Good-bye, Mama: Guest Post by Meagan Francis

I’m happy to welcome my friend Meagan Francis to our space today.  I met Meagan at BlogHer a couple years ago and have enjoyed many e-mail conversations, ideas, advice, etc. through a blogger thread she created about a year ago–connections she’s fostered and deepened because that’s the sort of person Meagan is.  She’s a connector, a nurturer, a thinker and a doer; and I’ve learned much from her experiences and willingness to share them.

Meagan currently writes at The Happiest Home (formerly The Happiest Mom) and has contributed to a number of publications including The Huffington Post and The New York Times. 

Her book, The Happiest Mom, is full of great secrets to enjoying motherhood, expressed in a conversational, relatable tone–a great read, especially for (but not limited to!) new mamas.

Yesterday, Meagan underwent a hysterectomy after a cervical cancer diagnosis.  As she prepared for this experience, she wrote about her emotions of letting go to the organs that have so long defined her.  I might still be in the “trenches,” but I certainly understood the bittersweet finality of the baby journey which she so beautifully expresses.

Enjoy.

*****
Good-bye, Mama
Meagan Francis

I always knew I wanted to have a larger family. Growing up as the youngest of four siblings with the knowledge of a fifth – who would have been my older brother, lost to SIDS – I wanted either four or five myself. 

And that’s how it worked out. Five pregnancies and births , spread out every two or three years between the ages of 20 and 31. Four boys, then a girl.

Family complete.

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For a few years there, it was pretty crazy. Like when I had two young, energetic boys, a toddler, and a newborn. Those were the “trenches” years, when I’d drive around desperately at noon just hoping the babies would fall asleep, when I was hopeless about remembering birthday parties and permission slips.

But wow, has my life ever changed over the last year or two. After more than a decade of being pregnant, breastfeeding, chasing toddlers and changing diapers – sometimes all at once – I now have zero babies, zero toddlers, change zero diapers and haven’t used my breasts functionally in two years. 

Instead of being surrounded by clinging, pulling small children all day, my youngest child is four; an independent, self-sufficient little girl who I’m loving turn into a miniature version of myself.

The boys – ages 7, 9, 13, and 15 – spend their days going to school, playing sports, hanging out with friends. There is nary a sippy cup to be found in this house, and I even, finally, purged my kitchen drawers of all the random lids I used to hang on to “just in case.”

And I have two teenagers. You know what it means to have two teenagers in the house? It means you can go to the store and leave them in charge. You can go out to dinner with your husband and leave them in charge.  They can cook and clean the kitchen afterward! The freedom! The unbelievable freedom!

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After being orbited by noisy, clumsy satellites since I was barely an adult myself, I won’t lie: it’s nice to have two arms and a brain to myself sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, parenting five kids – even bigger kids – is still hard work. But for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have space to breathe, time to reflect.

On the one hand, there are a lot of positives to losing my uterus. No more periods? Yes please!

And absolutely no worries about becoming pregnant again. As somebody who’s got sort of a sketchy history with birth control and a family history of fertility until into the forties, knowing I don’t have another ten years’ worth of ovulatory bullets to dodge is a relief.

But it’s a little sad, too. It’s one thing to decide you no longer want children, but to know deep down that you could probably have another if you change your mind.  It’s another thing entirely for the choice to be made for you.

I don’t want to appear greedy. Yes, I have five beautiful, healthy children already. Many women face this kind of surgery before they’ve even started their families. I’m grateful. So grateful.

And the fact is, I don’t actually want more, and I doubt I would have changed my mind. So why am I having such a hard time with the loss of organs I no longer need?

I think it’s because the loss of my fertility will signal a sudden, complete and irrevocable end to the life I’ve led, and the person I’ve been, since I was twenty years old.

A mama.

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Not “Mommy,” as in “Mommy, will you tie my shoes?” or “Mom,” as in “Mom, have you seen my reading folder?” Not even “Mother,” as in “Oh crap, here comes my mother!”

Mama.

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A mama rocks her newborn babe for hours. She folds tiny t-shirts and socks. A mama squishes bananas and avocadoes with the back of a fork. She has a baby on her hip, and perhaps a toddler on the back of her legs.

A mama tends to be covered in undefined substances: milk, spit-up, crusty food.  She may look a little disheveled. People understand why when they see the small people clinging to her: she is a Mama. Her life is difficult and wearying, but there’s a simplicity, a singleness of focus, that she will look back on one day with envy.

When you’re a Mama, you know exactly what your priorities are, because babies don’t let you forget.

