communes. I stayed up late with girlfriends fantasizing about the duplex we’d buy and raise our kids together if things didn’t work out the “traditional way”. I had sex with men I wasn’t attracted to. I forgot that I deserved to feel pleasure. I forgot myself. I lost myself. I went to spin class, didn’t eat enough, drank too much, didn’t sleep enough, went on trips, racked up credit card debt in the name of self care.
And the whole while, I just wanted to get pregnant. Not just pregnant, but give birth, become a mother, mother an infant into an adult. It started to feel like I would do anything, have anyone’s baby, before it was too late. I was desperate because the doctor told me I was old. My family and friends encouraged me to settle down. I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t know I was enough, that I deserved to live and be happy without taking care of anyone else.
I only now understand I wanted to mother myself, to be nurtured, to learn how to take care of myself.
I ended up in a dysfunctional relationship, and I ended up pregnant. He didn’t want it. There was emotional and physical abuse. There was alcoholism. There was a pattern, an ancestral pattern at play here, that drew me to him, and it took every ounce of courage in me to reject him, to not repeat this pattern.
I was completely lost, in no position to mother. I was 34 and all I wanted was this, and I was ending it. The Planned Parenthood nurse told me I would be able to get back to work in a few days, and then I fell into the deepest grief imaginable. For years. I fell apart and stayed broken for an eternity.
And I punished myself. I still haven’t forgiven myself. I’m afraid if I do, I won’t know who I am. I’m used to telling myself a story about who I am, that I’m not a good person, that I killed someone.
But a deeper place in me knows something more true.
That I loved that child inside me. I loved it enough not to have it.
That to have it would have been selfish, it would have been for me. It would have been to somehow stay connected to his father. It would have ended my life. I would have been a burden on everyone. I would have needed my child to be my partner, my man, my everything. I would have stopped writing. I would have disappeared.
And that is no way to start a journey into motherhood. That is no way to begin this most intense rite of passage.
It’s only when I decided to end the pregnancy that I really knew I was ready to be a mother. I knew, even in the throws of hell, that I was destined for more. For greatness, even. That I deserved more. That my baby deserved more. That my baby deserved to be wanted, loved, cherished.
I punished myself for so long for this choice. A choice I firmly believe is my right, because it’s simple. It’s my body. Like consent, like touching, don’t touch me unless I give you permission. Don’t tell me what to do with my body unless I give you permission. This is so simple.
I had an abortion. There. I said it. It was the worst thing I’ve ever gone through. The hardest, most devastating experience of my life. And I don’t regret it. I am so thankful I did. Because I was right. I was destined for more.
This Sunday I will be celebrating Mother’s Day with my daughters, ages 1 and 2. Their father is the perfect father for them, and I am in love with him. He will be at work serving Mother’s Day brunch to wealthy people, while we go to the park and pick dandelions in the hot grass. Unless it’s snowing. And then we’ll stay home and bake and paint and watch Daniel the Tiger. And I will be thankful, I will be humble, I will be present, I will forgive myself just a little bit more.
And I will be thinking of you, the mothers who aren’t mothers, and the mothers who have lost children, and I will cry. Joy and sorrow live next to each other. It is uncomfortable. It is being alive.
And I will pray that you find a peaceful way to live your life without waiting for your life to start. That you find a way to pause before you tell yourself the same story about who you are. And ask yourself if you’re acting from a place of punishment or a place of compassion. I hope you remember the child inside you, who is you, who deserves to be loved, nourished, bathed, fed, loved, put to bed. I hope you remember that resting is not being lazy. I hope you forge a path to self forgiveness. You are hurting, you may have hurt others, but it is not your fault.
You have the right to end your pregnancy. You have the right to try again when the time is right. You have the right to keep trying. You have the right to not want to be a mother. Whatever you choose, I see you.
I made a film for you called WOLF. About a woman whose longing overcomes her. It helped me heal and I hope it resonates with you. Please watch and share with women you know who’ve experienced the loss of a child.
And please share your story with me. I would love to hear from you.