Archive for September, 2012

Bad Timing, Every One of Them

Our miscarriages occurred at really pivotal moments in our lives: every single one of them. Our first miscarriage occurred while we were coping with the final year of our time in seminary. What was supposed to be a time of celebration after 4 years of discipline and study turned into a nightmare. Eight weeks into the pregnancy and there was no heartbeat. Our second occurred while we were being appointed with our current organization to do pastoral ministry in Spain. The very week of our appointment my wife miscarried. This one had no signs of life at six weeks. Needless to say, our appointment was less than the ideal celebration we had anticipated. We had to slap on fake smiles for a truckload of pictures. Yippee.

Our third failure was particularly painful. We were living our final days in Illinois and were just about ready to leave for the great adventure of overseas life. 8 weeks along, the doctor in the states gave us the nod of approval for our pregnancy. My wife was taking blood thinners and a mountain of meds. It seemed like the doctors really believed that we had just had a couple of flukes; the first two were just plain bad luck, or so they said. I vividly can recall this third medical specialist praying over my wife’s womb. It really felt like this would finally come through. Even the doctor believes and is praying for us. God would finally give us our gift.

Two weeks after landing in Spain, our knew doctor couldn’t find a heartbeat. This one was 9 weeks along when it died. New tests on the miscarried fetus showed that it had been a chromosomal issue. Although it wasn’t our last miscarriage, I feel like this was probably the most devastating of all four for my wife. Cross-cultural adjustment requires an incredible amount of energy and stamina, especially at the first, and we had to deal with a third loss. How on earth were we going to survive the emotional and marital torment of a third miscarriage, another surgery, a new job, a new home, a new church, and new language learning, all at the same time?

For whatever reason, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the third miscarriage today. Why didn’t God allow my wife to receive that special gift? Why did it happen RIGHT after we arrived? Why us? I know the right theological answers, but for whatever reason they don’t help me today.

Spain, infertility, marriage, husbands

We landed in Spain almost 2 1/2 years ago with the hopes that this third pregnancy would finally be successful.

pregnancy, husbands, infertility, marriage

This is a picture of our third baby, the one we lost right after arriving in Spain

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John the Baptist and Shakira

Sometimes a husband and a wife are worlds apart in processing the frustration of infertility. The other day, I was riding up the elevator to our apartment and flipping through some Bible passages on my iphone. One that stuck out to me was John 3:27. John the baptist is at the end of his assignment to prepare the way for Jesus. The numerous people that followed him, and I’m sure in some senses, stroked his ego, were leaving to follow Jesus. But instead of holding on to his pride and being frustrated for the demotion, he says, “a man can’t receive anything unless it comes from heaven.” In other words, “I’ll take what you give me Lord, because your will is more important than mine.” 
 
I felt like God was talking to me on the elevator as I reviewed that verse. I sensed he was teaching me that our infertility was an opportunity to respond like John the Baptist and sacrifice, maybe temporarily or eternally, our dream of having kids. Why? Because God’s will is good. Even a personal hit or a broken dream comes of God, and we need to accept it. That is what God had me chew on at that moment. But what was my wife thinking about?
 
When I unlocked our 3 dead-bolts on our rickety door and stepped in the entryway to greet my wife, she didn’t even say hi. Her first words were laced with sarcasm and sadness, “well, Pique and Shakira are pregnant. Yippee for them.” 
 
In that moment I could have ignored her comment,  jumped all over her, and told her of my recent revelation. I could have urged us to faith like John the Baptist. But you can imagine how smooth that would have gone over. Why? Because after years sticking my foot in my mouth, I am finally learning that part of helping each other heal in this process means choosing the right words, in the right place, and at the right time. In that moment, all my wife needed was a comment to help her mourn. She was hurting and all she needed was for me to match her mood. So I responded, “oh brother, other people get pregnant so easy, huh?” I met her where was, affirmed her pain, and joined with her in her lament. John the Baptist could wait. 

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To Give Some of Our Context

We live in Spain and attend a small evangelical church. The most striking feature of our little church community, apart from a few gray heads, is the fact that there are kids everywhere. EVERWHERE. We are the only young family that does not have kids. You usually have to watch your step when your round a corner or you’ll knock some two year old senseless. Thankfully, although my wife is almost 33 and I’m 31, this still is young enough in Spain for people to not ask too many questions. Some Spaniards wait until their mid-thirties to start the family. So we still don’t have to field too many questions about when we’re getting started. 
 
My wife has really connected with another young woman in our congregation and formed a solid friendship. This young thirty-something does have two kids (of course), but at least her kids aren’t her life. She has known how to have a conversation with my wife about other topics. Believe it or not, there do exist other things to talk about!
 
A few months ago my wife and this woman’s friendship really started to blossom. They even met regularly for coffee and chatted about life. One day, this friend opened up that she wanted more kids but guaranteed my wife that this would NEVER happen. My wife just assumed it meant that they had had something done. Feeling a bit safer environment for sharing, my wife then opened up about her infertility and many of her fears. This seemed to open the door to a real heart connection. She can’t have more kids and my wife can’t have any; it seemed like a promising start!
 
Unfortunately, this same friend sent my wife an email a few weeks back with the sad (for us) news that she is pregnant with their third child. The news has really devastated my wife. She will have to watch up close and personal her best spanish friend experience “an undesired pregnancy,” when there is nothing in the world that my wife desires more right now. She has to watch the baby grow. She has to be around the hundreds of comments of excitement and the baby craze of our church. She has to attempt to love rejoice with someone who is rejoicing, when she is destroyed emotionally.
 
Sometimes you just have to shake your head when you think about God’s purposes and plans. How could this be for our good? I know the answer intellectually, but can’t make it connect in my heart right now.

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Block the Garbage for Your Wife

When you are infertile, you take an inordinate amount of verbal abuse. Not too long ago we shared with a near relative about our recent miscarriage, their reaction broadsided us. “The fact that you didn’t share with us this sooner breaks our hearts. We really are crushed that you don’t love us enough to tell us these things.” In other words, we are bad people because we chose to mourn privately and only later tell certain members of our family. Instead of sharing their condolences, they added to our pain by shaming us.

As I have watched my wife suffer through her infertility, I am realizing more and more that is my responsibility to protect her from ridiculous comments like these. It’s not that I don’t love the people who open their yappers before they think, it’s just that I have a greater responsibility to protect my wife right now. Maybe some day I will be able to take on the world and rebuke such choice words, but for now I have a different role.

Ephesians 5 talks about love that feeds and takes care of our spouses like we feed and take care of our bodies. Right now, my wife is deeply wounded, and I must stop do what I can to stop the bleeding. In this particular situation, that has meant that I have had to put up boundaries with these particular relatives. It’s not that we don’t love them. It’s not that we don’t forgive their insensitive comments. But love and forgiveness doesn’t always mean we must set ourselves up for more abuse. If they cannot but criticize our decisions in the midst of our sadness, we simply will not open ourselves to them for now. In other words, our infertility story is shut off to them. We will only share further in safe environments.

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