I’m a hopeless romantic.
A believer in fairytales.
And yes, a believer in miracles.
But what happens after the dream? The fairytale? The miracle?
What happens in between “happily ever after” and “the end?”
And in my case, what happened to whimsy?
In 2017, I took a deep breath, typed a few words, and confessed to cyberspace that infertility is hard, unfair, and isolating. But thankfully we are held together by the God of comfort, of good, and inclusion.
For me, that was a bold step. That was not something I spoke about with my closest friends. Not something I talked about with my mom. But God called me that year to be bold, to be brave, and to be obedient.
I think a lot about that girl. I miss her joy. Her light. Her energy. And of course, her whimsy. I knew that motherhood would change me. I knew that life would never look the same. I looked forward to it. My home is no longer quiet. My hands are no longer idle. My heart is no longer broken. In fact, it’s full. Bursting at the seams.
God granted the greatest desire of my heart and what did I do for Him in return?
I went back to my old ways, trying to do everything on my own.
In short, I abandoned Him.
This reaction was 100% instinctual and 100% intentional.
Come on, God gave me the one thing I couldn’t do for myself. The one thing I couldn’t hustle my way though. The one thing that caused me to rely 100% on Him, so how dare I come back to Him and ask for more?
You see, if I want to come back and be that girl, I need to once again confess.
I need to be bold enough to ask for God’s help.
What happens to the girl who finally gets everything she has ever wanted?
She allows fear in.
That’s right, I’ve been hiding out.
I could dive into long narratives about the specifics of my fears. But I don’t think those are helpful or necessary (that’s what my counselor is for, bless him!).
What I think is helpful is to confess that I’ve been once again leaving God out of the equation. I’ve been prideful. I’ve been trying to do it all on my own. And that pride is a sin.
My friend Ashley said it best, “Of course God would give you twins. You’re an over-achiever and that’s the only way to slow you down. To make you ask for help.”
So, what don’t I ask for help? Why don’t I once again get in my spot with my cup of coffee at 5AM and cry out to God to help with my fear, my anxiety, my need to control? Because, in my human mind I think, “Haven’t I asked God for enough?”
You may be laughing at this absurdity. Shocked. Surprised. Confused. Yeah, I’m all of those things. But for me, this is my reality. My hard conversation with myself. In my head, I know God does not put a quota on our needs. It’s not a Christmas list and He crosses items off because we’ve asked for too much. He’s God. He’s not human. And I agree with Ashley. God gave me twins because He knew that was the only way I would have to ask anyone for help.
So again, what happened to the whimsical girl who finally got the miracle she prayed ten years for?
She has allowed the joy of that miracle to be overshadowed by paralyzing fear and anxiety.
Why? Because how dare she ask God for one more thing.
The more I’ve been thinking upon this. The more God keeps putting these exact conversations in my direct path. Like, can’t ignore it, words-spilling-out-of-their-lips-when-all-I-say-is-how-are-you, path.
I sat in a quiet room recently with a dear friend where both she and I confessed eye ball to eye ball that motherhood is hard. Asking for help is hard. With tears rolling down our cheeks, it only took a few words for us to both let go of pretense and admit that the journey to motherhood is sometimes only half the battle. And right when the conversation was finally starting to lift, her bouncy long-legged four-year-old burst into the room, ran right up to me with a full embrace, and said “I’ve missed you!” I wanted to cry all over again. I think God has been saying the same thing to me too; “I’ve missed you!”
Another conversation spilled into my Instagram messages last week. A former student in the same season of life regarding motherhood, only separated by a decade (or more) of life experiences, admitted to me that she had been struggling with “a fear of new beginnings and experiences.” She ended what she called a “rant,” and I called a much-needed confession with, “I’m a happy person, I swear. This year has just been overwhelming.”
“Truth!,” my heart screamed out. And as absurd as it sounds, I’ve been wondering if at thirty-five, I’m just too old to get this whole motherhood thing. Have I spent too many years going my own way, that I’ve missed my window of opportunity to be really good at this? Have I asked God to help me be good at motherhood? No! That’s crazy. He’s has more important requests.
And then some of the most vulnerable conversations of all have been happening in private. Over Voxer. My go-to Walkie Talkie app where friends can record a voice message at their conveyance. Some of these messages have come from the West Coast, five-hour time difference, where a third-time veteran mom with a newborn admitted to me, but mainly to herself, that “I can’t take this anxiety anymore. I finally admitted to my husband how I feel.” Her shaky voice echoed all the feelings reverberating in my heart. What would it look like if we all really took the time to confess how we feel and simply ask for help?
That same week, another dear friend, practically in my backyard, who is an adoptive mom and a foster mom, sent me a message. Hiding in her closet, she just needed ten minutes to herself, and she chose to spend those ten minutes with me filling me in on her currently seven kids; two adoptive, five foster. Her message of heart break, of mom guilt, of anxiety eventually interrupted by a little boy who shouted, “I found you!”
Ok, God. I get it. I’m not alone. WE are not alone. Youfoundus. There seems to be this community of moms, new or veteran, twenty-something or thirty-something, who are all experiencing the same symptoms: anxiety, fear, guilt. It’s so comforting to know we are not alone. There is something so incredibly powerful about admitting these feelings and then hearing the response, “Oh my goodness, me too.” But what’s even more comforting? You. We have you! We always have!
To be perfectly transparent, I don’t know if I believed in mom guilt, mom anxiety before the boys were born. I guess it’s just one of those things you have to experience for yourself, like jumping out of an airplane, or watching Downton Abby all the way through. You don’t get it, till you get it.
You know, these hard conversations are just what God wants.
Keeping these feelings to ourselves is what the enemy wants.
And the truth is, hard is not relative. Hard is hard. There is no harder. There is just hard.
We need to stop ranker our hard against everyone else’s hard just to make us feel better (or worse) and just commiserate on the fact that we all have hard. And God wants us to have hard. Because having hard means we actually need Him! And yes, “every hour I need thee!” Thank you, Annie S. Hawks, who wrote these lyrics.
This year I never declared my word for the year. In truth, I never settled on a word that felt right. I tried a few on for size. Some required too much, others too little. Well, with five months left in the year, I’m ready. I’m ready to stop allowing fear to paralyze me. I ready to break free from the anxiety that has kept me in hiding. I’m ready to invite God back in to help. I’m ready to be brave.
That’s right, 2019 is not over yet. I have #fivemonthstobebrave.
I am going to continue to focus on empathy and openness. Encouraging others to shake free of what is shackling them. And I ask you all to encourage me. I don’t want to raise my sons in a home controlled by fear. By a mom ruled by her anxiety. I want my sons to live a life of faith, of trust, of whimsy.
So, to kick off my campaign to be brave, here is a picture of me in a bathing suit, mom bod and all. Twin skin flapping in the wind. Encouraged by some former students while on a bachelorette trip I was way too old to attend, they inspired me more than they’ll ever know. They snapped this pic. Dared me to post it. Called me out for being the brave role model they once learned from and worked alongside in the classroom. These young ladies are now teaching me.
Yes, sometimes students do know best.
And the teacher learns the lesson.
Here we go friends, #fivemonthstobebrave.
“I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.”
While everyone else in America seems to be gearing up for the Oscar performance of Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (and yes, I will watch that too), I’m sitting here still thinking about 2018.
You know, I really thought that 2017, my year of whimsy, was the most transformational year of my life. But 2018 clearly took the cake. Which is even more ironic since I didn’t eat much cake at all last year. No sugar cravings. Very unlike me.
