I've heard a lot in my life about choices-how to make good ones, ways to avoid bad ones, and the consequences of both. Most of the time when I think of making choices, I think along the lines of decisions I make to control some aspect of my life. There is action and initiative on my part to either do or not to do something that will in some way, big or small, effect the direction of my life. Yet what I've seen time and again over the past 5 months is that I've had very few "traditional" choices to make.
Instead, we are getting the chance to explore a new dimension to the concept of choice: not the choice to do anything that will change the outcome of what we are going through but the choice of how to respond to the many things that are out of our hands. Control freak or not, it can be an extremely frustrating place to be simply because it has the tendency to leave you feeling utterly helpless. There is something innate in me, and just about all red-blooded humans for that matter, that desires to "do" and to "act" in attempt to make things better. What Poppy has taught me is that many times this just isn't possible. The only "active" role I've had is to pray, a role that initially seemed very inactive, but as my eyes have gradually been opened, I now see as absolutely vital. But, my point is that I found out via real-life experience that many choices are ripped from my hands, leaving me only with decisions to make as to what my response will be to God, to life, to my family, and to myself.
Not long after Poppy died I was talking with my mom about the brevity of her life. Three short hours from the time she took her first breath to the time she took her last. Up to the point she was born, I only had the experiences of those who had gone before me to look at to ascertain any kind of expectation of what was to come, all the while knowing that no one else's experience would in any way dictate what would happen to us. I knew one couple who had lost their daughter after 9 months, one who had a 10 month daughter still living, one who had a boy who lived 3 months, one who had their baby for 8 days, and another who held their daughter for 11 hours before letting her go to Jesus. As I talked with my mom, I thought, "Now I can add myself to that list as one who had their daughter for 3 hours." My time was shorter than anyone else I had personally encountered, which made me wonder if that would scare the others I know who are still to come after me. When this thought crossed my mind it bothered me so badly. I hated that anyone would look on the time we had and feel fear for themselves or pity for us.
Of course if I had been given a choice in the matter, I would have Poppy here with me today, healthy and growing and getting ready to experience her first Christmas. But the hard truth is that God does not allow me or anyone else that choice. I do not have my baby today because He allowed for her to be taken home early, and if someone else out there is holding a healthy baby, it is not because of any choice they made but because God allowed that precious child to have sustained life. That being considered, I can explain why I am choosing not to be disappointed with the time God gave us with Poppy.
I knew going into this that for whatever reason I was not going to get to keep my daughter on this earth with me. I also knew that I had zero control over the amount of time she was given to stay. All of this got me to thinking "Why does God allow some of these babies to be still born, some to live minutes, some to live hours, and other days, months, and sometimes even years?" The only answer I could ever come to was simply: I DON'T KNOW. Just as in every other aspect of Poppy's disease, I can't explain or understand God's plans or purpose. Because of this, I knew I had to decide to trust the fact that God knows what I need better than I know myself. He can see the full picture when sometimes I can't make out even the faintest detail. That's why I decided before I went into her birth that regardless of the time, I would thank God for allowing us exactly what we needed. Then, as December 1st came and went, I knew in my heart that He had. For some reason, 3 hours was exactly what we needed and what God wanted for Poppy Joy Luce.
I have no idea why His plan for us wasn't to hold her for 2 days or 1 month or 2 years. I guess I could drive myself crazy trying to second guess God and question His plan for us, but if I did that, why start with His timing in taking her? Why not just go back to the fact that He gave us a daughter who had this disease in the first place? Once I walk down this road, where does it stop? At what point am I going to be satisfied with God's sovereignty in the things I don't understand? If I'm not willing to accept one aspect, why should I be willing to accept another?
This is where I made the biggest choice of this entire season of my life: the choice to accept that which I don't understand, to hold to the fact that God loves me and He has a plan for me, to praise Him even when I'm hurting and I don't feel like it. I've also made the choice to find the best in what we were given. For example, I see that in many ways I was spared tremendous pain in the brevity of her life. I never had to watch her struggle, or be hesitant to fall asleep out of fear of missing something. I never had to wake up day after day and wonder if this would be her last day. I didn't have to watch Marianna grow attached to her little sister and then have to explain why she was all of the sudden absent from our life. On the other hand, if we had been given more time, I would have found just as many positives in that.
I'm not saying that I walk around with a little Orphan Annie mentality or that I prefer to hide behind a pair of securely fastened rose-colored lenses. I'm simply saying that of the choices I've been given, I choose to do everything in my power to promote life. I don't want her memory to reap bitterness in my heart. How dishonoring that would be of her life to allow bitterness to be the outcome of her time with us in my own life! Instead, I want Poppy's legacy to result in greater joy and a more complete understanding of God than I've ever had before. I choose to trust Him with our future from here on out even when I continue not to understand. I choose to look at the news I received from the doctor this week that I will not be able to consider getting pregnant for 18 months because of the type of incision I had as something that He will use for good even though it's not what I want for myself.
Choice. It's a lot more involved than I used to think, but maybe the choices I've been allowed to make over the past months aren't so small and ineffectual after all.