I sat on the toilet, holding the positive pregnancy test in my hand. “Oh my god, oh my god,” I said, over and over, like I was in a Romcom. Shaking, I walked out of the bathroom. I held the test out, like a portent of doom. Still in bed, John blearily glanced at me in the early morning light. “Look at it,” I said, thrusting it at him. He blinked at it.“What? What does that mean?” he asked.
Seriously fella? We have FOUR children. You know what a pee stick is.
Unexpected weakness hit my legs. I crumpled onto the bed and lay there for all of a minute before I put my hand over my face and began crying hysterically which, for me, is a once-a-year kind of an event. I realized then, at that moment in time, how absolutely and with great finality I was done bearing children.
I never wanted to be pregnant again. Ever. Vehemently. Ferociously.
I’d been nauseous for a week but that didn’t mean anything. It could NOT mean anything. (Probably just my crazy hormones.) My body was shouting PREGNANT and I was fervently, with teeth clenched, denying it. By the power of my will. (Which is substantial.) But the second stripe on that pee test had popped up in about .05 seconds.
I was knocked up.
The hysterical crying didn’t stop for a long time, an emotional explosion of denial and panic. It was the first time I’d been pregnant and not wanted to be. Truly.
I know that seems weird, since I hate being pregnant. But, after my first awful pregnancy, I had accepted that this was the journey I had to take if I wanted to bring life forth from myself. I knew I wanted more than one kid, so I clamped my jaw and just did it. (Yes, with wailing and moaning.)
Still. I knew there were only so many times I could do it, that I could go to that place.
One day when I was pregnant with number four, still deep in the midst of nausea and impacted poop, (thank you Ondansetron,) I was taking a rare shower, not thinking about babies at all. In the midst of the pounding water, pouring over my roundness, the Lord quietly said, “If you want, I have another one for you.” It was an invitation. Not a demand. The tenderness of His heart towards mine was unrelenting and my heart responded with equal tenderness.
But with a baby yet to be delivered, I wasn’t sure I wanted to think about another one for a long time yet to come. So I set it aside and continued on with life. After I had our fourth, my husband and I discussed a vasectomy. Despite the facts that I hate being pregnant, I’d already borne four children, and we were open to adoption, I felt reluctant about it. (It was a weird response on my part. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s to wait on the weirdness until you process your way through it.)
Life went on. My cysts returned. My cycles became unpredictable, painful, and stupid.
In June of 2015 I miscarried.
I didn’t know I was pregnant. I had felt…different…but I’d re-acclimated to my weird hormones and hadn’t blinked at my 50 day cycle. I bled for a normal length of time, albeit heavily, and then stopped. But then, a week later, I started bleeding again. I was sick and weak in bed with a migraine that wouldn’t go away. I was not ok. Eventually I drove myself to the ER, which was silly over-functioning, but it happened. Hannah and John met me there.
When the nurse gently told me that my pregnancy test was positive, I felt like I’d been hit by a sledge hammer.
There had been someone else with me, for over a month. A person, that I had carried inside of me, that lay with me at night, that was with me during the day. I hadn’t known. If I had I would have acknowledged their presence. I would have welcomed them. I would have given them my love.
But now they were gone. Come and gone without me ever knowing.
How was I supposed to feel? My body was telling me that in nine months I’d have a fat little baby to know and love. My spirit was telling me that person was gone.
I didn’t get to know them. I never got to speak love over them.
Miscarriage is complicated. Grieving it is hard and our culture has struggled to acknowledge, I think, the loss. Because it is a loss. A loss of someone very small, who existed and, for many women, they have been praying and waiting and desperately longing for. Miscarriage often winds up being a silent, sorrowful journey, taken without the support of community or loved ones, a secret grief. It shouldn’t be.
I didn’t know how to feel.
I hadn’t been trying to get pregnant. I hadn’t known I was pregnant. It had happened without me knowing and YET, I was overwhelmed with emotions. (Feeling my sadness and grieving are like my least favorite things to do.)
If I start, how will I ever stop?
I’m learning. Learning how to allow Jesus to initiate, piece-by-piece, bite-size nuggets of sorrow. To process, digest, release and surrender. To grieve. To return to Joy. (My counselor helps.) It still makes my brain hurt.
