At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Yesterday the women in my life in Boston gave me a baby shower. It was wonderful. Sweet L. has been such a faithful and thoughtful friend and I don’t know what the last five years would have been like without her. She is definitely a better friend than I have deserved. This morning as I was getting ready for church, I was thinking about the community that I’m a part of here and thinking about just how incredibly lonely it must be to not have a community like the church in one’s life. I guess women without a religious community do often find community somehow, but I also guess that it is often much riskier. Sometimes when I think about the loneliness of urban, secular America, it makes me want to cry it seems so big and deep and overwhelming. I can’t imagine any time in life in which I would feel more lonely than preparing for childbirth if I did not have a serious community to be part of.
At Momma and Daddy’s, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Today was a really wonderful day. My mom threw a shower for me here in Pittsburgh and it was one of the most encouraging experiences I’ve had in a long time. It reminded me what community is. So many women from so many different walks of life were there – some of whom I haven’t seen for a really long time. And they all were so loving and excited. Many of them are older than almost anyone I spend time with in Boston. I always forget how stunted my life is in Boston – no one over the age of 40 spends time with me – but here, more than half of the group was older women and it was like a drink of refreshing water.
A. gave a really beautiful devotion/testimony and everything she said was exactly what I needed to hear. One of the most memorable points she made is that fear is not necessarily a bad thing going into parenthood. Fear is a natural human response to something we know is bigger than ourselves, out of our control. But what we do with our fear matters. As Christians, we are called to take our fear to the Lord. All in all, it was a very, very sweet day. Like honey to my soul. I feel so loved and refreshed, and am so thankful for women who remind me of what real life is like, far from the madding crowd of Boston.
At Home, Cambridge, Massachusetts
As the day ends I am deciding not to be anxious about what people think of me, of us, of our life decisions. We are doing both what we love to do and what we think God is calling us to do. We live in a community where our lifestyle isn’t that unusual, and though everyone outside of this bubble might think we’re crazy, I’m ok with it. I like our life. This is what we’ve chosen, and I don’t want to change it for another.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
I'm starting to think about how I'm going to publish this journal on our blog and it's starting to fill me with fear. I don't fear people reading it, and I don't fear the reactions of the people close to me – I fear the backlash I might get from the whole confusing host of "mommydom." It seriously terrifies me to think about how much I might be judged. I could be judged for not embracing my body enough. I could be judged for having a hard time easing into motherhood. I could be judged for my own sinful tendency to judge. I could be judged for my insecurities. I know I could be judged on all of these things because I have witnessed women judge each other on each count.
I'm also afraid to share my rejoicing. Somehow, these days it feels like the good push to acknowledge women's struggles with infertility and miscarriage have made it hard to rejoice when one doesn't struggle with those things. Sometimes I honestly feel guilty about it. I remember having a huge amount of fear that certain friends would shun us as news of our pregnancy spread because they have struggled and we had no problems. I ache for them and I long for their burdens to be shared and carried communally, but I don't know what to do when I know people who actively shun their friends who do have good news. Having to choose between rejoicing and being shunned for it is a terrible thing. I try to mourn with those who mourn, and it really stings when those who mourn openly declare their inability or unwillingness to rejoice with those who rejoice. Scripture admonishes both to live in discomfort - for those who rejoice to take on the discomfort of mourning and for those who mourn to take on the discomfort of rejoicing, all for the sake of Christ's body.
As I think about sharing this journey of mine, what I fear is the inability of people to recognize that this has been precisely that – a journey. I fear being told that my journey is harmful to others. I fear being shunned by people I love because they decide they can't handle my happiness. Those who suffer often claim an inviolable perspective on life, and sometimes the rigidity of that perspective terrifies me.
("Punishment of Eros by Venus.")
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Today I sat on the couch and wept. I'm not even sure why I cried so much, but I guess I do know the long litany of problems that led to it. The past week has been pretty horrible. Trey has been sick and emotionally stressed and worried. Work is full of pressure as I find myself the go-between for coworkers struggling to communicate with each other. Ruthie and I are having dumb arguments over who knows what.
