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.)