A table so long it extended out of the dining room. Out the back door and in the front door to let the pups in. 14 grown-ups. 2 small ones.
That was our house on Christmas Eve.
Just the way I like it. Full. Loud. Overflowing with people, food, and love.
Somehow though, amidst all the busyness, there were moments of sadness, when our infertility snuck up on me and I felt the heaviness. Like when opening gifts and my Nan, again, offers her thoughts on my running. I couldn't just "take it", I clearly told her my doctor knows I run and it's not a problem. Rather than apologize, she just says "oh, you heard me?" Fortunately my common sense kicked in before my anger bubbled over. She is 85. She has a different perspective from a different time. She means well. And before I could dwell, there was another gift being opened to draw my attention and pull me out of myself.
Then there was during dinner, I looked up and saw everyone around our table, The Man at the head, leading our prayer. The joy in my heart was bittersweet. I loved the full table, I loved listening to The Man pray for God's blessings, but I wanted it to be full of our children. Full of our grandchildren some day. I fought those tears hard and I won, mostly because it was time to explain what everything was and I could slip back into "hostess" mode and could not be in "infertile wife" mode.
A few times over the day I found myself alone in the kitchen and I felt the loneliness. I felt the emptiness of my body; the brokenness. Each time, something ready to be stirred or someone needing something rescued me from my tears before they spilled over.
And so the afternoon and evening went.
Around 10:00, everyone headed home and The Man and I did a little bit of cleaning up. I sat down to practice my reading for Mass. I read it three or four times and then headed up to get ready for Midnight Mass.
We arrived for the 11:30 Christmas Eve Carol Service and it was a perfect way to transition from the business of a house full of people and doing for others into the prayer of the Mass. As the proclamation of the birth of Jesus was chanted, chills came over me and a sense of calm that I'd not felt in a while.
It wasn't until I was standing at the ambo, proclaiming the First Reading (Isaiah 9:1 - 6) that the words of the reading finally sunk in (this isn't unusual for me), specifically these words:
For a child is born to us, a son is given us.
And in that split second, all of those hopes for our own miracle washed over me. The irony that I was reading those words as I was feeling the cramps that were reminding me of another failed cycle was not lost on me. The anger that once again, I, an infertile woman, am proclaiming scripture about a miraculous birth. And then, the whisper of words from my retreat this summer: mystical fertility is more important than physical fertility, echoed somewhere deep in my soul. It all happened within a split second, noticeable only to me (there are many times when my choleric temperament is truly a gift).
As Mass continued, I continued to hear whispers, first from the second reading (The grace of Goad has appeared, saving all...to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of our great God and savior Jesus Christ) and then from the Gospel (Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy...a savior has been born for you who is Christ and Lord.) Finally, Father's homily, challenging and beautiful. And a reminder of this mystical fertility to which we are all called. Focusing on bringing forth Christ into our lives and world, that it is our responsibility to make sure Jesus is born for every generation.
I wish I'd spent this morning hiding that stick with two pink lines in The Man's stocking instead of seeing the drastic temperature drop that confirms the cramping and BB of the past two days are indeed the opening act for AF (I wasn't surprised, it was just one more reminder, just as when AF fully arrived, that I am still infertile). I wish, as I'd read those lines at Mass, I'd had the best kind of secret to be sharing soon, that a child was going to be born to us, a son or daughter. For whatever reason, those wishes are not being granted. These prayers for a child continue to be answered with a "no."
I am hearing Him very clearly, but I am resisting it. Like a child being told what she doesn't want to hear, I am sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting "I can't hear you; I can't hear you!" Except, His voice comes from that place inside me where I've invited Him in, and it cannot be shouted down or tuned out. He is calling me to mystical fertility rather than physical fertility. I don't know if it is a permanent call, but it is clearly the call for this day. There is joy in this, joy that we all share in our call to bring forth Christ to the world. There is peace in this, peace that we all share in our confidence in our Savior. There is sorrow in this. Sorrow that comes from letting go of what I want and finding a way to want what He wants, for as long as He wants it.
He is the same.
Wonder-Counselor. God-Hero. Father-Forever. Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9)
He is the same.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice. Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord. (Psalm 96)