I remember looking down at that long plastic wand and seeing the undeniably flat, pink line, and then again looking at another one that read, even more unmistakably, ‘1-2 weeks’. I was pregnant. I was about to get something I looked forward to having since I was eight years old and understood that I could have my own babies. Back then I just wanted another baby that looked like me and I loved my family so I wanted one of my own. But finally being the reality, it didn’t feel as magical as I imagined it. Exasperated by the fact that it was not planned, it just felt scary. I had no knowledge of what it was like to be pregnant. I had never read anything about it or prepared myself at all as I never thought it would happen so quickly. I had plans, exciting ones, to further my career in a field I was growing more and more passionate about, to travel with my husband to wherever the wind took us, to play semi-professional football and to become an excellent football coach. I just had plans that didn’t involve looking after a baby 24/7. But the truth was unavoidable and it hit me like one-thousand sharp, cold winds, not the ones that take you where you fancy, but the ones that seem to blow you back into a corner. And that wasn’t made any easier by what I was to experience next.
I was gearing up at the time for the most beautiful four-day wedding in Grenada where I would marry my best friend, surrounded by my favourite people from various countries. But the Zika Virus ruined all of that, causing us to have to cancel the wedding as a precaution against the risk of our baby getting microcephaly. Cancelling it also meant that we had to tell over 100 people that we were pregnant, just at five weeks, far before the usual, safer time that people announce their pregnancy — at 12 weeks. This meant we had to organise a wedding in London within six weeks, having already lost a lot of money on ours and others’ flights and accommodation down payments. Our wedding was amazing but none of my bridesmaids (including my best friends, sister and cousin) could make it and neither could my immediate family from Trinidad. I walked down the aisle without two of my siblings there.
Having just nearly missed the mark of being married before getting pregnant, we had to go through the shame and guilt that came along with feeling like we may have disappointed God, our family and friends and ourselves, as we had prayed and tried so hard to stay pure before marriage. We had already booked a short mission-like trip to India, which we left to go on the day after I found out I was pregnant. There I shared a room in a girls home with a British missionary who told me the story of her seven miscarriages. There we went to a church service to hear a man speak who had a tremendous gift of healing and prophecy, only to have him prophecy over us that something tragic would happen to us and that there was a negative spirit within us. There, in India, I started to bleed a little, just a little, but every day the bleeding would become a bit more red and a bit more noticeable. We had a fantastic time in India, which helped distract us from the crazy thoughts that were about to enter our mind about what reality would look like for us but on return to London, on the plane, I started to get unbearable cramps and the bleeding was still increasing.
My cramps lasted for an hour and during that time all I could think about were the words ‘tragic things will happen’, about the seven miscarriages, about losing something I didn’t really ask for but realised I so very much wanted, deep, deep down. We went straight to the hospital in London to get an early scan. Thankfully the baby was fine. We breathed a sigh of relief and went home to rest. The following week though I was hit by something worse than bleeding, it was an overwhelming, more colossal than I had ever experienced in my life, feeling of despair. Something happened at work that triggered a downward spiral of thoughts that left me crying on the train in front of my husband saying, ‘I am a failure, I am a horrible person, I am unloveable, I am not smart, I am not good at anything.’ Basically anything negative one could think about oneself, I thought — and believed — in those moments. A flood of tears streamed down my face and I feared, as a beach dweller would fear the visible onslaught of a tsunami, what was to come. I thought — how could I EVER succeed at taking care of another person? My husband prayed with me that day, rebuking every lie that spilled from my lips, speaking the truth against the lies that I was speaking over myself. This went on for hours but he held me and he didn’t give up. I was able to recover enough to know again that I was loved and that none of it was true but I was still bruised, still horribly anxious, still worried about whether I would ever be prepared enough to love a child enough for them to never have to question their worth the way I was questioning mine.
I got on with planning the wedding, held my chin up and believed that God was in control and that everything was how it was meant to be. I went on a week-long coaching course that was truly enjoyable and my joy was returning. The week after the course, on my return to work, again something terrible happened. When I saw it I texted my husband six times saying, ‘Henry, something really, really, really bad has happened.’ I just innocently went to to toilet to empty my bladder and all I saw was blood, a LOT of blood. I went to my boss and tried to calmly tell her what had happened and, thinking already at that point that that blood was the ‘tragic’ event, I broke down in tears when I told her, ‘I think I just had a miscarriage’. As it was too late to get to the hospital for a scan, I spent the whole night coming to terms with the loss of a child who I always wanted but didn’t think at that time I was ready to love. I was still so anxious about being a parent that I almost felt relieved that maybe God actually thought it wasn’t the right time and spared the baby from an even more ‘tragic’ experience. I went to sleep accepting this fate and in the morning we went for another early scan (it was at 8 weeks) to confirm this fate.
As I walked into the scan room I hear Jesus speak to me. He asked, more clearly than I have ever heard anything, ‘Do you want this child?’ Truly, I was overcome with anxiety that overwhelmed me enough to even feel slightly relieved at the thought of no longer being pregnant — that terrible, terrible thought that shames so many women. But as he asked me that question, out from the depths of my heart came a resounding ‘YES, I do want this child’. But I said to him, ‘But please Jesus, I need you to promise to prepare me to be an excellent mother.’ I entered the scan room and the lady placed the internal scan near my uterus, the curtain hiding the screen so I couldn’t see what she was looking at. Henry and I were silent, waiting for the verdict. The lady then perked up and said, ‘You have a really active one,’ pulled aside the blinds and showed us an 8 week old baby kicking its legs enthusiastically, safely inside a small amniotic sack, away from the large patch of blood that covered the top of my uterus.
