Sunday, May 24, 2015

An attitude adjustment

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 

I've kind of made it a point to emphasize just how unplanned this pregnancy was. Just how not on board and unexcited I have felt about it. I realize I crossed a line somewhere from honesty to rottenness.

I wholeheartedly believe it is completely okay for women (and men) to react with shock, anger, frustration and a whole plethora of emotions on the opposite end of the spectrum from joy and elation upon learning of a pregnancy. One of the things that has helped me the most pre and during pregnancy are those friends who were open and honest about their less than happy pregnancy and parenthood feelings and experiences. In a world where we all try to paint on smiles and present perfect, polished selves, I think we need more people willing to be raw and authentic.

I realize I wasn't always being true to myself so much as I was wallowing in muddy self-pity. Constructing a pitiful sword to fall on. And God got the brunt of it. I'm ashamed of how I've acted toward Him these past couple of months. He can handle my anger and He can handle my frustration. I don't even think He's upset about my questions. But He sure doesn't deserve the ugly spirit I have had toward Him.

I'm finding it hard to put into words.

In the midst of my frustration and incomprehension I (somewhat unknowingly) withdrew a part of myself from God. As quickly (within 24 hours of learning of the pregnancy) as people began talking about the possibility of future pregnancies, Johnie and I had already beat them in discussing how we planned to prevent any other pregnancies. I was still mostly rational at that point. After learning about the antiphospholipid antibodies, logic went out the window. And so did some of my trust in God.

To His credit, He never stopped being so incredibly sweet to me. (Which I may forever be in awe of. Such gentle, loving responses to my brash pigheadedness.) But while I trusted Him a little bit, I didn't trust Him fully. And while I submitted to Him a little bit, I didn't submit my will fully. I went from "we can still trust God after this baby is born" to "how can we get my uterus taken out after this one."

Johnie made the clever joke that we're like Coach Calipari's players: One and done. (I really hope you laugh at that because it was a proud wife moment for me.) But I went further than that. I felt so done I wasn't open at all to any possibility of anything beyond this one. My heart was calloused and I basically told God, "I'll carry this one for you, but never again. Never. I don't care. P.S. I don't even know what you were thinking with this one in the first place. But, I'll do it. Just for you. I hope you're working on some kind of medal for me for it. Because, if you remember, I didn't actually want to do this. But I am. Since I love you. Seriously, though, I really don't think this was your smartest move."

I told myself He was trustworthy and out for my good and all-knowing. But my heart wasn't listening. Aches or pains that couldn't be soothed the way I normally find relief, plans that couldn't be made or followed through because of this pregnancy I would hold up to God. "Do You see now why I didn't want to do this? If this is supposed to be teaching me something, I'm not getting it. What could this possibly be accomplishing?!"

As I finally just poured out all my ugly feelings to a trusted Spiritual Director, she asked me simply, "Do you believe you've sinned?"

It took a couple minutes for me to fully process my immediate "probably" into a completely sure "definitely." Not to be overdramatic, but it was like the scales fell off my eyes. I had been a stinky brat to a sweet, loving God. I mean, like, majorly stinky.

But I confessed and we prayed and slowly my burden seemed lighter.

This pregnancy has felt like such a heavy burden. Shoulders drooped over, unable to take deep breaths, not knowing if I'd collapse with the next step heavy. Why couldn't I just mother children who are already here? I actually want to do that, and that's something I thought You wanted me to do. If You want to introduce a new life into this world, why -- of all places -- would You put it in my broken body which, You must know, is set on destroying healthy things? It felt like I was being set up for failure.

Again, words are still failing me.

I realized my perspective had been wrong and my heart had been wrong. I had listened to untruths. And I chose then to turn back to God. To accept His trustworthiness and His Sovereignty and, thank Him for it, His grace. Though it was spiritual chains being unbound, I felt physically freer. Like I could finally move and breath and unhunch my shoulders.

And the verse came to mind: "My burden is light."

How had I not recognized that such a heavy burden was not from God?

This is where I want to conclude with something profound or thought-provoking. Make some sort of renewed commitment or dream of a perfectly healthy pregnancy from here on out. I don't have any of that. I'm simply trying to take each day, each thing, as it comes. Sometimes I do that well, other times I do not. If you've read any of my previous posts you know this is a continual work for me.

P.S. You will probably be relieved to know that my plans to allow someone in a back alley of a foreign country to cut me open and rip out my uterus for a nominal fee have been canceled.

