My story of Grace: Part 1. The beginning.
To understand ME, you'll need to know about my Grace. She was my first daughter. She was one of God's best gifts to me, one of the biggest joys of my life, and she left our world far too soon for us.
The following three-part story which I'll post over the next few days, I wrote several months to a year after she was born. I felt His presence through that experience more than any time before. He was palpable to me.
Feel free to share with those experiencing infertility and loss.
So, here goes. (I am crying as I re-read my story.)
Ever since Grace died, I’ve had a horrible aching in my soul, a nagging feeling, urging me to write what I’ve gone through. From the very beginning, I have not wanted to. Sometime during the first week when I came home from the hospital empty-handed, someone wrote to me in a sympathy card that I should write down everything that was happening to me in a journal to later use as my story about God’s love, but I was very stubborn about NOT writing. I felt blank, numb, and later, angry and negative. Why would I ever want to look back on these days? Why would anyone else? Couldn’t we just erase this whole time completely? I wanted to go into a coma for a year, and wake up not remembering this whole thing.
But God allowed Grace to die for a reason. I do not believe death is of God – it is of sin, of Satan – but God did not intervene when the life of my innocent child was taken. He instead chose to redeem the situation. He’s making an ugly thing beautiful. He’s transforming my broken life right now. And that’s why His spirit is leading me to write. Everyone needs to know that our God is a loving God. And after everything I’ve been through, even now as I am currently miscarrying a baby that I’ve carried for eight weeks, I can still say that I trust Him.
Emotionally right now, I am low. But spiritually, I’m nuzzling in close to our God. My faith in Him is increasing. My joy in Him is increasing. He is present and at work. It’s exciting!
To tell the story of my baby Grace, I have to start in 2007, long before she was conceived.
Or maybe even further back… to childhood. I’ve always felt an undeniably strong desire to be a mother. I’ve always felt like that was my purpose on earth, like that’s THE reason God made me. And I know that can sound cliché. But I feel like other women have big dreams – become president of the US, or they want to fight some major injustice in this cruel world, or start a successful business, or live a life full of thrills and excitement. All I’ve ever wanted to do is bring little souls into this world and love them like crazy. All my life, I could think of nothing that would be more fulfilling than bringing forth life, of your own flesh and blood, creating something brand new with the person you love, watching that absolute miracle grow, pouring every ounce of yourself into this child, teaching them, sacrificing of yourself for their good. I would willingly get stretch marks and gain weight for a baby, I’d willingly do bed rest if necessary; anything for the thrill of new life!
I lived my life to adulthood with that as my big plan. And everyone knew me as “the one who wanted to be a mommy.” On our wedding day, the shaving cream decorations on our getaway car read “9 months!”
I even chose my career because I could do it from home as a mom – writing and graphic design. And in the summer of 2007, after two years of marriage, I quit my full-time ad agency job to start my own design company. I quickly found clients and eased right into the work-from-home lifestyle. In September, Jeff and I agreed that it was time we started a family. Everything was falling right into place!
We began the journey to parenthood by asking God to bless it. Holding hands and praying aloud, tears of joy streamed down our faces. We had waited so long for this! As someone with a severe case of Type A personality, I went into baby planning with the same gusto as I went into wedding planning. I researched every bit of fertility info I could get my hands on. And every morning at 6 a.m., the alarm would go off and Jeff would stick a thermometer in my mouth so I could chart my temperature that day.
That month, we tried for the first time to conceive, and it didn’t work out. I cried despairingly for hours and hours after we got a negative pregnancy test, because I had a deep sinking feeling that we really had an infertility problem. That same day, Jeff mentioned to me that a doctor had told him years ago that he had a physical issue stemming from a surgery he had as a child that could potentially cause infertility. Immediately, I set us up for a meeting with a specialist.
He was tested, and the results were dismal. The doctors said his issue was so severe that he would need surgery or we’d have to undergo fertility treatments to get pregnant, that our odds of conceiving on our own were incredibly low. We were devastated. We feared trying for long periods of time with no hope, we feared IUIs, we feared IVF (which sounded impossible because it costs as much as a new car, and our insurance wouldn’t pay for fertility treatments), we feared the label “infertile,” we feared failure.
I actually wrote in my journal that I felt like my closest friend had died. The one thing I wanted more in life than anything else seemed unreachable. I was so depressed that my mom was worried about me being home alone, and made me come down and spend time with her, and we just drove around in the car, talking.
But after a week of prayer and a strong sense of God’s presence, Jeff and I decided to ask Him for a miracle. We wouldn’t move forward with treatments of any kind. It was the first time in my life I actually felt completely under God’s control, that I was fully allowing Him to do with me what He wanted. We would certainly do our part – living healthily, avoiding strenuous exercise since it’s bad for fertility, doing everything we knew of to enhance fertility: avoiding caffeine and alcohol, me drinking gallons of grapefruit juice/green tea/pomegranate juice and eating loads of fresh pineapple, eating plenty of wild salmon, Jeff taking fertility vitamins, taking cod liver oil, and more – and the creation of a baby was up to God.
