Sunday, May 8, 2011

A New, Hopeful Perspective

In the last couple of weeks, I've been feeling a lot more peaceful about Beauty's quickly approaching labor and delivery.  I don't doubt I have prayer warriors to thank for that.  So, if that's you, thank you! 

Yesterday Bryan and I were on our walk together, and I was telling him how I have a new perspective on Beauty's arrival.  I had been trying to self-talk myself into being calmer and more peaceful and less afraid.  I kept thinking about how people experience pain all the time, but very rarely is it pain with a tangible blessing at the end, with a very intentional purpose to produce the best possible gift in all of life.  And sometimes people have dreadfully intense pain that lingers and lingers with little hope of something beautiful at the end.  Car accidents and sickness happen all the time; people are abused and mistreated. 

A good friend of ours had a cancer scare the last two weeks.  Everything suggested cancer -- from age, to life habits, to the way the mass manifested itself, to the specific symptoms he exhibited.  The doctors were confident it was cancer.  And he would have had to endure chemo, surgery,  and aggressive treatment all in the hope that eventually the pain and suffering would vanquish the cancer cells and grant him a long, healthy life yet to live.  But there are no promises in that scenario, and the hope of health would be something to cling to in the bad days but not something they could hang their hats on.  His road would have been suffering to fight against something, to try to defeat something malignant, attacking his body and health.  Miraculously, God granted him a good report with no cancer, and a regimen of antibiotics to fight off an infection.  But thinking about what he could have had to endure was challenging to me.

The pain I will endure during labor and Beauty's delivery is the pain of life and hope.  It is pain designed to bring forth a child.  Pain with a very specific purpose.  Pain pregnant with hope.  And I think previously I have felt frightened of this pain because I was frightened to hope.  With Caleb and Joel, the moment those boys were in my arms, my memory of the pain vanished.  Who cared what I had just been through?  I had a beautiful, perfect, amazing baby in my arms.  Within seconds of delivery, I had forgotten all about what I had suffered.  My focus and attention were on the miracle in my arms, my son, begotten of my own body.  If anyone asked how labor was, my immediate answer was, "No big deal.  I'd do it again in a heartbeat."  That's because I was holding the gift that my pain produced.

With Samuel's birth, everything was different.  While in labor, I wondered what child was going to come from my womb.  Would his heart be ok for the first few months of life like the doctors expected?  Would he have Down Syndrome?  Would he be ok when he was suffering from SVT during labor, his heart rate skyrocketing every few minutes?  There was a good deal of fear mixed in with the pain, though hope was certainly present too.  But once I delivered Samuel, and he was whisked away into the corner with no one telling me how he was, with Bryan pretty much out of commission from wooziness, with no one telling me if he looked like he had Downs, and the doctor going to work stitching up my tears, I didn't have the euphoria of holding my baby, washing away what I had just endured.  Instead, I was shaking uncontrollably, my knees literally knocking each other and then falling two feet apart over and over again.  I was far more aware of the pain of being stitched up than I had been with Caleb or Joel.  I felt helpless, a little abandoned, and my arms felt incredibly empty.  It wasn't the way a birth was supposed to be.  Not at all.  And then the hours that followed with no news from the NICU, the days with no answers, and the weeks with rapidly diminishing hope all culminated in a fear of hoping for anything in this life.  I knew the joy of hoping in the eternal, of having a sure hope in Heaven and seeing Samuel again, but I think I robbed myself of hoping for the blessings in this life.

Bryan has repeatedly told me about his struggle to hope.  After losing both of his parents to cancer by the time he was 21, he found it very hard to hope Samuel could live.  I think I now understand his quandary.  After Samuel's death, I longed for another baby, for a healthy child, but I was too afraid to actually hope for one.  I prayed and beseeched God to grant me the desire of my heart, but my awareness of His ability to say "no" paralyzed my hope.  I could hope for something "not-yet and sure" as Bryan talked about at Samuel's funeral, but I couldn't bring myself to hope for something in this finite, limited life. 

