I work on my phone on the twenty minute drive to church. There are two months a year I am very busy as an infertility and loss thriver and advocate: April (National Infertility Awareness Month) and October (National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month). I feel the car slow and glance up to notice the string of cars with brake lights illuminated for as far as we can see. Pumpkin patch.
Damn pumpkin patch (at least for this woman who can't have babies).
It is that time of year that every week on our way to church we will pass the biggest and most popular pumpkin patch in St. Louis. I will look to my right every single week for about six weeks and see the orange pumpkins of every size with children crawling all over them while their parents try to get the annual picture.
A reminder, again, that I will never have that experience with my own children.
This Sunday is different though as I work on finding and saving pictures about pregnancy and infant loss on my phone to share each day of the month. It is different because of what I know is waiting for me in the service this week in church. I sigh and look over at Chad just as the traffic begins to pick back up to normal pace,
This is literally an infertile woman's road of hell. Passing the pumpkin patch full of kids at a slow pace as if to rub it in even more while on the way to child dedication day at your church.
He half laughs with a sigh. I know he both gets it and doesn't.
We walk into the enormous auditorium just as the first song plays. This is late for us, we are usually here early and have our butts planted in our front row center seats at least ten minutes before the service starts. I knew this week I would not want to be in those seats.
Front row center to the dream that will never be yours...no thank you.
The usher sees us trying to find a seat and motions us to our right, I immediately notice the chairs are marked "family section". I shake my head and feel my heart rate rise as I make eye contact with Chad. The usher motions again to the same section. I start to feel the panic rise inside of me, Seriously God?
I look at Chad and try to get him to hear me when I say,
I am not sitting in the family section on child dedication day.
He makes the connection and follows me as I bolt to the opposite side of the auditorium and we finally find seats in the upper part of the auditorium.
The music swells and we are taken to church, just like every Sunday. After one song the lights come up and I see the families being led to the front of the stage with their babies.
Here we go.
Chad puts his hand on my leg and I clasped my hands tightly together as if the pressure will keep the tears in this year. My own grief is a tiny bit subdued this year because we have two sets of friends at the front with their adorable daughters. I am able to focus on them for the most part which means my own longing awakens inside of me just a bit.
Until I see her.
I can only see her orange shirt, her dark hair pulled into a ponytail and how tightly her husband is holding her. Her husband's arm is wrapped around her and I know it is serving multiple purposes, to both hold her up and in and love her. She wipes tears from her face the entire ten minutes that our pastor talks about us as a congregation supporting and loving these families and these children in their walk with Christ.
My own tears escape the rims of my eyes to fall onto my cheeks. Chad puts his arm around me for only a second knowing that if he lingers too long I will lose it myself.
The music swells up. I see her take a deep breath just as her husband's fingers interlace with hers behind her back.
She wipes more tears.
I wipe my own.
I see her.
I am her.
I only wish there had been an open seat next to her because I would have gone down to sit beside her and grab her hand while we both allowed tears to flow down our cheeks.
Last year at child dedication I was overcome by breath stealing sobs. So much so, I had to sit down in the dark during the song to try to calm myself.
The thoughts and feelings that go through a woman struggling with any version of the infertility or loss story during a child dedication runs the gamut:
Why them and not me?
Will I ever be a mother?
I will never be up there.
I am supposed to be up there this year.
I wonder if those twins are from IVF?
They seem older, I bet they had to do treatments.
My parents will never get to experience this joy.
God, have you forgotten me?
They would have been four this year.
Why do they never mention couples like us...
I am a mother too...
This year right after the dedication they played Christ is Enough.
As a believer I know this and trust it.
As a forever longing mom, my aching heart can sometimes doubt it.
My breath catches as we sing:
Through every storm
My soul will sing...
The cross before me
The world behind me
More than ever these words are true for me.
They are true and I still long for my babies.
I love even harder and more.
You are not alone. Even though it feels as if you are invisible, like no one remembers us or cares enough to see us, you are not invisible.
I see you. I know you. I am you. We are a mothers too.