Monday, July 20, 2015

The Crossing - Part 1 of 3

This is not a birth story; it is the story of our crossing from the island of infertility into the land of parenthood.  We waited for a long time to make this crossing and when it finally happened, it was far from what we'd always dreamed becoming parents would be like. I like to think that the years we struggled to have children prepared us for this crossing, but maybe not.  Maybe instead, those years and this crossing prepared us for what still lies ahead. Only God knows.

This story has a happy ending, and to this day, I am not sure why.  We didn't expect it, certainly did nothing to earn it, and even less to deserve it.  Why did everything work out the way we prayed for it to when, for so many, it does not?  I do not know. I don't think anyone really knows.  Those kinds of questions are the great mysteries of this life that we are not meant to solve.  All I know is that we were blessed, not favored by any means, but blessed.  We have been entrusted with much and now, much more will be expected of us (Luke 12:48).

It was during the infertility years and even more, during this crossing, that I asked so many, many times, "Why me?"  "Why us?"   It took years for me to understand that it was a pointless question, really, because there is no satisfactory answer.  I suppose if God gave us the answer to that one, we'd have no reason to long for our greatest crossing yet to come. and the only crossing that truly matters.


For John.

It was December 9, 2009, and you were about to change everything.

Two weeks before that, a miracle had occurred, and you had entered our world. However, I was far from being ready to accept that you were real when I looked at that positive pregnancy test with your father on that Wednesday morning.  “This won’t end well,” was all I could think, and I gathered my lunch and headed to my office, where I was determined to bury any thought of you with my piles of paperwork and the distraction of our annual office Christmas party.

I wish I could say that there was rejoicing; I really do.  That was the way it was supposed to be, and the way your father and I had imagined it would be all those years ago.   Instead, now we guarded our hearts and prepared for the worst because, after almost nine years of trying, and after saying goodbye to the only baby we’d ever conceived four years earlier, we were convinced that we would never know the joy of having you in our lives.

The first few days after we discovered you existed were long and trying.  Your father and I felt the stress of waiting for blood work results and our mood was tense and anxious.  When the doctor called and said everything looked good so far, I felt relief, but not peace.  The next eight months, I knew, would be the longest of my life.  We called your grandparents soon after, and gave them our news, but in my diary, I wrote that their response was “anti-climatic” because they too, could no longer picture your father and me as the parents we longed to be.  The image of me as a mother holding her child in her arms had faded away over the years.

The next few weeks were exhausting in every way imaginable.  Every cramp in my abdomen convinced me that your time with me would be short.  Instead of giving me hope, the soreness from the weekly progesterone injections served only as a daily reminder of how much at-risk my pregnancy was.  The biggest thing that I felt grateful for at the time was morning sickness that was not too severe, thus allowing me to continue through my workdays with the same intensity and fervor that had been my antidote to all the depression and sadness I’d been fighting during the past several years.  On December 28, 2009, I saw you for the very first time, the flicker of a heartbeat, and I thanked the Holy Innocents for this gift on their feast day, and I prayed that you would not become one of them. 

The new year came and went and you grew inside me.  My doctor seemed surprised by how well you and I were doing, and after a few months, the progesterone injections were discontinued.  My pregnancy seemed to be progressing normally, but I still could not bring myself to believe that you would one day be real and sleeping in my arms.  Other than our immediate family, your father and I shared the news of your existence with no one and our family kept our secret.  We had all become accustomed to keeping our pain to ourselves. 

Eventually, I had to buy maternity clothes and could no longer hide you.  When our co-workers and friends discovered that I was expecting, there was astonishment.  Your father and I had fit their image of the “childless by choice” career-couple well.  As a 41-year old woman who had been married almost a decade, it had been assumed that children were not part of our future. To see my protruding belly now shattered every perception that others had of me, and I took a certain amount of pleasure in finally being shed of that image of me that reflected nothing of the person I was inside. 

The second trimester was a time of healing for me both physically and spiritually.  As the morning sickness subsided and eventually disappeared completely, I found myself relishing in a newfound energy.  Your father and I would take daily walks down our countryside lane each evening and talk about our future with you.  What would your name be?  Would you be a boy or a girl?  Would you be a red-head like your daddy was?  Spiritually, I was growing as well, and my prayers of petition that had been endless for years slowly became prayers of thanksgiving.  “This could really happen to us,” I thought.  “Why not?” 

In mid-April, we went in for our 20-week ultrasound.  We were excited because we had been told that this was the point at which we would learn if we had a son or a daughter.  We had decided that we wanted to know your gender as soon as possible. Because the fear of losing you was still great in our hearts, we wanted to know as much as we could about you for as long as you were ours.  When we walked out of that sonography room, we thanked God for giving us a son.  A son!  Even more, our sonographer had indicated we had nothing to fear, and we thanked God for a child who was growing and healthy. For once, we felt peace.

Another month passed.  Of my entire pregnancy, those four weeks turned out to be the best of all.  It was spring and everywhere around me, I saw life was bursting forth and I rejoiced in it. We planted our garden, took walks in the woods, and made plans for our future with you.  I finally felt confident enough to set up a baby registry, and your grandmother began planning a baby shower.  My blood work and regular checkups indicated that all was going well with you, and each day was better than the one before it.  I had never felt so incredibly blessed.

But then one day, your father called me while I was at work.  “They want us to have another ultrasound,” he said, “and this time, they want it done at the perinatal center.”  He went on to say that he had asked the doctor’s office why this was needed, and the nurse had only said that they wanted to keep a close eye on me because I was still considered high risk and that it was just a precaution.  “Plus, we get a 3-D image of our baby,” your father told me, which made me excited, and I naively looked forward to the day.  And so, two days later, we got another look at you, and our world turned upside down.

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