I cried because I knew in that moment that Jesus had made me a promise, that he would prepare me. From that day the blood disappeared and my doubt did also. My confidence in my ability to love this child grew exponentially. Even more importantly I realised that my God was so much bigger than any symptoms I could get in pregnancy. He was bigger than the high blood pressure they found in my uterus at the 20 weeks scan, an indication of possible preeclampsia and premature birth, which went away completely in the subsequent scans. He was bigger than my body’s possibly disfunctioning thyroid gland that was discovered through my GP as I asked him to investigate whether I had chronic fatigue and which caused a big debate about the threshold and guidance levels of two major hospitals. He was bigger than every single pregnancy symptom that I have experienced (and I have experienced them all at least once — nausea, swollen ankles, head ache, blurry vision, foggy brain, extreme tiredness, moods and emotions galore, constipation, piles, back ache, hip pain, cramps, joint pain and carpel tunnel syndrome).
Just four weeks away from my due date, my emotions are more intense than I want them to be. Some of my anxiety has resurfaced and was heightened by the recent revelation of a childhood friend who died as a result of postpartum depression and all of the news around suicide awareness, especially as I know that there were times in these last nine months where I was feeling really low. But I learned an incredible life-changing lesson in the third month of my pregnancy. I learned, through a talk given by RT Kendall on the Doctrine of Gratitude, that God is grieved by ingratitude and that the Holy Spirit cannot be at work in someone who mumbles, grumbles and complains. I looked at my situation — at how God provided a beautiful home, big enough for our new family, all of the clothes and baby items we needed for our baby at either a reduced cost, free or given to us as gifts, helping us to save masses of money, a peaceful marriage full of love and sacrifice that is both nourishing and encouraging, a husband who prays every day to ensure he is an excellent father also by the grace of Jesus, a summer of fun and friends that kept me laughing throughout my second and third trimester and allowed us to enjoy our first few months of marriage, free access to a new swimming pool to help keep me fit and to relieve my pain, friends and family who have been incredibly supportive and loving towards us and have embraced the arrival of our son in a truly heartfelt manner, scores of new mummy friends despite known no-one in my area when I first moved here in March, and last but certainly not least, an incredibly special baby boy who I cannot wait to meet, and kiss and love with all of my heart, who has been well and met all of the growth targets, looked cute on the scans and whose every kick gives me the greatest pleasure.
I had decided in the third month of my pregnancy that I would be grateful and that no matter what came my way I would sing God’s praises, that I would not give up or give into my thoughts, that I would persevere with every hope and belief in my heart that God is perfectly good and that I would ‘never lack any good thing’. Since choosing to proactively be grateful, to telling Him what I am thankful for, to encouraging other pregnant friends and mothers to be grateful also, to never allowing a bad thought to stick with me for more than a few hours, to unrelentlessly believing that our child would be protected, loved, secure, taken care of and nurtured regardless of my physical, mental and emotional state, since choosing gratefulness, my pregnancy has completely taken a 180 degree turn. I have never felt more vital, more beautiful and more excited, than i have in my pregnancy and I am looking forward to having a home birth because praise Jesus my pregnancy has been classed as low risk so that I can have my child in the comfort of my own home. My heart is undoubtedly to serve other pregnant ladies and mothers through prayer, support and love, which has given me a greater purpose, knowing that Jesus will use (and already has been using) my testimony, my experience and my journey of gratefulness to help and support others.
All in all I know that parenting will inevitably bring with it a lot of challenges that will make me doubt myself again, exhaust me, make me anxious and push me to think things and feel things that are very negative. I am not and will never be guaranteed a perfect labour, parenting experience, health or life in general as I am part of a broken world and as long as I am here I will also be broken myself and be privy to that immense brokenness. I know that I will feel the fear of what effect a morally-darkening world will have on my son. I know that my husband and I will sometimes forget each other because of the demands of parenting and will have to fight back to continue to grow together and work as a unit. I do not, in any way, claim to be know what the future holds, even for the next four weeks of my life. But what I do know, undoubtedly, is that God has been so good to me before and will always want and do what is best for me in the future. I know that my family and I are in the safe and tender hands of the God who created life, sustains it and preserves it. I know that when I am at my lowest, when I have nothing left to give, He will step in, pick me up and take me soaring on His eagle wings.
To all mothers and mothers-to-be as well as fathers and fathers-to-be AND parents-who-are-hoping-to-be, choose today to be grateful no matter your circumstance. Tell God 10 things you are grateful for, using the words, ‘Thank you God for…’. Feel and experience the tremendous presence of God as He surrounds you with His love as it so pleases Him to hear you say thank you instead of grunt or moan. See and experience the power of love that will manifest in your life as He makes Himself known and works through every aspect of your world. No matter what our symptoms are, God is infinitely greater than our symptoms. No matter what we think, greater things always lie ahead.
‘I consider that our present sufferings are not worth compering with the glory that will be revealed in us,‘ Romans 8:18
To end this off, I would like to share with you our little rap video to welcome our son, God’s gift to us, into the world…