When we did finally conceive, this is how it happened. (Not THAT part.) Every month I'd head to Seattle proper to have a follicle study ultrasound to see if I had a good sized egg waiting in the wings. When the ultrasound revealed the time was right, I'd get a shot from my OB/Gyn. Then we'd cross our fingers, say our prayers, and play checkers. Or something like that.
It was August, and we were desperate. We'd just accepted that the adoption door was closed, at least for the time being. Like many times before, we were cuddled up, side by side, in prayer. In our five years of marriage Penn and I have rarely prayed together. The first prayer we ever prayed together, out loud, was for a baby. We'd prayed done this before, but this time was different.
Here's a little secret. I'd never really asked God for anything before. I mean really, boldly ASKED him for something with the expectation that he might ANSWER. Even our prayers for this baby were accompanied by qualifications. Sort of, "...If this is your will, God, we would like to have a baby, but if it isn't your will we understand..." kind of prayer. No expectation. I was terrified to really, honestly, ask God for something. You know, directly. For one thing, it seemed a little rude. Surely God would give us what he wanted us to have. No need to be pushy! But even more than that, I was afraid. I was terrified that God wouldn't answer our prayer to have or be able to adopt a baby. Ever. People prayed every day without tangible answers. And for some reason, I felt that if I asked God directly for something and never heard back from him, that it might shake my faith. It might make me wonder if God was really there, hearing me. If he cared. If he was real. So I always gave God lots of "outs." Lots of "wiggle room." I had never really opened my heart and been completely vulnerable and talked to God like I really believed he was there or that he might help me.
Until the day Penn and I prayed together, in August. I was weeping. I remember asking God to please have mercy on us. I just kept repeating that over and over. Penn told God that this was our heart's desire and that we couldn't make this happen on our own. That we just completely gave up and put it in his hands. That we were counting on him as the only one who could give us this gift that we so desperately needed and wanted.
It's hard for me to explain how this prayer differed from the others. But it was a whole new level of communication. Honest. Raw. Real.
I'm not suggesting that people who never conceive or aren't able to adopt didn't pray hard enough! The power of prayer is a mystery. Almost as mysterious as the will of God. We will never understand it all until we're on the other side of heaven. The shroud will be lifted. Our vision will become clear. Our perspective will be eternal. And we'll see HIM. Face to face.
I don't question what God did for us. I just know that we threw ourselves at his feet and begged for mercy. And he took mercy on us.
Because the very next pregnancy test we took was POSITIVE.
Later that month I go down for my usual follicle ultrasound. But they can't find an egg. Any egg, anywhere. I meet with my very kind OB. She comforts me as I cry. It appears I won't be ovulating at all this month. This is something new! Oh dear. She's worried.
She sends me to have a blood test, on the off change I might have already ovulated, which would be a couple of weeks early, for me. She is highly doubtful. In all the months we've been doing these follicle studies, I've been ovulating at six weeks. This is not even week five yet. Her parting words, as I head out the door? "Maybe you already ovulated. Stranger things have happened."
Oddly enough, I let a little hope slip into my heart. I thought about how funny it would be if I'd actually ovulated like a regular person, at week four. Usually, when a hopeful thought slipped into my mind, I didn't let it stay there for long. I usually tried to balance it out with a healthy dose of skepticism. To avoid getting my hopes dashed to bits. But not this time. I just let that thought - that maybe I'd ovulated already - slip in one ear and out the other, without contradicting it.
The test reveals that I did, in fact, already ovulate. So we missed our opportunity for our little shot, post-ovulation. But instead of feeling discouraged, I felt hopeful. And again, I let myself without checking it like always. Hope is the most wonderful little feeling, isn't it?
Some time goes by. Hmm. Sorry to be graphic, but no visit from Aunt Flo. Now I KNOW that I've ovulated at least two weeks prior, because it was confirmed by the blood tests. More hope. Not over the top excited hope. Just a little tiny thought rolling around somewhere in my mind without any other thoughts trying to stamp it out, like usual.
I get up the next morning, and retrieve a pregnancy test from the Costco box. Yes, at this point we'd been purchasing pregnancy tests in bulk. I take the test. I set it down to wait the alotted time.
As always, I can't stand to wait that long. So after just a few seconds, I pick it up and watch the little box change sloooowly from left to right. It's almost immediately apparent that it is a plus, rather than the usual sad little minus.
My hand starts to shake and the waterworks start before my mind can even comprehend the results. Like my body realized the news before my brain did. Shock. Total and complete shock.
All I could think was, "Penn." I was on auto pilot. Before I knew what I was doing or saying, I was out of the bathroom and halfway across the bedroom. Penn was in a dead sleep.
