When I was chatting with an expectant friend recently, she said, “I knew that getting pregnant would introduce me to the ‘Mom Club’, but I was not prepared for how opinionated other mothers would be! About everything!”
I had a similar experience during my pregnancy: feeling overwhelmed by the polarized literature on everything from sleep schedules and diaper options to inoculations and comfort objects. But even though joining the Mom Club means participating in these great (and occasionally awkward or ridiculous) debates, it also provides a connection to a universal support group, full of empathy and good advice.
Lately, I’ve been thinking of all the girls I knew in my childhood and teenage years, and how our varied life choices have led so many of us to the common path of motherhood. My best friends from the DuBois years–whose news I get through their mother’s Christmas letters to my mother–both married young, and are now well on their way to growing big, Catholic families. The young ladies from my youth group in St. Louis are now scattered across the United States, but many of them have multiple children now or are starting families like I am. Bound by a common history and a common faith, we can still speak to one another’s hearts from time to time, even if we’ve given up on remembering each other’s birthdays.
I’ve also been thinking of my hallmates in Olds dormitory, my freshman year of college (over eight years ago, now!). Four of the women on that hall are among my best friends today, but most of them have drifted out of my range of awareness. (Remember Melissa? Whatever happened to Melissa?) But despite several degrees of separation, I still hear news from time to time. Those twenty four girls are all 26 or 27 years old now, and many are married, though many are not. At least one has suffered a miscarriage. At least two of them have had abortions. At least three are pregnant. Several already have children.
When we were unloading our suitcases and plastic storage bins in August 2003, struggling to stuff our belongings into 2 x 8 feet, motherhood was the farthest thing from our minds. We were desperate to find someone to walk to Saga with us and nervous about the “gentlemen” from Galloway who occasionally defecated in the courtyard. Looking around at one another, we saw primarily the differences between us. It certainly didn’t occur to me then, or at all–if I’m honest–during my college years, that many of us would one day be part of this universal club. Yet here we are, raising up a new generation together.
That is why my own heart was wrung out when I heard the story of one of these women—Jennifer—who very recently endured one of the most harrowing experiences a mother could imagine. Her story, which she shares on her blog, is one of grief and loss, but also one of remarkable faith. Jennifer and I were merely acquaintances in college and we haven’t spoken in years, but because of the shared experience of carrying a child, I can imagine the devastation she must have felt when she learned that her baby wouldn’t live long. Please lift her up in prayer.
Jennifer’s situation is exceptional, but even the most ordinary of mothers in the most ordinary situations rely on the Mom Club for a boost from time to time. I’m grateful for the more experienced mothers, like Simcha Fisher (mother of nine. NINE) whose excellent article validates the common difficulties new mothers face, as well as assuaging the fear that each additional child will make life exponentially more challenging. Newbies like me live on this kind of reassurance.
Having motherhood in common isn’t necessarily a recipe for instant friendship, of course; every mother is different just like every child is different. But each mother’s heart has been shaped by her child and the infusion of love that accompanied it. I guess that’s where we recognize one another.