Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Expecting grace

I pictured this moment thousands of times. In my fantasies, my hand was dry. But in reality, a warm sprinkle of urine landed on my left wrist.

Perhaps that is what dampened my enthusiasm. Instead of the unmitigated joy I'd expected, I felt a numbing sense of shock. And a creeping panic.

For 10 years, I had prayed fervently for a positive pregnancy test. Now that the streaky blue positive sign was in my hand, I could only pray "Dear God, dear God, dear God." I'm not even sure what I wanted to say.

I was going to have a baby. And I was terrified.

For 10 years, I had prayed fervently for a positive pregnancy test. But in the past year, I'd changed my mind. The past year had beaten any desire for another child out of me. For 12 long months, my life spiraled out of control. Whenever I thought our family had hit rock bottom, we dropped some more, free falling down a cliff that never seemed to end.

We were still climbing our way out. And now we'd climb with an extra weight.

Just two months before I found myself sitting on the toilet with a plastic wand in my hand, my husband had admitted he couldn't handle a third child. A year earlier, I would have been devastated to hear those words. This time, I understood completely. And while a third child had been my greatest desire for so long, I was willing to give up on that dream. So willing that scheduling a hysterectomy was on my to-do list for the week. But every morning, I woke up sick and exhausted, too nauseous even to make the phone call.

I'd been there before. In the past 10 years, I got nauseous often. For the first eight years, I always assumed my prayers had been answered. But dozens of negative pregnancy tests showed me that my body just didn't react well to stress. I had felt pregnant so many times that I wondered if my body could fake an entire pregnancy, move outside of the morning sickness phase and into a belly bump.

So I took this pregnancy test with no expectations.

For five days, I kept the news to myself. It didn't seem real. I would forget about it for hours at a time. And then suddenly, it would pop in my head--I was going to have a baby. I would look at my family and correct myself--we were going to have a baby.

Just months before I learned I was pregnant, I hit a wall. Our year had been rough. I felt like a failure as a mother. As a wife. As a housekeeper. My body literally stopped working. I had been running 5 miles a day but suddenly couldn't complete a mile. I couldn't stay awake for a full day of work. Sitting at home, feeling sorry for myself, I looked around. And hated what I saw.

Our house was from the 70s. We'd bought it eight years earlier. It was the best we could afford, and we told ourselves we'd fix it up, brighten up the overpowering brownness, a dreary decorating scheme broken only by the strangely multicolored bedrooms--orange and teal in one, green and pink in another. But we'd barely touched the house. And it was still depressing.

I looked at my kitchen--with its heavy brown cabinets, wheat-themed wallpaper and peeling floor tiles. No wonder my life was a mess, I thought. My surroundings were terrible. For years, I ignored them, telling myself I had more important things to concentrate on.

Suddenly, my kitchen seemed like a metaphor for my family. If I could fix what was ugly there, I could fix my family. Soon, I would have an extremely rare child-free five days. One son would go to the beach with Grandma while another went to summer camp. I decided to take a week off of work and paint my kitchen cabinets.

The project was a nightmare that left me in pain and in tears. But at the end of the week, the dark cabinets were a cheery white. Look closely enough and you can see paint drips and dents. But overall, the kitchen looked much better. I tore down the wallpaper and painted (with a lot of help from my mom) the walls a cheery aqua. My mom made me a valance out of my favorite black and white striped material. I made a sign to hang above the window. The kitchen was coming along.

And slowly, so was my family. We were all in counseling. Look closely and you'd see the effects of our year. But we were starting to resemble a family again. I began to believe we'd make it. I was determined to redeem us and I started making a plan.

And then I got pregnant.

At first, I saw this as a detour. But I began to see my growing belly as another metaphor. This baby would be living proof of God's grace, a reminder that things always change. And that God answers prayers--even 10 years after you ask.

After an exhausting pregnancy, and 25 long hours of labor, we welcomed a daughter into our family. She does indeed serve as a daily reminder of God's grace. And she reminds me of all the dreams I once had for our family. Determined to reclaim those dreams, I'm chronicling our life improvement in this blog.

This will include the mundane--small creative projects to relieve stress; the shallow--decorating to improve our surroundings; the profound--dealing with two teenagers on the autism spectrum; and the divine--improving my relationship with God.