Sunday, September 30, 2007

Leaping Lepers

A sweet friend is polling the opinions of her friends with regards to the possibility of adding a new baby to their family. When I logged onto her blog, I was really excited to see this option on the table. When I was pregnant with Zachary, she sent loads of incredible baby gear over to us. At the time, they were thinking it would be a while before they would consider any more additions, and I remember when she said that really feeling like it was so unfortunate. She is so sweet, her family is so precious, and if you could see any bunch of people bursting with sweet babies, it's this family. Of course, I loved all the gear, but I was sad for the terms under which I was getting it. To see her poll today was very exciting.

I voted (yes, by the way) and then followed with an e-mail to make sure she knew that to be my opinion. But as I was writing it, I felt so weird. Here's what I said:

Dear Friend:

Blah, blah, blah. General encouragement. Raunchy joke.

I want to say I'll be praying for you, because I will be, but I'm
hesitant to put anything out there like that when it comes to baby issues
because I don't want people to feel like they may be cursed because I'm a part
of their prayer chain. I know that has to sound goofy, but it's a genuine
thing. Just like people don't really know how to approach me with regards
to babies or baby issues anymore, I don't know how to approach

Because I trust you, let me ask you -- is it freaky, scary,
crazy or any other unpleasant descriptive when I talk baby? Be
honest. I can take it. :)

Your friend, Amanda

So, is it scary or strange or generally unpleasant when I comment on all things baby? I want -- no, I need -- honest opinions here.

Many posts back, I wrote about how we had gone to visit another church one Sunday morning because of the fear of the weirdness we would face in our own. I don't care who you are -- when someone dies, it's hard to know what to say, and that feels weird. That's what we were facing, but with the bonus of controversy. Was he a baby or a fetus or what? Was that whole deal just a glorified miscarriage? How could they be so sad about losing someone they never really knew -- it's not like losing a REAL child, and they should just be grateful for the ones they have, and they are young and can have another and you never know what was wrong with that baby or could have been wrong with that baby if he WOULD have lived and they should just really be thankful that they aren't burdened with caring for him for the rest of their lives because a vegetable is all he would have been anyway, so this is all really for the best and a part of God's better plan. And on and on, as you can imagine.

Foot-in-mouth syndrome is so prevelant when a baby dies. Probably when anyone dies, but I'm sensitive here. Plus, I'm not shy, and I'm rarely meek, and I'm a mama bear. Big time. You come at my kids, you come at me, and that includes my dead ones. When people would make comments that they really didn't know better than to make, I would TRY to be gracious, and thank them for their consideration. I would TRY to be patient and understanding that they had no understanding of our struggles and our pain. I would TRY to remain remain meek and accomodating, but I would often find myself defensive of my babies or my experiences, and would often find myself drawing a chart of my uterus, which really doesn't ever go over well. FYI -- not fun at parties.

So, I have this cluster of sweet, sweet friends (some of you stalk me here) who love me in the absence of meekness, and who are ok that I am working through some rough stuff. But as I am working on these things, their lives (thank God!) move forward. They have babies, and it is so weird. I think of it like this:

A friend and I apply for a job. We are equally educated, equally experienced, equally qualified in every way. They get the job, and I don't. Time passes, another opportunity opens, and I go for it. This time, same scenario, different friend. Again, they get the job, I don't. I've even gone through the second or third interview and have toured the building, but they get the job, and I'm still spending my day in the Unemployment Office doing Sudoku. No one can get me a job, no one can explain why I haven't gotten the job -- particulary when it was essentially promised to me -- and when I call in for an explanation, I get transferred round and round with no clear understanding of why I am unemployable.

That's my best analogy of the baby journey I've been on.

I began this blog to ask a question, and think I've answered it for myself. It *is* weird to involve me in baby things because I'm so weird about it. I don't have answers, and the open-ended questions are hard for those around me. And despite the fact that I've always loved babies and have always volunteered in the 0-9mo. nursery (when involved in preschool ministry), I'm sure people who don't know that bit of history wonder if I'm now some weird baby stalker. And then there was the baby shower -- DeDe's shower -- where I cried. Not some tender, intimate, sweet little tear rolling down my face, but the blubbering, snotty, messy weeping I did and made her do that I'm sure had to alienate an entire room.

A question asked and answered:
I am not contagious, but I freak people out.
I don't have a disease, but I make people uncomfortable.
I'm not a plague on a pregnancy, but I'm sure people feel less innocent when I'm included.

It's so incredibly sad, because not only have I lost my own babies, but I've lost connections to my friends. I've lost a part of what I've always been known be or to do. I've lost the freedom to ooh and aah over babies without people wondering if I'm infectious or if I'm planning my great escape with their little one. And I'm not really a good baby shower guest anymore, though I really like cake and mints and passing things around in a circle. Crying is not a party favorite.

I am just so furious at how encompassing these losses are. Isn't having a dead baby enough? Isn't the empty cradle, the empty arms, the unused diapers, the unworn clothes, the unhung pictures, the unread stories, the unfulfilled dreams -- isn't that all enough? Why is there more? Why am I now relegated to this camp for dead-baby lepers?

Does all this hardness to go into that Isaac bundle?

I don't like living a life of pain and sacrifice. Crosses suck. They're thorny, and they're heavy, and they're hard to carry, and they don't go with any of your clothes, and they make people look at you funny and say mean things to you and spit on you. They make you fall down, and they weigh you down as you get back up. I am so thankful for the cross that was carried for me, but I really dislike carrying my own.

Thank you all for coming to my pity party.
Please take your goody bag on the way out the door.

