I was at the ear doctor, waiting with Eli (for a long time) in the waiting room. An elderly woman smiled at us and asked, “Is he your first?”
I laughed and said he was my fourth–my fourth boy!
She smiled and said, “I bet he has fun with his brothers!”
We admired my baby for a few moments.
Then, she offered, “I have a boy and a girl.”
I nodded. “Are they close in age?”
Her smile quickly faded and a felt-pain crossed her face. “No…they are 8 years apart.”
Just then, the nurse called us back, but as I was standing up to go back, she said quietly,
“I had a lot of trouble.”
I wish I could have asked her for her story but our path together ended as quickly as it began.
Maybe she hoped and prayed for a baby for 8 years after her firstborn.
Maybe she only has two babies on this side of heaven.
Her grief, probably 50+ years old, rose easily to the surface, real and raw.
And I realized something, something heavy and heartbreaking: Some wounds, without the right support, do not—cannot—heal.
Her motherhood story did not look like she thought it would.
So what do we do, when we meet a stranger, or a friend, or a family member, (or even ourselves), and the pain of their reality overturns the picture of what they thought their life would look like?
How do we confront these expectations in order to heal and keep moving forward?
I think the first step, often, is acknowledging that our pain is real. Sometimes we think that being strong means saying, “I’m fine. It’s no big deal.”
We hide, we stuff, we shrug, we dismiss.
But then we hear another person’s story, and it reminds us of that tucked away place in our hearts, a place that still aches when bumped unexpectedly.
I wish I could have heard her story. I would have been honored to listen, to bear the weight of her grief with her for a small moment, to acknowledge her pain as real, that her story, as unexpected as it might have been, was meaningful.
There is so much power in sharing our stories, and in turn, listening to the stories of others.
It is hard to heal when you are being crushed.
But by sharing and listening, we can help to bear the weight of pain, if only for a moment.
And sometimes, a moment—a “Me too”—is enough to let healing begin.
On October 1st, I am launching a new blog: Mothering Beyond Expectations. The purpose of MBE is to share stories, stories of the “unexpecteds” of motherhood and how we can learn to accept our pain and keep moving forward.
When we share our stories, amazing things can happen: We no longer feel alone, but even more than that, in sharing our struggles, we begin to heal and find hope and joy together.
I am the creative director and editor for MBE and have a wonderful group of Core Writers who will be blogging each month on everything from step-parenting, self-image, child loss, post-partum depression, breastfeeding, and so much more.
(Click here to meet our Core Writers!)
The blog will also feature monthly guest posts (I can’t wait to share the October line up of guest posts on the topics of foster parenting, finding balance, first babies, first hair-cuts, and more!).
(Click here to learn about being a Guest Writer for MBE)
I am so excited and hopeful for this new project. I don’t take the privilege of story-teller, story-sharer, or story-listener lightly.
I only caught a glimpse of the story of the mother I met in the waiting room. There was so much weight in her words: “I had a lot of trouble.”
I continue to pray for her peace and healing. It is my hope and prayer that Mothering Beyond Expectations can offer a balm to those deep soul wounds that are so universal to motherhood.
We all have trouble.
But we don’t have to shoulder our struggles alone.
Let’s share our stories.
Let’s bear one another’s burdens.
Together, with love and grace, we can find hope and healing.
Do you know someone who would be interested in Mothering Beyond Expectations? Please share this post with her! Thank you!