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When Motherhood Hurts

Yesterday morning I was sitting on a long sheet of white paper, waiting for my OBGYN to come in and let me hear my tiny baby’s heartbeat for the very first time, when I got a text message from my friend:

“I’m either having a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.  I’m sorry, I just couldn’t call.  Please pray for us this morning.”

Before I could respond, my doctor came in.

So I sat, listening to the strong, healthy heartbeat of the baby we didn’t plan – the baby we were trying not to have – while one of my best friends sat, hundreds of miles away, bleeding.

I scheduled an ultrasound to determine the sex of our third child; she went into surgery to have the ectopic pregnancy removed.

In that moment everything about motherhood seemed arbitrary and upside down and unfair.

Perhaps the most unfair thing of all is that my friend is not the exception.  Neither are my 6 friends that have miscarried in the last couple of years.  Neither are my 2 friends who are battling infertility.  Neither are my 3 friends who are waiting for adoptions to go through.  Neither is my friend who had an unplanned pregnancy, and just as she was getting through the fear and into the love, lost the baby.  Neither are my dozens of friends who have heard the words, “It’s anencephaly.”  ”It’s cerebral palsy.”  ”It’s autism.”

Neither am I – even I who have easy pregnancies, easy deliveries, and healthy babies.

Two unplanned pregnancies: two rounds of fear, and “I’m not ready,” and “My life will never be the same.”  And one very hard day when a doctor told me, “There is no treatment; she will never see like you and I can see.”

Thinking about it all, I went back and re-read a chapter of Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet, called “Eight for Eight.”  It is all I’ve been able to think about for the last twenty four hours.

Motherhood is the most beautiful, transformative, sacred thing I’ve ever done.  I would choose it again every single time, forever.  But some days – it sure does hurt.

“…And then I realize that as much as I want my friend Jenny’s abs, she wants a baby, and we’re all yearning for something.

When I take a step back, I’m surprised to realize that the topic of pregnancy and birth and mothering, for every single one of us, has been touched with pain or just a shade of heartache.  The odds of that surprise me.  Eight women, and eight stories of waiting or yearning, of brokenness mixed in with deep delight.  If we’re a microcosm, is this how it is?  We’re eight normal women, if normal exists in this or any realm.  And one by one, eight for eight, one or another aspect of motherhood has pricked us and made us bleed.

…As for my dear friends and me, our hearts are full, of course, but also a little tender, bruised, tired.  Motherhood, and the journey towards it, has battered us a little bit, each in our own ways.  From ambivalence to longing to loss, from the anger that our bodies won’t do what we want them to, to the consuming, crushing love for a baby that is just hanging on…Motherhood laughed at our plans, twisted up our expectations, and gave them back to us upside down, covered with blood and stretch marks and Goldfish cracker paste.

We are very thankful, and we adore our children and one another’s children.  But as much as it’s beautiful, the process is a little harrowing.  Who knew we could want something so badly and then not be able to just wrestle it into existence?  Who knew we could want to provide something so desperately for our children, to heal and protect them, but find ourselves profoundly unable?  The stakes have gone up in our lives, the way they do, it seems, every time you decide to love something.”

[Shauna Niequist, Bittersweet, 2010]

And oh, how we love them.

  • Carrie

    Beautiful post. Just 15 minutes ago I called my mom on my way home from a very long, trying day and announced that this Motherhood thing is kind of a raw deal sometimes. Admittedly, I am one of those moms that *usually* floats around on a cloud of baby-love, but like you said, there are thoooose days when Motherhood sure does hurt. Thank you for beautifully putting into words something that every mother goes through.

  • Sarah Harmony-Powell

    Such a beautiful and bittersweet post. Sometimes God’s plans are such a mystery… words cannot even bring the comfort that they seek to give.

  • Aimee Steckowski

    we too have many sweet friends that are battling/praying/wishing for something to be different than their current circumstances.. motherhood is hard. sometimes trying to get to the place of motherhood is hard.

  • Louise

    … and then they are grown… and you watch them go through the same and different struggles and heartaches and all you can do… the BEST you can do is leave them in the hands of God. And thank Him that His grace is enough.

  • Megan

    Beautiful, Kate. It is hard. And it’s not fair. I’m pregnant and getting plenty of slack from my employer while still taking home a lawyer’s paycheck. My sister on the other hand is battling some sort of reproductive issue that will likely cause her to struggle with infertility. She bleeds constantly and is in almost constant pain, but she still has to go to school full time and work full time (often graveyard shifts) so she and her husband can make ends meet. There are always challenges mixed in with the good and good mixed in with the challenges, but some days we (or our friends or family) get it harder than others.

    I love your quotes for Shauna Niequist’s books. I will have to order them online because they are out of stock at my local bookstore.

  • Megan Volnoff

    I’ve battled this as well. My sister has battled infertility and failed adoptions for 3 years, we found out we were pregnant the day she found out her adoption fell through. I can relate… totally.

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  • SteakandaBible

    Thank you for posting this Kate. I stumbled upon it just minutes after hearing from my friend that she lost her baby. Truly heartbreaking news.

  • Julie Sancken

    It is so hard. For us, getting pregnant was easy and we have several friends that really, really struggled. It’s a tough line to walk. Thanks for this beautiful post.

  • Nikki D

    I have all but lost one of my best friends over this very issue. I had a difficult time getting pregnant; her husband looked at her cross-eyed and BAM! Through her last pregnancy, I wanted *so badly* to be happy for her, but each complaint of morning sickness, soreness, fatigue (the list is endless) made me feel like I was being punched in the gut. Eventually I withdrew from the relationship almost completely–a relationship with a woman who had been my matron of honor, my sidekick, for nearly a decade.

    Her youngest is getting ready to turn four, and I finally was blessed with an Angel Princess of my own (she’s 1 1/2). My friend acts like nothing has changed–like we’re still as close as we’ve ever been. For me, though, *everything* has changed. I pray that one day, I can set aside my feelings of guilt and we can become what we once were…

  • Kelly A.

    Great post, Kate, but I have GOT to quit reading them at work. I almost always cry and then people come in and I have to explain why I’m crying:) I have always had such a heart for women who lost babies or could not get pregnant…my heart truly hurts for them. There is absolutely nothing like being a mother (if you want to be a mother) or the love you have for that precious child. I always wished I could have had more than one child but I always thank our Heavenly Father for the one I have and thank Him for giving me such a perfect one. Ok, not perfect, but he is in my eyes! Thanks again for your wonderful posts!

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