Just to set the scene: I have a lot of cousins - 50 on my mother's side. At least I think I counted correctly. Of those 50, 17 are married and probably about 21 of them are high school age or younger. That leaves 12 of us that are of the "eligible" age that remain unmarried. Only one of my older cousins is unmarried. Of the 17 married cousins, 13 (or is it 14?) of them have children. I'm not even going to bother trying to count the number of their kids. It's a lot of people.
Needless to say, I have been to many, many wedding showers, weddings, and baby showers. In fact, I have attended all of the family weddings I was invited to and I only missed one shower. ONE.
Last weekend I drove up to Michigan for another cousin's baby shower. Now this is what a Hoffman baby shower looks like:
Now I am so happy for Annie. I am excited that she is having a baby and that my aunt and uncle get to be grandparents for the first time. And I wanted to go to the shower to celebrate with them. And I love babies.
But seeing all those little babies there on the floor, with their mothers playing beside them, was just a little bit overwhelming.
What I wanted more than anything was to be able to join them. But they are members of a club that I don't belong to. I'm not saying that in a negative light - it's just a truth. They are mothers. I am not.
And no one there did anything that they shouldn't have done. I wouldn't want them to leave their babies at home or not invite me because they knew it would be hard. Then I'd feel even worse.
The thing is, there is nothing they could have done better than they did. (Just re-read that sentence for one second; just want to make it clear that I'm not trying to make anyone feel guilty or like they could have done anything else to make it easier for me.) I love my family, my cousins, and all of their babies. I got to hold several of them and that was great. We talked about things other than the babies, although that was a large part of the conversation. I mean, it's a baby shower. What do you expect? Plus they are super cute.
Then next day we had my niece's dedication at church and then I was in the nursery with little Estelle, an adorable little baby who fell asleep in my arms. And as I rocked her in that tiny, freezing room, I struggled not to let the tears fall. All of these happy emotions mixed with sadness and longing can be tough to handle.
So here's the thing - it has to be okay that it's hard for me. I'm going to keep going to the weddings and the showers, but I'm not going to pretend that it isn't hard. Pretending we are happy all of the time is what gets us in trouble. And other people have to allow that. That doesn't need to become the focus, but I need people to understand that.
Not every moment is painful. I don't want you to think that I (or the singles in your life) am always walking around super depressed. I'm not. Like I said, I love my family and I love being able to celebrate with them. But there is still that twinge of wistfulness, wondering when (if ever) it's going to be my turn. That's always going to be there because having a family is something that I really want. And sometimes that feeling is stronger than others.
What helps is when the people around you acknowledge that it's hard. Many of my family members read this blog and have been so incredibly encouraging to me - both the married and unmarried ones. And that helps. Because I know they are able to look beyond their own situation to see mine. And in the same way, I can look beyond my situation to see theirs.
Even a gesture as small as my aunt hugging me after the shower and really thanking me for coming can mean so much.
On our ride back home, my mom told me that she was proud of me for going to the baby shower. (I'm tearing up here, told you this was emotional). She said that it would have been easy for me to make an excuse not to be there and that a lot of people would do that to avoid the difficult situation. At that moment, I thought, maybe God is proud of me too - proud of me for acknowledging the pain but not letting it control me.
I feel like I'm not really getting across what I'm trying to say. There are a lot of things in life that are hard. This is one of mine. I want to be able to look at someone and say, yes, it's hard. Thanks for understanding. Romans 12:15 says "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. That's exactly what I'm talking about. I'm rejoicing with my cousins and they are weeping with me. (Although not literally weeping.)
My hope is that, in all this, I can be a good example for my younger cousins. So that if they grow up and don't get married right away, it might be a little easier for them. Or at least remind them that they aren't the only ones. I'd much rather be married and have kids. But since I'm not, being a good role model for them is pretty cool too.