Category Archives: Miscarriage and Infertility

This Wasn’t How I Thought This Life Would Go

Jonathan and I married 22 years ago this month, and like all newly weds we had big plans for our life. Among the certainties we presented to God, were the following:

  1. Jonathan would be a youth pastor forever, because youth ministry wasn’t just a stepping stone to “something bigger and better.”
  2. We would be young parents. Our four children would be born before we hit our 30’s so we could be grandparents in our 40’s.
  3. We were never leaving Canada.
  4. We would never renovate a house, or farm sheep.

In case you’re new here, I’ll remind you that we have, thus far, managed to not farm sheep. We hit our tenth anniversary, still childless, and Jonathan leaving his youth pastorate at the beginning of what would be a five year theological overhaul. One would think I would have learned not to give God absolutes. Still, I continued to be surprised when my plans were not His. Here I sit, approaching 43, expecting my own bonus doodle, instead of the granddoodle of my initial plans, and I find myself thinking “but this wasn’t my plan. This wasn’t how life was supposed to go.”

Almost nothing about the life I have now is the life I pictured then. I “should” be published. I “should” have teenagers in an excellent Christian school on whose PTA I would gladly serve. I “should” . . . does it even matter? The point is, I’m not.

And still, as I look back over 22 years of “shoulds,” I am struck also by the things I never saw coming. Would anyone who knew me even ten years ago have anticipated that I would own three separate rolling pins for three separate baking tasks, and use every one regularly? Would the naive almost 21 year old who walked that aisle have anticipated the day she/I could gut, skin, and process both large game and small animals and birds for our family’s consumption?  Hardly. My political shift from liberal to angry conservative to undefinable was probably not as surprising to others as it was to me. However, I know that no one could have foreseen the day in which I found joy and peace within the bounds called “confessional.”

I didn’t set out to be a confessional Presbyterian, any more than I set out to spend ten years of life infertile, but the journeys are not separate. This isn’t the life I set out to live. This isn’t the road map I unfurled at the dawning of my early adulthood. It doesn’t even look like the same country, some days. Still, I wouldn’t trade it. Some of the greatest beauties of my life and things that stir my soul today couldn’t even be found on that first path. The things in which I delight today are things I didn’t even know I wanted then.

So six months ago it wasn’t my plan to have a baby in my 40s. What joy and delights are to come that I cannot anticipate? This bonus doodle follows in a long line of things I receive from the Lord that I didn’t know I wanted. Some of those things have been terribly painful, and the heavy hand of providence may lay on this too. Even so, all things considered, He has continued to make my boundaries lie in pleasant places. This isn’t the way I thought my life would go, 22 years ago, 10 years ago, 6 months ago. This wasn’t my plan. What a comforting place to rest.


Answered Prayers in a Fallen World

For years when parents complained of sleeplessness I had simultaneously sinful responses: “If I get to be a mother, I won’t ever complain. I will also teach my children to sleep.”

So God decided to give me three bad sleepers as children, and the snickerdoodle is the worst of the three. The cheesedoodle is the best, by far, and he’s a sleeping champ now. The girls, however . . .

Monday night was a doozy for me. The cheesedoodle, always tired on Mondays, had been woken a little after 6 by his big sister who has been waking around 5:45 for three weeks. At 6:15 Monday evening he climbed into bed and said good night. I didn’t hear a peep from him after that, and what was in my mind was: “6:15 is when he’ll wake tomorrow morning. Oh well, the mackerdoodle will already be up.” and I sighed. By 8:45, when neither of my girls had fallen asleep and both were having their age appropriate levels of mental break down, I completely lost it. I snapped. I couldn’t take it any more. I felt like climbing into my own bed and leaving them to fend for themselves until their father got home from work.

Eventually I found out that the mackerdoodle – extrovert extraordinaire – hasn’t been sleeping because she is lonely, now that she has her own bedroom and no roommate yet. I put her on the couch in the cheesedoodle’s room and within minutes she was snoring. The snickerdoodle still wasn’t having any of it, until Jonathan arrived home an hour and a half early from work and within minutes she was asleep under his influence.

My nerves felt all bunched together. My stomach was churning. I had 90000 things to finish and it was already almost 10 pm.