"There was given me a thorn in my flesh...
Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you,
my power is made perfect in weakness."
2 Corinthians 12:7-9

"Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink,
He will still be with you to teach you.
You will see your teacher with your own eyes.
Your own ears will hear him.
Right behind you a voice will say,
'This is the way you should go,'
whether to the right or to the left."
Isaiah 30:20-21

"Therefore I will not keep silent;
I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit.
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul."
Job 7:11

Fun at the Texas State Fair

It's opening weekend at the Texas State Fair, and we spent our Sunday at the fairgrounds. We had a great time: we explored the exhibits, we watched a very low-budget puppet show, we looked at the animals on display in the Children's barnyard and laughed that dogs and cats were part of the exhibit (because they are so rare), and waited with unfulfilled anticipation for someone to regurgitate in the corndog eating contest. No one puked, to our dismay.

Having a Blast on the Midway

We tried lots of different fair foods, but this family of five (my mom was with us) got one of various things and shared. We were able to taste lots of things without spending loads of money and having lots of waste. Things we ate: hot dogs (we got one each of those at the Dollar Dogs stand), French Fries, Funnel Cake, Fried Latte, Tater Tornado, Gyro, Nachos Grande, Cotton Candy, Lemonade, Diet Coke, and water, water, and more water.

This is the Nachos Grande with chips shaped like the state of Texas.

Cotton Candy is a Fair-food Staple.

Because we typically get season passes at Six Flags, it kills this frugal mommy to spend between $4-6 for each child (so $8-12 total per ride for rides that don't require a parent) to ride rides at the Fair, so the standing rule is that we will only ride things that are unavailable at Six Flags. As one of their "ride" selections, they chose was the Funhouse, and they loved their time exploring the maze and the Funhouse Mirrors.

The kids and I went on the Ferris Wheel together for the first time. I am not at all afraid of heights or amusement park rides -- in fact, the higher and the faster, the better. My siblings are the same way, but my mother and my husband are not. Bub doesn't mind high, but he really dislikes fast. Gracie is as daring as her mommy, but we have a few inches to go before she'll be allowed on the rides I prefer.

This year, they both really wanted to go on the enormous Ferris Wheel, and I couldn't have been more pleased. They bugged me all day long, but we delayed the ride until right before we were leaving for the day -- in fact, it was the very last thing we did before we left. Of course, I took pictures throughout the experience. And fortunately, we were in a car with a woman terrified of heights, so she offered to take picutes of us to keep her mind off the fact that she was something like 212 feet in the air. These are my favorites.

The chickens remained on the ground.
They are the two little spots to the upper left of the white ticket booth.
This is a shot from halfway up the ride.

This is the closest zoom my camera would allow, and they still look small. Chickens. :)

We are very low on the ride,
but notice those are the tops of trees behind Gracie's head.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Psalm 1:3

The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

Psalm 92:12

I am especially fond of trees. They are the element of nature that I find most restorative. I love wandering through the woods, and enjoy going to woody parks to journal or think. I buy artwork featuring trees. I love neighborhoods with mature trees, and throughly enjoyed my covered drive to Valley Creek before they scalped the trees that overhung the road. In that, I particularly love the scriptures relating to trees. These are a couple of my favorites, along with some tree photos I've taken.

Friday, September 28, 2007

My Husband, My Friend

A couple of chapters back in Hannah's Hope, the author was talking about how infertility and recurrent loss can be a breeding ground for infidelity in a marriage. Even without infidelity, this kind of heartbreak can be the catalyst for a marriage-end. I was so stunned to read that, because in our three years of childbearing struggle, James and I have done nothing if not grown closer.

James and I married at not-so-young ages. In retrospect, we were young, but compared to our friends and families who married in their teens or in early college, we were late bloomers. (I was newly 24 and James was two months shy of being 30.) Our first years were really great -- we were young and in love, but old enough to be stable with good jobs and a Ramen-free diet. A month after our one year anniversary, we took in Bub. Three weeks later, we found out I was pregnant with Gracie. We had our ups and downs, our highs and lows, our triumphs and troubles, but all in all, things were good.

When we moved to Texas over three years ago, things changed briefly. We relocated here for James to work for a ministry in Texas, and took a pay cut to do so. After being here for several months adapting to less (a lot less), things got hard. We struggled at times -- we were broke (took a paycut, then went through a layoff, then took a commission-based job that took a long time to turn a profit), we were crowded (two adults and two rambunctious children in a two bedroom apartment for two years), and nothing was the way we thought it should be. There were some heated "discussions" during those times, and I'm ashamed to say it, but the D-Word was tossed around a time or two. Mostly by me. I have (or rather, had) issues.

Those things stabilized pretty quickly, and we realized that volatility was because of the pressure of stress. We resumed our normal effective communication, and at that point began to pursue in earnest the growth of our family. And the journey began:

Months and months of struggle, followed by a pregnancy, ended in loss. Another months and months of struggle, followed by a pregnancy, ended in another loss. Then, a quick and miraculous pregnancy, followed by stability and safety, ended in death. Then a surgery and a wait, another pursuit, pregnancy, struggle, and loss.

When I read the chapter in Hannah's Hope, I wondered when either of us during all of that would have had time to pursue something extra maritally. Her point was that "failures" in childbearing lead to the feelings of a failure in a gender identity, and I get that. I do sometimes feel like less of a woman because my body defies motherhood. It was in that, she said, that some people will seek out the confirmation of their identity, someone to validate their being a woman or a man. Or they'll seek out someone with whom to have sex where there are no strings of shame or pain or guilt or disappointment. That I can also understand. I don't support it, but I guess I can see how that could happen.

But not with us.

The amazing thing about this struggle -- about this whole series of struggles -- is that it has bound us closer together and more deeply than I could have ever imagined.

