The Pilgrimage to Motherhood

by Gail Harris
Originally Published: 

The whole experience is like a dream to me now. My son is ten years old and thriving, and I couldn’t imagine things being any other way. Really, this isn’t a tale of woe, but one of celebration—a celebration of life and love, and spirit, and how we are always given exactly what we need, even when it seems as if the cards are not in our favor.

Trying to become pregnant at forty, I knew that it might not be easy. Very early on, my husband and I embraced our fertility treatments (and all that they entailed) with open arms. We wanted to have a child, and accepted that this was to be our path. My husband, already having a child from a previous marriage, didn’t lust after being a parent the same way that I did. What he yearned for was having a child with me, and for us raising him or her together.

After our four IVF cycles failed over the following four years, we were ready to look into adoption. I think that many adoptive parents can appreciate finally reaching that crossover point in their journey, where they realize that how they become a parent is much less important than becoming one. We did our research, and adoption seemed like a solid plan, (which I knew it would be for me, before we even started.). It was still only Plan B, however; having a back-up plan in place gave me the emotional freedom to move forward with the one last IVF cycle I knew I had inside of me.

It worked. After five long years of trying, I was pregnant, not only pregnant, but pregnant with twins, whom we named Suzannah and Sophia. They were my darling angels, and my pregnancy the most precious time of my entire life. Being pregnant in my forties, I had an appreciation for life, and for who I was, with all of my struggles and triumphs and all of the wisdom I had gained over the years that made me so present to everything that was happening. I was the awesome woman who was going to be their mama—and baby, I was ready. All was well. My pregnancy was going great. I was due to give birth on April 12th.

The bleeding, which began so very faintly at 3:00 am one early December morning, was the palest of pinks, that I barely noticed it on the toilet paper. By noon it was pinker. By evening I was lying in a hospital bed, hooked up to the monitor measuring my contractions that the Magnesium Sulfate was trying to stop. My poor husband just sat there next to my bed, wanting more than anything in the world to fix things and make them right again, or at least to be of help, as men want to do. He was impotent, of course, but embraced his self-assigned role of looking for any significant spikes on the monitor and running to tell the nurse like the noble hero that he was. It was all that he could do. We hung on to hope all that night, the next day, and the night after that.

But by 10 am the following morning it was over. There was nothing more that they could do for us. I delivered my two babies, only for them to die two hours later; they were just too young to live. My husband held them, one in the palm of each hand, until they took their last breaths. They measured from the tips of his fingers to his watchband.

I won’t describe my despair, but say that I knew deep in my soul that the only way I would ever get over this, and become the mother I knew I was meant to be, was to go through it—to dive right in, embracing all of my anger, devastation, and grief like the grand canyon of sorrow it was, and let it swallow me. It became my life’s project. I’ve always been a spiritual person, and I believed that, for whatever reason this needed to happen. I didn’t know why, but tried very hard, in a grander sense not to question but to accept, to believe that somehow, some way, all was in order. I opened my heart. It was my longing to be a mother that pulled me through.

The following summer, we began the adoption process; I was ready. Already having looked into it, it didn’t feel too strange or anything. And somewhere inside I knew that Suzannah and Sophia had given me their blessings. We chose to adopt domestically, so our baby would be born somewhere it the United States.

Not eight or ten, but nine months later we received the call. Our son had been born. I was in shock, because we hadn’t yet been selected by a birth mother to be the adoptive parents of her child, which is often how it goes. That way, you know when your child will be born, and can prepare. The call just came from out of the blue (but not really!)—however, when you go through the adoption process you learn early on that anything is possible. The following day we drove an hour and a half from Westborough, Massachusetts, where we lived to the hospital in Portsmouth, New Hampshire to meet our son.

It was April 12, one year to the day that Suzannah and Sophia would have been born.

To say that there was something cosmic about this is an understatement. As I sit here writing this, ten years later, knowing in my heart that my me and my son were meant to be mother and child, unable to imagine any child other than him, I am in awe of the richness of my journey. Time being the healer it is, I can now look back on my pregnancy with joy in my heart. No, I wouldn’t have wished for it to end that way. But it is not for me to wish, and perhaps, one of the gifts I received from the whole experience is that recognition. I am in awe of my son, of who he is and how we were brought together, of my relationship with him, and how he brings out all of my strengths, so that I can know them and all of my wounds, so that they can be healed. Yes, I am in awe of the perfection, the elegance, and the mystery of it all.

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