Tuesday, February 09, 2010

A marriage examined: Part III

Part I
Part II

When preparing for marriage, Kevin and I talked about that four-letter-word among newlyweds: kids. Neither of us thought it was a good idea to get married if you weren't wanting to have kids, or if you couldn't joyfully accept a child God might give you. Let's face it, everyone knows how children are conceived and there's nothing worse than married people who are actually MAD that they're having a baby.

Still I decided to go on the pill. I had about a year and a half left of college (that would be put on hold since we were moving), and ultimately, you weren't supposed to have kids until you'd been married a good long time.

I remember going to the Cal Poly health center a couple of months before our wedding and getting a prescription for birth control. Simple, right?

Well, apparently putting synthetic hormones into your body can have side effects. Nasty ones. Like splitting headaches, horrible bloating (I seriously LOOKED pregnant), fatigue, and worst of all, emotional issues. I tend to be a pretty calm, level-headed person. I rarely cry. But the pill made me crazy. Things that shouldn't have been a huge deal made me sob, or made me angry. I would have meltdowns. It was awful.

But I continued taking the stupid little pills, hoping and hoping that as time passed, the side effects would go away. About a month and a half after our wedding though, I reached a point where I told Kevin I'd rather be a sane, happy mom than a crazy person with a college degree. He totally agreed--in fact, he'd been encouraging me to stop taking the pill for quite some time.

Awhile after I stopped, some friends shared with us some disturbing things about hormonal birth control. I felt frustrated that no one had told us this before. Turns out it's controversial in Christian circles, and if I'd just read the little package insert and given it a few minutes of thought, I would have seen why. From that point on I knew I could never go that route again, not to mention the fact that various studies link hormonal contraception to significantly higher rates of breast cancer. Lovely.

So we just decided to use the ol' calendar method for our family planning and to trust God with the details. Many months later, I enrolled in college again because we were moving back to the SLO area. Every month I got my period, I felt sad--SAD--that I wasn't pregnant. Both of us looked forward to having kids, I guess we just thought we weren't allowed.

That first week back at school, I was exhausted. Hmmmm, school must take more energy than I remembered, I thought. I'd come home in the afternoons completely famished. Needing to eat. Why am I so hungry? Did school used to make me this hungry? Finally one day it occurred to me that I was late. And on our one-year wedding anniversary, I took a pregnancy test. It was positive. Two people had never been more thrilled!!! It's a beautiful thing when God makes a decision FOR you, when His will is right out there in front of you and you know precisely what He's wanting for your life. No guesswork, no turning back. I made the decision to drop out of college (not enough time to finish my degree before the baby came), and I can honestly say that I've never felt as free as I did walking away from campus.

God giving us Anna when He did remains one of the best things that ever happened to us. He blew all of our preconceived notions out of the water. He humbled us and blessed us beyond measure. Somewhere amidst the sleepless nights and spit-up I praised the Lord and felt that this was what our lives would be about. This was how God would shape and change me. This was how I would serve the Lord and how our marriage was meant to be. It wasn't too long before we both came to the conviction that children ARE truly gifts from God, that they CAN actually make your marriage BETTER as opposed to worse...and that sterilization was off the table for both of us. A scary proposition for two people in their early 20s!

I remember in some of our discussions about it, feeling unsure. We didn't fit with some of the groups (typically Protestant Christians) who spoke out against contraception and I found some of their arguments to be a little off. (It would actually be years before we felt like we came to any sort of cohesive beliefs on this or on sexuality in general, and interestingly they came from a most unexpected place, Pope John Paul II and the Roman Catholic church. More on that in a later post.)

When Anna was six months old, I got pregnant again. Several weeks later, I miscarried. Ugh. One of the WORST nights of my life. The physical pain was excruciating, not to mention the emotional pain that comes from knowing your baby has died, and it's all ending in this horrible messy tragedy. My doctor had suspected that it was a twin pregnancy based on the ultrasound, and judging by the miscarriage, I think he was probably right.

Grieving the loss of our baby (or babies I guess), we also desperately wanted to conceive again. It wouldn't happen. Everyone I knew was pregnant, but not me. I never felt angry or jealous per se, just frustrated that it wouldn't happen for us. FYI, secondary infertility is a nightmare. Every month you get your hopes up, then they come crashing back down, and you start wondering what's wrong with you, if your firstborn was a fluke and if they'll never have a sibling.

God taught me something during those times though, something that no one had EVER taught me before. I didn't hear it at church, or from friends, or read it in books. The Christian people I knew didn't talk about it, so it was something I'd never considered. And it was this: fertility is a gift. My fertility is a gift. My ability and Kevin's ability to, in cooperation with God, bring forth a precious new life made in the image of God, is profoundly beautiful.

It would be twenty long months before I would get pregnant again. I don't look back on the struggle to conceive with much fondness, because it was hard in a lot of ways. But I DO believe God used it to show me something that I would have been too stubborn to embrace otherwise, even though it meant I would suffer.

And I believe there was yet another reason God prevented us from conceiving--two reasons, really. It would come to be the next big step in our journey together...

19 comments:

Priscilla said...

Brianna, this has nothing to do with your post although I LOVE it, but since I don't have an email address or phone number for you, this is the only way I can communicate to you. I just read the most heartwarming story on my Yahoo news about a young widow (her husband died after only 10 months of marriage in a bridge collapse in Minneapolis a couple of years ago)who just adopted 2 year old boy/girl twins from Haiti. She started the adoption prcess 13 months ago. I thought of you right away, and maybe you have already read this story, I can email it to you because I'm not sure how to tell you how to get it online - maybe just Yahoonews.com?? my email address is psrynning@charter.net hugs :)Priscilla

Shana said...