Before we got married, some friends pulled me to the side to make sure I knew what I was doing. James and I were so absolutely not alike. I had been to Bible School. I had lived on the mission field. I ran a Christian Coffee House and was a booking agent for alternative Christian Bands. My nose was pierced, my tongue was pierced, and my hair was three different colors. (Not on our wedding day, but they had been.)

James was an Aggie -- need I say more? He had a Corps-like haircut, liked country music, drove a sedan and was a salesman. He knew how to line dance, had worked on a farm, and owned an actual pair of cowboy boots. Real ones -- not the fake ones.

There couldn't be two more different people on the face of the earth, and yet we were perfect for one another.

His hair is longer, and I wear maroon.

I am so grateful to have James. Through all of our time together, including that really volatile season, he has been steadfast and reliable. He is so kind and generous to me, to our children, to my family and his own, to our friends, and to those we minister. He is an example of Godliness in his job, and has had the opportunity to successfully defend his morals and convictions several times. He has also had the opportunity to stumble, and to make himself an example of grace because of it.

I miss him when he's gone, and love it when he comes home again.
I anxiously await his phone calls every day.
I genuinely laugh at his jokes, though sometimes they really are dumb.
I love how he behaves with the children. He will both teach and be taught.
I appreciate the sacrifice he makes for me and for our family.
I respect him deeply as a Man of God.

He is my reality TV buddy. We love all the same shows.
He is the reason I not only tolerate football, but truly enjoy it. (Gig 'em, Ags!)
He has been my shoulder to cry on, and I have been his.
He is my #2 in the "Where two or more are gathered in my name" promise.
He doesn't judge me when I'm psycho, but loves me until I become sane again.
He is the true head of our household and our family, and leads us well.
He is the seeker of God's will for all our lives.
He is both my husband and my friend.

God knew what He was doing when he brought us together. He had a plan when He orchestrated this impossible connection. There have been lots of others in and out of our respective lives, but there has been no one for either of us that would have stood by in times like the ones we've had. In all of this trouble, there was never a time that we thought to cast one another aside, but rather, we were knit together with a strong, unbreakable thread. Together, we are bound; heart and soul, we are truly one.

"The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife." 1 Corinthians 7:4

"A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives." 1 Corinthians 7:39

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." Ephesians 5:25

"Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers." 1 Peter 3:7

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Am I one with Elizabeth?

Today I had lunch with DeDe, and afterwards I was talking to her about my Issac situation with regards to more children. She said that was the second time this week she'd heard something like that. I just now found Elizabeth's Xanga page through Randi's blog, and oh my goodness! I feel like we are one! I don't know what her Isaac is, but I can certainly relate to the struggle. Hang in there, my friend.

Hannah's Hope and My Isaac

I'm reading this book called Hannah's Hope as part of a one-on-one Bible Study I'm doing with a lady from Rockpointe Church. (We connected through Hopeful Hearts at The Village, thanks to my friend Lori.) This is an excerpt from what I read today:

(The author is telling the story of the woman at the well...)

  • She sought happiness in the arms of men, Jesus provides peace that could only be found in none other than Himself.

  • I sought joy in the new life of a baby. Jesus offers New Life in Himself.

  • I wanted to know the feeling of carrying another soul inside my body. He provides the Holy Spirit to indwell me.

  • I longed to nurse a child. Paul wrote, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" (1 Peter 2:2-3).

  • I dreamed of watching my baby grow and mature. But am I ever-growing in Christ? "Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, I not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil" (Hebrews 5:13-14).

  • I bemoaned the "bread of adversity" I felt unfairly called to taste. The Lord answers with the cross: "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'" (Luke 22:19).

  • I pleaded for a child to enrich my days on earth. He commands, "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:20-21).

This is all so good to read today, because others have asked and wondered, and I have even asked and wondered what to do about all this babymaking business. Our hearts long for a baby so deeply that we have pursued it relentlessly for so long. The kids talk about babies, and of their friend's babies, and ask when we'll have a baby. Several of my friends and family are growing babies. Of late, I had even become open to becoming a foster parent again just to have a baby (though as we consider that in more detail, the less right it seems for our family in this stage).

I am at that point in time and in my cycle where a decision must be made: do I pursue, do I wait, do I avoid, do I prevent? James wants to know how to plan his life and summer vacation. I need to know if I should apply for a new school in the Spring. And then there's the garage: what do we do with the bins and stacks of baby things? Do we continue to hang on? What are we supposed to hang on to? Needless to say, we have just been overwhelmed with the what-nows. And so today, I get to read this. Great.

This is not the direction I wanted. But it is just what I needed.

I don't want to overspiritualize this, though that may be difficult when talking about working out something with the Lord. I have to say when I read this this morning, I was not very happy about it. Why in the world when I ask a question does God have to answer it with Christ? (Because He is the answer.) Why when I ask for direction does God point to Christ? (Because He is the Way.) When I really get down to it, my sole purpose here on this Earth is Christ: to know Him, to love Him, to become more like Him, to tell others about Him, etc.

(This is my Isaac...)

This morning after I read that and thought on it, I was driving to visit someone in a hospital -- the wife of a friend. On my way there, I began thinking about babies again because of something Bub said. [Before they left for school, we were talking about today's plans and I said I was going to visit this woman. "What did she have?" Bub asked. "What do you mean?" I asked (she's in there for some gastrointestinal issues, so I was puzzled). "I mean, what kind of baby did she have?" I then explained that people go to the hospital for lots of things like ear infections, or heart surgeries, or having their noses made smaller. Hospitals aren't only for having babies.]

As I drove, it occurred to me that this is my Isaac. All of it.

