First of all, I never asked you.
You, who were raised Catholic (like me), brought up to believe in the healing power of love and sacrifice, do you know how much I sacrificed for these children? How many needles I faced? How many procedures I endured? How many times I went to the ER convulsing in unbearable pain? Do you know how many tears I shed?
You, who conceived your first child because you “forgot the condom that one time,” have you ever even considered what it’s like to walk the proverbial mile in an infertile woman’s shoes?
Do you know what it’s like when your body breaks the very heart it harbors, refusing to indulge its deepest desire?
Do you know how it feels to cry over another negative pregnancy test, only to dig it out of the trash an hour later, praying that a second line has magically appeared?
Do you know how much love contributed to the creation of these children? That they are born of the love between a husband and wife, between parental hopefuls and a imagined family, between a mother and the mere idea of her future children?
Do you think the fact that they spent an infinitesimal portion of their lives in a laboratory before I carried them changes any of that?
Do you know that every time I felt them move inside of me, my heart was filled with gratitude?
Do you know how my body nourished them? How we shared the same nutrients, the same oxygen, the same heartbeat?
Do you know that our hearts fall into that familiar, synchronized rhythm when I hold them close to me now? That our hearts still speak to one another?
Can you imagine how much I love them? How much they love me in return?
Do you really believe something that brings more love into this world could be a “sin”?
You, who said my cyst-ridden ovaries were just “part of a bigger plan,” did you ever stop to think that maybe meeting the miracle workers at the fertility clinic was also part of that plan?
If you saw a child hit by a car while running across the street, would you neglect to call 911, chalking the accident up to “destiny”?
You, who said it was immoral to use “any means necessary” to get pregnant, do you realize that most cases of infertility are considered treatable medical conditions?
If one of your loved ones was suffering from cancer that could be cured with chemotherapy, would you urge her to decline treatment? Would you tell her it’s wrong to fight fate, and that she should die prematurely, at the hands of a tumor, even though there are gifted and compassionate human beings who could help her?
You, who accused me of tossing out “unused” or “weak” embryos like trash, do you know that I refused to discard even the lowest medically-graded embryo?
Do you know that any embryos I didn’t have transferred back to me were treated with the utmost care, and that they are safe in a medical facility, tiny glimmers of hope with the potential to gift us — or another struggling couple, should we decide to donate — a beautiful baby?
You, who accused me of “taking life for granted,” do you know that I cried over every single egg that didn’t mature?
Every embryo that formed but halted in its development?
Every transferred blastocyst that didn’t “stick”?
Every blood-stained pad that meant my womb wasn’t enveloping the child I’d so desperately yearned for?
Do you know that I lit candles? Laid out prayer cards? Wept until I no longer knew what it was to have clear vision and dry cheeks?
Look at my children — My beautiful, vibrant, born-of-love miracles. Watch them light up a room and bring a smile to even the most somber of faces.
Listen to the way the word “Mama” dances off their lips, like a precious secret, a verbal love letter addressed to the woman who gave them life.
Watch them gaze upon the world with wide eyes, finding joy in the mundane, laughter in the silence, love in the emptiness.
See their eyes sparkle when I ask them if they want to go for a ride in the wagon. Watch them point out the airplanes overhead, mimic the sound of a passing train, laugh at the dandelion seeds that float through the sky and tickle their noses.
Hear the wonder in their voices when they catch a rare glimpse of the moon in broad daylight, their cries of excitement reminiscent of a barnyard, as they turn people’s heads with boisterous outbursts of “Moo! Moo!”
See them wave to the mail carrier, shout “Hi!” to the UPS driver, and smile at the garbage man.
Watch their brows furrow with genuine concern when they see someone get a “boo boo” at the playground.
Listen to them sing “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star,” out of key but full of life.
Let them take your hand in theirs. Feel their tiny, dirt-caked fingers embracing yours in a grasp of unadulterated trust.
You can call me a sinner, and I won’t deny it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no saint.
I am human. I am flawed. I have made mistakes, and I have plenty of things to apologize for.
But being a mother is not one of them.
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