The Ache

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Hello old friends. Please excuse me while I dust the cobwebs off my little corner of the internet and fumble into an overdue post.

I’m really loving this sweatpants-at-2:30 life. These days, my schedule is dictated by snuggles, diaper changes, laundry, and an occasional nap where I can.

And that’s completely OK.

It’s been only in the last few weeks that I felt myself become completely, utterly in love. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the beginning or that I didn’t love B from his arrival. We were more about survival then than savoring moments. Now though, he coos and smiles and wiggles. I can sink into the miracle, getting lost in his deep blue eyes as they glow and flicker. This is perfection.

Since his birth I’ve lived in the “new mama” phase with as much gusto as any. Two-minute showers, pain pills, sleepy eyes, and way too much talk about boobies. I’m discovering a mom’s way of thinking too.

A few days after bringing him home, there was a morning where M was gone to work, B slept in his bassinet by our bed, and I sat groggily trying to decide what to do with these precious free minutes. Grab some sleep? A shower? Maybe some breakfast? My thoughts stopped, though, when I caught a glimpse of my baby boy letting out a deep sigh. I sat and watched him sleep, watched him breathe. I didn’t want to do any of those other things. Creeping in the back door of my mind was a familiar feeling; something heavy that reached beyond the reasons I’d already given for my fear of parenthood; the root of it all, perhaps.

I flashed back to H720 three years ago, to sitting on that terrible hospital couch bed. From too far away, I watched M as he slept, praying for rest and comfort, not allowing my eyes to close for too long because I needed to watch over him. I needed to be sure his heart was still beating. I needed to see his chest rise and fall.

Now, here I am, looking over this tiny boy snuggled perfectly in his little bed, oblivious to all of everything. Again, I’m dreary and tattered, but refusing to sleep, needing to fight a fear. I have to watch, to be sure his chest will rise and fall.

That feeling – I loathe it.

I want to protect him from everything. With every ounce of me, I want to keep him safe. But, in a way more real and sharp than many experience, I know that I can’t. I am afraid. I have scars that I never want him to have himself. But I know he will.

I don’t want that hurt.

I don’t want to watch him have pain and I don’t want to feel the pain that comes with watching.

It’s an endless ache.

The irony is, that accompanying that ache is the deepest of loves – as if my heart needs to tear a little to make room for the overflow. The ache is necessary.

I knew this. But for the moment, the ache overpowered all else. I knew that, eventually, I would move past the fear and settle into the contentment of knowing that it’s worth it – the vast love is worth the fear, and even the hurt, when it comes.

He breathed in again, still peacefully sleeping and unaware of my presence.

Now, each time I find myself watching him a little too closely, in some sweet gift from heaven, he doesn’t simply exhale, but will breathe deeply with a sigh or a coo – an audible sign that he is, indeed, well.

His life still baffles me. I don’t know why he’s here, but I’ve come to understand what a gift he is. I get to spend the rest of forever loving this little boy, watching him change. Every day this gift grows. It keeps getting better.

I had resigned myself to a new plan, begun preparing our future as “barren” people.

But this is what God has done with our “barren.”

So even with the ache, I will watch and see. Watch with me and see what He can do with our Baron.

 

**Thank you for continuing to invest in our story. It tickles me silly to know that you still read what I write. It’s good for me too, so I want to make it a more consistent part of my life. Be on the lookout for a new site – samanthanail.com, coming soon!**
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Misconceptions and Chalkboard Prophecy

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder, shifting and changing since, oh, March? I’ve been looking for the right words for that long. I finally just decided that this will do…

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There’s a chalkboard on the wall in my breakfast niche. I like it for scribbling down reminders or verses or love notes. It’s not changed in several months though, because the words currently displayed are some that I still need.

“New Life – this is what I do.”

It’s a phrase I heard in my Spirit soon after discovering our pregnancy. At the time, it sounded appropriate, but I didn’t realize what a lifeline it would be. 

Let me explain…

I’ve settled into the groove of the third trimester. The registry is made, nursery prep is underway, and maternity bills are the norm. I nap a lot and my middle has expanded beyond what my closet can accommodate. My new heart is growing too, making room for a new love.  I can feel the work in progress. Time has brought me to a place that I can talk about carrying a child and not immediately want to twitch. With this adjustment comes a sense of familiarity, a calmness. In this new confidence I can share something with you that I wasn’t able to say out loud before…

I didn’t want to be pregnant. 

I was tired. Ragged. My body had been through enough. Even though we can only assume this last radiation dose has been successful, I was celebrating the fact that this time I could heal with assurance. This time, I knew I’d never have to take a radioactive pill again. I could finally recover for real; I could have my body back.

So, when we found out I was pregnant, my first thoughts were not happy ones of little toes and sweet stuffed animals. I cried in my bathroom floor. I didn’t want to share my body. Or my time. Or anything. I wanted rest. I wanted life to be predictable. My brain was soaked with radiation and my hormones were doubly erratic. I was afraid, confused, and resistant.