In December, our fourth month of trying, I opened up the Old Testament to Deuteronomy, a section of the Bible I usually avoided for fear of boredom, and landed on this:
“If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young.”
In my journal that day, I wrote, “I have complete faith that God is going to bless us with children.” With His power, I had a peace I’d never known before.
And in February 2008, He blessed us with our first pregnancy. Nine short days after ovulation I took a test, which was negative. I had never tested that early before -- maybe I had an intuition? (I was addicted to taking cheap pregnancy tests that you could buy online for like 85 cents per piece, and because they were so cheap, I didn’t mind taking tons of them. And of course, every month, I’d spend hours analyzing each one under different lights hoping to see a line.) Only ten days after ovulation, I knew with almost perfect assurance that I was pregnant, and sure enough, I saw a faintest-of-faint pink line on my pregnancy test - and I was sure it was a line, for I had seen so many stark white negative tests in the last six months. Jeff wasn’t convinced. Calmly, he said he was only “about 80% sure” he saw a line, but didn’t want to jump to conclusions. (Meanwhile, I was about to internally combust.) So, I took a digital. In less than a minute, that glorious word popped up with as much confidence and drama a little digital contraption can muster. PREGNANT.
I screamed! Jumping up and down and skipping and squealing, I showed Jeff the test. We BOTH started bawling our eyes out, just hugging as tight as we could. How could this have happened?! What about the infertility?! Praise God above, praise Him, praise His Name! It was absolutely unreal. It was a miracle.
Jeff took me by the hand and led me to the living room. We knelt by the ottoman, and Jeff thanked God aloud and prayed for our little baby’s future. I continued to sob the happiest tears of my life. We had begun this journey almost six months before with a prayer, and we found ourselves praying once again as God came through.
Next, I began hearing songs playing, each with the word “baby” in it -- Jeff had created a “procreation” soundtrack. Haha! Mariah Carey’s “You’ll Always Be My Baby” came on first. :)
Not wanting the elation and surprise to simmer the tiniest bit before we shared the news, we began calling our parents right away. My mom was first. When I blurted out that I’d gotten a positive test, she sobbed and shrieked and used up every calorie of energy left in that body of hers (she’d been on a 40-day fast for lent). I *loved* hearing my mom cry (she never cries, not even at my wedding). She began praising God, saying she had never had one doubt that He would give us a child. She knew all along that that was the life He had planned for me. I used to think that the reaction of the parents in “Father of the Bride Part 2” seemed heavenly, but that was nothing compared to my mother’s uncontainable gladness.
But on Valentine’s Day, a week or so after, I began to miscarry.
To someone who has never experienced the excitement that is a positive pregnancy test, it’s hard to explain how overwhelming and depressing it is to miscarry only a short period later. How can you love a baby you didn’t know? How can you miss someone who never breathed a breath? I always used to wonder (or, sadly, scoff at) women who said they “knew” they were pregnant from the moment of conception. Now I understood. I’d felt unusually positive and confident in God’s power that entire cycle. I had known I was pregnant before I ever took a test. I believe that those feelings were me sensing the presence of the baby’s soul. From then on, I believed a baby’s soul is present from the moment of conception.
In our desperation to get pregnant again, we decided to go ahead with the surgery that doctors had long suggested for Jeff. Doctors warned us, though, not to expect to see positive results (a.k.a. pregnancy) from the surgery for several months, because it takes at least three months for sperm to generate and thus respond to the surgery.
But, only three weeks later… we were pregnant. And this time, it stuck for the long haul.
(Yes, you are allowed to laugh, because we were back to trying only four days after Jeffrey’s surgery. We didn’t want to miss one single cycle, regardless of his physical pain—especially because we’d heard you’re extra fertile after a miscarriage!)
I ovulated on March 3, 2008, and just seven days later, I could sense the baby’s presence. Ignoring it, though, because the previous month’s loss had left me heartbroken and fearful, I tried to live as normally as possible. We rented movies to watch in the evenings, and one night, as we watched “Dan in Real Life,” I felt sure that I was pregnant. No real symptoms to speak of, just the feeling that another person was in the room with us. The next morning, I got that beautiful little line on a pregnancy test. The line was evidence of our little Grace in progress!
Our happiness and excitement were slightly restrained by what had just happened to us only weeks before. Our early pregnancy innocence had been stolen from us because of the miscarriage. But my wise mom told me to have faith, that this was real, and that I needed to put my pregnancy worries in God’s hands. Growing new life was God’s business, and it was up to Him now.
Deep down, I knew this pregnancy was meant to be. Worries of miscarriage quickly left my mind as faith took over. Almost right away, we started sharing the news that a baby was coming!
Next up, Part 2: The Perfect Pregnancy!