Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sadness and Gladness

Today's passage is Luke 1:5-17

I really wish I could hang with Elizabeth for a bit. I relate to her a lot. I'm not sure how she'd relate to me, armed with my smartphone, washing machine, dishwasher, central heat and air, and my programmable coffee pot…. She'd probably look at me and think "Dang girl, you've got it made."

But boy would I have so many questions for her. I so relate to doing everything "right" and still not getting the desired outcome: a child. She was elderly when she and Zechariah finally conceived John the Baptist, so I'd want to hear what each passing year was like for her. I can't imagine that it was good. Today, a lot of people choose to live child free. You won't ever hear any judgement from my corner about that choice, mind you. Children should only come to people who desperately want them. If people don't want them, they won't get any less love from me. In fact, they may get a hug for being honest enough with themselves to not conform with the social norm with how a family "should" look. 

In Elizabeth's day, though… Children were not only something to be desired for the sake of having the pleasure of raising them, or even a just a social norm, they were the that era's version of a 401K or an IRA. They took care of you after you were too old or sick to care for yourself. Fancy retirement villages with golf and tai chi didn't exist back then. To be childless in those days was to be without a safety net for your future. 

I can't imagine the combination of sorrow and fear. I have so many questions I'd love to sit down and ask Elizabeth over coffee. I'm sure my husband would have a ton of questions for Zechariah on how he stayed strong to dry his wife's tears while he found time to shed his own.

Scripture tells us that their prayers were answered in a big, big way. God didn't give them just any child, He gave them John the Baptist. This child came forth to prepare the way for redemption, hope, grace, and joy. He prepared the way for Jesus! Whoa God. What an answer to a prayer!

God heard their prayer. It just took time.

As it relates to me, my prayers gradually changed over time. I used to wail, weep, cry, beg, and plead with God to please, please, please, give me another child. I bargained with Him: I'll do anything you want, if You please, please grant this desire of my heart. 

It was an extremely low place, I won't lie. It's been 6 years of waiting. It felt like God was telling me I was a bad mom through not giving me another. I even hate the word "infertile". It makes me feel like a defective model. I've gone through so many medical procedures and been given hope just to have it crushed. Then, we were told the worst news, it's extremely unlikely we will ever have more kids without in vitro, which we chose not to pursue. We also were not candidates for adoption, because my husband wasn't an American citizen. It was another door closed to us. Now that he is a citizen, enough time has gone by that we are unsure if we even want to press the issue further. It's not a closed option for us, but it's not something we've actively explored either.

Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term following the birth of one or more biological children. I'm not going to get into trying to decide if secondary infertility being better or worse than primary infertility, I'll just say that secondary infertility has its own challenges. It's the joy of loving your child{ren}, but frustration or anger for not having more. It's worry or guilt for how those feelings affect your existing child{ren}. For me, it's been sorrow and guilt for not being able to give my son a sibling. In my experience, people aren't supportive to couples experiencing secondary infertility. I briefly joined a support group encouraged by my doctor, and the people struggling with primary infertility have said things to me like "at least you have one" {not judging this position, I would probably feel the exact same way!} People who aren't struggling with any form of infertility have been rude or even hostile to us by stating that our sadness must be ungratefulness for the child we do have. I don't even know how to respond to that, except to say that we know firsthand that it is possible to feel extraordinary gratitude and profound sadness simultaneously.

The depth of those conflicting emotions cannot be overstated. I desperately wanted a second child to do it "right" this time. The first time I was pregnant, I was 18, unmarried, I was whispered about and laughed at. There weren't a whole lot of people excited about my pregnancy. I married the father of my baby, and we have built a beautiful life together. Through my pregnancy, we both experienced God in a new way. I desperately wanted a "do over". To have people get excited, to not be whispered about, and to have the chance not to be monumentally broke and stressed. I spent most of my son's first year sending out job applications and resum├ęs for my husband who was in a dead-end thankless job. I feel such regret for not spending more time playing in the floor with my son, and I would've if I had known it was the only baby I would ever have the chance to play with.

….And I may never get my "do over". I had to work very hard to make my peace with that.

As I said before, my prayers changed over time. I stopped praying for a child and started praying for my broken heart to be healed. You know what? God answered! My story now looks like both Mary's AND Elizabeth's! I can relate to so many women. I've dried tears of teen moms and women who desperately want to be moms. It's something I would've missed out on if I had things go my way. God didn't fill my arms with a baby, but He filled my heart with so many opportunities to help heal other hearts. He used me to prepare other hearts to receive Him. And for that, I'm so grateful and honored. 

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