How I Learned To Be A Mother Without Children

Written by Lisa Merkle
How I Learned To Be A Mother Without Children

Image by BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy

It was during the second appointment with my oncologist when she asked me where I was in my cycle. I told her "one or two weeks since my last period, I think." She responded by asking if I had thought about freezing my eggs. I wasn't expecting that question and answered quickly, "I'm not into having frozen babies." Dr. Cohen, who appeared to be around the same age as me, looked at me seriously and said, "Based on your answer, I'm not sure if you have given this serious thought. I'm going to have you talk to a fertility expert." She texted the fertility doctor to call me as soon as possible. We didn't have time to wait for an appointment.

Well, I had thought about it. At the time I was 41 years old, single, and never married. Of course I had thought about it. My attitude was that Mother Nature would decide for me. I thought I had until 45 to really come to terms with a definitive on kids or no kids. The fertility doctor called me that evening at about 9:30 p.m. She apologized for calling late, explaining she'd had to show up at a dinner thing and called me as soon as she could. Like my oncologist, I imagined her to be around my age. I sensed them both to be empathetic. She went on to explain the process. This included addressing the concern that my uterus wouldn't be able to carry a child post-radiation and that the alternative would be a surrogate. She suggested a sister or a college roommate. I thought to myself, This just isn't for me.

I'm a nurturer. My professional life as a studio manager and an event producer had been an outlet to take care of others. I'm obsessed with making sure everyone is comfortable, has had enough to eat and drink and a safe ride home. I had dated men with kids and liked the idea of being a stepmom. I'm close with my niece and nephew, cherishing the role of eccentric auntie—and the ability to make life decisions free from the responsibility of dependents. The 12 months of treatments and additional months spent healing from major surgeries provided me with the time and space to get comfortable with my status and with time. I found it to be a relief. I was set free from an uncertainty about my future and found my own self-direction. Instead of thinking that cancer cut my window short for having kids, I found myself dreaming of a future where anything is possible.

With gratitude, I announce that I am cancer-free. There is no evidence of disease, and everything about the experience has inspired me with a new view on life and a confidence in my identity as a childless mother. I've moved to Miami to be closer to family and friends. I am a single, childless woman who possesses the attributes of a mother, which I can use in other ways. Now I have the luxury of being in close proximity to my niece, nephew, and family, as well as my childhood besties and their kids, who also see me as a somewhat eccentric auntie. I adopted a rescue dog and named her Luna. On our first visit to the vet, she leaned close to me during the examination, and my heart melted.

This identity is guiding me professionally. I'm building a hydroponic farm. Along with my co-founder, we are going to be growing beautiful, nutritious food. The location of the farm is slated to sit on a property in a historically underserved neighborhood just a few miles from where I grew up. We will employ people in the community and train them in the skills of the growing field of tech farming. We will provide access to fresh leafy greens for everyone in the community and host events focusing on the habits of a healthy lifestyle. It's a productive outlet for my skills and experience and an opportunity to express my inner nurturer.

Just over two years since my cancer diagnosis, I'm completely energized by the freedom found. My advice to women that find themselves in a state of uncertainty about having kids is this: Giving birth to a child isn't the only way to be a mother. We can show love and compassion to those around us. We can help protect the environment for future generations. We can teach children how to lead a healthier, more productive life by inspiring and offering options to make good choices. We can nurture and provide them with the resources to achieve their dreams and goals.

These are the attributes of a good mother. This world needs more feminine energy to create, lead, and teach. What are your skills, resources, and passions? Channel that energy into something productive. The children of the world need you.

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