It’s funny that when asked to describe ourselves, we often reply with what we do for a living. So many times, I’ve shared my job title first beyond anything else. I placed so much of myself into my career that work became an integral part of defining who I was and who I wanted to be.
Yet, there are so many other ways I could define myself. I am a daughter and sister, a fiancé, a friend and colleague, a writer, a volunteer and philanthropist, and even some days a public speaker. One thing, however, that I am not … but hope to be … is a mother.
For many years, I was chasing a successful and meaningful career. I worked tirelessly at creating a name for myself, investing in my professional development and putting work first in many instances. I wasn’t thinking about being a mom or starting a family because I assumed that would follow as soon as I was ready.
Society tells us to graduate, pursue a career, travel, build a home for ourselves, get married and eventually, start a family. However, what we don’t realize is how this sequence of events can put so much pressure on women and make them feel like they’re racing against a clock.
I never felt the hands of time pressuring me in my own decisions until one day that sequence of events became challenged by a diagnosis that left me confused and incredibly vulnerable at an age where motherhood was the last thing on my mind.
I was 26 years old when I was suddenly admitted into the hospital after experiencing extreme pains in my lower abdomen. I was also 26 years old when I was diagnosed with endometriosis. I was 26 years old when the challenges of fertility were explained as a potential complication associated with my condition, and I was 26 years old when I, in turn, fell into a deep depression.
At 26, I wasn’t thinking about whether I could or couldn’t be a mom; I assumed that would happen naturally for me. But when suddenly I was diagnosed with a condition that would challenge that assumption, my priorities immediately shifted from chasing my career to chasing motherhood.
It’s hard being diagnosed with a condition, learning of its potential challenges, and being explained options available to you when I was no where near ready to have a child. Instead, all of this information lingered in my mind, drowned me in sorrow and challenged me both physically and mentally for a very long time.
In my first year of diagnosis, I remember how hard it was to see a pregnant mother, a newborn child, or even families walking down the street. Despite having no idea what challenges may or may not arise in my future, the ‘what ifs’ ate me up inside and spat me back out weaker than I had ever been. That, paired with the side effects of medication, made for a very dark place where misery truly does love company.
I thankfully found my way out of this dark phase of my life with the help of a pen and paper (or in today’s more modern reality — my laptop). I took every ounce of raw emotion that, at the time, was oozing out of me in abundance, and wrote the poem that today is known as a book called The Lighthouse.
I was beginning to feel hopeful, but more than anything, I was starting to feel acceptance.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
I couldn’t foresee what my future would hold so I learned to let go of the worry and pain that kept me hostage and learned to accept whatever plan God had for me.
However, two years later, my journey to motherhood once again veered off on a bumpy road I was not familiar with. Admitted once more into the hospital, and now 28 years old, I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) — which also included infertility as a potential complication.
I quickly started to spiral once more, drained by the continuous hospital visits, diagnoses and medication that reminded me each day of the realities I could face.
I feared the worst. Would I ever I be a mother? Would the added pressure of PCOS make my journey more difficult? Would time be my friend or enemy?
Truth be told, even writing this now that fear is still very much a reality for me. While I hope to be a mom in the near future, I feel society’s pressure rising. Now, 30 years old, I understand why so many women feel anxiety around timing.
Time never worried me until one day it did. And while that worry has had its ups and downs, it has also helped me to reprioritize my life and realize just how much I want to be a mom.
It took me a long time before I reached a point in my life that I could share this story, or even find some lesson learned. For a long time, all I could see was darkness, worry and pain. It’s when I started opening up, however, that I realized just how not alone I truly was.
What I learned from this experience and what I hope you will learn from reading this now is to stop expecting society’s sequence of events to unfold as imagined for everyone. Chasing motherhood can be and mean something entirely different for so many women. It can be the mom experiencing postpartum depression, the mother of three juggling schedules, the back to work mom feeling guilty, the newfound mother in adoption, or the woman struggling in silence who, though not ready to share her story on Medium, is often asked when she plans on being a mom.
Despite how happy such a journey can be, there are also a lot of women out there struggling to be moms every single day.
Be mindful of your words and remember that whatever road you or others are chasing in life, we all know it can have its moments of clear skies and of difficult challenges. We may not always end up where society expects us to be, or where we intended to go, but I think in the end we all end up where we needed to be.
Just remember when you do arrive … you are not alone.
For me, now almost five years out from my original diagnosis, arriving means accepting whatever road awaits me. It’s about realizing that others have walked where I have walked, have felt the pain that I have felt, and have laid awake wondering whether they too would be a mom one day. It is recognizing that I am not the first or the last woman to chase motherhood but rather one of many who are beginning to open up and remind others that they are not alone. We have all made choices to prioritize what matters most in our lives, it’s about time we stop feeling guilty for it.