When you were young, did you have childhood dreams of what your life would be like when you were older?
When I was young, I dreamed of becoming a mother. Not in the imaginary sense but in the “this is truly what I want to be when I grow up” sense. I was obsessed with babies and would gravitate towards them wherever we’d go. When I played dolls with my friends, real, authentic baby supplies like bottles and teethers were mandatory. None of the childish baby doll toys would do. The image in my head was me as a mom juggling a baby and two young children, surrounded by baby and kid items. I idealized this image so much so that my parents feared I would have kids far too young just to fulfill this dream!
And now at 35 years old, I reflect back and think, was that an unrealistic dream? As some children dream of becoming an astronaut or perhaps the President of the United States, we know only a handful will succeed in those endeavors. But a dream to become a mom—is that impractical?
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At age 19, long before I was settled enough to start a family, I was told that I would need medical intervention in order to have children. I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It was a difficult diagnosis to digest as I knew it placed a hurdle between me and my dream. I blamed my body for not working right, and yet I knew my dream wasn’t dashed completely. The two years my husband and I spent trying to conceive were brutal on my self-esteem, yet manageable.
At age 28, I had two successful IUIs and two deceased children. My dreams were truly shattered. The impossible became possible in the worst way: We learned lightning can strike twice. As my story goes, we lost our son James at 23 weeks, and eleven months later, we lost our daughter Josie at 24 weeks. Both due to unexplained pre-term labor. No child dreams of having dead babies.
The sadness of losing my babies is palpable. I can’t help but feel a sense of unfairness as questions flood my mind. Am I really this unlucky? Or is cursed a better word? Do I deserve this misfortune for some past missteps? Was I chosen for this fate as a way to make me stronger? Are there profound lessons I should be learning from all of this pain? Or was this childhood dream just not meant to come true, much like many children’s wishes to become an astronaut or president?
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While there are still no answers to these questions, I do know that I have changed. My life is split into before and after. I’ve become so out of touch with who I was before loss that I can’t remember the feeling of carefreeness or unrestrained laughter. The childhood dream of becoming a mother is in my memory, but the feelings behind it have faded.
And yet I can say with certainty, my departed children have softened me. I have a greater appreciation for the precariousness of life as well as the beauty and forces of nature in the world around me. Now, I see the world through a lens of empathy, feeling great pain when I read about the suffering in the world. I will never say I’m lucky to have been given these experiences. But I can appreciate everything I have learned thanks to my babies.
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