I’m unable to have children yet feel called to motherhood

The issue of PH and pregnancy weighs heavily on this columnist

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by Anna Jeter |

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One of the first things my parents were told when I received a pulmonary hypertension (PH) diagnosis at the age of 4 was that I wouldn’t be able to have children. My mom thought this was an absurd topic to bring up, given that the same doctors didn’t anticipate that I would survive past elementary school.

While their prediction about my survival was inaccurate, it turns out their other statement was correct, despite the inappropriate timing. Twenty years later, while progress has been made in other areas, it still isn’t recommended for a woman with PH to become pregnant, as the risk for both mother and child is extreme.

When I was growing up, my mom frequently spoke with me about this topic. As she discussed motherhood, she made a point to normalize adoption and surrogacy. In these conversations, she made sure I knew that, while I could not carry a child, I could still be a mother.

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A difficult realization

My life looks much different now. In the five years since I had a heart and lung transplant, I have grappled with new forms of disability and illness. While in some ways I am healthier than before, I am also far more dependent on others for care, and I face many unknowns with the future of my health.

Given all of this, I don’t personally view motherhood — biological or otherwise — as a viable option for me, at least not with my current circumstances. This realization comes with deep and continuous grief, as I have always felt called to the role of being a mother. It’s difficult to feel so spiritually connected to a task that you cannot physically do.

In recent years, many of my closest friends have started families. As I buy gifts for baby showers and anticipate welcoming new children into my life, I feel an inner tension between joy and sorrow. Just being in the presence of children and not having the energy to interact with them as playfully as I would like to can be so disheartening.

There are few ways to combat this feeling of loss that has lingered since my diagnosis all those years ago. But I work hard to focus on the unique aspects of my life that do fulfill me. Mainly, I create art and write about these experiences as they pass, allowing them to settle outside of myself so that I don’t have to hold them too closely.

I’m so grateful for the little ones in my life, and for the way that my loved ones allow me to have relationships with them. I know the posture of motherhood is inherent within me, even if it can’t be realized. And there is peace in being able to share that inclination to nurture a child, even if it’s only for brief moments.

Looking back, I’m appreciative that my mother always approached the topic of motherhood in a way that left the option open for me. I know the future is never set in stone, and my hope for improvement is infinite.

I’m grateful for the concept of motherhood that is nestled deep inside of me. I can feel the compassion, kindness, and capacity for love. And regardless of whether or not I’m able to become a mother, I’m proud to know this woman that is part of me. I work hard to share her spirit whenever I can.

Note: Pulmonary Hypertension News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Hypertension News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary hypertension.


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