While social media typically presents the perfect picture of conception, pregnancy and motherhood, it simply isn’t the reality for many, or dare I say most, women. The real stories are often never heard, because sharing the hard truths and trying times carries the risk of vulnerability and, sadly, even judgement from others — yet these are the stories that need to be told. These are the true accounts of courage and faith through adversity that make us all feel a little less broken.
Despite a secondary infertility diagnosis, disappointing early losses and incredibly low odds, I was blessed with a second healthy pregnancy. My body had overcome the odds to give my heart what it so deeply desired, and I had never felt more beautiful. In my maternity photos, I adorned my growing baby bump with an elegant floral wrap gown, and in that moment, I remembered feeling both blessed and honored to be given the opportunity to carry this little miracle. But what isn’t shown in that photo — what can’t be seen in that snapshot of joy — are the moments of disappointment and heartache leading up to that moment of gratitude, when all I wanted was to be seen in my darkness, accepted with my brokenness and pushed toward the light. On the other side of the pain, I vowed to normalize “the struggle” by sharing my truth and being a companion to other women who, like me, were struggling to accept what is, let go of what was and have faith in what could be.
I first learned of Malory’s story when she posted on a local Facebook moms’ page inquiring about a young widows’ support group. She briefly shared her story, and although I didn’t know Malory at the time, I found my heart aching for her loss. When Malory’s second daughter was a mere 12 weeks old, Malory’s husband died tragically and unexpectedly. “I was quite lost,” she lamented. “I existed only for our girls.” I felt the urge to reach out and connect with Malory, and although I couldn’t personally identify with the loss she was going through, I wanted her to feel the support of her community. I messaged her periodically to let her know I was thinking of her and praying for her and her girls, and over the course of the next few years, I was relieved to see Malory’s pain of loss slowly turn into healing and new beginnings. Her willingness and courage to share her story brought to her the support system she needed to grieve, process and feel whole again.
In August of 2019, I posted my maternity dress for sale in a local Facebook moms’ group, and newly-married Malory reached back out, letting me know she wanted to buy it. Her message said, “I am expecting! God brought an incredible man into my life, and I am truly feeling blessed to have found love again.” I immediately responded and let her know the maternity dress was no longer for sale. It was hers, and I would be honored for her to wear it. In the dress, Malory was the perfect picture of love after loss and the joining of two beautiful families. Her story was imperfectly perfect, and I was honored to be a part of it in some small way. Malory suggested that the maternity gown — the dress that clothed both our answered prayers — be passed on to another deserving mom with an inspiring story. “Like, sisterhood of the traveling maternity dress,” she suggested, and so our search for another soul-stirring story began.
Laura took my place as the 6th grade English teacher when I resigned from my teaching position to stay home with my girls. Shortly after starting her career, she was married to the love of her life, and their quest to become a family had begun. “The journey to get pregnant was so dark and lonely,” Laura recalled. A woman who adored children, she always dreamed of starting a family of her own but never imagined it would be so challenging, and the ever-looming presence of social media perfection only made Laura feel more alone in her struggles.
“I was so happy for them but couldn’t help but wonder when our turn would be,” Laura confessed. “The biggest challenge was truly questioning if I would ever be a mother.” After having exercised all treatment options with her obstetrician, Laura was referred to a fertility specialist at Coastal Fertility Specialists. After being medically evaluated, Laura pursued treatment. “I always dreamed of being a mom. I had to tell myself over and over again that it would happen, just not on my timeline or how I expected,” she affirmed. The team at Coastal Fertility Specialists encouraged Laura not to give up on her dream of conceiving, even when her initial procedures were unsuccessful. After months of undergoing both mentally and physically taxing treatments, Laura’s dream of becoming a mother was finally a reality.
Much like myself, Laura took to social media to share her pregnancy journey with the world. “I felt like if I could make one less person feel alone, it was worth it,” she said. Her story of trial, but also of great joy, is one many women today cannot only sympathize with but also identify with. When I learned of Laura’s journey, I reached out to her and asked her if she would join our “sisterhood,” and the dress that once clothed faith, gratitude, hope and healing now also clothed strength and perseverance.
What was once just a beautiful dress is now a beautiful story of a community of mothers who, against all odds and in spite of all the obstacles they faced, never lost sight of what is most important to them: family.
By Jenny Harrison