Everyone has lost something at some point in his life. Championship game against the rival. Board game against your sibling. A memento given to you by your grandfather before he passed away. And then there is losing a mom, dad, best friend, sibling, child. Winning is great and gives a most wonderful euphoria, but losing is hard and challenging. No matter what we’ve lost, we are stretched at the core as we struggle against pain and confusion and mountain of why’s and other questions wondering what could have been.
This picture showed up on my Time Hop today, and there couldn’t be a better time. That was one of my favorite pregnancies because I’d finally learned to give thanks for each hiccup, kick, jab, roll, heartbeat. Baby E (or Tiny Banana as we call him) had several family members eagerly awaiting his arrival in June 2014. It’s rather ironic that that this photo showed up today.
This week I would have been pregnant with baby #6. That’s right. Would have been. Baby number six. In fact, I would have been 14 weeks pregnant on Wednesday of this week, which is why these pictures seem so perfect right now and brought tears to my eyes. I’ve had three miscarriages now. Two of them occurred between the Medium Banana and Tiny Banana. The most recent happened the day after Thanksgiving this year, and I’d had a feeling it was coming for about a week; something just wasn’t right. Then on Black Friday, the day really was blackened for Stephen and me. I went into labor at 12 weeks, 2 days. I spent Friday in the comfort of my own home, but on Saturday everything got hazy from too much blood loss and I had to go to the ER.
I made it back home that evening to three little boys who wanted to hug their mama and ask why I had so many cotton balls stuck to my inner arms. We couldn’t bear to tell them yet; it was still too hard even for us to wrap our minds around. “I can’t do this anymore,” I told Stephen. “I don’t want to do this ever again.” Even now the tears flow as I remember how it feels when my body rejects a pregnancy, the pain that envelopes me physically and emotionally. Losing sucks.
I almost feel ridiculous writing about losing three babies that I never met considering the fact that I have relatives who have lost children they were able to hold, squeeze, and watch grow. Honestly, my testimony seems so small in light of their suffering. Yet, I feel compelled to share my journey anyhow. If those family members read, please know that it is with humility that I submit this to anyone, and I don’t ever venture to assume that my pain is any greater than your own. Just different.
This last pregnancy caught us completely by surprise; Tiny Banana would have a brother/sister two years younger than himself, and that’s just what happened with Big and Medium. Sometimes I was kind of excited about TB having someone so close in age to him. After all, he is four years younger than MB, and I kind of wanted him to have a play mate that would grow up to be his BFF just like the relationship shared between his two older brothers. But alas, TB is the last baby that I birth; the anxiety of losing another baby is so great that I don’t want to endure it again. Yet I find myself thankful for this and even the other two pregnancies that ended before I even had an opportunity to feel movement.
“What” you might be asking, “is there to be thankful for in this?” But I’m practicing gratitude, remember?
Since I like lists, I am highly tempted at this point to make a bulleted list just because I think it looks pretty, but I think I’ll spare you.
I am so thankful that when I found out I was pregnant (Surprise, Ashley! You’re having another one!!!), that even though I felt shock, I immediately began to pray fervently to the Lord God for the ability to trust in Him. Miscarriage terrifies me. I’m not lying. I’d already lost two, and I was feeling a bit panicked about the prospect of losing a third (remember that anxiety disorder I mentioned?). So every day was a battle for my mind and heart to trust in Christ, to meditate on Scriptures that tell me He is in control, that He knows all things that will happen, that He is with me now and always and will never leave me or forsake me. Yes! Focus!
I’m so thankful that when I told a handful of folks so that I could have their prayers and emotional support, they delivered. They were gracious, kind, and also heaped Scriptural reminders on me so that I could focus on truth instead of fear.
I’m grateful that the fears I faced during this pregnancy drove me to seek Christ more. For it is when we seek Him with all our heart that we will find Him and learn more about His ways (though not all of His ways, much to our chagrin). How wonderful it was that my Creator and the One who was knitting together my little one would remind me that He can see all that is going on even when I cannot! The nearness of God is my good. So very, very good.
I’m so thankful that my husband never looks at me with disdain or annoyance when I have my fits of fear or tears (those seem to flow often) and tells me to get over it, or that crying never helps anything. He just holds me. Oh, how I love that. His arms are so strong, and his heartbeat is so loud, and when he holds me close the world melts away. God is so good to give me such an amazing man to care for me.
At this moment in time I’m so thankful that TB is taking a nap and the older boys are outside playing so that I can write this in peace as I blubber over the words I type. The screen is so blurry!
I’m beyond thankful for the people of Grace Baptist Church. Oh, my goodness, I am so grateful for them! We emailed our pastors to share with them our situation, and we received so many responses in return. Our brothers and sisters in Christ have sent messages, brought us meals for eight days, watched/taken the kiddos so I can rest, prayed, and cleaned. To know that I have a community of family members who are willing to serve is so comforting. My recovery has taken longer than expected, and the help continues to come pouring in.
Finally, I’m thankful that my babies are with Jesus. I take tremendous comfort in the Scriptures (because I believe them to be the inerrant word of God Himself) when I read passages like this…
Then Nathan went to [King David’s] house. And the LORD afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:15-23 ESV)
Additionally, I appreciate Jon Piper’s thoughts on the topic, which you can read and listen to here: Theologically Speaking: Infant Death He discusses the fact that a grandchild died in utero at full term just hours before being born.
The point I’m trying to make is this: Losing babies sucks, and it is so super hard to endure. BUT you know what? The substance of my hope is not in having a husband, three boys, a house, an amazing job, or even in that vacation next summer that I can’t wait to enjoy. Nope. My hope is in Jesus Christ and His righteousness. At the end of the day, at the end of my life, His absolute perfect obedience to His Father, His atoning death and subsequent resurrection, and my faith in Him to cover my sins and take away the wrath of God forever is ultimately all that I have. He’s why I face each day. He’s why I wake up and get out of bed when I’d rather roll over and ignore the world. Jesus Christ faced so much more suffering that I can possibly imagine when He took on the sins of the whole world, that my suffering pales in comparison, yet my suffering is never in vain. My pastor reminded us that what has been taken from us in this life (our three babies, for example) will be returned to us in heaven, and he reminded us of the following passage:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV)
What grace! What joy! I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the love of God even now. Hopefully by now you understand that I’m not rejoicing that my babies are dead and that all is bright and shiny in the world with happy unicorns and glittery rainbows. We are upset about the death of our three children, and we are grieving. We never asked for this pain or for death. It’s not our plan to have any more children at this point, and so there seems to be additional grief in that aspect. All I’m saying is that as I’m learning to practice gratitude, I know that in every situation I must and will find a reason to rejoice in Christ. He is the Giver of life, and He decides when a life will end. He is Creator and Sustainer. Losing is hard, but Jesus is with me all the time, to the very ends of the earth. He promised it. And so I’m thankful for it.
I’m thankful that you’ve “listened” to my grieving heart. I prayed continually as I wrote for God’s wisdom, and that you might be blessed.