I’ve been thinking about women who do not have children. I am one of them. When I was still a young child myself, I played “pretend Mommy” and dreamed up scenarios where I tended to my own house and had my own brood.

I began babysitting as soon as I was old enough and have spent the better part of my life working with children and young people in some capacity.

I love kids. I had always planned on having a family. I’m 41 now, and it still hasn’t happened. School, jobs, circumstances — years came and went during the decades I had foreseen myself bearing my own.

I love my life right where it’s at, but I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t mourned. Freeze my eggs? It’s just not for me. I’m all for adopting. I had always planned to adopt as well as have children naturally, but the natural part is something I’ve had to begin to let go of.

Maybe your 20s and 30s came and went (so much quicker than expected) and now you stand mid 40s, 50s, or older, with the probability of not bearing children staring you in the face. And some dreams are put to rest. We grieve some of the expectations we had for our lives as we grapple with the realization that they may not come to pass as we had always imagined.

Time tables are arduous things, and we do not have nearly as much say-so in the timing of our lives as we think that we do.

So often, it all feels like a trade-off. Choose this, but you won’t have that. Go this route, but you’ll miss that one. Unexpected life events occur that knock us off the course of what we had outlined for ourselves with all of our good intentions — those best laid plans.

But I have found that, however it happens, life is tailored for one’s own unique space, and even when the wonderful things we had planned do not come to fruition, other wonderful things and opportunities fill it up.

And so perhaps a Mother’s Day rolls around and you still don’t have children of your own — that doesn’t mean you are not a mother.

There are many without children that have mothers’ hearts. Aunts who pour the best of their lives and love into their nieces and nephews; friends who spend time making sure other people’s kids know they are their “favorite”; that one sweet lady down the block whose door was always open. She never had children of her own, but there wasn’t one young person in the neighborhood who couldn’t come to her porch (day or night) for cookies, hugs, and a listening ear.

If you don’t hold the title, “Mother,” chances are you have still been one to some little soul along the way.

So here’s to the aunts, and best friends, the souls who stand in. Here’s to the mentors who keep an eye out and watch well past their years as teacher or coach, counselor, nurse or pastor, and have a vested interest in our lives as we move along and grow up.

Here’s to all those with mothers’ hearts who may have not birthed children physically, but have been every bit a mother as a natural mother could be — Those who have mothered multitudes with care, comfort, advice, wisdom, nurturing arms and safe hearts. Legacies left for generations.

We see you and honor you.

Happy Mother’s Day, to every mother.

Born in Rome, Olivia Gunn returned to her roots after a brief time of study at a university in Scotland. She is currently working on a book of essays and poetry as well as a memoir.

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