“I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You’d just say the word
But even if You don’t
My hope is You alone”
-MercyMe, Even If
Time Check: 3:30pm. Day: Sometime in April. Place: Meanwood Valley Park, Headingley, Leeds.
We had been trying for almost a year now. When you have been through the emotional highs and lows of expecting and being disappointed for that long, your mind begins to build defences. Ways in which to insulate yourself from yet another negative pee stick or yet another period. For me, the hardest thing was seeing my wife go through this and knowing there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. We both knew either of us might be the reason we weren’t conceiving, but only one of us had to go through the process of conceiving. It is a terrible thing to behold your wife and not be able to provide the one thing you both know would mean the world. There were nights we prayed out loud and asked God to come through for us. There were nights when we silently asked Him why He wasn’t doing so. I have always preferred to talk with God rather than pray in the traditional sense. To hold silent conversations with Him, sometimes lasting hours.
One such conversation happened in the spring of 2014. I was taking a long walk through Meanwood Park, not too far from where we were living. The park is a sprawling expanse of greenery, with forest cover at the edges and a stream that runs across the lower end. The weather was still chilly (by my Ugandan standards), but the sun had started coming out more often than not. We usually took the long walks together, but this time I was alone. I needed to think. To talk with God. As I crossed the bridge into the park, I asked God why He had been so unresponsive to our prayers. I wondered what good could possibly come out of this pain. At an intellectual level, several theological answers came to mind.
“All things work together for the Good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose”
“This is the test that comes before the testimony”
“God’s ways are not man’s ways, His timing is not yours”
“The harder the test, the greater the victory/testimony”
As someone that had been a Christian (leader) most of my life, I had these multiple words of comfort at the back of my mind and they came flooding through.
But in that moment, words of encouragement are not what I needed. I needed straight, logical answers from Him who had promised never to leave us nor forsake us. I didn’t need a pep talk. My faith wasn’t in need of a quick word of encouragement.
I just wanted God to speak to me and answer that question. Nothing more, nothing less.
Usually, whenever I mentally put a question to God during such chats, I try to clear my mind of everything and be alert to His promptings. Sometimes, a bird chirps in a manner that reminds me of a bible verse, or makes me think of a pretty profound idea. Other times it’s a stranger that passes by and smiles or a thought that I know for certain must be God speaking back to me. Sometimes the message is abstract and it takes a while for me to unpack it. Other times it is crystal clear and it all makes sense in a split second.
That day, I saw a mother walking towards me with a pushchair. In it was a little baby that I guessed was not more than 2 months old. She (I am guessing here, well knowing it could easily have been a boy) was swaddled in pink blanket and cap and as they passed by me, I could only see a small bit of her head. She was a pretty little thing. The mother smiled- that brief, auto-mode smile I have come to expect from people here, and swiftly moved on. I walked through the lower end of the park, following the path of the stream until I got to a bench that faced the water.
I sat down and cried.
For whatever reason, seeing that child brought to the fore all the longings I had to be a father. I cried like I hadn’t cried in a long, long time. All the frustration of trying and failing, all the worry and hurt, anger and anxiety, pain and shame…everything just came out of my body through my eyes in a steady flow of water, mucin, lipids, lysozyme, lactoferrin, lipocalin, lacritin, immunoglobulins, glucose, urea, sodium, and potassium; also known as tears.
As I cried, my mind just kept asking the question for which no sufficient answer had been offered: why?
Up to this point, I had put up a pretty brave face in my conversations with my wife. I always told her it would be fine. I’d hold her and tell her I was certain we were going to be pregnant some day soon. I had always tried to find the words to say, the pep talk to give, the verses to quote. But in that park, on that bright spring afternoon, I was confronted with the overwhelming possibility that my wife and I might never be with child. And as I cried my heart out, my mind began to examine my predicament in a way I had never contemplated before. Here’s the short version.
