1.13.2013

Living the Regret

Do you want children?

Oh, how the answer to this question has changed over the years. Or has it? After much reflection the past week or so, one of the benefits of extra time in the car, I am seeing my prior answers in a different light.

I apologize for the length of this, but this post, as much as it is for anyone who it might help, it is for me. I'm adding this paragraph after writing the rest, only now realizing where it was going, what it was teaching me. The title was originally that first line, the question, but that's not really what this is about. I see that now.

Yes, 4

When The Man and I were engaged and people would ask us if we wanted children my answer was always, "yes, 4." (And The Man would kinda look at me like I was a little crazy, but he never argued the point.) I remember many conversations with my mom and Nan, them telling me I was crazy for wanting 4 children. When we picked out our first house, I knew which room would be the "nursery" and even thought how we might have our first 2 there before we moved onto our "forever home."

In 5 years

And then we got married and I was starting a new job with a long commute and The Man was still in school and our answer to the question changed to "we'll start having kids in 5 years." It seemed a reasonable response, it would give The Man time to finish school and find a good job, and we could get our new home established and settled. Then I could either work part-time or at least move to a job closer to home. Oh, and it would give us time to see if Kali lived :). When we put the fence up, we talked about how it would be so nice to have a place where the kids could play safely.

Well, we all know what happens when we plan. Over those 5 years lots of good happened, but lots that wasn't according to our "plan" happened as well. The Man had a hard time finding a good job. He also had wrist surgery (remember, he's a massage therapist) twice. Instead of loving the town we had chosen to live in, we hated it and wanted to move so badly. My job was extremely high stress. And we made bad choices. Instead of living within our means, we had a ton of debt. We also had friends all around us with none or 1 child and got very used to living life with no children. We somehow lost sight of who we were and what was important to us.

No

So, when we moved back to Morgantown, into a tiny one-bedroom apartment, the answer to the question changed again. My career was in limbo and The Man finally had a job with potential, but we knew it would take years for it to become the "good job" we'd planned for years earlier. Nothing about our lives had gone according to our plan. I turned 30 and instead of planning for my first child or to start trying for that first child, all I could see was failure. And when I was asked the question "do you want children" I said "no." I said "no" so many times I convinced myself of it. In fact, just a couple of weeks after my 30th birthday, I wrote a post wondering about what our life would look like, even said I didn't want children and expressed guilt over that feeling. It was probably one of the darkest times of my life and our marriage (so much beyond not having children was going on at that time). By the grace of God, (it really is all His grace, isn't it?), even in that post, I left the door open. I wonder what he had in store for us.

I even had a moment where I realized that if I felt the desire for motherhood after I was biologically capable of having them, adoption would be a wonderful option. It wasn't a "oh, we'll just adopt" kind of moment, it was a realization that gave me such peace. Looking back, I see it as the me who so desperately wanting children looking to the future with hope that some day we'd figure out how to make life work. Another grace came at the end of 2009 as we had our eyes opened to the harm contraception was causing in our marriage. We soon learned NFP and for a while as we didn't struggle at all to follow the rules to avoid pregnancy, despite some long periods of abstinence due to our waaay-conservative application of the rules, we really thought God was calling us to be the couple that isn't called to be parents to speak about the effectiveness of NFP.

Someday

As time passed, and instead of the litany of bad things that had happened, now good things started to happen. By mid-summer 2010, The Man's job started blossoming into the "good job" that we had hoped it would be, I had found a good job that I enjoyed and was close to home, lower stress and, perfectly, at a day care center. We finally had enough money to move out of our one-bedroom apartment and into a house. And all of the dreams we had made 5 years earlier starting to seem like they were coming true, and we were finding ourselves again. And now, when people asked us "the" question we generally answered with "someday" or a vague answer, I knew we wanted them, but I didn't want the whole world to know it. Most people who knew us were under the impression that we weren't going to have children, so few people that we knew well asked anymore. It was really in meeting new people that I was answering this question. I was reminded of my desire for 4 children and started imagining children running around our house again. All of a sudden, the struggles of the past few years seemed to have had a bit of a purpose and as we moved into our house I again knew exactly which room would be the nursery and imagined bringing a baby home to that room.

