Our first sunflower of the season bloomed in the second week of July. I love sunflowers. They remind me of the summer I was pregnant with my son. That first time experiencing all the emotions that come with the final weeks of pregnancy, the excitement, the unknown, and the natural way your mind just starts preparing and anticipating for a very real labor of love.
I ate my share of strawberries summer 2020, grew sunflowers for the very first time, took pictures under the sunflower’s giant shower head, passed the time watching makeup videos on YouTube (I know, it doesn’t seem like I would enjoy those, but I do!), took walks, bounced on the ole pregnancy ball, picked zinnias in early labor, and eventually, after a loooong labor and a laughter-filled delivery, I brought my firstborn son home to sunflowers.
Summer used to be so hard.
Then God gave me my son born in the summer in August. And sunflowers made up the backdrop.
What a love story.❤ Naturally, the ground squirrles ravaged those sunflowers soon after. They bent low and looked a bit like mayhem, but sunflowers remain such a celebration of summertime and a reminder of the beautiful summer I experienced. . .and right in the midst of 2020 when the world and everyone felt as though we were falling apart at the seams.
We still deal with that fallout today, but 2020 was not only anger, confusion, angst, and scares. It was sunflowers, and babies, and laughter, and hospital rooms bursting with new life, and moms rocking their babies to sleep, and men learning how to be dads. And loving it.
In 2021 when I was pregnant with my daughter, I wrote a poem that seems fitting to share in this post. We can live so scared of the times and we can be fearful for our children, but neither is how God wants us to go about birth, or parenthood, or birthdays, or life spent here. . .in this broken world.
BIRTH IN TIMES LIKE THESE
They said it would be too scary to bring a baby into this kind of world.
As if someone’s birthday shouldn’t happen because we think only in nightmares.
As if the weight of our worry is their reality forever.
As if we are the pirates of all peace and goodness.
As if God ran out of His beauty and power and kindness and love the moment we grew up to give birth to the children we wouldn’t even have without the hand of God.
Maybe it would be scary if it was me who brought this baby instead of God who brought this baby to me.
but it’s just me in an invitation to hold my baby and see so many good things happen after naively believing only nightmares come true.
Summer sun in the sky and summer son beneath sunflowers. My arms are open wide to life earthside. I will celebrate all that is good and lovely with thanks to God the Most High. My stakes are in the ground.
Before I knew I was pregnant. When two lines showed up even though that second one was faint. When I texted our midwife with the happy news even though it was early.
I’ve learned there’s no such thing as “early.”
You the whole time.
And when you were smaller than you “should” have been, it was you fully there. You the whole time. Your strong heartbeat the best sound in your mother’s world.
The whole time.
There was a night I thought I might be losing you. I was scared out of my mind. Desperate, “I WANT THIS BABY!”
And that baby was you.
You the whole time.
And praise God, you were well! Strong. And all of you there, here with me, the whole time.
Conception. Week 7. Week 13. Week 20. Week 35. Last of summer, all of fall and winter, early spring, 39 Weeks, 5 Days. . .
it was you the whole time.
And now I get to hold you in my arms, see your face, treasure every bigger-than-life smile, calm your cries, run my thumb gentle across your forehead. There is wonder in finally holding the reality of you after carrying you for so long. You who has been you the whole time. Since before I knew! Since before I saw. Before I heard. Before I felt. Before I held.
It’s just always been you.
The whole time.
No such thing as early. Just wonderful, radiant, miraculous you.
If you’re feeling lost in these years. . .like an old woman in your early 20s, then this story is for you.
I don’t pretend that the way it happened for me is the way it will for you. But my history with God and the history I’ve witnessed in others proves to me there are beautiful, impossible things in store. That open hands toward God will never be disappointed even if they are, at the moment, bent with soul arthritis below a barely beating heart. May this story renew your resolve to keep weary hands wide open to God.
