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How Mother's Day Reminds Me of All That Could Have Been and All That Is

How Mother's Day Reminds Me of All That Could Have Been and All That Is

Mother's Day holds a spectrum of emotions for many of us, and I'm no exception. Growing up in West Michigan, nurtured by loving parents and two older sisters who often acted as additional mothers, I always imagined motherhood in my future. My childhood was filled with days playing with my Pleasant Company American Girl dolls—Samantha, Kirsten, Addy and the Bitty Baby doll. These moments of play and family closeness were what I cherished, especially after we moved away to East Tennessee where everything was unfamiliar, and I suddenly found myself the kid with the “funny accent.”

My grandma, best friend and mom.

⇧I've always held family values and amazing friends close to my heart. Here I am (in the blue shirt) with my grandma, my best friend and my mom (while my dad takes the photo).

In middle and high school, I loved the game MASH, which my friends and I would play on ringed notebook while paper passing notes back and forth in school. The game promised a whimsical future based on the luck of the draw: a hot husband picked from my list of current crushes, a few kids, a fancy car, and a cool job. Life seemed to follow the script for a while. I went to college, met Chris, got married, embarked on exciting careers, moved around for a bit to new and exciting locations, and then we eventually settled in Texas, thinking we still had plenty of time to fill in the rest of that MASH forecast.

Jen and Chris on their wedding day.

⇧Chris and I on our wedding day.

If you're not familiar with MASH, it's a childhood game that stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. Players list potential options in various categories like marital partners, job types, numbers of children, types of cars, and of course, the type of residence they might end up living in — from a mansion to a shack. A player then randomly draws a spiral, counts the rings, and uses this number to count through the options, eliminating choices until one option in each category remains. It’s a fun, harmless way to envision future possibilities (and a fun way to make the school day pass by faster).

A typical MASH gameplay setup.

⇧A typical MASH gameplay setup. According to the final outcome of this game, I'd be living in a mansion, married to Tom Cruise, working as a business owner (yay!), driving a Porsche, have 1 kid, living in Michigan and own a cat.

However, as Chris and I moved through our 30s, the children part of our plan remained unfulfilled. Despite our readiness and several years of trying, including several medical appointments that unearthed surprising and significant challenges like my having only one attached ovary and a unicornuate uterus—a rare condition where the uterus is quite smaller, abnormally-shaped, and often leads to reproductive complications.

Fertility treatments were on the table for a long time, but the complexities of my health made even the most advanced options like IVF risky. As much as we longed for children, the potential health risks for me and for a future baby were too great. And while adoption or fostering children is a beautiful way to build a family, for us, the financial cost was just too high (a reality sharpened when I lost my job) and the potential emotional toll too heavy.

Jen with her sister and nephew.

⇧With my sister and meeting my nephew for the first time.

The decision to stop pursuing parenthood was not made lightly. It brought a deep sense of loss, but also relief from the constant cycle of hope and heartbreak. For a long time, we kept the door open just a crack with thoughts like "If it happens, it happens." But as time passed, the door quietly closed. I now face a medical decision that will end all possibilities definitively, which is a profound, if somewhat bittersweet, acceptance.

Jen playing with her niece.

⇧Playing with my niece.

Despite the challenges, Chris and I have found peace. We channel our nurturing energies into our creative business, Forged Flare®, and especially our Mother’s Angels® ornaments, which capture a bit of the love we envisioned filling our home. Each ornament is a creation from our hearts — made to bring joy and beauty into the lives of others, perhaps echoing the care and love we would have showered on our own children.

Mother’s Day is a reminder of what might have been, but also of what is. While it can be bittersweet, I celebrate the amazing mothers in my life. They fill this day with joy and remind me of the richness of our lives. In our own special way, Chris and I are building a legacy filled with beauty and love through our art, and by cherishing our furbabies—Widget, Megatron, and Poppy.

Our cats Widget, Megatron and Poppy.

⇧Our cats Widget (16 yrs), Megatron (6 yrs) and Poppy (6 yrs).

Each year, as I reflect on what Mother’s Day means to me, I recognize it's a day filled with love and complex emotions, but also a day that reinforces the peace we've found in the life path we’ve taken. We may not have followed the exact blueprint laid out in a childhood game of MASH, but we have crafted a life filled with other kinds of richness and fulfillment.

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