You’re 13. Sitting on the bleachers at your middle school waiting, wishing, and praying you will be called on to play on the team or to be in the club. As you sit there, your mind fantasizes about what it would be like to be chosen, as if it was your purpose in life. In those moments you know if you were just called on everything would feel right in the world.

You’re 27 and just got married. You and your husband decide to try for a baby. That beloved conversation you always daydreamed about in your head has sparked a flame inside of you. The naïve perspective of your 13-year-old self returns, and there you are. That familiar feeling of sitting on the benches. Instead, you’re sitting on your bed, waiting, wishing, and praying that when you flip over that test, you’ll be in the club. Convincing yourself that if you see those two lines, you will have purpose.

The five minutes instructed on the back to wait turns into nine months. Nine cycles, nine times you sit waiting and praying. Nine times you’re told you aren’t making the club.

And then, there it is. Those two pink lines make your whole world stop. You share the news with your husband. You instantly discuss plans, names, and run to the store to buy your first onesie. That feeling of being in the club or on the team is joyous and feels your heart with butterflies and purpose.

That is, until you’re first ultrasound. Your doctor’s tone changes from upbeat to somber. She tells you your baby is not viable. You’ll be given a “moment” to collect yourself. As if a moment is all you need. Instantly, there you are again, on the bleachers feeling foolish that you almost stood up.

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You’re 28 and by now it feels like more people have left the benches than are on them. They’ve made their families quicker than you even sat down to start. You keep turning your head from side to side hoping to feel connection, but it is as if everyone is talking in circles.

At then, at 29 you’re in a cold room with a stranger whose purpose is to help you but instead is listing all the vitamins, foods, and ways to help you join that club. You ask for answers, solutions, and justice. Instead, you’re told sometimes it’s just “unexplained.”

You’re 30, and for a moment, you stop trying. You think to yourself that maybe you don’t want to be in the club anyway. Even worse, you start to believe you don’t deserve to get an invite. You aren’t good enough. You decide it just isn’t meant to be. 

Then one morning, it happens. You’re pregnant.

What you were waiting, wishing, and praying for finally happens. You’re off the benches. You’re finally pregnant and have a child. But then you realize, all the time spent wanting to be in that club, robs you of the special moments because you realize how scary it can be without it. You spent so much time wanting it, you never realized how petrifying it can be without it. 

For so many, they celebrate themselves when they’re off the bench. Shouldn’t you feel that way? As you step onto the team you realize everyone is only talking about how excited they are and how great their experience has been. No one tells you what really is happening even though their smiles hide it.

At 31, you give birth. The love you share with your child is undoubtedly the most love you’ve ever felt. You see your husband with a new lens as a father. Your heart is so full.

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You made it off the bench, but it didn’t happen right away like the rest of your team. As you look back, you notice there are still people sitting, but you aren’t sitting next to them anymore. How can you be there for them?

And then you realize that the whole time you were sitting on the bench, it wasn’t only about what you got when you made the team, but rather who was sitting there with you the whole time you didn’t make the cut.

You’re a parent now, and you just wish you could tell your younger self at 13 and 27 that while pursuing your goals and dreams are important, the journey of who you are while you wait is just as important.

Maybe our world needs a little less push of making the team, but rather learning to sit side by side with those who are on and off it. Learning to embrace stories that aren’t our own. To respect that maybe instead of idolizing the future, we sit in the presentwhether you’re in the club or not. That way, those who do struggle may feel a little less alone in their journey because before you know it, you might just be the one on the bench again waiting to join another one of life’s inevitable clubs.

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Madeleine Connor

I am a 31-year-old mother and wife who struggled with infertility and loss for four years. I am a teacher living in Southern California. 

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