When Mother’s Day Hasn’t Arrived

The last time I shared here was exactly two years ago.  May 8, 2014. We were halfway through our year in Owensboro, and about six or seven months into our “formal diagnosis” of infertility.  That is to say, though we had been married for three years before this season got a timestamp, we had known all along.  We knew how thankful we were to have frozen little tiny pieces of DNA in a clinic before chemo and surgery and all the muck and mess that is cancer.  Because we knew as the weeks turned into months and the treatments became more serious that our chances of ever learning two would become three were faint.  So when we, perhaps a bit more I than we, finally came to a place where I could accept hearing the inevitable, we asked.  After three years of ‘probably not’ we sought confirmation.  We no longer wanted to hope for something that wouldn’t happen.  We wanted to hear the audible “No.”

And we did.  It was right as we were packing up and leaving Murray. (#wayfarersonthemove) You see, in the months leading up to that I started this very blog in anticipation of what I knew would be a difficult chapter.  And for almost three years now I’ve wanted to speak so many words here that I never felt brave enough to say.  I’m not sure why.  What I do know is that I’m not the only one.  I know there are so many other women who have spent countless tear-streaked nights somewhere between wanting to crawl under the covers and hide, and wanting to scream out their pain for the whole world to hear.

But to share is not only to acknowledge pain and hope for a listening ear or want for an embrace, it is to also open yourself up to opinions, the unwanted advice and the less than kind.  So I hid.  Mostly, if ever I shared bits and pieces of what was happening it was with a few close friends.  Sometimes it was on instagram.  I’ve actually gone back recently and post-tagged a lot of moments of the journey since then.  You can find them as #wayfarersgrowhope and perhaps some of you even remember those moments.  Maybe you knew what they were or maybe you prayed silently alongside the heartache you didn’t understand.

11-11-13 // …and God, I’m selfish.  But you know that.  And I do truly hope that my changing heart has not been a preparation to deny us biological children.  But you know that.   And truthfully, I don’t think that it is.  But it’s awfully hard not to let fear and doubt creep into my mind and heart.  Lord I want to have bold faith that you will carry us through this and that even when it’s tough that we come to you.  I know you want me right here, right now.  I know you have big plans for me right now and for our lives.  I haven’t forgotten that you will do extraordinary things in our lives in your time.  Please help me to remember that.

… I asked you what to pray and was immediately impatient.  Then I saw Isaiah 43.  I know much of it from singing the song…

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

Isaiah 43:1-3 (excerpt)

and then, just below, written years ago, the verse that changed everything:

19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19  NIV

And I tucked those words away.  And many that followed.  Many nights of frustration and tears.  It’s not as if I hadn’t already spent years strategically hiding things from myself on Facebook when nitwits announced they were pregnant.  That ship sailed a long time before.  But hearing our “No”… that validated me.  It made me sink into a worse place of feeling right.  If you’ve been there, you know.  You know the ugly things you feel and think.  It’s a pain that consumes you from the inside out and you try your damnedest to choke it down but sometimes you erupt into this horrible, angry person you never wanted to become.

We went through those first months in Owensboro and learned again to lean into each other.  I’m not sure how much I was leaning into God, but I told myself over and over, I’m still here.  God, I don’t know what you’re doing and I don’t know if I’m okay but I’m still here.  I don’t know if I can say I’ll trust you and love you even if you say No, but right now, I’m here.  And so I lived in that place.  “He has given me countless reasons to sing, but right now when I try, my voice cracks and tears stream and the singing has become a quiet hum of perseverance. But the melody is still there.”

My 27th birthday was July 1, 2014, in Owensboro:

…and on the brink of this 27th birthday, I remember that it was supposed to happen by now.  And it was supposed to have happened by Christmastime the last few years.  That there was supposed to be an answer.  But a baby is not a problem to be solved…

…So here we are, just shy of two weeks into my twenty-seventh year on this earth.  My life is so many things I could have never predicted for myself.  I say that with a thankful heart while trying to quiet the longings crying out in the background.  

