Closing a Chapter: Evan is BornNovember 24, 2013
I had really resigned myself to never being pregnant again. We had such a difficult time getting the three children we had, and Matt was hard set against trying for a fourth. Our four miscarriages were rough on us both, and he particularly couldn't stand to watch me go through the emotional pain of losing a child.
A person's a person, no matter how small! - Dr. Seuss "Horton Hears a Who" (Interpret the story how you want...I like to consider it in the light of miscarriage.)
It was a little painful for me. I had dreamed of becoming pregnant and having a child since I was very young, and my first experience had satisfied ALL of my desires. It was a surprise pregnancy in the first year of our marriage. Everything went well. I felt better than I had ever felt in my life. I was out raking leaves on our hilly yard only 2 weeks before our due date. (Of course, that is only because Matt was recovering from surgery for an appendicitis...maybe all wasn't completely perfect in that pregnancy either!)
I felt great during the pregnancy, and the labor and delivery, though long (I had consistent contractions for about 48 hours!) wasn't bad. I had an amazing epidural...I slept through the intense transition phase! We brought home a wonderful baby, who slept 5 hours straight the first night, and we sincerely enjoyed the sweetest moments of our married life. That was Xander's story.
After a couple of years went by, I surprised Matt with a (was it birthday?) gift...he unwrapped a positive pregnancy test. We were looking forward to our second child, and I was excited to have had a little more control over the decision and the announcement. We made a card for our parents to open from Xander on Christmas that year. It had a picture of a baby with a sonogram and said something about her becoming a big sister. I was about 9 weeks pregnant when they opened it. Less than a week later, we experienced our first miscarriage. Our hearts were broken.
It was the beginning of a tough road to obtaining our precious little gifts. I felt a strong ache...an obsession, really, with having another baby. I was afraid. The thought of never being pregnant again - never getting to experience the sacred 9 months, the labor and delivery, the bringing home and nursing a newborn - caused me unspeakable despair. I refused to accept it.
Fortunately, we were blessed with our next attempt. It took awhile to conceive, but when we finally did, we were fortunate to have a healthy baby and a decent pregnancy. I had nausea and "morning sickness," which I had never experienced, but for me, it was a hopeful sign. I also got to see the baby's precious little heartbeat as early as 6 1/2 weeks gestation. It was just a little white line ticking away at a healthy pace.
I fretted, naturally, throughout the pregnancy, but as the baby developed, I grew more hopeful that we would get to bring this one home. I predicted an Easter birth, and we were, sure enough, blessed with a precious little Easter gift that year in Eden. Her delivery was a little more difficult. I had an epidural, but it wore off a bit at the end, and I experienced a taste of heavy contractions during the transition phase. Yet, it didn't phase me. Almost immediately after she was born, I looked Matt straight in the eyes and said, "Don't even say a word, because we are NOT done!"
To say the next few years were difficult is such a dramatic understatement. I cannot properly describe the emotional pain and heartache we faced as we battled through pregnancy and miscarriage three times over. I miscarried two times right around Eden's birthdays. I grieved while she went into surgery for a tonsillectomy just after she turned two. I quietly grieved while I planned and hosted a birthday party for her when she turned three. I felt cheated of a new little life and of the enjoyment of the little life growing up in front of me. I struggled emotionally and spiritually, too!
But I could not give up! I still had this burning obsession inside me to get that experience again. I HAD to have another child. Maybe it was obstinance. Maybe it was a desire that God had planted in me to keep me trying for what He wanted to give me. Though through it all my hope would falter and I considered giving up, there was something that kept me pressing for that which I truly desired. I was determined.
And God spoke to me. He spoke a promise that I was hopeful to believe, and He answered it with a third child, our son, Dillon.
That pregnancy was a little rougher. It seemed that they grew progressively worse. Yet, I was so grateful, I endured with gladness...knowing in my heart this was highly likely to be my last pregnancy.
