Pruning

Laying in my hospital room on Friday night, I was reminded of the imagery of pruning.  Wikipedia describes pruning, as “targeted removal of diseased, damaged, dead, non-productive, structurally unsound, or otherwise unwanted tissue from crop and landscape plants.” A person prunes for various reasons including “deadwood removal, shaping (by controlling or directing growth), improving or maintaining health, reducing risk from falling branches, preparing nursery specimens for transplanting, and increasing the yield or quality of flowers and fruits.”

I wrestle with whether the pruning metaphor is something of a promise from God or whether it’s something that I tell myself to calm my anxiety about the future.  Maybe it could be legitimately both.  In pruning, the purpose isn’t to injure the plant, but to cause it to thrive and function the way that it ought.  The problem comes as I try to figure out what this image means to me; what is it that God might be saying? And how do I not impose my wants and dreams over what God might actually be saying?

There’s a certain sense where I feel like I’m letting God off the hook easy this time. Partly, I’ve done the bitter and angry route with God in the past, and, for me, it feels more like Anne Lamott’s rat poison analogy of hate (hating something is sort of like taking rat poison yourself and waiting for the other person to die).  I’m not ready to abandon hope for the future yet, and I’m not ready to sit on the sidelines of life feeling bitter and like I’m watching my life as a spectator instead of an active participant. Though I am also a realist and recognize that anger is part of the grief cycle, so I’ll probably hit that point at some time anyway.

Partly I feel like God is up to something that I’m not sure I quite understand, and I’m sort of curious where this is going to go.  And maybe I need to have that curiosity and belief in order to have hope.  Hope that I can find something of meaning in all this.  It’s funny to me that I can tell myself that God has a plan in all this, but I’m not super receptive when others want to tell me how good God is or that he’s up to something in this crappy situation.  These are words that I reserve for myself right now; I don’t exactly welcome them from others.

I still can’t shake the notion that God did promise me something last fall, and is continuing to make some kind of promise as he continues to develop relationships with certain people in my life.  I feel like a chess piece being carefully orchestrated on a board. Maybe that’s crazy, but it’s still the way I feel. And I don’t necessarily feel that that is a bad thing; it makes me feel like there is a plan for my future even if I don’t understand it or can’t fully see it yet.

And I can’t shake the notion that my God is a God who loves to make promises to undeserving people; and God keeps his promises whether or not I’m faithful because God’s promises are about who God is rather than who I am.  I keep being reminded of Abraham’s story in Genesis particularly an old post that I wrote on Genesis 22 at A Thirst for More.

I want to be a person of faith.  I also want to be firmly grounded in reality not with my head up in dreamland or crazy town.  I want these things to overlap.  This is where I struggle.  What is the promise? What is reality? How do I hold to faith when reality seems to be at odds?  Which is more important to me when they can’t overlap- the faith or the reality?

And I think God welcomes our questions; Abraham questioned God about the fulfillment of the promise, and faith was credited to him as righteousness.  But, these days I feel like I’m asking questions that go unanswered.  What happens to faith in the midst of unanswered questions? Abraham had the luxury of a concrete reply from God; I don’t quite yet.  My answers are swirls of mists; hints but nothing concrete. But this current pruning seems to be part of what is needed to fulfill the promise.  It doesn’t excuse it or justify it, but it means that the loss is not merely the end of the story. It is also part of a bigger story — one where the loss is not the end.

Dimensions of Loss

It’s odd the way the ectopic pregnancy feels so different from the miscarriages I’ve had.  Particularly in the way that I bounce around with what grieves me (or makes me feel a modicum of gratitude).
With finding out about the ectopic pregnancy, I was initially grieved over the loss of the pregnancy.  But once I’d made it past the surviving surgery mode, I was grieved over the loss of the tube.

Now, I’m still reeling from the fact that I literally could have died.  With the amount of blood that they were finding pooled around the ectopic pregnancy, I would have ended up in the hospital in pretty bad shape pretty quickly had I not had surgery that Friday night.  I am grateful that a rupture hadn’t happened while we were up north (in the middle of nowhere) for a wedding the previous weekend; J is grateful for that too.  I could have died in the time it would’ve taken to get me to a hospital. I’m amazed that I wasn’t in the typical amounts of drastic pain or passing out – particularly with what the doctors found when they opened me up.  So, in one sense, I’m happy to be alive (and J’s happy about that too).

And I bounce back to the loss aspect in another instant. I still feel sad over the loss of the pregnancy and the loss of the tube (which I had posted earlier this week).  I am literally missing a piece of myself that I had previously taken for granted.

There feels like so many more dimensions to the situation than other losses that we’ve had.  And I can only wrestle with one aspect at a time, and which one seems more pressing varies moment by moment.

As perturbed as I am with God right now, I am amazed at how God does get me connected with the exact right person at the right time.

Additionally, even though I’m sad and grieved by the tubal pregnancy, surgery and that whole debacle – I do feel so loved and grateful for the friends and family who’ve taken care of us during this season.  From bringing us meals to checking in with us, it feels good to know that we are loved – even if we’re not particularly in a happy place right now.

