Hope. It’s tricky. If you place your hope in the wrong thing you run the risk of entering what I call “the void”. A dark place. Where no shadows of hope are left to hold on to.
For the past three years I have placed my hope in the promise and possibility of biological children. And, oh, we were so close. For 22 weeks I got to carry that hope in our daughter, Verity Grace, and dream of what her life would look like. I loved (and still love) her with every ounce of love my heart could possibly hold. For 22 weeks she was my hope come true, my dream realized, my promise secured.
And then she was gone. Born still at 22 weeks.
But I continued to hope.
I hoped because now we knew we COULD have biological children. God had done it. He worked a miracle and created a little girl just for us. Even though she was gone, we now had the promise we could get pregnant, so of course we held on to the hope we would get pregnant again soon. Obviously it wouldn’t be easy because it sure wasn’t the first time, but we had the hope of what life could look like. Our story wasn’t yet finished.
Month after month I continued to hope that God would show Himself to be good once again. Good in the way I wanted Him to be good and kind, wrapped in the promise of another little life for Ben and I. Treatment after treatment I kept grasping for hope in things unseen, the promise that God would give us a biological child we could keep here on Earth. Redeeming our broken story. I clung to that hope, because if I couldn’t hold on to hope anymore, what would happen? What would that even look like? A dark void from which there was no return?
Each and every month, in the midst of the waiting, God brought people, symbols, and written words to help me cling to hope. To remind me that our story was not yet finished.
These reminders were friends willing to sit with us in the waiting, undaunted by the darkness that crept in. Continued sightings of beautiful deer when least expected, and the promise of hope they held. Books and devotionals shared at just the right time, as I was on the cusp of entering the deep void. Prophecies and visions shared of us holding a child of our own.
And so I thought my hope was in the right place. The promise of a biological child.
Then, with complications from my PCOS, medical options to have biological children ran out. Still not pregnant, the end of part of our story came faster than our hearts and minds were ready for. Our hope of a biological child did not come true.
Into “the void” I dove. Sinking deeply in a place where all light seemed gone. Overwhelming darkness. I knew staying there for too long would slowly suffocate my soul, but there I was sitting in the deep void of darkness.
Our story, like many, is hard. I’m torn between wishing this wasn’t our story to bear AND being thankful for all the ways God has shown and revealed new things about Himself in the midst of it. Some days I feel shame and guilt at thinking our story is hard. When I read about or talk to people who have gone through miscarriage after miscarriage after miscarriage or as I watch friends who are still waiting for a spouse and the promise of children someday or those who have suffered addiction, abuse, loss, etc. I know I am fortunate and richly blessed with a loving family, a wonderful, caring husband, a great support system. But, I am also realizing, it’s okay to grieve my story AND grieve for those around me. My hurts are not the same as your hurts and my wilderness is different than your wilderness but minimizing my loss will not help anyone. Life is hard. Life is “unfair”. Life can throw us into shadows and darkness. The void.
There are many days I ache for our daughter. I want her back. I want to hold her and watch her grow. To celebrate birthdays and rejoice with each milestone passed. On good days, days when I can see through the shadows of darkness to what God is doing, I would not change a thing. I would not ask for our daughter back because I see the ways God has been growing and molding and shaping me. I see the ways He has taught me to be vulnerable and nurture deep relationships with the people He has put in my story. But those are shadow days, and shadow days need light to make them possible.
With the failure of our most recent attempt for biological children, I dove deeper into “the void” than ever before. For the first time in our journey, I wished our daughter had never existed. That was a painful, frightening, dark place to be.
I had all the “logic” figured out in my head as to why life would be better without those 22 weeks with her. Had she not existed we would have already closed the door on trying to have biological children, grieved the loss, and moved toward adoption. Or maybe we would already have a child because we would’ve chosen the further treatment earlier and maybe, just maybe, it would have worked. We would have finished the seasons of Chlomid and Femara and IUIs and would have an answer one way or another….instead of desperately hoping each month only to find our hopes unrealized.
