This morning was mom’s group.
It’s my mid-week sanctuary. A little splice of time I which I need to contribute nothing to anyone — just soak in sweet coversation with my friends, escape from parenting my older kids for a bit, and enjoy coffee and treats.
I was invited to this mom’s group for months and months before I finally tried it a few years back. My initial reaction to the invitation was “I don’t DO mom’s groups.” (Feel me, sister?)
After being in the throes of recurrent loss and secondary infertility, the LAST place on earth I wanted to be was in a group of women where we collectively celebrate fertility — where new pregnancies might be announced, baby bumps everywhere and newborns swaddled up to their mommy’ chests. Where we talk about how hard being a mom is, and how we just want some peace and quiet, for crying out loud.
This is what I envisioned — no. This is what I had experienced at other groups. And frankly, for a woman who would desperately give up a bit of peace and quiet to have another baby, this kind of mom’s group was not for me.
So, finally, I told myself I would give it one shot. I’d go just once, I’d let myself be as standoffish as I wanted, say I gave it a try, and never go back again.
Instead … I was hooked.
It turns out this mom’s group was more about us being women pursuing God who just so happened to also be moms.
I could DO a women’s group.
When I first started, my goal was to not cry at group every week. It took me awhile to get to that point.
Looking back now, I can see how broken I was. I’m not saying that in some sort of self-deprecating way. But a heck of a lot of life happened during my time at mom’s group. And I was finally in a community where I could express my experiences and work through them.
These ladies stood by me as we took Z in, went through two miscarriages, struggled with parenting our middle daughter, and returned Z to his mom.
There was one long season in which Z’s visits coincided with my time at mom’s group. And so they all watched every week as I packed Z up and handed him off to whatever visitation supervisor was on duty that day. They could see through the glass doors the times he didn’t want to go, and would cry and reach for me.
They saw foster care lived out.
And when I needed to have a breakdown, they loved me through it.
I remember my last group where Z would be with me. It was our Christmas party. He was in the baby room being watched by sitters. I guess he was throwing a fit and, the sitter brought him to me.
With a wide smile on his face, he yelled, “Mommy!” and ran all the way to my outstretched arms. I held him the rest of group …. Wishing this moment could last forever … Knowing it would not.
Like all moments, the beautiful and the brutal … It passed.
Weeks later, when I went back to group without my little man in tow … I sat next to a friend who just had a baby. Another friend quietly told us she was pregnant.
And my heart couldn’t handle it anymore.
I walked out. Sat on the bench outside. And wept.
One dear friend noticed I was gone. She came to sit with me, and cried as she wrapped her arms around me. Her own son was about the same age as Z. And we always joked about how alike they were — and looked — even though one was all white and the other half black.
I still see Z in him even when I see that little boy now.
Then there was the day just a few months later. An unexpected and uncertain day. The day I announced with tears that I was pregnant again.
They surrounded me and baby with prayers. I dare say, I’ve never experienced so many people in my community who hoped and prayed for our small baby the way Ellie was prayed and hoped for.
They showered me with love through my pregnancy. Celebrated every single week I showed up with a bigger belly. Brought my family a meal when I was so super sick, and even brought me books to read as I was often bed bound due to nausea.
They partnered with my friend Deanna to give us the most beautiful baby shower. And brought meals after her arrival.
And now that Ellie is here, she is loved by these women so much. One particular friend always whispers to Ellie when she holds her … “You are so loved. You are a miracle. We prayed so hard for you.”
And these women still remember Z with me. They ask about him, and continue to pray, and still let me process when I need to.
Our group is changing though. It’s bound to happen. Each week, so many new faces. Each week, fewer faces of those I’ve known through out the last fee years.
As I was sharing with my friend Heather that Z turns 3 in a few days … A new mom to our group asked who he was.
And when I shared briefly that he was our foster son, I got the question I hate. Oh I understand why people ask it, but I feel like unless I sit you down for a good hour or more, I won’t do the answer justice.
“What is it like to give back a child you loved as your own for a year and a half?”
My short answer was this: “Every single bit as traumatic as giving up a bio child. But just like you could never regret loving a child who passes away, I could never regret our time with him, no matter how much I regret the way it all ended.”
And then I hope and pray that me being real about the struggle is not enough to dissuade someone from actually doing foster care themselves. What a hard line to balance.
Her question has stuck with me all day. Remembering Z. Remembering the moments we said good-bye. And knowing that life has come full circle, bringing us another child in our arms. Bringing new friends and people to my circle who know nothing of the little boy I loved as my own. Or the struggles we endured to get to where we are today.
And as the feeling of comfort, of being with “my people” gets slowly stripped away with each new face, I have to remind myself that I was once new too.
They are coming with hopes, and hurts, and stories I know nothing of. And the tables have turned. It’s my turn now to let others come with all the good and all the bad, and watch as God uses our intimate community to turn brokenness into healing.
Yes, it’s true. I now DO mom’s group. And it’s one of the best things that I’ve ever done.
(PS — thank you Alex, Heather and Heather for making our group the sanctuary it is.)