January 8, 2011

How We Got Here

Three weeks ago I sat in a leather chair next to my husband. Across from us sat our doctor behind a large mahogany desk. Next to her sat a computer monitor and a box of tissue. She was explaining to us how my blood tests revealed that my eggs were no good – expired, you might say – and this was the reason for the two miscarriages I suffered earlier this year. My first reaction was “Wow, this really is my fault” because I am 41 and have no business trying to start a family at my age. But this was faulty reasoning. The truth was buried in our hearts.

The days following that meeting were filled with grief, desolation, and a sense that my life was in ashes. How did I get to this point? Why did we put off pregnancy for so long? I began looking into my past, trying to find some answers. What began to emerge was a pattern of viewing the world as hostile to my body – a world that wouldn’t hesitate to destroy me if I had a baby.

When I was young I made some bad choices. The result was deep guilt and sadness. I eventually packed these feelings away and moved on. I vowed never to make this mistake again, and remained terrified of becoming a single parent. 

While all this was happening, I was growing up in a broken world. My parents divorced when I was six. My grandparents’ marriage was miserable. My friends grew up in divorced – sometimes abusive – homes. Somewhere along the line I began to  believe that marriage + kids = divorce and misery. Where were the happily married couples that reared responsible children? What did it really mean to be successful and happy in this world? My aunt and uncle were the one exception, but there simply weren’t enough examples of healthy, long lasting marriages to disspel me from my viewpoint.

I decided to enjoy being single, and throughout my 20’s I pretty much succeeded in that. But inside I was lonely, and I knew this party couldn’t last forever. I started asking God to send me a good man, a husband. And I met that man through an online dating service at the age of 30. We were married soon after.

My husband, meanwhile, had grown up with his own share of heartaches and brokenness. His parents divorced when he was 16 – you know, during those incredibly unstable teenage years when you don’t know who you are yet and are struggling to understand the world as it is. He left his Texas home at 19 and never looked back, and instead pursued college in Colorado where we met nine years later.

Neither of us wanted anything to do with babies, so it was easy to avoid discussing it. Together we enjoyed our private little world and indulged ourselves in the pleasures of free time. We were free to travel on a whim, free to go out to dinner while our friends complained about babysitters. It made us feel like we were younger than we really were – like somehow we had cheated the system and were truly independent while others suffered the shackles of childrearing.  In our mid thirties, we started entertaining the idea of starting a family. But there wasn’t enough money. There was no insurance. There wasn’t enough room in our little two-bedroom condo. I had bad circulation in my legs and we didn’t think that me being pregnant was such a good idea. We were fully armed with reasons and excuses.

So we straddled the fence between indecision and faulty reasoning for years. We thought we were comfortable, but deep in our hearts the dream of having a baby was starting to emerge. Once in a while I would bring it up – I wasn’t getting any younger, after all. But we had a mountain of reasons why it wasn’t a good time. We had to sell the condo first, we had to have good insurance first, we had to pay off our debt first. As we started to feel the struggle within, we just couldn’t bring ourselves to get pregnant of our own free will. I began to ask God to break through these barriers.

Then one night something happened. We were just a little careless and got pregnant. When I saw that test strip turn positive, my head started spinning like a current in the ocean. Was I terrified? Was I excited? Was this the answer I had been looking for? I shared the news with my husband, and together we navigated uncharted waters of emotions.

All the things we were worried about turned out to be silly excuses. My doctor didn’t think my bad leg circulation would be a problem. Our friends reassured us that space and money weren’t nearly as big an issue as we thought. We had good insurance. And the condo? Well, a baby didn’t take up too much room – we could just keep the bassinette in our bedroom until we could move. We started to get excited and optimistic. We were relieved to find that we didn’t need to worry.

Twelve weeks later, however, all of this came crashing down in the emergency room as a doctor told us I was miscarrying. Everything stopped. We were stunned with an acute grief and deep sadness that swam through our hearts with endless questions. My only response to my husband when the doctor left us alone was, “I don’t want this dream to end.”

Why? Why now? How did this happen and what can we do to keep it from happening again? I also asked questions in my own heart: Did I really come this far, overcoming everything in my life, only to be left with nothing? I felt betrayed by my own body.

So we tried again after a couple of months and got pregnant again. Six weeks later I miscarried again, and on the advice of my doctor we sought the help of a specialist. And so, there we were a few weeks later, sitting across the mahogany desk as the truth of our situation stabbed us in the heart and flattened our lives. I compared it to a nuclear blast – it was devastating, but at least the war was over. We now know the enemy, and it is time.

As my husband and I grieved together, we started talking about how we ended up in this place. I confessed my fears of having children, and he talked about how guilty he felt for ignoring the issue for so many years. It was then that we began to understand how we had spent our lives listening to lies.

November 21, 2010
I had been wandering through a book store, silently praying for God to show me something – some kind of direction – when I came across a book called “Inconceivable.” It was one woman’s story of triumphing over a similar diagnosis through various avenues of self care. I bought it, and it sat on my counter for at least a week before I read it. The author talked about the many things she tried, and all the changes she made to her diet and lifestyle. These were intended to balance hormones, focus energy, and reduce stress among other things. I felt like I had a direction – like, if I could make these reasonable changes then maybe God would choose to bless me in return.

But the more I looked into these things, the more I uncovered the philosophies that underpinned them. Chakras and Chi and Earth Mother and that sort. If I drink false unicorn root infusions or take yoga classes or get acupunture, am I dabbling in the occult? Where is God’s word in all of this, and how can I possibly discern His will or know what He wants me to do? Today I looked up Christian Herbal Healing and did not find anything promising.  Instead I perceive a profound separation between Eastern and Western medicine, and suspect that we do ourselves a disservice by refusing to acknowledge both even if we disagree with the philosophies behind them. But I need more than a hunch to go on if I am to pursue the Truth.