Sunday, May 12, 2013

Motherhood and New Life

My son was born on Mother’s Day.  He is nine now and he carries my whole-heart in his pocket, right alongside treasured rocks and found pennies.  He is a beautiful and amazing boy, but he is not the greatest gift I have ever received.  

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.  James 1:17

Every little girl wants to grow up to be a mommy.  Or most do, I guess.  I certainly did, and I had a pretty good idea about how the whole thing would work.  Get a big white dress and marry Prince Charming.  Buy a dream house and a pink convertible.  Have a perfect little baby who is just like you and keep your tiny little waist and glamorous job as a Charlie’s Angel (it was the 70’s after all.)  So, at the tender age of 6, I took the first step toward motherhood- I married my Barbie off to her beloved Ken and set her about the business of becoming a mommy. 

Now, I was savvy enough to know that there was a process to all this baby-making.  Determined to keep it real, the polyester wedding dress and snap-on tuxedo were dropped in the proverbial ‘pile in the floor’ and Barbie jumped in her orange plastic bed with her beige plastic man.  

“Well, this is weird,” I thought.  It was not at all romantic.  Nothing like The Love Boat.  No sweeping musical crescendos, just a stiff-armed embrace and two dolls grinning wide-eyed at each other despite Ken’s obvious anatomical deficiencies.

“How are they going to sleep like this all night long?,” I wondered.  “If they roll over, they’ll fall out of the bed!!!”  

An unexpected obstacle indeed.  And that is how reality trickled in and began to crack my little mommy’s heart.    

Fast forward 18 years when I got my own big white dress and married my own Prince Charming.  We settled for the ‘dream apartment’, though, and a hand-me-down Ford Taurus.  No Charlie’s Angels either, but store manager jobs for Gymboree and The Sports Authority weren’t too terrible.  We spent the next 6 years in newly wedded bliss.  But something was amiss.  

I always thought we’d have 2 or 3 children, at least one boy and one girl- a little Rocky with blue eyes and a little Beverly with red hair.  He’d play football and she’d take dance lessons.  I could be a stay at home mom just like the ones who shopped in my store.  We’d live our days happy, with finger paint and sugar cookies, zoo trips and play groups, bedtime stories and lullabies.  Sunny days chasing the clouds away....

Infertility, however, was an unexpected obstacle.  Reality flooded this time and tore my mommy heart wide open.

It took nearly 18 months to conceive our son.  18 months of tests, procedures, drugs and medical bills.  Eighteen months of appointments and disappointments and desperate wanting.  Eighteen months of negative pregnancy tests piled on top of six years of waiting.  

The process of trying to conceive is unimaginably stressful.  It’s a nightmare of charts and calendars, pills and shots, tests and procedures.  A nightmare of medical jargon that you don’t understand and your insurance company is not going to pay for.  A nightmare of hope springing eternal and then drying up repeatedly in neat little 28 day cycles.  

I gave my heart to my future family when I was just a little girl.  Before I ever grew up.  Before I ever got married.  Before I ever got pregnant.  Before all of that, I loved them.  I loved them whole-heartedly.  And when they didn’t come, it broke my whole heart into pieces.

During the time that we were working so hard to conceive, I became fascinated with my boss’s family.  He probably thought I was weird because whenever I went in his office, I would look (ok, stare) at the picture he had on his desk of his wife and two daughters.  It was Easter.  She was beautiful and they were adorable.  All pastel dresses and little white sweaters.  I wanted those sunny day smiles for myself.  When he dragged himself in late every morning, citing the previous night’s chaos of musical beds and cheese in the DVD player, I wanted that chaos for myself.  I wanted to tell funny kid stories around the water cooler.  I wanted to put their pictures on my desk.  I wanted to fall asleep with my 3 year old’s head heavy on my shoulder and smell her strawberry hair.  Good night stars.  Good night air.  Good night noises everywhere.  

I wanted it like water in the desert.  But I didn’t think it was for me.

I realize now, ten years later, that there was something much, much deeper behind my Sesame Street desperation.  You see, way back when, while little Beverly played Barbies in her room, the world began to whisper in her ear.

You’re not good enough for the life you want.  
You don’t deserve the dream house.  
No one will ever treasure you.  
Your needs are not important.  
There is something disgraceful inside you.

And as I grew older, those whispers became shouts and the mark of my inherent shamefulness was stamped on me in the most personal way.  One day I will share that story too, but not today.

This story, however, has the happiest of endings, a gift still to come that was, and is, far greater that the honored title of beloved mommy.  In August of 2003, I got my wish.  All the trying, waiting and testing was done.  We were pregnant!  It was pastel baby-booted bliss, twinged with nausea and clothed in maternity pants.  Pregnancy and motherhood.  The unexpected became expecting.

For me though, prolonged stress means ‘major depressive episode’.  And eighteen months of reproductive endocrinology is definitely prolonged stress.  What I had waited and hoped for had come, but it did not bring peace.  My joy was battered with insomnia, panic attacks and uncontrollable crying spells.  

In 1 Samuel, the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb.  It wasn’t that she just couldn’t have children, but the Lord closed her womb.  She cried for a son for years.  To not bear children at that time was a source of shame, and Hannah was ridiculed her for her barrenness. She needed a son to bring her redemption.

She made a promise to Him.  She said "Lord, you rule over all.  Please see how I'm suffering! Show concern for me! Don't forget about me! Please give me a son! If you do, I'll give him back to you. Then he will serve you all the days of his life. He'll never use a razor on his head.  He'll never cut his hair."  1 Samuel 1:11
The Lord closed Hannah’s womb until she came to a place of relenting and gave Him all that she had.
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  2 Cor 12:9
One night, in the middle of my pregnancy and in the darkest part of my depression, I came to a place of relenting and gave Him all that I had.  I had always believed, but never understood, claimed but never submitted.  But that night, on my knees in front of our second-hand sofa in our cheap little apartment, I cried out to God and he sent me a son to redeem me.
Not my son, but His.  And then He whispered in my ear.
I will give you eternal life.
I have a room for you in My house.
I treasure you so much that I numbered every hair on your head.
I will meet your needs according to the riches of My glory.
My grace is sufficient for you.  And I will fill you with it until your cup runs over.

It’s in the broken places that we give way.  What I wanted was a family, to give me love and belonging, and to cover what was the shame of me.  I would have settled for the dream house, and used it to bind my own heart up whole again.  Bind it tight and close it forever.  But water in the desert comes only from the rock-  it was my wounded heart that allowed living water in to wash me through.  And with it rained steadfast love and plentiful redemption, a new mercy every morning, and the honored title of beloved daughter.