Honestly, while I have always known/been told that grief comes in waves I didn’t realize just how difficult the healing process would continue to be. A process only intensified by our infertility journey with aching arms still empty, desperately longing to hold a little one of our own. Living in the tension of the unknowns about whether or not we will have another little life who looks like us, having Ben’s eyes, or my nose, or his wavy blonde hair. And while we look forward to the day God expands our little family again, hopefully through both adoption and biological, our life will always hold some really hard grief triggers.
When we got pregnant with Verity my heart instantly became attached and transformed into being a “mama’s heart”. I know this isn’t necessarily the journey for everyone, for some it doesn’t seem real until the baby is actually placed in his or her arms and for others it takes time even after that to become connected to their child. For me though, I became a mama the day the pregnancy test said “pregnant”. Since the day we found out her heart was no longer beating, there has been a large piece of me missing. It isn’t just a Verity-sized hole in my heart, it is the calling of being a mother still unfulfilled. While I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is still good and that He gave me the absolute perfect husband to walk through this journey with, something opened up in my heart the day we found out we were pregnant that has had to go back to trying to lie dormant. Trying, and most days failing. There is so much in Hannah’s story from 1 Samuel 1 that resonates with my heart. The longing, the bitter tears, the feeling of not getting to fulfill her purpose/calling. As much as her husband, Elkanah, wanted to be worth “more than ten sons” to Hannah, still she went to the temple in distress and prayed and begged God for a child. She begged to not be “forgotten”. She bartered, promising to give her son to the Lord all the days of his life. That feeling of being “forgotten” or “passed over” has played on repeat in my heart more times than I can count and is often an indicator of a “hard day”. There are good days, hard days, and days that feel impossible.
On the “good days” I can get out of bed without immediately feeling as though the weight of each of the 7×10(to the 27th power…aka: seven billion billion billion) atoms in my body are impossible (not just improbable, IMPOSSIBLE) to lift. On the “good days” I can get on social media and see past the grief triggers of baby announcements, pregnant bellies, exhausted newborn parents sharing #real talk about the difficulties that come with raising tiny humans. On the “good days” I can simply celebrate with others, drop off a much earned 5th cup of coffee for my mama friends, and snuggle all the littles who call me “Auntie” without sorrow.
Those are the “good days”.
On the “hard days” I am a fraction of who I once was. I can’t seem to remember who I once was, who I am now, or who I want to be. I am full of doubts and “why me!?!”. I am reading the words of those who have gone before me and desperately trying not to close myself off to the rest of the world for fear the grief triggers will be too much to even accomplish one small thing, like getting out of bed. On the “hard days” doing the dishes OR walking the dog OR grading a few papers is a victory. On those days I manage to deny most of the lies telling me I am a failure as a wife, a failure as a mom, a failure as a daughter, sister, friend, human being…most, but not all.
Those are the “hard days”.
On the “impossible days” I am curled up in the fetal position, the irony not lost on me. On the “impossible days” I am lost, drowning in the weight of the infinite worlds created in my head of how life was supposed to be. Reading books and telling bedtime stories with our daughter. Learning how to navigate bedtime schedules and finding the best babysitters for when family wasn’t available (as a teacher, I’ve never been too worried about this one because I have had the privilege of teaching some amazing humans!). A house full of noise and the patter of little feet as siblings chase each other around. Oh the worlds my mind creates. They are beautiful and captivating and haunting. Most of my “impossible days” don’t come from comparing myself to others, they come from comparing myself to the many different versions of my life dreamed up since I was a child. Versions I haven’t truly grieved the loss of, even though they will never happen. Versions that seem silly and insignificant when I type them out but oh so real and weighty in my head.
But not all days are “impossible”. Not all days are “hard”.
In this season, while there are still more “hard” and “impossible” days than I would like to have, I am learning to be thankful. Thankful for the “good” days. Thankful for a husband who is patient and kind and meets me exactly where I am. Thankful for the time and space to process through my feelings. Thankful for distance learning and jobs coming along right as we need them. Thankful for a home church who still sees one another via Zoom or socially distanced. Thankful for friends and family who love me and try so hard to understand. I am thankful for friendship hats, “Auntie Allie” dates, and pushing play on tv shows at the same time even though we are watching from our own homes. I am thankful for words of encouragement from those close to me and those who have never even heard my story.
I started this post on July 23rd and only made it so far as the “impossible days”. There was no hope in my writing, only a blank page for me to get out my feelings of sadness and anger and sheer exhaustion from the number of grief triggers I still navigate each day. And so I held onto it, I left it sitting in my Google Drive waiting for a “good day” so that “impossible days” would not be the end. Yesterday I read two different things from people who do not know me nor do they have my same story or experiences, but still they managed to reach into my heart in a profound way. The first was in Fields of Joy by Ruth Chou Simons. Her book combines beautiful artwork with Scripture and a small sentence or two of inspiration, specifically geared towards joy. While multiple pages resounded, I was particularly struck by what she had to say on Proverbs 17:22. That specific verse says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Oh how my spirit has felt crushed as of late. To the point that normally a verse like that would simply become white noise, something that I know is playing but isn’t truly being heard. Yet because I am currently teaching a college course on child development and developmentally appropriate learning, and just wrapped a unit on neurodevelopment and the power of the brain, instead of tuning out, my heart tuned in. Simons’ says, “What we dwell on in our hearts and minds carries consequences in our bodies. The best healing your body can have will always begin with a heart glad in Him.” God has not failed me simply because my dreams do not look the way I thought they would. He has not abandoned me, nor is He punishing me. This world is broken. If you didn’t think it was before, is there any doubt left in your mind with a global pandemic and wildfires raging? Because of reading Ruth Chou Simons words I felt strong enough to get on Istagram and seek out some of the trusted voices I follow on there to continue to do the hard work of turning my “hard day” into a “good one”. The first post to pop up was Morgan Harper Nichols as she voiced her struggle in finding something “positive” to share with the world. Her words sank deep into my heart as I felt the gravity of her vulnerability and transparency. I am not alone in struggling to find the “positives”. I am not alone in feeling overwhelmed and that I don’t have the right words to say and as I scrolled through her artwork I was captivated by one piece in particular. It is a beautiful piece, simple, elegant, and only has four small words, “Growing as I wait”.
I know now that grief will continue to come in waves, washing over me and pulling me down with the intense weight of the seven billion billion billion atoms in my body.
I also know that I am “growing as I wait”.