And what else is un-Natalie-like, the fact that I haven’t formally taken the time to truly reflect upon 2018. It’s not that I don’t wantto look back on last year. It’s not that it’s too emotional to look back. And it’s not that I don’t have the words to look back. In fact, I have too many words.
I simply won’t be able to do it justice. And because I know it won’t be perfect, not even close, it has left me paralyzed. How paralyzed? Well, fifty-five-days-into-the-new-year-paralyzed to be exact.
How do you attempt to construct phrases around the year that gave you life?
Not the year that I bore life.
But the year that brought meback to life.
I simply just don’t know.
But I guess I’ll start with the word I chose for 2018: first.
Not glamorous. Not clever. But simple.
Oh, it was indeed a year of firstsall right.
It was the first time I heard a heartbeat. And yes, I heard two.
It was the first time I felt a baby move. And yes, I felt two.
It was the first time I rented maternity clothes.
It was the first time I ate 7 homemade ground chicken tacos in one sitting! (it might have been 8).
It was the first time I pissed my pants in public, but luckily passing out was what people noticed.
It was the first time a baby shower was held in my honor.
It was the first time I got to decorate a nursey.
It was the first time I stood naked in front of a room of strangers. (Twin C-section is #allhandsondeck).
It was the first time I held my own baby. The first time I held two.
It was the first time I changed, breastfed, burped, swaddled, pumped, and then did it all over again two (or less) hours later.
It was the first time I have ever felt completely whole and yet completely inadequate.
It was the first time my life revolved around someone other than me.
Ding. Ding. Ding. That’s the kicker, folks.
For once in my life, it wasn’t about me.
My life will never ever again be about me.
And I’m 100% okay with that.
Almost three years ago to the date, I wrote these words on my very first blog post reflecting upon 2015, my year of adventure: “But what people did not know is that the deeply seeded adventure planted within my heart was motherhood.”
Like most things in life, you never truly realize how badly you desire something until it alludes you. And for us, starting a family, being a mother alluded me for eleven years. That’s a long time. A really long time when almost every little thing reminds you of what you can’t have.
But I believed it then and I believe it even more today, we serve a God of grandeur, of humor, and of grace. In 2015 when our home flooded, God used that flood to wash away all expectations and ability to plan and control. You know, my security blankets. I also wrote, “God restored our home to something far greater than we could have ever imagined or truly deserved.”
And you know what, He did it again three years later. God didn’t just give us a viable pregnancy. He gave us miraculous monoamniotic, identical twin boys. Created as one life, from one egg, our sons shared the same amniotic sac, placenta, but had two separate umbilical cords. Yeah, boy. Our sons are rare. Created by God during His right moment. For such a time as this. As someone once recently said, “He was showing off.” And I absolutely love that. What an honor that God chose us to show off with.
I already told you about our NASCAR-paced C-section; how our sons were born just thirty-three seconds apart. Our tiny little doctor, like an orchestra conductor on her stool commanding the attention of the robbed sterile masses all task oriented: anesthesia, Baby A, Baby B, mother, etc.
But what I didn’t share was what we discovered during that C-section. After the boys were out and that strong wave of nausea passed, our tiny little magician of a doctor was off her stool and standing by my side. “So, Natalie,” she said through her surgical mask. “You have a massive amount of endometriosis on your left ovary. In fact, your left ovary is non-functioning. I’d like to go ahead and take it out. What do you think?,” she said so matter-of-factly. I looked to Jason who was holding a barely five-pound swaddled Ryder, completely oblivious to the conversation the doctor and I were having. Looking back at her, she kept talking about insurance, and not feeling pressured or rushed to make a decision. I tuned back in when I caught her saying, “We don’t have to take it out now, but since you’re already open, I can easily remove it and tie off your right.” Looking from her to Jason, we kind of already assumed these boys would be our only but, in that moment, it was confirmed.
“Ok,” I told her. And in a blue flash, she was back on that stool with her team in place. The anesthesiologist who had been at my head the entire time, leaned in and whispered, “What little miracles these two are.” And all I could say was, “yes” as tears for the second time ran down my cheeks.
The next day my doctor came by while making her rounds and in spunky fashion apologized profusely for not catching my endometriosis. “I can’t believe we didn’t see it on the HSG.” That x-ray had been almost two years ago. So, who knows when the craziness occurred? It doesn’t matter. Endometriosis is no match for our Father. No other time, nor pregnancy was His plan. These boyswere meant to be our children.
So, yes, this year of firsts. So many things I have done for the very first time. And will never do again.
For me, motherhood has been so clarifying and so emotional. Not in the “I-cry-every-time-something-happens” kind of way. But in the “my-heart-literally-aches-for-others” kind of way.
First example. When I started back seeing schools, I made a pit stop one day at the Target in Athens. (insert Halleluiah chorus. Is that not what you hear when you see that iconic bullseyes? Weird!) The boys had to be about nine weeks old. I remember this because I was there returning all the Lanolin cream people have given me because at 8 weeks. I called this whole catastrophe of breastfeeding thing off. I was in the baby clothes section holding two yellow button top outfits (yes, I bought them matching outfits). Crews and Ryder had no yellow in their wardrobe and I had intended to rectify this. At the same time, one aisle over, another new mom was trying on those baby carriers with a little four week newborn and her little girl wasn’t having it. At the sound of that infant cry, my body literally ached for my sons. A physical reaction. For the first time since Crews had come home from the NICU, I was homesick for them. All it took was that one cry from another baby across a Target.
People use that phrase “gut wrenching” or “heart wrenching” but until you are a mom and your body viscerally aches for your child, you don’t fully know what that means. I thought I knew that feeling when my body ached to be a mother all those years. But now I truly know. And knowing, has put everything else into perspective.
These past eight months (I cannot believe they are 8 months old!), I think about two topics the most; my relationship with God, and my relationship with my friends. I confess I’ve been terrible at both.
Let’s start with God. I don’t know why He has chosen to answer our prayers. I don’t know why He has granted us more than we deserve when others so far-more-deserving are still in the midst of waiting, or heart ache, or indecision. Maybe God has given them some kind of “no.” Some kind of “not in My plans” response. I don’t get it. And I mean it when I say my heart aches for these people. Literally twinges with pain. But God doesn’t have to answer us. In fact, He probably shouldn’t. Let’s face it, we would only ask more questions. His answer isn’t the point. His love is. His grace is. His goodness is.
And now when my heart starts breaking for others, I think about His heart breaking for us. As a new mom, I want it all for my sons; health, happiness, wisdom, kindness, success, love (terrible order but you get the point). And as much as I want all of that, our Heavenly Father wants that for us even more. So, when God denies us something, or says, “just wait,” He is strengthening our faith with as much compassion and love as a Father can. And when we ache, He aches more!
Right now, my heart aches for a list of women who are longing for motherhood the first time, or the second time. I am still keeping a list of their names and when my words are not enough, I simply open that Note on my iPhone and I say their names one-by-one to our Father.
And right now, their names are appearing in my mind. And the tears fall all over again because their pain is real. But amen, so is our God! And there is so much comfort in knowing that He is sitting right there with us, holding out a box of tissues (preferably Puffs Ultra Soft & Strong), ready to hear the words from our heart because they are the words of His heart as well.
