I always knew I’d be a mom. It was a given: a belief so taken-for-granted that I only began to question it when Kent and I weren’t getting pregnant after 10 months of trying. After 3 years of failed fertility treatments and few possibilities on the adoption front, I had to confront the reality that it just might not happen for me. Ever. Would our life as just the two of us be enough? Could I ever reconcile the longing deep within that would creep in, whispering about all of the joys I would miss without my own children?
On Mother’s Day of 2019, we were gearing up for our third IVF embryo transfer. I was hormonal, frustrated, and not very hopeful. Images of my friend’s happy families popped up on social media, highlighting all that we were missing out on. Many of our peers were finished having children, and we had yet to truly start. But in early June, we found out that the transfer had been successful. We were pregnant. I was going to be a mom.
On February 5, 2020, we welcomed our son Miles Philip Hammond into this crazy world. We were blissfully happy, and everything I had imagined about motherhood turned out to be a mere fraction of all that it actually was. But then Covid hit in March, and by Easter, we had discovered the lump in Miles’ foot. I spent the morning of my first Mother’s Day standing in a line outside of Sick Kid’s hospital waiting for Miles to get a Covid test before his biopsy surgery the next day which would ultimately reveal that he had a rare soft tissue cancer.
On Mother’s Day of 2020, I was finally a mom- a terrified one, albeit- and I was gearing up for what would be almost a year of trying desperately to keep our son alive. I had to learn quickly about some aspects of motherhood I hadn’t envisioned or accounted for. Like how helpless you feel when your child is sick. Or how you really would give anything to trade places with them to relieve their pain. Or how a mother’s intuition will lead you down paths not clear to others- like how I knew his cancer had spread to his brain, or how I knew the best decision for all of us was to bring him home to die instead of subjecting him to more cruel treatments that would only delay the inevitable. On February 9, 2020, just four days after his first birthday, we said goodbye to our beautiful boy.
The spring after losing Miles was a blur of emotion. Waking up each day with sobs wracking my body, I would try to piece together some semblance of normalcy and routine in each day and week that passed. I missed Miles and ached both emotionally and physically in a way I never knew was possible. I spent countless hours begging the universe to bring him back to me- an impossibility, I recognized rationally- a plea I couldn’t wipe from my heart. Really, what was it all for? I felt like we were back at ground zero- just Kent and me, childless and sad.
I placed a call to our fertility doctor mere weeks after losing Miles, knowing even in the fog of grief that we wanted another child. There was guilt, a feeling like we were rushing into things, moving on too quickly, or seeking to replace something irreplaceable. But there was also something else- a tiny, but irrefutable spark of hope. Hope for the future, hope that we would be able to be a family again, hope that we would hold another babe in our arms, and hope that we would once again feel joy.
On Mother’s Day of 2021, I was lost. I had been a mother, but no longer felt like one. The only force driving me to put one foot in front of the other or to continue living was the hope of another child, guided by the light that Miles left behind. I was still a mother even though I didn’t believe it, and I was fighting fiercely for our family.
After a failed embryo transfer in the summer of 2021, we had one final embryo left. This failed transfer left an even more significant mark on me than all of the ones that came before. I was not getting any younger, and we only had one “chance” left before starting another complete round of IVF- a timely and expensive venture. I was also still very much in the throes of early grief, and adding hormones and disappointment into the mix was simply crushing. We waited until November to transfer our final bundle of cells, the last embryo that had been conceived at the same time as Miles, and one whom we referred to as his “freezer buddy”. On December 2nd, two days before my 36th birthday, we got the unbelievable news- we were pregnant! The first weeks of pregnancy were shrouded in anxiety. We had grown so accustomed to bad news that it was difficult to believe that anything could go right. When we heard the heartbeat and saw our little jumping bean on the ultrasound screen in January, we slowly started to trust that this could actually be the beginning of something good.
And so, I sit here on Mother’s Day of 2022, 27 weeks pregnant with our second child. It still feels surreal- in the span of four years, I have experienced an intense longing for motherhood, a year of motherhood with a sick baby, a year of grief after losing him, and now the beginning of a new chapter of motherhood. These highs and lows have been so many things- exhausting, exhilarating, soul-crushing, and soul-making. They have tested me as a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, and a human.
Mother’s day is a day to honour mothers. The complex and myriad ways women experience motherhood, though, are as varied as the ways in which they experience this day. As a woman struggling with infertility and child loss, this day has brought immense pain and highlighted all that I did not, and do not, have. As a wife, this day has allowed me to see how much a supportive partner can mean in the journey of parenthood. As a mother with her own wonderful mothers, this day has brought an opportunity to reflect upon the strength, resilience, and fierce love a mother has for her children. And as a human, this day has presented an opportunity for empathy and a recognition that motherhood means different things to different people.
I am proud to be a mother to Miles and this unborn babe who continues to grow inside me. I know that motherhood will continue to challenge, test, break, and build me. And although it’s not a straight line, I’m. All. In.