It wasn’t my church’s fault. They were doing a beautiful thing. A good thing. It’s not their fault I got sideswiped.
The last worship song had ended and the congregation was seated. Then came the announcement from the stage:
‘Today we’re having a baby dedication.’
Oh crap. I felt the first hint of a wobble.
I was unprepared. I searched my memory. That was today? I recalled no previous announcement, no warning that today might be a difficult day for childless people. The church might well have made an announcement and I missed it. Had I known or remembered it was happening today, I might have made a different decision about attending church at all.
Too late now.
The young family were invited up to the stage for the dedication. I watched them cluster together on the stage, the little ones dressed in their best clothes, nervous but happy. So happy. Damn. Here come the tears.
I recalled, with a growing sense of horror (and wobbling), what would come next. The pastor would ask the parents for a verbal commitment to raise the children in God’s ways. Then the pastor would turn to us, the congregation, and ask us to commit to supporting those parents in their parenting.
I’m not up to this.
I gathered my belongings as discretely as I could and left the church, embarrassed by who might have seen me go and the unanswered questions that must have been in their minds. I made my way home, the dam broken and the tears flowing unhindered. If only I had realised. If only I had known. While I’m at it, if only I wasn’t this sick. If only having children had been a viable option for me.
If only. If only. If only.
If only having children had been a viable option for me.
I got home and collapsed on the couch, wobble in full swing now. I did the only things I could think of to comfort me: I watched something silly on TV, ate comfort food, stroked the soft fur of my softly purring cat, and cried intermittently until it was all out. I rested quietly for the rest of the day. I was spent.
I got a text message from my pastor. She must have seen me leave in the middle of the service. She told me I was loved, I was valued, and that she wanted to support me with anything I needed. That text message was all the support I could ever ask for.
That text message was all the support I could ever ask for.
Why am I writing about a wobble? Not because I need to vent. Nor am I looking for sympathy. I wanted to let you know, my childless friend, that you are not alone. You are not the only one having wobbles. You are not unique in feeling isolated from others, especially at church. You are not the only one who feels guilty about your absence from perfectly good and meaningful rituals like baby dedications.
And you are seen. You are loved. You are valued.
You are seen. You are loved. You are valued.
I love my church. I love that they celebrate new babies and seek to support parents in whatever way possible. I also love that they notice when I am painfully absent and value me just the same. I know there is no shame in me being absent from time to time, having a wobble, and looking after myself.
I hope you know that too.
Have you ever had a childless-related wobble? How did you recover from that? Does your church support you during wobbly times, and if not, how could they show their love and support for you? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.