The City No Longer Forsaken

"They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted." ~Isaiah 62:12

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Story of a Growing Bump

I wasn't sure I would ever be here: sitting with a rounding belly with a set of very, very small toes poking around my insides.

I was 22 and on my way to Japan the first time a doctor told me, "If you want to have kids, you should do so early." Ironically, at this point, I'm fairly certain her suspected diagnosis of me was not true. Five years later, a couple months after my wedding, another doctor looked at an ultrasound and said, "I've never seen someone look like this who was younger than 50 years old!" She was doubtful I could have kids right then, but more concerned that I might have cancer. This made my second move to Japan a dramatic whirlwind of a ride with a quick diagnostic surgery and many unanswered questions about what this would mean about my future ability to be a biological parent.

How do you put into words what God can do during 14 months of longing for someone who has not yet come to be? How do I explain what God did? How can I explain the fullness of blessing that came because we had to wait--and the fullness of celebration at the gift that is being given? I want to try, though the words will probably come up far short.

I must give the disclaimer that I was *barely*, *barely* even able to claim the title of infertile. Part of me cringes saying it because we got pregnant in 14 months (the definition is greater than 12 months trying without success). I feel like I have to lower my eyes to avoid making cyber-eye contact with the women whose stories I've come to know...women who have tried ten years. Women who have miscarried every time they get a glimmer of hope. Women who get poked by needles in infertility clinics every single day in hopes to make their bodies able to have a baby. Women who are mothers to so many babies in heaven while the world around them doesn't even know they are mothers. Women who lost babies big enough to cradle in their arms for a few precious minutes or days as they said 'goodbye'. I ache for these women still, and I am humbled as I watch the weeks pass, my belly grow bigger, the internal kicks grow from small bumps into thumps that move my whole stomach... the awe just overtakes me sometimes: God's is God this kind?

The hardest part about the 14 months was that, with what the last doctor had told me, it seemed incredibly likely that I was actually quite able to conceive a baby but not necessarily able to have the egg successfully implant. Let me tell you, this can mess with your head. This means that I would have the potential to be pregnant right in the period of time where pregnancy cannot be detected by a home test, and then the baby would be lost. I was so afraid of this, and every normal PMS symptom usually convinced me that it was happening month after month. What I feared actually happened in November last year when I took a pregnancy test that turned out positive. That pregnancy ended hours later the same day. I'm not sure if it was my only early miscarriage or not, but it was the only one we ever caught.

What surprised me most about those few November hours was that I was suddenly scared stiff. Here I had been crying often about not being able to get pregnant for the past few months, and suddenly, when it happened, I found myself totally shocked and unprepared. I really believe that God allowed us to "catch" this pregnancy because He needed me to switch my mind over from preparing for a lifetime of infertility to actually allowing myself to prepare my heart for motherhood and a baby. I realized that my tendency with anything that hurts, or anything that is disappointing is to push the desire as far away from my heart as I can. But God had finally pushed me up against a desire that I couldn't do that with. It seemed impossible to shake this desire for a baby. The miscarriage in November made me realize that I had to walk forward both trusting God if the baby never came, or if more miscarriages came instead, but somehow to also keep my hands open for Him to give us a child if that was His will. It is the hardest narrow line I've ever had to walk.

My picture of Shadrach et al...forgive the poor quality photo!
I soaked in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Daniel 3. I love their response to King Nebuchadnezzar when they're told they will be thrown into the fiery furnace if they do not bow down and worship his statue. They say, "We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it and He will rescue us from your hand. But if He doesn't, we want you to know, O King, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold." (Daniel 3:16-18) I've always been uneasy praying for physical healing, or praying for greatly desired things, because I'm uneasy with the philosophy some Christians have, which seems to say that if you have faith, you are guaranteed healing and prosperity. But this verse seemed to bring the whole thing into the right place for me. I needed to walk forward believing that God could bring us a baby. I needed to trust that He would give us a baby enough to prepare my heart to become a mother, even if that preparation made the pain of not being a mother much worse. And I needed to continue to serve Him right where I was, outside of the potential mother identity, in case He didn't. I worked to walk forward this way for the next seven months.

