Last year, our entire backyard flooded with sewage. A pipe from the house behind us burst, causing filth to literally rise up through the dirt, creating a cesspool of human waste that stung our nostrils. And it was just perfect—an accurate depiction of where my husband and I were at this time in our lives.
We had just endured a second miscarriage, were apprehensively pregnant for the third time, and found ourselves waist deep in crap we didn’t expect to be waist deep in. Just like our backyard, every raw, horrible thought we had was set free. Like sewage leaking through the dirt, bitterness, jealousy, and anxiety seeped through our pores and threatened to poison both our marriage and some of our friendships. Instead of pipes bursting, our hearts did.
I was five weeks pregnant, the third time, when my best friend called to tell me she was pregnant too. She wasn’t trying to get pregnant at all, in fact, she had an IUD in place. Her less than 1% chance of having a healthy baby became a six-week-old embryo with a strong heartbeat. I was fearful for the health of my own pregnancy and floored by the ease and promise of my friend’s. It’s safe to say, the news upset me.
My self pity was evident and I couldn’t hold it back. Through sobbing cries I replied to her:
Ya know Karli, I really love you, but I can’t handle this right now. Of course you’d get pregnant. Of course you’d see a heartbeat. Excuse me while I sit over here and feel sorry for myself. I’m so sorry, I’m so happy for you. But I am just so sad for me.
My husband and I were on our first anniversary trip to Bend, Oregon when we decided we were ready for a baby. We brought up the conversation of babies in the midst of giant Douglas Firs, with the echoes of the forest as white noise for our yearning hearts. We giggled over anniversary toasts. It wasn’t long before the endless drinks flirtatiously pushed our thoughts towards a love child. With butterflies soaring around in my belly, we were going to try to create a human.
I guess I should have known crafting a complex being wouldn’t be easy, but I never thought I’d have a problem getting pregnant. I sure as heck never thought I’d have a problem staying pregnant. And I could never predict the lack of control I felt while failing to grow a healthy baby.
In the beginning, a positive pregnancy test felt triumphant; I downloaded an app to tell me the exact number of days and weeks pregnant I was, the size of my baby compared to fruit, the dimension of my child’s hand. But each celebration of new life was cut short by miscarriage. The scarcity (or abundance) of my symptoms created a panic as I sluggishly awaited the day I could breathe and rejoice in motherhood. One worry came with another suffocating worry. Maybe I was on birth control for too long, or I exercised too hard, or I drank too much caffeine, or worried about worrying too much. Maybe worst of all, my husband and I were mismatched genetically. Maybe this emotional and spiritual compatibility I have with my husband is incompatible physically. The thought about killed me.
The weeks felt like years and minutes like hours. As I moved from the first pregnancy to the second to the third, a positive pregnancy test became the first step in a series of steps; what was once a victory became a false summit.
After the miscarriages, I fought to pick myself back up, dust myself off, and search for God’s plan amidst the smoke and fire. I vowed to be a good, supportive friend to all the women around me who were carrying healthy babies. I searched for comfort in my husband, knowing that if biological babies weren’t in our future, we would continue to live without regret as long as we had each other. I worked every second not to place the blame on God. In moments where waiting and understanding seemed so tough and anxiety trickled in, I prayed the Lord’s Prayer, a soothing meditation for my heart.
The lowest moments of my life were during the weeks the sewage soaked our backyard.
Like some kind of Murphy’s Law moment, Karli told me about her unexpected pregnancy the same afternoon I found out my HCG levels were barely rising. The beautiful heartbeat my friend described fluttering away in her belly was something I’d never gotten to see before. My heart was already preparing for a third miscarriage and I was unable to rejoice with her.
In response to my sobbing cries, Karli said:
Stephanie. If having an IUD in place and still getting pregnant is not a perfect example of how God defies all odds, I don’t know what is. Listen to me! Listen. He makes miracles happen. And I don’t believe it’s His plan to have me get pregnant and you miscarry. I just don’t believe it.
During my anticipation of excruciating grief, I believe God used my friend’s words as an instrument. With faith, grace, and conviction, Karli helped my heart consider that what seemed too good to be true, might actually be true. My doubt hesitated for a moment as I turned to face the window that overlooked my backyard; in the middle of the sewage, I spotted something growing in the mess.
Two pinkish-lavender lilies had sprouted, opened towards the sun, and sat there tranquilly. It was like they developed in the anticipation of my grief and grew larger with the richness of Karli’s words. It was then the pain of my past started to make sense to me. As I stared at them I envisioned my friend’s child and mine growing together. With a dropped jaw, I spoke:
Kar, you’ll never believe what is growing out of the sewage in my backyard.
Preaching directly to me, both in the words of my friend and the two beautiful lilies in my backyard, God was revealing that the messiness of life is the catalyst for the most beautiful parts. Sewage makes the best fertilizer. He was about to redeem everything.
Weeks later, we saw our child’s heartbeat for the first time and heard the lub-dub of her little life. And one short week after Karli first held her son, I held my daughter.
I had been hollowed out, only to be abundantly filled up with the most precious of gifts, my baby Julienne Grace. She was always meant to be ours and we were always meant to be hers.
The pipes were fixed, the backyard dried, the ground absorbed all of the waste.
And flowers grew.
Guest post written by Stephanie Martinez. Stephanie is a Colorado native whose heart currently resides in sunny, California. She is a firm believer that home is found wherever her husband and baby girl are. Stephanie is a part-time nurse, full-time mama, wife, and Jesus-lover who runs primarily off coffee and burritos. In her mind, nothing beats dinner at the beach, yoga, or the taste of a good sour beer. She writes for the fun of it and can be found on Instagram.