Isaac was to Abraham an impossible desire. He was the dream fulfilled. Isaac was God's promise come to life, and the hope for the future. He was Abraham's joy and treasure. He was that tangible something that Abraham could point to and tell others, "See, God does what he says He'll do." And that, all of that, is what God wanted Abraham to bind up, place on an alter, and kill. The prospect of a baby has been that for me, and is now something I feel I am being required to give up. Just as Abraham didn't want to, neither do I. But, just as Abraham knew he had to obey, so do I.

I am available to whatever God will do in me, but I will not pursue anything.

No longer will I be the clock watcher, the temperature taker, or the mucus observer. I won't check anything. I won't chart anything. I won't remind anyone it's been 48 hours, so pants off. I won't be in contact with my OB-GYN and Perinatologist, and I'll see my Endocrinlogist only for non-fertility related issues. I won't buy ovulation predictor kits, Pre~Seed, or pregnancy tests. I will take all of this, including the pain, loss, and unfulfillment, and will bind it up together for the altar. May all of it be a sweet sacrifice to He who requires it.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Wholly Boisterous and Full of Pride.

Right now I'm in a British Literature class, and because it's a web-based course, we have to post several times a week to a Discussion Board in the place of classroom participation. This week, we're reading and writing about Sir Gawain and The Green Knight. I received a lovely compliment about a post I made, and wanted to record it.

I wrote this:

Q: Why do you think the author deliberately creates so many parallels between the exchanges (of blows, of gifts) and the days of the hunt and seduction?

A: I think the author deliberately creates the parallels between the all the exchanges and the days of the hunt and seduction to point out the hypocrisy of the court. I think this idea is further solidified by Gawain's initial claims to Arthur and his court about him only having value as Arthur's nephew, as well as by the dramatic presentation of his arms branded by the mark of chivalry as he went off to fulfill his commitment to the Green Knight, and finally by the beautiful reputation than preceded him in the new court in which he now resided. I think these things were set up to portray Gawain in one way to provide a shock factor when he behaved in another.

As for the exchanges, none of them were done in a simple way, but rather each of them came with a boisterous promise and dramatic vow before a large audience of noblemen and women. I believe this was done in this way in order to prove how each party in the exchange was honest and generous, pious and chivalrous, brave and honorable. There was never a quiet agreement between two men of integrity, but rather a big show every time, every day, with every vow.

While the Lord of the house rode off to the hunt to fulfill his end of the bargain, Sir Gawain stayed behind and became the hunted. He was pursued by the Lady of the house, and the spouse of his bargaining partner. As the Lord battled his unwilling prey, Gawain as prey over and over again gave in willingly to sweet words and hidden kisses. At the end of the night, he would hear the boasts of the hunting champion and would again brazenly vow to fully exchange all of his profits, all the while remaining quiet about the profit of love that was gaining in value day by day. Gawain was not fully honest, he was not fully chivalrous, and his bravery in this situation went only so far to meet the needs of a young man smitten by a woman he could not fully have.

A Classmate's Reply to my Post:

I not only agree with your assessment, I am more than a little envious (color me green?) of your writing ability. I mentally compared your submission with mine and wonder why I spent so much time rehashing the events when they really don’t have all that much to do with the question. You stated your premise at the beginning where it should be while I buried mine almost at the end. I found the basis for your conclusion to be clear, concise and on point without being terrible dry. Take me to your writing teacher!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Late Night at the DMA

"All children are artists.

The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."

-- Pablo Picasso

Thursday nights are late nights at the Dallas Museum of Art, so tonight we braved traffic, grabbed some takeout, and headed downtown. I have been intending to take the kids over to the Arts District in Dallas. We normally go to the Kimbell or Modern Art Museum in Ft. Worth -- they've never before been to the DMA or the Nasher in Dallas. Tonight was the night.

We arrived to find an exhibit of 2000 year old Greek frescoes and sculpures that had been buried under volcanic debris from an eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Because it was a special exhibit, there was a film that showed a computer generated volcanic explosion, and that was all that was needed to grab the kids attention.

After that, we headed to the European Art section. Bub brought with him a library book about art that we had been reading together and talking about. I had already been using the book to talk to him about form and perspective, but it was much easier for him to understand when we were in front of a 7 foot tall painting.

"See here how the artist uses this line of the building and this arm to draw your eye to the center so you focus on the point of conflict and understand the focus of his work?" asks Mommy.
"Uh-huh," replies Child.

I guess that's the best I'll get until I can get him to write an essay.

I pointed out Pointellism, and various other styles of art in the book. He was truly interested and had already begun to emulate different types of paintings with a crayon medium on manila. He prefers to replicate modern art.

As he carried the book around, a docent noticed him and went through the book with him to direct him to the sections where he would find representations of his favorite pieces. That was very exciting. It was like a Where's Waldo of the fine art world. We never found one identical to any of the pieces in the book, but we found a Picasso that was very, very close. One really amazing thing was that Bub recognized the artist on his own and then showed me the work in the book. He realized the similarities without prompting.

We all enjoyed the various pieces of art, and finished off the night by eating sweets in the restaurant while listening to a three-piece jazz ensemble. These are some of my favorite shots from the day:

(Pointing out Picasso to Gracie)

(A Greek Urn --

Not quite like the one in the book, but close.)

(Look, Bubba)

(I'm so glad this sculpture didn't prompt a discussion about anatomy!)

