Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Thursday, April 19, 2018

cram_halfFor Dickie, Pat and Carla, who walk with me through the valleys.

Peter and I had been married for three years. We were young and healthy, and finally ready to start a family.

We had it all planned out. I’d get pregnant with our first child, resign from my position at IBM, and become a mom at home. We’d have three children in rapid succession so they’d be close in age. Maybe we’d go wild by having a fourth child. Peter’s job was secure and we were thrifty, so the plan seemed solid.

But months passed without a pregnancy, then a year. Two years. Doctors poked me with needles. I submitted to drugs, hormones, and painful tests. Still no pregnancy.

The yearning for a child was profound, rising from deep within my being. Why would God instill in me such a yearning, then deny its fulfillment? It made no sense.

One day I read a Bible story in the book of II Samuel about young King David. He had disobeyed God, so God instructed him to build an altar on the threshing floor of a certain Jebusite man, in order to make a sacrifice to the Lord. King David approached the man and asked to purchase his threshing floor, but the Jebusite man offered it free of charge, along with oxen and wood.

King David declined the generous offer, insisting instead on paying full price. "I will not offer to God a sacrifice that cost me nothing," the king explained.

I read that again: "I will not offer to God a sacrifice that cost me nothing."

What did that mean?

I thought about Lent. If I hate brussels sprouts, it’s not much of a sacrifice to give up brussels sprouts for Lent. Instead, I might give up chocolate, or television, or Facebook. Why? Because I want to offer to God a sacrifice that costs me something.

Did this mean I had to sacrifice to God my plan for children? In fact, wasn’t I supposed to submit to God every plan for my life, in favor of his plan?

To be honest, the thought terrified me. I mean, I had dreams for my life. What if God disappointed me?

God had never disappointed me before, so gradually, painfully, I began to relinquish my vise-grip on my life. "Not my will, but your will," I prayed often, even when I wasn’t sure I meant it. "Not my will, but your will."

And still I was not pregnant.

But it did happen. As we began our seventh year of marriage, we welcomed a son, Peter Jr., a.k.a. Skip. A year and a half later, our joy was magnified with the arrival of a daughter, Meredith, followed by another daughter, Tierney. And yes, we were outlandish enough to have a fourth child, Victoria. We were ecstatic. Truth be told, we couldn’t wait to have a fifth and a sixth child. But I get ahead of myself.

It was a scorching July day when I gave birth to Victoria. The baby was perfect but I suffered a complication during labor. The next thing I knew, I was groggily regaining consciousness in the intensive care unit. I could hear nurses talking quietly. "Who’s going to tell her?" one nurse whispered. "Not me!" said another. "It’s going to break her heart. You tell her."

The news did break my heart. The complication had been catastrophic, and lifesaving measures had included extreme emergency surgery. What she was trying to say was that I was no longer able to bear children.

I cried for 10 years.

Friends were baffled by my reaction. I mean, we had four children; how much could a girl want?

But family size was supposed to be my decision. It was my choice. Why should that choice be snatched away by some random act of nature?

Once again, I struggled to sacrifice my plans to God’s tender care. Once again, it was a sacrifice that cost me dearly. It was no easier the second time around.

Relinquishing our plans to God is hard. For me, the struggle revolved around family; others wrestle with health, career or marriage. The fundamental question is the same: will I, or will I not submit my carefully arranged plans to God? Can I trust him? And if I do, will God meet my deepest needs?

God answered this question long ago through the prophet Jeremiah. "I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."

That’s good enough for me.

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.