So, let’s talk about friendship. Wow, what a gift! And God has been overly abundant with me in the relationships of women He has placed in my path. Phenomenal, powerful, gracious, Godly women of faith who have put up with my selfish bullshit for far too long (sorry friends, there is no other word for it). The blinders have come off and I can now see what a terrible friend I have been in return. For the past decade I have been literally walking away from the best resources a new mother could have; other mothers. Instead of remaining seated at those tables, I have gotten up and walked out when the topic of parenting or motherhood approached the table. I have used the excuse “I have nothing to contribute,” “this is too painful,” “it’ll be better for them if I leave” instead of facing the reality that I was selfishly putting on some armor instead of leaning in and listening.
I was so ignorant. I showed up at their houses post birth without a meal, expecting long conversations, a swaddled silent baby to snuggle, and a hot beverage. You know, like in the movies. I gave one of my breastfeeding new moms wine for heaven’s sake! Who shows up to a new baby with wine?! This gal. (if this was a text message, facepalming emoji would go right here).
But not only was I inconsiderate, I became an eye-roller. Sometimes just mentally but probably more often than not, visually. I just didn’t get it and the worst part was, I didn’t really try.
It’s a miracle these people are still my friends. I’m going to assume it’s my wit and sangria making skills that keeps them coming back. But who knows? Regardless, I’m grateful! Shocked! And grateful.
Their grace for me proves once again God’s grace for us all. I will forever be ashamed of my behavior the last several years and forever appreciative they have kept me around.
For all of these reasons and so many more, I’m so glad my life is no longer about me. It has been about me for far too long. I want God to use the rest of my life to be about others. To be about Him. To be about His love, His grace, and His power.
That’s why I have finally decided that 2019 will be my year of . . .
I don’t know why I thought motherhood would come so easily to me.
Conception; clearly not easy.
Pregnancy; not the most fun I’ve ever had.
But being a good English major, I thought I could read and research my way into knowing all the things.
I mean, I read several books on all the topics ranging from sleep schedules to twin breastfeeding.
I pinned articles and blogs on what to pack in your hospital bagto what you need to know the first few weeks.
But in Natalie-fashion, the plans, the pins, the articles, the books did not prepare me for the emotions, the exhaustion, nor the inadequacy that I would feel as a new mom.
In my mind, I thought, “there are two babies, and two of us. We got this.” Plus, “your maternal instincts will kick in as soon as the babies are born,” everyone kept reassuring me. And in some ways, they did. But in all transparency, I remained pretty numb my first weeks of motherhood. I’m really not ashamed of this but truly grateful to God that He was once again protecting me during those first fragile weeks.
Crews was in NICU on breathing tubes and feedings tubes. And the numbness was a saving grace. As Jason and I pulled away from Northeast Georgia Medical Center, I was calm, possibly even internally giddy, to be driving north to our home with just one baby boy; Ryder, AKA kickin’ chicken. One baby I could handle, but two . . . that remained unseen. Until that point I had only had one baby since birth. Ryder and I had reached an understanding, as long as he remained calm, so would I.
So as Jason drove as slowly as he ever had north on 365, our God of peace was watching over me. I knew I would see Crews in just a few hours. I knew he was in far better care than I could have provided. I knew that I had so much to learn before bringing him home. Before officially starting my role as a mother to two.
Our first night at home was pretty wonderful. I ate. I showered. I shaved. I slept. I kept Ryder on the same feeding schedule at Crews in NICU; 9-12-3-6. That’s right 9AM, 12PM, 3PM, 6PM, and on and on it went. And every time I fed Ryder, I prayed for Crews. Nothing elaborate; just soft whispers of his name. Soft praises of His name. And to pretty much everyone’s surprise, no tears.
As the days waned on, Jason and I fell into a new routine. I was up every three hours with Ryder who was gracious to stay on this schedule. One of the grandparents would come every day to sit while we traveled to see Crews at either 12 or 3. Crews was under “no stimulation” except for feeding. So, when he was being fed, I wanted to be the one to do it. Thinking about it now, I’m emotional. His swollen body on IV fluids. His little hands and feet taped with sensors and IVs. But then, I was numb. I seldom cried. But now, looking back, the tears fall easily. Swiftly.
By the third week of motherhood, this routine of back and forth, up and down was starting to get to me. Every day we drove south hoping the drive north would include a plus one. Every day seemed unfair to both sons. We were constantly leaving one for the other. So, when Jason and my mother-in-law scheduled an in-home interview with a nighttime nurse, I was too weak to protest. Months before however, I had put up an epic fight.
It was February. It was a Sunday. I was hysterical. “Hell no,” was I going to have a total stranger move into our home a few nights a week and mother my sons for me! I had not even entered my third trimester and already it felt like others were making plans for me, not with me. Being unable to articulate the pain and hurt feelings from this “suggestion,” all I could manage to weep out was “I didn’t ask for this.” My mother-in-law took it as “I didn’t ask to get pregnant with twins,” I meant it as “I didn’t ask for you to find me some hired help.” Just another example of our sixteen-year pattern of miscommunication.
But after I shot her down, we did not breach the conversation again. Jason and I finally settled on a “once the boys are here, we’ll decide” agreement. I know it sounds terrible, but I just felt like it was bad luck to make plans for two babies when in my heart I was still holding my breath until I heard theirs.
But after they were born, after Crews seemed so fragile, and Ryder seemed so small, I had no fight left. On a Thursday afternoon she arrived. With a contract in hand and a check waiting on her, this was not an interview, it was a first meeting. She started on a Sunday night and later that week, Crews came home.
The control freak, prideful version of myself (you know, that side you try so desperately to hide) wishes I could say that I didn’t really need her as much as everyone thought I would. But in reality, I needed her more. When she started I described her “intrusion” as “a bitter pill to swallow” in a group text to my family. In my mind, even life-saving medication was bothersome when being force-fed.
But once again, let’s chalk this up to one more way I have been oh-so-terribly wrong as a mother. Her help, her guidance, her mentorship, but most importantly her friendship has been gracious, as in divine, God’s grace. Not an intrusion.
She taught me how to feed them.
How much to feed them.
What to feed them (four formulas later).
How to bathe them.
How to clip their nails.
How to handle an ingrown toe nail (yes, I embarrassingly caused that one).
How to swaddle them.
How to create a routine.
And has gone with me to every doctor’s appointment including their first shots, where we were both proud that I didn’t burst into tears alongside the boys.
I have affectionately referred to her as my Mary Poppins. I may not live on Cherry Terry Lane nor craftily written a rhyming advertisement like Jane and Michael, but yet out of thin air, she appeared. When I need it, she gives me a pep talk, or quietly shoos me out of the room. And yes, we can be seen at play time or bath time sporadically breaking out into song (we both love Disney’s Spotify playlist). And with just a few weeks left on her contract, I feel deeply lost and emotional about losing her. Like Mary Poppins, we knew her presence would only be temporary. This is what she does. She teaches new mothers (especially of multiples) how to do just that; become mothers.
I never thought I would be one of those over protective mothers. You know the kind. The ones who have a hard time leaving their kids, taking their kids places, or trusting others to do what is best for their kids in their absence. Well, yep. You guessed it, I’m the worst! I’m so terrified to ruin our schedule. To ruin what is working that we have not deviated from this routine since they were born. That’s right, in sixteen weeks! Now on a four-hour schedule, don’t think about asking me to go anywhere around 7, 11, or 3 because that’s feeding time, and 90 minutes after that, we nap. Some people think this rigidness is crazy but unless you’ve held two screaming newborns at the same time, don’t bother trying to reason with me. It’s working. And I owe the sanity, the sleep, and the success to her.
