Monday, July 31, 2017

Baby Beth - Surprise!

I put down my soggy taco and let my gaze drift through the Taco Bell window.  The South Texas palm trees make for a contemplative landscape.  This is my WiFi home in exile.  We have spent two weeks in the Houston metro area and are facing an unknown tally of weeks ahead.

So, what happened?

Get ready for a tale.  A story that reaches back to December and stretches forward into the unknown.  Everything about this year has been larger than life.  Ups and downs like I haven't faced since my Dad passed away.  Seasons of seismic change can mean only one thing . . . God touches the mountains and makes them smoke.  At His footsteps the hills skip like lambs.  He rides on the wings of the storm.  He harnesses the power of the whirlwind.  He is here.  He is the center of my storm.

I haven't felt much like writing this past year.  I've been focused on giving my family my all, my best.  But suddenly that field of ministry has narrowed.  It's just me and my husband and my yet-to-be-born daughter.  I'm giving her my all, my best.  And that means it's time to write her story.  I began the paragraph below 9 whole weeks ago.  That was in the period of time that will be forever known as Before.  I will take up where I left off and continue the story as it unfolds.      

Is it just me or does this shirt make me look like a green striped watermelon?

That's what I thought.

Contrary to photographical evidence, I'm not quite ripe.  I just entered my third trimester.  12 more weeks to go, er rather grow.

So, you might have noticed that I have been uncharacteristically quiet during this pregnancy.  During Ana's pregnancy I was quick to post every milestone along the journey.  I have written more words about my Angel Four than I have for this entire pregnancy.   So, what's up?

 At first I was in shock.  And then I was tired.

That's my last 6 months in a nutshell.

The End.

Okay, I won't end my post just yet.  But that really does sum everything up pretty well.  I had so thoroughly said farewell to this stage of my life when Ana was born, I just couldn't believe I was here again.  It seemed impossible.  I had given away all my maternity clothes, baby equipment and my trusty What to Expect When You're Expecting bookThis simply could not be happening.  It's kind of hard to deny now that my belly is doing it's best Mexican Jumping Bean impression.

It's not that I don't love children or am concerned about overpopulation . . .  It was just a part of my healing process.  I had to fight for each of my five children.  The struggle wasn't obvious or apparent.  No IVF treatments, no physical disabilities.  All the kids are spaced a 'perfect' 2 years apart.  But what my friends and family know, the cashier at Walmart would never suspect.  I have battled through four miscarriages, two postpartum hemorrhages and sporadic depression.  After Elle's birth, I came to the conclusion that I couldn't keep going on like this.  I wanted Elle to have a sister but I needed to be brave enough to try one more time and be okay with whatever the outcome was and then STOP.  Miscarriage, hysterectomy or, unlikeliest scenario of all, a completely normal birth, I needed to trust God and then say goodby to this stage of my life forever.

So, that's just what I did.

Miraculously, Ana's pregnancy was completely normal and healthy.  I was at peace, even if I did pester my doctor with questions about his B-Lynch suture technique.  We were overjoyed to be adding another girl to the family.   And her birth was textbook routine.  

I enjoyed every stage of Ana's infancy and toddlerhood.  I gave away each size as she outgrew it with nary a tear.  I practically staged a diaper burning when we accomplished potty training.  I took up karate.  It was an exciting new stage for our family.

And then came the snowy December afternoon.  Cy and I were out Christmas shopping.  Just the two of us and a Braum's eggnog latte.  He wanted to stop by the big Dollar Tree in town.  I thought that a mighty fine idea.  Something took hold of me and practically drug me down the toiletry aisle.  Before I knew it, I had a $1 pregnancy test in my hand.  There was no reason for it.  Other than extreme and extremely early PMS, I was fine.  But shoot, it was only a dollar.  I had always quipped that when I was bored I would take a test.  Just for fun.

Well, things got fun.  Fast.  As in instantly.  A positive result floated into view.  I stuck my head through the bedroom door and called for Robert.  He expected to see my latest Christmas treasures.  He couldn't believe what I was really holding.

He was over the moon thrilled.  Traitor!

He had never given up hope that maybe I would change my mind.  And I had always rejoined that if God wanted to change my mind, He was free to do it.  Between my confused tears, glares and giggles, Robert wrapped his arms around me and said, "Babe, I promise I didn't pray against you.  Please don't be mad if I'm happy, though."  I knew he was right.  God had just moved to make His will abundantly clear.  The center of God's will is the absolutely safest place to be.

 But I was terrified.

And thus began the struggle with faith and doubt, joy and guilt.  I, of all people, ought to know that life is a gift from God.  There are no accidents.  Ever.  Every child is a wanted child.  Wanted, because their Creator wanted them to exist and so they do.  Forever.  A soul conceived never vanishes.  Untimely death cannot separate them from the Love that brought them into being.  That has been my comfort in times of loss.  It was my hope in this time of surprise.  After all, new life is never a tragedy.  I was happy and excited and scared and overwhelmed and tired all at once.  But in my heart I knew what God was doing.

He was hemming me in.

I was getting too big for my britches.  I was trusting in my own strength.  Let's face it, I get a big thrill out of accomplishing things.  And it felt really good to be able to plan out my day and actually work my plan.  Amazing!  Is this what it feels like to go to work at a desk job every day?  I could get used to this . . .

There's nothing wrong with finding joy in accomplishment. I hope someday to get back to that point.  But it was a symptom of a larger problem.  I was finding joy in the strength of working out and with my new friends at karate.  I was finding joy in crushing it as a homeschooling mom. (crushing it being defined as not holding a baby while teaching penmanship)   I was finding joy in not having to pay for diapers.  But at the same time I was wandering away from finding my deepest joy and fulfillment in God.  I lost a sense of my neediness.  I was no longer desperate.  The truth is, I was drifting towards a very dangerous spot and didn't even know it.

But praise God who always does what is right and is so gentle and tender even when in the midst of reconstructive surgery.  And that is exactly what this year has been.  Reconstruction.  It's been joyful and painful, fun and scary.  I have always wanted this baby, though.  A surprise, yes, but a merciful surprise.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to embark on this journey.  God has been true to His promises.  He has provided for us at every turn.  From new maternity clothes to new baby gear to new organizational ideas.  I was blessed with an extremely healthy and active pregnancy.  I continued with my karate up to 31 weeks.  I had big plans to keep on just as long as I could possibly drag myself to class.  Don't tell anyone, but I am beginning to suspect that I might be stubborn.  Shhh . . .

I didn't know it at the time, but 31 weeks was the beginning of a major change.  I think it's fair to say our life will never be quite the same.  And it all began with a rusty red pickup truck that rolled backwards about 2 inches . . .