When Grief Comes Knocking… Or Getting Real About Infertility. Whichever You Prefer.

Laying flat on my mat, tears spilled out of my eyes unbidden. Moments like these make me hate going to yoga. I think of myself as emotionally intelligent, but mainly that just means I do pretty decent on picking up emotions in other people. I’m excellent at ignoring and stuffing my own, particularly those volatile ones that make me feel unholy or unfeminine or like I’m going to drown in a well of sadness.

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A Light Shines in the Dark

I find it odd how I can look back fondly on some seriously awful moments in my life.  At the time things were wretched, and yet I look back in gratitude.  My second miscarriage in May 2010 for one.  I was absolutely devastated at the time (and as my blog posts from back then show).  And yet, looking backward, that’s one of the moments in our marriage that makes me so incredibly grateful for my husband.  Every time I think about back then, I am reminded of how much I love him.  Life could have gone a different direction.  But it didn’t.  And I remember the second miscarriage more sharply than the first and third.  And the main difference was intentionality.

I told J as he came home that I didn’t want to live that night as though it was a normal one.  I wanted a Dairy Queen ice cream cake. I wanted a fire in the fireplace, even if it meant our house would smell like pioneer village for days afterward.  I wanted to sleep on the air mattress in the living room in front of the fire, and to binge watch McLeod’s Daughters (an Australian TV show — one of my favorite shows of all time).  I didn’t want to go about our normal routine as though the world hadn’t imploded.

J picked up a Dairy Queen ice cream cake on his way home.  And that started one of our longest running inside jokes.  The clerk kept asking if J wanted writing on the cake, and J thinks to himself — What am I going to have him write — “Happy Miscarriage?!?!?!” No.  No, I don’t want writing on the cake.

J came home and told me the story, and we cried and laughed.  And laughed and cried.  Till our faces were soaked, and we nearly peed our pants. Now whenever we go to Dairy Queen or have cakes decorated, we joke back and forth over whether the slogan should be “Happy Miscarriage.”  I would seriously die laughing at some point if he actually got me a birthday cake with that on it.  (We have a macabre sense of humor in this house.  No. No, it was not a happy miscarriage.  And that’s what makes it funny for us.).

And even though he hates the air mattress, he slept on it with me by the fire.  We lay there shell-shocked watching the antics of Tess and Claire on Drover’s Run till the fire died and we passed out from exhaustion.  It helped.

J’s participation in grieving our loss and acknowledging that life didn’t go on as normal for a day bonded us together.  We both still look back on the time we spent together as a highlight in our marriage even though it was one of our darkest moments.

In the past few months, as I’ve begun letting go of the dream of biological children, I’ve realized that I’m falling in love with my husband all over again in a way that is deeper than I thought possible.  I can’t imagine another person I’d rather walk with on this journey of life. And I feel amazed that this  infertility journey has bound us tighter instead of splitting us.

So, today, this week, this month, I am feeling grateful.  God is good.  I am blessed.  Even if I can’t have biological children, I’m blessed.  Life is good.

Joel 2:23-32: An Abundance of Grace

Well, it’s now October and it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. Between having a miscarriage and the journey of medical craziness with my dad’s tongue cancer since May, I feel as though I’ve walked through the fire and back. God’s been nudging me to pick up my Bible all this week, and this week I’ve been afraid of it. I’ve tiptoed around it and been fearful of what it’s going to tell me. Whenever I get this metaphysical feeling of dread about this wondrous book, I know God’s got something he wants to say…usually not something I want to hear.

It’s been awhile since I’ve followed the lectionary cycle, so I decided to pick back up again with it. Though I researched what the lectionary texts were at about 8:00 AM this morning, it took me until noon to actually work up the nerve to open the good book. It just sat there in front of me on the ottoman, while I then blogged about other things, including pictures and a restaurant review…And then, after writing for a few hours, well then I had to move furniture in the living room and then accidentally shorted out the circuit that powers the motem, computer and TV. And then finally a great voice within me said quietly…”Enough already. Either choose to hang out with me. Or don’t.” So, I stopped. Took a breath. Shakily grabbed my Bible, and opened to Joel 2:23-32. And the words followed from the page into my heart as though they’d been written just for me. Emotions overwhelming washed over.

