Consider This: Responding to Longing As Single and Married Women - Verily

Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman's life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we're considering the experience of longing as single and married women. One single woman and one married woman have written essays, to be published on different days. On a third day, they respond to each other's experience. Read Elizabeth’s essay about longing as a single woman here and Rebecca’s as a married woman here.

Elizabeth (single) to Rebecca (married)

While my decade of singleness has often left me feeling isolated in the waiting, reading about the deep longing you’ve experienced for motherhood is a comforting reminder that I am not alone. The pain you’ve felt as the years go by, as this natural and good desire is left unfulfilled, is a comforting reassurance that longing is somewhat of a universal experience.

I was surprised how similar our emotional struggles have been.

The anxiety, rather than excitement, you feel at the positive outcome of a pregnancy test due to previous miscarriages reminds me of the anxiety I feel after that once-in-a-blue-moon good date—will I get my hopes up only to have this prospect not work out just like the last?

Your dreams of creating a beautiful nursery, only to close the door on that space, the pain of this room lacking the sounds of sweet baby giggles and stacks of freshly folded onesies too difficult to endure, resonated with me. It reminds me of how my dream of building a home with a spouse keeps me from investing in special pieces—ones I feel are only appropriate to place on a wedding registry—or from accepting family heirlooms my parents would like to pass down to me, feeling self-conscious that it’s “just me” who will inherit and enjoy these pieces. Like I’m some sort of imposter adult. There was a time in my mid-twenties (during a serious relationship) when I began saving things here and there in a box for our future home together. On travels I would buy one special piece, even if my budget required it to be as small as a hand towel, excited that our place would be filled with beautiful memories from all over the world. Our relationship didn’t work out, and I haven’t added to that box since.

It’s interesting how these physical preparations for our future hopes have such a deep emotional impact on us—when our desires don’t manifest we look to remove these inanimate reminders of a hope left unfulfilled.

The dedication you’ve shown to health and wellness, prioritizing career goals, and investing in relationships is a great reminder to me that the extra time our lifestyles provide should be spent wisely and productively, and the relationships we have been given should never be taken for granted. Your bravery in continuing to hope for a child and taking all the steps you are capable of to help get you there was the shot in the arm I needed to persevere in dating, when my heart has of late been at the point of giving up and shutting off.

When shopping for my nephew’s birthday present today I passed the sweetest baby outfit in the store. I thought of how I’d love to send it to you as a sign of hope for good things to come.

Rebecca (married) to Elizabeth (single)

Hey, Elizabeth! Firstly, thanks for sharing your story with me (and everyone).

Two things struck me while reading your essay:

Longing is always going to be part of our lives. I think that’s part of how we’re made, actually: always looking towards the next big thing. Without getting complacent, without losing hope, it’s probably time to become comfortable with the feeling of wanting more, right? Once we check off the to-do items we’re currently working on (and we will), there’ll always be something else. (In a good way. Not a tiring way.) Figuring out how to sit in the now while continually walking towards our goals: that’s the crux of what I’ve got to work on. Thank you for reminding me that longing isn’t unique to a particular chapter of life!

It’s possible to be a completely incredible person, even if it feels like something big is missing. I forget that. I can slip into the fallacy of thinking that what’s missing defines my life. It doesn’t . . . for either of us. As I read about your dedication to your sister, your deep relationships with your friends, even the frustrating-at-times accounts of dates gone wrong, I really appreciated that you’re doing life well. I don’t think that investments go wasted. Clearly, you’re investing. There’s going to be an answer to that.

I think we likely both get that platitudes aren’t really helpful, at this point. So I won’t offer any—except for one.

Your husband, my baby: they’re going to arrive, right on time. Impeccably on schedule. We just don’t know their ETA, which hurts. But they’re en route. All we need to do is make sure we’re becoming the people we need to be when they show up.

Do you have reflections on longing that you'd like to share? Tell us here, and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.