Monthly Archives: July 2013

Car Trouble

My man noticed a few days ago that it was getting increasingly difficult to steer my car, and all turns were accompanied by a grinding, whiny sound. It was time for my 30,000-mile checkup anyway, so yesterday I took my Jetta to the dealership to kill two birds with one stone. After I’d been squirming in my seat for a little over ninety minutes, the service rep found me in the waiting room and gave me an apologetic grimace.

“It appears your rack is leaking,” he informed me.

I was certain I’d misheard him. “I’m sorry?”

Encore performance of the apologetic grimace. “Your rack is leaking,” he repeated, shrugging and holding out his hands as if there were simply nothing else to say.

My eyes got wide as I dropped my gaze to my shirt for assessment. That wasn’t supposed to happen for months! Your milk couldn’t possibly come in during the seventeenth week of pregnancy, right? Plus, I didn’t feel anything amiss. But I was mortified all the same. When I didn’t see any milk coming through my clothes, I looked back up at him, questioningly. It finally hit me that what he’d said may have been embarrassing, but more than that, it was crude. How dare he!

Taking his cues from my wide-eyed expression, although blessedly misinterpreting my thoughts, he said, “Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Around 30,000 miles, the Jettas from your year tend to develop a power steering leak. The part we need is on backorder, in fact…” He continued talking, but I was so relieved my rack wasn’t leaking – that it was only my car’s – that I barely understood a word.

Leave it to pregnancy to make you self-conscious about the weirdest things.

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Meltdowns

This pregnancy has a dark side: it’s churning up the noxious stuff, the stuff that reminds me what a train wreck I am. You can work around it for years, and then this teeny person, who doesn’t even have a voice, starts conjuring things in your mind. Apparently, I am carrying an intuitive little girl. Or maybe it’s the hormones.

When I went through addiction counseling, I made – and kept – all sorts of promises that allowed me to live in freedom for the first time ever. The promises gradually became habits, my modus operandi, and everything improved. My health, my appearance, and my confidence soared. No longer did my brain resort to the addiction cycle to cope with everyday life. I was in charge of my behavior, no diet necessary, and Jesus bolstered my strength to live in his provision. I felt and looked so wonderful that I attracted a very hot man who married me a year after we met.

Then I got pregnant. Of course, joy flooded me: it was impossible! A miracle! And of course, I still know that to be undeniably true. But there was a singsong voice in the back of my mind too, like Clare Dunphy on Modern Family, that said, “You’re gonna get fat.” I pictured my former marshmallow-esque body. I pictured my very hot man not wanting me anymore. I pictured myself buying huge clothes. And, to make matters worse, I realized as the weeks went on that my neat and helpful counseling promises weren’t working. When four or more hours spaced out my meals, my blood sugar dropped, and I became weak and dizzy. Twice I fainted. When I didn’t eat ample carbohydrates, massive headaches hit without warning and were followed by crippling nausea and fatigue. The baby was simultaneously breaking all the rules and producing purple stretch marks on my midsection to boot. I started saving for a Mommy Makeover.

One thing I’ve learned: my healing never comes until I dig into the ugliness and write about it. When I see it on paper, I can name it and deal with it. So I’ve spent hours recently writing about my addiction – how it looked, felt, sounded. I’ve gone back to journaling and letting my introspection explain myself to me. And it’s rough because somewhere underneath it all, I am still a train wreck. I am still all the things I once was if I’m not constantly vigilant.

I asked my man tonight, “Who in his or her right mind would give me a baby?”

Without missing a beat, he said, “Jesus.”

“Well, I am seriously doubting His lucidity,” I replied, quite seriously, before melting into tears again. Sometimes I am so excited for Anna’s yuletide arrival that I can barely breathe. Her pictures are so heartbreakingly perfect, and her butterfly-wing movements feel so delightful. Other times I think, “What the heck am I going to do with a baby?” My man assures me that no one is ever ready; they just grow into it as time demands.

