"But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength." 2 Timothy 4:17
Twenty years ago (AKA, yesterday) when I was a freshman in college, my long term plan was: graduate, get married, have children-- be a mom. Simple. Solid. Maybe even a tad stereotypical for a West Texas college freshman, but I was looking forward to stereotypical (minus the horse).
Raise your hand if your long term plans worked out to the full extent that you dreamed about as a 19 year old. If your hand is in the air, now slap yourself on the face. Just kidding! Pat. Pat yourself on the back. Your back-pat is well deserved. My hand is not in the air, but I am certainly patting myself on the back, too. In fact, I deserve all of the pats. I have learned in a different way than I would have ever imagined, to stop trying to make my freshman dreams come true.
I'm waiting for a home health nurse to arrive to our apartment for my last IV steroid infusion- Day 3 of 3. She arrives, hooks me up and starts the drip, and I sit on the couch chatting with her for the 2 hour duration. My mouth begins to taste as if I'm sucking on a handful of pennies (not recommended), so I unwrap another Jolly Rancher to mask the taste. The metal-mouth and temporary "port" in my arm are a small price to pay for the annoying relapsing symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis to subside.
My nurse casually mentions she is pregnant. She's four months along. It's a boy. She is excited. She is tired. She is thirsty. We talk about names. We talk about how expensive it is to afford day care in Los Angeles. She opines on whether she will stay at home and just work weekends, or whether they will place her baby boy in day care. For a moment I feel relieved. Those thoughts and burdens are stressful, and they are not my burdens today.
I look up at the IV bag where the liquid gathers, and watch as the sunlight shines through the slow forming droplets while they swell and sag, and finally break off and drip down. The cat closely inspects a thin hanging tube attached to the bag of liquid at one end; attached to me at the other. She scampers away. The air conditioning kicks in for another minute or two. Birds chirp outside, cars zoom past one another outside on the street. My computer chimes signaling a new email has arrived to my inbox. I click to refresh the screen and read about the urgent meeting that must be set for my boss.
Nothing is stopping. In fact, somehow the passing of time is accelerating. The final IV drip is complete. The nurse removes the needle from my vein. I press down on the cotton pad to keep my forearm from bleeding until a fresh bandage adheres to my skin.
I wish the nurse luck with her baby. She disappears behind the front door.
As I reflect, I marvel at my current emotional state. I feel as if I might have finally reached the other side of unbearable pain and longing when I think about having (or, not having) a baby. Maybe now all settings have switched to cruise control. Or even Zen? I'm no longer clutching that mothering dream in the palm of my hand, I've let it go so that I could steady my health instead, for now.
My grandfather called me one Saturday a year or so ago, and through tears of fond joy, told me about his favorite Aunt. As I walked down the sidewalk I listened through the overheating iPhone against my cheek as Granddad gushed about her. She never had children, though she wanted them. She doted on her nephew and niece as if they were her own--and spoiled them rotten. I understood what he was trying to tell me, and I cringed. I remember wanting to throw my phone into oncoming traffic. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to imagine myself as the favorite Aunt/never mother/forever.
Granddad was onto something with that phone call. He planted a much needed seed of acceptance in my heart. I wasn't ready for it then;I'm not even sure that I'm ready for it now, but I think it sprouted in here somewhere.
Do I think not experiencing childbirth means God doesn't WANT me to have children? Absolutely not. Do I think that my lack of fertility reflects a lack of my faithfulness? Shoot, no. It certainly does not. And I haven't yet thrown in the towel. But I think I'll call my new handful of fresh perspective, or, lack of a tight grip, progress.
Culver Palms Church of Christ Los Angeles, CA