We made it through Christmas.
We made it through New Year's.
We made it through January 3rd.
I was so anxious about the holidays this year - the holidays which I usually want to hold on to as long as possible and squeeze every bit of joy from to fully enjoy the time. But this year was different. It wasn't that the meaning of Christmas was any different to me, of course it wasn't. Everything just held a slightly different perspective for me than it did before. I felt almost foolish shopping for so many gifts and lavishing so many wonderful presents on my girls. Gifts don't matter. They don't make you truly happy. It made me feel empty. The songs were just as magical and exciting as before, but my thoughts went a little deeper with them this year. Mary, did you know? How did you make it through? How? Breath of Heaven, hold me together. I prayed that everyday.
I actually got sick before Christmas, which turned into really, really sick the day after Christmas. My in-laws came to visit and I was not a good hostess. I literally laid in bed feeling sick as could be for about six days straight. Happy New Year to me! I was miserable. The doctor said it was just a bad virus, but I still swear there was a touch of pneumonia in there. I had a touch of vertigo with it (how awful! Have you had it? Ugh!), which meant no reading for me, just laying in bed. And lots of thinking. I would've loved a distraction from all that thinking. Every day after Christmas, I couldn't help but wonder if "today" would have been the day my baby would have been born. It was futile to think about, and I got frustrated when I realized that it's not even a question God can answer for me someday. My baby was never meant to be born around now - God planned that from the beginning. That's a very frustrating thing to think about. As I laid in bed on New Year's Day, I saw a story about the first baby born in 2008. I admit I felt a little bitter. Would it have been him? I'll never know.
By the time January 3rd rolled around, my in-laws had gone back home and I was out of bed, feeling a bit better. I remember waking up that morning feeling really melancholy. Would today have been the day? Would Joshua have been born on his due date? The day came and went quietly. I was thankful for that, and almost surprised by how ordinary it felt. Were there really no alarms sounding or reporters to cover the day which might have been? Of course there weren't, although more than once that day I remember looking around at people, thinking, "Don't they know?" Of course not, silly.
My mom and sisters stayed with Emma and Addie while we went to Josh's grave on Thursday, my first time since we laid him to rest back in September. Gary brought a shovel to push the snow away from his spot. Tears stung my eyes as Gary frantically moved snow around, trying to uncover his son's grave. It just wasn't right. I'm sure Gary didn't mean to look frantic, but I couldn't read it as anything but. It was so cold outside, and our baby was laying underneath the ground. Nothing about that moment seemed fair or right or explainable. To make matters a bit worse, his grave is still anonymous because the marker still isn't in. They promised it would be before Christmas, then before the 3rd, and now it's supposedly scheduled for the 11th.
I feel like I was kind of on auto-pilot, flying in a holding pattern until January 3rd. I guess I sort of thought I'd have permission to move on and not feel like life was sucked out of me anymore. I knew I'd still feel deep loss and sadness, but I guess I thought I'd wake up on January 4th feeling like it was a new day, a new chapter. January 4th was almost worse. I woke up the next day and still... nothing. Still an empty place in our family which we thought would be filled by now with tiny toes and gurgles.
As sad as this all sounds, I actually feel surprised a lot of the time that we've made it til now. The world seemed a dark and lonely place on August 30th and 31st. It seemed like nothing worse had ever happened to anyone, nor would it again. My pain is not diminished by learning of others' grief, but God has shown me over and over again that I'm not alone. He's also shown me that they made it to the other side, and it's an amazing thing to look back and see that I'm on the other side too. Yes, I still have some sad days, but we've learned to be thankful for the trial God walked through with us. I didn't feel his warm breath, but I'm so, so thankful that we got to hold Joshua Dale for just a few hours. Was it under ideal circumstances? Oh, absolutely not. Would I change it? You bet. But I can't look back and not be grateful. We still have a kajillion questions that we'll ask Jesus someday, but until then, we just hang on to the hope we have in the Lord and trust that He's taking care of Joshua for us.
And God is good. So good. We found out before Christmas that we're expecting again! The news was bittersweet, that's for sure. I cried tears of joy and tears of fear and tears of sorrow for the baby boy I was missing. But a baby is always a gift from the Lord, and He's given us another gift. This baby won't replace Joshua, nor is that our intent. We felt like our family wasn't complete, and when we left it in God's hands, those two pink lines showed up in no time. Are we ready to do this again? I don't know. I know that we're scared. After what we've been through, it's hard to not be a little gun-shy. We were talking about summer plans, and it was hard to agree that I couldn't go on a trip at 34 weeks... would I make it that far? Normally I'd never question it, but nothing is certain to us anymore. And yet, I can't, CAN'T live in fear everyday of this pregnancy. Romans 8:15-17 in The Message says, "This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us—an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!"
Oh, I love that! I read that the other day and have held tightly to it since then. So instead of thinking, "Here we go again" between trips to the bathroom (to puke, mind you), I'm eagerly asking, "What's next Papa?" Okay, maybe not quite so eagerly, and I assure you that there's not a smile on my face as I'm hunched over the toilet, but I am trusting that through fatigue and through energy, through morning sickness and feeling great, through new life or through death, He's with me and I'll make it. He promises that.
So, with mixed emotions, but mostly great joy, I'm counting down the days until August 8th (hey! 08-08-08!) until I can hold a new baby in my arms. I'm counting on it, God, but I'm trusting you with my life, and the one growing inside me.