Last night, I went “running” with my friend, Cindy. She’s the kind of girl who turns to her husband at 8 p.m. and says, “Hey, let’s go for a stroll,” and then proceeds to walk five miles. She hikes and bikes and kayaks and goes to aerobics, and even though she gave birth a mere three months ago, she totally kicks my fitness-challenged butt.
I want to be a runner. I admire my fleet-footed friends in their snazzy 5K t-shirts and comfy running shorts. I also love the excuse to eat copious amounts of pasta and call it “carb-loading.” I’ve tried the Couch to 5K thing about half a dozen times; it’s just that when the little voice on my phone app says “Run!” I generally say, “Screw you, b—-. I’m walking….to the donut shop.”
But last night, Cindy agreed to go with me, and she is a lot more difficult to silence than my phone. When I started to slow about five minutes into our first actual sprint, she “encouraged” me to keep going. “Come on! This is nothing! This isn’t tough. You have teenagers at home. That’s tough. And you broke your shoulder. Remember physical therapy? You did that; you can do this. And…”
(Note to self: maybe don’t share all difficult life experiences with friends as they may use said information to torment you at a later date.)
In any case, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and didn’t completely embarrass myself. Kinda actually looking forward to the next time.
Later, I started thinking about some of those more challenging life experiences, and while I have my share of regrets, I do have some memories where I can say, “Yeah. I survived that. I’m tough.”
The other night, Charlie and I watched a movie called The Other Woman with Natalie Portman. At first, I hated it because every single character was morally flawed, and I couldn’t figure out who to root for. I mean, she’s a husband-stealer. He’s a cheater. Even the kid seemed like a heartless brat. But by the end, I sort of loved the movie for the same reason. Real people are flawed, and there’s rarely only one side to a story. (Note: I’m not condoning cheating or excusing home-wreckers, but I think the film did a good job of balancing the characters’ vices with their virtue.)
In any case, I mention the film because it contained one heart-wrenching scene in which women who have lost children gather in Central Park for a memory walk. They wear hearts with the name of their child, carry candles, and then release the hearts to dissolve on the lake. It’s mentioned that there are women who miscarried or lost babies to SIDS.
One second, I was playing Scramble on my phone and half-watching, and the next second, I was so overcome with emotion I could barely breathe. I looked over to Charlie, and I wasn’t surprised to find him doing the weird blinky thing he does when he’s trying not to cry. I reached for his hand.
“Are you thinking about the baby we lost?”
“Me too. I was thinking about how old he…or she, would have been.”
And then we cuddled and had a good ole’ cry.
As I’ve written before, having Ellie, and now the boys, doesn’t leave us much time to sit around and think about my miscarriage or the following struggle with infertility. It’s much more fun to use my time chasing her around the backyard or teasing the boys about their girlfriends. We grieved our first baby and processed those feelings at length as part of the adoption process, so don’t worry. I’m excited for your pregnancy, and I will love you even if you have 10 kids without trying. It’s just that our loss still pops up unexpectedly sometimes, and now that we’ve experienced firsthand the amazing and daily joys that come from raising a child, we realize exactly how much one loses with a miscarriage. So we have to feel what we feel, cry it out, and move on.
A favorite quote from Dear Birthmother says the following:
“My infertility resides in my heart as an old friend. I do not hear from it for weeks at a time, and then, a moment a thought, a baby announcement or some such thing, and I will feel the tug–maybe even be sad or shed a few tears. And I think, ‘There’s my old friend.’ It will always be part of me.” —Barbara Eck Menning
For me, it’s more months than weeks, but I am learning to think of my infertility and miscarriage as “an old friend.” Because in reality, if one moment of the past were changed, Ellie likely wouldn’t be part of our lives right now, and without a doubt, she is exactly the child God intended for us to love. Also, we probably wouldn’t have Ian or Herdest either, and they’re meant to be here too.
So, when I feel that tug, I don’t run from it. I embrace it, as you would an old friend, shed a few tears, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. And if you’re in a sad place, I want to encourage you to do the same….because there is so much joy just ahead. Stay strong, be tough, and keep moving.