Ganzi why are you crying like a baby? What do you mean crying like a baby? What’s wrong with crying like a baby? Nothing. I didn’t say there was anything wrong with crying like a baby. I asked why are you crying like a baby? Yeah, I know, but why did you think of a baby? Why did you have to use that expression….Ganzi, focus, it really doesn’t matter which expression I use, it will all come down to the unanswered question you are trying to avoid…why are you crying (like a baby)? Stop using like a baby! Ok. Like a baby crying for breastmilk? No, that’s very inaccurate. I’m not hungry. Like a baby crying because the mother is going to work for the first time. No, that’s not accurate either, I am not in fear of being left at home by anything. Whatever…why are you crying like…ok, let’s find the best way to describe this cry. Like a chimpanzee? That’s racist! Lol! Ok, like what now? A wounded lion? Do lions cry? Well, if they are wounded they must let out some kind of noise. Yeah, but would it be a cry or a roar? I don’t know. I guess it depends on whether it tears or not. So the description of the sound would change based on whether or not the lion tears? I guess not. But you get the point…anyway, Ganzi, why are you crying? Okay, okay. I’m crying because I’ve held back a lot of emotions for a very long time. Ok, then finish and go. No, it’s not like that. Then how is it like? The emotions won’t just go. Ok, so why are you crying? Because…I don’t know. It hurts. Ok, will it stop hurting when you finish? I don’t know. Yes you do. Ok, no it won’t. Ok, so why are you crying? Just shut up. There’s nothing ashaming about a grown man crying. I know there’s nothing ashaming, that wasn’t the question…okay, okay shut up. Shut Up. SHUTTTTUPPP!! I just want us to have a baby.But what if you don’t?
The entire conversation lasted five to 10 seconds. I kept crying for far longer, but after that point, the weeping was pretty focused. What if we didn’t have children?
As the tears subsided and my sobs became less violent, my mind began to seriously ponder the unanswered question.
What if you don’t?
Our marriage counsellors had taught us that a man and wife are a complete family and that children are from God. But society had taught us that children are a prerequisite to transitioning from being a couple to being a family. I could make several intellectual arguments about how complete we were, but ultimately, my mind had to make room for the heart. And the heart has a mind of its own. It was to my heart, not my mind that the question was being posed; what if you don’t have kids of your own?
Until this moment, all my arguments and understanding of family and children had been theoretical, intellectual or otherwise grounded in reason. It was like losing a parent. Before you actually lose your parent, you think you have an idea of what it would be like. Your friend loses a parent and you sympathise with them. You imagine what they are going through and feeling sorry for them, but you never quite fully grasp it until you lose your own. And when you do, you understand it in a way you know you can never fully explain. And when a friend next loses a parent, you empathise…walking in their shoes and knowing that what they really need isn’t another bible verse or some rational explanation about how God cares, but a kindred soul that will sit with you, not say a word and yet say everything that needs to be said in the silence that ensues.
What if we don’t? Well, I really don’t want to think about it, but if we don’t have kids, then we don’t have kids. What else can be said about the matter? Well, lots. For starters, will you and Diana be fine? What does that even mean, of course we will be fine. Will you still love her? What kind of question is that? Of course I will still love her. Will you still want to be married to her? Ok, stop right there! Why are you thinking like this? Why are you thinking as if us not having children would automatically be because of her? Well, that’s not what I’m asking. Whether it is because she is infertile or because you are sterile or for whatever reason, scientific or spiritual or a combination of both, the question is, will you still want to be with her?
Does she know that?
Several minutes had passed as I sat on that bench and my mind communed with God. My tears had dried up and it was getting dark. As I stood up and started walking home, I felt like a new being. I felt like a man with a mission. For months, I had allowed our relationship to be framed (at least in our eyes) as one in which we were trying to have kids. In that context and that frame, we were failing and there were plenty of reasons to be unhappy. But our lives were much more than sexual intercourse for the purpose of procreation. I had understood this intellectually for years, but now, I knew it as an orphan knows death. We were also lovers. We were postgraduate students. We were auntie and uncle to the world’s best nieces and nephews. We were friends with the world’s best friends. We were son and daughter, grandchildren, employees, neighbours, classmates, colleagues…we were human. And we had to start thinking of ourselves as more than just two people trying to have babies.
What if we didn’t have children? To hell with that. I loved my wife and I wanted her to know it.
That night, I told my wife I loved her. I told her I knew we would have children of our own one day. But even if we didn’t, I wanted her to know that it was okay. I was in for the long haul, whatever life brought our way. We had planned to visit family in Europe in June/July. That night, we agreed to do more than just visit family. We would also visit Paris, the city of love.
Just the two of us.
Our Story Of Waiting To Be Ramya’s Parents Part 3