On our first date, I vaguely remember my now husband asking what I wanted for my future. He was 28, and I was a very green, but mature, 21 years old. He made it clear from the beginning that he was looking for serious, not casual. And it was fine by me. Because this girl wanted a husband and children.
But the matter of how I got those children was a whole other discussion. I lived life with a painful, chronic condition called endometriosis. It made having children naturally difficult, and so I spent my teen years and the beginning of adulthood assuming I’d bypass all that struggle by just adopting. I was fine with it, completely. And James seemed to be fine with that as well.
Until those two little lines showed up on the pregnancy test. Just a few months after becoming engaged, we knew this situation wasn’t ideal, nor was it our plan. But we were thrilled nonetheless. So were our parents and friends. I shifted quickly from adoption to shopping for maternity clothes with no hesitation, and jumped in.
We met Olivia for the first time in late October, as the first snowfall of the season fell quietly outside the window of my labor and delivery room. After a high-risk pregnancy that developed into preeclampsia, I was induced nearly a month before her due date. She was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen. I glanced at my soon-to-be husband as he stood over the incubator that held his new baby girl and saw tears fall freely down his cheeks like a tidal wave. A childhood spent moving to and fro, pricked by the pain of rejection and abandonment, leaked out of him as his finger gently held the tiny preemie-sized oxygen mask over Olivia’s perfectly appointed face. Here was redemption, the second chance he wasn’t sure he’d receive, the stability of a whole family he had longed for so badly. Wrapped in a blanket so tightly only her sweet eyes were visible, he cradled her with equal parts strength and tenderness.
We started our married life as parents and it was rough. So rough. We almost didn’t make it. But our bright spot was always the surprise child we were shocked to have. And Father wasn’t done.
Two more pink lines rattled me on a winter evening after work. Natalee came to us just one month shy of five years after Olivia had been born. After all those years of no more babies, I had accepted the unexpected gift of a baby as the immense blessing it was and never felt shortchanged by having just one. Our family of three felt complete if it was God’s design. But then we became four. Olivia was overwhelmed with excitement. A canvas print hangs in my bedroom of the moment when my first surprise child met my second surprise child and it oozes joy, beauty, goodness. The perfection of the Father’s hand contained in our second daughter took my breath away. Two, Lord? How did You see fit to give us two this perfect, this wonderful, this unexpected?
They didn’t come from perfect, deserving parents. We’ve screwed up more than we got right. We faltered more than we aced. But that’s not the kind of gift-giver God is. You don’t have to bend into some equation, be the exceptional or unblemished child, or qualify with the highest marks to receive His favor. The author of the book of Proverbs wrote so we could have greater understanding, wisdom and instruction. In chapter 8, he reveals that when you find God, you find life….and in that life with God, you find favor. You only need to seek, believe, expect, and receive. There favor was, shining with the glow of mercy and grace, held out for us like a gift on the open palms of unconditional Love. Our two babies were, and still are, the most tangible expression of God’s immense adoration of me that I’ve ever acquired. All I need to know about how Father feels about me can be seen by looking at them.
Nearly three years ago, I had a hysterectomy. The endometriosis had progressed to a point that had my doctor begging to toss the mangled parts from my body. They had served me well, but the time had come to go our separate ways. The night before my surgery, I marveled at what God had done with the very thing that should have failed me. From my body came the most stunning gifts. These two little girls had never entered the spaces of my young mind that was busy making plans, imagining, dreaming, and falling in love with the life I was so sure I’d lead. It turned out nothing like the pictures roaming my head. But it was better. So much better. I thought of the old me, plagued by anxiety and depression, restrained by the shackles of shame and guilt. About the man my husband could have or should have become, now grounded in the wanted weight of raising two beauties who inherited the best of him. About the times we’ve laughed uncontrollably at the dinner table, the hugs we’ve snuggled into each night at bedtime, the life we made in the small hours of each day. About the freedom we experienced as a result of parenthood, coaxing the greatness out of us with whispers, morphing into the best versions of ourselves that could have never evolved outside the framework of family.
For months after the hysterectomy, I was asked several times if the surgery had cut short my plans to ‘try for a boy’. Was I disappointed?
Me???? Have you seen and met our girls?
Have you basked in the glow that they emit?
No. I’ve never been disappointed or longed for more. It’s impossible to top the good and perfect gift that is held inside the glorious skin belonging to our daughters. And besides, I sure do love a good surprise, y’all.