In the Eye of the Storm

I’ve been asking myself this week whether blogging in my current state is a wise idea. I’m not feeling particularly rational. I’ve been struggling to sleep. I haven’t spent hours in prayer or reading my Bible this week and I’m not really hearing God speak to me. Any observations or wisdom that might spill out on this page will not be made from my usual considered approach to our circumstances.

I’ve been trying to work out how to summarise the last two months when they are split so neatly into two such intense extremes. Today as I write this I am waiting to miscarry. My tired, tense mind can’t even begin to comprehend how to process this bit of information.

This time last week I was in a beautiful but tentative state of early pregnancy; grateful for every day that passed triumphantly and thankful for every reassuring symptom and sign of new life gently beginning to take shape inside my body. But just a few days later, at seven and a half weeks pregnant, I had my early pregnancy ultrasound scan, and where we had expected to see one, possibly two tiny babies beginning to form and hear the amazing sound of a heartbeat or two, we had the cruel shock of observing an empty amniotic sac and no new life to be seen. Several blood tests and another scan later and the outcome seemed pretty conclusive. We had a new term to add to our collection: “blighted ovum“.

The run up to our second embryo transfer had been so profoundly saturated by Father God’s words. We were led back to the same passages in the Bible over and over again, particularly those passages in John 14 and John 16 which talk about asking God for specific things and expecting to be heard and answered. Over the days leading up to our transfer so many beautiful moments unfolded. We live in a rural village and one day were privileged to see the birth of two lambs. The farmer told us that the mother had been declared barren when she was scanned with all the other pregnant ewes but here she was, a little late to the party, adding her own offspring to the collection. This event felt profound to us and we pondered the deep significance of its timing. Answers to prayer came thick and fast as we sought God’s face on the medical decisions we had to make and we saw positive outcomes blow the medics’ cautious predictions out of the water. Our God was in this. He had told us in no uncertain terms to entrust the outcome to Him and so far it was looking good.

I’m not going to tell you that I handled the Two Week Wait after the transfer in a perfect state of quiet trust and peacefulness. The fear and doubts shot out of my mouth even as my heart wrestled to keep them locked up. During an IVF cycle you are so hyper-aware of every single minute detail. Each step is nail-biting and each waiting phase feels fully loaded. On top of the mind games and waiting is an intense awareness of one’s body as additional hormone supplements must be taken to give the baby – or babies in our case – their best chance of survival. There is no switching off from twice daily pessary insertions and the delightful side effects they cause! But it has always, always been worth it.

The day I tested to see if I was pregnant I broke an agreement which my husband and I had made, that we would take the test together after work. He knew that if it was negative, I might never manage to get out of the house because I would be wrecked by the result. In my stubborn pigheadedness I decided I couldn’t wait another minute, but I had also talked myself into the conviction that I could not be pregnant. Fast forward an hour and I was sat on our prayer room floor howling in thanks to God and total disbelief that He would still bless His unfaithful, doubting daughter with her heart’s desire. The next three weeks passed in a mixture of amazed disbelief and tentative excitement.

Scroll forward again to the clean, bright fertility clinic suite and there we were in the aftermath of our appointment with nothing but confusion, shock and horror to hold our hands. As I sit here, still in disbelief, still trying to process the images that I have recently seen on-screen, I cannot work out why our circumstances have once again led us here. Pain, loss, disappointment and grief are beginning to feel like the only companions I will ever have in this life. We have lived so long beside them that I doubt I will ever get to hang out with joy or begin to dream again. I am so familiar with how it feels to live in the utter heartbreak of infertility that I wonder whether I’ll ever view life through any other lens.

I know that every woman handles miscarriage in her own way. Some are private, strong and silent. Some are more vocal, needing the comfort of others and the room to grieve openly. Some carry on as if nothing has happened. Others make it clear to all that their world has just fallen apart. Some run to God for comfort; others wonder whether He really can love them at all. There are many, many, many women who experience miscarriage, and many who never breathe a word about it. Every woman needs to be seen and heard in her own way during this hideous time. And loved, loved, loved. I am still zombie-like, groping about in the darkness for the words for this fresh devastation. Having experienced two miscarriages already, I am frightened of the physical pain and fresh sorrow that will accompany the bleeding when it begins.

And as always the same questions return. What about God? Where is He in this? What on earth did He mean by asking us to “entrust Him with the outcome”? We had experienced the joy of heaven over this new opportunity for new life and now this? How do I open myself up once again to let Him comfort me when He is silent now? How do I trust that He is who He says He is when life serves me nothing but pain and torment? How do I possibly believe that I am the apple of His eye when He continues to bless so many women around me with their miracle babies, but not me?