When God gives us one

For a while, when we were first trying, I started answering the question this way. It felt the most honest, as we were trying and knew it wasn't all up to us, but doesn't generally invite further questions. As time has gone on, I've stuck with it. For people who don't speak "IF" it is enough to answer their question and most don't ask for more information. For those who do speak "IF," it may prompt a follow-up question, or at the very least an understanding nod or smile. For now, it is what I say when asked "do you want children?" It isn't perfect, it isn't the detailed truth, but it is true.

As I said, I've found myself doing a lot of reflecting lately. In some of my most painful moments on this road, I've asked God why he didn't just leave me where I was at when I was saying "I didn't want children." Why did I have to walk this road, I was fine right where I was. I've come back to this over and over, why, if I wasn't going to be able to have children, couldn't I have stayed in that place where I didn't want them. And what I've come to realize is, I was never really in that place. Yes, I said those words, and yes, I thought I meant them. I still claim them. But the words were more a reaction to my circumstances, what I thought was the only answer I could give. We had no money, no space, and no reliable income, of course we couldn't have children, and so my answer was. And yet, if just a moment after I had said "no," we had magically been given more space, more employment, more money, the answer would have changed. Immediately. I realize that now. I've said I have no "fight" response, only "flight." And, I think, this is just one more example of my flight response. Instead of owning what my heart desired, instead of owning what I wanted my marriage to be like, I took the path of least resistance. I yielded to what society says is necessary to have children, I yielded to the idea that children are somehow a bonus for those who've "made it."

There are times I find myself wondering what could have been. Yet, I know those thoughts are not of the Lord. I know that I cannot change the past, and quite honestly given the choice, I wouldn't. It is our road and has led us to where we are today. I've been given many gifts as a result of our IF, and without it, I know I am a much different person. There are times I want to take back all of the selfish comments I made about children; all the times I said I didn't want them. But I can't. There is no going back. But what I am slowly doing is forgiving myself. Forgiving myself for losing myself, for losing that girl who wanted 4 children and laughed in the face at anyone who told her differently. I am understanding now a bit more why I am so determined to walk the line between the life I have and the life I want so carefully. I lost sight of the life I wanted once before, and I am living the regret that I so dread.

It is freeing to say that. To admit there is regret. To find a bit of a reason behind my intense desire to get this road of IF "right." To acknowledge that I can have regret, but at the same time say I wouldn't change the road we've taken. There is an awareness that the road, that has not been what I planned, got me to where I am today. And it is in that awareness that my hope is found. That despite this road leading to more pain than I ever dreamed possible, will lead to a joy beyond imagination. That somehow, someway, this cross will be lifted. That it leads to life.

20 comments:

  1. Wow, Rebecca. The thought that came to mind while reading this is how much your children are going to KNOW you love them. You will have a deeper understanding of the gift they are because of this road you are on.

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  2. Oh my goodness. What an incredible post. It sort of takes my breath away. Watching you from afar over these years, I can tell you that the spiritual transformation I've seen in you has been awesome…. The fruit may not be in children yet born, but the fruit is real and it's inspiring to those around you. I cannot wait to see what God unfolds in your life for both you and The Man, but also for those who are blessed enough to encounter you. You are a force for the Lord.

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  3. Dang, you are good! Really though, I mean it. This post is incredible. It's forced me to take an honest look at myself.

    My answer has changed over the years too. I said I wanted 5, now I have no idea what's possible. What you want vs what's going to be given can be a strange reality to grapple with.

    I hope you don't hate me for saying this...I wouldn't necessarily say I've lost sight of the dreamer who wanted 5 children, but with one on the way, my answer has changed again. The IF journey and the journey of pregnancy have taken quite the toll on me physically and emotionally and the thought of heading down the road again anytime soon has reduced me to tears at times. I get scared thinking about another pregnancy so filled with sickness and I get scared thinking there may never be another one. I don't want to reject God as a means of self preservation and I don't want to be greedy either. All the while too, I hear the charge from Hebrews, "Be content with what you have". I suppose I should just listen to that.

    Anyway, sorry for hijacking your comments, you words just stirred up a lot in me! Again, great post.

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  4. This is so beautiful and honest. When you write about the "road" it reminds me so much of Christ's road to Calvary. Falling down and getting up again. Moving forward with the knowledge that this road and its traveler are all for the Glory of God, and significantly, for salvation.

