Friday, March 19, 2010

Practically A Novel Here. Perhaps Read In Segments.

I've been feeling for awhile now the need to address an issue that I often think you guys must wonder about, which is how I reconcile my faith with loss, and the unfairness of it all, and the pointlessness of pregnancies which begin only to end. It's easy to be happy now, and to well up with gratitude every time I get more good news (and yes, I am still pregnant and sick and all systems are go!) but it was a little different when I was trying my best to follow what I thought was the right path for our family, getting hopeful and elated every time I saw a second pink line, and then feeling hollow and betrayed every time the ultrasound found only stillness where there should have been life.

Some days I just trudged through, and told myself I'd think about it tomorrow.

Some days I felt angry, and felt perfectly free to express that anger. I would start by feeling angry at myself, wondering what I might have done or not done to create an environment which did not sustain my baby. What could I have done differently? And why did it have to be so HARD for me, when other women were out drinking and smoking and foregoing prenatal care altogether and still managing to produce live children at the end?

But then I would end up feeling angry at God. Why did He let us both believe we were supposed to have more kids, and WANT more kids, if this was going to happen? Why would He allow us to get pregnant at all if He knew down the road it would fail? If it wasn't the right time yet, which I could accept as plausible, then why not just let me be unable to conceive for awhile, you know? Was He in control of every little thing, or not? Did I even want to believe that He was?

In the end, after much pondering, I came to a few conclusions. Or maybe just reaffirmed them under severe scrutiny, and found them still valid.

I believe wholeheartedly in free will. I think God can (will) change things and intervene in our lives only if it involves a circumstance NOT controlled or altered in any way by a person's intentional actions. This is not to say that He can't work in people's hearts, but that's just it, work. Movement. Nudging, through circumstances or other people (who have perhaps also been nudged) or just a feeling in their spirits. But He cannot actually force a person to do something that they don't will to do.

The implications of that are staggeringly far reaching in terms of the ultimate question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" I have no idea where free will ends and the opportunity for a miracle or intervention begins. Also, sometimes free will seems kind of cruel to me, frankly- is it right that Hitler had free will and that God did not force that man's hand, even at the expense of millions of lives? But on the other hand, the inevitable truth is that there can be no love without free will. I wouldn't want to live in a world without love, even if it was also a world without cruelty and senselessness and unfair suffering.

Which is to say, I don't believe that every little thing that happens is God's will. I believe in grand plans and God's design and that we're each here with a purpose. But I don't sit around thinking, "God wanted me to miscarry three babies." I just really don't believe that. I believe the verse that says, "All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose." I believe that God has the power to redeem certain situations and give us good gifts even out of ugliness and hurt, but I really don't believe that every hurt is orchestrated by God in some grand plan.

I'm not saying it's out of the question that God tests people and strengthens their character to prepare them for future events or to enable them to help others, but I'm also not saying that I believe you can blanketly look at every crappy, painful, unfair thing that happens and say, "Oh, God's just testing you!"

So is it possible that miscarriages are part of a master plan in my life? Sure. Is it also possible that the world is a just a messed up place full of bad health and disease and deteriorating bodies and that people who believe in God still have to live in this world and deal with the same circumstantial detritus as other people? I think so. I don't think God keeps Christians under some kind of special umbrella of protection from the real world. Jesus said something about it- "God lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust." I would say, though, that I feel like my heart has been kept under a special umbrella of protection. I can't really explain my determination to try and try again any other way. This determination is one of the gifts that I now believe I have been given from an otherwise just plain unfortunate series of events.

Let me explain. My personality is not exactly one given to a desire to conquer obstacles and surge through barriers. I usually stick with doing what I'm good at and avoiding what I'm not so good at. Even as a kid, I remember having mini panic attacks at the idea of math, just because I had it my head that I wasn't really very good at that. So, yeah, after the second miscarriage, there was a big part of me whispering, "Hey, it kinda seems you're not very good at this baby having business. Bedrest, random illnesses during pregnancy, low progesterone, two miscarriages- maybe you need to stop while you're ahead." But I just couldn't.

