Friday, May 18, 2012

An Updated Adage

They say what doesn't kill you makes you stonger.  In fact, it's all over the radio: Britney Spears ("Stronger"), Christina Aguilara ("Fighter"), Kelly Clarkson ("Stronger"), Kanye West ("Stronger"), and Li'l Chris ("Fighters").

I don't believe that.  Not entirely.  In my experience, both with Christians and non-believers, what doesn't kill you makes you bitter.

It can make you stronger, but that rarely happens by default, and it never happens immediately.  This only happens if you make a conscious decision that whatever disappointment or pain you are facing, you will allow it to mold and strengthen your character - no matter how long it takes.  If you make another decision, or if you choose not to make one at all, the automatic human response is bitterness, resentment, envy.

I'd like to direct you to my friend Shannon's blog.  Shannon and I weren't particularly close when we were younger - I had just joined the church and she'd already had a fairly close group of friends.  But as we're getting older (OMG, we're already 30!), we're finding that we have more in common than enjoying soy Caramel Macchiatos.  Both of us have faced some pretty horrible situations in our lives - my parents' divorce, her first marriage, and both of us losing pregnancies.  I've always secretly admired her because I considered her so much cooler than me.  She wore skinny pants and flats before they were "in" and she's always expressed herself creatively and with flair.  The reason I mention all of this is hardly to earn brownie points with her, but for you to read her latest few blogs - about loss, deception, and divorce.  Truth is, even though my parents and hers are best friends, I never knew the whole story about her first marriage.  As it's emerging through her writing, I am horrified and saddened, but so proud of her for finding her voice in this situation and having the guts to share it - even to do so respectfully. 

What I'm trying to say is that if she hadn't made the choice to allow what didn't kill her to make her stronger, she could have stayed in an abusive relationship and ended up - quite possibly - dead.   Or she could have moved on but become hateful, spiteful and unreceptive.  She chose to allow the circumstances to strengthen her and make her wiser.  She's choosing to encourage and enlighten others who are walking through the same fires.

Let me tell you something: I think that somehow, sometimes, people think that we have this hotline to God that allows us to understand tragedy.  They challenge us to "explain how a loving God would let [earthquake, molestation, rape, shootings, etc.] happen.  But here's the thing: in that arena, we're in the exact same boat as those who believe in a different god, or no god.  We don't have an answer!

The difference is that, as I mentioned in Shannon's situation, we believe that there is a plan and even sadness is a part of it.  We believe that humans have free will, choose to hurt themselves and others and, therefore, are the cause of much of the evil in the world.  If God chose destroy every mind that housed thoughts of sexual immorality, set ablaze every publisher that printed trashy novels, and send lighting after every hypocritical Christian, guess what?

He'd be all alone again, and the earth would be empty.

I hesitate to say that God puts tragedy in our path.  That truly does defy the definition of the God I believe in.  But because of the nature of free will, he does allow us to make our own choices and then react to them.  Sometimes, the choices that are made are not ours, but we have to react anyway.  Perhaps our spouse left us, or our employer downsized, or we cannot concieve children, or cancer strikes a friend.  These are circumstances beyond our control, but we can look to God and say, "use this to make me better - more patient, more loving, more wise."  Or we can face the situations ourselves - and become controlled by them. 

Some people ride the waves of life.  When things are breezy and beautiful, they are kind, benevolent and thoughtful.  When the waters turn stormy, they are ready to throw you overboard to save themselves!  Others understand that you can't truly call yourself a sailor unless you've learned how to steer in bad weather.  They've allowed those experiences to teach them, train them, and challenge them, because they know they'll be better for it.

Shannon is one of those sailors.  I like to think that I am, too, although I'm just entering into another stormy sea myself and I'm not entirely sure how I'll fare this time.  One thing I know, though, is that no matter how battered my bow or how torn my sails, I will pull through because I have made the choice that what doesn't kill me will not make me bitter, or angry, or jealous...

...but stronger.

(And, by the way, if you want some really encouraging lyrics about strength, try "Stronger" by Mandisa, "Strong Enough" by Matthew West, which is the song that encouraged by after my first miscarriage, or "Gold" by Beckah Shae, which is my current ringtone.  If you listen, you'll realize why!)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fear Vs. Faith

Absent fetal heartbeat.

History of spontaneous abortion.

The cold and clinical diagnosis codes seemed to stare viciously up at me from my ultrasound prescription.  Through my tears, I saw the harsh, scrawling, mean words written by the hand of a friendly but impartial nurse.

Today, we learned that our second baby, Bennet Curtis, is in heaven. 