(Self-portrait of a lovely girl)

(Brownies and a Jazz Band. How sweet it is!)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Hoping to Understand the Deferment of Hope

"Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick..." Proverbs 13:12

Last fall, I took my niece to see Body Worlds at Fair Park. She was on fall break, and I was mere days outside of losing Ainsley. We had planned this trip and this particular excursion for months -- long before I ever even conceived the baby that had just departed. As soon as the billboards began popping up around the Metroplex, I began making her travel arrangements. Who better in the world to examine skinned plastic dead people with than Chelsea? We looked at hearts, lungs, penises, kidneys, and though I knew what was coming, there was no way to prepare. I can still feel the pain of the back half of that exhibit as we passed through the black curtain to the womb. There were plastinate uteruses filled with dead babies at all stages of development. I remember the flush of my skin and the press of the throng as I bravely explained to Chelsea that our most recent dead baby looked like that one, right there.

(Not Ainsley, but one just alike...)

What I didn't know at the time was that Zachary was on his way. Two weeks or so later, we would conceive him, and the process would begin anew. That pregnancy was full of nothing but struggle. Nothing but struggle. Physically, I was well. Things really were OK, until they just weren't. I had no problems at all, until all of I sudden I did, and there were too many, and there was nothing that could be done to fix them.

(My life in a wave pool...)

Every summer as a child, my dad would buy my brother and I and our two neighbors season passes to Big Splash and new pair of goggles. Every summer for years, we would live in the bottom of the deep end of the wave pool. One thing that most people don't know about wave pools is that they're filled with money. People go to waterparks and instead of leaving their money in their bags on the shore, they stuff wads of cash into their pockets for safe keeping. In the wave pool, their pockets are jiggled and turned, water is pushed in and out, and the current sucks their cash out and off to the deep end.

The four of us would be down there waiting, clinging to the side bar, riding out the waves. As soon as the buzzer would sound indicating the end of the ride, we would dive down to the bottom and gather all the loot. Some days we would only come away with a couple of dollars each, and others, we would surface with twenties. Either way, the prospect of what could be would keep me at the bottom of a 12 foot depth so long that I literally felt like my lungs would explode completely out of my chest. There was nothing sweeter than crashing through the surface of the water, clutching my prize, and filling my lungs with the air that I had been deprived.

(I lived at the bottom of the wave pool
for over twenty weeks.)

We found out we were pregnant just before the regular Christmas exchange at Denny's with James' dad. Just beginning to see clearly through the Ainsley fog, I thought it would be prudent to continue tracking my cycle just in case we decided to try again after the holidays, and with that tracking, I realized my time had come and gone.

Of course I had tests. I always had tests. When I took one to rule out pregnancy and saw two lines, I gasped in terror, excitement, apprehension, affection, bitterness, adoration. I took in air, but forgot to expel it. I forgot to keep breathing in and out.

I forgot to breathe at all.

At about 20 weeks pregnancy, I had been in a whirlwind. I had survived the cerclage. I had survived a move. I had survived weeks of home health care and big needles straight in my hip bone. I was not having contractions. I was not having cervical changes. There was nothing wrong in my life or with my pregnancy, save for the traffic I was stuck in at 635 and I-75 on my way to the perinatologist for the bazillionth time. "So, just calm down," I thought. "Just take a deep breath and calm down." I breathed in long and hard and as my lungs burned, I realized that I hadn't breathed at all in over twenty weeks of pregnancy. I came to me then that I would need to remind myself of that more often. The breathing in and out. And so I did. I moved up a slow car length at a time chanting inwardly, "Iiiiiiiiiiiin, and Ouuuuuuuuut. Iiiiiiiiiiiin, and Ouuuuuuuuut."

Once I conquered traffic and made it into the office, I found out that the girl I had been growing had a penis, and the tables seemed to turn. (For weeks, we had been told the baby we were carrying was a girl, but found out late in the game that the baby was actually a boy.) Something in that funny fun situation, and something about the breathing in and out, made everything seem so right. So charmed.

(What I wouldn't give to go as myself now to myself then
and give me a really good smack right in the face.)

For two weeks I kept up the breathing, and along with the breathing, I started the loving. I had a good cry as I packed up the pink things and pulled out the blue things. I felt like I had lost something, but knew that I hadn't, and as it seemed, I probably wouldn't. I bought a basketball rattle and a stuffed zebra and lion. I was talked to about a baby shower, and I actually listened. I started planning, really planning, to bring home a baby in the future that was not too far off.

To celebrate, we took a trip where I rubbed my tummy, and ate at buffets, and actually allowed myself to celebrate and rejoice. In retrospect, I would much rather have been at home feeling worried before my baby died than off on a beautiful beach feeling secure. I think it would have been better to have some warning and worry than to have felt so much hope.

(There is little I remember more about being on that
landslide than the feeling of "Of Course.")

So, when my bag of waters was found to be protruding, I thought, "Of course it is." When my cough couldn't be controlled, not with lozenges and water and syrup and narcotics and an oxygen mask, I thought, "Of course it can't be." When I am found to be the one woman who is unresponsive to three different muscle relaxants given simultaneously and enough Mag Sulfate to debilitate, I thought, "Of course I am." When every effort that could possibly be made to retract the bag actually causes the protrusion to double, I thought, "Of course it would." And when my body would defy every single hopeful interjection my doctor would make for a situation growing increasingly worse, "Of course, of course, of course" filled my muddled, angry, bitter, broken heart and mind.

And then I have a son. The charmed child that we've waited for, and prayed for, and pleaded for, and broken-heartedly begged for. This is the promised one who followed the struggle, and the pain, and the medicating, and the follicle checks, and the life on hold, and the sacrifice. He is the one for whom I held my breath, and he is the one for whom I resumed breathing. Here he is, and here he lay dying. Of course.

(Right where I never thought I'd be...)