But the real issue of the week has been my surprise not-pregnancy. By Saturday night I was pretty sure I was actually pregnant and thought I just needed to wait a little longer for the test to come out positive. I only sipped a little wine at dinner club and was so worried that people would figure it out. Ha. Little need for that. On Sunday I woke up and felt really nauseous. I had to sit through the panel I was on for Sunday School without throwing up – something that seemed pretty difficult not to do at certain moments.
But, then after church my period started. I was so shocked. I quickly told Trey, and then went directly to missions prayer. I didn't think about it too hard. And I didn't think about it too hard on the drive home. Nor did I think about it too hard during Bible study with the Chinese students. After everyone left I thought about it a little bit, but I didn't want to think about it. So Trey and I ate prosciutto and drank beer and watched Inspector Morse. It felt OK, until I got ready for bed that night. I sat on the toilet and wept.
Five days late. What a horrible amount of time. Was it a late period? Or was it an early miscarriage? Five days of growing excitement. Three false pregnancy tests. One morning of nausea. There is no way to know.
Yesterday I woke up after a good night's sleep and felt like everything was totally ok. I had cried the night before, but it wasn't a big deal now. I got ready to go for a run and headed out the door. Usually running on the second day of my period isn't so bad. But I started to run and all I could feel was a strong, dull, silent pain on my right side. It wasn't cramps. It felt a little like a side stitch, except I wasn't out of breath and it felt more like something was tearing. I couldn't run and had to walk the whole way. But again, who knows? There's no real reason to go to the doctor. But just such a sad feeling.
By mid afternoon today I felt distinctly depressed. It was hard to focus on work and everything felt heavy. My heart felt heavy, my body felt heavy, my eyes and brain felt heavy. Now of course Trey started to pay attention.
As I sat on the couch with him, crying, I couldn't find the ability to express all of this. All I could say was just how sad I am. And how much I feel like I don't have any friends.
After all, I find myself at almost thirty two years old and I wonder – do I have any friends? Sometimes I really don't know. I have enough community to find plenty of people to spend time with. But I don't have any friends who know me well enough, or talk to me frequently enough, to know when something is very wrong. I live in a world where if I were drowning I would have to yell for help, but we all know that drowning people don't yell. They die silently.
And that is exactly the problem. Plenty of people want me to be involved with things. Plenty of people want to spend time with me. No one has made the effort to actually know me. No one knows where and how I struggle. I do not have friends here.
When is the church going to realize that people are nomads? When is it going to realize that it cannot change the tides – people will be transient. We are caught up in tides that are larger than our life decisions. As such, the church needs to pastor like it would pastor wandering nomadic tribes. It needs to be aggressive in pursuing people. It cannot expect people to volunteer their hardships. The hardships of the laity must be sought out. And sometimes, all that would take is a simple question. "How has life been treating you?" I do not remember the last pastor who asked me this question.
And so my nomadic life continues.
(Image by Carolyn Hall Young, "Gratitude and Grief in Equal Measure.")
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Well I haven't written anything here for quite a while. I feel like I went off of birth control and just haven't been able to write. Not in any dark or bad way, but writing somehow just hasn't occupied much of my thought life. The topic of pregnancy and motherhood has – just not writing. The impulse hasn't been there.
But here I am, wondering if I'm pregnant. My period was supposed to start yesterday and as of 1pm today it still hasn't. I don't know. I don't think I'm pregnant, but it's not like it's a subjective matter. The funny thing is that every month I've been off the pill, I get to the point of starting my period and I think I'm pregnant. It's just this strong feeling I have, and what's even funnier is that it always makes me really happy. During the rest of the month, I still tend to think about the indefinite "later" as the best time to have a kid. After we've settled into our new work and school schedules, after we've gone to visit friends in New Orleans, after I go to Thailand for a work conference. "Later" is the looming word in my mind when it comes to having a family, but of course, "later" must some day run out. But in the moment, when I'm actually waiting for my period to start and think that it won't, I have so much peace and calmness, and all feels right with the world. It makes me happy.
