“You’re so motherly. I’m surprised you don’t have kids.”
“When are you gonna have kids? You don’t want to wait ‘til you’re too old.”
“You love to tell people what to do, you need some kids!”
Immediately, Ann came to my side and held my hand. She comforted me as I quietly wept when I received the news that due to my treatment plan for this condition, I would not be able to bear children. By the way, according to my doctor, the treatment plan would be lifelong. That was devastating to me. Once again, I had no control over my future or my body. – from The Patient Is Wearing Lipstick
Motherhood is something that should be cherished and celebrated. Being a mother is the most important job on the planet. Rearing young lives, shaping experiences and personalities of the future leaders of the world can’t be glossed over. But what about the childless mother? What about the woman who made room in her heart for this all-consuming unconditional love, but her womb has not produced the recipient of such affection? Too often women without children are pre-judged, alienated, or even ostracized for not bearing this beautiful burden. Just as we are cautioned not to judge a book by its cover, we can’t judge a childless woman on one snapshot of her life.
In The Patient, I talk about the pendulum swing from long skirts and high heels to hardhats and steel toe boots and then from satin night gowns to hospital gowns. The swing that was just as drastic was the shift from wanting five kids to wanting none.
The story begins many years ago when I was a young teen. I met my best friend when I was fourteen years old, but over the years we became much more. He came from a large family and wanted to continue the tradition. At first, I wasn’t sure if I agreed, but the more we talked and the more our love grew, his desires became mine. We settled on the number five because my mom was the fifth daughter of my grandmother and grandfather. Then came Christmas 2004, and due to some bad decisions combined with some bad weather, my best friend and fiancé was taken from me. I grieved him and what would have been our family. I mourned a future lost. I no longer knew who I was. I didn’t have a grasp on what would become of me.
Chris and I met on a cool spring night in Memphis. He says it was love at first sight. We both grew up in the church and admired each other’s faith and education. We talked every day and soon after fell in love. I knew early on that growing a family was important to him, and though everything inside me said that I did not want to bear nor raise children, I was so in love and so ready to head down the aisle that I gave in to what I call the Great Compromise.
I told him that whatever he could make happen in one pregnancy, I would handle. Whether it was one beautiful brown baby or a set of twins or triplets, he had one shot. Little did I know the rocky years ahead would cause me to renege on that promise. Our marriage has weathered the storm. The torrential rain of unkind words and the lightning strike of a separation didn’t cast us away. The sickness wasn’t unto death and didn’t lead to our destruction after all.
From the fall of 2017 to the spring of 2018, I spent a total of 26 days in the hospital, and Chris was by my side through it all. Any appointment he couldn’t make due to work, he deputized my sister to go in his stead and report back. This particular appointment was with Dr. McDonough and his team. I was sliced open yet again for a procedure that was supposed to explain why I was experiencing heart failure and respiratory failure. After the cardiac images were captured, I was informed that any future hopes of biological children should be stored in a lockbox and put away for good. I had been given the choice of either preserving my life now or the possible life of an unborn child. It really wasn’t a choice at all.
Given the conversations Chris and I had previously, I should have been fine. The news I received should have been a delight and a relief, or at least had no effect, right? For some reason, that was not the case. Something deep inside me cried out to be the mother, the nurturer, the life-giver that I had already been to so many including nieces, nephews, goddaughters, and mentees. But there I lay, weeping, a childless mother.
One of the reasons that it was so important for me to write The Patient Is Wearing Lipstick was to share my unique motherhood journey but also to share lessons that I’ve learned on becoming a godly wife, an impactful coach, and an authentic minister. Navigating my way back from the brink of divorce while healing physically, mentally, and emotionally from a chronic illness has been extremely difficult but being able to inspire and motivate women through sharing my story has been immensely rewarding, and I am beyond grateful.
The Patient Is Wearing Lipstick is available for pre-order now on ThePatientIsWearingLipstick.com
Mommi Artisha T. Bolding