It had been so difficult to get our son, you might have assumed that the pregnancy, labor and delivery would be easy; but, as I continually learned, you don't always receive an immediate and logical "prize" for hard effort.
I resigned to being sick the first 18 weeks, and I was grateful for a better second half of pregnancy. I just laughed when I came to the hospital, my water broken and no real contractions in sight, and the nurse announced I had a less-than-common platelet issue which would keep me from having an epidural. It was comical until I hit transition!
We were in the hospital for 24 hours, 12 of those in hard labor, with our third child. I was certainly not "rewarded" for our trials with an easy labor! But my heart was full.
It was pretty much understood between Matt and myself that this was the final pregnancy for me. I didn't want to talk about it, but I silently resigned myself. As Dillon grew, I realized an imbalance that had me wishing for a fourth child, and I dropped the idea of adoption into Matt's lap. He was hesitant, and I didn't push. I was finally willing to consent to God's will, and I left it for Him to decide.
I was excited when we officially decided to pursue it. I actually began to appreciate the idea of not having to go through another pregnancy, labor and delivery. Matt hoped for a toddler, while I secretly wished for a newborn. We both liked the idea of another son to be a buddy to Dillon. Yet, we were open to whomever God wanted to give us.
We started the process with the foster care system, and quickly found that we were going to face hurdles. We wanted to foster-to-adopt, but they were very negative about "adoption only" couples. Still, we continued to pursue the required training. We attended a meeting, and at the end, the leader announced to us that we were most likely going to be disqualified for training because of our location (which they soon after quit covering because of loss of funding).
Next, we checked into international adoption. Though we considered it for a short time, we both knew that the cost and the travel really ruled out the idea for us.
Finally, we began an informal process with a local charitable infant adoption program. The cost was still high, but it was much less than international. However, our chances of adopting were questionable, because it was based on the mother's selection. We completed the initial paperwork and had to wait to get on a waiting list! (They never called to move us to the waiting list, by the way, until I was already 5 months pregnant.)
While we waited, Matt started pondering the idea of having a newborn and something stirred him to try again. We agreed on a short time-frame and conceived within a couple of months. I was still in shock that we were trying. I was even more shocked when we conceived so easily, and I remained a little dumb-founded throughout the next 9 months.
It started off easy enough, but within a few weeks, I faced the worst pregnancy sickness I had ever experienced. I was literally unable to function most of the day many days of the week. Some days, I would get in bed in the afternoon and not get out again. Often, I was in bed or asleep by 6:30 pm. (Rare for a 2 am kind of girl!). I remember being anxious that spring when I had to go just around the block to take the girls to piano lessons in the afternoon. Just getting out of bed would set me off, and I would be running to the bathroom. Many occasions, we would be out, and I would have to give the orders to rush home so I could be sick in my own bathroom. I have never seen my kids move so fast to get in the car as I did during that time, and I was proud...and grateful!
They remained troopers during the next 12 weeks. Xander and Eden stepped up their cleaning responsibilities. Xander learned to cook a little. I would give the girls directions from the bed, and they were very understanding and willing to help. They took care of Dillon while I slept, and I did my best to spend time with them when I WAS feeling well.
We got done what homeschooling we could. Matt's new schedule allowed him to help us out during the day, and he really kept us on track. Fortunately, we have our schedule down to a routine and substituting was pretty simple for him. I did the essentials that only I could do, and he covered the rest...including dishes and laundry and cleaning!! My ability to help was minimal. I did what I could, and everyone coddled me and covered for me. It was a miserable feeling - being sick all the time and not being able to fulfill my duties. I felt frustrated and guilty, and I vowed I would be glad to never be pregnant again!
A few weeks into the second trimester, my sickness finally began to disappear. I had more good days then, but I continued to face challenges that made the pregnancy tough to bear. I was diagnosed with low-platelets again. I had nightmares about the baby being kept from me after birth. I began to fear for his health and mine. I suffered through difficult bouts of depression. I had four or five excruciating nights with heartburn or gall-bladder pain so intense I thought I might die. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and had to begin glucose monitoring (4 pricks a day) and non-stress tests (2 times a week at the doctor's office). Then, I had to add in new hematologist appointments to monitor my platelets. I actually had to be checked into the hospital for monitoring once, because they were so low.
