There are days which are inked into memory, tattooed into the lining of our souls. Two days stand in juxtaposition to each other, facing each other in my memory as if across a battlefield. Foes in opposition. I come here to write about those days, to tell you the story of each one and the opposing moments that appear in my memories as fresh as if they have just happened.
But to tell you of the second, I have to tell you of the first, for without the first, the second may not have been quite the miracle it was.
In January 2002, aged 18 years old, I was diagnosed with MRKH. The day was clear and crisp. The sort of day in January which can be breathtakingly beautiful, if it isn’t a day which breaks your heart. For most of my adolescence I had daydreamed about motherhood. I am one of five kids and I knew that I was built to love, built to mother. Only, it turns out, my body wasn’t.
I’d been putting off visiting the doctors for a long time. I knew there was something wrong with me. I had read books on bodies, babies, periods and sex. My mum taught NCT classes and there were dozens of heavily pregnant women in and out of our home at all times. I had a boyfriend and I knew that things weren’t as they should be. I just knew. A few days before my diagnosis I even dreamt that I was told I didn’t have a womb. I woke up scared, confused and incredulous: how could my brain have come up with such a mad explanation for my lacking periods?
As I lay on the examination table I knew my life was about to change. It was like a slow motion car crash and there was nothing I could do to stop it. And then he said the words: “I believe you’ve been born without a womb.” I was slipping from the surface of the earth. The ground tipped beneath me, opening up a crevice into which I couldn’t help but fall. All that I had dreamed of, all that I believed I was, was taken away in that instant. I felt my heart break.
The following days, weeks, months, were dark. Years even. I was lost, unravelling. I was grieving, though no-one around me allowed me to call it that or thought to suggest it. I bounced around in severe pain for years afterwards, somehow managing to hold onto my life, some friends and get my degree.
Eventually the healing started. I can’t pinpoint a time or place it began but slowly it came and slowly it grew. For a while, between my eighth and tenth anniversary I sort of forgot about my grief. I was in a new relationship and one which healed me in so many other ways. But after my tenth anniversary, aged 28 and newly married the questions around family making arose in my mind and my new husband’s. We’d married knowing and accepting we might never have kids and knowing that if we wanted them we had two options, adoption or surrogacy. My grief exploded again as we explored each avenue, the feelings of unfairness that we could never just have sex and make a baby. How people can take it for granted. I was envious, sad, and still grieving.
There is much more that came between the day we decided to pursue surrogacy and the day I come to next. But those are stories for another time, another day, another post.
That first day plunged me into a grief I’d not known was possible. The second day was the miracle I never believed would come.
She came into the world on a grey day. Although I saw very little of the outside world that day. It was a day where the light barely gets through. But a day where the clouds I’d walked through for several years were finally broken by the ray of light she brought. It was a November morning in 2015 and it was the day my baby was being born. Carried by my sister in law she came out screaming before she’d even been pulled free of her auntie’s belly. My sister in law turned to me on the operating table, tears in her eyes and said “She’s screaming to let her Mummy know she’s ok!” I kissed my sister in law’s hand and cried the happiest tears of all. Almost fourteen years after my diagnosis I was finally a mum. In the days, weeks, months in which she grew and kicked in my sister in law’s belly, I held a ball of nerves in my own, a fear that I’d not know my child, and that she’d not know me. Not sense me as her mum, reject me and all I was. But when I saw her face it was like I’d always known her, as if I’d seen her in my mind just as she was. The lines of her brow, furrowed in rage, the curl of her lip, they were as familiar to me as though she’d come from me. Which in many ways she had: from my egg, my heart and my blood.
The day was grey outside but in our little hospital room we were bathed in gold. In the wonder of a child brought to us through science and the purest, greatest act of love. We marvelled at her face and how she looked like me when I was born. We cried and laughed at her little sulky lip, and our midwife cried and laughed and told us what an honour looking after us all had been. I breastfed her, after spending the entire pregnancy inducing lactation.
It was a day of culmination. A closing of a book, the end of the rainbow. I was finally there, I’d walked through my story and reached my goal. We were sent home, baby in a car seat, and my breasts full of milk, allowing me a body connection to motherhood I had only dreamed of. We walked into our house, baby in arms. It was the end, wasn’t it?
No. It was just another, incredible, beginning.
Follow our posts from Mary in this new series #mummingwithmrkh! The second post is out now Grief and Ripples.
Mary (@mrotherywrites) is a writer of stories about women. She writes with focus on motherhood and infertility, trauma and loss, hope and love. She is currently working on her first novel and has recently had short stories and articles published by Motherscope, Five Minute Lit and Pure Slush Books. A mother of one and Content Manager by day, Mary writes in her spare time from her home on the Sussex coast of England, where she lives with her daughter, her husband and her dog.