Which brings me to you, dear friends. I know I have asked a lot of you all in the past. So many prayers. So many tears. So many heartaches. But you have been there through it all. I have just one more small favor to ask. I need another Mary Poppins to swoop down on my doorstep come late November. Another God-ordained, miracle worker to come to our home during the week to watch over precious Crews and Ryder. I live in Banks County, not exactly Atlanta where in-home nannies are few and far between. But maybe, you know of someone. Or at least, can pray alongside us for someone to come into our lives.
God has been so gracious to provide all our needs, so I am confident He will provide this need as well. But in the meantime, when I get down on my knees to pray, in their nursey as they fall asleep at night, I thank God for her. And every time, the tears come. To entrust someone with your most precious possessions is a great honor. God entrusted His son to us. And now I must entrust my sons to Him.
Thank you, friends for your prayers.
Thank you for your recommendations.
To God be all the glory! Great things He continues to do.
When I was a little girl, I had the most embarrassing case of homesickness. I would go hang out with my friends, play, eat dinner, get ready for bed and that feeling would begin to creep in. Timed just as the sun was setting, it began as a knot in the bottom of my stomach. And by nightfall, I would feel so incredibly sick and lonely. I would put on a brave face for my friends, climb into bed next to them or on a makeshift bed on the floor and would silently begin to cry. Like clockwork, their moms would come into the room (either because they knew I was on the verge of bailing, or just to be good moms and check in on us girls), but they would find me balled up in tears and would call my mom. Regardless of the time of night or the distance needed to travel, mom would show up. Just seeing her silver Pontiac pull in the driveway would lift the knot and part the waters cascading down my round cheeks. By the time I was in the car pulling away from my still sleeping friend, I was fine. I have no idea why I was like this. I have no idea what magical hold my mother held on my heart (and my stomach). But all I can say is that is was like magic. Her presence, her calmness, just her face, made me feel safe, secure, and loved. Mom never once chastised me for not making it though the night. I guess in a way she was always prepared for that phone call. And maybe super shocked when she didn’t get it.
This homesickness came and went as I grew older. It didn’t reappear so much at sleepovers but always the first day of school every year, like clockwork. I would be standing in my closet removing the tags from the new clothes I was about to put on and I would feel that ball in the pit of my stomach begin to toss and roll around. No, I didn’t want my mommy to walk me down the halls the first day of Ninth Grade but what I did want was that since of calmness, love, and security that came with her presence. I had learned more control as time passed and could hold back the tears, the anxiety. I would step out of the car, or off the bus and would fake it till I felt it. I would fake that confidence that I so closely associated with my mom’s presence. And by the time first period ended, the feeling of homesickness had passed or at least lifted so that I wouldn’t have to fake it so much.
Don’t laugh, but I experienced this same pattern of feelings the first day of college, and the first day I taught high school. Yes, even as a twenty-three year old standing in a classroom in front of clueless freshman, I was holding back those feelings of grabbing the phone and calling my mommy for just a few words of comfort. But, as the pattern has taught me, going through the motions and staying busy, the knot would gradually loosen and loosen until I no longer felt it’s presence.
It’s been a few years since I’ve really felt that old familiar knot. In fact, I had almost completely forgot about him. But becoming a mother has intimately reintroduced us.
The birth of Crews and Ryder clearly did not go as planned. I’m chuckling to myself because let’s face it, with God, why make plans? I’m sure He laughs right alongside me when He hears my perfectly constructed plans. I mean, you should have seen the birth plan I wrote, typed, and printed for the hospital. Yes, Type A, all the way.
Scheduled for 7AM, Jason and I arrived at the hospital on Tuesday, June 12th at 5AM. I’m not sure either of us slept the night before. Just the thought of them actually arriving was so surreal. Like Christmas morning and the night before your wedding all rolled together. On the 30 minute drive to the hospital in the dark that morning we had officially decided that Ryder’s middle name would be James after his police officer cousin who passed away from a job related incident when we were just college kids in love. Everyone says Jason looks just like Tim (James Timothy) and we just knew our sons would look like them both (we were right). But other than that major decision, the car ride and the hospital prep was fairly silent giving more proof to the phrase, calm before the storm.
By 6:50 we were separated; Jason to scrub up, and me for my spinal block. It all happened so quick. No joke, NASCAR professionals would be impressed with my phenomenal doctor and the crew of sixteen in the Operating Room. By the time, Jason entered the OR and sat down next to me, we didn’t even have time to speak. I had just asked him to distract me with conversation when our doctor said, “Dad, got your camera ready?”. Jason and I were both confused. Why? What did he need to take a picture of now? And then we heard those cries. Just as they are now, hot tears welled up in my eyes and blinded my sight. Before Jason could find his cell phone in his pocket under his scrubs, a nurse grabbed it, and we heard second cries. Born thirty-three seconds apart at 7:52AM, Crews Bradford and Ryder James entered this world and our lives. This was the moment I had prayed so many years for. This was the moment so many had prayed so many years for. I was a mother. We were parents. I turned my head to the side and could see both sons being attended to by their pit crews (no pun intended, dear Crews). Jason walked back and forth between teams and cut both cords all while a nurse snapped the pictures our hearts had been praying to capture.
Both sons were eventually laid across my chest and for a brief moment, nothing around us mattered. Ryder picked up his little arm and wrapped it across his brother and my heart burst open. I’m a mother. They are brothers. They are alive and healthy. God’s promise in my heart was fulfilled. I could not tell you what was going on to my body or what was happening around us. It didn’t matter. Only those tiny humans on my chest mattered.
But that moment was just that, a moment. The nurses noticed that Crews was still turning more and more blue and he was quickly grabbed and whisked away. Jason was asked who he was going to go with, me or Crews. He did not even look at me when he responded, “Crews.” In that moment, I knew it. Jason had become the father I knew he would be. The father he had been so afraid he wouldn’t be.
Ryder and I were both cleaned up and pushed across the hall to recovery. Being the first birth of the day, it was quiet and empty. There I was alone with this tiny creature wide eyed looking at me. Again, not the picturesque vision I had imagined with two sons and a doting father by our side. It was just us. For some reason, in that hour alone, I didn’t feel like a mother. Maybe it was the fact that I literally couldn’t feel anything. But even as the spinal block wore off, something was amiss. I was eventually rolled up to my room on the second floor with tiny five pound Ryder where two sets of anxious grandparents sat with questions I had no answers for. After just a few minutes with Ryder, he was also taken from me to transition due to his low blood sugar. So just three hours after my miracle moment, I was baby-less. I just remember thinking, “Ok God, once again, I surrender control.” Clearly, I could not hustle or negotiate my way out of this. I couldn’t even get out of bed or use the bathroom on my own.
Those first fews days in the hospital are one run-on day. Eventually Ryder was brought back to us. Jason and the grandparents would go up and down the floors to visit Crews. They would bring me back news and pictures of my poor son hooked up to all kinds of tubes and equipment. Once a day, Jason would roll me down to see him. And eventually I was allowed to hold him for 90 minutes at a time. Again, it did not feel real. He did not feel like my son. I began to slowly, internally panic that we wouldn’t bond. That he wouldn’t know me. I wouldn’t know him like I know Ryder two floors up.
