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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Regrets

(I hate to start a post with a disclaimer, but wanted to make it clear that this is not meant in any way to point a finger at anyone. It comes only from things I have thought and felt as part of my own personal journey. And now I hope it doesn't come out as one big jumbled mess...)

Regrets. I've had a few. And I've been thinking about them a lot lately as my perspective begins to shift.

When I think about how going through recurrent pregnancy loss changed me as a person over the years, I can't help but think about the bad things every now and then. And while I know that the way I interacted with and responded to people around me came from a place of deep, deep hurt and grief, I do sometimes feel badly about things I didn't do. There were times when I wasn't capable of attending baby showers. There were times when I couldn't go visit a family in the hospital after the birth of a child. There were days when seeing a positive pregnancy test on someone's blog felt like more than I could handle. And there were times when even looking at a pregnant woman was just so hard.

Yet somehow I know that that's really okay. I encourage others that it's okay and I honestly believe that. Only you know how much you can handle at any given time when you are the one who's hurting. While it may sound selfish, sometimes you really do have to think about your fragile emotional state and do what's necessary to protect yourself. Sometimes your heart needs time to heal.

I remember times when I pushed myself to do things even though I knew in my heart I wasn't ready. I was once persuaded to begin attending a new small group Bible study many years back, too soon after one of my miscarriages. It was in the home of a person I barely knew, but I went. As the conversation grew more personal during the meeting, I felt exposed and vulnerable and it wasn't long before the tears were flowing and I wanted to hide under the table. I was so uncomfortable and I knew that I'd made a mistake. It was just too early.

The last baby shower I attended more than three years ago was equally painful. Again, I knew deep down that I wasn't ready. Thankfully, that time when I felt my emotions rising up, I was able to make a swift exit before they began to overflow. Truthfully, the last thing I wanted to do was ruin the event for the happy mother-to-be. And it wasn't just being there around an expectant mother that was tough; it was the nature of the shower itself. We had to go around the room and share personal motherhood stories (Is this anyone else's worst nightmare? Did it occur to them that not everyone in the room had children?), and I was not prepared to be in the spotlight and have my grief on display in front of so many onlookers.

I think I realized that I had to take things on a case-by-case basis. There were other times when I felt truly safe in a situation and knew that I could handle it and wanted to be there. While the baby shower remained too unpredictable for me, I began to feel excitement again about visiting new babies in the hospital. I found great joy in being able to be there with my friends and celebrate the miracle of life with them! I know that it's by the grace of God, but in those small hospital rooms surrounded by such precious friends, I began to feel safe again. Even though I might have a knot in my throat the size of Texas when I held those brand new babies and remembered what I'd lost, I no longer let it take over and have control over me. And if it happened that later, in the privacy of my home and in the arms of my understanding husband, that I needed to have a good cry, then I let that happen, too. It had never really been about wishing other people harm or not being happy for them. It wasn't even so much about jealousy or bitterness. It was simply my own sadness and emptiness because of my inability to be a mother and my grief over having lost our babies over and over again.

While I was seeing progress and changes in my own heart eventually, it had taken a long time. I still feel some regret because I wasn't more supportive for certain friends during their pregnancies. There are dear, precious friends who have held us up and prayed their hearts out for my own pregnancy, and when I remember how distant I must have been during their joyful times, I am so ashamed. I've made a few tearful apologies about that and have so far been met with such grace and understanding by friends who truly sought to understand where I was coming from. Even so, I felt the apology was necessary and it has done my heart good to go through with it.

I think I realized that, as often as I complained about friends who wanted to be there in my joys and not my sorrows, it was hypocritical of me that I couldn't be there in their times of celebration! I had begun to only identify with others who were hurting like I was because somehow that was easier. And while I do think that we are given the ability to encourage others who share in our specific trials, I know that I was separating myself from those who had what I wanted. And I know that it wasn't fair.

Just as it hurts when friends abandon you in your times of need, when you're hurt and grieving and struggling, it also hurts when friends can't love you enough to be happy when you finally make it through and survive that horrible trial. I didn't want to be that kind of friend to others. It was a hard transition, but God began to change my heart. He showed me how sad it was that I found it difficult to celebrate when He created a new life. After all, if I couldn't celebrate when others had successful pregnancies, what did that say about me? I always said I wouldn't wish infertility or miscarriage on my worst enemy. If that was really true, then I knew the right thing to do was to be genuinely joyful when a new baby was born and to celebrate with my friends who became new parents. The alternative, while it was familiar to me after losing six babies, would have been so hard to watch my friends struggle through. Of course that is not what I wanted.

And now, of course, as this pregnancy progresses, I can't believe that I am here. My perspective is changing once again. My goal will always be to make my blog a safe place for those who visit. But just as I shared my hurt and longing during the waiting, I must also share the joy that comes from being able to see the end of a long and painful struggle finally coming into focus. I know that some won't follow. And even though it stings a bit, I understand. I understand that so many times the person who is hurting has more urgent needs, whether it be support or prayers or space or time. I know, because that's where I was for eight long years.