I think this paralysis has probably been the root of my fears in delivering Beauty.  I have been (and still am to some extent) afraid that this birth will result in another heartbreak.  I am afraid of her being distressed in labor, of her not being in my arms after delivery, of her being in the NICU or whisked out of my arms moments after birth, of her lungs being inexplicably under-developed.  I am afraid of reliving any or all of Samuel's life.  Would we survive if it happened?  Of course.  Would God heal our hearts if another of our children goes to Heaven before us?  Absolutely.  Would we still find joy in this life and in our healthy boys?  Undoubtedly.  But I don't want to walk that road.  I want to bring home a healthy, thriving Beauty.  I want that to be the road God has for us, not more grief in an unhealthy child.

As I have thought about my fears and my reluctance to hope, I have come up with a new picture of Beauty's arrival.  I am praying and hoping (!) that her birth will be a major part of our healing, that her arrival into this world will be redemptive.  I am praying that we will look back on her birth as a beautiful, life-giving (both literally and figuratively) experience.  That somehow we will see God's redemption in Beauty's life, that we will be able to identify God's healing hand in granting her to us, that her entrance into life will be part of healing our Samuel wounds.  I think there is a good chance that delivering our daughter will be a truly miraculous (even more so than Caleb and Joel's birth because of having handed Samuel over to God) experience for us.  Bryan and I both wonder if it will be incredibly and deeply emotional for us to hold our own daughter in our arms, breathing on her own, pink because her heart is pumping blood exactly as it should, crying because her lungs are strong and sure.  And the picture of that, of a healthy baby cradled between us moments after pushing her out of womb, gives me a deep hope and eases my fears of what might be.  I can hope for these things.  I know they aren't promised, but I can hope for them.  And I can trust God with my hopes.  If He says "no" again, I can trust Him to be enough to carry us through whatever we must face.  He IS enough.  But I think hoping for Beauty to be whole and well is good and requires a genuine faith in my good God.  And I am praying that when labor starts, my mind and heart go to this picture of hope, of excitement in meeting our first baby girl, and to the anticipation of joy in her arrival as opposed to all the worst case scenarios that involve delivering in the car or the waiting room of the hospital or worst of all, a sick baby girl.   I am thankful for this new perspective on our daughter's birth.

On this second Mother's Day without Samuel, as I sit at Starbucks while the boys nap/rest at home, I am continually drawn to thoughts of my Samuel.  This morning in church, we sang "Blessed Be Your Name," a song we sang at Samuel's funeral.  It made me miss my baby.  I wish I could spend Mother's Day with my three sons and one daughter on the way.  What would life be like?  I can see how much God has healed me since Mother's Day last year, and I am thankful for His faithfulness.  This morning  I spent a long time praying for the friends I've made since Samuel's death who have also had to hand children over to God.  I am praying for their healing, comfort, and hope.  And I have new compassion and sympathy for those who are struggling to conceive and find Mother's Day a painful reminder of what (whom) they don't have.  I am praying that they too know God's presence and healing and that they have the courage to hope.  For our God is enough, and we can rest in Him and trust Him. 

Happy Mother's Day to the many amazing moms I know and most especially to my mom who is a light in this dark world and an example of integrity, courage, unconditional love, and servanthood.  Mom, you are hands-down the best mom in the world, and I am so unbelievably fortunate to call you mine.  Happy Mother's Day!

1 comment:

  1. I can't believe I missed this beautiful blog entry until tonight. I am so joyous reading of your new hopes for Beauty's arrival--filled with the possibility of healing for all of you---for all of us, me too. This has been my fervent prayer. And seeing it flowing from your beautiful writing is God answering already. (Oh Lord, grant this child of mine the joy of a healthy baby girl. May the labor she experiences be one that instantly fades away in the joy of new life--a gift from You. Amen)