Before my garden and goats and long before my children, I was without hobbies. Sure as a child and in high school I wrote poetry and even won a few contests. Sure when I was a late teen and young adult, I drew some pictures and enjoyed myself, although my art style is not very clean or succinct.
But by the time I was in my early 20s and deep in the throes of infertility, I had no artistic expression or enjoyable pastimes that allowed me to be a person without performance or pressure. When I found myself struggling through the early pain of infertility, I was almost all grief and sadness and questions. This pain further stifled my creativity in a huge way. I was barely keeping my head above water.
It was a last minute decision to get the goats when we did. Christmas came in June that year! And perfect timing! And on Mother’s Day before those June goats, we dove head first into the porch garden. I suddenly found myself with pastimes that had been buried by my own drive to perform, life changes, chronic pain, growing into an adult, and abruptly hitting against infertility.
The garden was a place I could be without performance. I loved waitng for flowers to bloom. I loved being surprised by the life I found there. Meanwhile, I was also learning to enjoy life by observing the goats and spending time in the sun with them. It was so helpful to take care of things outside of myself. It sounds simplistic, but the goats and garden truly helped me unfreeze. When infertility came to play, my living like a machine didn’t work anymore.
I had to be a person.
God, of course, was the Giver of the garden and the goats. He made a way for me to fall apart safely and step into such a beautiful life from those broken pieces. I received gifts within the garden and aside the goats over and over and over again.
So, I finally had pastimes other than writing, but I had completely abandoned my love for poetry. My short stint of drawing (which I actually enjoyed, but never fully stepped into!) vanished into thin air too.
When my son was in the womb, I suddenly found I had the mental capacity and energy to write again. Though I had thrived in the garden and found such happiness in enjoying our goats, I couldn’t really write like I once did. In a good way, infertility removed me from the pressure and performance I had placed on myself to blog and do social media. I needed that removal.
But I also found myself in a place where I had to grieve constantly, and that took so much of me. When I did I write, I wrote to process and heal. (Or finish my first book! I did manage that in those dark years.) But these years of writing lacked so much of the creativity I used to have. I certainly wasn’t writing poetry anymore, and I had no plans whatsoever to bring that back into my life.
While driving home one day in 2020, I suddenly thought, “What if I wrote poetry again?”
And what if I did?
That thought came out of left field. Another gift straight from God.
Writing poetry again felt scary. I hadn’t done it in years. It’s not what people had come to expect from my blog or my social media. I was rusty at first, but writing poetry came back to me very fast. And I loved it. I found it especially poetic and beautiful that while a child grew in my womb, I was like a child again. . .doing the thing I loved by writing poetry.
It felt like my son and I got to be children together.
I am 7 months pregnant now, and I recently realized with quite a pleasant jolt that I’m once again rediscovering art while I carrying a child. Totally unplanned and unexpected. Another gift!
I had been looking through old things and saw my past drawings. I actually liked what I saw. It wasn’t jaw-dropping or anything, but it was thoughtful. Maybe I could draw again. Maybe this was was a hobby I could pick up and enjoy. So I began. All over again. I’ve been taking pencils and crayons to paper and drawing my life and experiences. It has been a blast!
Rediscovering the art of my youth all while my children grow vibrant with life just seems like a deeply layered gift only God could give.
Being a child again.
Being children together.
I used to be an old woman, hands curled up, numb heart, machinery at work.
And then the garden.
Life burst out of broken machinery, a barren womb, an old woman.
God does life with life. In a thousand ways. Undeterred by the calendar we hang on our fridge. I had nothing, but God said, “Wait let me show you!”
Quite a few Novembers ago, I remember sitting outside and trudging through the emotions that come with infertility. There was a storm brewing in the distance, but as I sat there I suddenly felt that it would be okay. . . even good. Not right then. Maybe not soon. But sometime. There was a a settled feeling that washed over me. . .it was almost as though I had caught a glimpse of something beautiful, but it happened so fast. I can’t even remember all the details from that cold, fall afternoon. Only that good was coming.
