Friday, October 29, 2010

More on Motherhood

It's hard for me to say which chapter of Bittersweet by Shauna Neiquist is my favorite. But today there are two that stand out in my mind. What Might Have Been, where Shauna describes her feelings on what would have been her due date if she had not miscarried and On Crying in the Bathroom, where she talks about her feelings on the one-year anniversary of the day she learned she was pregnant with the baby she had miscarried.

In What Might Have Been, Shauna tells the story of Kristin who, as a young single woman, attends many of her friends' weddings. At each of those weddings, she "dances and laughs and hugs and smiles for pictures, and then, at one point or another, she slips away and lets a few tears fall for the maid of honor who will never stand at her wedding someday." You see, Kristin's sister, after years of planning to be each other's maid of honor, had taken her own life. Now, even though Kristin (who is engaged) rejoices with her friends at their weddings, grieves over "what might have been."

It's the way women who can't seem to get pregnant rejoice with their friends who do. And it's the way I rejoice with friends who's kids get married, graduate college or join the military. I'm so happy for them, I really am, and I want to celebrate with them, but it's hard. It's like what Shauna writes in On Crying In The Bathroom  about her friends who have unplanned pregnancies, "O really? Oh, boo hoo for you. How terrible that your body is so strong and healthy and working so well that it makes you babies when you don't even want them. I'm spending hours online reading long conspiracy theories about everything from antibiotics in milk to too much time in the hot tub, and in the meantime, your lush, perfect, fertile body just went ahead and started growing a baby without your even asking it to. Take your bursting belly of love and your fabulous pregnant cleavage away from me because I feel as withered and dried up and hollowed out as a dead tree stump, and all your glittering pregnantness makes me want to cry in the bathroom all over again."

Now Shauna's not really that cruel, she's just being brutally honest about how she feels. And we would never be so cruel to say those kinds of things to our friends because we do honestly want to celebrate with them when they have reason to celebrate, whether it's a pregnancy or a successful adult child. As Shauna says, "I'll celebrate with my friends. I'll hold babies and buy baby gifts, ask them what it's like for them and really listen to the answer. I'll do it because it's the right thing to do." And I'll add, because our hearts do rejoice with them--only our hearts have these huge gaping wounds in them that cause us tremendous pain, even as we rejoice. It's such a conflicted feeling because the two extremes don't want to occupy the same space.

So I'll try not to wince when my friends talk about their sons who are home from the military or their daughters who are having babies. I'll do my best to hide the pain as my nephew graduates from West Point just like I do every time one of my nieces or nephews graduates high school or gets married or succeeds in any way. I'll cover my hurt when my friends talk about the joys of being a grandparent, when I don't get that luxury.

Friends and family, please know that I am rejoicing with you--I do want to celebrate with you, but please don't take it personally if you notice a twinge of pain come across my face or if I can't bring myself to attend your daughter's wedding--and please don't feel you can't invite me or talk with me about your joys! I want to be involved in your kids' lives! I want to celebrate with you! Please just love me anyway, maybe give me an extra hug and let me go cry in the bathroom for a little while. I'll be all right, I might just need a little space.


  1. C - this one is one of your most powerful yet! I read it with tears streaming down my face!! Know that - though we can never fully comprehend what you are going through - we understand your need for space and deeply appreciate the presence you are in our kids lives. We love you!!!

  2. Cindy, I too read this with tears streaming. I applaud your honesty and powerful way to write from your heart. Please just keep this coming from you. I wonder if you will ever know how many people whose lives you have touched. I thank God for you and love you!

  3. Thanks friends! After looking at this post again, I feel so selfish. Sometmes--most of the time--I act like it really is all about me. I know it's not, but it takes concious effort to get myself out of that way of thinking. Please forgive me for my selfishness. Tonight I'm wonderig how many times I have thoughtlessly trampled on someone else's grief--rambled on about something that makes that knife turn in their gut the way it turns in mine when I watch another mom interact with her healthy, successful adult child. God, forgive me for my thoughtless self-centeredness. Help me to be more sensitive to other people's grief.


I would love to hear from you! Let me know what you think and how I can pray for you. Most of us are carrying some pretty heavy baggage and the good news is, you don't have to carry it alone! You can lay it at the feet of Jesus, and sometimes we need help just letting go of our baggage and not picking it up again. We're in this together!