Family has always been important to me, and I have always wanted to get married and have kids. I have never had any ambition to climb the corporate ladder. Even though I excelled at school and work, I felt like a replaceable cog at work. My “real” life always began when I left work and went home. I am completely fulfilled at home.
I know there are some who are completely fulfilled at work and feel staying at home is meaningless drudgery. There are some, like me, who feel a career is meaningless drudgery and are completely fulfilled at home. There are some who thing women who stay at home are oppressed and secretly desperate. Others say that all mothers ought to be stay-at-home Moms or ought to homeschool their kids. I am not wise enough to know if everyone should work or stay at home or homeschool, but I do think God puts His people in all areas of life to minister to various groups of people. I think the most important thing is to seek God and do what He tells us to do. I like what Jesus said to Peter in John 21. After Jesus told Peter what would happen to him later in his life, Peter pointed to John and asked, “What is going to happen to him?” Jesus replied, “If I desire that he stay until I come, what is that to you? You follow me.” In other words, we need to focus on what God tells US to do, not worry about what He tells others.
Well, I could continue discussing this, but I am getting off topic. I need to get back on topic.
I grew up in a family of six kids and my husband was one of nine kids. I always wanted five kids, and EJ wanted ten. Ten? Why not? I love large families. The more the merrier. I couldn’t wait to get pregnant after we got married. But it didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen.
It got painfully tiresome to hear people ask when we were going to start a family, when we were going to have children–didn’t we want any? I really struggled when, all at the same time, a woman at work whom everyone thought would NOT be a good mother, got pregnant. And EJ’s unwed teenage niece got pregnant. And his brother’s wife, who didn’t want any more children, got pregnant. I prayed, “Why not me, God? I’m married and love my husband, I WANT kids, and I think I’d make a good mother. Why can’t I get pregnant???”
You can, maybe, imagine my complete and utter joy when I finally became pregnant four years after I married EJ. In our joy, we told everyone. I was really excited when, at about 9-10 weeks, the doctor told me that I was going to get the chance to listen to our baby’s heartbeat. He couldn’t find the heartbeat, so he said he would give me an ultrasound–he had ultrasound equipment in his office. When he did the ultrasound, he said he didn’t see the baby moving, but he’d do another next week. I’m sure he knew the baby was dead, but I didn’t get the seriousness of it, and excitedly said to EJ, “What do you think about getting to see our baby on the ultrasound?” The next week, the doctor said the baby was not moving and that it had not grown any since the last week, and the baby was dead. He was going to give my body a chance to miscarry the baby naturally, but scheduled surgery to take it out of my womb if my body didn’t do it. He said the baby could not stay in my womb because it would cause infection, etc.
I walked around for about two weeks with my dead baby in my womb before I had the surgery to remove him. I was devastated, wondering why I hadn’t been able to protect him/her. At the time, I had no support. My family had rejected me, and we had just moved to the area several months before, so I didn’t have any real friends in the neighborhood or church to confide in. My husband was compassionate, but his shift was such that he wasn’t home when I got home from work, so I came home and cried alone. I had a co-worker who was very good at “rejoicing with those who rejoiced–she was genuinely glad when good things happened to people, and I modeled myself after her in this area. However, she didn’t know how to “weep with those who weep” While I struggled to deal with my grief, she asked questions about people’s pregnancies and babies in my hearing. When I heard that she had said that she didn’t know why I was sad because all I had lost was a blob of tissue, I went to her and told her that my baby was ten weeks when I lost him (or her). He had fingers, toes, and a beating heart. Besides which, I had lost giving birth to him, holding him, watching him crawl and take his first steps, hearing his “I love you’s” and receiving his hugs. I lost his first day of school, his first date, his wedding. I lost a lifetime of experiences with him. “Don’t tell me I lost nothing!” I exclaimed.
I had been going to a counselor to help me deal with my family’s rejection. I went to what was supposed to be my last session, and told the counselor about my miscarriage. He asked me how I was doing, and I gave all the correct “spiritual” answers about understanding that God has a purpose in everything and I was trusting Him. Then he asked, “So how does it feel like to be a mother who just lost her child?” At that my strength crumbled, and I broke down and sobbed out my grief and pain. He decided to keep seeing me while I dealt with this loss, and during the next few weeks, he listened while I struggled with God.
