More Than I Deserve

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| This is the 283rd story of Our Life Logs |


I was born on June 4, 1966, in Abington, Pennsylvania. I grew up in Lancaster County surrounded by farms and fields. Both my parents were devout Christians, so church was a big part of our lives. There were strict rules, which included the expectation to live chaste and obedient lives. Because of these teachings, I grew up thinking that I had to do things the “right way” to get good things in life.

When I wasn’t saying “yes” to authority, I was daydreaming of having my own family. I’d always wanted to have kids. From a young age, I believed there was a great deal of hope in having a child – that creating a new life was kind of a way to bring joy and beauty into the world.

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I started attending Wheaton College in Illinois in August of 1983. There, I started thinking, talking, and learning from people very different from me, and began questioning the lessons I’d been raised with. The line of morality became blurry; every “good” gesture carried a shadow of “bad.”

Still, I wasn’t quite ready to have my worldview flipped. As I inched closer to graduation, my mind wandered back to settling down with a husband and kids of my own. I would have to nail down exactly what I thought about humanity when I had more time.

I met David in college during the spring of 1987, immediately dazzled by his dark hair and green eyes. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worse when he called to set up our first date. Both my maternal grandparents had passed away that day, and I turned him down. After I hung up the phone, I turned to my roommates and said, “The father of my children just called me for our first date, and I told him I couldn’t make it.” They did not understand how I could think this way. I was being comical, but I really meant it.

When I realized that I wouldn’t be leaving home for the funerals for another day, I called him back and told him I could make the date after all. And even though I was sad on the date, and didn’t think he’d want to see me again, we saw each other many times after that. There was chemistry and I always felt comfortable around him. After I got to know his parents, whom I greatly admired, I knew he would be a great dad. We got married a month after he graduated in June of 1988.

Deb and David 1988
Our wedding day in Lititz, Pennsylvania, on June 25th, 1988.

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David and I were excited to have kids—but clearly, my body didn’t get the memo because we had immense trouble conceiving. After six months of irregular menstruation, I was told that I was not ovulating, and if I wanted to, then I needed to be on intense fertility medication.

After being on the regime for several months, we got pregnant in January of 1991—but before I had time to get excited, I miscarried a few weeks later. The doctors couldn’t tell if it was a viable pregnancy in the first place and weren’t sure if this would impact my ability to conceive again. There were a lot of unknowns.

I was worried I would be robbed of the opportunity to ever have a child. It was very important to me that I carry my own child for a sense of connection. I’ll be honest. I was entitled—I felt that I should be allowed to carry my own child simply because that’s what I wanted. Since I wanted it, why couldn’t I have it?

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While I was struggling to conceive, my husband’s brother Nate—who was a junior in college at the time—announced that he and his girlfriend Tracey of only a few months had gotten pregnant. They were getting married and moving into my in-laws’ basement apartment—the very one that David and I were living in. I felt forced out! My brother-in-law, who didn’t have a job or a degree, was about to have a kid and steal our apartment! And on top of all that, they were giving my in-laws their first grandchild. It would be a badge of honor to have the first grandkid!

I viewed it as my new sister-in-law being rewarded, and me being punished. It didn’t make sense. While I knew there were natural consequences for some things, I also believed in a God who was in control. I was jealous, and honestly, I was frustrated with God. I had been the one who wanted a child, who waited until marriage, who had sunk time and money and tears into this dream that I’d had since I was little. Wasn’t I the one who deserved happiness?

So, for the rest of Tracey’s pregnancy, I stewed in my own resentment. I made snide comments in my head. Well, they won’t do a good job of being parents—she doesn’t even want kids!

All the while, an ever-present shadow of guilt followed my spite. I waved it away, knowing I would deal with my conscience later.

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On January 31, 1991, my sister-in-law Tracey gave birth to my niece Sydney. I went with David to see her at the hospital but I was standoffish. Even though I longed to wrap my arms around something so small, I chose not to hold Sydney. I didn’t want to connect with her. I didn’t want to have to be there and lie that I was happy for them.

I regretted my decision on the way home from the hospital.  I realized Sydney was here to stay and that she would be a part of the family. A couple of days later, I went shopping by myself for baby clothes, and called Tracey and asked if I could bring Sydney a gift. Nerves shot up my body as I carried Sydney’s gift into the apartment. Tracey took the clothes and handed her daughter to me to rock while she got settled.

