We all have lines, or scripts running through our heads at all times. They have been formed by our experience. Sometimes they contain truth, and other times they are false truths that have been fabricated by the voice of shame. Most of the time they attack our “enough.” They can be anything we say to ourselves.
I’ll never be beautiful enough.
I’ll never be liked enough.
I’ll never be successful enough.
At that time in my childbearing experience, my script was, “I’ll never be enough to support a successful pregnancy. Something will always go wrong.”
Even though I had a strong, healthy one-year-old boy to chase around, to venture into a new pregnancy honestly felt risky. Our first pregnancy had ended in a loss. The second one boasted a very complicated forty-hour labor. Needless to say, it was quite a disorienting start to motherhood for me.
As life would have it, ten weeks into this pregnancy I found myself stumbling into the emergency room because I was hemorrhaging. This wasn’t the first time I found myself in this same room. I had been admitted at barely five weeks pregnant due to a similar bleed. But this time, as I limped into the emergency room while my husband supported me—lest I fall into a heap of despair—I was sure it was the end of the journey for this little life here on earth.
There was no way this baby could survive given how much blood I had lost.
As the chief resident completed his assessment, he hesitantly pulled up a chair and told me this was most likely the end. He gave me information about what might happen and how to move forward with the physical loss ahead. He even offered me a D & C that very night to “remove all of the tissue”, as he technically phrased it. I felt a punch in my gut when he mentioned the D & C so casually. I wanted to shout, “Do you know who you are talking to? I’ve been there, done that. I endured a D & E just two years ago. It certainly is not an option that should be presented so matter of factly. We’re talking about my baby’s life!”
His leisure posture toward the situation knocked the wind out of me; I had to pause to catch my breath. What’s more, his conclusion that this baby wouldn’t survive perplexed me. The resident had displayed the ultrasound just minutes prior to this awful conversation. As my eyes adjusted to the real-time image of our baby, his beating heart flashed ever so quickly, signaling he was still there. He wiggled to and fro seemingly unaware of the emergency going on around him.
At this point, I caught a glimmer of hope.
Despite the doctor’s “expert” option, I held a feeble expectancy this pregnancy could pull through. Of course, we went against his recommendation to “take care of matters” that night. I signed some paper saying so, and with the tiniest strand of hope, we went home to wait it out. My husband and I chose to believe this baby could hang on.
This experience was not the end of the bleeding, and I was finally diagnosed with a massive subchorionic hematoma. I subsequently rode the roller coaster of ultrasound after ultrasound, never seeing a decrease in the hematoma as the months wore on. The perinatologist said there was no telling what would happen.
It could go either way.
Would we hold a breathing, crying baby at the close of this pregnancy? Or would we choke out a tearful goodbye to another baby? Because our innocence had been severed from our miscarriage years prior, we knew a loss could realistically be the outcome.
Life inched along haphazardly for twenty-seven weeks, and at thirty-seven weeks this little one was ready to make his debut. I couldn’t believe we were actually in labor three weeks early, but in a whirlwind of a few hours, our sweet boy made his appearance. This life—the one the chief resident suggested to have removed at just ten weeks—was in my arms, perfectly healthy and at peace.
I am learning that even though life doesn’t always measure up to my ideal expectations, it doesn’t have to end with the worst outcome, either. The script can be rewritten. Yes, there will be challenges, and it will be far from a perfect story, but the outcome can change—the actual physical outcome—as well as the outcome lodged in my wavering heart.
During my struggle to bring my second child here, my heart went through an alteration: it was invited to practice a posture of surrender. Even if the narrative had not changed, and we had to say goodbye to another baby, I could choose what to focus on in the situation. Would I focus on what I thought I could control, or focus on Jesus—the one who offers us great love that defies all control? It meant that if I kept my eyes on Him, I could experience the stillness of His unchanging love no matter the outcome.
What’s more, I was learning my true identity was not contingent on the outcome. I would not be less of a mother if this baby would join Jesus well before his time. In the surrender, I realized it was about receiving the freedom to hold a posture of gratitude—gratitude for my story and gratitude for what is, instead of what is not. Yes, it was perfectly normal to experience the disappointment that accompanied such a tender situation. And yet, that didn’t negate the gratitude I was learning to access as well. Some days I leaned into the grief. And other days gratitude appeared just beyond the horizon.
After wrestling with these feelings for some time, I have realized I do not need to completely abandon the feelings of disappointment in order to find peace along this journey. I can learn to welcome them as a friend, while gratitude slowly takes root alongside pain.
Gratitude can actually link arms with grief as they learn to coexist.
In his book, The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis offers a beautiful analogy as he tries to make peace with what we might experience when we arrive at the place beyond us. The book offers how people might remember the trials they endured during their earthly lives. He gently explains, “What happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.”1
In this life, we tend to see our biggest disappointments as salt deserts, though we were certain we had briefly caught a glimpse of water in the distance. These struggles leave us dehydrated, panting for water.
What if these mirages actually turned out to be the opposite? Maybe these experiences never actually abandoned us in the middle of a salt desert; instead, they led us with hope to a luscious pool of water, all along. What if our greatest disappointments end up being the most beautiful things about us in this wounded world? What if when we reach that place beyond us, we have actually adopted a new way of seeing our tragedies and struggles—as wells, full of the water of life?
And yet, I am deeply compelled to ask, what if we don’t have to wait until we reach that place on the other side to view our current reality differently? As we continue to be transformed in this very life, may our greatest disappointments appear not simply as salt deserts, but might we also truthfully record them as—
Pools of water.
Lewis, C. S., The Great Divorce (New York: HarperCollins, 1946), 70. 1
Julie Klein is a social worker/mental health counselor. Though she is not currently in the social work field, her heart remains hopeful for social justice in this fractured world. She currently stays home constantly herding and unschooling her intensely spirited children. A pour-over cup (or two or three) of coffee is her lifeline and keeps her in the game. She is a fierce advocate for showing up with vulnerability and authenticity, believes everyone has a powerful story to share and is convinced words hold the unique power to connect with others. She writes at the intersection of her evolving faith and the joys of life, the inevitable grief of life, and the gray that is in-between. Though she has called various cities across the United States home, she now resides outside of Portland, Oregon with her husband and three children.
You can find her on Instagram @julielynnklein