The following is an article I submitted for consideration in a MOPS International Writing Contest. The topic was community. Since there is little to zero chance that the ditty will find its way to print, I've decided to post it here. At least this way, my MOPS peeps will see the huge significance of the little things they did for us when I was down for the count.
So once again, girls, thank you. You mean the world to me.
As with any tragic event, you remember it like it was yesterday. Where you were, what you were doing, who you were with. For me, I had just crawled under my comforter. It had been a busy day chasing kids, training for a 5K, and organizing the basement. My husband and I had stayed up late to watch the Olympic Women’s Gymnastics team compete. And I was beat. I think it was 1:10 in the morning.
As my head rested against the pillow, waves of pain engulfed me. Something was wrong, very wrong. I sat up and laid back down, groaning and writhing in horror. My head started spinning, my vision blurred, and my feet crumbled under me. The pain was paralyzing. “I think it’s the baby, “I cried. “I need to get the hospital.”
Hours later, following IV’s, blood tests, and ultrasounds, our worst fears were confirmed. We had lost our baby. By medical definition, it was an ectopic pregnancy rupture: excessive blood loss, major surgery, and extensive recovery. My surgeon told me it would take a year to feel normal again, but I should be thankful to be alive.
To add to the physical challenges, the heartbreak of losing a child loomed over me. Sure, we had two healthy children already. Sure, the baby was just 7 weeks old. Sure, the pregnancy was unexpected. But it was still our child, my child. On one hand I grieved the loss of a life. On the other hand, I felt shame for all those tears shed when others have had it so much worse.
The story of this loss would have ended there, had it not been for a community who rallied around us. Our families supported us, our church encouraged us, and our friends loved on us to the umpteenth degree. One such group of friends was my MOPS group at the North Way Christian Community.
Hours after the emergency surgery, emails flooded my inbox, prayers supported us, and blog comments encouraged me. A team of moms pitched in to supply meals. Not for one week, not for two, but for weeks on end, until I was able to cook for my family again.
Not only that, but they went grocery shopping for us, they cleaned our home, they stuffed our mailbox with cards of encouragement, and they watched my kids so that I could nap. DVD’s were purchased to relieve the boredom of bed rest, as were bouquets of balloons, flowers, books, magazines, and coffee to make me feel normal again.
But the practical needs were not the only needs addressed. These women allowed me grieving room; time to talk and process the whirlwind of emotions. They didn’t criticize my tears or tell me to just get over it. I have never been more vulnerable. But in this low place, I found strength that I didn’t know I had, because I wasn’t alone.
Many of the women shared their own stories with me: stories of life and loss, despair and hope, and a God who never left them all the while. It was almost as if my vulnerability ushered in theirs. And the end result? Well, that’s still in the works.
When I walked into my MOPS meeting this past Wednesday morning, I greeted friends. There was Kathleen and Kristin and Nancy and Michelle. There were layers of conversations overlapping each other. About marathon training and how cute that scarf looks on you and the next step of the adoption process.
We spoke about food additives and separation anxiety and the dinner that completely bombed. We laughed about our appearance when we leave the house most days – Cheerios glued to our shoulders, wiped noses on our jeans, and stickers affixed to our rears. We also got choked up when we heard the news that caused another mom's tears. Cause what’s important to her is important to us.
I’ve heard it said that a community is a group of people who often share an environment, as well as common interests, goals, and needs. As moms, our goals range from potty training to healthy (and edible) meal preparation to raising responsible children. We understand sleep deprivation and the need for time alone with our spouse. We desire to fulfill our own purpose in this life, as we support our children to find theirs.
But a healthy community is more than just sharing commonalities. It’s knowing and being known. It’s finding practical ways to meet needs, whether those needs are verbalized or not. It’s becoming vulnerable and risking the loss of a perfect illusion. It’s telling our stories and hearing the stories of others. It’s finding strength in weakness and hope in despair. It’s championing those around you and celebrating what makes them smile.
I am honored to be a part of the MOPS organization, particularly the community at North Way. The story of our loss is one we’ll continue to tell. Not because of the loss in particular, but because of the gain. We gained community. It’s a story that hasn’t been completed yet. Because moms gave of themselves, we will give of ourselves. We will love because we have been loved. And then there will be another story told. And another and another.