The journey to motherhood looks different for different people. Once upon a time, the only story we heard was that a man and woman would fall in love, get married, and have a baby. But mothers have been made via a variety of circumstances, and don't always include a cisgender man, marriage, or sexual intercourse. There are adoptive mothers and foster mothers, mothers who experienced infertility, and mothers who had a baby on the first try. There are mothers with husbands, mothers with wives, single mothers, and stepmothers. In short, there are so many unique ways mothers become mothers, and all are equally valid and amazing.
No matter how we, as parents, became mothers, we all recognize that this path is a special one. Not everyone becomes a mother, because not everyone wants to and not everyone can. So, as a mother myself, I want to take a moment to appreciate this incredible milestone in life, and to acknowledge the validity of every mother and every journey. For example, I didn’t become a mother intentionally. My first pregnancy was unexpected, but even more unexpected was my daughter's premature birth and subsequent death. While she remains in my heart, my first year of motherhood was nothing but a seemingly endless grieving period. I could do nothing but focus on what could have been.
I went on to have my rainbow son, but his birth was difficult too. In other words, motherhood has not come easily to me, yet I want to and am proud to share my journey because I know I'm not alone. So rather than sweep it under the rug and tell the same old story of "love, marriage, and a baby carriage," let’s celebrate the journey of all mothers, starting with these:
“We had two biological children that were high-risk pregnancies. After them, I was not able to conceive on my own anymore and eventually had a hysterectomy. We have been lucky to have two women choose us to raise their children via adoption, so I get to be a mom to four.”
“I got married when I was 23. I expected we would build up our careers, settle down, and start a family. But after my husband went to work in Iraq as a translator for the US military during the invasion of Iraq, he came home with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a relationship with another woman, and our marriage fell apart. I ended up re-marrying at 34, and getting pregnant during my honeymoon. It wasn't what I expected at all in my early 20s, but now I am so grateful that things have turned out this way.”
“I suffered four miscarriages and a stillbirth before finding that I had an autoimmune disease causing my losses. I now have three beautiful biological girls with treatment during pregnancy. They are now 12, 14, and 16.”
“Started dating [my partner] when I was 24 and he had [a son] Misha, who was 3 at the time. I felt like his stepparent from pretty early on. Got married two years later and then had [our son] Carlo a year and a half after that. When I get asked how many kids I have, I always say two because Misha is as much a part of me as Carlo.”
“Easy pregnancy with my first son, Wes, when I was 28. Everything was perfect. [Then] my son Jack passed away at 36 weeks. I am a mama to both, forever. Prior to losing Jack, I had a miscarriage and had to have a D&C at 10 weeks, so we thought Jack was going to be our rainbow baby. This was before we knew any of my husband’s genetics. Life throws so much at us, and sometimes we never get to know the ‘why’.”
“I didn’t get married until I was 33. I got pregnant at 34 on the first try, but [my daughter] Kenley was stillborn at 36 weeks just before I turned 35. I’m lucky in that I can get pregnant easily, as Piper was conceived six months later after my body healed and re-regulated. Her pregnancy was stressful for me, but otherwise normal, despite the ‘geriatric maternal age’ stamp on my chart. She will turn 4 in three weeks.”
“My mother had an accident that left her immobile and unable to care for my brother. I stepped up as his full-time caregiver and I honestly feel like now we have both a sibling dynamic as well as a mother-son dynamic in our relationship.”
“I always wanted to be a mother. We struggled with infertility. Two and a half years to get our first and then almost four years trying for a second. At a women's retreat, they prayed for me to be healed. Two months later, our second baby was finally on the way. We have two beautiful miracles now.”
“I initially became a mother when I married a man with two boys. I wanted children of my own and we struggled with infertility for six years before we had our first daughter. We now have the two older boys, [plus] our daughter, our son, and our final daughter.”
“Blessed to become a mother at the age of 26 through adoption! We were struggling with infertility and decided to not spend money on expensive treatments that may or may not help achieve our goal of parenthood. We pursued adoption, as I was a teacher at the time and my room mom was an adoption social worker. The stars just aligned for us! We were matched rather quickly with our beautiful daughter who came into this world weighing just over a pound at around 24 weeks gestation. I was able to bond with her and care for her during her long NICU stay! When we wanted to expand our family and make our daughter a big sister, we decided to seek out medical support as we had some insurance coverage and the waitlist for adoption again was so long. IVF allowed us to be parents again as we recently welcomed our twins! Now I am a proud mother of three beautiful children!”
“I was in my 30s, married almost 10 years, and I conceived easily. I did have a missed miscarriage before my oldest. It appears the fetus never developed but my body kept on creating a placenta.”
“After countless fertility treatments and a miscarriage, after very traumatic complications that resulted in a hysterectomy, at 35 I became a mom through adoption.”
“I got pregnant at 21 on our first try. My husband likes to say that he ‘called his shot’ because he worked for his parents at the time and long story short wanted to keep a planned day off and jokingly promised them a grandchild in exchange for keeping the day off. Oddly enough, we’re 99 percent sure that’s actually the day we conceived.”
“Meeting my soulmate at 39 meant we took the fertility route. We had three pregnancies (two via IUI, one via natural conception). We lost all three of our babies at different stages of pregnancy. All three losses broke my heart more than I could have imagined. I knew I wanted to be a Mum but I couldn't put myself through the pain again. When I was pregnant with my third baby, we met two very special little ones. My mum is a foster carer and had to pick up two children from hospital for short term care. She brought them to our home for lunch. They were battered and broken. Two weeks later we lost our baby. I was battered and broken. Neither myself or [my partner] could get the two foster children out of head our heads. We applied to be foster carers. They were made wards of the state never (thankfully) to go back to the horror they had been living in. They were 3 and 5 years old. They are now 8 and 10 years old. Last year, on the first of November, we became their official guardians and finally moved out of the foster system. I am a proud Mum of two children and everyday is better because of it.”
“Unexpected pregnancy at age 16. One and done for us!”
“Got married at 22. Stepmom of two: daughter and son who are now 18 and 16. Was on birth control for about three years. Went off birth control at 25. Wasn’t actively trying but wasn’t avoiding it either. We just enjoyed it and went with the flow. Haha! Got pregnant unexpectedly after my 28th Birthday. Wouldn’t say I’m the most fertile but my miracle is here without complication so I consider myself extremely lucky. Debating on whether to have another.”
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.