Second in the series….
I have no comparison for Anna’s experience. There is nothing I can compare, any loss or unfulfilled dream I can imagine that can equal the absence of motherhood. I cannot compare it to never having a car or a house or a career because we are talking not about a “thing” but rather about a human and about a transformation of one’s very being. That may seem like an overstatement but I don’t believe it is.
For someone who desires motherhood the experience of having a child, whether by adoption or biologically, brings with it something which changes forever the fiber of one’s being. Well known humourist, Erma Bombeck once said that to become a parent means forever wearing your heart on the outside of your body. There are very few joyful things in life that cause this degree of vulnerability really. A good friend struggling with infertility said recently that “right now my personal need to mother children is right under breathing, eating and shelter.” It would have been easy for me to take that statement to a place of judgement, to “call her to a higher place” and tell her that it sounded like she was elevating motherhood to an idolatrous level and then what she said next was so beautiful that I was floored. She said that what she needed, what she was desperate for in fact was “walk beside me empathy”. When she said this to me I immediately saw how little I had understood.
All this time with Anna I had been trying to either walk ahead, shouting directions on how she should move, how fast she should walk or just saying “come up here…THIS is where Jesus is!” or I was lagging behind and making myself more deserving of grief than she, “Well, yes, but I’VE suffered too! Can’t you see how much grief I have had??” Now what I really wish I had done was stand next to her, walking as she walked, asking once in a while if she would like to stop and rest and just listening and hearing that it was hard. Walk beside me empathy, Christ on the road to Emmaus.
Of course I have had pain, I have had hard experiences too in the field of fertility but that is not really what comes into play when I am walking with a friend who is suffering. We cannot move our emotional furniture to make space for Joy to live because Grief brings with her some very heavy pieces. All the light in the room is eclipsed by the weight of the fabric on the windows, the need to protect oneself from the glaring daylight of reality, statistics and desperation. The only air to breathe MUST come from a third party in the room.