These days, it seems like I’m always waiting. Waiting for my period – or not; waiting for that magical fertile window; waiting the dreaded two weeks to find out if I’m pregnant. Then the cycle starts all over again, endless and exhausting.
A friend once told me that the space or time “in between” is called liminal space. According to the Oxford Dictionary, liminal means “of or relating to a transitional state of process” or “occupying a position at, or on both sides, of a threshold.” I definitely identify with the idea of living on both sides of a threshold. For me, it is the threshold of pregnant-or-not.
Since November of 2013, I have occupied both sides of the threshold of pregnancy. On one side, I wait to become pregnant. I am eager, anticipating what the pregnancy will hold, what the child will be like. I cannot wait to go to walk down the baby isle at Target, to step into the maternity section. I stand before the threshold that is pregnancy, excited. Yet on the other side of the threshold, I know what it is to be pregnant. I know what it is to see the + on the stick, to hear the results of the blood tests from the doctor’s office. I know what it is to receive a second or third call from that office, to hear “not viable.” I know what it is to see my newly-empty womb on the sonogram screen. I cannot bear to walk past the baby isle at Target, and when I accidentally step into the maternity section, I bite back tears. I know what it is to live on both sides of the threshold that is pregnancy. I occupy that space every day.
It is exhausting to wait in liminal space.
What do you do in that time, when you cannot cross either threshold? When you are waiting to see what will happen next? How do you cope with the stress and anxiety of the endless two-week-waits? How do do you cope with the two month, twelve month, two year wait? What do you do while you wait for the rainbow child who may or may not come?
In my life as a chaplain, we call the activities we do to cope with pain, grief, and anger “self-care.” It is applicable to nearly every walk of life. When we struggle with something, from pregnancy loss to a stressful job, from an exhausting day of parenting to the death of a loved one, we all find ways of coping. In the liminal space between pregnant-or-not, we must find a way to bide our time. As we wait for joy, we must care for our spirits.
In my self-care, I create. Some days I knit prayer shawls for loved ones at my church. Other days, I spin yarn with my spinning wheel. Sometimes I hide in books, reading stories that have nothing to do with my own life experiences. Occasionally, I write. But lately, my manner of self care has been to sew clothes for toddlers. It may seem strange that a young woman longing for her own children would sew clothing for others’ children, but it comforts me. I stitch dresses that I wish I could have worn when I was four or five. I create dresses that I can imagine my own daughters wearing. Dresses that I hope will be worn and loved, covered with grass stains and mud, washed so frequently that the threads are wearing thin. I hope they are dresses that are loved.
I’ve thought about saving some of these dresses formy future daughters. I’ve considered picking my favorite in each size and packing them safely away. My mom has a baby blanket saved for that someday-grandbaby. Why shouldn’t I save a dress or three? But when I look at those dresses, I cannot bear the thought of them sitting in a box for countless years. There are girls who will love them now.
Because that is the thing about self-care in liminal space. It has to be for you alone. Though I give and sell the dresses, the creation of them is for me. Not to be packed away for a future rainbow child. Not to be carefully put aside for another day. They are for me, now. I create these dresses because they bring me joy in this moment. And I have to find joy in this moment so that I can push through the liminal space and past threshold that is to come.
How do you care for yourself in your own liminal space? What is your self-care?