I’m so tired so much of the time.  I’m in a fog, unable to raise my heart and eyes above the cloudy plain.  Exhaustion has hit on so much this past week.  I’m both more relaxed and more anxious than ever.  Because in this world, and in my BRAIN, I have so much to be anxious about.  This nonsensical brain the good Lord gave me.  This brain that doesn’t know NO.  This brain that is on All. The. Time.  But in my heart I’m still stamping my feet down and choosing joy.  I’m choosing the peace that surpasses understanding and logic.  I’m accepting that sometimes you just sit.  Sometimes you must be quiet and wait…

You see, during those months I stayed in touch with some doctors.  I had hope that maybe there were still surprise answers for us.  Something that might make the “No” a “Maybe.”  But time kept passing and the answers remained clear:  if we wanted to be pregnant, it would take a whole lot of work, a whole lot of money, and a whole lot of Jesus.  I’m not sure at that time if I knew that any of the three would be on our side.

9-13-14 //  I have waited for a baby for so long.  I have watched the best people and the worst people become mothers ahead of me.  The incredible ones that I feel guilty for feeling jealous of, and the ones who are in no place to be parents, who will surely suffer their children just by being the ones who bore them.  It has been the most frustrating, and and holy period of my life.  I have a good friend who will be soon bringing home a baby girl through adoption.  I remember the first time we sat together as slightly more than acquaintances and talked about her journey with infertility and sometime shortly thereafter in pain for someone I hardly even knew yet uttering a whispered prayer that I hoped (even through what I was sure would be our future struggle to get pregnant) that I really hoped I wouldn’t bring home my baby first.  I couldn’t bear to be that person in her life.  The potential that I (!!) could be the one she would look at and think, “why does she get her child first!?”  Because you can love someone fiercely and still mourn when you learn they’re pregnant if you can’t have the same joy.  I was preparing myself for a season I had suspected would be mine all along.  

Sometimes I feel like I even suspected pregnancy could be a challenge long before Paul’s cancer caused this ever rippling circumstance.  For all I know, my body can’t get pregnant.  Although for the time being, none of my doctors seem to think so.  They seem to primarily be in agreement that while I’m a little overweight and my thyroid is a bitch and I’m probably neurotic that this is all rather one sided.  We won’t get pregnant because cancer stole that from us.  The very poison we put into his veins to save his life took away the chance to create new life.  It is the worst kind of bittersweet.

By fall, we had spent almost a year in that town and despite many promises to ourselves we would never live in Murray again, it was the job we picked next.  It was the place that was chosen for us, again.  I was spent.  Right as we approached our one year mark in Owensboro, we realized how much we had loved it.  We had been in our own little love cocoon.  It was safe.  There is something really peaceful about the anonymity of living where you don’t have friends or people around you.  There were of course moments that made that hard, but in many ways, all it did was bond us closer together.  We lived in a little house and it was us against the world.  No social life, just work, and each other.  We wouldn’t trade that year for anything.  It messed us up and made us love bigger.  It was a very good year.

9-27-14 // Here we are again nearly one year  later and we are at a crossroads where we could be moving back (or at least paul could be working) in the place where we left.   And the thing is, I’m not even remotely sure how that makes me feel. I’m not sad, I’m not worried, or elated or anything at all.

Within a month, we had celebrated our fourth anniversary and he was starting his new job, back in our old town.  Again, just one year after leaving Murray, we spent a week at the beach, soaking our souls in the saltwater, and returned to a move.  (#wayfarersonthemovepartdeux)  But something was different.  For starters, we didn’t get to move right back.  We spent months hiding out with family while we looked for a place to live.  He commuted here to work every day and I mostly hid between the time that I wasn’t working.  By the time we had a place to move into, it was the last week of February 2015.

