Friday, February 28, 2014

Timing God's Blessings? Or not?

This post contains reflections on where we're at in our marriage,
and where we might go as a family. It's a moment in time.
It also contains some personal information, to be treated with grace.

The Facts

My body clock went haywire. That's the short explanation I tell some. Almost ten years ago Nick and I started dating, and not long after that my 30-31 day cycles lengthened to 60 days, and 90 days, or longer. There was no rhythm, and I took my basal body temperature and charted as a 21 year old who was still in college and just dating... not married and trying to get pregnant. The campus offered free medical exams, and I took advantage of them, but even the diagnostic ultrasound came back as 'normal'. What was causing those cycles?

Having never been on any kind of contraception, there was no obvious trigger or hormonal misalignment.

  • Stress? What college student isn't stressed some?
  • Too much exercise or not enough food? I've always eaten and exercised mindfully not obsessively, and that includes obeying most hunger signs.
  • Family history? No cysts or fibroids showed up on that diagnostic ultrasound.
The fact is, I still don't know for certain what caused this.

The Story: God's Fingerprints

The first five years of the crazy cycles caused a lot of soul searching and God questioning. Nick and I met, dated, married, and began to talk about having children in those five years. I had my own timeline for getting my ideal job in my ideal town, and when my perfect children would join our family. Looking back, God's fingerprints were prying my tightly grasped fingers loose, and opening my hands to receive himself and his plans.

This isn't an account to explain why God answers some prayers and not others. Who would presume to know God's mind and heart so specifically? Generally, I lean on his character (mercy, generosity, love, grace, relational, and more) and the record of what he's done (Biblically and in the lives of friends and family).

The lowest point came in July 2009, after no period since January 2009... 6 empty months. Nick and I had just visited my family practitioner, who had explained what options would be available if I couldn't get pregnant after 1-2 years of trying. She prescribed a week's worth of low dose of progesterone, to cause withdrawal bleeding much like the end of a normal cycle. She wondered if that might jump start something. If I happened to become pregnant in that time, no worries: progesterone rises after conception. But nothing happened within the 7 days. Or 14 days. At almost 21 days, all I could do was cry. What options would we now have?

Late one evening in July 2009, Nick and I prayed before bed. We asked God to change our hearts, and to help us want his idea of family. We would let him choose natural or adopted kids. God could choose how many kids, and when they joined our family. We would not choose IVF or other assistive reproductive technologies or medications, but would submit 'Family' to him as he chose. We needed God to change our hearts, and at that moment our hearts were full of our own plans. We were incapable of changing without his help.

That night I had a strange dream. Many dreams are strange, but the overwhelming feeling I was left with was: already pregnant. Waking at 5am to get ready to drop Nick at a 6am Bible study, and then go to a 4h middle school endorsement course, I was wide awake at the alarm. Nick dosed in bed. When he groggily entered the bathroom, I was sitting on the floor, holding a positive pregnancy test. "Look!" I spent every course break that day on the phone with my doctor arranging labs and a visit. By 5pm we could breathe out a little.

Those four weeks before the first trimester ultrasound felt giddy and scary. When had this happened? How far along was the baby? Whom could we tell? And, given the history of crazy cycles, I didn't trust my body or anyone much. They had no answers before pregnancy - in my mind, anything could go wrong at any time. God knew this and put people into our lives who confirmed that I could trust God, could trust some of these experts, and even could trust my body. It was an all-in trust: we decided on zero interventions, labs (I think we had to do the glucose test, but that was it), or non-stress tests. We decided on natural childbirth. In the end, only God could give this baby; I couldn't schedule or engineer anything.

By the ultrasound growth estimate, we conceived before I ever visited my family practitioner! Before progesterone was ever prescribed! God had known our hearts and had blessed us before we asked him. He answered 'yes' at the bleakest stretch of time in those 5 years of crazy cycles.

What now?

Abigail arrived March 16, 2010 at 41wks 0 days by the OB's count. She was born 4h before a scheduled non-stress test; the practice really didn't want me to get to 42wks, and I really didn't want the test. She was outside of our initial "ideal" timeline for jobs and family, but God has the wisest timing.

Evan was conceived outside of our ideal kid spacing, but right on time with God. He arrived March 17, 2012. We had talked about 3 year spacing, but given that Nick's job and grad school changed direction suddenly in spring of 2013 - how could we have gone through all that change and the move with a newborn?

Now the season is grad school. Is it too busy for another baby? I've still never taken any kind of hormonal contraception because I cannot bear to mess with a delicate balance that goes haywire so easily in my body. It means that Nick can bear the burden of being open or closed to another child with me. If Ephesians 5 teaches we are one flesh in marriage, then contraception is not the wife's or the husband's to bear alone. This article from the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity was helpful to us, too.

We talk a lot about the next child, and pray often, asking for God's wisdom and for him to write our life story. We ask:

  • to be present in this Saint Louis season - not dreaming of a 'better' future
  • for open doors with our neighbors - most of whom are not married and under 30
  • for God's strength to bear all things - truly ALL things
  • for wisdom and openness to God's plans - he has surprised us so much in the past 10 years
  • We praise God for Abigail and Evan - good idea on those difficult days
  • We praise God for corrected cycles! Since Evan didn't care to breastfeed after 19 months, my 30-31 day cycles have returned!

God is Faithful, Even When I'm Not

If you made it all the way to the end of this, I hope you take heart because of God's faithfulness. God answers 'yes' sometimes and 'no' at other times. Evil crushes our hopes and tries to dash our faith in God, but God uses intended evil for good.

And those who hand over their lives, will gain much more than a life or family - they'll gain a whole life with God!

And the disciples were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
But many who are first will be last, and the last first." 
Mark 10:26-31

If you have a story of God's faithfulness, or of God's fingerprints during a difficult time, I'd love to hear.
You can email me at lostsheepknitting84@gmail.com. 

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