I I I I I I I  

DOMESTIC DISTURBANCE

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
-T. S. Eliot, "East Coker"

Given the somber nature of Lent, perhaps it's odd to say that it's my favorite time of the liturgical calendar. Actually, that's not quite true. My real favorite is Easter, but you can't have Easter without Lent.

Through the years, I've swung between faith, doubt, and disbelief, but I always find meaning in the penitent mediation of Lent followed by the unlikely joy of Easter. It's improbable -- just as spring seems impossible in the depths of January, and joy seems lost forever when you're in the darkest depression -- but somehow it happens anyway. The crucified Jesus greets Mary in the garden. The black draperies of the Good Friday service come down, revealing the radiant white of Easter. The sun comes up, the snow melts, the dark night of the soul ends, and life seems possible again.

Nine Easters ago, I was recovering from a late miscarriage. Eighteen weeks into my first pregnancy, I had gone to a regular prenatal visit, and the doctor was unable to find the baby's heartbeat. The pregnancy had come at a difficult time in my life and my marriage. We had been struggling, drowning in work and debt and barely repressed resentments. Although we hadn't planned on getting pregnant, the prospect of a baby brought us closer together and buoyed us. The pregnancy was our lifeline. It was our guarantee that we could work through the difficulties in our relationship, that the truncated life we'd been living while I was in graduate school would soon be over, and that we could find our way back to one another and create a family. When the doctor, using his most clinical language to shield himself from my reaction, told me "the pregnancy isn't viable," our giddy anticipation was abruptly replaced with hopelessness and despair.

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Until then, it had never occurred to me that something could go wrong with the pregnancy. Afterwards, in those first gloomy days, it seemed entirely possible that I would never have a child; that my body was defective in some way, unable to nurture life. I secretly believed that I'd had one shot at motherhood and I'd missed it. Looking back, this seems ridiculously over-dramatic, but grief narrows your vision like that, and when the bottom has dropped out of your world, no horror seems too unlikely. Anticipating the worst seems like the safest course, at least then, when something awful happens, you won't feel the sickening vertigo of shock and disbelief.

We spent Holy Week in and out of doctor's offices and labs. It was awful, but I didn't have a lot of time to wallow in it, between all the appointments. My body, stubborn to the end, refused to surrender the baby, so the day before Maundy Thursday, I had a D and C. Only then did the real grief set in. I spent Easter in bed, doped to the gills on pain medicine, bleeding like a stuck pig, and crying every time I woke up and remembered (again) that my child-to-be was gone.

Outside my window, the world was ruthlessly fecund and the Texas spring produced one halcyon day after another. Bluebonnets and Indian paint brush bloomed in every highway median. Irises and Carolina jessamine were budding in the yard where earthworms burrowed in the damp soil and brilliant green caterpillars drifted in the trees on silken threads. Meanwhile, I felt frozen in my grief, unable to reach the warmth of the spring sun, as barren as an ice field.

That ice did not thaw for months. I lollygagged my way through the rest of the semester, drank too much, read lots of horror novels, went into therapy. A good friend died, other friends got pregnant and had babies, Adam found a better job and some of our money pressures relented. There was no moment when I was suddenly better, but somehow things changed and the color returned to my world.

How do you get from Good Friday to Easter morning? You crawl painstakingly through all the long hours in between. You wait for the main chance to come around again. You hold on until dawn, even when you no longer believe in the sun.

Two years later, I held my one-month-old baby boy in my lap through the Easter sunrise service. This year, I have another new baby to dress in his Sunday best and photograph in the bluebonnets. On Easter morning, all five of us will share a pew and sing "He Lives" together (Adam somewhat reluctantly), and there will be three Easter baskets to fill with pastel eggs, rabbits, and all the other ancient symbols of fertility and abundance. Our life is sticky, muddy and wildly chaotic; anything but the sterile, childless existence I feared. Life goes on. Hopes are miscarried, loved ones die, and relationships fracture, but babies keep being born, fresh opportunities arise, and new friends and loved ones enter our lives. In the midst of grief and sorrow, the impossible happens and we discover joy.
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About the Author:

Melissa Lipscomb lives in Austin with her children Drew, Franny, Alec and husband Adam. Some days she feels like she's figuring out, and others she's just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Send feedback for Melissa to disturbance@austinmama.com and visit her blog

 

I I I I I I I  

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