Saturday, May 10, 2008
Motherhood, Part II: Creating Relationships Without Sharing Labor Stories
I have been pregnant Five times. I have given birth to children that have lived Four times. Each of the Five has rocked me to my core.
I have endured my greatest physical pain. I have felt the overwhelming relief and joy as each baby slipped out of my body. I have gazed into my husband's eyes as he tearfully and gratefully held each child.
I have felt the twinge of fear when hushed and frantic whispers flew back and forth over my child. I have imagined the worst, while praying for the best, and releasing my emotions in a torrential rain of tears when my child began to cry.
I have felt the anxiety my midwife exuded in her face as she worked steadily to help my bleeding to stop. In a second, I have seen a glimpse of what life would be like for my children without their mother.
I have felt the pain of loss. I have had expectations ripped from my grasp while I struggled for understanding. I have planned for a future that changed within seconds --when the bleeding began. I have concluded that I have no control over something I had ignorantly assumed was simple. I have learned there is nothing simple about it.
Like many other mothers around the world, I have shared the same experiences: grief, heartache, joy, pain, love, relief, and wonder. I think for a lot of us, it's nice to share these stories, to relate to each other, and to learn from one another. Nothing gave me more pleasure than to hear about other mother's labor and delivery stories, especially when I was on the cusp of delivering a baby myself. I also enjoy sharing my stories with other women --especially if they are on the cusp of delivering a baby. Learning from each other's experiences gives us knowledge, and knowledge is power.
But as time has gone by, I don't talk about my labor and delivery stories without persuasion. It's not as close to me as it was the first time I experienced it. New mothers, have you noticed how obsessed you become with the whole process? How conversations are full of labor stories, epidural stories, episiotomy stories, doctors, nurses, birth weights, etc.? As time goes by, these stories will change into things about teething, sickness, walking, talking, weaning, and potty training. Next it will become school, sports, friends, lost teeth, homework, reading, and piano lessons. After that it's...well...I haven't gotten there, yet [I'm sure it will be riddled with teenage drama, if my life is to come full circle!]. Each stage in our children's lives represent each stage in our mothering, and thereby, the change in conversations and story-telling.
But what of those that do not have children? What of those that want to have children but cannot? What of them? They do not have the same experiences, nor should anyone have expected them to. For some, they would give anything to feel the pain and heartache, the joy and wonder. They spend many nights praying and sobbing and wondering why they cannot have the desires of their hearts. Some of them are bitter and have turned from God. Others are faithful and try to endure. Many adopt children and have all the blessings they have desired given to them in one simple moment. Many suffer in silence. Many sit and listen to labor stories and wait until they are alone before allowing their grief to be shown. Many are tired of it, too. Tired of hearing the labor stories they will never experience.
I want to share with you Five stories. I have not received permission from these women, so they will be vague and anonymous:
Friend Number One:
After trying several different methods, this amazing couple was unable to conceive. So, after much prayer, they decided to try adopting. To their shock and amazement, they only had to wait 4 months until a baby was given to them. A sweet, little boy who filled their hearts with such gratitude and joy!
One month later, imagine their utter disbelief when they found out they were expecting! Ten months after adopting their son, they were blessed with a little girl. Two children in one year --who would have thought?
Friend Number Two:
For reasons I will not give, this couple knew they would never conceive. Trying to be supportive of friends, she would attend baby showers --always leaving early before the "labor stories" would begin. She hid her pain well, as many did not know of their struggles.
Now, years later, they are the proud parents of 2 little girls. Beautiful girls, two years apart, adopted with love. They are a beautiful family, and even though there is no bitterness, talking about labor stories is still awkward for her...
Friend Number Three:
It has been almost 8 years, and yet there are no children. Eight years of hope, fertility treatments, prayer, and longing. They are still waiting for the right answer, and they are still wondering if they will be the parents they long to be. As each year passes, the bitterness ebbs and flows...sometimes rising to the surface with such a vengeance that they feel unable to cope.
Friend Number Four:
She has three beautiful children. Expecting she would always have a bigger family, imagine her devastation when she was met with what is referred to as "second infertility" --a constant string of miscarriages. Desiring a big family was her greatest desire...she wanted many children! Grateful for the children she does have, her grief is still real --so tangible, she suffers with such a sorrow that is not easily relieved.
Friend Number Five:
[This is actually about four separate friends of mine.]
Nearing age 30, she is well aware of the fact that she is "still" single. She works hard, has a fulfilling life, loves the Gospel, graduated from college, and even served a mission. She enjoys children and asks her friends about their kids' lives. She loves her nieces and nephews and babysits whenever she gets the chance. But she longs for her own family; her own husband, her own children. She has tried --and keeps trying --to do whatever it is the Lord wants her to do, hoping that one day she will have what she wants the most: A Family.
Every single one of us know these women. They are our sisters, our cousins, our old roommates, our aunts, our friends, and our co-workers. They are our neighbors, our visiting teachers, and our children's leaders. They are a part of our lives, and they desire the same thing: To Be Mothers.
What if, instead of wallowing in labor stories, we were very careful of the words we use around each other when it comes to Motherhood? What if, when we find ourselves speaking to a friend who suffers in silence, we tell them about our pregnancies instead of letting them hear it through the grapevine? What if, instead of complaining about our children, we pray and hope that the same blessing will be given to our friend? What if, when we feel the need to apologize for having children while our friend does not, we just be grateful and talk about something else?
What if the basis of connecting with each other wasn't always reliant upon shared experiences, but a love for each other as sisters and daughters of God?
Dear reader, I hope this post doesn't come across as preachy. You are wise, and kind, and I'm sure you understand my point of view. It's just that I have seen the embarrassment experienced by women who "didn't realize" and the severe pain inflicted upon those who suffer with infertility or are longing for marriage. If the "moral" of this post offends you in some way, or if you feel guilt, I apologize. My intent was to show a different side to the dilemma face by many women in the world --infertility is a nasty monster, and compassion tends to be the only soothing balm.
I shared two links in my last post that were written by women who suffered with infertility. If you would like to read them, you can find them in my previous post (at the end of the post)...if you already read them, I encourage you to read them again. They are powerful in teaching us what it feels like to suffer --and then to be healed!
Have you ever suffered from infertility? Have you wished you could be married and bear children? How have you dealt with this challenge? Have you ever found yourself suffering by what others have said, or unknowingly causing suffering? Do you have any advice you could share that would help those wanting to be more aware and sensitive to this issue?