Able to Love, Willing to Grieve

woman in woods

For the next two weeks, Cathy Loerzel, Executive Director of The Allender Center, will write about the before and after of childbirth—a difficult, life-changing process that has increased both her capacity for love and her tenderness to pain.

As is true for most people who have children, I have found a very distinctive “before and after” aspect in the transition to parenthood. I don’t think anyone can predict how the “after” will look, and there is very little to do to prepare for what will be a very personal, particular transition that ultimately turns your world on its head like a shaken-up snow globe where none of the pieces are glued to the ground. Your landscape shifts, your body changes, your perspective is altered, and there is no going back to the “before.”

I had my son 16 months ago, and I am just now emerging from the cloud of disorientation and beginning to be able to name the reality of my “after.” I realize every woman is different, and some step into motherhood with a graceful fluidity, but this was not the case for me. My transition felt like hitting a brick wall at 60 miles per hour, not only shattering my perfectly designed external world, but also exposing the underbelly of my heart in a way I never expected.

When I was pregnant, I remember sitting with a friend who has two children. He jokingly asked how I felt about the fact that my career was about to get pummeled due to my coming mommy-hood. I got angry at him for the assumption that my career was going to take a blow and told him that I thought maybe I would become tenderized, not pummeled. I had no idea how prophetic that phrase would turn out to be.

I had anticipated the sleepless nights, the pure exhaustion, and the reality of a tiny human needing me all the time, but I had not anticipated the emotional impact. Having my baby opened my heart and body to fear, anxiety, depression, uncontrollable tears, and heartbreak. Much of my experience has to do with the hormonal shifts that caused a season of postpartum depression, and while I have been fully aware of this component, I don’t want to chalk it all up to the hormonal shift. To dismiss this tenderness would be to ignore and belittle a very important shift—one that could teach a little more about the mother heart of God and allow my new-found tenderness to find a home in my heart.

Next Thursday, Cathy will continue this reflection by writing about how the birth of her son has thinned the veil between this world and the dream of Eden, making the realities of pain and violence even more stark in contrast to the gifts of goodness and beauty.

Cathy Loerzel is the VP of Advancement of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and the Executive Director of The Allender Center. Cathy received her MA in Counseling Psychology from The Seattle School in 2007 and has been working with the school since graduation. She created The Allender Center along side of Dr. Allender and continues to invest as a teacher, group facilitator, and curriculum designer at the center. She also helped build The Seattle School Forum and The Leadership in the New Parish Certificate. Cathy is married to a local therapist, has a beautiful one-year-old son, and sweet old dog named Gizmo.