Truthfully, I found being a Mama addictive. Despite my logical understanding that our family is as big as it needs to be and that I’m moving into an equally wonderful phase of my life that is more centered around holistic family life than the needs of individual small people, I found mama-hood so addicting that I can’t say for certain I would have been able to let my head stay in charge until menopause made it up permanently.

For that reason, my upcoming surgery is probably a blessing. The decision is made for me. I won’t have to let my Mama-heart and my hard-earned Mother wisdom battle it out.

I will mourn these organs that have defined my life for so long. They have given me so much, and have helped make so much of me. Several times I’ve felt betrayed by my fertility, but I now see it for the blessing it really was.

But now I’m ready to look forward to what’s around the bend.

Good-bye, uterus and cervix and Fallopian tubes. You did your job well.

Good-bye, pregnancies and births and babies on my hip. It’s been sweet, if exhausting.

Good-bye, Mama.

*****

Meagan Francis is a mother of five, author, and founder of the blog The Happiest Home, dedicated to the art of creating a sane and satisfying family life. She lives in a lovely coastal town in Michigan and drives a very large vehicle.

Comments

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  1. So well written and truthful! Mama-hood tends to define us for so many years. My youngest is 6 months old right now and more than likely he is our last. I am already mourning the little things I won’t experience again. I am trying to soak up all these little baby moments so they can last me a lifetime. I understand what she means about her Mother wisdom and Mama heart battling it out. There is a weird addiction to welcoming a new life into the world – there is just nothing else like it.

    Best of luck on your journey Meagan.

  2. Today has been one of those days where my two year old continues to remove her clothing at every chance and my four month old wants to nurse hourly and I just have the worst headache. As a former high school teacher I know I was made to be a mom of teens, but I am crying over this post. There is just something so special about being so important to a tiny person. Something so sweet about bringing your son into bed and it not being uncool or weird :)

    Thanks for this.

  3. Whoa, I have chills! She said everything I felt when I made the decision while pregnant with my last child to have my tubes tied. You see, I was diagnosed with MS while pregnant with Julia and felt that it wasn’t fair to pass that gene on to any other children. I felt sad; I couldn’t figure out why. I already had six children, why in the world was I upset? What was written above summed it up for me. I’ve always been an animal lover. When I was little I saved ducks, chickens, anything I could find and nurtured and mothered them until they were grown and ready to move on, so it was natural for me when I became pregnant in my late teens with our first little girl. My husband and I were both nurturing and our six children were blessed with our undivided love and attention. I wouldn’t trade the way things have transpired, and I don’t regret my decision, but I really appreciate what Meagan said and it rings true for me as well.

  4. Lovely.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Meagan. I had to have a hysterectomy last year after the birth of my third child, and I have many of the same feelings that you do about it.

  6. Oh Kelle, I so very much needed to read this today. Thank you to Meagan for sharing her story and for you Kelle for introducing it to me.
    I am facing this exact health issue at age 30. Yes, I have two healthy, thriving young ones and for that I’m grateful but it still cuts deep.
    I have found some peace in Meagan’s words and her courage to share them.
    Claire x
    http://claireeverafter.com/

  7. I do not yet have children, so I cannot even begin to understand what it feels like to make such a heart-wrenching decision, necessary or otherwise. I can say though, even as a 26 year old, there are days when I need my Mama, and only those things that a Mama can provide, more than I need my Mom or my Mother. I know, Meagan, that you will never again experience babies on your hip, but I can almost guarantee that there will be days, at least for your kids, when all they want and all they need is their Mama. I don’t know that it’s any consolation, but for the kids, being a Mama never truly goes away, whether the organs are still there or not :)

  8. Aww, I love the way this was written. I luckily had my three babies when I was young and so glad I made that decision because at the very young age of 25 I under went a complete hysterectomy . I also felt the feelings that I was losing a part that I was supposed to make the decision as to whether I was ready to be done using or not. I loved being pregnant and being a mother but I also know that it must have been for a good reason , a reason I had no decision over but I am thankful that I was able to have the three most amazing children. Thanks so much for this post !

  9. to the author- beautiful.

  10. So happy to read two of my favorite voices online in the same space. Meagan, your capacity to create, incubate and nurture goes so far beyond your physical reach. But I think you know that. Kelle, thank you for this gracious and hospitable space. As I read your intro, I could visualize you fluffing cushions and shaking out a quilt for our convalescent friend. I’m grateful to dwell in the same virtual neighborhood with you both. xo

  11. So beautiful! I just had our 3rd and my other two are 2 and 4 years old. I can really understand the feeling of not really wanting to be “done”. We may or may not be and I’d hate to have to decide that right now. I hope your surgery went well. Your family is beautiful!

