When I lived on the Upper East Side, I joined a church. It's a beautiful church on Park Ave-- early 19th century, with a white marble facade and long, wide steps stretching down to the sidewalk. It has gold leaf and mosaics on the huge, vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, gleaming brass, and a spectacular organ. It's one of the grandest churches I've even seen in this country.
It also has an active and vibrant population of young, professional singles and couples and a wonderful music program. The professional choir is superb and the children's choirs serious. But the choir I enjoyed most was made up of amateurs experienced with choral singing, and it sang at the 7:30 pm Mass on Sunday nights.
That's the choir I joined five years ago. I made some wonderful friends, sang some beautiful music, stretched my voice, and felt both spiritually and musically fulfilled. When I moved to Brooklyn, I continued as a member of my East Side church and continued to sing in the choir.
This September, I decided to take a break from singing. I was very anxious about the time commitment teaching two classes and taking two classes would pose, especially when I unexpectedly had to take over as co-chair of my Junior League committee. The hour-long subway trip to and from the UES to Park Slope was just too much to undertake on Sunday nights, when I needed to be preparing for the week ahead.
Instead, I started attending Mass at the local parish church a few blocks away. It is also very pretty, though on a much more local/normal scale. This parish has an active membership, as well. But unlike the twenty- and thirty-somethings that were my peers at my UES church, the Brooklyn church is full of families. There's a children's softball team and family potluck dinners. And morning masses are packed with parents and their two, three, or four children.
Since my miscarriage, I have oddly (or perhaps understandably?) felt closer to God and more invested in my faith than I had for years previous. I feel certain that I can rely on God for comfort and strength, feel convinced of his wisdom, and feel sure that somehow he will bring me to the family I'm meant to have.
But I have also found it increasingly painful and difficult to attend church. There's a point during the 9:20 mass when the children return from their separate liturgy to rejoin their parents. I stare at my lap, trying not to watch while moms and dads scoop them into their arms and settle them into pews. For the three Sundays after I returned to church following my miscarriage, the priest gave sermons on pregnancy loss, infertility, and stillbirths. I sat alone (my husband is Jewish) and cried silently, afraid to look up and see pity, or curiosity, or disinterest.
I love my church on the UES, but that's not where I live anymore, in so many ways. I want to belong to the church in Park Slope, but my life doesn't fit with that model yet.
I feel so trapped between the child-free, carefree life of the single and recently married and the child-centric, communal lives of parents.
I don't belong anywhere right now.