I am not a mother. This fact has kept me from expressing my heartbreak over the shootings in Sandy Hook. In the aftermath of this horrifying event, I’ve watched countless friends — mothers, all of them — post wrenching status updates on Facebook. I’ve read them, feeling oddly ashamed inside. These moms talked of compassion for those poor little children, of the need to step up to the plate as adults, of the fear they have for the future, of roiling anger toward the government, and of utter helplessness. They posted pictures of the beautiful young faces lost to this insane tragedy. They urged others to take a stand, and to hold their own children close.
The same thoughts streamed through my head. Tears welled in my eyes, too. I texted my siblings and begged them to hug and kiss their little ones for me.
But something was silencing the part of me that wanted to join these moms in their outrage. I felt it wasn’t my place. How could I know, after all, what kind of fear these parents were expressing? How could I possibly relate to their protective instincts? I am not a mother.
But I desperately want to be one. I’m 36 years old. My husband and I met 14 years ago, and our route to marriage was a circuitous one. Once we got to that state, though, just over two years ago, we could not wait to start a family. We had both been ready for a long time. We were practically crib shopping. The months went by, and nothing happened. We soon realized that we were not going to be instant parents, just because we wanted to be. It was — and still is — a tough pill to swallow. Our struggles with infertility have taken the usual tolls: stress, jealousy, fear, anxiety. Every month that passes with our dream unfulfilled, we try to keep a positive attitude as female friends’ bellies grow and we slowly get ever so slightly older.
My husband has the beautiful ability to see our future, and it includes children and a happy home. I don’t have quite the same steady view. Sometimes I can’t picture our children at all. Those are the worst moments. And the scariest. But other days I can see them clearly. I see us going to the library, eating pancakes, and playing outside together. If I let myself, I can believe the truth, which is that I identify as a mom. My body is aching to carry a child, to nourish her and love her as she grows into who she is going to be. I dream of putting her in cozy outfits and tickling her tiny toes. I imagine reading Beatrix Potter to her and letting her turn the pages.
I want these dreams to come true with every fiber of my being, but I have to wait.
So in the meantime I sweep my nephews into my arms and cover their sweet heads with an endless supply of kisses. I pick up my nieces and hug them with arms that don’t want to let go. I marvel at their perfect skin and their effortless ability to live in the moment. I’m struck by their innocence, by the innocence of every child in this world. They are sacred, strong, and vulnerable.
The murders in Newtown, CT, shook me to my core. I wanted to tell someone, or everyone, that I was devastated and couldn’t bear to watch the news. But what do I know about what it feels like to have a child? What could I offer to parents who have lost theirs in such an epically horrific way?
I felt like I should just be quiet, and pray for the moms and dads who have been forced to walk that cruel and unnatural path.
I am not a mother. But I will be, someday, and I want to be part of this dialogue. How could we let something like this happen? What kind of world do we live in, when little children are the victims of senseless laws and overlooked illness? I want to help. And yet I feel helpless. I can’t hold a child of my own, and I can’t do anything to bring back those whose lives have been taken.
So I whisper to my baby who hasn’t arrived. I tell her she is important. She is beautiful just as she is. She is a good person, and she will always be loved. I tell her I’ll try to protect her. These are the only things a mother can do.