Revisiting Infertility… Finding Joy

I found myself sitting there, smiling , trying to hold back the old sobby, mixed up “happy for you, but sad for me” tears as I watched someone I’ve loved since the day I met her announce her pregnancy.  I love this moment for her, her hubby, for all of us.  Her announcement means new life in our family… a miracle, as every conceiving of new life is, and a new generation to bless all of us, an answer to prayer that there would be no struggle for this special one to realize her dream of pregnancy.

I sit there quietly holding my breath with a smile on my face, because yes, I am genuinely happy about this announcement while the room explodes in laughter and cheers. But I also want to just sink back in the woodwork, fade away so no one sees the tears ready to overflow down my cheeks.  Breathing in and out, staying silent, just smiling in the background I watch the happiness all around me, happiness I feel too, all mixed up with what’s inside ~ those dormant feelings I’ve worked so hard to manage, to deal with, to let go of… of grief that always gets pricked in this particular kind of moment.

I thought you were over this, Hope, plays in my mind.  Get yourself together. I thought this #infertility thing was behind you, or at least you’re walking with it and engaging life the best way you know how, all the while carrying this you don’t want to still exist, this scar that’s hidden.  You’re nearly 50 for goodness sake, how can this wound that has built your capacity to be compassionate, resilient and hopeful still prick your heart this way?  How is this even possible that once again, emotions pop up, feel out of my control, there they are, surfacing, not letting me forget that it’s still there, it’s still a part of me?

Infertility is like that, I guess.  I’ve spent the last few months running over all those feelings, feeling them and then once again, trusting God to help me let go to let true joy shine through.

I didn’t want to write about this because it seems oh so pitiful.  I have two great kids that call me Mom.  The privilege of that isn’t lost on me.  It is my calling to raise them, miracles that they are, to be a man and a woman who are all they were created to be.

But as I speak about in this post of long ago,  there’s  whole lot of loss attached to not ever bearing a child, much of which I don’t deal with anymore on a daily basis, and for that I am thankful.  A big part of that loss is wrapped up in this quote from that long ago post…

And the hardest part for me, harder than all of it, is the sheer loss I feel from not being able, even for a moment, know what it feels like to be a part of God’s plan for the world, to bring a child here, a child he decided needed to be created for a special purpose, that He decided would be my child to raise. That’s part of what I believe I was created to be. And I don’t get to be that. Ever. Never.

I never ever ever want my grief and loss to dampen another’s joy.  Ever.  In fact, there is joy for my in seeing that life goes on… watching my children bloom into young people, seeing my beloved nieces and nephews find love and start their families.  I’m already a Great-Auntie three times over, with two more coming this year!  This brings such joy, seeing God work in the lives of these people I love, to see beautiful babies come into this world, to make our lives more full, of all sorts of things, but really… of joy.

As I’ve worked through these feelings, I’ve realized another truth about how wonderfully and fearfully we are made.  Since life has moved forward from the days of trying for pregnancy and infant loss to be filled with the joys (and hardships) of raising two kids in their tweens/teens, I have to admit and accept that my heart still gets pricked from time to time.  It’s like my body knows even if my mind doesn’t dwell on these things every day now.

This Dear One’s announcement, you see, the timing, the due date and all that comes with it, parallels the pregnancy 16 years ago that was my Jamie-Noel.  I didn’t mean to cry.  Wasn’t even really thinking about it, or remembering.  Until the announcement, and a flood of memories, of how Hubs and I planned out how we would tell our parents and the rest of our family, at the same time of year, an experience we never got to do as Jamie-Noel was gone to us just a few days before.  And so much more, as you can imagine, and my body that’s carried around this thing that will not be cast aside, that has changed me, some for the better I hope, remembered too, and thus, tears.

And I have to be okay with that.  Grief is a powerful thing.  It can take us over, we can’t escape, we must walk with, walk through, embrace, no shoving down to dark places because the remnants of unexpressed grief will overpower and risk the joy possible when we live through, when we let the tears fall, when we say let grief and joy live together.

I’m 50.  I had to let go of the HOPE of pregnancy and giving birth awhile back  I had to for our future’s sake.  It doesn’t mean I don’t still dream (and I mean literally have dreams) of more children, though I’m pretty sure our family of four is enough joy and adventure for us.

So there it is, the JOY.  I am anticipating this new arrival, and the continued growing of my Great Aunthood, and embracing it, thankful…joyful.  And remembering I don’t have to cower in a corner when grief hits because joy can live there too.

Come, Little One.  This world needs more JOY.

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Happy Sweet 16, Jamie-Noel

It’s hard to believe if you were here, we’d be doing things like getting you ready for your driver’s test, planning a huge birthday party, preparing for grade 11.  I imagine you’d be working at camp over the summer and we’d miss you terribly, maybe even miss your birthday-day but celebrate with you when you came home to do laundry and sleep til it was time to go back for another week.  We can only imagine you playing the piano, or not, maybe you’d have your Dad’s love of gardening, and write, write, write like some days like your Mom feels like she has to, just to get it all out.  You’d probably be binge-watching something on Netfl!x and texting your friends.  I wonder if you’d be dating or if you’d be like your Mom and Dad were way back when, lots of friends, no one special.

We know that life with you would have been amazing and wonderful, but God had other plans.  He chose heaven for you before we ever met, and still, each year as we hang your special ornaments, we remember that He’s got you even though we don’t.

And you know what?  Mom and Dad are okay.  Great really.  God brought two extraordinary people into our lives in ways that, when we tell the stories, we can hardly believe how it happened ourselves.  And although we miss you still, and sometimes still work through stuff related to you not being here, we also know that we are stronger, wiser, more compassionate and resilient for having known you, and lost you, and received the precious gifts of two more children to know and love and care for as long as God gives us that privilege.

