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.


  • Amy


    I love that you posted all of those thoughts. I love that you are working... and preparing to work even more... through this terrible situation. I know that it is hard, frustrating, tiring, and sometimes hopeless. Keep standing on those shakey legs! You can do it!

    And hey, take a look through those goggles sometime when you are in the bottom of the wave pool. I might be down there with you sporting goggles of my own. You are not alone.

    I am praying for you right now! And I love you, sweet friend!


  • Unknown

    Reality is stranger then fiction. Nothing in life is more strange then living the life of differed hope. This is so well written you could easily be a professional writer. David said of God: If I make my bed in hell you are still there. You have been given the privilege to go were God dwells and that is in the thick darkness. God is also a jealous God. It's not that God is on some kind of ego trip. it's that there are spiritual things that take place that are bigger then any one person. You have the opportunity to Love God in adversity or reject him for allowing you to suffer this agonizing moment that has come to pass in your life. I am deeply moved and inspired by what I have Just read. May God grant you a health child in Jesus name.

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