After a particularly difficult day with my three-year-old (that wasn’t helped by a fussy one-and-a-half-year-old who thinks it’s time to learn how to throw a proper tantrum), it was finally bedtime, and I was exhausted. I could tell the kids had had enough of me, and I had had enough of them. I hate those days that I haven’t done my best. I wasn’t the best mom to them. I didn’t use the kindest words or have the most patience – or honestly, much patience at all. The fun things I planned seemed to go awry almost immediately. Meals I prepared weren’t liked. The way I tried to fix problems didn’t work. Everything just… sucked.
After my son was down in his crib, I went into my daughter’s room. I said, “You know that I love you, right?” Head nods… with a smile, even! “You know that even when I’m angry or I’m sad, I still love you?” More nodding and smiling… then a jump into my arms.
Y’all, I couldn’t buy that forgiveness. I couldn’t buy that redemption from my difficult, beloved daughter at the end of a crappy day. I melted, tears dripping into her hair, thankful beyond words for the most perfect example of “forgive and forget”. She reminded me that though I fail, I’m still her mama, and she still wants and needs my love.
Just like her forgiveness, I also needed forgiveness for a failed day. My sin was so heavy, weighing on my mind and my heart, and my guilt was even worse. I needed a forgiving Father to smile and nod and tell me He still loved me, too. I hit my knees at the end of that day, begging Him to drag me out of the rut I couldn’t get out of on my own, begging for a reset of my attitude. He comes through, y’all. If you let Him, He comes through. It’s not easy, and often, it’s not pretty. But He comes through.
She shouts. She often shouts things I’ve heard myself say. I try really hard not to shout or yell or holler or whatever at my kids, but sometimes the words I use in a speaking voice that probably are the same as yelling. Sometimes, she’s whiny and tantrum-y and needy and clingy and attached to Daddy even when I’m the only one around, and it’s hard. It can be so hard. Especially when there’s another little one who is also clingy and needy and whiny, it’s really hard. It wears on me. And let’s not pretend that my pregnancy hormones aren’t making it worse, because they are. “She of little patience” has become “Monster with no patience at all”.
Today, we had a hectic morning. I was trying to get the kids and me (with our laundry) out the door so that sick Hubby could rest without screeching (the happy or the sad kind) and bumping and whatever other kid-related noise. While I was doing the normal stuff to get them ready to go, something happened. For the first time, EK hit me. I was totally baffled. I didn’t even punish her. I couldn’t figure out why or what started it. I’d been doing what I normally do in the morning – fixing breakfasts, getting everyone dressed, finding shoes and coats, convincing them to help me get them ready to go, etc. I leaned down to pick something up off the floor (I can’t remember what, now) and while I was leaning over, she swiped at me, right on the side of my head.
It didn’t hurt. She’s just a little girl, so obviously I wasn’t hurt. But my feelings were. I’ve never clocked her on the side of the head (duh) so why would she think to do that to me? She didn’t seem particularly upset in that moment, and I didn’t even say much besides, “Why did you just hit me? Should you sit in time out?” I didn’t know how to respond, really. I just went on with getting us ready and out the door, and remembered it only a few minutes ago.
It was a terrible morning, really. We were all on edge from the moment we woke up. It might have to do with the fact that I woke up on the couch, EK woke up too early, and J woke up too late. It might have to do with the fact that I rushed them immediately out the door. It might be that I wouldn’t let them go see Daddy because I didn’t want them to get sick. It might be a hundred other things. But we were all in a crappy mood, and it just compounded when we were all doing it together.
But after we had spent a morning having breakfast with friends in our favorite little bakery (Tart Sweets – their cinnamon rolls were divine), had a few minutes of play time at home, picking up lunch from Cookout and eating at while we shopped at Babies R Us (it was a weird day, okay?) the kids were in great spirits and are now down in the second hour of their naps. A DOUBLE NAP! I’ve already prepped dinner! It’s wonderful MADNESS, I tell you! Hubby is a little weak, but still peacefully sleeping as he’s been doing all day, the kids and I had a tickle fight on EK’s bed before they napped, and I thankfully got a shower. See, my day could be redeemed. But I won’t pretend that as I packed them in the car, both crying, to go to breakfast, I wasn’t crying along with them, saying, “Jesus, take the freaking wheel.”
After a freezing cold week of being semi-iced-in, cancelled preschool and church activities, and random bouts of sickness, we needed a day out on the town, visiting friends and being productive. We needed to be worn out in a good way. We needed a day away from the TV. The kids are tired of spending all their time in one room (they’re used to roaming between upstairs and downstairs), the half of their toys that aren’t packed, and the fact that we’ve resorted to watching too much TV (even if it’s movies). It’s terrible. I’ve felt cooped up and so do they. We are ready for spring, for the renovations to be done, and for life to return to its regularly scheduled programming. Right now, in our lives, the struggle is real. But thank you Jesus for the reminder that my day, the kids’ day, our lives in general, can be redeemed.
Some of my people know this story… my family, close friends, prayer warrior friends of mine. I hope that by telling it, someone will be encouraged, someone will feel less alone, someone will be justified in their anguish. This story isn’t cute or sweet, and it doesn’t leave anything out. It’s just heartache and details and sadness and redemption.
Hubby and I tried for seven months to get pregnant with EK. I am well aware that seven months isn’t very long to try to get pregnant. It seemed long going through it, but as the cliché goes, God’s timing is always perfect. Hubby and I have always liked the idea of having our children fairly close together, so when she was born, we decided to “not not try”. Pardon the double negative, but that was our short way of saying we weren’t actively “trying” to get pregnant right away, but we weren’t actively preventing getting pregnant either.
