I’ve wanted to write this letter for several days now, but it’s hard. Usually, babies begin as glimmers in their parents’ eyes. You? You began much differently. In fact, I have pictures of you from when you were hardly moments old. That takes my breath away. You take my breath away.
During this ivf procedure we weren’t sure we were going to be able to go forward. We didn’t know if my body’s response to the medication would be sufficient. At first, it looked poor. But the doctor encouraged us to consider going forward anyway, and we were elated to eventually hear we had five embryos growing in the lab. I prayed over you every day – almost every moment. Specifically, I repeatedly remembered God’s account of the beginnings of the first man, Adam, in Genesis 2:7:
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
I asked Him to breathe life into you, to breathe life into your cells, and to use His very finger to gently and carefully divide the cells where and when they needed to divide. I imagined His spirit over the lab in which you grew, pulsating with life, pouring love and energy and safety around you. Your very beginnings were God-ordained, and as much as I know He’s the Creator and doesn’t technically need me for anything, I prayed that He would show extra kindness and tenderness to you while you were separated from your normal, intended environment.
I always thought the opposite of love was hate, the opposite of joy, despondency, the opposite of hope, despair. But as I get older I realize I’m wrong. The opposite of hope isn’t so much despair as it is fear. And the gap between the two is a very, very thin line. When I see your picture, I’m filled with hope – not just the hope of new life, although we’ve longed for that for a very long time. No, it’s a pervasive hope, a hope that makes you take a deep breath and bring fresh oxygen to all the areas the have stagnated while you waited in fear.
I hope for you. Not just that you all nestle in snugly for 9 more months, but that you become vibrant, exciting people who love God and love life and add joy and love to our family. I look at Gabe, who knows surprisingly little about this entire process unless you count the fact that he’s unpredictably obsessed with my medication injections, and desperately hope you’ll get to meet him. He’s amazing. I look at you, several small circles on a 4″x6″ piece of paper and hope you’ll one day have partners who encircle your fingers with a ring and promise their lives to you. I hope for the day when your own eyes glimmer and you come to my house with your own bundle of joy – hopefully one who arrives with much less difficulty than the difficulties we’ve experienced trying to bring you here.
I see you and I have experience a lifetime’s worth of hope.
And it’s exactly that making me afraid. The depths of my hope. Not just hope for experiences. Hope for you. A hope that in a way that hardly begins to scratch the surface and yet covers a lifetime in one breath.
Before they transferred you into my body, I had an acupuncture treatment. One thing you should know about me – and by the time you can read this you’ll most assuredly already know – is that I love alternative, naturopathic, holistic, crunchy health stuff. Acupuncture fits right in. The acupuncturist wanted me to feel calm and serene and positive and receptive – ready to receive my embryos. So she gave me a visualization. Rather than focus on the hope I have that the treatment will work or the lack of hope I force myself into when I become afraid it might not work, she recommended I focus on what I have to offer a new little life, what I have available to give.
I thought a lot about this. At first, it was comforting. I have a lot to offer. This family has a lot to offer. We love deeply. We’re fiery, passionate people. We’re fiercely loyal, all three of us. We try to take care of ourselves. We have lots of inside jokes, so we laugh a lot. We’re reasonably good at communicating, and we’re avid learners and information-gatherers. You could attend any school trivia challenge on the strength of our random tidbits of knowledge, and I’m pretty sure you’d come out ahead. Between the three of us – and yes, even at 4 Gabe pulls his weight here – we know a lot of random stuff.
But the more I thought about it, I realized there’s a lot of darkness and sludge and ick, too. I worry. Obsessively. We’re too proud. We can be judgmental. We prefer quiet to loud and slow to fast. Since we were first married, your dad and I have sort of been old souls in young bodies. Now our bodies are just young-ish. Our souls are still old. A lot of people find our lives boring. And of course, given the fine line between hope and fear, the fear began to win out. What if the embryos don’t stick? What if I don’t have enough to offer them?
But the thing is exactly that – I don’t have enough to offer you. Even if you had been conceived in secret and darkness, that wouldn’t change. I think it’s true in every family, among every parent. We don’t have enough to offer our children. We want to make our children’s lives perfect, but we can’t.
This is a complicated time for us. Emotions, relationships, finances, and health are all very, very complicated. I’m sure if you make it and are old enough to read this, you’ll be facing complicated times yourself. That’s just it. It’s never uncomplicated. It’s never easy. And it only gets harder. If you would have told me at 15 I’d be facing what we faced when we first got married? I wouldn’t have believed it. Not for a second. And if you had asked me when we first got married if we’d be facing what we face now? I’d deny it was a possibility, and deny moreso the emotional fallout that might happen.
But you know what else? It only gets better. I remember a day in high school when my boyfriend broke up with me. I was heartbroken, sobbing on the back steps in my high school home. We had company at our house, two older couples who hadn’t seen high school or breakups in many years, and one of the husbands told me to enjoy it while it lasted because high school would be the best time of my life. Really. He told me that while I sobbed. Loudly. And you know what else? He was wrong. Bill Hitchcock was wrong.
I wouldn’t trade a moment of that heartache now. Or a moment of the sadness I experienced when we made several moves I didn’t want to make. Or a moment of the literally physical pain I experienced as a result of some of the emotionally difficult experiences in my marriage. Because you know what I have? A husband I love with all my heart. A home beyond my dreams. Peace in the middle of difficult storms. A love for my God that transcends the depths of my suffering. A little boy who delights my heart every day. An frivolous side that would otherwise have remained hidden. A desire for adventure I never knew I had. The constant theme of my life has been that it only gets better. Which at some level implies that it was bad to begin with, but it wasn’t. It never was. It was always good, and it has only gotten better.
Lately I’ve been struck by how irritating it is when people wrap up difficult situations with perfect little bows and make everything look trite and ideal. I really don’t want to do that here. I’ve cried over every word in this letter, trying to walk the line between my hope and my fear. And I honestly didn’t know how to convey my fear without wallowing too deeply in my hopelessness. But as I’ve written this, I think it was God who showed me that the opposite of my fear isn’t simply a hope. It’s also belief – my belief that is will only get better. This belief is more than a hope. It’s a truth. I’ve lived it and walked it over and over in my life. It might get harder, but it will also get better.
Beautiful embryos… beautiful babies. I love you. I hope you stick around. I will offer you all I have; Dad and Gabe will, too. But above all, I promise it will only get better.