Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hope deferred makes the heart sick...

The following is a part of a series of posts that will take you on a (very personal) journey with me through the story of our family. If you are just now tuning in, take a minute to start back at the beginning and catch up. Click here and here to read the first two posts. 

I had always dreamed of having a big family with my kids close together in age. I envisioned siblings that doubled as playmates and best friends. And from the calendar of events kept neatly in my mind, I could foretell the ideal arrival times of our various children. For some reason, I just assumed God and I were on the same page with this. 

By the time Caedmon was 6 months old, I was ready to add to our family again. Andy was on-board with the idea of having our kids really close in age, so we threw caution to the wind and began hoping for Baby #2.

Month after month began to go by. At first I didn’t think much of it. I told myself, “I’m still breastfeeding. That might be affecting things.” Or, “Andy traveled some this month so that could explain it.” But there came a point when I knew something was wrong. There was every opportunity for us to get pregnant, and we just weren’t. 

My unwavering confidence in God’s sovereignty floated back and forth between comforting and distressing. I never doubted that God is over all things and that He is the One who gives life. So it seemed to me that if He had decided not to give us another child, He must have a reason. I took it on as my duty to figure out what that reason was so we could remedy it and get on to my calendar of events…a calendar which was already running dreadfully behind schedule. 

Everywhere I went the world seemed over-populated with pregnant women: the mall, the playground, church. It felt like I got word on a weekly basis that a different friend was expecting. I watched my sister suffer through horrible morning sickness, twice. I helped throw baby showers for several close friends. I knew people who weren’t even married at the time get married and have multiple children all while I was still hoping for our next child. In my heart I celebrated with them. The sadness that I felt over my own situation didn’t rob me of the joy that I felt for them, but it did complicate my questions.

About 2 years in to our struggle with infertility, one of my best friends found out, much to her surprise, she was expecting their 3rd child. She didn’t even know how to tell me. Her husband told Andy, who shared the news with me over a lunch at Noah’s Bagel…I remember it so vividly. I received the news with joy but found myself shaking with sobs later that day. The first half of her pregnancy was spent trying to get her mind around the fact that she was about to be a mother to 3 children ages 4 and under. Of course, by the time her precious son arrived (and even before that) she was elated to welcome him into their family. But it was, for us, a strange juxtaposition of trials. God was teaching both of us about His Sovereignty over life and death. We were both learning to accept His timetable for our families. 

For me, the struggle with infertility was a lonely road. It’s not that I didn’t have people in my life who loved me and would have wanted to help me carry that burden. It’s just that I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to be a drag to be around. I feel like talking about infertility is some kind of social faux pas and that no one can relate unless they’d walked that road. Telling someone else that I was struggling with infertility felt, at best, like admitting a failure and, at worst, like confessing an awful sin. It was somewhere in between telling people that I didn’t get the job I was interviewing for due to my sub-standard performance and confessing to my mentor that I struggle with porn. Nobody really knows what to say when you launch that one at them. So you just don’t. At least not often. 

The struggle seemed too intimate for casual conversation and too painful to bring up with a girlfriend over lunch. I dreaded the thought of being the phone call that no one wanted to make, so I rarely talked about it with my family who lived cross-country. It was easier to keep things light, to focus on the countless things that were going well in our lives, and to try to pretend like the pain wasn’t there. 

But the pain was there, sometimes like a dull headache, sometimes coming in waves so strong that I didn’t have time to catch my footing before another one pushed me under. The reality that I understood far too well was there was really nothing these people who loved me so much could do to take the pain away. 

I remember one phone conversation with my sister where she braved bringing up the topic. I was at the playground with Caedmon and just had to sit down on the side of the sand box to try to maintain some level of composure while in public. I remember there being long stretches of silence as we both just cried, neither one of us knowing what to say but knowing she felt my pain as intimately as only a sister can. 

There were nights that I found myself slipping into Caedmon’s room just to watch him sleep. I would lie down next to him, so close that I could feel his breath on my skin. And as I squeezed that little body against my own I would think of all the love I had in my heart, not only for him, but also for another child. I longed for Caedmon to have a sibling. Our family, somehow, felt like we were missing people. Like we were not yet complete. And after I had no more tears to cry, I would go crawl back into my own bed and fall asleep emotionally exhausted. 

When life hands you a hurt that you don’t know how to make sense of, your mind begins to grasp for meaning, clinging to anything that can alleviate the ever-haunting “Why?” in your heart. Some of my thoughts went like this:

Perhaps God wants me to enjoy intimacy with my husband without just seeing it as an opportunity to get pregnant. If I could learn this lesson, then surely He would bless me with a child. 

Perhaps there is something that He doesn’t like about the way we are raising our son, Caedmon. If I could just be a better mom, then surely He would bless me with another child. 

Perhaps He wants me to learn some lesson regarding longing for Him or being satisfied with Him. Perhaps He is taking me through this so I’ll be able to comfort others in the same situation. Maybe if I could just learn these lessons, just be a little more perfect, then surely He would bless me with another child. 

Whether conscious or unconscious, verbalized or repressed, that’s where my thoughts lingered.

Andy and I traveled to a pastors’ conference in Texas that February. As much as I tried not to get my hopes up each month, I always found myself praying this would be the month. My mind began anticipating when the child’s birthday would be, how old Caedmon would be, and whether the baby would be a boy or a girl. I was so hoping I would find out at the conference that I was pregnant. Instead, I found out the opposite and told Andy through teary eyes, “No baby this month.” 

I ached inwardly as we sat through the various sessions. One night a mom with two children, probably about 10 and 12 years old, sat in front of us. While the worship band played I closed my eyes and let the words of the songs bathe my wounded soul. At one point I opened my eyes to see both of those children with their hands raised worshipping Jesus. The sight was so beautiful that it made me catch my breath. With tears streaming down my face I prayed, “God if you would give me another child I promise I would raise him to worship You.” 

In that moment the tenderness of a loving Father came and wrapped His arms around me. I felt with such clarity in my spirit the Father say to me, “Stacie, I’m not holding out on you because I think you’re a bad mom or a bad wife or because I’m trying to make some kind of point. You don’t have to “earn” a child from Me.” 

I didn’t walk away from that moment with any answers to my “Why” questions. But I did have a new-found peace that this journey I was on was one of grace. My Father saw every tear I cried and knew the pain that wrecked my heart. He was there with me each night that I soaked my pillow with tears and each time I leaned over the bathroom sink weeping. He was loving me, ministering to me, strengthening me, and rubbing soothing balm on my open wounds.

Caedmon turned 6 this past September and God has still not chosen to bless us with another biological child. But He has blessed us in countless other ways...

...to be continued.


Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing. reading this post has brought forth tears from deep down. i identify so much with the thoughts and feelings expressed here, except, of course, the ones about an existing child.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for sharing this... my husband and I have been hoping for a child for a little over 5 years. the joy intermingled with pain for my pregnant friends is not something easily explained or understood. it's so nice to know i'm not alone. we continue to hope and rest in knowing that God's timing is perfect. you are amazing for sharing your story.... thank you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Stacie. My sibling struggled with infertility and I never brought it up or knew what to say to them.