I told God I was angry with Him–that he was a mean, brutal God, who enjoyed playing with us, like a cat with a mouse. “You are like Lucy, who repeatedly urges Charlie Brown to kick the football, promising to let him kick it, but when he finally trusts her, she moves the football at the last minute and he falls flat on his face. Why even let me get pregnant if You were just going to take it away? Why dangle the hope of a child in front of my face and then take it away when I reached for it?”
I ranted and cried. God, who is faithful, let me rant. Then one day, I felt as if He gave me another choice: “Either I am God and worth trusting even when you don’t understand, or I am not God, or not a God worth trusting, and you should go off and live as you please.” I wrestled with this choice. The “spiritual” answer is that God is God and worth trusting, but if I determined that He was God and trustworthy, I had to trust Him with the incomprehensible loss of the baby. After a while, I decided that He was God and I would trust Him. I imagined putting all my questions, and doubts, and grief into a box and handing the box to God. I said, “I don’t understand why this happened, and I feel pain and sorrow, but I trust that You are God and I will trust You even though I don’t understand why this happened. These questions and sorrows are too heavy for me, so I want You to take them.” Through this, I learned that we don’t always get to now reasons for what happens in life, but we can trust the love and faithfulness of God.
Two months after the miscarriage, I suspected that I was pregnant so I went to the doctor for a pregnancy test. The nurse said it was positive. She said, “But you don’t seem very excited. Don’t you want this baby?” I longed for this baby, but I had learned that things can go wrong, and I was scared.
I didn’t tell friends or co-workers about this pregnancy because I didn’t want to endure compassion or insensitive remarks if I lost him. About 9-10 weeks into the pregnancy, I went to the bathroom at work, and there was lots of blood in the toilet. I groaned, “Oh, God, no, no! Please! I can’t endure losing two babies in two months.” I tried calling Eric, but couldn’t get hold of him. I told my boss I wasn’t feeling well, and drove home, praying that I’d find Eric before he went to work. I spotted him driving into the bank parking lot before going to work–a few seconds earlier or later and I would have missed him. I parked beside his truck, waiting for him to come out, and I told him what was happening. He took me to the doctor. I hadn’t yet lost the baby, but was in danger of doing so. I ended up on complete bedrest. Since I couldn’t upstairs to our bedroom, I spent months on the couch. My Mother-in-law spent some days with me, and we had a little help from a woman at church, but mostly I spent hours and weeks and months alone on the couch. Poor Eric was working 12 and 16 hours a day, 7 days week. He’d come home exhausted and have to care for me. My house was a mess and I couldn’t do anything about it. It was hard. But I had a unique experience of having God care for me. I would tell God a desire and have it immediately fulfilled. I remember one time when I had an odd dream in which I was lying on my couch in a friend’s house. She couldn’t see me or hear me, but I could see and hear her. I said, “I wish you would call me.” She said, “Hmmm. I should call TJ.” I said, “I’m lonely and could use a call.” She said, “I bet she’s lonely and could use a call. But I don’t remember her phone number.” I said, “My phone number is in the phone book–you could look it up.” She said, “I’ll see if it’s in the phone book.” Then I woke up. A few seconds later, the phone rang. It was that very friend. She said, “I was just thinking about you, and thought you might be lonely and could use a phone call.” It sent chills up my spine.
I spent months on the couch, and was able to get around only the last month of my pregnancy. JJ was born right on his due date. The first thing I though when I saw him was “How did I get such a beautiful baby?” His delivery was quite difficult–I tore a lot and had to have lots of stitches. JJ wasn’t breathing when he was born. The nurses worked on him and was able to get him breathing while the doctor worked on me. Later, I heard the nurses angrily ranting about something and realized that they were upset about what happened when JJ was born. Apparently the person responsible for feeling the oxygen hadn’t done her job, so there was no oxygen for JJ to get him breathing. They told her to get some oxygen STAT, but she took her time. So the nurses had to get JJ breathing with a manual device. It’s a miracle he was ever born or that he survived his birth.