Note: I also feel like I need to add another post script for those who may be reading this and may be struggling through incredibly difficult trials. I, in no way, was trying to make some kind of doctrinal or theological statement, or say that just because something feels heavy or hard doesn't mean God isn't with you, or isn't present, or that you're doing something wrong. This is just my experience from one day of going through a surprise pregnancy I feel especially unequipped for. Please don't take it as anything more than that. From my experience, God gives special mercies through the especially dark times.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The appointment when nothing bad happened

Everything grows rounder and wider and weirder, and I sit here in the middle of it all and wonder who in the world you will turn out to be.
-Carrie Fisher

From the moment I learned I was pregnant I started thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Each day, each step, each new pregnancy thing I had to do, I thought of bad things that could happen. And sadly, some of my fears have already been realized. The (stupid) antiphospholipid antibodies. Spending two and a half weeks in bed while lupus and migraines got to reign my body.

At eleven weeks pregnant, I prepared for my fifth (fifth! Ridiculous.) pregnancy-related doctor's appointment with trepidation. My cheerful midwife thought it would be a great idea to schedule the appointment the Friday before Mother's Day. That way I could hear my baby's heartbeat -- and maybe even have a sonogram -- as a sweet first Mother's Day gift.

It was a nice gesture, but it sounded like a horrible idea to me. How sad to find out my baby didn't have a heartbeat, or has a heartbeat but some tragic abnormality, going into Mother's Day weekend. Not only would I grieve but so would all our friends and family, on a weekend filled with celebration. I had thought about how and when to tell them the bad news in the best way possible. Couldn't we postpone such bad news until some normal weekend? How about wait until after Mother's Day to get the bad news?

I know that it's possible that I could have a healthy little baby to snuggle in November if God sees fit, but it's kind of in His hands. I don't know for sure exactly what He's going to do in this situation. As far as my own self goes, I feel like the odds are stacked against me and this baby. So I tried to steel myself for more bad news that Friday afternoon.

Johnie and I planned for heavy construction traffic, and actually made it to Lexington more than an hour before my appointment and did a little shopping. We got to the office pretty close to my appointment time and settled in to wait for a long time, but were called back immediately. Thank God, my blood pressure was normal - again.

The nurse pulled out the doppler to find the baby's heartbeat. I held my breath, reassuring myself it was okay if she didn't find it. She said she did find it, but I couldn't even tell it was a heartbeat. She repositioned the wand and I heard it. Strong and steady. Like beautiful music.

I went through the exam with my midwife and we went over my bloodwork. My numbers had slightly decreased. Still no bad news. She didn't mention the sonogram, so I assumed we wouldn't be getting one that day. But she excused herself and wheeled in the machine. Once again I held my breath until the image came on screen. I could see a head and body but couldn't make out much more.

She was talking about arms and legs and a pulsing umbilical cord. I didn't see any of that, but Johnie and I began a chorus of "Is that normal?" that lasted for the rest of the appointment. Then, she saw the baby's little hand. "Oh, see that hand," she squealed. "And that tiny little thumb!"

"I see it!" Johnie said.

I felt like Rachel on Friends when she couldn't see her baby. "I don't see it," I sheepishly admitted.

The midwife froze the shot, enlarged the image, and scooted the machine closer to me. "See?" And finally I was able to see it.

She printed out that shot, and then took another picture of the head and body and printed it out for us.

"What about the other hand?" Johnie asked.

"Oh, it's in there," she said.

Silly husband, I thought. Worried that the baby doesn't have two hands just because we only saw the one. I chuckled a little.

We waited while she added another roll of printer paper and watched the baby for several more minutes. I was able to make out things more clearly now and was just in awe getting to watch. S/he did a flip. At one point, s/he brought his/her hands up to his/her face. We all laughed. I wondered if maybe the baby could feel the pressure from the sonogram wand and was distraught that his/her comfortable home was being disturbed. Hands to face, "Is this how it's going to be in here now?!?"

And then it hit me. Maybe Johnie's concern had rubbed off on me. I hadn't seen the baby's legs. I could clearly see the arms - even the fingers and thumbs. I could see eye sockets and a nose and mouth. Why were there just two little nubs where the legs should be? I decided I would ask the midwife at the end of the sonogram and assured myself that we would be okay even if our baby didn't have legs.

Just then, the baby kicked both legs out with a flourish. I was able to see them clearly. I thanked God and started crying. What a fast and sweet response to my worried heart.

I had prayed and prayed throughout my pregnancy that my baby be protected from any illness in my body, and that the Lord please protect my baby from any mistakes I am already making as a mother. I pray throughout each day for the baby to feel calm and peaceful, safe and loved. Protected from anything bad in my body or in the world.

I couldn't help but watch the sonogram in awe. It felt like my prayers were being answered. I know that bad things could still be discovered, but my baby looked healthy and was active. It seemed like s/he was chillin'. Hangin' out. Exploring his/her own small little world. Oblivious to any bad thing. Exactly how I hoped my baby would look.

When we got out to the car, I just started sobbing. Johnie was a little confused, and worried.

"Of all the ways I imagined this appointment could go, I never let myself think about the possibility of nothing bad happening."

It was such a sweet gift from God. I could only feel thankful. And a little hope started bubbling up inside of me: What might it be like if we actually do get to have a healthy baby?