This is going to be long and sappy. You should probably close the page right now.
Since going on my leave I’ve been thinking about ways to fill my time, while also keeping in mind that I left work for a reason and shouldn’t sign up for too much. One of the things I never had time for while working was church commitments. I could sign up for Wednesday classes or bringing food on Sunday before service, but I had no way of guaranteeing I would be there any given week. I might make it the first two weeks, and then have a solid month where my boss scheduled me crazy hours and I just couldn’t manage. And that wasn’t fair to anyone there, so after a few valiant tries I sort of gave up on having much of a presence in the church outside of Sunday service and small group.
This Sunday though I had already turned in my apron. As I leafed through the bulletin I saw a flier I had seen dozens of times before but never been interested in or qualified for, much less had the time. Moms 2 Moms, a group that meets twice a month for mothers and women in that stage of life. It felt a bit awkward, since I wouldn’t have anyone to bring along, but I do consider myself a mother now and I thought it might be a good idea to talk to the women who attended. After all, I’ve had my first child, and am planning on more. I may not have a newborn in the home, but I’m standing in the door of the childbearing season, and trying to figure out my place in it and my own path. It will do me a lot of good to talk to and commune with people who are already in that season of their life, and have been for years. So I cooked some cheesy potato casserole and drove out Tuesday morning.
Now listen, I have attended this church for going on two years. David’s family has attended for almost five years, so I showed up here and there even before we moved to town. I’ve been on decorating crews, I’ve gone to the popular classes, I’m a part of a small group where we all know each other like family. So I figured I would know everybody when I went, or at least somebody.
Not a single face at that meeting was familiar to me except Jolene’s and that’s only because she’s the pastor’s wife and everyone knows Jolene. You have no idea how socially inadequete you can be until you have to walk through a room of fifteen women and their twenty-five collective children and place your three-person cheesy potato casserole next to their giant platters of nuts and brie and gluten free brownies.
Surprisingly though, I fit. Or I fit more than usual. I chatted with a few people, and when I mentioned I felt out of place, a few of the women commiserated. It was odd, here’s a woman in her thirties with two kids in school already, and she feels out of place at a mother’s meeting? And it was repeated over and over again, nobody really felt like they knew what they were doing here aside from friends and conversation.
Just about everyone I talked to asked if I had kids. I still don’t have a good succinct way to explain it so I would usually say we had our first a little while ago and are hoping for more soon, and wouldn’t explain that he’d passed unless they really asked. I cried the couple of times they did ask, and it was an emotional time. But it was good emotion. I didn’t feel pitied or judged or dismissed. It felt normal, if that sort of thing can feel normal. It felt like there was an empathy there, and it felt like my tragedy wasn’t a barrier to me being there. Talking about Samson didn’t make the room go silent or suck the breath out of anyone. And I can’t express how wonderful that experience was.
It’s hard to pin down what exactly is going to mean something to you as time goes on. I don’t know about the five stages of grief, but there are stepping stones, I think. The only way out is through, and you have to find things that give you the strength to move forward to that next stone in the line. A couple of times its been something as stupid as a song that moved me forward. I heard Tonight You’re Perfect on the radio and felt relieved and emotional at someone calling me mama and asking for me to teach them. Sometimes its something as silly as a dream, like the one I had a few weeks after getting home from the hospital where I taught a blond-haired boy how to walk in my childhood home. Sometimes it’s something solid, like fellowship with women in a place where everyone just intuitively gave me the space to be sad without judgement. You can’t really question it. Forward is forward.