Some months after we began to resurface from the devastation of miscarriage a package arrived in the mail. It might have been addressed to both Mr. Walker (that's what I call my hubby) and me, but I knew it was really just for me because it was from our earth angel – our surrogate. There is a special bond that forms between the woman who can carry a baby and offers up her womb, and the woman who finds herself in need of such an offer. We will be connected for the rest of our lives in a way that is so intimate it is hard to describe. The box was filled to the brim with things she knew I would love, but there was one gift that I will treasure above all the others.
A simple buttercup yellow hued book.
This is a gift that would both torment and transform. The numerous pages were filled with headings, promptings, and spaces to document all of the moments of one’s pregnancy - things like what you were feeling during each trimester, pictures of sonograms, what your cravings were, the size of your belly - all kinds of things. There were empty pages for recording little scenarios of what happened at birth, after birth and during those first few sleepless nights and months. There was room for fingerprints, locks of hair, and records of weight. A place for all of the big and small details each holding great significance.
This book was sent with a beautiful letter. A letter that I hope to share someday, because it's a letter that is worth sharing.
It reminds us that even in our grief when horrible things happen to us and the dreams that we believe were led by God are squashed - there is still a joy. When we prayerfully plan our journey only to find that the bridge we thought was going to take us to the other side has been wiped away by some disaster or unforeseen circumstance – there is still a purpose. At that moment when we are standing on the edge of the cliff and anger and sadness have separated us from our hope – there is still a way. An alternative route to a destination that will exceed our expectations has already been planned. It’s just out of sight. This letter reminded me that even when we're dwelling in the pain our circumstances, God still has a nuanced plan to take the complications and make them into something more beautiful than we can imagine.
God had a plan for our surrogate.
And, that ‘God plan’ was set into motion long before our paths crossed. God knew that she needed this crisis for her own growth. He also knew that I needed her in my crisis as well. At this moment our journeys would collide, and the broken pieces that were in her heart and soul that could only be addressed through complete dependence on God would rise to the surface. I can only ascertain that in his wisdom God knew that although this journey would be incredibly difficult and painful, we would come out stronger on the other side. We would take our brokenness and our specks of faith, join together and go searching for the bridge down the road. The bridge that we had to believe was there. Her letter reminded me that my ways are not God’s ways.
I stared at the neatly folded letter for some time before actually getting the courage to open my heart to the words of a woman who both carried and lost my whisper of hope. It took even longer to crack open the cover of the book!
When I finally did begin to leaf through the pages there was a strange excitement. After each of my cancer diagnoses, I thought perhaps I'd never know what it was like to get that call when someone says, “You’re pregnant!” I’d never get to experience that joy. But I did, and I had the memories to prove it. There are many men and women who never even get that call. Yet, each page that I viewed led me closer to the emptiness that truly defined this book. For every page filled there were many more left empty.
Blank pages took the place of overflowing joy.
The emptiness was suffocating. There wasn't a place to attach pictures of tear-stained faces or swollen eyes. There was no writing prompt for all of the anger I was fighting to contain. There wasn't room to talk about my marriage and how difficult it was to share this grief with someone who processes sadness and loss so differently. Or, what it was like to have the pregnancy come to an end so early into the journey. The pages were just empty — void of words and stories. Loneliness rose from the emptiness. These pages were desperate for a word of hope, a story of joy and a happy ending.
I'm actually the only person that has looked at that book. Even my husband and my closest friends, who I thought might want to look haven't inquired. I used to be hurt by this fact, but now I realize that they too are deeply affected by the loss. Silence and space is something we often long for but rarely feel comfortable with. The emptiness of these pages reminds anyone who views them, that disappointment and suffering happen. None of us are immune and we are not in control. These blank pages force you to hope for something that is not yet seen. That, my friends, if faith.
Coming face to face with the emptiness and isolation of grief has given me space and time to shift my perspective. This book -every page of it- has transformed from a torment into a treasure. Because I have to wonder how does God wants to fill up those empty pages? Often the beginning of the best starts with the reality of the worst. Sometimes we have to be emptied out of everything old so that we can be filled up with all things new!
I will always treasure those first few pages chronicling the joy of our journey before the bridge was wiped away. Those are my pages; that is my story. I will also choose to believe that God is writing a new story that will fill every empty space and use my pain to fuel my purpose. I will open that book, cross out the old headings and create new ones for myself. I will clear space to talk about the tough stuff, be intentional about gratitude and make room for joy.
God is not finished with me yet. My story is not over and neither is yours. Has something been stolen from you? Has loss created an emptiness that seems impossible to fill? Does your hope seem to be trapped on the other side of a ravine – totally out of reach? I’ve been there. Taking the risk of faith is rarely easy or comfortable, but it’s worth it. The benefit of choosing faith will always outweigh the risk of the initially uncertain outcome.