My oldest sister Emily wasn’t there for her 17th birthday. She was on a church ski trip. It was a sunday. The church that I grew up in was still small enough that we met in what is now the fellowship hall, but was the original sanctuary. I knew at least 95% of the faces in the service. I was dedicated and baptized in that space. So were my sisters.
At this point it is important to know that my dad was the crier in the family. If one of my parents was going to get all teary-eyed at a movie, we had our money on dad. I distinctly remember him crying over that Oreo commercial where the college age girl asks the dad to open up her cookie. Every single time it came on.
It was my mom that sunday who got choked up. She raised her hand during prayer request time and just wanted to publicly thank God for the blessing that was her oldest daughter on her 17th birthday. Later, I heard a woman I had known my entire life as the woman who brought the awesome cocktail weenies to the potlucks, and wore the fabulous sparkly shoes talking about how exciting it was when Emily was born.
That is the beauty of going to the same church your whole life, there are so many people who have walked every step of your journey with you. I have women who are my Facebook friends who can remember feeding me Cheerios and teaching me where my nose is.
She remarked how Emily’s birth was particularly sweet, after the bitterness of my mom’s first pregnancy ending in a miscarriage. It occurred to me that this woman had prayed with and for mom…before she was my mom. I knew somewhere in the back of my head that mom had a miscarriage before Em was born. We didn’t really keep secrets in my family. (Perhaps that is why I choose to spill my secrets all over the internet.)
Sometime after that, still in my early teenage years I asked my mom about it. She told me it was sad. She thought it was a girl and she named the baby Lea, an oldest daughter from the Bible. I found out from my dad, who freely admitted he perhaps did not realize how hard it was on my mom, that my Grammy came to stay and help take care of mom. My mom was in graduate school I think.
Sometimes I wonder about her, Lea. I wonder if she is the one who looks like Jill (my students at my first school used to point her out among my sister pictures and say “that one got a different daddy?”), if she is the reason Emily does not often act like a first-born. I wonder sometimes if there would have been me had my mom not had a miscarriage the first time around. My parents did stop after three girls. I just wonder sometimes.
Mother’s day is coming up, and I read a really cool piece by Laura Zeisel about the word mother in the context of a verb. Mother Theresa may not have had any babies, but what a fine job of mothering she did for the kingdom of God. It made me think about all the people in my life who have, who are, mothering well.
Mostly, it made me think about my friends who have suffered through the pain of miscarriages. Within the last year I have found women like Laura Zeisel and Sarah Bessey, who blog about their miscarriages openly. I have discovered that many of my friends also, share their story. Positive pregnancy tests….but no joyful Facebook status celebrating babies arrival, no baby toes to coo over. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Statistically speaking one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Most of my friends are of childbearing age. It is happening. It is happening to my friends and sisters in Christ….and I don’t know how to talk about it. I am awkwardly silent on the issue. And I am not silent on much.
I am silent because I don’t want to offend or say the wrong thing. I am silent on this like I was silent on race, before my minority students gave me the words to use. I am silent because I know not everyone has the same way of dealing with their grief, and I don’t want to make any assumptions. I am silent because I just don’t know what to say.
I found out that a friend from church has had 2 miscarriages and I ponder the conversation I had with her sometime around the Peanut’s birth, when I asked her when her and her husband wanted kids. She smiled, and told me graciously that they were open to whatever God wanted for them. I am an idiot, and I pray that my idiocy did not cause her pain.
I attended a poetry reading by some old speech circuit acquaintances. One of the poets preformed a beautiful poem about her miscarriage. (She wrote a book with said poem in it, you should buy it.) It had the line, “what we do is the same.” She had two miscarriages in the same time that I had two health babies. She is honoring those babies the best she knows how, just like I am feeding and clothing my babies the best I know how, and I meant for it all to come out gracefully, but per my standard behavior I verbally barfed all over her. She handled it beautifully and I was able to redeem myself in a Facebook message.
My track record for talking about miscarriage is clearly not great. But I wanted to say, in this tiny space I have here that I am thinking of you this mother’s day. I want to hear your story and honor that life if you would allow me to. I want to weep with you and hold your hand if you want to cry. I want you to be less alone. I want to make sure you know that God is not punishing you, and this is not your fault, and all the other lies that sometimes people believe in grief are in fact lies. I want to stand with you, or sit with you, or be silent with you in solidarity.