Growing up, my grandparents lived two blocks away from us and, as such, they spent enormous amounts of time in our lives. My grandmother was our go-to babysitter, the holder of a never-ending secret candy stash, the one with plenty of cough drops and tissue whenever you had the slightest case of the sniffles, and my chaperone on tons of elementary school field trips.
I vividly remember starting the 3rd grade and our teacher, Mrs. McKeever, brought up the topic of field trip chaperones — specifically, moms or dads. I didn’t raise my hand but approached her after class and asked if it was okay if my grandma came on my trips with me. I really loved the time that she spent with me — riding the bus to some museum that I’m sure she had seen numerous times, scolding the boys in my class because she always seemed to catch them misbehaving, and in the spare moments in between, sharing stories of her life growing up. A childhood during the Great Depression, where she was paid a dime to scrub the hallway floors on her hands and knees, where she took typing classes because that was the skill needed to find work, or how she played basketball in high school.
A topic that never came up in our talks was infertility.
My grandparents got married in 1944, in a small ceremony where my grandma proudly wore a blazer and skirt with pumps. My grandpa was 26, while my grandma was 23. I imagine that they thought they’d start a family and spend the rest of their lives raising their children.
Fast forward 14 long years, to 1958. By this point, I’ve been told that my grandma had accepted the fact that she would never have children — it just wasn’t in the cards for them. After feeling ill for a bit of time, she went to the doctor and found out that a miracle had happened. At the age of 36, she was pregnant! I can’t imagine the absolute joy that she and my grandfather felt. What a miracle my mother was to them.
When my mother got married, it took four years for her to get pregnant. Although it wasn’t nearly as long as the wait my grandmother endured, my mom mentioned that it was hard seeing all of her friends get pregnant almost immediately after getting married. She, too, had to endure the constant questions about why she wasn’t having kids. The same type of questions that seem to be asked of me, have apparently been around for centuries. Eventually, I was conceived and motherhood, once again, became part of my family legacy.
My grandmother had to endure Alzheimer’s disease during the last few years of her life. Her journey here on Earth ended in 2012, shortly before I left for Afghanistan. The topic of infertility never came up, but oh, how I wish I could go back in time. Go back to those field trips — to that alone time where we were seat partners on the bus — and pick her brain about how she felt. The emotions, the lack of medical options, the frustration, the tears, etc. If I only knew back then that I’d be repeating her story 60 years later, at the same age that she was at. Maybe this means that this year will be my lucky year — becoming a mom at the same age that my grandmother entered motherhood.
Grandma, if you are out there listening, I’m walking in your shoes. I’m enduring your heartache, I’m feeling your pain. Please send a little luck our way this week as Mama M endures hormone shots and, hopefully, an egg retrieval in a few short days. Oh, how I miss you and wish you were here for all of this.