“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ” Romans 8:38-39
Well, we’re almost there.
Tomorrow (as in 30 minutes from now) is Jackson Glen’s due date. I am looking forward to meeting this little baby boy. For some time now, he has been committed to practicing his goal kicks from 9:30 to 11:30 at night. He takes a break and then runs back out on the field around 3:30AM. I break when he breaks. The whole process has left me pretty exhausted in the mornings. It’s also left me wondering just how well developed his quads must be.
I have an amazing husband who has graciously taken the kids to school after a few practically sleepless nights. Yes, that’s why Josiah’s cowlicks have been especially prolific the last few days and why he creatively paired khaki socks with gray tennis shoes today for his Easter egg hunt. It’s also why Abby’s miniscule hairbow she donned on her very, very low ponytail–we’re talking two inches below the base of her skull–was one she last wore as an 18-month-old. But I’m not a perfectionist control freak or anything, so it’s fine. Really, it’s fine. Also, her socks were not evenly rolled down to meet the top of her Keds. But no, really, it’s fine. Yes, my eye is twitching. Truly, though, I’m fine.
Jackson Glen’s preoccupation with being the MVP of playground kickball (team captain, here we come) has really affected my sleep, but Joey has been as sweet as he can possibly be. The only thing I’m holding out for is that Joey, in a moment of feeling terribly sorry for his exhausted and rather rotund wife, will relinquish his rights to the child’s name. Jackson was pretty much Joey’s choice. He wanted another “J” name in the family to fit nicely with Joey and Josiah (as well as Joe, Sr.; Joe, Jr.; John; John, Jr.; Jeremy; Jonathan; Judah–I could go on). I liked this idea, too. It’s sweet to have family connections and to feel that you fit into a family pattern (hence, Amista, Abby, and Anna). I was able to suggest Glen, my Daddy’s middle name, so that this little McMath would have a Rowell connection, too. So we are kind of at a crossroads and on even playing ground with our next dilemma: Joey really likes the name Jackson; I prefer Jack. (I guess you could call it even, if you don’t take into consideration that I am the one who has dealt with the morning sickness, heartburn, restless legs, leg cramps, exhaustion, stretch marks, forty extra pounds, etc. I won’t bring that up, though. That would be tacky.)
I actually love both names. My problem (and main argument) is that there are like seven Jacksons in every homeroom class and hospital nursery. That might be an exaggeration, but it’s not much of one. It tickles me how I will call our son Jackson in front of Joey because I love my husband and want to please him. He, likewise, will call him Jack in front of me because he likes me a lot, too. We have agreed to hold him and see which name fits him best, so we are truly open to whatever friends want to call him. Hearing people say the two different names may help us decide which one works best for him. And I’m totally open to Jackson because, as I mentioned before, I’m not a control freak at all. I mean, really. We can just make sure the teacher calls him Jackson Mac so as not to be confused with the other six Jacksons in his class. Not a big deal.
All kidding aside, we are both absolutely in love with our little Jack(son) Glen McMath, and we are going to love calling him by either name–or both! We can’t wait to see what God has for him and for our family. He must have a great plan for our son, one that involves healing and a deeper understanding of God’s heart for our whole family. It has been difficult for me to put into words the way this pregnancy has felt. I have not intentionally hidden my emotions–I just haven’t always known why one moment I was giddy and the next moment I wanted to cry. I knew it wasn’t just hormones. It’s been complicated.
While we are so incredibly grateful for this baby boy, we still mourn Anna. And in many ways, the pregnancy has heightened that loss because feeling our baby kick and watching me grow reminds us of that delicate pregnancy that introduced us to a darkness and a pain we had never known. On this journey with Jackson, I have come to accept that it’s okay to celebrate and mourn the same moment. I recently read an article written by a man who had lost his teenage son to a brief, terrible infection. He compared the grief and joy of life as two rails on the same track. You can, indeed, experience them simultaneously. A dear friend shared in a sweet card that even as we welcome Jack into the world, we will mourn Anna again. There will be tears of joy and sadness. We know that neither life nor death can separate us from the love of God. Actually, they both can bring us closer to Him. I must choose to take each thought captive to Him. It’s not that I can’t question Him or ask why. It’s just that I need to take my questions to Him instead of walking alone, sometimes fruitlessly allowing my thoughts to take me down a path that does not end in a clearing but instead in a thicket. I have chosen Him many times; sometimes, though, I have chosen the sticker bushes and thorns.
Last Friday, I was faced with that choice again as we celebrated and mourned Anna’s third birthday. Carrying Jack, at times, has intensified the grief, but carrying him has also forced me to look ahead and anticipate what God has for our family’s future. On a day that I have, in the past, allowed myself to curl up in a ball and just survive, my body would not let me rest. Nesting had already set in and prodded me to get busy–washing clothes, cleaning baseboards, preparing our home for the little baby who will soon join our family and forever change who we are.
After school on Friday, Josiah brought me a sucker he had saved, a reward he received at the end of the school day for good behavior. He told me he wanted me to have it because I had “born” Anna, so if I ate it, it would be sort of like letting Anna have it. It was his best effort to give her a gift for her birthday. Then he got frustrated and just said, “I wish we could have brought her home with us.” He asked me a couple of questions about her body and her grave. I held it together and tried to answer his questions. A few minutes later I went into my bathroom and let the dam break. It was that same, familiar, knife-twisting pain. I wanted to celebrate her birthday with her and buy her a “Big Sister” tshirt. I wanted to stay mad and just sit in my pain for a while longer. But ultimately, in this moment, I did not. I decided to take Josiah out and celebrate life with him. Abby was exhausted from a three-mile walk she had participated in at school, so she and Joey hung out at home. I freshened up my makeup, changed into non-stained, post-1998ish clothing, and Josiah and I went out on the town.
Josiah’s idea of a good time was a movie theatre arcade and a ten-dollar bill. After he played games and (amazingly) won two toys with that silly claw, we went to Waffle House. I let Josiah pour his own syrup. It was a big moment. He kept looking at me out of the corner of his eye, amazed that he was actually getting away with the puddling of syrup on his plate, practically a capital offense in our home. By the time he was done, there was syrup in his hair, mine (okay, okay, I ate two bites as payment for cutting the waffle into oh-my-word delicious bite-sized pieces), and on several sticky, sticky napkins.
Listening to Josiah talk excitedly and rock his body back and forth in the Waffle House booth, I rode the rails of joy and grief, thankful yet broken-hearted at the same time. And I think when we welcome this little gift from God–who right now is kick, kick, kicking, apparently preparing for the state-qualifying heat of the 110 hurdles–we will ride those same rails. We will be terrified, overjoyed, emptied, and filled, all at once. And none of those emotions will separate us from the One who chose us to be Jackson’s family.
What a ride He has in store for us. What a glorious journey lies ahead. We are ready, Jackson. Jack. JG. Maybe you can tell us which name you like best. Until then, perhaps I’ll just call you my baby boy, my precious, precious gift from God. Any day now, son! We love you, little one!