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...