I’d already learned to be content in what I’d been given. I didn’t want to change again.

The identity we found after cancer was a hard-fought development, and now, it was comfortable. I didn’t want to be uncomfortable again. We’d settled into our place in that often overlooked group of people – the survivors – that have had “normal” things taken from them.  We’d accepted that we were sterile, that now we were “barren” and “different.” And it was OK.

Over time,  I replaced those words with ones like “free,” “strong,” “wife,” and “writer.” These are good words; they tell what I have rather than what I lack. And they made me better. So then, to be suddenly plucked from this club, this place I’d adapted to, and tossed back into the “mommy” pool, made me reluctant. I was afraid those good words I’d come to embrace would be replaced again, trumped by only one – “MOM.”

My perception of what it meant to be a mother didn’t seem to fit what it meant to be me.

I’ve spent the last few years wrestling to determine what I’m made for and what I’m supposed to be doing with our story. I thought I had some clarity in it now. But raising a kid was nowhere on my radar. We’d discussed adoption, but even that was in the distance. This surprise development didn’t make sense to me.

Many women live to be mothers. Perhaps it is their greatest calling. It is indeed a most noble thing, but I’m not one of those people. I’ve not had my heart set on becoming a mom all my life.

Because this wasn’t something I was prepared or excited for, I couldn’t shake the feeling that my whole world had to shift. Now, my worth and my life purpose would be dictated by the raising of my kid, and people would no longer define and recognize me by the life that I’ve built prior to becoming a parent. I worried that all that I’ve endured, all that I am and have hoped for, would be overshadowed by this new descriptor – that now I had to be “mother” instead of anything and everything else. That scared me. It felt heavy and unappealing. 

My biggest resistance though? 

I didn’t want to be the girl who gets a baby while others I love are pleading for a child and being denied.

I can’t stand the idea of walking around in a pregnant belly I didn’t ask for while I have dear sisters who long for motherhood, aching for it from deep in their bones, and are enduring heartache while they wait for their little ones. It makes me weep. 

I argued with God often: “What about my friends that want to be mothers? This isn’t fair. No, thank you; this isn’t what I wanted. . . I’m content over there, with others like me. Pick one of these, one that’s yearning for this. Pull them out of the trenches…give them a child. Let them have my place.”

I flopped and wallowed in this guilt-sludge for several weeks. Why now? Why me? Are you sure? In the beginning, I was convinced I’d miscarry. I knew this wasn’t going to work; it’s just a weird lesson I needed to learn and then we’d go back to being the little two-person family we have been. 

Earlier this summer, the verses in Romans 8  showed up in a lesson at church. Then they showed up again in a sermon. Then again somewhere else…you get the picture. I sat down and read the whole chapter. I pulled its verses apart and wrote them on my bathroom mirror. The words have wiggled their way into my heart and forced some light into my shadows. My wrestling has lessened.

Romans 8 (MSG version, emphasis mine) —

12-14 So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!

15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. . . .

22-25 All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.

26-28 Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. . . . He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

I remember reading this and feeling completely caught off guard. “This is our story. This is for me.

This is what our Creator does; this is Love’s purpose. He creates life.  He takes sterile and barren bodies and revives them, creating new life where there was none before. It’s a perfect example; I am smack dab in the middle of something much bigger than what I can comprehend right now.

What perfect reassurance for these nine months, and at the same time,  a tangible reminder of His larger story for all of creation. “Just look in the mirror,” he says. “See? There’s a new life forming in you and for you. This is what I do.”

Becoming a mom will be so much better than whatever misconceptions I have, because it’s been gifted from a Creator that works the details of our lives into something good. I realize now that getting a new descriptor doesn’t negate my previous ones, it complements them. This new escapade can take a million different turns and look like anything. The possibilities are limitless, which means the potential is infinite. 

I’m still learning, still listening and adapting. I’m waiting and watching with expectation. My community is showing me again what it means to do this life well, to face big change together. Just like that, many of my fears are alleviated, because my people step in and share a good word of hope, help us set up our nursery, or offer their prayers and wisdom.

This tiny man – our Little Bear – is a bit of heaven in our now. He is restoration and new soul. God took what we thought was a “good” life, what we thought had become “whole” again and smeared his fingerprints all over it. 

He repaired our bodies and revived our life together, but what’s better is now, He’s made all that more.  He didn’t simply re-gift life, but is multiplying the amount of life we have in our days. 

My Creator knows me better than I know myself. He knows what will bring out the best version of me and prompts that into existence, no matter how I argue.

So, my chalkboard quote stays, reminding me that regardless of what my mind tells me or how I feel or what I understand now, what’s coming is good. What’s coming is holy and has implications beyond what I can fathom. Those holes that I’d accepted as part of my new normal – he’s healing them, the deepest and darkest. He’s filling them with new light, remaking me. He’s making me better. He’s intertwining my story with the story of a boy whose future is being written by a perfect Author.

What a cool honor.