Seeing H. and meeting baby J. was really good for me. H. is pretty much recognizable as herself now that she is a mother. And she's not psycho about it all. She's just normal – or at least what I've always felt should be normal. She hasn't lost her brain and she is still really fun and interesting to talk to. J. is a part of her life, not the sole summary of her life.
My mind can't stop thinking that maybe, right now, the process of creating life is already occurring. It sends bubbles all through me. I'm giving it until tonight and then I'm taking a pregnancy test.
(Image by srasteria, "50-2.")
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Fallen human nature is a beast.
We know how to take all good things and turn them into twisted, horrible echoes of their former selves. My friend just had her baby and despite every inch of excitement and joy that I felt, I managed somehow to find a way to wallow in self-pity. Self-pity when there is new life and new joy in the world!
I can come up with any number of excuses and explanation. It's not like I have a great track record with mothers, or really women on their own paths to motherhood. I’ve had friends who suddenly never talked with me about anything other than their babies. Other friends have decided that because they are pregnant or mothers they have the right to judge and pressure me unless I also followed their life plans. And once I was embraced in the bear hug greeting of a woman while she yelled across the room, "Now, there's the person I really want to see!" to a visibly pregnant acquaintance.
If there ever was a symbol of the world and church's preference for the pregnant, that was it. A clear, visible reminder that among women, what counts is having a baby. Nothing more, nothing less. From my perspective, becoming a mother is the point at which all women's gazes turn inward. Damn the rest of the world. The ranks are drawn together, the lines drawn, and the people they all really want to see are those that are just like them. Insular, they now are supercharged to command the stage, and to let every other woman know that they are waiting, and expecting, their quick assimilation into the line.
But no matter how much of this is true, none of it, absolutely nothing from my experience, justifies my own turning of my gaze inward during the arrival of new life. If anything, it should draw my gaze upward, and outward, resting upon the face of the Father. He has given this life, he has seen it to fruition, and I give him praise.
I woke up on Tuesday morning and for some reason, I believed I was pregnant. My period hadn't yet started and for some reason it felt like it just wasn't going to happen, like my body was telling me it was producing life. Later that day the cramps kicked in and the illusion popped, but for a few hours, I felt so happy. The timing wouldn't be great, but I didn't care. It just would have been happy.
I have a hard time with mommies. But I'm starting to remember how much I like babies. Of all the pictures of this new baby that we've been sent, my favorite is the one where she is trying to open her eyes. She's squashed and bleary-eyed, and a little grouchy looking – and I love her. Her face in this picture is exactly how I feel every day of my life. Like if I could only get my eyes open enough, there might be some real things to see. But it's hard and painful and my eyes just can't get used to the bright light. They aren't used to working yet. One day they will be fully adjusted and reality will enter my perception and mind and self, but for now keeping them closed is the best way to cope.
Jesus, you are the light of the world. You have given my heart new eyes, but I can't keep them open. It's too bright. Please, please help me.
Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts
It's a beautiful day at the Athenaeum. I got here right after they opened at 9am and was able to get a table by the window overlooking the Park Street steeple. It's sunny and quiet. I feel like I could just curl up in the patches of sun streaming over my table. I feel really thankful.
Friendship makes all the difference in life. On Wednesday, A. came down to eat lunch with me and then I gave her a tour of the Athenaeum. It has been so long since I've had a true, real female friend, and having A. in my life is this remarkable breath of fresh air. I think I had forgotten what it's like to have a girlfriend. I don't feel tired talking to her, I don't feel judged by her in any way, and we enjoy so many of the same things. Our personalities are pretty different, but that just makes it better. Best of all, we're in the same stage of life. We're both in our early thirties and both struggle with the question of having kids. But not because we don't want them; rather, because it's just such a big question and we don't know how to deal with it.
When we were touring the Athenaeum, I showed her the children's library and I knew she would love it. All of the precious little books that are all so beautiful and carefully curated. And the cubbies that overlook the cemetery. And all of the sudden, we were talking about having kids at the same time and doing a childcare swap and coming to the Athenaeum together.
