Still Positive After All These Years.

I’ve come a long way in making peace with the infertility that has affected my life for so many years. A long ways. I still don’t like it one bit, but I am no longer angry about the hand I was dealt. If nothing else, my experience these last nearly 10 years of “trying” to bring children into our family (and for me, even before that the years of single life felt alot like being “infertile” due to marital status…that is how much I longed to be a mother) has given me such a different perspective on things like compassion for others, the basic human need to know and be known, to tell our stories and be heard. I can no longer assume I know where someone is coming from. There’s always something more behind their words. It’s my place to listen and let them be heard.

I’ve also learned that diligence and determination won’t always get me what I want, but almost always what I NEED. There is a difference between those two. I thought things would be one way. They aren’t. They are another. And I live blessed. It doesn’t mean that I’m glad I am infertile like I hear so many mothers through adoption say. They’re glad because their infertility seemingly “brought” their children to them. I won’t go there. My infertility has been a part of my journey to my beautiful babes, but I give credit to ttheir other mothers for the fact my children are on this earth. I give their other mothers credit for the choice they made on behalf of their children to place them in my family. My infertility, as I have said before, has little to do with being a parent. It is part of how I see myself as a woman but not as a mother.

And further, I’ve also discovered and this is probably the most lasting effect of my whole experience of infertility and its associated losses is just how fickle grief really is. The losses I’ve felt have been very real to me… the loss of the dream of a life being a certain way, when things haven’t worked out as I planned, and for me the very real loss of a child through miscarriage. There are times when I’ve been able to convince myself, not that I was never pregnant, but that really, in the end I had much less to grieve because my baby was gone from me so soon. I never heard a heartbeat. Or saw her little bean body on an ultrasound. All these things have at times tricked me into believing that maybe my grief was unnecessary, or made up, or overblown. To me often, it feels like there is no longer any tangible evidence that I lost a child. Do I even have anything to grieve?

And the other loss, that of life being a certain way, and for me, that included experiencing the joys (and not so fun stuff) of pregnancy, of being a part of God creating someone in that way, and knowing I was the one who brought my children in the world, knowing I was their only mother, all these things have added up to being at times, larger than the reality of the blessings in my life. It’s really hard work to grieve “what might’ve been”. It is really hard work at times, to ‘take what comes. And be grateful’.

All of the above, honestly, is a grand digression to what I experienced last night which is the real reason for this writing. And I just wrote all this so far put this experience in perspective, for me or for anyone who might read.

I was doing last night what has become my life right now… packing. We are definitely making progress, in spite of the mounting weariness. We will get moved one way or the other that is for sure. And last night, AuntieDude blessed me by coming over and taking the kids to her house after she got off work. They were there for four hours and what a blessed amount of packing I got done!!!

So I was here, all alone, busting through the basement… toys, baby gear, Hubby’s work clothes, books…. and then there was the box. There. On top of the old fridge.

It’s Jamie-Noel’s box. The fact that it was on top of the old fridge in the basement and not somewhere sacred like my bedstand should be an indication of how far along I’ve moved in grieving my infertility and loss. There it was, her box, and without thinking I opened it. And immediately the tears (and as much of a sappy emotional person I am, yesterday was not really that kind of day, honest!!!) flowed.

There was the card from my Mom and Dad that came with the beautiful Thanksgiving arrangement they sent us after we told them that after all this time, we were finally pregnant. That card says, God bless you. It’s a miracle. Psalm 139… With Love, Mom and Dad. And then another little card from them, that I recall being attached to a just as beautiful winter arrangement a short month later that reads simply… I’m so sorry. We are praying. Romans 8:28. With Love, Mom and Dad. 

And all the cards from friends and family after word got around about our loss. These cards reminded me that for all the hardships of ministry and of living our infertilty experience literally in front of God and everybody, there were many blessings and kindnesses that come from being their pastor. Not all, but most, just plain loved us. For no other reason than they believed God had brought us to them. And looking back I realize how much our loss was their loss even though it irked me at the time because all I felt was that I was living this while they all went on with their lives, and their demands for who I should be and what I should do. They loved, in their way, and blessed us in our time of grief.