I hope this blog will always be a place where others can come and find friendship and understanding, and especially a testimony to God's faithfulness. I've promised that I will never, could never, forget where I've been and how painful it was. The memories of the children we didn't get to hold and the years we spent waiting and the agony of not knowing what our future would hold are forever in my heart.

I hope you know that it means the world to me that so many of you still choose to walk with us, even now in our joy over this answered prayer. I know that's not easy when your heart longs to have your prayer answered. But I thank you for caring and loving enough to appreciate how much this baby means to us and how much we went through to get her here. It is truly a treasure to have friends who are there when you mourn and when you celebrate, and we're honored to share each part of our journey with you! We can't wait to one day celebrate your victories with you, dear friends.

17 comments:

Mrs.Spit said...

I remind myself that the scriptures teach us to rejoice with great joy, and we should.

I'm also particularly sensitive that we are much better as a people at rejoicing than we are at mourning. I know that if my rejoicing is limited to knitting a sweater, writing a nice note and dropping off a casserole, there will be others who are there in spades, holding the baby and cooing.

I know that when I go into the house of a family who has lost a child, I may be the only one who brings a meal, I may be the only one who still says the child's name 6 months later, the only one who calls on a birthday or anniversary.

The church, who are often so good at celebrating even months later, are not so good at mourning months later.

I find myself with a greater capacity for the mourning and the grieving than the celebrating.

But I think you are right, I think we need to be so much better at the celebrating, really so much better at the both.

Perhaps it is enough to say that as a people we are not always very good at being present.

Stacey said...

Thanks, Mrs. Spit. I always appreciate your feedback. Indeed, it is a treasure to have people around you who know how to "be" in times of sorrow and grief. People like that (like you) are hard to find. I feel I've learned a lot about that over the years and now I need more practice in the celebrating. xoxo

belle said...

so-well-said!

beautifully, tenderly, thoughtfully spoken.

mrs. spit,

i must agree with you. the church (and oddly most friends and family)have left me sadly alone. everyone remembers to ask how my house hunt is going, no one seems to ever say, "how's your heart ?"


even so, i too, find that if i know i can handle it without falling apart, i feel a special need to make a point of rejoicing with friends and not forgetting their needs.

stacey, you encourage me. and i want you to know that i pray often for this precious one on the way.

Stacey said...

Belle, thank you, thank you for those kind words, for your prayers, and support. I appreciate your comments!

twondra said...

So many of your feelings I'm feeling myself at this time. It's nice that you share so others don't feel so alone. (((HUGS))) Love you!

Journeymark Cards & Gifts said...

Stacey, I am so proud of you for being so vulnerable. So many of us have felt the way you have and it is hard to put those feelings into words. Yet, we must rejoice in the gift of life and continue to love others. You are correct in the fact that it might be on a case by case basis, and there are times when I can reach out to some and not others.

I have learned in my 41/2 years struggling with infertility that I have been made to make God known, not to just be a mom. I do believe God allows us the special gift of becoming parents, and He knows the desires of my (our) heart(s). It is hard to wait on His timing, but in all the areas of my life, His timing has been perfect. I continue to wait, and I will rejoice with you and others over the creation of life.

Kathryn said...

Oh, Stacey, you are just so loving. I'm going thru many of the things you mention - not being able to attend baby showers, & being envious of the pregnant & new mothers i see. I often even tell myself, "This will not happen for us. This is not coming to us." It is clear that this is a blessing we won't receive here on earth. (Due to my age & my physical limitations.)

I DO rejoice for my friends that have this joy, but sometimes it is hard to be around them. Going home to my empty home without our daughter just is so hard. And the things folks say so casually - the doc i work with talking about what a joy it is to be a daddy - simply cuts thru my soul as i know this is a joy Duane won't have & i can't give. But that doesn't mean that i begrudge him his joy.

I think what is hardest for me - & others have mentioned this too - is the way that my emptiness & longing, which is so huge to me, seems invisible to everyone around me. I did three posts at FB the week of infertility awareness & NOT ONE PERSON said a thing. I feel like i just continue to be invisible, & that is hard. Tho, like you, i don't want to be emotional around folks.

Just ranting a bit here Stacey. Thank you for letting me & for understanding. I rejoice greatly that you will be having your heart's desire. I am so excited for you. :) While i appreciate your sensitivity to those of us still walking this road, don't let that slow down your posting of your wonderful milestones! I'm sending much love to you, your hubby, & little Lily who is growing from blossom to flower for you.

Queen Stuss said...

Thanks for your sage words.

I wish I'd learnt a year ago - the time when I've been at my lowest - that IT'S OKAY if I don't feel up to going to a baby shower. I shouldn't have to go to Bible study with all the other women who have young children, including their new babies. I don't need to feel bad that I'm not overly excited about all the new babies being born, because each one reminds me of my own grief.

Unfortunately, what I learnt instead, is that the church isn't so good at mourning, especially not for a little life they haven't known. I personally have found it really hard because I have had a child, as though somehow that cancels out any grief that I may have suffered losing the rest of my babies.

Sorry, a bit rambly, but I feel a bit neglected and invisible by the people in my baby booming church, and am glad to find others that are going through the same things that I am.