  12. As someone who battled infertility, and miraculously had one child, I simply cannot relate to this post. She is so very fortunate that she was able to have 5 children. They are gorgeous and I know she is incredibly proud of them. However, being a mama has nothing to do with giving birth. I adopted my son when he was 9 years old and he was the one who made me a mama. I know this is her perspective and she is entitled to it…but for those of us in the trenches, or just on the other side ((or maybe it’s just me), it’s really difficult to understand.

  13. What a great looking family!

  14. a beautiful read while I am just at the beginning as a mama. envisioning a big family, too. Thank you for sharing this perspective with us here! peacelovemusicgrows.com

  15. Thank you so much to everyone who has read my piece, and to Kelle for hosting – I’m loving reading these comments!

  16. @ Leah, I hope that I didn’t come off as ungrateful (I realize I am incredibly blessed and that many women struggle to have any at all). Of course, To me the “mama” term is more about a specific phase of motherhood, than actually giving birth to a baby. When I had babies and toddlers, they referred to me as “mama” and I even referred to myself in the third person as “mama.” As they’ve gotten older it’s changed to “mom” or even in the case of my oldest, “mother” sometimes. So the word “mama” is really something I just associate closely with a specific time in my life, a chapter that is now closing. I’m sure there are mothers of older kids who still go by “mama” but I’m finding that I identify less with that word as time goes on. I hope that makes sense!

  17. Yep, I had some of those feelings too when I had stage 4 endometriosis even though I was a bit older and I knew for sure my family was complete.
    Thanks for writing this article.
    All the best to you.

  18. Oh Meagan. I have four children and despite the great hardships our family has endured, it has been the single greatest pleasure of my life, being a Mama. And although i know I need to be done, it hurts all the same. I totally understand. Having stage 4 endometriosis, I almost did not get to have my last baby, Ever, and I am glad every day that I was so lucky. I’m so glad you are OK. xo

  19. Having 6 kids of my own, I can completely relate to this post. Oh how I miss the “Mama” stage. My oldest is also 15 and my youngest is 5. Life is great right now but it doesn’t take away any of the longing for those times when my children were babies and toddlers. It’s such a beautiful time of motherhood and one I will forever cherish. Thank you for this beautiful piece. Loved it!

  20. Made me cry…(in a good way though)

  21. Beautifully written. I really like this. Thank you for the introduction and for sharing.
    Love this:
    “When you’re a Mama, you know exactly what your priorities are, because babies don’t let you forget.”
    Your perceptions hit home with me.

  22. Even though we are sure we are complete with three little ones in tow….I can empathize with your feelings of not wanting the choice to be made up for me. I applaud your positive thinking as you are propelled forward into equally as amazing things. It’s a new chapter, but a happy one I’m sure! Thank you for sharing!

    http://www.wolfswinkelfam.blogspot.com

  23. Thank you so much for sharing this Kelle and Meagan. I’m in the early trenches, my baby is just 13 months old, but thinking that we might just have 2 and realizing just how short this time really is. I come here for that reminder to slow down and enjoy, stop worrying about stains on shirts and keeping everything perfect (ha! Like I really did that anyway…) and just enjoy my boy each glorious day. We are given such gifts in life.

    And Meagan, I hope the surgery goes smoothly. Luckily you have a home full of love and lots of hands to help in your recovery!! This was beautifully said, and I am sure your mama heart will sing at being a grand-mama when the time is right. <3

  24. I’m crying, of course. I have three kiddos – 5, 3, and 3 months. Many days I whine right along with my kiddos about being in “the trenches”! But I love my babies.

    Each pregnancy is a bit scary because I’m high-risk, and each time we talk about possibly having more we weigh that risk. Even if we decide we shouldn’t have anymore, I don’t know if I could make that decision permanent. Knowing the option is there is somehow comforting.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  25. This comment has been removed by the author.

  26. i think the loss of your reproductive organs is a majorly huge deal, regardless of the number babies you have been blessed to have.

    fertile or infertile, one baby or none or five- a loss is a loss. And I am sorry for your loss.

    I also think that you, Megan, are very graceful in conveying your experience, here. It can’t be easy and I admire how you are able to see the silver linings. Wishing you much healing and good health in the days to come.

    Also, it’s really great to hear (down here in the trenches) that these days will pass.
    The hard days that is. I’m holding onto the sweet times.