I turn to the Psalms, to poetry, to the words of David because I don’t have words to give Him,

 God, God . . . my God!
    Why did you dump me
    miles from nowhere?
Doubled up with pain, I call to God
    all the day long. No answer. Nothing.
I keep at it all night, tossing and turning.

And you! Are you indifferent, above it all,
    leaning back on the cushions of Israel’s praise?
We know you were there for our parents:
    they cried for your help and you gave it;
    they trusted and lived a good life.

And here I am, a nothing—an earthworm,
    something to step on, to squash.
Everyone pokes fun at me;
    they make faces at me, they shake their heads:
“Let’s see how God handles this one;
    since God likes him so much, let him help him!”

And to think you were midwife at my birth,
    setting me at my mother’s breasts!
When I left the womb you cradled me;
    since the moment of birth you’ve been my God.
Then you moved far away
    and trouble moved in next door.
I need a neighbor.

Herds of bulls come at me,
    the raging bulls stampede,
Horns lowered, nostrils flaring,
    like a herd of buffalo on the move.

I’m a bucket kicked over and spilled,
    every joint in my body has been pulled apart.
My heart is a blob
    of melted wax in my gut.
I’m dry as a bone,
    my tongue black and swollen.
They have laid me out for burial
    in the dirt…..

But then this….

God has taken charge;
    from now on he has the last word.

All the power-mongers are before him
    —worshiping!
All the poor and powerless, too
    —worshiping!
Along with those who never got it together
    —worshiping!

Our children and their children
    will get in on this
As the word is passed along
    from parent to child.
Babies not yet conceived
    will hear the good news—
    that God does what he says.

(Psalm 22, The Message version)

And this from a friend……

Was feeling really frustrated and upset this morning and then read this. May it encourage you….

‘He went…to a solitary place; and…prayed.’ Mark 1:35 NKJV By failing to pray – you set yourself up to fail. The reason Jesus never failed is because he never failed to pray. Note the times when he prayed: when his heart was heavy. During his ministry on earth, his cousin John the Baptist was arrested and publicly beheaded for confronting a king about his sin. ‘When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew…privately to a solitary place’ (Matthew 14:13 NIV). Disappointment, desertion, divorce and death will write their chapters in the book of our lives. Thank God for therapists and doctors, but ultimately there’s no one who can heal a broken heart like God. ‘He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power’ (Psalm 147:3-5 NIV). Whether placing stars or healing scars, no situation is too big or too small to get the attention of our loving God. To understand God’s healing expertise, look at the life of Job. Possibly no one in history lost more than Job did, yet God brought him through it all. In Job chapter 11 we read: ‘You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help’ (Job 11:16-19 NLT). Are you sad and heavy-hearted today? Do what Jesus did. Take time to pray about it.

And this is the hardest part in it all I think, because I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to talk to God. I don’t see what He can possibly have to offer me in this. The one who chose not to take the suffering away yet wants to offer me comfort and compassion?? What do I do with that? I have nothing polite to say to my Daddy at the moment. Perhaps you think I’m petty and pathetic. Perhaps you think I am immature and ignorant. I can see that I am blaming God for something He hasn’t caused. But I can’t seem to lift my eyes higher to His hopefulness and to His loving care. I am in the eye of the storm, the centre of another nightmare which screams, “No, no, no, no, no, no”. And the questions, as always, overwhelm me.

I return to my Jacob-like state of wrestling with this mess. I know that I am grappling and my true heart’s cry, like his, comes forth, “I will not let you go unless you bless me”. As time begins to heal me, I will get up and limp forward once again. What choice does each of us have when tragedy comes knocking? I am still amazed at the resilience of humanity, of our instinct for survival. I thought I had reached my limit and was so grateful for God’s deliverance into a pregnant place. But now as I stare renewed barrenness in the face again, as I wait and watch for my body to lose its grip on this tiny little life that was growing and see our bright future literally flushed down the toilet, I know that even now I am travelling to new places within myself to find the strength to push forward. I am fragile fire. I am passionate patience. I am broken beauty.

I was sent this lovely poem by Rainer Maria Rilke which brings my aching heart comfort.

God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.

Within us all is the need to overcome, to believe for better times, to venture forward once again into a place of peace and hope.

For now, I’m just doing today.

Whatever you’re facing today – and I know that pain has so many faces – just do today with me. It’s all that is asked of us. It’s all any of us can do. And it is enough.

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