    While it feels like you are living regret (and how my heart breaks for you, just thinking of that), what this post says to me is that you have grown so much in spirit--so much that you are able to reflect on your journey and discern ways to go that are ever more effective in your spiritual life. What grace that is!

    My prayers are with you today. May our Blessed Mother hold you in her Immaculate Heart today.

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  5. You have made me think of how my answer too has changed over the years..

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  6. Wow, this is a powerful reflection. I think that writing thoughts down helps to think through them and find something else there, maybe something unexpected, and that seems like what happened to you.

    Thank you for sharing this!!!! It's given me much to think about.

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  7. Today I read Hebrews 13:5-6. It brought some peace to my mind. Maybe it will help you too. It does not directly deal with IF, but it does deal with trusting in God. For me it is uaually a mind game. The days I am most misable is when I am focusing on what I do not have. The days I have the most joy is living in the moment enjoying what I do...

    I too look back and wish I could change many things.
    I too don't want to change everything for what I have learned.
    I too question why for so many things...
    It's hard not to.

    So I try to live as best I can like Luke 9:62. This is not about IF either but the concept is the same. We cannot plow our fields striaght and the most fruitful if we are looking behind.

    One person told me something that has helped me greatly in life. "It is not so much about what you have done, it is what you do next."

    For me, like I said, it is all a mind game. It's hard to always be happy and choose the right attitudes. This is especially so when I am always reminded of IF...

    Sorry to go on and on...
    You are a beautiful writer, honest and encouraging. Hang in there!

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    Replies
    1. also... my answer had to change too. I used to joke that I would want 11, enough to have 6 vs 6 soccer team... Now I would be happy for even just one...

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  8. What a tremendous and beautiful post! It seems like the road from A to B is seldom straight, there are many detours. The path you have taken may not be what you wanted or what you had planned, but, at least from my perspective, has made you a great blessing to those who know you.

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  9. You wrote an incredible post!!!
    At the time you said you didn't want any children, I think your heart knew different, it just wanted to protect itself from being hurt.
    You've had such a long journey already to become a mother, but I agree with Kat & Leila ... your children will KNOW you loved them long before they took a breath.

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  10. This is beautiful, Rebecca. To be honest...we all have changed our answers...even those of us with children to show for it. I think the road we're on winds through many different paths. I have gone through periods of saying, "we're done" to "we're open" and back and forth. It's a growth process and it's a blessing to see that it works that way no matter where we start, and it's always a relief to know that God keeps that process open even when we think we've shut it out.

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  11. You're post is great. It made me ask the question "Is there something in my life I'm telling people I don't want that I do?" I'm sure we all do that.

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  12. Pls excuse the "you're" rather than "your"!

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  13. I, too, wanted four kids, but that was a LONG time ago. It would take quite the miracle to have that many biological children. My answer now is to start at one and then let's see. It breaks my heart to have had to change that answer. As an only child I always dreamed of a large family. Perhaps that's why I was called to teach?

    What an amazing post. I pray that you can see what God's plan for you soon!

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  14. YES: "Instead of owning what my heart desired...I took the path of least resistance." I wholeheartedly relate to this sentence, and I do believe that God will be glorified through this process...somehow, someway, and in His timing. Thank you for writing these words!

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  15. Thanks for sharing. That is great that you were able to discover your true desires after that initial questioning of why God would allow you to want children now when they don't seem to be coming. How wonderful that you recognized that you didn't ever truly not want them. It's funny how invincible and in control we humans think we are--especially when we are so young. I know I was/am guilty of it.

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  16. I always said I wanted 4 and I would never adopt. God always had a vision of how my journey would unfold. I am a more enriched person because of my journey to have a large family, but never imagined I would be where I am. Keep taking the steps and you will end up right where you were meant to be!

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  17. I think I've gone the opposite direction from many who deal with IF. When we married, my husband and I agreed on 2, maybe 3 children. Over time I've realized how much that showed my desire for control and plans that we could live out. (God is really good at showing me that His plans are not mine.) Now my answer is that I would rather have 10 children than none. The exact number doesn't matter; I am open to however many God sends. I have accepted that at 35, with only a few more months until 36, the chances that we will have numerous biological children is low, but we have come to the conclusion that sooner or later, we will adopt. We don't yet know the whens, wheres, or hows (or how oftens), but it will happen.

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