A week after JJ was born, I was nursing him in bed when I began to hemorrhage. I bled a LOT. EJ rushed me to the hospital. I can’t remember exactly what happened that night. I think I had surgery. I get it confused with what happened a couple nights later. I was released from the hospital the next morning. My Mom invited me to come home with her, and I went even though our relationship wasn’t good, hoping it would mend things between us. I was back at the hospital the following night, hemorrhaging again. EJ said I lost a lot more blood this second time. He said that I needed more than five units of blood because I was losing blood faster than they could replenish it. He said I had bags of blood being given through both arms and legs. My blood pressure dropped to zero, and they pushed him out of the room. All I remember is EJ squeezing my hand, telling me that he loved me and not to leave him. I understood he wanted me with him, but sometimes felt a little irritated because I saw myself in a beautiful field of flowers. EJ told me that I kept describing being in a beautiful field of flowers and all the medical staff were crying and the Christian nurses were praying for me. I had surgery again.
While all this was going on, our mothers were in the waiting room arguing over who could better care for our baby. EJ sometimes left me to referee them. I later told them that what they put EJ through that night was awful, and that I loved them both and never wanted to hear either of them insult the other again. My Mom left the hospital. My Mother-in-law slept in my room and cared for JJ. The next morning, I had blood going into one arm and an IV in the other arm so I couldn’t bend either arm. The nurses held JJ up to me to nurse. A nurse said, “I bet you won’t want another baby any time soon.” I replied, “I would get pregnant again tomorrow if I could.”
I spent the next few weeks bedridden on the couch again. I was weak from blood loss and needed rest to replenish myself. I kept JJ in my arms and woke only to feed him and change his diapers. But WE MADE IT. We both survived. I LOVED my baby. He was beautiful and a delight.
This story is not yet finished. A year or so later, I wanted to get pregnant again. It wasn’t happening, so I was referred to an infertility specialist–one of the best in the country. We endured many questions, many tests. I charted my temperature each day for the best day to “try” to have a baby. I took fertility pills. Every month, the doctor said, “THIS month you will get pregnant.” But I didn’t get pregnant. Finally, when the doctor said that we ought to try artificial insemination, EJ said we had to stop. We couldn’t afford the procedures, and there came a time when we had to stop. I thought he was right, but it was difficult to stop. After all, THIS month might be the month I get pregnant. But we stopped. It was almost a relief to escape the monthly cycles of hope and crushing disappointment, although I felt grief.
It was difficult for me to see pregnant women or women with infants. My heart ached. I begged God for another baby. I didn’t get one. It was difficult when people asked me if I had “just one baby” and when I was going to have more. I used to have dreams that I was pregnant or that I was holding another baby. I’d wake with empty arms and felt that I had lost a baby all over again. I’d tell God it wasn’t fair and to make the dreams go away. It was difficult when JJ was was older and started wanting a sister. At Christmas, he’d look through the Christmas toy advertisements, ignore all the toys, point to a little girl holding the toy, and say, “I want that one for my sister.” My heart broke. “Why, God? Why?”
I asked God why He said that He would give us the desires of our heart when He didn’t give me the desire of my heart. I asked Him why He said that He answers our prayers if He never answered mine. If “no good thing does He withhold,” why didn’t God give me good things? But eventually, I realized that a husband, children, a nice house, a nice life…while they can be very good gifts, they aren’t the real desire of my heart. I realized that the real desire of my heart can only be filled by God Himself. HE is the desire of my heart. HE is the one who fills my deepest longings.
So I surrendered my dreams to Him. All of them, not just my dreams for more children. I told Him to give me the dreams that HE has for me, not the ones I think I want. I trust that God will give me the good things, and the good things I don’t have are things I don’t need. I trust HIS dreams for me. I don’t really know how to explain that it is really ok that I only had one child. The thing is, God truly has given me wonderful things. I have a husband who cherishes me, a child who is funny, witty, intelligent, and a delight. I have learned of God in deep ways. I have learned that He is there in the darkest days.
And something else: I learned the truth of 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, which says
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
I had friends who came to me when they struggled with infertility because “you have been there, and I know you understand.” When a friend began bleeding during her pregnancy, she frantically called me “because you have been there.” When our small group leader’s daughter miscarried her baby, we held our small group in her hospital room. She seemed fine, and I wondered if I was the only one who felt such grief over having a miscarriage. But at the end, she asked me to stay behind, and as soon as the door closed and we were alone, she cried, “Why does it hurt so much???” and we cried together. I was able to give her the comfort I knew she needed…because I had been there.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka [Weeping],
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield, O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
12 LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.