I am praying so much that God allows us to stay in Boston, because A. is so much the friend I need to get through babies. If there is anyone I could choose to have babies with at the same time and share the experience of motherhood with, it's her. Please, Jesus, please let Trey get into Harvard.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
It dawned on me just now that I don't have much of a tendency to see children as my pride. I was thinking about past societies and how even men in those days saw offspring as a mark of their place in their world, a proud mark of their manhood. Creating children was the primary task of creation. I was thinking about these days and how much that perspective has vanished. Children are a sacrifice rather than a badge of honor. And then it occurred to me that I also operate under this assumption. But I can't figure out why. I was homeschooled, a culture in which most people at least talk as if children are the primary source of pride. I think my parents talk as if their children are their biggest accomplishments. But it's not in me somehow. Underneath it all, I didn't inherit this view of offspring and I can't figure out why.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
We just returned to Boston from Prince Edward Island. I fell deeply in love with the place, though I think somehow I already was through my childhood love of Anne of Green Gables. On the long drive home, we listened to an audiobook of the first Anne book. So many memories of my girlish self came back. I have always resonated on a profound level with the Anne stories and it doesn't seem to wane with age.
I'm not quite sure how, but these got me thinking tonight about my own future family and the many fears and sorrows I harbor concerning them. I think it might have started with the way the Anne stories have always stirred up my longings for "place." As a child who struggled terribly with identity and a sense of home, and as an adult who spent almost an entire decade on the move, Montgomery’s sense of belonging to a place and a people has always struck a deep nerve with me – tonight I've once again been pondering my own inability to claim a "home."
As I think about my siblings, my parents, and myself and the unlikelihood of us all living in the same place again in life, and as I contemplate the general roaming, caravanning way of life among my generation, the more I long for the certainty of the location of life past generations enjoyed. I often feel like it will be necessary for my children to know stability.
But really, wherever we are and whatever degree of locational sameness we give our children, they are only with us for a short time. All we can provide them is the proverbial wing to shelter under, and then they are gone, whether it is to the other side of the world, or the next street over. They will leave us, and they must leave us, and geographic proximity can't reduce the process.
Vacationing with my parents earlier this summer, and Daniel and Bethany just this past week, has really caused me to think about the next "level" of adulthood that it seems God is pushing me into. I've been on my own throughout my twenties, sometimes very much so. But it seems like my thirties will really be the time in which I will not just be figuring how to live and operate on my own, but also come fully into womanhood. It's time for me to "become my own man." Doing so is not and will not be a severing of familial ties; but, it will change them. It will reduce my fear of disapproval and disagreement. It will empower me to imagine the life I believe in and strive after it. It will reduce my unconscious attempts to placate and replicate my parents, letting go of things I truly disagree with and embracing those that I wholeheartedly embrace.
For me, geography and independence are inexplicably intertwined. My guilt for leaving often resurfaces in my attempts to keep things exactly the same. But it is not good for children to stay under the wing prolongedly, whether physically or metaphorically. My children will do the same to me wherever I raise them. They will be with me for a time, and then they will leave, and then they will change. Life will go on.
The important thing is that I have a life that will go on.
About the Project
This is a very personal project. It tracks my growth and development as I journeyed toward motherhood over the recent years. It doesn't document every experience I had, and probably neglects my more joyful and peaceful moments in the frenzy of trying to communicate my fears, anxieties, and doubts. If you are a friend or loved one, please do not let anything you read here overshadow what you know of me personally. If you are a stranger, please remember that a living and flawed person stands behind these words. To all my guests here, please understand these are not political statements and try to extend me grace, even as I share my failures and foibles - I have repented of much of what I share. I don't share this journal as an exemplar, but rather out of the desire to share my hope that entrance to motherhood does not need to be a fearful thing - despite the very real fears I have fought against. Motherhood is simply a part of life and one through which I am discovering more of myself and my God.