When EK was ten months old, I got pregnant. I knew early on, told Hubby, and we somehow kept the joy and excitement of a sibling for EK to ourselves for two weeks. We finally told my parents (who were visiting at the time) when I estimated myself to be about 6 weeks along. With utterly cruel timing, the following week I started having terrible cramps. Not “implantation cramping” or “stretch cramping” or whatever other excuse they give you to tell you “it’s totally normal”. I was having honest-to-goodness, menstruation-like cramps. I tried to keep calm. I tried to monitor my body. I tried to wish and hope and pray them away. And when the spotting started, I called my OB’s office, heard the nurses say it was normal, read on various medical websites that it was normal. But I knew. Somehow, deep down I already knew what was happening.
I went in for an ultrasound, because my OB wanted to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. He was able to rule that out but said it was too early to tell much else. I went home. Cried a little lot. Rested. Tried to pretend everything was fine. Hubby was preparing for a ski trip with his brothers and some buddies, so I tried my best to put on a happy face and not share my darkest concern with him. But two days later, I knew for sure. My worst fears were all but confirmed. My cramping was a lot worse, and so was the bleeding. Even though my head kept wanting to hope, my heart was resigned to the loss.
I had gotten up at 4:00am that morning when Hubby got up to leave for his trip. He had offered to stay, but what good would it have done? Whether he stayed or went wouldn’t change anything. As I sat in the bathroom, weeping, I could even tell the moment that was the peak. It was done. Over. There would be residual damage, of course, but the event was finished. When I was hugging Hubby and sending him on his trip, I told him it was over. He held me for a long time, and left. I knew asking him to stay, like I really wanted to, would be ridiculous. I had already seen that he felt helpless, and was miserable for me much more than for the situation.
Later we would talk at length about this, about how he was excited at the idea of the baby, but it was just that – an idea. For the partner, it’s just an idea until they start to see the belly grow, feel the kicks, see the movements. For the woman who is pregnant though, the motherhood starts the moment you know that baby is there, just a microscopic little bean. Your feelings in that moment, combined inevitably with your hormones, overwhelm you. You start thinking and planning, praying and seeking wisdom from those other mothers in your life. You love that little thing… that little nameless, shapeless thing, because that’s what the Lord created you to do. You begin to neglect other things in your life as you start to wonder what the baby will look like, how far along you (actually, officially) are, whether it’s a boy or girl, whether you’ll even find out until the birth. It’s incredible how quickly you love that little thing, and every possibility it has.
But to have that little thing taken, snatched from you without reason or ceremony, that will break your heart. “What did I do wrong? What could I have done differently?” The answer is probably nothing. The poor little thing never had a chance. And neither did your heart.
In the next few weeks that seemed to drag, I held onto my first baby, my sweet Ella Kate, so tightly. I thanked the Lord for her, tried to believe that it was still possible for me to have a second such miracle. But if there wasn’t, EK was perfect, and I would do my best to be happy with only her. But I wanted her to have a sibling! I wanted her to experience that bond. I know many only children who wish they had shared their childhood with another. I didn’t want to keep that experience from her. I couldn’t help but wonder, no matter how hard I tried not to, if I had lost the only chance at another little miracle.
After the miscarriage, my doctor told me it could be 4-12 weeks before my cycle would start again. You guessed it – all that stuff about every woman’s body being different and all. He also said we should wait till the cycle started back to try to get pregnant again. And oh, did we ever want to try. I didn’t know there was a gaping, second-child-shaped hole in my life until I glimpsed it and lost it. But we waited to “try”. We took it slow, went about our busy lives. Then one day, chatting with two of my girlfriends, I started to count. I counted the days and weeks since my sadness had begun. There were so many… thirteen weeks, to be exact. How long had my doctor told me to wait? 4-12? Well heck, there ought to be something wrong with me if I haven’t started at this point. What could be the hold up? This girl needs to get pregnant!
When I got home, I found out what the hold up was. I was pregnant, there in that very moment. In the midst of my anguish and waiting and wallowing and praying, I got pregnant. Without trying, without stressing over dates and temperatures and wives’ tales. I couldn’t believe it – women don’t get pregnant like that, right? Our bodies need time and healing and rest, right? I guess sometimes not. And when I called my doctor’s office, the nurse I spoke to estimated (based on my miscarriage date) that I got pregnant about eight weeks after the miscarriage, and made me an appointment for when I should have been abut eight weeks along. At the appointment, the ultrasound tech (the same sweet Kayla who had walked with me through both my pregnancy with EK and my shorter, sadder one) burst out laughing and said, “You’re 10.5 weeks pregnant! Due before the end of the calendar year!” What an incredible surprise, to be that near the baby’s arrival! I was almost out of my first trimester, and I hadn’t even known I was expecting.
Part of the beauty of my story is the way Joseph obliterated my raw sadness. His appearance showed me that my body wasn’t broken. I wasn’t doing anything wrong. A few short months later, he arrived the day before his due date, round and pink and perfect. He’s the symbol of redemption in the story. The proof that something blessed and sweet was on my horizon.
In my story, I just have one. Just one little being I lost and will one day meet in heaven. But I know there are countless women who have lost more, much more, more than even those little babies that should have been. I count myself lucky to have two healthy children, and just one comparatively brief time of sadness. I don’t sit here thinking I’ve had it the worst you can have. But every miscarriage hurts. It still hurts. It is such a deep sadness, in your bones. But look for the redemption. I won’t tell you the redemption will look like mine. It might not be a child at all. But it will be there. Every situation can and will be redeemed. Let yourself believe it.