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My husband wants mulligans from me

“You want what?” I asked.

We were sitting on our living room couch. It was the end of a long day, at the end of a long week, at the end of two long months, contemplating another difficult month ahead.

I’d just told Rob how he could make my life easier. Now, being the supportive wife sort, I’d asked how I could do the same.

“I’d like you to give me mulligans,” Rob said.

Was a mulligan related to a hobbit?

“A mulligan is a retake.” 

We’d watched The Legend of Baggar Vance a few nights earlier. The golfer “took a mulligan” when he knocked the ball so far off the course that there was no way to redeem it.

Rob wanted grace when he completely missed the mark with me.

Being the supportive wife sort, I told Rob he didn’t even know how often I gave him mulligans, but I’d be happy to let him know each time from now on.

***

We were just finishing a difficult two months of infertility intervention. I’d been on a low level of fertility drug both months. The drug is essentially more hormones, to convince my body to work a bit harder. Month two, the doctor also prescribed progesterone to help keep the baby, should I get pregnant. 

Two months with a great many more hormones than normal in my body, in addition to the tension of raised hopes and expectations. Oh, and let’s throw in a stressful fulltime job.

We did not get pregnant.

I was worn down by my internal battles, tired of the external battles. I’d done my best to contain emotions; Rob had done his best on mop-up duty for those that spilled over, or bracing himself for those aimed right at him.

And so here we sat, looking at month three. Should we move forward in pursuit of a baby, or take a break?

What was best for our marriage?

We decided to create ground rules for infertility engagement. That’s where the mulligan came in.

***

I can’t say I appreciated Rob’s request, nor saw (much) need for it.

Did he realize how often I gave him grace? Did he know how many times I bit back my words and gave him another chance? I wish I could say I solemnly nodded and said, “I can see your point.” But I believe the best I did that evening, after expressing my ire about my unseen and unappreciated grace-giving, was to mutter “OK.”

I was not graceful in learning to give mulligans over the next several weeks.

Take 1:  I have a vague memory of bracing myself against the kitchen counter in the midst of an offense and saying through gritted teeth, “Mulligan. Mulligan. I’m giving you a mulligan right now.” I’m not sure that qualified.

Take 4:  With friends in our backseat, we drove through the countryside to an antique store destination. I suggested it was in one town; Rob headed toward another town. After discovering his error and following a circuitous route, we ended up at the town I had suggested. I didn’t mention the detour until we were driving home.

“Did you notice?” I asked.

“What?”

“I gave you a mulligan,” I said, rather pleased with myself.

“Yes, you did. Good job.” And he patted my knee.

Take <?>:  One day I knew I had arrived at that place that allows both for true grace (not rubbing Rob’s face in his mistakes as I point out that I am overlooking them) and acknowledgement of that grace (which encourages me in my pursuit of liberal mulliganism). Not that I stay in that place, mind you—but all triumphs must be celebrated.

I no longer remember the offense, nor do I remember my exact response. All I recall is Rob assuming the golfer’s stance with his invisible putter, and gently knocking the non-existent ball into an imaginary hole. I’d given him a mulligan, and his salute of appreciation was my reward.

Way to go, I thought. Way to go.

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Posted by on July 15, 2008 in grace, infertility, marriage conflict

 

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Granules of grace in a painful place

It was indeed midnight before I crawled into bed beside my sleeping husband after my last post. I had more tears, even then. They began as sniffs that turned into those little gulps, which became bigger gulps as Rob reached for me, and then full-on sobs. 

Wednesday night was the beginning. Friday, our next-door neighbors brought their newborn home from the hospital. Saturday I inflicted my own pain by watching the beautifully-done newborn slideshow they e-mailed to friends. Sunday we gathered with Rob’s family for Easter, and I wondered if the baby announcement would come before we could leave. Monday, my body confirmed that I am not pregnant.

But this is not the whole story.

Though the pain is true and real and worthy of telling, the pain alone is not a fair telling. Because I have experienced grace in this painful place. It is good for me to remember; good for me to tell.

