I’d been sick off and on for two weeks, just not feeling like myself. I had been too scared to take a test, fearing what I’d find out. And there it was … everything I wasn’t ready for.
I’m pregnant …
See, I’m not the woman who has struggled to get pregnant for years. I’m not the woman who has always known she wanted kids quickly after marriage. And I’m not the woman who wants child after child after child. I’m the woman who wanted as much time with her husband as possible, with as much of my life in my control as I thought possible.
When I saw those positive signs, my only emotion was devastation.
I don’t think any girl hopes or plans to tell her husband she’s pregnant while sobbing, not able to say anything, devastated at the news. But that was me, crying my eyes out at the thought of having a baby, holding the stick like it had attacked me personally.
I always knew someday I would love to have kids. Just one or two, maybe adopt also. But I always had this idyllic scene in my head: my husband and I well-established, married for three or four years, renting or owning a house, school behind us and jobs well under our belts.
None of this was the case that Saturday morning.
We had actually been living with my sister, brother-in-law, 18-month-old nephew and two dogs while my husband searched for employment. He had just graduated, and we were between jobs and applying for doctoral programs. I was still working intake at a doctor’s office and we were about as far away from ready as I could have ever pictured myself.
I struggled for weeks with the thought that I was going to have a baby. That I was going to be pregnant for the next nine months and then have a small human that was mine to keep alive for the next 20+ years; just holding onto hope that you’ve taught it how to follow Christ and leaving most everything up to God. Everything about it terrified me.
During these first few weeks, after announcing our news to close family, friends and co-workers, I was inundated with congratulations and offerings of excitement. And I didn’t want any of it. Every time someone said, “Isn’t it just a miracle?” “Don’t you just love it already?” “That’s amazing! I’m so happy for you!” I just wanted to ball up, holding back tears.
No. It’s not a miracle yet. I can’t say I love it yet. I really don’t think this is amazing at all. But instead, I’m thankful and smile and nod.
I felt so guilty because it wasn’t lost on me that women do struggle with infertility for years, sometimes never reaching their dream of bearing their own children. My own mother was one of those women for eight years and a co-worker, who is now pregnant, tried for 11 years to have children. I see and understand the pain that must come with that type of disappointment month after month for so long.
It also wasn’t lost on me that I have single friends who struggle with the thought that they will never have the opportunity to get married and have children someday. While that may or may not be true, fighting through the emotions and facing the day-to-day reality is difficult for them.
I also realized that some of the same thoughts I judged others for having, I was having myself … “I can’t say I want this baby right now.”
But at some point I stopped feeling guilty and began recognizing that every woman’s story is different. The woman who desperately wants a child and cannot has to face that struggle daily. The woman who never wanted to be single her whole life, but is now in her 50’s or 60’s must wrestle with God in the midst of not understanding His plans. The teenage girl who has no support system, no husband and becomes pregnant to eventually choose or be forced into abortion has to live with her pain and choices.
And the woman who struggles to trust God in the midst of overwhelming, unprepared-for life changes has her own set of idols, fears and insecurities to lie at the foot of the cross. I was that woman.
I found the more I thought about other women’s situations, the more I connected and had the most empathy for the those who choose abortions out of desperation, fear or exasperation. Being pregnant is unlike anything you can ever experience. Not only do you feel as though you have no control over your own body, but my experience (and many other women’s) included weeks upon weeks of sickness, exhaustion, weight loss, trips to the hospital and enough roller coasters of emotion to fill a Six-Flags theme park. I knew very little about being pregnant and I don’t know a lot about living with and taking care of a baby.
If I, a girl with an amazingly supportive family, a precious husband who encourages me and takes care of me, understanding and thoughtful friends, and Christ on my side, can feel abandoned, alone, unsure, terrified, devastated, judged and basically like a lost little girl, how must someone with a life full of the opposite feel? When I think about the feelings I have and then realize how much worse it would be if I didn’t have Christ, it overwhelms me to the point of crying for the women who are in that exact situation.
In these last few weeks God has shown me so much. It was as if, all of a sudden, He said, “Whitney, I’m not doing this to you. I’m doing this for you.” And it’s brought me so much humility, realizing what I was clinging to were my idols of security, comfort and control. It has also brought me a little better sense of understanding and genuine empathy for other women no matter the situation.
Control is tricky and deceitful. If we are happy because we feel we have dealt with the blows of this life relatively well, or judge others who we think haven’t chosen things in their life as well as we have, we need to take a moment to ponder we are never the ones in control. God works all things for His glory and our good. We work nothing for ourselves. If we take comfort in the fact that our lives are exactly the way we’d hoped, we need to be humbled that God would be so generous and pray that He would never let us get too comfortable or self-righteously think we have accomplished these things on our own.
I am 16 weeks pregnant. We will find out the gender of our baby soon, and while I still struggle with the idiosyncrasies of pregnancy and at times the overwhelming thoughts of being completely unprepared for my future life, the constant reminder that God is for me has given me so much peace. In the Gospels, Jesus was rarely understood by even His closest followers, but He never left them, He just kept teaching them, living with them and loving them. Now I can actually say I am falling in love with this little growing baby and we are preparing slowly for its arrival.
While I still have many unsure and anxious days, I’m so grateful for the lessons He is teaching me. My comfort comes from knowing He has shattered my illusion of control and is leading me, sometimes carrying me, the whole way.
“It is no sin to say, my love, that bliss and pain come from above … beware the thought that all is vain, in time, God’s wisdom will be plain.” – The Misery of Job and the Mercy of God, John Piper