When I rocked her for the first time all my hostility went away. Sydney was beautiful. There was no way I could stay mad at her. I liked her. I liked her ears, her fingernails, the bumps on her nose. As I kissed her forehead, there was a peace that I never prayed for, a feeling of family again. I resolved to wait for excitement for it to be my turn. I would fight the blues when they came.

Words tumbled out of my mouth like heavy rain. I asked Tracey for forgiveness, I wished for their happiness. Tracey felt she made it hard for me by interrupting my life, but I explained that my behavior had nothing to do with her, and I didn’t want my sister-in-law to feel like she had to carry the idea that she owed me an apology. It was nature that caused me not to ovulate. That was all there to it. Finally,  I hoped she and her daughter would be my friend.

As I waved goodbye to Sydney, I felt my shadow of guilt vanish. My heart was happy again.

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The inner peace I found must have triggered something in me because, in April, I got pregnant—with twins—and I maintained the pregnancy! I gave birth to fraternal twin boys Caleb and Seth on December 31, 1991.

I didn’t know until that moment how much you could love somebody. Like when I held my niece for the first time, I had an instant connection when holding my sons, despite everything around me being so busy. Nothing else mattered. I didn’t feel like I deserved their beauty, but I vowed to make the most of having them in my life.

Seth and Caleb 1992.
Me with Caleb and Seth in Denver, CO in 1992.

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That’s not the end of the story.

Ten months passed without me having my period, so I asked my doctor if I could go back on birth control. Before he could prescribe anything, I went in for a blood test and awaited the result.

Well, I didn’t have to wait long. My doctor called a couple days later to tell me that no, he could not prescribe birth control for the fact that I was six weeks pregnant…with twinsagain.

On my way home from the OB-GYN’s office, I just remember honking furiously at a car that was stopped in front of me. Move it, buddy! Don’t you know that I’ve got to get home…to my TWINS…because in less than eight months, I’ll have four babies to feed and clothe and—oh, I flipped out. I just wanted to get home because I was so overwhelmed.

When I asked God to help me conceive, I don’t ever remember asking for FOUR infants at once! Neither of my kids could walk yet and were both still nursing, and I would not be able to work anymore. I was also worried about not having a big enough car.

When I got home, I immediately apologized to Caleb and Seth. I was sorry that I did not have enough time to spend with just the two of them. I was disrupting their lives with more people. Suddenly, David told me to pull myself together—I was overreacting. He said, “We had done this before, we are doing great, and we are going to do it again.”

Usually, I don’t like when my husband speaks to me this way, but this time, it was one of the best things he’s ever said to me. It helped me think clearly, and I knew he was going to be a great deal of support to me.

And so, once again, I gave birth to twins (this time, identical twin girls) Naomi and Esther on June 4, 1993—my birthday!

Seth and family, 1999
With my husband and my twins, 1999.

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Unfortunately, life is unfair. Natural consequence and moral effort don’t always align. That’s just a fact. Fortunately, life is unfair. I grew up with a heart of entitlement, expecting good things to happen because of how good I was. But I wasn’t good when I was silently hating my sister-in-law. I wasn’t good when I refused to hold my niece out of spite. Yet despite all that, I was still blessed with four beautiful children. I’ve been given more than I deserve, and I’m grateful.

Big family Deb 2015
My always-growing extended family—July 17, 2015, in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania.

 

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This is the story of Deborah Miller

Deborah was born in Abington, Pennsylvania on June 4, 1966. She grew up in a loving and religious household, where she was ingrained with the expectation to one day get married and have kids. In 1987, she met her husband at Wheaton College in Illinois, who she married in June of 1988. While she and her husband wanted desperately to have kids, they had difficulty conceiving. Angry at God, Deborah was resentful of her brother and sister-in-law who had a baby before she did. As soon as she held her niece Sydney, however, Deborah realized she was being selfish. She knew she didn’t deserve a child more than anyone else simply because she “did everything right.” On December 31, 1991, she gave birth to two boys, and 17 months later she gave birth to two girls. While she was finally able to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a mother, she learned that life isn’t about doing the right things to get what you want, but about being grateful for what you have.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on December 5, 2018.

| Writer: Seth Miller | Editor: Colleen Walker |
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