And after the third, I remember feeling this sort of swelling surge in me, like, "I refuse to give up on this. I KNOW we are not done having kids." Even that night five weeks ago, when I thought I was beginning to miscarry for the fourth time, (after initially sobbing over and over, "I am never doing this again. I can't do this again") I remember finally telling Jim, "We can't let this beat us. We just can't. Somehow it's going to happen."

I can't explain that hope or determination as anything other than a gift. I have never had to work harder and invest more of myself in something than I have in the effort of getting and staying pregnant, both mentally and physically. I don't really like being pregnant, overall. I just don't feel well or like myself, is the best way to put it. And complications seem inevitable- it's always something going on besides just gestating the baby! I would have loved to say, "I'm done! I want my body to myself and I want my mind to be done with the anxiety seesaw that is pregnancy." But I am learning that it's possible to want something enough to endure things you really hate. Having never once participated in an organized sport or trained for a marathon or anything of the sort, this is honestly the first thing I have had to physically push myself through, keeping my eye on the prize. I feel like a stronger person for having persevered, mentally and physically. (Mind you, this does not keep me from whining at great length about these physical challenges. AS YOU KNOW.)

Another gift I feel has come from the awfulness of lost pregnancies is a profound appreciation for every good doctor's visit, every ultrasound that ends happily. It is no small thing to see that flicker of thumping heart on the gray, fuzzy screen, and where with Adelay, and even somewhat with Eli, I took a healthy baby and uneventful check ups for granted- thinking bad things only happened to people who were binge drinking or were, you know, OLD or something- I now find my breath catching in pure joy every time the baby's safety is confirmed.

I had to go in AGAIN today, to get another antibiotic scrip, but since I was her last patient of the day, the practitioner hurried me back to the sonogram room and did a quick check just to assure us that baby was indeed still well after all that pharmaceutical popping! It was just a brief peek, a minute at most, but seeing my baby wriggling around nonstop, its arms and legs a blur of motion, made my throat close up in a way no sonogram ever has. You're alive! You're still ok! I thought all the way home, praising it just for being there. Keep it up! And as much as I want a beautiful natural birth BLAH BLAH BLAH, I kind of don't give a rat's you know what, in the end, how it happens. I just want to hold this baby. I can't wait to say, "You're here! We've been hoping for you for a long time, and we wanted you so very much. So, so much."

And THAT, my friends, is a little gift called perspective. (This also applies to how I don't mind too much anymore the chores that go undone and the dust that gathers here and there. It only took five and a half years of motherhood and a rather debilitating case of nausea/sinus misery to finally erase the inscription CLEANLINESS IS NEXT TO GODLINESS from my brain.)


MelissaInk said...

Beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Good things in life are gifts from God and bad things are random bad luck? I'm trying to come to terms with unfortunate things in my life too...but this is hard for me to wrap my head around. I love the reminder "God lets the rain fall on the just and the unjust." I'm going to keep that one in my pocket for when I'm feeling like life is unfair.
I'm very happy for you that your pregnancy is wiggling! Thanks for this post.

Erica said...

Another thing I think is important to address is that it's also ok to curse that child under your breath when they're three and driving you batshit crazy. I cannot stand when self-righteous people get all douchey and act like just because it was a struggle to have your child that you should ALWAYS be grateful and never get frustrated or wonder what the heck you were thinking when you decided have kids in the first place.

Parenting is damn hard work and no matter how hard it is for one to become a parent, the job doesn't change.

So, in two or three years when your posting about how this kid STILL doesn't sleep through the night, or drew on the wall with Sharpie, know that I won't be sitting here thinking "Well, she should just be grateful that she even has him/her to do these things!" I'll be thinking, "Thank God that wasn't my kid. THIS time."

Erica said...

GAH! Please ignore my "your" vs "you're" error. I know the difference, I promise.

Sarah said...