My consolation in moments like tonight is thinking about my last decade of life. I have experienced too much, enough to break a person, but Jesus has brought me through it all. I shouldn’t be singing this way, shouldn’t be joyful or in love or blessed. After addiction, sexual dysfunction, miscarriage, divorce, lost friendships, and more, I should’ve been crushed. But Jesus didn’t allow that.

I also think of my personal constellation, my stars that point me home and draw grace for me. My mom teaches me sacrifice, my dad teaches me trust, and my sister teaches me how to be a friend. My friend A.K. teaches me how to listen, my friend K.S. teaches me patience and faith in Jesus, and my best friend teaches me unconditional acceptance. My stepchildren teach me to play. My man teaches me to be both strong and kind. Anne Lamott would call these people my “tribe,” but they are also Anna’s. So when I hit the inevitable moments of not-enough, they will tap in for me, and so will many others. Anna does not have a perfect mother, but she will never lack love. God told me early on she exists to display his glory. And he will never not be enough for me, my husband, or our family. What can I say about such wonderful things as these? If our God is for us, who can ever be against us (Romans 8:31, NLT)?

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Grace Like the Sea

You know you’re pregnant when you roll your eyes at the ringing phone across the room and think, “I just poured myself a nice cup of chocolate chips and settled on the couch. Does anyone merit my attention right now?” That only happened once, I promise. And the cup wasn’t full. And I did pick up the call, but it turned out to be Charter Communications, so I had to reel myself in from throwing the phone straight through the window. Joe the Salesman wasn’t ready for that jelly.

That is the picture of pregnancy.

Of course, there is this other picture of pregnancy that I gaze at several times a day. It’s a 13-week-and-5-day ultrasound of the most beautiful developing baby I have ever seen. She is staggeringly beautiful. She is a picture of my wildest dreams. She is grace: a gift I didn’t earn and don’t deserve that was given to me anyway, to paraphrase Frederick Buechner. A hundred times a day, the thought crosses my mind, “How did I get this lucky? I am the wife of my favorite person, stepmom to two incredible children, and sixteen weeks pregnant with a grace baby.” Big time wow. Because when I was guiding my own life, I guided myself right into disaster. Repeatedly.

Barely two and a half years ago, I was in the throes of addiction counseling for compulsive overeating, a disorder that served as my prison warden for over 12 years. I ate little around others – excepting only my best friend, around whom I felt completely safe – but binged later in secret. I lied about how much I ate and how little self-respect I had. I was terrified of painful feelings, like loneliness and rejection, so I ate to cover them up. After every binge, I felt ashamed and helpless, which often led me to anticipation of the next one. It was miserable and infuriating and dark.

Just over two years ago, my first marriage was officially ending. Confusion and heartbreak washed over me every morning, and I couldn’t find Jesus. Actually, I wouldn’t find Jesus. I didn’t really think He could help, as none of this was His problem. Everything was a mess, and I remember telling my mom I felt untethered, like my air hose had been cut and I was floating through space without anything to ground me.

I finally gave up. I don’t remember when, I just know that I did. There’s no sensational story of sobbing or snake handling or a contract signed in blood. All that happened is one day Jesus whispered, “Give me a try now?” And I said, “Yes, please,” and that was it. Peace. And now, having given up the pilot’s controls, I have been redeemed and made pure again. And there’s a life in me – both literally and figuratively – that is so joyful and so foreign that I hardly recognize it. But it is Jesus. For sure, it is Jesus.

My man and I have to rely on Jesus every minute of every day because we both have gigantic, ugly demons that don’t go away without a fight, even when the proverbial war has already been won. I would say all Christians are to some degree in this boat, since the Bible tells us Satan prowls like a lion, hoping and searching for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). But when I say my man and I have to fight for our freedom, I mean that my man and I have to fight for our freedom. And the worst part of it is that neither of us is perfect, or even holy. We have to borrow our victory from Jesus every single day. But most of the time, that’s what we choose to do. So in honor of our Redeemer, in honor of our testimony, in honor of the blessed-beyond-all-reason life we’ve been given, we’ve chosen to name our daughter grace like the sea. “Anna” means grace, and her middle name means “like the sea.” We didn’t earn her, we don’t deserve her, but her beautiful self has been given to us for safe keeping anyway. It takes a powerful, loving, compassionate God to create something like that out of the broken, nasty selves we offered him. But that’s all we had to do. And then there he was, with all the hope and joy and trustworthy love we ever needed.

