I was 14 days late when I really started to consider the possibility, 18 when it went from possibility to legitimate anxiety, and 21 when I finally went to the dollar store for the test – I always get them at the dollar store. I was with my three-year-old when I threw the little pink and white box in to the cart, along with a few other things we did not need because I don’t know, somehow it feels less awkward for me to buy six random items than to just plop a pregnancy test on the counter and smile at the checker.
When we got home, I put the shopping bag on the counter and tried to think about other things: the three-week old foster baby in our home, the three other children who were already being such troopers in the midst of a huge and sudden change, and the husband who was pretty darn certain he was done wanting children at three.
It could all be stress. And newborn sleep. And I haven’t been eating much. It could just all be stress.
But still, 21 days late? I went to bed that night and prayed for my period.
The next morning, my prayer still unanswered, Alex headed off to a day-long men’s conference at our church and the four littles and I resumed our typical fall Saturday morning routine. Right around lunchtime, with two of the four down for a nap, I opened the pink and white box. I knew that 22 days late was a lot, but I was still convinced it was my body adjusting to all the things we had just said ‘yes’ to with exactly 60 seconds to make a decision.
It just cannot be possible, can it? I opened the app that I do all of my monthly tracking on, and I counted everything for the 22nd time. Nope, not possible. I’m going to pee on this little stick and then be exposed for the crazy person I am. There is no way this thing is positive.
The truth is, I have always wanted a fourth baby. I was fine with three, and felt full and busy with three, and I loved life with three. But I never truly felt the “I’m done” feeling, even if I thought we were. I had spent much of the last year assuming I would just always wonder what it would have been like to have four kids, and that that feeling was ok. I know a lot of women who are done and will always wonder what one more child would have been like. I also know a lot of women who have never been given the blessing of a positive pregnancy test, or still have empty arms after many. Honestly, I can’t think of a more seemingly “unfair” system than pregnancy, and adding to our family is not ever something I have taken for granted.
But even with my desire for a fourth child, I knew we were not ready for one. Entering the foster care system, especially in the manner that we did, saying yes to a constant shuffle of social workers, visits, court dates, and paperwork confirmed that in one way. My actual reaction when the test was positive confirmed it in another.
I couldn’t feel happiness or sadness for weeks, just shock. And then I couldn’t feel anything but nausea for another ten weeks, and that didn’t help matters. But mostly, I felt fear.
Fear that my marriage would be pulled too far.
Fear that my children would be stretched too thin in their own little capacities.
Fear that I would do something, eat something, take something, be around something that would cause autism in another one of our children.
Fear that our life had crossed from busy to unmanageable, unaffordable… all the “un” words one does not want to describe her life at all.
There is a popular song on Christian radio these days that repeats the line “fear is a liar” in the chorus. As much as I’d like to, I don’t think I agree with that. Fear can indicate something very valid to be concerned about, and it is not necessarily lying to you that proceeding with great caution is a good idea.
But while fear may not be a liar, it is rather bossy, and it fogs up your life so much that you can’t see through it to move forward.
That’s where I lived for three months, being bossed around by fear – feelings that could have been turned around and taught me about the great care and stewardship we would need to move into this new season with, but instead they stopped me completely. I laid on our couch much of the day, sick and exhausted and pretty much the hardest person to live with, all because I couldn’t find God – I wasn’t even looking for Him – through the hazy fear that laid there with me.
The fog didn’t clear for me until I started to confess it. And started looking for truth again.
We sat around our friend’s living room with our community group, and as we usually do, spent some time catching up with one another. It was the first time I had been at group since we picked up our foster baby and found out we were expecting – almost three months after both of those things had taken place. When it was my turn to share, I started out on the surface, laughing about going from three to four and possibly five kids, about how I would not be going anywhere for the next two years and the amount of laundry I already cannot stay on top of. And the more I spoke, the more the group laughed with me and nodded their heads as I shared, the deeper I went. One feeling, one sentence, one confession at a time. Finally, the two things that had truly been consuming my mind came out of my mouth, and they had little to do with laundry.
“I am afraid of everything, you guys. Afraid of having another child with special needs. Afraid that our foster baby will have to go back to a situation that might be a tiny bit better but still is impossibly hard to let her go to. And mostly, I am afraid that if any of these things do happen, I’m not going to be able to believe that God is still good.”
It was the last sentence that broke the damn of tears that had been building for months.
I wonder if fear really has two components: living with the anxiety and what-if scenarios of the thing we fear, and then trying to make sense of God, of what we believe to be true about Him, if that thing does happen.
I looked down at the sweatshirts sleeves pulled over my hands and now covered in wiped tears and mascara, and I didn’t even have time to say another thing before tissues were in my hand and eight other people were around me and Alex with their hands on our shoulders, praying honest, earnest, sincere prayers for us. The kind of prayers I hadn’t been able to pray for months; the words of truth fear would not let me remember.
God, You are knitting this baby together in Katie’s womb… Psalm 139:13
You placed this little baby girl in this family, at this exact time, knowing exactly what they would be given right after you did… Psalm 139:16
You gave Alex and Katie one another years ago knowing full well what you would equip them to live, even knowing how unequipped they would feel… Philippians 2:13
You know Cannon’s heart and mind perfectly, you have beautiful purposes for his life, and know his parents’ heart for him... John 9:3
You know Harper and Jordi and can perfectly guide their understanding of the family they have who loves them so… Psalm 119:34
And God, You alone are good… Psalm 73:1
I realized as the tears continued to fall down my cheeks that my thoughts had spent all this time replacing “You” with “I” in that prayer. That’s when fear is the thickest and most impossible to see through, when you think everything depends on you.
Today, I am 24 weeks pregnant with our third baby boy, an already wild man in my tummy – the final recruit in what we joke is Harper’s crew of soldiers. And we still get to steward, for now, the life of the sweetest baby girl on earth – one who sleeps through the night and spends the entire day smiling and wanting to be near the other kids.
And I can’t believe we are here.
It has not been easy to leave fear behind, and it still creeps in often. But our world is not nearly as foggy anymore. My husband fights hard to be an incredible leader for our family, our friends show up to clean our house, and our community still prays urgent, earnest prayers on our behalf. And every day, many times a day, we look at one another and remind ourselves that there is a God, I am not Him.