I want to start out by saying how unbelievably grateful I am for everything you have done for me and my new family: hot meals; offers of laundry and ironing; kind cards and gifts; and such generous prayers. It hurts me to write this, but it needs to be written and said aloud.
You’ve been kind, and generous. But I feel quite alone. I feel forgotten.
If I’m honest, I wish I’d picked a different congregation to belong to. That is, to be connected to, and be a part of. You would think that if a part of you was missing, you would notice. I’m pretty certain, however, that if I deleted Facebook and never went to your service again, most wouldn’t notice. These were people I sat next to, have served alongside, have worshipped and prayed with, and yet I feel forgotten in the wilderness.
It is hard being a new mum. I am tired. So tired, in fact, that sometimes I don’t go to church on a Sunday morning because it is an opportunity for me to catch up on a few extra hours. Instead, I will go midweek or to the evening service. When I’m there, though, within the congregation of which I used to belong, I feel strange. I don’t feel connected. I don’t feel a sense of belonging. I can’t come every week, so I don’t get the in-joke you’re telling which refers to last week’s sermon. I feel like a spare part, separate from everyone else. Even when I’m there, in the midst of you all, I feel alone.
I don’t know what I thought it would be like. I guess I thought people would still care about me after I had a baby, or that they’d be interested in my baby at least. I thought that, after 5 years of discipleship together, I would still feel connected to a group of people I love.
I do not write this letter to shame, or to bring about offers of catch up and coffee. I write this letter to let you know that just because someone might not be physically there, it doesn’t mean they’re not a part of you. I write this letter to let you know why I arrive late and leave early; why I seem quieter around you than normal. I write this letter because I don’t think you realise that you have a problem.
Everything changes when you have a baby. It robs you of yourself, steals your sleep, and hides your freedom. Motherhood denies you the right to do what you want, when you want, and it changes every relationship. Even my relationship with God has changed… My planned quiet times are so much less than before, but they’re unexplicably more profound and rewarding than before. My prayer life is much more sporadic, but more interesting and exciting.
It is heartbreaking that, at a time when my faith has come to life in a way I never could have imagined, I feel excluded from the people I want to share that with.
Look out for one another, especially those who aren’t in your immediate friendship group. The problem with cliques is that if you’re in one, you won’t know it. The beauty of church is that Jesus welcomes all in, and all should feel welcome. Take a step back. Are you welcoming? Are you inclusive, truly? Or are you part of the problem?