And it’s even so much more.  The people ~ families ~ that come with these children, not born of us, but still your sister and brother, well, they are extraordinary too.  As much as we long for you still, we know that our world has expanded exponentially because we were asked to step out of the comfort of what we knew to experience the world in other ways.  That’s what adoption, and knowing our kids’ other families have brought to us, so much that we never knew we needed to know, to be all we were created to be.

So Dear Sweet Child, we look forward to the day we get to see your face for the first time when you welcome us to heaven, hopefully still a little while from now.

But for now, Happy Sweet Sixteen, Our Jamie-Noel.

God is good.

You’re 12, Kaylie MayBeth

It’s hard to believe she’d be 12, our Kaylie.  Aunties don’t forget…

My niece Kaylie MaeBeth, was born silently on July 13, 2006 at 25 weeks gestation. She is the third daughter of my sister JJ and her Hubby Dan. This letter was written to be shared at Kaylie’s graveside service on Sunday, July 16. It was read by my nephew Hayden, so grown up, such a Man in the making… Auntie just wanted to be a part of celebrating the life of her precious niece… 

My heart is sad as I sit down to finally write this. I can’t describe the sense of loss I feel for you JJ, for you Dan, and for you Addie and Josie. We are just so very sorry for your loss and wish we could be there in this sacred moment to comfort you, to let you know first hand how much we love you, how sad we are for you.

I guess really, I am sad for all of us. We won’t get to know the beautiful woman that Kaylie had the potential to become, with curly hair and huge blue eyes, so much to learn from her sisters, to do with her family, so much to become. I am sad for Kaylie for although she has experienced SO MUCH life and love already as she lived in her Mother’sa womb, she won’t know firsthand the love that awaited her here in the world, in our family.

For it is true, Kaylie, you were already so very loved. I remember a moment I had on my way to meet my fourth nephew Ryley Dean. As I drove the highway, I was so worried because I couldn’t imagine loving another little boy as much as I loved Cody, Chase and Hayden. But as I held Ryley in my arms that first time I knew that just like any other love, an Auntie’s love goes far and stretches and multiplies. I’ve never forgotten that. I have had SO MUCH love for each of the precious children we are blessed to have in our family. And Kaylie even as I talked to your Mommy many, many times about you, about how you were growing up inside her, all that time I loved you, we all did. We will miss not knowing you here on this earth but we are thankful for the ways you have already changed us, for the reason you were created and lived, even though right now, we don’t understand the reasons you can no longer live on earth with us.

When I asked Jimmie Jo if I could write something ~ I so felt the need to be there this day even across the miles ~ she said that Psalm 139 was the Scripture she picked for this sacred moment. And how appropriate… the beautiful words of verse 13 and following…

For it was you who formed my inward parts… You knit me together… I am fearfully and wonderfully made… my frame was not hidden from you even when I was made in secret

all these words tell the truth of how our inescapable God knows all about us ~ about Kaylie ~ he knew her and what her life was to be, even before we knew she existed. He knew and he created her perfect and whole in his eyes.

Even as these words are so very true I have to say that as I have read this passage over and over again recently ~ this is a special passage for my family, words we have prayed over our children who truly were formed in secret, at least from us ~ I am struck by the hope we find in these words that are bookends to these well-loved verses. Verses 11 and 12 say something like this… If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night, but God, even the darkness I walk through is not DARK to you. The night I am in right now is bright as day as far as you can see, God. For the darkness is as light to you. There’s hope there… pure hope that even in these dark days of sadness at the loss of Kaylie, we who know God can trust that he sees the light in it all. He won’t leave us in this dark night. We can live in hope that someday His light will break through and then, even if we still don’t understand, we will be able to walk in his light. That is hope for today and tomorrow and all the future as we face life’s hard things.

And then the end of verse 18… I come to the end ~ I am still with you. The loss of Kaylie hit me hard and I have to admit that even with the strong and still growing faith in God, that I do believe that he has our best interests in mind, that indeed he is working out everything to be better than we could imagine… even as I trust that God is in control, I am shaken by this loss. Shaken because no one should have to go through this, much less my baby sister and her family. I am shaken… but these words of hope spoken by the Psalm writer to God ~ I come to an end ~ I am still with you ~ leave me feeling safe because I know that I can question and be angry at the stuff I don’t like or understand in life. I know I can do that and in the end, when I, when we, are exhausted by our tears and questioning ~ in the end, there is God. We are still with him. And we can trust that he knows and understands our sorrow ~ after all, His Son died too ~ that he won’t leave us to deal with this on our own, that in the end we can rest in the knowing that God is here and will never leave us.

I also live trusting that Kaylie’s life, no matter how short it has been, means something, or will mean something, to each of us. She was created and lived for a reason. God knew why he made her and sent her to this family. He knows who she is and will be to all of us. I look forward to the ways her time with us will change us for the better, whatever that may be.

I know that Kaylie is with Jesus and he says to her “You are welcome here.” And I know that she is welcomed in Heaven by many who love her, including her little cousins born to heaven like her, before even a breath was taken on earth, her great-grandparents and many others who have gone before. What a hope we have when we trust in God!!!! He will not leave us in the darkness of sorrow as to him, even the sorrow brings light. He will never leave us alone as we cry and question. We know that, in the end, we are still with Him.

Rest in peace Sweet Kaylie… we love you and miss you…

With love from across the miles,

Aunt Hope for all us here