Anonymous Mom is a weekly column of motherhood confessions, indiscretions, and parental shortcomings selected by Mommyish editors. Under this unanimous byline, readers can share their own stories, secrets, and moments of weakness with complete anonymity.
When I was 17, I was in love with a boy who was my entire world. He was a few years older and enlisted in the military, going off to boot camp and serving in far away places throughout his military career. Meanwhile I finished high school and enrolled in college, trying to continue my life while writing daily letters, awaiting intermittent phone calls and widely spaced visits in person. At the time, I thought that he would eventually get out of the military, return home to me and then we would finally get married and raise a family. I was too young and naive to fully grasp what that plan truly encompassed.
Eventually, after he returned home, we did live together for a while and both went to college, trying to attain goals and secure our futures. I often thought that if I became pregnant somehow during this time, even though I was using birth control, that we would get married and start a family. Maybe it would happen a little premature and unscripted, but none the less, a baby would still be part of the overall life plan for us.
Well, I never got pregnant and eventually, over time and many life experiences, we gradually fell out of love and each moved on to other lives and parted as friends.
By this time, I was finishing college and embarking on a career that would provide me with a future and stability for the rest of my working life. I was an independent person and making decisions on my own. For the next five years, I experienced relationships with men for various periods of time and eventually found a man I would marry.
We both had personal goals that we shared, so we began graduate school and continued our respective climbs up the career ladder. While I took on a position with a company upon graduation, he continued his striving for a doctoral degree and remained at the university. We lived apart for a period of time because the distance between my work and his school created such a proximity difficulty that traveling on a daily basis was impossible. But, eventually, we were able to relocate to a home that allowed me to commute daily for under an hour and him to attend the university for meetings with his advisers. He also taught classes a few days a week.
Again, I thought that if I found myself pregnant, even though I continued to use birth control, I would be a wonderful mother and manage to continue my work and take on the responsibility of raising a child.
When he finally obtained his doctorate, he surprisingly announced that he had been having an affair with his graduate assistant and wanted a divorce before heading off to teach at the university in a neighboring state.
Although flabbergasted by the demise of my marriage, I was still in my 30s and thought that I had plenty of time and opportunities left to meet another man, marry and finally have children.
I spent the next several years in and out of relationships and continuing my career path, which became more demanding and carried more and more responsibility. In my mid-30s, I was diagnosed with complications from endometriosis and required a hysterectomy.
Suddenly, it was obvious to me that I would never have a child of my own. I struggled with it for a time, but gradually accepted the results. I refused to regret anything and thought that it was a sign that I would find other options in life that motherhood did not provide.
When I was 43, I began a relationship with a divorced man who had two children of his own. They were both young enough to impact my life as if I were their mother, demanding time, attention and childrearing skills which I had instinctively acquired somehow. They lived with us part of the time and I set limits and responsibilities for them as I would have for my own children. It was after they were both in their late teen years that I realized how lucky I was to have been able to experience this part-time role of motherhood since I would never acquire the full-time equivalent.
These two children are now happy adults with lives and families of their own. Even though their father and I never married and broke up many years ago, they both treat me as a step-mother and remain in my life.
I suppose my early anticipation of being a married woman and a mother was normal for me at the time. But even circumstances began to change in my life and impact my future, sometimes without my own control, I failed to reach a state of panic that would have forced me to find a way to have a child of my own. I could have frozen my eggs if the technology would have been available then at a reasonable cost. I could have adopted too, although, that never really appealed to me. But, I didn't do anything to reach that state of motherhood other than wait for a mistake of timing and fate.
It never happened.
Now as I reach the "golden years" of my retirement, I see other people with children, grandchildren and extended families. I visit my elderly aunt in the nursing home and ponder how I will manage late in life when there are no children with families to come visit or comfort me as I near death.
Did I miss out on something by not paying attention to my life, body and future? I don't know how to answer that some days.
Most days I accept the way things turned out and am glad to have had my step-children in my life who allowed me to fill the role of mother without having the long-term obligation and responsibility to them that perhaps a biological parent feels forever.
But, there are some days when I wish I could go back, take a different turn in the road, throw away the birth control, take the chance at motherhood, open my heart to a baby's love and become the person I always thought I would have time to be.
Regrets are not good to have this late in life, so I try to just settle for acceptance.
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(photo: Calek / Shutterstock)