The crickets were chirping in Charlotte, North Carolina. All the members of my extended family were gathered around the table playing cards, but my mom and I were both hysterically crying in the back bedroom. I had just received a phone call from my physician with some shocking news. News that I was not anticipating two days before my departure to Maggie’s Place.
A few weeks prior, my doctor urged me to receive an ultrasound to gain more insight on my kidneys because a previous test indicated unusually high blood levels. I reluctantly followed his recommendation and found his concerns to be almost laughable. I was leading a very active life and only putting good things into body. There was nothing to worry about, dude!
Fast forward back to Charlotte. I am on vacation with my mom’s side of the family and gearing up for my cross-country road trip to Maggie’s Place. Everything is literally perfect. I almost do not pick up the phone because I am having too much fun. When I finally do answer, my doctor asks if I am in a private space. Still not thinking much about the whole thing, I hurl myself onto the bed and tell him to explain away.
He begins to describe how the ultrasound gathered very little on the condition of my kidney but revealed a “bicornuate” or a “heart-shaped” uterus composed of two horns splitting from the septum inside me, a condition that only affects between 0.5 to 1% of women. My head spins as he details the implications of this in terms of conceiving and having a baby. He reasons that although not impossible, it will be extremely difficult for me to carry a baby to full term since my uterus is “really, really” split. Miscarriages, he said, are likely to be in my future and he encourages me to consult further with a specialist.
The conversation ends with tears streaming down my face and my mom swooping to my side. She wraps her arms around me, asks what’s wrong, but my thoughts are running wild. What? Why me?… Who is ever going to want to marry someone that cannot have a child?…How am I going to do a year of service with BABIES and PREGNANT WOMEN?
My instinctual reaction of despair comes as a shock to myself. But as I drive across the I-10 to Phoenix, I cannot shake the complete sadness weighing heavy on my heart. Behind the excitement of travelling city to city, one thought rings clear…Motherhood is said to be the greatest gift…the greatest joy of being a woman…so why can’t I take part?
I felt like less of a woman. It was almost like someone completely stripped my identity out from under me. I never knew how much I associated femininity with the ability to reproduce. I felt inferior to my female peers for the first time in my entire life. There was something they could do that I simply could not. And there was nothing I could do to fix it. I started to fear how this would impact my future dating life. I told myself that I was waste of someone’s time, unworthy of love. Most of all though, I told myself that Maggie’s Place was an impossible mission for me. The thought of being surrounded by pregnant and parenting women 24/7 made me nauseous. It would be embarrassing to quit and drive all the way back home, but how could I not? Just stick it out for four weeks, I told myself. You can do anything for four weeks, Lizzie.
Now I am nine months into my service and I can see how Maggie’s Place was EXACTLY the place I NEEDED to be during this healing process. This is not to say it has been easy here in Arizona. The complete opposite actually. It is extremely difficult when moms ask “When are you having kids Lizzie?” and I have to wittily reply “Not today ladies!” Or when the moms chat about different names and their swollen feet, I catch myself thinking, I probably won’t ever be able to partake in conversations like this. It is also trying when people say Maggie’s Place is preparing me for my future kids. I just smile and wonder, is it really? But Maggie’s Place has exposed me to the many forms of motherhood. I have learned that motherhood is not exclusive, not even to me.
One can be a mother by giving birth. After witnessing the various stages of pregnancy up to actual deliveries, I cannot deny the miracle of producing life. It truly is a beautiful gift. One to be delighted in and cherished.
However, a woman can also become a mother through adoption. At Maggie’s Place I have met women from both sides – the women who choose to place their children in adoptive services and the women who then adopt these children into their homes. The sacrifices made from both parties are unbelievable. Grace and selflessness radiate from all mothers involved in this process.
Thirdly, some women are not called to raise children as they are meant to be positive supports for other people in their lives. These women are still mothers!!! We have a few volunteers that come to the house who have quietly explained their decision not to have children. Their honesty and devotion to others is so inspiring to me. They may not see it for themselves, but I can so clearly see how they are indeed mothers. They are mothers to all of the moms, babies, and MissionCorps. They spread love, joy, and endless comfort. They give me hope.
Knowing all of this, I am finally at peace with placing my future in God’s hands. I think a large part of this peace comes from the tremendous moments of love and clarity I have received while at Maggie’s Place. Even more so than putting me in uncomfortable situations, Maggie’s Place has provided me with some personal insight as to what it means to be a mother.
Motherhood is more than a job; it is a lifestyle of complete selflessness. It is not something you can just turn off at the end of the day. Motherhood is divine. It is the most genuine act of service. I got a taste of this when I held my contact mom’s hand through the pains of labor. Or when a baby peed on me as I attempted to wipe up his poop at two in the morning (rookie mistake). I feel it every time I take one of our babies to sit with me on the front porch. I plop him down on my lap, kiss the top of his head, and pray for nothing but good things for him. Yet, I especially felt it when I wrapped my third contact mom in my arms to bawl her eyes out. All I wanted was to take away her pain and carry the burden just like my very own mom back in Charlotte.
Thanks to Maggie’s Place, my insecurities have ceased. I have regained my confidence and no longer feel inferior or unworthy of love. Yes, my chances of carrying a healthy baby to full term are high risk but not impossible. So I might give birth someday. Or I might adopt. Or I might not have any kids and serve as mother figure to others in need. No matter which path of motherhood I am called for, though, I am going to love deeply, honestly, and fearlessly.
Happy Belated Mother’s Day to all moms out there. You are loved.
By Lizzie LaRegina, a MissionCorps member