VOICES: Made to be a Mother by other means

Category:  Opinions
Tuesday, September 15th, 2020 at 2:53 PM

I’m 16 and it’s Mother’s Day. 

I hear my mom and aunt say that all the “non-mothers” have to do the dishes. They are right. The mothers are the ones who do the dishes every time — they should get a day off. Of course, no one else volunteers. So I do the dishes all by myself, and I have a crushing realization that I’ll always be a “non-mother.” 

I’ve heard stories of infertile women having a hard time on Mother’s Day, or of being asked if they didn’t feel like “real” women because they couldn’t reproduce. I’m a kid myself, though, so the topic had yet to affect me, especially negatively. 

I think about my infertility as a defining quality, or maybe part of my identity, like my brown hair or short stature. My mom has also always told me that there’s more than one way to have a baby; it’s her way of telling me that someday I’d have to adopt or have someone else be my surrogate. My infertility has never been revealed to me in a shocking twist — I’ve always known. Not waiting and shocking me with the information was the best course of action for my parents to take. 

However, my options aren’t what I’m thinking about when standing alone at the sink, washing off the plates. I‘m thinking about my “reality” of forever doing dishes on Mother’s Day.                 

I’m feeling a sadness that courses through my whole body. It’s the kind of sad that makes your head hurt. It sits heavy in my chest and throat; a strange pressure makes my shoulders want to rise with tension and slump in defeat simultaneously. 

This emotion toward infertility would be inexplicable to most teenagers. I told a friend of mine in high school, and she just said how good I have it being able to avoid unwanted pregnancy. It’s not like I’m in a hurry to have kids, anyway. In fact, infertility means that I could have unprotected sex and not worry about an unwanted pregnancy, which, other teens are right to point out. As long as the man doesn’t have any sexually transmitted infections, I could have sex without condoms or fear. 

However, that’s not who I am. I “mom” my brothers all the time. I check to see that they make smart decisions and try their hardest. I’ve done this for as long as I can remember, so my maternal instincts have always been strong. I was bound for disappointment.  

What helps me not have a complete breakdown at the kitchen sink is my mom’s eventual voice in my head, reminding me of the options I have. I remember that I’m not a “non-mother” forever. My reality doesn’t have to be doing the dishes every Mother’s Day. I can achieve motherhood despite my genetics. I just won’t achieve it traditionally.  

 Looking back on that day, it taught me two things.  

The first: I’m not and should not be defined by my infertility. There is so much more to me and so much more to womanhood than being a mom. Being a woman means that I have the strength to talk about this openly. It means that I want to support other women and fight for reproductive rights for all women.

The second: infertility is an emotional burden I have to bare, but I also know that when it’s time, I won’t have to bare it alone. When embarking on motherhood, I’ll have a partner in my life who will go into a marriage with me already aware that I’ll never be able to carry my own child. Infertility is something that pulls some couples apart when they don’t know they’re infertile, but my future husband and I will go into it with our hearts wide open, knowing that we need to consider alternative options from the start.   

For now, I will continue to admire the mothers in my life, dutifully washing the dishes at the sink until my time comes to proudly share that title with those amazing women. 

Samantha Mannion is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

Tags: voices

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