“O children o Zion, be glad and rejoice in the Lord you God; for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the later rain as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, the vats shall overflow with wine and oil. I will repay you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer and the cutter, my great army, which I sent against you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.”

I am so profoundly grateful that my father has escaped his cancer battle alive thus far. Alive and able to speak and eat and thrive. I value the new relationship with him that walking through the fire together has forged. And in the dark time of staying up through the night with him, God has forged something else in me. A renewed sense of his presence and his promise.

And I’m currently walking through another dark time that I don’t know how God will work out, but I do have a sense that he is with me. This issue went on the back burner while the immediate issue of my dad’s well being took center stage. My dad is back on his own two feet now. And then, last week a well meaning friend brought up the issue of my miscarriage last May, and that set off a downward spiral into an issue I thought was water under the bridge. My husband and I are verging on four years of trying to get pregnant. Four years and 2 miscarriages. In a culture where one of the first questions we ask strangers is “so, do you have any kids?” I’m finding myself frequently full of shame as I try to answer this question. If you say simply no, then people press, “well, don’t you want kids?” Which then leads to more shame as I explain that our lack of children is not a lack of wanting – but an inability to get pregnant/stay pregnant. Which makes me feel less womanly, less whole, and more as though there is something wrong with me and maybe even with this God that I profess to believe in. And then if you’re more honest and throw out the whole truth or portions of the truth, then people feel the need to say “oh, you’re so young” or “you’ve got to quit trying so hard”. Which again causes shame and pain and awkwardness.

In my weakness, I want to read this passage as though God’s going to give me children to take away my sense of shame. I want to put my earthly definition of wholeness and satisfaction on the promise. God’s not allowing me that option this morning. The promise is that I will be made whole, made healthy – but in his version of healthy. Redeemed in relationship with Him. Discovering the abundance of grace that he has already poured out on me – most recently, the gift of my father. The gift of my father’s health. The gift of a new, deeper relationship with my dad. The gift of a husband who shows up and helps out without complaining through all this journey…staying up nights with me in the hospital, learning how to do things when I wasn’t ready (taking out the inner part of my dad’s trach and cleaning it). The gift of a God who promises all this misery is temporary. A day is coming when all this shame I carry will be gone. A day when He comes back, and we and all creation get to be made whole. When our world’s brokenness is mended, when games powerful men play will end, and wars will cease. And I’m still sitting here waiting. Hoping.

But, God’s here with me today. And I still believe He’s coming back, and that the embarrassment of today will fade in His presence.

I am in a better mood today than yesterday; yesterday was a weepy day. God and I kept having fun chats. Mostly I kept talking to God, and occasionally he’d butt in and correct me. The jist of the conversation was about me being sad and defeated about current life circumstances. I am making active choices to not compare my life to others, and to try not to be bitter. Neither of those choices are easy to live out; it’s a constant war zone in my head. Between the healthy part of me who’s trying be a mature adult, and the emotional me who’s sad, mad and wants what she wants.

These days I keep finding myself praying “God, I really don’t want to be mad at you. It’s not like I can really walk away even if I feel like you’ve wronged me. You’re still God. You’re still the only ultimate safe place, the only true refuge. ” Or when I’m angry and feeling like shaking my fists it’s asking, “What more do you want from me? Because I really don’t know at this point.”

This morning is better than yesterday. I am grateful for the fresh snow that fell overnight and made everything white again. I am enjoying a leftover sweet potato waffle for breakfast, and that’s enough for this moment. Although, really, all bets are off for the rest of the day. I am still trying to mentally gird myself for battle.

I don’t think God is giving me rocks instead of bread. I just think mostly my life is sustained on rye and pumpernickel. Neither or which ever taste good.