Anonymous said...

I think this is one of your better posts in explaining how difficult your walk has been. We have had a chronically ill child who we caem too close to loosing and yes-sometimes I have seperated myself from happy events because they are (still) difficult for me. High school graduation-my daughter covered up to hide her picc line and we held our breath to see if she could make the walk in and across the stage-a party was out of the question and i dont go to them now. Too difficult. There are other times too and even though our stories are different i get it-thanks for reminding me that others go through similar things.....

Jo said...

Thanks Stacey for this honest and powerful post. I have done all the things you have mentioned - not gone to baby showers, avoided people because it is too painful etc. I can't say i regret every single one of these things but I definitely regret some of them. A friend of mine who also struggled with infertility, when she finally had her baby and i was still waiting, i found it hard to go to the hospital and visit, and instead made some lame excuse about "you probably have so many visitors, I will leave you be". I definitely regret moments like that. Thanks for helping me be reminded that I am human, and hey guess what? that I am not prefect! And that most of the time that's ok, and the times when it's not ok at least there is always a lesson learnt.

Stacey said...

Thanks for your comments, friends. It truly hurts my heart that infertility makes us feel so alone, left behind, and sad. I wish the general public (and churches) really recognized the pain and could be there to offer support. Even after suffering through miscarriage, the attitude is so often, "Well that's pretty common. I'm sure you'll have another baby." Never mind that your baby died and you are devastated over that loss. We live in a world that caters to mothers and families with children and unfortunately the rest are often overlooked.

I could go on, but just want to say how much I appreciate your support and this community of people who understand and those who try to understand this issue. Much love to all of you!

Jennifer said...

I agree with everything you said. I've never avoided someone or something because of being infertile, but I sure have wanted to. I also am bitter sometimes when a friend gets pregnant after trying one month and I've been trying almost three years. Of course I would never wish this on anyone and also am truly happy for these friends, but I'm jealous.

And ya know what...that's what Satan wants. He wants me to be jealous and feel all alone. Like God is not here for me and people don't understand. But, that's not the case. God is here and even though my friends may not "get it" they love me and do cry with me when I need that.

Thanks so much for this post!

K said...

Stacey, I've been reading your blog since I read your post on Stuff Christians Like. I'm a little different than most of your readers (I haven't struggled with infertility nor have I ever been pregnant). But having had friends who have struggled with this and/or miscarriages, I have appreciated your perspective. I have heard Dr. Russell Moore say that infertility often tempts people with anger and bitterness and it is so evident that you have not let that into your life and journey.

I recently read this post from Molly Piper (http://mollypiper.com/2010/05/brokenhearted-love-give-it-live-it/) and it seems like a good thing to share. It gave me so much insight into my relationships with those who have experienced loss.

Stacey said...

Thanks, Jennifer, for sharing your honest feelings, too. I know this is a hard thing to live through.

K, it is so special that you would keep up with this blog. You are a treasure to your friends who are living with infertility and loss! I hope they appreciate your desire and effort to be a supportive friend during this struggle.

I have not always been able to avoid anger, jealousy, and bitterness along the way, but thankfully God is helping me work through those feelings so they won't take root in my heart!

And thanks for sharing the link. I also follow Molly Piper's blog and find it so helpful.

Stacy said...

One of the best posts I have ever read. So full of truth, honesty and real-life testimony.

You continue to teach me much and encourage me to live authentically. Thank you for your wise words.

Shannon said...

Stacey, Thank you so much for this post. As I sit here, dealing with a recent miscarriage, I've been reflecting on how I've reacted to losses my friends have experienced in the past, as well as how I'm going to deal with all the pregnancies and new babies the surround me on a daily basis. Your (very timely) post has given me much to think about, and hopefully will allow me to rejoice in the new life around me, instead of dwelling on what I have lost.

After reading what you have written, and the comments other posters have left, I also feel better able to cope with those who are inadvertently insensitive towards me. We are taught how to celebrate with others, but we aren't taught how to share sorrow.

Congratulations on your current pregnancy. Wishing you much happiness and good health.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog tonight after reading your guest post on Stuff Christians Like, and I've been reading your most recent posts until now. First of all, congratulations! I really appreciate your sensitivity to women who have or are experiencing infertility/miscarriages, such as having separate links of belly shots and ultrasound pix.
I can relate to the duel identity you're describing here. I wasn't married until 40, and after so many years of waiting and wondering if I would always be single, my glorious husband entered my life, and these last few years have been the most joyful of my life. However, I still strongly identify with being an older single. I don't know how to comfort friends going through dating trauma or divorce, I don't want to rub their faces in my happiness. There's a feeling I ought to downplay the joy for sensitivity's sake, but then our discussions stop being genuine. I feel a tension and resentment in these friendships now. Have you experienced that relationship shift?
We are also coming to grips with infertility, and I've had to avoid baby showers or small groups where beautiful babies would coo at each other throughout the meeting. Though we seem to be reaching a level of acceptance now (and I've been searching for blogs of older couples who were not able to conceive to help with that healing process)
Thank you for sharing your story!