A Long Advent

Apologies for the long silence. Sometimes life takes us through seasons where pausing, reflection, and inward stillness are the most appropriate responses, and outward processing takes a back seat. Such has been our journey this autumn.

As we moved into October, our second month of unemployment, things were looking very bleak indeed. Every day felt like it would never end, and to make it to the next day provided our only sense of achievement or movement. Anyone who has spent any time being unemployed knows the humiliating and dehumanizing nature of the job-searching process. The more I set goals and tried to apply myself, the more I teetered on the edge of falling into a dark depression. We felt like yet again the world was crumbling down around us. We could not see a way out.

In desperation we asked our friends to pray for us. There was an aspect of the whole situation that felt very much like a ‘spiritual attack’, and whatever our beliefs were about that, we felt like we desperately needed prayer. Funnily enough, our only sense of guidance from above was a very very vague, small voice that we should try to get pregnant. Which was obviously hilariously irresponsible/ridiculous. Not only were we unemployed, depressed, and stripped of all our vision and hopes for the future, but my menstrual charting* told me that physiologically I could not get pregnant. [I had ongoing problems with my cycle which had been given different diagnoses by different doctors without a real solution, but basically which pointed to some kind of infertility.]

We mentioned this to our friends in asking them to pray for us. Little did we know, but it turns out we likely conceived THE VERY DAY we asked our friends to pray. And here I am in my 15th week of pregnancy.

I still can’t believe everything that’s happened. The fact that we were able to conceive is one thing, but the fact that I was able to stay pregnant for 6/7 weeks with crazy low progesterone levels is also miraculous (I didn’t find out I was pregnant until a good 6-7 weeks in – and thankfully my doctor had the wherewithal to test my progesterone levels right away. Low progesterone especially in the first trimester is a cause of miscarriage, and for some reason most doctors don’t check it as a matter of course). Obviously discovering that we were pregnant did not magically solve everything – but it did give us a real sense, in spite of all that we had been feeling, that God is with us.

The same week I found out I was pregnant I got offered a job I had interviewed for ages back and had forgotten about. David also started working for a government contractor, albeit part-time and for minimum wage. For me, the pregnancy was like a massive burst of hope that allowed other smaller rays of hope leak in. It’s not that everything was suddenly perfect and solved, but we felt that God was with us, and that was enough.

Emmanuel – “God with us” – is a central message of Advent, and my first trimester happened to coincide nicely with the season of Advent in the church calendar. With themes of darkness and light, disillusionment and hope, waiting expectantly, and of course literally making room for a baby, we felt like we were having our own personal advent. [I should add here that for me much of the first trimester was filled with anxiety about being able to stay pregnant. Physically my only symptoms were fatigue and a loss of appetite – I am thankful for that, but I definitely did not feel pregnant. Going in for a scan at 8 weeks was terrifying as I was convinced that there would be no heartbeat. Hearing that heartbeat again last week (at 14 weeks) was truly wonder-ful.] 

And now as we move through Epiphany and into the new year, we are reflecting on what 2014 might hold for us. We have decided to move back to Charleston this spring (or before) to be closer to family, and because, well, it’s Charleston! David has a promising interview at an Anglican church. I have the option to work with a cousin to build up a yoga business. Our baby is due July 7th.

Even with the momentum of God-with-us and these wondrous events, it’s still easy to worry and presume the worst. Although the pregnancy anxieties have eased a little, I find myself thinking things like, How are we ever going to afford to live in Charleston? What if David’s job doesn’t pay enough and I can’t afford to go on maternity leave? What if I have a miscarriage in the second trimester? I haven’t quite worked through this theologically, but for a long time I’ve believed that God doesn’t promise that things will be okay but that he’ll be with us.  And because things have been pretty shite for a lot of the time, my default position – a kind of protection mechanism, maybe – is to presume that God will, by default, always let bad things happen. But I don’t think that’s healthy or even true thinking. The message of Advent for us this year has been about the impossible becoming possible; about God’s light and goodness – his crazy good kingdom reality – breaking into the places where we had given up hope. I really feel and want to continue to believe that 2014 will be a year of hope and of expectation, that God loves us and indeed wants to surprise us with good things.

“See! The winter is past… The season of singing has come” – Song of Solomon

*During the 3 months leading up to getting pregnant, I learned the Creighton Model of menstrual charting. It’s a mucus-only method (as opposed to sympto-thermal, which relies on basal body temperature as well, which can be notoriously tricky) and is incredibly helpful for monitoring fertility and achieving or avoiding pregnancy. I was just starting to work with a NaPro doctor on figuring out what was wrong with my cycle before I got pregnant, and we had already determined that I had a luteal phase defect, low progesterone and likely low estrogen, but had not gotten as far as determining the cause. If anyone reading this is by chance struggling with fertility or gynecological problems I cannot recommend NaPro and the Creighton Method enough. Their methods actually try to get to cause of the problem rather than just prescribing the Pill or other meds as a one-size-fits-all answer.