foreboding joy

This weekend, I will be 37 weeks pregnant. The statistical likelihood that all will be well with this baby is very high. It’s a significant milestone and I think I want to celebrate.

Jensen suggested that we work on the nursery. “Let’s sit on the floor and eat take-out and assemble the new crib together,” he said with a big smile. It sounded wonderful. I started to cry. “That’s so scary,” I told him. I am just overwhelmed at how vulnerable that makes me feel.

I have been 37 weeks before. I have even made it so far as to deliver our baby and have everything seem perfect. Truly the sweetest moments of my life. And then the moment was shattered.

Sometimes I think I should not have taken the risk of another pregnancy because I don’t know how our family would survive another shock. We need things to go well this time, but that is not a guarantee.

Just during this pregnancy, a woman I know went into early labour and had to say goodbye to her twin girls. Another friend gave birth to a full term baby who died the next day. Still another mother I’m close with found out at 19 weeks pregnant that her baby had passed away and had to deliver a very tiny, lifeless child.

I also know two moms who each delivered a healthy rainbow baby after previous experiences of trauma and loss. They were scared, even terrified, that they would suffer again. But they didn’t. They were blessed with healthy babies. Hallelujah.

These moms remind me that, whatever happens, it is and has always been outside of my control. I have influence, yes, but a great deal lies beyond that and the range of possible outcomes is vast and gut-wrenching.

How can I let myself celebrate when I have no guarantee that I’m not about to walk into another disaster?

Brene Brown calls this foreboding joy and explains that it’s what happens when we lose our tolerance for vulnerability.  “There is no emotion harder to feel than joy,” she writes, “because we are so afraid that it won’t last.”

Lately, I think of joy as the witch in Hansel and Gretel; she’s just trying to lure me into a trap. But I’m not a kid anymore and I see right through her. I know how to protect myself from her now.

But I need to confront the truth that denying joy is a pretty shitty strategy for avoiding pain. It can’t stop bad things from happening and I question if it really makes them hurt that much less. Embracing joy is optional, but I think pain generally just chases you down if you try to run from it.

I cannot say that I’ve been embracing joy throughout this pregnancy; I have wanted to remain about as detached as possible. But tomorrow is a new month and a new day. Maybe I can let myself look at life right now and acknowledge all the good without imaging the possibility that it will all be broken. Certainly I should convince myself that joy will not break it.

Love is the only road

Today is the anniversary of my little boy leaving me, leaving our family, for heaven. Today has been one year since the very worst moments of my life.

I so badly want this year to have counted for something. I want to sit here and pour out lessons and wisdom that only suffering could have taught me. But nothing brilliant comes to mind. And honestly, what could possible be enough?

There are moments when I feel a deep gratitude for how this journey has changed me. Sometimes it is easier to see compassion growing in new places or pride shrivelling up because humility’s fresh leaves have blocked its sun.

Other moments are heavy with overwhelming regret and fear. Some moments feel like a life sentence for an unforgivable crime. I fear that I am just not enough to create something beautiful with this broken life and I question why I would ever try.

Brody was so beautiful, so full of life and so deeply loved. I know he still is all those things, but he is not here with us the way he should be. And today, we sat with that, letting ourselves remember what we lost.

Yesterday was harder in some ways. I let myself cry hysterically while Bryson was at school. It is something I intentionally do not do often because it isn’t healing. I can’t breath. I make myself sick. I need to protect Bryson from that. I need to protect my unborn baby from too much of that. My head fills with the worst of my fears and they are such bullies, violently insisting that I agree with them.

I kept asking myself how we would possibly survive this week and the voice in my head kept yelling that I am just not enough, we are not enough; we will not make it through.

I reminded myself that we do, in fact, have everything we need to get through – in God and in community. We are well equipped to walk the road before us. Still, by 8:30 this morning, I already felt completely exhausted. I laid down on the couch and I heard that voice tell me again that I am not going to make it. But I had started my morning with scripture and quotes from some of my favourite books, and I remembered Cheryl Strayed in her tent on the Pacific Crest Trail. She is bruised and terrified and she asks herself, “Who is tougher than me?” and each night she answers, “No one.” And I asked myself, “Who is braver than me?” and I told myself, “No one. If anyone is enough to get through this, I am enough to get through this. I am going to make it through this day.”

And I did – we did. With good food and love from friends and family, we chose to create a beautiful day.

Brody, thank you for being my beautiful boy. Thank you for all the gifts you brought into my life and all the memories you gave me to cherish. I still just want to tell you to come back – as though you have that power somehow, as though you chose to leave. We love you so much. I promise we will do better this time. Bryson keeps thanking God that you are with Him and that you are happy and safe. I think it is a good sign that he is finding peace. He used to pray that you would come back to life, but time has passed now. Of course, we all still wish so many things were different. We still have all the same questions we did a year ago, but we keep reminding ourselves that the answer is just to love and to keep loving. Fear and anger are tempting, but love is the road that leads to you. Love is what will keep you closest in our hearts and will bring us back together one day. And I might just hold you for eternity, okay? One day.