by Marissa Abernathy
Marissa is journeying through the adventure of life with its highs and lows to beat infertility, get fit, and strengthen her faith and heart-ties to Jesus. She is a blogger, lover of cheese, furry things, and the beauty of life's miracles that happen every day. She can be found on her blog.
Motherhood is a high calling and a beautiful part of creation bestowed upon us as women and children of God. But this Mother’s Day, I’m reminded more than ever before that it is not the ultimate identity of a woman.
My whole life, as far back as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom. I never questioned the if, only the when, and I was willing to wait until I had an incredible person to share the experience. I’d go to college, start a career, snag a handsome, successful, loyal mate, get married, and stay home with my babies and be a mommy. Boom. Perfect.
But love was fleeting. I waited and waited and experienced a failed relationship along the way. I was praying constantly for God to bless me with someone to walk this life with when in the last months of my 28th year, he appeared. I almost let him get away with my stubbornness and independence, but he wouldn’t give up on me. We got married in 2012 and half-joked about having our “honeymoon baby.” But our honeymoon came and went, as did our first year of marriage, with no pregnancy.
We didn’t wait to see a doctor because in the back our minds we knew it was possible we might have issues conceiving. My husband is a testicular cancer survivor (10 years strong) and had undergone radiation therapy and surgery.
I remember sitting there in that cold, white, sterile room when the doctor told us we had a 3% chance of ever having a baby on our own. She started talking about our “options” but we were both in a daze and barely heard a word she said. We left with a huge packet of info, most of which meant nothing, except for the ridiculous and outrageous price sheet for what it would cost to take advantage of any of our “options.”
That day began a chapter in my story that no woman wants or chooses.
Suddenly your world is consumed by things reminding you that you’re not a mom. Pregnant women appearing everywhere, Facebook and Instagram feeds filling with announcements and sweet baby firsts, rude questions from family, friends, and strangers asking, “when are you going to start a family?” Month after month your period dashing your hopes of becoming a mom. And Mother’s Day ... a bittersweet and blatant reminder that you’re not a mom.
Somehow, over the years it becomes all there is sitting in the back of your mind. It becomes the pit in your stomach, the ever-present lump in your throat, your nightly whispers in your prayer to the Lord. No matter how hard you try, it is a thing you can’t hide from, fix, or control. It becomes an endless cycle of pray, diet, vitamins, pray, “just relax,” pray, IUIs, IVFs, and then pray some more.
Throughout the years we’ve traveled along this road, I’ve learned much about myself and my identity, including who I am and who I am not, not as a mother or non-mother, but as a beloved daughter of God.
I recently wrote in journal entry as part of an “I am” exercise that “I am not my infertility journey.” Writing those words on the page was liberating, sobering, and painful. Although I stubbornly postured to not let my deep sorrow and heart’s desire to have children define me, the pain of my still barren womb after almost five years of trying to conceive still welled in my throat.
I don't know why some of us are blessed with this journey to suffer, to wait, and to be brought to the end of our human emotions only to find God waiting with open arms at the very depths of our brokenness. I don't understand, and that's ok. In our humanity, we are predisposed to a desire to rid ourselves of pain as soon as we’re able. But it is this pain that reminds us that things are not right in this world.
If you are suffering in the midst of your journey, to you sweet girl ... you are a mama, do you hear me? You were designed to be a mom and God has placed this desire within you. You house a mama’s heart and a mama’s soul. No Hallmark card could ever define how beautiful and valuable you are to your Father who loves you and sees you completely. He sees you not as a mom, but as His beloved. So, don't give up hope and don't cling so tightly to your plan that you can't open your heart to His, whatever that may be.
Motherhood is not my or any woman’s ultimate identity. I’ve come to understand more deeply than ever before that my identity lives in Him and He is enough. It took me a long time to surrender the control I thought I had over this story. I gave up on the desperation. I gave up on the suffering. I gave in to the good had in store for me … and then …
I’m writing to you profoundly and unexpectedly blessed to have life growing inside me on my 36th Mother’s Day after years of waiting and 5 IUI treatments and 3 IVF treatments.
To all women walking this life of uncertainty, brokenness, and beautiful struggle. To those struggling as new moms and grieving moms. To those missing their mamas and those celebrating the mamas around them. And to those mamas waiting in hope. You are all mothers. Your identity is not defined by your motherhood and your motherhood is not defined by biology or physiology. Your identity is defined in your character, in your soul, in your heart, and in your spirit.
I love you mama.