We got married in the late nineties, newly graduated from bible school and ready to change the world with big dreams and what we thought, was unshakable faith. As one who was recruited to remain on staff of aforementioned bible school, we were in a unique social circle. Most of our close friends and fellow graduates had either moved on to further studies in other cities or they had taken posts in missions around the world. We were suddenly bereft of a social circle of friends who were like us, married, no kids. We were surrounded mostly by high school graduates starting out in Bible School or couples who’d been married several years ahead of us and were now moving on into the next phase of typical family life, having children.
Not having kids yet probably wouldn’t have been a big deal in a different place and time. But at that point, we felt a bit like we couldn’t relate to anyone. After a few months of marriage, the negative side effects of taking birth control caused us to decide that if we got pregnant that year, it was ok because we had both wanted a big family. A year passed and we enjoyed our couple-hood. He was busy travelling in his new job and I was working in full time ministry – I was happy to go to work every day and be with my students and co-workers. I was working in a Creative Arts in Ministry school, leading worship every morning, and also working in the music ministry of a vibrant church.
After that first year, we put a little more thought into family planning. We wanted kids, and my mom had never had any trouble getting pregnant (I have four younger sisters), so I figured it would be a piece of cake. I was almost 25 now. Time to make it happen if I wanted to be done by 30. Silly me, I thought it was up to me, this having babies thing. When another year passed, the niggling doubts started to creep in. Maybe something was wrong with one or both of us. So we went and got things checked out. The doctor said everything was in working order. Stop worrying about it, it would happen, eventually.
But, there was stress. The stress of things not being in my control. Of course this stress would mess with my biology. A vicious 28 day cycle of anxiety, hope and crushing disappointment became my new normal. For another year, I would slap on a happy face each day, because I was in ministry, and these were the days of faith without visible struggle. When doubts and fears and negativity in general were not acceptable. I didn’t want to be that woman, obsessed with her infertility. I had a friend, she cried with me every month, she already had 2 kids, and I’d even been in the room when the second was born. She mourned with me well. But the happy face was driving a wedge between God and I, because not being real on the outside, was causing me to not be real on the inside.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”
― Henri J.M. Nouwen,
And then, one day… the light shone in. The cycle was interrupted. Hope was not followed by crushing disappointment. The darkness of the previous years was lost in the light of this little seed of hope. My heart came alive, my dreams took flight. I saw this baby in my heart. I prayed like never before, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of protection and love. I had one of those books that had pictures of how she was developing each week – and each day I would offer up thanksgiving for the heart, the limbs, the feet, the spine…my joy was full. We heard the heartbeat at 8 weeks. I had been keeping a pregnancy journal and it was filled with hopes, dreams and plans.
My expectation and my joy grew daily. We had decided to share our good news with friends and family on my husband’s birthday. We’d be just past the first trimester by then, so planned the party and waited eagerly for that November to arrive.
I had a feeling in my heart it was a girl. I liked the name Marion – the name was in both our families. We told my parents, and my father in law – with a balloon that said “Grandpa” – he was overjoyed. (He’d been asking for grandbabies since the wedding). He loved the name…”can I call her Maggie?” and I’d hear him whistle the Foster and Allen song – Maggie to himself, over and over. We also told that friend, the one who cried with me, and we laughed like school girls. That fall, everyday felt like I awoke to a world of sunshine and butterflies…
Until the night before the party…when the dark clouds began to gather…