But as the days and minutes together progressed, that fear inside of me was quickly replaced with the old familiar knot. It took me a few days to identify with words that familiar feeling. I said it first out loud to my mom while laying in bed just a fews days after being discharged with Ryder. Jason and I were still making our daily trek down to Gainesville to see and hold Crews during his “handling times.” Again, just once a day for 90 minutes. Not enough. Would never be enough. That knot would slowly build once again in my closet at home. I would be putting on my pants and he would appear. The sickness for leaving Ryder. The sickness for seeing Crews, knowing he was alone most of the day and that I would also be forced to leave him too. Did he feel abandoned when I left? Did he feel my absence as I felt his? That stretch of 365 from my house to the Gainesville hospital exit will never look or feel the same for me. That was the road that separated me from two sons for seventeen long days. I would fight back the tears coming and going. I would fight back the tears while holding Crews. I would fight back the tears while returning to Ryder. I am fighting back the tears now (and failing miserably at it). Homesickness has never felt more real to me in my life. Not as a child being separated from my mommy for a sleepover. Not as an anxious preteen entering high school, or an insecure young adult embarking on a career she was clearly unprepared for.
But I never had time to wallow in those feelings. I was too busy. We were too busy. Going back and forth, tending to the needs of two sons who desperately needed us in two very different ways. The same week we returned home with Ryder, two dear friends of ours lost loved ones. One friend lost his son in an mysterious tragedy. Another lost his father to a sudden passing. While swaddling one son at home and praying for the other in NICU, we also attended two funerals. Talk about a heart check. Jason and I both felt a deeper sense of loss for both our friends. We now got it. We finally feel it ourselves, the love of a parent to their child, the love of a father and his son. And when I think about that feeling, homesickness creeps in again. That feeling I have never been able to identify, that feeling I have towards needing my mom, that feeling I now have towards needing both my sons, what others may call bonding or parental love, I will forever call homesickness.
And yet, how can I not reflect upon how deeper and greater our Father’s love is for us? Does God feel homesick for us when we are astray? Does He yearn for us when we choose to walk this path without His guidance and presence? I now know He does. Just as I feel that pit, that knot begin to arise when torn away from my sons, God feels it exponentially more for us. We are His creation, His children. His beloved, and He wants us to draw near, to need Him, to love Him, to have a relationship with Him. I truly believe that is why God’s wrecks our plans (at least mine). He knows me better than my mom and dad know me. Better than Jason knows me. He knows that when I make plans they don’t always include Him. So, why not wreck those plans? Why not force me to surrender and include Him, my Father, in those plans? After all, God does not want to be homesick for us. He wants us to feel that magical, spiritual feeling of security. Like He is pulling in the driveway rescuing us from a night on the floor in tears.
Drawing near to my sons, I know they are safe, secure, and loved. Drawing near to my Father, I know I am safe, secure, and loved.
How deep the Father's love for us?
How vast beyond all measure?
That He should give His only Son,
To make a wretch His treasure.
“Well friends, it’s Friday (actually Sunday). That's usually when I catch up on some personal stuff. I check my in-box, I return some emails, and of course I send out my Thank You notes,” (Jimmy Fallon anyone?).
With the twins’ delivery due at any moment (yep, still pregnant . . . 37 weeks and holding!), I’d like to take this time to write my Thank You notes for everyone and everything that got me through this miraculous twin pregnancy.
In no particular order, and without any endorsements, here we go.
“James, some Thank You writing music please.”
Thank you, Victoria’s Secret consultant, for my first bra fitting in over a decade. You were right, my bras were too small, and your recommendations have served these past months well. I also really appreciate you not being offended when I yelled “shut up,” when you told me what my “true size” was. Again, it was the shock of going up that many cup sizes, not you. I hope to see you in the future if things every return to the way they were.
Thank you, Rodan and Fields skin care and my consultant friend Christy for her spot-on recommendations. Yes, your prices do create a bit of sticker shock but when my skin literally began to sluff off during my first trimester, you kept it hydrated and intact. To everyone who said I have that “pregnancy glow,” I have to admit it wasn’t me. It was a combination of my ridiculously high body temperature (three body temperatures, my mother pointed out) and the use of R & F products. They may be high priced but I’m a believer they are also high performing.
Thank you, triple metabolism for allowing me one last opportunity to eat carbs and still barely hit my doctor’s pound a week goal. Yes, I know our time left is short, but I’ll forever be grateful for the nine months of toast, biscuits, sandwiches, and buns that have sustained us.
Thank you, Chick-Fil-A’s of Gainesville, Cornelia, Athens, and Rabun County, for not only providing fast and uninhibited Wi-Fi for my office days on the road. But Thank you for sustaining me during this twin pregnancy with your amazing egg and cheese biscuits and chicken sandwiches (extra pickles of course) without judgment. Even when I rolled through your drive-thru at 7AM on a Saturday morning with no-make up on, wearing my husband’s pajamas because nothing else fits, it was always your “pleasure” to serve me.
In that same vein, Thank you CFA “One” App and customer service surveys. You have provided me with fourteen free sandwiches, two free biscuits, one free large fry, and one free large chocolate chip cookie. The boys love you already. And because of my deep affection for you and the gifts of my favorite Aunt Sheri, my boys will proudly rock those CFA onesies. Just wait for that Instagram post.
Thank you, Danon Greek Yogurt (fruit on the bottom) which Jason now calls “Yogi.” You have not only provided much needed protein for me and my boys, but you have prevented nighttime nausea and hangry fits of discontent. Jason and I both thank you!
Thank you Coke Icees, particularly the ones sold at QuikTrip, for getting me through my first and second trimester nighttime sickness. I know caffeine should be limited during pregnancy but seeing my husband walk through the door with you in his hands, made me love him even more.
Thank you, iced tea for becoming my coffee replacement during pregnancy. I should have known something was up when my piping hot cup of morning java started enacting my gag reflex. But luckily the pure, unadulterated taste of unsweet tea (or half and half when needed) came to my rescue. Having not drank iced tea in years, I have now judged and categorized ice tea from all over North Georgia and if you are curious, here are the winners;
And because not everything I consumed has been what you might call healthy. Thank you, Juice Plus for coming to my nutrition rescue. I have been a fan of you for years but when your capsules disagreed with me early on, I was afraid my boys would lack the nutrition they (and I) needed. Your customer service graciously switched out my capsules for gummies and it has been smooth vitamin sailing ever since. I attribute my ideal weekly vitals to you!
Thank you to all the strangers who restrained themselves from reaching out and touching my growing bump. And even a greater thank you to all the ones who said I don’t look “that big” for having twins. The grammatical modifier “that” made all the difference for my self-esteem.
Thank you, long torso for finally coming in handy! After all these years of struggling to find shirts and one-piece bathing suits that properly cover my bum, I now know why God created you so long: to hold these boys. I have no idea how petite woman survive carrying multiples but when I see I’ll softly say a prayer.
Thank you, Le Tote Maternity (and my mother-in-law who bought that subscription for Christmas) for allowing me to rent all my maternity wear. And yes, the secret is out, I do wear the same outfit all week long but when you see different schools every day, why change it up. I’ll will mourn your subscription with every load of personal laundry.
(Want a coupon code? Hit me up!)
Thank you, Blanqui Support Wear, for not only holding these babies in, but up! At this very moment I am holding in (and up) thirteen pounds of twins and an estimated twenty-two pounds of amniotic fluid. And yes, I feel every ounce. But you got me, friends. You have kept me from feeling like the damn could burst at any moment and for that, you are worth every penny!
Thank you, Bath and Body Works’ Lay It On Thick Shea Butter body lotion. I first fell in love with you and your naturally tropical sent when I worked for BBW as a freshman in college. And even though you are now discontinued (which is ludicrous on the company’s behalf), I am grateful that I stocked up in November. Your lotion, scrub, and bar soap have now covered a lot of real estate and have prevented the first stretch mark. Bless you, friend. Until I find another replacement, I’ll be forced to buy your overstocked inventory off Amazon.
