Our lives have an ebb and flow to them that seems to mimic the rhythms of the natural world. Life springs fresh and new, then deepens through the heat of experience and lessons until the maturity of years displays a splendor of wisdom in the autumn of our lives and finally quiet shadows gracefully fall upon a life well lived. We often see this transition quite clearly in the people surrounding us, but it can be a bit surprising to realize that it is occurring inside yourself, too.
I knew change was coming... someday.
Christopher and I have made no secret of our desire to embrace the gift of children in our marriage and actually pursue fertility. For 15 years our life has been marked by the swelling of my belly. Plans for travel set any further than 6 months into the future had to be held loosely because we never knew whether or not we would be expecting another child. I became an expert at shuffling hand-me-down clothes into bins for the next child - boy or girl. I own a moses basket, cradle, travel crib, pack-n-play, crib, and toddler bed with linens for both genders. There is a basket of infant toys in my living room that has never, ever been packed away. The convertible changing table/dresser has always had a changing pad on top of it and the crib that we were given upon the birth of our first daughter has never been taken apart for storage. A high chair has graced our table for 5252 days. I own a play set that rivals most small parks.
To say childrearing defines our lifestyle would be a gross understatement.
I reminded myself that someday it would change - especially when I wearied of Lego pieces scattered across my garage floor, and blow out diapers when I'm already late, and a thousand minutes of sleepless nights waiting for the baby to realize she is the only one enjoying that 3am tête-à-tête. I joked with my husband about what it would be like to actually know that you were never going to have any more children. What did that feel like?
I now know.
Evangeline's delivery held several complications for me - not the least of which was the discovery in the operating room that my uterine integrity was entirely compromised. Oddly, I wasn't surprised. For weeks I had the unexplainable need to discuss possible complication with my surgeon and husband. We traversed medical journals and studies to better understand probabilities associated with repeat cesarean births. I never before felt inclined to investigate these concerns to the degree I did with my last pregnancy. After all the data was collected and the specialists were consulted the questions continued to outpace the answers. There are literally two studies in the whole of medical history dealing with uterine integrity after 4 cesareans. Even these stopped their statistical projections at six cesareans. I was going into my seventh.
As Christopher and I drove to my last ob appointment the largest question facing us was whether or not we should pursue sterilization to secure my health. Added to this were the sharp pains I was experiencing that seemed all too familiar after suffering through micro-dehisence during Josiah's birth. My surgeon, her nurse practitioner/midwife, Christopher and I all worked through the final plan a week before my delivery date. We decided to forgo preemptive sterilization. We would wait and see how this delivery faired. And we prayed that God would simply make abundantly clear His design for our family.
He answered our prayers.
The pain I experienced was the significant dehiscence of my uterus producing a pocket large enough for the amniotic sack to begin protruding through the uterine wall. I carried Evangeline footling breach, but never before had a baby (and she wasn't my first footling breach) remained so high in her positioning. Our surgeon later recalled that had Evangeline been more engaged her foot could have neatly fit through the baseball sized hole in my uterus causing catastrophic results for us both. God knew how to safely carry us so that all the pieces would fit together. From our surgical staff and medical preparations to the physical circumstances surrounding the birth it all came together in a final moment of clarity for the new season we were entering. There would be no more babies.
We had peace.
And then reality hit.
My life has turned upside down in the past several months. I never before realized how defining my openness to fertility was until it was gone. As absurd as this may sound I honestly struggled with understanding my purpose. I saw many dark days where questions raised in fear rushed over me like floodwaters. Primary in my thinking was whether or not I was a good mom to eight people, or if I just had babies to avoid the real task of nurturing the children I already birthed? Yet in the gloom there was a flame that began to burn brighter and brighter still. While I believe I always loved my children to my fullest capacity something shifted in me when I knew I was done. A new outpouring in my heart of thankfulness and delight in each child God had given me welled up in my heart. I saw my family as complete. I didn't need to hold anything back in anticipation of another baby. I didn't need to live in limbo ever again. I had closure.
Now a new season begins for me. I am saying goodbye to all the pleasures and trials of infant parenting. There are things I think I may always miss: nursing; quietly snuggling a newborn who smells of heaven; tiny coos; and precious, miniature fingers and toes. There are also things I gladly give up: cesarean delivery and recovery; mastitis; bone-wearying fatigue; and the thousand trivial questions nagging you into believing that your choice of pacifier really does determine forever your value as a loving mom. You know... no pressure. Yes, there are good things that I glimpse and hang on to during the more difficult moments, because I believe with conviction that every season is marked by beauty.
My joy is now discovering the beauty in this new season.