I knew by her silence. The ultrasound tech said nothing as she moved the probe back and forth. I gazed up at the empty black and white image on the screen, and my first thought was, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I was close to seven weeks pregnant, but had found bleeding that morning. This was not my first experience of pregnancy loss. We had received similar news a little over two years before and would receive the news again less then six months later. I was miscarrying.
In the five years my husband and I have been married, we have had four children, three of whom we have lost in miscarriage. I have experienced the profound joy of welcoming a healthy child into the world, the crippling heartbreak of loss three times over, and now the humbling vulnerability of secondary infertility. Motherhood, for me, has been a vocation characterized by both joy and suffering, and through both of these realities, motherhood has helped me to reclaim silence.
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Before I became a mother or was married, silence was something that was easy for me to find. In high school, I spent countless evenings sitting on an outfield fence by the edge of a Nebraska cornfield, watching the last rays of sunlight dance over the waving rows. In college, I loved nothing more than a crisp Saturday morning where I could find a hidden corner, spread out my books and notes, and write. And throughout all of these formative years, one of the most peaceful places for me was in a chapel, sitting in silence, praying. In these moments, not only was the world in which I lived quiet, but internally I felt peace.
Fast forward several years. After our son was born and we had suffered three miscarriages, I feared external silence and considered it an enigma. I feared the silence of being alone, because internally, I felt anything but peace. Whenever I found myself on my own, my thoughts would turn to the sadness that rested just below the surface. I coped by distracting myself, filling my life with work and binge-watching Netflix. I hoped, in time, that those negative emotions would just disappear. They did not, and I found myself reacting more and more to small grievances in uncharacteristically explosive ways.
In early February of 2020, I found the help I needed. I began seeing a therapist who named my struggle as postpartum depression. I started taking steps toward healing, and I recognized two of the lies that harmed my connection with silence.
As the COVID-19 shutdown emptied our calendars, our family’s schedule remained chaotic as my husband and I balanced working from home and caring for our son. Amid this drastic shift in lifestyle, I, week by week, implemented the tasks I was given in therapy. I began making sure I was meeting my basic needs as well as taking time for self-care. Mindfulness meditations became interspersed in my bedtime routine, and I was introduced to the idea of cognitive dissonance.
The concept of cognitive dissonance, or holding two opposing ideas at the same time, was a revelation to me. The first lie I had believed was that to be “okay” I needed to overcome all of my negative emotions. Once I realized that I could hold grief and healing, anger and joy, hurt and love in tandem, slowly, I was able to face my internal landscape, and the mountains of grief I feared to climb were brought low. I began learning to live with the “and.”
A second lie I had believed was that I was not the best mother for my son. In the back of my mind, I believed that the care he received at daycare was better than being home with me. In this way, the shutdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise; it brought me home. As the weeks passed, and I spent more and more days with my son, I realized that I was exactly where I wanted and needed to be. As other commitments were stripped away and my two most important commitments as wife and mother were given top priority, I began to find a sense of purpose and rediscovered peace.
As I learned the truths about embracing the “and” and found joy in family life, I realized how much I wanted to remain at home. I wanted a simpler life for our family and for myself. I have since resigned from my job outside the home to focus on my work in the home, a choice that would not have been possible for me to make in a healthy way two years ago. It has taken a lot of work, prayer and healing to come to this point. External silence is again a blessing because I no longer fear my internal thoughts. And internal silence is no longer an enigma. Internal silence is something I seek out during the day because I know that in moments of silence, I can listen.