    Godspeed.
    Thanks for sharing this lady, Kelle

  27. I had a hysterectomy many years ago and you have just expressed so well how I felt about it! And…As my two girlies have grown up I have often felt melancholy for their littler days…I think you hit the nail on the head – it isn’t that I don’t love watching them grow into lovely young women it is that I miss being the Mama!

    Thanks for a touching post.

    xoxo

  28. Oh tears and chills. I’m very much mama right now. The infant and the preschooler and the needing and, yes, the undefined substances that cover my clothes. It is as wearying and beautiful as you describe and, like you, I’m grateful for the experience. Wishing you all the best.

  29. Ha. Wow. This post give me hope in that need-to-see-the-other-side way. Also as a mom of five, (ages 2, almost 5, 6, 8, 9) person who has chosen not to have more but also seriously addicted to babies and having been betrayed by my fertility, I love that mama-mode. It’s my favorite part. But I also recognize that I need to love the other parts too, it’s just harder to do that sometimes when in the “trenches” of this phase, unable to feel that freedom, that diaper/sippie-free, not so focused on individuals never-ending needs. It’s nice to know that space, and breathe, and reflection are in my future, soonish anyway. So thanks for sharing.

  30. beautiful. i just entered mama-mode, 10 months ago, and even on the hardest days (which are really just sleep-deprived days) i know that i want more babies. i want to be in the mama-mode as long as possible. i’m so glad you got to enjoy it for as long as you could :) it’s nice to know that there are good things up ahead too :)

  31. Loved this story, but I wanted to make a quick comment that I miss kelle. The one who didn’t have 3-4 sponsored post or guest mama. I know you have a newborn but I would rather wait 2 weeks for a fresh message from you then a week filled with these types of post. I like ur blog 2+ years ago. Just sayin :-/

  32. This post touched me – I’m here with a 3 year old and a 9 month old…stopping to enjoy them a little more.

  33. I have to admit that at first, this post rubbed me the wrong way, too. I struggled to have my one child and have just gone through the hell of four miscarriages in 18 months as I fight with everything in me to have another. Sometimes it just doesn’t seem fair that others get to have so many children when people like me have to fight so very hard just to have one or two (and still others can’t have any).

    But I realized that’s not what this post is about. Whether you’ve had one child or five, I don’t think it’s ever easy to realize that that door is closing behind you. Motherhood is a precious moment in time, and it’s fleeting, and then it’s over, and it’s natural to feel wistful about that no matter how grateful you are for the gifts of your children and the excitement of the next phase. Meagan captured this so well.

    And of course I wish her all the best with her health, which in the end is the most precious gift of all.

  34. I agree with a few of the readers above. As someone who is currently battling infertility and had both tubes removed at the age of 28 and has never been pregnant. This was a little hard to read. People have a very hard time seeing past their own issues – it was beautifully written- I can agree with that. People don’t realize how blessed they are sometimes!

  35. oh! Little tears…and I’m not even done yet…but I suddenly saw the next ten years flash before my eyes…gotta go snuggle some little ones.

    Beautifully written, Meagan.

    Sarah

  36. Meagan, what a wonderful expression of what you’re going through. I love love love your post about self care. You expressed there some very simular feelings i have. After three years of ignoring a pain in my head, one MRI and six weka later I’m facing brain surgery and interviewing neurosurgeons. I’m so happy you’re going to be alright! You have a grieving process of sorts, regardless of whether or not you needed your ute any more, because its not “what you planned.” Best of luck and speedy recovery!

  37. I couldn’t read this. As a 29-year-old single woman with severe Endometriosis & PCOS, I’ve had numerous doctors tell me they don’t think I’ll ever have children. Even if I wanted to try for children, I couldn’t afford the treatments to do it on my own, and I don’t have a partner to try.

    I get it, and I don’t mean any disrespect toward the author or her views. I know having surgery is difficult no matter what you’re going through. It was just heartbreaking. I would go to any length to have one child.

  38. My daughter has taken to calling me “Mama” and I absolutely adore it : )

  39. Those years were truly the best years of my life.

    I wish you well sweet mama.

  40. I’m going through the exact same thing even though I have twice the number of children and it is my husband who may be undergoing surgery. We’re looking at prostate cancer and male infertility. I have ten amazing kids, one is still a baby, I still find myself wistfully rocking friends newborns and infants and find myself so sad. Same with seeing pregnant mamas and their bellies. Half of my life has been spent pregnant, nursing and caring for little babies and it is over and I am sad and very few people can understand why.

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