“You should know that I’m not much of a handyman,” I told Bill. “My wife can’t count on me to do much of anything around the house.”
There’s the old chestnut that says honesty is the best policy, and if we were going to be offered this position managing the self-storage units called The Padlock, then my lack of handyman prowess seemed like a factoid that I should lay on the table before the owner Bill.
“Hmmm…well, thanks for telling me,” Bill said. “That’s not a deal-breaker. We can work around it.”
And so it was that in the spring of 1993, we packed up our little apartment in Vienna, Virginia, and headed back to the Midwest and our new place above a self-storage business in Mt. Prospect, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. The bedroom itself was a converted storage locker, the bathroom was full of mold, and the whole place needed a good coat of paint, but it was our new home, my new job (the residence + $300/month), and God’s provision as I began my seminary days.
The Padlock was in an industrial area, down a dead-end dirt road and right next to a “refuse transfer center” – that’s what we called it anyway. Garbage trucks would come there during the day and transfer their trash to a larger truck, which would haul it all away. Ah, the smell of the neighborhood after a spring rain.
With her Master’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies, my sweetie soon landed a job working for The Children’s Home and Aid Society, a company that contracted for the Department of Children and Family Services. Her job was family reunification; the gist of it was that she visited and checked on families that had been repeatedly accused of abuse or neglect. It was a tough job – I don’t think she was ever welcomed with open arms at the homes she visited, but she was finally working in her field after serving as an executive secretary in Northern Virginia.
So our new life was filled with the standard hardships of a couple starting out in life, but we were happy, and the future seemed bright.
When the Christmas season of 1993 arrived, we received an early gift of the best sort: Diane was pregnant. We had no idea how we were going to do this financially, but we were young and trusting God…and absolutely thrilled. I remember in particular one bright, blustery Saturday in early December when we headed out on the town with our little secret (we determined to keep it to ourselves until the 12 week mark), and a double mission – first, get a tree to bring a little Christmas spirit to our Padlock home, and second, to pick up a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. It was a great day of being together and celebrating what God was doing in our lives, but clouds were about to darken the days to come.
One evening, she was at her second job teaching a Marriage and Family class at Joliet Junior College (I called her “the Professor”), when in the restroom, she noticed some spotting. When she told me that night, we prayed, and made plans to see the doctor the next day.
“We’ll be able to tell by measuring your HCG levels,” the doc told us. “In a healthy pregnancy, the levels are multiplying. If you are miscarrying, the levels will be dropping.” And in another two days, the levels had indeed gone down. Our fears were confirmed. We were losing the baby.
Solomon had it just about perfect: Hope deferred makes the heart sick. That’s the verse that fits, I think. We had hope…the hope was deferred…our hearts…were sick.
But time heals heartsickness…and we began to recover. And whereas before we had stumbled into pregnancy, now we were, let’s say, more deliberate, which was just fine with me.
Before too long, our “hard work” paid off: the home test was positive once again; this time, however, we suppressed our joy. We knew what overriding happiness had brought us in the past, so we were determined to muffle it this time. “Okay, okay, good,” our thinking went, “but let’s not get too excited.” And to go along with our muffled joy, we kept it to ourselves again – that strategy had been important the first time – we didn’t have to endure awkward conversations with friends wondering how our little bundle of joy was doing.
But it wasn’t too long before our hope was deferred…again. Diane lost baby number 2 even sooner than the first.
For whatever reason, we went out for Chinese food that night, full of grief…and questions. Was something wrong with us? Would we ever have a child? The tidal wave of fear that had washed over so many in generations before now came to our shores.
But…life. Diane had a job, and I had the Padlock and my theological studies; we needed to keep moving. So we did. Meanwhile, our friends started having babies. When Diane was first pregnant, I remember having a thought about a good buddy of mine and how I was going to beat him to fatherhood. That was dumb. And I felt even worse when we got the notice that he and his wife were expecting their first. Pain was all around us.
And then, for the third time, the early pregnancy test showed a life growing in Diane’s womb. So…now what? Well…there have been moments in life when thoughts and ideas have presented themselves so clearly to me that I just knew they were true. I had such a moment as I pondered our third pregnancy…
To be continued…here: Praying for a Baby, Part 2