I have lived as a childless mother for 12 years. For the most part, while I miss my daughters intensely, I have made my peace with not having living children. In recent years, I’ve been pretty outspoken about what it is to live without my children. I talk about the painful ache of holidays, Mother’s Day, and their birthdays. I share a great deal about my emotional process of living while grieving.
What I don’t talk about is the deep sense of shame for my body’s failure to give birth to a living child.
Or the anger of having been let down by the so-called natural function of a woman’s body.
Or the guilt of having no cause or reason for why my body couldn’t carry them into life.
My body failed me. My body failed my children. I failed as a mother and as a woman. This is the shame and guilt that I live with every day.
I’ve often heard people joke that a parent’s only real job is to get their kid to adulthood alive. I couldn’t even bring my girls into this world to take a single breath.
The counselor part of me, the intellectual part of my brain, knows that it’s not the simple and that I am not to blame. I tell myself over and over that I did all I could, that I am a loving mother who would have given my own life to save theirs.
But still, the shame, guilt, and deep sense of failure festers deep within.
My issues with this body of mine go back much further than her failure to birth my children. This body and I have a lifetime of conflict in our history. But it’s her failing of my children I have never been able to forgive.
There are moments when I stare at the belly that once cradled my babies and imagine ripping it out of me in anger and shame and grief.
There are times I want to tear at it and rip it away, to punish this body for her failure and the shame of feeling less than whole as a woman.
This body of mine was once home to my daughters. I’m not sure it has ever felt like mine. The womb that once cradled them, and all the love and joy that they were, now feels dark and heavy with grief, shame, and guilt.
But I cannot destroy the only earthly home my daughters ever knew. This body that failed me and them, also holds the only remaining cells of their life – those tiny pieces of them that continue to live in me.
So, every day I struggle to reconcile how my body could have both given me the most precious gifts – my children – and so cruelly taken them away.
How do I love what failed me?
How to I forgive what failed them?
How do I make peace with the body that betrayed me, yet remains my children’s only home?
I wish I had an answer.
I do know that I have learned to live while grieving. I do know that I have made peace with this quiet, beautiful life of mine even as I ache to hold my daughters. I do know that I have learned to enjoy the beautiful complexity of life even when there seem to be no rhythm or reason to how it unfolds.
So I have to hope that one day I can love the body that cradled my children within it. I have to hope that one day I will forgive my body for her failings and make my peace with her.
This body was, after all, the only home they ever knew.
Love lived here once.
Perhaps she can be loved again.