Not my picture. Some nice person's picture from the internet.
My single friends and I joke about our menstrual cramps. We say that our cramps are screams of protest coming from our unfertilized eggs. "How dare you waste me!" (cramp, cramp). It's funny. It's the kind of funny that masks the rather sharp pain women of a certain age feel who are not married and wish to be. Women who are not pressing a babe to their breast and wish they could. Enter the jokes. If you can't laugh at yourself, you end up sobbing yourself into a melted mess of snot and drippy mascara, as they say.
I was never one of those women who dreamed of being a mother. I didn't play with my dolls in the anticipation of one day trading in their cloth and yarn bodies for real ones of flesh and bone. Even when I was married I never felt drawn to motherhood, which could have had something to do with the not-so-nice man to whom I was hitched. But maybe not. At times I wondered if there were something wrong with me. That I was missing some sliver of DNA that says, "A part of your heart will remain hollow just as your womb. When womb is filled, so heart will be also." Despite this perplexity, for the entirety of my 20s I felt generally content with my minimal interest in motherhood.
Now I am 32 years old, unmarried and childless, and for the first time in my life the wound is starting to smart. I am suddenly fascinated by childbirth because it's the closest I can get to experiencing something so profound and primal. I eagerly solicit birthing stories from friends who have given birth recently, and I am captivated. I am captivated by, what seems to me, the most unbelievable endeavor any human being could undertake. After the captivation, when I'm alone, I am crying. I cry because I feel sorry for myself. I cry because it's not me bearing down through the pain of labor. It's not me looking into a newborn face I helped illustrate. It's not me holding a baby to my tired breast.
Today, I climbed the most difficult mountain I have ever climbed. It was 2 hours of straight up augmented by slippery shale and paper thin air. For a portion of the hike I was scared of falling off of the mountain, and for another portion of the hike I was afraid my legs would give out beneath me. It was so difficult, but in the end I made it (mostly I made it...I collapsed about 15 minutes from the top but I'm still going to call it a success). At the top of the mountain, I was gifted with one of the most beautiful views in all of Provo. As you might have expected, I will now draw the obvious Mormon sacrament talk parallel; being in my 30s sans husband and child is my difficult mountain to climb. I feel scared of never reaching that summit, of slipping down the face of the cliff and birthing nothing more than a bruised and bloody heart. I fear that my legs will give out beneath me, and I will give up the endeavor all together. In my literal climb up the mountain today, I made it to the top. I made it. So this is the faith I cling to: I really hope that I make it metaphorically, too. And I really really hope that the view will be every shade of divine.