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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Am I empty?

Today, I received an email from the editor of an upcoming book that I contributed to. The email contained the title of the book: Empty. I hadn't known the title until then.

I bristled.

It's an appropriate title for a book of Christian reflections on infertility and miscarriage, I'm sure.

Rejected as a mother, by God.
I felt 24 again.  The same self-talk and shame rolled back into my being.  Empty.  Of course, my reaction to the title was not really about the title.  It's a spectacularly appropriate and effective title. In truth, my reaction was about my own experiences and interpretations of my situation.  This project has not been an easy one for me.  Participation has required me to pry open wounds that I have covered over and attempted to forget.

I ignored the email for a few hours.  There were meetings to be held that saved me from dealing with the word -- educational plan meetings with mothers overflowing with children...6 children to be exact, and then 8, respectively.  Meetings with worthy women.  Women who measured up.  Women with mother-approval from God.  I realized as I pondered this, that I still feel like I got away with something by conceiving a child.  I realized that I still feel like I am going to get caught, and that, then, she will be taken from me.

Each mother was tired.  As the first struggled with her blessed horde, I wondered if she knew.  Did she know how others yearn for a child as they endure the aching pain of a hollow womb?  Probably not, but even if she did, she wasn't thinking of it then.  She was too busy trying to get her oldest to stop kicking the principal's cherry wood file cabinet.  The littlest one threw a fuzzy, pink, stuffed heart at her head. He had good aim. Empty is difficult, but full is a challenge too.

Returning to my office when the meetings were completed, I was confronted by my phone, still blinking. Empty.

Empty.  It needs to be said.  Infertility and miscarriage leave one empty.  There is pain.  There is loss. Someone is missing. That needs to be acknowledged. Years later, there are scars.  I felt it then; I feel them now.  I contemplated the starkness of the word, the label.  My label.  My label?

Am I empty?
Perhaps I have been.
Emptiness leaves room for filling though, store-room for potential bounty.  Space to suffuse with life, one way or another.

If I had already been filled, would I have been able to love others- that I have not birthed- quite so much? Would I have been able to fully appreciate the short years spent with a loved one who left this life early, had I not known the experience of emptiness prior to his arrival, and after? Perhaps. Perhaps not. When babies don't come easily, one learns, perhaps, to appreciate life in a particularly special way when it does occur.

In any event, as I consider my state, I see that I am no longer empty.  I've been blessed with a miracle child who has filled our hearts and home, and who has brought others into our lives that we have loved. I don't think we love her more than others love their children, but we might love her differently. We understand the joy born of the filling of a space that had previously stood many years barren.  Like the feast after a fast - sweeter for us than it might have been if the bounty had not trailed on the heels of scarcity. Cherished, how she is cherished.

I cannot know God's ways.  I can only feel joy and sorrow, and sometimes contentment, -and then trust that He knows what I need of each.  Because he has loved and schooled and blessed, I am no longer empty.  Because I have lived and cried and longed for those lost, and those never born, ...because I have kissed sweet baby fingers and have been privileged to witness life, I am full.
Today, I am full.

Pax Christi dear ones,

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  1. I can't have a child right now, and it would be a terrible time even if I could. But.... yeah, sometimes I feel empty. Or closed. Like a garden shut. And when I feel that way the world is full of babies everywhere, and most of them telling me how nice it is that I "have so much time." I hope that someday I will be "full" as well. Right now I'm only full of the Eucharist, and shouldn't that be enough? It's an ongoing argument I have with myself....

  2. I'm approaching being past child-bearing age at this point. So, I've had many years to come to this place. When I was younger and unable to conceive, this definitely wouldn't have been the blog post that I would have written. I suppose that 47 years is a long time and allows for a good measure of coming to terms with one's situation. Life is a journey; that's for certain. Your perspective of being full of the Eucharist is wise and spiritually deep. You are beyond where I was back in the years when everyone else my age was having babies and I could not. You are to be commended for that. May God's blessing be upon you. :)
    Pax, ~Michelle

  3. Why is it that your posts always make me say "Wow" ?


    Caroline, you'll be in my prayers, and Michelle, I'll obviously continue keeping you and yours in my prayers. I'm going to add the success of your book as well. What a powerful project to be a part of. God bless you for being so willing to share your voice and experience with others. You've no doubt been (and will continue to be) a catalyst to the healing of others.



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