So, hope deferred makes the heart grow sick, but what happens to a heart when hope is slaughtered in plain view? What happens to a heart when it, while still pouring out the issues of life, is ripped from its bone-cage, slammed to the ground and tortured in every conceivable and inconceivable way? What happens to a heart then? I keep thinking of every heart at Body Worlds. I'm running through every display of every defect. I'm crossing through the cross sections, and I cannot recall even one heart as sick and dark and deformed as my heart now feels. I am the sickest of the sick.

(I feel sick today. Really sick.)

(This morning, as I was sobbing for what I had and lost, for what I never had at all, and for what will probably never be, James prayed his hope over me --
that I wouldn't be so hopeless.)


  • the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
  • a person or thing in which expectations are centered.
  • something that is hoped for.
  • to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence.
  • to believe, desire, or trust.
  • to feel that something desired may happen.
  • Archaic. to place trust; rely.

There are 142 scriptures in the Bible on hope, or hopeth, or hoping, or any other possible variation, and I don't even know where to begin. There are things I still hope for. I hope I won't be run over by a bus. I hope James won't ever be laid off. I hope our children make good choices and remain safe when out of our sight. But as far as God showing up for me in the big things, that hope is gone and I can't honestly say that its coming back. I should say that I hope that the hope would return, but I don't feel very hopeful. This is a hard and confusing place to be. I've even tried reaching out once again beyond myself, beyond these depths, but I was shoved back under. The only hope I have now is that I don't drown here. James wants more babies, and I want more babies, but more than babies, I just want to make it through this. To get my head above water, to crash through the surface, and to once and for all, get out of this crazy wave pool.


  • My hope -- no, my goal, which is far more reliable than hope -- is to read through every scripture known to man on hope by the end of next week. All 142. I may even take notes.
  • To continue in my study Hannah's Hope, which is my current book study on loss, and to pursue the scriptural understanding outlined within for this particular situation.
  • To put myself out there to God with regards to hope. To hope for something in an active way. To make some small, even mediocre, decision on something, and pursue God for the hope of it. Certainly not in something as big as baby making, which I'm quite certain we're through with, but to just choose something small so my ability to hope in God can be regrounded and restored.

(Final Thought)

As I was finishing this post and thinking back on it, I'm quite certain it sounds extraordinarily dismal. It is, and it should be. When considering the path I've been on for three years -- the path of infertility and recurrent loss, I deserve to be a little bleak. Don't get me wrong, I can quote the scriptures that should define where I'm at right now. I believe I can adjust my way of thinking by clinging to God's living written Word. But here's the thing: God is big, He is real, I am no match for Him, and He is not offended by my complaining. I complain wholly in faith knowing that as I lay this out here to Him and anyone else interested, change will come.

My very, very favorite scriptures in the Bible is Isaiah 1:18-19a, which reads, "'Come now, let us argue this out,' says the Lord. 'No matter how deep the stain of your sins [or, as in my case, the deep, dank, black-hole darkness of your heart], I can remove it. I can make you as clean as freshly fallen snow. Even if you are stained as red as crimson, I can make you white as wool. If you will only obey me and let me help you...'" God's always up for a wrestling match, and I'm putting on my suit, and the great thing that I know (that I've proven) is that we both come out on top.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where has all the time and nudity gone?

Not so long ago, my kids were nudists. They lived in a world where clothing was optional. More than once, I've had to prevent Gracie from showing her boobies to passers-by, and Bub has a lovely little triangular stitches scar on the left buttock from the time when diaperless flight was the best idea to be had.

Those days are long gone, and seemingly all at once.

During the summer, Bub was showering in the master bathroom. We have a shower stall with a clear glass door, and I came through the bathroom to put away laundry as I often do. As I came through, I noticed in the mirror that he was shifting to the back corner. "Uh, mom -- can I get some privacy?" he asked. As I was closing the door behind me, I knew things would never be the same. Our little one was growing up much faster than we cared to admit.

But at least I still had Gracie, who having just spent the last three months with a bathing suit up her backside, was still a long way away from being modest. Or so I thought. Tonight, I called her into the master for a bubble bath. Off came the jumper, off came the tee, off came the ruffly pink panties, and in their place was a little makeshift loincloth of 5-year-old hands, shielding herself from view. When she saw the puzzled look on my face, she gave me this goofy grin and said, "I don't want you to see my 'gina."


Kindergarten, not First Grade

Gracie began testing yesterday to see if she's ready to move to the first grade. It turns out, she is not. Though she's quite advanced in reading, she is average in math. (Could she be any more like her mama?) She did not meet the 90% or better requirement on the math test to advance, so she'll remain in Kindergarten.

On one hand this morning, it was hard to not feel disappointed that she wouldn't be progressing. We had worked so hard over the weekend to prepare her for the idea that we had grown accustomed to it. By this morning when we had our answer, it was hard to get back to the realization that she wasn't behind, she was just the same. We were asking ourselves what we needed to have her work on when it dawned on us that we don't necessarily need to have her working on anything more than what she'll learn in Kindergarten. (The principal did say that they will be keeping an eye on her, and will be testing her for the First Grade Gifted and Talented program in the Spring. They will also speak to the teacher and devise a plan that Gracie will remain stimulated and challenged throughout the year.)

On the other hand, it's a relief that we do not have to impose our parental will in this situation and drag her kicking and screaming from Mrs. J. We were excited about the opportunity, but were concerned that instead of it being a blessing for all involved, it would be an emotional detriment to her. We're pretty relieved that it's no longer on the table, and it wasn't an opportunity that we had to decline, but rather one that she just wasn't ready for.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Little one, lost in thought...

