About six months before Camilla was born, Bryan and I calculated that if we wanted to have children fewer than three years apart, and given the two-and-a-half years it had taken to conceive Camilla, we needed to start trying pretty much immediately. Ridiculous, of course, since I was pregnant at the time, but we were in a goofy mood that day so we decided we would officially go on record - between ourselves, anyway - as "trying" for baby number two. We thought we were pretty cute.
What we didn't think was that it would actually work.
Two weeks ago at Mass I had a particularly fruitful meditation time after communion. I'd been realizing that I needed to store up some emotional reserves for the upcoming birth of my sister's baby; as much as I've been doing well with being nothing but happy about her pregnancy, I knew that the appearance of an actual infant could make me struggle a little to hold on to the peace I've been enjoying over the past months. As I knelt there and looked up at the crucifix I prayed the prayer I've prayed so many times before: for the grace to let His will be mine. And I was renewed, as I've been so many times before, in the assurance that whatever that will is, I can come up with no better path for my life.
The funny thing was that I also realized during that meditation that there is a part of me that sees more years of childlessness as the lighter burden. I'd been feeling a little unwell recently, had been tired and nauseated, I assumed because of some bug, and it had reminded me that pregnancy, although certainly a blessing, can sometimes take the form of a cross as well. The hardness of daily life as a mother - and watching my sister prepare to bring home a newborn all over again - had reminded me that motherhood itself can be a path to sanctity through suffering. And although I know through personal experience that motherhood also brings more joy than infertility, there was a tiny part of me, in that moment, that was slightly relieved at the idea that I might draw the physically-easier (although spiritually more challenging, for me anyway) card and spend the next years being sanctified in my wait for a child rather than in bearing more of them.
Really, if I'd been writing a story I don't think I could have written it better. Foreshadowing, plot twists, and the charming heroine oblivious to the whole drama. Very, very clever.
It was (I thought) cycle day twenty-four and so I had no suspicions about my daily-increasing exhaustion and nausea. But that day, Sunday, after a depressing afternoon of I-just-want-a-nap and I'm-hungry-but-all-food-sounds-disgusting, I finally agreed that it might be a good idea if Bryan ran out and bought a pregnancy test. Not, of course, because it could possibly be positive. But just so I could rule it out and get on with my life as the victim of an icky virus.
I cannot overemphasize how sure I was that the test would be negative. It was cycle day 24, in the evening, way too early to possibly be having pregnancy symptoms, and anyway I'd thought I hadn't even ovulated that month. I was so certain that the news would be nothing that I took the test when Bryan was in the bedroom putting Camilla to sleep for the night. When the second blue line showed up, clear as day, I was shocked, and actually grabbed for the instructions to make sure I wasn't supposed to be looking for a cross instead of two lines, looking for something, anything, that would explain this insanity. No, there it was. The test was definitely telling me that I was pregnant.
I stared at the crazy little thing for a while. I then found a calendar and puzzled for a long time over when this could possibly have happened so that I'd already be having symptoms and getting a strong positive pregnancy test on the evening of cycle day twenty-four. (It's taken me two weeks to come to this conclusion, but I've finally decided that my last period must have been not a period at all but misleadingly-timed implantation spotting.) I must have shaken my head a hundred times, I was so bewildered by the whole thing.
Just before my head started to ache from all the shaking, and an interminable twenty minutes after the pregnancy test had dried, Bryan came out of the bedroom. So trusting was he of my earlier assurances that it would be negative that he was completely unsuspecting, and I had to remind him that I'd been going to take a test before I showed it to him and blew his socks off. Then he stared at the wall for a long, long while.
I left him and drove to the store to buy Unisom which was one of my reliable nausea-reducers during my last pregnancy, and when I came home I had been listening to Fernando Ortega in the car and my face was covered with happy tears and Bryan and I sat together on the couch, holding hands, meditating on things to come and God's amazing goodness to us.
And still, and always, it remains true that the things He brings to us are far greater than anything we could imagine ourselves.