Jonathan prayed for me, and in that prayer he said, “Our children are an answer to prayer beyond what we had hoped, but even answers to prayers are tainted with sin. . .”

Oh how I needed to hear that. Even an answer to prayer is tainted with sin in this fallen world. The fact that I couldn’t handle being a mama for a moment has no bearing on the fact that my children are a wonderful blessing and I thank the Lord for them. Having a hard evening doesn’t nullify the miracle.

Whatever you’re praying for right now, hear this: when the Lord gives he gives us so much that it boggles the mind and it overwhelms our hearts and our minds. But it will still come to you with the curse of sin in a fallen world. There will be moments that you will want to hand the abundance back to the Lord. That doesn’t change the blessing, it’s just the reality of answered prayer in a fallen world.

So, Is This How Some of You Live?

For the first time in my adult life I am not being defined by my reproductive system. I am not pregnant. I am not breastfeeding. I am not actively trying to conceive. I don’t really know how to handle myself.

Since 1997 my life has been dominated by counting. For eleven years I counted cycle days, praying on the way up that the numbers wouldn’t come back to 1, and often crying when they did. Then I counted gestational weeks, at first praying they would keep climbing toward 40 (and crying when one didn’t) and then praying they would just end. In between I counted hours until the next feeding, hours of sleep, growth in days, then weeks, then months. Always counting, but not any more.

In some ways my identity has shifted from my reproductive system to the products of it. Between potty training, speech and physical therapy, cooking, cleaning, laundry and general troubleshooting/fire stomping, I’ve got my hands full enough that I’m glad I’m not counting too.

But today I looked at a calendar to determine the date of a future event, and realized that all days were essentially equal. In that realization, I suddenly wondered, “Oh. Is this how other people live their lives?” I may be calling on some of you for tools in navigating this new approach to life.

What God Hath Wrought

I could do a long, and probably fairly entertaining, post about everything that didn’t go as planned today. I could do a post about my dishwasher and what it is teaching me about my view of myself.  I could do an entire post about the strange things my mackerdoodle says while playing in the house.

However, today we bundled up and braved the cold wind to go outside and play. We walked down to a little play structure near our neighborhood and the snickerdoodle had her first go at a baby swing. The cheesedoodle is the perfect size for these particular swings, and despite a nasty cold he kept begging to be pushed higher. The mackerdoodle is too big for the harness style seats and that’s the only option on this particular set. She put her bottom into the swing and hung her legs over the side, perched like a stuffed animal in a gift basket.

There I was, running back and forth between three swings, keeping the snickerdoodle moving just enough to keep her entertained, but not enough to scare her, keeping the mackerdoodle swinging high enough to have fun, but not so high that her top heavy stance caused catapult action, and never really managing to keep the cheesedoodle as consistently high and fast as he would have preferred.

For just a moment I stood back, and watched all three of them – my full quiver of blessed gifts – and was amazed at what God did when we had come to a place that we couldn’t ask anymore. I was stunned that my days, which are so full of the every day monotony of snotty noses and “eat your dinner”, are the answer to the prayers of so many people. There, sitting in a row on a toddler swing set, was my own personal “more than I could ask or think.”

Too often I lose the wonder of it, but today I was reminded of all that the Lord has done for me. And I had to share.

It Was an Ending that Was Also a Beginning

Last week was the fifth anniversary of our miscarriage.

I don’t really know how to write this post. I just know that I want to.

There are moments in our life that are defining points; moments by which we mark our lives as “before” and “after”. These tend to be marriages, births, and deaths and for me and Jonathan, losing our first child is such a moment. It was the end of so much and the beginning of so much, and such a learning time that now, five years later, we’re still processing some of the things the Lord showed us in that brief six week period.

It was, indeed, the end of an earthly life. A few days after the miscarriage, I wrote:

“I thought of all the parents who wish they could just shield their children from pain, suffering and sin. I realized that I have a child who is permanently shielded from those things for eternity. It was the first time I realized that regardless of the earthly reality, I am a mother. The thought brings peace, and pain at the same time. How strange.”

