How are you doing?
I mean, really doing? And no, I’m not just asking about whether or not you have morning sickness. I want to know about your heart, because I know so well, Momma, that your heart is carrying a lot right now, and because from the outside everything looks ok, few people see it.
I purposefully didn’t start with “congratulations.” I know full well just how triggering hearing “congratulations” alone can be. It seems to celebrate only the baby and dismiss you and all the complexity of what you feel. “Congratulations” often gives you no space to share what is going on in your heart, how joy and sorrow, gratitude and fear, hope and crushing overwhelm all coexist, and just how confusing all of that is. “Congratulations” tells you that you must be happy and so you respond with a painted-on smile and a “thank you” as you feel crushed and unseen. As well intentioned as it is, ‘congratulations” can sometimes communicate that you don’t matter.
You matter, Momma, and all that you feel is valid. Please don’t hide it. Share it with those you know can receive it. Be a witness that life is beautiful and complex, and demands much of us.
I want you to know that I see you.
I see you, Momma, who has suffered miscarriages, and this new pregnancy brings so much uncertainty. You carry such a heavy weight of hope that this child will live, and you will get to see their precious face this side of Heaven. Maybe you’re taking supplements, having frequent doctor visits, or your spouse is helping you give you daily progesterone injections. And all the while, you’re battling the creeping cynicism that God may take this child too. Every ache and variation in your “normal” triggers sheer panic for the whole 9 months.
I see you, Momma, who has suffered infertility, and now carries a child you have longed for. I know there is such a mix, because the wounds that were inflicted during your season of infertility aren’t healed with a pregnancy. They’re still there. Perhaps you struggled to understand God’s will, and now are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe you feel guilt for all the other women who still long for a child in their womb, and wonder why you and not them were blessed. Maybe you no longer know where you fit, struggling with your new identity and need for a community. Amidst all of this, you also feel utter relief and a joy indescribable.
I see you, Momma, who has yet another surprise pregnancy. You tried so hard to adhere to the protocols of your method, and feel like you failed yet again. Maybe you even learned a totally new method, spent loads of money and time and now it feels like God just doesn’t care. You abstained, and you struggled in your marriage. All of this, you were told, would make your marriage better, stronger, but you’re drowning. You had serious medical or financial reasons to avoid a pregnancy, and now you don’t see the point in being faithful. On top of all of that, you’re embarrassed, the butt of the joke that NFP doesn’t work.
I see you, Momma, who had a traumatic pregnancy or birth experience. You want more children, but you don’t want to relive your trauma. You wanted to heal, and this pregnancy feels like impending doom, a countdown to more pain you are powerless to avoid. You were told the last time that everything turned out fine, that you should be grateful because you have a healthy baby. The message you hear is you don’t matter. But you do matter, and people forget that your baby’s health is affected by your health, in mind, body and soul. You don’t know who to turn to to share the complexity of your heart, and you desperately need to.
I see you too, Momma, who wanted this baby, but now wrestle with all the changes that pregnancy brings. Perhaps you struggle with positive body image, or feel blindsided by how radically you have to put yourself second. Maybe you don’t feel like you have the right to talk about this because you’ll just be accused of being selfish or superficial. Maybe that’s how you’ve accused yourself. You are neither. You’re being stretched in all the ways, and it’s ok that this feels uncomfortable. Be curious about what you feel, and let that curiosity show you how you are being asked to heal.
Everything that you feel, Momma – it is so important that you let yourself feel it! You are not bad, you are not broken for carrying so much conflict within you over a new beautiful life. You want to be purely happy, because you know there won’t be a moment when you won’t want this baby. But right now, you carry a lot. You are human, and you know the reality that you face is difficult and painful. This suffering feels unfair, overpowering and you just want to do whatever you can to get past it. You can’t. You can only go through it.
I’m not going to tell you now that everything will be alright. I won’t dismiss all you feel like that. I see you because I am you, and my journey to being ok after experiencing trauma, spiritual abandonment and rejection from those who I asked for help has been long and painful.
What I will tell you is that my journey has been fruitful. Oh I know, you may doubt it. I did too. I couldn’t see how a loving God could allow someone who was trying to be faithful to experience so much pain. To be honest, I’m still wrestling with that question. It’s ok to wrestle. It’s ok to question. Most of us have a faith that we take for granted, and questioning it is uncomfortable and feels wrong. It’s not. It’s how you deepen your faith.
I’m not saying that all your suffering will turn out fine in the end, so suck it up buttercup because the resurrection is coming. I will never say that. Calvary and the road to it was gruesome and arduous. It was hell and it wasn’t hidden. And it couldn’t be rushed or passed over.
But one important piece we usually forget about the Passion of Christ is that he had help and support. No one took his pain away, because they couldn’t. But he had Simon of Cyrene to help him carry his load. He had Veronica to wipe his face and show him some small gesture of love. He had the weeping women to show him that not all in the crowd saw him as worthy of derision. And then as he hung on his cross, there were three women, including his mother, and John, who stood and suffered silently with him. They didn’t jeer, didn’t ask him to come down, didn’t rebuke him as a liar. They just gave him their presence and suffered with him.
You need this kind of help right now. Not everyone will be able to walk with you through all you are navigating, and don’t let those who jeer at you or tell you to come off your cross have any space in your heart. But some will be able to sit with you, and you should not hesitate to reach out to them. You need to be seen where you are and loved there, and there are people who can do that. Maybe it’s a good friend, an unexpected family member, or even a therapist. You are worthy of this, I promise you!
You may feel abandoned, alone and like no one cares. I felt that, and let me tell you it was such a lie. As hard as it was, opening up to the right people has been the most healing thing I have ever done after a lot of darkness. Recognizing my own wounds and showing them to others who didn’t run has repaired so much of the hurt, and has even helped heal my relationship with God. That is what I hope for you.
I want to conclude this letter with a story.
Not long ago, I realized that my first two births and second pregnancy were traumatic for me. The moment I realized it was a profound one. I was in the process of scheduling an evaluation for an isthmocele as the potential cause of my infertility after two surprise pregnancies and C sections. I was on a fairly benign phonecall with the nurse about getting some medical records transferred ahead of my evaluation. Towards the end of the call, I could feel my heart rate climbing and my breathing become erratic. I ended the call quickly, and collapsed sobbing as my breathing remained heavy. It was then I realized this was a trauma response, and that I’d need to discuss my experiences in my next therapy session.
I was so tired of being in pain. After 4 and a half years, I felt like that one event erased all my progress. I poured a glass of wine and told myself I wanted to get blind drunk, just to forget for a moment. I sat down at my breakfast room table, and before I took a sip, I looked up and imagined the Blessed Mother sitting across from me. She just smiled at me. She didn’t judge or condemn me, or tell me to put my glass down. She simply gave me her presence as I fell apart right in front of her. I doubled over and she rose and came around the table to hold me in a close embrace, allowing me to sob in her arms.
As I caught my breath, she sat down in the chair closest to me, held my hand, and continued to give me a tender smile. I felt like a failure, totally broken and useless, a horrible wife and mother because I couldn’t get control, and I poured out all the pain in my heart to her. She let me say all I felt, but lovingly refused to let me believe it as truth. Afterwards, she looked at me and said, “My son was strong when he looked weak.”
With these words of Our Lady I will leave you, to hold them in your heart, dearest Momma, as the truth about who you are.