Anonymous: I'm not really sure, re: your question "Good things in life are gifts from God and bad things are random bad luck?" I don't know that I think every single little good thing is necessarily from God, either. And I don't know that bad things are ALWAYS random bad luck. I just think there's no across the board answer, and it frustrated me when people try to act like as though there is.
Whenever I get stuck in one of these thought patterns, I always end up thinking of that quote from Emily Dickinson: "We both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an hour/Which keeps believing nimble." Another quote I love, though it initially sounds a little dark, is from novelist Perrin Ireland (I think! She began one of her books with this sentence: "We know God exists because we miss Him." Sometimes that's the best explanation I've got, too.

Fran said...

Beautifully written, showing a strength I am not sure I could have. I have a had one big long crisis of faith lately and I am still not sure how I feel about it all. But I know that faith gives you strength and I fervently wish the very best for you and all of you!

d e v a n said...

This really is a beautiful post. I love your perspective. <3

Tracy said...

Since we've had similar situations, I find much of your post relatable. I, too, struggled with the why me's. Often. The biggest thing that I got out of it is that God does not cause the loss. He uses the loss to change our hearts. He uses it for good.

My dad told me one time, right after I miscarried for the 4th time, that I would have an amazing testimony some day. In that moment, I was so angry. Why did *I* have to have a testimony. Why not someone else?!?!? I didn't want to have a testimony like this! But, after having Isaac, I have come to realize that he was right. I DO have an amazing testimony. The biggest this is that I have a new found soft spot in my heart for people who go through loss that I never had before. I can pray for strangers who have lost babies, I can pray and minister to close friends who have lost babies, in a way that someone who has never experienced a m/c can't.

And I totally agree with you on cherishing the good visits. I remember seeing Isaac on the u/s screen for the first time. They couldn't find his heart beat yet, so things were still iffy, but I was SO glad to have something to look at and call my baby. Something to put in my scrapbook besides a picture of a positive pregnancy test. Something concrete to hold onto.

Katy said...

Great post and I totally agree with you on the free will thing.

I always tell myself that God is in the big picture and not neccessarily in every little detail.

I also believe that every single life has purpose--even the lives that are with us for the briefest of moments.

MEGAN said...

I have been reading your blog for a little while but never said hi before - wanted to tell you how touching this post was. You have a great perspective. I struggle with my faith but often remind myself of something I heard once - that faith, like love, like a marriage, is a constant re-commitment - something that changes and grows. Love the quote about rain falling on everybody - happy thoughts to you and the babe.

Scottish Twins said...

I completely agree with you on free will. Adam would disagree, which causes some heated discussions around here.

Great post!

ttsc said...

great post. I also really like hearing your perspective on things.

Marie Green said...

It's not often that I like (or agree) with someone else's viewpoints on religion, especially if I'm reading those views on The Internets. But in this case, I liked very much what you wrote, and I think our belief system lines up.

This post was both beautiful and articulate, and I like how you've put into words some of the things swirling in my head that had not yet settled into understandable sentences.

Emily said...

This post was great. And congratulations on your pregnancy, I'm glad that the baby is still doing so well!

artemisia said...

Thank you for sharing this.

Shelly said...

SUCH a great post. I could not agree more.

Tess said...

At Baylor I had a New Testament professor (HELLO CBU!) whose wife had died from cancer when his two little girls were both under 5 years old. He told us that the thing that made him most angry after she passed away was hearing all of the "it was god's will" comments. He said eventually he just looked people in the eye and said, "You REALLY think it's God's will that 2 little girls grow up without a mother?". So yeah, he was a big free will guy. The whole conversation had a big effect on me. Obviously, almost 15 years later and I still remember him well.

Jess said...

This post is so interesting. I think it's wonderful that you are able to persevere on this despite the obstacles and questions of faith, and I love the perspective on the whole thing. And I can't wait til the moment when that little wriggling baby comes out and you get to hold it in your arms.

bluedaisy said...

I love this post...I love your perspective. I have come to a point where I think that in this life, bad things happen- often for no good reason. It's not bad karma or a just is. I agree with many of your thoughts here and am so glad that you shared them.