It was also the end of all those years of wondering and praying. It was an end of an era of infertility for us. We didn’t know it when Jonathan painted this, but this loss was the gateway to more than we had even dared ask. I sit here, five years later, with a four year old, a two year old and a 4 month old. None of which replace the one we lost, but all of whom bring such joy. It is a reality so much more extravagant than I could have ever dreamed back then.

It was the end of so much, and the beginning of so much.

Of course, it was the beginning of our journey in parenthood, but it was also a beginning of our journey toward covanentalism and by extension toward seminary. It was the beginning of God moving us from an intellectual assent of God’s Sovereignty, to that truth living in our hearts, and informing everything, including our emotions.

And it was the beginning of this blog, which has been so much of a blessing to me.

Five years seems like a lifetime ago now, and in reality, it was four lifetimes ago. One of them very short, and the others still in process. In five years our lives have changed a lot: our address has changed several times, our professions have changed, and we’ve come to seminary. We’re very different people than we were back then, and the miscarriage has helped to make us the people we’ve become.

Things I Love Part Three: My Husband

This is part three in my week long series seeking to honor the things I esteem.

Last Friday I had the privilege of hearing a woman of God speak to a group of us women.  In that talk she made a great point of how excellent her husband is and I was struck that too often when we get together as women we tend to idolize our children and mock our husbands.  This should not be the case, and I was convicted that I do not honor my husband here on the blog nearly enough.

Here is my struggle: how do I publicly acknowledge and esteem a man who hates to be the center of attention?

I think I can say this: the first time I met Jonathan Cowan, I was running, tears in my eyes, away from a silly boy I thought I loved who had broken my heart. I literally ran into Jonathan’s arms, and I’ve been running into his arms ever since.  We’ve had our moments. I mean, put two sinful people in a marriage and there’s bound to be conflict.  When both of those people have artistic temperaments it takes things up a notch.  While we may have fought over how to cut a round cake (yes really), or the state of the house, or other trivial matters, when the storms came we’ve clung to each other, and he’s led me in clinging to the Lord.

In all the years of infertility and every month that we felt that loss of omission, he still loved me.  He never once told me that I was broken.  He never reminded me that if he had married someone else he could have had a full quiver before then.  He opened his arms, and let me run into them.

I will never forget, even when I am old and gray and can’t remember how to cook soup, I will never forget lying on my bed in our little apartment in Georgia sobbing over the loss of our first child after so many years of prayer.  Jonathan curled up behind me, and held me and read me Job 1, which ends:

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

Then he went into our spare room/study/art room for several hours, and wrestled with God, and came out with this:

I still get choked up when I look at it.

There is so much I could write about my Jonathan, but anything more would make him uncomfortable.  If I said he was a great man of God, he would say he was a horrible sinner, who faces his sin every day.  If I said he was a caring and loving father, he would say he was too often impatient, or selfish.  So I won’t say those things (*wink*) I’ll just say that I love him more every day, and the longer we’re married, the more I see the gospel at work transforming him.  I need to say it more often.

Because of Isaac

Several months ago I was introduced via e-mail to a woman with an infertility story very different from mine; but the thing about infertility stories is that they may have different facts, but they all boil down to empty arms and longing hearts.  Wendi and I connected because we knew what it was to have empty arms and hearts that the Lord filled with children.  As you know, He filled my arms by filling my womb.  He filled Wendi’s arms first through adoption and then nine months later through a biological child.

Shortly after Christmas I received an e-mail from Wendi in which she said, “Only with the announcement of the adoption/birth of our children have I been this excited. . .”.  She and her husband John have begun an organization named “Because of Isaac” to help raise funds to help childless couples adopt.

So I know we’ve asked you to help support us in seminary, and I know there’s only so much money to  go around, but I’m wondering if you my faithful readership would do three things for John, Wendi and their organization:

  1. Go to the website “Because of Isaac” and look around.  Read John and Wendi’s full story, read about the couple for whom they are currently raising funds and just generally read about what they are doing.
  2. Pray for the couple waiting for a child, and about how you could help.
  3. Forward the website to anyone you know who has a heart for adoption, through e-mail or facebook or twitter or any other way in which you regularly communicate to help “Because of Isaac” get as much exposure as quickly as possible.

Thank you for taking the time to check out the site.  I am very excited to see what the Lord has in store for  John and Wendi and their new venture.