"Penn, can you come look at something? Penn! I need you to look at something, please!" Only it sounded more like, "Penn-can-you-comelookatsomething?PennIneedyoutolookatsomethingplease!" I think I was quietly screaming.
He JUMPED out of his side of the bed. "What?! What is it!?" He always wakes up a little grumpy and his voice was a combination of crankiness and panick.
He later said he thought I'd woken him up to "rescue" (either save or smoosh, depending on size and scariness) a spider from the bathroom.
The I reached out toward him, with the test in my hand. I'll never forget the look on his face as he tried to comprehend what he was seeing and what it meant.
We sat down on the bed together and kept looking at the test. Then looking at each other. And smiling. And laughing. And crying. And hugging. And looking at the test again and again and again. For what seemed like a long time.
The only reason we weren't screaming and running victory laps around the house was because we had houseguests - my beloved Auntie Nancy and my dearest cousin Carla.
I kept saying, "Let's not get our hopes up. It's probably wrong." But I didn't think so. Penn pointed out that the line was very faint. Although, actually, that was the control line he was pointing to, but I was too flustered to notice. We called the 800 number on box and the loveliest customer service representative on the planet (at least that's how I remember her) on the other end of the line assured us that a faint positive sign is a positive sign. The faintness of the line isn't important. The line is.
I called my OB and scheduled an official test. (Thank goodness they don't kill rabbits anymore because I just couldn't and I'd have had to wait around wondering if was pregnant until it finally became physically apparent!)
Did I mention I had jury duty that day? Oh, well, I did. I had to get ready to go, act (to my aunt and cousin) like nothing out of the ordinary was happening, and go to jury duty. It was Friday, and I'd already served on a jury Monday through Thursday. We'd found a man guilty of DWI and I'd been thinking about him a lot. In fact, the night before I'd been in tears worrying we'd erred, ruined his life, and worst of all, hurt his feelings. As I drove to jury duty it occured to me that those might have been pregnancy hormones. Hmm. Maybe I really was pregnant! I was still in denial, at this point. And to be fair, I cry at the drop of a hat, so that wasn't necessarily all that telling. (But what happened at juror selection that morning was!)
I was the first person to enter the courtoom, so I sat in the front row. I was literally the first person called on to answer some questions from a potential case's prosecuting and defense attorneys. Well, first they asked the whole room a bunch of general questions. If you answered a certain way to a specific question they'd have you keep your hand raised and then they'd record your number. For example, did anyone have a close relative who worked as a police officer? That sort of thing. Throughout this process they dismissed about half the room. But there were still at least a hundred of us left in the courtroom when they began the individual interrogation, with possibly-pregnant, little old me.
First, the one attorney asked me some questions. Then the other. I was doing well until I was asked whether I'd already served on a jury that week. As I answered in the affirmative, I inexplicably began to cry. It was the kind of crying you do when you're singing at church. You know, you're trying not to cry and hoping no one notices? Trying to keep the tears that are welling up to stay in your eye, where they belong. Or maybe I'm the only person who does this. I cry almost every Sunday.
They kept asking questions and I kept thinking about this unfortunate man and his unfortunate choice and his unfortunate situation. Pretty soon my face was burning (and probably quite red and splochy) and the tears were refusing to stay put. I tried to discretely pat them away.
Youngish, handsome-ish attorney: "Ms. Hox, Is there any reason you do not wish to be selected as juror for this trial?" (in a loud, booming, voice)
Me, Ms. Hox: "yes." (sniffle)
Handsome Person: "Yes? er - Yes, you DO have a reason you do not with to be selected as a juror?" (less loudly and no longer booming)
Me: "yes." (sniffle sniffle)
Hot Stuff: "Oh. And would you please share that reason with the court?" (now speaking like a normal person)
Me: (sniffle sniffle) well. um. (sniffle) because I've been thinking a lot about the trial I served on earlier this week. (sniffle) and, um. (voice getting high and all sentences now sounding like questions) um, it's just really been weighing heavily on my heart. (sniffle, shoulders starting to heave) um, I guess I've been second guessing our decision. (sniffle sniffle sniffle sniffle) and so, um, I just think it might be too much responsibility for me and that someone else would make a better juror. um. (sniffle)
By this point, the attorney clearly notices that I am crying. He's smooth, though.
Smoothy Smootherson: "Well, Ms. Hox, wouldn't you agree that jury duty is a serious matter and that jurors should take such a responsibility seriously?"
Me: yes...I suppose. (I can feel my eyes swelling shut as I speak)
Perry Mason: And, wouldn't you agree that the fact that you take your role as a juror so seriously makes you an ideal juror?"
