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The Grey Matters


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There’s Gonna Be a Darkness (and a thousand little funerals)

I’ve attended a thousand little funerals. It’s called infertility.

This month, I actually stood on the edge of the cemetery in town with my husband and cried tears that were the culmination of 29 years of hope, and then grief of the loss of that hope and dream. We’ve been the recipients of news that brings this kind of overwhelming devastation — I’ll let you use your imagination.

Actually, okay, I’ll tell you. (What a thing to talk about ALL THE TIME.) Sperm. I’ve been through a lot of different phases thinking about those little guys. I’ve been hopeful for sperm. I’ve been sad about sperm. I’ve been angry at sperm. I’ve been grieving over sperm. It’s the source of my emotions. It’s no small thing (although yes, it’s microscopic.)

I never wanted to know this much about them. Never wanted to see them through a microscope – I’m not even remotely into science or biology! I never wanted to experience what I’ve experienced in a doctor’s office.

I can’t explain why God has given me this path. I have three stepchildren. But now, my own biological children just doesn’t seem to be a possibility. God, I just can’t understand that. Feels like a cosmic joke. But then some days I can put the pieces together and see why, or at least begin to understand it.

I have almost no other way to explain this sort of loss: it feels like I’m grieving the death of my child. A child I never even got to hold, or see, or feel. I always imagined a little girl with wild hair that I scooped up into a ponytail, who would run toward me. I pictured little white tights (the kinds with Christmas trees on them, for the Christmas Eve service, of course). I have had vivid dreams of feeling this person in my arms. I have felt at times an overwhelming sense of this human being, so overwhelming that I felt sure of her existence – so sure that I was just waiting to meet her. So standing at that cemetery with my husband, wailing like a woman in the Bible, felt like a true funeral. I have half this person inside of me and she dies each month. All of my dreams die, too.

I never had many aspirations past: I want to be a mom. Not only that, but a mother of FIVE. Yup! You heard me. 

I held all of my hope and joy there.

Then when I became a stepmom to three, I had to change my dream: I have three kids now – guess I’ll only have to birth two of them! 

I could find hope and joy there. After a lot of hard work.

Soon my thoughts changed to: Okay, God, just give me one. One miracle baby, please. At this point, I’d take a monkey, as long as I could call it mine. So please. Haven’t I given up enough? 

And I could no longer find joy there.

So it’s no surprise: I haven’t been much of a joy. Day to day – yes, I laugh and I am friendly and I love being with my friends and I find much love and happiness in being surrounded by my stepkids and my husband and now our dog, Adak. I have a beautiful home and security. I am blessed beyond measure.

But I never had a child, and there is a good chance I never will.

The winter solstice this year, and this new reality, are just a few reasons why Gonna Be A Darkness by the Jayhawks has become my current anthem. I can’t stop listening to it.

This is a song about a funeral.

There’s gonna be roses and your picture in a frame
The women will be cryin’ and the men they will whisper your name
Umbrellas will be open on a hillside of graves
The children will be dressed up and chase each other in the rain

And there’s gonna be a darkness
It may be colder than you guessed
There may not be music, there may not be stairs
There may not be angels fillin’ the air
Your mother may be there
Your father may be there
There may not be voices sent from a throne
To carry you home

Now Heaven may not get you: the Devil may see you first
He’s hittin’ himself in both the beast and the birth
A stranger may have found you where the angels have lulled you to sleep
They swallow you whole like a whale from your head to your feet

And there’s gonna be a darkness
It may be colder than you guessed
There may not be music, there may not be stairs
There may not be angels fillin’ the air
Your mother may be there
Your father may be there
There may not be voices sent from a throne
To carry you home

Where you think there’s a place
Wide open and white
Where you think you’ll be safe
Where you think there’s a light

There’s gonna be a darkness
May be colder than you guessed
There may not be music, there may not be stairs
There may not be angels fillin’ the air
Your mother may be there
Your father may be there
There may not be voices sent from a throne
To carry you home

There may not be music, there may not be stairs
There may not be angels fillin’ the air
Your mother may be there
Your father may be there
There may not be voices sent from a throne
To carry you home

There’s gonna be roses and your picture in a frame
The women will be cryin’ and the men they will whisper your name

For all you out there totally worried about this song and the implication that there is no heaven: just remember, songs are made to be interpreted and to become your own.

For me, this song is about the life that never was. I am the mother. This is my funeral song – my infertility song. There may not be any of those things. But I have cried, I have whispered the name. This song is about the light and life and heaven I thought I’d experience with a child, and how there may not ever be a chance for that.

