As a teenager, I spent many a night in the four walls of a charismatic Christian church. I fundraised for international mission trips and spent what could have been exciting, relaxing, sleep-in kinds of summers in third world countries praying for and feeding people I would never see again. I sang in choir. I kept daily journals of the Scriptures I read. I practiced and performed drama skits with allegories concerning God’s love of the world.
And I loved every minute of it.
Inside, though, a battle raged. Because the more I loved God, the more I loved people, and the more I hurt for them. When you care, you hurt. It’s a mathematical certainty. And I wonder if this truth is part of the reason why I went from being so charismatic to much more mellow about my faith. So maybe, it would hurt less.
Truth be told, I prefer my quieter faith because I am a more understanding, open-minded person. By no means am I the shining example of what a Christian should be on the day to day, but I believe in my heart of hearts that whether I am in a church every weekend or not, I will raise my son to be a kindhearted, moral, God-fearing person, and hopefully, he will choose to live a life that will encourage and inspire others.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, when I was that fervent, overzealous, somewhat of an outsider teen, I carried the world on my shoulders. Every commercial about every starving child brought tears to my eyes. The news of late-term abortions, articles about young men and women killed in war, friends and friends of friends diagnosed with cancer… all of those things weighed me down. I felt responsible. I felt obligated. Obligated to pray. Obligated to think. Obligated to feel. And even sometimes, guilty because I had more than they did, or because I was happier than they were. Like somehow, I didn’t deserve it.
Becoming a mother has given me an entirely new sense of intuition and emotion. I posted a Facebook status the other night about how I never understood why people would say, “He’s so cute! I just want to eat him!” about a baby. Why would you want to eat him if he’s cute? Didn’t get it. But now? Oh man, I could gnaw on my son’s chubby little legs all day long. I totally describe him as edible. Because he is! And I only understand that because now, I experience it as a mother instead of as an outsider.
Before my son was born, I knew many people, some very close to me, who had experienced miscarriages. As a child, my mother told me the story of her mother giving birth to a baby boy who passed away in the hospital—she would’ve grown up with an older brother. My grandmother remembered being the only woman on the delivery floor without a baby in her arms. As a teen, I knew a woman from church who had stopped feeling her baby move in the 9th month of her pregnancy. Doctors couldn’t tell her what happened. She had to deliver the baby “asleep” as they used to call it, and have a funeral for her.
I remember thinking that they just shouldn’t make caskets that small.
I felt for those women. I really did. But now. It’s almost hard to type the words.
I followed Diana of Hormonal Imbalances as she planned for the birth of twin baby boys but tragically lost them just shy of 20 weeks. I read as she ached for them, as she cried that they didn’t have birth certificates but then by the grace of God and the kindness of a doctor who heard her little ones breathe, ended up getting those certificates—proof that those children made an impact on the world, even though we all already knew they did. I paid attention as a childhood friend gave birth to a son with anencephaly and waited over two years to finally blog about it and let the world know how she felt about her angel son and his short but powerful life. I remember her small baby shower where people ate, fellowshipped, prayed, sang songs. They didn’t bring gifts because she knew her little boy wouldn’t last very long on earth.
These women are the epitome of strength, and my heart, my stomach, every part of me as a woman and as a mother aches as I read their stories, look at their pictures, read their posts. To know that so many women have had to say goodbye to their little ones breaks my heart, frightens me, and even makes me feel guilty that my little guy is safe tonight, breathing heavily in bed.
Mothers should never lose children. It’s not the natural way of life. But in the same way, children should never lose mothers. One of my favorite students lost his mother to cancer when he was in middle school. And every time I looked at him and read the things he wrote in his journal, I would think, “His mother should be here to read that. His mother should be here to see him.” Because now, I’m a mother. And to think that my son would have his first girlfriend, get his driver’s permit, get on the bus for his first day of high school without me? Unfathomable. He would want me. He would look for me. He would need me. And more than that, I thought about that young man’s mother. How hard it must have been for her, having cancer, knowing she would leave her boy behind…
I hate thinking these things, because they make me so incredibly sad. In fact, I let this post sit on my computer because I thought I’d just be depressing people unnecessarily. But it’s real life and I don’t like to sugarcoat things. As a Christian teenager, it was always hard to grasp why good people had to experience such deep suffering. As a new mother, it is hard to understand why someone people, who don’t belong being parents, are able to have healthy children, while others are not able to have children or when they do, have to say goodbye.
Some things in life are mysterious. Some are just unfair. But in the end, I guess the only thing that brings me any form of consolation is the knowledge that for centuries, women have experienced and survived loss. They have can handle it, have handled it, and will continue to handle it. Because women—and mothers in particular—are resilient. Everything we do as mothers is for our children. And even those who lose their children on earth know they have to go on, for their children. To do their children proud. To keep their memories alive. To give them the honor they deserve. Even if, on a daily basis, it brings them pain and tears.
To parents who have lost children, or children who have lost parents: I love you and I pray for you. And I so very much admire your strength.