Today at school I passed out a pile of math packets to a group of energetic and eager second graders. I told each of them to put their names on the top and that we would be doing the first two pages together. No sooner had I sat down at the document camera did a student frantically raise her hand and ask, “do we have to do the back page?!” I simply replied, “We aren’t there yet. Just follow along with me on the first page.” “But it says we need calculators,” she said, “We don’t have calculators!” Again, I replied, “We aren’t there yet. Don’t worry about it. We will get there when we get there. Turn back to the first page and follow along.”
For the next 15 minutes or so as we worked on each problem together, explaining a few methods for adding two large numbers, I would see students raise their hands like popcorn. Always frantic. Always concerned. Never trusting. “Do we have to do the last page!? We don’t have calculators!” Each time I would try to redirect them to where we actually were, reminding them that I would explain when we got there.
Finally, we got to the back page and I read the instructions which included, “Use a calculator…” I looked at the group of nervous students, “Do you have calculators?” “No,” they all said with great concern. I then asked them, “Who do you think has calculators?” They looked around at each other, then looked up at me smiling behind the desk holding a basket of blue calculators, “yooooouuuu,” they all chimed together, relieved and a little bit sheepish. “Why would you think I would give you an assignment and not give you what you need to complete it? Do you think I would tell you to do something that was impossible?”
As much as I asked this question in earnest, it felt convicting all at the same time. How often I jump ahead in my own life to circumstances that may or may not even occur and say desperately, “I can’t do it. I don’t have what I need to do that.” How often I imagine the worst that is ahead and think, “That is impossible!” I’ve imagined the extreme possibilities of my disease and have looked at photographs and read articles and have said, “How could I do it? How could I live like that?” I’ve looked ahead to the inevitable and have feared doctor visits, first days of school, new jobs, sleepless nights and have said, “I don’t know how I’m going to do this. Am I really going to have to turn to that page??” Yes. The answer is, “Yes!”
And as often as I ask that question, and each and every time I finally find myself turning to the last page of my packet and look up at God and say, “See?? It says I need a calculator! I don’t have a calculator,” He always replies with, “You don’t. But I do.”
Back on August 6th I found out we were expecting our daughter. I had taken a pregnancy test simply to ease my own mind. I just wanted to confirm that we were not pregnant so I could go on with my day relaxed. I expected the pregnancy test to come back negative and to start my cycle that night or the next day and then laugh at myself, “Why did you even worry about that?” But that’s not what happened. It didn’t come back negative. It came back positive. Full. Dark. Instant. || Those two pink lines appeared and I began to shake and sweat. “I’m not reading this right, ” I thought to myself. “Serves me right for buying this at the dollar store. It must have been exposed to extreme temperatures or something. It must be broken.” But I knew in my heart that wasn’t true. I knew in my heart that there was a new life beginning to form inside my body.
I instantly felt a combination of guilt and fear. Fear, because we weren’t planning on having another baby. I was planning to get my tubes tied. I was planning to go back to work more next year. We were done with diapers. Done with nursing. Done with sleepless nights. Our house is too small. Our income is too small. My faith is too small. My disease is too big. My stress is too big. My boys are too big. My problems are all too big. And guilty because of all of my fears and excuses and lack of intense gratitude.
My fear was all-consuming. For a week I felt like I was in a daze. The world seemed foggy, cloudy. It seemed like I was walking in 4 feet of water and it was rising every moment and I was surely going to drown. I would have a complete meltdown every evening when the bottled up fears of the day would finally overflow. I would rock back and forth on my bed sobbing saying, “I don’t want this! I can’t do this! I’m such a horrible person for even thinking this!” I was surrounding myself with fear, anxiety, and the problems that were (maybe) going to come in my future. “I know that in a year from now when I’m holding our baby that I’m going to look back and say that everything is OK, but right now I just can’t imagine that! What if I can’t handle having this baby!? I can hardly handle life as it is right now! Now I’ll have to add an entire additional person to take care of! How am I going to do it!? I’m such a horrible mother for even thinking these things…” I was spiraling out of control, completely and totally drenched in my own unbelief. I was staring at the last page of my packet focused only on the tools I DID NOT POSSESS to do the task that would be set before me instead of focusing on the ONE who gave this child to me.
I decided I needed help. I couldn’t live like that. I could not live the next 8 months or more in a state of anxiety and depression I couldn’t put my kids through that, my husband through that, or myself through that. I had a picture of my future self, tightly wound up, a nervous wreck, total basket case, shaking on my bed as I rocked back and forth regularly for the rest of my life. I saw a picture of myself pulling out my own hair, heart pounding, hands shaking, mind racing…for the rest. of. my. life. And I refused to live like that.
