I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss being pregnant. There are a lot of things that I don’t miss–like the inability to sleep on my stomach and back, the unladylike groaning that accompanied my standing up and sitting down, or my need to pee every 5 minutes–but there are also a lot of beautiful aspects to pregnancy that I already find myself longing to experience again.
One of those aspects, which came as a bit of a surprise to me, was the way pregnancy impacted my relationship with other women. It was as if pregnancy signified my initiation into a sisterhood–the sisterhood of motherhood. Not only did pregnancy strengthen my relationships with friends who are moms, but it served as a point of connection with complete strangers. Countless random women were ecstatic over my coming bundle of joy, and many overflowed with their own happy stories of becoming mothers. Both a sales person at a clothing store and a neighbor I had never met burst into tears as they recounted the births of their sons.
If motherhood is a club, I had found my ticket in.
On the one hand, that instant connection between women is incredible. In a culture of individuals that are increasingly isolated from one another, pregnancy is one means to bond with friends and strangers alike. It’s almost as though we all fought in the same war: even if we weren’t in the same battalion, soldiers understand one another in a way that ordinary civilians do not. I loved experiencing that kind of connection with other women.
On the other hand, as I have enjoyed the benefits of my newly inducted status, I still remember being on “the other side.” I remember being single and desperately trying to converse with married friends, but always feeling slightly alienated from the discussion. Likewise, childless women experience a similar feeling of outsidedness, watching the natural connection between mothers and yearning for that same kind of bond. I sometimes felt that way.
As a new mother, that feeling is fresh in my memory and it is something I have struggled with in choosing topics for this blog. While I want to write about God’s movement amidst my own life experience, and that life experience includes marriage and motherhood, I realize many of my readers do not share in those experiences. I don’t want to alienate women who are unmarried or don’t have children by turning this space into an in-group conversation.
It is a tough line to walk, and one that I have surely walked imperfectly. But suffice it to say that I am keenly aware of the “club” dynamic that often permeates female relationships, and it is one that I want to be sensitive to. Although it is not wrong from women to bond over marriage and parenting–Titus 2 encourages this kind of relationship!–it is important to be aware of the temptation to become cliquish. It does take more work to connect with women who have different life experience, but the failure to make that effort can further alienate members of the church who already feel excluded.
As a final thought, my experience of feeling “outside the club” has not ended with having a child. There are many other clubs that I would love to belong to but have not been invited to join. That is one of the things I really dislike about Twitter. You can observe the Twitter interactions of the individuals you follow, but you are not guaranteed a seat at their conversational table. I can chime in my own thoughts, only to be met with Twitter silence. Nearly fifteen years out of high school, I instantly feel like an awkward and dorky teen desperately trying to get the attention of the cool kids. I am Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed.
This experience not only softens my heart toward others in the church who feel excluded, but it serves as a heart check as well. As much as I would love to be included by everyone, and as easy as it would be to begrudge Christians who exclude me, my identity and my worth do not come from them. Yes, the church is to be a community of believers that supports and edifies its members, and sometimes we fail in this regard. However, the church is composed of imperfect people who are ALL in need of forgiveness, love, and healing.
Every member of the church–even the powerful, the popular, and the included–has felt excluded or alienated by another Christian. And that is why we need Jesus. He is the only answer to my imperfect sense of self and my imperfect experience of community. While it is important to labor toward a vision of God’s people in which all are connected, I can also rest in the fact that true and perfect belonging is to be had in the person of Christ.