Speaking of Amazon, halleluiah and a huge thank you! Yes, yes, I know that Amazon is crushing the small business model of the American economy but when you live out in the middle of Banks County, Amazon Prime and the Amazon baby registry become your new best friend. Having orders and unexpected gifts arrive on your front steps is like Christmas without the chill and decorations. And thank you to everyone who ordered off my registry. Because of your love, we have earned $200 in free diapers from Amazon. And you know, dear friends, that will last us at least three weeks. Bless you!
Thank you doctors, nurses, and stenographers who have taken such amazing care of myself and these boys. I will truly miss seeing you each and every week. You guys are as much a part of this journey as anyone else and I’m proud to write your Yelp 5-star reviews and welcome you as a part of this miraculous family.
Thank you, Aussie and Quigley for your unconditional puppy love, be that nausea or restlessness. Thank you for always being up for snack time or nap time. Thank you for keeping your little puppy eyes on me every time I shower, go to the bathroom, or (your favorite) walk to the frig no matter what time of the day or night. Thank you for your constant snuggles. I know you knew of their presence, heard their little heart beats, and felt their kicks long before the rest of us. They are oh-so excited to meet their big siblings and I know you two will reign Lord Protectors over your little brothers as you have been with me. I know these new little editions will change our family dynamics but don’t fret, we will never forget who our first-borns are and will continue to love you back unconditionally as they will too.
Thank you, Jason for being my best friend these past sixteen years, my husband these past eleven, my confidant, my sounding board, and my strong shoulder during these years and now months of waiting. Thank you for all the take-out orders, for learning to cook as I deliver instructions laying horizontal on the couch, for waking me up and bringing me a “yogi” every night at midnight, for allowing me to practically live in your pajamas and t-shirts these last few months, and for calming my nerves and anxieties when you see me about to go off the rails. People keep saying how good “I’m doing” but what they don’t see is how good “we’re doing.” We are a team which is why I am for once not fearful or anxious about becoming parents to twins. You take such phenomenal care of me and the pups, I can’t wait to see how you take care of our sons.
Thank you, family, friends, and prayer warriors. This pregnancy, these sons, are a communal effort of countless prayers, commitment to Him, and patience for “such as time as this.” God is so remarkable that He timed this so that none could share the glory but Him. I know my story is a testimony of His love, His mercy, and His grace because never have I been to a baby shower where dear friends prayed and wept over such miracles. Those prayers, that moment, and His presence over us will forever be one of my most cherished memories. We have received cards, gifts, and prayers from all across the United States. From new friends, long loved friends, and from even one-time acquaintances. I know I am not worthy, nor am I equipped. But I know I am called and therefore God will equip us.
The next time I see you all, my dear friends, I’ll be a mother.
To God be all the glory. Great things He hath done and will continue to do. This is my prayer for us and for all of you!
I really hate the phrase “All in God’s timing.” I know. I know. Hate is such a strong word but strongly dislike doesn’t do that phrase justice either. It’s because the phrase “God’s timing” completely eliminates all that I am comfortable with, all that I know, all that I have: my own control. “God’s timing” indicates fully relinquishing your own plans, agenda, and prayers for the majestic plan of The Father all the while never knowing if our two plans will intersect. Let’s face it, being a follower of Christ is the biggest act of faith anyone can endure. You seek, you follow, you pray, and sometimes in your darkest hours, the silence is all that is returned. Or even worse, the answer comes and it’s not what we’ve asked for. It could be a “not now,” or heaven forbid, a “no.”
But if the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that our God is not a quiet God. He is constantly moving and working, banging around making noise in the hopes that we, his inattentive children, will finally look up and listen.
If you know me even a little bit, you know that it has taken me quite a long time to look up. And even a longer time to take out the earbuds of this world and listen.
At twenty-five or maybe it was twenty-six years old, my best friend told me in the Gainesville Cinema parking lot after seeing the premiere of one of the Harry Potter films, that she was pregnant. They just thought they would see what would happen. And well, it did. I was so excited. I drove home to Jason and announced to him, “if it happened for them, it could happen for us.” We didn’t begin trying. You don’t need to “try” to get pregnant. You just let it happen, right?
After a few years when it doesn’t happen, and all your friends slowly enter that mommy phase of life, you start to even convince yourself that you are “choosing” to wait, “choosing” to not be parents. We’re in no rush. We’re enjoying life. We’re just not ready. We like doing whatever we want, whenever we want. Life is great!
But we all know the pain and lies behind those lines. The hurt feelings of being “left behind.” The constant waiting and thoughts that come every month. Why not us?Eventually you are forced to swallow your pride, face the doctors, and hear the diagnosis that conception “won’t be easy” and that it will take some “medical interventions.”
I think when I saw that first doctor, began that first round of treatment that my prayers would be magically answered. But during that first year of trial and error, I became the worst version of myself. I stopped praying to God and started pleading with Him. Big difference. No one likes a whinner. Especially whining to the One who not only created you but saved you.
I also became this bitter and emotional “friend” (yes, I put that in quotes because I’m not sure how friendly I really was) to those around me in the throes of motherhood and new pregnancy. I mean I did all the right things, I threw baby showers, held newborns, and always asked about their children. But behind all those actions were biter obligations, not a servant’s heart. I would hold their babies, hop in my car, and cry the entire way home. I played the role but again, not well.
One incredibly shameless moment happened several years back when literally half of the English department was pregnant. Someone had just announced their pregnancy during lunch and it festered inside of me something awful. Jealously is one of the enemy’s greatest instruments. While walking out to my car that afternoon I said to a fellow English teacher friend, “if one more person announces they are pregnant, I think I’ll scream.” Little did I know, she was pregnant. I saw her adorable and clever social media announcement two weeks later and immediately felt shameful and guilty. Who had I become? (And yes, miraculously to this day, we are the closest of friends. She is the most forgiving and compassionate of God’s creation).
But you know what? If God himself would have Skyped me then and told me that on November 8th, 2018, that at the age of 33, I would finally hear not one but two heartbeats, my reaction would have still been discontentment. Because even getting “what you want” at not the right time sucks. The crossroad of “God’s timing” and your willingness to accept it is not on a highway, it’s on a gravely road that requires four-wheel drive and low speed. Yes, it takes time. And don’t we all hate waiting?
Even though I am in the midst of everything I’ve ever wanted, ridiculously pregnant with two healthy miracle boys, I will never forget the years of waiting, of heartbreak, of being left behind. God has used those years, for “such a time as this.”
Want some proof? Good. Here it goes.
As most of you know, I never wanted to be an English teacher. The job literally fell in my lap (thankfully) and I honestly spent most of my ten-year career fighting wanting to leave and explore other options while also deeply falling in love with my students and my school. It seems though that about every Spring I would go on several job hunts and interviews. In fact, every job that I interviewed for, was offered to me. Jason was my Jiminy Cricket during each and every offer. Either it was not enough money, did not offer comparable benefits, or simply not the right fit for me as much as I tried to step-sister my foot into that glass slipper.
Herff Jones even came along twice before during those seasons of restlessness. As much as I wanted the job, it again was never the right now or the right circumstances. I mean the very first time they offered me the job, I had literally been announced “Teacher of the Year” that morning. My name was on the marquee when they drove into the parking lot.