I started meeting with a psychologist and processed all the things I was thinking and feeling. I started to identify my fears and problems, and then began to come up with reasonable solutions. I started to dissect my fears and troubles and separate them into things I could control and things I could not control. The increase in the already intense amount of housework that we have in our house was something I could not control. I can, however, control divvying up the chores and teaching my kids to be more responsible and help out so I’m not spread so thin. My disease and its progression is something I cannot control. But I can control my diet, stress management, and how proactive I am with symptom management. My disease was something I wouldn’t be able to control with or without a pregnancy. My small house is something I cannot control. I can, however, control how much stuff is in my small house and simplify. I can organize and plan who will sleep where and what we will do with all the toys. I started to break down my problems and come up with possible answers.
But there was still the very real problem that I had very ardently NOT WANTED another baby. The guilt associated with this feeling was horrible. I believe wholeheartedly that the little 4 week old embryo living inside of my body at that moment was a human. That tiny baby was a life with a soul. That baby was desired by God and put inside of me with a purpose and a plan, and here I was saying, “I don’t want it.” I considered the broken heart of God as I looked on a being He loved and created and said, “All of these problems I have are more important than the life you have put inside me.” No amount of reasoning and problem solving would change the fact that I was DONE with the baby phase. I could not convince myself that this was what I wanted. I couldn’t talk myself into it because I knew it wasn’t true.
It took probably 10 weeks of prayer, prayer, and more prayer to finally hit the point of being EXCITED to have this baby. I went through the various stages of grief. What was I grieving? The loss of the life I had come to accept and love–and the life I had planned ahead for myself. The loss of a dream of working as a sub full-time, being able to take flights without a toddler or infant, the ability to soon go to a restaurant without screaming children at my table, meals without constant tears and negotiation…Life was about to get easier in so many ways as all my children were about to be school-aged! And all of that disappeared. I denied the pregnancy to myself by refusing to think about it. I didn’t even want to look at pregnant women. Seeing a pregnant belly would make me feel sick to my stomach. It would just churn with anxiety. I was angry that God would change my life so dramatically without talking to me about it first. I would try to talk God into taking it all from me so I could just go on with my life thinking I’d dodged a bullet (horrible to think…I know. I don’t even like admitting it to myself). I would become depressed and cry and want to just lay on the couch all day. It was difficult to enjoy even the things I loved. But eventually, I accepted what was happening.
One of the most beautiful things that came through this time of prayer and focus was the realization that God had been working this out in me for a really long time. Back in March I went to a two hour class about different forms of birth control so that I could sign some papers agreeing to get my tubes tied. As I signed the paperwork I prayed in my mind, “God, if this is not what you want for me, please close the door in some way. If this is not what’s best for me and my family, then prevent it. I want to do the right thing. I think this is the right thing. But I could be wrong. And if I’m wrong, I want you to stop me. I’m giving you permission to hijack this plan of mine to make sure I’m in line with what you want for me.” I really didn’t have another baby in mind when I was praying this. I was thinking a little more selfishly like, “If this surgery would cause major problems to my body, then stop this.” But six months later when I still hadn’t heard from the doctors to schedule my surgery, and I got those two pink lines on a stick, God was answering that prayer that I had completely forgotten I had prayed.
Now, 18 weeks after finding out about being pregnant, I’m so ridiculously excited about this baby girl we are going to be welcoming into the world. I am already realizing that God was right all along. I still don’t have my calculator in hand, but I’m pretty convinced that, when I need it, God is going to hand me one. I know that God is not going to give me a task without the tools I need to accomplish it. I know that, while on my own, what lies ahead seems impossible, especially to the outside world, that all things are possible with God. I still, occasionally, look ahead and think, “What if I need a c-section? What if she’s born a premie? What if I don’t recover well? What if my milk never comes in right? What if she doesn’t sleep well? What if she isn’t healthy? What if…” And I keep telling myself to stop jumping ahead. Stop flipping to the last page and expecting to already be equipped with what I need to work through the problems when I don’t yet have those problems to solve. Quit focusing so much on what lies in the future that I cannot control and start focusing on what I am dealing with today, right now, in this moment. Remember the times that God has brought me through the “impossible” and trust that He will bring me through the “impossible” if and when it comes. Pray for peace, joy, love, hope, faith. Pray for a happy, healthy, good sleeper (amen and amen!) instead of worrying about what it will be like if she isn’t. Be EXCITED! Be WILLING! TRUST.
Will my students probably still ask questions and worry about how they’ll finish their homework in the future? Probably. Will they continue to flip to the back of the packet, jump ahead, and then panic when they don’t know what they’re doing? Yes. They will. But maybe, over time, they’ll worry less and less. Maybe they’ll eventually learn to trust me in the same way I’ve been learning to trust God.