Please be warned that the rest of this post is very personal in nature.

I am still sorting through my feelings.  I'm angry, mostly, to be honest with you.  Everything had been perfect.  My blood work at 9 1/2 weeks came back great.  Both early ultrasounds I had gotten showed everything progressing normally.  We saw the baby's heartbeat at 7 1/2 weeks.  I didn't have any bleeding after the first few weeks, and even that had been shrugged off by the doctors as normal. 

So why did today's ultrasound show an 8-week old embryo with no heartbeat?

I can't make sense of it, and I know that's perfectly normal for an emotional woman who has just lost a pregnancy.  But in my mind I have been comparing both pregnancies and I'm stumped.  With Olivia, I did everything "right".  I was careful only to eat what I was "supposed" to eat; I didn't dye my hair or use any chemicals; I went on frequent walks to take care of myself; I took prescription pre-natal vitamins...and learned at 10 1/2 weeks that she had passed away at 8 weeks.  This time, I was more relaxed, focused less on the "right" foods and more on what made me feel good; I continued to use medication while I was expecting; I didn't exercise as much, and got great reports from all of my tests...and learned at 11 weeks that he had passed away at 8 weeks.

I feel cheated. 

And I feel like I've let the world down.

It's not vain, is it, to say that I know people were pulling for me?  The whole of my church was delighted when we shared the news on Mothers' Day.  Our friends have been constantly checking in with me, praying for me, encouraging me.  My co-workers who knew (only a few of them did) have been stopping by my desk asking for updates.  My other pregnant friends (all, like, two dozen of them!) have been sending me covert messages on facebook asking how things are.  I had begun early to dream big dreams for this baby, having felt a peace that this time, things would stick.  I began a book of Biblical promises for the baby.  I plastered verses over my mirrors so that I could see them every day and be encouraged.

Strange.  My faith in a good God is not shaken.  I am not standing, crushed, in an open field somewhere while the camera pans out against a bloody orange sky and I shake my fist and swear vengeance.  I still believe what God has promised me.  And yes, I believe that he has promised me children.  Right now, I am hurt and angry because I believed that I had another chance to be a mom.  I feel like it was ripped away from me. 

Yet, just like before, it's suddenly business as usual again.  I can do all the laundry I want. Lift heavy objects.  Clean the litter box.  Dye my hair. Drink buckets of coffee.  Eat sushi.  Take ibuprofen (thank God, because I do have a killer headache right now).  And there won't be a bassinet in the bedroom in December.

The doctor told me that they had to perform a lot of tests on me this time.  Of course I am sensitive right now and this is hardly how she said it, but basically what I heard was, "Now we need to start finding out what you're doing wrong."  I am furious with my own body.  It can't sustain a pregnancy but it won't give it up either!  The hardest part of both these miscarriages is that my body had deceived me - the babies had died weeks before, but my ridiculous body kept right on swelling and hurting and gaining weight and having cravings like nothing was wrong at all.  The strangest and emptiest feeling of all is being betrayed by your own flesh!

I have said this before but I truly believe that miscarriage and the worry associated with it is part of the curse of man.  Genesis 3:16 states:

To the woman [God] said,

“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.

I am absolutely not getting into any arguments over feminism, religion or belief systems right now, nor will I even begin to address them.  I am explaining something I believe I am learning.  Our sin took us out from under the covering of God's blessing and we, as women, were condemned to suffer during childbearing.  Thinking in a larger sense, all of pregnancy, technically, is childbearing.  We bear a child inside our bodies for nine months.  And miscarriage is painful.  It's a part of that whole process and I think it's not a surprise that so many pregnancies do end in miscarriage.  Don't get my words confused here; I am not saying that God curses our babies or kills them or anything stupid like that.  I am saying that, even though, several books later in another (much more encouraging) verse 3:16, God sent his Son to die so we would not suffer that curse forever.  Although our souls have been redeemed through Him, our bodies aren't quite there yet and I feel this is part of that suffering.    I'll be honest, though; I don't know if, emotionally, I can do this again.  I am beginning to consider adoption, already.

Even now I am sitting here waiting for my loving parents to join us for dinner (they've insisted on bringing pizza).  I've already gotten a barrage of text messages sending love and prayers.  I am so grateful for what I do have - friends who love me and whose kindness, along with God's promises - will sustain me.  I've also assured Ross that, just because there won't be a baby in the house this year doesn't mean he gets out of all the home improvement jobs this summer.  Someday, and someday soon, there will be a baby, and he will need somewhere warm to sleep!