My Double Stroller Makes Me Cry
“Road trip!” I thought gamely. I loaded up and headed for the photo store intent on ordering birth announcements.
Thirty minutes later I exited the store with a shrieking newborn, a flailing toddler, no birth announcements, and a memory card I was sure I had erased.
I headed to the van and buckled everyone in. I attempted to fold the stroller and then attempted again and again. On about the third or fourth try, the stroller gave way and indeed folded nicely, crushing my finger in the process. I cried. I uttered a bad word or two. I envisioned a long interval before I would leave the house again.
Fast forward two weeks. The hormones were better behaved as were the babies. I strolled around the block with my double stroller and reflected on the fact that I now need a double stroller. I need a double stroller because I have two babies. And two older sons. And I still can’t believe it. I cried in gratitude. I cried for prayers answered. I cried for years of waiting and hoping, of disappointment and loss.
How We Began
When I married thirteen years ago, I approached motherhood full of hope. Dave and I wanted a baby and—voila! - along came dear Tim in short order. What a joy he was and is.
When Tim celebrated his first birthday, we began to hope for a second child. Eventually I weaned Tim to improve our chances. And then we waited. And waited. We saw a doctor and then another one and then a specialist. We began tests and novenas and more tests. Three years passed with no diagnosis, but no baby either.
We were in the throes of secondary infertility. In the middle of this season, I attended a potluck at the home of my friend, Bev, a mother of seven. She related a story of her adult children hosting their first Thanksgiving dinner. I pictured the crowd, the laughter, the bustle and started to say, “That’s the joy of having a large family.”
I couldn’t get the words out and started to cry. Bev – kind, wise woman that she is - put her arm around me and said, “It’s not over until it’s over.”
Four years and six rounds of fertility drugs later, we had our dear Kolbe. We were overwhelmed with gratitude. I told the Lord that I would be content with these two souls. Truth be told, I was content. In my heart of hearts, I still wanted more children, but never again would I take for granted the ability to conceive.
Roller Coaster Rides
I was stunned to find myself expecting when Kolbe was just 14 months. We lost the baby early on, only to conceive and miscarry again weeks later and yet again a few months after that.
In October of 2005 another positive pregnancy test sent us on a roller coaster ride of hormones and hope. Unlike my previous three pregnancies, this time I was slammed with the nausea and ravenous hunger so constant when I carried Tim and Kolbe. Ultrasound confirmed a strong heartbeat. My belly expanded, and I donned maternity clothes with joy.
At twelve weeks I awoke in the early hours of the morning to dull, rhythmic pain radiating from my back to my abdomen. “I’m in labor,” I thought.
The next few hours were a blur of confusion and pain as I moved from spotting to near hemorrhage. In a moment stunning in its beauty and searing in its desolation, I delivered a tiny, lovely baby we named Alex. We still feel the loss of this precious soul.
Over a six year period, we lost six babies to miscarriage. We saw many a doctor and tried this test and that drug, but no diagnosis and no baby.
In November of 2006 I found out that we had conceived once again. Fatigue and appetite swings set in for about two weeks and then nothing. I had been down this lonely road too many times before. I waited for the inevitable.
We called our friend Bob for prayer. Bob is an engineer who travels from Beijing to Brussels on business all the while dealing with debilitating motion sickness. The day after our call, Bob flew to Belgium. He met his co-workers at the airport, and then rode through Brussels at a break-neck pace. Bob arrived at his meeting overcome with nausea. He excused himself from the meeting every hour to vomit. While his co-workers lunched, Bob lay as still as possible on the floor of the conference room.
Bob offered up his suffering for the life of our baby.
Two days later, I was making Christmas cookies with a friend. When we tired of consuming dough, I heated up some Stouffer’s Macaroni and Cheese – my go-to comfort food- and promptly became ill. Not one to put two and two together quickly, I heated up a little more for breakfast the next morning with the same result. Hope began to stir.
In July of the following year, our precious John Patrick, our third son, arrived. Appropriately, Bob – our faithful intercessor - is his Godfather. We rejoiced in our three boys – our quiverful of souls to love, enjoy, and raise.
Then a funny thing happened. We blinked our eyes, and we were expecting again. Without specialists or novenas, without clomid or charts. Ainsley Elizabeth arrived last August. We call her the “bonus baby” – so unexpected, so unplanned, so very much wanted. I’m 45 years old and don’t know anyone who has become more fertile in her forties.
Drinking It In
While waddling around the pool last July, I struck up a conversation with a dad. Noting my condition, he laughed about all the pregnant women in his church. “Don’t drink the water!” he joked.
I laughed because that’s what you do in these conversations, but part of me wanted to say, “Drink the water. And thank God for the immeasurable gift of being able to conceive and bear life.”
My double-stroller sometimes feels heavy and unwieldy as does my life as our family has gone from small to largish over this short season. As I survey the array of car seats, the boxes of diapers, the burgeoning pile of laundry, I consider all of this a sign of God’s generosity, of His gratuitous love.
And I am deeply grateful.