» One month ago, my sister-in-law and I finally talked about the “what if” of them getting pregnant first. The vulnerability of such a talk had plagued me for months. How could I ask her for what I needed, without seeming to control how they shared their news? I was embarrassed. I was hurting. As it turned out, we were in the grocery store, picking up items for a spontaneous dinner together, when the conversation turned. “We pray every night that you’ll get pregnant first,” she told me. Her words were a balm; I knew she “got” my awkward, painful spot in relation to her. And I understood her awkward juxtaposition of desires for herself and for me. She gave me that opening to tell her that the best thing she could do for me is to let me know—whenever it happened—before she made a public announcement with me present. The evening made the possibility of her pregnancy seem bearable.

» Several weeks later, I finally wrote a thank-you note to her. And I told her, in case it had not come through clearly before, that we will be happy for them. My note arrived the afternoon she returned from her first doctor’s visit, where she saw the heartbeat that confirmed her home test results. She’d been afraid to tell me…she opened the note, cried, and gave me a call.

» I felt no envy. I’ve fought that monster before on this journey, and know what it looks like burrowed in my heart. By God’s grace, I did not need to fight it now.

» After going to sleep feeling passed over and rejected for God’s favor, I awoke with two phrases of a song in my head; a song I’d heard once, several days earlier. At work, I googled those phrases and found this song by Casting Crowns:

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the voice of truth says “this is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth 

Grace does not remove the reality of my painful circumstance. It doesn’t answer my questions. Sometimes it even raises new questions.

But these pieces…these granules of grace…remind me that I am seen. I am not forgotten.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2008 in grace, infertility

 

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Pain of infertility

He rubbed my leg. Back and forth, back and forth. Wanting to comfort me.

“Rubbing my leg doesn’t help,” I whispered. “I know you’re trying to help.”

Rob immediately withdrew his hand, but not himself, seated a foot away on our bed.

I didn’t know this would be so hard.  A miscarriage at eight weeks.  Fifteen months of trying since then.  Tonight, a call from my sister-in-law who loves me enough to let me know ahead of the family gathering on Sunday that she is pregnant.  New life is in her this Easter.  And in me…nothing.

Rob left the room to call and congratulate his brother.  That’s when I sobbed.  I’d kept count the first year after the miscarriage of how many people close to me—family, friends, Bible study—God blessed with a baby.  I think I got to seven, and have lost count since then.  I developed the analogy of those team games at recess in elementary and middle school, when my dread grew with every person chosen for teams, as I continued to shuffle and look unaffected.  That’s what it was like as person after person was chosen for parenthood.  Tonight, I decided, the teams are chosen.  I’m not on them.  A new wave of hopefuls will surround me, but it’s for the next game.  I’ve missed this one entirely, and God didn’t pick me.

Off the phone, Rob came up behind me in the bathroom, where I’d decided to wash the mascara off my face.  “Anything I can do?” he asked, putting his hands on my shoulders.

“I’d like to blog,” I said, knowing he’d planned to use the computer.

“OK.” He left again, and I again went into the bedroom and sobbed. Sobbed because I was hurting and he did not—could not—know how to help.

A couple sentences into this entry, he showed up at the office door. Leaned against the doorframe.

“Are you still planning to paint the bathroom tonight?”

I’d previously been too tired. Now I said, “Yes. I’m probably going to be up until midnight.” My eyes and jaw took the combative stance; I knew I sounded like I was mad at him. I thought about saying I wasn’t…

“OK. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

I looked at him…and shrugged. “I guess not.” Then silently willed him to come to me.  Kiss me.  Tell me he loves me.  And he did.  He came to me, bent over and kissed me.

“I love you. We’re still the same.  It’s still us.”

“I know,” I said, tears crowding again. “I’m just convinced God doesn’t like me.  ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock.’  It isn’t the stork knocking.”

Rob looked at me.  And then started laughing.  “Didn’t see that one coming.”  I didn’t want to laugh, but I couldn’t help it. 

He sleeps now, untroubled by this pain.  I wish he could feel it with me…be in it with me.  I know he’s doing what he can.

As for me…I sit with red, scratchy eyes, a stomach of tears, and a blank wall in my mind with no dreams to splash across it.  So I’ll occupy my hands and distract my heart with what I do have: a bathroom wall waiting for stripes to be painted upon it.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2008 in infertility, miscarriage

 

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