In Paraguay, a common sight on the streets are small, house-shaped monuments with a front door. Sometimes the door is solid so you can’t see inside. Other times the door is made of glass with protective iron bars. Inside there’s usually a candle, some fabric, and other articles.
At first, I thought these were shrines of pagan worship. But I learned that they are called, “Casita,” which means, “Tiny House” and they are a memorial for deceased babies. At first I felt gross thinking they were graves although they were cute in a dollhouse sort of way. I never gave much thought to what they must mean to their families, who see it everyday. It wasn’t until recently that I felt a deep empathy for the mothers. It was after a recent change that came over me.
I have been thinking about our plans to have children.
Before coming, Shin and I had a few options we talked about. Primarily, it was to remain childless for one year. A second option was to try and come home around 7 months pregnant. It was out of the question to bear a child in Paraguay.
Luckily, we made sure to cover this matter with the Missionary and his wife very early on to find out how they would feel about it. Their answer wasn’t a yes or a no. It was perhaps an indirect “no” or a neutral. But the last thing they said was, “If God gives you this gift, then well…..”
Since then, my tranquil “schedule” for becoming a mom turned upside down and suddenly is an intense desire to begin right away. So it led to many conversations between Shin and I about timing. One of the nights of discussion, I cried from 9pm until the early morning trying to reconcile my will with his. I still haven’t done so entirely. But in the meanwhile, I believe God is preparing us for parenthood through our circumstances in Paraguay.
First, He brought us here as teachers and gave us a closeup of how children act at various ages. Here, we don’t just teach one grade, we are teaching every grade between the two of us. We talk about what ages have been the most problematic, and what teaching techniques have worked with what grades. It is a firsthand experience in child psychology!
Secondly, I believe I’m emotionally recovered from the grief of our first pregnancy that led to miscarriage. I hadn’t had an opportunity to grieve prior to coming. I was too busy trying to appear ok and hopeful for the next one, assuming shame and responsibility instead of letting myself feel and process the pain. Then we received a calling for Paraguay just a month later, and moved in with our family, so we readjusted and got busy again with life.
Third, the Lord recently reminded both of us, within a few days of each other, of mean things we did to other kids during our childhood. He granted us forgiveness and release from guilt. He also gave me a glimpse of being our child’s emotional and physical protector one day.
Fourth, observing pregnant and new mothers informs me emotionally about the simplicity and naturality of birthing and raising children. I feel peaceful about delivery knowing that it is common, and successful here without a lot of modern technology. That is not to discount western medicine, but finding a balancing of depending on hospital care and trusting in the Creator.
Currently, I still struggle with my desire for motherhood versus my husband’s foresight. I remind myself that Shin is not anti-baby and is not withholding good things from me. He wants us to have the child under better circumstances- not while I’m shouting at students and being thrown around on the bus and working. More importantly, he wants God’s blessing through Missionary Cho’s approval.
So we are praying for a Special Gift from God in His timing. I’m rightly called “Ana” by the Paraguayans. That is the Spanish name for, “Hannah” in the Bible- the woman who prayed for a son.