This is our story of grief. This is a necessary prequel for what I’ll be writing about Advent; for an explanation of why, see this post.
I was so happy. Jared was terrified out of his mind, but I was unspeakably happy. I didn’t realize how much I had longed for a child until we found ourselves pregnant. An “accident” – three months away from leaving our jobs and moving to seminary, with no prospect of a steady income, the timing seemed spectacularly bad, but I so didn’t care. Within three days I had read my first parenting book and cast on a pair of booties in my favorite leftover green sock yarn. It was one of the happiest few weeks of my life. I felt a new sense of purpose, a completeness to my personal raison d’etre that had seemed half-baked since we were married. Finally, I thought, we were participating in the whole purpose of marriage. I would have my dear hope of being a parent by 25.
So you can imagine what it was like when it all came crashing down. The night of my first miscarriage was easily the worst night of my life. Not just because of the physical pain, which was among the worst I’ve experienced over a protracted period, but because of the sheer heartbreak. There’s a prayer in the Episcopal Evening Prayer service that prays for “those who work or watch or weep this night.” Now I know the sort of person that prayer is talking about.
I did my best to learn from the experience – I still believed God had a plan for us in all this. I learned the statistics – 1 in 5 pregnancies end between testing positive and week 8. This wasn’t that unusual. We would be okay.
So it almost seemed like an affirmation from God when we got pregnant again a month later. With my reproductive oddities (which I won’t detail on the internet) it seemed like a miracle. Seemed. We rejoiced when we passed the point where we’d lost the first baby. We counted down the days to week 8, when we could breathe a little easier. Since we were about to move, we told our families, our church, my coworkers.
The second loss, I knew right away. I knew in my gut at the first sign that it was over. We went through the whole ritual again, more publicly this time. Families from church brought us meals. I packed. We moved a week and a half after.
The first year of seminary was an adventure. We adjusted; we made new friends. We made the most of our tiny apartment. We told a few people; I got some counseling. My twin nephews, due within a week of my first, were born early, so I didn’t have to deal with the confluence of dates. I discovered that if I meet babies in person, and get to hold and hug them, I can accept them for who they are as individuals, and not as symbols of what I was supposed to have. I still had bad days, but they got further apart.
By the summer, we were more or less ready to start trying, for real this time. Natural Family Planning is terrific in that I knew exactly when a pregnancy was possible, but it also meant an excruciating two weeks while we waited long enough to take a test. We finally had a maybe in July, and those two weeks made me come fact to face with every emotion I hadn’t dealt with from the past year. The bitterness, the jadedness, the utter lack of trust in God to be faithful to me. But I waited. Then we tested positive.
I tried to be optimistic. But I couldn’t attach. I couldn’t plan for the future. I couldn’t yet look at the stash of pregnancy/parenting books that we had hidden away so I didn’t have to see them when I passed the shelf. I prayed for viability, praying God would hear my words and not the doubt in my heart. But four days after the test, I wasn’t really all that surprised when I miscarried again. Completely shattered, but not surprised.
That third strike did it. The torch of optimism and hope that had been already smouldering was put out. There was no more fighting it: I was completely angry at God, and I wasn’t going to try to mitigate it with positive self-talk or Bible study. Jesus was my friend, and as far as I was concerned, he had betrayed me.
I underwent an amazing transformation as a result of being really, truly angry at God. I found that a ton of things in my life that I thought I was doing out of loving obedience, it turns out I was doing them because I wanted God to accept me. Suddenly, I didn’t care anymore, and all those things were out the window. Quiet times? Nearly ceased. Being nice to people? Only when it suits me. Evangelism? Bad plan. Being a good little Evangelical Christian? The finger. Clean language? I only keep it G rated for the blog.
Somehow I had taken all the expectations that anyone had ever laid on me, all the perceived social pressures I’d been collecting since the trauma of middle school, and come under the impression that God laid them on me. When I went back to school in September, the only environment where such expectations are laid on me, made me realize with a laugh – God so does not care. Not all like that. It turns out he is on my side. Rebelling against him was my first act of really trusting him.
Time to shift into the present tense, because this is where I still am. I don’t have a good conclusion, because I don’t know what’s next; I don’t even know what happens tomorrow. But every few days, every now and then, I have found myself not wanting to be angry anymore. The veil was lifted, and I saw that I had much farther to go on the road to wholeness than I thought. At first that was unspeakably frustrating. But I refused to give up, and there was nowhere else worth going, so all in a huff, I took a few steps forward at a time. It wasn’t resolution. It still isn’t resolution. There’s hope in Christ, and in the fact that I’m not dead. Maybe we’ve all been at the point where that has to be enough.
After my original topic post, several of you shared an interest in sharing your stories of grief. Sharing my story is an important part of my process, and if you want to do that, let’s do it in a way that gives that as much respect as we can give each other. If you are on ravelry, I’m starting a topic in the Osborn Fiber group, where we can all share and discuss as peers: Click here to join. And thank you. In advance, just thank you.
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face.” – Job 13:15
“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.'” – John 6:68