And so many women came out of the woodwork, sharing their stories of loss as well. Hubby’s 80 year old missionary aunt sent us a letter speaking her losses… I ache with you in you in your loss. I know how it feels for B and I lost a baby when I was four months pregnant. It really hurts… but God’s grace is always sufficient. You can’t build it up, but it is there when you need it. Thanks for sharing the heartache with me. Now you have a treasure in heaven. Sometimes it is hard to understand when people say “God makes no mistakes”. But someday we will understand (not that it will matter then). Don’t clutter your mind with “why”. There is no sensible answer to it all this side of Heaven. 

And then there’s a note handed to me through the offering plate in an envelope marked “For Pastor Tammy Only”. It was given to me by someone I hardly knew at all, mostly because she didn’t seem to want any friendship. It was almost a friend of a friend kind of relationship as her sister was my closest friend so we got thrown in the same circle at times. I didn’t know her much but this little note, a worn piece of paper obviously well loved, carried lots by her, meant the world to me. It was a poem, I later found out, handed to her the same way by one of her nurses who cared for her during one of the seven miscarriages she had between her first and second child. And at the time, it touched my profoundly that she would give me this piece of paper, something that meant so much to her. And last night, it touched me again, brought me back to that place almost six years ago, just as if it had happened yesterday. And the tears flowed as I read. It says this…

Just Those Few Weeks For those few weeks  I had you to myself. And that seems too short a time To be changed so profoundly.

In those few weeks I came to know you… and to love you. You came to trust me with your life. Oh, what a life I had planned for you!

Just those few weeks. It wasn’t enough time to convince others  how special and important you were. How odd, a truly unique person has recently died and no one is mourning the passing.

Just a mere few weeks and no “normal” person would cry all night over a tiny, unfinished baby, or get depressed and withdraw day after endless day. No one would, so why am I?

You were just those few weeks my little one… you darted in and out of my life too quickly. But it seems that’s all the time you needed  to make my life so much richer and give me a small glimpse of eternity. 

By Susan Erling (c) 1984

After reading through the cards, and pulling out the dead flowers, there it was, sitting in the bottom. The lone pregnancy test I took back then. And after all these years, as my little lost baby would be six this Saturday had she been born to earth, there it was, still positive. And the tears flowed again for it confirmed that my baby was real and I dare not convince myself otherwise, or say “oh that’s a long time ago. She doesn’t matter now”. Because she does. She was my child. I loved her then and I love her now and even though she was here for what seemed like a blink of an eye she was still very real, and my child. And at times, even though my spirit is not pricked with grief as often at all, the sadness remains. And well, no use denying it. Because a positive pregnancy test and tears that still come easily are the marks of the realness of her, my first child, who would be six.

I put the box away having exhausted the tears. I snapped out of the moment not even knowing how long I had been standing there. I got back to packing again and as usually happens, when my hands are busy, my head is working things over. And the thought hit me…. she just may be the third child I am missing. I always dreamed of three children, and well, I have been blessed with three, one in heaven and two gorgeous miracles here on earth. I know that our life would most probably be so very different had Jamie made it to earth. She may have been an only child. And we most likely wouldn’t have moved to adoption as soon as we did which would mean we would have missed Bug. And probably Si too. And I’m not even going to go through the mental calisthenics to decipher what all that means at all except to say life would have been different.

And I am so blessed by life as it is now. So as I packed Bug’s little ride-on elephant next to Si’s enormous pile of blocks all I could think of was what Hubby’s Aunt said… His grace is sufficient. It is enough. I don’t have to figure the rest of it out now or ever.

I so want to live grateful whatever comes. I pray this sacred moment, standing beside the big freezer amid myriads of boxes is yet another healing step in doing just that.

And remembering you too, Jamie… someday we’ll see you.. someday… and we miss you.

But speaking of positives, it seems to me now more than in a very long time, my heart is fuller than full, even through the tears, I can say that. Thanks be for that.

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