Had we not become pregnant with our daughter, I wouldn’t have such a difficult time watching our nephew grow. Our nephew who was born the day our daughter was supposed to be due. I wouldn’t feel like such a horrible, neglectful aunt on days I can only be near this precious boy in small doses because he is a perfect, healthy reminder of what feels increasingly like a figment of my imagination. Had we not had our Verity, holidays and gatherings would not be such a hard reminder of our empty arms as everyone else reaches out for the things they hold dear in the “special moments”.
Instead we remain in the “waiting place”. He gave us our daughter and then allowed barrenness to visit again. And so I sat in that darkness. That void. That nothingness, unable to move forward but unable to go back either. All the while He kept speaking to others, giving them words and visions to pour over us and ignite hope again. And each time those went unrealized I plunged back into the darkness. Yet, even in that void, I knew God was there with me, shining His light, pulling me back into the shadows. But oh how endless that void can feel when I choose not to open my eyes.
Recently I had a student share a devotional with me called, “When Hope Grows Up: Finding Hope in His Plan” by Justine Brooks Froelker. Man, I love when God uses my students to speak profound truths into my life! In the devotional Froelker talks about misplaced hope and what it looks like when hope grows up.
What if I was placing my hope in the wrong thing?
What if, with each reminder…prophecy…deer sighting, God was actually nudging me to redefine my hope?
Here is the hard part…I can only redefine hope if I let my old definition of hope die.
I thought I was hoping in the promise of God showing up through blessing us with biological children. This wasn’t a bad thing to hope in, knowing God could work miracles and might just work one in our barrenness. I thought I was hoping in Him and promises He had given me but maybe I was hoping too much in the promise of the children part, and less on the Him part.
What if, instead, I put my hope solely in His heart’s desire for my story rather than my heart’s desire?
What if my hope was in eternal things and the legacy I’ll leave behind? A legacy of loving people, everybody, always, even in the midst of hurt and pain and trusting that God is still good, even when He doesn’t feel good or seem kind to me.
In her book, Remember God, Annie F. Downs talks about remembering God even when our circumstances don’t always match what we know to be true of Him. Knowing that God is always kind and provides, even when life isn’t always kind. Even when it doesn’t feel like He loves me enough to be kind to me in the ways I want Him to be kind (pgs. 31, 46, 166). She talks about wilderness, and the manna that God provided for the Israelites as they walked through their wilderness in the book of Exodus. Manna means “what is it” in Hebrew. It was something the Israelites didn’t recognize. It was something different, something else. Something unknown. He provided manna each and every day, just enough for that day. The Israelites made it to the Promised Land, the land He had promised and prepared for them, sustaining them with something unrecognizable to them. God doesn’t shift our lives so that we fall apart, He gives us manna to sustain us, to provide for us throughout the wilderness, or barrenness, even when we don’t feel provided for (pgs. 153-154).
And so I am learning to redefine my hope. To find God’s provision in the manna He gives to sustain me through our wilderness.
I am not giving up on hope. I am not giving up on hope as I no longer cling to the dream of biological children. I am not giving up on hope as our story doesn’t have my happy ending, with God showing up in the ways I wanted Him to show up. I am simply, painstakingly, redefined hope and our story. I am learning to change my definition of hope because clinging to my dream of biological children here on earth was, to quote Froelker, “killing my soul and stealing my light”. It was keeping me trapped in the dark, endless void.
I am not giving up on our story.
I am not giving up on hope.
I am redefining it.
I am owning all my parts of our story, including the barrenness, and recognizing that God is not finished with it yet.
I am embracing sadness with joy, trust with longing, parts forever missing but choosing to work toward being whole. I am embracing His will, not mine (reworded from Froelker).
I am holding on to His hope for my life, even though it hasn’t necessarily turned out how I planned (Froelker).
Hope. Yes, I still believe it is tricky, but redefining hope is helping me crawl out of “the void” and into the fundamental truths of grace and love and light. And that is the legacy I want our story, Verity’s and mine, to leave behind.
Here are a few of the resources people have shared with me that went into my processing for this post specifically.