"You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means," said Inigo to Vizzini. (Anyone not getting that reference is sadly lacking in their 80's pop culture!) This phrase comes to my mind frequently when I hear people say that they 'know' something that is empirically impossible to prove. Like, for example, "I know that the church is true." I don't believe that is 'knowledge', per say. Not as Webster defines it, anyway. Or me.
To know something means to "be aware of the truth or factuality of, be convinced or certain of, to have a practical understanding of", the fact or idea in question. Or, to have sexual intercourse with. But that strays into an entirely different facet of 'knowing' that I won't go into today. Some other time, perhaps.
A couple of years ago, my husband and I had some fierce battles about what it meant to know. Until one day, when I shouted in frustration, "You can't know something that can't be proved! You can hope, and you can believe, but, you can't know!" To which he replied, "You did." And I had to concede the point. There was one instance, one time, when I did indeed 'know' something that could not be proven.
My third child, a son, was born when I was 36. I felt ancient, way too old to be having a child, and I vowed that he was it. I was done. That decision felt right and good, and I was content. Until the day I brought him home from the hospital. I'd sensed a disquieting murmur in the back of my mind, something I couldn't get a handle on, or name, since he'd been born, but I'd chalked it up to the trauma of giving birth. Trauma doesn't fully describe it, but this isn't a birthing blog, so I'll skip over the horror of pushing a fully developed 9 1/2 pound human being out of my body. (I'm having flashbacks! Get me some chocolate, quick!!)
The early days and weeks after my son's birth were difficult ones. He was fussy and cranky whenever we left the house, screaming for hours in the car or at Lagoon or Bear Lake or the store. Anywhere I took him, he was unhappy. Daron said that he must be a homebody, because he was pretty content when we were at home. He just didn't like being on public display, I guess. I think this was an early manifestation of the anxiety that has plagued him throughout his young life. He liked continuity, and structure, and boundaries; still does. None of which came easily to me.
He also liked just sitting in his car seat. I'd put him in the seat and place him on the kitchen floor, and he would watch me intently as I moved about. And, occasionally, I'd catch him smiling and waving, and I'd smile back, thinking he was looking at me. Except when I got up close, I could tell he wasn't; his attention seemed focused on something beyond me, something over my shoulder that wasn't there when I turned around. I figured it had more to do with the inability of babies to focus their eyes than on anything supernatural. But it kept happening, and kind of started to freak me out.
Then there was the feeling that had been dogging me ever since I'd given birth to him. And even now, almost 16 years later, I can't get the words right. Attempting to describe it makes me feel anxious. And derisive. I don't put much stock in stories people tell of visitations they've had from the great beyond. I'm just skeptical. But, I couldn't deny this very strong feeling I had that there was another child waiting to be part of our family. Ugh. That sounds so "Saturday's Warrior". I may have to turn in my skeptic's card for this. So be it.
Anyway, this feeling I had wasn't a pleasant one. I really, really did not want another child. More specifically, I didn't want another pregnancy. I was a cranky expectant momma, and I had no desire to repeat the experience. But I couldn't shake it. After about 10 weeks of suffering silently (something else that doesn't come easily to me!), I voiced my fears out loud. I told my husband that I felt like there was another child for us, and that it was a girl. And he laughed. He said, and I quote, "You can't know that!" But I did. I knew it. I didn't want to know it, had spent the previous 2 1/2 months denying it. But there it was. And I'd said it out loud, so there was no going back. And, once I'd said the words, the feelings of anxiety I'd had went away. And my son quit waving to imaginary beings hanging out over my shoulder.
Hubby had always wanted more children, so he was more than willing to go along with my story. We decided not to delay . We weren't getting any younger, and I had plans for my life post children that I didn't want to postpone any longer than I had to. I had not had any difficulty getting pregnant with any of the other children, and I had no reason to believe that this time would be any different. Except for my age. Apparently, eggs are not viable forever. And thus began the strange odyssey that resulted in Grace's birth.
The first year of infertility taught me only that I don't always get what I want, when I want it, even when I think it is also what God wants. It was a difficult lesson. Even in my adulthood, I continue to act like a petulant child. I threw several tantrums that year, crying and wailing, angry at God for telling me that I should have another child, then not following through. We tried, month after bloody month (no pun intended--- I just like using British swear words). To no avail. I wasn't getting pregnant. After a few months, I went to the doctor to see what the problem was. And I started tracking my temperature every morning, trying to pinpoint ovulation so we could time our 'coupling' (or 'knowing', if you'd prefer), and get this damn kid here already! Sex used to be fun. Now it became a chore. Success wasn't measured by pleasure, only by peeing on a stick. Thinking of the desperation of those days makes me a little anxious again.