Me: no. (barely audible)
Ben Matlock: "No?"
Me: no. (squeaked)
At this point, this handsome lawyer person finally gave up. There was a long pause as the the attorneys whispered amongst themselves.
Suddenly very sympathetic sounding attorney: "Ms. Hox, would you like me to request that the judge dismiss you from jury service right now?"
Ms. Hox: yes, please. (in a very small voice)
There was a long pause as the attorney and judge whispered amongst themselves.
Nicest attorney in the state of Washington: "Ms. Hox, the court thanks you for your service this week. You are hereby dismissed."
Me: thank you. (in the tiniest voice in the state of Washington)
Now is the super fun part in the story where I get to leave the courtroom. You know how when you're in church or at a movie and you get up to leave while everyone else in the row wishes to remain? So they all have to stand up as you shuffle by and try not to step on their toes or trip over their purses?
Being the first person seated in, at the far end of the row means I have to do this down the entire row, as I whisper, "excuse me. thank you. sorry. oops. excuse me. thank you." Sniffling all the way.
I also am at the front of the courtroom, while the exit is located at the rear. So now I get to walk down the aisle, like a bride without her groom. A very choked up, with a red face, tears streaming down her face, shoulders heaving as she tries not to sob kind of bride. Best of all, a snot running out of her nose kind of bride. Pretty!
I get a lot of curious looks (from public defenders, potential lawbreakers, and officers of the peace) as I hurry down the corridor. Of course, I don't have a tissue. I don't have allergies, it isn't cold season, and I'm not a mom...yet. Well, not technically.
I stepped out into the sunlight and started trying to remember exactly where I'd parked, and started to laugh. I'd just been the biggest fool I'd ever made of myself (and I'd made a fool of myself plenty of times before and since). As I started Mossy (our Jeep) I said outloud, to no one in particular, "I'm either pregnant or I have LOST it."
Our plan had been that I would wait 24 hours and take another test the next morning. But who was I kidding, I took another one the minute I walked in the door. I also took a third one a few days later just to make sure I was still pregnant. It was such a victory.
Anyway, after the second positive result, I called my mother. She's an elementary school counselor, so I expected to leave her a voicemail. But she answered.
I hadn't thought ahead about what I wanted to say. What eloquent and memorable and heartfelt way I could tell her the exciting news. Well...it was memorable and heartfelt. The second I heard her voice, I became hysterical. "I'msittinghereholdingnotonebuttwopositivepregnancytests!"
My mother claimed she couldn't understand me.
I took a deep breath, to regain my composure and tried again. "I'm sitting here holdingnotonebuttwopositivepregnancytests." Boo hoo, etc.
"That's what I thought you meant!" Boo hoo, etc.
We squealed about it until she had to hang up. Children in her office and all.
When I called Penn to confess that I'd already told my mother he'd already called his!
We obviously didn't observe the tradition of keeping this kind of news private during the first trimester. Within a couple of weeks I'd told everyone I could think to tell. I have never been one to keep a secret - I just always tattle on myself. I always keep the secrets with which others have entrusted me, of course. But this was our news and boy, I blurted it out to grocery store checkers, catalog telephone operators, and pretty much anyone who had the good fortune to be in or around at our nearest outlet mall. Because, of course, I hit Carter's and Osh Kosh and Baby Gap when I was, oh, about three weeks pregnant.
We taped the pregnancy tests on the fridge. Hygenic, right? Well, I put the little plastic caps back on.
In a few days we had the official call of congratulations from my cautiously optimistic OB, Dr. Susan Harvey.
I still have those old pregnancy test sticks in a plastic container. Unfortunately, I've noticed that you can't see the plus sign anymore. These things don't stand the test of time, apparently. So I suppose I can throw them out. But I probably won't.
I don't know if I'll ever get to experience another positive pregnancy test. I've taken a few, since Nicknack's birth. We aren't actively "family planning." We've learned that what God has in store for us is better than what we could plan for ourselves. So that takes the pressure off. We don't have to make decisions about how many years to space our children. We'll wait a while and if none of those plus signs make an appearance we'll knock on the adoption door again. When the time is right. When we feel led.
I don't know if God has any more children in store for us. I don't know if I'll ever carry another child. I don't know if God will allow us to adopt. Or whether he'll bring foster children into our lives. I'd love to have more children, but I don't long for them, as I did for Nicknack. If I never have another I am content. The Lord has given us our heart's desire. He's sleeping in his room right now. How I hope he gets the desire of his heart, and how I pray that he'll know and love our God who created him and does all things well.