But last year, last year was the perfect timing. I was emotionally ready to leave on a win. The offer was financially worth the risk of leaving a career that I was good at for one that I might not be. And Jason having made a career leap himself, seeing first-hand the benefits of being where you are called (all while also keeping our State insurance).
God was preparing my schedule for twin pregnancy.
When you are labeled “high risk”, receive a miraculous conception, are having multiples, and mono/ di multiples at that, you see a lot of doctors and very often. I have literally seen either my OB or my neonatal specialist every other week since I was eight weeks pregnant. And starting third trimester, I have been seeing them both every week. That’s a lot of appointments. And because I go so often, I have to take whatever appointments I can get, be that first thing in the morning or in the middle of the day. I just cannot imagine asking any principal, any employer, to provide coverage for these hour long (or more) appointments every two weeks. It has been tricky enough getting Jason coverage at his school to attend some of these important appointments. Again, God knew this timing. He knew this job would provide the scheduling I needed to take care of my career and my pregnancy.
God was also preparing my body for twin pregnancy.
For the past several years I have been really motivated by some incredible friends to attempt some incredible feats. I have run over twenty half marathons, one ridiculous muggy marathon attempt, one full triathlon, and one coast-to-coast Florida bike challenge lasting two days. My mom has not been a fan of these races. I would appease her by assuring her I was safe when attempting and training and would also tell her that I was preparing my body for pregnancy when that time came. The truth, I just needed that feeling of accomplishment. It’s addictive and once again it put me in control. Now I was never competing for a fast time, I am seriously a tortoise compared to my friends. I was just competing with myself. Proof that I could will my body into submission be it on my feet, on a bike, or with fertility.
Over a year ago I even began teaching spin classes at my local tiny gym. Another dream. Another way to push my body (and get in a few free workouts each week). I loved teaching spin. I loved my students. I loved the strength and accomplishment each class brought. Almost a year to the date of starting, I texted the owner to let her know that I was pregnant with twins and that it was just too risky to keep pushing my body by teaching. When you’ve lost two pregnancies, you’re not willing to do anything to risk losing another.
But God was indeed preparing my body. Pregnancy is hard. I keep hearing that pregnancy of multiples is even harder. I really don’t know any different. But what I do know is that my doctors can’t explain it. My blood pressure has remained consistently low. My body has been able to adjust to the weight and strain of currently 12 pounds of babies (not to mention all that fluid). No back pain. No swelling. No bed rest. I’m over 35 weeks in, still working, still getting out when I can, still surviving.
But God was also preparing our marriage for twins.
Jason and I met when we were seventeen and eighteen years old. We have officially been together half our lives. And it hasn’t been a bed of roses. We survived college, first careers, coming from two totally different backgrounds, a traumatic brain injury and seizures, raising a teenager, four moves, a home flooding and reconstruction, second careers, infertility, and miscarriages. Not to mention my stubbornness and excessive compulsion for control. He is a good man. He is a Godly man. And with him by myside, we will also survive twin parenting.
People say the most awful and unencouraging things when they find out you are having twins (I’m saving that post for another day). But I honestly have not been afraid. I’m still not. Yes, I’m anxious for them to arrive. To see their faces. To see my husband as a father. But I’m not afraid. God has given us eleven years of trials that have brought us closer. And I know the next years will do the same.
So yes, this has truly all been in “God’s timing” but when you are in the throes of waiting, hanging on to hope like a thread, crying out to unanswered prayers, no one wants to hear that.
Instead they want to hear a true story that confirms that timing can and will occur. No one does that better for me than Ester. I am nothing like Ester. She was obedient. She was silent in her faithful following of God’s will. She could have fought her calling, refused to admit that she was created for such a time as this. But she didn’t. She didn’t run kicking and screaming in the other direction. She didn’t stop praying to God and start whining to Him. She remained planted in that moment, in God’s presence, in His will regardless of her own personal fear and uncertainty.
Ester’s journey came down to a single moment that could have changed the course of her story forever. She had the opportunity to help save her people, and she could have easily walked away, scared of the risk she would need to take. But Mordecai saw God’s purpose in Esther’s life. His words proclaim truth, leaping off the page and stirring our hearts. Stirring my heart confirming “God’s perfecting timing” in my own life.
And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14b)
My Ester-moment occurred a few years back when I decided to stop being the victim of God’s timing, and start being an advocate for it. God had placed my feet on this journey for such a time as this.
Yes, God has chosen us. But yet He also gives us a choice. Will we walk away, or will we accept the journey that He has placed before us?
I am not saying that God will always answers your prayers, dear friends, with the answer you desire if only you are faithful enough to wait. But what I am saying is that God will answer them. He will place your feet on His path. But the choice is yours. Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
When you become an English teacher, you’re quickly thrown into a genre specialty. You either primarily teach and therefore become an expert in British literature, or World literature, or even courses such as AP Language. For the first part of my career, I was the Ninth Grade Literature gal. A survey of literature course, pretty liberating to pick among literally anything from the canon of literary works. But after five years of teaching The Odyssey, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men, and Tuesdays with Morrie, I needed a reprieve. I was given American Literature as my new niche and as most English teachers will tell you, you either love it or hate it. American Lit pretty much has to be taught chronologically. It’s just doesn’t work any other way. That means you start from the very beginning with some less than gripping works such as Native American Myths and Legends, to colonial literature such as John Smith's The General History of Virginia(a real page turner). Most English teachers plow right through 17thcentury colonial literature and even the Calvinistic doctrines that pave the road to the American Revolution of the 18thcentury. We all want to get to the really gripping content of the 19thcentury; the American Renaissance, the Transcendentalists, works by Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman. Something even the students can really sink their teeth into. Or, at least, pretend to.
But out of all the men who literally set the voice and narrative of the early years of our country, one woman stands out. Anne Bradstreet is considered the first published American female voice. A poet, a Puritan, a mother of eight. Need I say more? Her vulnerability about domestic life was truly the first voice to the hashtag, #thestruggleisreal.
Two years ago today, I was teaching high school English, working on the final deadline for the yearbook, preparing for girls golf season, and packing my bags for the inaugural senior trip to New York City, all while hiding my twelve week pregnancy. I had cancelled golf practice saying I needed to pack for NYC which was leaving the following morning at 4AM. And I did need to pack. But I also needed to make my second ultrasound appointment too eager to hear a heartbeat, already planning to snap a pick at the top of the Empire State Building announcing this surprise pregnancy. Two years off the pill, and over a year on “crazy pills” for infertility. It was finally happening. We had told our families a few weeks before but so far there was no heartbeat. “Nothing to worry about,” my doctor had urged me. “Sometimes, it’s just too soon to hear.” But let’s face it, even as I showed my parents that first ultrasound, God was already preparing my heart for the loss. Maybe that is why I never packed for New York. I just knew I would not be going.
After the appointment, Jason I got the news I already knew in my heart. “No heartbeat.” The “fetus” stopped growing. The doctor never used the word “baby.” Unfortunately, “common” for first pregnancy the unknown doctor had told us. I didn’t cry. I didn’t react. Instead, I handled it. We were given two options; a “natural” miscarriage encouraged by implanted medication. I could go home, and nature would take its course. Option two; a DNC, quick, medical, sterile, and 100% reliable. There was no option three, go to NYC, enjoy the much-deserved trip with your beloved seniors, keep on living in a state of hope and grace. We chose option one; cheaper, easier, “natural.”