About a year into it, I did get pregnant, but I only found out because I was having a miscarriage. I still haven't figured out the 'why' of that one. I want everything to have a reason, to make sense, and that didn't. But it did spur us on to consider more aggressive means to achieve our end goal. So I started on fertility pills. That wasn't any more fun than actual pregnancy. In fact, less fun. It felt like pregnancy, except that it wasn't. All the hormonal misery, none of the excitement. And I wondered if maybe I was putting my faith in the arm of flesh instead of God, and if that was why I wasn't pregnant. Was God testing me? (I don't miss that Mormon mindset--- sometimes life just happens, and it isn't about God at all.)
In the midst of my all-consuming quest to get pregnant, we attended a regional conference in which Jeffrey R. Holland spoke. He 'congratulated' those present for their faithfulness in attending, joking about the Mormon tendency to view conference days as 'vacation from church' days. He then proceeded to pronounce an apostolic blessing on the congregation. I was all ears at this point. He promised us that, according to our faithfulness, the righteous desires of our hearts would be granted. I was moved to tears, thinking those words were for me alone. Hubby and I were not regular conference attenders, and had dragged our young ones there believing that we would be blessed for making the effort. And there it was! A promise, from an apostle's mouth, that what I really, really wanted, my righteous desire, would be granted. Because I had attended conference that day. (I blush now at my naivete. But, I so wanted to believe his words.)
Because of the promise made, I assumed, wrongly it turned out, that I'd be pregnant the next month. I was almost giddy with excitement. Then, the crushing disappointment when it didn't happen almost did me in. I was depressed, and angry at God, and despaired that any of my feelings had ever had any validity. I prayed desperately, begging God to tell me why I had been given this prompting, only to be disappointed over and over again. What was the point? What was the lesson? What do You want? Just tell me, and I'll do it! Anything! Sigh. . . I mostly just wanted to get on with my life, stop wanting something I obviously couldn't have, and be content with what I had been given. I wanted the yearning gone. But the feeling, the 'knowing', persisted. Where was she? Was I not faithful enough for this blessing to be fulfilled? What more do You want? Tell me, please.
And then, one night, as I sat wallowing in my despair, throwing myself a good old-fashioned pity party, I got what I needed. And it came in a most unexpected way. I was up late, surfing TV stations mindlessly, not finding anything that could hold my attention for long, when I landed on the very end of an episode of "The Simpsons". I've never, ever watched an entire episode of that particular show, but for some reason, I hesitated to change the channel, and sat through the credits as they rolled past. I was that depressed. At the very end of the credits, a screen comes up with the logo for the production company responsible for the show, a screen that looks like a movie theater, and the words, "Gracie Films" pops up. And I knew, in that moment I knew, that I would have a daughter, and her name would be Grace. I knew it, and I can still feel the certainty of that moment. I cannot explain it, but it was as real to me as the remote control I held in my hand. Grace. A name that had never come up for consideration when discussing our future daughter. Grace. A gift, given freely, simply, without merit. Gracie.
I wrote in my journal that night, an infrequent event but one I'm glad for today. It was a short entry, just one sentence: "Within a year, we will have a daughter, and her name will be Grace." That was it. And it was dated April 27th, 2000. My daughter, Grace, was born on April 26th, 2001. One day short of a year. A prophetic birth, it would seem. And she was, from the very beginning, her brother's friend. They had a closer bond than I'd ever seen between siblings, and I attributed that bond to their pre-earth life together. We have joked with him, when he gets frustrated at her, that he is the one who invited her to join our family. So he has no one to blame but himself! (Their close bond has been tested severely by the trials and tribulations of puberty, both his and hers! But they are still close; I suspect they always will be.)
I was arrogant that day, when I challenged my husband's assertion that he 'knew' the church was true. And forgetful. I don't 'know' very many things, not like he professes to know, but I knew that Grace would be a part of our family. I don't know or understand the source of that knowledge, I don't have a clue what preceded this life, or what will follow, but, once upon a time, I 'knew' something that I could not prove. I knew that I would have a daughter. I just didn't know how much I would love her. She is Grace; beautiful, funny, insightful, forgetful, forgiving, loving, joyful, happy. Grace. And I'm so glad to know her.