I have this memory, from when I was 11, of a Mother’s Day church service guest speaker. It was a woman, who gave a beautiful testimony concerning her infertility story. She spoke about how painful Mother’s Days were during her childless years, and how now, they were filled with joy and gratitude for God’s timing and her precious adopted daughter. My eyes swelled with tears listening to her recount the Mother’s Days she’d skipped church to avoid hearing sermons directed towards the women who all had something she thought she’d never have.
I won’t say that I developed a fear of infertility in that service, but I definitely became hyperaware of the concept, even though I had no actual knowledge regarding the issue back then. Every Mother’s Day since that one, I’ve thought back on that woman’s words and wondered about all the ladies I knew who didn’t have children. I couldn’t help but to consider if they also felt the sadness that the woman in my memory had described feeling.
Strangely enough, that memory hadn’t yet crossed my mind as I walked to church with Ethan and his parents this Mother’s Day (four days after my “likely diagnosis”).
People have jokingly and seriously wished me a “Happy Future Mother’s Day” on Mother’s Day for years, probably since I got married. I’ve never thought anything wrong of it. But this year, when I walked into church and someone said those words to me, it felt so. intentionally. hurtful. It felt like I was being taunted. I ignored the first person who said it because I didn’t know them well enough to get mad at them. The next person who said it knew me a little better. This person still had no idea what I’d been struggling with for two years, but since I felt close to them, I decided they deserved my anger.
In the milliseconds following the jeering comment, I had to think through what the possible repercussions would be for flipping someone off in church. I decided hell just might not be worth it, so I simply smiled and walked to the bathroom to recover instead.
But I didn’t recover from that encounter throughout the rest of the church service. I wanted to run home and scream into a pillow. I focused on intentional breathing and doodled on a bulletin during the sermon. I felt some relief when I could sense that the pastor was about to close in prayer…until he said: “All mothers and future mothers, please come to the stage for recognition and prayer.”
I looked to Ethan, who, in an innocent-hearted way, sometimes cares more about keeping up appearances than honoring emotions. He nudged me to walk onto the stage.
There were close to a hundred women standing with me. They were mostly mothers, some of whom I admired greatly and didn’t feel worthy to be standing with as they were honored for raising their children. Not being one to cry in public, all of my feelings, rather, flooded my stomach and created the urge to puke. I don’t even think I waited for the “amen” before I rushed off the stage and found Ethan. I grabbed his hand and pulled him in the direction of leaving.
Before I could make my beeline to the door, a friend of the family approached us and excitedly asked about our recent vacation to Mexico. Obviously, she only had pure intentions for inquiring about our trip, but I had to, again, weigh the consequences for flipping the bird in church while I listened to Ethan give her the day by day breakdown of our itinerary. I lacked the smallest amount of patience to have a conversation with anyone at this point.
Eventually, I interrupted, “Hey, I think we’re going to be late for lunch if we don’t follow your parents home, right now.” I didn’t say goodbye to our friend or wait for Ethan to follow me. I walked quickly through the sanctuary and towards the foyer. An elder of the church stood at the exit and was handing out little plants to all mothers as they left. He held one out for me to grab and said, “Would you like one, Olivia?” I loudly replied, “Not a mother!” and kept my brisk pace without lifting my gaze from the ground. I made it halfway home (across the street) before Ethan caught up with me.
“Ok, so what’s going on?” Ethan asked once he reached me. I decided to let him figure this one out on his own. I answered by glaring at him through the tears coming out of my eyes.
They weren’t tears of sadness, though. I wasn’t sad to not be celebrated as a mother on this day. I was grateful I’d found the perfect Mother’s Day gift for Martha and gotten to have breakfast with my mom that morning, actually. I was just incredibly frustrated with the people at church who weren’t being sensitive to me. I was infuriated with those who had the audacity to wish me a “Happy Future Mother’s Day”. I never wanted to look at the pastor again for making me stand on the stage with so many people who were all something that I couldn’t become. I was exasperated by the girl who dared to ask about our Mexico travels. I was crying tears of pure anger.
See, my stress style of communication is Blaming. The way my brain sees it, when a stress arises, someone is always to blame and the stress could’ve totally been avoided if this someone wasn’t so terrible as to cause the stress in the first place. I was putting the blame of my pain at church on everyone there for not being programmed with the default of speaking delicately around me.
After lunch, and after I’d had a nap, Ethan, his parents, and I went for a bike ride. During a non-talking stretch of the ride, the obvious finally hit me: I was the someone to blame for any stress caused by verbiage that morning. How could I expect anyone to honor my feelings concerning a personal issue I’d never shared about before?
While my anger didn’t disappear in this realization, I did come to terms with the idea that I had to start being truthful if I ever wanted anyone to understand what I was going through.
I’ve had “Anger” typed for over a month. I’ve been waiting on “Freedom from Anger” to happen before I posted because some part of me wanted the assurance that I wouldn’t leave anyone reading on a depressing note. But that freedom just hasn’t come yet. And I have to get on with my story.
Liv – Authentically
“It’s a lot easier to be angry at someone than it is to tell them you’re hurt.”