I was at Ash Wednesday Mass with Lisa and Elliana today and for some reason about half way through the service I had a flashback of a very different Ash Wednesday when Lisa and I were in a very rough valley during our path through infertility.
It had been nine months since Lisa had miscarried our first positive pregnancy. Lisa refused to cancel our 10th anniversary planned trip up Highway 101 so against doctors orders we traveled haphazardly from one child free bed and breakfast to another on our way all the way to the Napa vineyards where we couldn’t get enough of the samplings to numb the pain.
The New Year was spent around a table of women who were pregnant—and our covert IVF gave us the hope that when that ball dropped a positive pregnancy test would complete the circle of pending births.
It was not to be. And Lisa was beyond pissed by the time Lent rolled around. The fourth Lent we had spent watching other people’s little kids with an ashen cross blessed on their foreheads.
Lisa hadn’t really wanted to go to church that day, and I had to say I was on rough terms with God at that point.
I struggled with the devastation of loss after loss, while at the same time being lured back to the base of that mountain called hope because we had at LEAST been able to enjoy a short time of being pregnant.
The priest that day wanted us to do something kind of unusual. He wanted us to write something we wanted to give up during Lent on a piece of paper, and then burn it In a chimenea outside to make the ashes he would bless us with.
Lisa grabbed a piece of paper and began furiously writing. She held the paper tightly as she approached the fire and tossed it in.
I don’t even remember what I wrote that day.
For some reason, in the middle of church today, I was compelled to ask Lisa what she had wished for.
I have no idea why these memories still come up more than a decade after they happened. We’ve been in the parenthood after infertility world for nearly 11 years now, but something always pulls me back to those memories when I least expect it.
“Lis. Do you remember that Ash Wednesday at St. Pius when we burned a piece of paper with what we wanted to give up to God?”
At first I could tell she didn’t know what I was talking, about, but then I saw the flash of recognition.
“I had completely forgotten about that.”
I paused a minute.
I could tell she was rolling back to that moment.
She gave Elliana an extra glance while she thought about it.
A quick glance to make sure she wasn’t being transported back to those days, when even the concept of having a child in our life seemed so very far away.
“Do you remember what you wrote?”
It took her a few more minutes, but then a big smile came over her face.
She looked at Elliana again.
“I asked God to take away my desire to have a baby.”
We both looked at Elliana who immediately gave us the “what?!” irritated tweenie bopper look.
God apparently ignored Lisa’s request.
Later that year Lisa’s desire would become more focused and intense than ever.
I even became resolute about only choosing a clinic with the highest success rates for our child.
By the end of that year, we ended up in New Jersey where some of the best infertility doctors in the country helped us make and cryo-preserve two little embryos that the doctor’s said were “tier 2 poor quality.”
Our fresh IVF didn’t work.
It seemed at that point, that God was saying “no” to our prayers to find our soul baby.
Looking back now, it is obvious He was saying “I’m saving the best for last.”.
Sitting next to me, with an ashen cross on her forehead was one of the two of the “last” poor quality tier two frozen embryos we made.
Thank you God for taking that burning note with Lisa’s plea to take away her desire to have a baby.
Thank for replacing it with the fire and determination that led us to our tenth Ash Wednesday with Elliana.