Musings + Essays

The Moon Was Full, My Arms Were Empty.

By: Jen Shoop

The following post touches on topics of fertility, pregnancy loss, and pregnancy. I was messaged by a kind reader letting me know she was not ready to hear this after her own challenges and wanted to include a warning up front in case you are in the same position.

Waiting to learn that I was pregnant with my daughter was agony. I will never forget the way the entire world seemed to blur into a series of arrows pointing at my empty arms. I imagined friends asking one another about it, family members worrying (“do you think there’s a problem?”). Now I see those phantom whispers were nothing but projections of my own anxious desire for a child, my frustration with the width between what I had and what I wanted.

A recent conversation with a friend trying to conceive throttled me back to those times of strain, to the nights I would lay awake crying because — to quote Richard Leigh — “the moon was full but my arms were empty.” There seemed to me at that time something against nature about the absence of a newborn against my chest.

I feel twenty three ways about this subject. I have lived it and know that it is sometimes not helpful — in fact, resentment-breeding — to hear from women who “went through it but now are on the other side.” I recall looking skeptically — uncharitably, if I am honest — at those women simply because it seemed that they had their babies and had forgotten the rapier-edged torture of waiting for them. “It will happen when it’s meant to happen,” is, quite possibly, the cruelest rejoinder when you are desperate for good news. It felt like a dismissal of my every hope and effort. I trust that these comments were never ill-intentioned, but levied against the tender heart of a woman hoping for a baby, they wore like sandpaper, or worse. On other days, I felt riotous against the perception that other people were expecting me to come forward with news of a child. “I’m not complete as I am?” I would fume, inwardly, despite the fact that I felt in some ways I wasn’t. For a time, it felt as though life would officially begin when I had children. I don’t know where or how I acquired that perspective, because I certainly do not feel that way now. I look back and think: I was living fully then, and I am living fully now, and I have always been the same, whole, full-fat soul, moving along this squiggly path I call my life. And yet. Perhaps absorbed from the occasionally problematic social and cultural narratives in which I grew up, and from the far less nefarious models of loving women I admire who happen to be mothers, I felt lacking.

If you feel this way, you are not alone. And I write this today for you — for the women who are waiting. For the women who twist in their bedsheets in worry. For the women with holes in their hearts the size of a baby. I write this to simply sit with you for a spell. I write this aware that I cannot salve your woes, though I do want you to know you are a full and complete person, living your one wild and precious life. You are the gift, the center.

I normally conclude these posts with an “onward!” call, but today I just think — it is OK, too, to sit still and let yourself breathe. I am holding a quiet, tranquil space for you here.


+On creating a tranquil frame of mind.

+You are enough.

+A prayer for rough waters.

+Emotional footholds.

+How do you gain a sense of perspective?

+On female friendships and the things that matter.

Shopping Break.

+These mules in the linen are absolutely fab — I swear they pass for something much higher end, like Alexandre Birman!

+Serena and Lily is offering 20% off sitewide, including off sale prices, with code HOME, including their near-iconic Riviera chairs (I love the new all-neutral colorway), this incredible side table (look for even less from a different retailer here), and fabulous patterned bedding (tempted by this gingham for our upstairs bunks!)

+Another great everyday dress. I know there are so many styles out there with smocking and puffed sleeves, but I just love the print on this one and don’t have many navy dresses personally.

+These Celine shades in the light brown colorway just shot to the top of my lust list for summer.

+Also drooling over this Tory Burch dress — ZOMG. Expensive, but like an elevated version of my everyday uniform of a long/midi shirtdress.

+OMG – how did I miss this Madewell stunner in my last roundup?! SO GOOD.

+This needlepointed key fob makes me smile.

+This cover up in white is under $30 and SO chic.

+Ann Taylor nailed it with this cute ruffled gingham top!

+Currently obsessing over all things Ciao Lucia — love this mini and this midi in particular, in such fun and vibrant trip-to-Positano colors. I also found a gorgeous white blouse of theirs on super sale here.

+Adorable romper for summer. I saw it and immediately thought of a bride at her bachelorette but would be straight up cute for anyone, engaged or not!

+Into this sage green pillow. (Still into green in general!)

