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
Why is this so hard? A week ago I still wasn't sure if I really wanted children. Now I can't stop crying because my period started five days late. But I feel so sad. For no clear or explicable reason. I just feel a deep sadness – like something was abruptly lost that I wasn't really sure I even had, but wanted profoundly.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Still no period. I can't imagine I'm not pregnant. However, I have now taken three pregnancy tests and all have been negative. Three is extreme. And it's still pretty early. But I feel like I'm going crazy not knowing. Plus I realized this morning that I did the first two incorrectly and so I went to the CVS to buy another box. I was super careful on the third one, but no results.
This is starting to become really difficult emotionally. And if it's this hard without that much riding on it, I can't imagine what it is like for our friends who are struggling with infertility. It must feel like you are going out of your mind.
The problem is that if I think about it at all, I start to really want a baby. All of the warm fuzzy feelings that I've ever heard people talk about start to waft up through my body and I have to stamp them down pretty quickly. Because, I think it would be pretty hard to find out we're not pregnant. I would feel really, really sad. So for the last four days I keep wavering between these two emotions – excitement and joy when I think I probably am pregnant and disappointment and sadness when I think my period is going to start. And once again, it's just all so subjective at this point. These are all just feelings and can't really tell me anything about what's really going on.
I never thought I would be happier to see a little blue line, but man, all of this waiting is making that blue line feel like the victor's crown at then end of a long, slow, uncertain week.
At Home, Arlington, Massachusetts
Well, it's now two days past my period due date and no period. I took a pregnancy test last night and it was negative, but it was probably too early. Lord have mercy.
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, East Arlington, Massachusetts
The last week was weird. Really weird.
Last weekend we got snowed in and didn't go anywhere. That was actually really nice. It was Valentine's Day on Saturday and Trey and I stayed in the whole day. He did a lot of homework, and I just totally relaxed. We had breakfast in bed and then made a yummy dinner. At the end of the evening, we randomly decided to watch Romeo + Juliet.
It was really fun, but by the end of the movie, I was kind of a wreck. It brought back so many memories from my teen years that I just do not like to think about. And the result of that was really not wanting to have kids. It wasn't because I felt afraid of them having the same difficulties; rather it was some kind of deeper reaction. It brought back so many memories of feeling alienated. It brought back how much I sometimes wanted to hurt myself. It brought back so much shame. It brought back the desire to do something to be recognized, to be proud of myself. Mostly, it just reminded me of how much I still haven't addressed these things that seem so far away in the past.
But I don't want to delve into these things. Thinking about doing so feels like taking my head and smashing it against the wall at full force. Things are so good now that I don't want to go back to the past. I feel like the issues of my teen years don't define me or my relationships today. I don't want to be sad or burdened by them, nor do I want others to be so. The older I get and the more I understand myself, the more I know that despite the brokenness, my teen years were full of so many good things. I don't want to doubt everything.
And yet, my visceral reaction to thinking about all of this is still a strong aversion to wanting children. I guess it just seems like there is still so much inside of me that I'm afraid of – fear, anger, insecurity. It scares me to think about either addressing it, or ignoring it and having it eek out into the lives of my kids.
But that wasn't the end of the strangeness of the week. After crying about it all for quite a while with Trey, things got back to normal. He truly is God's greatest blessing to me. I am so so deeply thankful for him. He, more than anything else, makes me want to have kids.
That is until on Monday when I developed serious acid reflux. I have never in my life experienced indigestion the way I experienced it this week. I couldn't eat anything without turning into a giant ball of belching. By Thursday, I was convinced I was pregnant. There was no particular reason for this idea apart from the fact that my stomach was doing super weird things it had never done before. But the lead up to taking a pregnancy test after a week of suspecting pregnancy preceded by a meltdown over having kids the weekend before made the test quite ominous.
It sucks being a woman in the 21st century. No, it doesn't suck. There are so many good things about it. But the conundrum of childbearing sucks. So many thoughts raced through my head. Relief at knowing I could get pregnant. Surrender to the inevitable. Anger that God would ordain this. Trust that what he wanted was best. Sorrow over lost opportunities to go back to school. Sorrow over my sorrow. Jealousy that other women get to do what they want. Acknowledgement that having children isn't the end of my life or personhood. Fear that Hannah as we know her will be gone forever once there is a baby around. Joy at the idea of a family. And so much confusion. Just so much confusion.
In the end, I am not pregnant. The lack of that little blue line both made me incredibly happy and reintroduced so much of the fear about whether or not I'll be able to get pregnant. But the final take away is that I thought quite a lot about what kind of person I want to be. I have come across so many women who are truly lost to their motherhood. The woman I once knew is gone forever and all that remains is an obsession with her children. It's all she can talk about and it's the only thing she is interested in defining herself by. She is no longer primarily a friend or a wife. She is a mother.
And the thing that drives me crazy and totally mystifies me is that they seem to do this to themselves willingly. They are their own agents of this change. Usually there is no lack of people willing to talk to them. I have sat with so many young mothers who have ceased to talk about anything except for their mothering. I have been a living, breathing person in their presence, willing and waiting to talk about anything we used to talk about and instead, we don't. The person I knew is gone.
This terrifies me. I want more for myself, but mostly, I want more for my children. I want to be the person in their lives who opens the door to the world. I want them to feel like the world is a bigger place because I am their mother, not a small place centering only on our family’s lived reality.
Today a picture popped up on Facebook of a mother and her children. I don't know this woman well, but for a long time she has symbolized to me much of what I want to be in motherhood. She is beautiful – not in some superficial or toned way, but she understands her own beauty and embraces it. She is engaged with the world and her mind is awake. And her smile is one of the most genuine motherly smiles I see in pictures on Facebook. She is a woman who has kept her personhood intact and it lets her love her kids ferociously.
That is the person I want to be. And not just when I am a mother, but now.
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.