I was the kind of kid who would sit in my room and read the encyclopedia for fun. I know, I was quite the nerd. But, reading the encyclopedia changed my life on two occasions- two passages that irrevocably changed my vision of my future.
In a moment of boredom during a family reunion, I went off to a quiet corner to crack open the “M” encyclopedia. I ran my hand over the smooth leather spine, traced my fingers over the cold gold-plated M, opened the book, brought my nose close to the binding, and breathed in that magical potpourri of glue, paper and ink. I wish I could capture that exhilarating feeling of the combination of that smell and the excitement of learning something new as a kid.
But, learning new things isn’t always exhilarating. My 8-year-old self wasn’t prepared for what I saw under “menstruation”. This will happen… every… every 28 days?? Oh that’s so gross! How do adults deal with this? How do 12(!) year olds deal with this?
My vision of living as an adult woman would never be the same. I threw the book down and ran outside to play horseshoes and stop thinking about what being a 12-year-old would look like.
Turns out that what I was worried about happening at 12 didn’t happen, but instead something I could never imagine or prepare for. My vision of my future life was again permanently changed when I learned at a doctor’s appointment I had Turner Syndrome. I didn’t exactly know what it meant, but one thing was for certain: I wasn’t “normal” and could never be “normal” and nothing could be more devastating. Being accepted by peers at that age is everything, fitting in is everything, so anything that’s different or weird is scary, because that could mean being excluded. I had a terrible secret that no one could ever find out: that I wasn’t like other people. If I wanted anyone to like me, the only option was to keep it to myself and try to fool everyone into thinking I was normal.
I silently cried the entire way back home from the appointment. My head was spinning, trying to process what this all meant. I went up to my room to lay down and close my eyes, hoping when I opened them again, it would have just been a bad dream. But all I had was more bad dreams- everyone I knew learning my secret, and wanting nothing to do with me.
After a few weeks of coming to terms with my diagnosis, I gathered up the courage to look up Turner Syndrome in (where else) the encyclopedia. It read, “Turner syndrome, a condition that affects only females, results when one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing. Turner syndrome can cause a variety of medical and developmental problems, including short height, failure of the ovaries to develop and heart defects.” I skipped a few lines down until a line of text jumped out at me, “females with this condition are sterile” I kept coming back to that word “sterile”, reading it over and over again, hoping that somehow by sheer force of will, I could change its meaning. But no matter how many times I came back to it, there it reappeared, in cold black-and-white “sterile, sterile, sterile”. The word popped out as if to mock me. My dream had just died, my vision of my future had just died, and the black text didn’t care. It was going to give it to me straight with no regard for my feelings.
In the following weeks, it seemed the whole world was shouting out to me what I had lost. Everywhere I looked, I saw babies with their mothers. I heard them giggling, crying, cooing. They were on TV, they were at church; no matter where I went, I was hit with a constant reminder of what I had lost, and the life I could never have. Saying the rosary was like being pummeled. Having to say the word “mother” 50 times meant having to say out loud 50 times the one thing I wanted more than anything but couldn’t have. It got to the point where I would start crying if I even heard the word “baby” or “mother”.
Well-meaning people would tell me, “There’s other ways to be a mother. You could always adopt.” As far as I was concerned, that was as helpful as telling a mother who just lost her child that she can always have another. I could never know the joy of carrying a baby inside me- having another human being so dependent on me, so intimately connected- breathing the same air and eating the same food- And the feeling of the baby’s first kick to remind me that no matter how closely connected we were, this was still an individual with a mind of its own. And even after birth as my child grew to adulthood we would forever be connected to each other in a way no one else could. The unbreakable bond between mother and child is unique- not even marriage offers the same permanent bond. Marriage isn’t always unique- it’s possible go through life and have more than one spouse. And marriage is “til death do you part”- not forever. But you only have one mother, and she will forever be your one and only mother- nothing, not even death, can change that. As a child, I envisioned doing great things- saving lives as a doctor, writing a great novel- but they all paled in comparison to being a mother. I could think of nothing greater to do or be. And now, I was faced with the reality that while I could be many things when I grew up, but I could never be a mother. I needed to mourn the loss of my greatest dream.
I thought about the news reports of mothers who abused or abandoned their children, and I became angry. “I don’t understand; I would be a great mother. Why would God make me want to be a mother, but not let me be a mother? It’s so cruel.”
How could God make this right, and how could I heal?
Originally posted in Nicole’s personal blog which you can read by clicking HERE