I follow this Instagram page called “Infertile Board.” Every once in a while I see a post in my feed and it actually makes me laugh. Things like “I’m just a girl sitting in front of a doctor asking him to impregnate me” or “‘This month flew by’ said no infert ever” or “Nothing will bring on a period faster than a pregnancy test.”

I’m now someone who can relate to all of these! My GOODNESS. I still can’t believe that. But I am thankful for the humor. I am thankful for the humor SO much.

The latest one said “Awesome, even Mary wasn’t trying.”

This one didn’t make me laugh – this one was like a reality check. I don’t think the maker of this IG page did anything wrong… but I didn’t think, “Yup, that’s right! Even she got to have a baby! Sheesh!”

No, not at all.

What I thought was: That is completely different. That was the biggest miracle of the entire universe and it is the reason I am going to be okay. Christmas might be about a miraculous conception and birth, but that has never ever been the source of my pain. Ever. (All of the other “miraculous” conceptions, heck yes.)

And here is another truth: the first half of my month was filled with thoughts that I’ve just mentioned. Death, funerals, the pain of grieving the loss of my child, my little girl (I always imagined a girl), sadness and anger in wondering, “why me?”, especially given my circumstance as a stepmother. The first half of this month I lost a bunch of weight, didn’t eat, and cried myself to sleep every night. I felt like a zombie.

Then, God spoke to me directly. And He worked through my friends and family, too.

I started to see something else. I started to see my husband – a man who deserves to be loved UNCONDITIONALLY. I heard God saying, “Don’t you know that I gave you this treasure? Israel is a gift. Love him, Melinda. Love him unconditionally. Find joy in your soul. Be with him. Love him like I love you both.” 

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I had to confess that my dear husband hasn’t seen the best of me. We’ve had a lot of horrific things thrown at us in our first 3 years. More than most. And we’ve had a LOT of fun. But I’ve never just relaxed, lived day to day, and found joy in the most important thing God gave me, which is my marriage.

I also started to see the love of my friends. Friendship is something I hold high. I love my friends. I know I am blessed beyond belief with the friends God has given me. They are wonderful. They are a huge reason I’m here and doing okay. And they showed up for me this month. They texted me, called me, invited me over, held me, checked in on me again, prayed for me, laughed with me, cried with me, and loved me for me : a Melinda who was in the darkness.

Family, too. I talked to my mom almost daily. I connected with my sisters and my incredible God given sisters-in-law. I felt support at every angle, holding me up when I was going to disappear.

I know it was that moment of God talking to me AND the prayers of my friends and family members that gave me the strength I’m feeling today. In the past week or so, I’ve found a new part of my soul. I’ve prayed almost non stop. I felt calm. I heard God saying to me again, “Love this man. Go ahead… you can do this. You need to do this. And I’ve got you.” 

My husband even mused one night in the last few days that he’s never seen me like this. Like what? Like… happy.

Talk about a wake up call.

And you know what else? I’ve had to do some digging. Jody Day’s book “Living the Life Unexpected: 12 Weeks to Your Plan B for a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children” helped with this big time. What are my other goals, other than just being a mom? I have a few. I am passionate about the environment, about women, about helping people (especially those going through divorce and stepmotherhood).

I realized for the first time that the time will pass either way. I can either be a miserable woman, defining herself with infertility, and crying at the drop of a hat, unable to attend baby showers or smile at the announcement of a pregnancy, withering away inside and holding onto anger. OR I can find delight in my life, love for my husband and stepkids, thankfulness for the beauty I see every day, true joy for my friends who have their own babies, and compassion for those same people, because they, too, have sorrows.

I can live a life like this. And just like in my OTHER favorite song, “Farther Along” by Josh Garrels, I can remember…

“Farther along we’ll know all about it/ Farther along we’ll understand why/ So cheer up my brothers/ Live in the sunshine/ We’ll understand this, all by and by”

One day I will be in heaven and I will understand all of this. In the meantime, I can find joy and thankfulness. God is with me, He is fighting my battles for me and He has not let me suffer. In fact, I look around, and I have won every battle. And when I say “I”, I mean the guardian angels I KNOW I have on extra duty most days.

So this Christmas Eve I am thankful for the fact that another woman was pregnant and wasn’t even trying…. I am thankful that God gave Mary such a task. I am so thankful and find another place of grief in my hart — that bleeds into thankfulness — that Mary’s son died an excruciating death for me. Christmas is about a birth, and Jesus’s birth is about sacrifice.

So there is always darkness, but even on the darkest days, it’s quite clear that things will get brighter. It doesn’t mean things will be easy, but the time will pass and only I can decide which Melinda to be.

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And as always…. it doesn’t hurt to throw on some sunglasses and feel a little badass, too.

Love,

Lou (who is glad December is almost over – because I am excited to see what the next month brings)

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