I was watching a video on Kristina Kuzmic’s Facebook page about her tragic miscarriage. She divulged her loss, her heartache, and her desire to help others through a similar struggle. She kept repeating “it’s not your fault.” And those words triggered in me a desire to talk about my own feelings of loss, and to possibly help others. We have never been lucky enough to welcome our own into this world. However, we have experienced loss.
Last month, someone told me “You’re so lucky you don’t have children.”
Lucky is the last word I would use to describe how I often feel.
I’ve written about my infertility before. I thought I had dealt with all of those emotions. I even remember telling my husband I was at “peace” with it. However, with that phrase spoken, it tore off the scabs of a wound I thought had healed.
At first I tried to brush it aside. I told my pastor about it. As his third child is due any day, he said that phrase broke his heart. The proximity of his joy and my pain made him weep. And in true “me” fashion, I tried to undue his pain, and stuff mine. Tell myself that I shouldn’t hold it against the person who called me “lucky.” That I need to forgive. (And I have.) That it’s no big deal.
However, for the last month I’ve wrestled with how NOT “lucky” I feel.
Empty womb, empty room
Like how we had felt lucky, nine years ago. A friend felt moved to give us a crib. Blessed. A sign from God that He had heard our prayers and that an answer would come. We eagerly set it up, complete with stuffed animal, as a sign of faith of what was to come. Then, less than a year later, I experienced such a mental breakdown that I had to placed in a psych ward. Not able to sleep. Questioning reality. Losing all confidence in myself as a person, let alone a mother. I made my husband dismantle the crib, as it became unbearable to see.
Nine years later, the crib still sits in my basement, because I can’t face it. The guilt, because if God was going to give us a crib, but now we can’t have kids, then there must be a reason. There must be someone to blame. And from where I stand, the only logical answer is “me.” (For those who want to bring up adoption, please know those conversations took place. There are deep and heavy hearted talks that remain sacred, between spouses. I tell this story, not because I want you to fix me, but because I want you to hear me.)
The Son Who Left
Two years later, we took a step. We agreed to bring a foreign exchange student into our home. Our lucky chance to love a young man like the son we never had. There were joys, but many sorrows. He had Type 1 Diabetes, and ended up in the hospital with ketoacidosis. I sat by his bedside every day for a week, until he was released. Terrified that his mother would hate me forever. That I failed him as a mother. Ultimately he returned to Finland. It was not a pleasant departure, and he estranged himself from us. Only years later would he reply to our Facebook messages. We finally reconnected.
And then came the email. The message. Daniel had died. In his kitchen apartment in Finland, alone. Asphyxiated on his own vomit, again victim of ketoacidosis. His mother couldn’t (still can’t) speak English. All conversation typed, translated by Google. Being so far away, I couldn’t just drive to Finland. So I couldn’t attend a funeral. Say goodbye. Hug his mother. Find closure. Feeling a loss, while telling myself I haven’t the right to grieve, because his mother’s pain is all the greater.
The Boy Who Lived
At our church, we’ve always been involved with children. We were lucky enough to meet the acquaintance of a young black man. Antwon. Kicked off his school bus, I ended up driving him back and forth from school, every day, for 6 months. While not “my kid,” I willing love him as my own. We had deep conversations. About love and life and wrestling with broken relationships. Family strain. He’s over 21 now, and I still think of him like a son.
However, we live in a world where black men are shot due to the color of their skin. So I had to have that conversation with him. To stay out of trouble, to not talk back to police, to choose his friends wisely. To tell him that I love him, and that after losing Daniel, i can’t lose him too. So far, he has listened to my words. And I have not had to receive a text from his mom that something has happened. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still worry.
Blessed by this Union
We also acted as youth ministers at our church. We have been lucky enough to stay in the the lives of a few of them. Most notably, a set of twins who will always hold a strong place in our hearts. We attended both of their weddings, the second of which was this past weekend. It truly was a blessing to partake in this event. To see one of our “kids” take such a step of love and faith. However, I found myself still wrestling what we won’t see. Will never see a daughter or son marry. No open houses or graduation parties. No grandchildren.
And now we are at a point when our church is struggling. The church we intentionally moved next to, in Flint, so we could be youth directors. Where we gave of our time freely and generously. The church where we have connected with families, only to have them move away, near and far. Indeed, if the worst happens, and our church closes, it will feel like I lost everything I sacrificed for. My time. Our money. My “kids.”
Healing For Us All
October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Maybe it was fitting that I struggled with these feelings during that month. Please don’t mistake me. We have friends that have had miscarriages and whose newborns have died. In no way do I want to diminish their pain or overlook their story. I’m simply saying that maybe my feeling of loss is not so insignificant after all.
In penning this, I hope for three things. First, that the scab on the wound that was rubbed fresh will heal over again. And not just a scab that covers the surface, but allows for the deep healing that likely never occurred in me in the first place. That I will focus again on how truly lucky I am that others trust me to care for their children, as if they were my own. Second maybe I can finally lay down the guilt and bitterness of not bearing children, of not living out the dreams we had. To be the “pearl of light” my name roughly translates into, to be a Margaret Elaine, instead of a Mara.
Thirdly, I hope that if you are experiencing feelings of loss, my story helps you to know that you are not alone. That I am willing, honored, to listen to your story, as so many have been willing to do for me. That I’m willing to walk along side you in your pain, without trying to “fix you.” May this post be about hearing and healing, not just for me, but for us all. May we all find peace at the end of the day.