Disclaimer: I don’t write to gripe. And I’m not dumping my guts on the floor in exchange for affirmation or likes or whatever. My hope, truly, is that just one person out there might find hope or love or encouragement or something in my story. That someone might feel a little less alone and a little more known.
For whatever reason, God has entrusted me with pain–so I’m trusting that these words might help even one person see and experience, in their own life, the radical Love that’s in unrelenting, particular pursuit of each of us, always.
“How can I be praying for you?” C asked. She was the awesome ringleader of the moms group I had just joined and we were wrapping up another park morning with the kids.
“Oh, thank you! Um, I’m not quick on my feet. Can I get back to you?” I zipped Stevie’s backpack, waved to the other moms at the playground and left.
I knew exactly what I needed prayer for when she asked, but I wasn’t ready to say it out loud and with eye contact because I would have lost it in the middle of Fairytale Town. And Fairytale Town isn’t exactly the place to publicly cry about your infertility.
I had been aware of my grief for a few months at that point. But it felt different this time. More isolating, because it didn’t really fit anywhere–it also felt much, much bigger.
I’ve never lost a baby.
I have experienced pregnancy and birth once.
But now my ability to bear children is permanently, irreversibly gone. It was a really difficult decision I had to make just a year after Stevie was born. And I’m young enough that people really don’t expect me to be in this place, so I get a lot of questions.
“Are you thinking of having another baby?”
“When are you guys going to try to get pregnant again?”
I’ve never met someone who experienced endo the way I did or had a hysterectomy so young. (That’s the isolating bit.) It’s lonely. And I’m reminded of that every time I stumble through interactions with new female friends and birth and babies come up. And periods, for that matter.
My default is to avoid those situations but, as deeply as I feel “different” from women my age and dread the awkward pang of talking my way around “when kid #2 is coming,” I’ve found myself actually wanting community and showing up to those potentially painful situations anyway.
I think some seasons we walk on legs that aren’t ours so we can get to the places we really need to be. Like Fairytale Town with a bunch of cool moms where I had to decide whether to be honest with my new friend, C, about how I desperately needed help.
Or places like Sister’s Night.
There’s a certain energy alive in a room full of women. That energy doubles on itself in a room full of women at a women’s church event. It’s not cynicism, it’s science. Don’t stone me for being a woman-hater yet, just roll with me. This is going somewhere good.
The vibe of the room is very “We are here. We are dressed. We are ready to connect. We are excited.”
And when I found myself at Sisters Night on May 21st, I was indeed dressed. But I was not really there and I was not excited.
To be so very clear, a room full of loving women is the exact best place to be a mess. There you’ll find empathy overflowing, all the hugs you could dream of and strong, supportive arms to hold you up. That is–if you’re willing to let yourself be seen. I was not ready for that.
My friend M and I had carpooled. We’ve known each other for 6 years now and I hadn’t really told her how I was feeling lately. I hadn’t told my mom, either (sorry mom). Honestly, I hadn’t been fully real with myself about it. Up until that night, I had been in a constant state of bracing against it. I was aware of the massive, ominous wave of grief rolling up in front of me, but I was wholly afraid that if I ever allowed myself to really feel it, I would never come back from it.
And of course, there were a lot of babies present that night, too.
So, when worship started, my body assumed its position: jaw clenched, arms crossed, physically bracing against the emotional weight, wondering why the heck I showed up. It was really hard to keep it together. And somewhere in the middle of the second song I felt something I hadn’t felt in the year and a half since my hysterectomy: absolute emptiness.
A tangible void. Right where all of my reproductive organs used to be.
It’s important to note, anatomically, that’s not accurate. My intestines and colon live there now so there is no “real” void where my uterus and ovaries once lived.
But I could suddenly feel the nothingness there. The loss. And, when I looked around the room of women, a thought overwhelmed me:
I don’t belong here anymore.
It was devastating and evil. (Like Scarlet Witch mind f-ing the Avengers in Age of Ultron.) And it was all I could do not to sprint to the bathroom and Uber home. But I didn’t. I just stood there, silently wrecked.
Eventually, the feeling became manageable, so I pulled up a chair in my mind and sat down with God for a beer and tête-à-tête.
“Why am I here–what do you want with me?”
I visualized that grief wave again. (Fun fact: I’m afraid of the ocean.) Then I thought about my daughter’s swim lessons. How she was learning how to float and not panic in the water. I took that metaphor for a spin and shot some more questions across the imaginary table.
“Are you trying to tell me you’re going to teach me how to tread water? That if I let the wave crash you won’t let me drown–you’ll show me how to swim?”
Or you can walk on it.
The voice, the feeling, the knowing had come from outside of me. It held me the way my husband holds me. The way my mother consoles me. The way I carry my child home when she’s fallen and scraped her knees.
Unrelenting Love saw my deepest pain, held it, and invited me onto the water (not into it)–to walk forward in empowerment, not emptiness.
All I did was pull up a chair.
A few minutes later, our table went through discussion questions. Despite experiencing that healing/reframing moment with God, I wasn’t ready to bare my soul at the table. But in that discussion time, I learned one woman in the group had experienced a miscarriage.
I don’t know that specific loss, but I do know loss, intimately.
And another woman at the table had adopted.
We haven’t adopted yet, but we want to.
Those connecting points anchored me back down to the room. They reminded me maybe I do belong here in this room full of women–despite having an unusual story and lacking a lot of my female anatomy and functions. That’s a trip, let me tell you.
I might never meet someone totally like me. I can grieve that. And I can grieve my loss. But it also doesn’t mean I’m out of place. Or a misfit. Or “other.” I’m learning I still belong, and I have something important to bring to the table. Something that could maybe help somebody. Even just one person. And while it hurts really bad, it’s also kind of amazing.
I’ll sign off with this: if you feel like nobody will ever get you–I get that. But I dare you to pull up a chair and ask God why you’re here. What the heck he wants. Why this? Why now? Be angry, be desperate, cuss a little, I don’t know. Just show up.
And watch what happens.