For years, it was the longing that had no name, the longing that I wouldn’t allow myself to name. Denied and suppressed, it took on ugly shapes. She must be completely worn out, I would think when I saw a woman with three or more children. Thank goodness we stopped at two! As I watched older siblings lovingly dote on baby brothers and sisters, my heart leapt but my mind - knowing nothing but a bolted door waited at the end of that dream and therefore resolved to not take so much as a wistful step toward it - tamped it back down. Are you crazy? Don’t you remember how giving birth feels? It screamed. What is wrong with these people? Aren’t they concerned about overpopulation? (I told you it got ugly).
I remember one evening at church when I held a intermittently fussing baby for two hours. When I finally handed him back to his mother, my arms hurt and I made sure to make some joke about my occasional yen for another baby being “cured” by babysitting because - ha ha! - my arms hurt! See? my brain muttered smugly. Babies are a pain. They’re an inconvenience. Babies hurt. Aren’t you glad you’re done with babies?
But as I walked home that night, tears rolled down my cheeks. My heart was sick and tired of being trampled by cynicism masquerading as practicality. Yes, babies hurt, I thought. But they’re magical and wonderful and delightful in every way and worth all the hurt and more and I want another one so badly that my womb aches, I want another precious little soul to love and adore, another set of sweet kissable cheeks and rolls upon rolls and downy skin and pure unencumbered smiles and I even want the oceanic pain of birth and its afterglow of sheer bewilderment, when you feel like you’ve been destroyed and reassembled and everything is new, most of all this perfect fresh little creature in your arms, at once so deeply known, so deeply kin, and still so yet-to-be-known, a tiny galaxy of glorious potential in the most tender vessel imaginable, I want it ALL! my heart shrieked, in one epic cathartic run-on sentence.
I thought two was a reasonable place to stop. My husband did, too, and all of our family. We couldn’t afford any more, we decided; and besides, two was plenty. We should stop there and call it good, we told ourselves. Arrow, our daughter, had been a surprise, and we were resolved to have no more surprises. I was just beginning to emerge from the early haze of caring for a newborn and a toddler when I dropped my husband off at his vasectomy appointment. It became a joke - he was practically sprinting to the urologist! Oh, we are done. Sooooo done! I emphatically responded to any inquiries as to whether we were having more children.
And yet, my heart wasn’t buying it. it wasn’t buying the jokes and the cynicism and my desperate vie to redirect, co-opt and rebrand the yearning that still smoldered somewhere deep within. But I absolutely refused to give myself permission to dream. Perhaps it was a defense mechanism - we’d slammed that door shut, and I believed dreaming would bring nothing but heartache.
And it did, for two long years. When I finally admitted to myself that I wanted more children, and announced it to my husband one tearful night, he was mortified. And for the next two years I cajoled and begged and pleaded, and when all that failed I pestered and prodded and screamed and threw tantrums. I pounced on any millimeter of apparent yielding with such violence that I only hardened his resolve even more. Finally, one night when he firmly stated again that he didn’t want any more children, it felt strangely final. I wept. And I told God how sad I was, and that I wasn’t okay, but I trusted that he would make me okay in time. And I became silent on the whole topic of babies, so much so and so ominously so that my husband started randomly asking “Aren’t you going to say something about babies?” Nope, I replied each time, perhaps a bit too curtly. The sadness lingered, and I waited for God to make me okay. But then one day my husband sat me down to tell me that he felt called to get his vasectomy reversed. I shrieked with joy and threw my arms around him and marveled at the miraculous: hope glittering from the grave of gutted dreams.
I really felt like since I’d been waiting for so long, I was entitled to get pregnant immediately after the surgery. Four cycles went by and it didn’t happen and I poured out my woes to a wise friend and mentor, who gently shared the lessons God had taught her through her unsuccessful tubal ligation reversal. I knew there was truth in her words. Yes, I nodded begrudgingly, I will learn contentment. There will be so many rich, faith-enhancing lessons I will learn if I don’t get another baby, I thought, with my fists and jaw clenched. I thought I was fooling nearly everyone with my forced holiness, including myself. But not God.
I was driving a couple of days later when the welling that had started deep down in my belly reached my throat and erupted. I pulled over on a gravel road and wept violently, gasping and heaving like my sensitive son after he takes a hard fall. I tried to breathe deeply and stop crying repeatedly, even forging forward a quarter mile on the road, thinking my composure would follow, before pulling over again and giving myself permission to weep from my core. And there, on that quiet country road, as I cried and pounded on the steering wheel, the truth came out. “I don’t want to learn any more lessons!” I yelled. “I just want a baby!” And instantly, I felt relieved. Lighter. I didn’t have to pretend anymore. And God smiled, because I was finally being honest.
It’s so easy to forget that before God, we have permission to be real. It’s even more than permission - it’s a requirement for true relationship. God doesn’t want a gritted-teeth resolution to be good, which is destined to fail anyway.
So here I am, not yet pregnant. And so I wait, and give myself permission to hope, and hope desperately, and dream wildly. I give myself permission to cry out to God and I continue to ask for what I want instead of pretending to be okay with not getting it. Will he make me okay, no matter what, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now? Yes. But I still want a baby.