I was facing one challenge after another, with very few moments of peace in between. Even the small challenges began to overwhelm me.
Four weeks before our due date, our van broke down and our mechanic recommended not fixing it. We had to buy a new car that we could not afford without a loan, so that we would have enough car space for the whole family, once we brought the baby home.
Two weeks before our due date, the entire family came down with horrible respiratory illnesses. I was miserable with painful sinus and ear infections. We all (except Matt) ended up on antibiotics (and Matt probably should have been!).
My doctor, having mercy and grace, scheduled me for a 39 week induction. Just days before that, Matt's 90-year-old grandfather's health suddenly began to rapidly fail, and he died. We spent Sunday afternoon at his family visitation. We were supposed to go to the funeral on Monday morning and to our induction starting Monday evening.
I went into labor late Sunday night. By God's grace, it was a quick labor. I checked into the hospital (after several hours of consistent, intensifying contractions) at 1:30 am. The baby was born by 5:30 am. My mom's favorite image was of me walking, through contractions, back to the kitchen to grab my Coke before we left for the hospital. (Those of you who know me will understand...my doctor later said I was her first gestational diabetes patient to tell her that Coke did not affect my blood sugars. Honestly, it did not!) I just figured if I couldn't have an epidural...that was the least I could have.
It is unbelievable to me what the mind can accomplish. After all of that pain and discomfort, just days after Evan's birth, all I can remember are the sweet times of pregnancy...the bonding together of our family, the teamwork - we were really in it together...silly things, like trips to Price Chopper, just me and the kids, discovering the Chompers and earning free treats...the coddling, the attention, the grace everyone gave me, the love they showed...being lifted by Amazon Xander, the one I preferred to help me up when I struggled to lift my pregnant body...Xander pushing me up the stairs as I struggled to walk up them...the Oceans of Fun and Worlds of Fun passes we got, since I couldn't think about traveling anywhere...the two-mile walks we would squeeze in 2-3 times (or more) a week before Matt left for work (up until we got sick just a week before giving birth!).
Even though I know I felt miserable most of the 9-months, my mind glorifies the time, and I miss it. It is the closing of a chapter, and I know that, for me, it is the final chapter of my "pregnancy career." (But Xander says it is NOT closing a chapter, and I know she is wise and right, and I am emotionally postpartum).
I look back to the hospital time. (It is the one time in a person's life that a hospital stay is positive.) I want to cling to the moments just after his birth. They are so precious and sweet and rare...there is no time equal to it in life. The excitement, the attentions, the help and service, the tenderness and recovery. Even the labor and delivery becomes sweet, in retrospect. I dreaded the pain well in advance. I was in despair in its midst. But afterward, even labor and delivery becomes a glorified treasure I want to capture forever.
Yet, time fleets away from me, and I cannot keep it. The cord falls off, the newborn look fades, Matt's time-off slips away, and my body heals. I am no longer incapable. I can begin to fulfill my duties again, slowly progressing to more day-by-day, and after nearly a year, what was once a desire, a wish, a hopeful anticipation has come and gone - like Christmas exponentially intensified. I don't want this chapter to end!
But...I will swallow the lump in my throat. I will remember that I have recovered from these blues several times before and found a contented and happy place. I will turn over all of my sadness and fears and anxieties to God. I will turn my eyes to His Word. I will request and receive the prayers of my friends who know me and love Him. I will battle this depression with all the strategies I've got, and I will continue to move forward in this time-constrained world, hopeful and believing that there is something better beyond this...better even than the greatest bundle of joy we can obtain on earth.
I will allow this chapter to close, but only to open another - filled with hope of abundant life for the here and now AND for the life to come.