It's almost my birthday! I truly love my birthday. I always get hyped up weeks before and declare it "Princess Ashleigh Week/Month." And since gifts are my love language, you can imagine that on my birthday, I'm in heaven. I feel incredibly loved. It's always a great day.
But somehow this year it doesn't seem as exciting... not sure if it's the fact that I'll be 26 (not that that's old, it's just not exciting) or the fact that I'm pregnant and there's enough hype going on with the baby or it might be the fact that things have changed over the past year.
Soon after I turned 25, we began TTC (trying to conceive). It took longer than we had planned. The journey began in November. What made it difficult is that it seemed like all of my friends were getting pregnant right away - without even "trying." Really? Who does that? I didn't face the devastation I've seen some friends face since then - with fertility testing, pills, IVF, etc. But trying to get pregnant, praying to be pregnant, and then finding out each month that you're not pregnant - it's a terrible feeling. Yet still in the end, God reminded me of His goodness.
I'm sure I don't have to remind you. But at the end of this past March, I got the phone call about my brother. He was found dead in his apartment. He had relapsed a few months before. His friends had been with him that night. They were scared. They didn't know the severity. They were messed up themselves.
Some people say during grief that they can't eat. I can't relate. I ate - enough, anyway. But I couldn't sleep, especially not that first night. My whole body ached... throbbed. And I just sat up in bed sobbing, gasping for breath because it seemed like too much to handle. My world was shattered. My brother, my oldest friend, was gone. He knew me better than most, and yet he still loved me. He was giant teddy bear. At times, I still can't believe he's gone. I'll be left standing there, staring at a picture of us, and suddenly all I can physically think to myself is, "It shouldn't be this way."
I never realized the physical toll grief takes on the body. I'm pretty sure I only made it through those first few days by God's grace - and an adrenaline rush, His design. I was barely holding on. There's no way my body could have supported a baby too. During that time, I was so thankful not to be pregnant.
That next month, friends brought us meals several nights a week just so I could catch up on the school work I had missed and try to finish in time for graduation. I battled with the registrar to allow me to graduate. Eventually, they did, but that was a battle that shouldn't have needed to be fought.
I began going to my own counseling and even attend Al-Anon meetings, while at the same time trying to pick myself back up and just make it through the rest of my internship. It eventually got easier. And thankfully none of my clients had grief or addiction issues that triggered me.
Then at the end of May, I took a test. Two pink lines. I couldn't believe it. Over those last two months, at the darkest point in my life, God had continually been whispering in my ear, "I am good." And the thing was - I didn't need convincing, which I remember thinking was odd. His goodness was the one thing I was sure of. And then here it was - a physical sign, right in front of my face. God hadn't forgotten us.
I beamed for days - weeks, even. Don't hear me saying that suddenly life was okay. Life was good. But it was still moving on. Having joy in the midst of grief was a struggle. These days, I'm doing better, and though I have my slump-like days, most days are looking up.
The baby is continually moving - so now when I think of Austen, it isn't uncommon for the thought to be followed by a poke on my inside. I guess it's a continual reminder that God's Word is real. The Gospel is not just a message of hope. Before that hope came deep sadness and longing - a desperation for some kinda of redemption.
Turning 26 has brought up a lot of emotions... one just being sadness... I'm going to be 26. Austen should be 24, almost 25. But instead, he's stuck in my memory as 23, just two days shy of 24. It has certainly been a whirlwind of a year. But I am continually in awe of God's goodness and perfect timing in bringing this child into our lives so soon after.
My birthday is on Thursday. As luck has it, my youngest brother William is playing his championship football game this Thursday (my birthday!) here in Dallas, so my family will all be in town. I am thankful for this. I know there will be a time during the day when I'll seem distant or just need to slip away, as I wipe a tear from my eye, but they get it. I'm thankful to have a wonderful husband to stand beside me and a great family that can surround me that day.
Here's to a great birthday and a new year to come.