I’ve already shared a little about Simon and Jonah. And since you know they’re in 7th grade and 4th grade and have a 2 years old sister, you have to know there’s a story to tell. A gap like that isn’t planned, friend. It just really, hardly ever is planned to go that way.
Anna’s life is pretty much the living, breathing (skipping, jumping, dancing) embodiment of my journey to joyful. She was my amazing, wonderful, blessed surprise at the end of a dark path. She is what I always wanted, but never dared dream for again. *Buckle up – it’s a long and winding road of a tale.
Matt and I wanted kids from our very first conversations about what we hoped life would hold for us. We prayed for kids. We’d been married nearly two years when the ‘someday’ of kids became ‘when’ we have kids and then ‘we’re having a kid’.
Simon Peter was first on the scene. He was a dark-haired little man with giant, deep brown soulful eyes. He’s always been much like the one he was named for – simple, honest and loyal. A serious child; we’ve teased him that he’s not so much 12 going on 13, but on 30. He was never one to be rowdy and loud. Still waters run deep.
Then, about 2 ½ years later, the party started. I’ve described Jonah for you, so I’ll just add that he’s lively and unpredictable. Jonah Matthew is high emotion and high energy; pretty much the polar opposite of his brother. They’re Felix and Oscar…Bert and Ernie…Sponge Bob and Squidward.
Life was good. Life was set. We were the parents of two boys – mama’s peanut butter and jelly. (You know, because sometimes there’s no better combination and other times, it’s better to just enjoy one or the other.) We played cars and balls and super heroes. We joined cub scouts. We watched NASCAR and football. We were a unit of four, no more and that was just fine with us.
Then, in 2007 we found out we were expecting a baby. Shocker! It was February, right before Simon’s 7th birthday. Jonah was 4 ½. What were we THINKING? Stunned turned into super excited. We made an appointment with the doctor and came home with a tiny image of our little gummy bear of a baby (Jonah’s quite accurate description of the ultrasound) and told everyone right away.
Right around 12 weeks along, things didn’t feel quite right. I had the worst feeling in my soul that something was wrong. I called the doctor, then Matt. He sent us to the hospital for a check. Then, the rain came.
The doctor’s face morphed from the reassuring ‘we’ll just check to make sure everything is okay’ face to one of sympathy. He didn’t have to speak. He tried to comfort us, but we just sobbed. And we sobbed. He left us to grieve and we just stayed, in silent sobs. Together.
I thought that would be the worst day of my life. I went home and the explaining began. The condolences came. The steady stream of friends and calls was just a blur. We had to see our doctor the next day. We had to decide what to do next.
The next days were the worst. I thought my heart had broken in half. I felt guilty for those first pangs of not wanting to be pregnant again. Surely I had wished this precious third child away. I felt like an utter failure of a woman leaving the surgery center with an empty, scarred womb. It was the worst disappointment and pain I could ever remember.
But all things fade. I learned to fight back the tears that flowed so easily when I dared think about our little gummy bear. I put the mementos of his or her short life in a boxed and pushed it under my bed, with my emotions. Determined to be strong, I put on the happy face. I still had a great family, right? Tons to be thankful for, right? How selfish to wallow in grief for someone who I’d never met, right?
Dates were hard – the due date, the would-have-been first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. I got through with little outward evidence of the wrenching pain and guilt inside. Again, determined to be strong, I put on the happy face. I still had a great family, right? Tons to be thankful for, right? How selfish to wallow in grief for someone who I’d never met, right?
In the Spring of 2008, that second line appeared again on the test. I held my breath. Over the course of the week I bought and took a total of five tests. I was stunned. Only telling Matt, almost in whispers, I quietly hoped. Then, as week eight rolled around, I got bolder and told a friend or two. We smiled after the doctor confirmed at week 10 that we’d made it past the point in development that baby 3 had not. But by week 12, the rain came again.
That was it. I decided that there’d be no more kids for us. The door on my heart shut tight and I threw the bolt. It was too much to bear, and I refused to think about it anymore. I was determined to move on. I put on the happy face. I still had a great family, right? Tons to be thankful for, right? How selfish to wallow in grief for someone who I’d never met, right?
Life was moving at a pretty good clip by early 2009. Simon was now 9 and Jonah was 6 ½. Both kids were in school. I had a job I really loved. The hurts of the past had finally been revisited and given to God. I wasn’t just putting on the happy face. I felt good again. And then came that familiar, queasy feeling.
You see, Matt and I never did see eye-to-eye on the permanency of my exit from babyhood. He held out hope for the pitter-patter of little feet. That agree-to-disagree approach lead to that second line on the test, again. Over the course of THAT week I bought and took eight pregnancy tests. I was numb. I shook the test like a thermometer. That second line was still there. I called the doctor.
We chose to keep baby 5 under wraps for a couple of weeks. Eventually we shared our news, but only with our parents and sisters. The odds were not in our favor. At week 12 we were scheduled to take our family’s first vacation to Disney World. I traveled in the most nauseated state I’d ever experienced, but I was determined not to ruin vacation. I was waiting for the bad news. I didn’t truly believe in the happy ending any more.
The next months were pins and needles. We eventually shared the news, of course. After we got to 20 weeks, I breathed a little sigh of relief. We found out we were expecting a girl and the excitement level ratcheted to off-the-scale levels with baby showers and pink purchases. It was a bumpy road of ultrasounds and monitoring and check-ups. We had a few scares. I think I held my breath for all nine months.
Then, in late December of 2009, the most perfect gift of a baby girl joined our family.
She was the culmination of more soul-searching and prayer than I’d ever experienced. She was all that I wanted, but never dared dream for in life. Our Susannah Michele was beautiful and perfect and ours to keep. Her name is the Hebrew word for lily (a pure and delicate flower) and is found in the book of Susanna in the Apocrypha [a collection of ancient books printed in some editions of the Bible, in a separate section between the Old and New Testaments]. Susanna’s story is told as a pre-cursor to the book of Daniel (chronologically). *Can you tell I married a Religious Studies major?* Her middle name was chosen for my mother-in-law, Michele.
Back when I was about six months along with Anna, I talked to Jonah (the currently-seated baby of the family) about how Anna’s arrival would affect him. I explained that a family is like a cupcake. Mom and Dad get together and start a life and build a foundation, the cake. God’s love is the wrapper that keeps the batter together. That’s good stuff, cake. You can have cake by itself, but icing makes it better. Kids are the icing of the family. Then Jonah interjects (like he’s known to do) and says “and now Anna is our sprinkles!”
You’re right, Jonah. Anna IS the sprinkles on our family cupcake. We were a great little cupcake without her, but everyone knows that the only thing that makes a cupcake even better is sprinkles.