Life with children is hectic. Amidst the laundry, bathtimes, snacks, fingerpaints, storybooks, timeouts, legos, muddy footprints and sloppy kisses, time can literally fly by. It's easy to view children and their constant care as just another chore, another task to check off the to-do list. Even when the task is snuggling, or enrichment, or spiritual enlightenment, occasionally it's easy to view childrearing as something else to manage.

Every once in a while, though, particularly when I move into that get-it-done mode, my children are sure to remind me of their individuality. This was one of those moments. We had stopped to throw rocks in the lake between one errand and another, and as I was preparing to move on to the next task, I caught my little man, staring off into the lake, as pensive and contemplative as any other.

Gracie -- First Grade?

Gracie's Kindergarten teacher just called to say she really thinks our girl needs to skip Kindergarten and move into the First Grade. Gracie is the most advanced student in every area of Kindergarten learning. I'm sure that's just in her class, but as the mommy, I like to think that's of all Kindergarteners everywhere. In fact, Mrs. J said she was so advanced that last week she had Gracie read a chart to the class while she (the teacher) stepped out of the room. I think it's kind of funny to think of Gracie as the Kindergarten teacher, but at the same time, it's a little concerning. I want her to be a student, I want her to be challenged, I want her to be learning. If she's away from home all these hours of the day, I want it to be fruitful. Not just her sitting around somewhere away from me being bored.

When I called James with the news, he was clearly excited. But we need to think. We need to pray. We wonder if there will be emotional reprocussions for Bub to have his sister as his educational equal. But on the other hand, we don't want to deny her an opportunity just so her brother won't feel sad. We would have advanced him last year had we realized that was an opportunity. He was as advanced as she in Kindergarten, and spent the year getting in trouble because he was so bored. He is finally being challenged and loves the First Grade, and his love of school is reflected in his behavior. We don't want Gracie to get bored and hate school because of it or start getting in trouble.

She overheard my conversation to James, and when I discussed it with her a little further, her immediate reaction was tears and not wanting to leave Kindergarten. When I asked her why, she obviously doesn't want to leave Mrs. J, and she wants to learn the rest of the song she was learning today. I explained she can see Mrs. J anytime, and we can still learn the song. I explained all the benefits to moving on to First Grade and now she's at least open to the idea. Occasionally.

The difficulty in this situation is is this a situation where we allow her the freedom of choice for her immediate comfort, or do we, as her parents, jump on this great opportunity for her longterm well being? It won't necessarily harm her to remain in Kindergarten, but it would benefit her in so many ways to move on. Other than the minor discomfort of moving to a new classroom and getting a new teacher, there's is nothing negative about this move.

Educationally she will be benefitted, but one other thing Mrs. J pointed out is the fact that Gracie is taller than all the other children in her class. She is already the height of a first grader, and will keep up with that group of children, and not stand out as much as she would if she remained among children her age. That doesn't matter later in life, but it does in Elementary School.

James and I will talk more about it tonight, but I really think tomorrow I'll be at the school to recommend testing for advancement. I think regardless of what decision we make, this is step one before anything else.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Beginning Ballet

Last Wednesday, Gracie finally began ballet classes. When she was three, we told her we would put her in ballet someday, and ever since, she has asked and asked, "When am I going to start ballet?" Like always. Sometimes every single day. We would always tell her soon, and then sometime in the spring, one or the other of us said, "In the Fall." We heard about it no more.

We have felt for all this time that skill-wise she was ready for classes. What concerned us was (1) the ups and downs of our family life as a whole, and (2) the clingy separation anxiety she exhibits when we're in a down. With all of our changes, we were more than concerned about investing in a class only for her to cling to my leg or be forced in kicking and screaming.

As summer was coming to an end, and the word "Fall" was tossed around in an anticipatory way, we began to hear again about dance. But this time it was different. There were no more questions, just statements of fact that she would be starting dance in the Fall. Now there were reminders as often as there once were questions. So we chose a studio and enrolled her in a combo ballet/tap class.

Last Wednesday was her first class, and as I watched her settle in, the look on her face was like something in her life was finally complete. Her teacher, Ms. Pam is suited to work with children. She's so much fun, and treats them as seriously as any little prima ballerina should be treated.

Today in her second class, she was chosen as line leader to march the group to the barre during tap. She then was chosen as the fairy princess to dance around and with her fairy wand, make the flower ballerinas bloom. She had the best time, and was just giddy all afternoon.

Parenting can be such a challenge much of the time, but there are few rewards in life like providing an opportunity for your children that really matter to them, bring joy to their lives, and thrill their little hearts.


Bub is all boy. He's as rough and tumble as they come, which historically has been a challenge for us. All the rest of our family is very laid back. We all prefer hanging out at the book store, having coffee, going to the museum, catching a film. He enjoys all of those locations, but prefers swinging from the rafters whereever we are.

Now that he's older, it's a little easier. He understands there's a time and place for craziness, and that we will indulge his need for space and energy-burning, but when he was small, there was no understanding by him at all. He had two speeds: full-on or asleep.

We were genuinely concerned that he would not live to be four years old. He was a peaceful baby, but at about 18 months, we began to see him revving up. By two, he wanted to go full speed, but we were able to limit him quite alot. At three, however, the tide turned, and the wildness was out. Control was no more. He literally had stitches twice in his head from going headlong into the fireplace, lots of cuts and scrapes, more bruises than I've ever seen on any child, stitches on his buttcheek from one of many attempts at flying, and a broken collarbone from launching off a slide (maybe another attempt at flight).

At four, Bub was diagnosed with ADHD and began taking medication, which really helped him slow down. It was a struggle to decide to medicate because we were more of the school of structure and discipline, but for him, that was not enough. When the medication kicked in, he was like a brand new boy. He could sleep, he could sit down for a full meal, he could have a conversation and develop friendships and relationships. Anyway, from four on, even with ups and downs, life became so much easier.

