While I’m not a regular gratitude journal keeper, not a day passes that I don’t feel grateful for the life that I have. As my son has grown from an infant into a beautiful, charming, intelligent, and hilarious three-year-old boy, I’ve been thinking a lot about how grateful I am for the opportunity I’ve had to experience motherhood.
For most of my life, kids weren’t part of the plan. I hadn't been interested enough in being a mother to actually pursue it, and my mid-20s through mid-30s was spent married to a man who was even less enthusiastic about being a parent than I was. Every now and then I’d toss around the idea of what it would be like to have a baby. Once, while I was browsing the magazine stand in the downtown Seattle Barnes & Noble, a lovely little girl mistook me for her mother. “Mommy!” she pointed and cried. Her father smiled at me. “That’s not your Mommy, but she kind of looks like her, doesn’t she?” As I was walking home that day I felt an odd twinge when I realized that that probably would be the only time anyone would ever call me Mommy.
When my first marriage ended I was more sure than ever that I wouldn’t have children. Then when I was 37 years old I met the love of my life, whose lone ambition since childhood was, “to be a dad.” When Drew and I got together I learned what it meant to really love someone deeply, on every level, with every part of myself. Slowly, my feelings about motherhood begin to take on a new form. I began seeing myself as a mother—what it would look like, how it would feel, what it could be like to have a child with the man that I loved.
I got pregnant in the spring of 2009, while we were on our honeymoon in Italy. When I went in for my first ultrasound on Thursday, July 2, 2009 I was told the devastating news that my baby had no heartbeat. Since it was a holiday weekend, I had to wait until Monday to get a D&C. Allowing myself to believe that I was going to be a mother then having it yanked away from me was one of the most awful feelings I’ve ever felt. For a while after the miscarriage, my brain actually convinced itself that maybe I’d been right the first time—that being a mother shouldn’t be part of my life.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Within four months, I was pregnant again. I peed on a stick and saw the plus sign a few days before my 40th birthday. While I was excited and embraced the pregnancy, it wasn’t the same as the first time. I didn’t allow myself to fully believe that I was actually going to have a baby. Even when I was in the early stages of labor and still able to comfortably walk around my apartment, there was a weird part of me that still didn’t believe I was actually having a baby. Then I did, and my life changed completely.
A couple of weeks ago, Drew and I went to see the movie About Time. It’s about a guy who finds out that the men in his family have the ability to travel back through their own lifetimes and experience things again. In one scene, the main character realizes that he went back too far, ultimately leaving him with a different baby than he had the first time he’d experienced that part of his life. Drew and I talked about this after the film and wondered how people who aren’t parents reacted to that part. Would people without kids understand just how devastating it would be to go back and end up with a different baby, or would they think, “Hey, at least you have a baby.”
It's so bizarre to write that I feel grateful for a miscarriage, but I guess that in a sense I do. I can't help but think about the scientific fact that if my first pregnancy would have become my first child, then I never would have known my little boy. I am so grateful for my specific son, and so thankful to have had the chance to meet him.
Melanie Biehle is a writer, designer, photographer, artist, and branding and marketing consultant who helps other creative people and companies. She’s the founder of Inward Facing Girl, where she documents her obsessions with creativity and psychology, contemporary art, design, photography, travel, magazines, and life in Seattle with The Adventure Club (aka, her husband and son). Melanie optioned a romantic comedy screenplay in 2005, and her writing, graphic design, and photography have been featured on The Huffington Post, Sunset Magazine, Decor8, SF Girl by Bay, The Jealous Curator, UPPERCASE, and more.