What is the timing difference between your first miscarriage and the birth of your boys? Just curious how the loss of your twins connects to the birth of your twins...

Kevin Heldt said...

Hi Shana, we're thinking alike! I was just about to publish this comment:

I still find it incredible that in the SAME MONTH that you were likely miscarrying twins, a different set of twins was being born halfway around the world who would need a family.

The Fearnsides said...

Thank you for these beautiful posts. It's so funny (and awesome) that you often post about things that God is currently working on in my life.

Though slightly different, I've found myself slowly, over the years, coming to the same convictions about children, pregnancy and how my faith should affect my views on those things. God has really humbled and changed my heart on these issues.

It's so easy as Christians to allow the culture to inform our views vs. seeking out God's will and allowing his word to determine our values and priorities.

Thank you for all of your transparency!

Monica

Brianna Heldt said...

Yes Shana it's CRAZY, Yosef and Biniam were born the same month I miscarried. I couldn't believe it when we figured that out.

Oh Monica I love hearing your thoughts! Do you think you'll start blogging again? Wishing we lived closer so we could still chat in person. :)

Brianna Heldt said...

Hi Priscilla! Yes I saw that headline, and am planning to read the article. It looks like an amazing story. Thanks for letting me know! I seriously think you should start a blog, what with all of your foster care and parenting experience, I know you have much wisdom to share. Miss you! (Oh my email address in case you ever need it is briannaheldt at hotmail dot com.)

Kristen Borland said...

where's the "like" button? i like this. on second thought, i heart this!

i love that your second twins were born the same month you loss your first twins. God is so, so, so good. it's like how we conceived lola (preventing no less... ha!) within a week of losing amanda.

From Diapers To Dorms said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
From Diapers To Dorms said...

Thanks for allowing us to read such a heartfelt and moving post Brianna! It's such a blessing to follow along on your family's journey. God's plans never cease to amaze me! Over the past few years we've been thrilled to get to see where He is leading your beautiful family.

Also, I know you weren't talking to me, but I thought I would mention that we are thinking of going down the route of foster care blogging. Even though we've only been doing it for just under a year, I think we have some interesting things to share, particularly with others who are or who are thinking of fostering. Also, I am not sure if I mentioned or not, but we have a blog for our new business and I think you can check it out by clicking our name. If not, and you are interested, you can check it out at http://fromdiaperstodormsblog.blogspot.com. We're doing a giveaway right now that you might be interested in. (Also, please feel free to remove my comment if you don't want it posted here. I just thought it might be the easiest way to reach you. Thanks again!)
-Angela

Bitterroot Mama said...

Thanks for the heartfelt story. We decided to use the Natural Family Planning Method after we were married in lieu of birth control pills. I think it makes it so much easier to have kids because you don't have to wait for the side effects of the pill to go away. I was really struck by your loss. I'm sorry to hear about that, but so happy that you were able to adopt.

Rachel said...

Speaking of the blessing of children. You have a whole blessing missing from your family picture on here. Poor Mary!

realmama said...

Dear Brianna,

I'm a long time reader and sometimes blogger with my own little pre-k'er from Ethiopia. We agree on a lot of things and I always think that if I lived in CO we would be real life friends, or at least I'd learn how to be a better mom from you! We had 10 yrs of infertility (well, I guess it's an ongoing thing) and 3 miscarriages before we adopted Josh from ET, then baby P domestically last fall.

One thing you said struck me - you said that fertility is a gift. Yes, yes it is. However, I really feel like my infertility and 10 yrs of marriage without children was a gift too. So many things happened during those years that had a God purpose that couldn't have happened if I had little ones at home. My infertility was/is a gift also. Plus, it led me to my two boys!

Brianna Heldt said...

realmama hi! thanks for the sweet words--i think i have a LOT to learn about being a mom myself. today for example was one of those days...

i too believe God can use infertility for good. i know he used mine. for us i think the key was discovering that there was freedom in being OPEN to having children, and my potential ability to become pregnant is something to be viewed as a miraculous gift, as opposed to something to stifle or "manage", as if it's a BAD thing.

kristen i am so grateful for your open sharing about the pill. it's nice too to feel like you're not alone in it all!!!

Brianna Heldt said...

rachel it's true, i need an updated family picture. like most other things in life, i'm a little behind the curve. :)

Kathryn said...

What an encouraging post! Although I laughed when I started reading it - my husband and I have been discussing birth control a lot lately, and I've had several birth control conversations with a dear friend who is getting married next month. I drafted a blog post about this very topic last night. I think God is starting to hit me over the head with this! I am excited to see where He leads us as we revisit our decisions. Thanks for sharing your heart!

Brian & Rachel Davis said...

Thank you so much for your blogs! I'm loving it. It's wonderful to read from a mom in the middle of things (I'm a mom at the beginning of things). I really appreciate your talks about birth control and attitudes towards children. Keep sharing!

darci said...

What a beautiful post (and series). It is such a blessing to read. We have our precious Ezri (now two) because of our realization (thank You, Lord) that we were with-holding blessing from ourselves!
It is an amazing miracle that God was bringing two precious baby boys into the world (and eventually into your family) even as He took your two precious babies Home to Himself. Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. darci

emily and mike said...

Just wanted to say that I have LOVED reading your marriage examined series! Not sure if you are planning to continue with it, but I hope so! I love reading about how your views on birth control have changed. Your experience with the pill sounds identical to mine and I too have chosen NFP and really love and respect the Catholic teachings on it. I also love that all the responsibility is not put on the woman, but it is something that a husband and a wife must continually decide on together. Seems much more equal that way.
God bless your beautiful growing family!!!

Lesley said...

Brianna: I continue to be in awe of your honesty and your level-headedness! Thanks so much for this post. Helped me with a few things that have been on my mind lately...

 

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