Bub is now six, and will be seven in November. He's as bruised as any normal boy, and still has those random cuts and scrapes. Just before school started this year, we had an especially early summer morning. I gave him his first and second pill hours earlier than I normally do, and I then forgot his evening booster before we went to Celebrate Recovery. About 3:00 P.M., it was clear the medication had worn off.

As the afternoon progressed, he was much harder to manage, but more concerning was the fact that he was incapable of paying attention. When we got to church, he jumped out of the car after a craft paper that had just blown out the door. Not paying attention at all, he rotated and turned to stand just below the sharp corner of the open door.

I heard his head split. I watched his face as the realization that he had just really hurt himself became clearer. I watched the pain take over and the tears start to flow. As I was holding him, stopping the blood, and waiting the long hours in the waiting room for the staples, I remembered how crazy our life used to be, and how much I appreciate the boy we now get to know.

She's a dancing queen

My little Gracie loves to dance. She always has. Even before she could walk, she would pull up on something or other and do that bouncing baby boogie when there was music in the background. This summer, we watched the kid's show Hi-5 every single day, and every day Gracie would do all the dances. (The show's very repetitive, so after two or three days of the same episode, and she would dance along without a hitch.) This is her this summer, busting a move...

Shut up, Rob Bell...I've been Tartuffified.

Blogging. Hate it. I stalk friends and strangers who do it so well, and I feel like I do not, cannot. I glare at the blinking cursor wondering which tumultuous storm to record. There is always so much that I could write about, and yet, refuse to. My blogaholic friend keeps stalking me, leaving subtle hints to step it up. She doesn't believe that I have nothing to say because I talk her ear off everytime I see her. Which may be why she wants me to blog -- so I'll shut up. Hmmm...

So yesterday, we had lunch together, and at the end of our time, she (while replacing her ear) again recommended blogging. I seriously do try. I look at this blank page all the time. I even started two more blogs and updated my MySpace page, so I try. Here I am again.

I think (and she knows) my biggest concern about blogging is the vulnerability that comes along with it. What good is it to take the time to write if it all nonsense, if it's all surfacy dribble. I feel concern about allowing myself to be deep and real and then alienate people. I am concerned that people know me (or even those who don't) will read what I say and perceive me to be something I'm not. Or worse, something I am.

Today, I was goofing around online to avoid homework, and Tim Gunn's Guide to Style was on TV in the background. He sent his fashion client to a Life Stylist who had her sort of chant this mantra while wearing a garbage bag and looking into a fun house mirror. Over and over, she said, "I cannot control how I am perceived. I can only control how I am presented." I was doing my best to ignore that distraction for this one, when it occurred to me that that's been my problem all along. I have not been blogging because I've been too busy tightly controlling my presentation so that perceptions of me would remain generally positive.

Who wants people to know that they're a mess -- for all the right reasons, but also for all the wrong ones? I don't want people to know that I hurt, that I struggle, that I have questions and doubts. I don't want people to know that I attack about as much as I'm attacked. I don't want people to know that I am imperfect. It would be such a shock. What nonsense.

It sounds so ridiculous writing it out, but that is truly how I felt inside. Because I am so important that evidently if things are wrong in me, then God would be proven totally unfaithful. What self-importance. What pride. Or even moreso, if I could just go on without admitting my pain, questions, or struggles, they perhaps wouldn't be real.

Last week, I read this play called Tartuffe by Jean-Baptiste Poquelin Moliere. It was written in 1664, but the subject is so contemorary and relatable. Tartuffe is a religious hypocrite who was brought in to live with a wealthy man and his family essentially so that the wealthy man could kind of earn a passage to Heaven. Tartuffe condemned the family in every way possible, and manipulated Orgon, the wealthy man. In one scene, Tartuffe tried to seduce the Orgon's wife, and these were the passages I could take for self-evaluation.

Story: She's tempting him to prove to her husband Orgon that Tartuffe is a hypocrite and a liar, but Orgon isn't coming to her rescue. She's preserving herself by telling Tartuffe that she doesn't understand how an affair could be acceptable to Heaven. This is Tartuffe's reply to her resistance:

Madam, forget such fears, and be my pupil,
And I shall teach you to conquer scruple,
Some joys, it's true, are wrong in Heaven's eyes;
Yet Heaven is not averse to compromise;
There is a science, lately formulated,
Whereby one's conscience may be liberated,
And any wrongful act you care to mention
May be redeemed by purity of intention.

When Elmire still resists, Tartuffe goes on to say this:

If you're still troubled, think of things this way:
No one shall know of our joys, save us alone,
And there's no evil till the act is known;
It's scandal, Madam, which makes it an offense,
And it's no sin to sin in confidence.

So this is what I've been doing. Remaining quiet to remain blameless. And then I read this:

"Well...It would be great if the leaders that are telling everyone that they need to trust Jesus actually did it. " -- Rob Bell, on his blog.

How mad I am at myself. Every week, every day I proclaim to others the freedom that comes from confession. I encourage people not to let their darkess consume them, but rather to trust in the Lord and allow Him to bring light. I have been such a Tartuffe, telling others what to do, but not doing myself. I've been broken, and had it not been for the piecemeal patchwork I've put together on my own, I would be wholly broken still. But that's the key. I'm trying to repair myself in my brokenness instead of just remaining here in shambles and allowing the Lord the time to restore me properly.

So this is it for the moment.

I have loads to work through -- some in process, and much more yet to come. I hope this blog works out to be a space for that work to occur. And now to honor my blogoholic buddy further, I'm off to take a nap.

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