When Motherhood Hurts

Originally published September 21, 2012. Yesterday morning I was sitting on a long sheet of white paper, waiting for my OBGYN to come in and let me hear my tiny baby’s heartbeat for the very first time, when I got a text message from my friend:

“I’m either having a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t call.  Please pray for us this morning.”

Before I could respond, my doctor came in.

So I sat, listening to the strong, healthy heartbeat of the baby we didn’t plan – the baby we were trying not to have – while one of my best friends sat, hundreds of miles away, bleeding.

I scheduled an ultrasound to determine the sex of our third child; she went into surgery to have the ectopic pregnancy removed.

In that moment everything about motherhood seemed arbitrary and upside down and unfair.

Perhaps the most unfair thing of all is that my friend is not the exception.  Neither are my 6 friends that have miscarried in the last couple of years.  Neither are my 2 friends who are battling infertility.  Neither are my 3 friends who are waiting for adoptions to go through.  Neither is my friend who had an unplanned pregnancy, and just as she was getting through the fear and into the love, lost the baby.  Neither are my dozens of friends who have heard the words, “It’s anencephaly.”  ”It’s cerebral palsy.”  ”It’s autism.”

Neither am I – even I who have easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, and healthy babies.

Two unplanned pregnancies: two rounds of fear, and “I’m not ready,” and “My life will never be the same.”  And one veryhard day when a doctor told me, “There is no treatment; she will never see like you and I can see.”

Thinking about it all, I went back and re-read a chapter of Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, called “Eight for Eight.”  It is all I’ve been able to think about for the last twenty four hours.

Motherhood is the most beautiful, transformative, sacred thing I’ve ever done.  I would choose it again every single time, forever.  But some days – it sure does hurt.

“…And then I realize that as much as I want my friend Jenny’s abs, she wants a baby, and we’re all yearning for something.

When I take a step back, I’m surprised to realize that the topic of pregnancy and birth and mothering, for every single one of us, has been touched with pain or just a shade of heartache.  The odds of that surprise me.  Eight women, and eight stories of waiting or yearning, of brokenness mixed in with deep delight.  If we’re a microcosm, is this how it is?  We’re eight normal women, if normal exists in this or any realm.  And one by one, eight for eight, one or another aspect of motherhood has pricked us and made us bleed.

…As for my dear friends and me, our hearts are full, of course, but also a little tender, bruised, tired.  Motherhood, and the journey towards it, has battered us a little bit, each in our own ways.  From ambivalence to longing to loss, from the anger that our bodies won’t do what we want them to, to the consuming, crushing love for a baby that is just hanging on…Motherhood laughed at our plans, twisted up our expectations, and gave them back to us upside down, covered with blood and stretch marks and Goldfish cracker paste.

We are very thankful, and we adore our children and one another’s children.  But as much as it’s beautiful, the process is a little harrowing.  Who knew we could want something so badly and then not be able to just wrestle it into existence?  Who knew we could want to provide something so desperately for our children, to heal and protect them, but find ourselves profoundly unable?  The stakes have gone up in our lives, the way they do, it seems, every time you decide to love something.”

[Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, 2010]

And oh, how we love them.

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*and eat them myself because you live too far away.