Also, happy four months of married life to my strong, sexy, incredible man. Thank God for you, my love.

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Filed under Broken Beauty, It's a Girl!, Once Divorced, Twice Married

Positive Pregnancy Tests

I write my baby letters. Sometimes I speak them to her* when we’re in the car by ourselves. Sometimes I type and save them. Sometimes I pray them aloud so she can hear. There’s no telling what people will say to her when she gets here, so I want to make sure she’s got nine months of truth packed into her tiny brain. I tell her how much her dad and I love her, how wonderful her family is, how she can always trust Jesus. In fact, I never run out of things to tell her. The problem is I can’t seem to write about her. I wish I could tell you how miraculous she is and how much joy and wonder she’s brought us already. But every time I try, it comes out in a syrupy, overwrought voice that doesn’t sound much like mine.

I can tell you this. For a full decade, four medical professionals (three of whom are doctors) in two states assured me I couldn’t support a pregnancy past five weeks, and my body proved them right three times. It wouldn’t produce progesterone, and artificially spiking production didn’t work. PCOS seemed to be the culprit, but no one was certain. I also had scar tissue and cysts causing insurmountable problems, such as a lack of entry to the womb and wildly irregular ovulation, respectively. After several fruitless months of trying and three losses during my five-year first marriage, I didn’t have a reason to believe the doctors were wrong.

Then on March 8 of this year, I married the strongest, kindest man I’ve ever met. And almost immediately started vomiting.

We went on the honeymoon I’ve always dreamed of – mountains, cabin, fireplace, Jacuzzi, wine. And it was good. And never did “ovulation days” cross my mind because I was so obviously, certifiably, doctor-approvedly infertile. But then sneaky things started happening. A few mornings I felt so nauseated I couldn’t get my clammy self out of bed. And with a passion unrecognizable to me, I craved red meat. As in, I literally salivated over the raw hamburgers at the grocery store one day. I might have torn the package open with my fangs and feasted if the butcher hadn’t been right in front of me, asking from a healthy distance whether I needed assistance.

Then on the 17th of April, I put on my favorite dress, kissed my husband, and headed to work. I realized I hadn’t menstruated, an odd thing since my medicine keeps me from being even an hour late. So on a whim I picked up a pregnancy test and a decaf coffee on my way. Maybe a few prayers escaped into the air as I did these things, but mostly my mind raced with menstruation math. When I arrived at my desk, I set down my bag calmly. I sauntered to the restroom. My steady hands placed the test on the sink. Less than a minute later, I peered over and saw the two pink lines that had already formed. Two. “Oh, God,” I breathed.

People have asked if we were trying to get pregnant. Of course, the answer is no; not only were we not trying, but we didn’t think we could. That doesn’t mean, however, that my baby is a “mistake.” Even though she wasn’t part of our plan, she has always been part of the Great Design God has for the planet. Our plan is short-sighted and imperfect in a thousand ways. But this baby – the one whose mother has a reproductive disorder – is the one God has chosen. He wants a person created out of our DNA, to be parented by us, to make his compassion and power visible to others. So whether the timing seems right or wrong, whether my body seems capable or incapable, whether other people agree or disagree, my man and I will love and raise our baby to bring glory to God.

I asked God one night in an overwhelmed state, “How did this happen? And why is it happening now?” I got an answer, flashing in my heart like a marquee: For my glory. So I already know how the story turns out: God’s glory will be undeniable. What a perfect reason for a baby to be born.

* I say “her” for two reasons: 1) simplicity, and 2) I believe I’m carrying a girl. The night my first pregnancy ended, which I have already written enough about, I knew I would one day have a baby girl and her name would be Anna. I believe I am pregnant with that promise.

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