(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.