As I sit in the almost-darkness of the nursery cradling the baby back to sleep, I can’t quite believe I’m here. I study the walls now decked with a rainbow string of fairy lights and pretty pictures and ponder how in years gone by these walls were covered in frantic prayers, Bible verses and prophetic promises. My prayer room. My war room. My refuge. All those squares of scribbled paper were leading up to this moment and I sit now in wonder and awe that this day has come. The room has been painted a different colour to mark this new beginning but the echoes of so many prayers of praise and petition still linger in the atmosphere.
On the evening of Wednesday 13th March 2019, Olivia Hope Promise Monck made her beautiful and miraculous way into the world. These last nineteen weeks have been a colourful whirl of joy, delight, frustration, anxiety, fun, gratitude and sleep-deprivation. It has been everything I hoped it would be. My heart is so very thankful to be here. Each day feels like a present which my hands eagerly unwrap as I pull back the covers from my sleepy, dreamy child in her crib. She smiles up at me and so often tears fall from my eyes at the kindness and faithfulness of God in giving me my heart’s desire at long last.
Yet these past years of longing still feel close by. I spent my pregnancy feeling like I straddled two very different worlds – the old and the new, the familiar and the uncertain, the barren and the swollen-bellied. And as I pace my way slowly into this new season of life, I find I’m still very much shaped by the years of waiting. I turn up to mother and baby events but feel like an imposter, clutching a child that I struggle to believe is mine because although I believed it would eventually happen I can’t quite believe it has. There’s been no melting away of what went before. There’s no forgetting of how it is to be childless. There’s no desire to turn away from the reality faced by those still hoping and yearning for their own families. It still hurts.
And that doesn’t mean I’m not savouring every second of my precious answer to prayer. Nothing of the sort. Every moment with our little girl Hope is one that is cherished and acknowledged as the gift that it truly is to be a mother now and to have a much longed for child. She fills my heart to bursting and my song is one of thanks to her Creator. But finally being able to have a baby hasn’t erased in an instant all that went before – not for me, anyway. What I’m finally beginning to realise, as I take my heart to God in these days, is how very hard I fought to have a baby.
I fought with everything in me.
I squared up to the physical abuse of IVF and miscarriage. I stared down every strangling emotion, pulling in as much hope and peace as I could muster when it all felt like it was going wrong. I leant hard on every caring arm offered in friendship to pray, have faith, declare and stay anchored in the promises we believe we had been given. I ran to God with all my might as much as I often railed at Him.
I’m realising now that I fought for Hope long before she made an appearance on this earth.
And now I don’t have to fight any more, there’s an inevitable unravelling at work. There is still a biting rawness to all that went before. There are wounds still healing. There are fraught emotions that the holding of this wonderful miracle will ease. There are new thoughts emerging that I didn’t even know were there until now, and they need recognising, processing and releasing in order to find freedom. And what I’m starting to understand is that time and space is still needed. Even after all this time.
I’m having to work out how to lose the armour I’ve worn for so long and let it thud to the floor, no longer required. I’m trying to relax my way into this new season after such a long time of eyeing up the possibility of it never coming to pass. I’m learning not to pick a fight with a future that I can’t bear to think of because the future I longed for is here, praise be to God! I’m trying to work out how to let my heart really feel all that it needs to feel at last. And I’m working on truly trusting in the goodness of God in the land of the living as I see it with my own eyes.
I have wondered over and over again in recent weeks why I have not been able to articulate how I feel since Hope arrived. Sure, there’s been the onset of ‘baby brain’, but just as I had to navigate the unhappy, changeable terrain of every place our infertility journey took us, so I’m now having to learn how to make myself at home in this wonderful new land I’ve entered. Often I can’t get past the disbelief that I’m even here. It is truly wonderful but also rather surreal.
But it’s also so much more than that. Finally holding my beautiful baby rubs raw the wounds from the past again because I’m realising just how very sweet it is to have her here. I hurt afresh and deeply for those wanting a baby of their own, or a second baby that isn’t coming easily, or those who have miscarried, or those who are going through IVF. I understand a teeny tiny bit more now of what it might be like to lose a child because I can’t bear the thought of losing mine. I’m reminded intensely by every easy pregnancy that I continue to hear of that for some, family comes reluctantly and with such sacrifice and/or pain. And the wounds of the battle to have a family are felt for a very, very long time… In fact, I suspect they are scars that will never fade completely.
My repeated prayer in these weeks has been one of deep, wordless thanks, but my mind wanders at times down avenues of guilt that I have my answered prayer when others do not. I look at Hope and ponder even now whether God might yet take her from me. I consider how much I adored pregnancy and am enjoying motherhood and wonder whether I’ll ever have the privilege of doing it again. Old habits learnt by loss and fear are hard to release.
But this I do know – every day I give thanks for a miracle that lives in our home. Every day I gaze upon a child whose life was formed by the partnership of prayer, faith and the power of the living God. Every day I’m reminded that despite my human frailty, God can make a way when there seems to be no way. And every day I’m invited by my Heavenly Father to pursue the impossible for myself and others because of all that has been made possible for me.
This little girl was absolutely worth fighting for. I am hoping I’ll begin to accept that the battle always did and always will belong to the Lord.
“Be still and know that I am God. I will be honoured by every nation. I will be honoured throughout the world. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress”. Psalm 46:10-11