You probably remember that feeling in your belly when they told you? What was it for you? A stab? Or more like a falling feeling, a drop? Like a stone dropped into a pool. That’s what I think it felt like as I look back at the moment of my diagnosis.
But now I have the benefits of distance; of 21 years and my entire adult life. And motherhood. And so maybe the edges of that memory have softened, faded from the true intensity of the pain to a mere echo of it.
And like a stone falling into the water, ripples roll out from that moment, spreading and widening. Stretching out further than you can imagine. They reach the outer edges of the pool, all while you are still sinking to the bottom.
After my diagnosis I couldn’t fathom that my pain, my diagnosis had any thing to do with anyone else. I was angry with my mother for her grief, for her guilt, and wanted to blame her, and I wanted to not blame her. I was furious and ashamed when she talked to her friends about what I thought was only my problem, my business. She shared without my permission and, now, I can see that she never meant to hurt, that she was coping as a mother in the only way she knew how. But I can also understand why I was so angry by her sharing. That ripple pushed me further down. I sunk into shame and a desperate need for privacy. I wanted to be alone with my grief, and I wanted to no longer be alone.
For a long time pregnancy announcements were the worst thing I faced. Their effect on me was vast and wide ranging, from just a few tears to pushing me to the absolute brink of my despair. In the early days of my motherhood, the sting went away. Amid the depths of sleep deprivation and the highs of finally holding my own child I got to feel how I imagined most other people feel when they hear of some one else’s pregnancy: pure joy. The water was finally still. The ripples of grief at an end.
For a year or more, I basked in that feeling of contentment, of relief that the ‘never a mother’ part of MRKH that had so broken me was ‘fixed’. Only as my daughter grew older that I realised it wasn’t.
‘When will you have another?’ ‘Will you give her a sibling?’ ‘No one wants to be an only child.’
And with the return of the intrusive questions returned the sting. The pangs. The envy, as those around me who had their first at a similar time went onto their second, third child. I told myself to be grateful, to be happy, and content with one. That I was so lucky to be where I was, finally a mother, that I shouldn’t allow myself to grieve again. But it was like being dragged down all over again. Like when people told me that my diagnosis was hardly life or death. That I wasn’t sick. That it wasn’t the end of the world.
When what they really meant was: I should get over it. That I shouldn’t grieve.
My daughter is now seven, going on 17. She is a force to be reckoned with and I am thankful every day that I get to be her mother. I have worked tirelessly through my grief, through mourning the large family I’d dreamed of before MRKH robbed me of that – a dream which resurfaced briefly when we went through the surrogacy process.
When my husband and I went through surrogacy, I realised my grief affected him too. It touched him, brought him low too. Pulled into the swirling watery mess of my infertility. Even after that, I thought that was it; I thought he was the furthest reach of my grief, that the ripples would go no further.
But then my daughter asked for a sister. Or a brother. And she asked with such hope in her face, such light, with the innocent face of a small child who has known nothing of grief, nothing of sadness. Nothing of the pain I (and her dad) have gone through to even get to the moment of her asking. She already knew the beautiful story of her birth. But I told her then, again, and again, reminding her – with love -that mummy has a broken tummy and cannot have any more babies. Over the years I have whispered it to her in quiet words, how much I love her, how lucky I am to have her.
How sorry I am that I cannot give her a sister or brother.
One day she stopped asking.
Then, on Christmas day, we had a video call from family members who surprised us by announcing their second pregnancy. I thought I was done with it, the grief, the envy but once more it hit me like a bat in the belly. And then I turned to my daughter, and I saw her lip wobble, her eyes filling with tears as she realised her cousin was going to have the sibling she herself had so wanted for so long. She ran from the room, hiding from us, from the family members who were looking for our joy and excitement but got our shock and barely hidden indifference as we realised how gutted our own child was. The call ended quickly after that and I fled to my little girl.
​She was sobbing in her room but she tried to hide her tears from me, as she told me she was sad she won’t have a sibling but that she didn’t want to make me more sad. I held her and told her she doesn’t need to hide her sorrows from me, that she can show me she’s sad.
‘Mummy’s had a long time to be sad and now I am ok. You don’t need to worry about making mummy sad with your own sadness.’
Later when she said it all again at bedtime, I told her again that she’s allowed to grieve for the sibling she so desperately wanted, and that she never needs to protect me. I stayed with her till she fell asleep, and then I left the room and cried like I had just been diagnosed all over again.
It was a hard lesson to learn: that my grief became my daughter’s. To witness my pain grow to a dimension I’d never considered.
I hope it will be easier for her now. But I fear that she too will experience recurring moments of sorrow, where she grieves for the sister she can never have. The brothers she’ll never fight with. The nephews and nieces to whom she’ll never be related.
And over and over I will have to look my own grief in the eye. I will feel that familiar tug, pulling me downwards, while the ripples spread out above, beyond my control.


This is the second post from Mary in the series #mummingwithmrkh read the first A Mum is Made and keep following for the next one in the summer!

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.