If you saw me in the grocery store or happened to notice me with my girls in line at Starbucks, you’d think I was just a normal, busy, slightly-stressed-out mom of a toddler and a newborn.
And I am. My days are full of diapers, tantrums, burp cloths, Fancy Nancy, and Duplos. I can talk breastfeeding and sleep training and toddler lit with the best of them.
What you wouldn’t know about me from a casual glance is that my path to motherhood was not an easy one. It took me a full year to get pregnant with my oldest daughter, in spite of careful charting and planning, and in between my two girls I suffered an unexplained second trimester miscarriage of another daughter. I spend my days as a mother to two healthy girls, but I’ve also known what it’s like to lose a child and to have difficulty conceiving one in the first place.
As a result, I often struggle with knowing where I fit in the community of families who have dealt with infertility, miscarriage, and infant loss. When a friend from college writes and tells me it’s been a year and she’s still not pregnant or when a friend from church loses her first baby at 23 weeks, I want to tell them that I know what they are going through. I want to tell them they aren’t alone.
But I hesitate. I know what their pain and loss feel like, but I’m not living in the fullness of it now. My days are filled with the joyful, wearisome work of motherhood, and my heart is filled with gratitude for the little hearts I get to love, all the sweeter to me coming as they did, on the heels of disappointment and loss.
I’m not currently living with the fearful uncertainty of infertility or the fresh, deep grief of miscarriage, but I have before. And I haven’t forgotten what that feels like. I know what it’s like to watch month after month pass by with no plus sign on the pregnancy test, to struggle with the news that yet another friend or family member is pregnant when you are not.
I know what it’s like to lose a baby, to see her beautiful, lifeless body on the ultrasound screen, to truly believe you will never be happy again. I know the hopeful terror of deciding it is time to try again, the guarded excitement that marks a pregnancy after a loss. I feel joy now in a way I once didn’t think would be possible, but I still grieve the baby I lost. I miss her.
The truth is that even though my home is now full of toddler giggles and baby cuddles, I still very much identify with the childless woman and with the woman drowning in the depths of grief. I’ve lived some parts of their stories, and while my pain has been lessened in ways theirs has not, I feel a kinship to them, even as I understand that their own pain might make it difficult for them to feel a kinship to me.
And so, I e-mail my friend who is trying to get pregnant. I tell her she doesn’t have to write back, but I want her to know I am praying for her. I write back to my friend from college, asking her when her next fertility appointment is. I make a care package for my friend who’s just lost her baby.
These ladies all know I have two living daughters, and I know I can no longer offer them the community of barrenness or of fresh loss. But I can offer what I do have – a heart that has known its own measure of suffering, a heart that remembers the pain of negative pregnancy tests and lifeless ultrasounds, a heart that weeps with those who now know these pains, too.
Those of you who are currently grieving, how have your friends cared for you, even if they couldn’t fully relate to your pain? Those of you who have experienced answered prayers, how do you continue to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15)?