On With This Business of Living

So, today it’s on with the business of living.  Time to start moving forward.  I leave the neighborhood for the first time since the surgery.
One, to go get blood work done to make sure my hormones are going down like they should.  Also, I meet with my internship supervisor this afternoon to iron out details.  My dad is coming up today, and we’re going to the state fair this evening.  I will be experiencing the fair through the vantage point of a wheelchair, since long walks still cause my incision sites to hurt like crazy.  Though I suppose this is sort of a turnabout is fairplay, since three years ago J and I pushed my dad in a wheelchair around the fair after his cancer surgery at Mayo.

Today is also the first day I’m wearing something other than pajamas since my surgery last Friday; also the first day I’ve actively fixed my hair and put on make-up.  And I wish I could say it felt good; mostly it feels sad – with a taste of defeat.  No miracle is occuring; denial opportunities have passed. The nightmare is reality, and now I go on with my life.  It feels like carefully packing up dreams into a box and storing them away in a dark, abandoned closet.

While putting on make-up this morning, I had flashbacks to surgery day, and the doctors and nurses who kept commenting on how awesome my eye make-up was – even after the crying and waking up in the recovery room after surgery.  (The trick is eye make-up primer and Urban Decay’s make-up setting spray). All I could think while people kept saying nice things was how much I didn’t care what I looked like in the light of my circumstances.  Which is sort of odd – because I remember feeling a need to look cute that day as I asked my sister to take a picture after the ultrasound if things went okay.  Needless-to-say – no picture occurred that afternoon.

Broken And Renewal Part 2

A few weeks ago, I wrote this post about brokenness and how God sees us.  At the time, I think I intended it as a reflection about something outside of myself.  And now, I wonder if it might be words that my own self needed to hear.
Losing the fallopian tube in addition to the pregnancy has done a particular number to my own sense of self.

When the doctors started discussing the need for surgery, I didn’t want surgery for the precise reason that I knew I’d lose the tube.  The loss of that tube seems symbolic of the loss of future hopes; I know intellectually and statistically that this is not necessarily the case.  But, it still feels like another nail in the coffin of my own fertility and dreams for children.

All this to say, that I think I’ve begun to see myself as the metaphorical broken down fence from that post and not someone with potential and hope.  And finding that I need to remind myself that all isn’t lost.  Hope isn’t gone, but the process from brokenness to being made new is a long and painful one.  Am I willing to participate in the process, or would I rather be sitting feeling sorry for myself?  The answer to that one changes frequently.

In the Blink of An Eye

In the blink of an eye, life can radically change.  In late July, I thought I was having miscarriage number four.  Then, after a series of blood tests (and what seemed to be a calling from God to relax and trust) by some miracle my HCG levels were going up instead of down.  And were finally going up high enough to make my doctors happy.  An ultrasound was scheduled for two weeks later to make sure everything was okay.  Two additional weeks passed, and we went in for the ultrasound.  And discovered that things were not okay.  I had a tubal pregnancy, and it was so big that surgery was inevitable.  Without time to really process the drama, I was whisked off for emergency surgery.  And dreams, hope and faith got smashed in an instant.  Not only was I losing the pregnancy, but I also lost a fallopian tube.  I suppose that the good news is that I got to keep my life and my other tube.

After I got back to my hospital room after the surgery, I looked up to see a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall across from my bed.  Ironically, the Jesus portrait that brought my dad a place of comfort when he recovered from his cancer surgery in the same hospital was instead a source of mockery for me.

In these moments of grieving after this loss, I think I’m mostly shell-shocked. Not only am I grieving the loss, but I feel great sense of confusion over what God’s voice sounds like.  I used to be confident in what I felt the Spirit saying to me, and now I no longer know.  Do I merely tell myself what I want to hear or did God actually promise me something last fall?  Do I attempt to comfort myself in my anxiety or did God actually issue the invitation to trust? And if God issued the invitation, what’s with the dramatic end to the pregnancy?  What purpose does it serve? And there’s no answer to the last two questions; and I know from experience that they aren’t helpful questions.

There’s no real reason why.  I want an answer so I can prevent such a horror from happening again.  I want to have a magic solution so I can exert control over my situation. And that’s neither realistic nor possible.

And in the height of irony, I had decided that I was done trying to have kids.  We had finished our last round of fertility treatments, and had taken the month off while we regrouped and tried to figure out what was next.  So, now I can’t get pregnant when I’m actively trying, and when I’m not trying – it’s an ectopic pregnancy.  There’s a certain sense in which I cannot win.  And I don’t know what I want for the future.  And because of my decidedly reduced fertility with only 1 tube, I feel an additional level of concern over time.  I’m not getting any younger.  So, now I don’t know if I’m done with the fertility stuff or if we keep going with dogged persistence once I’m all healed up from surgery.

People keep asking how I’m feeling or how I’m doing.  And the answer is: I don’t know.  With the previous three miscarriages, loss is not new for me, and I feel almost a callousness creeping up in my heart as a result (not something that I particularly like about myself either). And partly I don’t want to deal with it, and I don’t want to be angry.  Anger at God or life in general makes me feel powerless instead of powerful.  Perhaps I’m in a constant state of bargaining – what does God want from me for things to be different next time.  Rationally and intellectually, I know that this isn’t really how God works.  But, something emotional and raw within me, wants to be able to exert control over the situation.  Bargaining offers that.  So that’s where I’m stuck for now.  I’ll get out of it eventually.