I think that split second moment was a gift from God. . .momentary relief from the fresh, young tulmtuous waves in my soul.
The years following that moment were filled with tears, anguish, hollowness, heartache, the bathroom floor, pain. . .healing, closeness with Christ, the garden, laughter, the joy of a leaf, a life that filled up with life. And all of these things ran together in a way words could never describe, but you can understand. . .because you’ve been there too.
Fast forward to November 2019. I was on the brighter side of healing. My husband and I had recently had a conversation about how we would move forward in our family journey. I remember saying something along the lines of, “I really want children with you.” But I also remember confidently and peacefully closing doors in so many directions while opening ourselves to a life we hadn’t planned, but I finally felt excited for.
Shortly after that, I received a basket from a friend filled with the brigthest flowery things, pens, and a blank notepad. It was gift that seemed to say, “I see you!” And I put that basket of gifts on display!
Mere days later, another friend sent me this mug, joy comes in the morning, alongsisde a beautiful note which I have in the back of my prayer journal from that time. She knew about my struggle with infertility, and these were some of her words, “I pray for you almost every night and have every confidence that God has the most beautiful plan for you and Ben.”
About a week and half or so after that, I took a pregnancy test not expecting much or really anything at all. I had long-since given up taking these tests and asssumed my hormones were acting up because of my increased sugar intake.(Helloooo harvest party! 😉 )
Well, that test turned to two pink lines so fast. I couldn’t believe it, and yet somehow it was so believable. I just laughed! Hope Gives a Eulogy has a poem for that moment and a hundred others I experienced during infertility.
But there it was. Clear as day. Two lines. A yes. My firstborn son.
Remember that note from my friend sitting in the back of my prayer journal? Around it I wrote, “note + gift from a friend received a week and a half or so before finding out I was pregnant. This was one of 3 meaningful gifts leading up to the great crescendo of our Shasta-boy.”
You’ll notice I didn’t mention a third gift in this blog post, because I don’t remember exactly what it was, but I’ve got it recorded so it happened!
What a parade of gifts before the grand finale of our son. Which, of course, we know is not the finale, because God is always working and weaving miracles and healing and hope realized in so many ways! The reality is I had received thousands of gifts from God in those dark years leading up to those 3 gifts from friends leading up to the gift of a baby I could only yet see in two pink lines.
I hosted our third Thanksgiving in our bright blue home while being 6 or so weeks pregnant. That Thanksgiving was our first holiday with a baby in tow even though we’d never met him yet. The flowery blank notepad given by my friend is now my garden journal.
Amazingly, I’m writing this blog post on the same November day I found out I was pregnant two years ago! (That wasn’t planned.) Even more beautiful is sitting here typing these words while being 21 weeks pregnant with our little girl.
I’ve been surprised by both my babies in different, wonderful, totally-of-God ways. We are headed into our fifth hosted Thanksgiving with inexplicable healing and the gift of two children.
And I think it’s important to note that with God this story could have happened in a thousand different miraculously good ways. . .children or not. I believe no matter what, I could still sit in November 2021 and recount God’s goodness. Which solidifies the truth that no matter what happens in our future, I will still be able to recount God’s goodness, be awestruck by His gifts, stunned by His timing, filled with His healing and hope, surrounded by a life made with life by God.
But here I am now. This is the story to date. The good gifts are endless. God’s goodness is endless. I’m moved by God’s love for me. As I wrote in my poem, Lest I Forget!, “and it was flowers, and Novembers, and pink skies, summer nights where Your blessing took over my life, and I was crying and laughing and breathing and longing and it was beautiful lest I forget!”
Today with the gift of my son and daughter, my husband and a 5th Thanskgiving in my home, I pray as I did in 2019, “Help me receive this gift with open, celebratory, trusting hands.”
God makes life. “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man.” -Psalm 66:5