Joy Comes in the Morning...

I’ve written about this topic a couple of times (and talked about it hundreds of times), so I really resisted the urge to write about it one more time. No, I’m sure people are pretty tired of hearing me go on about it, I rationalized to myself. Yet, the idea persisted. You know how it is when you just feel compelled to do something, and the feeling doesn’t go away no matter how hard you try? Yeah, this was just like that. So, I’ve given in and I have put pen to paper (actually fingers to keyboard) to talk about it one more time. This story is for someone out there…someone whose dreams of motherhood (or fatherhood) have been deferred…someone whose heart breaks every month when Aunt Flo comes calling…someone just like me. I know you’re out there, and this testimony is for you…

 

A Dream Deferred - December, 2007

“Do you think I should see a doctor?”, I asked my sister worriedly.

“No”, she reassured me. “These kinds of things happen. You know the female body does some strange things every now and then, but most times it doesn’t mean anything.”

I’d been feeling unusually bloated and had noticed a few other things that made me suspect that I had uterine fibroids. I had almost convinced myself of that fact because my Mom had severe and reccurring fibroids and I had read that it could be hereditary. Maybe that’s why I haven’t gotten pregnant yet, I thought to myself. I grappled with the idea of going to see a gynecologist for a few weeks. Which was better – to see a doctor and have my fears confirmed, or brush it off as one of those things and worry endlessly? I didn’t have to decide because a couple of months later, I found out I was pregnant. I was elated and excited that God had finally answered my prayers and I eagerly shared the news with my family. Everyone was excited and the pregnancy seemed to be progressing well, but my belly was swelling pretty quickly, which I found strange.

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Everyone is different, you know. Besides, you don’t look that big”. I did look that big, but I took the well-meaning advice because I didn’t want to confront the real reason behind my rapidly-growing belly. I was only a couple of months in when I started having terrible pains – gut-clenching-can’t-sit-down kind of pain. It was persistent, so I woke my sister up and she drove me to the ER around midnight. After waiting endlessly, we got the diagnosis – uterine fibroids. The doctor told me I was having a ‘threatened miscarriage’ and told me I would probably end up miscarrying. All this was said with a slight smile and no empathy whatsoever. He could have been telling me I had a headache for all he cared. My sister was furious at his cavalier attitude, but I was heartbroken by his news.

I went home dejected and struggling with my faith…and all the dreams I’d had. Why would God allow this, I wondered. Why answer my prayers, only to tear the answer away as I reached out to hold it? I was puzzled and hurt, but I held out hope. Maybe…just maybe everything would work out well. It didn’t. A few days before our first wedding anniversary, I started having slight cramps which intensified after a few days.

On April 24th, 2008, I woke up and discovered that my water had broken. I was four months pregnant. We went to see our doctor and we were supposed to go back to the hospital that evening for a scan. As we walked into the hospital, I was wracked with terrible pains. It was unbearable…both physically and emotionally because I realized that the baby I had shared my body with for four months was struggling to come out – five months early. Way too early.

Wracked and almost delirious with pain, I paced up and down the lobby restlessly. I tried to sit but couldn’t. I tried kneeling on the chairs. That didn’t help either. And the pain only got worse until it engulfed my whole being. I literally couldn’t stand it and I had to be wheeled into the ultrasound room. I writhed in pain as I lay on the bed, and I had to be held down by two nurses. God, please….please, I begged silently. Let this pain be over. I knew the baby was already gone and I just wanted the pain to stop.

I miscarried that evening. Screams of pain tore from my throat as I mourned the loss of my child.

“My baby is gone”, I wailed. “My baby”….my poor baby. It felt unreal, but it wasn’t. It was all too real and there was no escaping it.

“Would you like to see your baby?” the nurse asked me gently.

Did I want to see my baby? I knew I shouldn’t because it would be too painful, but a part of me wanted to see – to look and remember what I had lost. I nodded. Yes, I would see the child that would never be. She held out a stainless steel bowl and I gazed at the little baby that lay curled in it – tiny and lifeless and my heart broke, it just shattered into a million pieces. Eyes clouded with tears, I turned my face away and the nurse walked back to the corner of the room and placed the baby on the counter. Still sobbing, I watched as my husband walked over to her.

“What was it?” he asked the nurse in a subdued voice.

“A boy”, she answered quietly.

Emotionally drained and physically exhausted, I lay there sobbing and mourning what I had lost – what we had lost.

 

When Joy Came

The months following the miscarriage were very difficult – emotionally, physically and spiritually. The physical part was easy to correct with surgery, but the rest? Not so much. My husband struggled to help me understand that yes, we had experienced something horrible and very painful, but that wasn’t the end of the world. We could – and should – still go on and try to have a happy life. But, no. I wasn’t having it. I resisted all his attempts and thought him insensitive for moving on so quickly. Was I the only one that cared about what we had lost? Doesn’t anybody else understand what I’m going through?