+This versatile and sophisticated parchment-colored LR blouse is on sale for $117.

+LOVE everything about this accent pillow for a nursery — the colors, the monogram style, the piping, the scalloping!

+For my tennis playing Magpies. And more great spring fitness gear here.

+I have it on good authority (i.e., Megan Stokes’) that this super inexpensive set of 5″ bows are excellent for everyday wear.

+What a fun prompt for a gal’s night in — set places with these cheeky cards.

+I love new coffee table books — this one is in my cart.

+Just the prettiest top.

+Sailor’s knot napkin rings at a great price — saw these and immediately starting plotting towards a Memorial Day cookout.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

10 thoughts on “The Moon Was Full, My Arms Were Empty.

  1. Yes – “the width between what I had and what I wanted.” I think many of us reading here are of a similar personality type, women who are accustomed to getting what we set out to accomplish. We decided to do a thing, we plan, do the work, take the required steps, and voila! Accomplishment achieved. But it is soooo not that way with becoming a mother!! I think we are wholly unprepared to deal with this kind of disappointment. And speaking of disappointment, I think the monthly cycle of hope and disappointment is another aspect of this that makes it “uniquely fraught” as another magpie commented. And the fact that some people get pregnant by accident!! There are just so many difficult layers to this. I, too, am pulling up my chair to sit with anyone who’s going through this right now…you’re not alone.

    1. I completely agree with everything you’ve said — there are so many layers, and so many tender and emotionally-charged ones, too. There is family, marriage, identity, etc. It’s a lot.

      Thanks for sitting with us!


    2. I’m knee deep in this situation right now, but it feels more like drowning some days. Thank you for putting into words the feelings that aren’t so easy to describe, or for others to understand.

      1. Hi Sarah – I am so sorry to hear, and so sorry you have to experience this. You are not alone. Holding a space for you.


  2. Beautifully said Jen. You took the words right out of my mouth at every turn. It is such a fragile and emotional time and even now, with one child and another almost due, your words brought me right back to trying to convenience and my miscarriages. They are just what I needed to hear, even now. Thank you for sharing and being so eloquent!

    1. Hi Jillian – Thank you so much for writing in — it truly is such a fragile time. It felt like I was bruised or ready to bruise the entire time! Just painful! Thank you for writing in. Thinking of you, holding a space for you!


  3. Thank you for sharing this. The time between you decide to start trying to conceive and a positive pregnancy test is so uniquely fraught: stressful, exciting, anxiety-inducing, devastating… I can’t think of exactly the right word. (And all those feelings are happening in “secret” as we often do not announce that we are trying to conceive.) The first time is perhaps the most intense, but I think successive hopeful-pregnancies are also versions of the same. You have this perfect first child in your life, and yet, you’re waiting for another…

    1. Yes, “uniquely fraught” is the absolute right way to describe it. It was unlike any other experience I can think of precisely because you feel so alone in it. I know what you mean also about subsequent pregnancies. Hill’s pregnancy was very different but because of my history I was almost unbearably anxious, especially the first trimester. It is tough stuff.

      Thanks for writing in, Susie —


  4. Jen, these words brought me to tears this morning. How perfectly what I needed to hear at the time I was trying to bring a child into my world. For nearly a decade I tried, I cried and cried, I prayed, I bargained with God, I brought my Grandmother’s ring to my fertility treatments and nothing. There was, as you say, a baby shaped hole in my heart and in my life. Today I have a son, my first and what will be my only child, through adoption. He is my light and my joy. And when I look at him I know it could not have been any other child but him. But still- even with him there is and always will be a loss. The child I could not bring into the world will always be a loss repeatedly felt no matter how great the joy in my son. And oh the symbolism of not being able to bring life to the world. I return to it even in the joy. Thank you for your words this morning. They are what I longed to hear for so many years from so many women. They help.

    1. Rebecca! I am so sorry for your struggles – you are so not alone, and yet the experience is horribly isolating. I hate that you had to live through that and appreciate your honesty in sharing that you can feel joy but also grief simultaneously. I completely relate to that. Thank you for so bravely sharing your experience here. I know so, so, SO many women will relate to what you’ve said.

      Sitting here with you today!


Previous Article

Next Article