While checking out the receptionist gave me a new parent folder and asked if we wanted to meet with a financial counselor to set up payments for the birth. I wanted to scream, “It’s dead, your idiot. Read my chart.” But the numbness was still in place (luckily for her) so all that managed to come out was “Not today.” We left. In silence.
My mom, like a perfectly timed alarm clock, called as we were leaving the office, still in shock. Jason and I still not speaking what needed to be said. “Well how did it go?” she asked eagerly on the other end of the line. “Fine,” I lied. Silence quickly fell between us and she knew. “Was there a heartbeat?” she instinctually asked. “No,” I responded. I didn’t hear what she said next. I was still in handling mode. I think I told her I was okay and that I would call back. My mind was racing. Not about the baby. But about the trip. I had the New York folder in my car. I needed to give it to someone. I needed to make sure someone went in my stead. I had all the forms, the itinerary. I wasn’t going to let my loss be a loss for my students. After all, they are my firstborns, as I have always called them. This mama was not going to let them down.
Jason drove me over to my bestie’s house. We taught together. Did life and now loss together. I had already called her on my way giving her a heads up. When I arrived, Jason stayed in the car and I made my visit quick. “No baby. Procedure tomorrow. You’re in the charge”, was the gist of the conversation. Not sure what else we exchanged other than the notebook and blank looks. Neither of us knew what to say. I can still picture her daughter at the dining room table and her husband in the kitchen. I don’t think I acknowledged either of them. How rude. I just knew I wanted to get in and out while I was still numb, still handling what needed to be handled.
Jason drove me home. I don’t remember where we left my car. What we ate for dinner. If I even ate. Or when I crawled into bed. I just remember the next morning. The black sweatpants I wore. The sound of the highway as we drove to the doctor’s office that morning without the radio on. That damn cat poster someone hung on the ceiling of the procedure room that read “Hang in there.” Yeah, not joking. We’ve all seen that poster. I love cats. I hate that poster.
My doctor came in. Said something meaningless. Implanted the drugs. Gave Jason a pat on the shoulder and scheduled me back in two weeks for a follow up. I am now a firm believer that these offices need a back door. Why add insult to injury, as they say, and have me leave through the waiting room. That room filled with glowing pregnant woman with round bulging bellies of life growing within. I walked right by that same receptionist, held my head as I walked out the front door in my black sweatpants, and left speechless Jason to handle the bill, the reactions, and the idiot receptionist.
I think the car ride home was filled with silence too. I’m not sure. There was too much noise going on inside my own head. It was almost 8AM. My seniors had shown up at school to find their leader absent, another one present. Thank you, Delta Airlines, for allowing me to switch my seat for another within just hours of our flight boarding. The customer service representative asked for a reason for cancelation and without flinching I told her, “I just loss my pregnancy.” She responded with such kindness and sincerity. No charge was given. Her condolences were accepted.
I’m not sure what my friend told my seniors. It was never really discussed. So much was never discussed. By so many. Not my loss. Not that procedure. Or the DNC that ultimately followed two weeks later on Saint Patrick’s Day because what my doctor failed to tell us was the that “natural” way wasn’t always 100% effective.
A year after my loss. A year from today, God did give me something in return for my heartache. Courage. Courage and a voice. I was finally fed up with the silence. Fed up with the dancing around my broken heart in fear of making others feel awkward. Fed up with others feeling just like I was and not having the courage to speak into them what I wished others had spoken into me during that time.
Yes, it’s two years from the date of that loss and my belly is full, literally full of two healthy, growing, miracles from God, whom according to my app, are the length of two bananas. Right now they are kicking and I know that I serve a God of answered prayers, perfect timing, and restoration. But I also know that the two sons I now grow will never overshadow the two losses I have endured the past two years. I will always be a mother of loss and at the same time, a mother of miracles.
I have been living in a state of silent fear these past few months. Yes, fear of loss. That palpable fear of adding two more white hearts tattooed on my wrist. But selfishly enough, also the fear of losing my voice. For the past year God has given me a message of hope and healing in the midst of waiting. God has spoken to me, held my heart, and mended my pain in a way that only He could do. And in return for my obedience and vulnerability, God has opened the door for the most remarkable and life-changing conversations with those who are also in the trenches of waiting, loss, teetering on treads of hope.
Dear friends in the trenches, I am not leaving you. God has never left you, or I. My pain is still real and raw two years later and I know that our pain is His pain. These two precious little boys will never replace or overshadow what God has whispered in my heart during these years of waiting. I know this joy is all vanity. At any point, the tides may turn. Life may once again get hard and loss is always waiting around the corner. We live in world of sin and injustice. But we serve a Father of grace and mercy.
Father God, I pray that we never forgot. I pray you answer the prayers of others in the same manner you graciously chose to answer mine; with perfect timing, and restoration. I pray for peace during the waiting.
No more silence.
No more dancing around the pain with niceties.
No more fear.
I pray for courage and a voice.
Things are starting to get real around the White House. (And no, I’m not talking POTUS).
The reality is not just in my every three-hour eating schedule that keeps me and my nausea in check. It’s not just my ever-expanding waist line which seems to be high topic of conversation. Or the fact that I’m visited Victoria’s Secret twice in two months trying to lift and cover my other expanding needs. Or the relentless baby talk about the future. What to buy. What to do. What do we not know . . . everything!
The reality is that God has chosen this time, this season, and this pregnancy for His purpose. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one year ago today I opened my mouth, posted a blog, and confessed my heartbreak to the cyber universe but ultimately to God, my Father.
“God has a sense of humor,” I wrote. “He knew that our hearts were set on family and home. As with Noah, God brought a flood that washed away all expectations and ability to plan, control, and He restored our home to something far greater than we could have ever imagined or truly deserved” (Adventure).
Looking back on my own words, God has once again done it. This past year of vulnerability, frustration, and weakness has brought down the walls guarding my heart, just like the unexpected flood of 2015 brought down the sheetrock and flooring of our home. God knows I’m a kinesthetic learner. I must do to fully understand. We spent eleven months in 2016 rebuilding our home preluding the eleven months in 2017 that God would take to rebuild my heart. As with our home, He brought me down to my foundation, stripped away my ability to control and slowly, in His time, with His plan, restored my reliance on Him and His word.
Two weeks into the New Year and I can already tell people are back into their humming life routines. For example, I’m still saying “Happy New Year,” to those out and about and you can see people almost flinch and look at the date on their watch before responding, “Oh yeah, Happy New Year.” Yeah, that’s right people, it’s only fourteen days into 2018, you can slow down, breathe, enjoy.
What is it about January that feels more “hustle and bustle” than the Holiday expectations of November and December?
Well, if you are even an ounce like me, it’s because you begin the year with goals and expectations, dreams and to-do lists, tasks and their “accomplish by dates.” I’m exhausted by the time I make my list, much less begin it (maybe that’s just the pregnancy talking). But regardless, too many expectations are wearying, life-draining. Believe me. Been there, bought the t-shirt.
So, what if you simplified the whole goal setting rat-race and instead chose a simple way to focus in on your year? What if you picked just one word, a theme word of the year to guide you? Now, if you’ve been following along friends, you know the last few years, God has chosen to really speak to me through my theme word.
2015, the year of Adventure.
2016, the year of Restoration.
2017, the year of Whimsy.
So, I’m feeling it this year. Big shoes to fill. How will I ever compete with my God-ordained Year of Whimsy? The good news, I don’t have to. And, even better news, God will show up regardless.
The Big Bang Theory, Series 03 Episode 23 – The Lunar Excitation