I’ve discovered that a lot of people think they process sadness, but basically every study known to man has shown that we do not. On a scale like an epidemic. You cannot meditate you way through pain. You cannot make it magically not exist. If you set it to the side it’s still there. Waiting. There are pathways in the brain and soul that must be walked for every one, in order to healthfully process sadness.
I don’t like doing it.
After I miscarried, my husband hoped that the trauma of it would put us on the same page and we could schedule a vasectomy but, as these things go, the next time he talked to the Lord the Lord said, “I have another one for you.” John felt his fears and frustrations grow very insignificant in the light of that deep, tender invitation of love.
So we grieved the loss of our child, as best we knew how, and agreed to wait on the vasectomy until we had peace. (Adoption was also an option. Either way, we needed time.)
A year passed. And most of another.
Over that next winter, in the quiet places of myself, in the longest stretch of not being pregnant I’d ever experienced, I realized that I was done. I didn’t ever want to take the journey of pregnancy again. But I didn't say it out loud. We never had "the conversation."
Life kept going, busy and full. And four months later I held a positive pregnancy test in my hand.
Weeping on my bed, clenching the test, anxiety gripped my throat. What if I miscarry? What if I have a still-birth? What if the baby has mental or physical disabilities? What if the baby dies during labor? What if, this time, the Ondansetron causes a birth defect? What if I have a placental abruption? What if I die from preeclampsia because I probably have gestational diabetes and I only get to kiss my baby and then slip away, like Lady Sybil on Downton Abbey?
When I had miscarried, the very candid sonogram tech took one look at my uterus and said, “Whew! That’s a tired uterus right there! How many kids have you had?!” (She also said I was full of poop and gas. But we already knew that.) What if, this time, my over-used uterus couldn’t do it?
I was unfamiliar with this fear.
In my previous pregnancies I had little anxiety. (Maybe I was more emotionally shut down than I am now.) Still, with those other four, I was so aware that, outside of taking care of myself, there was ultimately NOTHING I could do to keep that baby safely inside of my body. I ate, I puked, I tried to poop. I took care of toddlers. I accepted my powerlessness and kept living.
But this time, holding that pregnancy test, anxiety and fear shot through my brain like a bullet train. As the weeks passed it didn’t stop. On top of that, in the midst of my normal incapacitating nausea and abnormal anxiety, I emotionally struggled to accept the reality of this pregnancy. Every time I walked by a mirror I was surprised at my belly. I’d go to sleep and dream that I was pregnant and wake up and think, “Thank god that was just a dream.” And then I would remember. And the weight of despondency would come crushing back.
Everything in me was resisting my reality.
Cause I don’t wanna do this.
And then I began to worry that somehow I would unintentionally kill this child with my emotions. I would look down at my saggy belly and think, how can I protect this baby from my process? How can I keep my emotions from entering my uterus, from planting rejection in this little one’s heart?
I have been a hot mess. Still am.
But in that crazy is the Truth, the crux of the whole thing, that I am fighting for a control I am unable to have. Which is normal for me, but somehow so much harder not to do at this moment in my life. In the midst of the swirl comes the other Truth, that I cannot hide my baby from my own process. But, with absolute certainty, I know that there is One who does. One to whom Control actually does belong.
The Holy Spirit settles into the dark growing place inside of me, wrapping itself around this new life. Wrapping around both of us, exactly where we are.
So I speak words of welcome to my baby and I rest into the process. Resistance is futile. Like it or not, the dregs of Everything have bubbled up to the surface inside of me, like that pregnancy test was a match, lighting a fire beneath the cauldron of Kristianna.
Early on, the Lord said that this pregnancy is a crucial part of the journey of my heart, of feeling, of being Awake and myself. He is not absent nor horrified at my wrestling through the dilemma of welcoming new life but HATING being pregnant.
As much as I fight it, I’ve been laid bare, once again, by something that I can’t control. And I know that, if I will just pull my head out of my ass for half of a second, I am going to remember the revelation that I learned in my last labor.
And that revelation is something that I desperately need right now.
It is in the story of my labors that the secret of surrender lies. And Surrender, glorious surrender, is the trap door out of the dark places.