For a little over a year now, we have rebuilt a life, just where we left off, in Murray.  We moved into a little country “charmer” in the same neighborhood as our friends.  We started putting pieces back together.  When we began to settle back into our life, it happened at warp speed.  We thought perhaps we could see where life would take us next.  The constant of hoping for a family remained.  We began new, serious conversations very quickly.  I came back just in time to watch my dear friend still enjoying the first fruits of motherhood with her then 5 month old.  I began a new job where I saw another friendship start to grow with another momma in waiting, who was in the process of adoption.  My heart softened more to the idea of adoption for our family.  It’s not that it had never been on the table but it had never been something we realistically considered or pictured.  All at once I became more attuned to the stories of adoption around me.  Which is something I always enjoyed reading from families I followed online, but never knew whether it would be a part of my story.  In a rush to know more, in a place to desperately seek out a path for our future, we went to an adoption seminar last spring.  We learned more about what that could look like.  We never mentioned we went.  We had a few people who saw us there or heard through the grapevine.  But I wasn’t ready to have that conversation out loud.  My heart was breaking in new ways.  I was coming to a point where I was just ready.  Ready to know what the future held.  Ready for any answer.  Ready for God to tell us something, give us a door to walk through.

But truly, what happened over the following months was surprising, in hindsight.  I crumbled.  I can say now, looking back, that last summer was one of the most painful seasons I remember.  I can vividly recall the depression and the tears of desperation.  I hurt.  Every single day.  And still- “God, I’m still here.  I don’t know what to do with this but I’m still here.”   My poor husband listened to me cry a lot.  He can say now too that he walked on eggshells around me.  He too began to hope that no one would announce they were pregnant because he knew the condition I would be in when he got home to me.  I was not okay.  There was a lack of hope.  Maybe somewhere still, though, there was a quiet peace.  Just hang on another day.  This will not be my whole life.

At some point, I honestly think we just got so busy, that it began to be pushed beneath the surface.  Life went on, again.  Our fifth anniversary crept closer, and we finally started to settle back into ourselves again.  I don’t know when the fog began to lift, all I know is that eventually, it did.  Paul found a groove playing music in church and at home again.  I started to feel a little more content.  I had stopped thinking about what was going to happen with building a family.  I just knew that one day, we would have kids.  That had to be enough because there was simply nothing else to be said.  I didn’t know how or when.  I couldn’t spend more energy wondering the answers.

For our fifth anniversary, we escaped, for a whole week.  Our first true vacation since our honeymoon and it was bliss.  We ate and slept and rested WELL.  We spent time just enjoying each other and I remember how nice it was to be the two of us.  Things felt right.  Somewhere more toward the fall I started getting inquiries for work for summer 2016 but I just had this recurring thought that perhaps, just maybe 2016 could be our year.  Don’t cling too tight- you’ve thought that for five years.  But maybe, just maybe.  And because once in a while, hope grabs you fiercely, I turned stuff away.  It’s not like I have a high volume calendar these days anyway.  It’s not how things have been in a couple years, ever since we moved- but something said to hold onto that time.

As the year came to a close it felt foolish, because of course it’s still what I wanted, and we knew in our direst situation, we could probably figure out how to chase our dreams of family.  What we couldn’t figure out was how to make sense of that and everything else we wanted to see in our lives.  That when we dreamt of the money to start our family, we were simultaneously dreaming of money to buy houses or pay debts and a million other things.  It was all intertwined into one huge story that we prayed for the future.  It was messy.

A couple weeks ago we sat in church, and as he spoke about God’s character he said,”God does His best work in the biggest messes.” I don’t think I could have appreciated that statement for all it was worth until very recently.  If I am being honest, I don’t think I have truly been able to see some of the beautiful character of God until recently.  That verse that changed everything?  It came back to me recently.  In a way that was so obviously out of my control- a way that never should have happened, But God.   It has shaped my year thus far.

19 Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19 ESV

Today marks my sixth married Mother’s Day with empty arms and an empty womb.  This season has been the most painful and edifying journey of my life.  There were pieces in which I could see the purpose as they happened, but more often, it is only as the distance between those moments and the present has grown that I have been able to fully appreciate what I’ve been gifted in the wait.

If you are in the waiting season too, be it for a family or a spouse or a dream- whatever it is, you are not alone, today or ever.  If you haven’t found someone else to share with, please do.  It helps to have someone else who understands the pain you’re experiencing.  But most of all, I hope you know that at some point, you will start to have hope again.  You will see things in a new light.  You will see God’s hand at work in your life and all of the pieces will start to work together.  You will begin to see your way in the wilderness.

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{Photo by the lovely Sabrina Fields, taken at Pursuit Conference, April 2016}