With Mother’s Day quickly approaching on May 13, I’m trying to figure out this wound I left open over the years. Like many other young adult women with PH, I found out at the age of 25 that pregnancy would more than likely kill me. Discovering that I could not safely bear children was a lot to take in, as having a family was something I had looked forward to for most of my short adult life. And although Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the wonderful maternal figures in our lives, I can’t help but feel a lump swell in my throat as the day draws near.
I am extremely fortunate to have a wonderful mother who nurtures and supports me, going beyond the level of care any parent should be expected to give to her 30-year-old daughter. And for that, I am very grateful.
However, Mother’s Day can sometimes be a difficult holiday to celebrate. For some, it can be a reminder of the things they do not have. Perhaps they are missing someone special, or long for a better relationship with someone important in their lives. For some of us with PH, Mother’s Day is a reminder of what our bodies can no longer do.
Although I would love to celebrate Mother’s Day without any reservations, the holiday makes me feel “less than,” as if I am missing out on some monumental event. How many times have we heard friends or family members refer to having children as the best thing that has ever happened to them? So many people find purpose in having children, but I now find myself asking where my worth or purpose will come from. What will be my legacy? And although I have plenty of reasons to celebrate, this day serves as a reminder of all the things I have lost and of all the things that I still grieve over.
It may not make a lot of sense, but I mourn the loss of all the things I may never get the chance to have: a family, a meaningful relationship, a career, the ability to walk up a hill without getting short of breath … or even figuring out what I want to be when I “grow up.”
As a woman, I cannot deny that my self-worth has been questioned over my ability (or lack thereof) to have children. I’ve had partners question a future with me because I cannot have children, which has made me feel as if society still heavily embeds my worth with my ability to have children. But I can’t entirely blame them for their responses.
I understand the desire to have a family and realize that anyone who is brave enough to start a relationship with me will be forfeiting this dream. I don’t have a choice in this matter, but they still do. Is it wrong for me to take their choice away? Or, is it wrong to leave someone over the thought of being in love with an idea that does not exist? As someone who understands what it is like to grieve a loss that didn’t quite exist, I guess it isn’t wrong. But as a recovering hopeless romantic, I imagine the day when I find someone who won’t be scared or feel as if they are giving up everything to be with me. In my wildest fantasies, I am enough – even with my medically induced obstacles.
PH has caused me to shift around my ideas of what I thought my life would entail. However, despite this, I do still want to try to celebrate Mother’s Day. After all, mothers take different shapes and forms. There are so many wonderful women in my life who are not defined by being a parent or a mother. Some of them have decided not to have children for various reasons, from mental health to personal choices. These women are nurturing in their own ways, and I have learned that this isn’t a special quality reserved for mothers, but a special quality among extraordinary individuals.
Despite all the grievances PH has inflicted on my life, I still consider myself extremely fortunate and I feel that I have lots of reasons to celebrate. So, this Mother’s Day I will avoid comparisons between my life and the lives of my peers on social media. Instead, I will focus on honoring all of the wonderful women in my life, from my best friends to my own mother.
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