Hibernating, Special Clubs, and My Friend Shannon
I hibernated for Mother’s Day.
I can’t pinpoint if it was…
1. Because we had our big Utah Infertility Awareness Event last weekend (which was AMAZING!!) and I was so exhausted that I couldn’t think about infertility related things.
2. Because there were too many thoughts and too many feelings to even spew forth into words that I simply hid.
Regardless, it felt really nice to simply “be” for Mother’s Day and now we will move on…back to normal life.
I will say that there are so many of you out there who did share feelings and thoughts for Mother’s Day and I read as many of them as I could. You are remarkable women filled with faith and so filled with hope. I am in awe! May you be blessed for your continued faithfulness!!
I have been thinking about my friend Shannon all week long. Shannon is my friend because she was my sister’s friend first and my sister was kind enough to share her with me. And, my life is wonderfully and beautifully different because of her. It may be because she spilled her laundry all over my lawn. Or, because she once spent all day cooking freezer meals with me. Or, because I can’t help but smile when I think of her. Or, maybe simply because she is kind, generous, genuine, and the happiest person I know. How grateful I am that my life has been graced by her.
This woman is happy. And, because of her happiness, you would never think that there is anything in her life that could cause sadness or grief. But, there is…infertility.
Shannon lives in such a way that you would never know. Her life is evidence that happiness is a choice. She has chosen to be happy. She has chosen to celebrate all the good that is in her life.
Here is my Shannon-Friend…may you love her as much as I do.
Shannon & Ryan B.
I remember the first time someone said something to me about not having children. I had been married for just over three months, and was speaking to an old acquaintance. She asked me how married life was treating me, and I was (of course) gushing about the wonder of it all. She smiled, nodded, and then informed me that, “it really is so nice to be married. But you won’t feel totally in the club until you’ve had children.” It was the first I had heard of such a “club” and it took me a moment before I could utter something between nervous laughter and an awkward segue into another topic.
To be honest, I don’t really remember much else about that evening. Not what the social event was, why I was there, or even who I went with. But I do remember that comment. And I do remember how I felt hearing it. I had no idea at the time what the future held for my husband and I regarding children. I did not know then that almost six years later, Ryan and I would still be on the outside of the glamorous and aloof “parent club.” I was just young and madly in love and so very hopeful about becoming a mother. And yet, the comment hurt in a way that I hadn’t expected it to. It left me feeling very alone and very much on the outside. I think of that “club” every so often. Wonder when my time to enter it will come. Wonder if it really exists. Wonder if those unseen boundaries are really meant to induce the isolation that occasionally accompanies infertility and childlessness. But I also think of something else. It is something that Elizabeth Edwards once shared when remembering the death and subsequent grieving of her son. Obviously, this was something absolutely heart breaking, and inevitably, as with all tender topics, people said some off-handed things. Because of her own experiences, she chose to offer this piece of advice to the grieving, instead of the well wishers. She said:
“People mean to say the right thing, even when they say the wrong thing.”
To be able to learn this through such tragedy is, to me, unequivocally noble. And I have found that to really believe it is such a burden-lifting practice. Elizabeth’s inspired insight is not only gracious counsel, but also my gentle reminder to stay my judgment when I start to allow myself to be offended, or hurt, and maybe a bit too tender regarding that constant, ominous subject of infertility. Everyone—especially me—has stuck their foot in their mouth when trying to offer reassurance or comfort to a person they love or are acquainted with; it is some kind of universal (and very humbling) experience we all must pass through. None of us has meant to do it. Because it is a very real part of human nature to try and “fix” or “mend” something that is broken, we try to mend, we try to fix and sometimes we end up doing the exact opposite. Because pain is uncomfortable, all of us try to comfort in the only imperfect and fumbling way that our own experience has given us knowledge for. The very fact that the attempt is being made shows that a person is feeling empathy—even pain—for the situation. Even my situation. To me, that is the ultimate redeeming quality!
Through this lens, when I think of my old acquaintance, I no longer hear words that were said to purposely hurt or ostracize. I see, instead, words that I may have misunderstood, or that she may have meant to say differently. She may have seen, on a level that I could not yet see at the time, that while being married was dreamy, being childless in our Mormon culture (no matter how long of a marriage pedigree I had) might prove to feel slightly isolating. She may have been trying so hard to help me know that there could be a feeling of an unseen club, and not to worry–that all would work out; all would be okay. I will give her that because I am learning that people are trying. They really are. They may not understand, but they really do try to. So, I’ll cut her a little slack. Let go of hurt and indignation (no matter how justified it seems to be).
Because there are enough “clubs” I have no power to access, I’m going to do my best not to shut myself out of the ones whose doors are flung wide open. No secret handshakes, prerequisites or minimum fees are ever required in the “Benefit Of The Doubt” club. Just my willingness to understand that people mean to say the right thing, even when they say the wrong thing. And to give them the benefit of the doubt in this regard is the most gracious and burden lifting thing I can do.
To read more of Shannon’s amazing words and to capture more of her perspective, visit her blog
(beware…you may chuckle every now and then):