Have you ever seen nuns holding babies? As an avid people watcher, I have had that pleasure a few times, and let me tell you, it is a thing of wonder!
Once I was at a retreat with women from all walks of life. There were mothers with babies, single ladies, and several groups of nuns in full habits. Before long, the nuns were holding babies while their mothers enjoyed a little respite and a chance to give their full attention to the talks. It happened so casually and naturally. They took turns cooing, smiling, cradling the babies, and swaying them on their hips. They were positively shining with some kind of pure joy and delight.
Seeing the nuns made me acutely aware of how different I must have looked when holding the infants of my friends and family these days. I used to be called “The Baby Whisperer” before infertility became part of my life. After a few years of carrying that cross, nothing had the power to make me feel more vulnerable and exposed than holding babies. It was like a spotlight shining on my broken heart for all to see. While onlookers snapped pictures, I would smile extra wide, hoping to distract everyone from the unshed tears in my eyes. Afterward, my whole face would ache with the effort. Looking back at those photos years later, I see the smile, but the sorrow in my eyes brings the pain of those moments right back to the pit of my stomach. I wonder if it’s so obvious to everyone else?
Watching those joyful, baby-holding nuns raised all sorts of questions for me. Holding babies reminded me of what I couldn’t have and who I couldn’t be, and it killed me. Didn’t it hurt for them to be reminded of what they wouldn’t have, and who they wouldn’t be? Was the difference between couldn’t and wouldn’t really so vast? They had chosen their vocation knowing they wouldn’t have children. I had chosen mine expecting to have many. Was that the difference between joy and sorrow- having your expectations met or dashed?
It seemed to me that giving up the possibility of having a family and children of their own still must have been a very painful choice for some of them. Did they ever grieve that loss? Were they just further along in their grieving process? Had they reached acceptance? If so, maybe I was witnessing something of the resurrection joy that comes from uniting one’s sorrows to the cross of Christ.
Maybe some of them never needed to grieve. Maybe embracing their identity as a bride of Christ and spiritual mother really fulfilled the desires of their hearts.
I would like to ask some beautiful nuns these questions one day. In any case, their witness fills me with hope that one day I can be a joyful baby-holder too. Maybe I will reach a place of acceptance and a surrender that leads to deep peace and joy. Maybe I will find a place for the love I have in my heart to be given in a unique way.
I have experienced a lot of healing, and I am seeing progress in that direction for sure! I used to dread baby showers, but somehow I forgot to be sad at the last few I went to. I used to fight back painful tears at baptisms, but lately I can just let the tears of joy flow freely. I wouldn’t exactly say I radiate nearly-tangible resurrection joy like those nuns did (Yet!).
Maybe, like me, you still need to spend more time walking with the God of all comfort (2 Cor 1:3), but let’s walk together in the hope of His promise that our sorrow will one day be turned to joy (John 16:20)!
Cassi and her husband Ian traded the rat-race of the city for the simple pleasures of their hometown in the Arizona desert. Besides enjoying great Mexican food and hiking, they love to share their passion for marriage, inner healing, and spiritual motherhood and fatherhood with anyone who will listen.