to be known

today i talked with a few girlfriends on our monthly conference call. i shared how hard mother’s day was, how i cried as mothers were asked to stand in church and children handed them flowers. i talked about the pain of not being a mother.

one friend responded with, “You are a mother. Women who’ve lost children are still mothers.”

i’ve sort of been sitting with that all day. i’m not quite sure what to do with it. even though i honestly responded with, “Thank you for saying that,” i haven’t owned it. i actually feel as if i should take a poll of all my mother friends and ask them if they consider me a mother even though i miscarried. perhaps if i get an overwhelming YES then i’ll feel settled. perhaps not. perhaps even if every mother i know says, “Yes, you are a mother though you didn’t make it through the first trimester,” i still won’t feel like it’s enough, i still won’t feel as if i should have been able to stand and receive a flower instead of sitting at the end of the pew, trying to hide my tears.

and yet when my friend spoke, i felt loved. i felt respected. i felt known. and there’s something extremely valuable about being known by others while you’re in pain. my friend saw me even though she’s thousands of miles away. she spoke confidently. no hesitation. no disclaimer. i expected her to pacify me by following up her statement with something about being a mother to all the students i work with. she did none of that. she honored my child, all 8 weeks of it. and by honoring my child, she honored me.

trust me, miscarrying so early on had me wondering when life really begins and how much of a life was sitting inside me. even though it had a strong heart beat at 6 weeks and hands and feet and much more by 8 weeks, i asked myself if i was truly mourning the loss of a child or of mere tissue. and thinking of it as mere tissue, thinking that it wasn’t really real, provided momentary relief, maybe.

we (the world, i guess) have placed extreme value on being able to have children. it makes sense. pregnancy is no small thing. birth is amazing. so what do we do with those who don’t get to celebrate birth? how do we love them without actually or figuratively marching against mother’s day celebrations? i don’t know the answer. each woman who’s been in my shoes has probably experienced it differently so i can’t even begin to be prescriptive and i don’t want to. what i do want is to be free, free from the pain of loss. being known helps, it really does.

it’s one of the lessons i’m learning as i tell more people about my miscarriage. the more i speak, the more freedom i feel. it’s not a freedom that has me skipping through sprinklers. it’s not playful. it’s peaceful. telling allows others in and letting them into my pain takes some of the weight off. now it’s not all mine to carry and it never was. now others can speak comfort into my life like the friend who sent me a facebook message wishing me a happy future mother’s day and like the friend called me the day after mother’s day and simply asked, “How are you?” she didn’t mention the miscarriage but i knew what she meant and i was able to be honest about where i was at the moment. she’s been through pain with me before. she’s called to check on me before. allowing both of these women in was a healing decision.

i’m blogging about this for a couple of reasons. the first is that it’s cathartic. i learned the value of that from a former professor my sophomore year of college. the second reason is because i know there are other women in my shoes who’ve been silent. and if you’re one of them, i want to encourage you (when you’re ready) to speak, to let others in, to experience healing even if it’s weeks, months or years after your loss. whether or not we’re ever able to clearly qualify who we are and what we’re feeling, we can still heal, we can still be a little freer.

it’s a really good place to be.

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