It was difficult, but God helped me through it with the help of my husband, good friends and my awesome family. I began to understand that God’s primary concern is not my happiness, per se, or my physical comfort. There was more at stake than my desire to have a child. So, what if I never have my own children? Would I stop serving God? No….no, I couldn’t. I wouldn’t. I realized that I had so many other things to be thankful for and I finally surrendered my desires, my pain, my anger and my hurt to the only One who could heal me.

One day, a few months after I had surgery, I had a dream where I clearly saw myself holding my baby with tears of gratitude flowing down my face. A short while after that, I woke up with a name in my head ‘Chimezirim’. As I thought about it, it seemed clear to me that I would have a son whose name would be ‘Chimezirim’ – God has restored me….God has fixed me. I didn’t know it at the time, but God was actually showing me two different children.

A couple of months after that I found out I was pregnant. Again, I was excited, but my excitement was tempered with caution and a lot of prayer. I prayed endlessly (and called my doctor’s office nearly every day!). In July, 2009, our daughter Chizaram was born and I exhaled. Finally, my joy had come and I had the child of my dreams.

 

Another Dream Deferred - December 2010

When my daughter was a toddler, we started talking about having more children. By God’s grace, I found out I was pregnant again on Thanksgiving Day of 2010. I was excited! This new baby and Zara would be born a week apart and I was already planning their shared birthday parties in my head. It’s going to be so awesome, I thought happily. I could already see them in their coordinated outfits, two small hands gripping a plastic knife to cut their joint-birthday cake. Oh, God is sooo good! I was happy…I was satisfied. After everything we had been through, God had finally wiped all our tears away and had given us two children.

A few weeks into the pregnancy, I realized that I wasn’t having any symptoms. Hmm…I hadn’t been sick the previous two times, but I always had crippling nausea and it was missing with that third pregnancy. But, I brushed it off. Every pregnancy is different. Surely, I wasn’t going to have another miscarriage? The fibroids had been removed and my uterus had been repaired so I felt confident that miscarriages were a thing of the past.

During my seventh week, I began to spot. I called my doctor’s office and they reassured me.

“Oh, that happens all the time in the first few months.” Reassured for the time being, I hung up with the admonition to come in if the blood turned bright red.

That happened the very next day. As the stream grew redder, thicker and more continuous, my hopes waned. Not again, I thought. Not again. But, I knew. Experience had taught me. I told my husband the pregnancy was over a day before the doctor confirmed it. Even though I was only seven weeks along, it still hurt. For many women, once the pee stick shows a positive result, they see a baby – they dream of a live, cuddly baby and I was no different. That baby was real, and losing it hurt.

I miscarried two days after we saw the doctor, but this time it wasn’t in a sterile hospital room. It happened at home, when I was alone with my small daughter. I was devastated, but not crushed. I already knew what God was capable of. All I had to do was look at my daughter. I cried for a couple of days, then I dried my tears and spent a very lovely Christmas with my family just one week later. I tried to keep things in perspective. I knew my pain wasn’t unique – many, many women suffer miscarriages during the first trimester. I also knew women who had experienced multiple miscarriages, or who had died during or after childbirth. I had been blessed and I was determined to thank God for the wonderful child He had already given me.

Two months after that miscarriage, I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time. But, this time was different. This child had been conceived exactly three years after the first child and would be born exactly three years later – three years to the day. The EDD for my very first pregnancy was October 18th, and the EDD for this baby was also October 18th. The date of my LMP for the first pregnancy was January 11th, and it was the exact same date for this fourth pregnancy. Coincidence? I didn’t think so. It wasn’t a coincidence. It was God’s way of completing my healing. It was His way of telling me that he hadn’t forgotten the pain and tears from three years prior. Finally, my joy would be complete.

I still struggled with fear, and battled all through the pregnancy to keep my mind on God’s promise. In October, 2011, God blessed us with a son whom we named Chimezirim. He is neither a replacement, nor a re-incarnation. He is a precious gift from our loving Father and his arrival has made our family complete.

The difference between a glass half-full and a glass half-empty is perspective. I’ve been pregnant four times and I have two children. Instead of thinking “I’ve been pregnant four times and only have two children”, rather my mindset is more of “Wow, I can’t believe I have these two amazing children!

Pain is not unique to anybody. Suffering and sorrow are universal emotions and we all have to figure out how to handle the difficult moments that life brings.

At the beginning of this piece, I said that this story was meant for someone, someone who is right now where I was a few years ago. If you’ve read my story to the end, you know it had a happy ending. Your story can also have a happy ending. The same God that did it for me will surely, surely do the same and more for you. Hold on through your pain, hang on through it all. You may wet your pillow with tears every night, but your joy is coming. Pain is not unique. Neither is joy. Mine came….so will yours.

Onyih Odunze