It's almost been a year since one of our best and worst years ever. In 2015 we became parents to the sweetest boy (through our first choice of adoption), my husband also landed his dream job and we also got to move back to Colorado. But then we lost a baby in November, and then a month later found out I also may never give birth to a baby. I haven't shared my miscarriage with many because it's still so raw and hard for me to talk about. It's one of the reasons I wrote this post last month to help process it. I also wrote that post because we've had many friends and family lose children throughout the years. Some miscarriages, some from cancer, some still births, some from rare heart conditions, some from other things entirely. But so many little, precious lives lost.
This summer I had the opportunity to help with VBS at our Church. One morning, I had a lady at Church very (and I mean VERY) bluntly, out of the blue, ask me: "Can you not have children or did you just want to adopt first?" Also might be nice to know that this was in a room full of people, mostly adults and youth helpers....Wow...where does one go from there? I mean, seriously. Like if we were sitting down to coffee together to have a heart to heart, this would have been completely different. (And much more appropriate.)
I wish I could have had some polite little response to defer to a better time and place, or just shut her down completely in a nice way. But I didn't.
I felt obligated to answer her. I'm not sure if it's because I was raised to respect our elders, or what...but I felt like I had to answer her, right then. So I went on to say that we had recently been diagnosed with infertility and didn't know if we could have kids, but that adoption had always been our first plan to add to our family anyway and we were so happy to be parents to our sweet boy. And she kind of was like "ok", and then the morning went on to the devotion time, and we all parted ways to our designated areas. Like, she basically just dismissed my answer and went about her business. Weird huh?
I answered her, and then just felt so empty and vulnerable.
I'm pretty sure she hasn't thought about that morning since then, but I have a lot. It's not that I haven't forgiven her, because I have. I just wonder why did I feel like I had to answer her? Why didn't I just act like I hadn't heard her? Why didn't I politely refuse? Why? Why? Why?
I actually don't know the answer to that, but I will say that since that happened I have realized that I can have a response to people that isn't my story. Just like when people ask too many personal questions about anything in life, or more likely about specifics of our adoption, I can answer with things that don't tell my son's unique story. Every person has a story, but not everyone we come into contact with gets to know it. Not that I don't want to ever share my story with people, but I don't have to share it with just anyone, anywhere either. You know what I mean?
The thing is, that I was (and still am in a lot of ways) hurting and grieving for the the baby we lost and the fact that I may never birth a child. It doesn't take away any of the joy that I have of being a mother to the little guy I am blessed enough to call my own, though either. But sometimes when people bring things up it can just almost be too much.
Don't get me wrong. I am SO happy when there is new life coming into the world. I'm so happy when friends announce they are adding to their families. I'm so happy when I see a pregnant lady picking out tiny little clothes in the store. I'm so happy when I see people announce they are adopting, or fostering. I also grieve with people when they lose their babies. I grieve with those who don't know if they will ever be mamas too. There are so many emotions wrapped up in each and every one of us, it's hard not to touch on a sensitive topic every now and then.
But can I maybe encourage us to tread lightly on conversations, especially if you are one of those who is super direct or to the point people, that talk about having children or not, or how many or to have more and so on and so forth? I don't mean to never ask questions, because questions are HUGE.
Questions can show that you are interested, engaged and that you care. So, please ask questions. Ask lots of questions. Ask me lots of questions at least. Just be a little more gentle in the asking please.
As for the rest of us, whether we've lost babies, can't have babies, have all the babies, long to be married or a mama, or whatever the case, let's be gracious in our replies. If someone asks a question that isn't appropriate or worded right, let's give them the benefit of the doubt and either politely decline to answer or answer with an extra heaping of grace. Because the Lord knows we all need it--That's why He freely gives it.
I've written a follow-up to this called: An Open Letter about Grief: Permission to give ourselves grace that I think you'll likely enjoy as well. Grief is complex.