The sonogram was blank, as I expected it to be. Any other result would have defeated the purpose of my OB-GYN visit to implant a new birth control device. And yet, it was a little jarring as it triggered memories of other ultrasound visits, both joyous and anxious as we viewed snapshots of the life within, and growth was measured in the tiniest of increments. I thought of friends who have recently experienced the devastating grief of miscarriage, those who long to have children and don't, and many other friends who are currently pregnant. I grieve and celebrate with them, knowing both loss and blessing. As for me now, I feel somewhat stuck in the middle. I have chosen this spot and am grateful to have a choice in the size of my family, as I realize that many hope and dream and plan in vain. After struggling through infertility for a couple of years and then experiencing the miracle of pregnancy (and the trauma of delivery) twice, I don't take it for granted.
The doctor warns there will be a little pinch, and some cramping (which is doctor-speak for intense and enduring pain), but it seems somewhat appropriate that I spend the day feeling like I did the day of Brady's birth, not knowing then that my cramps were actually the beginning contractions of labor.
We experience birth pangs in the strangest of places: in those transitions of life between beginnings and endings, those times of uncertain change, and in the relentless march through the stages of life. We feel the pain in the death of dreams that we didn't realize we had. We mourn the loss of things not turning out like the picture in our mind. We feel the bittersweet tug of dreams that have come true, and realize that they, too, are fleeting. There is a time for everything, even surrender, and the great truth of parenthood is that it's more about letting go than holding on.
While John and I initially dreamed of a larger family, the realities of parenting two amazing yet demanding children often exceeds the resources (patience, time, space, finances) that we feel we have to offer. That, along with the memory of our fear of losing both of them and me during their emergency deliveries was enough to bring us to a consensus in the hospital room after Maryn's birth that she would, God-willing, be our last baby. I thought I would grieve that loss as she has grown, but I've celebrated the milestones of her growing independence and have been content to rid our home of the baby equipment as each stage has passed. And yet, sometimes I'm hit with the reality that a phase of my life is over. My increasing doctors' appointments these days are about illness and prevention, not new life. Although thirty-six doesn't feel that old, in the closing of this door, it seems like I'm now on the downward part of my journey.
Although we never know with certainty what is ahead, in the earlier phases of my life, I knew what steps I was working towards...education, marriage, career, family. My identity has been tied up in these roles and will continue to be. But the blank screen of the ultrasound machine foreshadows the blank page ahead. While it is not as intimidating as it would have been to me earlier in my life, the unknown does bring pangs of fear. What will be birthed in me in the coming years, and what do I have to deliver to the world? Can I hold on to the dream that there is new life still within me, that I have gifts to offer beyond nurturing my own children as their needs change and their dependence on me lessens? Even when it hurts, will I have the grace to let go and let them become who God, not I, created them to be?
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Romans 8:18-30)