Saturday, October 24, 2015

Learning to Live Without

In a lot of ways, I feel like hope was a Band-Aid. Not eternal hope which is constant and sustaining, but the hope that allowed me to grieve my lost daughter and wait for another at the same time. It might not have been my smoothest move, to wrap this pain up in a bandage. I'm only just now realizing this.

Hoping for another child meant that I could have sad days and mourn the loss of Kate, but always through the filter of the fact that I wouldn't have some future child if we hadn't experienced the having and the losing of our first daughter. I figured that when we held our still-to-come baby girl, the pain of losing Kate would all be worth it.

I'd already lived this pattern twice. When Garrett was placed in my arms, it made infertility worth it. When Matthew was placed in my arms, it again made infertility worth it. After all, neither of them would be here if I could have snapped my fingers and had a positive pregnancy test the first time. (Or the thirtieth.)

When that future daughter was placed in my arms, it would make everything we went through with Kate totally worth it. This is what I told myself when I cried silently in a bathroom stall, overcome, suddenly, by grief. This is what I tell myself when one by one, my friends' babies are born happy and healthy and alive. Of course I want them to be born alive and well, but the stark contrast between seeing a warm baby wrapped in her mama's arms and remembering the cold bag I held with my own daughter inside is emotionally jarring. This is what I tell myself when I think about the fact that all I will ever have of Kate is a grave stone and the thought of what might have been. The struggle will make it worth it.

But I am learning that hope isn't a Band-Aid. It can't be. And the struggle isn't really worth anything.

Kate is gone. And I miss her. One year ago, we were praying and hoping that this little girl might be ours. Now, she is gone to Heaven but there is a stroller in the garage that I bought after Thanksgiving. There is a Christmas stocking in a box--but it won't be filled with tiny baby things this year. There are onesies hanging in the closet. There are diapers and formula and a crib mattress under my bed.

I thought it would be God's plan to bring us another daughter right away. And I would love her and we would visit Kate's grave but the ache would be healed by the presence of the baby who needed my devotion and attention. As it turns out, that wasn't His plan. We wonder, now, if it isn't His plan at all. Initially, we agreed to wait for one year. As that year draws to a close, and as we pray for clear direction, I am confronted with the fact that this might be it. And if this is it...

If this is it, then there is just grief. If this is it, we were hand picked out of obscurity to love Kate for three blissful months and then lose her because that was the plan all along. Either way, I am no longer at liberty to compartmentalize my pain.

Future baby or not, it has taken me ten months to realize that this grief is big and deep and wide and really, really ugly. It has taken me ten months to see that I have to trudge straight through it. I can't walk around it and I can't put a Band-Aid on it. I'm sorry for that. I know it makes no sense to those who ask, "How can you have been so attached to someone you never knew?" I know it boggles the minds of those whose silence during these past many moons has screamed volumes. But I cannot pretend that it isn't there.

I still believe, with all my mind, that God's plan is better than anything I could create on my own. Like Job said in chapter 42, verse 1, "I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know."

I do trust the plan and most days, I really am alright. My laughter is real. My smile is genuine. But I just need you to know that some days, I'm pretending.

You learn to speak so calmly when/Your heart would like to scream and shout/You learn to stop and breathe and smile/You learn to live without/You learn to count the quiet winds/An hour with no unprompted tears/And not to count the deadly days/As they fade into years/You learn to hold your life inside you/And never let it out/You learn to live and die and then to live/You learn to live without
-Brian Yorkey

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