In May, I was relieved because it was the first month in my married life I honestly believed that I couldn't be pregnant. I was really ready for a month without thinking about pregnancy, and our timing had been lousy compared to any other month we'd been trying. Lousy enough that I was fairly certain it was impossible. May was also the month of Pentecost and the Global Day of Prayer, which meant that we had our ten days of prayer scheduled from the 17th to the 27th. I was so excited about planning the prayer room and having something like prayer to pour my heart into for an extended period of time.

We got into praying, and a couple days into the prayer week, I was late. Which meant I was wrong. It was possible for me to be pregnant. Very soon, all of my time in the prayer room, which I had had wonderful intentions to spend talking to God about things other than babies, turned into lots of time talking to God about babies. I let Him know that I really wanted an answer from Him...that if He wasn't going to give this to me, I wanted to move on and serve Him and stop being so bogged down in a personal desire. I begged Him just to tell me whether He would ever give me a baby or not, because I believed I could hang on cheerfully for a long time if the answer was 'yes', and I also believed I could pull my heart out and direct it towards better things if the answer was 'no'. His answer surprised me. It was one of those very quiet thoughts that could have been me, or it could have been Him, but it seemed like it might be Him just because of how completely it stopped me in my tracks. That thought was, "Your faith during uncertainty is a precious thing to Me."

I was tempted to keep pushing Him for an answer. But I knew I'd actually been given something more precious than a 'yes' or a 'no'. This self of mine...the one who seemed totally unacceptable in human terms...the one who had moved to Japan and then thought about a baby she didn't have more than she thought about the mission work she did have...the one who burst into tears in public at the most inconvenient times and with strangers and who never seemed to have it together enough to make a good impact anymore...God was looking down at that mess of a child of His and saying, "The fact that you believe I can do this even though it is causing you this much pain is precious to Me." ...and that was more precious to me than certainty. And I felt I had true permission, for the first time, to outright ask Him to give us a baby.

This did not make it a stress-free week by any means. There were many more hours in prayer. And I felt like I was caught in the important thing had been settled with God, and now I had to wait for Sunday, for Pentecost, for the last day of the prayer week, which happened to be the day it was acceptable to take a pregnancy test. God does enjoy His flashy timing when He's showing off. :)

Two pink lines on Sunday morning. And unlike the pregnancy test in November, where the "pregnant" line was broken and light...the second line this time was bold, strong, and certain. I had just enough time to go to church and tell my friends who had walked me through this and prayed through this with me before I had to run home to start the first trimester morning sickness thrills.

God's kindness. There have been so many things I've loved that God has said 'no' to, or pulled me away from. It is so easy for me to understand the side of God that is jealous, the side that strips away, that cuts off to bring greater life and greater fruit and growth. I've spent the past five years nurturing my ability to see His very real goodness in the desert and in hardship. And I wouldn't trade those hardships and lessons for anything. But this... This is grace. This is the verse "We love because He first loved us" being poured out. I feel like I am watching Him pour love into me until I could burst. And I'm realizing that this is how He heals the hard hearts. The cross is only the beginning of grace. That grace continues and lives and poured out in the wounded places. Redemption that is able to cross any boundary put up by sin and by pain and make the dead places live. This would be true baby or not. But the little wiggles inside me keep making the tangible reminder: He loves us first. It's not our job to manufacture an ability to love, but He pours that love right into us to pour back out to others.

As of yesterday, we've hit 26 weeks. The baby is due January 26th. :)


Sarah said...

Oh, Pamela, thank you for sharing your story. I'm eagerly waiting to see your arms full of a new little baby. I hope the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly and that everything goes well. Keep us updated on how things go.

Lindsey Sivaslian said...

I was really blessed to read your story and am so happy for you both! What a blessing this new little life i s and will continue to be :-)

Anonymous said...

A very touching story, Pam. Good luck to you during the final months of your pregnancy.

-Shawn Davis