Ask the Expert: The Path to Becoming Mommy

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My husband and I went through years of trying to get pregnant, and a whole battery of fertility treatments.  We are so excited to be expecting our first child as a direct result of assisted reproductive technologies.  However, in the back of my throat is still the sting of infertility.  When does the sting of infertility fade?  When will I feel like a “normal” expecting mother?

Answer by Aviva Cohen

My best friend’s mother is a Holocaust survivor. She lived most of her teen years in Auschwitz. She emigrated to the United States and married a fellow survivor and decided it was time to start a family. It was then that she discovered that becoming pregnant was not going to be possible for her. Her body had been simply been through too much trauma. She went on to adopt two children– a boy and a girl. When my friend was old enough to initiate the “adoption talk,” her mother was quite candid and told her that she had not grown from UNDER her heart, but she had grown from INSIDE of her heart.  This is probably the most beautiful and accurate description of motherhood that I have ever heard.

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Most people are not given the “heads up” that they will struggle to get pregnant when the time is right. No memo is sent to their email to help them to prepare. It just happens!  It is so painful to watch friends, family members, and colleagues seemingly snap their fingers and “poof” their families grow, while others seem randomly selected to struggle with fertility issues. To be sure, there is a grief and mourning process that occurs in order to come to terms with the fact that a natural, biological pregnancy may or may not ever occur. There is a sense of “feeling less than- or inferior” because a natural pregnancy may not happen on its own. I myself once had a patient confess, “my body is broken, and doesn’t work like it should.”

I remember that my mother once told me that in order for my kids to love her, I needed to let her babysit for them on occasion. At the time, I had no idea what she was talking about. She said that the way a child forms a loving bond is by having that person care for them and meet their needs-especially babies. That’s very much why babies become so connected to their parents and develop stranger danger in the first year. They are attached to their parents because they take care of them and keep them safe.

From the moment of conception, or the moment you have your first dream about becoming a mother-you ARE one.  There is no right or wrong way to feel. Most women do not “mother” in the same way. That is the beauty of the world. It is comprised of people who have been raised differently. The word “NORMAL” should be obliterated from our vocabularies when it comes to motherhood. No two women are alike which means that no two women will feel the same way at any given time. I have some women who become pregnant and are so excited for the delivery date. I have other moms that are so anxious about the pregnancy they would rather be drugged and unconscious for 9 months until it is over. I have other moms that hate how they feel when they are pregnant and resent the experience all together. Which one of these expectant moms are “NORMAL”?? All of them!!!!

No matter how one becomes a mother, whether via surrogate, adoption, IVF, or friendship is totally irrelevant.  What matters most is whether that child grew from INSIDE of their mother’s heart or not. Once that baby comes- it doesn’t care where it came from or how it got to you. That baby is just lucky to be YOURS because clearly anyone that worked that hard to have it is simply bursting with love and will transfer that affection to its baby, no matter how it came to them.

Aviva Cohen has expertise in the areas of perinatal loss, fertility, and postpartum depression. Currently, she is on staff at Northwestern Memorial’s Prentice Women’s Hospital as the Perinatal Loss Coordinator. She is a co-founder of The Blossom Method which is a therapeutic counseling center focusing on the reproductive years and beyond. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Boston University and did her graduate work at Loyola University.

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