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This one's for April.

Infertile women and women who miscarry get this a lot: "It wasn't meant to be." "Maybe God's trying to tell you something." "If nature wanted you to be a parent..."

These things are generally said by someone who apparently has special knowledge of some grand plan. It's a hard thing to hear, especially when we're wondering whether there is any grand plan. When you haven't conceived after yet another cycle, or when you've lost a deeply desired pregnancy, that's a puzzling question. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that one of three things must be true:

  1. There is no God;
  2. There is a God and He's fucking with me; or
  3. He's not fucking with me, but He doesn't care enough to stop whatever is.
Well, hey, it all looks so good I don't know where to begin!

It's bad enough when other people say such things to you and you don't believe it. I find it worse, though, when it comes from the little voice inside my head — sometimes James Earl Jones, sometimes Elmer Fudd, sometimes Fran Drescher, which wakes me screaming in the night. Worse when I suspect it might be true.

Now, I don't believe in God, so it's easy for me to accept that there is no cranky otherworldly architect consulting a blueprint, making careful notes on the precise placement of the ottoman I'll shortly trip over. (Hey, it was funny when Dick Van Dyke did it...) But I do believe in something, some kind of universal balance, where we all eventually come out even. So when bad things happen to me, I can generally accept them as being the price for my enormous good fortune in finding Paul, in the love of my parents, in having a life that's been mostly very happy.

The circumstances of Charlie's birth jolted me out of that acceptance. I don't mean I shook my fist at an uncaring universe; I mean that for the first time it occurred to me that maybe Charlie wasn't supposed to happen at all. And that scared me. Out of something really bad — infertility, pregnancy loss, a pregnancy riddled with complications, premature birth, and a few harrowing weeks of illness, his and mine — we'd somehow snatched something really good. Charlie.

So every day I have the uneasy feeling that we've gotten away with something.

It is impossible for me to look at him without thinking, We almost didn't have you. Maybe he wasn't meant to be. Maybe, in exchange for its staggering generosity in giving us Charlie, the universe will exact some terrible payment, so that my life will maintain its balance.

But then I think of theologian Paul Tillich's profound and simple definition of grace: accepting that you are accepted.

I want to live my life with that kind of grace, without second-guessing my own good fortune. I can't assume it as my due; that's not what Tillich meant. Instead, at my best, I can be humbled by it and grateful for it, surprised to the core but still trusting that it was meant, in some cosmic non-religious sense, for me. Sometimes.

April's post made me realize that this idea applies to infertile women, too. I'm not talking about some highfalutin' pseudo-spiritual way of saying, "Relax, it will happen," or "If you have enough faith..." Nothing of the kind. It's more along the lines of, "Accept that you are worthy. You deserve to be a mother just like anyone else. Don't let others make you doubt it. Don't let the bastards get you down."

If you decide — you, on your own (and perhaps, I grudgingly concede, in consultation with your partner, whose wisdom on this point had better be positively Solomonic or I'll sic James Earl Jones on his weaselly ass) — that you don't want to pursue parenthood anymore, that's one thing. But if it's the voices of others, be it your absurdly fertile sister-in-law or the dog who goaded Son of Sam or Elmer Fudd himself, it's another.

Accept that you are accepted. Don't let those bastards get you down.