One of the many anxieties single sisters tell me they lie awake agonising over is "what if I have missed my chance to have children?".
It's a common fear especially given those nosy aunties who like to wag their turmeric-stained fingers at you and remind you of a certain clock that is supposedly ticking away inside your body somewhere.
Add to that the plethora of ahadith and social media posts extolling the virtues and rewards of the mother it is easy to convince yourself that you are somehow destined to be a lesser woman or Muslim for being without a biological child of your own.
So first I want to differentiate between two ideas about motherhood: having children and being a mother.
Having children, to me, means the creating and carrying a foetus then 9 months later giving birth to it. It comes attached with all the romantic notions of the fun and quirks of pregnancy, interesting birthing stories and creating something that is half you and half someone else: the perfect embodiment of you union right?
Being a mother however, means something else. It means the opportunity to give a child: love, care, kindness, guidance, boundaries, support, protection, education, nourishment, shelter, empathy, sympathy, morals, life lessons, hugs, medical attention and so so much more.
Are you starting to see my point yet sister? Let me explain further..
The biological desire to carry a child can be strong especially if you have anxious parents awaiting the next in line to the family (ahem...yes you mum if you are reading this lol!). But for a lot of sisters that isn't always possible and it doesn't have anything to do with age (need I remind you of Khadijah RA who gave birth to children in her 40s and Asishah RA the youngest of the wives who didn't give birth to any?).
Some sisters do not meet someone they wish to marry, some sisters are married but as couple they cannot have children whilst other sisters may have medical problems which make it risky or difficult to have children.
Does that mean then that you should miss out on motherhood? No.
Whilst I have the utmost respect for any woman who has carried a child and gone through childbirth and do not wish to diminish her experiences in any way, I want to make the point that all women have the opportunity to have a maternal influence in the life of a child.
For some women (myself included) that comes in the form of being a step mother. For some sisters it is the opportunity to use the resources they have been blessed with to foster or adopt a child who needs a parent.
And it doesn't even have to be that "extreme". Why not get involved volunteering at a children's home or in a children's hospice? Become a mentor for a child or young adult who is in need of guidance and direction in life. Volunteer with a charity that works with children. There are so many ways to do it.
You could even take an essential role in the upbringing of a neice or nephew or the child of a friend and make a real impact.
Having spent most of my adult life working in classrooms and as a mentor I can tell you that often the kids who need some maternal nurturing are right on our doorsteps. You don't have to look very far to make an impact.
Just because you may not have the chance to physically give birth to a child doesn't mean you should miss out on the opportunity to use your maternal instincts elsewhere. And whilst you may feel that the blessings of being a biological mother don't count for you I cannot imagine that there's not blessing and reward in having a positive impact on any child.
I refuse to believe that the same blessing bestowed upon a lady who has given birth will not be bestowed upon the woman who has fostered or adopted a child and given them a chance at life. And I doubt very much that there is less blessing in giving a child guidance and support in life which they are lacking eslewhere.
So don't be so hard on yourself sister and recognise that those beautiful instincts and qualities that Allah SWT has granted you as a woman do not need to go to waste simply because you haven't carried a child. Every woman is already a mother to a child that needs them somewhere.