I remember just a few years ago being in the throes of fertility treatment hell and grieving the loss of the stereotypical family planning experience: have a lot of sex, wait a couple weeks, pee on a home test and watch the bright lines pop up. Hooray, we’re pregnant!
Instead, we waded through countless injections, complicated medical procedures, the agonizing wait for the blood tests and the phone calls from the nurse with the results. So many others have been there and know exactly what I mean, and many go through much worse. It was stressful, expensive, emotionally draining and – for me – physically taxing. Much of the emotional difficulty was coming to terms with how hard we had to work to get something that came so easily for many. I had a very bad relationship with home pregnancy tests.
Time has brought a new perspective. It was hard, and there have been a lot of hard times since then. And to be clear, feelings of loss are, well, normal. It’s just that now, with the luxury of time, I can look back and value what makes our story unique. I can recognize the incredible gifts that have come to us as a result of an off-the-beaten-path experience.
My dad is blind due to a biking accident in 1980. He wrote an article once called “Unusual Gifts.” In it, he explained why he believes his blindness is really a gift in disguise, allowing him experiences and purpose he would not have found otherwise. I realized recently that I feel very much the same about the unusual pieces of our experience. I wouldn’t have chosen them for myself, but that’s why I’m glad I’m not in control.
My daughter is the sunshine of my life. Truly, I can’t even explain how much joy she brings me. I sit and watch her, in awe of the beautiful little person she is. But someone prominent – I refuse to name him and provide further undeserved publicity – recently suggested that it would be immoral to knowingly bring someone like her into the world. She isn’t “normal,” and to a lot of people, that makes her unwanted. To me, she is priceless, perfect, a major part of the meaning in my every day. And thanks to the unusual path we took to her, we have a whole new branch of this crazy family tree to enjoy. Our lives would be poorer without those incredible people to love.
My son is four and growing up SO fast. He cracks me up with his wild flights of fancy, his funny observations of the world, his caution and bossiness, his need for his idea of order. (He recently organized the hangers in his closet by color.) He dazzles me with his adult vocabulary, his sweet affection, his curiosity and growing intellect. If it wasn’t for the hordes of doctors and nurses, the labs and procedures, he wouldn’t be here. Our firstborn would be someone else – equally loved, no doubt, but not this strawberry-blond boy walking around with my heart in his hands.
We have met so many amazing people through our experiences, and been able to share so many highs and lows with an incredible support system. We’ve had to learn faith of a truer kind, with nothing left to do but lean on the only One who knows the future. We’ve had to build a marriage that can withstand a pounding and another pounding, shuddering and rattling but holding firm. We are, without question, better people, because we’ve had to be; because that’s what God can do in the midst of the far-from-normal.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: I do not mean to suggest God sends hardship. He is not the author of pain and heartache. We live in a messed-up world where things do not go according to God’s plan. There are some griefs that are far, far beyond explanation or reason, the senseless result of a broken, hurting planet. But God does have the ability to pick up the pieces and build them into something beautiful and good, something better than we could have chosen for ourselves, a monument to who He is and what He wants for His people.
I suppose none of this is really new; it’s more along the theme of this blog’s title. I guess I just want to say this: normal is overrated. In all the ways it has manifested in our family, the abnormal has become beautiful. If you find yourself miles from normal and wishing for something simpler, let me offer you hope that the path less traveled really can be breathtaking in all the right ways. Acknowledge pain, grieve loss, but then, look up. There really is joy ahead.
Beautiful, Jolene! God be with you as you continue your journey.